Manitou Island: Part 32
Out Of Mind
CHARMIAN ABRUPTLY BUNCHED her knuckles to her eyes to squeeze away the tears forming there. "Down! Down!" she screamed, and when no GeeBee was forthcoming, she pushed herself off and scrambled down the near-vertical ledge as best she could, grasping wildly at shrubs and saplings, skidding and skinning herself plenty of times. Eventually her knees struck rock and she fell forward, banging her elbows. She then clambered across the rocks, scuttling like a crab, until she had come within several yards of Drake--and then stopped. Her breath came hard in her throat even as she tried to force it down, to be quiet. But Drake made not a sound.
She found she was frozen and unable to go to his side. She didn't want to look into his still eyes, to know for certain. As long as she stayed away, and didn't look, and wasn't sure, she could still convince herself this might be nothing more than a bad dream.
But even as she told herself this, she knew it wasn't true, and the tears came back to her eyes anyway and she put her head down on her knees, chest hitching. She'd never felt more...alone.
"I'm sorry, Drake," she sobbed. "I'm sorry for all this. You bugged me a lot but I never hated you. You were kind of funny. I never wanted you to be hurt..."
Even as she spoke, Drake blinked, coughed, and sat abruptly upright, looking around. Charmian screamed, hands going up to her face as if she'd just spotted a mouse. Drake turned his head to look at her, and she stopped screaming, not because he was alive but because of the strange, almost bored look in his eyes.
Her voice came out in the barest croak. "Dr...Drake?"
As if he hadn't even heard her, he lifted his hand and flexed his fingers a few times, looking at them. Then he took hold of his head and twisted it up with a snap. Charmian's intestines did somersaults. He merely shook his head a bit and stood up, dusting himself. She followed, gaping at him.
He examined his hands again. "The body is damaged," he said in an odd monotone, "yet it will suffice for now."
Charmian blinked. "Drake?" she said again, now knowing he must have hit his head badly.
He looked at her once more, still with that neutral expression. "His body is relatively weak, but he should survive."
"What--what are you talking about? You hit your head. I thought you broke your neck--now you're just talking all nonsense, Dra--"
The voice--Sikt Natha's voice--filled Charmian's head so suddenly that she gasped and glanced around before realizing where it had come from. "Oh--Sikt," she said, before frowning. "Where's Dakh?"
She seemed to "feel" Sikt steering her gaze forward, and...there before her stood Drake. He continued to stare at her.
Charmian's eyes grew. She blinked at him a few times.
"Dakh?" she said, faintly.
Drake stared at her a moment more before examining his arms for breaks. "Several fractures. And correct, a broken neck." He put his hands to his neck again. "Possibly a skull fracture. Legs intact, ankle twisted." He shook his foot. "Nothing overly worrisome."
"Drake?" Charmian cried.
He performed a final examination of his ribcage before dusting himself off once more. For the first time she noticed there wasn't a single scratch or bruise on his body.
"Drake?" she said, one last time.
He looked up at her, and by his expression she knew. "You were correct the first time. This was the only way to save him."
She felt as if her chest were slowly sinking in on itself, and a strange queasiness formed in the pit of her stomach. "You...you really are Dakh?" She shook her head and took a step forward. "Where's Drake? What did you do to him?"
"This was the only way," Drake--Dakh--said again. His stare--Dakh's expression coming from Drake's face--unnerved her. "He would have died otherwise."
"How?" Charmian demanded.
He tilted his head despite his broken neck. "I went into his body before he could hit the ground. The same way my sister and I went into yours. The fall would have killed him if I had not done so." He paused, then added, "We could not stand to lose him. With him dead, you would lose sight of your mission."
Charmian's look grew dark. "Is that the only reason you saved him?"
Dakh tilted his head again. "With the outcome as it is, does the reason matter?"
Charmian scowled and turned away. "It still doesn't explain why you're not dead, since you took him over when he fell."
"You forget already? A mere fall could not kill me. I--we--are injured, but I may heal us, in time."
"Wait." Charmian turned to face him again. "You have the ability to heal people, too? Like Justin?"
"No. I cannot heal others. However, injured Ocryxes may often 'heal' themselves more quickly than others do, as long as the injury is a natural one, with no bad medicine involved. And as he cannot possibly live with these injuries, then I will heal him."
"Well," Charmian said, wringing her hands, "where is he, then? Can you bring him back?"
"The Drake 'went to sleep' as soon as I entered him. His mind is not yet strong enough that two consciousnesses may dwell within it at once, especially not in a time of trauma."
"Okay, all right, fine. So why don't you heal him and bring him back?"
"The process of recovery will take some time," Dakh replied. "These are not injuries that are fatal to me, yet they are serious. I must stay within his body in order to heal them, and this may be a while."
Charmian sighed. "Well...can't you wake him up then? I'm fine with Sikt in here, I was fine with BOTH you and Sikt in here. I think he'd be fine too. Can't you give him more credit?"
Dakh/Drake blinked, as if her question startled him. Then he appeared to resign himself, and replied, "At the moment this is too risky...yet I will attempt to 'wake him up' at a later time."
"Fine, fine. Trust me. He's got more room in that head than you'd think."
Dakh just stared at her this time. She sighed once more and turned to look back up at the dropoff as soon as pebbles started falling, and a large shape came soaring down to join them. Charmian almost backed away when X rushed forward.
"I'm sorry, Charmian!" he cried. "I tried to go after her, to stop her, I don't know if you saw me; but she was so fast and her horns were so sharp--"
"It's okay, X," Charmian replied quietly, rubbing her skinned elbows. "I know you did everything you could."
"I would have tried to keep her from flying away once she threw him, but she got Pakwa and so I knew she could get me too--"
"None of this was your fau--wait, she got Pakwa? Where is he, is he okay?" She started looking around wildly.
"Well--I don't know about 'okay'--he's not hurt, but he's a windling, and apparently she is too, as she used some sort of medicine on him--"
"Take me to him, I want to see if he's all right."
"All right--but--what...?" He broke off, staring over her shoulder with a confused look, at Drake.
"It's a long story," Charmian said, hurriedly. "Can you carry us both up the ledge?"
"Both of you? Yes, of course. Climb on my back, and I'll carry the Drake..."
Charmian did as she was told, and X picked up Drake and pushed himself off the ground, rising slowly upward. Charmian felt like wriggling with impatience, but knew the demon couldn't help it, and stayed still. Once the ground and the woods came into view again she practically jumped from his back, landing on her feet and jogging several yards before coming to a stop and wondering what it was she'd even been looking for.
"The GeeBee," Drake called, as if reading her thoughts.
She gave him a dirty look but started scanning around again. Pakwa was nowhere within sight, though a small dust devil tugged at her arm before skittering off in a hyper dance, swirling leaves every which way.
"Huh--?" Charmian got out, before it swirled toward her again, and she jumped to the side to avoid it. It kept coming after her as if with a mind of its own--she was reminded of the weird little creature in Ocryx's cave--before she swung out at it with one hand, hoping it would disperse. Instead, she heard a poof, and Pakwa appeared, falling to the ground with a thud.
Charmian's face screwed up. "What were you doing?"
"Not doing, fleshling," Pakwa panted, pushing himself to his feet. "Caught by Ocryx, trapped by bad medicine. Wind controls wind."
"And paper covers rock. Okay, all right--I get it," she said at the GeeBee's curious stare. "I think that just proves who she is. Now that you're all...back together...or whatever...you can take me back to Sugar Loaf. AGAIN. Everybody needs to be warned about this."
Pakwa offered no argument, instead grabbing onto her arms and pulling her up into the sky. X followed with Drake, and they made their way back to Sugar Loaf...again.
We should just change the name of the place to "Headquarters," Charmian thought with a frustrated sigh. X, overhearing it, flew faster as if to get there sooner.
When they arrived, there was no one outside to greet them; as soon as they landed, however, stirring the leaves as they did so, Red Bird came running out, followed by Silver Eagle Feather, though the latter didn't run. Charmian started with surprise as soon as the girl hugged her.
"We were so worried!" she cried. "We woke up and you were gone--and then the Drake was gone--and I wanted to go looking but Old Mother Manitou said she smelled something bad in the air--"
"She was right," Charmian said, carefully detaching herself. "Pakwa noticed it first so he and X and I went out to look for it. It was one of Ocryx's manitous. Something had torn it up just like it tore up that body we found."
Old Mother Manitou had come to the doorway as they spoke, and listened in, leaning on her stick. Red Bird's eyes grew wide. "You found one of Father's manitous? Wounded, or dead?"
"He was still alive, but barely..."
"How do you know it was one of his?" Silver Eagle Feather asked.
"Good question," Old Mother Manitou muttered.
"Because Pakwa said so--and Lady Dupries agreed."
She didn't feel like explaining her morning any further at the two women's questioning looks. "Anyway, Drake came out to get me, and just as we were coming back an Ocryx came after us and started attacking us. Ocryana."
Now both their eyes opened wide. "Ocryana," Red Bird whispered, and Silver Eagle Feather stepped forward.
"Did she harm any of you?" she asked anxiously, glancing at X in particular.
"Drake...fell...but he's okay. So are the rest of us. But if she's willing to do to us what she did to that manitou, and that guy, then we're in big trouble."
"We need to warn the camp," Silver Eagle Feather said, before Old Mother Manitou cut in.
"The camp? Feh. You need to warn all the camps."
"Of course this is what I mean...forgive me for only worrying for my own people first." She turned to the doorway. "I have to see to Tal Natha one last time, but then we go and he stays here..."
"Just so long as he's safe. I bet she'd go after him first of all. She wasn't very big, but she had a set of wicked-looking horns on her..."
At this comment, all three of the others slowly turned and stared at her again. Their unwavering gazes finally unnerved her so much that this time, she did start fidgeting.
"What, what is it?" she asked. "Why are you all staring at me?!"
"What did she look like?" Silver Eagle Feather asked, voice quiet. Too quiet. Charmian squirmed.
"Like an Ocryx! Tan fur, gold wings, long curving horns. Not very big, but just as bad--and FAST!"
Her description only seemed to unsettle them more. Their stares took on a life of their own, more than tinged with panic. Charmian gaped at them herself several moments.
"Well--WHAT?" she finally squawked, waving her arms. "What's the matter, can't anybody fill me in? Don't leave me in the dark forever!"
They merely stared at her, silent, until Red Bird broke the silence with a simple statement that shattered through Charmian like a brick through glass.
"That's not Ocryana."