This was my story for NaNoWriMo [National November Writing Month]. We had to come up with a new idea at the beginning of the month and had till the end of the month to write a novel that was at least 50,000 words long. I accomplished my goal and was quite proud of it...Haha, even if the story isn't all that great...Keep in mind that this WAS my first long completed work. Hope you enjoy it (:
As a breeze blew through the still forest, the grass bent and the leaves shook. The water rippled across the small lake and reflected back the calm blue sky.
Neytiri’s long pitch black hair swept across her face as she steadied her bow hand. She was perched high up in a tree looking down into a meadow. The large doe came into her field of vision again and she took aim. She paused as she noticed a smaller deer come out from behind a tree and join the doe. The two cheetahs at either of her tree’s sides snarled, ready to leap.
Neytiri sighed and lowered her bow. She couldn’t take a child from its mother. She stood up and leaped down out of her tree, landing between her cheetahs. She snapped her fingers to call them off and turned to head back to the Hunters’ camp. The two big cats followed her, snarling angrily at being called off from their hunt.
“Nothing?” Jaydo Star, her oldest friend, asked as she neared camp. His long dark brown hair nearly came into his eyes and his green eyes were twinkling with amusement. His large golden lion prowled at his side and came up to greet Neytiri’s twin cheetahs.
Neytiri shook her head.
Jaydo looked surprised. “That’s the first time ever you’ve come back with nothing, you know that, right?” He grinned and she punched him in the shoulder. “Hey, what was that for?” he asked with a look of hurt.
Neytiri just grinned in response and walked past the safety line and into camp.
The Hunters were temporarily set up for the time being, as they had been hunting a Great Demon. But after tracking the beast for five days, the trail had gone cold andGriffin, the Head Huntress and Neytiri’s mother, had decided not to waste any more time with it. They were now heading back towards their normal camping grounds, a two day journey from where they were now.
Jaydo walked beside her as they headed to the center of the camp, where their tents were. Neytiri’s cheetahs and Jay’s lion followed right behind them.
“Neytiri, you didn’t catch anything?” Neytiri turned to see Zaiko, the Clan’s self proclaimed cook. “And I was so hoping to use one of your wonderful catches…” He got a look of fantasy in his face as he looked up into the trees around the camp. Neytiri giggled. Zaiko was only a few years older than her, and everyone in camp knew he had a huge crush on Neytiri.
Neytiri waved him off and entered the tent she shared with her mother. Inside,Griffinwas sitting on her bed, staring straight ahead at the tent wall. Her large snow white wolf sat at her feet with its large fluffy tail wrapped around its body. Neytiri’s cheetah’s joined her and the three animals dropped their heads to their paws and closed their eyes.
Griffinhad the same pitch black hair as Neytiri, thoughGriffin’s hair was cut right below the shoulders. She had blue eyes the same shade as Neytiri’s and they also shared the same dark skin.
“What’s wrong, Mother?” Neytiri asked, sitting down on the bed beside her.
Griffinlooked at Neytiri and smiled. “Nothing, Daughter.”
Neytiri shook her head. “Don’t lie, Mother. I saw Zarina, Spirit, and Tara leave your tent earlier. What happened?”
Griffin’s smile turned to a frown. “You remember the scouts we sent out a few days ago?”
“They still haven’t returned.”
Neytiri thought this over. “They could just be running late,” she suggested.
“Then one of them should have been sent ahead to warn us of their tardiness.”
Neytiri studied her mother. “What else could it have been?”
Griffinseemed to pause, as though hesitant to release information.
“Mother, what do you know?” Neytiri pressed.
Griffinsighed. “There’s no stopping your stubbornness, now is there?”
Neytiri shook her head. “Not when I learned it from you.”
“Well, we’ve received word form the other Clan about a Darkness that’s been…killing Hunters.”
“Darkness?” Neytiri questioned with wide eyes.
Griffinnodded. “We don’t know what exactly it is yet, but if those scouts aren’t back by tomorrow, we can assume they’ve been killed by this Darkness.”
Neytiri glanced out through the flap in the tent to where Hunters were packing up, getting ready to move on.
“Have you told their families?” she turned back to her mother.
Griffinshook her head, blue eyes brimming with sadness. “I want to wait until we are certain their children aren’t coming back before breaking the news.”
“Is that wise?” Neytiri questioned.
Griffin’s blue eyes flashed as she sharply turned to look at her daughter. But before she could say anything striking, she calmed down and sighed. “I don’t know, Daughter. But what else can I do?”
Neytiri nodded. She stood up and stretched. “I’m sorry, Mother.” She turned toward the flap of the tent. “I’m going to go out with Jay to train Taki. I’ll be back later.”Griffinsimply nodded in response.
Neytiri stepped out of the tent and felt like she was walking into another world. Her mother’s tent was always gloomy and full of stress. But out in the camp, under the bright sun, life was lived to its fullest by the Hunters. They didn’t have the worries of leading and making decisions that would affect everyone around them.
“Hey, Ney, wanna go out?” Neytiri turned to see little Taki running her way. Taki was twelve with wavy brown hair and green eyes. She was always smiling and ready for anything. Neytiri and Jaydo had taken the responsibility of training her together.
In the Clan parents didn’t train their own children becauseGriffinthought mothers and fathers would be too kind and easy on their own children. And so the in-training children were often given to friends to be trained.
“I was just coming out to find you, actually,” Neytiri replied with a smile.
“Where’s Jaydo?” Taki questioned.
“I don’t know. Why don’t we go find him?” Neytiri led her young apprentice a few tents away to where Jaydo shared a tent with Zarina, the Clan healer. Jaydo’s parents had died when he was very young.Griffinhad taken him in as her own and trained him alongside Neytiri. The two were extremely close. But recently Jaydo had taken up residence with Zarina because he no longer wanted to intrude uponGriffin’s hospitality.
“Jay?” Neytiri called into the tent.
Zarina’s head popped out with a bright smile on her face. “How can I help you, Tiri?”
“I was just wondering if Jay was here,” Neytiri replied with a smile.
Zarina nodded. “Come on in. He’s getting his gear together. He was just about to go out to find you guys.” Zarina led the way back into her large tent where she kept all her potions and ointments and healing herbs. Zarina had dark brown hair that came down nearly to her knees. She had the most striking gray eyes Neytiri had ever seen.
Inside her tent, Jaydo sat on a bed pulling on boots and strapping his twin daggers to his belt. “Ready to go?” He asked when he saw Neytiri and Taki.
Taki nodded, smiling.
“Then let’s go.” Jaydo got to his feet and led the way out of Zarina’s tent and through the camp. Neytiri saw Zaiko grilling some kind of meat. Someone else must have gone out to catch something.
“Hey, are you three going out for some training?” Neytiri turned to her right to see Tara, one of the oldest Hunters in camp and one ofGriffin’s advisors, standing in front of her tent.
“We sure are!” Taki exclaimed excitedly.
“Mind if I join you with Traito?”Taraasked.
“Of course not,” Neytiri replied with a smile.
“We’d love to have you guys along,” Jaydo added.
Taranodded. “Just one second.” She walked over to a tent across from her own and stepped inside, the flap closing behind her. She came back out a few moments later with a little boy about thirteen. He had short black hair and blue eyes. Neytiri noticed he didn’t smile asTaraintroduced him to her and Jaydo. In fact, he didn’t respond at all.
Tarafrowned at him, but smiled as she turned back to Neytiri and Jaydo. “Ready to go?”
Jaydo nodded and continued to lead them into the woods. They passed by the stakes that marked the safety magic surrounding the camp. Once they were far enough away to not hear the sounds of camp anymore, Jaydo stopped and turned to face the rest of the group.
“How about a bit of stealth hunting, huh?” he asked with a grin. Jay was the most silent person Neytiri had ever met. He could probably sneak up onGriffinif he wanted to.
Taki nodded in excitement. “Stealth training! My favorite!” Neytiri noticed the idea of training didn’t elicit a response from Traito, though.
As Jaydo led Taki and Traito away, Neytiri stepped closer toTara.
“What’s with the kid?” she asked.
Taralooked after the boy with sad blue eyes. Her short blond hair swept into her face with a gust of wind.
“His mother was one of the scouts.”Taradidn’t say anymore. She turned to face Neytiri. Neytiri’s look of understanding must have toldTarathat she already knew what the situation was with the missing scouts.
“Did you tell him?” Neytiri asked quietly.
“No, but I think he’s guessed. It’s been six days. They should have been back two days ago.”
Neytiri nodded. “But we can’t be sure. Not yet.”
Tarasmiled solemnly. “Hope is good to keep. Just don’t let it blind you.”Taraturned back to where Jaydo had disappeared with the apprentices. “The life of a Hunter doesn’t hold much hope in it. You have to be ready to accept death.”
Neytiri nodded.Taraknew better than any Hunter what it was like to lose. She had had three sons and four daughters, but all three sons and three of the daughters had died before they reached the age of fifteen. She was highly protective of her last daughter, who was twenty-four now. He husband, Spirit, was overly protective of both Tara and their daughter.
“Hey, you guys coming?” Neytiri turned to see Jaydo, a grin playing on his face.
“What do you have them following?” Neytiri asked worriedly.
“Nothing too difficult.” Jaydo turned and dashed back into the trees. Neytiri and Tara followed slowly. As they came upon a clearing, Neytiri saw Jaydo sitting up in a tree as Taki and Traito tracked Budgekaki tracks.
“Seriously?” Neytiri whispered in Jaydo’s ears as she hopped onto the branch next to him.Tarahad jumped into a tree across from them. “A Budgekaki? You know what happens if they actually find it, right?”
Jaydo grinned widely. “I’m right here, aren’t I?”
“What worries me,”Tarasaid quietly, “is what a Budgekaki is doing so close to camp.” She was watching the two apprentices intently, scanning the area for the demon-creature. Neytiri looked down, too. A Budgekaki was like a Shadow Creature, but much worse. Shadow Creatures had minds and could think as well as humans and Hunters. But a demon-creature had no intelligence and could only think to kill and destroy. Not quite a demon, but not exactly a human either.
Neytiri gripped her bow and strung an arrow, prepared to shoot if she needed to. Her arrows were wooden with silver cores and demon-poison tips. She could shoot any creature and be sure the arrow would be fatal.
Suddenly, Taki turned to where Jaydo and Neytiri were hiding. “It’s not here.”
Jaydo jumped down and landed next to Traito. Neytiri hopped down after him,Tararight behind her.
“What do you mean it isn’t here?” Jaydo asked, looking around.
Taki shrugged. “The trail ends. And it kind of looks like it just flew away.”
Neytiri looked at Taki. “Taki, Budgekakai can’t fly…”
“I know that. But, come on, take a look at this.” Taki and Traito led the way through the dark forest as Neytiri exchanged glances with Jay and Tara.
“Flying Budgekakai?” Jay whispered. He looked forward at the two apprentices and grinned. “Keep an eye on them. It’s Halloween in the mortal world. I bet this is some kind of joke and they’re going to trick us.” Jay winked and ran to catch up to the two young Hunters.
Neytiri looked over atTara. “Do you think he’s…?”
“Could be. Though, Traito would never take part in something like that. He’s too…”
“Dull?” Neytiri supplied.Taragrinned and elbowed her.
“I was going to say depressed,”Tarafrowned as Jay and the apprentices came to a halt in front of them
“What is it?” Neytiri asked, walking up to stand beside Jaydo.
She looked down, and sure enough, there were Budgekaki claw marks. But the trail seemed to simply end, with no step forward or backward.
“Unless the thing dug underground, it definitely flew away,” Jay commented.
Tarasquatted down and swept two fingers across the ground and brought them close to her nose and sniffed. “It was definitely a Budgekaki, and there’s no smell of any flying demon that could have carried it away.”
“I told you, it definitely flew away. There’s no other way,” Taki said, leaning back against a tree.
“We need to report this toGriffin. Especially with it being so close to camp.”Tarastood up and began to head back toward camp, but suddenly a shadow darkened the already shadowy forest. Neytiri looked up and heard Taki scream as she strung an arrow.
“Now that is one killer Budgekaki,” Jay commented as he aimed his dagger.Taracocked an arrow in her crossbow. The pitch black Budgekaki had large wings that sprouted unnaturally from its back. Normal Budgekakai were light brown and much smaller than the one diving towards them.
“Taki,” Neytiri called without moving her gaze from the incoming attacker, “take Traito and head back to camp as fast as you can. TellGriffinwhat happened.”
As she saw Taki take off running from the side of her sight, the Budgekaki came zooming right at her. She shot her first arrow and got him right in the chest. But it did nothing to stop him. He continued his descent and nearly landed onTara.Tarashot an arrow through its heart and Jay attacked its back, shredding its wings with his daggers. Neytiri took aim and shot an arrow right into his right eye. He struggled for a moment longer, but gradually stopped breathing and became still.
“Wow, I’ve never seen a Budgekaki that took more than one Hunter to kill,” Jay commented as he stepped away from the carcass and walked toward Tara and Neytiri.
Tarawas scrutinizing the creature. “This thing shouldn’t exist.” She stepped closer and examined the wings. “This is completely unnatural.”
Just then,Griffincame running up with Zarina and Spirit.
She took in the sight of the dead Budgekaki and turned toTara. “What happened?”
“It attacked us.” She gestured to it, frowning. “Griff, it’s completely abnormal. Do you think the Darkness could be…”Tarabroke off at the lookGriffingave her.
“We will discuss this in my tent.” She turned and swept her long purple cloak up behind her. Zarina followed her while Spirit waited forTarato catch up. Neytiri and Jaydo brought up the rear.
“What’s this Darkness Tara mentioned?” Jay whispered.
Neytiri glanced from him to her mother’s back, considering whether or not to tell him what she knew. She opted on trusting him and told him whatGriffinhad told her about the scouts not coming back and the Darkness the other Hunter Clan had mentioned.
“Hold up a second,” Jay said, stopping as they neared camp. “Other Clan?”
Neytiri sighed. Her mother had told her of this other Clan a while back; she had never mentioned it to Jaydo, though. “There’s another Clan, like ours, but headed by…” Neytiri glanced back to where her mother was entering her tent with Zarina, Tara, and Spirit to make sure she was out of hearing range, “Griffin’s ex-boyfriend.” Neytiri smiled.
“She told you that?” Neytiri could see by Jay’s expression that he was imaginingGriffinwith a boyfriend.
“No, but I inferred from what she did tell me,” Neytiri winked. “She can’t stand this other Clan for the sole reason that he runs it. But she’d never let that get in the way of taking a danger warning seriously.”
They continued walking towards camp and Neytiri saw Taki with her mother, getting checked over.
“Hey, Neytiri, Jaydo!” Taki’s mother called them over. As Neytiri and Jay approached, Taki’s mother stood up and formally nodded to them. “Thank you for saving Taki.”
Neytiri smiled. “She was the one who discovered the Budgekaki. You should be proud of her. Her training is going exceptionally well.”
“And no one gets as many compliments from Tiri as she does, so that’s another good sign,” Jaydo said quietly, a grin on his face. Neytiri elbowed him.
Neytiri and Jay left Taki and her mother and walked to Jaydo and Zarina’s tent. Zarina was withGriffin, so the two had the tent all to themselves.
“So, that Traito kid is one of the scouts’ son?” Jay asked as he placed his daggers on a side table.
“And when isGriffingoing to tell him his mother’s dead?”
Neytiri turned to him sharply, blue eyes flashing. “It’s not that simple, you know! What happens ifGriffinannounces the scouts are dead too early, and then they show up perfectly fine? That shows she doesn’t have enough confidence in her own Hunters.”
“But if she waits too long to announce their deaths, that makes it seem as though she couldn’t be bothered with their disappearances,” Jaydo countered.
“You don’t know what it’s like to lead,” Neytiri muttered, turning away.
“And you do?” Jaydo asked quietly.
Neytiri looked down at the floor. “Of course not,” she whispered.