The Three Islands (part 2)
On the Island of Malai, Reve and Purl had lived happily together for three years. They had a brand new baby girl, named Olivia, who was just half a year old. His parents had traveled from Olivo a few times to greet their granddaughter and spend time with their family. However, Reve was impatient to bring his little girl to his home island. Finally, Purl relented, deciding that Olivia was old enough to join them on the boat.
Reve had woven a back sling to carry their baby; On this morning he attached the sling to Purl, so that he could do all of the hard rowing. Olivia beamed at her father as he tucked her gently onto Purl’s back. “Time for you to explore the vast ocean!”
Purl laughed lightly as they climbed into the boat. “Just a piece of the ocean.”
As they rowed across the gently rolling waves, Olivia fell fast asleep. “I suppose the rocking reminds her of her swing at home.” Reve suggested, glancing over Purl’s shoulder to see their child.
The trip across was quick and easy, Reve had long since gotten used to rowing the distance. Arriving on Olivo’s rocky shores, he hauled the boat out of the water and left it sitting amongst the myriad of other boats that had been built in the last few years. The short walk up to the village reminded him of all the years before he met Purl. They weren’t bad years, but by now Malai felt so much more like home.
His parents greeted them happily, his father showing off a neat rope swing he had woven just for Olivia. Purl was delighted; having previously been unsure how well Olivia might sleep without the gentle rocking motion she had known since before she was born. Reve and Purl left their daughter with her grandparents, to take a much needed break and stroll about the island.
As they approached the smoother lava fields, where Reve had asked Purl to marry him, they both noted the lack of smoke along the shore. “My father mentioned that the flow of lava into the sea had stopped.”
“That’s sad, I had hoped to see it again.”
Reve looked a tiny bit troubled, “The last time the flow stopped for this long was before the eruption that caused this lava field.”
“You don’t think it’s going to erupt again, do you?” Purl looked far more concerned with the thought.
Reve shrugged, “It always erupts again someday. We just watch the volcano and wait.”
“What will happen if it destroys your village?” Purl shuddered, “Is it safe to leave Olivia there? Should we go back?”
“Relax,” Reve replied, putting his hands to her shoulders, “The last time it erupted I was four years old, and we were all quite safe from it. My people know just what to do, we know the signs, and we can move easily enough.”
“I suppose…” Purl trailed off, deep in thought.
Reve laughed suddenly, startling Purl out of her thoughts, “I remember when the eruption happened. You notice how close this flow is to our village? We had packed up our belongings and moved farther down the beach, just in case. I don’t really remember a lot besides camping out, with our campfires being outshone by the glow of the lava.”
Purl noticed he was smiling at the thought. Perhaps an eruption wasn’t quite as frightening as she worried. She turned and looked out to where the smoke plume used to be. “What is that?” Purl asked, when she noticed a dark smudge on the horizon.
Reve glanced out to sea, “That is Dorai.”
Purl looked at him, confused, “What is it?”
“You’ve never heard of the Island of Dorai?”
Purl shook her head, “I don’t think so.”
Reve was surprised at this, “Well… it is the third and largest island in the sea. Despite how old it is, the people that live there aren’t quite as advanced. Or so I’ve been told. They live in caves and fish for their food. I don’t know much more beyond that.”
“So you’ve never met them either?”
“No. I’d never met anyone outside of Olivo until you. I don’t think anyone has gone over to that island in a long time. We didn’t even use boats for a couple generations, besides a few people. for fun.”
Purl was very focused on that distant island as she wondered aloud, “Do you think we should?”
Reve glanced at her sharply, “Should what? Go there?”
“Of course,” she turned back to him, “Don’t you think things have been better for both of our islands since we began to trade and talk to one another?”
Reve considered this. “I do.”
“Then why not find out who they are?”
Reve let out a long breath, “Well, I suppose we could try… but don’t you think that’s best left to others? We have Olivia to care for.”
Purl gave him a teasing smile, “Wouldn’t you like a break? To go out and explore? I’m sure your parents would be more than happy to keep Olivia for a day or two.”
Her teasing spirit made Reve smile back at her, “As long as you’re not afraid of the island exploding while we’re gone.”
Purl laughed, “You seek to sway my opinion, it will not work. You, yourself, told me it was safe. I trust you.” A small hint of seriousness had crept into her tone, and Reve knew she very much trusted him. The thought of reliving the excitement he had had on first reaching Malai, and all the wonderful new foods and sights he was able to experience, tempted him.
Reve studied the bumpy little rock in the distance, “Nothing to lose on it, I suppose.”
“Great!” Purl exclaimed, then she turned and skipped excitedly back towards the village. Reve grinned and followed her home.
When they returned to the house, however, Reve’s mother was trying unsuccessfully to calm a wailing Olivia. “She’s been like this since you left,” his mother told them, “nothing seems to help.”
Reve took Olivia and set her in the swing, slowly rocking her back and forth. After a few moments, she finally calmed down. Reve’s father looked down at the tiny girl, “Well if only that worked earlier… unfortunately it did not.”
The remainder of the evening was relaxed, Reve and Purl explained their plans to travel the following morning, and all seemed well. When morning did arrive, they packed their things and started to head out, only to be drawn back quickly as Olivia started wailing. Nothing outwardly appeared to be wrong, but she would not settle without them. Finally Purl gave out a sigh, “I suppose we’ll just have to take her along with us.”
Reve gave Purl a concerned glance, “We don’t know what’s out there.”
“And whatever it is we will deal with, as a family.”
Reve relented and the three headed off to their boat.
The ocean was rougher on the Dorai side, but not enough to worry Reve. Olivia settled happily into her back carrier, and eventually fell asleep to the rocking motion of the boat. Purl watched the far shore as it slowly came into better focus.
Malai was a fairly flat island, with just a gentle curving slope up to the highest point. Olivo was also fairly flat, save for the gigantic volcano in it’s center, whose sides tilted up sharply. Dorai seemed a confusing place from afar, with hills and cliffs covering its surface. Purl was pleased to see that it, at least, did have trees.
As they approached the shores, Reve wasn’t entirely sure where to pull the boat in; jagged cliffs seemed to jut out from all over. Finally they rounded one cliff edge and spied a small cove. The rocks here were smoother, and surprisingly there was a wooden walkway with many boats attached along it. They had known the people here survived by fishing, but they hadn’t expected the variety and complexity of the boats they encountered.
As their boat bumped gently into the dock, a pair of teenagers caught sight of them. Reve waved, but the two turned quickly away and ran for a nearby cliff. “Odd,” Reve remarked, but Purl seemed entirely calm. She clambered up onto the wooden planks and helped Reve tie up their boat. Then the two set about removing the few bags of tradable goods they had brought.
When everything was unloaded, Reve joined Purl on the dock and then noticed a small group approaching them. They both turned to face the strangers, showing themselves in as friendly a manner as they could, and waited.
Soon it was obvious that all three who approached were older ladies, and though they seemed quite cautious, they didn’t appear to be bothered by their strange visitors. They each had long dark hair, braided, with an array of brightly colored feathers tucked in all over. Two were dressed in plain clothes, but the third had a few feathers stitched onto the bosom of her dress.
It was this third, more decorated, lady who addressed them first, “Strangers, we greet you.”
Reve nodded his head, “Hello, people of Dorai.”
The ladies’ faces all settled into serious expressions, as the presumed leader of the three continued, “I am Brida, and my sisters here are Tomi and Glora. Why have you come to this place?”
“Brida, I am Reve and this is my wife Purl,” Reve replied, gesturing to Purl, “We come to trade, if you wish to.”
“There has been no trade in many generations,” she fixed him with slightly suspicious eyes.
As Reve struggled with words to form a reply, Olivia’s crying broke the heavy mood. He jumped, then quickly removed Olivia from the back sling, bouncing her gently to try to settle her. When he glanced back up, Brida and her sisters’ expressions had changed entirely.
“Oh darling babe,” Brida cooed.
Purl hesitated slightly, then took Olivia from Reve’s arms and carried her slowly over to the three older ladies. “This is Olivia,” she introduced her child.
All three women cooed over her precious form, and eventually Purl handed her child over to their loving attention. Olivia settled down into a happy mood at once, clearly enjoying herself. Purl glanced at Reve, who just shrugged.
Tomi was the first to return her attention to Purl and Reve, “It is so pleasing that your island is not as plagued as we.”
“Plagued?” Purl asked in concern.
“We have not seen a baby in many years.” Tomi responded.
Reve glanced around, “When we arrived we saw two children.”
“Yes,” Tomi nodded, “and there have been none born since them. All across our island, no children at all.”
Brida looked up at Purl, “We feared our end was here. Tell us, are there other children?”
Purl was dumbstruck, “Yes, all over Malai and Olivo, there are children as always.”
“Bless,” Brida replied, quietly.
“Why are there no children here?” Reve wondered aloud.
“That I could not say,” Brida answered sadly. “We have tried to find out for more than ten years now. There are more families here without children than with, even adult children.”
Brida gently handed Olivia back to Purl then led them towards her home – a cave set deep into a cliffside. The main tunnel was large and long, with fires burning every so often for light and warmth. Off to either side, they could see smaller rooms cut into the stone. Brida led Purl and Reve to one of these rooms, while her sisters retreated further in.
The room had a small stone table in the center, and a few woven grass mats around it. Brida gestured for them to sit. Reve and Purl spent a bit of time discussing their respective islands, and how they had come to start trading between them.
“We had hoped,” Reve explained, “That we might meet you and perhaps trade with your people as well, if you would like to.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the return of Brida’s sisters carrying in a few clay dishes of food. Neither Reve nor Purl had seen anything quite like this before. One had some small dried fish, another had some longer strips of cooked fish, and the third had some bizarre looking creatures Reve couldn’t quite define. Tomi explained they were crabs, and demonstrated how to eat them. Reve didn’t find it terribly appealing, but Purl decided the crabs were quite delightful.
After they ate, and the conversation changed away from their meal, Brida returned to the topic of trading. “What is it that you have brought to show us?”
Reve pulled out the bags he had carried over from the boat. “These,” he said, producing the smallest bag, “are olivine gems, found all over the island of Olivo. We have also brought some various ropes, a little bit of jewelry, and some dried fruit and nuts.”
“Fruit and nuts?” Brida inquired.
Purl opened the bag containing the food from her island, and showed them. “Both of these come from Malai. We eat them as well as insects.”
All three women tried some of the dried fruit. Glora picked up a nut, “This is something I have seen, the brilliant birds of our island quite enjoy eating them.”
Tomi studied a nut as well, “I did not know one could eat these, they only grow in one area of the island. There’s not many, fewer in more recent times I think.”
Brida nodded her agreement, “Yes, the trees have been disappearing for some time now. Our birds have been diminished as well. We collect their feathers to make lures for fishing, but with fewer birds there are fewer feathers.”
“Do you eat the birds?” Reve asked, thinking of their own sea birds.
A great look of distaste crossed the ladies faces, “Mercy no,” Brida replied, “They are sacred to us. They allow us to use their brilliant feathers and we would never harm them.”
Purl’s expression brightened, “We could trade you a great deal of these nuts, the trees grow all over our island. We could not even begin to eat all of the nuts they produce. I wonder why your birds have not flown over to Malai.”
Tomi seemed amused, “They do not fly. They climb to get up into the cliffs, and often glide back down. But fly, they cannot.”
Reve had been thinking in the meantime, “You said fewer lures could be made. I could bring you feathers from our seabirds. They are not nearly as brightly colored, so I do not know if they could help.”
Brida considered this. “It would be wise to try. Currently we can barely feed all of our people.”
Purl looked distressed and replied, “You did not have to feed us then! We are well, and we brought food along…”
Brida raised a hand to quiet the protest, “It is customary, we feed everyone. No matter how little or how much we have. Any other way is destruction for all.”
“Well let us at least return the favor, we can bring you feathers and food. Perhaps you can even feed the nuts to your birds to help them.” Purl insisted.
“But what could we provide you in return?” Tomi asked.
“No need for anything,” Reve insisted, “We can figure out trade later, if you would like. We wish to help you first though.” They packed up and headed home without delay, Purl’s heart breaking as she thought how it would be if her daughter and family had to go hungry.
It took two full days to gather up everything they wished to take back to Dorai, and they recruited the help of others to get it all across the water. Their return to Dorai was met with much relief and anticipation.
Over the next few weeks, many changes began to occur. The sea bird feather lures worked to bring in more fish, and one particularly creative teenager of Dorai found that adding olivine gems to the lures helped even more. Fish became plentiful once more.
The nuts from Malai were scattered about beneath the brilliant birds’ nesting cliffs, and within very little time one could see numerous nests full of eggs covering the cliff face. A few of the birds even started hanging out around the people’s cave home, searching for extra nuts.
On one trip over, Purl brought a small tapestry as a gift for Brida. Brida was so impressed by the beautiful work that she gave Purl a whole satchel of the brilliant feathers.
One evening, Purl, Reve, Brida and Olivia sat near the dock discussing future trades. Brida was holding Olivia up so her tiny legs could work at trying to walk. The gentle mood was interrupted by a sudden loud rumbling, and the ground beneath them began to vibrate.
Reve shot upright instantly, turning immediately toward Olivo, “The volcano,” he gasped.
Though the sky was darkening with night approaching, he could easily make out a cloud of smoke rising from the top of the volcano. As of yet, there was no glow of lava, but he knew that would be coming soon. “I have to get home immediately,” Reve announced, voice quavering a little.
“Reve it’s nearly dark,” Purl protested, her eyes were now fixed on the volcano as well.
“If they have to move the village, there is no time to wait for morning. I have to go, you should stay here and be safe.”
“I will not let you go without me,” Purl demanded.
“But Olivia..” Reve began.
“Is perfectly safe with Brida.” Purl left no room for argument.
“Of course,” Brida confirmed immediately, “I will keep her well.”
Reve only slightly hesitated before nodding to Brida, “Thank you, we have to go now Purl.” he turned and dashed for the boats, Purl paused to give Olivia a kiss and Brida a hug.
“Stay safe, child.” Brida whispered in her ear.
Purl nodded, then turned and ran after her husband.
Darkness settled in as Reve began to row towards Olivo, but the dark blotch of smoke had blotted out the stars, making it easy to navigate towards the volcano. However, as more rumbling emitted from deep below the island, the waves began to get choppy.
After getting splashed a bit with one particularly big wave, Purl gasped “I am glad we did not bring Olivia out into this mess.”
Reve tried to grunt an acknowledgement, but the sound was largely lost to the crashing waves as they neared the shore.
They rapidly hauled the boat ashore and rushed towards the village. Fires had been lit all around, lighting up their path and showing the crowd of people who had gathered. The chief was already sending out orders as they joined the group.
The first priority was packing up communally owned tools, books, and relics. The nets of strong rope made this a much easier task than it had been in the past. Next, each family returned to their own homes to pack up what they could and move it out into the center of the village while they awaited the chiefs orders. As soon as everyone had gathered, almost as if by design, the volcano gave a loud crack and lava began to spill down one side.
The chief glanced for only a moment before giving a calm nod to those gathered, “It erupts the same way as before. We will move out towards our old campsite on the western shore.”
As they started to move specific loads, a group of three dozen Malai villagers appeared. “We’ve come to help move the village. We can pack things into our boats and take them wherever you need.”
After a brief introduction to the chief, they were put straight to work. Their boats, as well as the few boats belonging to Olivo, were soon packed up. The rest of the villagers moved along land, carrying their belongings.
By daybreak, all of the people of Olivo, and those who had come from Malai, were settled into the western camp. It hadn’t been used in a couple decades, but it had been maintained well.
Late into the morning the rumbling of the volcano continued, jarring Reve as he scrambled up a small hill. At the top sat their chief, watching the volcano. From there Reve could see the lava had covered much of the youngest field once more.
“Has it reached the village?” he asked, although he could just make it out for himself, despite the haze of ash that drifted down.
“No,” replied the chief, “but it is far from done.”
Reve nodded. He remembered spending several weeks at this camp as a child while they waited for that previous eruption to settle. He sat down quietly with the chief to observe the volcano.
After a short time, the rumbling began to pick up in intensity, and Reve became uncomfortable. “Do you think..” he was interrupted by an ear-splitting explosion.
The other side to the volcano’s peak shattered, sending huge rocks far out to sea. For a few moments, Reve couldn’t hear a thing and he could hardly see either. The chief grabbed his hand and pulled him down towards the camp.
Despite his ringing ears and the new cloud of ash filling the air, Reve noticed that new figures had arrived at the camp. There stood Brida and many of her fellows from Dorai. Purl stood beside her, clutching one of Brida’s arms.
The chief and Brida acknowledged one another and huddled into a quick conversation. Reve’s ears were beginning to recover, “must… quickly now.. Can’t stay…”
Brida eyed the volcano with worry and caused Reve to glance up. Through the falling ash he could very plainly see a glow coming down the other side of the volcano. This one seemed much closer to their position and it immediately caused Reve concern.
It seemed the two chiefs had come to a decision. Brida immediately ordered her people to assist in packing all of the belongings down to the boats. All of the boats from the three islands were loaded with people and the most important of Olivo’s most valuable artifacts. Brida had, of course, immediately offered them refuge on Dorai, where the caves helped protect from ashfall and rocks falling from the sky. A messenger was even sent out to Malai to offer them a place, if they felt unsafe.
Not everything could be packed in, even with boats from all three islands, but a great deal of it was and they set off quickly for Dorai. Only a few stayed back on Olivo, in case they needed to move the remaining effects.
The ash was thick, forcing everyone to press wet cloths to their faces. Reve was unsure how they managed to navigate through such blindness, until one man from Dorai briefly explained that their generations of fisherman had learned to read the water. Often times fog settled around Dorai during prime fishing times and they had to rely upon the waters and what little light from the sun they could see, in order to navigate.
Once they reached Dorai, everyone was moved quickly into the caves with their belongings. A few boats then returned to Olivo for the remaining few people and things.
Glora arrived to greet the guests and get them situated. She directed Purl and Reve towards Tomi’s chambers, where Olivia was being kept safely. Despite the general ruckus, and the slight shaking that never seemed to entirely stop, Olivia seemed quite content. Tomi asked, “What of the people, are they safe?”
“Yes,” Reve acknowledged, “Thanks to your extra boats we were able to move everyone out quickly. Good thing too, it seems like the volcano is bent on covering most of the island in fresh lava.”
Tomi shook her head, “I will never understand how you do it, living in such an inhospitable place. But I do know home is home, and people have different reasons for loving their home.”
Reve smiled, “Malai is more home to me now,” and then a troubled look settled on his face. “I do hope the messengers from Malai got back across the water safely.”
Purl shared his troubled look, “They are not as used to navigating blindly, we only ever went out in clear weather. But Malai is close to Olivo, so perhaps…”
Tomi reached out and patted Purl’s hand lightly, “We could send some of our fishermen to see how Malai fairs. They can find their way in this cloud of grey.”
Reve agreed, and so Tomi withdrew from the room and went about setting their idea into motion.
As a second night of eruptions fell, everyone slept fitfully.
Two more days passed by before any news returned from Malai. About half of the boats that had been sent out returned, all full of people from that far island. As it happened, Malai was under some intense ashfall which was making it very nearly impossible to do anything. Their airy tree houses were no help in keeping out the foul air. So a group of the particularly affected young children and mothers were sent to Dorai first, with the intention of evacuating everyone over the next few days.
The caves of Brida and her people were getting quite full, so they dispersed most of the people of Malai out to the other cave communities of Dorai; most of which had dwindled since being plagued by the lack of children.
Despite the ever-present ash, which was punctuated regularly with loud explosions, everyone began to have a rather pleasant time. Dorai residents were pleased with the sudden influx of children from the other islands. The visitors from Malai and Olivo were amazed to be safe and well cared for by their new friends.
Several weeks passed by and slowly the volcano began to settle once more. When the ash finally cleared from the skies, many people returned to Malai to start fixing up their homes. A fair amount of the Dorai people went along to assist, and bring them back if the volcano decided to rain down ash again.
Eventually a small party returned to Olivo to assess the damage. Reve was among them as they rowed silently towards home. The shore had expanded out into the ocean a long way, making it barely recognizable. Nearly all sides of the island were coated in fresh, still steaming, lava. Even their old village, and the western camp, had vanished. Luck did favor them, however, as they got to the northern edge of the island. Here, a good swathe of land remained untouched by the fury of the volcano.
Over the next few months, the residents of Olivo began to build a new village on the north shore. Slowly they trickled back to their home island, as the volcano seemed quite content to rest again.
There was a distinct shift in all three islands, as people merged into new families containing people from different places. People from Dorai who had gone to Malai to rebuild, often found it a lovely place to stay. A fair few people from both Malai and Olivo decided to remain in Dorai, where they felt much safer. And just a couple of adventurous sorts from Dorai decided to stay with their new friends on Olivo.
Once the new village on Olivo was nearing completion, Reve, Purl, and the now running and laughing Olivia, returned to Dorai to celebrate the first birth that island had seen in many years. It seemed that their plague was well and truly broken, as many more children were expected soon after.
From that point on, all three islands remained closely connected, though each retained their own culture. The people were free to move about between Dorai, Malai, and Olivo; wherever they felt the most at home.