Jaydo Star swept his long brown hair from his face and grinned at Neytiri’s back as he swung his fishing pole at her.
“Hey!” Neytiri turned and scowled at him after the sharp point of the pole made contact with her back. “I’m trying to concentrate over here, you know.” She turned back to where she was trying to spear a fish with her arrow.
“You know that’s near impossible because of the reflection and all, right?” Jay commented, stepping over the stones of the beach to sit beside her.
Neytiri sighed and her shoulders slumped. “A little faith would be nice, Jay.”
Jay stood up and stepped back, holding his hands up in surrender. “Right, sorry, Ney. You can totally go against physics or whatever and get that done. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here actually catching some fish.” Jay tossed the fishing line into the river and sat down on the rocks.
“Why are we even fishing again?” Taki swam over from the other side of the bank.
“Because Neytiri’s boyfriend wanted fish and she simply couldn’t turn him down,” Jay replied with a wink in Neytiri’s direction. She glowered in response.
“You didn’t have to help if you didn’t want to, you know,” she informed him.
“And yet, if Taki and I hadn’t come, you would have nothing to take back.” Jay glanced at the large pile of caught fish at his feet, the pile on the other side of the bank which Taki had caught, and then at the empty space beside Neytiri.
“Whatever.” Neytiri turned back to trying to skewer unsuspecting fish with her arrow.
Jay caught another fish and added it to his pile as Taki continued to bring her fish over from the other bank. Together they had accumulated thirty large fish while Neytiri finally caught her first.
“Yes!” She jumped up with the still wriggling fish in her hand. She turned and smiled as she slid the arrow into its side again to kill it. It lay still in her hand and she removed her hand and moved to place it on the pile with Jay and Taki’s fish.
“Wait a second,” Jay said, stepping between Neytiri and the pile.
“What?” Neytiri questioned, irked.
“Isn’t that an arrow from your quiver?”
“Yeeees,” Neytiri answered in frustration.
“And aren’t all your arrows poison tipped?”
Realization dawned on Neytiri’s face. “Shoot.”
“After all that time, seriously?” Taki asked with a grin. Neytiri glared down at the little dead fish in her hands and turned towards the forest.
“What are you going to do with it?” Jay asked.
“Bury it,” she replied through gritted teeth. Jay grinned, hands on his hips. He turned to Taki. “Ready to take all this back to camp?” Taki smiled. Jay grabbed an armful of fish and led Taki back to camp. As they entered the new temporary camp, Zaiko came running toward them. But when he saw Neytiri wasn’t with them he slowed and came to a stop in front of them, smiling.
“Those fish look great!” Then he glanced behind them. “Where’s Neytiri?”
“Burying a fish,” Taki said cheerfully.
Zaiko looked at her in confusion, wondering why Neytiri would waste a perfectly good fish, no doubt. Jay left the fish in front of Zaiko’s tent and headed back to the river. When he reached the river, the first thing he noticed was the sudden disappearance of his fish. The second thing he noticed was that Neytiri wasn’t back yet. And the third thing he noticed was the sound of whistling as though arrows were flying through the air.
Jay turned to the forest where Neytiri had gone. “Taki,” he said without turning, “head back to camp and tellGriffinwe may have a problem.” He ran into the forest without seeing if Taki followed his order.
He found Neytiri in a clearing facing a large…shadow. It was as though the forest’s shadow had solidified and was attacking Neytiri.
“Jay!” she called. “I think it’s the Darkness Griffin was talking about!” She shot another arrow at it and Jay saw the creature simply absorbed the wooden arrow. Neytiri back stepped to stand beside Jay. “There’s no way to hit it.”
“What happened to your fish?” Jay asked with a grin as he took out his daggers.
“Are you kidding me? That was the first thing I threw at it.”
Just then,Griffincame crashing through the forest with Tara, Spirit, Zarina, and Taki’s mother.Griffinslashed at it with her sword, but the impact seemed to have no effect upon the dark creature.
“What is it?”Taraasked after losing half the arrows for her crossbow to it.
Spirit’s eyes widened. “This thing?”
“Griff, we need to get away from it,” Zarina ordered. “The safeties around the camp will hold, but we won’t.”Griffinnodded.
“Retreat, Hunters!” Jay knew how muchGriffinhated having to utter those words. Yet, having the strength to know when to quit was a sign of a great leader. Jay followed behind Neytiri as they all headed to the camp. As they crossed past the stakes, Jay stopped running and caught his breath. The dark shadow came languidly up to the stakes, but didn’t seem able to cross them. Slowly it retreated back into the forest.
“Get everyone ready. We’ll be leaving in half an hour.”Griffinwalked back to the center of camp, where her tent was located. Jay turned to look at Neytiri, green eyes wide.
“Well, that was way more than the fish I had bargained for.” But the joke didn’t elicit a response from Neytiri. Jay frowned. Just then, Zaiko came running up, out of breath.
“I just heard from Taki! I’m so sorry, Neytiri, it’s my fault you were out there!” Jay rolled his eyes.
Neytiri frowned. “That’s fine, Zaiko.” She left him staring after her as she limped to Zarina’s tent. Jay followed, noticing with annoyance that Zaiko did as well. Neytiri entered the tent and Jay went in after her. Zaiko tried to follow, but Zarina came up behind him.
“Sorry, patients only, Zaiko,” she said as she turned him away.
“But…Jaydo just…” Zaiko blubbered an excuse.
“Jay lives with me, remember?” Zarina smiled sweetly, and then swept the flaps of the tent shut in Zaiko’s face.
“Thanks for that,” Neytiri said quietly as she placed her bleeding foot on Zarina’s examination table.
Zarina nodded. “Now, let me see to that.” Zarina felt the foot and watched for Neytiri’s response to squeezing it in different spots.
Jay went over to his side of the tent and placed his backpack and daggers on his bed. He needed to get different weapons if he was going to fight the Darkness. His two simple daggers weren’t enough because he could only throw them twice, and if he did that he would be out of weapons.
“Thanks, Zarina.” Jay watched as Neytiri left the tent and saw Zaiko standing outside, waiting for her, as the flap closed.
“I wouldn’t worry about Zaiko,” Zarina said, not turning to face him as she placed ointments back on shelves. “She doesn’t like him. She finds him annoying and bothersome. Besides, he’s also already found someone else who actually notices him.” Zarina stood straight and smiled to Jay.
“Who?” he couldn’t help asking.
“You knowTara’s daughter?”
“That’s the one. She’s been mooning over him for a while now. He just took this long to notice. He’s already backing off Neytiri a bit.” Zarina pulled the flap of the tent back and Jay saw Neytiri heading to her mother’s tent alone while Zaiko stood talking with a blond haired woman.
Jay turned to Zarina as she let the flap fall back in place. “Thanks, Zar.”
Zarina smiled. “Any time, dearest.”
In the time since Jay had started living with Zarina, they had grown close and Jay had started viewing her as a mother/sister figure. He could go to her for advice on anything. And often he didn’t even have to ask to get the advice.
Jay started walking to the tent exit to look for Hunters to trade weapons with when Zarina stepped in his way. “I don’t think so. First off, you need to rest that sprained ankle.” Jay glanced down at his feet; he hadn’t even noticed the sprain yet. “And second, if you’re thinking about trading out your prized weapons just because they were ineffective against one enemy, that doesn’t seem very intelligent.”
“But Zarina, if this is our new enemy, then don’t you think I should get a weapon I can actually fight this thing with?” Jay protested.
“You felt useless when you arrived on the scene and couldn’t throw your daggers at it, right?” Zarina asked. Jay nodded. “Well then, just ask me for a bow and arrow. Don’t go trading your knives away.” Zarina walked over to one wall of the tent where three bows were hung and four quivers sat on the floor. Jay felt the bow she handed him. It was strong, made of tantowood. He pulled back the string and felt resistance.
“I don’t know about this, Zar. I’m not exactly a bowman…”
“Yet, you can become one, can you not?” Zarina smiled and helped him string an arrow and take aim. “Don’t shoot in here, but get used to how you’re supposed to position yourself.” Zarina stepped back and watched him. “Good. Now, I would go out to train with you today, butGriffinhas called me in later today. I can go out to help you tomorrow though. Just have Neytiri take out Taki.”
Jay nodded. “Thanks again, Zarina.”
Zarina smiled in response.