Kopaka stood still. In the silence, he looked up to the night sky, tracking his location using the stars he had become accustomed to in the past several days. He saw that he was on course and proceeded.
Behind him, he heard the soft, almost inaudible steps of the Protector of Ice following him. She offered no words, and neither did he. In the week they had spent traveling together, their conversations had been sparse, and Kopaka was comfortable with that. He had never been much of a conversationalist, and in all honesty, he felt…embarrassed.
As they often had in the time since, his thoughts went back to the day he arrived on Okoto.
When he first crashed down on the island, he found he had landed on a long-abandoned part of the Ice region, the location of a former village. All around him loomed small huts and buildings that, while unused, had withstood the elements and remained as a testament to history. In only a few carefully calculated missteps, Kopaka had managed to reduce half the village to rubble. When at last he was able to stand up and get his bearings, he looked up to a nearby hill, only to see the Protector, sitting comfortably, with a knowing grin on her face.
Flummoxed, he hastily tried to explain the recent destruction in a manner that would spare his ego, but he could see she had been watching for some time. She said nothing. He decided to stop talking.
The same scene had repeated itself at various times since then. Any slip-up, literal or otherwise, that Kopaka suffered, he quickly tried to cover up. He could be counted on to explain that he had not, in fact, slipped…up. She, on her part, was always silent.
After that first incident, the Protector led him back to the village. She spent some time explaining to Kopaka the situation in the island, retelling the old myths of the Mask Makers, and teaching him about the Region of Ice. Kopaka had no memories of his own, but the words he heard struck him as familiar, in some way. He had nothing to base his feelings on, but he felt sure that completing the quest for his golden mask would be the first step towards finding his true purpose. As for the other Toa the Protector mentioned…for one reason or another, Kopaka was not in any rush to meet them.
The Protector taught Kopaka how to read the stars, and told him the myths that pointed to the location of his mask. He took this knowledge as best he could, and decided to begin his quest. He decided to begin his quest, alone. Of course, the Protector ignored him. The two set out into the frost, with the Toa confidently leading the way.
At the time, the Protector had told him the journey would take them roughly a week, provided the weather was favorable, which in the Region of Ice, it never was. They had been travelling for a long time now, and it had not been an easy journey. Skull Spiders roamed the wilderness even in the frigid conditions, and the local wildlife wasn’t always very cooperative. The terrain was difficult enough to traverse, even without sudden storms getting in their way. It had been a draining experience, but Kopaka could feel the journey was almost over.
They were near.
In only a few hours, he would finally begin to fulfill his destiny.
Kopaka stared at the scene before him.
There was no sound but the crashing of waves against the shore, and the mocking laughter of a Protector behind him.
Kopaka had led the way to the coast of the Region of Ice. He was weeks off course.
He stared at the water.
Kopaka turned and walked back to where the Protector was sitting. She had not stopped laughing at his expense.
“Why did you not tell me we were going in the wrong direction?”
She briefly stopped to respond, “But noble Kopaka! You were so confident, even as you instantly went the opposite direction in which I directed you! How could one such as me contradict the great Hero of legend? Why, you did not even want me to accompany you, did you? It was certainly not my place!”
She was mocking him. She had waited a week for her big joke to pay off, and now she was enjoying it immensely.
Kopaka made a motion to turn away in disgust and fell flat on his face. The Protector’s laughter grew stronger and even more biting.
He had never been so humiliated in his life. Even with his memories gone, he was sure of this. He could barely stand realizing all ways he’d gone wrong on his journey.
Kopaka clenched his fists and tried to control his anger.
He stood up slowly.
“You…are surprisingly cruel.”
The Protector, still chuckling, responded.
“Haha…Yes, so I have heard. And you, noble hero, have surprisingly thin skin. If all it takes are this old crone’s pranks to get the better of you, I’m not so sure you’re the kind of hero this island needs.”
Kopaka turned away in disgust successfully this time.
“Don’t you realize what you have done? Your little joke has cost us weeks of travel. Every moment we delay, the island is in danger…and the other Toa…you said there were others. They too seek the golden masks. Surely by now they have claimed theirs. They will be waiting. I will be…I can’t be the one to hold everyone else back…”
“Ha! Kopaka, you can’t even keep yourself from holding yourself back. Do not try to blame me. You were an awful student. After only a few hours of talking about the stars, you were so confident that you knew what to do that you did not even want me to guide you. If I had let you do as you pleased and let you leave on your own, you’d probably be buried in a trench somewhere by now.”
Kopaka stayed silent. She was probably right.
“And certainly don’t try to guilt me. The island has been in danger every moment since the day we lost Ekimu…My people are stronger than you realize. We would survive even if you spent millennia stumbling through the snow.
“Your pride will cost you someday, Kopaka. Today you lost valuable time, and your ego has been damaged, hopefully beyond repair. Be thankful that is where it ended. Where does your confidence come from? Your self-reliance? Do you think you are already a hero? You have no memories, no experience, nothing but your big fancy weapons and some extra feet in height. You are far from ready to survive on your own, Kopaka. And you are not a hero. If you keep trying to do everything on your own, you will never be.”
The Protector got up and began walking back the way they came. After noticing he had remained where he was, she made a gesture for him to follow her.
“And I thought you were in a hurry…Some hero”
Kopaka sighed, and slowly began to follow her.
After a few minutes, she began to talk again.
“We are not so different, Kopaka. You may not be a hero, but…I was not made to be a Protector. “
Kopaka was puzzled.
“I will let you in on a little secret, Kopaka.”
She stopped walking and looked directly at him.
“I cannot stand the cold.”
Kopaka blinked. Then he blinked again. He blinked a third time. He spent several minutes blinking, standing still, with snow falling all around him.
The Protector resumed walking. He followed.
“Yes. That’s a decent response. But it’s true. I cannot stand the cold. Can you imagine it? Being born into a tribe that has spent countless generations foolishly turning fertile land into a frozen wasteland? And not only that, but being the daughter of the Protector, slated to one day lead the entire Region of Ice? Why, I could describe the experience, but I’m afraid that would require language so poor it would forever soil your pure hero ears.
“So, Kopaka, do you know what I did?”
She continued before he could answer.
“I didn’t do a single thing about it, Kopaka. I never consulted with my family or with the elders of the tribe. I decided to suck it up and bear it, because people were counting on me. Because I had responsibilities, and I could not allow myself to damage my family’s pride. And that was stupid. Because it turned out that it wasn’t only an eccentricity of mine, but a legitimately terrifying condition. After ages living in the ice, our bodies had evolved to handle the cold. But for whatever reason, I was missing that. It made my life unbearable. And I never bothered to tell anyone about it.
“The elders eventually figured it out. They taught me to use the powers of my mask to control the temperature around me, but…it was after the fact. I won’t bore you with the details, but my foolishness cost me use of my legs and hands. It took that for me to get help.”
She held up her hands, which, he now saw, were composed of ice. “They also taught me how to control these blasted elemental prosthetics. It’s not a very pleasant way to live, Kopaka. ”
The Toa stayed quiet. He did not know what to say.
“You can’t survive by yourself, Kopaka. You only lost time and pride today. Be thankful. Be thankful of what you have, and be thankful of the people that are there to help you. Don’t squander the help you’re given. There won’t always be people willing to aid you. Like I said, that pride will cost you someday. And when it does, it won’t be me, but the entire universe that will be laughing.
“Don’t let that happen.”
She stopped talking.
Kopaka simply followed her, deep in thought.
So...just a quick thing I wrote up. Trying to characterize some Protectors and expand on the journeys they took in the absence of any actual story material about that stuff. I plan to write some for the others...perhaps, anyway. If people want to see more. But yeah. Any comments or criticisms or whatever would be greatly appreciated.