It's taken over a week but I've finally managed to get this last chapter out which took ages to type up.
Bear with me though, it's a huge chapter..so be patient and take your time when you read through it.
Hopefully you've enjoyed reading these chapters as much as I've enjoyed writing them :)
To all that have reviewed in the past, Ireiyo. I hope that others might try to review though but oh well..
On an end note, I hope that there is a sequel of the PC/XBOX 360 Avatar game that emphasises more on the story and gameplay
A shooting pain was felt from beneath his eyelids. With a groan Ryder opened them to glimpse painfully at a lone light in the ceiling that flickered dimly on the white concrete interior of his makeshift prison.
"Where am I?" He wondered aloud. Ryder tried to make sense of the room that held him; his voice was groggy from the tranquilizer as he half imagined that he was in the Tipani Home tree once more. The laughter and whispers from the busy Na'vi were fresh in his memory.
"Time's up Ryder"
With the grating slam of a large metal door, that illusion was shattered, the voices gone.
Ryder held his aching head with one of his hands and blinked up at the human form of Murray who was scowling down at him over a hot mug of tea.
Ryder wasn't in any shape to fight; instead he only wrinkled his nose in disgust as he caught Murray with a satisfied smirk on his face, deep in thought.
He saw Ryder's expression and was brought back to the matter at hand.
"Ah yes Ryder," Murray added the last word like it was a bad taste in his mouth. "Yes where was I?"
He leant back against the wall and closed his eyes for a moment. "How do you feel about having an opportunity to share a last moment with your 'woman'" he drawled, "Before she becomes dearly departed?" He laughed and gulped another mouthful of tea.
Ryder frowned, confused, and hissed loudly in Murray's direction. Murray calmly continued to dip his teabag into his cup and frowned.
"They never did allow much expenditure on the luxuries," he mused. He then looked down and smiled at the vulnerable Ryder. "Now Ryder," he tutted, an egotistical smile on his face. "An attitude like that won't help you. I'm trying to do you a favour here."
Ryder's ears perked up from their flat position and he sat up drowsily as Murray walked towards the door and let in a small number of armed guards who surrounded the confused Ryder.
"Now Ryder, I'm a liberal man," Murray held his arms beside him in a token gesture. "We've taken all we can from your mate. I'm giving you the chance to see her before her queue is cut and she is disposed of," He goaded spitefully.
Ryder growled and tried to fling himself at Murray who leapt to the side and shook his head with disappointment.
"You bastard," Murray spat as he wiped dome specks of tea from his collar and pressed the side of his boot into Ryder's head. "Take him away."
He motioned to the anxious men who all took hold of Ryder's legs and started dragging him out of the open door and through the adjacent hallway which were full of scientists who stared incredulously at the scowling Ryder. Murray led the group and stopped eventually at a lab room after they had virtually done a whole tour of the labs with Ryder's back stinging and the men dripping with sweat and cursing under their breaths as they struggled with his large body. Murray disappeared into a lab room for a moment and returned with a few scientists whose brows were furrowed and eyes bloodshot: they looked like they hadn't slept for days.
Ryder turned his head to look at them but found himself shoved into a room and facing another steel door. He groaned and jerked when he heard hammering on one of the nearby glass windows. Ryder shakily got to his feet to see Murray mouthing the words
"Ten minutes," before cutting himself off with the hand motion of a guillotine across his throat. He then turned and hurried down a hallway with his scientists before Ryder could come up with any comebacks.
Ryder swore and angrily glanced around the room to see holographs, shelves full of medical equipment, a monitoring station and a large bed which was too large for humans to lie on. His heart skipped a beat when he saw a lone figure kneeling with its back turned to him behind the lab bed.
"Amanti is that you?" Ryder's voice cracked when he saw that the figure was unclothed and there was dark blood on the tiled floor below.
The figure turned slightly, enough to give away that it was in fact Amanti. Ryder crept slowly to within a few feet of Amanti and reached his hand out to gently touch her shoulder.
With a snarl, Amanti turned and Ryder was shocked to see his beloved mate, the powerful leader of Torukä Na'rìng reduced to such a state. Her face was haggard and wet with tears, yet her eyes were wild and vivid. That wasn't what worried Ryder the most: a series of weeping stitches were holding a large scar on Amanti's abdomen, they looked raw and deep.
"Vrrtep, kä neto!"(Demon go away)
Ryder's eyes widened as with a yell, Amanti knocked him to the ground, pinned him down and held a broken test tube to his neck. Bewildered, Ryder looked down from the glass to the angry stitches on Amanti's stomach and then to Amanti herself who was shaking with fury and glaring down at him with wild eyes.
"Amanti!" Ryder yelled and knocked the glass from her hand and shook her by the shoulders. "What is wrong with you? I'm not the enemy!"
Amanti shuddered and beat at Ryder's chest and she yelled hysterically at him with every hit.
"Your fault, this is all your doing!"
Ryder remembered Amanti's behaviour from the last few weeks and timidly held her head in his hands, a nervous smile on his face.
"Amanti," Ryder gently whispered to Amanti who was still weakly hitting him. "Please tell me what's wrong with you. What happened?"
Amanti sniffed, shocked by Ryder's calm and the desperation on his voice. She fell upon him and was overcome by a fit of sobbing.
Ryder felt Amanti wince as he held her close with one arm and gingerly ran the fingers from his other arm over the alien stitches.
Amanti looked down at Ryder's relieved face and broke into a weak smile and rubbed noses with him, glad to see him again. She moved her queue forwards to connect with Ryder's.
"I will show you what I know AbleRyder. I cannot speak of this until you see first."
Ryder tried to brace himself but was never fully prepared for the inclusion of another mind, another's feelings. They both shuddered and smiled as they felt truly together once again, both minds as one. They felt happy once more, until Ryder saw Amanti's memories.
Ryder saw Murray and other scientists surrounding Amanti as she lay on a large table. Each one holding surgical instruments, calling out stats and assessing the condition of Amanti before her vision turned black. Ryder felt a wave of anger before Amanti showed him another memory days before she was captured, speaking to a na'vi woman and consoling her as they were standing over a small patch of earth where a small body had been buried.
Ryder wondered if this was the reason why Amanti had been acting so strange lately. He hoped he would eventually find out, he hated seeing her that way.
Ryder turned and to Amanti and held her shoulders comfortingly, "I will find out what they did to you"
Amanti stroked his face and hung her head, "It will not change anything AbleRyder."
Ryder closed his eyes and sighed, he began to show Amanti his memories of the betrayal, of his encounters with Murray and finally his frustration at not being able to help Amanti and find out what was wrong with her. He felt Amanti's alarm and sorrow and removed his queue, severing the bond and the deluge of memories. He turned sideways to see Amanti shaking her head.
"This is very bad," she stopped and grasped Ryder's shoulders with a pleading look on her face. "This was not Melvin's fault; please do not use me to start attacking our brothers and sisters."
Ryder's eyes went wide with shock and he opened his mouth to speak.
"We've found him, quick open up this door!" a loud voice broke out.
Amanti grabbed Ryder's arm, then motioned for him to get to his feet as Beyda'amo and some Torukä Na'rìng warriors pounded at the door. Ryder tapped a window with a grin and then shielded Amanti as Beyda'amo swung his staff at the thick glass a few times which sent glass showering over them.
"AbleRyder, you must come back to Home tree," Beyda'amo yelled urgently peering through the glass at Ryder who shook his head as he helped Amanti through the small opening.
"Not yet there's something that I have to check out."
Once Ryder clambered through the opening he put his hand reassuringly on Amanti's shoulder as she looked towards him with a grimace, the stitches having been unsettled.
"Come on, can you show me the room where you were taken in?"
Amanti frowned, "I cannot remember where the room is, they all look the same."
Ryder rolled his eyes at his stupid question, "Was there anything that you noticed in the room or outside?"
Amanti hummed, deep in thought. Her eyes lit up, "I saw some containers of water outside the room"
Ryder bit his lip in confusion, then he thought about the amino tanks; they were full of fluid. He grasped Amanti's arm and beckoned for her to follow him. All around them, warriors were fighting with Murray's militia. Debris was clogging up the corridors and gunshots were spraying the walls after retreating warriors. A Na'vi bowman skidded past on the smooth tiles and ducked behind a trolley as gunfire rang over his head as he turned and yelled to Ryder.
"AbleRyder..They come. Hurry we must leave!"
Ryder shook his head and headed towards the amino tank lab room, desperate to ease his confusion about Amanti and figure out what Murray was so hell-bent on retrieving from her.
They rushed into the darkened room to see a few empty tanks including a tank that had hastily been hidden under some spare lab equipment. Amanti stumbled forwards, clutching her stomach and breathing heavily before furiously clearing all the clutter away. Ryder ran to her side to try to help her but with a cry she shoved him backwards with a hidden strength and Ryder steadied his balance and scowled.
"What..What is this?" Amanti's voice cracked as she pressed her forehead to the glistening tank to see a small mound of flesh inside.
Ryder watched a rising lump in his throat as Amanti read a notepad that was carelessly left on an adjacent desk in the panic and with a horrible look on her face she sank to her knees and began sobbing weakly while pounding her fist against the glass. Ryder moved slowly towards the desk, the lump in his throat growing uncomfortably larger. With trembling hands, he picked up the notepad which fit into his hand, his heart beating faster as he read the title: Avatar Prototype. His eyes scanned the words below and narrowed as he read:
'Highly recommended for further research. The developing Na'vi embreyo; subject C from Na'vi female is currently 3 weeks old. Transfusion of human DNA into replicating genetic code is currently underway. Head authorities request that the embryo remains in amino tank to continue normal development into adult Avatar for human usage. Research recommends further experimentation with other Na'vi embryos from the local Tipani clan to improve success rate of Avatar subjects and to offset expenditure.'
Ryder's eyes widened as he looked from Amanti's scarred belly to the tank, he put them together and finally realised what had happened. "Oh god, I think I'm going to be sick," his knees buckled underneath him as he looked into the tank to see a small blue lump; the Na'vi shape not distinguishable. Ryder's empty stomach lurched, causing stinging acid to force its way up Ryder's throat and he retched over the notepad that lay on the floor. Ryder furiously blinked his eyes and held the sobbing Amanti close, his throat burning. "You were?"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Amanti looked hard at Ryder, and then sighed, "AbleRyder, some Na'vi return forever to Eywa before they are even born. So may the mother." She wiped her eyes, stood up and looked into the tube once more,
"My friend had to bury her child before it was even a day old. I had a suspicion that I might share her fate but I wasn't sure of it."Amanti tightly gripped Ryder's shoulders as he looked away, not meeting her gaze.
"AbleRyder, I was worried. I didn't want to have the same thing happen to us, I was trying to protect us both." Amanti groaned and tried to make eye contact with Ryder as he stood and continued to bite his lip, his ears drooping.
"Amanti I'll need time to make sense of this," he sighed.
Amanti turned from gazing back at the tank to see her mate facing her with a determined look on his face.
"You don't need to go through this alone."
Amanti smiled gratefully and took hold of Ryder's outstretched hand and helped herself up. They both stood facing the eerie tank and Amanti swallowed hard. Ryder nodded, pressed his palm to the glass and gently wiped away tears from Amanti's cheek with the other hand.
"Amanti there's only thing we can do," Ryder's voice sounded dry as he glanced at Amanti. "We can't let this one be used by the RDA."
Amanti gulped and squeezed Ryder's other hand, "Sabotage?"
Ryder clenched his jaw and returned the gesture as he led her to over to the control panel at the side of the tank. "The Avatar program and Murray have gone too far this time. I know that you won't let them get away with it and neither will I," he spoke, a hard look on his face.
Amanti watched as Ryder's hand hovered over one of the switches. She saw that he was trembling. Amanti laid her hand on his, her heart heavy.
"We must do this together."
They paused, pressed down on the button and looked over at the tank which was flashing white and bubbles began to seep into the liquid rendering it a murky grey colour. Amanti rocked slightly and leant on Ryder's shoulder for support as alarms began beeping and the water began to drain out of the tank and into a holding cell below.
Ryder froze and began to grind his teeth as he saw the blue mass slowly fade and shrivel. He forced back a tear and breathed deeply as he turned from the tank, the alarm having silenced itself. "Come on Amanti we're done here," he whispered.
Amanti frowned as she took one last desperate look at the tank and followed Ryder to a nearby shelf, staying close to him.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
Ryder began searching through the contents of the desks and shelves: throwing clutter all over the floor until he stopped and gasped in surprise. Amanti hurried to see what he had found and gasped, a relieved look on her face, as she eagerly took the bundle from Ryder's arms and kissed his cheek; a smile on both of their faces."My armour! Thank you AbleRyder," Amanti gratefully held her green armour and frowned as Ryder held out a strip of cloth before her.
"Bandages, for your waist."
Amanti's features unclouded and she held her arms away as Ryder bent down and gently applied her bandages. She smiled weakly but then suddenly winced in pain and quickly stepped backwards.
"What is that?" Amanti pointed at a small bottle that Ryder was setting back down on one of the overturned tables. He picked it up and gestured to the label on the front, smirking and dropped it into a nearby bin.
"Whisky," Ryder coughed and rubbed his face. "It might help the infections spreading; it's all I could find at the moment." He straightened up and gestured to Amanti's armour; his tail slightly twitched and brushed his ankle. "Can you put that on okay or do you want any help? We need to get out of here soon."
Amanti snorted and began to strap on her loincloth and armour.
"No I am not that injured AbleRyder."
Ryder smirked and looked darkly at the room before turning to Amanti, an urgent look on his face.
"We need to get going Amanti, quick I can hear the fighting coming our way!"
They both ran out of the room to be joined by Beyda'amo and tired warriors. Beyda'amo approached Ryder after being satisfied that Amanti was uninjured, his hackles raised and his face angry.
"I should knock some sense in that large head of yours AbleRyder, many warriors have had to hold out against the weapons of the tawtute because we have been waiting for you to return!" Ryder ducked Beyda'amo's outstretched hand and furrowed his brow, avoiding eye contact.
"Something came up."
Beyda'amo looked curiously at them both before softening; his body however was still tense.
"Whatever it was, learn from it and move on. We have to leave for Hometree before we are all ambushed."
Ryder looked around him before to see the gathered warriors around Beyda'amo; all tense and tense and nervously looking over their shoulders and gripping their weapons as echoes of yelling and reloading of rifles filled the corridor to their left.
"Okay, come on let's get out of here!" Ryder yelled.
Beyda'amo gratefully nodded and ran to one of the closest windows and whistled, while motioning for the others to take cover. A sound of bellowing outside and a gait that was steadily quickening could be heard outside. The floor and walls started vibrating as the Na'vi dived to the floor as far away as they could and a loud crashing sound was heard before a dull groan of falling concrete shook the building.
Ryder covered his ears and coughed from the clouds of dust, looking up and squinting from the strong sun as he saw a pair of Na'vi atop a bellowing Angtsìk (Hammerhead) that was poking out of a giant hole in the wall opposite him." Way to go guys and save our asses!" he smiled. The mounted Na'vi grinned at Ryder, their faced full of excitement and they pumped the air with their fists and galloped off cheering towards the Tipani Hometree.
Beyda'amo pushed past Ryder and motioned for the relieved warriors to follow him, "Za'u, 'awsiteng kämakto!" (Ride out together)
Ryder snorted and held Amanti's arm as a dozen Ikran circled overhead and landed as they head their warrior's calls, scattering dirt and swaying plants to and fro with the wind churned by their downward wing flaps. Ryder spied his blue-green Ikran perched atop a communications disk, grinned, put his hands around his mouth and let out a series of chirps and clicks which with an excited shriek; his ikran dove and landed by his side. Its head butt Ryder's chest and its antenna outstretched impatiently, wanting to fly together once more. Ryder smirked and stroked his Ikran's neck and made tsahaylu, both ikran and himself momentarily closing their eyes and his ikran softly cawed in good spirits, as Ryder clambered atop the harness and looked to his his mate who was adjusting the straps of her lighter hued ikran's harness.
"Are you ready AbleRyder?" Amanti called out
Ryder looked behind him to see Murray's militia pouring out of the cracked wall and starting to aim their guns towards them. "Yeah, yeah let's get out of here!" he anxiously yelled behind him.
With a shriek his Ikran leant forwards and furiously beat its wings, trying to clear the treetops as the militia began firing, loud bursts or gunfire ringing out through the forest. The bullets were whizzing over Ryder's shoulder and between the gaps of the trees as he struggled to gain altitude, ducking his head and clearing the dark green canopy with little sound. Ryder yelled in fear, adrenaline pumping through his body as his Ikran sped higher towards the clear sky, the treetops now below them. Gunfire still rang out as Ryder swivelled, gripping his Ikran's harness fiercely, his knuckles white as he scanned for Amanti, braids blowing behind him in the wind. He had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach when all he could see was the treetops below and the crowd of warriors ahead; streaking towards the imposing Tipani Hometree that dominated his view. His Ikran wobbled slightly and shrieked as Ryder grit his teeth together continuing to search the vast canopies below before sighing,
"I'm glad you appeared my friend, I'd be dead if you didn't. Don't worry," Ryder tried to convince himself as much as his ikran. "I'm sure Amanti will eventually turn up."
A happy rumble was heard from his Ikran's throat as Ryder leant over to pat its shoulder reassuringly. He scanned for Amanti one last time before rushing to the top of Hometree, breaking through the lush growth on its crown with a sigh as he realised that he was now home. The dark green leaves tickled his face as his Ikran descended on a large branch that jutted out at least a hundred feet to the right. Ryder smiled and dismounted as he caught a glint in his Ikran's eye before it flew off to gather with the roosting ikran of Beyda'amo and Amanti's warriors. Ryder let out a series of deep breaths, his heart still racing as he scanned the impressive view for Amanti and her Ikran once again. Seeing only faint outlines of similar Hometrees, lush green treetops and the gigantic purple-blue silhouette of Polyphemus, Ryder groaned and wiped the sweat from his brow and hurried down the inner branches to the loft where Tsahìk Sänume and the others were waiting.
Once the Tipani caught sight of him, the entire Hometree echoed with whooping and cheering. Warriors and gatherers alike had their arms raised high in joy to see the Nì'awve Mokri (First Voice) alive and with them again. Ryder gazed at the mass of kind yellow eyes that greeted him and he smiled briefly before apprehensively biting his lip and frowning.
Sänume caught Ryder's expression and raised her arms, effectively silencing the clan as she stepped forwards, her bodyguards at her side and she spoke, her voice uplifting.
"Yes everyone, it brings us all great joy to have Amanti and AbleRyder both with us once more thanks to Eywa and our rescue party."
Ryder's ears flew upwards at the surprising news and he looked about him with wide eyes as Amanti emerged from the cheering crowd, her eyes happily glowing as she saw her people again. Ryder hung back his head in relief and joined in with the whopping crowd of Na'vi who surrounded Amanti and they showered her with smiles and warm embraces.
Tsahìk Sänume smiled proudly and once again raised her arms, asking for silence, her face stern.
"Truly these are testing times and as I have previously said, the forest will heal and so will the hearts of the people. We are able to speak directly to Eywa, to ask for her blessings," She stopped as the clan began cheering again. Ryder took advantage of the pause to make his way through the cheering crowd and lovingly embraced Amanti, their foreheads touching as they smiled and coiled their tails together.
"Amanti," Ryder began, his heart swelling with adoration and joy "I'm glad to have you with me; I will stand always by your side."
Amanti smiled broadly and fiddled with some of Ryder's braids before grasping Ryder's hands and placing them over her bandage. She winced slightly and her lip slightly trembled. "I am always with you; the tawtute must pay for what they have done to us AbleRyder."
Ryder clenched his jaw and swore under his breath as he peeked under the bandages to see the stitches still raised and angry. He nodded with a grim expression.
Tsahìk Sänume watched and motioned for Amanti to stand before her. Amanti glanced at Ryder before hurrying to Sänume, slightly bowing as Sänume studied her before staring at her bandage on her stomach. She looked confused and asked for some healers to check the wound. What they saw caused Sänume to gasp in shock and grip the sides of her sitting area tightly with a horrified face.
"Amanti what is this? This wound looks like it was made by the Tawtute," she whispered softly.
Amanti gingerly held her stomach as the healers applied salves and their own bandage to the wound. She moved her head closer to Sänume and the two conversed with little being heard by the silent crowd of Na'vi who were trying to listen eagerly with bated breath.
Sänume turned to face the Tipani, her features suppressing a wave of indignation and fear,
"Na'viyä, we must prepare ourselves tomorrow. You will know of the matter further from Tan'Jala and Amanti," she slowly walked back to her area and sat down, steadying herself with the wooden frame on either side of her.
The Tipani began to walk away from Tsahìk Sänume and continued on with their daily tasks once again. A few glanced at Ryder and Amanti for a little while but their attention soon wavered and they too began to move on. Ryder joined once again with Amanti and sat before Tsahìk Sänume who nodded solemnly and motioned to her head, Ryder and Amanti repeating the gesture before they were joined by Beyda'amo and Tan'Jala as they all sat closely together, preventing their voices from being overheard by passing warriors.
Tsahìk Sänume sipped from a nearby bowl of water and gazed at Ryder intently before speaking, her voice hushed,
"AbleRyder, do you know why the Avatar program would do such a thing to one of our own?"
Ryder stiffened and he rubbed his leg in irritation as he spoke, "I'm not sure, but I think that they were running out of funds after the battle for the Vitrayä Ramunong ,Well of Souls. They must have decided to steal a developing na'vi for the avatar program, infuse it with human DNA and make an avatar at a cheaper cost." He breathed deeply before continuing, "They will probably take more of the Tipani take make more Avatars, their outpost is not far."
Sänume frowned as she tried to understand his foreign words and concepts.
"Who was in charge of this foul act?" a bitter voice broke out.
Ryder turned to face Beyda'amo who was flexing his muscles and stretching his neck while staring at him with hard eyes, probably trying to read his thoughts. Ryder licked his lips and his tail thumped the ground,
Tan'Jala glanced at Ryder's dark expression and his eyes lit up intently,
"The Dreamwalker with the box of noises, the leader."
"I remember his face well, an evil man." Amanti joined.
Beyda'amo jerked his head to Amanti and his face softened.
"I regard you well Amanti, the actions of the tawtute will not go unpunished." Beyda'amo ran his fingers along the edge of his staff longingly, his voice sounding louder and more threatening "We should meet them in battle, shut their facility down before they attack us again!"
Sänume raised her hands to calm Beyda'amo, "We must free attack them in an ambush tomorrow, Eywa is mourned by the actions of this Murray and his men," she paused, "AbleRyder and Tan'Jala must rally the warriors with Beyda'amo."
Beyda'amo stood up quickly, a fiery glint in his eye and a sinister smile across his lips, "We should attack them from the sky before the can hide in their flying metal machines like cowards."
Tan Jala stood and nodded, his dark Nantang (Viperwolf) skin covering limply following his movements, "That would be the wisest course of action, I will prepare for battle."
Amanti looked towards Sänume and then to Tan'Jala, "We will stop them from ever taking Na'vi from their brothers and sisters. Murray should be stopped."
Sänume nodded, "Amanti knows well the dangers should we ignore this. It is up to the Ikran warriors to defend the Tipani from the dark tawtute. You must all rally out warriors to this cause."
Ryder stood and bowed his head slightly to Sänume before gripping Amanti's hand and he walked down the loft towards the ground with Beyda'amo and Tan'Jala in his tail. Once outside, he stood over the nearby warriors and gatherers, children and mothers, gripping the wooden helix roots with his feet as the sun began to slowly set; golden light blinking between the alcoves and columns of the massive Hometree.
Beyda'amo raised his arms high and all of the Na'vi turned to watch him, their golden eyes wide in wonder as they stopped to listen to him.
"Ma aytsmukan sì aytsmuke (brothers and sisters), it has been a grave day for Na'vi Tipani," he motioned to Amanti "The tawtute had stolen her child long before Eywa had graced it with the form of our people. They may return to steal more ayeveng (children)."
The impact was immediate, Na'vi warriors and hunters gasped, mothers began wailing; trying to console each other and the children began crying in unison, frightened with the news.
Amanti nodded, her eyes beginning to fill with tears but then turn hard and angry. "The tawtute will no longer harm us and we will put an end to their crimes against Eywa!" She shouted.
The warriors raised their weapons and began to stomp the ground with their feet, moved by Amanti's words as they began chanting."
Ryder swallowed and gazed at the proud Tipani totem; the skull of Toruk bleached white by the sun, flanked by burning ever-lit fires. He looked to Tan'Jala who was beside him who nodded and spoke, his stern, authoritative voice addressing the Tipani.
"We gather our Ikran; our sky warriors will ambush the tawtute base and destroy their evil plans to extinguish our people from Eywa and the culture of generations of Na'vi. We attack them at dawn."
A loud roar was heard as the Na'vi sounded their approval and the people rushed to prepare themselves for the task ahead; hunter, gatherer, warrior and mother alike. Ryder groaned as he contemplated the future battle. He hoped that he would be able to face Murray and that Amanti would be safe.
Amanti looked to Ryder with a knowing look on her face before squeezing his shoulder,
"I will leave you with your thoughts AbleRyder, let me know when you are ready so we can prepare for battle together; my wound will not hinder me."
Ryder smiled and playfully bat at her tail as she walked past him.
Amanti scowled before flashing him a grin as she disappeared behind a column.
Ryder's heart warmed, 'she is almost like herself' he thought. He smiled as he walked through a grassy path outside, Hexapedes ran out of his way as Ryder came to sit at the base of a large tree that grew on the outskirts of the Hometree. He leant against the smooth mossy bark, slid down to the ground and pressed a button on his audio-link collar, smiling as a peeking ray of sunlight gradually filled his body with warmth.
"I have no idea how the Avatar program ended up doing what they did, I suppose I was just unfortunate enough to be caught in the middle of Murray's plan, especially Amanti. We haven't gotten over the shock of what they have done to us; they've gone too far in my opinion. The whole program, Augustine's program is being held by that goon Murray, well not for much longer."
Ryder closed his eyes and pressed the button before heading back towards Hometree, extending his arms outwards to brush large ferns with his fingers. He smiled as he came to see the people once more; they were a people to be defended with every last breath.
They reached out to touch him, his situation had earned their pity and support as they whispered words of encouragement; reminding him of their own ancestors who had overcome dark days in The time of Great Sorrow.
Ryder thanked them wholeheartedly, his spirits uplifted and he moved up towards the loft to rejoin his mate who was eating with Marali.
Amanti smiled up at Ryder and offered him some fish with a smile before speaking, "The support of the people is more that I could wish for."
Ryder nodded as he saw Amanti's proud expression, then bit into the soft meat before glancing upwards as Beyda'amo came to join them, sharpening his staff with a flat rock.
"AbleRyder, I managed to find this in the outpost while we were searching for you," he paused, smirking as he reached to a strap on his hips, "Be careful not to loose it again."
Ryder's eyes lit up as he saw Beyda'amo offering Ryder the beaded hilt of his usual dagger which he had earned during his journey to Ta'antasi. He carefully took it from him with a smile,
"Thank you Big B, that means a lot to me."
Beyda'amo stiffened at his strange nickname and shrugged,
"It is what any warrior would do," he waved his hand, dismissing any further talk. "Come, we must discuss our tactics," he added, a serious tone to his deep voice.
Night fell as they talked, the torches illuminating their eager faces as the bright stars glinted overhead.
Ryder opened his eyes, he and Amanti had slept on the floor where they ate, and the conversation had lasted through the night. He looked around him to see that most of the body guards and warriors had disappeared and he could hear noises from the ground floor some distance beneath him, the pendulum drums pounding. Ryder glanced over to see that Amanti had also vanished and he smiled once again at the thought of her before beginning his next audio entry; the early sunlight glinting on his face from gaps in the branches.
"So I guess today's the day. Most of the warriors are already preparing for the battle. We're ambushing the RDA outpost with Ikrans this morning, hoping to surprise them before they attack. They only have a few soldiers, mostly Murray's militia. That prick is going down, his twisted version of the Avatar program along with him."
Ryder stretched and reached to turn off his audio recorder on his collar, just as a buzzing sound of static came out and a familiar gloating voice sounded.
"Ryder you dumb bastard, you honestly didn't think that there were others that had the same technology as you did you?"
Ryder jerked out and yelled out in surprise before recovering and growling angrily as Murray's voice rang out again.
"Thanks for the intel Ryder, now I have all the information I need-"
Ryder roared in frustration before tearing off his audio collar and smashing it with a nearby rock and flinging it into the fire at his side. Ryder, now worried, bit his lip and sped down the helix roots to the ground. He'd have to let the preparing warriors know before his mistake cost them their lives.
RDA Outpost: Tipani grounds
Murray sniggered to himself and turned off his audio collar link with a large blue hand as he rushed towards the hanger where his men were waiting with Scorpions and Sampsons. Murray smirked, 'That idiot just condemned his whole people, ha! He's just as much of a traitor to them as he was to us,' he thought as he towered over his men in his avatar form. They were dutiful, ready to follow his every word. Murray faced them as he deeply sucked air into his lungs before booming,
"Listen up, that traitor just opened a hole wide enough for us to stick a nuke through. The Na'vi are going to launch an air ambush on us and you know what?" he smiled, before yelling "We'll be ready for them!"
The man laughed and raised their rifles, cheering, "Those bastards can't contend with us. We've been fighting ever since we were put on earth!"
Murray nodded and motioned for the pilots to begin taking off and he climbed into his Scorpion, his modified body armour camouflaged against the lush green background outside the facility.
"Let's destroy the Tipani once and for all. Those shit heads have been a thorn in my side for too long," he sneered "Science cannot be stopped by tree huggers with a conscience."
The pilot sitting in the front seat laughed and checked his monitor, then turned his head to Murrey, "Sir they're in for a big surprise once we turn this battle into a bloodbath."
The rotors fired up and alongside men were preparing their own aircraft and gathering their weapons. They would do battle in the sky.
Ryder reached the grassy ground, his head pounding. Around him Na'vi were once again preparing for battle as with Kxania Taw; singing, dancing, painting themselves with war paint and sharpening their weapons.
"AbleRyder, I hoped you would wake sooner or later!" An excited voice made Ryder turn, his sharp ears jerking to the side, following the sound.
Amanti stood before Ryder with an eager look on her face framed by her long unbraided hair, dark green armour shining in the rising sun.
Ryder greeted Amanti with a quick kiss before clearing his throat urgently. He held Amanti's chin gently as he looked into her loving warm eyes, "There is something that I must tell the Ikran warriors."
Amanti laughed softly and shook her head at him before a nearby warrior placed some bowls of pain at their feet.
"Come AbleRyder we prepare for war first, otherwise our surprise attack will not work."
Ryder groaned and hung his head in defeat before dipping his fingers in purple and orange paint. He sighed and ran his fingers in a circular motion on Amanti's smooth cyan skin from her forehead, to her torso and then across to her back gently.
Amanti smiled and painted Ryder in red and black in jagged lines, her fingers lightly brushing his skin and slightly lingering over his lips and broad shoulders.
Rachel walked over to join them, white streaks over her face and a braided leather strap with a large purple feather attached was tied to the side of her forehead. She carried a bundle with her as she greeted Amanti and Ryder, motioning to her forehead quickly and speaking the Na'vi greeting without a second thought.
"Amanti I went to great lengths to get this back for you. Murray wanted to keep this as a memento before I managed to steal this from his office when you were escaping."
Amanti cried out in joy as Rachel held out her treasured bow before her. Her eyes glistened in the dappled sunlight as she gently took her bow and embraced Rachel happily.
Rachel looked to Ryder and handed him his red nawm armour which he quickly began to garb himself with. She smiled as she glanced at the two before sheathing her sharpened dual swords made out of Sturmbeast incisors in a holder tied to her waist. She waved, before turning from them,
"Good luck guys, I'll meet you at the top of Hometree!"
They both waved to her as she ran towards the loft. Once she was out of their sight; Ryder gathered his bow and dual swords from the P'ah s'ivil chey (belongings rack) that he shared with Amanti above their hammock and quickly motioned for Amanti to follow him up the Hometree. They effortlessly leaped from branch to branch before swinging up to the crown of Hometree without breaking into a sweat, their long hunts and training having strengthened their bodies.
Ryder saw about thirty Ikran perched amongst the numerous branches of Hometree, surrounded by painted warriors who were readying their weapons and talking hurriedly.
Amanti nudged Ryder forwards and whispered, her hand on his back,
"If you have something to say to our warriors you must hurry before they leave. I will be here beside you."
Ryder absentmindedly tugged at his shoulder armour fastenings as he approached Beyda'amo and the Ikran warriors, who were clustered on the larger branches,
"Tìng mikyun, rutxe aytsmukan si aytsmuke. Lu oeru aylì'u." (Please listen, I have something to say)
Beyda'amo turned and cocked his head with Marali close by,
"Speak AbleRyder, but hurry we must make the tawtute suffer."
Ryder clasped Amanti's hand in his for reassurance and grimaced, his knowledge hurting him.
"Murray is onto our plan; he overheard me talking into my audio collar. He knows of our attack and is preparing himself."
Beyda'amo snarled and stepped towards him, his ears flat and eyes ablaze while he exhaled loudly while clenching the handle of his staff menacingly.
"You mean to tell me that our attack will amount to nothing!?," he bellowed and edged toward Ryder.
Amanti's eyes widened and she turned to her mate and she slid her hands over his cheeks and chest soothingly, growing distressed as her voice shook,
"It doesn't matter, you know of a way to help our plan succeed don't you AbleRyder?"
Ryder grabbed Amanti's hands in his before nodding and turning to face an irate Beyda'amo and stood his ground, he spoke desperately as he described his plan.
"We could use Marali and her saboteurs to sneak into the outpost when most of the aircraft had gone and blow up their communications equipment and base; their numbers won't help them then."
Beyda'amo stopped and grew thoughtful as he paced for a little while before approaching Ryder, his demeanour relaxing,
"You speak well Ni'awve Mokri, Marali and her warriors will be unexpected when we fight in the air," he sighed and mounted his nearby Ikran "You had me worried, it seems that again there is more to you than I had thought AbleRyder. Hopefully your mistake won't kill us all."
Ryder nodded, "You and me both Beyda'amo, I don't know how I scrape by half the time," he jokingly added.
"AbleRyder, there is someone who you should see before we leave."
Ryder glanced at Amanti, and then looked behind him to see Melvin flanked by Daniel and Rachel. They were all painted in white paint and carrying swords, apart form a rifle toting Daniel. Ryder smirked, Daniel never really liked bows. He walked to Melvin who still shirked slightly away from him and Ryder put an assuring hand on Melvin's shoulder.
"I am sorry Brother; I now can understand your actions. You were not to blame, that creature Murray was behind it all, and he still is," he added bitterly.
Melvin sighed with relief and he relaxed and returned Ryder's gesture, his eyes glinting with purpose,
"Rachel, Daniel and I will lead our own ambush upon Pa'li. We will try to shut down Murray's own link chamber while he has no defenders on the ground."
Ryder beamed and shook Melvin's shoulder gratefully,
"That's a great idea; you've taken the initiative my friend."
Daniel smiled as he watched the reconciliation unfold before urgently facing them both,
"We have our own parts to play. Hurry Ryder we have no time to waste, every second we waste is every inch that Murray gains to destroy this place!"
Ryder perked up, nodded and ran forwards and waved his arms about, grabbing the attention of the Ikran warriors who were almost ready to mount.
"Nawn Ikran Tsamsiyu, remember that today we aren't fighting for land, for the survival of the creatures of Pandora or to protect Eywa from the tawtute. We are fighting to preserve our clan, our culture, our sisters, fathers and children. If we fail, those tawtute will destroy the Tipani people and probably other clans. Our actions today will help the future, we must fight back!"
Ryder's tail whipped over his shoulder as he cheered loudly, the other Ikran warriors joining in and the same cry echoed throughout the whole Tipani Hometree. It was if even the 20,000 year old Hometree was cheering them on into battle. Ryder proudly watched the whooping warriors as they mounted their shrieking Ikran and sped off towards the outpost. He turned away from watching the great expanse of blue sky to see Beyda'amo and Amanti behind him with eager smiles on their faces as they waited for his signal.
"We see you AbleRyder, and will fly with you into battle," they spoke in unison.
Ryder bowed his head to them both and summoned his Ikran with a shrill whistle accompanied with cawing sounds. His Ikran shrieked as it landedfrom a higher branch above them and motioned its head towards the other flying ikrans; wanting to join them as it rustled its wings enthusiastically.
"Let's go!" Ryder yelled behind him as he mounted his Ikran and held his bow at his side before whooping and taking off, sliding through the closely set branches and knocking leaves into the air as his ikran sped towards the blooming canopy of trees below them.
"Ai aiyee!!" A woman's voice broke out
Ryder turned his head and yelled in reply as he saw Amanti atop her Ikran at his side, shaking her bow with a large smile on her face as her glistening hair breezed out before her. The powerful wings of her Ikran sending gusts of wind that tossed Ryder's braids and shoulder guard feathers about as he smiled widely, anticipating the final battle against Murray. Ryder's Ikran shrieked loudly in response to Ryder's joy and half-heartedly snapped at Amanti's ikran as it glided close by as they cleared some high treetops.
Ryder looked around him as they glided over the canopies of the dense green jungle, the Hallelujah Mountains could be faintly seen in the distance and the blue purple gas giant Polyphemus seemed to loom over them as they flew after the Ikran warriors. He turned his head almost completely backwards as Beyda'amo was seen out of the corner of his eye. Beyda'amo was perched forwards on his Ikran with a hungry look on his face as he flanked Ryder on his other side.
A gust of wind began blowing as the Ikran were riding on warm thermals which sped them up towards the other warriors which whooped with glee when they glimpsed them and they made space for them among the cluster of cawing ikran and excited warrior. They formed a flock of Ikran, large enough to resemble a large storm cloud and block out the sun. The noise was deafening and Ryder found himself caught up in the primal energy of whooping riders and shrieking Ikran as the dull coloured compound came into view which was dotted with the dark, metallic shapes of Scorpions and Sampsons as they flew out to meet them, rotors loudly whirring with missiles and door gunners ready.
Ryder's adrenaline began to quickly flow through his system as the aircraft drew close enough to fire, there was at least fifteen of them. He rose up and balanced on the footholds of his harness with his feet and legs clenched the sides of his Ikran as he strung an arrow to his bow, drew it back strongly and aimed.
"Eko, Eko aiiyiyaah!" he yelled fiercely as he released his arrow.
With a piercing smash of glass, the arrow lodged itself into the chest of the co pilot of the nearest Sampson and red blood showered over the windscreen as he slumped across the control panel.
The warriors joined in, forming a battle cry as the Ikran swarmed over the other craft as began to open fire.
Ryder grunted in irritation as his Ikran narrowly managed to dodge a burst of fire from a Scorpion and almost get knocked out of the air by a downed ikran which had huge holes blasted into its face and right wing as its rider fell screaming towards the compound far below.
Amanti let out a cry as her Ikran slammed into the one of the dual rotors of the Scorpion and flapped downwards vigorously, trying to flip it upside down and into the almost endless cover of dark treetops.
Ryder flew his Ikran in a tight arc and he glided over the Scorpion and shot a few arrows into its right rotor, jamming it and allowing Amanti to send it crashing down into the forest below.
The fireball caused Ryder to pant and blink frequently as the heat carpeted the underside of his Ikran as it dove to avoid a round of gunfire from a large Scorpion with Ryder lying low and hugging the neck of his Ikran as bullets fired above his head and into a tree branch, shattering it into sprays of bark and leaves. Ryder shot upwards towards its underside before he heard a piercing shriek of an Ikran, accompanied by a scream of agony; it was his own. Ryder reeled in anguish, his brain and body pulsing with white hot pain as he looked to see a bloody hole in the tip of his Ikran's left wing. Ryder recovered, his head still throbbing uncomfortably and hissed in fury and steered his wounded Ikran over to the left side of the Scorpion to hear the door gunner cheering and pumping his fist when he caught sight of them.
"Yeah come get some!!"
Ryder snarled and shot an arrow which went through the man's exopack and through his mouth and the sheer force pinned him to the pilot's seat and he lay limp with his lower jaw hanging on by a few flaps of skin and teeth and dark pools of blood dribbled through the shattered mask and onto the metal floor.
Ryder jumped off his Ikran, rushed inside the cockpit and grabbed the pilot before shoving him through the windscreen which sent glass all over the control panel and floor before swiftly leaping back onto the back of his Ikran from the other side as the Scorpion lurched towards a large riverbed far below.
"Bah tawtute vrrtep!!"
Ryder looked upwards to see Beyda'amo atop a Sampson; slamming his staff into the top of the cockpit, making large dents in the metal and grumbling with the effort,
"They continue to fight like cowards AbleRyder, just as I told you long ago!"
Ryder rolled his eyes at Beyda'amo who with glee, shoved his arm through the crude newly made hole and strangled his hard won prize; the pilot with one hand before leaping onto his Ikran and shouting out a cry of victory.
"AbleRyder It is Murrey, I see him over there!"
Ryder strained his ears over the blaring sounds of gunfire and shrieking and looked below to see Amanti pointing to a silver Scorpion with larger guns that was streaking towards the Tipani Hometree which was unlooked by the fighting Ikran warriors.
"Zau nìwin, Kivä ko!" (Come quick, let's go!)
Ryder motioned for his mate to follow him as his screeching Ikran soared in a semi circle and tirelessly flapped towards the Scorpion despite its pain. Amanti's Ikran which was uninjured was faster and it sped towards the Scorpion which turned to face her.
"Amanti watch out!" Ryder shouted in alarm as he saw the door gunners swivel to target her Ikran.
Amanti shot an arrow which stuck into the shoulder of the left gunner and dove as the other fired rounds of lethal bullets after her and she leaped off her Ikran and fell into the canopy of trees that was far below her, clutching her bow tightly.
Ryder yelled at the top if his lungs, he felt devastated and clutched his chest in fear as he saw missiles enter the canopy and explode after Amanti, sending fire and ash everywhere within a 100m radius. He gripped tightly on his harness as he flew towards the Scorpion enraged, provoked by the attack on Amanti and knowing who was inside that machine. He narrowly dodged the right doorgun and he jumped off his Ikran and gripped onto the tail of the Scorpion and heaved himself upwards onto its top.
"Sir he's on our tail!" a pilot warned.
"Take evasive manoeuvres, shake him off!" barked a second voice
Ryder grasped the cool metal of the Scorpion's tail tightly as it banked left and he yelled in pain as he felt his whole body being supported by his burning fingers which began to slip. His heart skipped a beat as the Scorpion righted itself and he climber up onto its roof and swung down onto the floor inside, burying his dagger with a savage, inhuman snarl into the spine of the door gunner who had tried to kill his earlier.
"Ryder, look it's just business, nothing personal," drawled a dry voice
Ryder cringed involuntarily and cocked his head to the side to see Murray as an avatar pointing his double barrelled shotgun at Ryder's face while leaning over the co pilots chair towards him.
"Like hell Murray, you enjoy this don't you, you sick bastard?!" Ryder spat, his yellow eyes burning with hate.
Murray winked, a knowing look in his eyes as he continued to stand and aim his gun at Ryder, "You know, I just can't help myself. Science comes first."
Ryder scowled, "You know what I think of your science?"
Before Murray could open his mouth to answer, Ryder threw his bloodied dagger which caught Murray in the hand and he howled and lowered his gun, bright blood trickling from the wound on his injured hand.
Ryder breathed out deeply and drew his bow a foot from Murray's forehead and he glowered down at him as Murray crouched, cradling his hand in the crook of his arm with a grimace.
"Wait!,..Wait! Don't you want know why I decided to use your mate as a guinea pig?" he pleaded
Ryder growled, "You really should shut up once in a while Murray, you could get yourself out of a lot of trouble," he added derisively with a slight sneer.
The arrow buried itself into Murray's brain before slamming his head into the windshield, the seven foot long shaft effectively lodging Murray into the cracked glass which was now covered in deep red blood. Ryder grabbed his dagger and the shotgun from Murray's corpse and slammed the gun over the console of the Scorpion which began to malfunction with sparks and smoke billowing from its top. Ryder took one last look at the carnage and the pilot who had jumped off suddenly and leapt off as the Scorpion sped below him and plummeted into a Cliffside waterfall and erupted into a satisfying fireball. Ryder windmilled in the air and clung to the back of his diving Ikran, puffed out his chest and smiled wearily as he finally felt free of the demons of his past.
Amanti groaned when she hit the ground. She looked upwards to the high canopy that was rustling from her descent to see that she had fallen at least a hundred feet. Luckily, the leaves and vines always managed to break her fall. Amanti shivered, she hoped her Ikran had been able to escape those burning spears or mis-siles as the sky people had named them. Amanti froze as she heard voices; she growled and bared her teeth as she recognised one of them. The tawtute called Murray.
"That piece of shit killed my Avatar! When I get there I'll disembowel both himself and his mate with a rusty scalpel and they can watch each other die!"
"Sir, don't you think you're getting ahead of yourself?"
Amanti hid behind some dense ferns as the human Murray and a nervous soldier came into view. Murray spun around in a horrible temper and began choking the man with both hands and spat in his face after ripping off their exopacks. He hastily put his on again and shook the gasping man as he bellowed,
"How dare you! I approved the commission papers for you to fly over here. Otherwise you'd be rotting in the bloated cells of downtown Chicago like all the other losers!
Amanti drew her bow, her tail curling as she took careful aim at the struggling soldier's heart. She wanted him to have a quick death. The other man however; Amanti thought that he was beyond Eywa's help,
"Aghh!!" A gurgled yell broke the silence,
Murray looked down with disdain to see the soldier fall to the ground with a seven foot long arrow lodged in his chest, gaping horribly at the poisonous air. Murray glanced over to his right and saw a figure emerge from some ferns some distance away. Murray let out an involuntary gasp of fear as he recognised her: it was that Na'vi woman who he had hoped would be long dead after the experiment. Murray peered at her and she nocked another arrow to her bow. She towered over him and looked livid. Murray knew that his chances of survival after getting hit point-blank with a huge arrow were zilch and he turned and fled towards the dense undergrowth of bushes and shrubs; zig zagging as he ran.
Murray's heart began beating faster now; he could hear whooping echoing between the mammoth tree trunks as he quickly scanned over his shoulder and saw with relief hinted with annoyance that she was nowhere to be found. Murray shuddered as he trudged through dew dampened grass that brushed his hips, this was freaking him out. He began to quicken as he heard rustling of leaves in the distance and he crawled over a fallen log that was twice his girth. The forest was eerily silent as Murray felt sweat poring over his back, the humidity was stifling and pressing all around him as he ran further into the forest; heading for the link shack of the Avatars-turned-traitors. He wanted to deactivate their links and shoot them dead; that's how you dealt with traitors out here. Murray smirked to himself and cautiously looked over his shoulder again to see a blur of blue flitting between tree trunks and ferns without seeming to make a sound,
"Oh shit!" Murray yelled as he saw the woman emerge. She frowned and curled her lip in concentration as she readied to fire her huge bow.
Murray leaped over another log to escape and he cried out in agony as he felt something rip through his heel. He panted as he drew his leg towards him and swore bitterly as he saw one of those huge arrows right through his ankle and out the other side. Murray sneered and threw up as he saw its bloody shaft and poison tip jutting out of his ankle, he hated those arrows.
Amanti couldn't help but smile; she had wounded the vrrtep who had destroyed her happiness and stolen a part of her and her mate that had yet to be created by Eywa in the image of a Na'vi. She had tracked his futile attempts to evade her in the jungle; his crashing had shown her exactly where he was at all times. Amanti drew another arrow to her bow for the final shot as she saw Murray crawl through shrubs into a nearby clearing.
Murray winced with every movement; that Na'vi bitch had crippled him but he wasn't down and out, not till his last breath. His exopack began to chafe and his vision began to cloud, just as he heard a loud shriek of a Banshee as it plummeted through the dark treetops and towards the ground. He continued crawling as he watched and saw a Na'vi dismount and embrace the woman. He scowled as he recognised the Na'vi in his red armour, the original traitor. Murray growled as he saw the traitor glare in his direction before talking quickly with the woman, kneeling down and picking up a small metal object and handing it to her with a knowing smile.
Murray in alarm; staggered to his good foot and began to limp as quickly as he could to the link shacks; yelping sharply with every step and he grit his teeth as he knew this would have to be a kamikaze run. He hurried as he heard the woman catch up to him but found himself overturned roughly and glaring up at her large blue head which had slightly glowing bioluminescent marks running up and down her cheeks and forehead underneath her helmet. Her yellow eyes burned into his, rendered into mere slits and for a split second Murray felt sympathetic towards her but shrugged it off just as he saw her pull a pin, tear off his exopack and stuff the object into his mouth. Murray held his breath and closed his nostrils as he staggered to his good foot and tried to pry open his mouth with his hands but found that his jaw was broken and locked into place. In a last ditch effort; Murray leapt for the door of the mobile link container which was under a large tree, thrust it open and dove towards the closest link unit as he heard a loud explosion which filled his ears and he felt a second of intense pain before everything went black.
Ryder calmly watched Murray's demise from a safe point near a large tree, not a shred of sympathy or joy was in his heart; he was sober but relieved at the same time. He turned to Amanti who was breathing heavily with a look of satisfaction on her face and pointed to the smouldering abandoned link container,
"We should check it out," he spoke and broke the silence
Amanita nodded, then looked skyward to see that the remaining Ikran warriors were cheering and doing barrel rolls in the sky; their ikran shrieking with glee. Amanti raised her bow in triumph and cheered loudly before being joined by Ryder who smiled and bounded around her in a circle. Amanti laughed and lightly grabbed his tail and he came her way and gently nuzzled her. They stopped and turned as an Ikran scattered dirt and leaves around them as Beyda'amo dismounted then strode towards them with a gin on his face, flashing his sharp teeth.
"It is almost done. Marali rigged the explosion in the outpost; she should be out any moment."
Ryder smiled: he wanted to see the back of that building.
"Ryder, we managed to drag these out just in time!"
Ryder's ears swivelled behind him and he turned to see a jubilant Daniel with Melvin atop Pa'li with both their mobile link containers strewn with vines and attached to their mounts. Ryder stiffened as he couldn't see Rachel anywhere and he gasped with his sudden realisation.
"Daniel, find Rachel quickly!" He shouted urgently in Daniel's direction as Daniel frowned and replied,
"Rachel? But she was just behind us, I'm sure she's-"
Ryder hissed loudly in frustration; interrupting him and shoved Daniel towards the link container that Murray had run into and yelled after him,
"Dammit Daniel! Hurry Rachel could be dead right now!"
Daniel turned pale, dismounted and sprinted towards the link container with the others at his heel. Ryder heard him groan as he entered,
"What a filthy mess; there's guts all over the equipment," he complained.
Ryder poked his head through the door and his ears flew back as he heard Daniel scream and rummage frantically around him before quickly exiting and carrying Rachel's battered and slightly singed human body with an exopack clamped tightly onto her face.
Melvin ran to his side and moaned when he saw Rachel's motionless body,
"Is she alive? Let me know, I must know!"
Daniel blinked some tears out of his eyes and cocked his head to look briefly at Melvin before staring down at Rachel's body,
"She's unconscious; the explosion must have interrupted the link and caused her to hit her head against the link unit."
Amanti laid her hand on Rachel's chest trying to feel for her heartbeat and sighed,
"She is weak, I don't know if she can survive."
Ryder groaned and felt a lump rise in his throat as he saw a distraught Daniel gulp and shake before sobbing, clutching Rachel's limp body. Ryder glanced over at Beyda'amo who clenched his jaw and turned his head away before his eyes lit up and he turned to Daniel,
"Tsahìk Sänume; she could transfer Rachel's human body into her Avatar!"
Daniel almost fainted with shock as he glanced at Ryder's hopeful face,
"They can do that?"
Beyda'amo came closer and handed Rachel's avatar body over to Melvin and nodded,
"Hurry, return to Hometree on your Ikran, bring her to Tsahìk Sänume!"
Melvin and Daniel looked to each other before calling their Ikran which flew over the forest canopy and eventually landed beside them. They quickly mounted, still holding the human Rachel and her avatar before speeding off towards Hometree.
Ryder glanced to Amanti, who summoned her Ikran which cawed, glad to see her as it landed before her. He ran and untied the vines from the Pa'li which gratefully snorted and ran into the cover of the forest and then came back and mounted his own Ikran and stroked its head soothingly as he spoke,
"I'll fix the hole in your wing, don't worry."
His Ikran screeched and flew upwards before grabbing on the vines of one of the link chambers with its back claws, Amanti's Ikran grabbed the vines of the other link chamber and they hurried towards Hometree.
Ryder looked back as he cleared the treetops and heard a loud roar to see the entire outpost collapse and crash to the ground with fire gutting its inside. The cheers and whooping of Ikran warriors stayed with him as they congratulated each other on their victory.
Ryder and Amanti dismounted their Ikran and left the link chambers at the foot of Hometree. Ryder rushed to apply some salve to his Ikran's wound and rewarded it for its patience by tossing it a leg of a Yerik (Hexapede) as he bandaged the tip of its leathery wing. His Ikran cawed, nudged him slightly and flew off to the crown of the Hometree. Amanti's Ikran flew off to join Ryder's as Ryder and Amanti ran towards the loft, past cheering Na'vi who were dancing and singing happily. Ryder saw a crowd of warriors circled around the bodies of Rachel and her avatar as they lay before the Tsahìk when they came to the loft.
Sänume looked up to see them and offered them a quick smile as she continued to lay her hands on the forehead of Rachel's human body before she groaned and shook her head.
"I cannot commune with Eywa and offer her this task. I do not have enough energy within me and our Kelutrel (Hometree) does not have enough shards underneath to attune the energy of Eywa.
Ryder kneeled before Sänume and an idea popped in his head as he glanced at Tan Jala who stood at her side and smiled,
"The Willow trees in Swotulu, the sacred river; that should be able to attune with Eywa."
Sänume gasped, her face glowing with wonder and she smiled greatly,
"Yes, AbleRyder you are right! The Swotulu, the sacred river of Tipani should be the right place to plead with Eywa for the life of this one."
She motioned to Rachel and stood up, her voice echoing throughout Hometree as she spoke,
"Everyone, journey as fast as you can to the Willow glade in Swotulu. The fate of our Tsmuke (sister) depends on our actions at this moment!"
Loud cries erupted from the whole area; from the top branches to the ground below as mothers, warriors, hunters and the like all abandoned their tasks and either climbed their mounts and rode or flew or ran on foot to Swotulu.
Ryder dismounted a Pa'li at the sacred Willow glade that was held in awe by all Tipani as a holy site of centuries past. He gazed up at the glowing pink, red and purple tops of Willow trees as their tendril-shaped leaves snaked down to their roots and lazily drifted in the breeze that blew from gaps in the large rock walls above them. He held Amanti's hand as they splashed through a shallow stream towards the main Willow tree which was sheltered in a large cavern. Ryder gasped as he saw the whole Tipani clan all gathered there around the tree, their glowing markings seemed to light up the large cavern which was crammed full of bodies.
Tsahìk Sänume stood before the tree; her bright red beads glinting in the gloom as she lay Rachel's human body at the base of the Willow, then motioned for Melvin to do the same.
Daniel watched with a trembling lip before he ran and prostrated himself before the Tsahìk, which caused gasps to erupt from the waiting crowd.
"Please Tsahìk Sänume," Daniel pleaded, his head low, "I can't bear it if she returns forever to Eywa without me there," he took another breath and swallowed, "Please allow me to join her!"
Sänume frowned slightly before laying her hands on Daniel's shoulders and sighing,
"It is up to Eywa to decide. You may attempt to join her but we cannot know of the outcome."
Daniel gulped and quickly nodded before he lay on the ground near Rachel's avatar body and closed his eyes. He shortly returned as a human and lay down on the mossy ground; gazing at the Willow tree before him as he relaxed near his avatar body.
Tsahìk Sänume turned to Melvin who shook his head, gazing intently at the prone forms of Rachel and Daniel before standing near her side. Sänume smiled and turned to the Tipani who were all gathered before her patiently. She gestured to the bodies behind her and held her arms out wide in a gesture for togetherness.
"People, you were brought here to try to help save the life of a dear friend who had earned our trust many times and helped us in our battle today. Now we are tasked to help begin the new life of another who seeks to live life as one of our kind. May Eywa listen to our pleas! Decide what is to be done with our Brother and Sister"
She stopped to gather her breath and knelt down to close the human Daniel's eyes lightly with her fingers and turned to face her people once more with an uplifting voice,
"Since the Well of Souls has been awakened, all Na'vi may speak with Eywa throughout this vast land of Pandora. So I ask you now to connect to this great Willow Tree and send Eywa your prayers, your voice and energy so that she may hear our plight!"
The Na'vi cheered at Sänume's words and all sat down in circles around the great Willow.
Ryder glanced at his mate who was curiously watching Melvin with her lips upturned and eyes following him,
"What do we do once we connect with the Willow?" he interrupted.
Amanti straightened and broke her gaze; attaching her queue to a root behind her and gasped before turning to Ryder with slightly dilated pupils,
"Let the energy of the Tree and the people show you what to do."
Ryder frowned before nervously attaching his queue to a dark, snaking root behind him. He rocked slightly backwards and shuddered, feeling the dormant energy of not only the main Willow but the other willows in the whole glade.
"I will begin the prayer, everyone needs to pray together as one," Sänume began.
Ryder watched as all the Na'vi attached their queues with the long roots of the Willow and rocked slightly, pressing their hands onto the backs of those in front for balance as they slowly lurched forwards and backwards. They moved in time with the glowing pulse of the now bright green roots of the Willow, which became active with their combined heartbeat that started to energise the tree.
"Tìng mikyun ayoheru rutxe. ma nawna sa'tok," (Hear us please, All Mother) Sänume cried.
Ryder, Amanti and all the Tipani reeled forwards and back. The pulse of the roots steady as the Na'vi closed their eyes and spoke in unison, their voices strong.
"Srung si mefotu ma Eywa." (Eywa help them)
Sänume raised her hands to the ceiling of the cave and then to the praying Na'vi; herself in a trance as she spoke loudly,
"Mefoti aysireati, munge mì nga. Ulte tìng ayoer u 'i'awn ngeyä ya. " (Take this spirits into you and bring them back to us)
The Na'vi now balanced themselves by grasping the shoulders of those beside them as they moved from side to side; their heads down as they chanted,
"Srung si mefotu ma Eywa."
Sänume's voice became louder and rang out in the cavern walls as she began dancing to an unknown beat,
"Tivìran mefotu ayoeng kip. Na Na'viyä hapxì ko." (Let them walk among us as one of the people)
Ryder, Amanti and the other Tipani continued to rock in circles; grasping the shoulders of those beside them with the sweat dripping off their bodies,
"Srung si mefotu ma Eywa," they droned; their voices and movements as one.
They continued to chant as they moved together with the strong pulse of energy that was linked through the roots of the main Willow Tree. The cavern was filled with voices as the Tipani rose their hands upwards with their heads bowed and eyes closed, deep in a trance.
Sänume stopped and looked to the brilliantly glowing Willow Tree to see Atokirina' descending from the purple leaves towards the bodies below. Their shimmering delicate forms gliding in the still air as they continued to glide and their bodies contracted and pulsed, making them appear to dance as they moved.
With a sigh Sänume saw that they clustered around the avatar and human bodies of the two who had tendrils of bright green grass forming over their still bodies and into the backs of their skulls, forming a natural queue.
"Lu hasey!" (It is finished)
Sänume spoke over the loud voices and held out her hand for silence. The Tipani slowed and opened their eyes, slightly dazed, the trance broken.
Melvin leant over Rachel's limp avatar body, an excited look on his face as he saw the Atokirina' hovering over her,
"Has it worked, for either of them?" he wondered.
He was joined by Ryder who was breathing heavily with sweat beading down his body as he knelt before them; bowing his head to the ground as he whispered, his braids falling over his shoulder,
"Please Harper, if you're with Eywa I need you to save them, plead with Eywa alongside us"
Amanti appeared and kneeled before the human Rachel and Daniel, holding her breath as she looked upon their peaceful forms. Her markings shined alongside the pulsing of the cavern ground, the Willow tree and those of the glade were still active.
"Pey! Oe tse'a 'awpo rikx!" (Wait I see one move) A Na'vi's voice broke out.
Sänume turned quickly to stare down at the avatar body of Daniel which began to breathe slowly and opened his eyes.
Amanti gasped in surprise, knelt down and gently removed the human Daniel's exopack before she held Daniel's avatar head in her hands with a look of wonder on her face,
"Daniel… You have just passed through the eye of Eywa, she has granted you new life!" she beamed.
Daniel blinked, his vacant expression turned to one of intense joy as he sat up with a groan, looking over at his human body with pity and after a pause he turned to Sänume,
"Rachel? What happened to Rachel?" his voice cracked
Sänume looked to Daniel's face which was frozen in fear as he saw Rachel's still forms.
The Tipani held their breath as Daniel heaved his body upwards, staggered a few steps and sat at the side of Rachel's avatar, stroking her face with his trembling hand,
"Please Rachel, wake up. You have to make it," he sighed.
Sänume gazed around at the Na'vi who were leaning forwards all eager to find out what was going on as she closed her eyes, knelt and laid her hand on Daniel's back before placing the other on the head of Rachel's avatar,
"She will need an immensely strong spirit to pass through Daniel. Her human body is dying quickly"
Daniel looked to Sänume, his ears flattened and he grasped the hand of Rachel's avatar body. Choking sobs occasionally sounded from him as he encouraged Rachel to wake,
"No, come on you can do this Rachel! I'll be here when you wake up!"
Ryder closed his eyes as he saw Daniel crouching over Rachel's still form. He sat beside him and glanced quickly at the Willow Tree which was still pulsing with energy and stroked some dark hair from the human Rachel's forehead before sighing,
"She can do this Daniel, just give her some time," he tried to reassure Daniel
A cry caused Ryder to look up as he saw Tsahìk Sänume gesturing to a small group of Atokirina' which floated down and gathered around Rachel's avatar body and he smiled widely.
Amanti stood back in amazement as Rachel's avatar body began to breath slowly and opened one eye which seemed to be full of amusement as she looked up at Daniel who looked like he almost had a heart attack,
"Hey everyone, did I miss something here?" she grinned as she spoke softly.
At once all the Na'vi began jumping up and down and loudly cheering, all rushing to embrace the new Na'vi.
Daniel cracked a smile and wiped his eyes then shot a look to Rachel's lifeless human body which he gently removed the exopack from,
"Only the most important day of our lives," he grasped Rachel's shoulder happily and hugged her as he continued,
"Murray's dead, his militia and scientists are gone and you and I are forever one of the People!"
Rachel laughed disbelievingly and shook her head before turning to see her human body and she screamed; shaking her human form and beginning to cry,
"What? No!..How did I die?!" she turned to Daniel and tapped his chest with her eyes wide, "And you," she began before whirling around to see Daniel's lifeless human form, "What have you done?"
Sänume held Rachel's shoulders gently and nodded reassuringly to Daniel who began recovering from shock,
"Rachel your human body was badly injured from the battle with the tawtute Murray who tried to destroy your Dreamchamber. Daniel pleaded to have his human body along with yours by Eywa to your Na'vi form so that he could accompany you no matter what Eywa decides."
Rachel glanced up at Sänume's kind face and thanked her before turning to Daniel, then to the entire clan that gathered around her with glad faces,
"Thank you everyone, for pleading with Eywa to allow me and Daniel a second chance to share our lives with you," she paused as the Tipani began whooping and clapping in approval, "I hope I can in return help both the Tipani and Eywa when in need."
Sänume nodded and stepped forwards, laying her hands on both Rachel and Daniel with a proud face.
"I see you as one of the people, may Eywa smile on you both as you continue to serve the clan. You have earned our trust and respect, Brother and Sister of Na'vi Tipani," she added with a knowing smile.
The Tipani gathered around them and all joined their arms to form an organic chain, linking Rachel and Daniel to the whole clan; each one laying a hand on the other.
Sänume motioned for Rachel and Daniel to lay their human bodies underneath some of the Willow Trees outside the cavern before raising her hands as she faced her people, her voice booming,
"Come, let us return to Kelutrel and celebrate our victory while welcoming our new clan members."
Ryder watched as hundreds of Na'vi ran to their mounts outside the grove and pat Rachel and Daniel on the back as they passed, their cheers echoing through the caverns and their footfalls glowing green and yellow as they hurried away.
"It makes my heart glad AbleRyder to see Dreamwalkers now Na'vi adopt our culture so willingly. If only other Tawtute could learn from them."
Ryder felt a hand link with his and he cocked his head to grin at Amanti whose was paint began to flake as she flashed him a broad smile. Ryder nodded and scooped up some water in his hands from a stream which ran outside the cavern; letting the water trickle through his fingers ad he cleaned the paint from his face and back with a smile. He unstrapped his Nawm armour and let it fall to the ground before he burst out laughing as Amanti spluttered as she swallowed in water as she was cleaning herself.
He tugged at her arm as she wiped her face,
"Come on Amanti, we don't want to get left behind do we?"
Amanti eyed him and shrugged before splashing water in his face and giggling to herself after seeing her mate's expression before she embraced him closely with her arms around his neck.
Ryder raised an eyebrow and he gently tugged at the bandage that was still wrapped around her lower waist, "How long has it been? Let me see," he whispered in her ear.
Amanti broke away from him and slowly began to unravel the bandage before gingerly removing the last part from her skin. She gasped as she saw that some of the stitches had begun to disappear and the swelling had died down.
"Eywa's medicine is helping AbleRyder. I should be able to hunt tomorrow without pain," she said happily
Ryder knelt down and placed his hands lightly on Amanti's wound and he craned his neck to look up at her with gleaming yellow eyes,
"Murray won't be able to harm you anymore; your body will be fine again."
Amanti beamed, knelt down and kissed him softly then sighed as she lay her head in the hollow at the base of Ryder's neck,
"I hoped to prove to tawtute wrong AbleRyder by beginning to try again," she breathed, her voice low and hushed.
Ryder's eyes closed and he let out a sigh as he felt Amanti nuzzling his neck, his tail entwined with hers as he opened his eyes and stroked her cheek.
"Trying for what?" he asked, confused.
Amanti rolled her eyes and looked up at him with her large eyes slightly sad.
Ryder frowned a little and ran his hands down her back,
"So soon, Amanti I don't know if anything good will come of this."
Amanti shook her head and held out a hand as an Atokirina' nestled in her palm, glowing faintly in the dim light made from the glowing plants around them.
"I have been advised by Eywa, she feels our sorrow and urges us to place our faith in her."
Ryder took her hands in his, the Atokirina' hovering over their kneeling forms. Amanti playfully breathed air on his nose causing him to snort. The beads on Ryder's braids clinked as he shifted his weight and frowned; deep in thought and then stared down intently into Amanti's golden eyes,
"To have faith; on Earth that word never existed once we managed to destroy our planet and each other."
He sighed as he glanced at the bottom of a pair of Willow Trees with glowing red leaves in the darkness and he bowed his head, then looked down at Amanti; his eyes bright,
"Faith is what gives us hope, helps us to dream and imagine a perfect world..," he swallowed and continued, "I never thought there was such a thing as faith or a perfect world before I came here."
He smiled and squeezed Amanti's hands as she beamed up at him, her eyes glistened like pools of gold as a tear fell down her cheek.
"I guess we'd better have faith then Amanti," he whispered
Ryder smiled as Amanti slowly edged closer to him, holding her queue and he planted a kiss on her forehead as she sat astride him and breathed in deeply.
A sudden breeze scattered nesting Atokirina' which floated from the lightly glowing tendrils of a nearby Willow Tree and they glided downwards peacefully before drifting down into a bubbling stream.
Beyda'amo had not been as happy ever since the tawtute arrived some time ago. He passed around a bown of Kava to another warrior as they were seated in a large circle in the cool grass at the foot of Home Tree by the Toruk totem. He whacked his head with his palm and bellowed with laughter, his whole body shaking as he saw Raltaw's eyes begin watering as he placed the half empty bowl at his feet, his ear slightly twitching.
"Olonowin, you have not been training your hunters as much as I thought. They have much to learn," Beyda'amo jeered.
Hukato glimpsed Olonowin's fuming face before taking a sip of the liquid from the bowl, watching as Na'vi were dancing and singing round the torches and totems; banging Gourd drums and cheering. Hukato gulped as he felt his throat mildly burn and he turned to Melvin who was sitting next to him and passed him the bowl.
Melvin nodded, took the bowl in his hands and sipped; coughing slightly,
"Where is Rachel?" he asked as he passed the bowl to Unipey.
Unipey graciously took the bowl in her hands and pointed towards a fire-lit column of the Home Tree where children were chasing each other and shrieking.
"She is over there, Nìwin!"
Melvin excused himself and hurried over to the column, brushing past grass and shrubs which glowed bright yellows and greens and easing through the laughing children as he searched for Rachel. Melvin jumped as he heard a female shriek with laughter and emerge from behind the column with slightly glazed eyes and a large smile. Melvin's heart sank, it was Rachel and she was pulling a gushing Daniel towards the spiral roots to reach the loft.
Melvin shouted after Rachel and she turned; her face turning a bright blue and her mouth forming a perfect o with her eyes wide and she shrieked with surprise and clutched Daniels shoulder for support.
Daniel laughed and helped Rachel straighten as they both turned to face Melvin, grinning.
"What is it? We've got things to do!" Rachel shouted.
Melvin snorted as he looked at Rachel who grinned widely and burped before smiling again,
"Have you chosen already?" he blurted and eyed Melvin suspiciously
Rachel beamed and nodded, "What Daniel did today has proven how much he cared about me, how he's always cared about me."
Melvin ground his teeth together, heat rising from his face as he caught Daniel hugging Rachel's middle and smiling widely. He watched Daniel walk away with Rachel towards the loom that was alight with torches and Bladder Lanterns. Melvin's eyes burned into the back of Daniel's skull as he continued to watch him until he disappeared.
"I swear I'll make him pay. How does he end up getting someone like her anyway?" he wondered aloud darkly.
Murray heard talking and the rustling of long grass, turned and froze as he saw Ryder and Amanti walking towards him; their hips pressed together and heads close as they talked softly with large smiles on their faces.
Ryder was midway through a sentence before he caught sight of Melvin staring and he smiled and his face flushed, embarrassed and he walked up to the loft with Amanti close by his side.
Melvin groaned and rubbed his face with his hands, he gasped as he remembered something he overheard on his radio the other day. He ran through a trail, through glowing Warbonnet ferns and bright orange Helicoradian and sped to the roots towards the loft, blowing off steam as he dug his heels in the soft ground as he ran.
He blinked as the fire from the torches stung his eyes momentarily with great orange light cast on the inside of the trunk. Melvin bit his lip as he walked past Rachel and Daniel who were heading upwards, swinging up the winding branches and Melvin sat down beside Tan Jala, Ryder and Unipey. They greeted him and offered him some meat and Kava which he gratefully accepted.
Ryder watched Melvin with raised eyebrows; one arm linked with Amanti's and the other gripping a bowl of kava which he then offered to Tan Jala and turned his head to Melvin,
"What's up? You don't seem to be in the mood for celebrating."
Melvin's face twitched for a moment but turned blank and he shook his head then bit into a strip of cooked Yerik, (Hexapede)
"No it's not that, I remember overhearing something on my radio this morning, it was about the Avatar Program, after the battle with Murray."
Ryder almost choked on his kava and he bent forwards and gasped for air as he wheezed, almost hyperventilating. His tail slapped against his foot and he turned to Melvin, Amanti pounding his back and laughing as he wiped his face,
"What?! Come on don't leave me hanging," he spluttered.
Melvin looked to Tan Jala and Amanti before continuing, "Grace Augustine, she told Murray that she thought he was wasting time and resources, she said that she already has more avatar drivers on the ISV Venture Star."
Ryder massaged his throat and moaned in relief and he crawled forwards to take the kava bowl from Tan Jala who had fallen asleep with drool running out a corner of his mouth as he lay on the floor. Ryder laughed and poked Tan Jala's side before sitting back down and passing the bowl to Amanti, then turning his head to Melvin with a smile,
"Oh thank god, I thought that more Murray's were going to appear..Any names of the Avatar Drivers?" he asked.
Melvin flushed with jealousy as he saw Ryder and Amanti lean towards each other and kiss passionately out of the corner of his eye. He looked towards the hammocks above him and sighed; a lump in his throat,
"Only one," he began.
Melvin heard a yell and he turned his head to see Ryder pointing at him, teeth bared as he growled impatiently. Amanti was laying her head on his back with her hands across his chest and smiling as she sat behind him.
"Look I haven't got all night, are you going to spill the beans or what?" he growled.
Melvin snorted and raised an eyebrow as he saw Beyda'amo walking past Ryder, humming absentmindedly, not watching where he was treading and he stepped accidentally on Ryder's moving tail.
Ryder yelled out in pain and hissed; showing his sharp fangs before turning his head and looking upwards as he saw Beyda'amo snickering then grinning down at Ryder,
"What the hell was that for Beyda'amo?!" he shouted, eyes watering from the pain.
Beyda'amo smirked and patted Ryder's head condescendingly before walking off towards another firepit.
Melvin bit his tongue and to stop himself laughing as he saw Beyda'amo slip on a forgotten kava bowl and fall on Marali as he tried to sit by her side.
Ryder winced and held his throbbing tail as Amanti rubbed his back soothingly and sat down next to him,
"So who is this avatar driver, you still haven't told me."
Melvin rolled his eyes and bit his lip as he tried to remember,
"Jake Sully, that's all I know."