She cracks her bow down on the skull of one of the wolves. Then grabs another and picks it up bodily, hurling it against a tree. The last one leaps at her and she drops under its weight, but rolls somehow, coming up on top of it with a knife in her hand. The knife flashes down, buried to the hilt in its heart. The last two viperwolves, stunned by her blows, retreat yipping into the black woods. Josh gets up, amazed to be alive... amazed by this girl... this vision. She recovers her arrow from one of the dead wolves. He speaks to her, not knowing if she understands him. Finally she speaks, in halting English.
He knows she must be one of the Tsumongwi clan, the ones taught by Giese's people how to speak English. Her name is ZULEIKA TE KAHA POLENOMA. Josh thanks her for killing the viperwolves. Zuleika's eyes flash with anger. This is not a thing to thank someone for, she says. It is a sad thing, and it is his fault. She blames him for the unnecessary deaths of the wolves. If he had known what he was doing they wouldn't have attacked. But he is clumsy and stupid as a baby. These are unnecessary deaths. She touches the fangs of the wolves respectfully. She murmurs to them in her language, asking them to forgive her. And to forgive this stupid alien man.
What should I have done? He wants to know. She explains how sap from a certain leaf imitates the smell of a slinger dart... you rub it on your face... and it scares them. They think you are a slinger. They won't attack you. Zuleika stands, walking away as if nothing has happened. Josh grabs his machete and sprints to catch up with her. She scowls at him, and says that you alien people do not understand this forest. You should not come here. You only cause problems. Josh asks why she saved him, then. Why not let her wolves have a nice meal, if she loves them so much? What's the deal? She stops, meeting his eyes for the first time.
ZULEIKA: Because you are brave.
He grins at the complement. She scowls, turning away again.
ZULEIKA: But you are ignorant as a child.
JOSH: Teach me, then.
She looks at him again.
JOSH: You don't want to leave me out here alone to harm more animals. I'm a menace. I need to be taught what to do.
ZULEIKA: You aliens do not see. Never see.
JOSH: Teach me to see.
ZULEIKA: No one can teach to see.
Needless to say, she lets him go with her. First she binds his wound with some plant dressing that stops the bleeding and the pain. As they walk he asks her questions. The first lesson is silence. They walk on. The sky is black and full of stars. There are two moons providing more than enough light for his large cat-eyes. The bioluminescence is everywhere. A GHOSTBIRD flies through the trees above them. A glowing, transparent membrane, delicate as a blown-glass figurine. Elegant and insubstantial. Its song is eerie but quiet melodic.
There are other things wafting through the high branches, little points of light like fireflies. A couple drift near him and he sees that they are like glowing dandelion seeds, about the size of large butterflies, waving their silky cilia to move gracefully through the night air. They cross a large bed of moss, which reacts to the pressure of their footsteps. Rings of blue-green light, like water ripples on a pond, expand outward from each footfall.
Josh sees movement in the trees ahead. Suddenly a glowing manta-shape banks toward them... a bansheeray. Josh raises his machete, bracing for a chop. He slashes at the shape and... It dissolves. Into a swarm of MOONWRAITHS. These insects fly in a tightly patterned swarm, imitating the shape of a bansheeray to discourage insect-eating predators. The moonwraiths disperse like a mist and reform further on.
ZULEIKA: You do not see.
They pass through a grove of trees like willows. A fountain of gossamer tendrils from each central stalk. The long tendrils hang down like straight hair, and they glow faintly. They sway hypnotically, as if in a breeze, but there is no breeze. They reach out, gently caressing them as they pass through. Zuleika runs her fingers through the tendrils as she walks. She murmurs to them in her language. Josh listens to her, talking to the trees as they walk through the suddenly magical night. Zuleika breaks into a loping run.
Josh catches up, and soon they are running silently together through the dappled moonlight. His body is powerful, and this is effortless. He feels almost like he is flying. Looking down, he sees exploding rings of light where his feet touch down. They approach a waterfall, a wide curtain shimmering in the moonlight. Zuleika runs agilely over a fallen trunk, across a broad pool at the base of the waterfall.
LOOKING DOWN we see glowing, gently moving shapes covering the bottom of the pool. They are giant anemones. Zuleika and Josh are silhouettes sprinting over a garden of blue, cyan and salmon colored living starbursts, some over three meters across. They run on in silence. Josh breaths in deeply, smelling a thousand things he never noticed before. He feels like he knows what they are, at some cellular level. Something, deep in his brain, deep in the fabric of this alien body, is awakening.
They enter a clearing filled with chest-high ferns. She signals him to stop, then shows him a creature perched on a nearby fern. Josh sees a black, stick-like lizard thing perched on a frond ahead of him. It is about a foot long and ugly as a toad. As he approaches it goes SNAP!
A long spine lying along its back snaps around in a circle, unfurling a bioluminescent membrane of bright orange and blue... a perfect disk almost a meter across, opening like a Chinese fan. The rapidly distending fan-wing imparts enough angular movement to spin the creature like a frisbee. It glides, spinning, through the darkness. It floats across the clearing to another branch where the wing furls, vanishing as suddenly as it appeared.
Zuleika runs forward with a sharp cry, plunging into a large patch of ferns. With an explosion of color, two dozen FAN LIZARDS snap into motion, and Josh is suddenly surrounded by luminous floating disks, which spin away between the glowing trees.