The trio had to pass through another jungle. This one wasn’t as thick as their home in the Southern Jungles, and they took a trail used by the local tribes (one of which, the Teo, they were officially members of) for war and trade.
They were shortly thereafter back out of the jungle and into a rather large green savanna somewhere inland. The clear area spread out for many acres, almost as far as the eye can see, but this is still a rather large island, so it’s natural. One the left, they could see the mountain—it really wasn’t much of a mountain, perhaps only the height of Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi with a couple bluffs about the quarter of the way up that were still accessible by foot.
On the right was the jungle, which still covered much of the island, and ahead of them, they could see the village of the Pele.
The trail continued through the grassland, which as they could see, had been well-worn into the field itself and ran straight to the Pele village. The savanna itself was not completely flat, as there were some rolling hills and little dips in the terrain. The village itself was in one of these little dips, but as they could see, also partially rested on one of the hills. The grass surrounding the village varied in height; closest to the village, it was short, while getting at least an American football field distance away, the grass was long enough for someone to hide in it.
It took ten minutes for the trio to reach the main village of the Pele. And it seemed that the Pele were expecting them, as evidenced by the Pele warriors who greeted them in front of the village gate.
They weren’t the only ones. To their left, Teo tribespeople, even ones they did not recognize, were training for their competitions. Some Pele men were doing the same thing off to their right. Kaitan hailed the guard at the front of the gate and the now-removed fence that once surrounded the village. The guard hailed them back and stepped aside so they could enter. The Jungle Trio acknowledged him and entered the Village of the Pele.
The village was also bustling to the peak of excitement. Smoke from the cooking pits billowed and wafted, dispensing so many smells that they blended so well, they couldn’t make out an individual scent. There was also a lot of talking and singing coming from the villagers. Kimi couldn’t help herself when she reached out to touch a ceremonial feather staff. It felt soft and tingly. She quickly retracted her hand so the person making them wouldn’t suspect a thing. But, Julie smacked her leg. Oh, she must’ve noticed it.
“Karza! Huli! Kimi!” a smiling man wearing a blue-and-green ʻahu ʻula and mahiole strode up to them with his kahuna in tow. Kaitan didn’t dismount, but extended his hand to shake Pele Chief Kawa’s.
“It’s Kaitan now,” he said. “Pleasure to see you again, Chief Kawa.”
“About time!” Kawa replied. “And it is a pleasure to see you, too! I understand you will be competing in some of the competitions?”
“You’re competing?” Julie spat. “I wanna compete!”
“It’s not too late for you!” said Kawa. “The officials are still gathering competitors. Just pick a competition you want to enter!”
“Perfect,” said Julie. “Who else is gonna be here?”
“You invited your paleface friends,” said Kawa. “The survivors of the Paea have been reorganizing into a new confederation, and their first act is to compete. The inhabitants of the Village of the Exiled and Paradise Village have also been invited.”
“I can’t wait to see them,” Kaitan said. Julie had already trotted off on her deer steed to find a place to register for the competition. “By the way, we saw two figures watching us earlier. I can’t say for certain, but they MIGHT cause trouble.”
“I will have my warriors be ready,” said Kawa. “Thank you for warning me. But do you know what they looked like?”
Kaitan sighed as he leaned against the head of his steed and put his hand on the buck’s antler. “No,” he said. “They were distant specks on the horizon.”
Kawa sighed, but in resigned disappointment. “That won’t help at all,” he said. “Still, it’s better than nothing. Thank you for warning me, Kaitan. I’ll alert Manti.”
“Thank you, Chief,” Kaitan said. “Where should Julie and I stay?”
“There’s a tent for you and your party in the Teo camp,” said Kawa. “Just ask them where it is!”
“Thank you!” Kaitan replied as he kicked his deer steed’s side.
Julie had already found her way to the registration “booth”, if it could be called that. It was just some record-keeper seated in front of Chief Kawa’s hut. Julie dismounted and Kimi followed. The record-keeper noticed the shadow that crossed his line of sight and looked up at Julie. “Can I help you?” he asked.
“Is it too late to register?” Julie asked.
“Almost,” he said as he glanced over at the sundial next to him. “You may only register for one competition. Which do you want to sign up for?”
“Archery?” Julie asked.
The record-keeper hissed and so Julie already figured the answer wouldn’t be good. “Sorry,” he said. “The women’s archery competition is full.”
“Fuck,” Julie hissed. “Then how about the wrestling or fighting competition?”
“You’re in luck,” he said half-heartedly. “There’s one spot left.”
Julie whooped, cheered, pumped her fist and leaped in the air. “Sign me up,” she said when her emotional high sheepishly came down at the sight of tribespeople staring at her.
“The seeding will be held tonight,” said the record-keeper, “Before the opening ritual.”
“Got it!” said Julie.
“Can I sign up for something?” Kimi asked as she pushed her way past Julie, who hurried to translate for her. But the record-keeper frowned at her instead. She got the message, needless to say. “Stupid wanker.”
“Language,” said Julie. “Even if he is one.” So she led the Australian teen back to their steed.
“Spear throwing,” the record-keeper sighed. “She can register for spear-throwing.” Both women pumped their fists and high-fived, much to the record-keeper’s unhappiness. He was all too eager to get rid of Kimi when she signed up.
Finding their tent was easier than they thought it would be. Okay, part of the reason was because Kawa led them to the tent. They shared it with a few other Teo visitors who’d already set their stuff up. They would sleep on the floor. The Jungle trio set up in the southeast corner–well, not the actual corner. Their area was a bit more towards the middle of tent by comparison to the corner. The tent was small, too. It may have only held about a total of ten people including the Jungle Trio.
After finding their sleeping place, they gathered with their fellow Teo tribesmen where they learned about the schedule of events. The first day was dedicated to a soccer-like game as well as the first round of the “wrestling” competition. Archery and spear-throwing preliminaries would also take place that day. There would also be tug o’ war, running, dancing, and a whole host of activities. Julie had to ask how long this whole thing would last, which is about a week.
After that, she and Kaitan went to the combat tournament seeding meeting, held in the village center. A chalkboard (shut up) had been set up, with the surly record-keeper holding two mango baskets in front of him. The men sat on the right and the women sat on the left. Or at least, that’s what it looked from the back. Whatever.
The surly record keeper went over the brackets. There were 16 fighters in the women’s bracket, 20 in the men’s, and four representatives of each tribe per bracket. Now that the author thinks about it, this would make for a good story, but we digress. However, there were no researchers or Paradise villagers in the women’s bracket and only one researcher and Paradise villager in the men’s bracket. It didn’t make Julie happy at all.
Even worse, Julie was drawn as the lowest seed in the women’s bracket. She looked at the woman who happened to be the top seed and sighed when she saw that she was like a Polynesian Ronda Rousey. Her opponent smiled at her smugly, and Julie snarled at her. She also mouthed some dirty words at her.
However, Kaitan was given the top seed, and for a reason that surprised Julie: He’s apparently the defending champion. Julie was both envious and proud of her mate at the same time. Envious that he got the easy road, proud that he was the defending champion.
And they were all surprised when they heard the conch shell blowing. Kawa panicked and rushed into the center of the village, urging all of them to go and join their respective groups. The confused tournament participants stood up and dissipated to go and find their respective tribes—even the one researcher who’d gotten there early. But because he was early, he was pretty much all alone. And that made him sad.
Until some of the other researchers drove up to the village, that is, with the Teo in tow, albeit on foot. They carried torches and waved lei’s made of flowers in their traditional colors of orange and yellow, while singing and chanting all the while. Chief Manti was in the lead, of course.
The other tribes arrived at the same time. The survivors of the once-mighty Paea Tribe arrived from the northeast. They didn’t have a leader, but the chants they sang were ones of unity and rebirth. They waved flowers and banners in their traditional colors of violet and gold. The Exiled came from the southeast. It was a gesture of peace and forgiveness to the wretched who have been cast out of their tribes, except for the actual criminals, who were NOT allowed to take part in the festivities. There’s a line that had to be crossed. And finally, the Paradise Villagers. The story of that is taking place in another, Julie-centered story, but they’re a group of cruise ship survivors.
The spectators of all five groups—the Teo, the Pele, the Paea, the Exiled, the Paradise Villagers and the researchers—walked calmly into the center of the village. There was a makeshift, but sturdy stage in the center of the village. The rest of the Pele villagers stood around in a circle surrounding the participants, who all lined up in five columns in front of the stage.That’s where they gathered to begin the opening ceremonies.
Manti followed Kawa onstage. Gina, the leader of the research team, also went onstage, with Tim in tow. Representatives of the Paea, Exiled and Paradisers also came up on stage. There, Kawa’s kahuna, named Puna, instructed them to hold their fists out. They did, and Puna bound them all together. “This shall be a symbol of peace and unity for the people of the Land of Water,” said Puna. “May the bonds of friendship, peace and unity never break!” He then took a ti leaf and blessed them all with it. Gina had to stop herself from giggling, because it was kind of ticklish.
Puna then cut the bond, but the representatives all kept their hands together and raised their hands in the air. Then, Kawa announced, “LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!!!” The crowd roared. “But first… LUAU!”
The luau was basically just a big party, nothing too important. Everyone mingled, fraternized and sororitized, and the spirit of competition was kindled. They feasted on pork, chicken and all sorts of good foods, with coconut milk and water to wash it all down. Fire and hula dancers performed for the guests.
Julie tried to ignore her future opponent, but the feeling of a pair of eyes kind of reminded her of the opponent. She couldn’t help but turn around to see the Pele woman narrowing her eyes, smirk and take a bite out of a chicken leg before pointing at her. Julie gulped, but recomposed herself so the woman’s mind games wouldn’t affect her. So instead, she glared at the woman and ripped a piece of ham in two. The woman, despite just raising an eyebrow, looked away from the Jungle Girl.
“What was that?” her Teo friend Lilo asked.
“My opponent trying to play mind games,” said Julie.
“Forget her,” said Lilo.
Kaitan and Hilo, his friend and Manti’s second-in-command, sat off a bit to the side to munch on their grub. They didn’t talk much, but didn’t really need to. Kaitan glanced over to Hilo with a grin upon seeing Julie playing mind games with her opponent, and Hilo smiled back. “Which events did you enter?” Kaitan asked.
“The sling competition,” said Hilo. “And which opponent are you most worried about?”
“All of them,” Kaitan replied. “Although I’m sure I can handle them, no sweat.”
“And I am sure as well,” said Hilo. “Just don’t let it get to your head, monkey-boy.”
“Stop calling me that!”
“Everyone else calls you that,” said Hilo. “Come on, I was joking around!”
The Jungle Dude rolled his eyes and sipped from his coconut half. “I also hope you won’t make any lifelong enemies this time.”
“I don’t make enemies,” Kaitan insisted.
“Why are you lying?” Hilo asked. “Stop lying. And tell Huli about your enemies.”
“I think she already knows that I’m not the most popular person on the island,” said Kaitan. “I’m more worried about her enemies.
Hilo shook his head at the Jungle Dude’s intransigence. A shout grabbed his attention and he looked to see a pair of men getting into a fist fight.
A couple of fistfights did break out, not from alcohol, but from pure testosterone. And when those fights were over, the combatants looked more like they were going to be best friends instead of life-long enemies.
When they were done, the retired to their tent for the night. Julie read with Kaitan while Kimi taught a Teo girl, who’d come as a spectator, how to play patty-cake. It was a start, even for a 16-year-old.
“I wanna play patty-cake, too!” Julie called out.
“Can’t,” said Kimi. “We’re gonna play the slap game!”
Julie huffed, puffed and crossed her arms. “Well, fine! I don’t wanna play your stupid game anyway!” she shouted. “By the way, you DID tell Kawa about those guys we saw earlier, right?”
“Of course I did,” said Kaitan.
“You sure?” Julie asked.
“Kawa’s going to have extra guards ready just in case,” said Kaitan. “They won’t catch us off guard.”
“They’d better not,” said Julie.
The tent got quiet. Julie sighed and turned around to see the Pele Ronda Rousey coming her way. So she sat up and glared at the woman. “Yes?”
“I just wanted to say, good luck tomorrow,” the woman said. But Julie could detect the sarcasm and false sincerity in her tone. But,
“Thanks,” she said. “But I won’t need luck. You’ll need the luck.”
Having heard that, the tent went, “OOOOOOOH!”
But the Pele Ronda Rousey laughed derisively. “I don’t need luck, either,” she said. “Especially since I’m not some wannabe-wild paleface!”
Julie launched up and stared the woman down. “THIS wannabe-wild paleface doesn’t need to insult her opponents,” she said, “Because I’m actually CONFIDENT.”
That got her opponent’s goat. She leaned forward, but Julie stood her ground, giving her a menacing smile. The rest of the tent gathered around the two. Oh, if only they weren’t supposed to fight first! “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying, I’d rather let my fists do the talking,” Julie replied. “I don’t need fake intimidation.”
“HA! Don’t cry if you lose,” the woman laughed.
“JULIE! You got her!” Kimi cheered.
“How do you want those words?” Julie asked. “Rare, medium, or well done?”
The woman growled and pushed Julie away before storming out of the tent. The rest of the tent cheered and gave Julie high fives until she gave the woman a double middle finger.
Kimi was in full fangirl mode by the time Julie sat back down next to Kaitan. “What was AMAZING!” she said. “What’d you say?”
“I told her talk is cheap,” said Julie.
“Hey, Kaitan?” Kimi asked.
“What? I agree with her,” said the Jungle Dude.
“Actually, I meant to ask if you were confident,” said Kimi.
The Jungle Dude grinned crookedly. “Of course I am,” he said with equal amounts of confidence as his words. “I’ve won this before, and I can do it again!”
“Are you sure?” Kimi asked.
“I am sure,” said Kaitan. “And I’m also sure the others are gonna be gunning for me.”
“And what if you lose?” Kimi asked.
“Then they’re better than me,” said Kaitan.
“Yeah, but you’re always a winner in my eye,” Julie said while she cuddled up with him and kissed his cheek. The Jungle Dude blushed.
And it was also during this get-together that Kawa remembered what Kaitan told him earlier. “I almost forgot,” he said. “Kaitan told me he saw two men watching him, Huli and Kimi. I’ve already told my warriors to be on the lookout for any intruders.”
“Are you sure you can trust him?” the Paea representative asked.
“I trust him whole-heartedly, and even if I did not, it is still best to be safe than sorry,” said Kawa. “Manti knows more about him than I do, and he would certainly do the same. Correct?”
“Correct,” said Manti. “Especially after how your people,” he looked at the representative from Paradise Village, “interrupted our sacred founders’ dance.”
“What did he just say?” she asked.
“It’s best if you don’t know,” said Tim.
“The logistics of security should not be an issue,” the Paea representative continued. “I am more than certain we will be able to stop an attack. Although, to be honest, I do not think there will be an issue.”
“The palefaces have a term for this situation,” said Manti. “Better to be safe than sorry.”
“You spend way too much time with the palefaces,” the Paea representative replied. “We should not be worried.”
“Your tribe was almost destroyed by one of their own,” said Manti. “Perhaps you should take threats seriously.”
“Enough!” Kawa said firmly. “Let us worry less about our peoples’ troubles and focus on the near future. We have an important event on our hands, and I, as the leader of the host tribe, am worried more about such future. Now please, let us enjoy ourselves.”
The partygoers agreed to that. And meanwhile, across the camp, Julie and Kaitan slept snuggled up for what they thought would be the first night of an exciting week.