Pua jammed another cartridge into the pheromone shooter. His father's refusal to allow Pua to study as a spirit speaker echoed in his ears as if wind spirits afflicted him with memories. Pua ground his teeth. Why couldn't the spirits see true?
One of the butterfly prawns veered from the herd. The damn creature's jelly-like shell would spew it's meat on the ridge as if mimicking his father's destruction of his life. Pua aimed the shooter while sliding the range dial so the pheromone would deter the prawn. The trigger stuck. The cartridge lodged improperly against the wrist-rig's flange.
One good smack was needed. A lot of things could be improved with a smack. He wasn't a child any longer. Son of the cloud spirits! The cartridge gashed his wrists and clattered against the igneous cliff. Slip-sliding, it stuck in the roots of a bottle-brush pine.
As if they were conniving against him, a second butterfly prawn drifted near the cliffs and the herd followed. The spirit-cursed creatures had no sense. Any hope of persuading his father would die if he lost their herd. He leaped from the ridge reaching for the fast approaching pine.
The light from glowing embers reflected off the spirit-speaker's cheeks. Makaha's knuckles, buried in the damp sand, reminded him of Pua's coldness. Ever since his wife -- and yes, his favorite son, Ku'u Maka -- had died, he'd needed his boy, shiftless as he was, to inherit his role.
The elder drank the spirit water and his eyelids closed, the eyeballs fluttering. Makaha clinched his fists in the sand as the elder's voice became other.
"The sun sets on a boy's life."
Makaha's throat tightened. Every night the elder told the same tale. He missed a word. The sun will set. Will. Will. Makaha ran from the pit pounding his hands against his ears.
Pua smashed against the tree, teeth chattering. Hands slipped on the bark. Fingernails tore as he stopped his fall. Whipped cloud spirits. His hands hurt, but he'd stopped the fall. He swung to the far side of the tree and felt for the canister.
The first prawn grazed the cliff and popped. Its innards speckled the cliff with a phosphorescent blue glow. Pua repeated to himself that he could still rescue the others. His fingers nudged the canister loose. He lost his grip on the tree. Legs crashed against the rock. Pain exploded with bits of blood.
A spirit face hovered over Pua when he opened his eyes. Death wasn't supposed to be his route to spirit-speaking. He kicked at the figure.
"Nice, a little temper."
Spirits didn't talk. Centered on the man's forehead was a tattoo of the snake warriors. Kicking a leg, Pua tried to escape while the other leg pulsed with pain.
"Your herd wasn't as lucky as you." Tattoos curled at the edge of the man's cheeks as he spoke. "All dead. Your clan won't be happy to have you back."
Pua remembered his father's anger. The world shrank. Pua spat. "I'm not dead yet." He balled his fists. Until he was dead, he would fight.
"You don't have to go back. We need more warriors."