Chiia stood paralyzed in fear, here eyes transfixed on a cluster of the brightest stars in the blue-black sky. Silver clouds pushed by the night wind washed across them like waves and left the stars clean and twinkling. She shivered. her knees grew weak. He was coming. The beating of the drums took on an uneven frenzy matching the pounding of her heart.
She knew she was the Wolokai, as were all the women in her family. The Wolokai were the chosen, the women of royalty, betrothed to Prince Apowai from birth. But the Prince had not come for her mother or her grandmother. He had not come for two hundred rains. Chiia had been certain Prince Apowai lived only in lore. He belonged to the old time, the time of fear, the time of war.
Why had he come back for her now?
The questions fought in her head for answers. She wanted to scream, This does not happen. I cannot influence the power of the Prince. He has no heart. You are all fools.
Many agreed with her. They saw beyond their eyes and understood why Prince Apowai could not be stopped. But most were afraid to question the priests.
A rush of hot wind teased her ceremonial headdress. The multi-colored plumes reached down toward the procession of priests below her and then pointed to the sky as if seeking their memory of flight. They too wanted to flee. She could smell the acrid breath of her betrothed on the breeze as it brushed her face.
The chanting began. Waaapoooooiiiii. Waaapoooiiii.
Her time was running out.
Her mind jumped to the days of here childhood. To the peaceful village on the shore, and the song of the waves as they crashed on the rocks. They called her name and embraced the sand. Chhhiiiaaa.
She longed of for the laughter of her mother. For the soft hum of the other women as they prepared each dayís catch of fish for their families. She longed to taste the sweet milk of the coconaco fruit on her dry lips.
As the Wolokai, Chiia was respected by all, but that did not help her to understand the path of the chosen and why she must walk it. Her grandmother had told Chiia the story of her noble ancestor Wolokai. She was a brave young girl who had saved the village from destruction by offering herself to the vengeful Prince Apowai. It was the way of her ancestors in the old land. And it had worked, the first time. Because of Wolokaiís bravery, Prince Apowai had not crushed the people, and the betrothal had passed to the women of her clan.
But the next time, Apowaiís greed could not be stopped. He consumed everything with his legions of fire, sending her people in search of a new village far from his domain.
Each time after that, the offering was to no avail. The people had to flee and start over with nothing. Could they not see the foolishness of the offer?
The chanting intensified.
WAAPOOOIIII ! WAAPOOOIIII !
Chiia thought of the escape of her people from the ancient land across the great water.
They had fled form the Armies of Death who wanted everything, who killed their men and made slaves of their women. The spirits of the Great Water had safely led her people to this paradise. The native peoples, the friendly Paiapi, had welcomed Chiiaís ancestors when they arrived. The Paiapi, too, had fled from their lands, many rains before.
She remembers the day her father took her to the neighboring Paiapi village to meet the chiefís son, Allano. Chiia had loved him the moment he smiled at her. She would come of age in two months and was soon to be released as Wolokai. When that time came, she was to be married to Allano.
She thought of the day when her father had arranged the marriage. The colors of the jungle painted her eyes with delight, and the birds sang songs of love only for her. It was the day the pink haloa flower bloomed. The flower was a sign the marriage was right. Allano was her true prince. She was meant to be his wife. Not the wife of death.
After their meeting, Allano had come to her village. He was not tired and distant like the other men of the village. He dreamed of the unknown things she dreamed of. He questioned the old ways as she had. Allano saw better ways and created new tools to help his people become the most admired village on the he Great Island.
Once, Chiia had helped Allano braid the thin strips of Cahala plant into many long strips. She had watched in wonder as he tied the braids together to make a large blanket of small square holes, and put loops around it so it would draw up and close. Then Allano showed his people how to throw the blanket into the water and drag it behind the boat as they paddled to shore. The people were named that it was full of fish. Allano was very smart.
Allano had visited the City of the Sun on the other side of the island and seen incredible things. He had promised to take her there, where she too would see these things. He told here of a wise man he had met, a Sethite from a faraway land. The manís name was Amosad.
Amosad had told Allano wonderful stories about he God of all Gods. Amosadís God ruled, with an open hand, the land, the waters, the sprites and the stars. Amosadís God was the first of all things. He created all things, even the people. Amosadís God loved everyone, and He wanted peace.
Allano told her that he believed in Amosadís God. If only Amosad lived closer to Chiiaís village, he could tell the elders about the peaceful God of Gods -- the one who gave us breath and eyes to se beyond what is in front of us. Like Allano, Chiia believed Amosadís words.
When Allano heard the drums of the approaching Prince and the intentions of the priests, he ran to Chiiaís village to speak to them. When they would not listen, he ran to Chiia and told her not to be afraid. He would stop the walk of the Wolokai. She would not be the sacrifice to prince Apowai. She would be Allanoís wife. He begged Chiia to trust him.
"Do not drink the ceremonial liquid the priest will give you," he said. "It will cloud your thoughts, and you must think clearly."
Then Allano said something she could not understand.
"If the moment comes for you to meet the Prince, take only one step."
He repeated the warning as he left her. "Take only one step, and have faith my love for you and the God of All."
The moment came. The drums stopped beating. Chiia looked down. Fear clutched her throat. What should she do? She thought of Allano. Then she closed her eyes and took one step off the precipice and into the volcano of Prince Apowai.
The fall was quick and short -- something held her tight. She had stopped falling but she felt the air being pushed by hot, acrid wind. Was she still alive? She slowly opened her eyes to see what held her. It was Allanoís blanket of squares clenching in its grip and rocking high above the Princeís fiery breath.
Instantly, Chiia felt a tug, and another, and two hands pulling her toward the wall of the crater. Two arms embraced her and pulled her onto a ledge. Chiia turned, knowing it was Allano.
It was not.
She became frightened of the sight of a strange man. A kind of man she had never seen before. His skin was the color of sand, and he had hair that grew on his chin and around his mouth. The man wore a long, light colored wrap, and hanging from his neck was a small shield of three circles, each one a little large than the next.
The man held his finger to his lips and whispered, "I am Amosad. Do not be afraid."
Amosad quickly untied the blanket of squares. He said they must wait on the ledge until the procession had gone back down to the village. She would be safe. He and Allano had a plan.
In a short time, Allano came and pulled them, one at a time, to safety at the top of the crater. He told Chiia that Amosad would deliver her back to her father and tell her village of the God of All and the truths of nature. Together, Chiia, Allano and Amosad would try to release their people from the he fears of the unknown, so they, too, might see beyond their eyes.
Chiia felt her hope rising. The hope that she would be
. . . the last of the Wolokai.
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