Tainted Wine and Painted Vine

— Begin quote from ____

Hi. Thanks for stopping by. This thread is a collection of short stories, the vast majority of which will be in the present day, to flesh out details about the Oan Isles. Another thread I am working on, Devil in the Mist, is set exclusively 157 years from now and is intended to flesh out details about Oan expansion. Feel free to read and enjoy.

— End quote

Aia was an artist. She was 20 years old and studying accounting sciences at the University of La Rochelle. She was in ther second year of varsity. In her spare time she went to the R10 Solowasai Lane Train Station to paint portraits or caricatures of people passing by for a small fee if they asked for it. If no one was interested then she painted what she saw. She had never been formally trained or instructed, but she was able to capture light and movement in marvelous ways. Unfortunately her family was not particularly wealthy. She saw the great effort that her parents put in at work to give her a good home, an education and a good life. Although they were willing to support any career she chose, she wanted to do something that would give her the financial resources to take care of them and give them a better life one day. Because she was smart and good with numbers – and her teacher suggested it – she decided to study accounting sciences.

During high school, Oan students are directed towards the career choice that suits their abilities and interests. Many students receive practical training in a craft or field. They are apprenticed under a master of the craft accredited with the Oan Education Office. At the end of their education, they receive a qualification to practice in that career or occupation. Most people continue working in the career for which they trained in high school. Most people do not study further. Aia’s choice of apprenticeship compelled her to pursue further education.

Aia had chosen to apprentice as an artist in the Fine Arts. She was gifted in painting and sculpture and traditional weaving and had trained under a master of arts to refine and enhance her gift. She knew that her parents wanted her to do something else; they wanted her to pursue a craft that was in high demand and had consistent and decent pay. They swallowed their pride and supported her decision. She knew that they were disappointed, so she wanted to make it up to them by pursuing further education.

Getting into an Oan university is bitterly hard. When compared to the vast majority of developed countries, the Oan Isles has very low rates of people who want to go to university; the vast majority of them do not need to. University is seen as a privilege for the brilliant. She fought as hard as could: studied late, arrived at school hours early, handed in work before the time it was due and never missed a day of school. Her parents were surprised and euphoric when she was accepted into the most prestigious Oan university and the most difficult to get into: the University of La Rochelle.

She was apathetic towards accounting sciences. She was not for or against it either way. She knew that it was a means to an end. Her art was her final goal. That is why she enjoyed coming to this particular section of the La Rochelle subway system. It was busy enough to have lots of people, but empty enough to allow her to notice and capture details. Sometimes street theatres were held here. The artists who performed and the directors who produced these plays put them on at this particular station because it was close to one of the most prestigious theatres in Oan professional theatre: the Solowasai Theatre. Aia painted the actors. They were enchanting. They paid her for her paintings, so she developed a relationship with them.

One day she was painting, when a tremor shook the urth. It was medium-sized. It was followed by a few after shocks and then it all stopped. People carried on with what they were doing. People in the Oan Isles were well acquainted with and not bothered by Urthquakes. She decided to keep painting. The quake may have been small, but it shook a badly worn support beam. The beam was holding on by a thread. The authorities and the engineers did not pay much attention to it. They did not properly inspect, repair or maintain it.

Aia heard the sound of screeching metal and popping bolts. She looked up and saw the beam move. She tried to pack her equipment as quickly as she could. People were running. She was shoved and kicked and thrown and tossed. The beam collapsed! Dust filled the air. People screamed. Trains screeched to a hault. There was mayhem and confusion. Aia had been thrown onto the ground by the force of the fall. She lay down. Her ears rang. Adrenaline filled her.

She looked at her hand, bewildered. It was under a massive object, but it did not heart. When she realised that she had been injured, the pain shot through her arm, body and to her brain like lightning. She screamed like a banshee and called for help. Paramedics tried to get the object off. Eventually they succeeded and took her to the hospital. They gave her painkillers to numb the bitter pain. She eventually went to sleep.

When they got to hospital, they violently woken up. The doctors and nurses were yelling and asking her questions. She assumed because their mouths were moving violently. She could not really hear them. They gave up on her and instead scanned her thumb print. The Universal Identification System that the hospital used to find and contact her parents was a system that was used in most state institutions. Important or basic information about a person was linked to a profile that government institutions such as hospitals could gain access to and identify people or contact people they were close to.

Her eyes flickered open and she saw herself wearing white clothes. Her parents were standing beside her. They embraced her warmly. She recounted her terrifying experiences. They had something even more terrifying to recount to her. After some prodding on her part and mumbling on theirs, her father told her that her hand was badly damaged. She could possibly lose the use of her dominant hand forever. She was not surprised – it was an outcome she had thought about – but hearing her parents say it with that much solemnity and anguish magnified the impact of what happened.

She cried. Not so much for the loss of her hand, but for the loss of all the potential she would lose with it. She cried for the beautiful things she was yet to make and for a life of renown as an artist that would never come. Her parents took her home, where she convalesced. She grieved the potential loss of her hand. Doctors prodded, probed, pressed and pontificated on her hand and how to repair it. She had already given up. She allowed her parents to drag her from orthopedist to orthopedist, neurologist to neurologist. One doctor in particular did not explicitly say that her hand was lost, but hope was bleek at best. With that she gave up.

Her parents tried to formulate another plan and go back to another doctor to see what outcomes they had predicted. While they were exchanging ideas, she sat in silence and watched them. She eventuallg yelled at them, “STOP!”

They were surprised and turned to look at her. She continued, “I am very grateful for the work you are doing and the energy you are putting in to make me better. There is no hope. My hand is gone. And I won’t be an artist any more”.

Her parents tried to comfort and console her. She withdrew. Her mother was visibly upset. She slapped Aia across the cheek. Aia looked at her in shock and disbelief.

Her mom said, “You will not disrespect your father and I, by giving up. We may not have wanted you to be an artist, yet we are fighting for your dreams and your life. You have the nerve to spit that back in our faces?”

She looked away and her mother pulled her back. She said, “You are Aia Wasai, wasai ie wayataka e puyapuya ma iemeie. Nioni ti tuela masoaia ma u kitika ti nabo iako. Kitika nayana ia Oa, nayana ia maie e paie. Tukela mahupo ako. Kitika wasai ia tuwele. Kitika nana”.

She smiled. She thought that her parents would be relieved by her giving up. Their love for her went beyond their own expectations or dreams. That this was a challenge she had to overcome, not just for herself, but for them too. God gives his biggest fights to his strongest soldiers. She knew that this was her fight, and it was hers because she was strong.

Tenai was an young man who lived in Serenity City. He was an apprentice in the Serenity Drama Company in high school. He was later employed as a full time dancer, actor and singer with the company. The company produced street plays and Firelight open ended plays. The company produced street plays as stepping stones for performers to more lucrative and acclaimed roles as plays in Firelight theatre.

Firelight theatre is the highest form of theatre in the Oan Isles. It was inspired by the storytelling employed by our ancestors a very long time ago. In the evenings a play would be held by the light of a burning fire, surrounded by the entire village. A narrator would explain the story, while a performer mimed and danced to convey the meaning of the story. There was no dialogue. In larger settings the performers sang and danced in elaborate dance pieces. When the Oan Isles began industrialising things changed.

People began flooding into the cities to find work and opportunities, leaving the old ways behind. The workers missed the old plays and sought to duplicate the theatre they were accustomed to in the villages. They performed plays in the street. These performances became regular features in open plazas and streets in the bigger cities. The performances were generally unrefined and did not conform to the rigid rules of traditional Oan performing arts in order to adapt to a change in circumstance. This is how the concept of Oan street theatre was born.

Wealthy families and patrons employed actors and directors to replicate the plays or the style of theatrical storytelling that they had known from the remote villages and rural areas, much like the workers did. Unlike the workers, the wealthy families and patrons had the means to put on large productions and in large venues. It became the dream of many performers to appear in plays before the mighty and wealthy. Unlike the street plays, the rich favoured a style of performance that conform to the rigid rules of Oan performing arts. This became known as Firelight theatre.

Firelight theatre came to represent the highest calibre of Oan theatre. Formal rules were adopted to define the concept of Firelight theatre as it evolved overtime, but left the patrons and performers to redefine theatre as trends changed. One of the most famous Firelight theatres in the Oan Isles was the Solowasai Theatre in La Rochelle. Tenai had a dream to perform there one day.

He worked hard until he was sent by the Serenity Drama Company to La Rochelle to act in Ziza Zu’s street theatre play “Loana ua soaiana”. He was performing at the R10 Solowasai Lane Train station. He met a girl called Aia. She was a painter. He used the little money he had to by some of her paintings. She was a brilliant artist who had lots of potential. When he heard about her injury after a collapse of a beam at the R10 station, he felt sad and went to see her in hospital.

She was eventually discharged from hospital. They spoke frequently. For a time she seemed sad and withdrawn, until she gained a new strength and courage. He admired and wanted to put the same strength and courage in his acting career.

After a famous female Oan singer, Sana Nialoa released a cover of the title song of the street play he was acting in, his status was elevated dramatically. The play he was acting received new interest until it qualified to be part of the La Rochelle, Firelight circuit. When Ziza excitedly made the announcement to the cast, they were overjoyed. The play was scheduled to have an open run in the Solowasai Theatre. The cast had to work harder than ever before the debut.

Tenai was taking some strain. After a long rehearsal, he took a walk with fellow actors. They had fun through in the streets of La Rochelle. It was clear, however, that they were all scared and fatigued. One of the actors Tito decided to expose them to something that was hotly debated in broader society: marijuana.

It was illegal to sell or distribute marijuana, but simply smoking it got you a slap on the wrist. The actors were a little scared to take part in Tito’s shocking habit He rolled some marijuana and they passed it around. Each took a single drag. They coughed from the unusual and harsh smoke. They all laughed about it. When the roll reached Tenai he was more apprehensive. His friends encouraged him, chanting his name. He eventually conceded. His lungs burnt and he coughed terribly But he liked it.

He started asking Tito for more of it. Tito was glad to share his secret indulgence. He started to yearn for the sense of invincibility and euphoria that the marijuana gave him. He started to care less about his performance and his craft. He was enjoying a drag behind the Solowasai threatre, when Tito came to see him. Tito was surprised by how much marijuana he was consuming and how muxh he had grown attached to it. Tito tried to talk him out of it, to get over the high. Tenai didn’t want to and he fought with him. Tito threatened to tell Ziza. Tito went to the theatre’s dressing room. Tenai followed him and tried to stop Tito, but he was too late. Ziza tried to balance both stories, but it was clear that Tenai was guilty. Tenai was removed from the Firelight production.

Ziza demoted him to the street theatre plays. Tenai wanted to quit theatre and go back home. He decided to actually watch the firelight play before going back to Serenity City. He felt strange being a member of the the audience instead of being a performer commanding their focus. He heard the music and understood the story differently. He saw himself in the main protagonist, a young man living in the underbelly of the mighty Oan city of the Port of The Rock. He started to comprehend the gravity of of what he had become addicted to. He decided to stay, to rebuild his credibility and trust. He sang along to the song that made the play famous:
"God paints the wine and weaves the web.
"Man taints the vine and cuts the thread.
"I play my games and see the city
"For I want the same and feel the pity
“I just sing in the city”.


Tito felt like garbage. He snitched on his friend while he was privy to the same habit. He knew that Tenai would not snitch on him back. Tito did not really care much about his own future even though he had a talent of his own. He believed in Tenai’s dreams and would probably fight more viciously for them than Tenai would. He was being a hypocrit. I guess that’s why Jesus said, “Don’t tell your brother to take the sawdust out of his eye before you have taken the plank out of yours”, he thought to himself. He was being a hypocrit. He wanted to mend his friendship with Tenai.

He tried to call him, but he would not answer. After one of his performances at the Solowasai Theatre, he heard from a member of the crew that they had seen Tenai in the audience, visibly enjoying himself. Tito became self concious. He started having doubts about whether or not he hit the notes or landed the steps; that sort of thing. Tito rushed outside to try and found him. He covered himself with an old lace curtain. In Oan theatre, the audience was NEVER supposed to see you in costume partly or completely when the show was over. He managed to find Tenai walking down the steps. He called out to Tenai. Tenai kept walking. He ran to him and grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him around. Tenai looked at his friend and giggled.

Tenai said, " You look like garbage".

Tito replied, “I feel like garbage. Look Tenai, I’m sorry for what I did. I didn’t want you to do this thing that I do. I don’t do it for fun. I do it to…”

Tenai replied, “Ease your mind? That’s exactly why you gave it to us and that’s exactly why I continued. I appreciate the fact that you’re looking out for me. What I hate is how you judge me, and toss my business in front of people, and nearly ruin my career, but you don’t even have the decency to get off that stage”.

Tito looked at him. He knew that this was true and he felt awful for it, but when he heard the acid in Tenai’s voice, he grasped a full and shocking understanding of the gravity of what he had done. He tried to apologise and “explain” (as we often do when we are in the shit).

Tenai simply said to him, “Why didn’t you tell me you were smoking weed? You passing a roll for us to smoke wasn’t the ideal way for me to find out don’t you think?”, Tito tried to reply, but Tenai stopped him, “Don’t talk to me unless it’s to tell me you left the play”.

Tito felt so miserable that he could not stop him or speak after that. There was a lot that he did not share with Tenai. Their relationship was unbalanced. Tenai depended on Tito, and Tito enjoyed that. But when Tito needed help, he put on a brave face and bottled it all in. In the Oan Isles people were generally taught not to take their problem out in public (which would probably explain why psychologists struggled to find work). Tenai was supposed to be his friend though, his refuge, the one person with whom he could share his burden. Tito walked straight into the dressing room and told Ziza that he did not want to continue acting in the play – that he quit. Ziza was not really surprised. He knew that there was more to Tenai’s situation than met the eye. Ziza graciously accepted his resignation and recommended him to a street play on Tukananoanana Street. Tito accepted the offer.

Tito decided to take a train to Mountain Island. Tito wondered why they called it that. It was no less or more mountainous than the rest of the country. It was the place where his father was recovering from a drug addiction. Tito felt like he landed the worst life anyone in The Oan Isles could live. His father was trash.

He never said it, for the sake of his mother, but he had such a low opinion of him that he regarded of no more value than a stomach ache. His mother did her best to shield him from the real depth of his father’s problems and inadequacies. She brought a present for his birthday and said it was from his father. He knew she was deceiving him, but he appreciated the gesture. He finally arrived at the Mountain Island train station. The only urban settlement of any significance was Mountain City, the location of the train station. Oddly enough it was on the coast. The rest of the island was rural areas or a nature reserve. A temple/monastery/rehab (we’ll call it the rehab for now) was built in higher places. It was called the Mountain Sanctuary.

People with drug addiction were sent there to be rehabilitated. The methods they employed were very… different. The in mates patients threw up and prayed all day. Leaving or getting to this monastery was difficult. Even though they abhorred throwing up and praying the whole day, they had very little choice in the matter. When Tito finally got to the door, he was apprehensive. He knocked on the door…


Tito was ushered in by his friendly host Neahuaeni. She politely asked him to call him Nea when she introduce herself. She was only a few years older than himself, and while they tried to make small talk, they could barely relate. He had grown up on the streets of Serenity Island, while she had been raised in the constant (and weighty) presence of the Diviners. She directed him through the large complex, naming and explaining different buildings and sections.

There was the Grey Courtyard. Patients were given a frightening stinky black concoction to drink. It caused them to vomit constantly. The Grey Courtyard had drains covered in metal grids into which the patients spew forth their bowels. The Green Courtyard was a lawn surrounded by trees and plants and encircled by buildings. The patients sat entranced, meditating. There were Assembly Halls for all the major religions in the Oan Isles. There was constant activity, with prayer dominating the agenda and, otherwise, mundane routine. There were Dormitories where the different people slept and dealt with the horrors of withdrawal. Muffled groans, moans and even, screams could be heard. Only one madman has the acumen and ruthlessness to conduct a chorus of so many people, going through so much pain, he thought.

They finally arrived at the offices. Administrators and counsellors were busily interviewing, calling, writing, drinking lots of coffee, and the younger ones were intermittently crying while the older ones just stared at the walls. Tito wondered, who really needs help?

As though she had read his mined, Nea said, “We all need help, and that’s what the Sanctuary is here for, to help”.

She led him to an office. She knocked and a voice called for them to come in. They gave a slight bow to the lovely old lady at work behind the desk, who gave a welcoming, but heavy smile. She asked Tito to sit down and Nea to make them all Firerose Tea. Tito gladly accepted the cup, containing one of the most expensive teas in the Oan Isles. Oddly enough the plant from which the tea was made came neither from a rose nor fire. This old lady was either generous or very wealthy.

Seeing his delighted face, she said, “I’d rather live in the streets for the rest of my life than live a day without good tea”. She introduced herself, “I am Amawasai Takatunuye”.

Tito gave out an “Oh!” and thought: that’s how she can afford the tea. The Takatunuye clan were the wealthy benefactors of this sanctuary. While much of the facility was operated and funded by or through the state, it was still their ancestral home, and they gave a large cheque once in a while to affirm that fact.

They quickly got down to the business of getting to why he was here. He explained that he wanted to see and speak to his father. She gave him a warning before she let him see his dad.

“We all make mistakes, and have flaws, yet in spite of them, He has taken us in and given us a home, and bought us with His blood. His grace is sufficient for all people, all sin and all time. He has forgiven you, just as you must forgive your father”.


Tito lay his head onto his father’s chest. It gently rose and fell as he drew and expelled breathe. His mother lay on the other side, as his father covered them both in his powerful arms. His hands were rough. The smell of smoke lingered on his clothes. His parents were sleeping. He looked at their faces. They were different. Brows usually furrowed in worry or frustation were gone. Tormented eyes and hidden emotions were wiped away by the serenity of sleep. Sleep had the power to destroy everything. Every plot, every pain every pleasure, every problem, every persecution, every platitude was removed and replaced by an almost vulnerable state of calm. His mom was a woman of prayer and faith. She found God’s beauty and love in almost anything. She once said to him that after every battle, bruise or bump, we sleep. God truimphs over every misery and gives us rest that no devil can reach, for he said “Come to me ye who would are heavy laden and I shall give thee rest” for “[My] yoke is easy and [my] burden is light”. He did not believe it, but she did. She clung onto a man she had vowed to call her husband, and she made sacrifices of her body, pleasure and ambition to give Tito a life. Even though he disagreed with her faith, it gave her the strength and love to fight for him and his father, even though she seemed to gain nothing from it in return. Tito loved them with every strained breathe, but he felt powerless to stop his mother’s gradual dissolution under the weight of their financial burdens and his father’s consumate ability to be an ass.

He was flung back into the present where the difficult reality of seeing his father and confronting the issues that remained between them, faced him. Things had changed from the memory of his parents sleeping. One day his father came home after a few days without telling anyone where he had gone or when he would return. After hours of searching every police station, hospital, clinic and bar – in several kilometres radius – they came back home dreading the worst. As they sat in pensive and apprehensive silence, he flung the door open. He hugged them roughly and gave them slobbering kisses. He stank like a polecat. He was loud. They tried to address him. Tito flung his anger at him. He cursed him. Tito’s mother was shocked. He ordered him to leave the room and come back when he had calmed down. Tito refused to leave. He poured out all the anger and frustration that his father’s callous, capricious and selfish behaviour caused. His father quickly degressed from drunken happiness to drunken anger. His mother stood between them, trying to avert the fight that would ensue. He tossed her aside and slapped Tito on the face.

It was one thing being hit because you were naughty or disobedient. It was another when you were being assaulted especially when you cared, when you actually gave a shit about this dick! Tito withdrew, his anger bubbling and gaining strength as he covered his face with his hands. His father laughed at him and prodded him to react. Tito looked up calmy and turned around. He grabbed the lamp, swung and struck his father on the face. Broken pieces of porcelain were scattered on the floor. Blood trickled down his father’s face. His father grabbed him by the throat and throttled him.

Tears fell down his cheeks. He gradually lost strength as he tried to remove the powerful vice around his neck. Terror swept over him as he looked into the malevolent and beastly eyes of the man who had once been his father. Tito’s mother, unable to bear the situation, ran to the kitchen and grabbed a frying pan. Driven by the ancient instinct of motherhood, she hit Tito’s father on the head. There was a loud crash when he hit the ground. Air poured into Tito’s lungs in painful gasps. He coughed as his body fought for air. His mother held him against her body. Tito’s father screamed. He eventually stumbled onto his feet. He looked at her in disgust and terror.

She said, “I will kill you”.

He ran out of the door. After a final glance at his son and wife, he was never seen or heard from again. Until today.

A large, but withered man, accompanied by a man in black uniform, walked towards him. The man was wearing a tunic. He looked at everything – the sky, the floor, the bird, his hands; he looked at everything except Tito, who had come to see him. He jolted in surprise when he finally reached the table where Tito was sitting. When he met Tito’s cold and unflinching gaze, he trembled and stood petrified. The guard tried to helo him into the chair. He looked at the guard as though he was confused. He eventually conceded defeat. He sat in the chair, putting his knees together, pulling the ends of his sleeves over his hands and folded his arms and looked at the table.

After a few seconds of awkward silence, Tito said, " Kia ora".

His father looked at him in surprise and quietly replied, “Ki… Kia ora”.

They sat in silence. They exchanged an awkward greeting. Tito wanted to hate him. He wanted to shout at him. He wanted to punch him. He wanted to cry. He couldn’t do anything. He pitied his father. He was a shadow of his former self. At least he had the decency to be ashamed. Tito reached out his hand. Tito’s father seemed puzzled. He reached out his hand. When he touched his son’s soft hand, he started to weep. He tried to wipe the tears off. He furrowed his brow and tightened his face, but the tears kept gushing. He took in big gulps of air, trying to avert the rushing storm behind his eyes. Tito put his other hand on his fathers hand. The man jumped out of his chair and kneeled before his son and held onto his hand as though he would die without it. He put his head on his son’s lap. It was the ultimate apology. This unspoken act carried years of shame, pain and longing. In The Oan Isles, it was the most sincere way to ask for forgiveness. It required a humility that often escaped the arrogant human heart, which would explain why Oans hated apologising. Tito’s father tried to speak, but the accrued pain was to much. Tito felt it and merely embraced him in return. They remained in that position for several minutes. Tito’s father was terrified that Tito might push him away, a sign that conveyed that the apology was rejected. Tito contemplated it. Instead Tito lifted his face, a sign that he had accepted the apology and forgiven his father. His father kissed his hands, a sign of his gratitude. He sat on his chair. He laughing, tears falling down his face.

He said, “You want answers”.

He started from the beginning…

Ese Ulua was looking through an old photo album in his study (a litotes for “private library”). He looked at the happy pictures with his children and his wives, personal pictures thar remained hidden from and unknown to the public eye, but forever engraved in his mind. He turned to a page where Oaloana (his second youngest son) and Tahaloana (his oldest) were playing in tree covered in mud. He could not help reminiscing, and, to some degree, mourning the old days. They had their ups and downs, ebbs and flows, but they were easier to deal with. There was a certain order and structure. He had one problem to deal with at time, but things were different. Oaloana was being positioned for his takeover of the throne and Tahaloana was advancing dramatically in the armed forces. He saw a picture of his younger daughter who passed away. He averted his eyes as quickly as he saw it. They had chosen never to speak of her. A picture fell out. When he bent to pick it up, he looked at it with a mixture of guilt and regret, longing and self revulsion. It was a picture of Ese and his older half-brother Oaluoa Uye.

He stared at their rather humorous attempt at warrior-like dignity. Ese looked uncomfortable, but Oaluoa was comfortable and at ease. Oaluoa stayed in the armed forces until he rose to the rank of General. Ese decided to leave when he attained the rank of Captain. He studied law, while his brother was left in the army. The inevitable separation that adulthood brought about was gradual, but not impossible to repair. They met only l a few times a year at formal family gatherings and functions. Otherwise they hardly spoke. After the Election of Chiefs, the Oaluoa hated Ese.

Hatred is not the opposite of love. Apathy is the opposite of love. Hatred is when love is turned from something good to something bad. Ese always felt like his brother hated him even though, in truth he didn’t. It was really a matter of Ese hated himself and his guilt made him wary of Oaluoa. Their father wanted to abdicate his role as the Chief of the Ianotunuyana tribe. The Tribal Council was supposed to elect a new prince. Oaluoa was older, so rightfully the position should have been his. But he was also an illegitimate child and their father loved Ese more. Ese was also partial to status and had ambitions to be the most powerful man in the country. Oaluoa had asked him to decline the position. Ese merely kept quiet. At the last minute he accepted the nomination and was unanimously elected. He promptly took over the Chairmanship of the Ulua Foundation.

He looked at Oaluoa’s face. The hurt and betrayal was plastered on his face. Rather than apologise, Ese ignored him. Their father eventually passed away. They were both close to him, and it hurt them. They we standing over his body awaiting cremation. Ese looked at his brother, tears trickling down his cheeks, ad quietly whispered, “I’m sorry”.

Oaluoa looked at him. He had no expression. No crease on his rugged and handsome face to show disdain or disappoinment. There was nothing. No emotion. Oaluoa just looked down at his father. Ese gasped in horror. He awkwardly excused himself and went outside. He sat at the stairs and cried. His young bride, Eleanor of Staynes, came to him. She kneeled before him and put her hands on his knees. He looked up. He felt embarrassed and tried to hide his tears. She put her hand on his cheek. He began balling like a child again, and held on to her and she returned his embrace. She asked him, “Is he inside?” He nodded.

She took his hand and tried to pull him inside. He refused, trying to escape her grip. She looked at him sternly. He eventually acquiesced to her wish. She went inside, and curtsied to Oaluoa, and said, “Brother”.

She stepped out of the doorway. Ese entered. Oaluoa did not even look up to acknowledge him. Ese looked at Eleanor apprehensively. She looked at him sternly and held his hand. She led him toward Oaluoa. Ese’s heart beat like a drum. They stood right next to Oaluoa. He did not acknowledge them. Ese was overcome with emotions. His pride contended with his guilt and self-admonition. The latter prevailed. Without planning or wanting to, he knelt before his brother and put his forehead on his feet. Eleanor followed and repeated Ese gesture, virtually laying down on the floor, with her clasped hands on her face. Oaluoa looked at them. He went down on his knees and embraces his brother and his brother’s wife. They held each other for what felt like hours.

He asked Oaluoa, “Please restore my honour”.

Oaluoa replied, “I already forgive you”.

They stood up and joined the funereal party of their father’s court. Among the mournful faces, they were almost relieved. They did not cry or wear solemn expression of concealed pain. They looked on at ths inevitable passing and flowing of life, as their father was burnt to ashes. His ashed her neatly gathered and kept in the Ulua Family Crypt. They walked together and mended broken bridges again. It was a slow process. They were trepidacious but determined to make it work. They overcame the awkwardness. Even though they could barely relate to each other, they just laughed. Laughed not at their mutually strange jokes. They laughed at life. They laughed for the gift of life They laughed because they were brothers again.


Being a princess was hard.

Eleanor of Staynes had known the role that she was to play for the rest of her life from a young age. She had taken on the role with grace and dignity. She had found a way to give it meaning and substance, both to herself as an individual and to the nations that she had served. Although one can anticipate challenges, the full force of their impact is only felt when they arrive.

Eleanor had reached that point. She was married to Ese Ulua when he was just the son of the Chief of the Oatunu tribe, the Ianotunuyana. He had come to tour Staynes with his family. They met at a reception at the Sani Bursil Royal Palace. They had taken a liking to one another from the beginning. The attraction was a physical one. He was attracted to her full features and pleasant face. While she was attracted to his athletic build. The relationship developed over time, and grew from mere attraction to romance, affection and fondness.

Ese’s parents, particularly his father, had been aware of the relationship and, in fact, encouraged it. It formed the basis of the strategic partnership that exists between the Oan and Staynish Royal Families. Ese’s parents were wary of the undecisive mind and fickle heart of the youth. They had to act as soon as possible to cement the relationship and secure the marriage.

Ese’s father sat his son down and discussed the matter of his relationship with Eleanor. Ese, driven by the romance of youth, spoke lovingly of her: her bust, her scent, her warm disposition, wit and grace. Ese’s father used the opportunity to present the matter of a possible marriage. Ese Ulua, who was in his youth, had hardly thought about marriage. 23 did not seem like an appropriate age, especially when the girl in question was 18.

His father passionately defended the union. Ese allowed his parents to make the relevant arrangements. They sent a letter to the High King, expressing their interest in taking his niece, as a wife for their son. Gifts and visitations were exchanged. Everything seemed to be going well. Ese eventually asked her to be his wife. She was offended that he had not approached her first.

It was clear that they came from divergent cultures with differing and sometimes opposing views and values. They elected to terminate their engagement. Ese’s parents were angry and embarrassed by the sudden change of heart. A scolding and a lashing failed to change his mind. They sent him to the Oan army instead. There, he would be in enough pain and experience enough loneliness to seek a woman, and hopefully it would be her.

After a year of waiting and doting, he acquiesced to their request. He proposed again. She was reluctant, but her parents managed to assuage her fears and doubts. They were married shortly after. She had to leave her life behind and go to the Oan Isles. It was painful to leave the place she had grown up in and the people she had grown up with. She was afraid of a new world, with new rules and new expectations. She resolved to try her best.

When she arrived, she realised how daunting the task of being an Oan princess would be. Her experiences as a visitor vastly contrasted her role as one of the Oan people. She had to learn new rules, build new relationships and become a new person. It was hard. It was hard to be an Oan princess.

While the Oan Isles was  a cosmopolitan place of diverse and liberal views, the cloistered lives of the nobility and royalty were entirely different. It was clear that men were dominant and their culture was built to express and enforce that fact. She tried her best. For a while, she managed to make the role her own. She was still “just a princess”. She had relative freedom, cooking, sewing and working with the women of the household, exploring the streets of the city and the awesome wilderness. She fit. She was part of their community, their tunu.

As Ese fought in the military, studied his degree and ran the Ulua Foundation, she didn’t see much of him. That was fine by her. After a few years, the elders were agitating for a child. At first they dropped the subject in gently. They gradually became more forceful, more blunt. The matter became so bad, that Ese had to come home. He spent more of his time at the Royal Home. When he was elected to be the chief of the Ianotunuyana, the urgency of an heir was apparent.

She started to feel this pressure more acutely. The blame was likely to fall on her. She was told be be softer, more quiet, less awake, to submit to him and arouse his masculine passion. They tried, but rather than bring them closer,  they drifted apart.

One day she sneaked to the garden, near where the workers rested. It was late and quiet. When she turned around the corner, she saw him. Ese was drinking palm wine, visibly annoyed. She sat next to him. He offered her a drink and they sat in silence. They eventually spoke,  laughed, played and found each other. They rebuilt their relationship on their terms and did well, producing two sons and a daughter, only a year or two apart.

After a dreadful illness, their daughter passed away, an infant. Things changed. They grew apart, they became angrier. Eventually Ese found himself in another woman’s arms…


Eleanor of Staynes could smell blood like a dog. She could sense a change in the atmosphere and warn the women to take down the laundry before a storm came. She could see from messy cups scattered all over the study, that Ese would be leaving. Her intuition was superb, and was refined by practice, by reading expressions and body language from the richest to the poorest. There was a routine at the Royal Home.

She knew Ese’s habits better than he did. Everyday she prepared a cold jar of firerose tea and a bottle of whiskey in the conservatory. She would place a small bouquet of herbs and ice to calm him down after a challenging day of work. He would greet her, have his drink and have dinner in the palour adjoining the royal apartment. He would either play with his children or settle into a relaxing evening. She did everything in the same manner, prepare his drinks and food. After which, she helped her children with their work or played with them, promptly put them to bed and went to the ladies in the kitchen. They would clean up and prepare for the next day. They would sit together and drink tea, hers with condensed milk, and gossip, sometimes late into the night. She would go back to her room, prepare his books and clothes for tomorrow. He would wake up from his sleep and start talking. They would talk for hours. Then they would go to sleep.

On Tuesday night, 1980, 7 years into their marriage, things were different. One thing had changed. He did not speak to her at night. She was tired too, so she was relieved. The same thing happened over a couple of weeks. She tried to get hold of her panic, and construed it to paranoia and insufficient sleep.  After a while she felt too uneasy to let it go. She would ask about his day with more interest than ever before. He simply said he was fine, and when she pressed him for details, he dismissed her.

She smelt his clothes when he took them off. She did this sometimes when she missed him. She sometimes smelt his clean underwear. It was often unplanned and unwilled. Today, she hoped to extract any bit of information she could. She smelt the collar of his shirt and she was appalled. It smelt of a woman’s perfume. The intensity and widespread distribution of the smell showed that they had been holding each other for a long time. She ran to the lavatory and vomited. She felt horribly sick and lay down the next day.

Early in the marriage she had been warned that this day would come. It is said in Oan culture that some secrets belong to women alone. This was one of them. One day the older women took her aside and sat in the drawing room. They closed and sealed the doors. It was clear that what was to be discussed was never to leave the room. She nodded. The women sat down and she listened as her mother-in-law spoke.

She said, “There will come a day, when he will smell like a rose and not a bull”. She looked at Eleanor to figure out her expression and could see that she was lost. She ploughed on, “He will see another woman and fall in love with her”. Eleanor gasped in shock. Her mother-in-law continued, “You must be ready for that day. Men have wandering eyes and mediocre self control. It is your responsibility to guide his eye. You must find him a woman, to be his second wife. If he finds her himself, there shall be anguish”.

She looked at her, appalled. She stood up and marched out of the room. She sat by the stairs, breathing heavily and gathering her head. He knew that polygamy was acceptable practice in the Oan Isles. As people modernised and the demands of modern life imposed their own conditions, she had hoped that this anachronism would end.  She was wrong.

She lay awake and looked at him. She watched his chest rise up and down. His nostrils expanded and contracted to let air in and out. His skin was like caramel. It was flawless and immaculately draped over his strong muscles. She watched his hands. They were large, rough, but immaculately manicured. Her eyes were led to his thigh, lifted up. She wanted him. She had a sudden vision of a woman on top of him and fell of the bed. He barely moved.

She ran to her mother-in-law’s bedroom. She knocked on the door, almost breaking it down. Her mother-in-law opened the door looking worried and surprised. She fell to the floor, hanging onto her dress, big wet tears falling down her face, mouthing, “I can’t!”

Her mother in law lifted her and led her to a chair. She prepared sugar-water to calm her down. Eleanor drank the liquid, her hands shaking.

“Eleanor what’s going on”, her mother-in-law asked.

“There’s someone else”.

Her mother-in-law was confused and simply said, " Wha…?"

“There’s another woman”.

Her mother’s face turned grim  She warned her, “Tell no one! Goodness Eleanor I told you this would happen!”

“I thought that Ese was different”.

“A dog is a dog! You can train it, but you will never change it!”.

Eleanor was surprised. Her mother-in-law’s anger was deeper and older than this, she spoke with a pain that showed that she had been here before.

“Tell no one! Find out who she is and what his intentions are. If a child is born, you will be ruined! If you must, kill her”.

Eleanor looked at her mother-in-law, horrified. This was the dark world of Oan royalty. This was now her world.

Breaking the Royal Bed Part III

Eleanor looked at her mother-in-law with horror. Eleanor was affronted by violence of any kind. Asking her commit the most heinous of all violent acts was revolting. She saw how her mother in law was almost revitalised. She urged her with a desperation that seemed as though it was her that was to gain, not Eleanor.

Her mother-in-law said, “That harlot thought that she could take my family away. I fixed my situation. You must do the same. Unlike me, you cannot le a child be born”.

Eleanor was afraid, but she asked, “What child?”

Her mother-in-law sat down and folded her arms. She spoke with self-appraisal, “Oaluoa”.

Eleanor was shocked. She trembled. Goosebumps formed on her skin. Her heart beat faster and her breathing was shallow and fast. Tears welled up on her eyes. She excused herself and left the room. She went to another part of the palace that was secluded to cry. She wanted to leave. These people asked too much of her. They asked her to marry a man she did not completely love. She cared for him, she was attracted to him, shared his interests and enjoyed his company, but there was no love. They asked her to bear children for him. They asked her to change her behaviour to suit him and their court. They asked her to find him a second wife. Now they wanted her to commit murder, due to his infidelity. She wanted to take her children and go back home.

She dialled the telephone of her parents. They were nobles who lived outside of Sani Bursil. Her mother picked up the phone. In a tired voice, she asked, " What is it?"

“It’s me. Eleanor. I want to go home”.
The next day, her bags were packed. The children were bathed and their items were ready. Her maidservants were hauling luggage to the car. She was ready to leave, forever. Although the future was uncertain, it was preferrable to this place. Ese Ulua asked her to stay. She defied him and stood her ground. He asked her to leave his children. She asked him, “So that they can be raised by another woman? I would rather die”.

He watched her, helpless to do anything.

Aroha felt good. She lay beside Oahoanu, running her finger across his chest. He was a conservative guy. He wanted to do things better this time. Unlike his last blunder, he did not want a child to be born out of wedlock. Although she secretly grieved that she would never bear his heir, she was comforted by the fact that she would bear his progeny.

But that time would come in about a month, when they would be married. For now, they met secretly. Their romance had been kept hidden for a long time. His father almost fell out of his chair when he told him he wanted to marry her. Although she had never been brought to the palace, her reputation was worrying.

She was a journalist. She was not exactly “wife” material. She seemed unwilling to stifle her free expression and forget her career aspirations to be the new Empress of Polynesia. And worst of all, she was a low ranking member of society. The marriage did not present a worthy alliance.

Although the Pūtea clan was decent, it was not exceptional. He boldly defended their union. Ehe (commonly spelt Ese) had attempted to fix him with the Princess of the Asian Pacific Islands. It would restore honour to the House of Ahua (commonly spelt Ulua) after his first blunder with a chiropractor that resulted in a beautiful and unwelcomed baby boy: Moana.

“Hast thou left Michelle behind?” his mother, Eleanor of Staynes asked, “Although we had never liked her, she had been thy love. Hast thy love for and grief over her moved thee to act so hastily as to choose this Aroha woman in order to replace her and her memory?”

“Mother, she is not ‘this Aroha woman’. She is thine daughter, mine wife, the mother of my child and all our children who art not yet conceived and the Empress of Poronēhia. Thou shalt not dissuade me”.

“Son”, his father said, “We have been whereat thou art now: in love. If thy heart is truly wrought one with hers then it shalt stand the test of time and the challenge of thine people. Giveth thine relationship time. For how long hast thou known her? It cannot possibly be very long”.

“Six months”, Oahoanu said.

“Six months”, exclaimed his mother, “Wherefore hast thou concealed this from us?”

“For I knew that thou shalt mine relationship with her disapprove!” Oahoanu said defiantly.

Ehe said, “Thou art correct! Thy mind knew, above the vexatious passions of thine heart that this ‘relationship’ - as it were - is founded on falsehoods thou bemuseth thyself with”.


“Thou hast put a mark on the name of the Noble, Royal and Imperial Clan, House and Dynasty of the First Lord Ahua, by the conception of thine son Moana!” Ehe said, “While the child is innocent of thy transgression and we love him dearly, thou beareth a duty to clothe the shame of thine actions with honour”.

“Honour?” Oahoanu asked rhetorically, “Thou wishes to cement the bond between the Royal House of the Asian Pacific Islands and this Imperial House of Ahua and use me as the vassal of thine machinations!”

“How dare thee!” accused his mother.

Taha, Oahoanu’s older brother and Eleanor and Ehe’s firstborn child, knocked on the door and gently opened it a little, but remained outside. He said from without, “Thy Serene Majesty, mine noble brother and thy Royal Highnesses, mine dearest mother and father, may I enter?”

Oahoanu said, “Yes!”

Taha said, “With the greatest humility and respect thy Serene Majesy and thy Royal Highnesses, thy dispute now encompasses the whole Serene Palace. Forgiveth mine boldness, wherefore art thou vexed?”

“Taha! The voice of reason”, Oahoanu celebratoriously proclaimed, “Please convince our noble mother and father that Aroha is the perfect woman for me”.

Their parents simultaneously asked, “Thou has known?!”

Taha awkwardly said, “Thy Serene Majesty, may we speak in private?”

Oahoanu nodded and asked his parents, “May we take leave of thine Royal Highnesses for a short time”.

Ehe said, “Yes, your majesty. We believe this shalt wait for another day”.

Taha and Oahoanu went outside into the gardens. Oahoanu said, “Why can’t they accept?”

Taha said, “Thou art the Emperor, thy will is command. Dost thou need our parents’ permission to wed?”

Oahoanu said, “No”.

Taha asked, “But…?”

“We want them to want her too - to bless our marriage and actually enjoy our love!”, Oahoanu admitted, “We desire their approval, for though we are the Emperor of Poronēhia, the Defender of the Realm and the Ruler of the Sea, none of that means anything without the approval of our parents”.

“My parents do not like you”, Oahoanu said, “In fact, I doubt they will”.

“I see”, Aroha said.

“But”, Oahoanu continued, “They will respect you”.

Aroha moved closer to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. She traced the lined on his skin with her eyes. She left him. Early on in their relationship, Oahoanu had confided in his friend and aunt, the Lady Noāna. She had been the only person who had known that they would be together. She was also one of the few noble people who would accept their relationship.

Aroha called her maid that she would be arriving at her manor in a few hours. She drove out of the might city of Tokapa into the countryside of Tokamotu. The forests unfurled around her, mountains and waterfalls stretching like an unveiling scroll. Houses and buildings peaked their heads over the hills and above the grass. Eventually she reached the manorial home of the Lady Noāna.

She entered the imposing gates and parked her car before the steps. She entered the manor and was welcomed by Lady Noāna’s maiden. She was directed to the study where the lady was reading a book. Aroha smiled at the form of the old woman hunched over a book.

“Autenāutu, Arikina Nōana”, she greeted.

The old lady lifted her wrinkled face and a smiled formed, like a fissure across parched land. She was never beautiful and age did her no favours, but her spirit was commendable and shined more radiantly than the perky breasts and firm skin of youth.

The lady acknowledged her and bid her in with her hand. Aroha touched her feet, a sign of endearment and respect. “What art thou doing, child?” The old lady asked. “Thou shalt be Empress soon. Thou ought not to bow at the feet of old women”.

They laughed. Aroha sat on the floor. And began speaking. “Arikina, thank you for seeing me on such short notice, but I wanted to speak to you”.

“I see. What concerns you?”

"Oahoa… I mean his majesty, had an altercation with his mom and dad’.


“About me”.

“I see. They shan’t like thee”.

“I know”, Aroha said, “His majesty suggested the same thing”.

“Dost thou knoweth the reason”, Lady Noāna asked.

“Apparently I am just a commoner, from an unimportant family, and I stand in the way of a marriage with the royal family of the Asian Pacific Islands”.

“Well that is true, mine child”, Lady Noāna said, “Didst thou know that the nobles were distraught when Ehe chose Eleanor as the new Empress?”

“I thought everyone was happy that the royal families of Staynes and The Oan Isles were uniting”, Aroha said, confused.

“Everyone desired that the Emperor should taketh their own daughter to build their own alliances”, Lady Noāna said, “All have their own machinations and plans, oft for their own gain. Those fadeth and mean nothing, for now art they abandoned and new ones taken up. Thine love for thy man art all that matters. All shall pass”.

The War of Humans and Mermaids - Part I

Once upon a time there was a prince. His name was Ahua. He was young, a good warrior and a great fisherman. He dove to collect mussels at the bottom of the sea and cast his hook into the sea to catch tuna. He swam in the warm and shallow lagoons and ran through the forests. He climbed the mountains and played stick fighting with his friends.

He knew that he would be the new leader of his people: the Iano. He believed he could endure any challenge and face any foe. He was sometimes brazen and impulsive. His father and mother often admonished him for his foolish behaviour. He pretended to listen and feel remorse. Then he would disobey them the next day.

He was told not to sail beyond sight of the land. He did it anyway. In a canoe with fifty men, they sailed beyond the sight of the land to catch the giant squid. They went heaving against the power of the ocean, the squid swimming deeper and deeper.

As they did, so a light bobbed on the surface of the water. There was a great wave. Then incredible creatures riding on whales surfaced and assailed them. Ahua, deployed a burning kite. The kite was so large and bright, it could be seen with a rudimentary telescope. The people on the island set their canoes in the direction of Ahua and his men.

Ahua and his men tried to flee, but they were outmanoeuvred and outran. Although they tried to fight, they were also outmatched. Their canoe was tossed and turned. They were eventually thrown out of the canoe and the huge canoe was smashed.

The people were thrown out. In the nick of time, other war canoes began to approach. They fired flaming arrows at the assailing undersea creatures. The whales they rode, riddled with burning arrows, tossed around and made huge waves as they did. Ahua and five of his men were rescued. They returned home.

Ahua was brought before the Chief. He was thrashed butt naked. The death of his men was blamed squarely on him. The whip met his caramel skin, leaving streaks as it touched. His greatest pain was his grief for the men he led to their deaths and the disappointment all of his people felt toward him.

Ahua got up from his puddle of tears and snuck to his hut, where he clothed himself. He adopted a new perspective on life and learnt restraint. His physical strength and instincts in battle were sharpened by discipline and purpose, and mellowed by wisdom. He did, however, maintain a fear of the sea and the creatures that swam beneath its surface.

Upon his father’s death, he became the Chief of the Iano people. He used his skill and knowledge to build alliance and strengthen trade with other tribes across the Oan Isles. Disputes over fishing rights and sea lanes sometimes led to conflict and violence, but the Iano’s superior weapons triumphed every time.

He eventually assimilated smaller tribes on Toka and the surrounding islands who wished to benefit from his wealth and gain access to his protection. Toka, Karaihe and Kokoru and smaller islands, became part of his realm and he was known as a King.

The Noan chief of the north, Takea, was jealous and afraid of him. He began an active campaign of war to terrify Ahua to the south and start his own kingdom in the north. Rather than assimilate people as Ahua did, Takea enslaved and decimated them. Massive walls of stone and ships of wood were built in preparation for a war with the south.

Ahua realised this and sent spies to the north to find out what they were planning. His spies crept and snuck their way into Takea’s inner circle. One day Takea was alone at the very edge of a long and thin promontory. The spy followed him, keeping a safe distance, so as not to be seen. At the very edge of the promontory, Takea sat on his haunches speaking to something in the water. As the spy tried to get a better view, he saw that it was a mermaid.

The creature was as white as chalk and had massive black eyes. It was savage looking with big messy hair. When Takea was done speaking to it, he went to a basket he was carrying and pulled out a baby. The baby was sleeping softly. Takea gently handed it to the mermaid. The mermaid quickly wrend it to pieces before it could make a sound and went away.

Takea returned to the village. Horrified by the discovery, the spy and his comrades fled to Ahua at once to tell him the awful news. Takea was sacrificing human children to mermaids in return for knowledge and power. Ahua’s men struggled to hide their terror. Ahua was angry. He had seen these mermaids before. They had killed his men. Now his enemies were working with the mermaids to destroy him.

He began a vigorous campaign to build bigger and thicker hulled canoes. His people worked like devils, terrified of the evil plans of the king from the north. They spoke in hushed tones about Takea feeding babies to mermaids, adding even women and grandmothers for dramatic effect. Trees were felled and turned into weapons, fortresses and ships.

Ahua knew that Takea was too powerful. With the mermaids on his side, they would barely survive. Ahua decided that they had to weaken Takea before he had a chance to attack. They bred rats, rabbits and foxes sending them into their cities, fields and ranches respectively. Takeas’ people were ravaged by this sudden infestation.

As they grappled with the vermin, Ahua’s people attacked. Their ships were like sharks on the water. Flaming arrows were sent into the unprepared enemy ships, destroying his fleet before it had a chance. They laid siege to his strongly armed fortresses and cities, unable to scale their impregnable stons walls.
Ahua and 200 of his men dressed as slaves and pretended to be captured. They were brought to the main fortress city that Takea had built for himself. This city had not been laid under siege. This city had repelled Ahua. Ahua used his disguise to gain entry into the castle. As Takea went to gloat, Ahua and his men were suddenly freed of their bonds and began attack everyone in the palace. Fearing for his life, Takea escaped to the promontory.

He called out to the mermaid to save him. Ahua gave chase and found Takea at the edge. He saw a mermaid lift its head above the water. Takea laughed like a madman. Ahua pleaded with Takea to stop the war and turn his back on the mermaids. Takea was too far gone. As he reached out to the mermaid to save him, instead it pulled him into the water and drowned him. The water became red. Takea was fish food.

Terrified, Ahua ran back and helped his men take over Takea’s last stronghold. He showed mercy on Takea’s people, ruling them wisely. In turn, he gained their respect and loyalty. For the next twenty years Ahua prepared for a war with the mermaids. He knew that they would come and lay waste to the Oan Isles. One day there was rain. It was dark and menacing. It was almost unnatural. Then the waves began bashing against the coast.

Ahua consulted with the diviner. The diviner entered a trance to try and communicate with the ancestors and find help. As though under the control of something else, the diviner stood still, her mouth agape, but fixed, only the whites of her eyes showed. A chorus of voices poured out of her mouth.

They said that the mermaids were coming to destroy mankind, starting with the Oan Isles. Their power was great and no matter how great the Oans were, they would not defeat the mermaids. Terrified, Ahua asked for a way to save his people. The ancestors told him to go to an island that floated in the middle of the sea. The island moved around every few days. He had only then to go there.

If he got there, he would have to find a great crysal flower. He was to destroy the flower in a fire that burnt at the heart of the island.

The War of Humans and Mermaids Part II

Ahua was scared. The survival of his people weighed on his shoulders. The weight of that responsibility caused them to sag. He got a white lamb. He burnt incense. The smoke of the herb, rising in one twirling line towards heaven. He spoke: Rangipuru, Rakaukatao, Ahuatimotu… and said the names and titles of his ancestors, thereby drawing them from the deep sleep of death, to intercede on his behalf with Ateu, to send help. He knew Ateu did not take sides, but he had to try.

He spoke for so long that the lamb became weary from standing and drowsy from the fumes. He took the animal and slaughtered it, discarding its gal and stomach, pouring its blood into the ground and eating the rest with his men. They ate everything. The skin was burnt and the bones were destroyed. Nothing was left.

The rain outside and the humidity inside made everything sticky. It helped conceal tears. Their clothes clung to their skins, but they managed to prepare the fleet. The canoes were so big and heavily armed, they blurred the lines of navigation. They were separated from ships solely by the lack of a rudder.

In the rain, they pulled and pushed their ores, heading in the direction of the floating island. Little lights began floating on the water increasing in number that they looked like stars surrounding the fleet. Ahua realised that the fleet would most likely be destroyed and their lives would be lost.

Something bubbled inside of him like a pot that was left on the fire for too long. He ordered his men to attack. Harpoons, spears and arrows were sent flying around. They catapulted big balls of fire that seemed to set water aflame as they landed.

Although they were well armed, it was not enough. Great creatures rose like rockets from the water. Massive fish akin to a fusion of piranha and angel fish came crashing onto their boats. Great serpent-like fish cleaved whole canoes in half or threw them down, some squeezed the canoe until the hull broke.

Ahua was put inside a small wooden sphere. It was covered with sea grass and kelp to hide its identity and true intent. The sphere was waterproof. It could be controlled by fin-like ores. Ahua climbed in and got going. There was terrible screaminf, exploding and crashing melded into one awful mess by the water.

He was aided by a jewel that glowed brighter as he approached the island. He felt as though he was swimming through raw petrol. The great and evil creatures seemed to move around and past him. Above his head the great diviner, Kuringau stood up. He walked to the prow of the canoe and held on to the mast.

He stretched forth his hand, going up and down, bending and straightening his knees, crouching and standing. As he did so, the sea seemed to duplicate his rhythm. The water went up and fell at his command. His bright eyes were terrifying to behold as he manipulated the water.

The great waves of the sea smashed and scattered some mermaids. Kuringau was one of the greatest diviners who had ever lived. He was one of the last diviners who could wield such power. By his power, Kuringau protected Ahua and guided him to the island.

When Ahua arrived, he staggered.