One thing that really bothered me about the 2004-05 story arc, is how it doesn’t provide any satisfying conclusion to Onewa’s character arc. How did the irate Toa of Stone, who it seemed kept looking for fights, become someone called “the referee”? The question bothered me enough to try and fill the gap with a story. The Toa Metru have landed back on the island of Mata Nui. Vakama is off retrieving the Vahi and Onewa is tasked with leading the team while the Ta-Toa is away. As he helps his brothers and sister unload, he finds himself looking inwards and thinking about his relationship with the Toa of fire.
A fleet of six airships hovered over a tropical island, filling the air with a mechanical buzz. Soon thereafter, the noise was replaced by the faint, rhythmic sound of Increase Weight Kanoka striking the insides of each metal behemoth. One by one, the ships began to descend. With a gentle crash, they landed, covering about a kio of land. Then the doors of the leading airship opened with a hiss.
Toa Onewa stepped outside and studied his surroundings. Not far from the landing site was a vast sandy coastline. Judging by its size, there was enough room for all the Matoran spheres they were carrying. He turned to his brothers and sister.
“Unload them here on the beach,” he ordered. “I want everyone to take one airship each. When you’re done, go and help the others.”
The four Toa stood in place.
“Come on,” he added, a little impatient. “The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll be finished.”
Finally, his fellow Toa moved out silently. Onewa watched them go and in that moment, he felt something he’d never admit to anyone: he missed Vakama. The Toa of Fire had gone to retrieve the Mask of Time, but not before instructing Onewa to take charge of the rescue operation. “Take them to the island,” Vakama said to him, “and make sure they’re safe. If I don’t come back, you know what you must do to wake them. I’m counting on you.” Those words still rang in Onewa’s mind. After all this time, after all their disagreements and displays of ill will, Vakama trusted him enough to leave the fate of the Matoran, and of the team, in his hands. It was enough to make Onewa think. “No wonder we kept you as leader,” the Toa of Stone murmured. “You’re enough of a sage to be a Ko-Matoran.”
Now he found himself wishing Vakama was here. It was clear the other Toa felt uneasy about Onewa being in charge and that they followed him reluctantly. The Po-Toa sighed. “How did you do it?” he thought, sadly. His question left unanswered, he started to unload.
The unloading process was slow but steady. Whenua had already emptied the first airship and was now helping Nuju and Matau unload the second. Onewa watched them work together. “With more hands to help with each following airship, we are sure to be done by nightfall,” he thought, content. “Good job, brothers.”
Nokama, however, was nowhere to be seen. Onewa looked across the coast. He found her not far away, sitting near the water’s edge. He headed towards her.
Nokama glanced back at the approaching Toa of Stone.
“Why aren’t you helping us unload?”
“I’m keeping watch,” the Toa of Water replied. “You never know when a Rahi might strike.”
“You can keep watch while you work,” snapped Onewa. “And besides, the Matoran are safe and asleep in their spheres. They’ll be all right. Now come, let’s empty these ships before Vakama arrives.”
Onewa had already turned to walk back. Then he noticed that Nokama wasn’t following him. The Ga-Toa was still sitting by the water, clutching her knees tightly to her chest. Onewa approached her calmly.
“What if something’s happened to him?” said Nokama, her voice heavy with worry.
Onewa gulped. He knew exactly who she was talking about.
“What if he got attacked? What if he drowned before he found the mask? We don’t know!” She dug her mask into her hands. “Oh, we never should’ve left him go alone.”
Onewa didn’t know what to say. His frustration at Nokama had evaporated like spilled Liquid Protodermis in a forge. He sat down beside her and gently put a hand on her shoulder.
“You and I both know what Vakama is like. Stubborn. Hot-headed. A little foolish, maybe. But he’s also strong and determined. I don’t know what’s taking him so long, but I’m sure he will return sooner or later.”
Nokama smiled weakly.
“You know what, Nokama, you’re right,” Onewa added, standing up, “we could use someone on watch. Keep a good look-out.”
“I will. Thank you, brother.”
Onewa returned a smile as weak and fragile as Nokama’s. He couldn’t shake the thought that something really had happened to Vakama. The memories of all the times the two Toa came to blows hit him like a wave.
“Why?” pondered Onewa. “Why did I have to be so hard on him? He was a good leader. Good enough.” He extended his gaze towards the vast horizon. “I’m sorry, brother,” he thought. “Please make it back in one piece.”
Finally, he headed back.
Dawn broke above the island, illuminating the airships parked near the coast. One day had already passed and yet the Toa still weren’t done. They had only emptied three of the six ships. But Onewa didn’t mind. “If Vakama can take his time,” he thought, “then so can we. What’s the rush?” He was standing by the loading dock of the fourth airship. He was about to start rolling the next sphere when a deep voice interrupted him.
“Whenua! What’s wrong?”
“Nuju and Matau have gotten into a fight. I tried to calm them down, but they won’t let up.”
Onewa followed the Toa of Earth as he ran back to the beach. There, they found the other two Toa. Nuju was whistling madly at Matau, who in turn, was shouting: “I don’t know what you’re speak-saying! Can you stop whistling like a Kewa and talk like a Toa?!”
Onewa watched them fight. “They’re acting like wild Akilini players,” he thought. “Maybe they could use a referee.” He stepped forwards, inhaling deeply.
Matau and Nuju froze. Onewa came closer.
“What is going on here?”
“I know-nothing!” said Matau, quick to defend himself. “I light-bump him and he starts spitting at me like a mad bird!”
Nuju responded with a series of clicks and whistles. Onewa waited for him to stop.
“Nuju, can you tell me what Matau did to you?”
The Toa of Ice let out another barrage of chirps and scratches. Onewa held back a curse. Nuju’s refusal to talk Matoran was starting to get on his nerves. But he remained calm. He noticed the Toa of Ice was point at his own head.
“Is there something wrong with your mask?” asked Onewa.
Nuju whistled excitedly. Then he held his scope and pointed at Matau. Onewa put two and two together.
“You think Matau broke your scope? Is that it?”
Nuju let out a high-pitched whistle. Matau scoffed.
“I gave you one small shove, scholar,” he said. “How would that break-”
Matau did as Onewa said.
“Nuju, try to use your scope.”
The Ko-Toa tried to zoom in. Onewa watched closely as the mechanism seemed to jam.
“I see,” he said. “Listen, Nuju, I know nothing about scopes. I don’t know if it’s broken or if it’s just stuck. I’ll ask Vakama to check it for you when he gets back. And as for you, Matau,” he continued, turning to the Toa of Air, “I’d try to be more careful. You could’ve hurt Nuju, you know that? Also, I want you to remember we’re handling Matoran, here. We need to take care”.
“Now, how about we go back to work?”
The rays of the evening sun reflected of the silver spheres scattered across the golden beach. Onewa, Whenua, Matau and Nuju sat with their backs against the cliffside. They were exhausted, but they were also relieved. They had finally managed to unload all the Matoran.
“Good-nice sight,” said Matau. “Now, what do we do?”
“We wait for Vakama,” answered Onewa. “He will tell us what to do next.”
“But he still hasn’t returned,” added Whenua, grimly. “I fear he might not come back at all.”
Nuju clicked solemnly. Onewa was barely paying attention. He was thinking about Vakama’s instructions. “Can I do it?” he thought. “Can I really ask myself and my brothers to give up their power? I don’t think I’m strong enough to do that.”
Once he finished that thought, another one followed: “I really wish you were here, fire-spitter. You’d know what to say.”
Just then, Nokama ran up. “He’s here!” she exclaimed. “Vakama has returned!”
The Toa looked at each other as if to ask if they heard that correctly. Then the realisation hit and they ran with Nokama to the other side of the beach. There, they found a red figure walking lethargically towards them.
Onewa was the first to greet him. “Brother!” he cried. “It’s so good to see you aga-”
He gasped. Vakama looked like he had been through a biostorm. His armour was scraped and melted and it appeared that he was limping slightly. But his gaze was exactly like that of a Toa of Fire – determined and unyielding. Vakama’s eyes met Onewa’s.
“It’s good to see you too, brother,” he said to the Toa of Stone and turned to the rest. “It’s good to see all of you.” Then he eyed the beach, covered with metal spheres. He smiled warmly. “Did everything go smoothly?”
“Like a Gukko-flight!” answered Matau. The response earned him an angry stare from Nuju.
Vakama didn’t notice. “I believe you have laboured long and hard,” he started. “And I have some very important things to tell you.”
“What important things?” asked Nokama. Onewa held out a hand to stop her. “Never mind that,” he said and turned back to Vakama. “Did you retrieve the Mask of Time?”
Vakama pulled the mask from behind his back. The Vahi had seen better days – it had changed from gleaming gold to rusted orange. A faint trace of a small crack ran along its side. But it was here. The Toa awed at the sight.
“You know,” said Onewa, “have I ever told you what a good maskmaker you are, Vakama?”
Vakama’s smile widened. “You have now.”
Onewa smiled back. “This here is a work of art. Although,” he added, “it could use some more touches. You ought to give it to me so I can add some decorations.”
The group erupted with laughter.
“There will be plenty time to do that …” replied Vakama, “… in the morning. I believe we all need a rest.”
The other Toa murmured in agreement. Resolutions can wait until the next day. It had been a long and arduous journey, but now the Toa were united once more. Their tale was coming to an end. Tomorrow, a new one would begin.