And Leviathan Smiles
Ambrose Petley/ Manu
A classically educated Avalonian doctor who is opening up the shadowy secrets of his past
Ambrose Petley (Manu) was born on Hiva, a Polynesian island in the Pacific, to his father Hunapo and his mother Aata. He was only 5 years old when he and his parents were taken as slaves by Castillian slavers. Sold separately from his mother and father at San Felipe, he was taken to Avalon and bought by a well respected doctor in need of household help, Peter Baldwin. There, in Baldwin’s Luthon home, Manu was given the Avalonian name of Ambrose and told he would serve Peter Baldwin until such time he was released as a freeman. Manu was unfortunately too young at the time to understand anything else and after a few years, settled into his subjugated life, believing himself to be as Avalonian as his master.
Over the years Ambrose was required to be a simple house servant, catering to every level of Peter’s needs. Eventually he progressed from simple assistant to serving alongside Peter in his home medical practice. For 18 years he worked steadily in his task, picking up extraordinary skills in medicine and surgery and proving to be more accomplished at the trade than even his master. He was repeatedly complimented for his intuitiveness when it come to patient illnesses, as well as his sensitive bedside manner. Peter encouraged his servant’s talent and, while reluctant to send Ambrose to full medical school, he lent him every medical book in his library. Ambrose, naturally, devoured them all.
One day, in autumn 1667, Ambrose was summoned to Peter’s study. He had heard rumors from the other servants that Peter might finally set him free that day. But it was not to be. When Ambrose arrived, he found his master dying of a heart attack and, unable to revive him, found his world completely shattered by the doctor’s death. He remained at the Baldwin estate, making the necessary arrangements for Peter’s funeral and tried to maintain the household, all the while unsure of his fate or the fate of the home itself. A day later, he was informed via a letter that Peter’s brother, Richard, had inherited all of Peter’s property, up to and including Ambrose’s servitude. Richard insisted that Ambrose sail to his new home in Oddiswulf to fulfill the remainder of his days in Richard’s debt. Ambrose, heartbroken but fearful of what might happen if he ran away or disregarded the command of his new master, gathered up Peter’s belongings and what little he had of his own. Two days later, with an assistant of Richard Baldwin’s watching him like a hawk, he stepped aboard The HMS Taliesin, fearful he had delivered himself to a lifetime of invisible chains.
Three days at sea and the HMS Taliesin found itself viciously attacked by the pirate ship, Vespertine, and its captain, The Sea Fox. Ambrose, attempting to medically assist the wounded parties on the ship, was shot dead by The Sea Fox. The last thing he saw was the captain ordering someone to take the medical bag he still gripped in lifeless hands.
But Ambrose did not die. His pulse faded and ended, yes. And all brain activity ceased only minutes after the musket ball entered his skull. But Ambrose experienced an event unlike any he had felt before. He found himself standing in pure darkness, a breeze delicately stroking his face. He smelled the stinging salt of the sea air.
All at once, he saw his ancestors, voices he had never heard but immediately recognized, speaking to him in the form of giant-faced stone statues. And then suddenly, through the darkness, he encountered the strangest of creatures. It had the legs and lower torso of a man, but its arms were flocked with huge feathers and its bird face was long beaked and big eyed. It introduced itself to him as ‘Tangata Manu’, breaking the wriest smile.
Tangata Manu told Ambrose that he had had been looking for him for some time now. That now, having finally met, Tangata Manu could at last deliver three secrets he had been carrying for years. He leaned in close to Ambrose’s ear and whispered to the ‘Avalonian’ his true Hivan name: Manu. Ambrose was nearly floored by the power of this name, the truth and history that it bore for him. He saw his parents again, taken from him in chains, and consumed with the memory, he began to weep. Tangata Manu consoled him, telling him that he would see his parents yet again. He then told Ambrose that he was special, that he was ‘rangatira’—-a guardian of the border between Rarohenga (the underworld) and the land of the living. And then Tangata Manu leaned in close once again. With a chuckle, he told Ambrose very simply that he was dying.
Ambrose fought the idea just a little at first. He had lived most of his life as a slave, a life beholden to another man. He did not wish to die now, so alien to himself. So unfulfilled. Tangata Manu told him that he still had a chance at a new life, at a new destiny. The bird-man told him that he had interceded in Ambrose’s death for one reason and one reason alone: That, as rangatira, he still had a goal to finish and a world to save. Ambrose began to understand this.
The birdman then reached deep into Ambrose’s chest and deftly pulled out a large ornate egg. In the egg, Ambrose briefly saw himself, first helping those aboard the Vespertine as the ship’s doctor and then fighting his enemies, surrounded by spirits and inky darkness. Never turning around, Tangata Manu flung the egg over his shoulder for what seemed miles away, to an island Ambrose vaguely recognized in his heart as home. Winds began to pick up ferociously where he stood. Suddenly the drive to live began to build within him. He had to see this island. He had to find this egg. He would do anything and everything to accomplish this. And with that, he felt himself rise away from his ancestors, from Tangata Manu, his arms winged, flying higher and higher, escaping Death inch by inch. Until finally he felt himself fly right into the sun.
He awoke to find himself aboard the deck of the sinking HMS Taliesin, changed beyond measure by his crossing over. Gathering to his feet and slowly collecting his senses again, he sighted the Vespertine just about to disembark from their raid. Like a man possessed, he grabbed Peter’s plague doctor costume and leapt from the deck into the sea. He swam frantically to the Vespertine’s side, and clambered aboard her in a fading storm of angry vigor and determined grunts. Confronted by loaded muskets and drawn sabers the minute he got to his feet, he stood aboard the pirate ship, unafraid and dripping like a drowned man. Until at last, he growled in a voice he never knew he had.
“I wish to talk to your captain about what he just took from me.”