Ahuahu and the other men of the village had set out early to confront the village up the coast, under the rocky outcrop. Ahu would have been happier if he had been fishing in a rough sea. She held a tiki in her hand and asked that the god Tangaroa look after him even though he was the god of the sea. “He loves you well,” she murmured, “please do not make a shipwreck of our lives.”
She then prepared to go looking for food in the fern gully. It was not a good place to find food but she did not want to stay in the village in case the men from the rocky outcrop came down to their village.
Tangaroa their son knew nothing of the plans, he was fast asleep in a sling on her back as she gathered up some baskets and set off through the woods. She nodded at the other women but they were too busy gossiping to notice which way she went.
The breeze that blew near the shore was stilled beyond the village and as she walked through the tall trees. It was dark there too as the foliage of the trees met and shaded the pathway. Her plan was to go to the village that had been raided recently thinking that the men from the rocky outcrop would not raid that village again. As she walked through the forest the wildlife chirped and chattered around her. She picked a few berries and listened for voices. There were none. As she approached the fern gully settlement there were no cries of children playing or of women laughing. It was deserted.
The fires were out and even the fish drying racks had been stripped. The villagers had fled, but there were no indication that the village had been attacked again. She looked for signs of where they had gone but their tracks had been obscured confusingly. I am not the only one to be frightened she thought.
She walked on through the foothills until she could see the smoke of another settlement. This must be where the ngerengere people were, those that had been cursed by the witch doctors. She tried to make up her mind where she should go to be safe. These victims of leprosy had gathered far from the villages near the coast and very few people came this far. She circled round the settlement and chose to settle on a rise above the huts, sat there and brought Tangaroa out of his wrapping and talked to him, eating a chunk of dried fish while the baby squinted into her eyes. She laid him down and went to a nearby stream to scoop up some water, when she noticed that she was being watched.
An old, terribly maimed woman leaning on her stick approached walking slowly and struggling to keep from falling on the sloping terrain.
“Haere mai” she croaked keeping her distance. “We do not see many strangers up here. Are you not afraid to look on me?”
Ahu explained about the fighting that would take place and her need to keep Tangaroa safe. The old woman cackled a response “You are brave indeed to come to this safe place where the most we see of others is the gifts of food they leave for us to find. Even the men from the rocky outcrop would not dare to come here. You have chosen well but you cannot stay, you must move on. Are you not frightened that the curse put on us will affect you too?”
“I too have had much sadness in my life” said Ahu, “I do not think talking to you will harm me. Now I have found much joy in my husband and my son; I do not want to lose that.”
“May I see him?”
With, that Ahu picked the baby up then unwrapped him for the woman to see.
“It is difficult to remember how beautiful babies are, to see his soft and perfect skin. May the gods bless you for coming here. What did your husband name him?”
Ahu hesitated before she said “Tangaroa.”
“Then surely he will be safe down by the sea. Go to the black beach,” she said pointing to the east. "Follow the stream through the forest. That is where I came from. Tell them you saw Ngaire who remembers them every day.” With that she turned and made her way back to the settlement limping and leaning heavily on her stick.
The sun was high in the sky when Ahu left the ngerengere woman. She followed the stream and after a two hour walk saw the signs of smoke rising and heard the laughter of children at the settlement by the shore.
Haere mai - Welcome
Ngaire - Girls name meaning flaxen
Ngerengere - Leprosy
Tiki - Carved image of a god