Chapter 1: Kopaka
Kopaka was being followed.
He had been alone in the snow for so long that he was surprised anyone else existed. The swirling white around him was all that there was to the world, as far as he could tell. He saw no sign of a sun, no sign of the ground, no sign of anything but the glittering white flakes that enveloped him like a blanket. Even his own armor was just another layer of white Especially now, after getting rid of the wierd golden armor he had woken up with.
How Kopaka knew he was being followed, the Toa didn’t know. He didn’t know a lot of things, honestly. He knew he disliked gold. He knew that he disliked evil. He knew that he disliked being followed. Time to do something about it, then.
The Toa stood still. The snow swirled closely around him. He waited. A minute passed. Two. A figure stumbled by Kopaka, passing so close to his elbow that a snowflake couldn’t have passed between the two. Then the stranger was in front of Kopaka, standing only as high as the Toa’s elbow.
Kopaka reached out, placing a hand on the phantom’s shoulder. A layer of ice instantly shrouded the other. Kopaka crouched behind them.
“You’ve been following me. Why.” It was less of a question than a demand. Time for some answers.
“You are a Master, right?” the stranger asked, confused. Kopaka blinked. What? He almost didn’t notice the pale circle flying at him from his right. He dropped into the snow, and caught a glimpse of the disk, a shield ringed with blades, as it skimmed past his mask. Instead it shattered the ice covering the stranger. Kopaka reached out to grab the stranger again, but a bolt of cyan energy sailed from behind him and struck his hand. The gauntlet immediately became encased in ice. Kopaka opened his hand, intending to crack the ice. Instead, it smoothly melded into a ball on his palm. He took aim at the escaping stranger, and threw. Another cyan blast intercepted the ice-ball midair.
Kopaka whirled to find another stranger standing a few meters away, camoflauged by white and blue armor. They had a strange, bladed weapon aimed directly at him. Their weapon spat yet another cyan bolt at Kopaka. The Toa glared at it, and it reversed right back into his attacker’s chest. It solidified into a chunk of ice as the stranger in white staggered. Kopaka focused on the chunk, spreading it until it encased the beligerent stranger’s body.
Kopaka didn’t even need to turn to catch the shield that came spinning out of the snow towards him once more.
“Enough.” Kopaka turned and refroze his original follower. One, he decided. “You. Talk.”
“Why are you fighting us? Aren’t you here to help?” Kopaka said nothing. “Do you even know where you are? Who you are?”
“I’m not asking questions I know the answers to. Talk.”
“Kopaka.” This came from the other stranger, the one who attacked him. Two. Kopaka waited for her to say something else. For ten seconds. Twenty.
“That is your name, right? Kopaka, Master of Ice?” One finally added.
“Toa of Ice.”
“Then you’re here to help us?” There was a pleading edge to One’s voice. “To fight the shadow that plagues us?” Something about the statement rang true with Kopaka. Was that why he was here? To fight evil? It seemed familiar. Like it was his life’s duty.
Even if that was true, maybe he was looking at the evil he needed to fight. How would he tell? Ask them?
“Well?” One pressed. “Why are you here?”
“Why are you here?” Kopaka retorted. He couldn’t say he was happy with the answer he had been given.
“I’m here because you’re here.” ‘One’ said this with great care, like explaining something to a small and mentally deficient child. “You’re the Master-”
“Toa,” Kopaka corrected once more. What was this nonsense about ‘Masters’?
“-‘Toa’ of Ice. You were summoned here by the Prophecy of Heroes. We need your help.”
“Who exactly might ‘we’ be referring to?”
“Kopeke,” the other one stated simply.
“Sorry about her,” ‘One’ added. “She’s not very talkative. What she was trying to tell you is that she’s Kopeke, Protector of Ice. I’m Matoro. We’re Agori of the ice tribe, and things are bad right now.”
“You don’t need to repeat yourself,” Kopaka admonished. “You’ve made it very clear that you need my help. What you have not made clear is what you need help with.”
“That’s… a long story,” Matoro sighed. “I can tell you what I remember as we head back to Kotero. That’s where we live, by the way.”
“I don’t need a guide. You can tell me everything there.”
“Yeah? Well I need someone to look after me on the way back. Also, to unfreeze me.”
“What about…?” Kopaka didn’t need to finish the thought as he whirled to look at Kopeke. He found no trace of the Protector. Interesting.
“Yeah, she does that a lot. Like I said, not the conversational type. Now, we should get going before we get caught in an avalanche… or something worse.” Kopaka resisted the urge to sigh as he turned back to the Agori. Matoro’s coat of ice disintegrated into tiny shards, blowing away with the wind. Matoro shook himself a little and looked around; trying to get his bearings once more. He turned and crunched into the white. Kopaka followed easily, long strides having no trouble keeping up with the short-statured Agori.
Matoro seemed quite eager to fill in the gaps on Kopaka’s knowledge, beginning soon after they started moving. “We didn’t always live on Okoto. Long ago, in a time before time, we lived in cities and villages far across the sea. Life was pretty good, from what I hear. Still the basic struggle to survive, but no major problems. A pretty peaceful place. It didn’t stay that way, of course.”
The Agori paused his speach as they passed over a ridgeline. The wind suddenly came at the pair full-force, gales that overpowered all but the loudest shouting. They progressed slowly, the blizzard now seeming to push them back. Matoro stumbled in the snow. Kopaka grabbed the Agori’s shoulder and helped him regain his feet. Time bled together, each moment of swirling snow looking just like the last. The present became distilled down to putting one foot in front of the other, a monotonous trudge through a monotonous landscape.
After some time a cliff appeared in front of them, so suddenly that Kopaka thought it might have only just been created. Matoro lead him along the craggy black wall until they reached a gap wide enough for the two of them to enter side by side. The Agori vanished into the breach, Toa close behind. Once they were deep enough that the blizzard had faded to a dull roar, he stopped.
“We were out in the drifts,” he explained. “Just in case you were wondering. They take up the north of the island. Most landmarks have been buried by snow that hasn’t melted in centuries. It’s dangerous to wander the drifts in the best of weather. Trying to do it in a storm like that is just asking to spend the rest of eternity like that.”
“Yet you found your way out,” Kopaka pointed out. Matoro’s description of the drifts did not phase him, especially given how quickly they had escaped. He could have easily navigated the drifts on his own.
“We started pretty close to the divide. That’s the spine of rock here. It divides the drifts from the rest of Ko-Koto; as you could guess from the name. We were lucky, but it still took us well over an hour to get here. Given better conditions, I could do it in half that. I ended up hitting the divide farther to the west than I intended.” Perhaps the Agori had a point after all; assuming he wasn’t exaggerating.
“Anyways, this cleft is a shortcut through the divide. Once through here, the road to Kotero should be no problem. Unless you’re tired, I would like to get going. Impending doom of my people, and all.” Kopaka led the way down the tunnel. The winding stone corridor was jagged and uneven. Sometimes the route seemed downright cavernous, then it would narrow down to a space barely wide enough for the large Toa to sqeeze through. Kopaka got the impression that the shortcut had been discovered rather than made. At least, he hoped these Agori had the work ethic to do a better job than this.
The dim light from the drifts soon faded, trapped behind several abrupt twists and turns. Light filtered down from above for most of the tunnel. Some parts of the cleft must have stretched up to the top of the divide, allowing light and small amounts of snow down into the cleft in the rock. For a short while Matoro focused on not tripping in the dark, but it was not long before Matoro had resumed his narrative.
“No one today really remembers why we left the mainland. It’s a bit unimportant, really, given our current state of affairs. Anyways, a group of Agori emmigrated from their home and wound up here. They established a capitol, Otero, high in the mountains at the island’s center. It was a beatiful city, back in the day. Stories say that every building was designed with the greatest care and creativity. They weren’t just arrangements of wood and stone, they were works of art. I’ve heard that every street was lined with vendors selling trinkets and delicious cuisine. Whatever had happened to their old home, our ancestors had done a remarkable job of moving on. Of course, that couldn’t last either.”
Matoro paused breifly, focusing on navigating through a sudden curtain of shadows. Once the dim light appeared again, he continued.
“It had something to do with Ekimu and Makuta. The two were brothers, and had lead us to Okoto. They weren’t Agori, at least it didn’t seem that way. Generations had passed from when the brothers lead settlers here, but anyone who saw them said they hadn’t aged a day.
“They lead us here in both senses of the phrase, but they are better known as the Mask Makers. They had somehow learned how to craft Masks of incredible power. Say you wanted to easily heal those nasty scrapes from gardening. Just ask Ekimu for a Mask. Dream of breathing underwater? Makuta could do that for ya.”
“Do you wear one of their masks?” Kopaka indicated to the mask on Matoro’s face. The Agori shook his head.
“This is an ornamental mask crafted in Tatero. That’s the city of the Fire Agori, if you wanted to know. What happened was that Masks grew very popular over the time the brothers made them. Problem was, they weren’t the easiest thing to get your hands on. A lot of time and effort went into each mask, and waiting lists were longer than a Ko-Koto snowstorm.
“Meanwhile, some genius came up with the idea of making powerless masks. I guess people just wanted to wear a mask just as much as have superpowers. Soon everybody had one. It seems like a trend that should have ended quickly, I guess the tradition stuck. Not many of the powered Masks are left today. The Protectors have some, along with a few others. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re one of them.”
Kopaka took off his mask and looked at it thoughtfully. It was simplistic yet elegant, a circular shape made assymetrical by a trio of round eyepieces on the right. Instinctively he knew it contained power, but he couldn’t remember what. He didn’t think it had been made by Ekimu, though. “Perhaps,” he mused aloud, replacing the mask on his face. “You mentioned Protectors.”
“Oh yeah. When things went bad in Otero, the Agori split up into six groups on different parts of the island. You have Kotero up here in the north, Gatero down in the bay, Tatero on the Lake of Fire, Botero hidden somewhere in the jungle, Onu-Metru deep underground, and Letero out in the desert. In charge of each of them is a Protector.
“The Protectors lead the Agori of each city and make sure that they’re safe. Each Protector has a set of the best armor and weapons on Okoto, along with an Elemental Mask forged by Ekimu and Makuta. You met Kopeke already, she’s our protector. She has a Mask of Ice.”
“Strange that your Protector’s Mask can control ice,” Kopaka interjected suddenly.
“Not really. It might just be frozen water, but at least it’s distinct. Imagine having both stone and earth. I’m not quite sure where you would draw the line there. And besides, it can also manipulate cold energ-”
“Not what I meant,” Kopaka interrupted. He turned to look Matoro in the eye. “Do you believe that it’s coincidence that the Toa of Ice arrived in the Region of Ice, governed by the Protector of Ice?” Matoro stopped, dumbfounded.
“Well, when you say it that way, no. I’ve never thought about that. Maybe it’s a part of the prophecy?”
“We will have to find out.” Kopaka pushed his way around a narrow corner in the cleft, suddenly finding a dull white glow before him. The moan of the wind grew louder as the Toa emerged into the storm once more. Wind-blown snow whipped around him once more, swirling and dancing before rejoining with the white. Someone else might have called it beautiful. Kopaka simply labelled it another backdrop to life.
Matoro emerged from the cave to stand beside the white hero. “Storm hasn’t lost its edge yet,” he commented. “Not a good sign. We might be in for a rough night. We might be able to make it back to Kotero before then, if we hurry.”
“Let’s go, then,” Kopaka said. Matoro nodded in agreement.