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Photo Credit: Ariya Martin

Excerpt from The Shark God by Rafe Martin

It was long ago that two children, a brother and sister tried to find someone to help them save a shark.

They ran home, but neither their father nor mother were there.

"Why should I care about a fish?" laughed a woman they met.

"Don't bother us with nonsense," snarled one of the king's counselors at the palace gate.

"A shark?" exclaimed a third man, grabbing his spear. "Lead me to it. I'll kill it."

So the boy and girl climbed down the cliff themselves to where the shark lay entangled and thrashing in the shallows.

"Mano," the girl called gently, "we mean no harm."

"Yes," said the boy. "We only want to free you.

Strangely, the shark seemed to understand, for it stopped struggling and lay calmly, watching them with its round, black eyes.

At last, the final coil of tangled rope fell away. Unbound, the shark swam off, its fin cutting the waves like a blade. Where the sea turned dark blue it paused, raised its head from the water, looked back at the children, then sank and was gone.

Laughing and shouting, the children raced along the beach, elated. They'd done it!

On their way back through the village, they passed the king's drum. It was kapu, forbidden for anyone but the king to touch it. But no one was there, and oh how they wanted to drum out their triumph! The king glanced from his window and saw them approach. His eyes narrowed. His lips grew tight. He might have called, "Stop! Remember, it is kapu!" But he just watched, saying nothing.

The children stepped closer. They looked. They reached out — and lightly touched the drum. Such a soft sound it made, like the faintest patter of summer rain on green leaves far, far away.

But the king saw — and he heard. "Guards! He shouted. "Take them!"

The guards ran and grabbed the children.

The parents hurried to the palace and prostrated themselves before the king. "Great King," pleaded the father. "Please. Free my boy and girl."

"Great King, remember," begged the mother. "They are but children. Children must learn."

"Silence!" bellowed the king. "They have broken my law. In three days they shall die. That is justice."

"Alas," wept the parents. "Who can help us?"

The parents left the palace. To each person they met, they told their tale and asked for help. But no one seemed to care. They all just shrugged and said, "That is how he is. Our king has a hard heart. If you don't like it, you should leave." Then the parents saw that the people of the island had all become as hard-hearted as their king.

Then, for their children's sake, at last they went where no one had ever gone willingly before —into the cavern of Kauhuhu, the fearsome Shark God.

Green waves rolled seething into the cavern where seaweed lay tangled on the black lava rocks. The salt smell of the sea was strong.

As they entered, fear rose like a wave and washed over them. They ran and hid among the rocks. More water surged into the cavern. With the eighth wave, a huge shark slid onto the beach. The Shark God reared itself up and, before their horrified eyes, transformed in to a gigantic man on whose mighty back was the tattoo of open shark's jaws.

"A man!" roared the Shark God, hungrily sniffing the air. "I smell a woman and a man!"

He reached down and lifted the canoe-builder up in one great fist, his wife in the other. "Now," he growled, "I am going to eat you up."

"Great One!" the man cried boldly. "Eat us if you must, but first hear our tale!"

This is only the first part of the story, the rest of the story is in my book The Shark God.

—The End—