At the manangai
It was windy day and there were short bouts of showers and the occasional thunderclap and gusts of winds that blew and then all was quiet again.
“I don’t think the children will come today” said Hekeheke.
“I think they will” replied Mahuika. “If they are stuck inside, their mothers will find them some work for them to do. What would you do?”
Hekeheke laughed “Perhaps you are right. Better to hear a story than play with a baby brother.”
Sure enough the children came, tapa cloths held over their heads, with wet feet, hands and faces. Hekeheke helped to dry them off and Mahuika watched her sadly as she knew that she would lose her soon when she married Maui at Black Sands. She had never loved another woman so much in all her life. Hekeheke was both the child and sister she never had and she wanted to hold on to her.
When the children were all settled Mahuika began her story:
Hinewhaitiri was a young thunderclap and she liked to play with the other weather children, the winds, the clouds, the lightning and thunder like herself. They always had fun, roaming everywhere and anywhere they wanted to, rolling across the sky throwing shadows onto the land below. It was such fun being a weather child. Hinewhaitiri loved the freedom the children of the elements had dancing and chasing with each other but mostly the tales that were told at the gathering of the marangai when they all met.
The marangai happened in autumn in a small valley on the other side of the mountain range that separated their homes from the sea. Hinewhaitiri had heard so much about these spectacular events but had never actually been to one herself. After the warmer months the wind changed and blew cool, blustery and violently from the sea. These were then the perfect conditions for a marangai to be held.
The signal for a marangai to start were two claps of thunder close together. It was the winds from the ocean that decided the date and time. However these winds were different from the land winds and were unpredictable. If anyone heard those two claps of thunder they rushed to the meeting place. It started whether you were there or not.
The children of the elements like Hinewhaitiri used these meetings to practise their skills. Whether it was the biggest thunder clap, the flashiest lightning strike, the fiercest wind or the greatest downpour, they came from miles around to show off what they were capable of.
While Hinewhaitiri was lolling around with her friends playing chasing games they all heard the two distinctive claps of thunder. They froze in mid air. Again two more claps of thunder boomed across the sky and winds came rushing in from every direction confirming that a meeting had begun. So they all rushed off to the marangai
When they got there the meeting was already in full swing. Huge flashes of fork lightning pierced the sky and hit the earth with such force that trees were set on fire. Deafening claps of thunder caused buildings to shake below; fierce winds blew trees from the ground, rain flooded rivers and swamped houses sending people on the ground below into a panic.
As Hinewhaitiri waited in line for her turn to show off her thunder clap skills she looked down at the people on land trying desperately to save themselves. Trees were falling over, catching fire, then being drenched by torrential rain. Rivers were bursting their banks; reeds and timber were being torn from roofs of houses. It seemed as though nothing would be spared.
Hinewhaitiri was so distracted that when it came for her turn to conjure up her loudest thunder clap she was still thinking about the people below and when she swung her large hands together she produced the weakest clap of thunder that had ever been heard. Everyone burst into laughter so much so that the meeting could not continue. No one had the energy to take part as they were so busy holding their sides and laughing.
Hinewhaitiri held her head in shame. Her thunder clap family thought she was a joke, her lightning friends didn't want to know her, and her cloud friends that she usually played with fled from the sky.
Hinewhaitiri sat on her own crying into her huge thunder clap hands. Looking between her fingers Hinewhaitiri noticed that the people of the valley had come out of their ruined houses and had begun to clear up the wreckage.
Hinewhaitiri felt so sorry for the damage that they had caused that she forgot about her shame. She climbed down from the mountain and headed towards the small village.
The village people ran for cover when they saw Hinewhaitiri coming for them. But Hinewhaitiri took no notice and got to work clearing away debris, straightening trees and unblocking rivers with her strong arms. When everyone saw what she was doing they were extremely grateful.
"This is what happens every year," said the chief. "There is a sudden storm, it destroys everything, we clean it up but it happens again and again!"
Hinewhaitiri looked around her, and realised what they said was true, the same thing would happen again next time a marangai was held.
"We should widen the rivers, plant more trees and strengthen the houses before the next wind from the sea arrives," Hinewhaitiri said. She stayed at the village for several days to help with the extra work that needed to be done. Then she returned to rest on the mountain where it was cooler and more comfortable for her..
One night while Hinewhaitiri was preparing for sleep she heard a voice, a deep rumbling voice that shook her from her resting place.
"I have stood here for thousands of years, since the time of Maui and his brothers," the voice boomed. Hinewhaitiri looked around but could see no one.
"Who is that, who's there?" she asked.
"I am Old Man Mountain," the voice said. "I have watched you and am proud your concern. But Hinewhaitiri you are wasting your time. When the next wind blows from the sea another meeting will be held and it will happen all over again."
"But we have widened the rivers, we've strengthened the houses, and we've planted more trees," Hinewhaitiri protested.
"These things will help, but it only delays the inevitable."
"Then what should we do?" Hinewhaitiri asked.
"Bring all the weather elements up to me. I will test the young ones," Old Man Mountain replied.
Repairs to the village were finally complete but while Hinewhaitiri was putting up a really strong fence, one of the village people yelled out a warning. Everyone looked to the sea. A huge blast of wind was heading straight for them.
So Hinewhaitiri raced to the top of the mountain, opened her arms and made two double claps of thunder. Far away on the horizon she could see the cloud, wind, thunder and lightning children all racing towards her trying to arrive first. Just as they arrived, Hinewhaitiri clapped her hands together with an extra strong boom of thunder stopping them dead in their tracks.
"Stop!" she yelled at the top of her voice. "Our meetings have been held over the valley below for a long time but now it is time for change."
"And where do you think we should go?" A lightning bolt asked with sneer.
With that Old Man Mountain gave an almighty shake and his huge voice boomed out, "You will test yourself here with me; I will be the one to judge you. Now show me what you can do, before the wind changes and it's too late!"
So the meeting began on the mountain. The winds blew, the heavy rain fell, the thunder cracked and lightning strikes blasted into Old Man Mountain's sides and huge rivers ran down into the valley below.
The people of the village there watched the spectacle from their homes. The rivers filled but because they had been widened they didn't overflow. The wind blew, but because it was so far away it didn't damage a thing. And the lightning and thunder made the whole spectacle a wondrous experience to witness.
Everyone was happy. This had been the most exciting gathering that they all could remember. Hinewhaitiri was applauded as the mastermind of it all; she was never ridiculed again. Old man Mountain laughed a deep belly rumbling laugh, he too had enjoyed it. "It felt like a massage on a summer's day," he said.
Mahuika then said "Nowadays when you look out over the mountains and hills you will often see clouds gathering around the peaks waiting for their games to start again."
When the story was over one boy got up and looked outside. He rushed back in, “The sun is shining again” he said, “All the clouds have gone up to the mountain.”