Author's note: By popular demand, I've decided to continue the story I began in Pandora's Hope. However as noted there, this will be a very different piece. It's more like a collection of one-shots set in the century-long gap between the final departure of the Sky People and their eventual return. Some of the tales will stand by themselves, others might not make much sense without first reading Pandora's Hope. Those of you who wanted more Norm/Pey'lal description will be getting it here, as some of the chapters will focus on them. As before, I will add to it each day I am able.
Timeline: There is no particular chronological order to these, they will come as I finish them, so I have provided dates for reference. Venture Star's exodus from Pandora occurred in 2154. Capital Star's departure and the final contact between RDA and the Na'vi occurred in 2155.
Shadow of a Giant
1. Where Are You Now?
Earth Year: 2231 AD. 76 Years After Final Contact.
Tradition governed all among the Omaticaya, yet such things were fluid over time, changing ever so slowly as generations were born, lived and returned to Eywa. Only the truly ancient ones could notice it. Yet one rule remained as solid as ever, unchanging throughout the seasons. Leadership by example; it was at the very heart of everything the People revered. Olo'eytkan must also be ikran makto, he must fly among the hunters, or he must allow another to ascend in his place. It was the way of things. Ancient ones were to be respected and consulted for their great wisdom, but they could not lead the Omaticaya against the great beasts, they could not serve as warriors.
Rain had fallen the night before, making the climb up Hometree's flank slick and treacherous. Jake's old joints ached with dull, throbbing pains, making each step more painful than the one before. A young blue hand reached for his, offering help. No one would question him if he took it, for he had been Toruk Makto, the living legend. If he needed this small help to sail over the clouds, who would deny him that? Jake Sully was never one to accept charity where strength of character would do. Grunting with an almost agonizing pain, he managed to haul himself onto the branch without help, much to the admiration of the warriors before him.
To them this was, perhaps, a display of immense courage, a testament to the strength of their Olo'eytkan. For Jake it was a very different matter. There were only two places in the world he could still hear Neytiri in his mind, still feel the bond consummated so long ago. Often he would sit next to the Tree of Souls for hours on end, connected to Eywa, touching her soul. All Omaticaya knew to leave him alone in such times. Unless Sky People were descending from the heavens, he was not to be disturbed from his communion with his lifemate's soul. Some, perhaps, thought it unhealthy that he grieved silently, away from the others. None would say so openly.
Yet the Tree of Souls was not the only place he could feel her. Over the years, he had tamed many ikran,sailed across much of the world and hunted many beasts. Flying should have been a chore for him by now, as it was to many of the warriors. But this had been his dream even in those almost-forgotten days when he had been human. It was a dream that never ceased to amaze him, the feeling of the air on his skin, the flapping wings of his ikran, the thrill of diving through the floating mountains.
"We go?"A hunter questioned his leader with anticipation. Tay'et was a second-generation descendant of Norm, and his friend's features echoed in the young warrior, fresh from his Trial. Norm, too, had been gone for several years. In fact, Jake was the last of the former dreamwalkers, still lingering on. Most didn't even truly understand what a dreamwalker was anymore, as far as they knew, he was simply Toruk Makto and Olo'eytkan, the defeater of the Sky People.
"You go." Jake answered the excited young hunter. "I must fly alone today."
All Omaticaya knew this of their leader. Just as he sometimes lingered by the Tree of Souls, other times he would fly to the ends of the world and back again. Tay'et did not try to talk his leader out of it, he knew better, but part of the young hunter wished he could simply banish the pain Olo'eytkan felt for his mate, gone for many seasons now. Of course it could not be, some mating bonds were so strong that they remained powerful even after death, it had been seen before. Most such bondings resulted in the death of the survivor not long after, as if one body could not live on its own any longer. Jake was different, acknowledging the pain and yet continuing on, dealing with the fractured bond in his own way.
Jake whistled softly, his loyal ikran flapping its wings, stirring wet leaves everywhere around him. The leader clambered up, the dull pain in his legs ignored as he mounted the beast, flying off into the cloudy skies beyond Hometree. The cool air was in his face again, the forest whisking away beneath him, it was like a dream his body always half-expected to wake up from. He was one with his ikran, gliding through thundering mountains, ascending higher, above the low-hanging clouds. Jake's eye even caught a glimpse of his mighty toruk, still remembering its rider after all these years, flying side-by-side for a brief moment before vanishing into the clouds from whence it came. The sight of the great beast brought a smile to his weathered features.
Where are you now? Jake's mind questioned, the words echoing in his mind. Be with me again as we fly together.
I am with you now, Jake, came the reply from someplace deep within.
And he felt her again, as if they were still flying together, dancing through the boundless skies. Warmth flooded through the bond, the connection to Neytiri and to Eywa glimmering in his mind. It was a joyful moment, gliding over the seas, the memory of her with him just she had been in life. Jake Sully smiled, letting himself soar over the jungles of his home, the dream still with him. His people did not truly understand how each day he could manage to climb to the great ikran nest within Hometree, how he could still soar in the skies and hunt from far above. Some thought he just wanted to stay as Olo'eytkan until his body breathed no more. No one understood that he did not fly in order to lead, or fly to stave off death. He flew to live.