Tawhiri squeezed his eyes closed and took in a deep breath. The wind blew hard off the ocean today, carrying the tang of salt and the humidity of the jungle.
Morning, and he was about to dive into the ocean.
Well, not the ocean but only a small part of it. The pit below him sparkled with a more colors than should ever exist. Coral encrusted every side, and schooling fish spun in concentric circles.
In the full light it was easier to see the grotto for what it was. The rock between the pit and the ocean was split, though it was so thin it served only to let in the tide. The coral and fish must have washed in with the waves, and now, full grown, couldn’t escape.
But it was as safe for them there, as it was for him. The pit offered a lot of room to grow, and there were few predators to be seen.
Tawhiri smiled up at the generous sun, and dug his toes into the volcanic rock. The only eyes watching today were of Mona Loa. And surely she wouldn’t disapprove of him. He was her son, and she and the ocean were tied together.
Tawhiri sprang, the wind tearing a whoop from his throat as he plummeted down. The water reached up to him, wrapping him in a cool embrace.
A school of brilliant yellow butterfly fish darted away as he sliced through the still water. They drifted back lazily, with no reason to fear and nowhere better to be.
He burst back to the surface, sucking in a deep breath of fresh air, and laughing all at once. His wet curls slapped his cheek and clung there. Why did this have to be withheld? What about it could possibly be evil.
It wasn’t deemed evil for others. Just for him.
But he wouldn’t let those bitter thoughts steal the joy of this moment. With a deep breath he ducked back under the waves, pulling arms through the cool depths to propel himself lower. A red brain coral as big as him filled the center of the pool, the unconquered chief of the community. Just under it, an anemone waved it’s fingers in the current, filled with black and white anemone fish. They poked out suspiciously, before darting back in.
The female, easily three times the size of the others, sat in the center surrounded by a flurry of smaller fish. She guarded precious eggs. Maroon dots, glued to the stone where the brain coral clung. One male tended them, blowing water over the undulating fry to keep them clear of debris and glaring back at Tawhiri, as if to challenge his intentions.
Tawhiri swam deeper. Under the coral the grotto floor sunk a few meters, as if it had been scooped out with a giant hand.
An octopus, no bigger than Tawhiri’s fist, pulled back into a hole , it’s intelligent eyes watching as Tawhiri sank past him and continued on his way down. .