Gargoyles: TimeDancer – Hawaiki – Episode I: Honua
Disclaimer: In case you haven't figured it out yet, I don't own Gargoyles. All Gargoyles-related characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property of Disney, Greg Weisman, and Frank Paur.
A/N: This is my first entry in the fantastic shared universe of Gargoyles fics already established by Algernon84, Gryphinwyrm7, and GregX. It is a direct follow-up to two previous TimeDancer fics – Algernon's "Old Night" and Gryphinwyrm's "Vessels" – and assumes familiarity with both those stories.
I highly recommend you check out the brilliant works of these esteemed friends and colleagues, and together with Bookwyrm and Brainiac, I thank them all for the advice and guidance provided in crafting my own.
Additional thanks to the fantastic fanartist Kordyne (kordyne . deviantart . com), whose labors have provided the cover art for this story. I couldn't be happier to see the character of Makani brought so vibrantly to life.
And so, with all that out of the way…
Let us begin.
The story is told…though who can say if it be true…
In the beginning, there was Pō, the endless Nothingness. The dark Chaos where the Earth, which was its Mother, and the Sky, which was its Father, met in eternal embrace.
But amidst the Darkness, there came forth a single point of Light. This was Kāne, Creator of the Dawn and the Sun and the Beautiful Things.
In time, Kāne came to understand that he was apart from his Parents, and pulled himself from their womb. And so too did come his Brothers.
These were the Four Great Gods: Kāne, of the Land; Kanaloa, of the Sea; Kū, of War; and Lono, of Peace.
The gods looked upon the world, and saw that it was good. But it was also missing a great many things. And so the Gods, the greatest craftsman who ever lived, began to bring forth wonders…
First, there were the lesser creatures of the sea. The worm and the urchin and the coral. And for them all, the sustenance that brought them life – the moss and fern and grass. These, the first plants, were guided to the land, so that the creatures might one day follow.
Next were the fish and the sea's greater creatures. Shark and crab and octopus. And each that swam through the ocean, gained a powerful guardian on land. This is how the trees came to grow.
Then, came the flying creatures, from the grandest bird to the tiniest butterfly. There were those, the crow and the hawk and the goose, that flew above the land. There were those, swallow and duck and tern, that flew above the water. But Kāne's greatest and most precious Creation could soar above both.
There were crawling creatures and there were clinging creatures. The digging creatures and the pilfering creatures. The nibbling creatures and the slimy creatures.
There was Kalo, the first attempt of the Gods to make a being in their own image. And then there was Ki'i, the male, and La'ila'i, the female. From her loins, by Ki'i and by Kāne both, followed the descent of all the bloodlines of man.
There were the lesser Gods, to govern all these wonderful new things. Gods of fire and snow; of wind and thunder; of the Moon and the Underworld. There were Gods, soon, in all things.
In time, however, the Gods began to realize there was a problem. When the world was young, it'd had very few things, and so it had no trouble containing them.
But with every passing night, more and more of their Creations came to life. The age of Pō was over. Now, all the creatures and the plants and the peoples they'd crafted needed one last thing.
They needed a home.
And so, the Four Great Gods, who'd begun to drift apart as their Creation unfolded, came together one last time. They used all their mightiest sorcery and their cleverest craftsmanship. And with it, they formed their greatest Creation of all.
Ka'ū Desert, Hawai'i Island, 1790 A.D.
"Okay, just for the record, Zee…" said Brooklyn, struggling to be heard over the din. "No offense, but I blame you for this."
"Because during our Dance to those 'Heema-laya,' I complained once about the cold?" Zafira shot back, bright red arms held over her face, shielding it from the blistering winds. "That does not mean that…!"
"My friend, my love. With due respect, perhaps we should finish this conversation another time?" called out Benuthet, cutting across his mate. The other two gargoyles took another look at their surroundings and quickly nodded.
Proximity to an erupting volcano tended to forestall any other discussion topics.
The volcano had already been spewing hot ash and toxic gas when the Phoenix first deposited them here, something that Brooklyn had little reason to chock up as a coincidence. He wasn't sure if the Time-Fowl had a sense of humor, but after their last few "whacky misadventures" he had to assume it was a pretty sick one.
Indeed, they'd been so occupied with fleeing as far as possible from the fire-spewing mountain that, nearly an hour later, he still had no freaking clue when or where they were.
The lack of history or geography texts he'd ever thought to pop open in the twentieth century was something he regretted on at least an hourly basis, but he tended to have some idea by this point. If only because the first hour usually involved tumbling into someone, friend or foe, who was only too happy to provide him with convenient exposition.
Right now, the volcano and the greenery – as grand and lush as Guatemala, but with a very different range of plants – were his only two clues, and he was a little too busy gliding for his life away from the former to give the latter much thought.
Brooklyn had seen volcanoes on TV before, but it became clear fairly quickly that cartoons tended to get them pretty wrong. Though the lava flow was still quite some distance away, his skin felt like it was seconds away from boiling, and Zee and Benny didn't look much better.
The heat, however, was at best only a secondary concern. Enormous plumes of billowing smoke, so thick that it almost looked solid, burst forth from the volcano in volumes that defied description. It spread across the sky, covering the moon and stars like a massive shroud and choking the very life out of the air around them.
Brooklyn didn't want to imagine what'd happen if they actually breathed the smoke.
Unfortunately, the sheer amount of chaos the eruption was wreaking on the wind currents made it difficult to sustain a glide for long. The movements of the trio – especially with the added burden of two gargoyle beasts – were sporadic and uneven, and despite their best efforts had them losing altitude remarkably quickly.
They were drifting, now, over a vast, expansive desert, downwind from the volcano and devoid of any vegetation. Its sands were a dull, unpleasant gray, the same shade as much of the smoke and ash spewing from the nearby crater.
It didn't take a genius to put two and two together. Or to realize that they'd better get away from this desert, pronto.
But the winds were growing less and less cooperative by the moment, and with the smoke so close behind he knew they couldn't afford to take a detour. It wasn't the sort of thing they could possibly outrun, or even outglide.
Their only hope was to keep moving forward, as quickly as possible, and cross their talons they'd find shelter before too long.
With his arms full with Fu-Dog and Benny similarly burdened by Kebechet, Zee had taken point toward the front of their formation, and so it was she who first spotted the figures below.
"My love, Brooklyn, hold a moment!" she exclaimed, pointing.
Both followed the arc of her claw with their eyes, and immediately realized what she was gesturing to. Against the monochrome sands, they stood out rather starkly.
A formation of dozens of humans, each shirtless and clad in warrior's garb.
The three gargoyles were only a few hundred feet above them, and about a thousand behind, but the warriors didn't seem to notice them, marching resolutely forward as if nothing was happening. This was despite the violently shaking ground and toxic ash that was, at most, a few minutes from catching up with them.
These were men who were doomed to die, and stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that fact.
"We could save a few of them, perhaps, but not all. Not enough," said Benny, echoing what all three of them were thinking. "And I don't have any talismans capable of changing that situation."
"What about that helmet from Babylon?" asked Brooklyn, eyes narrowed at the crowd below. "Marduk said it was an 'emergencies only' sort of thing. Well, I think a giant spewing fire-mountain qualifies."
But Benuthet just shook his leonine head. "It's usable only under a full moon, I'm afraid," he told his friend. "Right now it's little more than a very shiny drinking tin. With eyeholes."
"Either way, we need to make a decision," Zee cut across her mate, frowning. "Another thirty seconds and we'll overtake them. Do we attempt a rescue or not?"
Brooklyn looked back down upon the warriors, feeling torn. On the one hand, he hated to stand by – or glide by, in this case – and watch someone, anyone, die, when he was capable of saving them. In these last, long years of Dancing, he'd already had to witness it more times than he could count.
On the other…those humans were very heavily armed, and their spears and blades looked sharp. They were no doubt in a panicked state already, whether or not they were willing to show it, and there was no guarantee they wouldn't react violently to a bunch of flying monsters swooping down on them.
He still hadn't figured out where in the world they were, but neither their surroundings nor the humans' clothing brought to mind any clans he was familiar with.
Brooklyn growled under his breath. This was why he'd been a poor Second for so long. He hated decisions like this.
"Okay…alright, let's…" he started to say, still not sure what his answer should be. But his words were rendered moot a moment later.
Because they weren't alone in the skies that night.
They'd passed by a low-lying mountain ridge about half a minute ago, and failed to notice until now the three-dozen winged figures who'd leapt from its peak. But now they'd drawn about level with the trio, and Brooklyn was able to get a fairly decent look at them.
All of them looked distinctly avian, their beaks and wings somewhat resembling Griff's, with clothing that – at a glance – seemed to match those of the human warriors in style and color. At the head of the formation was a green-skinned, muscular female.
They were too far away to call out to, but the female looked over to them, a look of utter astonishment upon her face. It passed quickly, however, and she locked eyes with Brooklyn, nodding.
Then she said something to her fellows, and they all dived at once.
"Guess that answers that," he declared, somewhat lamely. "Alright, let's do this!"
The time-travelers quickly followed their lead, gliding as straight a path as the winds would allow toward the warriors. As they drew closer several of the humans finally took notice, and after a few seconds of tugging on arms nearly the entire formation stopped in their tracks to look up.
But none of them reached for their weapons. On the contrary, most looked jubilant, and a number cried something that sounded like, "Nawao! Nawao!"
Brooklyn had no idea what "Nawao" meant, or even what language it was. But the Phoenix hadn't automatically translated it, and there was usually a reason for that. Not that the big birdie was ever forthcoming with explanations, of course.
Still, the humans offered no resistance as both the trio and the numerous "local" gargoyles grabbed onto as many as they could. With each of them carrying at least two and several of them three, they managed to lift the entire war party off their feet – barely.
It became clear, fairly quickly, that neither he nor the female had thought this whole thing through. While they now had their claws upon all eighty or so of the humans, said humans were also really heavy, and the lift required to return to the skies simply wasn't there.
Brooklyn and Benuthet had a particularly difficult job of it, having to dangle one warrior from each hand and also keep their arms crossed to press the beasts against their bodies. It was an incredibly uncomfortable situation for all involved, and one they wouldn't be able to sustain for long.
Before he could articulate this to any of the others, however, a sudden and intense updraft swept through the desert, filling their wings at just the right angle. Suddenly, inexplicably, their charges felt light as air, and the forty-odd gargoyles were soaring again, their path veering away from the desert and toward a distant forest.
Brooklyn chanced a brief, nerve-wracking glance back toward the volcano. Somehow, even though it didn't seem possible, they were now gaining on the smoke.
The gargoyles sped from the desert as fast as the miraculous tailwind would take them, leaving behind only the warriors' weapons, and the footprints they'd left in the sand.
Several minutes later, a thousand tons of ash and toxic gas spewed over the landscape, fossilizing the footprints in an instant.
Kawaihae, Hawai'i Island, 1790 A.D.
The eruption could be seen from thousands of miles away – the greatest fury unleashed by the great mountain Kīlauea in all of known history.
So it was hardly a surprise that it drew its share of eyes all across the island.
One pair, owned by a Caucasian man with curly black hair and sallow cheeks, narrowed as he watched the explosions cleave the night air in twain. His brain, meanwhile, was working overtime to do rough calculations of the island's geography, and all the possible routes it held for military movements.
Slowly, a smile spread across his face. Could they really have been so fortunate?
"Petition that the King be roused," he demanded of a nearby warrior, who guarded his dwelling on the edge of Kawaihae.
It wasn't an order he'd have given lightly, given the precariousness of his…present position. But if he was right, this was absolutely worth an early rise on the King's behalf.
He turned back to the violent eruption, using a spyglass to get a better view.
"It seems the Almighty smiles on his ambitions this night."
Kapapala Forest, Hawai'i Island, 1790 A.D.
The mysterious updraft vanished as quickly as it'd started.
Thankfully, by the time it did, the mixed party of gargoyles and humans was just barely outside the volcano's danger zone, and they were able to land in a forest clearing without too much issue.
For their part, the warriors seemed understandably relieved to be on solid ground again – though none more so than the four Brooklyn and Benny had struggled to carry. The moment their feet touched the soft grass, the men put as much distance as they could between themselves and their rescuers…
Or rather, their beasts.
While none of the humans seemed to have the slightest trepidations about the gargoyles themselves, all seemed – at best – wary of Fu-Dog and Kebechet, muttering under their breaths and shooting over furtive, questioning looks. Actually, on second glance, many of the "local" gargoyles seemed to be doing the same.
For the first time, Brooklyn was look up close at the three dozen or so who'd joined them in rescuing the warriors. From this distance, their birdlike appearance was even more distinct, with every single gargoyle he could see sporting some sort of beak – some small and curved to a sharp point, others even longer than his own.
It sent a strange, unintended thrill down his spine. It wasn't like he was especially self-conscious about his beak, but still…he'd never encountered a clan where beaked gargoyles were the majority.
While there was a wide variety of colors and body types on display, a few other similarities jumped out upon further inspection. Each one, male and female alike, seemed to be wearing their hair long and full, and their two-toned feathered wings possessed neither claw-tips nor ribbing.
Most unusually, every single one of them also appeared to lack tails.
His first impression that their clothing resembled that of the human warriors turned out to be right on the money. It was actually somewhat off-putting. While it wasn't unusual for gargoyle and human fashion trends to mirror each other within a given culture – both Benuthet and Zafira were obvious proof – he'd never really seen them match up this closely. Shrink or grow them a couple sizes, and the garments could've been more or less interchangeable.
Another commonality between the two species was a wide range of black markings, many of them fairly intricate, that lined most of their skins. He could see Benny studying the nearest ones with puzzlement, but before he could say anything, the leaders of each party had begun to speak.
"You have our thanks, Nawao," said a human with tanned skin and powerful muscles. He wore little but a feathered loincloth, headdress, and shoulder-length cape, composed entirely of what looked like black feathers. "Shall I take this as proof you've sided against the usurper?"
"We…take no sides in human wars," the green female answered, not making eye contact with the man. Despite her immense stature, her voice was surprisingly soft, with a slight rasp to it. "We would've saved the king's men just as quickly, had they been foolish enough to march down Kīlauea."
The human's expression turned suddenly fierce. And he was hardly alone among his men.
"Kamehameha is no king of mine!" he roared, and the lead gargoyle actually flinched. "I am Keōua Kuahuʻula, son of Kalaniʻōpuʻu-a-Kaiamamao! With my brother dead at that bastard's hands, the island of Hawai'i rightfully belongs to me!"
Brooklyn's eyes widened briefly. So that's where they were? Although in retrospect, perhaps the volcano should've been a big tipoff…
"None of which changes any of what she just said, buddy," offered a male gargoyle, his skin a light, sandy tan. His demeanor exuded a quiet, relaxed confidence. "So why don't we all just part as friends and leave things there?"
"I will be friends with no one who stands in my way. Not man, not woman, not child. Not even Nawao," said Keōua. No trace of his initial gratitude remained on his face. "So one last time, I petition your clan for aid. You could be just what we need to counter the usurper's filthy hāʻole."
"Honua's given you her answer. As her Second, I couldn't override her, even if I wanted to," the female told him quietly. "All we ask is to be left alone."
"And how well has that been working out for you?" the human sneered. "Know this, Nawao. You'd do better with me as an ally than an enemy. Kamehameha doesn't care about the old ways – only his own power. If he succeeds in conquering the islands, it'll be the end for your race. I'm your last hope."
"I think it's best you don't make idle threats against the chosen of Kāne, in his own forest," declared the brown-skinned gargoyle, his beak curled warningly. "Especially not after you seriously pissed off Pele in the same day."
Keōua's eyes narrowed back at them both, but there was a flicker of something else in them now: fear.
"It will take some time to regroup my forces. Even with these men saved, my losses at Maui and Hilo were…significant," he admitted. "But I will march against the usurper, by next summer's end. For the sake of the gods…your leader had best see reason before then."
And with that, he signaled his warriors, hollering and pointing to a wide spot through the trees.
Several of the humans gave the gargoyles lingering, unreadable looks. But ultimately, they all followed their leader out of the clearing.
Brooklyn watched the eighty-strong legion depart, his own expression just as inscrutable. Mostly because even he wasn't sure how he felt about everything he'd just heard…or how much he even understood.
His attention snapped back to the gargoyles who'd been left behind, however, as he was alerted by a sound he knew all too well – but one he hadn't been expecting to hear at all.
The green-hued female was crying, enormous hands dabbing at her eyes as she slowly, timorously, walked forward.
"We're not the last…" she whispered, her voice breathless out of pure, joyous awe. "We're not alone."
She was, Brooklyn had to say, easily the most physically imposing female he'd ever seen.
Mind, that image was diminished somewhat by the fact that she was currently bawling her eyes out, but nevertheless this was someone who looked like she could take on Goliath in an arm-wrestling match – and have a good chance at winning.
She was taller than any of them, rising to at least seven feet, with thick muscles and broad shoulders. Her skin was a deep, leafy green, while her feathered wings were two shades of dull brown. Thick, black, wavy hair flowed down past her shoulders.
Like the rest of her female clansmembers, she was dressed in two thin wraps, around the waist and chest; the males lacked the latter. At a glance, they seemed to be made out of some kind of plant fiber. Hers were a light tan color, with simple patterns of triangles and diamonds upon the surface.
Most eye-catching, however, was her left arm. It was covered from shoulder to wrist with those strange black markings, which, up close, revealed themselves to be an intricate set of geometric shapes and curved, crisscrossing lines. The patterns on her forearm had a distinct motif of flowing wind.
"Tattoos…" Benuthet said quietly, speaking up for the first time since they'd landed. "I was under the impression gargoyles couldn't get them. Several of my friends in Rome attempted the process, but stone sleep always healed the 'damage' by sunset."
"Really?" asked the female, looking confused. "We've never had any trouble maintaining our kākau. Perhaps they didn't carve deep enough?"
"Excuse me…carve?" Brooklyn repeated, unable to help himself.
"Kākau are created by gouging holes in the skin with a big, sharp bone," the brown-skinned gargoyle supplied helpfully. And it looked like he should know, given that his entire torso was covered front and back with them. "Then you 'tap' black ink into the open wound. Usually made from soot and plant juices."
Identical, awkward faces appeared on the Scottish, Egyptian, and Mayan gargoyles alike, as they struggled simultaneously not to grimace.
None of them were exactly strangers to pain, but intentionally scarring themselves, beyond the capacity of stone sleep to heal?
That sounded…less than fun.
"Perhaps the Spell of Humility is also at play," said Zafira, who recovered quickest. "If they think of these patterns as 'theirs,' then the ink may turn to stone as they do."
Benuthet took on an intrigued expression. "I'd honestly never considered that as a factor," he replied. "I suppose the Spell's still so new to me, that I haven't fully thought through all its implications."
The leonine gargoyle suddenly stopped speaking, and his mouth twisted downward into a frown.
"But we're being rude. My apologies, those shouldn't have been the first words out of my mouth. My scholarly mind sometimes works faster than my manners," he told the tattooed gargoyles. "I am Benuthet, and these are Brooklyn and Zafira."
The beasts walked over and began sniffing the tan-skinned male, before making pleased sounds and licking his talons. "And Fu-Dog and Kebechet, of course," Benny added hastily.
Alone among his clan, the brown gargoyle – who was somehow even more enormous in stature than the female – seemed well at ease with the two beasts, bending down and petting them both playfully. He curled his ocean-blue feathered wings around them, his beak curving into a contented smile.
The green-hued gargoyle, for her part, had wiped the last of her tears away, but now was flushing deeply instead, her head turned askance.
"No, no, no! The rudeness is…it's my fault. I…I wasn't sure how to ask," she said, her voice only barely audible. For whatever reason, she sounded incredibly nervous. "But I'm, uh…Makani. And this is…"
"Awāwa!" interjected the male, cutting off whatever she'd been about to say. "Pleased to meet ya! And welcome…to the isle of Hawai'i."
He and Makani both offered their tattooed arms, the latter somewhat hesitantly. Benuthet clasped with Awāwa in a warrior's handshake, while Zafira did the same for Makani, though that only seemed to deepen the pink in her cheeks.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, still had his beak hung open in quiet awe. "Wow…so this really is Hawaii," he whispered to himself. "Always wanted to go. Not exactly how I expected it to happen, but…"
"You are familiar with this place already, my friend?" asked Benny. "Is it near your 'Manhattan' island?"
The sword-wielding gargoyle shook his head. "No, it's just…umm…" he said, trying to figure out how best to put this. He lowered his voice, so only his two companions could easily hear his next words. "In my time, it's one of those places everyone wants to go. Like…if you looked up 'paradise' in a book, you'd probably see a picture of Hawaii."
"Ah, I see," responded the scholar. "Somewhat akin to the Greek Arcadia?"
"Except no one gives away tickets to Arcadia on Wheel of Fortune," Brooklyn quipped, a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth.
Awāwa, who'd finally disentangled himself from the beasts eager tongues and playful maws, seemed to have caught that last bit, because he exclaimed jocularly, "Wheel…of Fortune? Tell me of this 'Wheel of Fortune'! Its name intrigues me!"
Brooklyn mentally kicked himself. "Gotta quit it with the pop culture references," he muttered under his breath. "Anyway, it's just a game. Nothing important."
"Ah, but I like games," said the brown-skinned gargoyle. "Teach me the rules of this 'Wheel of Fortune,' so that I may become its champion!"
None of them were quite sure how to respond to that.
Eventually, after a few moments of silence, Makani mumbled, "Is…there a reason you keep saying it like that? Please don't be offended, but it's…umm…Hawai'i."
She'd pronounced it, as Keōua and Awāwa both had, with a "v" sound in the middle, and a pronounced glottal stop between the last two vowels.
"Oh, sorry. We're, err…not from around here," answered Brooklyn, chuckling awkwardly.
"I gathered as much, from your strange names and garb," said Makani, her eyes drifting over to the beasts – both of whom still seemed endlessly fascinated by her tan friend. "Not to mention your, erm…companions."
"You are not familiar with sha?" asked Benny, his face falling slightly. "With gargoyle beasts?"
"I've seen my fair share of clans with no surviving beasts," Brooklyn informed him, accompanying his words with a long, heavy sigh. "Not usually this early in history, though. Or…well, how early it feels like. I don't actually know what year it is right now."
Unsurprisingly, neither Makani nor Awāwa seemed to have quite followed that last train of thought.
Still, the latter dutifully explained, "The humans of this island have never tracked that sort of thing. But our leader's talked with two of the hāʻole before. Guys called 'John' and 'Isaac.' I think they said it was 1790, in the year of their Lord."
Brooklyn shared a sideways glance with his traveling companions. He didn't know a ton about Hawaiian history, but he had a vague sense that the introduction of men named "John" and "Isaac" hadn't meant a lot of good things for the locals.
Especially since he'd never heard of any kind of Hawaiian Clan in the 1990s.
"Could you take us to your clan leader?" he said to Makani, voice serious. "We'd like to know more about the situation on this island, if you don't mind."
The green-skinned gargoyle looked rather hesitant. Apparently out of instinct, she glanced toward Awāwa, who just smiled broadly.
That seemed to be enough for her, however, and she nodded.
"It's a fair glide from here," she stated, turning to her thirty-plus clansmembers – all of whom had been watching this exchange in silence, with varying degrees of patience. "Alright…let's go home."
"We had no idea other Nawao even survived outside this island," said Makani, continuing to speak as they glided. Brooklyn couldn't help but notice her voice no longer shook or stuttered, as if simply being in the air made her feel more at ease. "Of course, the others were well-populated during the Great Voyage. But the centuries since…haven't been kind."
That answered one question, at least – Nawao must've been the Hawaiian word for "gargoyle," the way that Benny favored Harmakhis.
But it still left a lot of others remaining.
They were gliding along the side of a mountain, now, hugging the side that faced away from the ocean. The view around them, of rolling mists and lush plants soaked by recent rain – would've been breathtaking, had they the time to stop and admire it.
Awāwa had hung toward the rear of the formation, to keep an eye out for possible trouble. This meant the three "guests," and their beasts, were the only ones within earshot of the Second-in-Command.
"Let's start with this 'Great Voyage' business," piped up Zafira, drawing level with her fellow female. Again, a strange look momentarily appeared upon Makani's face, though her cheeks remained green this time. "If you weren't born to this island, where did your clan come from?"
"We…only have legends now," Makani replied softly. "I can't tell you if they hold any truth. But they speak of a homeland to which we all once belonged – human and Nawao alike. Perhaps even your 'beasts,' as well. A homeland…that no longer exists."
"A friend of my clan has a saying about truth versus accuracy that's probably appropriate now," said Brooklyn. "Either way, I think it's worth hearing about this 'legend.'"
Makani gave them a muted nod as they glided by, not making eye contact.
"The humans of every island call it by a different name, but they all remember it still," she told them. "Here, they know it as Hawaiki. You called our island 'paradise,' Pluk'līn. But Hawaiki was a true paradise. Endless in its bounty of food and water. Free from predators or disease. They say both races lived together in harmony for thousands of years."
Brooklyn tried to take all this in…but he also couldn't help focusing on one other part.
"Err…what'd you just call me?" he asked, trying to sound friendly. He didn't want to make her start crying again.
The tattooed gargoyle looked confused. "Did…Did I not get it right? It's what you called yourself, did you not?" she responded, her voice becoming small. With a slightly trembling talon, she gestured to each of them in turn. "Pluk'līn…Penukek…Kāpira."
Brooklyn glanced over to Benny, who was usually the best at deducing these sorts of things. After giving it some thought, the scholar offered his companions his best guess.
"Her native language must lack several of the sounds ours take for granted," he said. "When she speaks it normally, the translation magic of the Phoenix compensates. But she's trying to repeat what we said, exactly as she heard it. Which isn't easy if your system doesn't have a 'b' sound."
"What happened to this 'Hawaiki' of yours?" Zafira cut in, eager to get back on topic. "If it was so wonderful, why would you ever leave?"
"There are…many stories," muttered Makani. "But most speak of a great cataclysm, which stole away thousands upon thousands of lives. Those few humans and Nawao who remained, had no choice but to retreat to their canoes. They sailed away for lands unknown, together…while behind them, Hawaiki sunk beneath the ocean waves, and became part of the Underworld."
"The Old Bargain…" Benuthet realized aloud.
Makani didn't seem to recognize the term, but she nodded at the intent.
"A bargain it was, indeed," she said. "United, our peoples were the greatest wayfarers ever to grace this world. We could track the passage of the sun and the stars, and those with strong enough wings could glide ahead and check for dangers on the horizon. Our ancestors worked together to settle dozens, hundreds of islands. It's why we dress like them; why we take their language and their names. Because we used to be one."
Her face twisted into something halfway between wistfulness and regret. "If only those days could've lasted," she added softly.
"What changed?" asked Brooklyn, though he had a bad feeling he already had a fair idea.
The crappy thing about being a time-traveler was all the bad patterns you started to notice.
"The humans became…bolder," Makani tried to explain. "They waged wars, big and small. With us constantly caught in the middle. We never regained our population after the Great Migration, the way the humans did. Many clans felt they had no choice but to ally with one ali'i or another. But…well…"
She shook her head and sighed.
"A long time ago, we lived all across what the hāʻole call…umm…Pākīpika," she continued with an embarrassed grimace, knowing she'd gotten it wrong again. Still, from context, Brooklyn was fairly certain she meant the 'Pacific' Ocean, and he tried to smile reassuringly. "Tahiti, Samoa, Aotearoa, Rapa Nui…not to mention the other islands of Hawai'i. Oh, the stories they tell to hatchlings, of the clans on O'ahu or Kaua'i…"
Her tone now seemed almost close to tears. Brooklyn felt an instinctual urge to glide closer, but he pushed it back down. He recognized that instinct quite well, and it was not a helpful one right now.
Makani seemed not to have noticed, however, her attention turned entirely inward.
"But they've been wiped out for centuries," she said in a low, hollow voice. "For the longest time, I thought we were all that was left. The last scattered remains of Clan Hawaiki…slowly dying away."
"How many of you are left?" asked Benuthet.
The tattooed gargoyle hesitated for a moment, before answering, "Forty-seven. Just…forty-seven. Plus a clutch of sixteen eggs. But…they won't hatch for another eight years."
All three of the time-travelers turned their heads toward the mass gliding behind them. They didn't have to do any math to know they were looking at well over half the entire clan.
"Honua will be angry with me, for putting so many in harm's way," murmured Makani – and if it was possible for a beak to tremble, hers definitely was. "But I saw those men wandering to their doom, and I…I just couldn't…"
"Your leader should understand," Benny tried to encourage. "You did the right thing."
Makani just turned her head away from them, her eyes masked from view by her long hair, and quietly said, "You don't know Honua."
Those were the last words she spoke before she, and the other Hawaiian gargoyles, entered into an abrupt dive. Hastily, "Pluk'līn, Penukek, and Kāpira" tilted their wings to follow.
Swiftly, they descended into a great valley, where there was no trace of human activity for miles around.
Waimanu Valley, Hawai'i Island, 1790 A.D.
"Of all the stupid, reckless, immature…!"
The five travelers stood back against the trunk of an enormous tree, watching uneasily as the leader of the Hawaiian Clan dressed down her Second like a hatchling.
"Honua," it transpired, was a bald gargoyle with skin of blazing orange. She looked to be one generation older than Makani or Awāwa – and indeed, based on body language, Benny voiced the theory that she was likely their rookery mother – with significantly nicer clothes than her fellows, more in keeping with Keōua than his warriors.
Her most distinguishing feature, however, was an enormous gash in her right wing, long since scarred over. There was no way she was capable of gliding upon it.
It was clear, however, that the injury hadn't dulled her ferocity one iota.
"How dare you? How dare you?!" she exclaimed, grabbing Makani by the upper arm. Though her Second-in-Command dwarfed her, by at least two full feet, the larger gargoyle looked cowed, shrinking away. "I send you out to gather food, and instead you lead the clan straight into the path of Kīlauea? What were you thinking?!"
"I…I couldn't just leave them to die!" Makani meekly tried to protest, but the stutter in her voice dulled the impact.
"Of course you could've. This is why you'll never lead this clan, Makani. You're too damn soft," said Honua, growling. "I haven't kept your brothers and sisters alive without making some hard choices. And when it's between our lives, and theirs? That's not even a choice at all."
Makani didn't have a response to that. She just continued to make herself smaller, in posture if not in actuality. She was hunched over, arms clutching at shoulders, and wings spread and curled in front of her, like a shield.
"Besides, if you did insist on playing heroine, you could've at least backed the winning side," the clan leader went on, her tone snide and contemptuous. "You know as well as I do Keōua's bid is doomed. Kamehameha has already crushed his armies thrice, and he doesn't have the resources to try a fourth time. That's why I rejected his pathetic offer."
"You…didn't accept the offer from the hāʻole, either," Makani pointed out, in a very small voice.
"Because unlike some of us, I learn from the mistakes of those who came before me," Honua snapped, and her Second shrank back even further under her fierce glare. "And they've proven, time and time again, that allying with the strongest humans around is just asking for them to smash you in the back."
Her grip tightened on the younger gargoyle's well-muscled arm, who didn't fight back at all. She just stared resolutely at the ground, face burning with shame.
"But allying with the weakest ones? That's not just moronic, that's suicidal," she said with a snarl. "But what else can I expect from such a stupid, worthless, wretched waste of…!"
"I think she understands your point."
Honua's eyes flashed red as they snapped over at their "guests." She'd been ignoring them, deliberately, since they'd arrived, focusing all her ire upon Makani. None of the other gargoyles seemed to find this odd, watching on with casual disinterest – as if this sort of thing happened all the time.
But Zafira hadn't been able to hold her tongue for long, and it wasn't hard for Brooklyn and Benny to see why. She'd experienced similar treatment, albeit not quite as severe, from her own leader Obsidiano, as he'd stubbornly refused to accept her harsh truths about the Spanish Conquistadores.
The fire-orange gargoyle stared contemptuously at the outsider who'd just challenged her authority. As if debating whether it was even worth acknowledging the insult.
Then Honua did something Obsidiano never would have. She pulled back her arm, flexed her talons, and raked them sharply across Makani's face.
"There," she hissed. "Now she understands."
The resulting scream of pain chilled Brooklyn to the bone. Instinctively, his hand reached for the sword at his hip, but Benuthet grasped his arm and slowly shook his head. The expression on his face, however, was just as incensed.
Makani was still on the ground, one claw held to her cheek to stem the bleeding. The wound wasn't particularly deep – stone sleep would surely heal it in a single day – but in a way that disturbed Brooklyn even more.
Because he had no idea just how many times this'd happened before.
"You are not to go near the humans again. That's an order," said Honua, eyes narrowed fiercely. "Disobey, and you won't just be demoted as my Second. Disobey, and you're banished."
The travelers looked at each other, shocked. There was no greater punishment for a gargoyle than to be banished from their clan. No greater shame.
Honua seemed to think that was the end of it, and turned to leave. But then, from the ground, there came a mumbled, raspy, "W…We won't have a choice much longer."
Despite still being collapsed in a crumpled heap, face bloodied and eyes wet, Makani spoke with as much determination as she could muster.
The clan leader whirled around. "What did you just say to me?" she demanded.
"Kamehameha won't rest until…until he controls every island within reach of a canoe," the green gargoyle managed to choke out. "Y…You think this valley is immune?"
Honua slowly stalked toward her Second, towering over her despite the vast difference in their sizes.
"And do you have a better idea?" she said, a dangerous edge to her voice. "Unless you're proposing we do ally with Keōua? True, he fears Kāne's wrath. But that didn't save any of our brothers or sisters, did it? Ask the O'ahu Clan how much the favor of a 'god' really means. Or the Kaua'i Clan. Or the Maui Clan. I'm sure their dust will have some interesting things to say."
Makani nodded her head softly, apparently accepting the elder gargoyle's point. But then, in an even smaller voice, she whispered, "Leave the island."
Her leader bared her teeth and released a low, threatening growl. "I better not have heard what I thought I did," she responded, fist clenched.
"We used to be wayfarers. We…We could do it again," spoke Makani, her posture submissive and supplicating. She still hadn't picked herself back up to her feet. "We could fit the entire clan…the eggs…onto just a few boats. Find a new land. Start over with…"
Her words were abruptly cut off as Honua struck her again. Not with claws extended this time, but hard enough to force her back into the dirt.
"We will not abandon our home a second time," said the orange gargoyle. "Especially not for some fool's errand, that may or may not exist."
Though she was still shuddering from the pain, Makani slowly pointed a shaking talon at their five "guests," watching this scene and looking generally appalled – unsure whether stepping in now would only make things worse.
"Th…These strangers prove…" she sputtered, visibly struggling to hold onto her train of thought. "That there's still hope. That one, he…he mentioned an island called… Man'hakan. S…So there're others out there. Where Nawao still…thrive…"
Brooklyn chose not to correct her mistaken assumptions, for the moment.
Honua, however, seemed to take this as an invitation to turn on the time travelers, her eyes briefly blazing red.
"So…you put her up to this, did you?" she called out, staring in their general direction but making direct eye contact with none of them. "Filled her head with all this nonsense? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. She's always been incredibly slow."
"Yeah, I don't think you're in a position to get up on your high horse, lady," said Brooklyn, unable to control his mouth any longer.
Her furious expression momentarily gave way to a hint of confusion.
"What is a…argh, never mind," shot back Honua, turning away from them with a sweeping flourish. "Dawn fast approaches, so you may eat your fill and roost here for the day. But after sundown, I want you gone."
She strode back over to the prone Makani, who hadn't moved an inch, before adding in a biting tone, "Hāʻole is hāʻole. Human or Nawao makes no difference."
Then she grabbed Makani by the hair and forced her to look her in the eye.
"And as for you…there should be about two hours until the sun rises," she said. "So do what you were told to in the first place. But you'll be hunting alone, this time. Since it seems I can't trust you with any more of the clan."
Honua left it at that, releasing her vice-like grip on Makani's flowing locks and allowing her to sink back into the grass.
Immediately, Brooklyn and the others moved to run to her, to see if she was okay. But the tattooed gargoyle merely turned to them, dried blood and tears matting her cheeks, and slowly shook her head.
Her expression was a sad, defeated smile. And its meaning was clear:
This is just the way it is.
Then, without another word, she took a running start and leapt toward a nearby cliff face, using her powerful limbs to scale it with incredible speed.
Brooklyn, Benuthet, Zafira, and the beasts spent the next hour or so amidst the Hawaiian gargoyles, unsure what to do next.
They could tell many of them were curious about these strangely clothed travelers, accompanied by creatures who were – at best – remembered only through myth and legend. The lingering glances and muted whispers that followed them wherever they went made that abundantly clear.
But not a single one even spoke to them, beyond a few muttered rumbles as they shared the night's repast.
Presumably, they were following their leader's example in being as inhospitable as possible.
Said repast, at least, was far from unwelcoming. It consisted of generous portions of freshly roasted pig, lightly salted and wrapped in large, thick leaves. The result was meat that seemed to have retained nearly all its moisture throughout the cooking process, and there were no words to describe how it felt in Brooklyn's eager mouth.
If – no, when, he always needed to mentally correct himself to when – he got back home, he needed to share this recipe with Broadway.
Like…pretty much first thing.
Benuthet, however, seemed less enthused, picking at bits of the pork with his teeth and chewing slowly.
Noticing Brooklyn's questioning expression, he swallowed his latest tepid mouthful and said, "We rarely consumed pigs in Egypt – at least in comparison to fish, lamb, or beef. They were harder to cook thoroughly and ensure infection was avoided. While my mind recognizes these cooking techniques have addressed that concern…my stomach is still playing catch-up."
He paused for a moment, looking thoughtful, before reaching for a wooden bowl before him and adding, "This, on the other hand…"
The meal had been accompanied by a pale purple paste, which none of the travelers had been entirely sure what to do with. But the native gargoyles seemed content to simply scoop it up with their talons, and Brooklyn cautiously mimicked them. The flavor was rather hard to describe, beyond that it was sweet…but he was pretty damn sure he liked it.
And it was safe to say, based on Benny's now-empty bowl, that he definitely did.
"It reminds me somewhat of Egyptian bread," the Egyptian gargoyle stated thoughtfully. "Emmer wheat mixed with beer produces a dough with much the same consistency. Albeit with an entirely different flavor, of course."
Rounding everything out was something Brooklyn mercifully did recognize: a large bunch of bananas, though ones that were quite a bit fatter (and, to be honest, quite a bit tastier) than the variety he was used to.
Still, he wasn't nearly as enthusiastic as Zee was in tearing into the familiar food. The Mayan gargoyle made up for their near-starvation in the mountains of Tibet by devouring at least a dozen of the soft fruits, before her mate had even finished his first helping of pork.
Despite his own gaping hunger, however, Brooklyn made sure to set aside a good-sized portion for Makani. He had no idea whether or not she'd manage to return before the sun rose – but either way, she was likely to be in need of a good meal when she did.
"It's not fair," he grumbled to the others, once all of their "hosts" were out of earshot. "All these able-bodied gargoyles – or Nawao, or whatever – and she's stuck hunting alone? Because she saved a bunch of people?"
"None of what just transpired was fair," said Zafira, hand clenching instinctively around the hilt of her obsidian blade. "One more minute and I swear I'd have…"
"I don't like it any more than you two do. Trust me," Benny replied through tightly gritted teeth. "But we're also all strangers in this land, with almost no knowledge of its geography, history, or human politics. We can't afford to alienate this clan…any more than we already have."
"Well, what if you had someone willing to tell you that stuff, without getting all up in Honua's business?" asked a deep, booming voice.
Since they hadn't been spoken to by anyone else for over an hour, it took the trio a moment to realize those words had been directed at them.
"Awāwa?" muttered Brooklyn, as the broad-chested gargoyle touched down from the trees above. "Wait, where've you been?"
He had, indeed, seemed to disappear entirely upon their landing, and Brooklyn hadn't spotted him at all since.
"Oh, here and there," Awāwa said evasively, dismissing the subject with a casual wave. "Anyway, if what you need is a guide, storyteller, and all that good stuff, I'm your guy. I know every inch of this island. Well…all of them, really. Ooh, you gonna finish that?"
He said all this very quickly, and reached for Zee's barely touched bowl of the purple paste without waiting for an answer.
"Mmm-mmmmm. Nothing like some nice thick poi," the gargoyle mumbled through a full mouth. "Kinda prefer it when it starts to go sour, though. I'm less of a sweets guy than a meats…guy? Eh, that sounded better in my head."
He swallowed the last of Zafira's poi with a single, exaggerated gulp, pounding on his chest with his meaty fist to help force it down.
"Anyway, before I jump into the history lesson…bet you wanna know what's going on with Honua and Makani," he added, lowering his voice significantly.
"You saw what just happened?" asked Brooklyn.
Awāwa shook his head. "Didn't have to," he said, his voice becoming rather muted. "Seen it way too many times before."
"How long has it been…this way?" Zafira demanded indignantly.
"Honua's always had a…difficult personality. And it's only gotten worse as more and more clans fell to the humans' civil wars," answered the tattooed gargoyle. "She feels like, since she's in charge of protecting the last of us, she has to be just as harsh as they are. I'm not justifying it, but it's how she thinks."
He sighed at length, staring off at the horizon. Sunrise couldn't be much farther away.
"The worse things got for the clan, the more Honua took it out on her children. But Makani always got it the worst," Awāwa told the travelers. "In the clans of Polynesia, the Second's selected from a clutch at birth, based on physical markings. Makani got the 'lucky' pick of the draw…and she's been suffering for it ever since."
A dark look appeared over Benny's face. "She's beaten her like that since she was a hatchling?" he said.
"Off and on. More and more as she grew up," responded Awāwa. "I suppose Honua thinks, since she'll lead the clan someday…she needs to toughen her up. But it's had the exact opposite effect."
His claws curled briefly into fists.
"Makani's an amazing girl…when she has the chance to be," he continued, sighing again. "But she's so scared of Honua, so nervous about disappointing her, that it's left her confidence a total wreck. Honua's told her all her life that she's a stupid, worthless failure…and now she believes it."
"That's idiotic," Zafira pointed out, snarling in disgust. "She's all but guaranteed the death of her clan after she passes."
"Trust me, I've been telling Honua that since she was a hatchling," said Awāwa. "But that'd require her to actually listen to others. She's absolutely convinced she's the only one who knows what's best for our clan."
"Hold on," Brooklyn interrupted him, brow furrowed. "I thought you and Makani were in the same generation. I'm not always great at guessing ages, but you look way younger than Honua."
A nervous look briefly appeared upon Awāwa's face, as if he'd let slip something he hadn't intended to. Seconds later, however, his face slipped back into its usual, confident bravado.
"I'm…uh…older than I look," he declared, reflexively flexing his powerful muscles. "But hey, thanks for pointing it out! You don't get a body like this without putting in the work."
"Err…right. Sorry, it's just that…" murmured Brooklyn, trying to gather his thoughts. "I mean, the way you were talking about her…I thought, for a second…maybe you two were mates."
There was a brief moment of silence between the four of them. Then Awāwa tilted his head back and began to laugh, loudly and uproariously.
This lasted for nearly thirty seconds, as each time the mirth seemed to die down, the gargoyle took another look at Brooklyn's bewildered face and renewed it, stronger than before. Eventually, however, he managed to settle himself down, wiping a small tear from his eye with a long, fat talon.
"There're…at least ten things wrong with that picture…" he said, in between a few brief, lingering guffaws. "I mean, don't get me wrong: I do love Makani. But it's platonic. I've watched that girl grow up since she was an egg, and I know she's something special. Even if she can't always see it."
There was a lengthy pause after these words were spoken, before Benuthet frowned and told the brown-skinned gargoyle, "I couldn't help but notice she seemed significantly more at ease in the air."
"Heh. You got a good eye, buddy," Awāwa replied. "Yeah, Honua hasn't been able to glide for nearly forty years. The skies are the one place Makani can always get away to. Where she can be herself. Shouldn't be surprised, given her name – the wind."
An almost wistful twinkle appeared in his eye as he looked back over the horizon. The shade of the sky had lightened, just slightly.
"Alright, switching topics. We don't got a lotta time before the sun comes up…but I'll fill you in on what I can," he said. "A lot's been changing about these islands recently, and while I don't know where you five came from…I have a good feeling you being here isn't a coincidence."
"Knowing my luck, it probably isn't," commented Brooklyn, mostly to himself. His next words, he spoke a little louder. "But won't Honua get angry with you for telling us all this?"
He directed a lingering glance to the various other Hawaiian gargoyles who were loitering about the area, all of whom hastily cast their faces down and pretended as if they hadn't been eavesdropping.
Awāwa released a hearty chuckle. "Well, maybe if I actually cared about her opinion," was his answer to the Scottish gargoyle. "What's the worst she could do…banish me? Listen, I was a rogue a long time before I joined this clan. If I have to go back to that life, I've got no regrets."
Then, he leaned in, as if he didn't want his next statement to be overheard.
"Besides, I don't know who else to turn to. If we don't act now…there's a good chance Nawao go extinct in Hawai'i," he went on, his voice very low. "Makani gets it, but nobody else does. Or at least…nobody else is willing to stand up to Honua. I tell you guys the full story, and maybe I'll have a little extra backup."
"We'll certainly hear you out, if nothing else," said Zafira, her own expression stern and determined. "I'd like to show that poor girl someone is on her side."
"Thank you for trusting us with this," added her mate with a nod. He offered his arm, and Awāwa readily clasped it once more. "We'll endeavor to help however we can."
"Well, what can I say?" Awāwa responded, draping his wings across his shoulders and leaning back against a tree. "Except…"
His tan beak slowly spread into a wide, satisfied smirk.
Pelekane, Hawai'i Island, 1790 A.D.
He was dressed, naturally, in the raiment of power and glory.
Of course, by the standards of the hāʻole, he would've been considered positively naked. His legs and half his chest remained completely bare, while his sandals – carved from the roots of the Lā'ī plant – were simple and practical.
Those garments he did wear, however, spoke of his rank greater than words ever could. Like Keōua, his clothing was composed entirely of feathers and plant fibers, but that was where the similarities ended.
Between his loincloth, sash, helm, and flowing cape, he wore something close to half a million feathers, all strung together with craftsmanship nigh-unparalleled. Because it was strictly forbidden to kill the birds who produced them, only a few feathers could be gathered at a time, making a piece like his cloak – which reached nearly to the ground, a far cry from Keōua's shoulder-length cape – a labor of generations.
Color, too, was a vital part of the symbolism. Keōua's feathered cape and headdress had been entirely black; a color of power, surely, but also an incredibly common one. For an ali'i of his stature to lack anything greater was a mark of how far he'd managed to fall.
There was no greater contrast than the pure-yellow cape that swept across his body. All Hawaiians knew the image of the ʻōʻō – the jet-black bird with tiny tufts of yellow beneath its wings. To gather so many of the brilliant plumes demonstrated, at a single glance, that he stood second to none.
Or at least…that he would very soon.
Another cape was in his possession, carried behind him by a high-ranking kahuna, but he didn't dare to wear it. Like a good portion of his sash and helm, it was a brilliant red, the color of royalty – but they did not come from the same source.
Instead of common birds like the 'i'iwi or 'apapane, for which thousands would need to be caught, the maker of this second cloak had taken a shortcut. Indeed, only one "donor" had been required.
Keōua, had he been present, would've demanded the cape by rights. It'd belonged, after all, to his half-brother Kīwalaʻō, and claimed as the spoils of war eight years ago. But no one else would ever wear the crimson cloak, if he had anything to say about it.
It was the least he could do to honor the noble Nawao who'd been slaughtered to create it.
Incidentally, the cape was not the only prize from recent skirmishes traveling amidst his retinue. To his right stood his highest-ranking wife, Queen Keōpuolani – the greatest of the female ali'i he'd claimed for his court after conquering Maui, just a few short months ago. Though only eleven, she was Kīwalaʻō's daughter, born to his own half-sister.
This made her bloodline sacred beyond description.
To his left, meanwhile, stood his favorite wife: Queen Ka'ahumanu, daughter of Keʻeaumoku Pāpaʻiahiahi, his greatest ally in war. Like Keōpuolani, she'd been wed to him very young, at a mere thirteen years of age. The nine years since, however, had eliminated any trace of the little girl who'd been sworn to him by her warmongering father.
At present, he had nearly thirty wives. But none were the equal of Ka'ahumanu.
Traveling immediately behind the two royals were two dozen other high-ranking ali'i and kahuna, along with about fifty of his strongest warriors. Even here, at the seat of his power, it didn't do to take chances.
Not so long as Keōua still lived.
Of course, their party was unable to move quickly, since the majority of his warriors were of common blood. That meant, due to the kapu system, that none of them could meet their superiors in the eye. Or raise their heads above theirs.
Or even cross their shadows.
And since the penalty for breaking kapu was immediate and painful death, there was really no other way for them to proceed but "carefully."
A casual observer might've found it strange that, amidst a number of mighty warriors whose eyes stared resolutely at the ground, walked a man of pale skin and foreign garb, his head held completely level. But Isaac Davis – or 'Aikake, as they called him here – was no mere hāʻole.
For Keōua hadn't been entirely wrong, when he'd decried his disregard for "the old ways." It wasn't that the man who dreamt of uniting the islands rejected them entirely, of course. He followed kapu religiously. He swore by and made offerings to the gods.
Indeed, to his own guardian akua – Kū, the lord and master of war – he doubted there was a man in history who'd constructed more statues and monuments than he. He was the war god's chosen, and the incredible success of his campaign of conquest was proof.
But at the same time, when it came down to it, he placed far more value in a person's use to him than the station of their birth…within reason, of course. He would never allow one of the kauwāto stand so near to him, for example. Such a thing would be patently absurd.
Still, he reasoned, there was no kapu designating the caste of hāʻole. Nothing to stop him from granting two white men the status of ali'i in their own right – and all that came with it.
Their contributions, in martial strategy and weapons expertise, were simply too invaluable to do otherwise. He'd made more progress in the short months since they'd been stranded here, than in the last eight years combined. Their "cannons" and "muskets" changed the face of warfare forevermore, and only a fool would deny it.
Which was why, despite the earliness of the hour, the man who controlled virtually the entire island of Hawai'i had awoken to answer the summons of a pale-faced boatswain. For if his chief military advisor thought the matter worth his attention…
It almost certainly was.
The advisor in question, John Young, arrived to meet him at the edge of Pelekane: the royal compound that served as the heart of his empire, named for the Hawaiian pronunciation of Young's homeland, "Britain." Built after his conquest of Maui, it'd now overtaken nearly the entire village of Kawaihae – once the seat of power for a number of his rivals for the island.
Davis, the American, had a small residence within the compound, from which he'd just been roused. Young, to maximize his utility, held his own land just on the village's outskirts, so that he might have early warning of any attacks.
Knowing his rank, as designated by the king himself, the guards dutifully prostrated themselves as the Englishman passed – only for him to do the same, once he'd drawn close enough to his liege. Davis broke rank from the retinue and dropped to his knees as well, to the side of his fellow sailor.
"Rise, 'Aikake. Rise, 'Olohana," said the king, his voice strong and commanding. The formalities had to be observed, but he wasn't interested in prolonging them. Not if this was an urgent matter. "Tell me what news you have."
As they did as their king bid, Davis glanced toward the other Caucasian, awaiting his lead. He, after all, had been awoken by Young's messenger, just like the rest. He had no special insight into what in the world had the normally taciturn Englishman so anxious.
Young, meanwhile – whose Hawaiian name came from a corruption of his frequent exclamation, "All hands!" – bowed his head and spoke in calm, steady tones, "You can see, Your Majesty, that Kīlauea erupts with incredible violence this night."
Heavy, dark brown lips folded into a frown. "Hardly an uncommon occurrence," the king remarked, his eyes drifting to the smoke still visible amongst the stars, even this far away. "Pele has many reasons to be wrathful, as of late. I trust you did not wake your king simply for that."
"Recall the movements of Keōua's troops following the Battle of Koapapaʻa," said Young, his pronunciation of each name and place flawless. He didn't take overdue pride in it, but he was a very quick study. "After fleeing the forests at Pa'auhau, there's only path he could've taken to retreat."
"The Ka'ū Desert," was his taciturn reply, still frowning. "But I fail to see what…"
Suddenly, the king ceased to speak. The ceremonial spear held in his right hand, tipped with the same sun-yellow ʻōʻō feathers that made up his cloak, very nearly tumbled from his grip.
"Is this a suspicion you hold, 'Olohana?" he demanded of the boatswain. "Or have you confirmed it?"
"I've sent runners to gain a better vantage point. But the eruption is still ongoing, so drawing nearer remains…problematic," Young answered carefully. "Still, as your advisor…I don't think you can risk forgoing such a golden opportunity."
The king's face became an impassive mask, his mind sinking into a whirlpool of heavy thoughts. Though he was a mighty warrior in his own right, all who knew him would agree it was his keen brain that'd allowed him to succeed where so many others had failed.
Finally, he made his decision.
"If Keōua himself survived the explosion…then he is uniquely vulnerable. I slay him, and the last of this great island falls under my rule," he said, loud enough that all gathered – chief and priest and commoner alike – could hear his booming tones. "We will wait until we are certain he is weakened, before striking. But, in the meantime…"
He turned to face the gathered ali'i and kahuna, who hastily lowered their heads, lest they risk standing above their king and earning the ire of the gods.
"Kame'eiamoku, Kamanawa, Keaweaheulu Kaluaʻapana," he addressed three of the highest-ranking chiefs – three of the original five who'd sided with him since the days of the Prophecy. "Gather my armies, and ensure they are prepared. We will march the moment 'Olohana's spies return."
Then, he turned back to the two white men, his imperious gaze alighting first upon the American.
"You, 'Aikake, should mobilize all the cannons we have remaining. We must leave nothing to chance in our next skirmish with Keōua," he added, his grip tightening upon his spear. "My cousin has escaped through my fingers three times over. I refuse to allow a fourth."
"With due respect, Your Majesty…" said Young, choosing his words carefully. "Do you have a task for me as well? Normally, you'd have us both in charge of the cannons."
"As I said, 'Olohana. I will leave nothing to chance," the king responded – his tone brooking no room for disagreement. "I have another duty for you. One just as important as your people's gift of 'gunpowder' has been."
"You have but to name it, Your Majesty," Young told his liege, sinking briefly to his knees once more to emphasize the point.
There was a brief moment of silence, as the king mulled over how best to word this command.
Eventually, however, he declared, "I know that you and 'Aikake have made overtures to the Nawao…and been rebuffed each time. You will do it again, under my full auspices."
"Please forgive my impudence," said Young, his sallow face sinking slightly at the order. "But we've already been twice refused by their leader. What, this time, would be different?"
"This time…" the king paused for breath, before delivering his proclamation. "The offer is not optional. And you will have help, in imparting this simple truth. Ka'ahumanu."
The queen who stood at his left hand stepped forward. She was an extremely large woman, bountiful in girth and bosom, with rings circling her neck and crown that were composed of yellow and scarlet feathers, matching those of her husband.
"Yes, my king," she uttered calmly, looking him directly in the eye. Of all those gathered, she was one of only two permitted to do so – and the other was half her husband's height and a fifth his age.
"You are known for your persuasive tongue. Accompany 'Olohana in parlaying with the Nawao clan leader. Perhaps you can succeed where they have failed," he said, meeting his favored wife's gaze. "Let it be known that no harm will come to them if they join my court. They will be considered favored subjects, each and every one given the rank of kakauali'i. And their leader…will hold the rank of ali'i nui. For now and for all time."
There was a sharp intake of breath from the retinue. Ali'i nui was the highest possible caste to which one could belong – and more to the point, was equal to that of their king.
Should his declaration come to pass, the Nawao leader would outrank all of them. She would, by rights, be considered to have blood that was literally divine.
"I will bring these words to her, exactly as you have proclaimed," stated Ka'ahumanu, moving to stand beside Young – who immediately stooped over, so that his head was lower than that of the rather shorter queen. "But I cannot guarantee they'll be well met. Nawao do not see the kapu system the same way we do."
"Neither of our peoples have the luxury of choice," the king said harshly. "Hear these words, and know I will no longer be denied."
He raised his spear high, and the volume of his voice escalated accordingly, until it seemed as if the distant rumblings of the volcano were a whisper in comparison.
"I am Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani i Kaiwikapu kauʻi Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea!" he exclaimed, for all in the village to hear. "Son of Keōua Kalanikupuapaʻīkalaninui Ahilapalapa and Kekuʻiapoiwa the Second! Mover of the Naha Stone, guardian of Kūkaʻilimoku! I am the rightful and true ali'i nui of all Hawai'i! And soon…I shall prove I am the only man worthy to be king of all her people!"
Then, with a show of incredible force, he drove the blunt edge of his spear straight into the fertile earth.
"The Nawao are a sacred race. They arose from the depths of Pō long before even the oldest of chiefs," Kamehameha continued to speak, his words directed to all and none of them at once. "They deserve the honor to be a part of my vision. But…if they should refuse that honor…"
His gaze drifted, momentarily, to the crimson cape of Kīwalaʻō, which was still held aloft by one of his most trusted kahuna. Its blood-red feathers fluttering in the wind.
"Then I shall bestow unto them, the only other honor of which their noble blood is worthy," he finished, his voice growing low and soft.
"The honor of sacrifice."