They left the boat banked on the beach and walked inland on an overgrown road. Kotu climbed over a fallen tree blocking the way, and Macku clambered to follow. She sat on top for a moment, gazing back in the direction of the beach. The view was already obscured by trees and overgrowth.

Macku made a small, anxious sound; a sigh approaching a whine. Kotu knew that sound. She had learned it was unconscious on Macku's part and had decided not to tell her about it. It was cute, and it also let Kotu know something was wrong.

"Feeling ponderous?" she called out, leaning on a tree as she watched her friend.

"This road doesn't seem... safe," Macku replied after a moment. "It must have been abandoned for a reason. Tarakava will prey along inland trails sometimes, you know."

"Oh, so you don't think I could punch a Tarakava's mask off before it punched mine??"

"Kotu you don't have long lizard arms!! It would smack you before you could even get close!" Macku's shoulders relaxed some, her legs swinging.

"Fiiiine, these arms aren't long enough for you...." Kotu stretched her arms out in front of her with a loud sigh. "just another way in which you judge me for being smaller than you, I get it...."

Macku hopped off the log and went up to her, taking Kotu's wrists in her hands. "You're being difficult."

Grinning, Kotu let her arms drop and gently bumped her mask to Macku's, saying "I will also be difficult to any Rahi who for some reason has decided to menace this Extremely Safe road. Except I'll be difficult to them with Violence. So relax."

Macku sits on a log in the forground, while Kotu looks at her from behind.

Macku stiffened up slightly and took a quick, nervous survey for immediate threats (there were none), but smiled genuinely at Kotu and nodded.

Line break, made of gears.

Some half of an hour into the trek with no immediate end in sight, Macku ventured, "will you tell me what it is yet?"

"Nope!" was the response. Kotu let her momentum carry her at a sprint down a hill, braking herself on a tree at the base and stopping to watch as Macku picked her way down.

"How have you even been this way before?"

"Remember the story of Gali and the King of the Brakas?"

"That is not an answer to my question!!” Macku caught up to Kotu and lightly shouldered her.

Kotu shouldered back and continued.

Gali makes her way down a rock face of some ruins.

There were many roads known little to person or creature in those days, and Gali walked one in search of the Mask of Concealment. After a ways, she came upon an old Takara-circle that was now a crystal spring. In the center, the dias had been claimed by the King of the Brakas.

Gali, who knew not of this, strode to the dias and wondered that such a place should be abandoned. And the King of the Brakas dropped down from the canopy and asked, "who are you that you would stand upon my throne?"

And though he stood before Gali, she could not see him. Never the less, she replied, "I am called Gali, known in many places as the Spirit of Water. All places where water gushes forth from the earth, as here, are my domain."

The King laughed deeply at this, and returned to the canopy to swing about the circle, singing the Toa's name.

Gali... Gali... Gali... the water spirit Gali!

You wear a so grand a mask!

Would every spring be your throne?

Every stream, the march of your armies?

The rain, a hail of arrows loosed in your name?

The morning dew your speckled subjects?"

At this, Gali raised a stream from the pool, arcing it over the dias and into the opposite end of the circle. "Behold my communion with the water, and know my words are not little!"

Leaning easily down from a branch, the King sate himself on the arcing stream, then returned to the dias floor.

The King of Brakas swings through the trees.

The Mask of Water is truly yours, o Gali!

Even then, it is said tales of kings who rule from ten thousand thrones

seldom hold in the flood. Forget not,

the face you conceal beneath.

Wise Gali spoke, "you speak of concealment, and indeed remain yourself unseen. You know then, what I seek."

The King of the Brakas laughed again, romping around the dias gleefully.


Clear like water I stand before you. Would you did the same,

and the object of your quest should make itself unhidden!

The King of the Brakas stands before Gali and addresses her.

That riddle Gali pondered greatly. Then, quick of mind, she brought her arms up, and took into them her Mask of Water. So same did the King of the Brakas, who removed his Mask of Concealment and became clear to Gali at once.

"Your challenge was a grand one, mighty king," said Gali, who knew now her opponent. "Your wordcraft is great, and brings to me good counsel. I am known by my mask as the Spirit of all Waters, and to this I am indebted my power. But under that surface I am Gali, a simple woman, who cannot be all things and all places."

Gali! Gali! Gali!

I delight in your reflection

and bow to you even so exposed,

no mask on your head.

May this treasure bring the strength

of wisdom to your water-horde in the trials

from days yet unwritten

Gali and the king remove their masks.

The King of the Brakas lowered his head, offering in his hands the Mask of Concealment. And Gali took that mask and placed it upon her face, and at once she understood more of her place in the world, and knew that so long as she wore this mask, she might be unknown to the creatures of the Makuta.

She bowed in return to the King of the Brakas, and took leave of his throne as she continued down the old road.

Gali triumphant, wearing the mask of concealment.

"Okay. Can you say where we are going now?" Macku asked.

"Guess!" Kotu answered.

"Um... this is the scenic route to the Great Temple."

"Guess based on context clues from my story."

"Are you telling me you know where the King of the Brakas lives??"

Kotu winked in response. "Do you really not know about this? I knew you already knew the story but I thought you'd know this part too."

"Maybe I would if you would explain it to me!!!" Macku draped herself over Kotu's back in exasperation.

Kotu reached around for an awkward reverse hug. "This used to be a whole thing. Once, as a kid, I got to come here. Nokama led a parade along the coast and down this road, to the old Takara-circle. We sang songs and played lyres all the way, there were painted banners. A lot like holi-days to the Temple of Gali."

Her nose scrinkling in skepticism under her mask, Macku nudged against Kotu. "How come I don't remember this?"

"I don't think you went, you were literally baby." Kotu said. "smaller even than I am today...."

"If I was baby, so were you! You were even more of baby!!"

"Ok yeah but like, someone decided to take me along I guess. I was carried a lot of the way, toddled the rest. They probably regretted bringing me."

Macku nodded slightly, looking through the trees at a pair of birds playing fight with each other as the two continued walking.

Macku drapes herself over Kotu's back.

"When we got to the circle," Kotu continued, "we sang the Song of Gali and, like in the story, we all took off our masks."

Macku stumbled over a branch and swung around to Kotu. "You WHAT???"

Kotu giggled. "I mean it was a formal group activity, don't get too excited~," her wry smile played across her eyes, leaving Macku to look away, flushed. "… But yes, we all took off our masks and stood there in silence for a couple minutes. Then there was a feast, and when the sun set we returned to town."

"S... so why..." Macku began, still looking away.

"The following year, Nokama decided it had become too dangerous to make the trip, with everything going on... and it's been like that since then."

"So this road IS dangerous!!" Macku hopped in front of Kotu's path, pointing accusatorialy and reflexively glancing around for any immediate threats (there were none).

Macku pointing at Kotu. The truth come out!

Kotu took her wrist this time, looking down. "Yeah I mean... I don't know. Maybe. Just trust me for this one?"

A shiver ran through Macku as she realized she had unwittingly crossed a rare line in Kotu's generally indefatigable nature.

"It's like... ever since back then, pretty much everything is off limits," Kotu continued. "We still make the annual pilgrimage to Gali's Temple. And we can even go to Po-Koro since its a well-traveled route that's protected for trade. But I wanna fucking GO places, you know??"

Macku wasn't much for traveling inland, but her heart raced to relate Kotu's feelings to something she could better understand. She thought about how trapped she would feel if she wasn't able to canoe about the bay at will. "I... I think I understand. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..."

She felt her arm move as Kotu pulled it gently toward herself, resting Macku's hand against her face. "I know, you're not like that. That's why I brought you here. I'm sorry to make you anxious... it means a lot you came here with me."

"I... I..." Macku looked away again, blushing. "You... I… I can put up with the threat of a lizard attack, if its for you. And only for you."

Kotu giggled again, letting Macku's arm go and tackling her in a hug. "Oh, you like me soo much you'll face deathly punches? I must be really important to youu~"

"Stooooooop!!" Macku whined, but she hugged back.

Hugging by the lilacs.
Line break, made of gears.

Before long, they had reached the Takara-circle. The two shared a meal of dried fruit and fish, listening to the babble of the spring and the hymns of the jungle as they talked and considered the Great Thoughts in their own ways.

"It's nice, isn't it?" Kotu said after a while.

"It's nice!! You were right, this was worth the trip."

"Whenever I thought about this circle before, it would make me sad. It used to be everyone's place, now it belongs to nobody. That's why I thought we could make it our place." The smile returned to Kotu's eyes as she gazed at Macku.

Macku wiggled a little. "W-we have places, right? Like going to Kolhii games…"

"Yes I will always go to Kolhii games with you. … Yes I will always go to Kolhii games with you whenever I do not have something more interesting to do. Podu sweep this season," while Macku laughed, Kotu continued, "What I mean is a place that is truly JUST for us. A place where we can see each other, clear like water..."

Kotu and Macku sitting on a low bluff in the ruins, eating a meal.

Kotu took Macku's chin in her hand and gently guided her to face herself. Then, Kotu carefully removed her own mask, letting Macku see her exposed face.

This wasn't the first time Macku had seen a face, but it was the first time she had examined one in detail. The soft smile she knew from Kotu's eyes carried across to the rest of her features, a playful expression legible on her mouth, touched perhaps by a faint spirit of nervousness. A panoply of shapes and features from cheek to cheek gave Macku a window into Kotu's heart she had never imagined might exist, and she felt in this moment she had grown in knowledge about the world.

She wasn't sure how long she had been staring when Kotu gave a slight, questioning nod. Macku nodded in assent. Then she shut her eyes and sat very very very still as she felt her mask being lifted away from her.

For a while, there was silence. Then she heard a giggle. "Its a lot easier to see how embarrassed you are this way, its written all over you. Not that it was hard to tell before, anyway~"

They look at each other with masks removed. Their faces are obscured to the viewer.

That got Macku to snap her eyes open, and she covered her face in her arms reflexively. "No fair, being like that!!!!"

"Heyyy come on, hiding your face like that destroys the point!" Kotu pried, bonking against her. "Arms are like a makeshift mask, when used so insidiously!!"

Macku relented, exposing again her (apparently flushed and embarrassed) face. "Thank youuu~" Kotu cooed, leaning in and resting her forehead directly on Macku's. Macku jumped slightly at the sensation.

They were lost in each other's eyes for a long while. Then Kotu leaned in closer.

In that place, they could see eachother, and share eachother.

The pair's masks, lying next to each other surrounded by spring nature.
Footer. An old Bionicle mask, eaten away by fungi and molds.