“The riddles, woman! I cannot bear them!” Tawhiri teased.
Ooma laughed and shook her head. “It is not a riddle. It’s a story.”
“Do you intend to tell it?”
“I will if you ever stop arguing with me.” Ooma picked up another clam, her eyebrow raised as she studied Tawhiri.
So there had been a memory hiding behind her eyes. She was far to easy to read. Tawhiri sat back on his haunches, letting the heat from the fire suck the sea water off his skin and from his dripping lap-lap.
Back before I found you, when I was still a young little thing, there came many boats to Mona Loa. They were full of a strange people. Smaller than you and I, with skin dark, like the warrior tribes in the north and hair that clung to their head. They decorated their skin with many little scars, and their boats were carved into the faces of great monsters.”
“Why have I not heard of these people, or seen them.”
“Shush. You are worse than the little ones. Let me tell the story.” Ooma waved her hands, her brow knit. “They were voyagers. Their Islands had been set on fire by invaders. Huge men, they said, who wore human skulls on their chests and swung weapons made from the bones of the mountains.
The voyagers left their Islands behind and traveled far away from them. For years, they had been going from one Island to another to seek a safe place to build their lives again.”
“When they landed here, we welcomed them with song and dance and a mumu. We gave them supplies and told them of what Islands they would find as they sailed on. Of the Weiwei on past the setting sun, who give gifts enough to sink a boat. And the Tumbutu, who will eat the flesh of a man as quickly as they will that of a pig.”
“But these people didn’t want to leave. They asked it they could stay for a while and grow strong again before they left.”
“Did the elders say no? Because I’ve never seen sign of any-”
Ooma’s glare through the fire cut Tawhiri off.
“The elders agreed. And I found myself spending more and more time with these people as they began to build their strange huts on the far side of Mona Loa. They called themselves the Malo. And their customs, and their tools…” Ooma held up the ax head, “were very odd. But their men…” She raised her eyebrows and cackled.
“Ah, so you are crazy.”
Ooma threw a clam shell at Tawhiri and continued. “As the year past, the Malo began to cause more and more trouble. Their children would steal the food from out gardens, and the fish from our wracks. They would get into fights with the children from our village and cause them injuries. They were like toata spirits, always up to mischief.” She paused, raising an eyebrow at Tawhiri “Much worse than anything you did, if you can believe if.”
“I don’t know if I believe there was ever anyone else here.” Tawhiri said.
Ooma pushed on as if he’d not said anything. “Our village grew more and more angry at this new tribe. And the more time passed, the more permanent the Malo seemed to become. Their homes were strong and sturdy. They cut down trees for their gardens and began fishing all over the reef.”
“But that made me happy. I had fallen in love with a man named Oakia. He had asked the elders if I could move into his hut. They were not happy with the decision I made. I was young, and I thought it was so romantic to follow my new husband over the Ocean. To explore the world until we found an Island with no tribes and made it our own.
But the elders could see that the differences in our tribes were too great.”