Tarya (Stacy Westminster)

Tarya was born into the Omatikaya Clan, the child of a pair of hunters. Her mother was killed in a hunting accident when Tarya was a small child, a Viperwolf charging when she lost her footing and fell before it. Her father raised her until her adolescence, when he, too, fell: literally, his Irkan suffered a wing break while trying to swoop too energetically, high over a rocky portion of the plains.

Rocked by the violent death of her second parent, Tarya retreated into meditation under the guidance of Tsahik Banba; she found Eywa calling her to be a healer, Hawpänyu. As she entered into the education rituals, Tarya’s feet were guided by the Great Mother to the Swok Hawpänyu path: Upon finishing her studies and passing the final exams, she swore to take no life.

Some months after that, Tsahik Banba was taken by the Great Mother to see Her directly, and Tarya has worked since then under the able leadership of Tsahik Ma’ri, Tsahik Banba’s long-time assistant.

It has been a time of great upheavals, with the Skypeople alternately appearing friendly, some even eager to learn, and other times violently assaulting the land of the People and the bounty of the Great Mother–and sometimes both at once, very confusingly.

In the first battle that followed Tarya’s final rituals assuming the duties of Hawpänyu, when Tsahik Banba was still with the People, Tarya aided Ma’ri in helping Tsahik Banba, who had fallen when struck by one of the strange weapons of the Skypeople. Ma’ri, entering a light trance, felt the sense of wrongness over the Tsahik’s leg, and she dug into it to remove a slug of Skypeole metal; Tarya provide Pure Water from the Pywll plant to wash it, moss to pack the wound, and a Razor-palm leaf to wrap it securely. This was most distressing, that the first time she ever had to use her skills in an emergency situation, was with the Tsahik herself! But Ma’ri’s calm spirit and coolness provided the model that Tarya has tried to emulate since, and Tsahik Banba was soon safely sent on the way to Hometree.

It was then that Tarya noted one of the other fallen: a Skyperson, wearing one of the loose white skins that a few of them do, instead of battle armor. Tarya examined the Skyperson–a female, it seemed–and found her still breathing, but bleeding. An enemy of the People–but wounded, dying, and evidently not a warrior. What should she do–heal her? leave her be to live or die as Eywa decided? call a warrior over to kill her? Tarya, her tail drooping sadly in indecision, looked to Tsahik Banba–but she was in no condition to make a decision. Ma’ri came over. “Do as you like, Tarya; but if you heal her, she’s your responsibility,” Ma’ri said.

A Swok Hawpänyu must take no life; and Tarya decided that meant not to abandon this life she might save. Having just seen Ma’ri perform the sensing ritual, Ma’ri was able to do it competently, and she found the arrow head that had broken off and lodged in the Skyperson’s leg. Tarya removed it and washed, packed, and bound the wound as she had just done with the Tsahik. The Skyperson has lost much blood and was unconscious, so Tarya gathered up the slight figure and carried her herself to Hometree.

And so began the slow healing and education of Koko; for that was the Skyperson’s name. Koko had only a few words of the tongue of the People, at the start. Tarya not only oversaw Koko’s healing, but made sure she had enough food she could eat through the strange mask she had to wear; and Tarya set about teaching Koko proper language.

It was a slow process; Koko was smart, but Tarya had never tried to teach language before, and she knew no Skypeople words herself. Naturally, Tarya started with the most important concepts: the Great Mother, the way She speaks to those who listen, and the importance of finding Balance in all things. She also taught the basic philosophy of the Omatikaya: peace, serenity, and harmony. And she showed Koko how to meditate and listen for Eywa’s voice. Whether Koko ever heard anything, she never said.

As natural as all these concepts were to Tarya–the things she grew up knowing, even before she lost her mother–they were suprisingly hard to teach. But Koko’s leg had taken a great injury, so she could not walk; having little else to do, she studied diligently with Tarya. And time, Koko came to speak passably well; and she grew to know the Omatikaya way. And there were now bonds of friendship, where there had been only captor and captive, healer and patient, teacher and student.

A day came–too soon in Tarya’s opinion–when Koko said her leg was good enough, she could walk into the forest and find her own people. She said something about her mask having not enough air to last more days, though Tarya never understood that: how much air could fit behind that mask, anyway? Still, Koko was insistent; and she went out on her own. It was a long time before Tarya saw Koko again.

Perhaps a year later–after Tsahik Banba went to walk with Eywa and Tsahik Ma’ri took over guiding the spirtual development of the Omatikaya–Tarya was caught with a group of half a dozen of the People, when Skypeople raiders swooped down on metal Ikran and surrounded them. With insufficient warriors to fight effectively, they surrendered and were taken captive to the Skypeople place behind the fences they make, in the artificial trees that smell so wrong. They were kept together in a room where they could breathe the proper air of Eywa, and they were fed food that, while tasting of nothing living, yet seemed to give nourishment. But it was a terrible thing, to be separated from their clan and the People. But Tarya knew that Eywa had never deserted them, and in her meditation, she heard the reassurance: The Balance would be kept.

It was not many days later that the captives heard the sounds of battle, and they were overjoyed when, with a great clang of rock breaking against metal, a warrior opened the door of their room. “Come!” he said, “we must join the others and escape while we can!” But the place from which the warrior had come was now overrun by Skypeople; they had to retreat in another direction, further into the artificial tree. Running about to find a door leading out, they came upon a Skyperson wearing a mask; the warrior took aim with his spear, but smelled something familiar. She hissed at the warrior and put herself between the him and his target. Facing the Skyperson, her tail flinging nervously back and forth in wide arcs, Tarya called out, “I see you, Koko!”

For it was, indeed, the same white-skin-clad Skyperson Tarya had nursed back to health so long ago. Koko stopped what she was doing–putting her hand to some device on the wall, perhaps–and stood still; if she’d had a tail, surely it would have been raised up high in nervousness. The warrior behind Tarya hissed his own warning, but Tarya raised up her palm behind her, trusting he would see the strength of her determination to wait for Koko to come to her decision.

“I, I see you, Tarya,” Koko said, stumbling a little as she often had on the words. “Are you well, sister?”

It was the word Tarya had been waiting to hear–the acknowledgement of their ties, the recognition of the shared philosophy. Tarya spoke in the plainest of words, “Yes, sister, but we seek the way out. Will you help us?”

Koko ran to one of the metal Skypeople doors and poked several times on some strange little bumps on its surface; the door opened. “Go now, sister, hurry!” she said.

The warrior led the others out, while Tarya stopped to hold Koko’s hands in her own, her tail waving in a an upraised circle bespeaking her happy excitement. “Come back to Hometree some time, sister. And we will talk more.”

Koko said something–perhaps in the Skypeople language–and Tarya, hearing the approaching sound of battle, did not stop to ask what she meant. Squeezing once more, Tarya leapt out the door and after her people. Running towards the scent of the People rising on the wind, they were soon back in the forest.

And of Koko? Tarya has not seen her friend again. Did the Skypeople punish her for letting the captives go? Or did she fall in battle? Eywa surely knows; but She has not shared this knowledge with Tarya. The balance has been kept; and that is what Eywa does.


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