Motu Motiro Hiva
There was a constant wind blowing from the south. Since this was below the equator, it meant it was a chill wind. Seabirds had landed and were rooting about for pebbles to repair their nests. It wasn’t mating season, so it wasn’t as noisy as it might have been. But the warmth was dying. Davic had brought his thicker robe and a thermos of hot chocolate. He looked from one end of the island to the other. It wasn’t very big, mind you. It looked like there were two large rocks bridged by a ledge, sitting on the surface of the ocean. In reality, the two rocks were the tallest peaks of a massive underwater mountain. Just the tops of the peaks poked out.
“When are you going to grow up and start drinking coffee like a man, hey Davic?” laughed his study mate.
“I just don’t like caffeine, OK?” He had disagreements with Ian from time to time, but mostly they had learned to accept their differences. He wasn’t really sure what Ian was doing toward his project at the moment, other than in the general sense. The details escaped him. Some of the theory was a bit heady. But he was happy for the company. The Motu was lonely to put it mildly. There wasn’t another island, much less person, for hundreds of miles in one direction and thousands in the other. Sitting here, Davic could understand why the Rapanuians thought the world had sunk under the waves.
He looked back to the two rongorongo tablets he had on his lap, The abundant free mana of the islet had begun to reanimate the long dead patterns. He was able to count back the earlier versions. It was almost like rehydrating jerky or fruit leather. It reminded him of the pill-sized sponges that grew by absorbing liquid until they were fairly large toys --gooey slippery things-- that shrank back to nearly the original size after a few days out of the water.
These were the original, hand-carved, ancient wooden planks. He sat the two of them on the stone bench beside the moai. Davic placed pebbles between the bench and the planks to keep the humidity down on the bottom side. They were over two hundred years old and he didn’t want to damage them further. The patterns, which had been stuck together like old tortillas, also began to loosen.
“Ian!” he called. “I can count this easier with your eighteen-year lunar cycle.” He pulled up the coiled, ancient patterns of mana that echoed further and further into the past toward the point where he could see the creation of the plank.
“It’s eighteen point six,” said Ian.
“Yeah, I know, but I’m estimating for now.” His voice tapered off as he began counting. “Okay, I have 22.1 or so cycles.” He pulled up a note program from his crystal and wrote a bit. “That makes it a tad over 409 years ago, or between 1599 at the latest and 1595 at the earliest, that this piece of wood was cut from a living tree.” With more calculation, he said, “And the glyphs were inscribed over a two week period about three months later. It looks like Orliac was right.”
“One of the experts on the twenty-six known rongorongo texts. He said that since no there were no trees on the on the island after 1722 of the right height to make a plank this size,” Davic lifted the end of the tablet, “so that this piece of wood, the C text was written on, needed to be from a time well before that date. I place it at over a century before.” He worked the mana on the second board and said: “This one, the S text, is from a tree cut down in about 1623 and written much later, in, say, 1630.”
He placed the second plank next to the first, stood up, and rubbed his backside. “I am done with the easy part. And I really need to get the O plank. It’s the biggest and should really help.”
“So you need me to stop my research so you can leave the Motu and go back to the Institute?”
“Yes and no,” said Davic
“We’re not going to the Institute, we’re going to Berlin.”
“Germany? Your piece of wood is in Germany?”
“Yeah, at a museum.”
“Okay, but if you want my help in robbing another museum, you’re buying me beer afterward.”
The nearest portal left them about two and a half miles from the museum. So, they took a taxi down the busy streets the rest of the way. It left them at the base of an ornamental staircase. A stream of tourists was descending the opposite side of the stars. Among them, Davic saw a group of very clean-cut young men in white shirts and ties, mostly Americans, one of them was bearded and glowed with mana.
“Look, Ian,” he whispered, “a mage!” The two stopped on the steps and watched. The tall mage paused and stared at the two from the Institute. Then the three resumed their respective journeys.
“That was a mage,” said Davic. “I am sure of it.”
“I think he was a Destroying Angel,” said Ian. “Did you see the logo on his tie?”
“The DAs always creep me out.”
They were at the top of the stairs now and walked toward the entrance. Davic reached into his robes and placed the flat of his hand on his medallion. A golden light came from between his fingers and formed a ring around him and Ian. “The Earth-Bound can no longer see us, nor can their cameras.” They blatantly walked into the museum sidestepping the guard there.
Davic tapped his wrist-crystal which opened into a view of the interior of the museum. He soon located the exhibit of a large and crumbling piece of ancient wood. After a short walk, they were standing in front of its glass-enclosed display. He traced a line of mana around the edges of the front of the case and the glass rippled.
Ian drew a doorway in the ripply distortion and pulled the two sides open like the front of a cabinet. Both pointed at sensors and their lights went out.
Davic looked around until he found a waste receptacle. He tapped his wrist crystal several times and the garbage floated up and out of the bin, towards them, where it hung in the air, motionless. Another tap on the crystal and a slide through his menu. He tapped the end of the rongorongo Tablet O and then pointed at the floating refuse. It slowly contracted in on itself until it bore a resemblance to the shape of the Tablet O.
He drew his fingers together while simultaneously pointing them at the discarded material; it came into focus as a replica of the tablet.
No one would ever be able to tell that the one they left in the museum was not the genuine article. It would take a mage to see the interruption of the mana patterns. Other than that, the copy was faithful down to below the subatomic level.
¡E ’Ira e Rapareŋa ē!
Ka kimi te ma’ara o te ’ariki
“Ko ŋā kope tu-tu’u vai ’a Te Ta’aŋa
a Haumaka o Hiva”
“Yeah! I got it!′ cried Davic pointing to the mana image of a Rapanuian priest chanting with the rongorongo board in his hands.
“Are you sure you have the right time period?” asked Ian. “That sounds a lot like Modern Rapanuian, Isn’t that the creation myth where the seven explorers find the island?”
“Yes, it is!” said Davic happily. “It’s from the Vernal Equinox of 1851. I don’t think a Mana pattern this old has ever been used to capture a secondary link. It’s because of the powerful mana here at the Motu.”
“Wow, that’s over 150 years . . .”
“And I need to go back almost that much further.”
“What exactly are you doing now?”
He levitated a rock, from the edge of the cliff, toward them and converted nearly a third of it to create an earlier version of the tablet. “With this copy, I can follow the characters as the priest reads it. I need to follow along with a priest from before 1722, but I can’t see all the characters on the original.”
“Still,” said Ian with a puzzled look. “Why?”
“My project is on recovering ancient mana patterns and linking them to view historical events. I am using this process to be able to read rongorongo if it’s possible.”
“Why wouldn’t it be possible? We just saw that matato’a reading the tablet.”
“No, you saw him hold a board while he was chanting. In the late 1800s several times scientists tried to translate the rongorongo by writing down what a priest was saying and then having him point to individual characters. There was never a correlation. They speculated that the priests had memorized the chant and were using the tablet as a symbol of there authority, not a book to read. But that was after the Spanish had already raided the island for slaves and nearly destroyed the language and culture. So, I am going further back, to pre-Spanish days.”
“Okay, cool,” he said. “Let me know when you have something interesting.”
It took three days of tooling and retooling the process, but Davic was successful in tracing the mana trail of the three tablets. The ancients had indeed been reading the texts. The amazing thing was that each of the three was written in a slightly different dialect. How a population of less than 20,000 could have dialects just astonished Davic. He created a mana override that allowed him to become as fluent as a native of this long extinct language.
Davic had named Professor Johnson’s tablet, Mahina after all the moon glyphs engraved both front and back. It was the real bit of interest in his project. And he was almost giddy to think he’d be the first person in nearly four hundred years to hear this message.
He linked back to when the tablet was first read, at the September equinox in 1573. A mana image of a thin and wizened priest appeared. Davic enlarged it to life size.
As the image of the matato’a stood and held the plank above his head, Ian pretended to continue with his research. Secretly, he was just as interested in hearing what the Rapanuians had to say about their views of the Moon.
“That sounds very different from the modern Rapanui language. Translate, would you?”
Davic paused the image. “It does sound less Tahitian and more Maori than the modern language.” He restarted the presentation and listened. “He’s calling the matato’a from the several clans and now he’s recounting bad things the ariki has done: um, declaring certain fish tapu, demanding that more food go to his clan, drafting young men to build his moai. He is a bad ariki, a bad leader. He will destroy the people, Hotu Matua has already declared him forfeit. To show the Great Father’s displeasure, the moon will stop for one hour then resume.”
“What? they used an hour?”
Davic paused it again. “Well it was four fingers in the heavens, the amount of time for the Moon to pass that distance.”
“Isn’t that more like twenty minutes?”
“Sure, whatever.” Davic wasn’t as interested in the detail of this as Ian was.
“The mana record that I have been studying shows that the Moon did move in the 1600s. It slowed for about 20 minutes then went back to its normal orbit. It wouldn’t have been seen anywhere but here in the Pacific. And since it was put back in place no one would have noticed it.” He tilted his head slightly and smiled. “So, this mage moved the Moon!”
He played the whole ceremony several times. Davic was sure he, too, might be able to move the Moon. But it would take all the mana of the Motu to do it.