Tuesday, August 17, 2010

At Play in the Home of her Ancestors

Thanks to your comments a new name for D.T. Rhysing's submarine has been found. Formerly the Hot Runner, a name only a submariner could love, his creation and one of the central characters of The Bones of the King has been changed to DreamWeaver. Let me know what you think.

This chapter is an introduction to Kaiulani. Free spirit and child of the sea.

Please read and comment. Your input is very much appreciated.




Kaiulani Spencer stood quietly beneath the palm grove at the southern end of the beach at Anaeho’omalu Bay and listened to the trade winds rustling the fronds high above her. The eastern sky was molten silver, heralding the imminent arrival of the sun. Giving thanks to the gods of her ancestors and the spirits of all who went before her for the gift of another day, Kaiulani walked down the gentle slope into the cool water. Small waves broke against her knees and the sand between her toes was rough and pebbly. Kaiulani enjoyed the dawn like no other time. The beach was usually deserted and even when there were people about they seemed to be of the same mind, quiet and contemplative, respectful of the majesty of a new day beginning.

Diving into the low surf, Kaiulani swam down to the sandy bottom and stroked hard for the mouth of the bay. A school of manini parted as she approached, eyeing her warily but sensing that she posed no threat. Surfacing for air like a breaching dolphin, Kaiulani swam with a fluid grace, her sleek frame gliding through the gradually clearing water until she saw the start of the coral reef twenty-five feet below. Once more she dove, clearing her ears as she descended to her favorite spot, a graceful arch of coral growing on a foundation of jumbled basalt fragments.

Cradling a stone block the size of a football in her lap, Kaiulani sat cross legged on the sand and let herself become one with morning in the bay. The dirge like cadence of individual Ulu taking rasping bites of lobe coral sounded on top of a back beat of clicks and chirps of the pod of Nai’a heading to Kiholo for their morning play. The low thunder of the surf at 69’s came faintly beneath the staccato snap of shrimp and merged with the distant sound of a charter boat’s propellers. Each sound spoke to her, telling her about the day and much that was happening in and on the body of water she called home.

The world was peaceful and she sensed it in every cell of her body. Her heart’s lazy throb mixed with the other sounds and she willed it to slow to match the unhurried pace of life beneath the waves. The longest she had ever held her breath at this depth was three and a half minutes. Today she would hit two and half easily. It was a but short time in the morning on the reef, yet starting her day thus always helped to remind her that Hawaii was far more than the Aina. The land was but a dot in the middle of a vast blue world whose inhabitants knew nothing of the empty space above it. Kaiulani counted herself fortunate to be able to visit the ocean with such regularity.

A stirring of cold water brushed against her back. Kaiulani knew that if she had a mask on she would see a distinct swirling distortion created by freshwater welling up and out of the seabed and mixing with salt water. There was a spring behind her, one of many that could be found through careful searching by a patient swimmer. Long ago her ancestors had taken large gourds, called hoewai or ipu, with holes at either end and placed them directly over such outflows. When the more buoyant freshwater had displaced all the salt water from the gourd, they would plug both ends and swim to the surface and then to shore bearing the precious cargo. Through ingenuity and an intimate knowledge of their environment, they were able to make Anaeho’omalu into a thriving community, one that had been continually inhabited for over eight hundred years. Hawaiians were a wonderfully inventive people, children of the land and the sea, and Kaiulani Spencer reveled in being one of them.

When she felt her lungs pulsing Kaiulani put the stone down and slowly floated toward the surface. As the sky drew closer she realized not for the first time that she was as relaxed as it was possible to be without sleeping. Her body seemed to sense this and even her lungs quit urging her to inhale. Pulling with her arms and kicking hard, Kaiulani surged upward, exhaling just before she cleared the surface. Crossing the boundary separating two worlds, Kaiulani inhaled a huge breath and took in the view from her offshore vantage point.

Sunlight sparkled on the water as she floated. A few early risers had made their way down to the beach chairs and were settling in for their morning’s sun worship. She wondered if she would be teaching one or two of them later. Beyond the palms to the south a lone man walked along the lava and sand that formed the shoreline. He had the look of a local; long-sleeved shirt and straw hat to protect him from the sun, surf trunks and tabis, the black rubber split toe reef walkers popular with some shore fisherman. Up by the showers she could make out Chris Pope and Kimo Andrade, two of the staff hired by Noah, her brother, and D.T. Rhysing at the outset of operations of their company. Chris and Kimo were walking a pair of hydrospeeders on their lightweight trailers down to the waters edge. To the north the trade winds had flattened the clouds above the Kohala range and were ripping shreds off of them that were driven downslope and out to sea. Their wispy remnants faded above the black lava flows that surrounded the bay and then regained some of their lost moisture as they sped out to sea. It was going to be a great day for windsurfers and a murky day for snorkelers. The happy medium was going to be SCUBA diving. Kaiulani smiled. She was happiest when she was in the water teaching, swimming, or playing, it didn’t matter which to her.

Kaiulani and her brother had been working as beach attendants when D.T. Rhysing had shown up one day and started drawing diagrams of his submarine in the wet sand. Before the incoming tide erased them all an hour later he and Noah had become friends and many weeks and hundreds of drawings later they had become partners. Noah had given his two weeks notice to the beach shack supervisor and flown with D.T. to California and then to the east coast. He said he was just keeping D.T. company and it was like her brother to not seek the limelight, but she knew he was doing more than that. Noah and D.T. were shepherding the hull of the DreamWeaver, the submarine that D.T. had conjured up out of the sands of Anaeho'omalu, through its creation at a foundry and following as it went to each of the subcontractors for additional work. Noah was gone for two interminable months and Kaiulani had missed him fiercely, but she knew he was involved in a once in a lifetime opportunity and encouraged him every time he called home. When he returned, Noah was a changed person, due in large part to the responsibilities that he had taken on in the partnership with D.T.

At first she had been worried that the strange vessel they had built would claim Noah’s life somehow but in time the fear had receded. On the morning of the inaugural dive, D.T. and Noah had approached her and asked whether she would come and work for them as a pilot. She had been honored and thanked them both, but had declined. Why would she choose to work inside a steel hull when she could spend her days swimming? It was really no contest.

From that day forward Kaiulani had looked at D.T. Rhysing in a different light. She liked him and respected his knowledge and the easy way he shared what he knew with Noah. It was, she reflected more than once, a very Hawaiian thing to do. D.T. was a handsome man, tall and well muscled, but not overly so. His blond hair had a way of falling across his face as he was talking and the way he brushed it absently away always made her look at his eyes. They were a deep sea green, sometimes shifting all the way into blue in the right surroundings. He made her think more than once about what it would be like to engage in the sport of love with him, but despite this attraction she kept her distance, wary but curious at the same time.

Business for the fledgling company had grown rapidly and all had gone well until yesterday’s disaster. Kaiulani had spent a long time at the hospital reassuring herself that Noah was not hurt. He had explained again what they were searching for and told her the sad news of their discovery. How terrible for that young girl to be killed in such a fashion and then dumped into the ocean. Noah had finally convinced her to go home. He knew she would be up early and told her he did not want her over-tired on his account. His reassurances did little to put her fears to rest. The man they suspected, Sid Hart, was on the loose and had already tried to kill her brother once. Would he try again? Kaiulani wondered about this briefly but then put the question behind her.

The day was young and promised to be gorgeous. Chris and Kimo had staged the hydrospeeders and were now attending to the DreamWeaver. Mated to its transporter and looking none the worse for wear from the previous day’s troubles, the sub was entering the water for the first of the morning dives. Kaiulani smiled in anticipation and swam to a spot near a pinnacle on the north side of the bay’s mouth.

Despite declining to join the team at Manta Ray Submarines, Kaiulani had, in her own pleasurable and unique way, done her part to help the business get off the ground. What had started innocently enough in a chance encounter with the submerged sub had turned into a legend of sorts and now seemed to account for the fact that the first dive of the day was the most popular by far. By the time she was in position the DreamWeaver had taken on its two passengers and was motoring on the surface out towards the channel. As she watched, the sleek shape slipped effortlessly beneath the waves, leaving only a smooth patch of water in its now invisible wake.

Kaiulani took several deep breaths and counted slowly to thirty, then jackknifed and propelled herself gracefully down to the side of the coral pinnacle below. Once in position she quickly removed the top and bottom of her bikini and stuffed them into a crevice. She could hear the high-pitched note of the DreamWeaver’s thrusters long before she saw the sub gliding toward her through the sunlit water. Kicking hard, Kaiulani set out for the bottom and then turned on her back and watched as the DreamWeaver approached twenty feet above her. She saw the blurry visage of Chris Pope wave from the center view port and imagined with satisfaction the open mouthed astonishment of the two men on either side of him. Then the perfect symmetry of the manta shape passed overhead and she rose beneath it and positioned herself. Trailing behind the body of the sub was the manta’s tail, a thin, stiff whip-like appendage. With a surge of speed Kai reached out and grabbed the tip as it went by. Holding tight with one hand, she hitched a ride for an eternal few seconds beneath the blue bowl of the sky, a creature of delight at play in the home of her ancestors.


  1. Haven't had time to read your chapter yet, but wanted to drop in and say I love 'DreamWeaver' as the sub's name.

  2. This is beautifully written, but it's way too much exposition all at once, especially for an opening chapter. You just have one character thinking to herself of past events, which is not going to keep the attention of most readers. She needs to interact with other characters. A lot of the events you mention as happening previously sound interesting, but since you tell us about them instead of showing them to us, they become rather boring.

  3. Dear Ruth,

    Thank you for your concise comments. I struggle with exactly what you mentioned. Kaiulani interacts a great deal in later chapters, but right now she's going for a swim alone at dawn, which is something she's done every morning since she was a child. Hard to have much interaction during that swim. (But I hear you loud and clear.) I'm going to let your input percolate and try to figure out a way to keep the good parts and eighty-six the rest.

    Just got in from a long day. Will be reading all the #teasertuesday posts. Hope to find one from you and dive in.



  4. I have to agree with Ruth. For the introduction of a character this is way too much information overload. It is really, really well written though and her back-story is quite interesting.

  5. You have such a beautiful way of writing, Doug. I learn, see, hear, feel this world you write about. You need to let your reader smell and taste.

    Ruth and Lisa have valid points, but nothing is here that can't be saved. I will give it some thought and get back to you.

    Lovely, lovely scene.


  6. I feel like the guy on the guillotine who has watched the blade come down twice, only to hang up on a sticky spot on the side of the rail. As the executioners are trying to decide what to do he chimes in and says, "Hey, guys, I think I see where the blade's hanging up. If you just lube that track up there on the left I think everything will work out fine."

    In respect of the effort each of you expended in reading this chapter I must tell you that while I hear your comments and DO believe them, I can only see a little of it. That's a description of ME needing glasses, not you guys, and I mention it to let you know I am in acceptance, not denial. I'm going to apply what I heard to this chapter and try to clean it up. We'll see how it looks the second time through.

    "It takes just as long to write a good book as a bad book."

    That old saying applies very well here. I'd much rather spend the time writing a good book and that is why I do appreciate the help and suggestions and why I put TBOTK out there for discerning eyes to examine.

    Now I'm going to go buy some special glasses and then lube the tracks and try again. Who says writing isn't fun?

    Thanks for your help.



  7. Doug, I didn't mind the slower introduction to Kaiulani, as she is a powerful, independent character. I liked the images of her sitting on the bottom in training. (but she couldn't hear the surf at 69's! She could hear surf at the A-Bay surf spots either north or south of the bay itself... remember the guy who died this last winter) But her nymph-like reason not to be a pilot didn't convince me. You again intrigued me with the construction of the submarine! I want to have a firm image of it.

  8. Thank you, Dave, for the local knowledge re A-Bay surf spots. Is there a name for it? Always thought it was 69's.

    And for raising me up from the fifth circle re show vs. tell. I still have to find a better balance, but your encouragement helps.

    Catch any fish last weekend? Everyone was asking about you.



  9. LOL, Doug. I'm late to the game and don't have anything to add this time. Your writing is always beautiful and gives great imagery... but you got good feedback.

  10. Hi Madison,

    I sliced and diced this chapter as per instructions from comments (Thank you to each kind soul who helped.) Will be resubmitting it on Tuesday to contrast the two. I think I've run everybody off now, though, so I'm counting on you to campare the two and tell me which one is better.

    Welcome back to the fray. Looking forward to your next post.