The journey of the new Toa came to an abrupt halt.
They had arrived at the edge of a vast gorge. Below, a stream of molten lava wound its way through the rock. The gap was too wide to jump and too long to go around without hours of walking. But the Matoran that Toa Nuparu had spotted were somewhere on the other side. They might not have hours to spare to reach them.
Jaller turned to Nuparu. “You’ll have to fly us over.”
“Now wait a minute,” Kongu broke in. “Let’s be sensible. Nuparu and I can switch masks, and I’ll do the flying.”
Jaller was going to respond, but never got the chance. Instead, it was Nuparu who spoke up. “That does make sense. I can’t argue with it. But destiny, for whatever reason, gave me this mask. There has to be a reason for that.”
“Destiny has a sense of humor?” jeered Kongu.
“I think I am supposed to have it. I’m not going to give it up, not yet,” Nuparu replied. Then he broke into a grin. “Besides, flying’s kind of fun.”
“Wonderful,” said Kongu, shaking his head. “They can deep-carve that on our memorial stones – ‘But at least Nuparu had fun.’”
Nuparu rose into the air and grabbed onto Kongu. Before the Toa of Air could protest, Nuparu had him halfway across the gorge. When they reached the other side, he unceremoniously dropped Kongu to the ground.
“This is amazing,” cried Nuparu. “Why, if I built some tools that would help me stay level and steer, this mask would work even better.”
In short order Hewkii and Matoro crossed over in similar fashion. Hahli had wanted to go last – she had a terrible headache that seemed to get worse the closer they got to the center of the island – but Jaller insisted that he should act as rear guard. Nuparu picked her up gently and started across.
This time, the passage was not so smooth. A fierce wind kicked up when he was partway across. Inexperienced at flying, Nuparu did not know how to compensate. Thrown off balance, he lost his grip on Hahli.
Jaller watched in horror. No doubt any of the Toa could save her with their elemental powers, but they had had little to no practice using them so far. A miscalculation would mean her death.
Later, Jaller would realize he never actually gave any thought to what he did. Instead, he just ran, leapt out into midair, and caught Hahli. The added weight should have sent them both plunging into the lava, but instead Jaller used the change in momentum to execute a perfect midair somersault that carried them toward the far edge. He landed feetfirst on the lip of the gorge. The other Toa just stared at him in disbelief.
“Whoa,” said Hewkii. “That was a new one.”
“Even Toa Lewa would have admired that move,” added Kongu. “Who taught you that?”
Jaller put Hahli down and shrugged. “No one. It was the only thing to do, but… it shouldn’t have worked. We should both be in the lava. I can’t understand how…”
“Could it be your mask?” asked Hahli.
Kongu chuckled. “What, it’s a Mask of Leaping?”
Nuparu landed next to the group. “Or something much more powerful,” he said. “We should test it, Jaller. And… I’m sorry about what happened.”
All of the Toa waited for Kongu to make some cutting remark. Instead, the Toa of Air threw his arm around the shoulders of the Toa of Earth and said, “Come here, Toa-hero. Let me quick-teach you a little something about updrafts and downdrafts. I don’t want you crashing and breaking that mask.”
Hidden among the rocks, Vezok watched the six newcomers. They were Toa, all right, but novices. This, he decided, would be no trouble at all. He chewed up and spit out rookie Toa. In fact, it might even be fun to use zamor spheres on a few of them and let them fight one another.
Smiling, he emerged from his hiding place and took aim.
Matoro spotted the threat too late. Even as he shouted out a warning, Vezok’s zamor sphere struck his body. There was a flash of electricity as it passed through him.
The Toa waited. Vezok waited. Most of all, Matoro waited to see what would happen.
Vezok looked at his launcher, annoyed. He fired again. Same result. “What’s going on here?” he grumbled. “You should be enslaved.”
“Oh, is that what that does?” said Matoro. He raised his ice sword. “Then I don’t feel so bad about doing this.”
Matoro expected a blast of ice to fly from the blade, much like he had seen Kopaka Nuva create a hundred times. But this was different. His blade glowed with a bright light, and the blue-white beam of ice that it hurled was interlaced with lightning. It struck Vezok dead on, simultaneously freezing and jolting him.
The blue-armored Piraka hit the ground hard. The force of the attack had been unexpected, but he wasn’t worried. He could already feel this new Toa’s power being added to his own. Laughing, he launched a blast of electrically charged ice at the red-and-yellow Toa nearby.
This time, Jaller knew it was the mask. There was no possible way he could dodge the ice, yet somehow he managed to twist his body out of the way. For a moment, he almost sensed that the mask was regarding him with approval.
“You picked the wrong Toa to throw snowballs at,” he snapped. His weapon, too, was glowing, and the flames it shot sizzled with pure electricity. Again, Vezok was struck, and again he went down. But he didn’t stay down.
“Get ready,” said Matoro. “He duplicated my power when I used it on him. He’ll do the same with Jaller’s, but I’m guessing he can’t handle more than one power at a time.”
Vezok raised both arms and smiled broadly. “Guess again.”
Blasts of fire and ice flew from the Piraka’s hands. Matoro and Hahli were sent reeling by the unleashed elemental energy. That’s two down, Vezok thought. There should be a quick way to take out the other four, but…
He frowned. Ever since the accident, he had lost the ability to think tactically the way he used to. He was still smarter than he looked, but that intellectual edge was missing. Still, he knew who had stolen it from him, and he would get it back as soon as these Toa were dead.
Hewkii, Kongu, Jaller, and Nuparu stood shoulder to shoulder. The Toa of Air reached out with his Mask of Telepathy to probe the Piraka, but recoiled almost immediately. “Muaka bones, it’s a pesthole in there,” he exclaimed. “I’ve crawled through Nui-Rama nests that were cleaner.”
“Who are you? What do you want here?” asked Jaller.
“The name is Vezok,” answered the Piraka. “My partners and I already claimed this island by right of conquest. And we don’t like trespassers.”
“That’s too bad,” said Nuparu. “We’re –”
“I know what you are,” Vezok cut him off. “Toa. I could smell you a kio away. You all have that ‘doomed do-gooder’ stench.”
Hewkii hefted a huge boulder. Vezok only smiled. “Drop that or I freeze-fry your two pals,” he said.
The Toa of Stone shrugged and casually tossed the rock aside. Only Matoro noticed it hit another rock, ricochet, hit a second, and so on.
“Do yourselves a favor,” Vezok continued. “Clear off Voya Nui while you still can, or you’ll wind up like those other Toa. You can’t beat one Piraka, let alone six.”
Now it was Hewkii’s turn to smile. “Guess again.”
The boulder ricocheted one last time and slammed into Vezok’s back. Stunned more by the surprise of the blow than from its force, Vezok stumbled forward. Nuparu triggered his mask power and shot through the air, slamming into the Piraka’s midsection and knocking him to the ground. The other three Toa closed in.
Vezok snarled, energies crackling around his open palms. Jaller rested the tip of his energized flame-sword on the Piraka’s throat. “Think about it,” said the Toa of Fire. “Can you get off a blast before I do? Are you fast enough?”
Jaller cocked his head and locked eyes with Vezok. “I don’t need a Mask of Telepathy to know what’s going through your head. You figure we’re new to being Toa, maybe not quick enough or skilled enough to use our powers. And you’re right. But, see, there’s only one problem – I’m so new I can’t always control my flame. I might want to just singe you, Vezok… but poor, novice Toa that I am, I could slip… and burn your head clean off.”
Vezok lowered his hands. Kongu turned away to check on Matoro and Hahli. His mask power was almost impossible to turn off and the last thing he wanted was any more exposure to Vezok’s thoughts.
“Get up,” ordered Jaller. “You’re going to take us to those other Toa you mentioned.”
“Sure,” Vezok replied. “I’ve never liked the smell of something burning… especially when it’s me.”
Jaller shoved the Piraka ahead of them. Hewkii and Matoro took the flanks, with Kongu acting as rear guard. They had gone only a short distance when the Toa of Air picked up a disturbing image from Vezok’s mind. He cried out, but not fast enough. The Piraka had hurled an ice blast and a fire blast at each other, creating a wall of steam when they met. Kongu used his control over wind to dissipate the cloud, but by that time, the Piraka was gone.
“Do we track him?” asked Matoro.
Jaller shook his head. “He knows the island. We don’t. But he may be our only lead to the Toa Nuva.”
An Onu-Matoran stepped out from behind a cluster of rocks. “If you follow him, he will pick you off one by one. He will be heading back to the stronghold to warn Zaktan of your approach. We need to make our plans before he reaches there.”
“Zaktan? Stronghold? Who are you?” asked Matoro, feeling like he had walked in on one of Hahli’s tales in the middle.
“My name is Garan. I will tell you my story on our journey. I’d suggest you listen, if you ever hope to leave this island alive.”
Garan led the Toa on a long journey, sticking close to the coastline all the way. He explained that the waters around Voya Nui were so treacherous that the Piraka did not expect enemies to arrive by sea. They focused their attention on the air. Apparently, they expected someone to come looking for them, someone infinitely more frightening than Toa.
“You are Toa, aren’t you?” he asked at one point. “But you don’t look like Toa Nuva.”
“We’re not,” said Jaller. He thought about the lightning bolts that had unleashed their powers, the glow of their faces behind their masks, the way their weapons radiated energy. Then he said, “No, not Toa Nuva. Toa Inika.”
The name caught the other Toa by surprise, but it made sense – inika was the Matoran word for “the energies of a star.” No one reacted quite as much as Hahli, though. For a brief moment, the headache she felt intensified, and then it lessened almost completely. She allowed herself a moment of relief before wondering just what had changed. Was it the name Jaller had thought up, or was it the sight of the volcano in the distance that had caused the pressure on her mind to ease… or was it both? Almost as if in response, she felt a small jolt of pain.
Her hands flew up to her mask. As soon as she took it off, all the pain stopped. So it is the Kanohi, she said to herself. Yet it’s not an attack, somehow I know that. No, the mask is trying to direct us. But where?
“This way,” said Garan. He led the Toa Inika through a tunnel in the rock. It wound up and up, growing narrower as it rose. At the top, Garan slid aside a stone and disappeared inside a hole.
Jaller led the Toa through the opening. Inside was a small chamber. Garan and four other Matoran waited within.
“This is all of you?” asked Kongu. “Five Matoran on an entire island?”
“Five still free,” Balta answered.
“Make that six.”
The two groups turned to see Dalu slipping in through another entrance. She spared a smile for Balta before giving her report to Garan. “I tried to get away but didn’t make it very far. I saw enough to know you’re right. The Piraka alliance is fracturing.”
“Then it is time to strike,” said Kazi.
“Never a better one,” Dalu agreed. “Hakann, Reidak, Avak, and Thok are nowhere to be found. Zaktan is in a rage over it. No one is watching the Matoran workers on the slopes of the volcano.”
“Slow down,” said Matoro. “What’s going on here? Where are the Toa Nuva?”
“Dead, if they’re lucky,” Garan replied. “If they’re not, Zaktan has them. They are looking for a treasure hidden on this island – your friends said it was a mask needed to save the life of the Great Spirit. They enslaved our people to help them get their claws on it. We are going to stop them.”
Garan walked up to Jaller and looked up at the Toa of Fire. “Your fellow Toa tried to help and paid the price. If you want to turn and go, we will understand. But if you want to aid us, you must decide now. This chance to hit the Piraka hard may not come again.”
Jaller instantly knew what his decision would be, but he was determined not to be Tahu or Vakama or other Toa who had acted rashly. He turned to the others. One by one, they nodded their heads. Then he looked back at Garan.
“You point us in the right direction,” said the Toa of Fire. “We’ll handle the hitting.”