Fire Goes Where It Will

Pele settled into the bowels of Kilauea, readying herself for sleep.  She stretched, and the sides of the mountain trembled, a stream of lava rolling down to the sea.  When the lava hit the water it would turn to fire-filled rock, which would sink, cooling as it went deeper into Na-maka-o-kaha’i’s  watery realm.  When it hit the bottom it would be truly rock, and it would build on what was already there.  

It amused Pele to think that she was taking her sister’s territory away, one steaming lava drip at a time.

She closed her eyes, snuggling deeper into the crater to block the brightness of her father’s sky, when suddenly she heard her mountain exploding–only her mountain was still.

She willed herself out of the crater and stood on the peak, straddling the lava stream that would torment her sister.  She saw nothing on her big island to explain the sound, so she looked harder, her vision expanding to the other islands.

There.  Men with skin the color of pale beaches.  Men who stood next to a gaping hole.

She was there in seconds, transforming into a small, white dog.  She stayed in the bushes, watching as the men stared into the pit.  One of them held a box that contained short, thick reeds.  Dynamite–she stole the word from their minds.

Explosives.

Intrigued, she moved closer.

“Great Pele.  Do not approach them.”

She saw one of her people kneeling, nose to the ground.  Word had obviously gotten around that she liked to travel the countryside as a dog.

She changed into the young female form that seemed to please her people.  The man’s eyes dilated with desire–and fear.

“Who are they?” she asked.

“Strangers.  Not welcome.”

Pele remembered the sounds of drums she had been hearing.  The laughter and songs.  “They were welcomed.”

“Yes.  We were foolish to open our land to them.”

Your land?”

“Yours, of course, great Pele.”

Hers.  This was hers now.  But she had discovered this land during her flight from her sister.  Just as her people had.  Just as these new people had.

She turned to study the strangers.  They were preparing one of the reeds, burying it in an area of heavy underbrush.  One of them crouched down, calling fire as if he was a god.  He lit the string that trailed out of the reed, then ran as if Kā-moho-ali’i’s sharks were after him.

There was a fantastic boom, and trees, rocks, even pieces of an unwary bird, went everywhere.  Where the little reed had been, the ground was torn up as if a war had been fought there.

Pele clapped her hands, laughing.

“No, it is not good.”  The man of her people was backing away.

“Do you think to tell me what is or is not good?”  She knew fire was shining in her eyes.  If she let go, she’d become a figure of flame.  She did not let go.

The man fled.

“Who has called me?”  Her brother, Ka-poho-i-kahi-ola, appeared in a shower of sparks.

“They have.”  Pele pointed at the pale men with the fire sticks.  Then she looked around for her other brothers, all masters of fire in its various forms, but they did not appear.

“How strange they look.”  Her brother glanced at where Pele’s people lived, away from the beach, where there was shade and fresh water.  “Your people must be protected.”

“Why?”

“They were here when we arrived.”

“They were here when you arrived.  No one was here when I did.”  Pele felt something opening up in her.  Something wild, untamed.

She would welcome these men to her island.  They would bring others and–

Were those the sacred statues of her and her brothers the newcomers were loading into their boats?  Her people had toiled months carving her lava to make those.  These strangers thought discovering her island meant they could steal from her?

The man of her people who’d tried to warn her ran out, jumping the strangers who carried the statue.  Another of the strangers lifted a stick at him, and it exploded–the man of her people went down in a pool of blood.

They would steal the lives of worshippers with her fire?

Flame licked across her lips.  She blew the men a kiss, marking them as hers although they did not know it, and then she sat back with Ka-poho-i-kahi-ola to see what else these arrogant strangers would steal from her.

Her own people crawled to her, begging.  Pleading for her protection.

“I will take care of you.”  She silenced them with a glare.  “But this place is mine, not yours.  Someday strangers who know how to respect their hostess will arrive, and then you will have to share.”

Many of the strangers got into their little boats with the single set of paddles–boats laden with the treasures of her island–and headed for the big boat.

Na-maka-o-kaha’i appeared, water spilling around her, and the men cried out with fear.  “You are Pele’s.  I can smell her mark on you.”   Pele’s sister waited, but the men did not sing her praises.  They did not know her language.  Or how to appease her.

Her waves rushed up, covering the little boats.  Covering the big boat.  Dragging everything down.

Pele’s people began to sing a song of praise to her sister.  It would keep them alive the next time they took their outriggers to the open sea.

“Our sister sure can hold a grudge,” Pele’s brother said softly.

“She sure can.”

Pele gave the sign to her people, who rounded up the strangers left on the beach.  They marched them to the edge of the Pali and threw them off.  The strangers’ screams echoed as they fell.

“They could have fed Kileaua,” Ka-poho-i-kahi-ola said, then he disappeared in another shower of sparks.

Pele stared out at the now peaceful sea.  “They probably will.  Someday.”

[Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle.  She is pleased to appear in Eternal Haunted Summer again.  She has a collection of short stories, Life Without Crows, out from Hadley Rille Books, and stories and poems published in such places as: She Nailed a Stake Through His HeadSword and Sorceress XXIIIDia de los MuertosReturn to LunaSniplitsTriangulation: Dark GlassSails & Sorcery, and Paper Crow.  She also is editing an anthology of speculative fiction and poetry fromHadley Rille Books that will benefit homeless animals.  Visit http://www.gerrileen.com to see what else she’s been up to.]

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