A gentle breeze swam through the mass of trees, carrying the calls and replies of many insects and creatures that called this place home. Insects toiled away peacefully at their tasks for the day, building nests and gathering food. The plants on the jungle floor lay at odd angles, trying to catch as much sunlight as possible as it came down in ribbons through the jungle canopy.
A tall and slim figure adorned in bright green armour passed underneath a low hanging branch. Matau walked among the plants and vines of his new home, the jungle region of the newly christened island Mata Nui. There was a gentle hum of the insects and the sunlight warmed him through gaps in the canopy. Matau found the dull noise irritating when he first entered the jungle, but it was beginning to grow on him. He ventured further into the jungle, trying to take in his surroundings, unfortunately his mind was clouded by a more personal issue than where to build his new home.
He ventured on like a ghoul, not paying much attention to his surroundings. So it came as a surprise when he tripped over a tree root and landed face first in the mud.
"Urgh!" Matau moaned as got up to his feet and swiped the sticky residue from his mask and armour. If there was one thing the toa of air hated, it was having a mucky, shabby appearance. Well, that and one other thing.
Matau's mind returned to his one great problem, one that not even a great toa-hero could fix, or so he told himself. One of his fellow toa, Nokama, the toa of water, probably the most beautiful sight Matau had ever seen. He had an attraction towards her ever since their fateful meeting at the Great Temple in Metru Nui, but after all they had been through together it was much more than that.
They had fought together on countless occasions, winning battles that had seemed impossible at the time. The spirits of air and water made a good team, at least that's what their toa brothers had said.
From their first meeting, Matau had tried many times to flirt with her, though she would always dismiss these attempts as jokes. Even he had to admit that some of his attempts were, painful, 'I see you and me going on a romantic ride-drive.' He cursed himself for that particular effort.
Even the cursing of his own mistakes couldn't match up to the thought of him making a complete fool of himself in front of her, he thought. He had wondered lately whether it would not be easier to simply abandon his feelings for her, 'easier said than done', Matau told himself.
Matau had stopped being as flirty with the toa of water recently, in fact he had almost stopped talking to her altogether. The last time he could remember talking to her in the last week was when he asked her to take over the controls of the airship while he went to the toilet. 'Very romantic', he told himself.
Matau stopped walking, and closed his eyes with a sigh, he knew there was no point thinking on this. He should just put his feelings to one side for now and get to grips with the mission at hand, the matoran needed him and the others to rescue them. He doubted they'd appreciate a failed rescue attempt due to one lovesick toa.
Matau opened his eyes and made up his mind to go back to the beach and just wait for the others, focussing on the mission would give his feelings time to sort themselves out. 'Yes', he told himself, 'that's just what I need, makes no sense to dream-chase'. Matau turned around and looked to find the route out of the jungle, he frowned as he saw that nothing looked familiar, every tree, vine and plant looked new, there was nothing for him to figure his own position from.
"Mata Nui!" He cursed out loud "That's just great, lost in my own jungle now!" He let out his frustration on a gnarled tree route near by, punching it with an armoured fist. He looked around in desperation for a clue to his current location or a way out, a chink of light through the trees, a shimmer of blue, an odd looking rahi, a … wait … he looked back to where he saw the ghostly blue slither.
It was gone, Matau marched up to where he saw it, a clearing behind a group of trees. He heard a rustle of branches behind him, he spun round only to see the branches swaying from contact with something. Matau unsheathed his swords and made threats to the jungle around him.
"I'm warning you!" He shouted, "I am a great toa-hero!" There was no answer from the mass of foliage. 'Great', he thought to himself, 'I'm shouting at trees now, the fire-spitter's madness must be contagious', he remembered the time when most of the toa believed Vakama to be insane due to his visions. It was only Nokama who believed in him. Nokama … Her face filled his vision, her voice in his ears, her touch on his skin. 'No!' Matau brought himself back to the jungle, 'forget about her! You're a toa-hero, you've got a job to do!' He remembered the other toa, the matoran.
He sheathed his weapons and chuckled in spite of himself at his hopeless predicament. He then returned to his clueless search for a way out of the dense jungle. He never heard the slender figure rush him from behind, knocking him over and back into the mud.
Matau rushed back to his feet, sword in hand, ready to fight off his foe. He tried in vain to brush the mud from his eyes. Ignoring the stinging he readied his weapon to strike. He heard laughter, a soft, feminine voice, he knew that laugh. He could make out a slender blue figure standing before him, hands on hips.
"No-Nokama?" Matau asked uncertainly, still keeping his guard, his mask and armour plastered in mud.
"Yes, it is me" The water spirit replied, giggling, she came closer to him and put a hand on his shoulder. "You know I'm not really here to attack you?" She asked with concern, clearly viewing Matau's closed, watering eyes, a result of the mud.
"I know," Matau replied a little too quickly, "just got something in my eye." He tried to turn away from her so he could scrape the mud away, even claw his own eyes out if need be. He didn't want the first thing he saw when he regained his vision to be her face. She grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him towards her however, before he could object she had her hand directly over his eyes.
"Here, let me." She whispered, her voice deep in concentration. Before Matau realised what was happening a small wave of water came across both his eye's, through the sockets and bathed them. The water was cool, but not unpleasant. A moment later the water was gone, and Matau risked opening his eyes, the stinging was gone. Nokama was looking into them with her deep blue eyes, they were filled with care and concern, 'why does she have to do that?' Matau thought to himself.
"Better?" Nokama asked.
"Yeah, loads-much better." He cleared his throat, sometimes he hated the way all Le-matoran and toa have the uncanny ability to speak in a form of slang that none of the other villagers understood. Nokama chuckled however and turned to wash some mud off of her own armour. Matau looked down at his, his bright green armour hidden behind a wall of brown sludge, he looked like a toa of stone. 'Only better looking', he smirked to himself.
Matau turned his attention back to Nokama, who was still attending to her armour while perched on a tree stump. Matau tried not to stare at her slender figure when he spoke.
"So what are you doing out here, sneak-spying on defenceless toa-hero's?" He half joked, he didn't like being interrupted when he was deep in thought. He wasn't often deep in thought mind, a fact Nuju and some of the other toa would jibe at him for frequently.
Nokama stood up and turned to face him, "Vakama has called us all back to the beach, it's time we started planning our rescue of the matoran."
"Ah great, well then teacher lets go." Matau stood their waiting for Nokama to start moving, but she stayed still, watching him. Her gaze made him nervous. "What?
"Well," She started "which way is it?" She asked.
"You don't know?" Matau asked her incredulously.
"No why would I know?" She replied in astonishment.
"You followed me in here!"
"Yes, so shouldn't you know which way you were going?"
"I wasn't paying attention." Matau said in a tone that suggested Nokama was at fault here and not him.
"What!" Nokama started, staring at him in shock.
"Haha!" Matau laughed as if he had achieved a great victory. "Serves you right for sneak-following!" Nokama stared at him incredulously for a moment before chuckling.
"Fair enough, if ever I decide to 'sneak-follow'," She mimicked Matau's voice "anyone again, I'll make sure it's not an overgrown brainless rider." Matau smiled sheepishly in reply to Nokama's amused smirk. She began to turn and search for a route as he had done earlier.
"I've already tried that," Matau offered, "right before I was attacked by an overgrown teacher." Nokama smiled slightly at his words. Matau had always gotten on well with Nokama, the others didn't understand his jokes and didn't banter like she did.
"Well then rider, this is your jungle, what do you suggest we do?" She turned back towards him. Matau looked around for an idea, then it hit him.
"Trees!" He exclaimed.
"There are lots of them yes, glad to know your eyesight hasn't failed you like your memory has." Nokama said sarcastically, not understanding Matau's brilliant idea. Well, he told himself it was brilliant.
"No, we quick-climb up the trees and see which way is fast-route out." Matau took a few steeps back, away from Nokama and ran towards a nearby tree. He gracefully grasped one of the branches and swung himself around and up onto a higher branch. He stood up straight and struck a heroic pose. Nokama clapped sarcastically, but smiled in spite of herself.
"Very nice, oh great toa-hero." She rolled her eyes as she too ran up another tree and the two spirits began to make their ascent to the top of the canopy. Matau was the first to reach the top, this was his realm after all. He waited for Nokama to pop out of the canopy a few trees away before he declared.
"There! That's the fast-route out." He called to her across the thick canopy, pointing just to the east of the volcano that dominated the skyline of Mata Nui, the new home of Vakama and the Ta-matoran.
Nokama nodded to Matau. "Lets go then." They dropped below the canopy, but instead of dropping to the jungle floor, Matau started jumping from tree to tree in an artistic manner that Nokama couldn't help but admire. She had always thought that years riding on the back of machines would have had an effect on the toa of air's fitness, it appears she was mistaken.
"Last one there's a Ta-matoran!" Matau called back to Nokama in his usual playful tone. Normally the toa of water was a cautious one, more likely to sit and plan than jump head first into any situation. She was spurred on however by a sudden desire to catch up to Matau and beat him at his own game. So she followed suit, and started leaping from tree to tree, after the spirit of air.
At first the journey was precarious, not wanting to slip and fall, Nokama kept to a steady speed. Matau was escaping from view however and this spurred her on, the rush of branches and birds flying by exhilarated her as she leaped from among the heights of Matau's realm.
Faster and faster she went, pulling off more and more daring stunts. Matau was only a few metres ahead of her now, she would catch him, she would … Nokama slipped, she missed a branch and she fell, tumbling to the jungle floor. She landed with a great crash, her head spinning, she passed out.
Matau was still racing ahead, shouting as he experienced the thrill of the air rush by him. He loved this experience, and inside, he was coming to an understanding. Nokama was still his friend and a fellow toa, he may still have affections for her, but he couldn't let that come in the way of anything he already has.
Matau turned his head around, expecting to see Nokama close on his tail, nothing. He decided to stop, a bit of a break wouldn't harm his chances of winning, he'd see her in just a few moment racing among the trees. Nothing. Concern crept over him now, "Nokama?" he called to the trees, the squeaks and hums of insects were all that answered him.
Nokama woke on the jungle floor, her head spinning, everything was blurry and there were two of them. Her whole body ached, she felt a sharp pain in her right ankle, and she felt it gingerly, finding it to be broken. She gasped at the pain and looked around her, her weapons were a dozen metres away, and she was surrounded by a mass of trees and vines.
"Matau?" she called, so quietly that he would have only heard her if he was sat right next to her, in which case calling him would be irrelevant. She tried to get up to stand, but her ankle collapsed underneath her, she wasn't going anywhere just yet.
A high-pitched buzzing noise crept along the edge of her vision, beyond the clearing of her crash landing site. Nokama hoped that whatever rahi it was, it would be a friendly one, she wasn't in much of a condition to fight at the moment.
A pair of great winged rahi came into the clearing, eyeing up Nokama with suspicion, they looked like giant dragonflies, with oversized claws and hooks. Nokama was close to passing out, she fought to keep her eyes open and on the two new arrivals. The buzzing grew louder as they approached her, they sensed easy prey.
"Ma …" Nokama groaned weakly, a large shadow flew over Nokama and landed in front of her, the flying rahi turned their attentions to this new foe. Nokama struggled to keep awake as she watched the stand off. The new shadowy figure circled the rahi, leading them away from her, it looked no match for the two flying rahi.
One of the rahi made a lunge for the mysterious figure, but the shadow darted to the right of it and made a swipe with one of its blades across the rahi's body. A loud shriek pounded upon Nokama's ears. The second rahi made its own attack and flew into the shadow, pushing it against a tree, threatening to gore the timely saviour on one of its claws.
The shadow pushed the rahi back though, and began to press its own attack. Bring its swords up and crashing them down on the rahi's head. Another loud shriek, and Nokama saw both the rahi flee, or were there four of them? The shadowy figure ran over to her, she couldn't make out her saviours face, though she felt that it was familiar. The figure said something incomprehensible. She thought she heard her own name, and then she passed out.
Nokama opened her eyes, she was stood in the middle of the jungle, and yet it wasn't a jungle, the trees were pale and translucent, and it was far too clean and orderly. A faint buzzing sound caught her attention. She turned around to see the beasts again, two flying insects charging straight towards her, aiming to kill. She cowered before them, frightened and unable to defend herself. At the last second, a ghostly figure jumped in front of her and fought the creatures off. He turned towards Nokama, his smile friendly, and his face familiar.
The familiar stranger walked towards her, and without a word, picked her up in his arms and took her away. Nokama didn't know how, but she knew that this figure was taking her to safety. His touch was soft and loving, and she revelled in it as she lay in his arms. It felt right, it was here where she belonged.
All went dark and black, and the figure holding her grew further and further away.
Nokama awoke with a start, remembering the attack. She was lying in a small clearing in the jungle, the ghostly figure was just a dream. She shuffled her position to get a better view of her surroundings, a dull pain shot through her ankle. She carefully caressed it. The ankle was fixed, yet sore and swollen. She felt incredibly tired, but also warm and oddly relaxed. She turned round to see a fire close by, close enough to provide substantial heat, but not to be stifling.
"Your awake." Nokama turned to the source of this familiar voice, it was Matau, and he was sat on a log tending to a meal, know staring at her with unusually great concern on his face. "Are you well-better?" He asked her with the typical slang of his people that Nokama had always found charming.
Nokama tried to sit up, but Matau pushed her back down. "Sit, rest, you've been badly hurt-injured."
"What …" Nokama tried to make sense of what happened in her head, "What happened?" She stroked her face with the effort of trying to remember the events of her attack.
"You slipped-fell from the trees I think, and hurt your ankle." Matau provided helpfully, his voice caring. This conflicted with his thoughts however, 'how could she do this to me? There's only so many heart-scares a toa-hero can take in one day, she could have been killed!' Matau watched her carefully as she sat up again, she turned towards him with a puzzled expression.
"You saved me?" She asked, as if uncertain whether or not he had.
"Well, I made those little rahi bugs quick-sped." He said jokingly with a little smile. Nokama smiled back at him. "I did my best-most with your ankle," Matau added nervously, "but I don't thinks it's fully heal-fixed, you should get Vakama to take a look at that."
"Thank you." She said warmly and tried to get up to stand. Matau rushed to steady her. "I'm fine, really." She said with annoyance, though she secretively appreciated Matau's guiding hand as she tried to regain her balance.
"Are you ok-good on that ankle?" Matau asked cautiously. Nokama chuckled and looked at him.
"Matau, I'm fii…" She toppled over as her ankle gave way beneath her, pulling Matau with her to the ground. He landed on top of her. They caught each others gaze, Matau threatened to lose himself in her deep blue eyes. Nokama's face was unclear, a mixture of wonder and curiosity. She stroked his cheek, their faces drawing nearer. "I'm fine." She whispered, and their lips met. It was better than Matau had ever dreamed of, it lasted only a moment, but for Matau it could have been an eternity.
They pulled away finally and gazed into each other's eyes. Nokama smiled sweetly up at the spirit of air, her eyes loving. "I love you." She whispered to him. Matau nearly whooped with joy when he heard those words, but he controlled himself, and smiling he said.
"I love you too." He kissed her once on the forehead and gazed down at her. Nokama had closed her eyes and was snuggled into Matau closely, not even caring for her aching ankle. He held her protectively, and the two spirits lay there until the warm sun fell below the canopy's edge.