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Another Dispatch from Savage Island

October 26, 2018

Chapter two from my new BREATH inspired novella, Savage Island is here. This story is like Indiana Jones meets Twilight with a little bit of Outlander thrown in for good measure and I so hope you’re going to enjoy it!

Breath_Kickstarter_paragraphheaders_WIP01-1_STORY_smallI elbow my way around a group of islanders, all bunched up together and gaping out at the water like they’re waiting for fireworks to start. The barge is closer now, lit up, a dozen or so lights marking its shape like a constellation of stars. The Big Shipper.

And there’s another boat. This one coming from the barge, illuminated by an unblinking eye of a light beaming from its stern. Bullying white, it even outshines the image of a full moon reflected on the surface of the bottomless, black water just past the coral reef.

Albert starts to thump his palms on his nafa – bum-bu-bum-bu-bum – and the hair stands up on my arms. He’s Mary’s son – the friendly woman from the post office. Long limbed, Albert’s built like he should be tall, though he’s a good bit shorter than me. Victoria, his sister, stands next to him all plump and pretty with a shock of curly black hair that hugs her skull like a bathing cap fixed with floppy rubber roses. She starts to sing Haku Motu. Out of tune.

“Welcome Max Vogel,” I say, mostly to myself. “I’m sure you’d much prefer Deutschland Über Alles.”

All around me there’s whispers mixed up in English and Niuean, which is how most of the people on this rock talk.

“You want a coldie, Will?” I hear mum say from behind me. Half the blokes on the island are named Will. “Swan Lager that came in from the last barge.” Leave it to her to bring refreshments.

Will, whoever he is, apparently does want one, and I hear the pop from the bottle cap as mum opens the beer.

“Fakaue,” says a soft voice more man than boy. It’s thanks in Niue. Glug, glug, glug, he must’ve drank up half the beer in three seconds flat.

Ooooo. It comes in unison from the folk around me as the boat comes up to shore and the front line of Niuean’s get a load of her passengers. I struggle forward, pushing through and the first thing I see is a neat helmet of very blonde hair – obviously blonde even in the dim glow of torchlight. This hair is perched on top of a square and lean face with the prominent bones of a predatory bird. The body, of one Max Vogel I presume, is as upright as the pressed uniform of a general, and he is everything I’ve imagined a German to be and more. Except for the way he’s dressed. A simple shirt and pants, light in color – maybe powder blue. Very casual, like he’s come on vacation.

But that’s not the strangest part.

With him is a man. Skin as dark as the night sky, the whites of his eyes like pearls. His clothes are not nearly as pale as Max Vogel’s, and seem somehow more serious. He’s crouched behind the German, his forearms balancing on his knees as if he’s thinking deep and hard about something.

“Fakaalofa lahu atu!”

A young man, Niuean, but with his waist-length hair plaited in a long braid, walks into the shallows to greet the boat. Wet to his thighs, the frothy spray of ocean water splatters his linen shirt and makes it cling to his chest. The Niuean girls are all watching him like he’s Frankie Sinatra.

“That’s Will Tongahai,” Aunt Kitty pants into my ear. I didn’t know she’d come up behind me.

“Is he the one who just returned from London?”

Aunt Kitty nods. “Only a month ago from some fancy boarding school. Got sent back here for trying to join the Royal Navy to go fight in the war, for heaven’s sake!”

The only person who’s been talked about more than Captain Cook since our arrival on Niue is Will Tongahai. He’s the grandson of missionaries from the London Missionary Society – damned Protestants as Aunt Kitty likes to say – and his mother married Nukai Tongahai, who owns the biggest plantation on the island. It’s always a big deal when a native son leaves here for the big, wide world and comes back. They’re treated as if they’ve returned from Mount Olympus and are half-god now or something.

And Will Tongahai, half-god, that is to say half-British, which is pretty much the same thing on Niue, is extending his hand to Max Vogel and the African bloke who’s come with him.

“Cornelius Kandinsky Neville,” I hear the African say.

What the bloody hell kind of a name is that?

This Neville bloke scans the crowd and his eyes fix on me like I glow in the dark. Makes sense, I guess, as I’m only one of a handful of folk who are obviously not from here. Will Tongahai turns his head to see what Neville’s looking at and his eyes find me, too. He smiles and I feel naked all of a sudden.

“Hello,” I say.

“Hello.” Will Tongahai and that Neville fellow say it almost at the same time. Max Vogel says nothing, concentrating instead on stepping out of the boat without slipping on the cauliflowered bottom of the reef.

“Who have we here?” Neville says. “More English?”

“Australian,” I say. “Sydney.”

“Ah, I love Sydney. One of the great, but little known cities in the world.” He speaks British English but with an accent I can’t quite place.

“Not little known to Australians,” I tell him.

He smiles all friendly, as if he finds my cheekiness cute or something. Will Tongahai’s eyes brush my face like he expects me to look at him the way all of those girls do and there’s no way I’m going to do that.

“What brings you to Niue?” I ask Neville. He glances over at Max Vogel who’s now waded the few feet up to shore and is blotting his pants dry with a towel.

“Same thing that brought me to Sydney,” he says.

“What’s that?”

He reaches into a sharp-looking leather bag, expensive but well-worn, and pulls out a little statue that’s only a mite bigger than his hand when held out flat. It’s got a bird’s head and wings, the mouth of a lion with its teeth bared. Odd, but I kind of like it. Cornelius Kandinsky Neville tosses it up and catches it, gazing at it like a long-lost love.

“Archaeology,” he says, pronouncing every syllable.

Love at First Write

I’m trying my damnedest to write a hero and heroine who will knock your socks off. I want to build a world that you’ll want to step into as if through a magic door. One you’ll want to live in, fantasize about, die in (I mean die metaphorically, of course).

My characters have big, big journeys ahead of them. They will live and be killed countless times while endeavoring to achieve their quest. And if you’re not gasping for air at the end of certain pivotal chapters, I’ve failed.

That’s why I started Love at First Write. I want to think through and talk through what I’m creating. I want to make sure it’s the best it can possibly be. And I want you to be on this grand odyssey with me.

This week, we’re revisiting Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces and talking about what makes a heroine, specifically, unforgettable.

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