Seryl 23, 1014
It was her last full day in the Twikkiis. Leona would be leaving at the noon tide the next day. She was trying hard to let the sweet outweigh the bitter. Will and Jessie were expecting a baby — or at least, she’d gotten a letter saying that they had a baby they were expecting to be born in Tyves — so when she got home, she’d have a new niece or nephew to spoil rotten. She’d see her parents, her brothers, her friends again. And, perhaps most importantly, ever since the Feast of Jumbok, the volcano in the island’s center had been troubling. There had been strange rumblings day and night, clouds of ash and smoke emitting from the great crater at the top of the volcano, and, worst of all, shaking of the earth under their feet. Leona didn’t like to think of herself as a coward, but if the signs were there for some kind of eruption, she’d really like to be someplace far away.
But she couldn’t let the sweet take over, for there was a ginormous fly currently drowning in her goblet of Gaulish sweet wine.
She hadn’t seen Gino in a week. He’d disappeared without a word. And she was supposed to leave tomorrow.
Damn it, Gino, where are you? You can’t possibly let me leave without saying goodbye!
Another bit of bitter? How not seeing Gino was making her feel: cranky and sad and lonely, all at once. She found herself obsessively replaying their time together in her head: every last kiss just out of sight of Mother Isabella, every long snogging session under the palm trees, especially those times when they sat on the beach and held hands and just talked. She’d thought that he respected her as a companion, an equal. She thought that she had proven to the world that a woman could have feelings for a man and not turn herself into a pile of mush. And now she hadn’t seen Gino, and what was she? A pile of weepy, whiny, slobbering mush! At least in her head, even if she refused to show that on the surface.
And she couldn’t make her mind up: what would she do when she saw him again? Kiss him … or kill him?
She heard footsteps along the sand and turned — oh. It was only Mother Isabella. Leona nodded. “Hello, Mother.”
Mother Isabella stood next to her, observed the men loading the rowboats full of cargo (the rest of the cargo, the contraband island cargo, had been already loaded), and sighed. “I wish you could extend your stay. The natives grown more and more restless with every bit of ash that comes out of the volcano.”
Leona was about to remind Mother Isabella that she and her crew had been away from home for over a year, and that by the time they got back, it would be closer to two, but the comment about the natives made her ears prick up. “Restless?”
“Surely you’ve noticed church attendance falling off?” Mother Isabella asked with a bit of a glare, probably because Leona managed to find a reason to absent herself from services around half the time.
“Well … yes …”
“They always turn back to their heathen ways when the volcano acts up,” Mother Isabella shook her head. “They will — can you believe this? — throw people into the volcano in order to stop it from erupting! The last time …” Mother Isabella turned away, blinking fiercely. “The person they were going to throw in — it was a young girl, eighteen at the most. We only just stopped them. We were going to keep the girl here to keep her safe — and do you know what she did?” Mother Isabella swallowed. “She climbed out the window and — and — threw herself into the volcano!”
Leona’s jaw fell. “What? Gino never said–”
“Oh, Gino!” Mother Isabella shook her head. “That boy — he has legitimate grievances against us, I’ll grant him that. At least, legitimate grievances against his father. But he lets them cloud his judgement of us and the natives both.” She hesitated, then added, “Besides — he wasn’t here when that happened. It’s only every ten to fifteen years that the volcano is active.”
“Oh …” Leona murmured. Her stomach started to turn and sour. She inched away. “Excuse me … I have to see to some things …”
She turned away, intending to go back into the hostel to think. Why hadn’t Gino told her that? Or Liloloa? Or Wiwi or Lea or any of the other natives she’d befriended? Had it just not come up? Or–
Leona looked up. It was Kupanaha — one of the children from the village. She was an alert and precocious one, and during the course of Leona’s visits, she had apparently decided that Leona was hers and that she would be sticking to Leona like a burr every time she saw her.
“Kupa?” Leona called, for she and Kupa had worked out a simple agreement: if Kupa got to get away with calling Leona Le-Le, Leona got to get away with calling her Kupa.
Kupa was running and yelling — and Leona couldn’t understand more than one word in ten — but there was one thing she yelled that she understood at once.
“Gino! Gino trouble!”
“Trouble?” Leona gasped.
“Trouble?” demanded Mother Isabella. “What’s all this? Lady Leona? What has Gino been getting into?” And the unspoken question: What do you have to do with it?
“I–I don’t know–Kupa?”
Kupa looked between them, eyes wide and frightened. Leona wished she could do something to calm her down, but it was hard with Mother Isabella glowering over her shoulder. Kupa started babbling in the native tongue.
“Kupa, honey, slow down, I can’t understand –”
She went a little slower, but it was still too much. Leona could only catch a couple of words. One was Gino. Another was pele — that meant volcano. And kane — man.
Mother Isabella put it together far faster than Leona could. “Gino is the volcano man? Pele kane?” she asked Kupa. And then there was more islander Simlish, this time from Mother Isabella while Kupa nodded.
“This is just what I was afraid of!” Mother Isabella finally said in Continental Simlish. “They want to sacrifice Gino to the volcano!”
“What?” shrieked Leona.
“This is what I mean, Lady Leona! You cannot give these people an inch! One little setback and they are returning to their barbarous ways in full force! And we don’t have the military presence here we used to have! I don’t know how we could possibly rescue him in time –”
Leona couldn’t speak. Couldn’t think. Couldn’t bear to look at Mother Isabella, because if she did she just might deck her for being so unhelpful, and Leona was rather certain that was a mortal sin. So she looked at Kupa instead.
Kupa only had one word for Leona: “Mai!”
Mai — come.
And Leona was decided. “Christian! David!” she called over her shoulder. “We need to move out! Gino’s in trouble!” She checked her side to make sure that her sword was secure, and then she looked at Kupa.
“Lead the way, kiddo!”
Kupa understood that well enough. And they were off.
The island was a lot of things — but it wasn’t large. The jungles were thick and dense, a deathtrap to the uninitiated, but if you knew where you were going, or had a good guide, you could get through as easily as you might walk through an open parkland. Leona had both the knowledge and the guide. So it wasn’t long before she was standing in the village, in front of Liloloa, only a few feet away from where — according to Kupa’s gestures — they were keeping Gino.
“What the hell, Liloloa?” Leona shouted. “What have you done to Gino?”
“Leona …” said Christian, but Leona wasn’t having any of that. She kept her glare, full force, on Liloloa.
Liloloa said nothing at first, letting an expressive eyebrow do her talking for her. Then she spoke softly and calmly. “Nothing. Yet. But pele wants him. Pele want to clear away the evil –”
Liloloa’s eyes narrowed. “He uhane poino.”
“He is not an evil spirit! Damn it, Liloloa! He’s helping you, or did you not notice that?”
Liloloa shook her head — was it Leona’s imagination, or was there something almost sorrowful in her eyes? “It not what he do. It not who he is. The uhane poino — it in him, whether he want it there or no. And pele? Pele want it gone. Pele drive it away, cover whole island with holy fire to burn it up — unless we give pele what it want.”
“No!” Leona shouted back. She tried to run past Liloloa — but the old woman was stronger than she looked, and faster than she seemed, for she grabbed Leona’s shoulders and held her back.
“No,” Liloloa replied. And Leona, against her better judgement, against everything she knew her body was capable, against what her heart was screaming for her to do, stopped.
“That not way, Leona,” said Liloloa. “That not wise. You run there? You die. Then Gino die. Then we lose everything we work for, we three.”
“Do you think I’m going to keep any of our agreements if you kill Gino? I’ll deal with the Church all the way! I’ll trade weapons with them and not you! Don’t you tempt me, Liloloa!”
Liloloa shrugged. “We no kill uhane poino, we all dead. Weapons no much good if you dead.”
Leona felt herself starting to shake. And her hand was moving toward her sword.
Liloloa’s shot out and grabbed her wrist. “No, Leona. That no the way.”
“Maybe I don’t give a flying–”
Liloloa’s glare shut Leona up. “No. Think. That no the way.”
That wasn’t the way. That — so — if that wasn’t the way …
“Is there a way?” Leona heard herself ask — no, whisper.
Liloloa let go of Leona’s wrist, leaned back, tapped her fingers against her chin. “There may be … you know how Gino got uhane poino?”
“He wasn’t exactly eager to talk about that,” Leona growled.
Liloloa bobbed her head left and right, probably bouncing that idea around, before she shrugged and nodded. “It because of he father. What he do –”
“It is not Gino’s fault that his father raped his mother!” Leona shouted.
“Fault? No. But a man who do that — he either poino, all poino, or else he ridden by uhane poino. If he poino, he call uhane poino to him. And uhane poino, it want to get out — into baby, where it grow and get big, do more poino. So it ride man. It go into seed. It come out when he take woman — not love woman, take woman — it go into her. There baby? Uhane poino come out in baby. And it make evil, even if — especial if — baby try to be good.”
“That’s not right! Gino doesn’t do evil!” Leona heard herself shouting, like a three-year-old.
“Gino no have to,” Liloloa shrugged. “But there way to destroy uhane poino. It come about through man taking woman. Man of another tribe, too. But if a woman from man’s tribe come and –”
“Let Gino rape her?” Leona gasped.
Liloloa stumbled, taken aback, then her face twisted. “NO!” she shouted. “No, no, no! You no destroy poino with poino! You destroy with poino opposite — with aloha!”
Leona did not need a Gino or a Mother Isabella by her side to know what aloha meant. She felt it in her bones.
So somebody — somebody from Gino’s father’s tribe — had to come and love him. The idea of getting her sword out and trying to rescue him by force was sounding better and better. Gino’s father’s name had sounded Gaulish, and where they were to get a Gaulish woman at such short notice — and the idea of her moving in on Gino —
Except … except Liloloa was looking at her with half a smile, and she was waving her hand as if edging Leona along a certain path of thought …
“… Am I part of his father’s tribe?” Leona asked.
Liloloa grinned and nodded.
“So — so if I …” Leona felt herself starting to blush and hated herself for it. But if there was anything a daughter of the du Lacs ought to be able to do, it was call a spade a spade. “If I lay with Gino — the uhane poino goes away?”
“Is dead,” Liloloa corrected, “but it no just that. First, you must make aloha hipu’u with he. It no hurt,” Liloloa added with a chuckle, probably because she saw the look on Leona’s face. “It good. You stand in front of tribe, you say some words.”
“All right …”
“And then — you have the — the sex,” Liloloa stumbled. “And then you can go. With Gino. And pele happy. Pele know uhane poino, it almost dead. So it let you go.”
“Wait — almost dead? What will have to happen for it to be all the way–”
“You do it, Leona?” Liloloa interrupted. “You do aloha hipu’u with Gino? You save him? You save us?”
Leona hesitated — but what could she say? Let Gino die because she was squeamish about sex without a wedding ring? Get herself killed trying to help Gino, and then have him die anyway?
She nodded. “I’ll do it.”
Liloloa cheered, and she shouted something — something that involved aloha hipu’u — to the rest of the natives. They cheered too. Then Liloloa snapped her fingers, a young boy ran into the grass hut, and out came Gino with two warriors — one of whom was a relieved-looking Uhane of all people — flanking him side by side.
He looked all right. That was Leona forced herself to notice first. If he had been beaten or bruised whenever the natives did what they did to capture him, it must have healed over the past week — or however long they had him. His clothes didn’t even seem to be dirty or torn.
Leona felt relief flooding through her as that sunk in.
But he looked bewildered and confused — until he saw Leona. His jaw dropped. He paled.
And then he started shouting. “No! Leona! You can’t do this!”
Leona’s jaw dropped. “What? She said they would kill you if I didn’t!”
Gino swallowed. “That’s — true …” He glanced at Liloloa, who was glaring at him with a you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me look. “But did she tell you what it was? Aloha hipu’u?”
“It involves sex!” Leona shouted back. “She said that much! And are you saying you’d rather be thrown into a volcano than — than have sex with me, Gino Trentson?” Wright damn it, why did she keep blushing? “Because if you are, I — I have no problem with letting them throw you in!”
“Oh Wright,” murmured Christian, but Leona ignored that. She watched Gino’s face.
His jaw had fallen and he was staring at her. “Are you crazy? What kind of question is that?”
Leona swallowed. “I’m sorry, you were the one who seemed reluctant. I’m just trying to figure out why.”
Gino smacked his forehead. “It’s not the sex! Good Lord, if — if having sex with you meant being thrown into a volcano instead of the opposite, I’d still — seriously consider it!”
It was stupid, how the mind worked under pressure, but all Leona could think was, I am never telling my mother about this. Guinevere would be so disappointed. Whether it was because Leona was going to give up her virginity without being married or at least betrothed — or whether it was because she was going to give it up to a man whose idea of romance was to say he’d seriously consider making love to her, even if it meant death — well, she wasn’t sure. And she definitely didn’t want to find out.
“Then what are you complaining about?” Leona snapped.
“The aloha hipu’u! It’s not just sex! It’s — it’s more like a marriage!”
Marriage? Leona wondered. That … that made her feel better, selfish as it might be. If they were married … or if at least she could convince herself that the aloha hipu’u was sort of like a betrothal, and she and Gino could get married for real later … then it was all right. She wasn’t doing wrong. Not–
Wait — I’m marrying Gino, and that makes me feel better?
Leona felt her gaze go to Liloloa. Liloloa deftly stepped between Leona and Gino.
“The aloha hipu’u — it like your marri-age. But not the same. We no join for life, among us. Life — life too long and too short. Too long to be with only one person forever and ever. You kill each other. And life, it too short to not live as full as possible. To not eat bananas and mangos and pineapples all — instead of just one. So — so we only join for a season, not forever.”
Leona blinked. “And … and if Gino and I get married according — according to my tribe’s ways? Later?”
Liloloa cocked her head to one side, then she shrugged. “Some people like banana. If they want to eat banana all the time — well, why not?”
“Leona!” Gino called out. “Princess!”
Leona put her hands on her hips. Liloloa hurried out of the way. “Are you saying you’d rather be dead than married to me, Gino? Think long and hard before you say that.”
“Of course not!” Well, that was a relief, both what he said and how quickly he said it. Elyan would have probably had to mull it over for at least half an hour. “But — you’re a duke’s daughter! You –” Gino looked away. “You deserve better!”
“And you DIE if I don’t. Did you forget that part?”
“Leona …” Gino almost seemed to be pleading with her. “She hasn’t told you everything …”
Leona looked at Liloloa. “Does anybody else have to die if I do this?”
“No! No, no!” Liloloa gasped, shaking her head.
“Will anyone be hurt? Physically? That is — in the body?”
Liloloa hesitated, then she said slowly, “Well … you …”
Leona snorted. “My mother taught me that if it hurts, he’s doing it wrong.”
Liloloa blinked — and then, without warning, she barked out a laugh.
“Leona–” Gino tried to say.
“No! I’ve made my mind up, Gino. And if you really want to end up dead — well, speak now, or forever hold your peace!”
Gino stared at her, admiration and amazement and shock and disbelief written over his face all at once. “You’re seriously going to do this. For me.”
“I wouldn’t do it for anybody else,” Leona replied — and realized it was true.
Gino said nothing. He just stared at her.
Leona swallowed — but she couldn’t speak. Not to Gino. Not if he couldn’t say anything to her. She turned to Liloloa. “When do we do this thing? I sail at noon tomorrow.”
“Now,” Liloloa replied. “Or … not now. But very soon to now.” She grinned.
“Because first, Leona … we need to get you and he dressed.”
A thank you to Almighty Hat — some of her discussion of her Twikkii Islanders’ religion inspired some of the features of these guys’ religion. 🙂