Here is 15th Contest entry #6:
Toma walked slowly through his village. Around him bright birds flew, and the fragrant scent of orchids filled the air. Yet he was sad, because he could hear babies crying, and the sobs of mothers unable to console them.
Hawaii was a blessed place, yet for reasons Toma could not understand, the people suffered. Women tried to honor Hina and Pele, but when their babies went hungry, sometimes their devotion turned to anger.
His wife Nola remained faithful, visiting the sacred places on the slopes of Mauna Loa every day. But every day he could see the sorrow growing in her eyes.
Toma walked along the creek that flowed near his village, down to his favorite place, an outcropping of sunlit rocks. There he could watch the waterfall that plunged into the ocean far below.
He sat near the edge of the cliff and watched the water flowing past his feet. Then, in a still pool, he noticed the reflection of a beautiful maiden. Gasping, he looked up and saw her standing nearby.
As a healer, Toma knew everyone in five villages around, and he had never seen this maiden before. Come and sit down, little sister, he told the maiden. Are you on this side of the island to attend our luau tomorrow? I did not know they had grown so famous. He thought that this maiden looked quite regal, as if she were actually much older than she appeared.
No, I did not come for your luau, she told him. I am Hina ki kai. I often stay in this stream, and I can see you when you sit on these rocks. I know how concerned you are about your people.
You are the goddess of water! Toma exclaimed. So you live right here, but I never saw you before.
I have told my mother and sisters about your plight, Hina ki kai continued. We do not want the people to be hungry any more. My sister Hina ki ahi says she will help you.
Toma began to tremble. Mostly it was from awe at meeting a goddess, but also it was because he was a man, and she had taken a very beautiful form.
I know that your mother Hina, the moon goddess, cares for all the people of Hawaii, Toma said. My wife goes to her sacred place every day. He did not mention that Nola also went to the volcano goddess Peles sacred place, higher on the mountain, because he knew that sometimes these goddesses became jealous.
Tomorrow, before the sun rises, go up Mauna Loa to my mothers sacred place, and Hina ki ahi will meet you there. Tell no one that I spoke with you.
I will be there, Toma vowed.
* * *
The next morning, Toma awoke when he heard the village roosters crowing. He hurried up the trail, chasing wild pigs off the steep path as he strode higher onto the jungle-covered mountain slopes.
When he reached Hinas sacred place, all was quiet. Even the birds were silent. He waited, watching the dawn sky lighten, anxious to learn what boon he might be able to give his village.
The sun rose, far out over the Pacific, and still there was no sound. Then another light began to shine, right against the face of the mountain, just a few steps in front of him.
Unlike the steady light of the sun, this light flickered, growing brighter and dimmer with every moment. Then the light gathered together, and became a young woman.
Toma could see her family resemblance to Hina ki kai, but surely this was Hina ki ahi, and she was even more beautiful. He fell to his knees. I am honored by your presence, goddess. Your sister told me to meet you here this morning. I hope you can do something for my hungry people.
I will. Hina ki ahi pointed to Mauna Loas summit, high above. My mother has decided that Pele has kept too much for herself alone. I am going to grant to a portion of Peles powers, small enough that a mortal like you will be able to master it. By using it, you will be able to feed your people well.
Toma was afraid he would be destroyed by this infusion of godly power, but as a healer he was a very brave man. He waited stoically for whatever happened next.
Hina ki ahi brought out a conch shell. Brushing back her long, black hair, she leaned down and blew into the shell. Toma watched in amazement as the shell itself glowed, throwing a red light upon the goddesss face. Then the shell began to smoke, as if a tiny volcano was contained within.
This is fire, Hina ki ahi said. She showed Toma how to build a ring of stones, and feed the flames with kindling and dry wood. She showed him how to bank the coals to keep the flame alive, or if needed, to spark a new flame using flint.
Then she showed him how to make fireproof pots, and to cook. This is the food we eat in our divine country, she explained.
Toma was amazed at how delicious cooked taro was, and how wild pigs could be turned into stomach-filling meat. The time passed slowly, so that when they were done, the sun had only climbed a little way into the sky.
* * *
At first the villagers doubted Toma. He did not tell them of his meeting with Hina ki ahi, only that a friendly stranger had shared the secrets of fire and cooking with him.
For some reason Nola avoided him, but Toma was so excited by his new knowledge that he gave it little thought.
In order to convince the villagers, Toma slaughtered a pig, and served it that night at the luau. The men were convinced, including several chieftains from the surrounding villages.
The next morning, they each demanded that their wives wake up quickly and prepare bacon for them. Within an hour, half the pigs in the villages had been slaughtered.
The women were resentful, but obeyed their husbands. They grumbled about the entire business of cooking, but later that day, a young wife named Pua discovered how to prepare a soft gruel her baby might eat. When she added some juice from a sugar cane, her baby gobbled it happily.
* * *
From the summit of Mauna Loa, Pele watched the villagers cooking. They were so busy feasting that no one came up the long trail to her sacred place.
Pele realized that Hina and her daughters must have given away the secret of fire. Pele summoned Hina ki ahi. I saw what you have done, the powerful goddess thundered. If your little people down there enjoy fire, I will give them some!
With that the entire mountain trembled, and red-hot rocks began to fly from the crater.
No! Hina ki ahi cried. Please leave the people alone. They do not deserve your wrath. It was all my fault.
Very well then, Pele said. Theyd better not neglect their devotions! And besides, they will bring enough trouble upon themselves. Pele vanished with a clap of thunder.
Oh, no, Hina ki ahi said to herself. What kind of trouble will the people get into now?
* * *
Pua showed the other women how to pound grain and vegetables, and stir them in a pot over a fire. You see, she explained, even a small baby, or an elder with no teeth, will be able to eat this porridge.
Nola tried to feed her baby. She spooned in a mouthful of hot porridge, and the baby began to cry loudly. Whats the matter? she said, and tried a bite. She screamed and spit it out. Thats so hot its like eating lava!
Maybe you have to let it cool off first, Pua said timidly, and all the women glared at her.
* * *
That night, Toma finally noticed how angry Nola was acting toward him. Whats the matter? he asked.
Do you think I didnt know? she said bitterly.
About what? he replied, genuinely puzzled.
About your girlfriend. I was on my way up to Hinas sacred place when I saw strange lights and smoke on the mountain. When I got near the clearing I saw you there, sitting with a saucy looking young wench.
Oh, no! Toma was shocked. I was afraid no one would believe me, so I told everyone that a mortal stranger gave me the secret of fire and cooking. That was Hina ki ahi you saw.
Truly? Nola asked. I wondered how an ordinary man like you could come up with something so unusual. Did you see that eruption this afternoon? Ill bet Pele is really angry with us now.
Toma hung his head in shame. There will be so much work for you women now. And our poor baby wont be able to eat properly for a week. I am so sorry.
They walked down to the creek, hand in hand.
Hina ki kai appeared, and tried to reassure them. Im sure you mortals will get it right someday.