Toare did give his epic that night. The whole thing, the war, the death of one High King and the rise of another, the madness of Hara’a, the death of Rahaita and the vengeance of Teme, keeping us up late around the fires. Many men of the sea gathered to listen; many seemed entranced by the tale of heroism, of love, of sorrow. It was as good as I remembered.
Vehina, of course, did not understand, but Hurasu whispered to her through the performance, translating apparently. The two sat together and did so still when I went to find my sleeping mat.
Bafa again beat me to the lagoon the next morning, but alone this time. “I have not seen Vehina this morning,” I said to him.
“She shared her mat with Hurasu,” he said. “Both making up for long journeys without companions, I think.”
I was amazed, perhaps. Not that it would happen but that Hurasu would have the energy for it. Or Vehina, for that matter.
What could such a tryst mean to the ancient sorcerer who, by my father’s account, had bedded thousands of women over thousands of years? He believed that almost every person in our world could count Hurasu as an ancestor. Me included.
We passed them, still together, on our way back to the house. I nodded politely, only. If there was to be talk, let it be over food. If there was not to be talk, I was hungry anyway.
It was Vehina only who joined us on our mat, I and Bafa and Malee and Oorto. The woman began at once to share with us, whether we wished it or not. “Hurasu wanted to know as much of my world and how I came here as I could give him,” she confided. “I understand Marareta spent time with him and told him much. Across some mountains?”
“Beyond high mountains to the east. That is the subject of another epic,” I said. “Ulani will have to give it to you.”
“Oorto was there with Marareta,” Bafa added. The shaman was unable to follow our conversation, nor could Malee.
So Vehina switched to the pidgin. She did a credible job of it. “Tell me could of, um, journey Hurasu land? Help, uh, help learn pidgin maybe could, Oorto?”
“I’ll give you a hand with it,” volunteered Malee. “Between us we should be able to make her understand.”
The shaman seemed willing. Or perhaps unwilling to disappoint. Oorto was that way. It would be a long tale so I left them to it. I did not go far for I spied our visitor seated with our sailors — Neatanu, Naio, Mouiri. I took a place without speaking. Only Mouiri bothered to look up.
“These Mora make charts out of sticks, showing how the waves and currents run around coasts and islands,” Neatanu was saying. “Naio knows much of that sort of thing.”
“I was a navigator once,” spoke the former commander of the Mora fleet. “I studied with the Taona A’ave.”
“But did not follow that course,” said Hurasu.
“No, other winds blew.” A smile briefly passed across his sun-darkened craggy face. “One led to Mouiri’s mother.”
“The Lady Pua. Marareta told me much of her, those years ago, and of events in this land. Though I had news from time to time, it was good to hear the young bard’s account last night.”
“It was a dark time,” Naio said. “We prepared to sail away from here into exile if all was lost. I think we can thank the Taona Marareta that it was not.”
And Pua and Hareata and Poneiva and many others, my father would object if he heard this. I, however, was quite willing to allow him to be praised.
“He might have saved my kingdom, too,” spoke Hurasu, almost under his breath.
I spoke. “My father says you would not have lost it for long.”
He only smiled at this. “Perhaps not. I have lost and reclaimed it more than once.” Suddenly grave, he continued. “Your mother saw that I would still rule when I was an old man. It was the prophecy she gave me in my land.”
“You wished her to stay. Father has told me this.”
“I did. Maybe she would be alive today had she. Maybe you would have brothers and sisters across the mountains. Who is to say?”
“No one,” answered Naio. “As I, Rahaita chose a course.”
They wouldn’t have been my brothers and sisters, though, as Rahaita and Father did not marry and name me their son till they returned to the Mora. Cousins. Cousins who never were.
Beka and Father returned before noon, with the sextant. I had seen it once or twice, among Neatanu’s mementos, but knew not what it was nor its purpose. I knew little more now. It was of metal, that I could tell, and freshly cleaned and shined.
“And with this you can determine your position?” asked Hurasu.
“It can help you determine your position,” was the answer. “I’ll teach you what I can of its use.”
“I would be your student as well,” said my father. “And Beka. It would be good if both of us knew a little of using the instrument.”
Maybe I should too. Later. I would be in the way if I asked to learn now.
“Beka intends to go with you,” Father continued, “and will put one of our largest canoes at your service.”
“And you?” asked Hurasu.
“Perhaps I am too old for such adventures.” He sounded unsure.
“It is not important at the moment, but you know the way better than any.” Hurasu turned to Lord Beka. “A canoe, you say?”
“Allow me to show you our fleet.” He at once turned to lead the way toward the great lagoon.
I was most certain Hurasu had already looked over the collection of canoes beached there. The Mora fleet was mostly on our side; fishermen and Kohari traders used the other.
“The vessel on which we traveled was greater than the length of the greatest canoes here,” said Father, as we marched across the sand. “Not the smaller boat in which we arrived, but the great one that was lost in the storm.”
“The Double Lucky,” muttered Neatanu. “An ill-chosen name if ever there were one.”
“One-hundred and forty-four feet it was,” Father continued. “And metal-hulled, though that proved no blessing.”
“Popped its rivets when the storm hit us,” Neatanu admitted. “Folded right in two almost as soon as we abandoned ship.”
“And you were already in the vortex of the gate when you did so, I would guess,” said Hurasu. “Ah, they might not be the equal of your doomed ship, Neatanu, but they are large!” He surveyed the fleet, some of the canoes drawn up onto the sand, some floating in the shallows.
“The double canoe is the largest in the world!” proclaimed Beka, pointing it out.
Hurasu nodded amiably. He might have been slightly amused. “That may well be true. I have certainly seen no larger.”
“We have two of them but one is out to sea now. Marareta and Neatanu designed them so Lord Temani’itu could truly claim to have the largest ever built.”
“Temani’itu. I remember the name from the poem last night.” Hurasu gazed again at the great double canoe. “It is not the canoe I would choose for this voyage.”
“Nor I,” agreed Naio. “A large single would be more practical for the deep ocean. Swifter and more nimble.” He hesitated a moment before saying, “I too intend to sail with you.”
“That means you have to stay and run things,” Beka told Mouiri. I think he already knew that.
“That one,” said Beka. It was not the very largest of the single hull craft but it was large enough, a single outrigger with twin masts.
Naio nodded agreement. After a moment of gazing at the canoe, so did Hurasu. “I could do this in a small canoe, by myself or with a Mora sailor or two.”
“I believe my friends seek an adventure before they grow too old,” said Father. “I may have had enough adventures, myself. Let’s go out to it.”
The water was deep enough to swim and shallow enough to wade. Some did one, some the other. Oorto stayed on the shore and watched us. Us — yes, every one of us who had come down from the House of Va’aru. We clambered aboard. It was not so easy to climb up from the water. I pulled myself onto the outrigger and walked up a spar to the hull. I saw Vehina follow me, as agile as any Mora sailor. Others came over the sides on ropes.
Neatanu went to stand in the bow, holding up his sextant. Familiarizing himself maybe. It had been long unused I was sure. Soon, his would-be students gathered around and he began explanations. Best they learn quickly if the old man was not coming along!
Would I go? Nothing had been said but I too wanted an adventure. What better one than to voyage far into the trackless ocean with these men — these heroes?
Maybe we could even get Toare to compose an epic of it.
- Florida Panhandle
Bio: Before tackling fiction and, in particular, the novel, Stephen Brooke was an award-winning poet and songwriter, and sometime journalist, writing primarily for the fitness press. He also is an artist and designer. Once upon a time, he made custom surfboards—being a long-time surfer himself—and this has shown up in some of his fiction, particularly his three Cully Beach mysteries. As an author, he has now written twenty-five novels, most of them published, fantasy, mainstream, adventure, science fiction, as well as several poetry collections, children's titles, and non-fiction.