Jake was with the weavers when the alarm went up.
He'd started out with Ral'ai the bowmaker. While listening to the man describe how his new bow had been made, Jake had had an inspiration. He very much wanted to interact with his new clan members, and he desparately needed to become fluent in Na'vi fast. He decided that he would spend some time each day with a group of Omaticaya craftsmen, learning not only the language but also the culture and the people.
It had turned out to be a brilliant move. The Na'vi had been very favorably impressed by his sincere interest and desire to learn. Jake had spent time with the weapon-makers first and then with the other trades. New Hometree was soon abuzz with pleased conversations regarding how the new Olo'eyctan was taking a personal interest in his people.
Neytiri was busy translating a weaver's description of her current work when an excited sentry rounded one of the tree-columns and barreled towards them at a flat-out run. The new clan leader stood up the instant he saw the alarm on the sentry's face.
"Jakesully! Jakesully!" the man panted.
I've got to do something about that, Jake thought. "What is it?" he demanded.
"Toruk! Toruk comes!" the sentry reported.
Neytiri and Jake looked at each other in shock. Before they could say anything, a screaming cry rang out from the air above New Hometree. Both of them recognized the Great Leonopteryx' call. They ran out to the clearing in front of the Omaticaya's new home and saw the beast circling above, clearly in distress.
This can't be the same Toruk, can it? Jake thought. Only one way to find out. He made the same screaming cry he'd used at the Tree of Souls on the day that he had become Toruk Makto.
The great predator instantly answered the scream, did a wing-over, and dove for the ground in front of Jake.
God damn, it is! All the Na'vi scattered as the creature came in for a landing. It scanned the clearing, saw Jake, bellowed – and extended its nerve-antenna towards him.
He ran forward without hesitation and made tsahaylu with his mount. His pupils dilated as the bond was established. The beast was agitated, jittering, and Jake had to soothe it before it calmed enough to be able to communicate what was going on.
His eyes went wide as the reason for his friend's distress became clear. The predator turned its head to look at Jake and made a pitiful cry. He patted it comfortingly. "Don't worry, I'll get help." He disconnected his queue and ran to where Mo'at now stood with Neytiri, skidding to a stop before them. "Toruk has two young, and they're dying. He and his mate are frantic. He remembered me and came to find me. He needs help, fast."
To Jake's surprise, Mo'at ran into New Hometree commanding "Follow me!" He and Neytiri ran after the Tsahik, who went directly to the place where the Omaticaya healers kept their herbs and other supplies. She grabbed a carry-net and started throwing bundles and baskets into it.
Her daughter was confused. "Mother, what are you doing?"
The elder woman replied, "You know the simples as well as any healer, Neytiri. You must go with Jake and try to help Toruk's children."
"Me?! Why me? Why not a healer?" Neytiri was nonplussed.
Mo'at said with exasperation "Because Toruk's children are not Na'vi! Eywa's guidance may be needed to help them, and none of our healers are tsahik."
She finished throwing herbs into the carry net, tied it shut, threw it over Neytiri's head, and started pushing her daughter back outside. "Go, go, hurry!"
Neytiri wasn't given any choice – Jake grabbed one hand and pulled while Mo'at pushed, and the young woman practically flew down the central trunk.
Toruk screamed and mantled at them when they appeared, clearly urging them to use greater speed. Jake had his queue in one hand and linked while pulling his mate up onto the predator's back with the other. As soon as he had Toruk's antennae firmly in his hands and his mate securely grasping his waist he urged the great beast to launch itself into the air.
It didn't take too long to reach their destination. A small floating island had been commandeered by the two adults to raise their chicks on. Toruk's mate screamed at them as they landed.
Tell her not to hurt us! was the essence of the command that Jake Sent to his mount. The beast made a sharp bark at its mate as it lowered its shoulders to the ground so that they could dismount.
The chicks were under their mother's wings, and it was very obvious that something was wrong. Neytiri kept a prudent distance between herself and the animals while walking around them to see the creatures from as many angles as possible.
"Oh Jake, they are very sick," her voice was full of concern as she surveyed the nearly-unmoving little ones. Their heads were stretched flat on the ground, not a normal posture. There was obviously little muscle tone; they were limp.
Jake stayed connected to Toruk and watched her walk carefully around the other side of the creatures. She disappeared around the mother's wing for a moment – and then he heard an explosion of unfamiliar Na'vi words, in an inflection and tone that made the intent, if not the meaning, very clear. Whatever swear words those are, they're choice, he recognized. "What is it? What do you see?"
Neytiri reappeared from behind Toruk's mate dragging two disconnected legs belonging to some beast that Jake didn't recognize. White-striped skin still clung to the legs; it was clear that the chicks hadn't been able to manage the large bones. "Did the young eat this?" she demanded angrily.
Jake looked up at his mount and got a swift answer. "Yes. They're not his usual prey, but this one got chased into the clear and was an easy kill. Why?"
Neytiri spat and heaved the legs away. She dropped to her knees and pulled the carry-net off of her back and started searching through it as she explained. "There is a plant that grows in the jungle, it is not common, and it is very poisonous. White-legs is the only creature that can eat it and not die, but eating the plant poisons the flesh of the white-legs. Only palulukan can eat the white-legs safely, Na'vi will only hunt it to use the poison it contains."
Note to self, Jake thought. "Can you do anything about it?"
"Yes, I have the herbs I need," she stopped, "But Jake, they are supposed to be soaked in water and the liquid drunk. Toruk's children do not drink!"
"Mix your herbs, I'll take care of that part," he ordered. He turned to his mount, Make a kill, quickly, as big as you can carry; bring it here. NOT white-legs!
Toruk screamed and jumped, almost ripping his antenna free of Jake's queue, and was gone in a flash. Jake ran to Neytiri and helped her mix plants as she directed while they waited.
It didn't take long. They soon heard a great flapping of wings, and then the Leonopteryx appeared with a young sturmbeest in its talons, squawking for Jake. The Olo'eyctan drew his knife and ran over; the sturmbeest was already dead, but he thanked it anyway. "I See you brother, and I thank you. Your gift may save two lives today."
He slit the belly open in one huge swipe and then plunged both arms into the body cavity. It only took a minute to find and sever the connecting tissue, then he pulled the huge and bloody liver out of the carcass.
Jake heaved it over to Neytiri, and quickly slashed it into two roughly equal pieces. He took one and stabbed deeply into it with his knife and sliced a big pocket into the organ. "Here, put half of the medicine into this," he demanded, holding the sides of the slit wide open with his bloodied hands. He shoved the mixture deep into his improvised pocket, to make sure that the stuff wouldn't' fall out, then did the same with the other piece. He then put one half near each chick and ran for Toruk. As soon as he reconnected, he ordered his friend to make each of the young eat one. They watched as the two adults practically force-fed their offspring. Then all they could do was wait.
Clouds started rolling in as the sun went down. It was windy, and the two Omaticaya were soon uncomfortable. The floating island they had spent their honeymoon on had been large enough to have a small forest that had sheltered them from the elements, but this was little more than a bare rock. Clouds were wet, and they were cold. Neytiri huddled next to Jake for warmth when she started shivering, but there wasn't much else they could do about it.
Jake was surprised when Toruk offered his antennae again. He made tsahaylu and found out that the predator was curious. As soon as it realized the two Na'vi were in distress, there was a great crack like a sail unfurling, and the two of them were suddenly sheltered under a leathery wing. The wind and weather were effectively cut off, and the body heat of the Leonopteryx soon warmed them, but that led to another problem.
Neytiri covered her nose with both hands in a different kind of distress. "Jake, Toruk stinks!"
There was no denying it. Given the way the animal hunted, he should have been expecting it. Jake was sure that he smelled pretty ripe himself, having had both arms in a sturmbeest's guts clear up to his shoulders, but the stench from Toruk totally masked his own odor. "Get your nose as close to the front as you can," was all he could offer – and promptly followed his own advice. It was a long time before they managed to fall asleep.
They woke as soon as the sun came up, and lost no time getting out from under their host's wing. A very welcome sight greeted them. The two chicks were no longer prostrate on the ground, but sitting up normally under the female's wings, heads tucked back in sleep.
Toruk's mate happily nudged one of the youngsters in demonstration, and Jake had to grin. Some things seemed to be universal; females fussing with hair, gossip, and young ones complaining about being woken up too early.
Neytiri forgot the distress in her nose (or maybe she was just upwind of him) and hugged her mate. "Jake, they are all right!"
So they were. A nudge of the second chick elicited the same response from it as the first one, and Jake returned her hug enthusiastically.
There was a contented chirr behind them and they turned to see Toruk extending his antenna towards them. It was time to go. They mounted the great predator and it took off to take them home.
The Omaticaya were waiting anxiously, and were greatly relieved when they came into view. Jake was about to dismount when the Leonopteryx turned its head to look at him and chirred again. He was touched, and patted his friend's neck in thanks before disconnecting his queue and sliding down to the ground.
Everyone backed up to give the beast plenty of space as it cried a farewell and leaped into the air. They all crowded in eagerly to hear what had happened, and heard Neytiri ask "What did Toruk say, Jake?"
The Olo'eyctan answered "He said that neither he or his mate, or their chicks, will ever hunt a Na'vi, or any ikran that has a Na'vi riding it."
The People were amazed. Mo'at demanded of them, "Come! You must tell us everything that happened!"
"Before we do," Jake said, "I have to ask Neytiri a question."
The Tsahik turned to him with a puzzled expression.
A mischievous glint appeared in his eyes as he turned to his mate and asked, "What does - " he repeated the sounds he had heard her say at Toruk's nest, "- mean?"
A dozen hunters howled with laughter; several doubled over and had to grab on to each other for support. One man actually fell to the ground, holding his stomach for support as he roared hysterically.
Mo'at's eyes went wide with shock; her mouth opened in disbelief. She looked at her daughter, appalled.
Neytiri's face couldn't possibly have gotten any bluer. She took her mate's arm firmly and shoved him in the direction of the river, without answering his question. "Bath, now!"