21ST OF JULY
“Who are you?” I ask, being fully aware that this kid in front of me has to be another one of Tane’s brothers. Friend or foe? I wonder as I take a step back instinctively.
What could I do against a God? Probably not much, and regardless, I can’t feel scared of him, he looks so adorable and innocent with his chubby face and pink cheeks. He’s wearing a light blue beanie, and a big parka with sleeves so long that I can’t see his hands.
“I’m Ruaumoko,” he says as he smiles up at me. “I’m mummy’s favorite,” he adds as he grins proudly, and I can’t help but smile back at him. He does sound like an adorable and innocent child.
“Are you?” I ask. I’ve always liked kids, not that I have a lot of experience with them, but I’ve always felt drawn to their quirky ways.
“Ahm!” He says as he nods once, profusely.
“And why are you here, Rua-moko?” I ask, not sure how to pronounce his name as I can barely remember what he said it was.
“You can call me Ru,” he reaches his hand and grabs mine.
He walks us closer to the wall, and I follow. His hand is warm to the touch, and there’s a tingling sensation traveling up my arm. He reaches his free hand to the wall, and places it against it.
“I come here sometimes,” he says, and he sounds so sad that I can feel my own heart being squeezed inside my chest. “So I don’t forget.”
I look into his dark eyes, so full of worry and wisdom. It looks so odd for such a little kid to feel so much, and I need to remind myself that he is not really a kid, and that he is probably thousands of years older than me. I can’t even grasp the idea of how old this kid must be.
“What are you talking about?” I wonder.
“Do you know who I am?” He asks sweetly, a lonely tear running down his face.
“One of Tane’s brothers?” I say, giving him the only little information I possess.
“Yes. I’m the youngest,” he explains. “I live under, with my mother, that is. I like it there, even if I get a little lonely sometimes. But the world seems like a scary place, and I only venture out here once in a while… To remember,” he says again.
To remember, what? I try to remember the few little things I read about maori mythology since I arrived here in New Zealand, but his name doesn’t ring a bell at all.
“What is it that you need to remember?” I ask dubiously.
“That our actions have consequences,” he looks up at me briskly, and then back to the names on the wall, running his hand through them. “That my emotions can sometimes lead to tragedy.”
I’m looking at him, trying to piece these bits of information together, but not being able to make sense of any of it. I think he notices the way I’m staring, because he looks up at me, giving his back to the wall.
“Sorry, I’m being cryptical,” he says. “I’m not used to human interaction, you’re the first one I’ve talked to in so long, it feels like forever.” His childish voice is almost gone, and I can almost feel his real age seeping through the cracks, like the real God is trying to show itself. “I should introduce myself properly, I’m Ruaumoko, God of Earthquakes.”
So he’s the reason this city had to be rebuilt, the reason why all these people died. And he sounds so heartbroken about it, I can feel tears pooling in my own eyes. I blink them away, trying not to think about the names I’m reading, because I’d make it too real, and I can’t deal with that right now.
“Why do you do it then?” I ask finally. Why do something that you’ll later regret?
“My emotions take the best of me sometimes… and whenever I cry, the world shakes with me.”
His hand is still in mine, so I squeeze a little harder, letting him know that I’m here, that it’s okay.
“It’s nice of you to come here to pay your respects,” I say softly, my mind starting to spiral back to what happened only a few minutes ago. How I spoke to Emma, and the way I let my emotions let out the worst of me.
“I wish it was enough,” he retorts, “I wish I could stop myself before it was too late.”
As another tear runs down his cheek, I can feel the ground lightly rumbling under my feet. It’s like a little current running up my body from the sole of my feet, a slight dizziness that makes me think I might fall over, but then the feeling is gone as quickly as it came.
“Wow,” the whisper escapes my lips before I can stop it.
“Sorry,” he chuckles lightly and scratches the back of his head with his free hand.
“It’s okay,” I say as calmly as I can, for some reason, I do feel calmer in his presence. I know I should get going, find Em and try to apologize to her, find Tane and get to the bottom of all this, but at the same time, I’m curious about why Ru decided to show himself.
“Why did you come here to meet me?” I ask, “Or was this a coincidence?”
Ru lets go of my hand, and turns around to face me. “Nothing is ever coincidence. I came to intercede in the name of my wife, apologize in advance for what she might put you through.” Ru sounds suddenly more serious and adult-like, and I could swear he looks taller and older.
“Hine, Tane’s daughter who lives in the underworld, she is also my wife.” I try not to let my jaw drop at the information. I mean, I might not be versed in maori mythology, but I do know a little about Roman Gods from reading Percy Jackson, and I know the relationships can be fairly complicated sometimes.
I think I mutter something that sounds like ‘okay’, my head a swarm of information and worries tugging me one way and another.
“Hine is troubled… and I want to help. I don’t want her to do something she will probably regret in the future. I want to tell you a little story about my family, if you’d let me.” Ru points to the bench behind us, and as I take a seat, I notice he looks more like a 15 year old now, his factions a little more slender, his frame bigger as he sits down by my side, and stands as tall as me.
“Okay, but I don’t have much time, I need to get to Tekapo and find Tane.”
“You have time, Sam, you won’t be able to find him until tomorrow.” I lift my brows as Ru keeps talking. “The door between realms opens up at sundown, so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to be able to get to him, you won’t make it in time today.”
“I thought Tu and Hine were desperate to get the necklace back.” My voice is a murmur compared to the raging voices going crazy inside my mind as I look to the Sun slowly nearing the horizon.
“A day in our time, means nothing.” I guess when you have lived for thousands of years, a day might only seem like a minute. “I know Rongo is too noble, too much the peacemaker he’s sworn to be to tell you everything that’s going on. But for the sake of my wife, and my mother, I want you to know what you’re walking into.” Ru lifts his legs onto a lotto position, and turns around to fully face me. Almost without thinking, I do the same, lifting my legs up, crossing them over and setting my palms over my knees as I remind myself to keep on breathing, all my years of yoga allowing me to empty my mind even if just a little.
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“I’d like you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let yourself be carried away by the sound of my voice. It will be better this way, trust me.”
I do as he says, and as I close my eyes and take a deep breath, I can smell the faintest scent of pine.
“You know this story started a long time ago, when after debating for a long time, my brothers decided that separating my parents was the best decision to make. At that moment, the council was created. Every time we Gods need to decide on something, the council is called. There are too many of us for even ourselves to keep track, so after a few messy choices, we appointed nine Gods for the council. Eight voters, and one mediator, which I believe you are fairly acquainted with.”
“Rongo,” I whisper his name into the darkness and his features form in front of me almost as if he is standing here. Around him, other eight bodies start to take shape, their edges blurry and their features almost unreadable.
“When we were alerted of your return to New Zealand, a council was called. Tane went against our beliefs when he interfered and saved your life, so the council was almost unanimous when we decided to punish Tane and send him to the land as a human. His memories of you were erased, and we knew that if your life was meant to be saved, then he would save you again. Trust me, Fate is something even us Gods believe in.”
The eight blurry images in my mind disappear, and the shape of Rongo starts to change, his shoulders get smaller, his face squares, his hair shortens, and the sight of a dark alley shows up around him. I can now see Tane standing alone, looking around as if lost. The shapes and images change and twirl as Ru keeps talking, and I’m reminded of the way I was able to see my memories through Tane’s eyes.
“Even if Tane didn’t fully remember saving you when you were little, he could feel a certain connection to you, which allowed him to find you again, and save you from drowning. You can only imagine my brother’s rage when you were saved again.” I see thunderstorms rolling, the skies turning red, and a shiver runs down my spine as I remember being trapped under the tree, thinking my life was over. “My brothers couldn’t understand what was going on, but my beloved wife had information no one else had. When she told me about what she saw eighteen years ago, I begged her not to go to my brothers with that information, but she didn’t listen to me.”
My mind goes black, and then a tiny dot of light shows in front of me, expanding slowly as images and voices try to break through it. I see a beautiful young girl, her raven black hair with red streaks reaching her waist, and her dark eyes boring into me. I see a teenager Ru standing by her side, talking loudly as he moves his arms in the air.
“Don’t do it, Hine, just let my brothers deal with this. You know what they will do with this information.”
“I know perfectly well what they will do. And that is why I’m going over to see them, I’ve called the council already.”
“I know you have, I am a part of it after all, dear wife. But I beg you, this is not what my Mother wants.”
“You and your damned Mother, Ru! I finally have the means to make Tane pay for everything he’s done to me, and I will take it.”
The image darkens again, and the nine shapes reform. I can see Rongo, Ru and Hine between them, while the rest of the shapes remain blurry.
“I have information regarding Tane that will change the course of our history,” Hine’s shape grows bigger as she speaks, taking most of the space in my mind. I notice her eyes are not only black, but pure darkness. There is no white to them, just blackness and nothingness staring at me from what almost look like empty sockets. I have to take a deep breath, my heart beating wildly inside my chest. “I was there when Tane saved the little girl, and I saw him hide a great part of his power inside the pounamu he left with her. I believe that is the reason he feels connected to her, and also, if we get that power back to him, he will have the strength needed to reunite Rangi and Papa, as some of you have wanted for so long.”
Hine blurs and dissolves as a rage of noise and colors swirl in front of me, the force of it making me shut my eyes tighter and grip my fingertips strongly against my knees. Ru’s voice elevates over it all, making the colors dim and bringing a sense of calmness back.
“You can imagine what that information brought us… It was chaos. Rongo intervened, bringing a little peace back, but the council was obliged to take a vote. This all happened right after Tane told you the truth about what had happened. As you were relieving the memories of the accident, Hine was relieving them too, and the realization of what the Koru held hit her right in that moment. I’m sorry I couldn’t stop her, but my wife has spent her whole life trying to get back at Tane, and she saw this as the perfect opportunity.” I see pines raising up, and I can smell the peaceful and so familiar aroma of pine needles as Ru shows me the most beautiful forest I have ever seen.
“What am I seeing? Where is this?” I can feel the tears pooling inside my closed eyes, my chest so full that I think it might burst open.
“That is Mother Earth’s land. The place where she resides… As you might see, it resembles the Earth a lot; that is because my Mother has come to love what lays between her and Rangi in a way she never thought possible. The Earth is like her newest baby, and I dare say Tane is her favorite son, because he’s the one in charge of everything she loves most: forests, the beautiful green that expands everywhere, birds, and most importantly, humans. Tane was the one who brought you humans to this place, and even if most of my brothers voted in favor of reuniting my parents, I know that’s not what my Mother wants. No matter how much it pains her to be far away from Father, she would never sacrifice the entire human race for it. Sometimes… Sometimes we have to sacrifice some things in light of a greater good.”
I open up my eyes, a thousand questions lodged in my throat. What is the issue between Tane and Hine? What will happen if I go to them? What happens if I return the pounamu to him? What happens if I don’t? As if reading my mind, Ru nods once, his smile vanishing from his face.
“I know you have a lot of concerns, and questions, but I can’t be the one to give you all the answers. Tane wanted you to forget and leave, and I think he was trying to take the easy way out. I know you feel deep down like you have no choice. I want you to remember, that there’s always a choice. I think Tane might need to remember that too.”
“But… What happens if I don’t go?”
“The Koru can’t be taken from you, you need to willingly return it to Tane for the power to be released back to him, otherwise, the power will stay trapped within the stone. That is why they haven’t tried to kill you again, they now know that if you die, that power will never be given back to Tane. If you don’t go, Hine will find a way to convince you to, she’ll go after those you love, she’ll corner you until you feel like you have no more choices.”
“So I don’t have a choice? My only choice is to go. What is the point? If I go, all the ones I love still perish, my whole world will be gone no matter what I do!”
I understand now what Emma was telling me earlier, I was blind to believe I could make a difference, I could do something to change the course of things. I was so blind, so stupidly blinded by love. What am I meant to do? There’s no good options here, if I don’t go find Tane, Hine will find a way to get to me, but if I go, the world ends. How long could I outrun a goddess when Tane didn’t even manage to outrun her for a day?
“Even if you go, once you’re there… You still have choices.”
Ru smiles a little sadly at me, and I feel the Earth rumble again, making me lose my balance and extend my arms sideways not to fall off the bench. I look to the right, mesmerized by the water rippling in the river, and when I look back, Ru is gone. I look to the other side, just in time to catch a crack on the wall in front of me solidifying and disappearing as I look at it.
“I believe you’ll find a way, Sam,” his voice echoes in the wind before the silence of the night engulfs me.
NOTE: Hi, as this story is nearing it's end, I find myself freaking out because I feel this chapter doesn't have enough action, but there was so much I needed to explain so it would all make sense as it does in my head!
So, anyways, stay tuned, the next few chapters will be the last, almost there!! All love and feedback is highly appreciated as I navigate this stressful time of finishing this story haha