Turaga Dume led the Toa Nuva and the other Turaga down a musty, narrow tunnel beneath the surface of Metru Nui.
“Where are we going?” asked Tahu Nuva.
“Patience,” Dume replied.
Gali Nuva smiled. Asking Tahu to have patience was like asking a raging fire to please not be so very hot. The Toa Nuva of Fire started to say something back, but Turaga Vakama shook his head no.
Whenua looked around. They were already well beneath the ruins of the Archives, the maintenance tunnels, and anyplace else any Matoran had ever been. If we keep going like this, we are going to come out on the other side of the world, he said to himself.
Turaga Dume ducked his head to walk through a low entrance. The Toa Nuva had to get down on their bellies and crawl through the same opening.
“How did you ever seek-find this place?” asked Lewa Nuva, Toa of Air. “And why?”
“I didn’t spend the last thousand years playing with puzzle stones or making a dictionary of chute speak, Lewa,” Dume replied. “I spent it preparing for your eventual return.”
“All this for us?” asked Lewa, glancing at the rough-hewn, damp rock walls that seemed to close in on them. “You shouldn’t have. Really.”
“Enough,” said Dume. “We’re here.”
The Toa Nuva crawled out of the tunnel and got to their feet. “Here” turned out to be a massive chamber that was obviously not a natural structure. It was almost a perfect sphere, with the entrances to six passageways on the far wall. The chamber was dominated by a pool of liquid protodermis in the center, but what attracted the Toa’s attention was what was floating in the center of that pool.
Six cylinders bobbed in the water, small red lights flashing on their sides. They looked almost exactly like the cylinders that had first brought the Toa to the island of Mata Nui. How they had wound up in them or ended up in the waters around the island was still unclear. But they now knew that they had spent perhaps a thousand years floating in the ocean in those canisters before finally being summoned to the island.
“Oh, no,” said Pohatu Nuva, taking a step backward. “I’m not getting into one of those things again. I remember what happened the last time… Well, I don’t remember, really, but I’m not up for sleeping another thousand years.”
“What is this place?” Kopaka Nuva asked, ignoring the Toa of Stone. “Is this where we came from originally on our journey above?”
“Not here,” said Dume. “But perhaps someplace very much like it.”
“That makes no sense,” said Onua. “I recall the legend – we were said to have fallen to Mata Nui from the heavens.”
Dume nodded and smiled. “Indeed. And if you were shot into the sky over your island, only to plunge back down into the ocean… you would have fallen from the heavens, would you not?”
Onua frowned. Once again, everything he had thought he knew about his past had been turned on its head. He hated when that happened.
“Why have you brought us here?” Gali Nuva asked. “What is the point of showing us this?”
It was Turaga Vakama who answered. “The island that hides the Mask of Life is located up above, in the same ocean in which Mata Nui floats. It is many kio south of our former home, so far away that none of us ever suspected its existence.”
“The journey overland and by water to reach it would be dangerous, most likely fatal,” Turaga Nokama added. “We believe these canisters are the only safe way for you to reach your destination.”
“And what is our destination?” asked Kopaka Nuva. “What is this remote place that conceals a Kanohi mask of such power?”
“The stars call it Voya Nui,” said Turaga Dume. “But they have another name for it as well: ‘the daggers of Death.’ I fear the second name may be more accurate.”
“Well, there is one good thing,” said the Toa Nuva of Air. “With a happy-cheer name like that, I doubt the place is very crowded.”
Balta crouched on a rock, watching Avak work. The brown figure had been mining minerals all day and then cleaving them together with one solid strike of his tool. Balta had no idea what he was making, but the process was certainly interesting.
“Is that some kind of new machine?” he asked finally. “Something to help us find water?”
“Right. That’s just what it is,” Avak answered without looking up. “Once this is done, you won’t have to worry about water, or anything else, anymore.”
Balta hopped down from the boulder and peered closer at Avak’s handiwork. “What’s that do?” he asked, pointing to an unfamiliar component. “And what’s that? How do those two pieces join together? Is that the only color that piece comes in? I think it would look better in a different shade of gray.”
The Matoran wasn’t quite sure just what happened next. One second, everything was normal, and the next he was inside a cell made of some sort of clear, metallic substance. He could see out, but when he tried to speak, no sound escaped his mouth.
“Matoran should be seen, and not heard,” Avak growled. “And even ‘seen’ is debatable.”
Without another word, he went back to his work, ignoring the muted cries of the Matoran.
The white-armored figure, who called himself Thok, had spent much of the day testing his powers. While Garan tried to get some information on where he had come from and why, Thok busied himself bringing rocks and trees to a semblance of life and making them battle each other.
“How did you know we needed help?” asked Garan, hoping he wasn’t being too annoying.
“I’m a Toa, aren’t I?” Thok replied. “Knowing things is part of my job, along with imposing my idea of peace and order on others and unleashing elemental powers on anyone who disagrees with me.” He paused, then quickly added, “More knowing things, though. Now it’s your turn. Why are you here? What keeps Matoran on such a barren rock?”
“This is my home,” Garan answered. “A thousand years ago or so, we were part of a much larger landmass. Then there was a quake, an explosion, and our portion of the continent broke loose and rocketed upward. Many good friends died that day. Those of us who survived were determined to make a life here in their memory.”
“Very noble. Very moving,” Thok said quietly. “And, of course, I don’t believe a word.”
Garan was too shocked to reply. Thok continued, “There are only two good reasons for you to have stayed on Voya Nui all this time, scratching and clawing for bare existence: One, you’re too cowardly to try to escape; or two… you’re hiding something. There’s a treasure on this island and you don’t want to leave it behind. That’s the truth, little Matoran, isn’t it?”
“No!” cried Garan. “Treasure? On this island? You’ve been reading the wrong legends.”
Thok’s eyes narrowed and his smile turned into a snarl. Garan took a step back. “I’m sorry, but if there was a treasure here, I would know, wouldn’t I?”
“Yes,” said Thok, leaning in close. “You would know. That is exactly the point.”
The Matoran decided to change the subject. “What kind of a Kanohi mask do you wear, Toa Thok? I have never seen one, um, shaped quite like that.”
The armored figure smiled. “I am not wearing a mask.”
“Oh,” said Garan, confused. “I thought all Toa wore Kanohi masks.”
Thok’s chilling grin grew broader. “Now why would I ever want to cover up this face?”
Dalu walked purposefully down the shore. Up ahead, Vezok sat cross-legged on the rocks, gazing up at a tall, skeletal tree. She hated to disturb him when he was apparently deep in meditation, but there were many things she needed to ask. As a Toa of Water, he would certainly have the inner strength and sense of balance to be able to help her.
“I’m sorry to intrude, Toa Vezok,” Dalu began. “But I need some advice. You see, I have a terrible temper… Garan says I erupt worse than the volcano. I don’t know that I am that bad, although I did get a little irritated last week and smash a rock wall… with my head… still, that’s no reason to –”
Vezok held up a hand. “Be still. The others fear your anger, but you should not. If they are too weak to stand up to you, then that means you are meant to command them. Seize control from your Turaga. Take over the island. Then come see me when you’re done.”
Dalu thought her ears were playing tricks on her: She expected Vezok to counsel contemplation and reasoned discussion, not a grab for power. What kind of a Toa was he?
“Well, we don’t have a Turaga,” she replied. “He was killed when the island was blown loose of the mainland. We just look after ourselves.”
“Good,” Vezok said, never taking his eyes off the tree. “Turaga are always getting underfoot, anyway. I remember one I met a long time ago. I wanted to do something. He kept saying no. We ended up having a discussion about personal destiny.”
Vezok glanced at her and bared his teeth in a wolfish grin. “Turned out he didn’t have as much time to achieve his as he thought.”
That was enough for Dalu, who began to back up the way she had come. Maybe she and Garan were not the best of friends all the time, but he had to be made aware of this. She wasn’t sure if all the legends she had heard about Toa were just wrong, or if these particular Toa had simply gone mad on their journey to Voya Nui. But something was chilling her, and it wasn’t the ocean breeze coming across the ice.
“Well, thanks for the advice,” she said hurriedly. “I’ll certainly think about it.”
“I have one more piece of advice for you, Matoran,” Vezok said. “You and your friends really shouldn’t go wandering around this dangerous island, asking strangers a lot of questions and worrying about things that don’t concern you.”
His eyes glowed red for the briefest of instants. Something slammed into Dalu, knocking her off her feet. She hit the ground hard, the breath driven from her lungs.
Vezok rose and started walking away. “You might get hurt.”