Taking a bit of a risk in order to make myself work more on it, I'm posting the beginning of my NaNo before December. It's only had a very quick edit so PLEASE PLEASE let me know if there are any major errors, but other than that, please enjoy!
At this point in the story, there isn't any human presence on Eywa'eveng at all, so no English is being spoken, so in hopes of being less insane all dialogue should be assumed to be in Na'vi even though nothing is in italics except actual Na'vi words.
Here we go down the rabbit...er...I mean the 'angtsìk hole. Enjoy!
Histories - Mo'at and Eytukan
Chapter 1: Down the 'Angtsìk Hole
The young man, Eytukan, laid on his back in one of the very highest branches of Kelutral, smiling as he felt the breeze pass over his sun-warmed skin and heard the shrieks and grumbles of the ikran in the branches below. He had been a fully-fledged taronyu for almost a full season now, and was fast approaching his uniltaron. All in all, life was pretty good, except for one thing. Well, one person really. Mo'at. They'd always gotten along as children, but a couple of years back, when the announcement was made deciding that he would be olo'eyktan someday, she had been furious. They had gone from spending almost every day together to…well, these days he was lucky if he could manage to get her to say three words to him at a time without getting his ears ripped off or his tail pulled out for his trouble.
He rolled over, resting his chin on his hands as he gazed out over the forest canopy. He had to figure out some way to get her back on his good side. After all, there might be a couple of years at least before she, too, would pass through uniltaron, but when that time came, he…really wanted her to like him again, because it wasn't just that they were expected to mate, it was what he wanted as well, had dreamed of for years, and he wanted her to want that too, not to feel that she was pressured by circumstance or expectation. The thought of having her as his had, after all, been more than half the reason he had pushed so hard to excel so that he would be chosen as Ateykxway's successor.
At least her enmity was directed at all males, even if he received the brunt of it. He didn't know what he would have done if he'd been the only one she hated, and she had instead been friendly or even, horror of horrors, flirted with some other male. Even the thought of it made his ears pin back and a low growl start somewhere deep in his belly. She was his. Had been from the time they first played together as children, and nothing was ever going to change that, but...he still had to figure out how to show her what she meant to him even without her station...and, more importantly, his.
He felt someone tug at his tail and rolled his eyes. he knew who it was, of course. There was only one Na'vi persistent (or foolish) enough to find him here.
"What do you want, Kxawn'e?" he sighed.
"Nothing in particular," the young singer shrugged, "I was bored and thought I'd come see if you were still pouting."
"I am not pouting," Eytukan frowned at him, "I would never do such a childish thing. My face merely reflects my displeasure at my present circumstances."
"All the fancy words in the world don't change the fact that it looks an awful lot like a pout to me," Kxawn'e shook his head, laughing. "Come. We need to find something for you to do that will distract you from all this thinking. You're not made for it, my friend."
"Just because someone happens to be able to recite all the teaching songs and the full versions of each of the Toruk Makto ballads it doesn't mean he's smart," Eytukan smirked, "a riti, if taken young enough, can be taught words, but that doesn't mean it can speak."
"Ah, talking about yourself again, are you?" Kxawn'e grinned, "come on, you promised you'd stop spending your days hiding from her and just act as though nothing was wrong. Isn't that what Va'ru said would work?" Being the only one of their little brotherhood who was,as yet, mated, Va'ru was often pointed out by one or other of them as a great source of wisdom about women, and his advice was to be followed religiously.
"He did say that, yes," Eytukan nodded with a sigh, "and I did say I'd try it for a couple of hands of days to see if it had any effect. You're right, perhaps I should come down and make myself more visible. It won't do any good to be going about my life as normal and unaffected by her if I'm not where she can see how casual I am being and how little her disdain is affecting me." He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. "Come, it is not my day to hunt today, and you must be done your lessons with your father if you're all the way out here looking for me, why don't we head down to the lake and go for a swim?"
"That sounds like a perfect idea," Kxawn'e nodded, "maybe we'll run into Ateyo on the way and get him to join in on the fun. Although if he suggests diving off your ikran again I suggest you tell him no. After the knock you got on your head last time..."
"Singers," Eytukan scoffed, "not half a sense of adventure among the lot of you. You act like old men before your staff has ever noticed a woman."
"Hunters," Kxawn'e retorted, "not half a brain among the lot of you. You'd put your staff into a syaksyuk accidentally if you only saw it from behind."
Eytukan laughed. "Too slow!" he called out, rolling off the branch and dropping in a controlled fall of more than two bodylengths to the next tree limb below.
When the young men got back to Kelutral that evening for dinner, the uproar was just beginning. They were curious, of course, and when Kxawn'e stopped one of his fellow singers to enquire as to what was going on, the older woman looked over at Eytukan with a sympathetic glance that was definitely less than reassuring to the 'eyktan in training. Had something happened to one of his parents or his younger brother? But no, the news was far, far worse than that.
"Mo'at has gone missing," she said, holding his gaze with hers. "She was out gathering herbs this afternoon, as she often does, so nothing seemed strange until darkness began to descend and she still hadn't returned. Men have been sent out to look for her, and the boarder patrols have been alerted to keep their eyes open too. I'm sure with so may noses looking for her she won't stay lost for long." she added, her eyes following the agitated twitch of his tail.
"Still," he growled, trying to cover his worry with irritation "there will be great benefit in having just one more on the hunt. Especially one who knows her habits and secret places."
Not giving anyone a chance to dissuade or stop him, he dashed off, heading into the forest in the direction of a secret spot he knew of from their shared childhood which he was sure was one of her favourites. He doubted she would actually be in that spot, but perhaps she had fallen on her way and was trapped in a hole somewhere, or under a log, or perhaps she had been attacked by animals... There were some difficult crossings on that path, and a lapse in concentration could cause even the most careful climber to slip. Especially if her balance was changed by wearing a carry basket on her back.
As soon as he was beyond the lights of Kelutral he slowed down, all his senses alert to the tiniest sign of her presence. The thought of her hurt or in danger was simply gut-wrenching. He knew she'd probably be angry when he found her - she was a proud girl, after all, and insisted that she was more than capable of taking care of herself - but he would be more than happy to take a few of her screeching words and blows to the head if t meant he had found her and she would be safe. She was no hunter, after all, no matter how gracefully she moved. Oh Eywa, how gracefully she moved...
Mo'at groaned as she watched the darkness flowing over the sky far above her, and the luminescence of the plants begin to replace the light of the sun. She hadn't meant to be out this late, but then, she also hadn't meant to be stuck at the bottom of a crevasse with no way to get out. She wondered if anyone was looking for her yet. They probably were, really. By now her parents were sure to have noticed that she hadn't come back for dinner yet, and they had probably set everyone and his brother looking for her. She frowned. This was going to be so embarrassing when she got home...
The thought of dinner had her stomach growling, and she groaned again. At least she hasn't hurt herself much beyond a few bruises, but the thing that really drove her crazy was that her basket was full of herbs and not a thing that was actual food. She'd brought a food wrap with her when she set out, but she'd eaten it around noon, and hadn't saved any because, of course, she'd had every intention of returning by dinner time or even before. All she'd wanted to do was to get out from the looming cover of Kelutral for a little while, find some relief from all the people who wanted a bit of her time, and especially all the stupid boys who wanted to try to turn her attention to them.
Not that she wasn't already spoken for...unfortunately. Oh sure, even as displeased with the idea as she was she had to admit that Eytukan was a fine specimen of the male species, but he was so...ugh. He'd been arrogant enough when they were children, but the moment he found out he was to succeed her father, it had all gone completely to the darkest part of a palulukan's droppings. His moderate but tolerable arrogance from before had turned into a rather unpleasant possessiveness, and that was really really not what she wanted to spend the rest of her life having to put up with. Ugh. Males. Why did Eywa even make them in the first place? Really, she should have provided some way for females to reproduce without the unnecessary messiness that was inherent in every male she had ever met. Even her father, now and then, disgusted her with his pure...maleness.
She screwed up her face and paced the small confines of her enclosure. And now she was stuck down here, with no dinner, and no food she could see anywhere nearby, and she was going to be stuck here until some...ugh...male...came along to help her out.
Then again, maybe one of the female hunters or warriors would be the one to find her? That would be good. She knelt in the center of her little space and closed her eyes, letting herself become aware of the spirit of Eywa moving through all the living things around her.
"Ma Nawma Sa'nok," she prayed, "please let it be a woman who finds me, so that I do not have to be subjected to the odiousness of males in addition to all the other indignities which have been heaped upon me this day." Then she shook her head, sighed, and opened her eyes. She knew better than to think something like that would be listened to. After all, the Great Mother only protects the balance, she doesn't do things like making things easier for one of her tsahìk daughters who really ought to know better than to ask such a thing.
Mo'at shook her head. It was always worth a try, though. Sometimes, she thought, Eywa seemed to have a sense of humour, and if that was so then perhaps she might also be said to have a sense of responsibility and fairness also. Or not. It wasn't always easy to understand the ways of Eywa, and even for one who had been studying as long as she had, there was still so very much to learn. Her mother sometimes listened to her with an expression of complete and utter disbelief as she expounded on something she had interpreted from a dream or vision, and then, with a slow, ironic shake of her head, would explain in the most simple words she could come up with, just exactly why Mo'at's interpretation was flawed, and what it was that she ought to have taken from the portent. And most of the time, Mo'at ended up having to admit her mother was right. Although every time her mother told her that one day she would come to love her mate, that she would be grateful for the balance of a male in her life, Mo'at just rolled her eyes, stared at her father or one of the other males doing something completely ridiculous, and then back at her mother, as if to say "I hear your words, but I do not believe they can be true. You must be mistaken in some fundamental way that you do not see this."
Well, that is what she wanted to say, but she did not. Not after the first time, at any rate. One scathing lecture from both parents at once was quite enough, thank you. So for now she was meek enough when her parents spoke to her about her mating. After all, there were at least a couple more years before she would be old enough and would have had enough training to attempt uniltaron. More than enough time to convince her parents that a different arrangement should be made. After all, if she had to deal with Eytukan in the future as he took over the position of olo'eyktan, why should she have to be mated to him also? It seemed easy enough to think that they should simply remain friendly, as they had when they were children, and deal with the day-to-day issues of the clan together that way. Why work the messiness of a mating into the mix? It really didn't seem necessary to her, at all.
She wondered how long it was going to take someone to find her. Actually, it worried her a little bit, when she thought about it. She was at the bottom of a crevasse, and it was dark out. For sure, the plants provided some light, but not all that much, and certainly not enough that she would be seen from the lateral tree trunk she had slipped from which led over the crevasse and to safety on the other side and the small grove where she liked to go to get a little peace and quiet and meditate. So very likely no one would find her before tomorrow morning, and even then...why would anyone think to look down here? There weren't even very many people who knew that she used that grove for her meditation, or even that the grove existed, so they might not even look in the right direction for her at first. So it might take a few days, rather than a few hours...and she didn't have any food!
Quickly she started looking around for anything that might possibly be edible. After all, there was always the chance that she'd missed something the first time she'd paced this small space. She hadn't been thinking about food then, just getting out, but after climbing the walls six or seven times at each spot that looked even remotely promising, she still hadn't managed to make any headway, and now...well...there was no point in trying to get out while it was dark out! No point at all. But there was definitely sense in looking for food. Or even the herbs she knew from her training with the healers could be used to keep from getting hungry and could slow the body's use of energy so that she would survive longer, until she was found.
But after twenty minutes or so of dedicated searching, there was nothing at all to be found. neither food, nor the herbs she had hoped for. There was a little moss and some flowers, but they weren't really edible. At least there was the water that dripped down the walls. Although that was more than half the reason she couldn't get out in the first place... "Pxasik!" she swore, kicking a loose stone out of her way as she went back to the driest spot in the middle of the walls and sat down again, her tail twitching with obvious irritation. This was all just so...stupid!
Walking above on the high pathway to Mo'at's favourite meditation glen, Eytukan's senses where finely tuned to the world around him. He could swear he still caught wafts of her scent, so he knew she must have gone this way, and he'd seen faint footprints as well, which were encouraging, but if she had gone this way, why had she not returned? Was she maybe stuck up a tree, having run from a pack of nantang? Did she fall and twist her ankle and couldn't make it back across the bridge? If it was the second, he would gladly carry her back the whole way - he'd be glad to have her soft, graceful body in his arms, and what an excuse, to have a valid reason to touch her! And if it was the first, well, he had his bow with him, he was more than capable of taking out a pack of nantang if he had to, in order to protect the one who would be his mate, and maybe such a display of heroism would put him in a better light in her eyes?
Although really neither option would make him particularly happy. He'd very much prefer to get to her grove and find out that she'd dropped off to sleep or some such thing, and hadn't realized that the time had passed. Or maybe she'd been in one of her meditations and wasn't aware of the world around her like she should be? It had happened before, after all, which was why her mother had tried to insist that if she was going to meditate so far away she needed to have someone go with her. That had used to be him, before the split between them...
He paused in the middle of the living bridge which was the tree trunk and closed his eyes in a brief prayer to Eywa that he would find her safe and that this effort on his part would help bring them closer together. What a wonderful thought, him finding her, and her smiling up at him (or down from her hiding place among the trees where she'd gone to escape the hypothetical nantang pack) and actually touching his shoulder with a friendly hand or maybe even... No, she was too young for him to think about her maybe wanting to give him a sweet kiss as a reward for rescuing her. After all, it did him little good to think too much about things like that when it would be years yet before she was ready to mate even if they were on better terms again. But oh Eywa how he dreamed of it some nights...
He opened his eyes again and looked down, and it was just at that moment that two things happened. The first, was that he noticed a large scuff mark on the moss just in front of his feet, and the second was that he heard a faint sound, almost like someone swearing. It couldn't be! Did she... Oh Eywa, did she fall from here? He felt his heart sink. The fall from this bridge was a long one, and he wasn't sure what was at the bottom, and although there were - he quickly noted - some leaves of the type hunters used to slow their descent in a fall from great heights, would she have known to use them? And would she have known how to land safely? Perhaps she had wrenched a knee or dislocated a shoulder?
Without even a second thought he slung his bow over his back, pulled it tight against his body so that it wouldn't impede his fall, and leapt out over the abyss, aiming himself toward the leaves he had noted. After all, if she was down there and alert enough to be swearing, then surely he could make the fall safely. He was much better trained in these sorts of things than she was, being a hunter-trained young warrior.
He had never made such a leap in the dark before, and it was more than a little unnerving, especially when the leaves ran out and there was still quite a bit of distance before the ground. Well, more to the point, there was quite a bit of hole after the leaves ran out. He passed the "ground" and was still falling, and he swore vociferously as he tried to spread his arms wider and slow his fall. If he reached the bottom of this pit and she wasn't down here - if she was somewhere on the ground above... Oh that would just be too horribly ironic, and would really ruin his attempt at being heroic and improving his image in her mind and heart.
He had only a few seconds to wonder this, however, before the ground rose up to meet him. He caught himself into a ball and rolled, killing the momentum of the fall with only a little loss of grace, and then uncurled himself to look around. The first thing he saw was that the walls of this little cavern were incredibly steep and wet, and the second thing... The second thing he saw was Mo'at's extremely irritated face and her hand coming out to push him back against that wet rock wall hard.
"Skxawng!" she railed at him, "what do you think you were doing coming down here! I've been trying to get out for hours, you can't climb these walls! They're too wet, and they angle in, down here is wider than the opening at the top! You should have gone back and gotten the weavers to bring a ladder!"
He blinked and stared at her. He...hadn't thought of that, actually. He'd assumed that if she was trapped down here it was because she was injured or because she wasn't strong enough to get out on her own, not because the shape of the hole itself prevented such a climb! "Well I didn't know you were down a hole," he pointed out, "I thought you had fallen and hurt yourself and were just on the ground somewhere. How was I to know there was a hole down here? It's dark out!"
"Well did you at least bring something to eat?" Mo'at glared at him, "I'm hungry and there isn't any food in here."
"Um..." he hesitated, "I'm not sure...I think I remember grabbing something..." He quickly slung the small pack he'd picked up on his way out of Kelutral off his back and rummaged through it, coming up with a few food wraps and some yerik jerky. "Here," he said, handing her a wrap, "take as much as you want."
"Thank you," she said, the reluctance clear in her voice, and took the food and went to the far corner of their small space, sitting down with her tail tucked around her waist and facing away from him as she ate.
"Nìprrte," he smiled, watching her. Now it was time for him to figure a way out of here. After all, though it might be a sort of interesting thought that the two of them were trapped in a small space and would have to share what they had between them until they were able to escape, perhaps even curl up together in sleep to share warmth, since the dampness of the walls gave a definite chill to the air, he shouldn't want to take advantage of such a situation, and besides that, he could only imagine how grateful she would be to him one he found a way out of here! Especially if he managed it without having to wait for others to find them.
Which, come to think of it, probably wouldn't happen all that quickly. It was a good thing he had his bow. If they were still stuck in here tomorrow and hadn't been found, he would see if he could shoot something passing overhead and provide more food for them in that way.
It was a shame he didn't have rope, though. There was a trick with an arrow and some string attached to rope that one of the other hunters had shown him once for catching large fish, which he thought would be a possible solution to getting them out of here. Although... No, he sighed, it might be a good thought, but how would he make the arrow wrap itself around a tree limb far above his head and then raise the rest of the rope after it? The lip of the crevasse was probably about three body lengths above them at least!
He sighed again. That was idea one burned in the fires of reality, now, what should be his next plan? Maybe he ought to try climbing out. Certainly Mo'at had already said that the walls were damp and angled in, but that didn't mean that just because she wasn't able to climb them he wouldn't be able to either. It was worth a try... He walked around the edge of the walls, running his hands over them and looking for likely spots to begin an ascent. The first one he found there had plenty of evidence that she had tried the climb before him, and he examined it as best he could in the light of the moss and flowers, and then secured his bow tightly around his body as he made a small jump and grabbed onto the rock. He actually made it about a body length and a half before the slippery rock combined with the increasing overhead angle to make him lose his grip and fall back, landing in a crouch. She was still studiously ignoring him, so he moved on, looking for the next likely spot.
By the time she was finished eating, he'd tried each of the spots she obviously had with no success, and even tried another couple of spots where it had looked like he might be able to get a better grip if he started with a jump to avoid low-lying moss which was likely to peel off the rock, but nowhere had he made it more than two thirds of the way up the wall. Which really didn't help. It wasn't even enough that he could throw something from that height up over the lip of the crevasse and somehow attach a rope to help them get out. Not that he had a rope, he reminded himself, as he'd already reminded himself before.
With a roll of his eyes he moved over to where she was sitting and sat down beside her. "How long have you been down here?" he asked conversationally.
"Too long," she snapped, turning her head away from him again so she didn't have to look at him, "why do you want to know? So you can mock me for being distracted and falling in such a stupid place? So you can show your superiority once again at my expense just like you always do?"
"Mock...?" he looked at her, confused, "when have I ever wanted to mock you? You're incredible, Mo'at, you do things I could never even begin to figure out how to do! Just because I'm the more adept one at walking on logs and climbing and things like that is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, I'm a boy and you're a girl, that's just how these things...work!"
She had almost been beginning to relax until he said that last bit, then she growled and her arm moved out quicker than he could stop it to thwap the back of his head. "Skxawng," she hissed, "it has nothing to do with you being a boy and me being a girl and everything to do with your stupid arrogant head that is so full of gas that it should float you above the clouds like a fpxafaw where nobody could ever touch you and you would do nothing but whimper in fear until someone shot an arrow high enough to pop you and bring you back down to earth."
She had a sly smile on her face as she said that last bit, and he was quite sure that she would be more than happy to be the one who shot the arrow and "popped" his "arrogant gas-filled head" for him.
Not that she didn't do that sort of thing often enough. After all, of all the women and girls among the Omatikaya, she was the only one who could really make him feel like a completely graceless skxawng, and the only one around whom he managed to trip over his words so horribly, as well. He'd meant to try to compliment her, but instead... Well, even he could tell how offensive his statement had been, once he took the time to reexamine his words now that she had turned away from him again. He shook his head and reached out, laying a gentle had on her shoulder. "I'm sorry," he said.
She turned back to him with a huff. "It's nice that you're sorry," she said, "but it would be nicer if you didn't say things like that in the first place. It's so rude! And you make me feel like some useless idiotic little child that can't do anything and has to be protected and carried in a carrier everywhere because she can't even walk yet!"
He hung his head. "I can only say I'm sorry over and over again," he sighed, "it's not like I can stop these things from coming out of my mouth, they just...do sometimes."
"Oh I've known you were an idiot ever since we were little," she shook her head, "but it only seems to be getting worse with age. Isn't that kind of things supposed to improve?"
"Well," he hesitated, "mostly it has, but..it's just...well, you."
"Me?" her glare was severe and he could see the flames starting behind her eyes.
"No no no!" he said quickly, "You misunderstand! It's not that you make a problem or that you're not good or weak or something like that, it's that you're so...well...you! You're so graceful when you walk and I see it and I can't stop staring, and then your face is...well, when you actually smile at me I feel like my heart is going to stop. Ever since we were kids. I mean, I thought you knew all this stuff! Especially about the smiles, since you've used them to get stuff out of me from forever,:" he shook his head, "and then there's all the..." He cut himself off. He'd sworn he wouldn't talk to her about the more base things that seeing her did to him, not only because she was still young, but because there was every likelihood she would take it very much the wrong way and really freak out on him, or the rare possibility that she might be pleased at that thought and start to do things just to tease him because she would now know she would, and the thought of having to live like that for the next couple of YEARS...! He shuddered. It would be painful in the extreme, and he would be constantly having to find privacy to deal with the unfortunate side effects of watching her move.
"All the what?" she looked at him curiously, her frown seeming to have disappeared. "I would like to know, and since you can't run off like you did the last time we got into a conversation like this, I think I might just be able to find out."
"All the things you do to my body," he breathed, looking away. Damnit he didn't want to get into this conversation with her! "Surely you're old enough that your mother has talked to you about the horrible things that boys go through as we begin to grow up - the way the sight of girls can change us?"
"She has said a little," Mo'at's voice still didn't sound angry, and he was even more terrified to turn and look at her now. "she said that it can make boys' hearts beat too fast so that they feel sick, and that it makes it hard for them to walk sometimes, although her explanation for that was less than complete. She simply said that someday I would understand, and then I would find it funny rather than annoying when a boy's sanhì blared and he limped away from me."
"Oh," Eytukan could feel his own sanhì blaring at this very conversation, and he was sure that she could see it even in the small stars which littered his back. "I suppose that's all true, in a manner of speaking."
"Do I make your heart beat too fast so that you feel sick?" she moved around to the side of him faster than he realized what was going on, and her hands darted out to press against his chest. Oh Eywa, what had he gotten himself into here?
"Hmm..." she mused, "it is beating a bit fast, but it doesn't seem dangerously so... Wait," she leaned in closer, pressing her ear to his chest now, and his colour rose so quickly that his face felt like it was on fire. "Yes, it really is thundering almost like a herd of 'angtsìk." She looked up at him and he couldn't look away from her eyes, "It is fast like this because of me? Because I'm leaning close to you and touching you?"
He swallowed hard and nodded. He just hoped beyond hope that she didn't ask for any explanation on the limping away thing her mother had talked about and that she moved her face away quickly, because it was almost more than he could face, the thought that he was so close to her lips and that if he just leaned down a little...if he took his hands and placed them on her shoulders and pulled her up a little, then leaned in, he could kiss her, and taste the food he had just shared with her, and her own sweet taste that he could only imagine. He was so close to being able to do that...
And they were trapped together at the bottom of a crevasse for who knows how long, perhaps even days, and he knew from his father's warnings that it was wrong to tease a girl too far, that girls had a limit of what they could do before mating, and that to test and overcome that limit was both cruel and painful to the girl...that it would make her cry, and the last thing he ever wanted to do was make Mo'at cry. And if things went too far beyond that...They were both too young still. Mating early, before uniltaron, wasn't unheard-of, but it was very much looked down upon, and given the positions they would some day hold among the clan, they couldn't be seen to be so careless! Even at their young ages, they had to set a good example...
"Hey!" she pinched his ear suddenly, "I was talking to you! Where was your mind? Your eyes looked as far as the mountains."
"I was just thinking how pretty you are from that angle," he smiled, his "logical, safe" brain still not quite connecting after all the thoughts his "lesser mind" had been bringing forward.
"Oh," she flushed, her cheeks lighting prettily, "I...oh..." She turned away then, clearly unsure how to deal with what he had said to her, and he was very glad she did. Either he was going to have to make her angry again to make sure she kept her distance, or he was going to have to get himself under far better control, or else things could go very far the wrong way.
Although...perhaps just one little touch might be allowed? He reached out and took her shoulders in his hands and pulled her back against him, tucking her head under his chin so he could breathe in the scent of her hair. "I'm sorry if I upset you," he said again, "don't worry, I won't do anything stupid while we're down here. I just want to keep you safe, that's all I've ever wanted, Mo'at, to keep you safe and close to me."
Mo'at shivered. Why was he being so... She wanted to say "nice" but it was more than that. And more to the point, why wasn't it freaking her out? She should be pulling away from his hands and slapping him or pushing him away or doing something other than just sitting here and letting him touch her like this! But it felt...it felt nice, and it somehow made her feel better about being stupidly stuck at the bottom of a stupid hole that she couldn't get out of on her own...
Experimentally, just to see what his reaction would be, she leaned back against him and let herself relax. He was being nice, after all, and if it was comforting to have his presence there, behind, her, supporting her, then...
His hands moved from holding her shoulders to being wrapped around her waist, although she could tell he was almost afraid to do it. His hands were actually shaking, which was a thing she'd never seen in him before, and his startled intake of breath sent tingles over her scalp.
"What are you doing?" she finally asked, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.
"Trying to make you feel better," he said, "trying to make me feel better..."
What was it about being stuck down this hole that was making him act so weird? She pulled away from him then, but not roughly, and turned to look at him. "Is there something wrong with you?" she asked, peering into his eyes, "did you hit your head when you landed and are only showing the signs now?"
"I didn't hit my head!" he said quickly, "is it so impossible to think that I might care about you and be worried for you?"
"Well you've never acted like this before," she pointed out, running her hands over his body quickly and efficiently, the way the healers had taught her, trying to find any punctures or cuts or anything she hadn't noticed right away which might be causing him to act so strange.
"Yeah, I never have," he pondered, "should I have been acting like this? You don't seem to want to hit me when I act like this."
"You...said you want to keep me safe, yes?" she bit her lip. She hadn't found any injuries or hided swelling of bruises, so he must be acting like this on his own.
"Always," he breathed, his hand moving out to trace the intricate pattern of sanhì on her brow, which made her really shiver as a strange warm sensation moved out from the center of her belly to tingle in her fingers and toes.
"So how come all you ever seem to do usually is do things to make me angry? I don't mind you keeping me safe if there's something to keep me safe from, but not letting anyone talk to me without you growling at them? That's just rude and it makes me look weak and stupid," she frowned. His fingers stilled from where they had been tracing down over her cheek and the change made her realize he was still touching her and turn her head away.
"I don't mean to make you angry," he shook his head, "It's not like I plan it that way, it's just..." He stopped and shook his head, "never mind. You already showed quite strongly that you don't ever want to mate with me, I don't know why I don't just accept it and stop pestering about it, but..."
He'd stopped talking again, and now she really wanted to know what was going on in his head. Not that most males had much of anything but worms between their ears, of course, but even then there must be something that was bothering him! "It's not just that I don't want to mate with you, I don't want to be mated to anyone. Ever." she explained. Had he misunderstood that when she objected to her parents putting them together? Had he somehow thought she'd seen some fault in him alone? That wasn't it... Maybe she'd better explain that to him. "Look, I..." she started, then shook her head. She'd just have to come right out with it. "Males are yucky," she said, knowing it sounded a little immature, but she honestly couldn't phrase it any other way, "they do disgusting things, and they smell odd, and they LOOK at you with their eyes and it's creepy. And when my parents announced that you would be olo'eyktan and I would be tsahìk all of a sudden you started looking at me with your eyes in that way and it made me feel like I was covered in some sort of horrible dirty muck and I had to wash myself off over and over until it was gone."
"That's not why," he said quietly, and her head snapped around to look at him.
"What's not why?"
"That's not why I look at you like that, because there's something dirty about it." He shook his head firmly, "Have you ever watched an ikran fly? When they catch the rising air and spin and spin and spin upward with hardly any effort at all?"
"I have..." she said warily, unsure where he was going with this.
"It's beautiful isn't it?" he pointed out, "or when a whole flock of ayfkio fly in formation over the river?"
"Yes, I suppose it's beautiful," she agreed, still not quite knowing where he was going with this.
"Well to me, watching the way you move is just like watching that ikran floating up into the air," he said, "it's...I just can't make myself look away, okay? It's not because of bad things...well..." he hesitated, "okay it sometimes makes me think things that are a little bit bad, but it's mostly not that, it's just you're beautiful and graceful and I can't look away when you're around. And then I see other people looking too and I wonder what they're thinking and if it's bad things and it makes me upset..." He shook his head, "Never mind, it's stupid, I know. Look, it's dark out, we're stuck down here, and until it's light again I'm not going to be able to try to figure out a way for us to get out of here," he pointed out, "so why don't we just get a little sleep? I'm sure in the morning all of this will look a lot more clear."
"You're avoiding the subject we were talking about," she pointed out, "but alright, you're probably right, we should sleep. That way when the light comes in the morning, we'll be well rested and able to think of some way to get out of here." She would have pressed him further - honestly this was the first time she could remember him talking so much about anything, especially anything to do with why he was always so weird around her lately, but, well...she remembered something her mother had told her once. When a hunter goes to the river for fish, she won't be successful if she stomps around and makes a big fuss, since all the fish will know she's there, but if she stands silently and lets the fish come to her, then she will have success after success, and if she uses just a little encouragement and bait, the fish will swim right into her arms and beg to be pulled from the water and allowed to feed her and her family.
It seemed a bit of an odd thought, fish begging to be food, but Mo'at understood the message behind it. Sometimes, instead of pushing for an answer it was better to sit quietly and let the answer come to you on its own. That being decided though, they had another problem...where were they going to sleep? She'd never had to sleep on the ground before, at least, not overnight. Certainly she'd curled up on a warm patch of moss in the sunlight before in the middle of the day for a nap - who hadn't at some point in their lives, but a couple of hours was one thing, an entire night was something else entirely.
She started patting around with her hands, looking for the nicest, softest patch of moss, not that there was much moss down here. Most of the ground was rocky, and what moss there was all seemed to be concentrated in one corner. At least it was dry... As she started to curl up there, though, she realized something. If she took up this spot, then where was he going to sleep? Even though he'd dropped stupidly into the hole after her, and it really was his own fault, he had been trying to help her, and she did have to take that into account. She looked over to where he was fussing with his bag and moving rocks, clearly trying to make a smooth place for himself to lie down, and she sighed.
"Come over here," she said, patting the moss next to her. "There's no point in you sleeping on the rocks, there's enough moss here to share."
"But are you sure you'd want me that close to you all night?" he frowned, "I mean, I thought you said you didn't like me and you felt weird and dirty when I looked at you all the time?"
"I'll live," she laughed a little, "and really it'll just be like when we were little and we used to sleep with our families, right?"
"Right," he quickly answered, not about to turn down such a wonderful opportunity. The thought of being able to have her curled up against him all night, with her head close to his so he could breathe in her scent the whole time...
He tried not to look too eager as he joined her on the moss and sat down. Suddenly he felt really awkward. Um...how were they supposed to do this? I mean, sure, they were going to lie down together, but what sort of arrangement? Her with her back against his chest? Her curled up into a little ball with his arms around her? Her wrapped around him from behind?
She must have been able to see his confusion, because she rolled her eyes at him and pulled him down into a prone position, then lay down next to him, curling up tightly so that her head was on his shoulder and her knees were tucked up against his belly. Eywa he sometimes forgot how tiny she was compared to him! Her personality was so large that it seemed like if anything she was the taller one, but really... Really, he could wrap his entire body around her as if she was a child.
He hardly dared to move as she settled herself and got comfortable, making small contented sounds and yawning. It was almost too much to be believed, and he didn't want to do anything stupid and scare her off. As she closed her eyes, she mumbled a quick "good night" and then her breathing slowed and levelled out, and he knew she was asleep.
Then, and only then, did he feel safe to shift his body, curling his arms around her back to hold her close to him, and bringing his knees up beneath her, his tail wrapping around her waist as well as he surrounded her entire delicate form with his own.
So what did all of you think of this first little bit? You see now why I needed to get to the fall of Hometree before I could start this, otherwise things would be just too painful to write once I'd really started examining the past they shared *sniffle*
Anyway! For any newer readers (hey you never know!) this is where I put my Vocab section. Typically for this story there will probably only be a few animal names used here, with the occasional dialoguic word that I feel adds to the feel of the piece. This vocab section will be a bit more detailed in things some of you probably already know, but then I'll tone down the detail for anything I've mentioned in this story already and just keep it for the new stuff.
So, without any further ado...
'angtsìk - otherwise known as the Hammerhead Titanothere, looks and acts something like a rhino but instead of horns it has a massive hammer-shaped nose which can be used to tear down small trees and anything else blocking its path. Very stubborn animals, but family-oriented, as they live in small herds
Kelutral - Hometree. This is where the Na'vi live, the massive tree in which their lives are played out, from the ground underneath it where the weavers work and the fires cook their meals to the highest branches in which their ikran perch, to the inner trunk where their hammocks, their nivi are hung, Hometree is everything to them.
ikran - otherwise known as the Mountain Banshee, this animal (bird?) looks something like a pterodactyl with four wings, two main wings and two secondary wings on its hind limbs. They are ridden by Na'vi hunters, and the act of catching and subduing your own ikran is the rite of passage any young hunter has to pass in order to fully earn that title.
taronyu - hunter
uniltaron - literally the "dream hunt", this is the rite of passage in which a "child" passes through in order to become a fully adult member of the clan
olo'eyktan - This is the title given to the leader of a clan of the Na'vi, and literally means "Clan Leader"
Toruk Makto - A famous legendary figure among the Na'vi, this is the title given to one who subdues and rides the mighty "Toruk", the massive apex predator of the skies. There have, at this time, been only five "Toruk Makto" since the time of the first songs - the time when the history of the Na'vi began, and they come only in a time of great need for the People, a time of "great sorrow"
riti - otherwise known as a Stingbat, this is a small flying animal (bird?) which has a poisonous sting, but can be tamed and is sometimes kept by the Na'vi as a pet. They are a common food source for many other animals and as such, tend to breed prolifically
syaksyuk - otherwise known as a Prolemuris, this is a monkey-like creature with two arms at the shoulder which each split in two at the elbow, giving it four hands. They are about the size of a human, although of course in comparison to the Na'vi this puts them about equivalent to the size of a chimp, and they are noisy, mischevous creatures. A misbehaving child might be compared to a syaksyuk by its frustrated mother XD
'eyktan - this simply means "leader"
palulukan - otherwise known as a Thanator, this panther-like apex land predator is universally feared by all. Even given its size it is able to move through the forest like a shadow, and appear seemingly out of nowhere. Few who see it up close live to tell the tale
Nawma Sa'nok - a formal way to address Eywa, the mother goddess of the Na'vi who is made up of all living things, this phrase means "Great Mother"
tsahìk - The spiritual leader of a clan, the one who interprets the will of Eywa. She is almost always mated to the olo'eyktan
Pxasik - this is a bad word ;) It translates to something like "Screw that!" or "No way!" So aren't you happy? Now you know how to swear in Na'vi!
nantang - otherwise known as a Viperwolf, these are very similar in many ways to Terran wolves, the only major difference in their hunting strategies being that they have oposable thumbs and so are able to climb, expanding the range of their hunting quite substantially
Skxawng - this fun little word means "moron", just in case you'd forgotten it from the times you would've heard it in the movie
yerik - otherwise known as a Hexapede, this is the Na'vi equivalent to a deer. A major source of meat, but also a well-respected animal for their beauty and grace
Nìprrte - This means "you're welcome" or, more properly "my pleaure"
fpxafaw - otherwise known as a Medusa, this is essentially a giant floating jellyfish. They are a very dangerous threat, even though they have little in the way of a brain, because they trail their long tentacles along the ground and snatch up anything that comes within their grasp.
sanhì - literally "stars" but I rarely use this word when I'm speaking of the stars in the sky. More to the point, this is also the word the Na'vi use to refer to the bioluminescent dots which spatter their skin in interesting individual patterns.
ayfkio / fkio - otherwise known as Tetrapteron, these are purplish, four-winged flamingo-like birds which gather in huge flocks along the waterways and marshes of Eywa'eveng