Saturday, September 15, 2012

At Agate Hills (No. 64)


The continuing story of Ahu and Ahuahu her husband in a Maori village in Aotearoa before European settlement of New Zealand. (Missed an episode? Click on Ahu in the labels bar for previous posts.)

“What did you think Paikea?” asked Ahuahu after they had said farewell to the men who had ferried them across the estuary and were making their way down south towards Agate Hills.

“I did not like the look of them.”

“Don’t you worry about the men that ferried us across the river, they were too busy to say much and were probably told not say anything to us in any case. Did you notice anything about the settlement and the river?”

Ahuahu could see that Moana was itching to speak but with a glance he told her with his eyes to say nothing.

“They were nervous about our being there. They have built a pile of stones on the south side of the river overlooking the sea. It smelled different too but that may be just the wind or the low tide here.”

Ahuahu nodded then asked Moana. “And you Moana what did you notice.”

Moana grinned back at him, relieved that she could speak at last.

“We crossed the river at the wrong place; I could tell it was not the usual crossing point. So they did not want us to see something.” She went on, “Those stones on the south side are probably meant to be seen from the sea; they are a marker." She thought a little more and then said, “There were not enough women and children in the village, they are hiding. They are expecting more visitors and do not know when they will come, but it may be soon.”

Ahuahu nodded, “I think that the pakeha themselves put up that pile of stones to mark the safe anchorage there. We were taken upstream to cross but the water flows too quickly for a crossing there. This was to prevent us from seeing something, maybe the marker, maybe something else, the men in the boat could say nothing as they had to paddle so hard in the current to cross at that narrow point. The women and children are clearly out of sight and will disappear altogether if and when the pakeha return. Some pakeha may still be here and camped by the shore that may be the smell.”

“Let’s us hope the people at Agate Hills know more,” said Paikea.

“I doubt it, but we will see.” said Ahuahu.

They reached the Agate Hills settlement in mid afternoon and were welcomed by Aperahama, the husband of Aio, Paikea’s sister. They went through the formalities of the greeting ritual, rubbing noses and removing their cloaks that they had worn. Aio came out to greet them and the process was repeated. Aio looked at Moana and turned to Paikea. “You have chosen well, little brother.” She kept on repeating Atanga as they were escorted in to the whare, with several children running in from play all clamouring to see the visitors.

Moana in her turn thanked them for their welcome and presented them with a little carved wooden representation of the sea god Tangaroa that had been made from the forest trees where her mother Hauku now lived. After resting for a while Aperahama took Paikea and Ahuahu to see the agate workings and to see how the craftsmen fashioned the ornaments from the stone. These were laboriously etched with sand and water. Meanwhile Aio sat Moana down and they discussed children of which she had four and clapped her hands when Moana told her she was now pregnant. Aio then called all her children around her and introduced each one. The smallest one a little girl who was only about three wanted to sit with Moana which she was allowed to do.

“What is your name, little one” Moana asked. The little girl checked with Aio first who nodded at her, and she said “Hirini”.

Moana smiled at her and said “I love the name Hirini. I have a dear old friend who has this name that I take to the hot springs at home because she cannot walk by herself. I am sure I will like you too.”

They stayed two days and although they talked to several people none knew of the pakeha or what they were doing. Aperahama said “Our village is like yours, we work, we trade, we live and we love. We want nothing to change but it is not our decision; change will happen and we will all be poorer for it.”

After their visit was completed, Ahuahu and the young couple returned a few days later heading back for Big River. As they approached the river from the southern side Ahuahu sensed something was wrong. He sniffed the air. He motioned to the others to keep quiet and carefully advanced by himself to spy on the river estuary. There in safe anchorage was a huge pakeha boat with the sails furled. There were little boats being rowed with oars rather than paddles in the river and smoke was rising from the remains of the village which had been burnt to the ground. Ahuahu counted the men and the boats and tried to work out what they were doing. Great fear possessed him as he thought of his family at Black Sands. He made his way carefully back to the others and signalled for complete silence and indicated they were to go back the way they came.

When it was safe to do so, he explained to both Paikea and Moana what had happened. “We must get back to Black Sands as soon as we can but we have to follow the river upstream and cross it far away from this settlement. We must not be seen. The country there is higher and more difficult to traverse but we will be safer that way.” Moana nodded in agreement but Paikea was all for checking the pakeha out himself. It was with great difficulty that Ahuahu told him that would endanger them all. He glanced at Moana and when she saw him look at her, her eyes fell with shame that Paikea was still hot headed and not wise.

“Paikea, you can do this, but you must do it alone and not follow us home. I must get Moana back safely and report to your father.”

At this Paikea nodded glumly realising the seriousness of the situation, “I understand, I will come with you.”

“I will tell you all of what I saw so that you can tell your father first,” Ahuahu said, “But I think that some pakeha have been killed and their main boat has landed and taken revenge.”

They headed west for an hour and then turned north and had to wade across the cold river and it was very late by the time they finally got to Black Sands. He told Paikea and Moana to return home whilst he saw his family first before he saw the chief and confirmed their discovery to the headman.

Moana knew that once again their lives would be overturned. She looked at the greenstone gifts that she had received from Paikea’s sister and her tears fell on them making them shine in the moonlight.

The next day a few survivors from Big River arrived in Black Sands. They had escaped from their village and had hidden in the forest all night for safety.

 Atanga - beautiful

6 comments:

  1. this is so interesting but also sad and frightening!

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  2. All your readers have been expecting this moment - and now it has come. We await your next episodes with some trepidation, but the saga moves on well.

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  3. Moana has an air of wisdom and knowing gently cloaked around her..i like how the children look up to her..stones really do tell a story..jae

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  4. We saw that coming. I'm glad they were able to safely go around.

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  5. Kill and be killed. Is it because I've gotten older it bothers me so much when life, that cannot be replaced, is taken - often now, for so little reason?

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  6. Now I'll always think of this story when I see the road named Moana in Reno!

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