The bend of the bow is familiar to me as I sling it around in front of my body, the image of someone else now gone from around me somehow. I had time to slip into Nan-ah’s old house and grab some of my things such as the full quiver and light bow I had set against one wall, a small bag holding some snacks, and a leather bottle filled with boiled water. Keeping a watchful eye out for predators and the Unwea clanmembers, I quickly make my way up the mountain. I’d never traveled this high in any of my hunting journeys before. This is Wurn territory.
I crouch behind a bush, careful not to rustle it. I can see two figures, males, nudging each other with their elbows and laughing. It’s strange seeing two Wurn tribespeople acting anything but… serious. The people of the Wurn Tribe that I’d always come across were overly intense, threatening to torture you or kill you because of something small (and sometimes big). Their attitude now catches me off-guard.
They turn around, heading my way. One of the boys holds a knife while the other carries a broken spear. Grass and leaves crunch beneath their feet as they get closer.
Loading my bow, I stand. They freeze, startled by my presence and boldness. A moment later, they switch into attack mode. The boy with the knife holds his weapon up as if to throw it, while the one with the broken spear holds the stone tip up like it could protect him from my aerodynamic arrows and me. As if.
“Who are you, and what do you want?” Knife-boy grumbles, his eyes narrowed.
“My name is Cressa-la and I touched the water.” I smirk. “Take me to your Tribe Leaders. I need to have a word with them.”
“Anything you want to say to them, you can say to us.” Spear-head’s voice shakes.
“Really?” I lower my bow a bit, amused. My heart pounds in my chest. What if this doesn’t work? I’m coming off too cocky. Most of the time, when cockiness levels are too high you come crashing down into a pit of trouble. But how can I show them I mean business?
A way pops into my head, although it isn’t the most pleasant of them all. But I need to get to the Wurn Tribe without being targeted or tortured. I need them on my side, or, if possible, afraid of me. However, that’s the last resort.
I put one hand up, telling them to wait as I set my bow down.
“Look.” I bring both my hands up, palms out, to eye-level. “My weapons are down. Please just take me. I really mean no harm.”
“You said you touched the water though,” Spear asks.
“Yeah,” Knife chimes in. “How could younotmean no harm?”
I groan. “Please? I’m from the Initi Tribe.” There’s a rustling in the trees above my head followed by a mysterious chuckle, and I become nervous. “We’re all in grave danger.”
A monkey, glowing orange, lands on the ground in front of me, cutting off my view of the two boys. Several more, some glowing and some not, slam down onto the grass around us and begin to screech, closing in on me. They begin to mouth words I don’t understand.
“We’ve got you now, Cressa-la,” the first monkey howls, glowing brighter.
It bounds forward, teeth bared.
In one swift motion, I grab my bow, aim, and shoot. One monkey falls dead. Two. Three. Another one jumps on top of me, pinning me to a tree. It claws at my face, leaving a scratch or two. And then I feel something within. The orange glowing monkey looks at me wide-eyed as a burst of light throws him from me, blood dripping from his ears as he lands at the base of a tree. It’s the same burst of light from when Damian had tried to manipulate me and I resisted, only this time it was bigger.
He struggles up, madder than ever, and begins to rush forward again. I reload. My arrow penetrates deep in his chest and the monkey drops to the ground, his orange glow disappearing.
Four more are attacking the boys, their pitiful weapons doing no damage whatsoever to the morphed beasts. They came unprepared. To the boys’ amazement, all four animals drop dead as I empty out my quiver. I’m clean out of arrows, and, luckily, monkeys too.
The boys gape at me, Spear holding his arm and Knife standing back up. They eye me suspiciously as I wipe the blood from my cheek away and try to breathe normally.
“Now will you take me to your Tribe Leaders?” I croak, dropping my quiver to the ground and throwing my bow aside. They’re useless now.
The boys glance at each other, clearly impressed, and nod.
“Yeah, we’ll take you,” Knife nods, rattled.
I follow them, my mind drifting to Tamir, to Damian, to Dametria, and even to Lily-flor. And then to the violence that had just happened moments before. What was that light that came from me? What caused it? And what does it mean?
Before I know it, I’m stepping into the village of Wurn.
It’s dirty and seems to be full of smoke from the fires burning in several pits along the walkways. The people stop and stare, pulling out different weapons and grimacing as I walk by. I’m scared for only a moment as I remind myself of the dangers of the their tribe. And then I recall the Unwea Clan.
We stop before a long table stretching maybe eight feet to my left and right made of dark, rough wood. My only guess is that it’s their Feasting Table. We have one maybe just as big stored away, but we never used it unless it’s for Tribe Leader Initiations.
The five Tribe Leader houses are spread out in almost a w-like formation, the center one with lit torches on either side of the front door.
“Namrina-mah,” Knife bellows. “We have a guest.”
The door with the torches opens, and out steps the girl who had hit me on the head with the butt of her spear after the tsunami didn’t hit. She glares as she walks up to me, looking me over. My heart races inside my temples and I swallow hard. I remind myself I need this tribe.
“So you lived,” she chuckles harshly. “And what do we owe you for this honor? A jaguar? A mountain lion? Asquirrel?”
“I’m here for your help.” I lift my chin a bit higher, ignoring her insulting tone. “The Unwea Clan has members on land and underwater—”
“The Unwea Clan?” Namrina-mah spits. “How do you know about the Unwea Clan?”
“I know the King. He’s the one that held me captive underwater and the one that saved me from your restraints in the trees.” I don’t miss the awestricken look that passes over her face for a moment. “They’re close to attacking the merpeople and I have a feeling it won’t stop there. They want to drain the powers and lives of all the One-Hundreds. That’s what the tsunami was for, to find out who is and who isn’t.”
“So why do you need me?” Her voice is low. So she keeps the secret of the world of water from her tribe as well? Do even the Revli Tribe Leaders do this?
“Because you’re the Tribe of War. Should there be any uprising of the Unwea Clan, I want it to be you to fight at our side to protect our home.”
She sucks on her teeth for a moment, thinking it over. “And where would we stay?”
“Stay with my tribe. As you know, we’re located at the bottom of the island. If they make it through the merpeople and to the shore, they’ll hit us first. It helps to know the secret location of the Unwea Clan on land is between my tribe and Revli’s.”
“And what should I tell my people?” I can see the worry in her eyes.
There’s a split second of silence, and then she nods.
“Fine,” she snaps, her tone less harsh. “But this doesn’t mean we’re allies.”
Maybe Wurn isn’t so bad after all.