Neytiri and her son rested in their sleeping-space for a couple of days after the baby's birth. On the third day she resumed her normal routine and accompanied Jake down to first meal. The sleeping infant rode in the child-carrier that his grandmother had made, snug against his mother's warm body. The little family walked slowly down the center spiral trunk of New Hometree, out of consideration for the still somewhat sore new mother.
They entered the main eating-space and were greeted by an impromptu round of cheers when their fellow Omatikaya saw who had arrived. A number of Na'vi came over to congratulate the new parents and check out the new clan member.
Neytiri's best friend Janni was in the lead, almost bouncing in her happiness, "Come! Sit! Let me see him! Oh, isn't he cute? Here, sit down, let me hold him!"
Jake grinned at his mate, "Careful, she might not give him back!" He went to get them something to eat while the women gathered around and exclaimed over the baby.
The clan's senior hunter, Sir'tey, was assembling a meal from the available dishes for his own mate and children when the Olo'eyktan arrived and he congratulated the new father, saying, "It is a great honor to have Eywa entrust one with the care of one of Her precious children. Your son is fortunate; he will learn a great deal from you as he grows."
That comment hit a sore spot with Jake. "As long as he learns the right things," was the marine's subdued and worried reply.
Sir'tey laid a comforting hand on the younger man's shoulder for a minute. The clan's senior hunter, who had grown up with Eytukan and been his closest friend, had taken the former dreamwalker under his wing after Jake had transferred to his avatar permanently. He'd managed the Omatikaya's hunter-warriors while the marine adjusted to life as a Na'vi and had taken on the duties of Jake's second-in-command and liason so smoothly that there'd been hardly a hiccup in the clan's day to day routine. He was the closest thing to a father that the marine had, and Jake had enormous respect and gratitude for his mentor.
The hunter was well aware of the new Olo'eyktan's reservations. He was one of only three Na'vi (the other two being Mo'at and Neytiri) who knew how much Jake agonized over introducing the least bit of tawtute knowledge and custom to the People. He remembered the younger man's reasoning even as he gave the new father a sympathetic glance.
"I don't know where the Sky People went wrong," Jake had said in one of their late-night meetings. "There isn't any one thing I can point to and say 'This is what started the insanity. Anything before this is safe and everything after this is bad.' Sir'tey remembered the haunted look on the former dreamwalker's face as he'd concluded "All I know is that the way of the People works. The way of the Sky People doesn't. I don't want anything to jeopardize the Na'vi. I'd rather forget everything about the tawtute life I used to live than allow it to contaminate the Omatikaya."
Mo'at had consoled her daughter's mate. "You are what you are, and the Na'vi need what you are. Eywa made you Toruk Macto for a reason, Jake. If you had not been born tawtute, the Omatikaya and the Tree of Souls would be dead now, and the rest of the Na'vi would soon have followed. We will need your wisdom when the six and twelve year ships come if the People are to survive. " She'd given her son in law a significant look, "Allow Eywa to guide your choices and your actions. She knows what is good for the Na'vi and what is not."
Sir'tey understood Jake's reluctance and wholeheartedly agreed with it. It was certainly something that no Na'vi father had had to deal with before. "My ears are always open for you, my friend." The hunter lightened the mood with a chuckle, "And I will be happy to tell you tales of all the different ways that little-tails will still manage to get themselves in trouble!"
The new father had to grin a bit ruefully in response; he'd already heard a number of aggrieved parents' stories (not to mention been the indirect cause of a few) about their mischievous little ones, and had no doubt that what had seemed hilarious at the time was going to be much less so once he became the main focus of them.
He finished filling his leaf-plate and brought it over to the spot where he and Neytiri customarily sat. Mo'at had claimed her grandson and was happily displaying the boy for all to see.
Jake was privately glad to see his mother-in-law's obvious delight in the child. He and Neytiri had both been concerned for the clan's Tsahik. He couldn't imagine the pain Mo'at endured as a result of Eytukan's death, couldn't imagine how he would have the strength to go on living if he ever lost Neytiri. There were a number of Omatikaya who had lost mates when Old Hometree had fallen, or in the battle at the Tree of Souls. Some of them had simply gone comatose and wasted away until they'd died. Others had walked away into the jungle and never returned. A few lucky ones, like Mo'at, had had strong enough ties to remaining family and friends that they'd been able to pull themselves through the pain. He fervently hoped that he'd never be put to that test.
Janni pulled out something wrapped in layers of soft leaves as he set the leaf-plate down in front of his mate. "Here," she said to Neytiri, "I can finally give you this. And this one is for you, Jake," the jewelcrafter said as she handed the Olo'eyktan a similar package.
The new mother was intrigued and unwrapped the gift as everyone looked on with interest. "Jake came to me a few months ago and told me that he wanted to give you something special, since you were going to give him a child. It took me a while, but I'm pleased with the way it came out," her best friend explained.
Neytiri peeled away the last leaf covering the ornament and gasped in astonishment. Sitting in her palm was a beautiful pearlescent piece of shell that had been sculpted into the shape of a stalking palulukan. The beast shimmered and almost glowed with rainbow colors as the tsahik tipped it from side to side.
An expression of great satisfaction appeared on the jewelcrafter's face. "Jake brought me a shell from your visit to the Ikran Clan of the Eastern Sea and asked me to make something from it." She gestured to the astounded Olo'eyktan, "Unwrap yours, Jake."
All eyes turned to the former marine as he fumbled the leaf-wrappings off of his own package. Admiring murmurs arose from the crowd when he uncovered a pearly carving of Toruk, obviously made from the same shell as Neytiri's piece.
Janni reached out and ordered, "Put the two pieces next to each other, like this." She shifted the ornaments as their owners obligingly held them out. To the surprise of the crowd they fit together perfectly, the outstretched forelimbs of palulukan fitting precisely under one of Toruk's spread wings. "Hold them like that for a minute," she demanded as she picked up and unwrapped a third parcel.
A third pearly ornament, but one without adornment, lay in the package. Janni placed it underneath the joined carvings, where it fit beautifully. "When your son shows us who he is I will shape this for him," she said in satisfaction. "Until then he can wear it as it is now."
Everyone was amazed by the beauty and craftmanship of the pieces. Mo'at, who had been in on the secret, said in satisfaction, "These are sure to claim first place at the next gathering. Nothing else will come close, I am certain." Murmurs of agreement went through the admiring crowd.
Jake was stunned – he hadn't expected to receive anything, he'd only asked that Janni make something special for Neytiri. After a few moments he got over his surprise enough to ask, "What did you do with the rest of the shell? It was a lot bigger than these," he gestured at the finished pieces.
His mate's best friend grinned widely, "Safely put away and awaiting the arrival of the rest of your children!" The crowd roared with laughter as Jake's face became an interesting shade of lavendar.
There was a great deal of admiration for Janni's work from their fellow clansmen; between that and the baby it took quite a while for them to attend to their breakfast. When they finished eating Neytiri claimed her son from his grandmother. She stood up as if she were going to go somewhere, and gestured for Jake to remain where he was when he started to rise to follow her. He sat back down, mystified.
Neytiri walked out into the middle of the gathering-circle to make it obvious that she had something that she wanted to say and waited for the crowd noise to die down. She spoke to her clansmen once everyone had quieted. "It is a great blessing and honor for the All Mother to entrust a Na'vi with one of Her precious children, and it is fitting to thank Her for such a great gift," she began. She looked around at her fellow Omatikaya, meeting their eyes as she continued. "In the case of this particular child, there is someone else to thank as well. It is someone without whom this child would not exist, someone who is responsible for sending the Na'vi our Toruk Makto, someone without whose sacrifice the Omatikaya and the Tree of Souls would now be resting in Eywa."
Neytiri looked down at her newborn son and smiled, remembering flower petals waving in the breeze as she fulfilled part of a solemn promise she had made. "You see," she explained to her fellow clansmen, "a long time ago our Olo'eyktan had a brother…."