Miryn's disappearance affected Emaku harshly.
For the first few weeks after the incident, he refused to talk to anyone but Addoma. He kept entirely to himself, he would wander off into the forest and be gone for several days before returning, and even though he had been a skilled fisher and avid swimmer before it had happened, now refused to even go near the water. For some time, he even refused to eat fish. Even if he eventually came around on that, his apprehension to approaching the cove remained, and at most he'd stand on the very edge of the beach where it bordered the village.
It was only thanks to Addoma's ceaseless understanding and encouragement that he managed to return to participating in the Pua community at all, but despite insistence from the chief and other tribe elders, he refused to have another partner assigned to him and Addoma was able to convince them that he was still able to be Emaku's instructor. He did more for Emaku during this time than even Emaku's family, but the bonds between partners and between instructor and pupil during their training years were often stronger than even between parent and child - in many ways, the Pua did not put much importance on direct familial relations beyond a spouse, as the tribe in many ways acted as one big communal family.
Miryn's parents were saddened by their daughter's disappearance, but they did not reach out to Emaku or Addoma about it and did not let it affect their daily life in any noticeable way. Emaku did not seek them out either, and while they did interact at times, neither he nor they brought up Miryn when they did.
The first year passed. Emaku's coming of age ceremony was one of the most somber the Pua had ever seen, as it was obvious that something was missing from it - like the majority of the tribe's traditions, it was constructed around the three-person unit they would be part of at sixteen. Normally, there was a half-day-long celebration for the two children that were considered to have entered adulthood that the majority of the tribe participated in, followed by five days of personal celebration held by the families of the two. With Addoma at his side for support, Emaku went through the large celebration while making it clear that he did it for Miryn, but the followup was cut short. While his parents had prepared for the five days of celebration, on the morning of the second day, Emaku wandered into the forest on his own and remained there for the rest of the week.
The second year passed. With her family and the rest of the tribe believing Miryn dead, the elders were insisting on carrying out a funeral ceremony for her, but Emaku and Addoma both refused as they could not accept the idea that she was truly gone - and as her surviving instructor and partner, and more importantly the ones that had been closest to her at the time of her supposed demise, Pua tradition dictated that they had to be the ones to put her spirit to rest. Miryn's parents shared the elders' opinion, but elected to not push the subject with Emaku or Addoma.
The third year...
In the thirty-third lunar cycle after the fateful storm, in the middle of a calm autumn night, a small boat landed on the beach of Puamoku. No one saw it approach or make contact, or noticed the figure stepping out of it. The moon was barely visible, and the Pua did not keep any fires or torches lit at night. In general, there was little activity among the Pua at night - if anything, it was for the purposes of hunting nocturnal prey, but even those instances were few and far between. The time when the moon reached its apex was the time that the Pua considered the end of the day, and that meant time to rest.
As such, the Pua tribe was asleep when the figure moved across the beach, up towards the village. It moved silently but quickly and deliberately, as if already having a target in mind. It crossed into the village unnoticed, made its way towards one of the huts and without making any sound climbed up to the platform and entered.
Inside, Noandi Emaku and his family were sleeping. The person who had entered slowly tip-toed over to Emaku and tapped his shoulder.
"Wha..." he started mumbling, but not loud enough for anyone else in the hut to hear. He opened his eyes, and saw a face above him holding a hand over its mouth, to tell him to be silent. A face that Emaku recognized.
Soanva Miryn had returned to Puamoku.
She said nothing, and Emaku understood. She pointed at the door, and as silently as she had come in, the two of them left the hut and wandered into the forest. Without saying a word to each other, they made their way towards a cave that they had used for shelter several times during their training. As it was quite dark, they gathered some branches for firewood along the way to make a campfire as they had done countless times before. Emaku had almost always been the one to get the fire going during their training, but now he didn't even have time to start trying before Miryn produced a flame from seemingly - to Emaku - nowhere and used it to start the fire. Emaku opened his mouth, but his words were interrupted by Miryn embracing him, holding him without saying anything. He soon heard a sniff, and pulled his head back.
"Miryn... you're crying," he stated. It was a new side of her to him, since during their time as partners, he had never seen her cry. Nothing had been able to make her too sad, and she would get angry rather than start crying when she was in pain.
"Emaku... oh, Emaku..." she spoke and took a step back, letting Emaku see her clearly for the first time in the light of the fire.
To Emaku, she was obviously still his partner, the Pua tribe girl Soanva Miryn. But in many ways, she looked quite different. Her clothes were very far from Pua apparel - she wore black shoes, dark grey shorts, a dark green shirt and a dark grey coat, all made out of materials foreign to the Pua. She had let her hair grow even longer, and while it was still black, it now had a streak coloured dark red as well - and dyeing their hair was an unknown concept to the Pua. Her face seemed to have lost the spark it once had, her eyes appeared almost empty and her expression held an unmistakable hint of sadness.
But despite all of that, there was one thing that above all convinced Emaku that she was still the same girl as three years ago - she still wore her red and blue lifewing over her left ear.
"Emaku..." she repeated and took a deep breath. "Before anything else... I'm going to tell you everything. But you have to promise me..."
"I'll do anything," Emaku said.
"You can never tell anyone else about it," Miryn said. "Not even Addoma."
"I promise," he replied.
"Thank you," she said and sat down, Emaku following. "When I was thrown out of the canoe... I was pulled underwater, and I was sure that I was going to die..."
Miryn's return turned out to become a point of contention among the Pua.
While they at first were happy that she turned out to be alive and well, many of the adults in the tribe soon changed their opinion about her. Even though she started wearing Pua clothing again, the overwhelming opinion was that she had abandoned the ways of the tribe. She had brought back a new bow, one not made of wood but of metal, which performed better than any bow that had ever been made on the island. She had completed development of the fire arrow coating, and had even brought another new one with her - one that would cause her arrows to give off a small electrical charge. These were all seen as breaches of tradition, and it did not help her case that many of the younger Pua were impressed with her innovations that she did not hesitate to demonstrate. To many, she appeared to have become a completely different person - one who was not of the island. That she had reached the age of adulthood but not gone through her coming of age ritual was also not viewed favourably.
The only adult of the tribe that still fully considered Miryn one of them and supported her new innovations fully was Addoma. Even Miryn's parents, who had been largely neutral about her inventions before, now looked at their daughter largely with disapproval.
For four days, Miryn returned to her old life the best she could, but her demeanor was still completely different from the excited girl she had once been. With the treatment she got from her parents, Addoma let her stay in his hut, which meant Emaku spent most of his time there as well. However, he did not yet want to resume their training, and wasn't sure that they were ever going to continue - while he never said it, in many ways, he considered Miryn to have surpassed him.
But on the fifth day...
Miryn and Emaku had been out hunting in the forest since early morning. They had resumed producing all their food themselves, and even though they had been apart for so long with both of them improving their skills separately, their cooperation was as if they had never been separated. Thus, they were bringing home more game in less time than they had ever done before.
As they returned to the village, they went to leave their game in Addoma's hut. Addoma was normally not there during the daytime, but now, he was waiting for the two of them. Miryn noticed he looked somewhat distraught as they approached.
"Miryn..." Addoma started saying, a hint of uncertainty in his voice.
"Yes?" she replied. "Is... something wrong?"
"I... don't know. I hope not," he said. "You have been... chief Malaho has called for you. I was asked to bring you to his hut..."
"What could the chief want with you?" Emaku asked.
"I have been on the outside," Miryn replied. "There are... many things he might have to say."
"So are you..."
"I won't defy the chief," Miryn said. "Will you come with me?"
"Of course," Emaku replied.
"I'll come as well," Addoma said with a nod before the three of them headed to the chief's hut. It was located in the middle of the village, and from the outside did not look very different from all other Pua huts apart from being the largest of them. They climbed up to the entrance, and Miryn was the first to step inside. In front of her, in the middle of the hut, she saw - unsurprisingly - the chief, his wife, and his five closest advisors, but somewhat more unexpectedly, her parents were there as well.
"Soanva Miryn," the chief spoke. "Please stand before me."
Noredi-kai Malaho was an old man, having been chosen as the new chief of the tribe at the age of twenty-one and held the position for the last forty-seven years. He was a staunch traditionalist, having always been set in the old ways of the Pua, believing it to be the only way.
"Understood," Miryn said as she approached. Emaku and Addoma entered after her.
"What is this about?" Emaku loudly asked as he entered.
"Noandi Emaku, Soredi Addoma," the chief said. "You may stay and listen, but do not interrupt."
"Understood," Addoma said and placed a hand on Emaku's shoulder.
"Soanva Miryn," Malaho said. "What is your age?"
"I am eighteen," she replied.
"You are of adult age, but you have not had your coming of age ceremony."
"What does that-" Emaku started saying, but stopped when Addoma squeezed his shoulder.
"Can you call yourself a child of Pua?" the chief asked.
"This is where I was born and this is my home," Miryn replied.
"You have strayed from the path of the Pua ever since you were a child," he continued. "Your skills with the bow have always been worthy of praise, but the methods that you used to achieve them are not something that is appreciated."
"I only wished to be better at hunting," Miryn said.
"Then you should have done so through training," Malaho replied. "And now, after disappearing, you return with a bow that is far from anything that a child of Pua should ever use. In the past, though you went against the traditions of the Pua... we tolerated your behaviour, for we believed that you would see reason as you became an adult. But now, even as you have reached the age of an adult, you did so away from the tribe. You have also brought with you knowledge and items that make it clear to us that you no longer belong on this island."
"You're... not wrong," Miryn said.
"Do you wish to speak on your own behalf?"
"No," she replied. "I have nothing to say that you haven't already told me."
"Then, there is no other course of action, but we do not make this decision lightly. Our judgment is that you, Soanva Miryn, are no longer a child of Pua, and you may no longer remain on Puamoku. Our decision is unanimous, the sentence is exile!"
"What?" Emaku shouted.
"Emak-" Addoma started before Emaku tore himself free from his grasp.
"You don't know what she's been through!" he said and started moving towards them.
"Emaku, don't!" Addoma said and reached for Emaku to stop him.
"That much is true, we don't know," the chief replied. "And as long as she does not tell us, that is how it will remain, and our judgment stays how it is."
"Miryn, you have to tell them!" Emaku said as Addoma reached him and held onto his arm.
"No..." she replied without looking at him. "I... am never going to talk about that again."
"Soandi Yosen, Noreva Sakea," the chief said and looked at Miryn's parents. "Do you wish to speak?"
"No," Yosen replied. "There is nothing for me to say."
"The daughter I lost is not the one who returned," Sakea said. "I do not oppose your judgment."
"Then it is final," Malaho said and clapped his hands together. "Soanva Miryn, you will leave Puamoku on the third dawn! Until then, you are to stay in Soredi Addoma's home, and you may not have any other contact with the tribe. You will take with you all foreign items that you brought back, and you are not allowed to return!"
Miryn said nothing. She only gave a single nod in the direction of the chief and did not make eye contact with anyone, not even Emaku, as she left the hut. Addoma did not speak either, but looked at the chief and his advisors with clear disgust before leaving as well, dragging Emaku with him. There were no words spoken as they returned to Addoma's hut to start preparing for her journey.
The days passed quickly, and Miryn's exile was known in the entire tribe only hours after the judgment had fallen. Emaku tried to talk to Miryn, but she followed what the chief had said and did not have contact with anyone but Addoma. Emaku kept trying to argue with the chief, but he would not listen. Emaku would not break his promise to Miryn and tell her story, but with how stubbornly set in the old ways Malaho was, he wasn't convinced that it would even change anything. As Addoma was busy helping Miryn, he did not have much contact with Emaku for these days, but Emaku did find some that were willing to listen to him - the same group of younger Pua that had taken an interest in Miryn's innovations...
At the dawn of the day of her exile, Miryn left Addoma's hut wearing the same clothes she had worn when she had returned that night a week ago, including her lifewing. She was carrying her bow, quiver and a cloth bag with her other possessions. Most of the tribe had gathered to watch her leave, but none of them said a word to her as she made her way through the village. As she started wandering down to the beach, she passed Addoma and Emaku, standing next to the chief. Addoma was holding on to Emaku, like he wasn't sure if he was going to try to go with her. She did not look at them as she turned and started walking down towards the beach.
"Miryn!" Emaku shouted after her. She stopped for a moment, but did not turn to look at him.
"Emaku..." she replied. "It's better if you forget that name..."
"I could never forget you!"
"If I am no longer a child of Pua, then I am no longer Soanva Miryn..." she said. "From now on... my name will be Muse."
"But... that's..." Emaku swallowed and said nothing more, as if he knew what that name meant.
She crossed the beach, walking up to the boat that she had arrived in. While there were no other people on the beach, someone had put some extra oars, a fishing pole, a cloth sail and a leather sack with food and water in the boat. Even if they were exiling her, they did not want to send her to her immediate death, she thought... she put her things in the boat, pushed it out into the water and got in. She picked up two oars and slowly started rowing herself towards the mouth of the cove when she heard a familiar voice behind her.
"Miryn!" Emaku yelled again as he freed himself from Addoma's grasp and started running towards her. Downwards, out of the village... onto the beach. Across the beach... into the water.
"Emaku, don't..." she said. The thought had crossed her mind, but she didn't want to make her judgment also his judgment. But...
"I'll make sure you can come back!" he yelled over her. "If this is what our traditions mean... I'll change them! I'll change the Pua! One day... one day I'll be the chief of the tribe and then you can come back to us!!"
She didn't reply. Emaku's words meant a lot to her, but... after this, after what he had said, with his association with her, she knew that it would be next to impossible for Emaku to ever become the chief of their tribe. But that didn't mean he wouldn't try, and she knew he would do everything he possibly could for her, even when she was gone. She only hoped it wouldn't mean any trouble for him... but he would have Addoma by his side, to keep him in control.
As her boat traveled further and further from the shore, it started becoming too much for her. To be taken from her home a second time, to lose all the people that had been part of her life, especially Emaku and Addoma... as she approached the mouth of the cove, she could still hear Emaku calling out to her, but she did not look back at him.
She did not want him to see that she was crying.
Several days passed. She did not know where she wanted to go, she only knew where she didn't. As she didn't know too much about navigating, despite having a map and a compass, she was uncertain of her position. She rationed her supplies as best she could, the food was no problem but the water lasted her only a week. If she didn't find any island to resupply on, she would be heading towards certain demise...
Eleven days in, she had found herself having to resort to certain emergency survival measures, but without anything else to drink, even that wasn't going to last. She hadn't even encountered any rain, and while harsh weather wasn't something she wished for, collecting some rain water would at least allow her to stay alive for a while longer.
On the fourteenth day, she had no more food. While she had been able to catch some fish to stretch what she had been given, no more food meant no more bait. She had refrained from rowing too much to save on her energy, and had used the sail to let the winds take her wherever they pleased, as she figured that there wasn't much else she could do as she did not know in which direction any kind of help might lie. As the sun started to disappear behind the horizon, she had not had anything to eat or drink in over twenty-four hours. The sail was still up, but the winds were slow and erratic.
"This is it," she whispered to herself as exhaustion and dehydration got the better of her. She collapsed in her boat, facing downwards. She didn't know what would happen next, and didn't notice the wind starting to pick up.
A few hours later, she felt something was rocking the boat. She was at most half-conscious, and didn't even have the strength to sit up, but it wasn't the wind, and it wasn't the water... she thought it might be some sea monster trying to drag her under, which would at least end it... but it soon stopped as she heard the unmistakeable sound of the boat being pulled up onto land. She felt something grab her shoulder and shake her, then starting to turn her over. Before she could figure out what was actually going on, before she could see anything or anyone apart from the bottom of the boat, she heard a soft male voice speaking.
"Are you alright, miss?"
To be continued in Volume 03: Standing united