“I lift my chin stubbornly, holding back tears. They can’t see me cry. They will never understand. I must keep smiling,” Rehua says to herself. She looks over toward her family and their eyes meet.
“I love you,” they say to her.
“I love you, too,” Rehua replies as two men shove her body out of the door. The men are solid, Māori warriors, marked with the ancient tribal tattoos of their ancestors.
“You knew this day would come,” Piripono says to her as they walk away from the town she once called her home. He is the taller warrior of the two and also Rehua’s childhood friend.
“I didn’t think it would be so soon,” she answers.
“Don’t be so stupid, Rehua,” Tohe yells. “Father will be pleased with your return,” he sneers. Tohe is Rehua’s older brother known for his hot-temper and intense strength on the battlefield.
The night that Rehua was born, the moon was black, and only one star illuminated the sky. That was the first sign that Rehua was a special child. The prophesiers predicted that she would take over her father’s throne and conquer all of Aotearoa. However, the prophesiers did not want to tell the king of this, because they knew he would become jealous and kill the child.
When Rehua turned seven, her body began to show signs of great strength. The prophesiers were worried that the king would find out about her destiny and plan to kill her, so they had a secret meeting; however, a kōlea bird overheard the meeting and told the child’s parents. While the king was taking his rage out on the prophesiers, Rehua’s mother snuck away to Rehua and sent her off to live in Hawaiʻi with her brother, Whenua. When their father finally burst into Rehua’s room in anger, hoping to kill the child, he found his wife there and beat her to death because she swore never to tell where the child was.
Rehua, Tohe, and Piripono walk for five more miles. Upon reaching the shore where their canoe is stationed. They pack up the canoe and sail on toward the north island of Aotearoa. Night falls, and the moon is almost black. The ocean is calm. Tohe is asleep, but Piripono has the duty of sailing the canoe. Keiki sits and gazes up at the one star illuminating the sky.
“Rehua, I haven’t seen you in so long,” Piripono says. “You look so grown up.” The young woman sits there in silence. “I know you’re mad at me for bringing you home, but I’m just doing my job. Please talk to me,” Piripono begs.
Rehua continues to stare off into the distance, but begins to open her mouth, “How can I talk to the man who is bringing me to my own death?”
“I am only fulfilling my responsibilities, Princess,” Piripono replies.
“Your responsibility is what? To have me killed?” Rehua shouts. “You know what bringing me back means.”
“Shhhhh!” Piripono scolds. “Don’t wake your brother. He’ll become angered, and we’ll both be in trouble. I want to protect you and help you end the wars between our tribes. I know your destiny is to unite all of Aotearoa, and I believe you can do it.”
“Please, like I believe that,” Rehua sneers. “You work for Ihi.”
“You call your father by his name?” Piripono teases.
“Oh shut up Piri, that man is not my father,” Rehua replies. He’s a monster who killed my mother and nearly killed me, too.”
“Because you’re destined for great power, my Princess,” Piripono says.
“Ewwwww, don’t call me the ‘P’ word,” Rehua says.
Piripono smiles. “I missed you,” he says. “I haven’t seen you since we were kids. You’re a lot prettier now that you’ve slimmed down.
“I’m gonna punch your face Piri,” Rehua says. “You’re so lucky you’re cute. I’d false you a good one right between your teeth.”
“Still rough, aren’t you?” Piri says.
Rehua’s head drops. Her smile disappears. “I have to be. I knew that this time would come, and I’d have to be ready to face my father. My uncle has been secretly preparing me for this time to come, but I didn’t think it would be so soon. What if I’m not ready?”
“I’m here for you Rehua,” Piripono replies. “You look strong, and your ancestors will help you along your journey.”
They continue to sail on for a week and finally hit the shore of the north island. The beach is covered with everyone who lives in their kingdom. Conch shells sound and King Ihi is awaiting their arrival in the front of the pack.
“My daughter, it is good to see you home,” King Ihi says to Rehua. Her eyes do not meet with her father’s as she goes in for their hongi.
The king has been planning the murder of his daughter for eighteen years, and he has spent countless hours searching for her too. Many of the villagers hate the king, but they must show him respect out of fear for their own lives. They have been waiting for the return of the princess to overthrow her father and unite the tribes. The villagers weep upon her return and bow down at her feet when she arrives.
Piripono was in charge of guarding the wharepuni that Rehua was supposed to sleep in. King Ihi put him in charge because he did not want the princess to escape.
“Huuuui, Rehua,” Piripono whispers into the doorway. “I know you’re up.”
“Of course I’m up, you dummy,” Rehua replies. “My father and his men could sneak up any second now.”
“Don’t worry Rehua, I have a plan,” Piripono replies. “The king, due to his big ego, plans to defeat you on his own and will come alone to your wharepuni when the moon becomes light. When you’re ready, I want you to run to Cape Reinga and wait for me there. I will take your place in the wharepuni and when your father comes to kill you, I will fight him off. If I do not return to Cape Reinga, I will send my family guardian, a whale to come find you. He will tell you of my doings.
“My father is a fierce warrior, Piri,” Rehua says. “He can kill you! It’s too dangerous. It’s me he wants. You don’t have to do this.”
“The people and I have waited long and hard for your return, my princess. I’m not letting him take you away,” Piripono replies.
“I love you,” Rehua says as she leaves the wharepuni and begins her journey to Cape Reinga, fifteen miles away.
“I love you, too” Piripono whispers back as he takes her place on the mat.
Finally, the moon is light and King Ihi comes to the wharepuni where the princess sleeps. He walks through the doorway, but is struck down with a blow by Piripono. After a long hour of harsh battle, Piripono leaves victorious, killing the king.
He runs to Cape Reinga to find Rehua who is ecstatic to find out that Piripono is alive and welcomes him with a kiss.
Over the next few years, the prophecy is fulfilled with Piripono at the side of Rehua. The kingdom is conquered and the people are happy.