Jay looked ahead and saw theKatakanMountainrange. There was only a few hours walk left to get there. It would be nightfall by the time they reached it, but they would be able to keep with Neytiri’s harsh travel plan. He glanced over his shoulder and saw that Rhea and Alek had fallen behind again.
The two Shadows were proving to be more trouble than they were worth, in Jay’s opinion. All they did was slow Neytiri and Jay down, eat more sandwiches than allotted to them, and sleep later than him and Neytiri.
Jay glanced ahead to where Neytiri was keeping up her brisk pace. He hadn’t been able to look at her without being reminded of how he had felt when he had seen the sea serpent appear behind her in the lake. For a moment he had imagined the world without her and his heart had nearly broken. He had been unable to stop himself from diving into the lake and going after her even though he despised water.
“Could we stop for a short bit?” Rhea called up to him. “Alek’s bone-tired and hungry.” Jay glanced back and noticed the little boy was walking with purpose and didn’t seem at all tired. Jay grinned. Werewolves and vampires had far more speed and strength than normal beings. The thought of Alek tiring before Rhea was laughable. But Jay stopped nevertheless and called to Neytiri to stop. Neytiri turned and sighed. She walked back and sat down on the round.
Jay slung off his backpack and took out some bread. They had run out of sandwiches that morning and all Jay had left were loaves of bread and some bags of nuts. They would be near starving by the time they made it back to the school.
He and Neytiri both ate less than they normally would have to conserve food while Rhea and Alek managed to consume enough for all four of them.
“Get ready to move again,” Neytiri said, getting up. Sarabi, Sarafina, and Mufasa bounded toward them from the direction of theSekaiForest. They had left a while back to hunt but as Jay watched it looked as though they hadn’t found much. Since they had left the forest and lake behind there had been just open fields and meadows, no where for prey to hide. Luckily that meant no where for enemies to hide either.
Sarabi nudged Jay’s pack and he took three loaves of bread out for the three big cats. Mufasa wolfed his down in moments and Sarabi and Sarafina were no better. They looked to him for more but Jay shook his head apologetically.
“Sorry guys, but we have to save as much as we can.” He stood up and swung his pack onto his back. Rhea and Alek stood up as well. Neytiri had already started walking and she turned back to scowl at them all.
“Could you guys move any slower?” she asked.
Jay grinned. “Only if you ask us to.”
Neytiri shook her head and turned back around and started wlaking again. Jay joined her while Rhea and Alek trailed behind and the cats brought up the rear.
As they came up to the base of the mountain range Jay looked up at the massive peaks.
“Those are some very high mountains,” Alek commented.
Rhea nodded in agreement.
“How are we supposed to find one tiny crest in all of that?” Neytiri asked, optimism leaving her.
Jay elbowed her. “Don’t get all pessimistic now, captain. We’ll comb the entire mountain if we have to!”
“Yeah, but we only have tonight to do it, Jay. We still have eight days ahead of us to get back to the school, and by then we might already be too late. We need to find the crest tonight so we can leave for the Glaciers in the morning,” Neytiri saighed and sat down on the floor.
“What if I were to attempt a summoning spell?” Rhea suggested with a smile. “I don’t know if it would work since I’ve never seen the object before, but I’m pretty sure it can be done.”
“What about your depleted powers?” Jay asked worriedly.
Rhea shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.” She held up her hands and they began to glow a bright blue. She held them up and pointed them at the peaks of the mountains and muttered something under her breath. They locket around her neck began to glow blue as well as she closed her eyes in concentration.
Suddenly Jay could hear a whistling sound as though something was flying at great speeds through the air.
A gold object shot out of the highest mountain peak and dove straight down at them. Rhea stood where she was, oblivious because her eyes were closed, while Alek and Jay dove to the right to get away from the shooting missile. Neytiri tackled Rhea and moved her just in time. The gold object shot straight into the ground where Rhea had been standing and the impact created a large crater.
Jay got up and walked over to it. The crater was emitting smoke and when Jay bent to grab the object he swore and dropped it just as fast for it was burning hot.
“Thanks,” Rhea muttered to Neytiri, rubbing her head.
“No problem. Be careful with that, Jay,” Neytiri loked to where Jay was holding his burned hand.
“Yeah, I kinda figured.” He waited a few moments and then picked the object up again. It had cooled down and as he lifted it to eye level he saw it was a locket like the one Neytiri had found in the cave. The only difference was that this one was shaped like a triangle and glowed in Jay’s hand rather than Rhea’s.
Just then, a large serpentine creature burst from the mountain side and slithered down to them. It reared its head and let a loud roar before snapping down its head. Neytiri jumped out of the way, pulled Rhea with her. She then placed an arrow in her bow and took aim. The arrow went flying and struck the large snake in its left eye.
“Nice shot,” Jay muttered, aiming his own bow. His arrow went flying and hit the other eye. The snake let out a pained roar and began to slowly slither back up the mountainside.
Jay grinned and hi fived Alek, who was grinning in excitement. Then Jay held up the locket and scrutinized it again.
“Hey, Tiri,” he called and she came over to inspect the locket. “What does this mean?” Neytiri was the only one skilled in reading the ancient language in their entire Clan because she had been the only one to ever take an interest in learning.
“Nesaraii quita con ridayaha yta nebasazi.‘Hunter of loyalty and friendship.” Neytiri smiled and held out a hand to help him to his feet. “Sounds pretty accurate.” She turned and helped Rhea to her feet as well. “You probably shouldn’t have tried that since it took such a great effort, but I’m grateful that you did. It saved us all a great amount of time.” Jay noticed that she thanked Rhea as though she was an outsider who had volunteered to help, rather than a part of their mission who was obligated to give her assistance.
“No problem, Neytiri,” Rhea spoke with reserve and Jay thought that maybe she had been offended. “Now, shall we make camp for the night?”
Neytiri nodded and took the tent out of her bag. It grew to it normal size as she set it on the ground and Alek ran inside and grabbed a bed. He was fast asleep by the time Jay entered the tent. Rhea lay down and was asleep in moments, exhausted from her summoning spell. Jay sat down on the ground outside the tent and Neytiri sat down beside him.
They sat in silence for quite a while before Jay broke it. “So, I wanted to ask you…” he trailed off before regaining his confidence. “Where do we stand?”
“What do you mean?” Neytiri asked, looking up at the night sky.
“You and me. Where do we stand in our relationship?”
“Well, I have no idea.” She sighed and turned to look at him. “I was rather hoping you could tell me.”
Jay shook his head with a faint smile. “Tiri, we really need to figure this out because it’s making everything quite awkward, I hope you know.”
“Oh, boy, do I know. Why do you think I’ve been keeping my pace so much faster than yours? I just didn’t want to talk about it!” She reached for her feet and pulled her boots off. “And boy, are my feet in pain because of it!” Jay leaned his head back and let out a laugh.
“My goodness, Tiri! Wouldn’t simplytalkingto me have been easier?” he asked.
Neytiri shook her head stubbornly. Then she looked at him with a smile. “But we can talk now. Where do you think we stand?”
Jay shrugged. “We kind of just left off at our last conversation. I don’t even really know if you want to be together or not.”
“Of course I want to be together, Robin!” She hugged him. Then she pulled back and looked at him with a serious expression. “But only if you promise that if it doesn’t work out we completely forget we even tried and go back to just being best friends, okay?”
“Deal,” Jay said, feeling his heart warm. Finally, after years of trying to get her to see his true feelings, he was going to be able to be open with her.
“Now, we should probably get some rest as well. We have three days of hiking through cold mountain passes ahead of us.” Neytiri got up to enter the tent. Jay sighed.
“Do we have to? I mean, is your crest really that important?” He grinned and ducked as her fist tried to connect with his arm. “Kidding, kidding.” He entered the tent with her and found that sleep took him as soon as he closed his eyes.