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Chapter 10

Alvez woke early the next morning and, as quietly as possible, extricated himself from the close confines of the hut, being careful not to step on any appendages of the loudly snoring Pukunati. He had decided the previous night that he wanted some time alone with the boat to check for himself on the progress of repairs but, as he made his way along the soft sand, it soon became apparent he was not the only early riser that morning: in the half-light he saw Chief Tangata walking unhurriedly toward him.

The Chief raised an arm in greeting, ‘where are you going to, so early in the day, Sinjoro Alvez?’ he enquired genially.

‘I awoke early and just thought I might take this opportunity to check on the progress of repairs,’ replied Alvez.

‘My people tell me the repairs are going well,’ replied Chief Tangata. ‘Please,’ he added, ‘come, walk with me, keep an old man company. I do not get the opportunity to talk to visitors very often, you may check on your boat later.’

And so Alvez joined the Chief. He knew that to refuse the offer could well be misconstrued as a slight, especially after all the kindness they had been shown since their arrival.

‘I want to thank you again for all of your help,’ said Alvez.

‘No thanks are necessary,’ replied the Chief, ‘I am sure that if circumstances were different, and if we came to you for help, you too would do your best.’

As Alvez struggled to formulate the correct response, the Chief, thankfully, moved on, ‘your young friend informs me that you are travelling to Sankta, or The Sacred Isle as some people call it. Please, tell me Sinjoro Alvez, what is the purpose of your journey?’

Disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that the boy had been so unguarded about their quest, Alvez hesitated for a long moment, unsure of what the boy might have revealed, ‘I hope to locate, to locate a friend,’ he replied falteringly.

‘Ah yes, friendship is important,’ agreed the Chief, ‘and is your friend alive or dead might I ask. I believe many travel to Sankta to converse with those who have left this mortal plane,’ qualified the Chief.

‘I am not sure, that is difficult to say,’ replied Alvez.

The Chief nodded sagely.

‘Do you have family?’ asked Alvez hoping to deflect the conversation away from himself, and before the Chief could ask any further, tricky questions.

‘Yes, I have two sons, but they left this island many years ago and I have not seen them since,’ Chief Tangata replied wistfully. ‘Look,’ he continued, he to obviously keen to change the subject and gesturing to the landscape around them with what seemed like a forced brighter, happier tone, ‘we have arrived at a very special place, a place of magic according to my ancestors.’

Alvez looked around, they had left the beach and walked a short distance through the jungle which lay behind the village. Now, before them, stretched a large pool of emerald green water bordered almost completely by high, rocky cliffs which formed a natural bowl, a horseshoe shape, around the water. ‘A place of magic you say?’ repeated Alvez.

The Chief chuckled softly, ‘so believed my ancestors but in truth I have seen little to suggest that magic resides here. Come,’ he continued, ‘we should return, I am sure your boat must be worrying about you,’ he added with a twinkle in his eye.

As they arrived back at the village the Chief beckoned for Alvez to accompany him to his hut. ‘Please, come in,’ said the Chief inviting Alvez inside and gesturing for him to sit on the rugs which covered the sandy floor. In the dim, half-light Tangata briefly rummaged through various chests until eventually he found what he was looking for: ‘a-ha,’ he said triumphantly as he turned a presented Alvez with a rolled-up piece of parchment.

Uncertainly Alvez carefully unrolled the dry material and, initially, struggled to make sense of the various markings. Quizzically he looked toward the Chief, ‘is this a…. Is this a chart of the….,’

‘It is my people’s knowledge of the Southern Oceans,’ the Chief confirmed, ‘the journey from here to Sankta is not easy. There are many dangers, but hopefully this record will help you avoid some of those dangers. After all, we do not want to have to repair your boat again, do we?’ he added with a broad smile. ‘And who knows,’ he continued, ‘one day you might want to visit us again.’

Alvez felt overwhelmed: knowledge of the ocean was hard won, and often paid for in lives. For Chief Tangata to gift such a prize, without even being asked, was an incredible act of selfless generosity. He bowed his head, ‘thank you.’

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