Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Flight from Big River (No. 65)

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.)

The Village of Big River had been destroyed by fire and no survivors had yet been seen. The pakeha seemed determined to establish a settlement at Big River where there was safe anchorage for their ships.

“What do you think really happened, Ahuahu?”

“I think that when we spoke to the chief there they had already argued with the pakeha and killed some of the newcomers. We turned up and were welcomed by the chief but the other men were edgy and we were sent on our way crossing the river further upstream so as not to see the burnt out encampment which we could smell. When the pakehas main boat returned after checking the coastline they probably found their camp destroyed their men dead and took revenge on the village.”

“Why, Ahuahu?”

“It is possible the pakeha wanted women after a long sea journey and they argued about that. I was told by Hinewai that the pakeha have a strong drink that makes them lose reason. They may have threatened the men from Big River. When we saw no women in the village working caring for their children I sensed they were in trouble. They had been hidden away.”

“This is not good, should we tell Rocky outcrop what has happened?”

“That is a difficult question to answer. It is one thing to have an agreement with them to help us if Big River is aggressive toward us but we have no such agreement if the pakeha slowly ease their way into our land. They are masters in the use of their weapons; this is bigger than a pact between villages. Our whole way of life may be threatened. We are on our own.”

“I have not spoken yet to Moana, what did she say to you?”

“Moana is like a daughter to me. She is wise but she is also with child, Perhaps she should be allowed to be a mother without being embroiled in village politics all the time. She will always give an opinion but when you ask her for it Paikea is humbled. He is keen to learn but asking her to speak may make him become rash in his actions to impress you.”

The old chief grunted at this. “You are very open Ahuahu but worse still you are right. You didn’t let him see the burnt out village did you? I could tell from his account that you kept them out of danger. Go home now to your wives. We will speak again tomorrow.”

The next morning Ahuahu and Tangaroa were down at the beach working on their canoes when they saw some people walking along the beach toward them. They were survivors from the Big River village who had hidden in the forest all night and had made their way along the coast to reach Black Sands.

Ahuahu stopped work and greeted them and told Tangaroa to take them to the village to eat and rest and advise the chief while he packed up what he was doing and he would join them later. 

There was a man, his wife and a teenage daughter and another mother with two small children. They all looked very tired and dirty and they walked slowly with exhaustion. Tangaroa picked up one little toddler and carried him and they made their way back to the village. As they walked along, occasionally the teenage girl would look up and glance at Tangaroa and now and then would brush against him. If Tangaroa noticed he did not say but merely spoke to the man and told them they could rest at the village to decide what to do next. Just as they arrived Ahuahu caught up with them and took the man to the chief’s whare and suggested Tangaroa take the women and children home to Ahu but the chief seeing them arrive insisted they enter his home to rest.

The families were given food and drink and the chief then asked the man whose name was Marama to speak with him and Ahuahu, whilst the women and the children stayed with the chief’s wives. Ahuahu told Tangaroa to speak with the teenage daughter whose name was Haeata indicating he should try to get her to talk too.

After they had introduced themselves the girl said “If you are god of the sea why did you let the pakeha come to Aotearoa?” Tangaroa shook his head smiling, “I was told I was named Tangaroa to appease him not to be him!”

She smiled also and then said “Are you not frightened that the pakeha will come here to destroy this village too?”

“We are not important here; we do not have a big river or a safe place for large boats. Our canoes are pulled up into the dunes each night as you saw us just now. All we have are the hot springs. Would you like me to take you there?”

She shook her head but at the same time said, “I would, but my parents do not want me to be out of their sight. Do you not know that our village was destroyed and many people killed?”

Tangaroa nodded then asked “But why did that happen and how did you escape?”

Haeata then looked around to see if anyone else could hear. “The pakeha had camped on the south side of the river and started trading with us but they were drinking a foul smelling liquid and they argued with our men and wanted to take some of our women in exchange for the goods especially the muskets, so a fight started. Luckily most of the women were in their homes or hiding so we were not involved. The pakeha were soon overpowered except those that escaped who crossed the river to their camp but our men followed and killed them too.”

“Even though they had muskets?” asked Tangaroa.

Haeata nodded, “The pakeha could not walk straight and were falling over so they could not use the muskets properly. The pakeha’s big boat returned two days later and found their camp destroyed and their men dead. My mother was wise enough to anticipate this happening so took us into the forest even though my father wanted to stay and fight. We saw them destroy the village so we waited in the forest but no survivors came, so we came here.”

“Where will you go now?”

“We only know the way of the sea. We must live by the sea; so we will go further on to find safety.”

Tangaroa looked at her and thought how attractive she was but he knew the people from Big River were not to be trusted. He wanted to reach out to touch her but dare not. She could see him thinking and then said with her eyes lowered, “Tangaroa will you guide us to the next village?”

Tangaroa shook his head, “Just follow the track along the coast.” And then he surprised himself by adding, “You do not need me, I am promised to another.”

Haeata her eyes still lowered and with much emotion in her voice said, “And so was I, but I am no longer.”



  1. Much is lost when you take flight..the strong drink also has a lot to answer for..I sense another romance on the path ahead..jae

  2. after the turmoil and chaos, looks like another settlement is the offing. heart's settlement i mean :-)

  3. No matter how dire the circumstances you describe, you never let your story wander too far away from romance. Such optimism is commendable.

  4. Even in darkest times, the human heart needs to love.

  5. Wow, how interesting the thought of this drink must be without knowing any real reason for it. I sensed a bit of sarcastic comedy there.

    You have a way of warming our spirits even in the mist of tragedy. I am sorry for Haeata's loss but it sounds all together forbidden. You have added new characters so simply.

  6. Life’s cruel with its busyness, but I’ve just now caught up on the episodes I’ve missed! This series really is an engaging work, Old Egg. The kettle’s ever on the boil. Now I fear the pakeha will mess with Ahuahu’s people and therefore I have all the more fear the chief will be persuaded not to call on Moana’s wisdom. But who knows what you’ll come up with? And that’s the fun. Maybe Paikea will surprise us all!

  7. Do I detect a potential romance for Tangeroa? He's grown up so much since I started reading this.

  8. hmmm.... i love the way each chapter shows us something unexpected. wonderful1

  9. I love the way the chapter ends with hope and possible love.

  10. Oh, I do love you, Rob! Death and destruction abound, yet love does find its way, doesn't it?