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Chapter 9

Alvez awoke bewildered and confused, unsure of where he was or why he was there. Suddenly in a rush it came back to him and he struggled to raise himself up.

Gently a hand pushed him back down. ‘Rest,’ a soft voice said, ‘you are safe.’

‘The boy,’ Alvez stammered, ‘there was a boy.’

‘He is quite safe,’ assured the voice gently, ‘we saved two in total. Which, I believe, was all of your crew?’

‘Yes, two,’ Alvez confirmed wearily.

‘Good, now rest,’ soothed the voice, ‘it will make you feel better.’

Awaking from heavy sleep Alvez found the boy sitting next to his bed, ‘what happened?’ he asked groggily, ‘where are we?’

‘We’re safe,’ replied Pukunati, ‘we ran aground and these kind people found us and cared for us.’

‘Which people?’ Alvez asked in confusion.

‘The people who live on this island,’ said the boy, ‘remember, the landfall to the north, that we sailed toward in search of safety?’

‘And the boat? What of The Pig?’ demanded Alvez slowly gathering his thoughts.

‘She’s damaged but the Chief has said she is not beyond repair.’

‘The Chief, who is the Chief?’ asked Alvez his thoughts once again thrown into turmoil.

‘The Chief of this tribe. They rescued us and recovered the boat. We owe them a great debt,’ said Pukunati.

Alvez nodded vacantly before once more slipping into a heavy dreamless sleep.

When Alvez next awoke he found that, with a struggle, he was able to stand and gingerly make his way to the doorway of the small, dark, wooden hut in which he had been sleeping. Looking outside, and squinting against the dazzling brightness of the day, he could see a collection of small wooden huts. Tentatively, stepping forth, he swayed and staggered as he slowly found his feet. To his surprise, and somewhat disconcertingly, the village appeared to be completely deserted. As he looked around, unsure of where to go next, he realised that although the village was silent, he could still hear noise, the unmistakable sound of distant waves breaking on the shore.

Shakily Alvez made his way down toward the sea, noting that with each step he felt a little better, a little stronger. As he negotiated a slight rise, he could now see The Pig before him, beached high above the tidemark and, as he approached, he realised a number of natives were busily working away on the vessel; hammering and sawing enthusiastically. As he drew closer, he could also see the boy working alongside the natives and now an elderly man slowly making his way across the sand toward him.

‘Welcome,’ said the man, ‘I am Tangata, Chief of this tribe, how do you feel today?’

‘I feel fine, thank you,’ Alvez lied, ‘never better,’ looking beyond the old man to his boat.

Tangata followed his gaze, ‘after we brought you to safety, we managed to pull your boat beyond the reach of the water. She was lucky, although the sea was very angry, she managed to escape its clutches and ended up on the beach; damaged but not beyond repair.’

‘Thank you. How long ago was that?’ Alvez asked falteringly.

‘You were washed ashore three days ago. You have slept for much of that time, but,’ the Chief added with a gentle smile, ‘your young friend has been most industrious.’

Alvez looked on, still a little dazed and uncomprehending; at that moment the thought that preoccupied him was how The Pig had been moved this far up the beach from the sea. Then he noticed she was resting on logs and presumed she must have been rolled up the beach on the logs; clearly, he realised, these island people had a lot of experience when it came to boat repair. Alvez approached the vessel and prepared to inspect the damage.

‘The Chief thinks three more days, five at most and she should be sea worthy again,’ Pukunati observed brightly.

‘That is good. As soon as she is ready, we must be on our way,’ Alvez replied absently. Life had taught him to be cautious but it seemed on this occasion they were lucky enough to have found themselves with good people. Good people who welcomed, and did not appear to be suspicious of, outsiders.... or want to eat them for that matter.

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