The Three Islands (part 1)
Far out in an ocean, vast and bleak, there were three islands.
The first was called Dorai. It’s people seemed primitive at first glance, choosing to live in caves and subsisting on fish caught from the reefs on the northeastern shore. Colorful, flightless birds roamed the island. The people collected their feathers to use as fishing lures and worshipped the sea as the Giver of Life.
The second island was Malai, entirely covered in a palm-like tree whose fruit had a highly fibrous outer coating. The people cultivated the trees, even creating village groves where they build treehouses to live in. They use the fruit fibers to make a vast array of items from ropes to clothes and even tapestries. For this, others viewed them as a bit vain. Their diets consisted of the tree fruit, some other plants, and insects. They worshipped the trees as the Givers of Life.
The third, and youngest, island was Olivo. It’s landscape was overshadowed by a large, active volcano that produced olivine gems. The people used the olivine for two primary purposes: To attract seabirds, which liked to tuck the shiny gems into their nests, and to create simple jewelry to symbolize their place in the community. The seabirds made up the majority of the people’s diet, along with a few hardy plants that grew on the volcano’s rocky terrain. The people worshipped the volcano as the Giver of Life, but their willingness to live in constant danger had labeled them zealots.
The islands maintained separate lives, their prejudices keeping them apart. Interactions between their inhabitants largely ceased several generations ago.
A young man from Olivo, named Reve, was helping his father mend nets one day. It was frustrating work because he did not have his father’s patience. The grasses used to weave nets were not strong, and rarely long. Another tear in the net and he threw it down before him.
“Calm,” said his father, “it takes many gentle weaves to make a strong net.”
“This is no strength if we must fix it after almost every bird we catch!” Reve replied angrily.
“It is the best way to feed our families.”
But Reve’s frustration was overflowing like the hot lava from the volcano sometimes did. He stormed off to be alone.
Reve found himself wandering the shoreline, as he often did. The sound of the ocean soothed him and he cursed his lack of patience for probably the hundredth time. Then something odd caught his eye.
Entangled in the rocks on the water’s edge was a rope. It was far different from anything they could weave with the grass here. He tested its strength and delighted in the fact that it didn’t even feel strained.
Reve untangled all of the rope from the rocks and got a fair length of it. “I must try it out,” he thought happily.
Working steadily, he wove it into a net. It was a bit tough at first, being much thicker than he was used to using, but he soon got the hang of it. The net was small, but seemed as though it might work. He went about setting a bird trap, with a nice pile of olivine in the center, and then hid nearby.
Though he lacked patience for net mending, he could certainly focus well on the hunt. When no birds arrived after a time, he slowly slid a bit of shell out of his pouch. The shell was nearly transparent, and could reflect a bit of light a fair distance.
Soon he was able to make the pile of olivine sparkle, and sure enough the seabirds took notice. Several arrived to inspect the jewels under the net. Reve released the net and managed to snag three! He rushed over quickly, but paused when he realized the birds could not break free from this strong net. He was delighted and took the birds, and new net, proudly home.
What response he was hoping for did not come, though his mother graciously took the birds. His father’s stubborn streak dimmed Reve’s mood.
“Wonderful net it may be but it is the only one! We cannot make these. You may outshine everyone in the hunt but one net will not feed us all!”
“But if we can get more…” Reve tried to interject.
“No! It is not possible. The people of Malai are senseless..”
“Malai?” Reve cut in, “Is that where the rope is from?”
“Of course. Those vain people are as bad as the seabirds, though. They use their greatest resource for frivolity! Clothes! Floating houses in the trees. Swings!!”
“Never you mind. They can’t understand the fine art of weaving nets to catch birds. They’d rather look pretty and scoop up the vermin on the ground to fill their bellies!”
“But if we could get more rope..” Reve tried again.
“It’s a useless cause, my boy. Now put it out of your mind. Your time is better spent helping me mend these nets.”
Reve could not put the rope out of his mind. He knew he must find a way to travel to Malai. But the people of Olivo were not the seafaring sort, and what few boats they had, had been stored away in a cave generations before. He sought them out but sadly most of the boats were beyond repair. They had never had the means of building boats here, these had come from the other islands.
Reve did understand the basics of how to sail. When he was quite young there was still one very old man who loved his boat. He had tried to interest the younger generations to it, but it had been a lost cause. Still, Reve remembered little bits. Certain that at least that one boat must still be intact, he searched on.
Finally, there it was. Hidden away in a dark corner sat the very same boat he remembered from his childhood. Reve gently tugged the boat out towards the light. He examined it carefully, running his hands along the smooth wood. It seemed to be in excellent shape, the old man had cared for it well, and the cave sheltered it.
It was a very simple boat and Reve found it’s single oar tucked inside. He recalled the old man’s strong arms propelling the boat, first on the right, then the left. Stroke after stroke caused them to glide through the water. It had thrilled Reve as a child, but his father had dismissed it as frivolity. Much better to spend his time learning to weave.
Reve huffed slightly and pushed the thought aside. He hauled the old boat down near the shore and left it for the night. He would need to pack a few things before leaving.
The little Reve had heard of the people of Malai was how much they loved to surround themselves with pretty things. So he packed quite a large bag of Olivine gems, hoping it was worthy of trade. He took this, along with food and water, down to the boat the next morning. The tide was moving out and the time was ideal. He pushed out to sea, full of confidence and excitement.
A short way out, though, and his boat was toppled by a wave. After the disgraceful dump into the water, he scrambled to retrieve his belongings. Then he managed to get a foothold on the seafloor and righted the boat.
Slightly unnerved, he hauled himself back into the boat. Now drenched, he steered the boat outwards again. He nearly capsized a few more times, but eventually got the hang of things. He pushed on towards the shore he could just make out in the distance.
As Reve got closer to Malai, he spotted another boat with two occupants. They appeared to have seen him as well and were heading his way. At first, he was nervous, but they approached with friendly smiles and curious faces. Both were female, one younger and one older.
“Hau stranger,” the older one greeted him.
“Hello, I am Reve of Olivo.”
The younger lady seemed delighted to hear him speak; though they had different accents, their language was the same. “I am Purl, and this is my mother Shena.”
The older woman, Shena, tilted her head and eyed him a bit seriously. “Olivo, is it… what for are you wandering out this far?”
The two boats bumped gently together, Reve was a bit off put by some odd scent which seemed to be coming from a large pile of shellfish they had in their boat. He wrinkled his nose slightly, “I ah… I have come to trade!”
Both women glanced at each other in surprise, “Trade?” Purl asked, “Trade for what?”
Reve grinned and held up his net made from the sea washed rope, “This!”
Purl reached over and took the net, examining it carefully, “Beautiful weaving, you did this?”
Reve nodded, then the older woman got a bit of snark, “We make plenty of that rope from the life-giving trees, but what have you of value to this?”
Reve picked up his pouch of tiny gems and opened it up for them to see. The sunlight caused the olivine to sparkle an almost glowing green. Both women were immediately enthralled with this glorious stash. They invited him ashore to work out a trade.
On the island, Reve was immediately overwhelmed with how different everything looked compared to his home. Here, there was a sandy beach leading up immediately into trees. Houses seemed perched precariously in between stands of the palm. Bridges of rope led up to houses, between them, and off into the unknown.
Shena sat him down on a plank of wood that was hung from the tree above. The seat moved underneath him, “Woah,” he exclaimed as he wobbled a bit.
Purl sat down with a pile of the shells they’d had in their boat and began picking them apart. Shena came up close to Reve and studied him, “It is a swing, you will get used to it.”
The old lady very gently touched an armband Reve wore, it was set with three small olivine gems. “Beautiful work,” Shena nodded, “Your people are quite skilled.”
“Yours as well,” Reve said, gesturing around at all of the village set above him.
Shena smiled warmly, “We can provide you with a great amount of rope for your glittering jewels.”
“These as well,” Purl piped in, as she handed him a small, round, white stone of sorts.
Reve held up the tiny pebble, “What is this?”
Purl giggled, “It is a Pearl, we collect them from the shelled creatures around the island.”
Reve glanced down, and sure enough, several of the shells had been pried open and a small pile of pearls sad in a bowl beside her. “What do you do with them?” Reve asked curiously.
“Ahh,” Shena breathed lightly, “They are decoration for all manner of things.” She gestured to the hem of her dress, and there Reve saw many pearls all sewn into bottom that he had not noticed before.”
Reve was impressed, but not really sure they would be of any use. Regardless, he traded his bag of olivine for a few pearls and more rope than he had expected. It took him two trips to haul it all back to his boat.
By the time he finished, the sun had begun to set, so Shena and Purl escorted him to a common building high up in the trees. The slight swaying was disconcerting to him, but eventually he settled in and shared a meal with them. The tree fruits were sweet, though a few of the other plants he found bitter. One plant, he was amazed to find, was one he was familiar with and they ate it in much the same way. When they presented him with insects, though they were dead and fried up, he was unsure. He tried a few to be polite, but found that the odd taste combined with the still swaying building made him queasy.
Other people of the village passed through as they ate, and though a fair amount were curious about him, several viewed him with suspicion. Reve turned to Purl, “Why are a few people looking at me that way.”
“They heard you are from Olivo.They wonder if you are dangerous.”
“Dangerous? Of course not, why would I be?”
Shena interjected, “Because you are from the land of fire, which often spews great clouds of smoke, raining ash onto our villages.”
“Why would that matter?” Reve asked, a little agitated.
Purl lightly smacked her mother’s knee, “Stop it. I’m sure Olivo is a … nice place.”
Reve chuckled, “Not as nice as this, I think. Very different in any case, but it is home.”
“Isn’t it unsafe?” Purl asked with concern in her eyes.
Reve shrugged a bit, “Perhaps, sometimes. Olivo is large though, when the volcano erupts we just move our villages to a new place.”
“Sounds like too much work for me,” Shena replied with a slight huff.
They continued to talk for some time, but Shena eventually excused herself to get some rest. Purl and Reve stayed up far later until Reve began to feel chilled. “Is it always this cold at night here,” he muttered.
Purl nodded, “Is it different there, on Olivo?”
“Much warmer, we heat our homes with fires if it gets chilly.” Purl’s eyes widened at the mention of fires, and Reve added, “I suppose it would be dangerous here, with all of the dried wood and rope.”
They shared a chuckle then, and Purl led him to their home and set him up with plenty of blankets in a side room where he could sleep. The previously nauseating sway of the treehouses became decidedly more comforting as he laid down, drowsy from his long day.
The next day Reve headed towards his boat on the shore to head back home. Purl was sad to have him go, “Come back whenever you have more need of rope. We’ll be glad to see you.”
Shena gave a slight teasing “Hmph.” To which Purl replied, “Well I will be!”
Reve grinned and, after thanking them for their hospitality, set off in his boat. This time he was much more confident in launching the craft into the waves. The thrill of the visit swirled in his mind as he rowed, making the trip seem so much shorter than the previous day.
The shore of Olivo was quiet, as expected. Reve hauled the small boat back to the cave and pulled out some of the rope, and the small pouch of pearls. He trekked back towards his village, the massive volcano watching silently.
When his mother spotted him coming, she rushed out to see him. “Reve! You are safe! Where have you been?”
Reve gave his mother an awkward hug with the load of ropes he was hauling. “Of course, I’m fine. I just went out for a boat ride.”
“A what?” His mother asked in shock.
“Boat ride, you know… out on the water.”
“Why ever would you do a crazy thing like that?”
“For this!” Reve held up a bit of the rope, so obviously taking up almost all of his arms.
His mother studied the rope briefly, “But where did that come from?”
“Malai, of course,” Reve replied cheekily.
His mother’s mouth hung open for a moment before she regained her composure, “Malai.. You went all the way to Malai?”
Reve grinned, his mother sighed then ushered him inside to set down his heavy load. “Your father went out looking for you this morning, you know. We were worried when you did not return home last night. Did you really go all the way out to Malai?”
“I did, mother, and it was amazing! Did you know that they live in the trees?”
His mother frowned a little, “I have heard things like that. Seems strange.”
“Yes, but now we can use this rope to make more strong nets! Isn’t that wonderful?”
A small smile crept onto his mother’s face, “Of course it is, you did so well with your small net the other day.”
“Oh also,” Reve reached into the small pouch and handed his mother three shining pearls, “I have these.”
“What are these for?”
“They are pearls. I’m not sure what to do with them. The people of Malai decorate with them.”
His mother shrugged a little, and placed them in a small bowl, “I’m not sure we need decorations, but they are pretty little things. Perhaps we can find some use.”
They continued to talk for quite some time before his father and an uncle returned that afternoon. Unfortunately his father seemed less than impressed by the rope; but Reve’s uncle, who had been out searching for Reve as well, was quite amazed. He tested the strength of the rope, and wove it into a fine net quickly. “How extraordinary,” his uncle marvelled, “I can’t wait to try this out tomorrow!”
His uncle left for the evening, and after a small supper they all settled into bed for the night. For the first time ever, Reve was very aware of just how quiet it was here. No leaves rustling, rope creaking, nor insects chirping and buzzing. It felt a lot more lonely now.
Over the next few days, many villagers grew excited about the new rope nets. Pretty soon they had used up every bit of rope that Reve had acquired. The nets were strong, and they didn’t have to spend as much time repairing them as before. Everyone came home with many birds, and a decidedly more relaxed atmosphere began to take over.
After a week, Reve decided to return to Malai to trade once more. His uncle accompanied him and their arrival was met with more interest this time, as it seemed the others had discovered the olivine gems and found them quite appealing.
Reve’s uncle set about trading and Reve wandered off with Purl to chat. He noticed she had sewn a line of the olivine into her dress. “How did you get it to stay on?” Reve asked very curiously.
“We make them into beads, by putting tiny holes through. I was used to working with pearls and shells, so it took only a small a bit of time to figure out how to do it. Do you like it?”
“It’s beautiful,” Reve replied, but he realized he was looking right into her eyes as he responded. Her eyes glittered a little and he turned sheepishly away. They continued to walk for some time, sharing a few small tree fruits as they came across them. Finally they wandered back towards the beach, where Reve’s uncle had filled up the boat with the rope and a few rolls of a finer thread.
When his uncle spied them coming towards him he chuckled, “Come on love bird, time to head back.”
“What?” Reve replied in embarrassment, “I’m not…” but Purl turned with a small giggle and skipped back towards her house, calling back lightly, “Come back soon, ok?”
Reve felt confused, but his uncle just slapped his shoulder, and pushed the boat off towards the water. Reve scrambled to get inside.
Soon enough a regular trade day was set each week. A few others from Olivo travelled over to see Malai and trade different things. On the fourth trip, something bizarre occurred. Reve arrived at Malai with three others, in two boats. Once they stepped off the boat, the three with Reve gave a small salute to Shena. Shena narrowed her eyes a bit, “What are they doing?” she asked of Reve.
Reve seemed just as baffled, normally they directed this gesture at the village chiefs. He turned to his companions, “She’s not the chief, they don’t even have chiefs as we do.”
One of the men seemed startled, “But she has bands,” he pointed to her arm.
Reve looked and realized what was going on, “Shena, you wear bands on your arm?”
“Well yes, as do you. We like them, they are beautiful.” She pointed around her to a few others who were wearing bands of varying styles.
“Oh,” Reve said, a bit astonished, “but Shena, we do not wear these to be … pretty. Our bands show our rank in the village.”
Shena wrinkled her brow, “Odd way of doing things.”
Reve was a bit embarrassed and off put for a moment. He wasn’t sure what to say, luckily Purl piped up, “We didn’t realize they meant something to you.”
“Yes. I don’t mind you wearing them, but it is a bit confusing for us.”
Purl seemed to understand, “Mom, maybe we should just stick with our bracelets and necklaces. We don’t want to be rude to our new trade friends.”
Shena seemed to consider for a moment, then resigned with a sigh. “You are right, child. I just thought they were nice.”
Reve smiled, he had grown a bit of affection for the old lady. “Maybe we can make you different armbands. You could even make your own system of bands for the village.”
Shena laughed loudly, causing Reve to jump, “Bit complicated for my tastes young man.”
The tension eased up and everyone returned to their normal trades and talks.
Purl and Reve crept off once again for a walk. They wandered under the houses in the trees. Purl sat on a swing and began gliding back and forth slowly. Reve took a deep breath, the air smelled so much different from his home, “Ahh, I do miss that scent now when I’m back on Olivo.”
“Is it really that different?” Purl inquired.
“Very much so. The smell, the sound.. Or lack of sound anyway. It’s so nice here.”
“You could stay you know.”
Reve’s eyes widened a bit as he glanced at Purl. She was watching him carefully. “Stay here?”
“Of course,” Purl smiled, “You’re more than welcome here, my mother loves seeing you, and I… well I do as well. I’m always waiting for trade day to come again.”
Purl’s cheeks reddened a little, and Reve realized he had been holding his breath. He breathed out slowly, “I could stay with you?”
“If that is what you want…” Purl trailed off.
“I would love that,” Reve took up both of her hands in his and smiled at her.
After some discussion, Purl and Reve decided that she should go with him to Olivo to meet his family. Purl had to admit to herself that she was also very curious about his island, having heard so much from him. So she took her boat and returned across the sea with him that afternoon.
The first thing that struck her was how rocky the shore was. Reve had to help her haul her boat out of the water to avoid scraping it up on the sharp stones. She was unsteady on her feet, so Reve took her hand and helped her across. Away from the shoreline, the ground became smoother with more dirt and a few scraggly plants. The volcano seemed to loom above them.
Once they reached the village, Purl marveled at the rock houses with thatched roofs. Reve’s parents were at the door and greeted her with only a little bit of surprise. His father smiled, “So this is the fine young lady your uncle spoke of.” Reve blushed but Purl just grinned as they all introduced themselves.
Dinner was soon set and they carried on their conversations at the table. Purl looked at the cooked bird curiously. It had some sort of crushed nut coating on top. She tasted it tentatively, and Reve smiled at her, “Now you know just how I felt eating those insects for the first time.” They all shared a bit of a laugh.
As the night moved in, they set the fire crackling in the hearth. At first it made Purl nervous to see such flames inside. Reve gave her a small hug with one arm, “It is safe, you know.”
“I know. I’ve seen plenty of small fires on the ground for cooking, but this is so different.”
Soon the warmth from the fire made Purl sleepy, so they all retired for the night. Despite the cozy air all around, she had trouble sleeping at first. As the fire died down and it’s crackling subsided, the whole village grew eerily quiet. After a while, she could only hear the distant crashing of the waves on the shore.
The morning was quite different. People began milling about early and the sea birds took up a noisy racket. Reve was just considering taking Purl on a tour of the town when his father stepped in. “I would enjoy showing our guest around this morning, Reve, your mother needs a little help from you in the kitchen.”
Reve sighed, but headed for the kitchen as Purl and his father stepped outside.
“Oh good, about time you got up,” his mother waved him in.
“I was hoping to go out this morning, what do you need from me? Perhaps I can catch up to Purl soon.”
“Don’t be in such a rush dear, take this.” his mother handed him a small bowl.
He sat down with the bowl, and then realized it contained the pearls and a small arm band. “What’s this for?”
“I finally decided what you should do with those pearls of yours.”
“Set them in this?” Reve asked, confused.
“Of course, your lovely girl needs something nice for her arm.”
“But mom…” he paused, then felt a bit of a flurry in his stomach as he realized her intention. He looked up at her quickly, but she was just beaming.
“Well clearly you like this girl, you’ve been jumping up so fast every trade morning to get out there. She must be something special to make a lazy boy like you to get up so early.”
Reve’s face was a bit red again and his heart felt fluttery. He could hardly form any words at all, “You think I should…”
“Naturally dear, make her a band for betrothal. She likes you too, yes?”
Reve smiled, “Yes we… well we talked about me moving out there to stay with her.”
His mother put a hand on his arm, “Then you should go. Just be sure to come back and see me often, wouldn’t want you spending all of your time away from home.”
Reve worked well into the afternoon, setting the three pearls into the arm band. Normally it would contain three Olivine gems, but the symbol remained the same. His father did a glorious job keeping Purl out in the village, meeting everyone and learning about the ways of Olivo. When they finally did return, Purl seemed quite bright and cheery.
“Your uncle taught me how to weave a net, and I caught my own bird!” Purl exclaimed excitedly.
“Then she insisted on letting it go again,” Reve’s father chuckled.
Purl blushed, “Well I felt a little bad for it.”
Reve laughed, “That’s all right. We’ll head back to Malai tomorrow and you’ll not have to eat another sea bird for a while.” He gave her a wink.
“Oh, you’re going to be okay with that, aren’t you?” Purl turned, addressing his mother.
“Of course, sweetheart, don’t you worry about that. He really seems to enjoy it there, as well as enjoys your company.”
“Go live in your fancy trees,” Reve’s father joked, a rare thing from him.
Reve felt enormously happy, “Purl, if you don’t mind walking again for a bit, there is one more thing I’d like to show you today.”
“I would love to see more, it’s so interesting here.”
They left the house and headed toward the shore away from the boats. After a little while they encountered an old lava flow. It’s surface was smoother than most of what Purl had seen, and it glittered with every imaginable color in the evening sun. Reve led her out towards the water to the end of a small cliff, where the lava flow dropped down into the sea. Some ways farther up the shore, a light plume of smoke could be seen. He pointed out that way, and as Purl stepped to the cliff’s edge, she spotted a small fountain-like flow of red lava crashing down into the water below.
The sight took her breath away, she had seen a few eruptions from afar, but they never got to see much more than smoke from Malai. “Does it always do that?”
“Not always, and sometimes in other places, but this is where the island is currently being built. We consider it a sacred place, the volcano builds new land and once it is complete, new life will begin to grow here. Perhaps even our descendants will build a village here in the future.”
“That’s amazing. I had no idea that is what it did.”
“It happened on your island once too, but the mother volcano one day moved out to sea and began a new island, Olivo.”
“It is beautiful.”
“As are you,” Reve replied. Purl blushed. He continued, “About creating new things, I made something for you.” He pulled out the arm band and showed it to her. “As you know, our armbands signify your place within the village. This is a special one, meaning you have found another villager to commit to.”
“To marry?” Purl asked, breathless.
“Yes, if you will accept it. If you would..” Reve swallowed nervously, “marry me?”
Purl practically jumped on Reve as she gave him a huge hug, “Of course I would, Reve, I love you.”
Reve hugged her back in relief, “I love you too.”
After a few moments they pulled apart, and Reve gently fixed the armband on Purl. He admired it on her for a moment, then grinned, saying, “Now I’ll have to upgrade my armband as well.”
Purl smiled, “Will we match?” Reve seemed to consider it for a moment, “You’ll have to fetch me more pearls.”
“Gladly.” Purl replied, and they walked back towards the village, hand in hand.
End of part 1