Manitou Island: Part 73
Looking For Trouble
ALL THE COLOR drained from Charmian's face. Only her eyes still remained blue.
"You...you mean like...Kawaduk?" she whispered.
Manabozho stretched. "Is that what that thing is calling itself? If so, I think that might be the best way to go. For starters. You would be foolish to take on Ocryana again so soon. And I hardly see the point of antagonizing Ocryx."
"What about Mitchi Manitou?"
"No, you don't get it." Charmian stood up. "I think Ocryana's controlling him."
He gave her an interested look that said Please explain. She sighed and did so.
"I'm thinking Kawaduk is his son. And Ocryana's. That's one big hint that something's not right--if Ocryana is Ocryx's enemy, then why would Ocryx's head henchman have a kid with her?"
"She tricked Ocryx himself," Manabozho replied. "It can happen to anyone."
"But they were fighting. Mitchi was trying to kill Ocryx and Ocryx nearly had to kill him back."
He cocked his head. "When was this?"
"Not that long ago. Mitchi was pretty badly wounded. I haven't seen him since then. He might just be lying low." She fidgeted. "And you want me to face this Kawaduk guy on my own again? To test myself?"
"It's either him or that other one. The female."
Charmian shuddered. "I'm not ready to take on HER yet! I don't have any idea what she even is!"
"Wood does not work upon her?"
"No. I tried it and she just batted it away. I think she's Ocryana's also."
"If she's Ocryana's, then she will have some connection with water and wind. You can try those. Or you can go after Kawaduk with wood." He yawned. "It's your choice. You don't even have to do it."
Charmian let out her breath.
"But if you don't, then you may as well head back to the mainland."
Now her shoulders slumped. Leave it to him to give her a disclaimer like that.
"I think maybe I have a slight chance with Kawaduk," she sighed. "I've hurt him a few times and he seems pretty mad about it. But...something healed him." She frowned as she remembered. "That's right...I hurt him near Arch Rock, and when I saw him again he was just fine. Can Ocryxes and manitous heal themselves?"
"If you mean Ocryana and Mitchi, then the answer is no. Ocryxes have a higher pain threshold than many, and their injuries may heal faster, but the wounds do not disappear immediately. The powers of manitous vary, but Mitchi has no healing abilities."
Charmian stared at the snow. A thought was beginning to form in her head...about how Kawaduk might have regained his strength...and she wasn't liking the looks of it.
She bit her lip and shook her head. "Sorry...so...if I'm supposed to face him, then how do I find him? I think he can mask himself so I can't sense him out."
"Maybe I can find him then. Follow. We might have a long walk ahead."
He turned and started off into the woods. Charmian rubbed her arms and followed.
"So I don't know very much about you, you know," she said as they started off down a hidden trail. "Only what Stick said. You're part manitou?"
"My father was a wind spirit. My grandmother, a sandling."
"So you're part windling and part sandling."
"Have you ever had to fight Ocryana before?"
"Not myself, no. Rabbits are wise. They know to keep away from things greater than they are."
"Where I come from, that's called cowardice."
"Better a living coward than a dead hero, wouldn't you say?"
Charmian rolled her eyes. "Are you sure you should be the one teaching me?"
"I never said that what was good for me was good for you. Do you have nothing else you wish to babble about? This grows boring."
Charmian blinked with surprise. Well, at least he hadn't told her to shut up, yet. "Well..." She fingered the sliver of Augwak's spirit that still rested in her pocket. "Know anything about spirit stones?"
"Spirit stones--? Oh. Those things. Somewhat. A reason why you ask?"
"I'm keeping an eye on part of one."
"Just a sliver. I took it from Augwak."
Manabozho guffawed. Charmian nearly jumped backwards.
"I was wondering why the old fool was acting so stupidly. Poor idiot. About time someone had him under their thumb. You really took part of it?"
"Yeah. It's right here." She held up the sliver and he stopped to peer at it, tilting his head sideways. She put it away before she could lose it. "I thought it might be a good way to keep him in line."
"Interesting." He stood straight and started walking again.
"Hey," Charmian said. "So far I've seen spirit stones from Ocryxes and GeeBees and people. Do manitous have them too? Your dad's kind? And Mitchi?"
"Manitous? Of course. All have them. Each is slightly different though."
"How do you mean?"
"From what I've heard, you've seen how the Ocryxes' spirits are. If another Ocryx injures their spirits, they die. No other creature has this power. Only their own kind. The other Ocryx in effect 'steals' or 'corrupts' a bit of their spirit. Only another Ocryx can replace it with a bit of their own."
"That's what Ocryx did with Tal Natha." She frowned. "Ocryana...she was the one whose horn injured Tal Natha..." Manabozho went on before she could finish her thought.
"GeeBees, their spirits are much like your own. Anyone can take one or replace one. Don't ask me why you two are so similar; perhaps it's their diet."
Charmian made a face. "Yuck. Don't even go there."
"And manitous are different also."
"This you've seen. Any creature is injured, or at least controlled, when part of its spirit is stolen, yet any can give a part of its own away, without harm. The difference is whether it's taken or given."
"Manitous may do this as well. But only with one other."
"One other what?"
"One other person, creature, thing. A manitou may give away part of its spirit, but only to one other creature. A particular...your people have a name for it, I know you do." He looked skyward as they walked, and appeared to be thinking. "'Mates,' I think it is."
"Mates? Like...soulmates?" Her mouth twitched. The word was corny.
"I believe this is the name. Every manitou has only one other creature they are connected to. This connection is silent until a manitou gives part of its spirit to this other creature. Then the connection is clear." He looked at her over his shoulder. "Are you bored yet?"
She shrugged. "Not really. But if you are, you can talk about something else."
"Good. Because this is growing boring also."
Rabbits must have really short attention spans.
"I'm curious as to why Ocryana would have Mitchi get her with child. Even if he is a brainless clod." Manabozho looked upwards again and she wondered if he ever tripped. "Very easy to manipulate...which was why Ocryx chose him. What use has she for offspring by him...?"
"Minions," Charmian said. "Maybe she feels like she isn't strong enough to destroy the Island on her own?"
"She need only kill Ocryx or Tal Natha, as she's tried to do, and this will be accomplished. Very easily, in fact."
Charmian felt sick.
Manabozho stopped and sniffed at the air, turning his head this way and that. Charmian covered her mouth. He acted like a rabbit even now. After a moment his nose wrinkled up.
"Blech. I don't know what it is, but something is nearby." Both of them pulled loose the sticks they carried, their ends sharpened to points--simple weapons, but effective. He gave her a look. "If it's this Kawaduk thing, you wish to fight it? By yourself?"
She shook her head wildly. "No, not really!"
"Then why have we been walking all this time?" Manabozho whined.
She would have answered, had not she heard a shuffling sound in the snow ahead. The two of them crouched back toward the trees with sticks raised and waited. The surface of the snow had frozen over from a recent drizzle, and so it crackled and crunched beneath the weight of something large. In the overcast light, Charmian's vision wasn't as good as it could have been; she could make out a dark shape moving slowly among the trees, and her grip tightened on the stick. Half of her hoped it wasn't Kawaduk, so she wouldn't have to face him. Half of her hoped it was, so he would be the worst she had to face.
As if suddenly sensing them, the shape turned its head and red and green eyes met their own. Then its lids fluttered and it sank down into the snow.
Manabozho and Charmian stared at it with some consternation. "That's Ocryx," Charmian said, and pushed her way to her feet, crunching off toward him. Manabozho appeared to want to stay behind, but stood reluctantly and followed at a distance.
Even from several yards away she could hear the demon's breathing, slow and labored, and could see the rise and fall of his crumpled wings. When she reached him she could see his face. He was stretched out as he'd fallen, chin to the ground, half-closed eyes glazed and tongue slightly lolling from his mouth. He didn't yell at her when she tentatively bent over him, so she knew something must be wrong.
She reached out and quickly, lightly poked him in the side, retreating a step or two in case he decided to spontaneously combust. He didn't even seem to notice. She moved toward him again and walked around him in a circle, spotting Manabozho creeping closer, before seeing the cause of his trouble. She knelt down in the snow and gently touched his other side, which was closer to the ground and half covered under his wing. His blood stained the snow red.
Her touch must have pained him, for he immediately snorted and attempted to rise to his feet. Charmian backed away as the demon struggled to push himself up, staggering onto his hind legs before gravity overtook him and he sank again, this time upon his other side. She caught a clear look at the gash lining his ribs and bit her lip.
She looked into his face. "It was Mitchi, wasn't it?"
She didn't make it sound like a question. Ocryx barely let out a growl; his voice was thin and weak, nothing like what she'd heard from him before.
"He attacked you again, didn't he?" She knelt down right in front of him, knowing it could be foolish, but certain of his weakened state. "I told you you weren't safe there. How come you can never listen to anyone?" She paused when she remembered how they'd last parted ways. "Justine, or Justin. Did you ever get to talk with either of them?"
Manabozho stood several yards away, where she'd first stood. He'd stopped, and craned his head to one side.
Ocryx's eyes drifted shut, and for a moment she thought he'd gone to sleep, until he murmured a reply.
"Lady Dupries? You talked with her?"
His eyes opened wide and he lifted his head. His hind feet scrabbled at the snow and he lumbered up, one wing nearly knocking her over. She grabbed onto his arm to try to steady him. He bared his teeth--for a moment she thought at her--but he never looked in her direction.
"The...little wench." Charmian was startled to hear Lady Dupries called such. His breath snorted out of his nostrils in great blasts. "Leading...him...giving it...away to her...should have...just let him die..."
"Huh--?" Charmian gasped and braced herself when he collapsed once more. His weight drove her to the ground and she sank into the snow, managing to keep herself on her knees. Manabozho hurried over and helped her ease him back down to the snow before she could be crushed. His eyes glazed again and he went limp.
Charmian and Manabozho stood and looked down at him. She glanced at the front of her clothing and found it stained with his blood; with a panicked wince she started trying to rub it away.
"Hm," Manabozho mused aloud. "You said he's been having trouble with Mitchi, right?"
"Yeah. He nearly laid him open last time. It looks like he tried it again!"
"Mitchi might wound him, but he wouldn't be able to injure him this badly. He hasn't lost that much blood yet."
"Are you kidding me?" Charmian indicated the front of her clothing. Manabozho shook his head.
"That's nothing. He's left barely even a trail behind him. I wonder where he was even going to."
"He was probably looking for Justin. Justin can he--oh..." She trailed off. "I don't think they're on very good terms right now...so maybe he wasn't going there, after all." She rubbed the back of her neck, feeling even more confused. "But he went to try to find him a while ago...I don't know if they ever met, just that Kawaduk showed up and went after Lady Dupries...then she went home...so...he couldn't have been talking about her." She blinked. "He wasn't. He was talking about Shadow Water."
Charmian nodded slowly. "He...he was mad because Justin gave her his necklace. He was going to go give her a piece of his mind, but I got to them first...Justin didn't really care. And his mom went home, because she was hurt." Now she looked up at the sky. "What the heck happened that day?"
"Probably never know. Any ideas what to do with him?" He looked at the stick he held, as if contemplating running it through the demon.
Charmian took hold of Ocryx's arm and pulled. He barely moved. She placed her shoulder under him and strained to lift him, at least a little bit. Manabozho watched with some amusement as her efforts met with little success. She let go of him and wiped her brow.
"I can't move him."
"You need to?"
"I wanted to get him to somebody who might help. You!" She glared at him. "You healed me. Heal him!"
Manabozho held up his hands. "Wait a minute. I brought you back when you passed over. It's hardly the same thing. I can't simply heal anyone who comes my way."
"Can't, or won't?"
"I would have to say both, in this case."
Charmian scowled. She kicked at the snow.
"Then we need to take him to somebody who can care for him. Old Mother Manitou is pretty much out...so...maybe Stick-In-The-Dirt. Or Silver Eagle Feather." She nodded. "I think Silver Eagle Feather would look after him, for a while. We just have to get him to her." She looked up at Manabozho again.
He heaved a great sigh but put his fingers to his mouth and whistled. Charmian scanned the woods in wait of the manitou that would surely arrive. She wasn't certain if it would be a tribal or a lake manitou, so sniffed at the air in the hopes of finding out before it showed up. She ended up hearing it before scenting it, and watched as two tiny blue lights moved around through the trees. A returning whistle made her muscles untense.
Red Land One?
Charmian's spirits rose. "Mani!" She rubbed her hands as the manitou, in his deer form, appeared from the woods, and a smile spread across her face. "You came all the way from Sugar Loaf?"
One of Mani's ears cocked and he lowered his head a little. Followed Red Land One for a bit...hoping to keep from trouble.
"You...you were following me?" Charmian blinked. "You wanted to make sure I was okay?"
He nodded and pawed sheepishly at the snow. Charmian shook her head and smiled at him again.
"Well...don't feel bad! That was really sweet. Thanks, Mani. Do you think maybe you could help us with this?" She stepped aside and gestured at Ocryx. Mani cocked his head with a surprised look.
Glowing Eyes One!
Charmian nodded. "We found him wandering through the woods...I think maybe Mitchi went after him. I told him it wasn't safe there anymore. I hoped I could get him to Silver Eagle Feather."
Silver One at Sugar Loaf. Old Manitou One would not much like!
"Then maybe we can just take him to the rock, and get her to come with us? He's hurt pretty bad."
Mani appeared to give in. He lowered his head again and came forward, bending down on one knee. Charmian waved at Manabozho to help her hoist the demon up onto the manitou's shoulder, grabbing onto his hind feet and hauling him over. Mani staggered beneath him--Ocryx must have been at least twice his size--yet his footing held; his legs splayed out beneath him like those of a newborn moose, and they shook a little. Charmian winced at the sight of him.
"Are you sure you can carry him...?"
The manitou jerked his head. Short time...then need rest. Sugar Loaf?
Charmian nodded. Mani turned and started off, hooves sinking deeply into the snow. She followed closely behind to help in case he fell over...though honestly, she had no idea what she could do other than fall along with him. She felt a little guilty at always using him whenever he showed up, but couldn't think of anything else to do.
Manabozho yawned and stretched. "Well, perhaps you'll find an elemental to take on tomorrow. I'm getting tired of looking."
"I don't get it," Charmian murmured. He rubbed one eye and peered at her.
"What you said," she replied. "About Mitchi not being able to hurt Ocryx. I know Mitchi did this. I can feel it in my gut...and look at the wound, anyway." She waved her hand at the unconscious demon. "The skin, just laid open. Flayed. A manitou's antlers do that, not an Ocryx's horns. Not even a GeeBee's claws. And since when have the GeeBees had that many guts anyway? The only one of them who might risk attacking Ocryx would be Augwak--and only if he were properly armed--and he hasn't been in the highest spirits lately. So it's none of them, and it's not an Ocryx. It's a manitou."
"And so what you're getting at...?"
"What I'm getting at is, this isn't the first time this's happened." She frowned down at the snow. "X. Mitchi went after him, too. This past fall, not long after I met him. X is an Ocryx also. Mitchi shouldn't have hurt him so badly--but he needed Justin's help to heal."
"This Ocryx you speak of is only three-quarters Ocryx, remember. The same may not apply to him."
"No," Charmian said, and shook her head at him. "I think it does. I've been learning. If an Ocryx has enough Ocryx blood in it to take on the demon form as its own, then it's vulnerable to Ocryx attack. I think it can die in other ways too, if it's not a full Ocryx...because of the human blood it has...but still, Mitchi shouldn't have been able to hurt X that badly. Even Old Mother Manitou couldn't heal him. And she's even kicked Mitchi's ass before."
"Oh." Manabozho rolled his eyes. "That old story again...she would have you think she beats him daily, senile old woman."
"And now Ocryx. He's acting the same way as X was. Weak, like he shouldn't be." Her frown grew; Mani wheezed a little and she put out her hand to steady him when he faltered. "I wonder if Ocryana has anything to do with this, too...but how?"
"I wouldn't put it past her, but neither would I have any idea how. Do you have anything else to talk about?"
"I think you need Ritalin."
He turned to give her an odd look before sniffing at the air and looking forward again. His eyes widened and he stopped in his tracks so abruptly he almost fell over, and he had to grab onto Ocryx's tail to keep from doing so. Mani staggered and slipped down onto one knee, breath whistling from his nostrils. Charmian glared at Manabozho.
"Are you trying to kill him? It's hard enough already. Sugar Loaf's not that--"
A familiar smell met her own nostrils and she too stopped, fingers clutching Mani's shoulder, as much to support herself as him. She glanced ahead just as a guttural, rattling growl met her ears, and she could sense the fear of the other two beside her.
Charmian stared at the glowing blue dots that appeared ahead of them from between the trees, the giant palm-shaped spread of antlers rising high above. Yellow dots appeared not far behind, and a second, almost amused growl joined the first. She could even make out the mocking grin upon the second creature's face as they emerged from the shadows.
"Well," said Manabozho, nodding slowly at the glowing dots, "there are a couple of elementals you can take on."