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The Grandfathers appear in Nation. At first they are a nagging voice in the head of Mau, demanding that he fulfll the rites expected of a man of Nation, particularly those that belong to them, such as preparing beer and leaving it outside their cave each day.

It is one-way traffic. They do not respond to his plea that being only a boy he was not shown how to do these things. Daphne becomes aware of the voice of the Grandmothers, who tell her the Grandfathers are "echoes in a cave", not bad people, but that as old men they do not notice the turning of the world. "The world must turn," the say. "Tell Mau he must roll away the stone."

The physical Grandfathers are to be found in the Cave of the Grandfathers. They were joined there by one or two exceptional warriors in every fifty years, whose dead bodies were mummified in the hot sand before being taken into the Cave. The entrance to the cave is blocked by a stone needing ten men to move it.

Mau and Daphne and the priest Ataba enter the cave, though this would have been unthinkable before the wave.

They pass mummified Grandfathers, who are seated against the wall, each one having on this arm the tattoo of wave and sun that the men had on Nation. They pass more than 100, and carry on past countless others, until in the end they come to the God Pool. Obviously people have been brought here for a very long time. When Daphne tells her father about it, she thought that the God Pool might be more than one hundred thousand years old, an overestimate perhaps. On their way out of the cave, someone brushes against the first Grandfather, who in falling over starts a domino collapse of all the others, and turns to dust. They run to leave the cave ahead of choking clouds of dust, the last state of the Grandfathers.