Well, turns out that after the first "Folly of the Toa," I wasn't quite done yet. A lot of things were left unclear, including how exactly Onua met his end the way he did, and what happened to Kopaka. I couldn't leave those strings untied, and in particular I thought that it would be interesting to explore the story deeper from Kopaka's point of view. So I started writing again, and since it's looking like this will be a lot longer than the first "Folly of the Toa," which was basically written as an entry in Gali's diary, I've decided to split it up into chapters.
So, without further ado, I present to you "Folly of the Toa II"
I was passing through Ko-Koro-Nuva when I first saw him: a figure approaching from a path into the high mountains in the middle of the night. Though he had the stature of a Toa, he walked with a severe limp, using a cane to steady himself. Still, his movements were precise, calculated, practiced. He wore a long cloak, with its hood drawn over his head to conceal his face. The few Ko-Matoran about didn’t seem to pay much attention to him; there were some odd looks, but his cloak totally concealed his identity, and none of the Matoran seemed interested in interfering with his journey. Just another traveler passing through, as far as they were concerned, but I sensed something more, so I quietly followed him.
He made his way to the train station, where he purchased a ticket and boarded the only waiting train. I asked the Matoran behind the ticket counter where he was going.
“New Atero, ma’m.”
So I purchased a ticket for New Atero, and just made it onto the train in time before it set off. Soon, it was rumbling down the track, on schedule to arrive in Onu-Koro-Nuva, the one stop along the way to New Atero, by sunrise.
The car I’d taken a seat in contained but a few passengers, but the hooded Toa had disappeared. Curious as to where he went, I started making my way back through the train. The further back I got, the emptier the cars were. The second-to-last one didn’t have a single passenger in it. The last had but one; the mysterious Toa, sleeping on the very back bench. Using my Volitak to keep from making any noise to wake him up, I made my way through the cart and sat down on the bench opposite him.
“I know you are following me.” He said quietly, much to my surprise.
“You do?” No reply. I was amazed; even the power of the Kanohi Volitak wasn’t enough to conceal one from him. Had he only been pretending to be asleep?
“What do you want?” he inquired.
“I’d like to know who you are.” I answered. “Specifically… are you the Toa of that statue in Ko-Koro-Nuva?”
“What would make you think that?” For a moment, I sensed surprise, but after that his mind was closed off, blank again.
“Kopaka, Toa Nuva of Ice. They say he disappeared into the mountains one day and never returned. You came down from those mountains, so I figured you might be him.”
“No.” Again, it was fleeting, but I could tell that wasn’t the truth.
“Then who are you?”
“None of your concern.” I could sense a degree of frustration in him. “Leave me be, please.”
“Well, newsflash, I can read minds,” I explained. “You are Kopaka. I’m sure of it.”
“You can?” He was surprised. He sighed, then sat up from his slumped position and pulled back his hood, revealing that most unique of masks; the Kanohi Akaku Nuva. It was old, and looked as though it had sustained plenty of damage, but it was still easily recognizable.
“I’m a Toa, too,” I explained, “a Toa of…”
“…of psionics.” He cut me off. He eyed me up and down with that alien, calculating gaze of his. The lenses in his scope made constant, minute adjustments, adding to the effect, as though he was trying to find just the right arrangement to allow him to see right through me. “You look new.”
“I am, sir.” I replied.
“They still need Toa these days?” Skepticism… a hint of irony.
“Rebellious Skakdi,” I explained. “Hardly Toa-worthy in the end, but some panicky Turaga decided they needed a Toa anyways. So I was chosen.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“I was passing through Ko-Koro-Nuva when I noticed you coming down from the mountains. I was wondering who you were, since, you know, I could only see a cloaked figure. So I followed you.” A vague sense of relief. “But I really do want to know why you just disappeared up there.”
“Because it matters!” now I was getting frustrated. “Those Ko-Matoran back there practically worship you!”
“I know. I saw the statue.”
“Exactly! Shouldn’t you announce to them first that you’re back?”
“I am not back.” He sighed.
“Then why are you here?”
“Again, none of your business. Leave me be, and do not tell anyone I am here.” He pulled up the hood again.
“I can’t just leave you be. You’re hurt, you’re in pain. I can feel it.” I could feel it, and now that he was sitting and not using the cloak to fully conceal himself, I could see just what a condition he was in. His armor had many cuts, scrapes, and dents. His right leg had been badly busted and shoddily repaired, and numerous scars littered his body. The more I looked at him, the more I was horrified. What had happened to him?
“My pain is none of your concern. I will be fine.”
“Are you going to get yourself fixed up?”
“Well, would you mind if I came along, then?” I asked. “It’s not like I have anything better to do.”
“So things have not changed in that respect.” For a moment, I was confused. Then I remembered what I’d heard about the Toa Nuva before, about how they’d split up. From what I knew, the Toa had begun to argue and bicker over what they should do now that the planet had been reformed. They’d all disagreed on their future as a team, and in the end decided that there was no point in them… being a team any longer, since there was no great evil to threaten the Matoran anymore. It had been a bitter breakup, particularly for the Toa of Water.
“No, things haven’t changed, I guess.” I informed him.
“You have become a Toa in a world that still does not need any,” Kopaka said bitterly. Unlike his voice, his face betrayed no emotion, but I could sense a degree of pity, and decided to play on it.
“Yeah… Now that those Skakdi have been put in line, I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.”
“You are looking for a purpose.” A shared recognition.
“Good luck finding one.” Was that… a glimmer of empathy? Surely, he of all people knew what it was like to be left without a purpose?
“Until I do… would you mind if I stuck with you? I promise I won’t tell anyone who you are.”
“If you must. But do not expect me to stick around here for long.”
“Thank you. I’m Lis, by the way.”
So he was willing to tolerate me. That was enough. Looking at him, I was concerned. In his condition, and at his age, if he went back into those mountains it wouldn’t be long before he was dead for real. I’m not sure whether I was hoping to talk him out of going back, or whether I just wanted to spend whatever time I could with one of the legendary Toa Nuva before he disappeared for good. Or I just wanted to make sure he got fixed up well. But either way, I was coming with him, and while I had the opportunity, I figured I might learn something about the Toa Nuva along the way.
True to form, he did not talk for the rest of the journey, instead sitting in silent contemplation all the way to Onu-Koro-Nuva. I attempted to read into his mind, to peer beyond the silent exterior, but hard as I tried I couldn’t decipher much of anything. First off, there was this constant sensation of severe physical pain, which he was apparently able to ignore, but it was profoundly disorientating for me. Whenever I tried to get a picture of his thoughts, I was bombarded with this astounding stream of information. Sometimes, I caught a hint of a constellation moving in the sky, then the view would expand to include more stars, then more… and then everything would be jumbled again, as though he had moved to a scale my brain simply couldn’t process. Then there would only be the pain. Legends always told of the Kopaka’s intelligence, of the way he’d analyze and process things at incredible speeds as though he could see the future; they were right. I couldn’t keep up, and even trying to do so was exhausting. Still, if he was bothered by me reading in on his thoughts, he didn’t tell me.
In Onu-Koro-Nuva several Matoran and Agori left the train, after which more boarded. We still had the back car to ourselves; it clearly wasn’t a busy day. The journey to New Atero would take a full day, and having just spent six hours attempting to read the Toa Nuva of Ice’s mind and not getting anything, I decided to try and engage him in conversation again instead.
“So, what did you do in the mountains?” I asked.
“Meditate on what?”
“You would not understand.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“You were trying all night, were you not? Did you figure anything out?”
“Not much, to be honest… So could you explain?”
“I cannot make clear to you with mere speech what you could not understand directly from my mind.”
“Okay, that’s a bit rude.” Not even a benefit of the doubt? How demeaning.
“Is it not true?” He locked eyes on me, again with that uncomfortable, piercing gaze.
“I mean, yeah… but you don’t need to say it bluntly like that. You’re basically calling me stupid.”
“You are in capable of comprehending my thoughts. So compared to me, you are stupid.”
“Again with the insults.”
“It is not an insult. It is the truth.” I was getting angry at him, but I could sense no… resentment, no intent to mock me, not a demeaning thought on his mind. He was judgmental, maybe, but I could only conclude that he hadn’t at all intended to insult me in any way. He simply said what he saw, regardless of the consequences.
“So, you always tell the truth straight up like that?” I asked.
“Did that happen to contribute in any way to the breakup of your team?” Honestly, I was curious as to what he’d think of that.
“I had nothing to do with the breakup,” he said coldly.
“How can you be so sure about that?” Now I had him. Surely, the most solitary of the Toa Nuva would have had the least to lose from the team breaking up? It was hard to believe that he hadn’t had something to do with it.
“I did not start the arguments. I did not participate in them. I did not make things worse by trying to intervene,” Kopaka explained. “It was inevitable.”
“Then who started the arguments?” I asked. “And how do you know that interfering would have made things worse?”
“I do not have time to tell you that whole story.”
“Then don’t.” I suggested. “Just think it. I’ll pull out of it what I can.”
“Think the story?”
“Recall the memories, and I’ll read them. It’ll be quicker than you telling me everything.”
Kopaka sighed. “Fine.”
I closed my eyes, focused on his presence, and zoned in on his thoughts. Suddenly, I wasn’t on the train anymore; my senses had been replaced by those of Kopaka, or rather, the senses that formed that memory. I should note that I had used that power once or twice before; usually recent memories were quite vivid, while those from further back tended to be much more blurred and unclear. Kopaka’s memories had none of this; everything I got from him, I got in full detail, so much so that it was almost overwhelming. All sensation of where I actually was had gone; I was living Kopaka’s memory in perfect clarity.
side note: I had like three false starts on this story. First, I started writing it purely from Kopaka's point of view, but that would leave a lot of things out just like Gali's did. So I decided to introduce a secondary character for him to interact with and to draw the story out of him. After another two starts, I finally settled on Lis.
I was standing, leaning against a wall at the side of a meeting room. Out of the windows I could see the city of New Atero; I was high above the ground, probably at the top of one of the city’s skyscrapers. The room was circular; in its center was a large table with six chairs arranged around it, five of which were occupied by the other Toa Nuva: Tahu, Onua, Gali, Lewa, and Pohatu. Tahu and Gali looked frustrated. Onua and Pohatu were paying attention, but looked worried. Lewa looked bored.
“It’s not what we stand for,” Gali said. “It’s using your powers for barbaric entertainment, and the Agori gamble on it. We are Toa, protectors of the Matoran, of this planet. We should be above that.”
“Well, what else do you expect me to do?” Tahu asked. “Sit around with the Turaga and break up minor trade disputes like you?”
“That is our job now,” the Toa of Water argued. “We helped to save this world, now we must act to maintain it, for the good of the Matoran and the Agori.”
“Which the Turaga have covered just fine,” Tahu shot back. “And I’m not going to spend my days sitting next to them and pretending I have a reason to be there.”
“Well, those Turaga aren’t always going to be around,” Gali pointed out. “And when they’re gone, who will take their place? Us.”
“That won’t happen anytime soon,” Tahu said. “And I’m not going to just sit and wait around for it. I need something else to do.”
“Why can’t you find something peaceful, something respectful to do then, like the rest of us?” Gali pleaded.
“We’re Toa. We fight to protect others!” Tahu got up. “And having run out of people to protect, I’ll be damned if I stop fighting too!” He slammed his fist on the table. His declaration staggered the others; for a few seconds an awkward silence hung over the room. Tahu took a deep breath, then sat back down. “Besides,” he argued, “it’s just a competition, no different than what Pohatu does these days, right, Pohatu?”
“Kolhii is competitive,” Pohatu agreed.
“And what about you, Onua?” Tahu turned to the Toa of Earth. “Don’t the workers of the most productive mineshafts get rewarded every month? That’s competition, too.”
“I won’t deny that,” Onua grumbled, “but there’s a major difference between that and Kolhii and what you do.”
“Which is?” Tahu inquired.
“The issue isn’t with competition,” Pohatu explained, “believe me, I’m completely on your side with that. The issue is that these fights can and do go to the death, and that outrageous bets are being placed on them.”
“And you know what the Toa code says about killing and gambling” Onua finished.
“I’ve dealt with that!” Tahu argued. “I told them that I would not kill anyone, regardless of who they put me up against! And I don’t place bets! I swore on that.”
“But what if they end up killing you?” Gali implored. “Not everyone who steps into that arena follows that code. What if you go down in there and your opponent decides that they’ve had enough of you?”
“Simple.” Tahu said. “I make sure that I don’t go down.”
“Yeah, like that’ll last forever,” Lewa grinned. “Imagine the headlines in the Chronicler’s Digest: planet-saving Toa-hero killed for Agori entertainment.”
“There’d be Matoran riots if that came true,” Onua said.
“Which is why it won’t happen,” Tahu insisted. “Like I said; if the fight is to the death, I don’t agree to enter into it. Simple as that. Meeting adjourned.” With that, he marched out of the room.
Gali’s expression was one of shock and sadness. “He’s going to get himself killed.” She said despondently, “and he’ll ruin us in the process.”
“Actually, he’s making bucket-loads of money off of people quick-betting on him,” Lewa pointed out. “Until the old firespitter hits a spot of hard-luck, that is. What’s so teri-bad about that?”
“The problem,” Gali explained, “is that as Toa we have a certain responsibility to uphold a moral standard, and Tahu… isn’t. Have you seen some of those gladiators?”
“Of course,” Lewa said nonchalantly. “I watch Tahu fight and beat them.”
“They’re thugs, bandits, monsters,” Gali said. “They sometimes throw Rahkshi into that place. Tahu’s in there fighting the Makuta’s spawn for entertainment; as though he wasn’t in mortal danger. Remember how many Matoran the Rahkshi killed?”
“Well, he relishes it,” Lewa said, “and I think he’s ever-fun to watch. So cry moral outrage all you want, sister, but if there’s no Matoran that need to be quick-saved I think Tahu’s fine doing what he is. And unless we have other things to think-talk about, I’m going to high-fly to someplace where this discussion won’t follow.” He got up, and when no one replied, dove out of an open window and soared off.
“I don’t believe this…” Gali said exasperatedly.
“Look, sister,” Pohatu got up. “I agree with you that it’s wrong, but Tahu needs this. He’s been itching to fight something, anything, for ages. If he can’t let that energy out somehow, he’ll blow up at something else eventually. At least the arena is right next door, so if anything does happen we can be there in a flash.”
“And in the meantime he’s making a mockery of what it means to be a Toa!” Gali blurted out. “We have to find something else for him, something that doesn’t make him into a sideshow for the Agori to gamble on!”
“Well, he doesn’t care for Kolhii ‘cause it involves running around with a ‘petty stick’,” Pohatu said, “and there’s not a lot of other sports out there in which there’s even enough Toa around to provide any competition. As for hunting wild rahi… what’s out there giving anyone trouble these days?”
“We occasionally have trouble with tunneling beasts in the mines,” Onua noted, “but I already told him about that. He said he doesn’t want to be a mere vermin exterminator, and he’d go crazy underground regardless.”
“Well we’ve got to find something.” Gali said resolutely. She got up. “I’m going to rest for a while. Turaga Nokama might call on me later today.”
“Yeah, I’ve got Kolhii practice to attend,” Pohatu remembered. He followed Gali out the door, leaving just me and Onua, who was still sitting at the table with a look I could only describe as one of extreme disappointment.
“You know,” he turned to me, “It’s not what we do, so long as we believe we’re doing good; it’s how we go about it.” He got up, too. “We have always faced disaster together and overcome it together. When there was disagreement, we compromised as best we could. That was our strength; we were a team. This… discussion, this discontent… it’s made them forget who we are, what we were, and what we stand for.”
“When there is no good left to be done,” I said, surprising myself, “there is no reason for heroes to exist. The world doesn’t require this team anymore.”
“Perhaps you’re right,” Onua said bitterly, “but if our brothers and sister had any respect for who we were, they’d be willing to put their differences aside for each other.”
That’s when everything went blank. For a moment, I felt like I was in freefall; then something hit me and I snapped back into the real world. I looked around; I was on the train, in the back car. We were still hurtling along the track. Kopaka was standing in front of me.
“D-did you just hit me?” I asked.
“You were stuck.” Kopaka said matter-of-factly. “I finished that memory, so I snapped you out of it.”
“How long has it been?”
“Oh… and that memory… was that the meeting where you guys decided to break apart?”
Kopaka sat back down and sighed. “I wish.”
I waited for him to continue. “aaaand?”
“That was the first one, the first after Tahu started fighting in the arena. It was the catalyst.”
“We used to meet weekly, and every time it would devolve into an argument between Tahu and Gali about what Tahu was doing. None of us wanted to be there, so weekly meetings became monthly ones, then yearly ones. We had that debate over a thousand times within half as many years.”
“Didn’t anyone ever find a solution?” I asked.
“Onua tried, so did Pohatu. They did not find anything that satisfied Tahu’s need for something to fight. My brother… he had to be a hero. If he could not be a hero, then he felt worthless. And Gali never came to understand that. Onua tried to get them to compromise, but was rebuffed until he got fed up with it and threw himself into his work instead. Lewa got tired of the arguments even more quickly, so he would fly off the moment it started.”
“I could see the team’s days were over. I had worked with them because we needed to fight the Makuta. Without a common threat to put our differences aside for, those differences made themselves all too obvious, to the point where the others were bickering over everything. I had seen enough by that point.”
“Did you end it?”
“No. We had our last meeting after a two-year period in which we did not meet as a team at all; there was no point. The first thing that happened was that Gali pointed out Tahu’s new arena scars. It only went downhill from there, but Tahu brought it to a halt. He had had enough too, and called for a vote to officially disband the Toa Nuva, since we were not needed and not accomplishing anything as a team anymore. I voted ‘yes,’ so did Tahu, Lewa, Onua, and Pohatu. Only Gali voted ‘no.’”
“Hold the thought.” I focused in on his mind again; this was a moment I had to see for myself.
“Fine…” Kopaka sighs again.
My senses went blank for a second or two. Then I’m in the meeting room again, this time sitting at the table. Tahu is standing up; he looks older, everyone does, and his armor displays clear signs of battle damage. His hand is raised. Lewa, Pohatu, and Onua have theirs raised as well. My right hand is up in the air too.
“And all those in favor of staying together,” Tahu announces. All hands are lowered, except Gali’s. She raises her hand. It’s shaking.
“Then I think it is clear,” Tahu says, picking up his swords. “Brothers and Sister, it was an honor serving with you, but this world no longer needs us. Therefore, it is best that we go our separate ways. We’ll keep contact as needed, but from this day forth, the Toa Nuva are disbanded.” He turned and started for the door.
“NO!” Gali rose. “Does this mean nothing to you!?” She’s pointing at the symbol carved on the wall: Unity, Duty, Destiny. “Who we were, what we accomplished together,” she pleads, “don’t you think that’s worth fighting for!?” Her voice is hoarse, and there are tears in her eyes. “When we fought Makuta’s Rahi!? When we faced the Bohrok, the Rahkshi, and even the Makuta themselves!?” No one replied. “Remember the Toa Ignika’s sacrifice?!” Her voice broke. “…Matoro…Takanuva…” she was reduced to a whimper.
“Takanuva,” Tahu said, “did what the rest of us should have done a long time ago: he left to find his own way.” The proud warrior’s eyes weren’t dry anymore, and looking around the room, I could see that, in fact, everyone was struggling to come to terms with what had happened. Tahu turned, hesitated for a moment, then walked out. Gali collapsed onto her knees.
“NO! YOU DESTROYED US!” she cried out, but Tahu was already gone. Onua followed, pausing for a moment to turn to Gali.
“No. You destroyed us.” His voice was wavering, but it had an extraordinary edge to it. With that, the Toa of Earth left the room. Lewa followed, not even bothering to say anything on his way out. Pohatu stepped up to Gali.
“I’ll stop by later, okay?” Then he turned to me. “I know what you’re going to do,” he said. “And that I won’t have the chance to say this again.” He paused for a moment to collect himself. “I know you don’t like it, but…” he stepped forward and embraced me. I didn’t return the gesture, but my vision was blurred; I was crying too. Pohatu stepped back. “Farewell, my brother. Take care of yourself out there.”
I nodded. “I will. You do the same.” Pohatu nodded in response, then made his way out the door. After a few seconds, I did the same.
“Brother…” I looked down to see Gali reaching up from the floor. Her face… she was in anguish. A mother who lost her child would not have wept as Gali did there; she looked like the world had ended before her very eyes. “Don’t… please don’t leave too…”
I have to swallow before I can speak. “P-Pohatu will be back. He’ll be here. You always knew I wouldn’t be.”
“No… NO!” she howls. I turn around.
“Farwell, Gali.” With my head down, I walk out the door and down the steps leading to the ground level. All the way down, I can hear Gali screaming.
“NO! DON’T GO PLEASE! THIS IS NOT HOW WE END! DON’T LEAVE!”
Everything goes dark. For a few seconds, I’m staring at nothingness. Then I’m back again, back in the train. We’re in a tunnel; the lights in the train flicker on and off as it hurtles down the track. The only sound is the droning and thumping of the train wheels against the track. Kopaka is sitting across from me, bowed over, elbows resting on his knees. I sense a whirlwind of emotions inside him: fear, sadness, anger… but one overrides all of them: regret. When he realizes the memory is over, he slowly raises his head and looks right at me.
His eyes are filled with tears.
side note: so far, this chapter is easily the most emotionally charged thing that I have ever written. It's 4:00 AM as I'm posting this, and I legitimately cried while writing the Toa's goodbyes. Maybe I'm a little too invested, and I did have sad, fateful movie music playing while I was writing... but still. Sad chapter.
I'll post additional chapters as I finish them. Hope you enjoy!