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. 

 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, the chief of this area, a wise and fierce warrior called Timotane, and his wife Hirina, were expecting a child.  She grew huge in a few months and the Matakite, her husbands’ elder sister, told her there would not be one baby, but two, and that they would both be boys.

Hirina was warned to be careful and stay close to the pa during her confinement, as the birth of the babies may be sooner than expected.  

Her husband began to have strange frightening dreams in which he became two men, one with a patu the other with a taiaha, and fought himself, and after an intense battle which lasted many days both he and his other self were killed.

One night his sister roused him from his sleep, she was shaking with fear.  He didn't recognise her.  He thought it was his mother who had died when he was a boy.  Her jet black hair was white, and her face, was withered and old.

She told him he must to cut the babies from their mother and kill them.  She said if he did not do this a Makutu would fall on his people and they would suffer for generations and generations.

He baulked at the idea and taking his Patu he struck out at his sister.  She fell to the ground dead and he watched as she suddenly became young again before his eyes.

He became confused, was this real or was he dreaming?  Suddenly, he couldn't keep his eyes open and fell back into a deep sleep.  He was woken the next morning by someone who told him his sister drowned in the river.  They didn’t know why she had gone there in the middle of the night, but her body had floated quite a way downstream towards the waterfalls and was found caught on the branch of an overhanging tree.  She clutched the Patu to her chest and glowing inside it was a red stain which had not been there before...

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.

...The young chief dropped to his knees beside himself with grief.  Had he killed her, had it been a dream, he didn't know.  The only thing he had to look forward to was the birth of his children.  Then he began to have a strange dreams, night after night.  He would divide into two and each half of him would kill the other.  

Two months before the babies were due to be born the chief and his advisors had to travel to another Pa to discuss a warring Iwi invading the area.  

While he was away his wife became very ill..  She grew weaker and weaker, her wrists and ankles started to swell and every part of her body ached.   She fell into a fever, hot and sweating one minute, cold and shivering the next slipping in and out of consciousness.  Runners were sent to tell the chief that his wife was seriously sick and that she might die.  He was hurrying back when it happened...

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 re - tellings, listened with rapt attention.  But no one was as interested as Romeo.  He strained forward, his mouth hanging open, his face tense with excitement. 

Late in the night after everyone had fallen asleep around her.   Hirina woke—delirious with fever she crawled from her bed and somehow made it outside the Whare Tipuna.  Her husband’s dead sister, the Matakite,  stood in the mist outside beckoning to her.  

Hirina 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...