2.12.10

Details, Details

Grandpa Sullivan married a Hawaiian woman whom he fell in love with while stationed on Oahu during World War II. He was lucky enough to escape the devastation of Pearl Harbor,  but his family and his sentimental ties to the islands kept him here for the rest of his life.

My father, on the other hand, wasted no time in moving to Los Angeles as soon as he could. Island life just was not for him. Though we visited Hawaii occasionally while I was a child, it had been a good fifteen years since I had seen my grandfather in the flesh. Our family was terrible at staying in contact. It wasn't that we didn't care about each other, we were just very good at being distracted by our own lives. 

Luckily for me, grandpa Sullivan had kept up with the times in order to keep in touch with his family. I emailed him to say that we were on Maui and that I had questions about our family's connection to the islands. Within five minutes, he was on the phone.

"Why didn't you tell me sooner that you were coming, Joe? This is such a wonderful surprise."

"Well," I replied, this wasn't exactly a planned trip. I've been asked here by an archaeologist who wants my help. I'm not even sure how long we'll be here."

"Now that's a bit odd, isn't it? Don't you writers usually call upon professors for advice instead?"

"Yeah, especially in my field. t is pretty strange how I've been pulled into this."

"Care to elaborate?"

I took a deep breath. "Well, there's not much to tell at the moment, other than I am apparently part of the mystery this guy is trying to solve." I paused. "And, well... I think our family may have something to do with it. I know grandma Hannah isn't with us any more, but I guess I need to find out anything I can about her."

"Joe, it's good to hear your voice, but I can tell you aren't telling me everything. Well, as luck would have it, I am supposed to be on Maui tomorrow to see some friends. Why don't I come see you when I'm done visiting with the old boys?"

I was about to respond when Morgan walked into the room, saw that I was on the phone, and motioned for me to come out. "That would be great, gramps. I have to go, but give me a call when you're done tomorrow so we can figure out where to meet. I can't wait to see you."

"Me either," he replied. "I don't know how much help I can be, but I'll find out what I can before I leave. Say, is Jason with you?"

"Yup."

"Well, it will be nice to finally meet the... er, wife. Wait. Don't tell him I called him that."

"Trust me gramps, he'll take it as a compliment. See you soon." 

I hung up the phone and went into the living room to find Morgan, Jason and Karl sitting together on the couch looking at a photographic map of the dig site. Karl was pointing out different spots and telling Jason what they had found.

"... And here is where we uncovered an entire family that had been buried together. We found skeletons of children with the parents, which suggests they may have all fallen sick around the same time. This wasn't unusual... Oh hello, Joe." Karl looked up from the map and smiled. Come join us. I was explaining the area of our dig to Jason so that he can be familiar with the grounds when we get there. It would not be a bad idea for you to listen in."

"I'm all ears," I replied.

Morgan moved off the couch and sat on the floor opposite us. "It really is an amazing place," she said. "We've found far more there than we expected, and that isn't including the weird bits."

"How many weird bits have you found?" Jason asked.

"More than we expected," she replied.

"but you don't really expect to find things like that bowl at any dig, do you?"

Karl laughed. "No. No we don't. But in this case, I have been looking for clues. I think it's time we gave you a bit more background about why we're here on Maui." Karl stood up and strode over to the bookcase. He pulled out a leatherbound journal and came back to the couch. Morgan nodded and went into the kitchen.

"You gentlemen probably know that most of the tales of the Hawaiian people were only recorded recently. For generations, their myths and legends were passed on orally as songs or, for lack of a better word, poems. It was only when foreigners came to this place that some of these tales were put onto paper."

Jason and I nodded. Karl continued on.

"Now, a great woman scholar was one of the first to collect a large amount of these tales and put it into a book. Several others followed, but logic would dictate that some of these stories have yet to be revealed to most people, even those who study Hawaiian mythology as a profession."

"And I bet that includes the nastier ones," Jason said.

"You would be right to think so," Karl said. "This journal here happens to have one such tale within its pages. It tells a very unfamiliar story of Pele's how would you say... downfall."

"I heard through the grapevine that she wasn't well liked," I quipped.

Karl laughed. "Well, Pele was very much revered by the Hawiian people, but she was also feared by them. Much of their suffering was blamed on her short fuse and passionate disposition. She was, for the purpose of this discussion, a bit of a scapegoat."

"Melting villages with a stream of molten lava will do that," Jason said.

"Oh, Pele was more than just the heart of the volcano, Jason. She was the destroyer, yes, but the wake of her destruction often gave birth to new land. New possibilities. So she was also rebirth. "

Karl opened the journal and began to read. "One night, while walking in the crater of Haleakala with her sister, Na-maka-o-ka-hai. As always, they were arguing. Na-maka-o-ka-hai was convinced that Pele held a secret power over the people of Hawaii that gave them fear and awe of her. Na-maka-o-ka-hai wanted this power for herself, for as a water diety she knew that she could not reach the tallest of the mountains. Her powers flowed down to the sea. Pele's fire rose up into the sky.

"Na-maka-o-ka-hai had called Pele here, away from her home in Kilauea's heart, with the hope it would weaken her ability to win a fight. Pele arrived at the crater as a shooting star, a ball of fire that leapt from Hawai'i to Maui so quickly that the mountain people of Kula feared for their lives. Na-maka-o-ka-hai was waiting for Pele and welcomed her younger sister with a smile and open arms.

"Pele was no fool and resisted embracing her sister. Instead, she asked why Na-maka-o-ka-hai had called her to Maui's home. Na-maka-o-ka-hai flattered Pele with praises of her powers and beauty. She proclaimed envy of her dark, fire-kissed skin. She wailed that the people of the islands did not favor her with the reverence they showed Pele. And Pele, though clever, was entertained by Na-maka-o-ka-hai enough that she became proud and vain above all else.

"And so Na-maka-o-ka-hai asked Pele what her secret was. 'Surely there must be something given to you by father Ku himself that makes you glow with the power of the sun. What is it?' And Pele laughed at Na-maka-o-ka-hai. 'Why sister, it is nothing but duty that makes me glow. It is nothing but knowledge that keeps the people in awe. It is nothing but the blood we share that grants me command of fire. And all this is a key that unlocks the powers to wield the fate of these islands.'

"Pele danced around her sister, leaving footprints of ash wherever she landed. Na-maka-o-ka-hai scowled at her sister and spat at the ground, causing a spring to appear and begin flowing. 'It is something else,' she hissed. 'Our brother told me as much.' Pele laughed. 'Ka-moho-alii is a trickster, like Maui. You shouldn't believe everything he says to you. Even his sharks do not. They do his bidding because they must. Why do you follow his advice?' Pele cocked her head. 'Are you a shark, too?'

Na-maka-o-ka-hai began to lose her temper with her sister. Clouds formed above them. Rain fell onto their shoulders. The drops which landed on Pele instantly became steam. 'I am your elder!' she shouted. 'Do not forget that, or it will be your undoing. I can lock you away under the island in a watery prison if I wished and the people of these lands would sing my name in praise.' At this, Pele laughed so loud that all of Maui shook under their feet. 'Do not challenge me, sister!' Pele said. 'I keep secrets you do not want to know, and only I can open them to you.' And it was with those words that Pele had said too much.

Na-maka-o-ka-hai raised up her arms and brought a flood down into the crater with them. And before she could stop it, the water swallowed Pele and dragged her down the mountain to the Southern the shores. 'You will not share? Then keep your secrets to yourself!' she screamed to the barren rock at the edge of Maui, 'and I will see to that.' A hole opened up in the shallow valley of Kaho'olawe and swallowed Pele up. Water flowed over, and the sea was newly made where the Kaho'olawe valley was before."

Karl closed the journal. "And that, boys, is the story of how the barren isle of Kaho'olawe came to be."

"But you think there's another story in there," I asked. "Don't you?"

Karl nodded. "I believe there's more to Pele's argument with her sister. I believe that she may have actually been guarding a power even she feared to use."

"It's the whole knowledge and duty thing, isn't it?" Jason said. "Like she was protecting something."

"exactly," Karl replied. "But here's the thing: I also believe that Joe may very well be in possession of her key."

"But even if that was the case," I said, why are you still digging around on Maui?"

Morgan appeared in the kitchen doorway. "Well, keys usually fit into locks, don't they?" she said. "We're trying to figure out where this one is."



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