The Legend of the Valley

Robert looked at the boy and then shot a glance to the withered old man sitting directly opposite, who was jiggling rhythmically to some half forgotten tune in his head.   ‘Koro, why don’t you tell the boy?’

Rewi jolted back to the present, Tom Jones and Delilah beating a hasty retreat back into the dark chasm of his memory.  He blinked his beetle black eyes and screwed up his face in a cheeky grin his wrinkles folding around each other, ‘What—story, oh the story, well umm let me see.’  He held out his glass, ‘Yes, hmm, throat’s a little dry—ah hem.’

The other men burst out laughing—one leaned over and filled it.  The rest used the time to fill their own, from the flagons of frosty Tui in a crate, hidden from the heat of the fire behind the hay bales.  

Someone handed Romeo a small glass of beer, he glanced at Robert who nodded his approval.  He took a slow sip, unused to alcohol of any kind and immediately coughed it up again and spat it out.  He screwed his face up with disgust and his eyes watered.

Everybody laughed.

‘Got bones in it?’  Somebody asked.

They laughed again.

‘Shut up you fullas leave the boy alone,’  Rewi grumbled. He leaned back in his seat closing his eyes for a moment, organizing his thoughts then cleared his throat with a noisy cough and in a low melodic voice which echoed many years of use he started to tell the legend his gaze not leaving the leaping dancing flames.

 ‘More than a few and a less than twenty generations ago there was a young Rangatira Timotane who had a sister, the Matakite Hineruru.  She was lovely with red hair, fair skin and golden eyes but her powers of second sight, healing and the manipulation of time and the elements scared people.  

'Men came from all over the motu to vie for her but - much to her brother's annoyance - she chose the brother of her brother's wife, Tu who he had fought, many times. Who bought his people down from the north with him.'

'I know this story...'  Romeo leaned forward, staring at Rewi.  Someone had filled his glass again.  He drank thirstily, and the beer began to affect him.  Warmth slid through his veins and he felt woozy.  The words were pulling him into the story and events began to take place around him.

'Tu and Timotane did not like each other.  Tu believed the Rangatira treated his sister badly, and Timotane was jealous of the obvious love between Tu and his sister.  When Hineruru became pregnant Timotane was furious, that meant this man was now in their Whakapapa for ever.   

Rewi refilled his glass leisurely, taking his time to suck the head from the glass.  Even the men who knew the story from its many tellings and retellings, listened with rapt attention.  But no one was as interested as Romeo.  He strained forward, his mouth hanging open, his face tense with excitement. 

'Nobody really knows what happened that night  but  Hineruru was found dead near the women's pool and ever since then the harakeke has grown thick and red.  No one knows who did it but the blame was place squarely on the head of a Tohunga people called the Taniwha, who disappeared at the same time.  

She'd just given birth to identical twin sons.  

Her brother insisted on keeping one of the boys and her distraught husband Tu took the other  back North to his people...' 

Hineruru followed, stumbling in the dark, not knowing what she was doing or where she was going.  She reached the river, and on the bank she delivered the babies.  They were found the next morning.

She was dead but the babies were alive. Identical twin boys and no one knew which was born first.

The boys grew into men and became great warriors.  They won battles, claimed many slaves and land, they were eventually joined with the daughters of other Rangatira in the area creating a bond of peace and prosperity the region had ever seen before. 

Timotane was growing old.   One night his sister came to him in a dream,  she knelt by his side and whispered in his ear.  ‘You must choose one of your sons to succeed you, if you do not, there will be war and many of your people will die, the rest will scatter to the winds, those who remain will bear the burden of your indecision.’  

‘Who is Tuakana?  Who is Teina?’ he pleaded.

‘I cannot tell you!’  She replied and disappeared.

He could not do it, he loved both equally.  If he knew who was Teina and Tuakana the choice would be made for him.  But he didn’t.  So he put off making the decision and when Timotane died he had not named who would succeed him...

 The Legend of the Valley

Piripi shook his head, ‘It’s just a legend bro.  A story told by old men on the Pae Pae!’  He threw up his hands, ‘Who takes that stuff seriously these days?’ 

‘I do,’ Robert interrupted, staring into the fire.  ‘Those stories are our history.  How do you think we kept the history of our people before Pakeha came along with pens and paper?’

‘WHATEVER!’  Piripi laughed.  He stood up unsteadily—lurching from side to side as he stumbled towards the Wharepaku, then veered right deciding a well placed tree was just as good.

In the lengthening silence the remaining men sat around the fire, their faces red in the dancing flames which licked and swallowed the gigantic chunks of greying macrocarpa.   

Sparks jumped and crackled.  Smoke danced and billowed like angry ghosts chasing each other in the moonlit sky. 

Romeo flicked his gaze around the group.  His heart was racing in his chest, pounding against his ribcage, his stomach twisted with excitement.   He wanted to know so badly the words exploded from him.  ‘I—I want to know about it, the story I mean, about the Patu in the river—I really...’  He lowered his gaze, embarrassed, wishing he could haul the words back down his throat.