silent stone sentinels
While Justin waited aboard the Maximum, Shades and Max gave Port Security a full report of what happened, and were told that they would investigate the matter from there. After seeing those gathered cheer for his two vigilante friends, Justin actually found himself feeling a little jealous; nobody ever did that in the Triangle State. All the same, he was relieved to see them return from the Security office without any hassle.
Then it was off to Kon Aru.
About the only thing that looked terribly modern on this island was the harbor itself, and even that looked older than the one ones on Kalona and Miribar. By now, the three of them noticed that while Kalona seemed about half-and-half, the farther along they went, the more it became increasingly Kona territory. To come here, they quickly learned, was to be immersed in an older era, one that had somehow survived where so many others had not.
Enjoy it while you can, it almost seemed to say, it’s one of the last refuges of the Island Paradise Dream.
After a brief stop at the inn to ask about John and Amy— though given that no one on Kalona or Miribar had seen of heard of them, Shades wasn’t really expecting any different info way out here, just being thorough— they sought directions to the trail he was looking for, and were directed to an old Kona man, sitting on a chair in the shade out front, mending a fishing net.
“Pardon me,” Shades introduced himself, “we’re travelers staying on Kalona Island, and we were wondering if you knew the way to a place Mr Corrick told me about, a certain Koha site.”
“Corrick?” The elder Kona looked up for the first time, taking them in. “Hnn… If Corrick told you about it, I see no harm.”
“Thank you,” Shades replied. After properly introducing themselves, the elder told him how to find the trail outside the village, then the conversation turned recent events, the old man commenting, “Looks like the Nimrod’s coming up whether the opposition in the Council wants it or not.”
“Sounds that way,” Shades replied. “Before we left, I heard they were close to finding it again, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they locate it by tomorrow.”
“No good can come of this…” the elder told him, “Just more trouble.”
“Yet perhaps it would be best to close this chapter of history…” Shades replied, wondering how an outsider like himself managed to get so involved in this debate anyway. “Then again, I suppose it’s none of my business.”
As his companions turned to walk away, the elder looked straight into Shades’ mirrorized lenses as he added, “A storm is coming… Keep one eye open.”
Shades turned to see his friends were already on their way, and didn’t seem to have heard any of that, and the old man had turned back to his work as if he had never spoken to them at all, and so he was left to catch up with them, scratching his head.
Instead of wandering the marketplace, as they had before, Shades led them out of the village, up into some highlands near the coast. All he mentioned was that there was something he wanted to see, something Corrick told him about. When they asked him, he just gave them that cryptic smile and told them that they would have to see this for themselves.
Since Shades wouldn’t tell them where they were going, instead Justin asked “So, Max, did you decide to take the job?” Recalling, as he did, that Max excused himself to go talk to Corrick yesterday afternoon.
“Yes,” Max answered. And Corrick had encouraged him to go out and see the Kona Islands for himself before deciding, but he had already made up his mind. These last couple evenings, swimming and playing down by the beach after a hard day’s work, held bittersweet memories of his childhood in Layosha, but in the company of his new friends, he was starting to think of them as new memories for a new life. “This place is pretty cool. Maybe we should stay here for a while.”
“You can’t be serious,” Justin replied. Though he had to admit that, in spite of all the work, his stay here so far was a pleasant reminder of his two carefree months on the Isle of Paradise.
“He does have a point, Max,” Shades conceded. Beaches were something new to him, but something he could definitely get used to. “If nothing else, there is the question of what to do when the money runs out.”
“Just how much gold is on that ship anyway?” Justin wondered aloud.
“Well, depending on just how much gold there turns out to be, where I come from, it could be worth…” Shades tried to put it in terms of his own world’s currency, coming up with, “Anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.”
“The money where I come from. Remember those bills I showed you from the ship?” He tried to arrive at an exchange rate, but based on the prices he had seen at their last couple destinations… all he could come up with was, “Anywhere from half a dollar to three or four bucks to a credit would be my guess.”
But that was the problem. They still had almost five thousand credits left, even after Justin’s little spending spree back on Miribar, but the economic disparities between realms made it difficult to tell just how far that money would really go.
It was a long trudge up a little-used trail, but at least the scenery made for a pleasant air for conversation, so it didn’t seem like such a long way to their next destination.
As they stood out on a low cliff overlooking the sea, at first Max wasn’t sure what he was looking at. From behind, they appeared to be oddly curved pillars of dark stone. Even as they walked around to view them from the other side, seeing their stark, jagged profiles, weathered by countless ages of sea wind, it still took him a moment to piece it together. Though for Shades it was a confirmation of sorts, and Justin a sight he never expected to see again.
Hands. Narrow, strangely proportioned, crudely stylized stone hands, raised palm forward. A good couple dozen of them, mostly intact, all facing the sea in staggered rows. Almost as if to ward off some unknown thing.
“What… are they?” Max finally managed. To him, the closest thing they looked like were the Ancestors’ sculptures back in Layosha, but the style was totally different.
“Tiki gods,” Shades grinned. “Actually, I’m not sure they really have a name, but the Kona call these monuments remnants of the Koha, the Old Ones, a people they believe lived here long before even they did. Back on Earth, there’s a place called Easter Island that’s got statues a lot like this. Only those ones are giant stone heads instead of hands. I’ve seen pictures of people standing next to them, but I still can’t believe how huge they are…”
“But what are they for?” Justin pressed.
“No one really knows, in either place,” he replied. He had borrowed a couple volumes from Corrick, and spent much of his downtime over the last couple days reading a book, written and published elsewhere by some explorer. Corrick had added some additional historical notes and factual corrections in the margins. Though this gave him another layer of knowledge to all he saw, there was still nothing like beholding it with his own eyes. “Not even Corrick could tell me much.”
Max seemed to agree, saying, “They must be really old…”
“Yeah,” Justin added. “You know, I remember hearing that there were big stone statues like this on Benton Island.” Of course, the island’s Director’s estate sat in their midst, surrounded by other estates and facilities, so he never got to see any of them in person. “They say that not even the oldest people there know who built them.” He shrugged. “Like they just always been there or somethin’.”
“That’s sort of like here,” Shades replied. “They say the Old Ones, whose original home sank into the sea, built them, but nobody knows what became of those people. Corrick told me that people still stumble upon objects, from time to time, that seem to hint at some long-lost civilization predating even the current natives.”
Ruins some said were jealously guarded by the ancestral spirits of those forgotten people. At first glance, this vista seemed well suited for a picnic, like the one they packed for this trip, but once Shades stood in the midst of these silent stone sentinels, the very air almost seemed to weigh down on them. He noticed that the others sensed it, too; as their conversation progressed their voices became increasingly subdued, as if to avoid waking these sleeping monolithic giants.
It appeared that even the miners, whose only interest in this place was gold, apparently also saw fit to let these ancient monuments stand untouched.
And so their repast was a quiet one in the shadow of the Koha’s legacy.