Thursday, February 9

Pele Comes Devouring

This gorgeous image found at LUA Technologies' Tumblog.

The drums were pounding, louder than the earth's heartbeat sounding in the womb of Kilauea. The chanting on the crest of the House of the Moon carried deep into the caverns where Pele slept. The music and the drums, the cheering of the people, they drew her out, blinking and rubbing her eyes in the bright sun of the day.

Kahawali was chief of Puna, brightest and best, bold and sure. He stood atop the sleeping volcano they called the House of the Moon and looked at the people. Dancers swayed gently to the drums, decked in flowers. Wrestlers strained against each other, muscles turned into teak knots or rooted into the very earth. His people, he knew, were the best of all possible tribes, and he was the best of them. Kahawali was a proud chief, with wives and sisters and sons standing tall behind him, and his closest friend Ahua at his side.

The drums and music continued to build, and Kahawali gestured to Ahua, allowing him to begin first. Ahua's holua sled was second only to Kahawali-the-chief's, its gleaming wooden runners and narrow corded base sturdy and swift. Ahua lifted it high in the air and ran full-tilt at the holua course, flinging himself onto the sled at the very last second. The crowd breathed as one being and that is when Kahawali, proud and impetuous, took his run. He flew down the slope after Ahua, easily outdistancing his friend. The dancers cheered, the wrestlers shouted. The musicians played ever more loudly, and Pele drew nearer.

At the bottom of the slope, where a spear marked the end of the racing course, the two men laughed together. They picked up their holua sleds and began to hike back up the mountain. When they were halfway up the slope, Pele took the form of a woman of Puna, an elder, but common. She stepped out from behind the rock that hid her cave and planted herself in front of the noble pair.

"Let me take your sled," she said. "I want to race."

Astonished by the woman's presumption, the chief brushed past her without a reply. She appeared to crumple slightly, and Ahua helped her up the slope the rest of the way, to join the rest of the tribe at their festival. When Kahawali shouted to Ahua to hurry, saying that he wanted to race again, the woman grasped Ahua by the shoulder.

"I want to race," she said again.

Ahua was a kind soul. He smiled gently and handed Pele his holua sled, gesturing to the crest. "Please take my turn, honored elder." He turned back to the end of the course to mark the winner and Pele ascended to meet the chieftain once again.

Kahawali snorted when he saw the old woman approaching, but held his peace. There was no magnanimous head start this time. The chief and the old woman leapt for the course in the same heartbeat, equal in speed and skill. Kahawali was astonished and began to use every trick he knew, deftly weaving across the dormant cone, letting the wind rush across his body, waiting for the moment he could pick up speed.

And then it happened. The second-best sled that Pele had been given jumped--just a little--over a rock instead of sliding smoothly across it. The great goddess lost her balance and fell.

Kahawali laughed, loudly and derisively, as he slid into the end of the course. The people cheered. Pele, her disguise still intact, stood and brushed herself clean. Turning to the chief, she offered Ahua's sled, smiling.

"To be fair, now we should exchange sleds and run the course again," she said.

"Aole! You have no rank, woman," Kahawali cried. "You want me to exchange sleds? Are you my wife, that you should be allowed to touch royal property?" He turned and headed back up the slope once more.

Pele followed, remaining polite but insistent, growing ever more furious as the haughty chief continued to refuse, and even mock, her requests.

Kahawali ignored her and defiantly ran for a third time down the course, and that was it. Pele stamped her foot, her disguise falling away, and the people fell back in awe. Thunder rolled, and lightning struck wherever the goddess turned her wrathful eye.

The earth shook in warning, and Kahawali looked back over his shoulder. When he finally saw the true face of what he had been mocking, it was too late. The sleeping volcano had awakened, and Pele's wrath was boiling toward him, red, viscous, and relentless.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Jester Queen challenged me with "Deftly, he wove in and out of the cones, letting the wind rush across his body, holding himself coiled for the moment when he could pick up speed." and I challenged Bran macFeabhail with "Earthy Watercolor Blog Mom meets Biting Invective, the Prime-Number Raccoon."

I didn't want to make this too long; it's already longer than my usual entries. However, the ending of this story is really the best part. I could go on with the many ways Kahawali attempts to escape Pele's wrath, but (spoiler alert) Ka wahine 'ai honua, the Woman who Devours the Land, eventually prevails. At one point, she even surfs down the volcanic cone on her revenge lava and hurls red-hot stones at him, killing everything he loves, including (I kid you not) his favorite pig. Hawaiian mythology is rich and fascinating. If you have some time to spare, you should check it out!