Manitou Island: Part 107
OCRYANA SNARLED AND lunged down at Charmian from the gaping hole in the sky. Charmian flung up her arms and gritted her teeth, letting out a yell.
The earthwall shot up into the air. It didn't impede Ocryana for more than a second, but it allowed Charmian time to roll to the side. The demon's claws sank into the ground instead, tearing up hunks of soil and sending them flying. She skidded to a halt and snarled over her shoulder.
"Nice move, mainlander, but you'll have to try harder than that!"
"Count on it!" Charmian shouted back, and dodged another blow. She jumped up and grasped onto a low-hanging branch, pulling herself atop it. "If you think that's all I've got then you're stupider than I thought!"
"Oh?" Ocryana grinned and swung at the tree, gashing open the bark; Charmian scuttled up further as a rain of pine needles fell to the ground. "You have yet to impress me!"
Charmian pointed at her. "WOOD!" The branches of the tree all pointed at Ocryana in turn, and every twig went flying straight at her. She wrinkled her muzzle and held up one arm, letting the sharp twigs sink into it; when the hail ended, she shook them out as if they were merely grains of sand caught in her fur.
"Honestly this is all you can do--?"
"WIND!" Charmian flung up her arm and a gust pelted against Ocryana, who finally looked more than a little annoyed by the delay. Charmian jumped down from the tree and went running. The truth was, she had no idea what she was doing; but whatever it was, it had to keep Ocryana away from the Gemfields. If she'd found a way into here, she could most likely find her way there unassisted as well.
She was nearing the stream when something slammed across her back, sending her flying facefirst into the mud. She sputtered and spat, lifting her head and rubbing goo from her eyes.
"Charm!" Drake shouted; she couldn't even see where he was. By the time she got her eyes cleared it was too late; SLAM and she went into the water, her neck feeling like it was on fire. The current pulled her along several feet before she regained her senses and swam up to the surface, coughing for air. She blinked and saw Ocryana come charging at her.
Charmian spat out a mouthful of water. "WATER!" she shouted, and it was as if all the water from the stream were sucked up in a whirlwind and flung at Ocryana in one massive blow. The demon rolled her eyes and batted the sheet of water aside.
"Come on, little girl! The Islanders stake their lives on you? When THIS is all you have? If I were you I would be ashamed to show my face!"
"I'll be ashamed FOR you!" Charmian returned. "Because if I were you I wouldn't want to show my ugly face, either!"
Ocryana evidently had a little bit of pride; for the comment seemed to incense her, and she swung, splitting open the streambank. Charmian jumped out just in time.
"Oh, COME ON!" she taunted. "Is that the best you've got? Because I'm not impressed yet!"
SMACK! Charmian mentally berated herself; when would she ever learn to watch out for that tail? She flew head over heels before landing and rolling several times, coming to rest in a battered heap. She let out a groan and ground her teeth at the pain that lanced through her head.
"Get up, Charm!" she heard Drake shout. "She's coming at you again!"
Charmian put her hand to the ground and weakly tried to push herself up. This early into the fight, and already her entire body hurt. If this was the tone things would take, there was no way she'd last long enough.
"CHARM! GET UP!"
I'm TRYING, moron! She peered out from behind her arm and could see Drake standing several yards away, in front of Manabozho. The look on his face was panicked; she could sense Ocryana approaching from her left, the opposite direction. She tried to get up but her body wouldn't respond.
Drake gaped, then gritted his teeth and pounded his foot against the ground. "Earth!" he yelled; when that produced no result, he clenched his fists and tried again, and again, each time looking more and more determined. "Earth! Earth! EARTH!!"
CRACK. The ground snapped open, a wide crevice traveling outward from Drake's stomp--he nearly fell forward into it--and splintering the ground in half just inches before Charmian's eyes. She followed its progress and watched in amazement as Ocryana, unable to stop herself, fell straight into the ravine with an astonished howl. Charmian darted a look back at Drake.
Drake stared at his foot, eyes wide. "Wow," he exclaimed. "Where did that come from?"
Behind him, Manabozho looked skyward and pretended to whistle as he pulled his own foot back.
An enraged sound floated up from the ravine, and suddenly Manabozho and Drake were beside her, tugging on her arms. Charmian allowed them to pull her up, all of them staring down into the crack. Steam rose up from below.
"I think we should move away a little bit," Manabozho suggested.
"She sounds pissed," Charmian agreed, stumbling backwards with them. After several feet she pulled her arm free and stood shakily on her own, shaking her head when they both gave her an anxious look. "I have to hold her off. I'm okay. Really--"
The growling sound below grew into a shriek, and before Charmian could react at all, Ocryana shot upwards from the ground, eyes flaring red. Charmian crossed her wrists in front of her face, feeling stupidly like Wonder Woman, and braced her feet against the ground. Ocryana charged her like a mad bee; then SNAP, her head flew back and she tumbled head over heels in a burst of feathers. Charmian tried to think of what elemental attack that could have been, when Ocryana sat up, a line of blood running from her mouth and the most disgusted look possible on her face. She wiped the blood away with a snarl.
"Mind your place, whelp! I spared you out of pity but I can easily kill you as well!"
Charmian and the others looked up, in the same direction she was talking. X'aaru hovered overhead, looking as nervous as Ocryana looked disgusted.
"I think she's a little bit more pissed off, now," Drake quavered.
"You two get back--" Charmian had just enough time to get out, pushing Drake away, when the rush of air told her the next attack was in progress. She flung up her left hand, palm out. "FIRE!" A bevy of firelings burst from her palm, hissing and spitting and squealing, alighting upon Ocryana's ears and cheeks and muzzle; she let out a grating shriek of pain and shook her head, trying to bat them away. Charmian grabbed Drake's elbow and the three of them went running toward the woods. They ducked into the trees, X'aaru descending behind them when they turned to look back out. Ocryana still stood where she was, extinguishing the last of the little elementals, dunking her head in the stream and shaking it for good measure.
"And now she's just a teeny bit MORE pissed off," Drake said.
Ocryana flung her head up and shook it viciously from side to side, scattering droplets of water every which way. She had to blink a few times and Charmian sensed her sight was impaired, at least temporarily. "GIRL!" she bellowed, and her roar seemed to shake the leaves from the trees. "I KNOW THAT YOU'RE HIDING!!"
Charmian clenched her fist. "She is pissed off," she whispered. "I think I can use that. If she's angry enough, she won't know what she's doing."
Drake didn't look convinced. "Are you sure?"
Charmian didn't give him the chance to stop her. She bolted out of the woods and even though the demon kept blinking, she noticed the movement almost immediately. Her lip curled back in a snarl and Charmian halted in her steps.
"Hey Ocryana!" she yelled in a teasing voice. "What's the matter? Dampen your mood a little?"
Ocryana puffed up like a furious cat and lurched forward. Charmian dodged one swipe that split open the ground, and the next; she stuck out her tongue.
"Your aim's a little off today, Bitch-Queen!"
Ocryana's eyes grew livid. "You insolent little..."
"Dust!" Charmian shouted, aiming her hand at Ocryana's face. A flurry of dust shot into her eyes and she jerked her head back, blinded.
"AAAGGHHH!!" Ocryana started pawing at her eyes and shaking her head. Charmian waved at Drake and the others.
"Get into the tunnel just in case this gets REALLY ugly!"
Drake looked ready to hesitate, but Manabozho grabbed his arm and hauled him forward. X'aaru followed the two of them as they hurried around Charmian and Ocryana, back toward the tunnel entrance.
"No you DON'T!" Ocryana whirled around and Charmian quailed--how had she sensed them? Her tail whipped the ground and Drake fell, Manabozho and X'aaru barely managing to maintain their balance. The demon glared back at Charmian now, one hand upraised, but Charmian saw a mad glint of glee in her bloodshot eyes and felt the fear begin to creep up into her chest.
"You care for your little friends so much?" Ocryana hissed. "Then I'll make you suffer just like you made me! See what happens when YOU are powerless for a change!"
With this, her hand jerked back, sending a blast of scalding air outwards, straight at the other three. "NO!" Charmian screamed, throwing up her hands in front of her, but the gale of hot wind was too fast for her to stop. Just in the nick of time she saw Manabozho raise his own arms to cross them in front of his face; the blast struck him head on, but he held his ground, and X'aaru and Drake gaped in surprise when two solid walls of rock shot from the earth, shielding them. The blast melted the edges of the rock, and when it died down Charmian noticed that a haze of heat still clung around Manabozho, but other than that he appeared to be all right. He lowered his arms, panting heavily, and sank to the ground with a scowl on his face.
Ocryana gave him a nasty grin. "Strong powers for a halfling whelp. Perhaps I will kill you three later, as sport. Foolish to keep the little girl waiting."
Charmian stomped her foot and Ocryana turned back to her with the same maddening grin. Her fury of earlier seemed to have dissipated; so much for using that to her advantage. "You fight ME!" Charmian shouted, trying to keep her voice from cracking. "NOT them! Or are you too much of a coward to fight a little girl?"
Ocryana's grin grew. "I merely thought it would be fun for you to watch all your friends die, one by one," she said in a pleasant voice. "To see the look on your face as soon as you realize you have no power here."
Charmian scowled. "Wanna bet? I think I still see a few singed hairs around your face."
The demon cackled. "That petty mainlander medicine? Merely an inconvenience. I am still standing, and you have already been struck."
"I'm still standing too, in case you didn't n--"
CRACK! Charmian fell hard onto her chest, having done a complete flip in the air. She pressed a hand to her face, feeling blood welling up and streaming down her cheek. She managed to push herself upright, glaring over her shoulder, the sting making her eyes tear up. Ocryana still smiled at her. Charmian hadn't even seen her tail move.
"You were saying?"
"If you weren't a coward you wouldn't have to fight dirty like that," Charmian mumbled, pushing herself to her feet. The demon chuckled.
"If you were an adequate defender of the Island, then you would not be so stupid as to keep talking. Are you afraid to fight? Because I can always change my mind, and entertain myself with your friends over there first..."
"You fight me!" Charmian braced herself and pushed her hands up at the sky. "WIND!"
Ocryana rolled her eyes as a funnel of air appeared, swirling around Charmian and whipping at her clothes. "Again with the wind? You're running short on elements, aren't you? It's silly to fight wind with wind, you know." She held up one hand and boredly held the gust at bay, no matter how hard Charmian commanded it to go at her. Charmian ground her teeth and pushed at the wind as hard as she could, with little result.
Ocryana yawned. "Apparently you have yet to learn a few things," she said, raising her voice above the whining and howling. "Let me teach you, since that petty medicine man couldn't."
Tears streamed from Charmian's eyes and her heart felt like it would burst from rage. "HIS NAME WAS MOON WOLF!" she screamed. "AND YOU KILLED HIM!"
"So join him already!" Ocryana returned with the same mad grin, and closed her claws in toward her palm, forming a fist. Charmian gasped and tottered forward when her wind tunnel vanished. She glanced at her empty hands, then up at Ocryana, realizing what had happened. Of course, wind was the only thing that could truly defeat wind--but what if the other person's power was much stronger?
"Thank you for the boost," Ocryana said, and opened her hand. The wind GUSHED outward in a concentrated stream, catching Charmian straight in the chest and hurling her through the air. A tree stopped her flight when she slammed into it, sliding to the ground with a broken wheeze. She curled in on herself in pain.
Damn it; you think I'd KNOW by now not to help her out like that!
She was still trying to struggle to her feet, unsuccessfully, as Ocryana sauntered forward, tail swishing from side to side. "Do you wish I'd gone after your friends first, now?" she asked mildly as she came. "A pity I didn't, because it looks like you just used up all of your power..."
"There's more where that came from," Charmian muttered, managing to at least get onto one knee. The demon smirked.
"Really? It's too bad I won't get to see it, then. Or even USE it!" She raised her hand in the same gesture as before, and Charmian put her arms up before her in the same manner that Manabozho had. If she knew for certain that she could form a rock wall the way he had, she'd feel a whole lot better--but she feared that Ocryana might be right. She tried calling up anything within her, and felt nothing in response. The incident with the manitou of the tree came back to her. Had she used everything up--?
Ocryana's mouth cracked open in an awful grin. Charmian shut her eyes and braced herself as a light formed in the demon's palm.
WhooshSNAP! Charmian heard Ocryana scream, and her eyes shot open in surprise. The demon zoomed backwards through the air and crashed down onto her back, a jagged spear of ice protruding from her breast. Charmian glanced down at her own hands. Had there been some kind of elemental power left after all--?
Something landed hard on a branch of the tree overhead, and she gasped and looked up. Her eyes just widened when it jumped out of the tree to land on the ground not too far away. Ocryana was already pushing herself up, an enraged look on her face; Augwak's grin was equally as nasty as hers had been.
"I owed you that, wolf-bitch!"
Ocryana's eyes were shaded with pain, but just as furious. "You...vulgar...little..." she wheezed, then grasped the ice shard in one hand, straining and snapping it in two. The two pieces of ice vanished and she pressed her hand to the wound in her chest, the bloody hole shrinking and vanishing. Her look grew even uglier. "I should have killed you when I had the chance. You will be next on my list, after the little girl!"
"You think you can do that so easily?" the GeeBee taunted, hopping back and landing on his feet beside Charmian, letting out a cackle.
Charmian stared at him, stunned. "Th-thanks," she managed to get out, but he merely snarled at her over his shoulder.
"Do not thank me so quickly, fleshling! I still have a score to settle with you AFTER I'm finished with her!"
Charmian let out her breath. "Right."
Augwak raised his hands much as she had, and with a dramatic gesture, a gust of icy wind arose. It tore toward Ocryana and tugged at her wings as she screamed and tried to fight it off. She managed to do so--just barely, from the looks of it. She bellowed and started forward once more, but a barrage of wicked ice shards slowed her down as she tried batting them all aside, many of them embedding themselves in her arms when she shielded her face. Charmian looked on in confusion as the Wendigo cackled and hurled the ice spears, wounding Ocryana with seeming ease. What in the world was going on?
Augwak doesn't have this kind of power over Ocryana! What happened back there? Is HE more powerful, now? What does that say about ME--?
Ocryana finally roared and swatted the remaining ice shards aside, her eyes watering from the pain. Charmian saw the pink of her gums as she snarled, fury and humiliation warring in her features.
"YOU WILL PAY FOR THAT, WINDLING!"
She charged again. Charmian scuttled back behind the tree when Augwak vanished in a puff of wind--just like him to leave her exposed in the middle of battle. This time, it wasn't his ice shards that stopped the demon in her approach, but a hail of tiny ice balls. Ocryana yelped as they pattered against her head and back and wings, and despite their dainty size and appearance, Charmian could tell that they hurt something fierce, if the way they smoked when they melted against her fur was any indication. Ocryana sank onto one knee and brushed furiously at herself, trying to relieve the pain.
"Oooohhhhhhh!" a voice exclaimed in dismay, and Charmian's head jerked upwards to see Chepi descending, her wings fluttering nervously. The fairy wrung her hands as she came down. "That's the only thing I know how to do!" she cried. "I haven't been practicing!!"
Charmian's jaw dropped.
Ocryana whirled to glare at her, earning a tiny shriek. "Do you ALL wish to die today?" she bellowed. "I will gladly kill every last one of your Windwalkers, you little whore!"
Chepi squawked in indignation. "How DARE you call me that!" she fumed. "Just because he likes me BETTER!" She waved her arm forward and another rain of ice balls pelted over Ocryana. "Not just ANYONE can be the Queen of the Windwalkers, you--UGLY OLD THING!"
Ocryana screamed and swatted away the last of the ice balls, her wings flaring. Charmian had never seen her so enraged. She leapt to her feet and started forward, but an even heavier rain of ice shards sliced down through her wings and feet, pinning them to the ground. A freezing wind whipped around her, and then chunks of hail hammered down over her head. Several thuds came from above Charmian as first one GeeBee, then another and another, landed, all of them laughing insanely. She gasped at the cold and wrapped her arms around herself when one Windwalker, two, three, then more came whooshing down through the trees. Ocryana was pulling the ice shards loose, but even quicker than she was freeing herself, more came plummeting down, and she didn't even have the time to heal her wounds before being dealt fresh ones.
Still, the newcomers expended their energy and she managed to break free, cringing and clutching at one bloody arm. It was a moment or two before the wounds began to disappear, and Ocryana looked at her shaking hands, tears streaming from her eyes and her teeth bared in obvious frustration.
"What's...happening to...my power?" she grated, her confusion evident. Charmian felt like asking the same thing as she stood up behind the tree, clenching her fist. It was better to just act rather than give the demon another chance; as Ocryana stood staring at her hands, Charmian's hand shot out and she again called up the dwindling power within her. To her amazement, she found it growing rather than fading now, and so had to brace herself against the tree when it surged forth from her palm.
"ICE WIND!" Augwak shrieked, and just as Charmian's water attack shot forward, a gusty tumult followed it, wrapping itself around the stream. The water formed into a spray of millions of tiny jagged crystals, flying straight at the demon.
"HAIL!" Chepi shouted in addition, and her rain of tiny ice balls joined the already deadly looking flood of ice crystals. Charmian had just enough time to see Ocryana's eyes grow wide in terror before her wings shot up, folding around in front of her and bearing the brunt of the assault. Her claws dug into the ground, shredding great hunks of earth as the ice and wind assailed her. Charmian couldn't tell if it was the wind or Ocryana that was screaming, but something was.
"EARTHSHAKE!" another voice shouted, and the ground beneath Ocryana lurched and split open, making her lose her balance. She nearly fell in but managed to catch herself, wailing aloud as the ice crystals embedded themselves in her fingers. Even with all she'd done, Charmian still felt a tiny twinge of pity for her. The demon struggled to lift her head, ice crusting around her ears and the fringe of fur lining her cheeks, and gave Charmian the most hateful glare she'd ever received. Then a rainbow slammed down into her head, knocking her back into the chasm with a howl.
Charmian thought now to glance back toward where she had left Manabozho and the others. Manabozho's arms were still raised from his own attack; X'aaru cringed, shifting from foot to foot, obviously wondering if getting involved had been the right thing to do. Drake looked too astonished to do anything, even if he'd been able.
Manabozho gave her a furious look. WELL? Are you going to just STAND there--?
Charmian snapped to. He was right; every moment counted, now. Ocryana's scream was rising again from the chasm, and Charmian pointed her hands downward at it, gritting her teeth.
"Earth!" As she spoke, the two walls of the crack began to come together. Ocryana resurfaced just as they started to crush into one another, but the soil crumbled apart around her as if it were mere clay. She zoomed upwards, glaring back down at the others in pure rage. Charmian felt like tearing her own hair out.
Isn't there ANYTHING that'll keep her down?
Wait a minute--I'm not SUPPOSED to keep her down. I'm supposed to hold her off!
Reminding herself of this helped her steel her resolve. She planted her feet against the earth and raised her hands; this just made Ocryana look even more furious, if such were possible, but she didn't care about that by now. Ocryana roared.
"WHERE ARE YOU GETTING THIS POWER?"
That's a good question!! Charmian had no idea--but at least she hadn't been beaten to a bloody pulp just yet--
As if to spite this thought, the ground cracked open beside her. She gasped and rolled to the side, losing her concentration; something dug into her back, pinning her to the ground, and she screamed in pain to feel the demon's claws tearing through her clothes and skin. Ocryana's feet pressed down on her and Charmian could swear her ribs started to crack from the pressure. She struggled to suck in a breath, but then found her face pressed down to the earth as well. When she tried to breathe she felt soil against her nostrils and started to panic when a strangely warm sensation started growing from her back. Opening one eye, she saw a glow surrounding her, and knew what was happening.
Ocryana leaned down to hiss in her ear. "You and all your friends gave me this power. Do you hear this? You GAVE it to me willingly! And you wonder where I got it from? It was from your own foolishness. And you think that now you can so easily take it all back from me? You'd best think again, little girl." And her foot ground Charmian's head into the dirt. Charmian clawed at the earth, her lungs burning desperately for air. Ocryana started laughing.
Charmian opened her mouth but tasted nothing but soil. She shut it again and reflexively tried to cough, but nothing happened.
I have to get out of this! After everything that's happened please don't tell me I'm going to CHOKE to death on DIRT!! The burning feeling grew stronger and she would have cringed, if she were able. Oh yeah. Losing my spirit wouldn't be too hot, either.
She dug her fingers into the ground, trying to push herself upwards at least a little bit. The drain on her spirit was too much, though, and she felt all the strength leaving her muscles. Her arms shook under the weight; she managed to catch one breath, but it just made her lungs burn all the more, once they realized what they were missing. Ocryana's laugh seemed to go on and on, echoing hollowly in her head; it felt like everything was swimming around her, she felt so dizzy.
NOT like this! she shouted at herself. She can tear my head off if she likes, but I'm NOT going like THIS!
She tried to summon up every last little bit of energy left inside her, readying her muscles to force herself up. A distant whooshing sound started, growing louder and louder so that even Ocryana seemed to notice it; "What--?" Charmian heard her exclaim, then the pressure suddenly left her back, and she felt her spirit--which was slowly being sucked out between her shoulderblades--retreat back inside her breast, lending a spurt of energy to her limbs. She jerked her head up with a great gasp, and then a flood surrounded her, lifting her from the ground and carrying her along on its crest. She allowed it to wash her into the grass not far from Manabozho, Drake, and X'aaru, the latter two of whom came running toward her when she fell still, sputtering brokenly. Drake grabbed her arm and pulled her up to her feet, which sloshed in the wet grass.
"What..." Charmian had to spit out water. "What was that? Did I do that?" She couldn't even remember calling upon water.
"Uh...no," Drake said, making a face. "I think he did that."
Charmian lifted her head to look in the direction he had nodded toward. Joining Chepi, Augwak, and their Wendigoes now were Mitchi Manitou and his lake manitous. They appeared seemingly from the woods, their blue eyes glinting. Charmian followed his gaze now and spotted Ocryana far off to the side, where she'd flown when the torrent had swept over Charmian. The demon looked truly bewildered by this turn of events.
"Where--where are you all coming from--?" she cried, flaring her wings.
Mitchi's lip curled back in a sneer and he snorted. He jerked his antlers upward and all the water in the stream shot into the air in a great gush. Ocryana's eyes practically bugged out; she tried to turn and flee, but the water descended, wrapping around her like a giant snake and squeezing. Her cry was cut off as she tried to breathe, finding herself in the same situation Charmian had been in moments before.
"Crap," Drake exclaimed. "This is NOT her day!"
Despite Mitchi's obvious power, he was still weaker than Ocryana; after struggling for a few moments she managed to break free of the water, sending it splashing in every direction. Her claws dug into her palms, drawing blood.
"I DEMAND TO KNOW HOW YOU'RE DOING THIS!" she bellowed. Charmian couldn't suppress a smirk at her frustration.
"You wish you knew, don't you? I bet it REALLY pisses you off that you'll never get where you need to be!"
"Be--?" Ocryana's eyes narrowed and her voice lowered to a hiss. Charmian felt her smugness waver on seeing the intense look the demon gave her; then, as if sensing something there, her gaze slowly panned over to the others gathering near the trees, their faces all hostile.
"Who is missing here...?" She looked them over one by one, her face growing uglier the more time passed. "The black whelp...the red-haired girl..." Now she spotted the water still cascading from the sky in thin sheets, and her eyes lit up. Charmian felt a jolt course through her as she realized her mistake.
I told her too much!
A haze of color shimmered between the falling droplets, caused by the sunlight refracting off of the water. Ocryana's face twisted up into a hideous smile. "Of course," she hissed. "Another place--another gateway. You were never going to defeat me--you were detaining me. This is not where I wanted to be at all!"
Charmian bolted forward. The water rained down over her, flattening her hair against her head. "You're fighting ME!" she shouted desperately. "Or are you too much of a coward? A little girl frightens you so much?"
Ocryana threw back her head and laughed. "I would be insulted--if I did not know you are just trying to delay me further! Stupid girl! This was a brilliant trick, while it lasted! Too bad your mouth is as big as your head!" And before Charmian could do anything, she vaulted up into the air, her wings giving a mighty flap.
Charmian ran and jumped but grasped only falling feathers as Ocryana flew into the haze of water, the misty rainbow swallowing her up. Charmian's foot slipped in the wet grass and she fell down onto one elbow, watching in despair as the wash of colors shimmered and died, allowing Ocryana easy entry into the Gemfields.