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A Tragic Idyll

By:A. G. Moore

A Tragic Idyll
A. G. Moore


        Chapter 1

She had rubbed herskin with oil from the tarata tree and her head was adorned with anornamental wreath. She walked solemnly through the forest on a trailworn bare by Kanakoans of previous generations. Today was the day shewas to meet Tahano in front of the sacred rock.

"Palao, you arebeautiful," her mother murmured. She did not arrange Palao's hairor fuss with her ornaments because adornment was unnecessary, sobeautiful was Palao that morning. Morai regarded her daughter withpride and for once showed her the full appreciation that was in herheart.

As they walked theforest path to the place of oath-taking, they passed members of theirclan, who had assembled along the way to give their blessing to theunion     of the young people. Each clan member observed Palao'sprogress silently and bowed their head as she passed, in recognitionof the ceremony about to take place which would mark her entry intowomanhood.

Tahano was in theclearing. He was more splendid than Palao had ever seen him. Helooked toward Palao with eyes that shone with pride and anticipation.His father, Tanakiti, stood behind him. He, the father, was passingto the son the responsibility of a man. and consecrating that passagebefore the sacred rock.

The two young peopleapproached the rock and bowed their heads. Kalikali and two otherelders circled the couple and chanted, "Sana, bless the union     ofPalao and Tahano. Grant them long life, happiness and many children.In the name of the Kanakao we ask this."

When they hadfinished their chant they moved out of the sacred circle and the twoyoung people faced each other.

Tahano spoke:

"I pledge my lifeand all its labors, to you, Palao and your offspring. I pledge thisfor all time. No person or circumstance can sever this bond."

When he fell silent,Palao spoke:

"I pledge my lifeand all its labors, to you, Tahano and your offspring. I pledge thisfor all time. No person or circumstance can sever this bond."

With the completionof this oath, an oath repeated by the Kanakao from time immemorial,the elders moved back in the circle and began again to chant.

"These youngpeople have sworn the oath. Let nothing, let no one, attempt to breaktheir promise. The blessing of Sana upon this couple. Any person whointerferes with this union     will have for all time the curse of Sanaupon them."

Palao handed Tahanothe wreath from her head and he placed the wreath upon the Sacredstone. The couple bowed their heads to each other once again, thenstepped back into the circle of Kanakaons. Slowly the procession ofeach betrothed made its way through the forest to their respectivehomesteads.


        Chapter 2

Sparks from thecampfire revealed the passion in Kalikali's eyes as he recountedthe saga of the Kanakoa.

"There was illnessin the land; hunger stole the young from their cradles, for theirmothers' milk had ceased to flow. The elders burned the bark of abanyan tree and sought counsel from the great god Sana. Smoke fromthe tree rose, and though the air was still and not a leaf moved onthat windless night, the smoke drifted swiftly out to sea. Ithovered, then dispersed into a thousand streams that spread over thelimitless horizon". Kalikali paused and allowed this image toimpress his audience.

"The elders saw inthis smoke Sana's counsel. The path for the Kanakoa was clear.Chiefs were to lead their people across the sea to the place wherethe smoke had dispersed. In every canoe was to be stored a cuttingfrom the banyan tree. When the canoes reached the place on the seawhere the smoke had dispersed, each chief was to take his party in aseparate direction to find their destiny."

Kalikali breatheddeeply, then continued. "And so our people came to this land andplanted the cutting from the tree. The tree took root; and so ourchief knew that he had come to a good place and that the Kanakoawould prosper in our new home."

Kalikali lookedaround the campfire; he was an elder and his word was law. He hadcalled his family and kin to the circle, as had elders across theland, to speak of a crisis that was threatening the Kanakoa.

"Tomorrow,"declared Kalikali solemnly, "we will burn the bark of the banyantree once again. We will seek counsel from the great god Sana and wewill be guided by his direction."

Silence settled uponthe clan members as Kalikali rose from his place, walked into theforest and disappeared into the darkness. The first to stir after hisdeparture were two adolescents, Paloa and Tahano, distant cousins whohad been betrothed to one another the year before.

"Whatever happenstomorrow, our lives will be changed," Paloa murmured softly. "Wemust promise each other that no matter the path our leaders choose,we will not allow their actions to separate us."

Tahano turned to hisbetrothed. "Our lives have been sealed. They were sealed before wewere born, because it is our fate to be together. We have made apromise before the sacred stone that we will live committed to eachother, that we will rear our young according to the precepts ofKanakoa tradition. Never will I break that sacred promise." Heclasped Paloa in his arms and placed a kiss upon her forehead.

The adolescentswandered into the forest and sought the cover of an aged banyan tree.They held hands and talked of the future that would be revealed tothem in a very few hours.

There was blood uponthe ground, as there had been every night, and upon the brush whichsurrounded the village. Many in the group had been lost to the horrorand yet the elders remained steadfast in their determination to stay.The fire had burned and the smoke had hovered overhead and then,straight as an arrow shot from a bow, had been absorbed into thenight sky. It had veered neither right nor left and this the eldersinterpreted as a sign a sign from Sana that they were not to leavethier island home.

But the people werebeginning to doubt their leaders. Every family had lost someone.Darkness was now a time of terror against which the people had nodefense. What was this horror that had descended upon the Kanakoa?

The people whisperedamong themselves that it was time to find a new land, that if theyfollowed the advice of the elders it would be too late to saveanyone, for there would not be enough stout rowers left to make theirway to safety in the broad canoes.

Paloa had lost herfather to the terror. Her mother, the Princess Morai, had since thisdeath formed a new union     with Dopali, a warrior from another clan.Morai spoke to her daughter:

"We will leavethis place." she explained. "The elders have fallen out of favorwith Sana. It is evident that he speaks to them no more. Dopali hasmany followers and has assembled a party of warriors who will take usto find a future elsewhere."

"I will not leaveTahano," Palao protested. "You go. Your life is with Dopalinow. And mine is with Paolo. It is the way of life that children growapart from their parents. So it has been and always will be." Paloaspoke these words with such conviction that Morai knew the truth ofthem. But she could not leave Paloa, who was her only child.

Morai went to Dopaliand made her wishes. "We must carry Paloa against her will with usacross the sea."

Dopali remindedMorai that there was great danger in their plan. "There can be nohint of our departure, Morai, or the elders will intervene. Paloamust be given a potion that will induce sleep but not harm. Then wewill carry her quietly to the canoe," was not pleased with thiscomplication, but he had been smitten with Morai long before she wasever widowed and he would do anything to insure her happiness.

And so it was thatPaloa was separated from Tahano and carried against her will to adistant island.

Upon waking the nextday, Tahano performed his morning ritual and paid homage to the gods;then he hurried, as he did every day, to Paloa's homestead to assurehimself that his betrothed was safe. And there he discovered that herhomestead abandoned. There were signs of a sudden but not violentdeparture.

Tahano's heartfroze. He had heard talk of defiance, whispers of rebellion againstthe decision of the elders. But Morai was a Princess, directdescendent of great chiefs. It was unthinkable that she shoulddisobey the anointed leaders.

Tahano ran into theforest and followed the trail that led from Palao's homestead. Manyfeet had traveled that way and clear were the markers that led to thesea. A large party had departed.

"Palao! Where havethey taken you? Who has committed this sacrilege? We have beenbetrothed before the sacred stone--no human can come between us. Thecurse of Sana upon any Kanakoa who has prevented our union     ."

Tahano wanderedthrough the forest purposelessly. He neither ate nor slept. By thenext morning he fell to the earth in exhaustion, slept fitfully andbegan the pilgrimage once again. As each night fell and the Kanakoasought refuge in their homesteads, Tahano walked the dark paths thatcrisscrossed the land, indifferent to the horror that was ravaginghis people.

Finally, on thefourth night, when the moon was but a crescent in the sky, Tahanocame upon a form. The form spoke to him, though it did not uttertones that sounded like anything human.