War of Hearts
22ND OF JULY
Sam’s been gone only for a few minutes, and I’ve been watching the sky in silence, with Rongo by my side. I don’t want to admit how nervous I am, but I have never been this scared in my life. Not being able to be by Sam’s side is killing me, and my hair is all greasy from how much I’ve been nervously playing with it.
I think I see a shooting star, and I concentrate my eyes on the darkened sky. As I see a second star shooting down, Rongo stirs by my side.
“I think it’s time for me to go.” He stands up slowly, and I follow his movement.
“That’s okay… I can wait on my own.”
“I’m so sorry Em, I wish I could stay, but I can’t risk getting stuck in this realm.”
I hate goodbyes.
“That’s fine big guy, I will see you around some time.” I pat him on the shoulder a bit awkwardly, and turn around, sitting down on the grass with my legs crossed and looking back up at the sky.
“See you around, Emma.”
I’m aware of the silence around me, and I wait to hear receding footsteps, but the only sound is that of the crickets in the distance. I feel at peace in this silence though, I know Sam will make it, I know it doesn’t matter what’s going on up there, my friend is the strongest person I have ever known and she will get through anything those Gods throw her way. I’m at peace, because I know everything will be okay.
Feeling a tingling sensation in the back of my neck, I turn around, but there’s no one there. Rongo is gone.
I’m alone, but the peaceful feeling is still within me.
“Thank you, big guy.”
Sam’s arms are still stretched to the sides, her eyes pressed closed as the energy ripples around her once more and then dissipates. Ru’s magic is all about emotions, it taps on what he feels, and he can make the world shake or a volcano erupt just with mere feelings. Anger, sadness, frustration. I can feel all of those emotions leaving Sam as the power runs out, the power she could have used to destroy the pounamu.
Hine claps slowly, a smug smile on her face. “Great party trick, darling, but it seems like you lost your bargaining chip.”
The Koru is dangling in front of my face, a faint glow still surrounding it as it’s magic resonates with the amount of power inside this realm. Tu is blinking repeatedly, his furious expression returning to his face.
“What the fuck was that?”
Sam’s eyes snap open at the same time as Tu gets to her and wraps one of his huge hands around her small and delicate neck.
“NO, leave her alone!”
Sam gasps for air as Tu squeezes tighter, and I see red dots dancing in front of my vision.
“Tu, take it easy,” Hine says in a calmed tone. “We still need her to say that she will give the necklace back, so let her breath.”
Tu lets go of Sam begrudgingly, and huffs in annoyance.
“Now, girl, please say you give it back.”
Sam lifts her chin, and takes a deep breath. “Not before you let my father’s soul go.”
Hine laughs dryly, and holds the Koru in her outstretched arm. “No. Now say the words.”
“This changes nothing for you, I am giving you my whole world, the least you can do is let one soul go into the light. Let him go, and I will give Tane his power.”
“Hine, do as she asks, and I won’t fight you.” I look back at her as I speak, and I can see the doubt in her dark eyes. It’s like watching storm clouds gathering as grey smoke swirls inside her irises. She’s been fighting me for so long, trying to go against me, but deep down, all she’s ever wanted was to be on my side, and I know that. “Let go of Morris Tutaki’s soul, release him into the light.” I speak as softly as I can while still trying to sound commanding. Walking the fine line I’ve been walking around my daughter since the day she showed up in my life.
“Fine, if this will make things faster and will stop you from moaning, you can have the one stupid soul.” Hine spits the words, pretending it doesn’t matter. Pretending it’s all the same to her.
“Thank you, Hine,” I speak the words softly, trying to tap into Hine’s good side.
Sam bites her lip and blinks tears away as Hine uses her free hand to draw circles in the air. Grey smoke starts pouring out of her fingers, creating a little twister of smoke and ash. A shape starts taking form within, and the silhouette of a man shows up.
“Dad?” Sam’s voice is a broken whisper as she stares into the smoke-made figure, now growing in size until it’s as tall as me.
“There you go, Tane, he’s all yours.”
I extend a hand towards the figure, and I let it wander closer to Sam as I allow the light to gather around him and start trickling in. Sam’s expression is unreadable as she watches him move and get closer. I know there’s no conscience to this projection of Morris’ soul, but the feelings remain inside him, and he surely feels compelled towards Sam as his emotional memory tells him he’s close to someone he cares about.
“Tane,” Sam’s voice is strangled and a single tear rolls down her cheek. She nods, and I know she’s telling me she’s ready, that’s it’s okay to let him go. So I do, I let the light fill Morris up, I let all the good memories remain as the bad ones are blurred away and his soul shines bright and turns into a million fireflies that swarm around us and then disperse away, going in all directions and slowly disappearing in the distance.
Sam’s eyes find mine again, and when she speaks, I know exactly what she means. “It’s yours.” The words are barely audible, a whisper of hope, a gift I can not refuse.
“Rehua!” I roar my brother’s name, God of healing and chief among the stars; calling on him to descend from the highest of heavens, to step onto Uru’s realm and free me of this stardusted shackles.
Tu’s eyes open up wide at the mention of our brother, and he stumbles backwards. The shackles start shining brighter and brighter, and I feel suspended inside a cloud as everything around us turns from an orange glow to a white so bright I’m struggling to keep my eyes open.
At the same time as the shackles burst into a cloud of dust, Ru shows up by my side looking like a strongly built teenager. He holds Hine by the waist as he looks at her apologetically.
“I’m sorry, my darling wife, but I couldn’t allow you to do something you’d regret.” His fingers wrap around her wrist, and her fingers open up, letting go of the Koru. “Good luck, brother.”
Ru disappears, taking Hine with him back to the underworld before I can even thank him. Hine will be pissed, but eventually, I hope she will understand and come to her senses.
I extend my hand towards my Koru, and as my fingers close around the smooth and warm stone, I feel it’s power like a current of energy running through my arm and into my chest. I look at Sam, her moss green eyes full of unshed tears as a smile curves her lips up despite it all. Tu is looking at me with a shocked expression as Sam starts blinking slowly while her aura glistens with green light that travels all the way towards where I am.
I feel a little drowsy, and I swear I can feel Tane’s power leaving my body. It’s like a green glow that ripples around me for a second, and then slowly expands, moving towards the God of the forest as if being pulled in. It’s a weird feeling, which makes me cold inside, and I shiver once, the green light completely gone as the Koru shines brighter while hanging around Tane’s neck.
I take a hand to my chest as a new feeling stars expanding from within, and a sort of warmth finds me. My palm’s resting against the spot where Tangaroa, Ru and Rongo all pressed their fingers against my heart, and I take a meaningful deep breath as I realize Rongo’s plan worked; the gift of their magic was enough to replace Tane’s.
Not a second has gone by, and Tane charges towards us and grabs Tu by the neck. The Koru is hanging around his neck together with his Pikoura, and both of the pounamu are shining with a bright and soothing light. I turn to the side as Tane tackles Tu, feeling weightless and a little lost in this strange place. The Gods wrestle, getting farther away as they fight.
Thanks to Ru, Hine is out of the game, and if what Rongo told me is right, Uru will not interfere either. We might be in his realm, but Uru sided with whom he thought had the easy win, and now that it looks like it’s an even battle, he’ll stick to his own business. And if that doesn’t work, we have Rehua keeping an eye on him. Rongo should already be in the underworld with Ru, containing Hine and making sure she doesn’t get out.
Now all we need is for Tane to close the ties between the realms, to keep my world apart from the Gods.
Tane’s power is almost palpable as he locks Tu’s arms behind his back, and vines start showing out of thin air and wrapping around the huge guy’s torso and legs.
“Uru might have stardust, but I have my own tricks.”
“Even if you win today, there’s always tomorrow, brother, you can’t run forever.” Tu is wrestling against the vines, but it seems like the more he wrestles, the thicker they get.
“I’m not running anymore, this is the end of it.”
The vines grow even thicker, and Tane let’s go of his brother, rushing over to my side as Tu is finally completely covered in vines and little green leaves.
“Tane, oh, Gods, it worked, I can’t believe it worked.” My heart is beating furiously on my chest as Tane reaches a hand up and tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. His eyes are making my heart melt in my chest, but I tell myself to be strong as I press my lips into a straight line. “You owe me an apology,” I say slowly.
His eyes lock on mine as he wraps an arm around my waist, and Tu grumbles behind him, the God’s mouth now covered by the vines. “I am so terribly sorry for making you forget me. I promise I will never again tamper with your memories. I want you to remember me for the rest of your life, and I want to be there for the rest of it too. It doesn’t matter what it costs me, what I might need to sacrifice, but I will do everything in my power to spend every second I can by your side. I need you to remember that, whatever happens.”
I can not believe my ears, and I feel the tears pooling in my eyes again as Tane smiles at me, his grip tightening on my waist, his forehead pressing against mine as he closes his eyes for a second.
“Do you mean it? Is that even possible?”
Why would Tane give up his immortality for me? Why leave everything behind to live a mundane and normal life?
“Sam, I know what you might be thinking, and I know this might sound rushed in a lot of ways. But I have lived millenniums without ever feeling something like what I feel when I look into your eyes, and I will never forgive myself if I let go of the opportunity of getting to know you better. To get to know every single one of your quirky ways.”
“Tane,” I don’t know what else to say, all words being completely lost to the void surrounding us. Tane holds me tight as the words spill between us, my heart fluttering unrhythmically.
“I want to see your messy hair in the morning, and learn every single expression on your face. I want to know what you’re thinking when your brow furrows, and be the reason there’s a smile on your face. I want to hear the sound of your laughter, and learn a thousand different ways to make that sound escape your lips. I want to indulge in the softness of your skin, and learn to hold you in a million different ways. I want to be there when you need someone to talk to, and be by your side as you learn more about yourself. I want to walk by your side, and help you climb every mountain; both literal and metaphorical.” I feel the dampness in my eyes as I hear his words, my heart so full I think my chest might burst. “That, of course, if you want me there by your side.”
I cup his face in one hand as I run a thumb through the rough stubble now growing on his cheek. “Not even in a millennium, could I find words to describe what I want to say right now. And not even in two millenniums, could I top off your speech. But I do, I do want you here. I want to know you better, to walk by your side and be the one that’s there for you when the world feels like too much.”
Tane laughs a small but beautiful laugh that makes my heart jump on my chest, and before the sound dies out, I press my lips against his. His lips feel soft and warm, and I’m so safe in his embrace, that I wrap my arms around him and let my head travel down and rest on his shoulder. One of his hands rests against the back of my neck, drawing little patterns on the sensible skin under my ear. I could spend my whole life in this embrace, and I wouldn’t need anything else in the world.
The weightlessness feels soothing but unnerving at the same time, so I move back after a minute, my arms still holding onto Tane’s as I seem unable to let go.
“We should do it now, you need to close the portals.” Even if floating inside a perpetual sunset with the most gorgeous guy in the universe feels like the perfect dream, I need to go back to Earth and make sure my best friend knows the world is not about to end.
A little spark of pure light shows in front of us as Tane’s aura glistens in deep green with yellow, brown and orange ribbons running through it.
“You should go, I’ll be right behind you.”
“I’m not going without you.” A flicker of panic rushes through me at the idea of letting go.
“Sam, you have to, I need you to be safe and go, now.” He holds my hand, pushing me gently towards the light. “Please?”
I nod slowly as I squeeze his hand, and the light behind me grows bigger and warmer. Tane’s got one hand stretched my way as his other one seems to be pushing back on an invisible barrier. I look down to my feet, and I feel the warmth of the light tingling around my ankles as the portal starts to take me back to the other side. I can do this, I can let go. I trust him.
One second I’m watching Tane’s smile, and the next, I’m sprawled on the grass in front of the observatory.
“Sam, Sam, what happened? Are you okay?” I’m barely aware of Emma’s arms reaching towards me as I my head spins.
“Yeah, I’m okay.” I look around, waiting for Tane to show up as Em embraces me in a hug.
“I’m so glad you’re safe,” she whispers against my ears.
I look around the dark landscape, waiting for a flicker of light, for something. The stars are as bright as I’ve ever seen them, and as I look up into the sky, I see one shooting down. And then another one, and another one.
“Wow, that’s something,” Em says by my side as we keep seeing a shooting star after the other. “Do you think it’s got something to do with Tane closing the portals?”
“It has to,” I saw in a low whisper as I feel my heart constricted in my chest. Come on, Tane, hurry up.
Emma grabs my hand, squeezing it tight. “I’m sure everything’s okay.”
After a minute too long, the sky goes still, and then a flash of light flickers behind us. As I turn around, I see the silhouette of a body sitting against the observatory’s door, the same one I used to open up the portal.
“Tane!” I run towards him, and drop to my knees as I lace my arms around his neck.
“Hey, Sammy,” his voice is a tiny whisper, and I stumble back, looking at his tired eyes and pale skin. He looks like someone that hasn’t slept in days, and as my eyes travel down, I see the Koru hanging around his neck.
“Are you okay?” I ask, scared of the answer.
“I will be.”
He mindlessly takes his hand up to his chest, where the Koru is. The spiral is broken down the middle, only half of the spiral left.
Note: Hey, I hope you got to enjoy the story so far! It has been such a fun ride for me, and so challenging! I actually re wrote this ending about 10 times because I had so many different ideas about Tane and Sam's return to the human world.
Thanks for getting this far, there's only about 3 more chapters to go before the end!!
Does Tane being stuck in our world mean he's human now? Will he go to Argentina with Sam? Is Sam staying in New Zealand with him? Only one way to know! Next update will be on Friday (Christmas! yay!)