The Matriarch, MO'AT POHATSUA examines Josh closely. She looks at the viperwolf bite on his arm. She says something to the Patriarch, MATO'A TE KAHA NAHGOITEWA, and they confer briefly.
As we will come to find out, Mo'at and Mato'a are Zuleika's parents. She is what you might call a princess... destined herself to be the Matriarch of the clan someday. So they cut her some slack. Future Matriarchs are expected to have good instincts.
Mato'a invites Josh in for dinner, and they go inside the base of the tree. Josh is amazed at the size of the thing inside. By the light of the cookfires he can see up into a cylindrical gallery, which goes off into darkness. It is like a biological cathedral, held up by pillars and flying buttresses of living wood.
We see the people of the tribe, and how they live. Mothers with babies, old ladies, young hunters. The Matriarch and Patriarch rule equally, though each with their own area of responsibility and expertise. The Patriarch is the hunt leader, and is also in charge of the making of things, including pottery, clothing and art.
The Matriarch, Mo'at, governs the tribe's relationships to the forest, and is also responsible for their verbal history, medicine and musical teaching. Her skills could be compared to those of a shaman. Her name means "Dream Catcher". It is her job to petition the forest for guidance, and to make requests of it.
Together they determine when they must move to allow the area they have dwelt in to recover from their stay, and where they will go next. Their lifestyle is semi-nomadic, and the movements are somewhat seasonal, having to do with the migration of some prey animals, and the gathering of certain plants and fruits.
One of the hunters is TSU TE RONGLOA, whose name means "Eats the Heart". He is the alpha male, or dominant young male, under the Matriarch and Patriarch. Josh sees right away that Tsu Te is not happy about him being here. He suspects that it has more to do with Zuleika than with a general mistrust of "aliens". And he's right.
Josh is shocked to see Grace and N'deh here... seated and already eating. Grace waves jauntily and grins at him, licking her fingers.
It's nice to be among her old friends again, she says. They came to us in the forest and told us Zuleika had found you.
It seems the whole village knew Josh was coming... Zuleika let her mother, Mo'at, know while they were still out in the bush.
Josh wonders how the hell she did that? She wasn't packing a cellular phone. Grace just smiles.
Josh eats dinner with them, and is made welcome. He is served some cooked fish, and some hexapede meat. It's delicious. Zuleika offers him some steamed grubs, and he doesn't want to be rude, especially not with her, so...
They turn out to be sweet, with a consistency a bit like shrimp. He has a second helping, making a show of learning the Na'vi word for it.
Across the fire, he sees Grace grinning at him. She says something to N'deh, leaning close to him, and he closes his eyes in agreement.
CUT TO LATER. The fires are burning low. The clan is bedding down for the night, in fiber hammocks slung about the inside of the mighty tree. Josh is given a place to sleep. He stares at the fire, its flickering light reflecting in his eyes. What is happening to him? He feels so... right... here. Josh closes his eyes, and...
He opens his eyes. The inside of the shack at site 26 is momentarily disorienting. Human Josh lifts the link rig and rubs his temples. He has been under for almost sixteen hours.
Grace wakes up in the next chair. She gets up, stretching and rubbing her numbed butt. Cracks her neck.
GRACE: Gawwd!! What a day. I need to get some rack. I recommend you do the same. Village life starts early.
Josh is reeling. That's it? "What a day"? He realizes he's lost all sense of what they are doing here, if he ever had it.
Grace crashes down onto her bunk with a mighty groan. He pulls himself out of his chair and into his bunk. A beat. Then...
GRACE: You did good today, Josh. Really good. I'm proud of you.
THE NEXT MORNING Josh awakens early to hear Grace talking to Giese at the base. Giese is saying that Selfridge is cutting off their work. After the crash he can't spare a ship to ferry them around every day. And Quaritch is pissed off about losing another man. They are being recalled.
Grace tells him to forget about the sampling up in the mountains, they're onto something. They're in the Tsumongwi village, and Josh has made friends with the Patriarch's daughter. This could be a breakthrough. And they don't need a Samson. Giese tells them to stay on it, he'll deal with Selfridge and SECFOR.
Grace hands Josh a cup of coffee.
GRACE: Let's go amigo. Time to take flesh and walk the earth.
JOSH/AVATAR blinks awake, looking up at the inside of the cathedral tree. Shafts of sunlight stream down into the high vault above him through gaps in the "braided" trunks. Flying stingbats twinkle silently high up in a shaft of light.
Grace comes by, snapping her fingers.
GRACE: Another beautiful day in hell.
Josh walks outside, looking for Zuleika. We see village life among the Tsumongwi... kids playing, people cooking, cleaning fish. Mo'at tells Josh where to find her daughter.
CUT TO Zuleika bowfishing from a rock in the pool below a large waterfall. Josh emerges from the trees nearby and freezes, watching her.
With deep concentration she stands still as a statue. Then the spear-like arrow shoots into the water, and Zuleika jumps in waistdeep to retrieve it. She holds up a good sized fish, and grins at Josh.
She comes up out of the water, a dripping primeval beauty. She pulls the arrow out of the fish and hands it and the bow to Josh. His turn.
CUT TO JOSH. Flailing about in the pool, trying to shoot a fish. It's a lot harder than it looks. Zuleika has to turn away, she's laughing so much. Finally Josh nails a fish about four inches long, and holds it up proudly.
JOSH: Anybody can hit the big ones.
TSU TE and another young hunter, TRI COOCHYESTEWA, come out of the forest leading TWO DOMESTICATED DIREHORSES. They control the huge animals with a leather nose-ring, but there is no sign of bridle, reins or saddle... only a woven grass surcingle around the animal's chest. The direhorses drink from the edge of the pool.
Tsu Te disdainfully watches Josh slogging out of the pool with his tiny prize.
ZULEIKA This is Tsu Te.
JOSH: Gezundheit. Pleased to meet ya.
TSU: When are you going away?
JOSH: Direct. I like that. It's fresh. Actually, I hoped to stay awhile. Pick up a few hunting tips from Zuleika.
Zuleika speaks to Tsu Te in their language. In subtitles we learn that the Matriarch has instructed her to teach the alien the ways of the forest, to see if it can be done. Tsu Te sneers at that, and says something which needs no translation.
Tsu Te flips his head and catches the end of his long queue in one hand. With the other hand he gently takes one moth-like antennae of his direhorse, and bends it down toward him. Next, he does an amazing thing... he touches the end of his hair to the end of the antenna, which looks like a feather. The "hair" comes alive, rapidly interweaving with the feather-like tendrils. They knit together, forming what Josh realizes is a neural interface, a direct plug-in to the horse's nervous system.
In one fluid move, Tsu Te hooks his bare foot into the bottom of the surcingle and vaults up onto the back of his direhorse. He grips the horse's flanks with his legs, and guides it with direct motor commands from the neural hookup. The animal has become an extension of his own body. And his hands are free to fire a bow.
The two hunters wheel around and ride into the woods along a game trail. Josh realizes how much he has to learn.
MONTAGE OF ZULEIKA TEACHING:
We see a sequence of vignettes over the next few days, of Josh and Zuleika together, in the village and the forest. She is teaching him their ways.
We see her pointing out different plants, and how they can be used. Which juices or saps or leaves can be used to attract, or repel certain animals. Which plant poisons are good for the arrows. What to avoid. How to walk. How to be invisible.
ZULEIKA stands behind him, correcting his position as he draws a longbow. Her hands move on his arm, his shoulders, correcting his stance. Aware of her touch, Josh finds it hard to concentrate.
NEAR A TRAIL we see them crouching behind concealing foliage as a herd of Hammerhead Titanotheres walk past. We see only the legs, huge as treetrunks. In the middle of the herd, a couple of babies walk, sheltered from predators among their parents legs.
ZULEIKA whirls a bolo round and round above her head. She hurls it and the two balls, connected by a leather thong, whistle through the air. They wrap around a sapling being used as a target. Josh tries it. The bolo winds up wrapped around his head, with one of the balls hitting him painfully in the nose. Zuleika has to lean against a tree she's laughing so hard.
NIGHT SHOT, from overhead... we see Josh and Zuleika bowfishing from a dugout canoe over the glowing anemones at the bottom of a pool. A large fish swims silhouetted against the glow. ZAP! Josh spears it.
SHOT OF ZULEIKA backlit by the sun. She is talking a mile a minute, gesturing rapidly, explaining something. We don't hear the words. Like Josh, we are just spellbound watching her.
JOSH nervously grips the woven surcingle on the back of an old, swaybacked direhorse. Zuleika holds its nose ring, keeping it steady, while she instructs Josh to bend its antenna, strong and shiny as a garden hose, down to him. He hesitantly touches the tip of his queue to the antenna. The tendrils interweave. Josh's eyes get big and his mouth drops open. Wow!! He feels the power of the massive legs under him. The horse's eyes also go wide. Zuleika strokes its muzzle, calming it. It twitches and stumbles as Josh learns how to control it.
IN THE VILLAGE Josh and Zuleika feed a direhorse foal with a gourd shaped like a nipple. It is the survivor of Lyle Wainfleet's casual slaughter, picked up by Zuleika's people when N'deh signaled them with the bullroarer. The foal gulps its meal.
SOME OF THE VILLAGE KIDS squeal with delight as Josh shows them how to play baseball. He pitches a leather bolo ball to a kid with a hand-carved bat. The kid makes a strong hit but when Josh yells "run!" in Na'vi, the kid bolts into the forest. Everyone cheers, thinking this is the game.
IN THE FOREST, ZULEIKA gently reaches up and bends a large flower toward her. From the pitcher-like flower she sips the nectar, which is sweet and thick as honey. An incredibly sensuous image.
JOSH, ZULEIKA AND N'DEH have come upon the body of a slinger killed by a powersuit trooper. The flying dart is hovering around the parent body like a hummingbird, whimpering pitifully. Zuleika gently captures the starving dart. N'deh chews up some food from his pouch and feeds it from his mouth to the dart's beak. It swallows hungrily, crying for more. We will see what a captive dart is used for later.
A STREAMBED completely overgrown by a tightly woven thicket. Josh and Zuleika hear a thundering sound and around the bend ahead of them comes a solid wall of stampeding STURMBEEST. Visualize an indigo and orange wildebeest five meters tall, weighing ten tons and moving like a locomotive. Then multiply it by several dozen.
Josh and Zuleika sprint down the overgrown tunnel as fast as they can, with the thundering wall of Sturmbeest overtaking them. He leaps to an overhanging limb and scrambles up. She leaps, grabs it, and he pulls her up just as the sturmbeest thunder underneath them like a train.
Zuleika laughs breathlessly. So does he, giving her a mock push. Off balance, she grabs him... and he likes that just fine.
Zuleika and Josh run through the forest by moonlight like two human panthers. He is more surefooted, now. As agile as she is. Galaxies of bioluminescence surround them. The foliage is a blur, whipping past. They move gracefully, soundlessly, and in perfect unison... two forest spirits. Above them, mighty Polyphemis is a crescent half-filling the sky, casting its special light over the landscape.
Zuleika takes him up a fallen trunk, and soon they are running along branches that are 30 meters above the ground. Josh can't think. He has to trust his body. He sprints with her through the trees, occasionally climbing and leaping as she does with the ease of a spidermonkey.
Now creeping stealthily, Josh stalks a large male hexapede. He is at one with the night forest, with its thousand bio-sources glowing like the milkyway through the dark branches, its strange sounds and smells, water dripping off the unfamiliar leaves. The danger and excitement of the primeval world suffuses his soul.
Zuleika flushes the prey, from nearby, and the hexapede bolts. Josh rapidly nocks an arrow and tracks it. THWAP! It tumbles and lies still, with the shaft of Josh's arrow sticking up out of its chest. A clean kill.
Josh and Zuleika kneel over the body. She cuts its throat, and daubs the blood on her finger tip. She draws a line under each of his eyes, symbolizing that he "sees" the hexapede, or honors its reason for existence. He is a hunter now. Just in time for...
THE BIG HUNT.
The annual STURMBEEST MIGRATION is the time of the biggest event in the lives of the Tsumongwi and the neighboring clans.
HUMAN JOSH is on the line with Giese, telling him excitedly that he has been asked to join the big hunt... the annual sturmbeest hunt. Giese is impressed. This has never happened before. He's going to come out there with Marcia and see if they can get some of it on film, to show the folks back home.
Josh tells him he has to go... he has to get back under the link. They have to make some kind of pilgrimage to the Hallelujah Mountains today, he's not sure what it's all about.
CUT TO MOUNTAIN TRAIL as Tsu Te leads a small group of hunters, mounted on direhorses, up the slope. Josh, riding well enough to keep up, looks up at something ahead. Tsu Te signals a stop.
REVERSE, LOOKING UPSLOPE... they are at a strange site. The mangrove-like trees rise arthritically out of the rock. Some large boulders of unobtanium have been trapped in their gnarled grip, and hang suspended far above. Farther up, almost five hundred feet above them, more of the boulders are woven into the twisted tree trunks. This is some sort of freak natural occurrence, but the result is spectacular. It is like the mythical beanstalk, going up into the clouds.
There is a THUNDERING ROAR, like an artillery barrage, and the ground shakes. Josh looks around, and sees one of the superconductor mountains grinding against the flank of a mesa near them. A huge rockfall is set loose, tumbling down the side of the mesa.
The Thundering Rocks. By its motion, Josh can see that this mountain, MONS VERITATIS, will pass over or near the beanstalk in less than an hour. The hunters dismount... Josh a little clumsily. Zuleika steps up next to him.