Diego dedicated a large chunk of the initial evening feasting upon a massive suckling pig that the hunters had captured two days prior. Ka'lani, in turn, wiled away a great deal of time with Koula once the elder had been freed from her duties. They spoke at length regarding the spells that had been performed that night and Ka'lani even showed off the flute she was working on. And, at the end of the night, when the sun was cracking over the horizon, they both danced with Tamah and Fetu in a massive group with the rest of the village in final reverence of another month of safety.
Only as the sun rose high past the edge of the sea did anyone finally stop for the night and retire.
Retreating to their respective homes, the villagers would spend the remainder of the day resting. Some would be nursing headaches from the ceremonial wines and spirits. Many would simply be exhausted from the terror and festivities to do anything more than recoup themselves through the hottest part of the day.
No one worked. Most didn't even leave their house until night, and, even then, they didn't venture further than the village circle for food and to help clean up from the prior evening.
It was for that reason that it wasn't until a day and a half later than anyone stepped out past the fireline.
Diego had just woken up an hour earlier and had already eaten a light breakfast of a few pieces of fruit and a husk of bread when he ventured out into the bright morning's sun. People were milling about, beginning to do their jobs but still in a slight stupor as everyone continued to regain their composure. Being younger, he had no specific tasks he had to complete, so he set off to find Ka'lani.
He started by checking her family's hut but no one was there. He came across Tamah in the village center a few minutes later who told him that Ka'lani had gone to Koula's the night prior.
"I think she said something about going there to work on her flute?" Tamah offered.
"Her flute? Why would Grammy Koula know anything about flutes? She's not a wood worker."
"I dunno." she admitted before shouting with exuberance. "Let's go find out!"
Despite his best efforts, Diego couldn't dissuade the younger girl from joining him and, soon enough, they were both standing on Koula's meager porch knocking on the driftwood door.
"Grammy Koula?" he called to no avail when she didn't answer. "Are you home?"
"Maybe they went somewhere?" Tamah suggested.
"Maybe. But why?" Diego asked, glancing towards the beach and the bubbling waves.
The pair knocked a few times more but soon abandoned the little hut in favor of looking around. It didn't take long though, as a matter of minutes later Tamah noticed Ka'lani and Koula standing at the fireline with two of the village warriors. They were all staring at something in the sand.
"Grammy Koula! Grammy Koula!" Tamah yelled happily as she ran up to the group.
Koula offered her a friendly smile and a gentle hug, but seemed extremely distracted by whatever it was they had found. Ka'lani was as well.
"Hey Ka'lani!" Diego said with a wave as he approached.
"Hey." she replied dismissively, her attention on the ground and the two warriors.
Both men, clad in heavy set leathers and brandishing sharpened blades, were muttering to each other.
"So you're sure no one was out here?"
"Who would leave the village on the morrow of the ceremony? Especially without us knowing?"
"One of the hunters?"
"And the boot prints? They're odd..."
"What's going on?" Diego interjected.
"Shh. Shh. Quiet, honey." Koula said to Diego with a soft pat on his shoulder.
He frowned, but said nothing more.
"We're not sure." one of the hunters commented. He was a big man by the name of Joun. He was bald with a scar that ran the length of his right arm; effectively dividing his Mālama tattoo in half.
"Did you see anyone leave the village yesterday?" the second man asked. William was smaller and peppered with pockmarks and mangy brown hair.
Diego shook his head.
"No. But I was in my hut all day." he replied.
"Same." Tamah said quickly, her normally joyous expression darkening slightly.
"I don't remember anyone passing by." Koula admitted. "But I certainly wasn't looking for anyone either."
Examining the sandy beach, Diego was able to vaguely make out what they were talking about. He could see a footprint of some kind. It looked a bit large and strangely shaped but definitely the sole some kind of shoe. The bottom of it had ridges in a weird design that had somehow still remained despite the softness of the sand.
Several of the boot-prints could be seen moving from the beach in the direction of the mountains.
"It has to be one of the hunters, right?" Ka'lani asked.
"Could it have been one of the aka-akua?" Diego asked thoughtfully.
William laughed but Joun simply shook his head.
"No." he said shortly.
"Well, why not?"
"For one, they don't wear boots." William shot back.
"For two, why don't you back up and take a second look."
Diego glanced at Tamah, who simply shrugged her shoulders. Ka'lani had a mischievous look but said nothing.
They backed up.
"Ok?" he asked impatiently.
"Do you see it?" William asked.
Diego didn't. All he saw was sand and a vague boot-print.
Ka'lani, same mischievous look plastered across her face, started to point something out. She highlighted a space that he'd actually been standing on when he walked up. It consisted of three, massive clawlike impressions and some sort of fourth dent near the 'back'. The bootprint was actually firmly inside of it and the clawmark was a good three or four times larger in comparison.
He hadn't seen it because it was just too big initially to recognize as anything more than just a natural groove in the sand.
"Yep." Ka'lani said with a growing smile at Diego and Tamah's gaping mouths.
"We'll gather a few volunteers from the hunters." Joun said to Koula, ignoring the children's reaction. "See if we can find anything in the mountains. Maybe track them."
"Of course." Koula agreed. "And I'll ask around the village. See if I can figure out if anyone was out and about."
"Thank you." William said with a deep bow. "Let us know what you find."
The adults exchanged their prayers and formalities and soon went their separate ways. Koula offered to allow Ka'lani and the others to accompany her, but they elected to stay on the beach. They were too fascinated with what had been left behind; both by the monster and by the man.