GENRES: Fantasy, mythology, drama, emotional.
SUMMARY: If you wait long enough, he will come...
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2002.
LENGTH: 5100+ words.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Mild adult themes.
COPYRIGHT: This story and all characters, unless otherwise stated in the Disclaimers, are copyright © tehuti_88 and may not be used or distributed without permission. The reader is free to print out or download a copy of this story for offline reading as long as the author's copyright information remains upon it. Please do not distribute; if you wish to share this story, send a link to this page.
DISCLAIMERS: Ocryx and his "species" are © the Haunted Theatre of Mackinac Island. Certain characters are from Ojibwa mythology. Although aspects of this story are loosely based on Ojibwa mythology and culture, artistic license has been taken as this is a FANTASY story. Please take note that this story was written around 2002 and that my writing style and understanding of the mythology I created may have changed vastly in the meantime.
ADDITIONAL INFO: NA.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This short story ties in with the Manitou Island serials listed above; as such, it might not make much sense out of context. This is my "genesis" story for X'aaru; seeing as the true beginning would have been rather adult in nature, I had to step in in the middle of things, literally. This story reminds me of my Kemet Story, "Birth Of A God," for obvious reasons. Interesting observation--Silver Eagle Feather makes use of a similar concealment trick in Parts 101-102 of Return To Manitou Island. (One possible corrective note, I'm unsure if the character Two Owls was still alive at the time of this story.)
IT HAD BEEN a full day. She'd left the tribe around sunset the previous day, and now sunset was falling again. Still, there was little change in things. It didn't matter much. If she had to stay out here another day, two, a week, then she would stay, as long as it took.
At the moment she leaned crouching with her back against a tree, her knees bent and her feet planted against the ground, chest heaving. Some of her hair had slipped loose of its braid and dangled around her face, damp with sweat. Every so often she would grimace and clutch at the leaves and grind her teeth for a moment, until the moment passed, and then she would let out her breath and start panting weakly again. It had been like this for an entire day, sometimes worse, sometimes not as bad. By now, she was exhausted.
As the woods settled into dusk, she didn't head back home. She stayed by the tree and shut her eyes to get what little rest she could; the pain continued to come, increasingly, though she knew she would still be here for a while. Every so often it would subside and allow her to doze for a brief time, though every time it returned, it simply reminded her why she was out here. And still she waited patiently for it to be over.
"It's been a day. An entire day! She hasn't come back yet--and you are all FOOLS for not letting me go after her!"
Most everyone was too timid to object to the loud protests that echoed through the camp, though a few were not. They were just enough to hold the shouting brave back. One, his best friend, kept his arm clasped across his chest to prevent him from charging off into the woods; the two medicine men trailed after him, the younger one occasionally grabbing onto his wrist when he threatened to break loose. Almost everyone else kept their distance, though they watched with wide eyes, to see if the three men could succeed in holding him back for long. Already he'd made it halfway across the camp, toward the other side of the woods where his wife had disappeared a day ago.
"Old Mother Manitou will tend to her," the younger medicine man insisted. "You can't go out there! She must be left alone!"
"You know how it is, Elk," the older medicine man said, waving a hand at him. "You have never protested it before! And so you have no right to now! You must let her be!"
"It's been only a day, needjee," the brave with his arm across the angry man's chest said. "I've seen it take much longer than that. You know her better than anyone and she will be fine!"
Black Elk Horn snarled and knocked White Coyote's arm aside, nearly knocking him over in the process. The two medicine men backed away in haste lest they be felled next. He shook his fist at his friend. "I know that it has been a DAY! If you had a wife, would you just allow her to wander off into the woods and not return for over a day? Especially in this state? Then you will let me go FIND her!"
He started toward the woods, but the younger medicine man jumped in front of him and flung out his arms.
"You will only make yourselves both unclean! Let her be! I told you already, Old Mother Manitou--"
"Old Mother Manitou HAS NOT ARRIVED!" Black Elk Horn bellowed, making Stick-In-The-Dirt cringe. "I waited a day. I will wait no longer! I'm going to go find her!" He pushed Stick-In-The-Dirt out of his way and stalked toward the woods. The medicine man attempted to follow, but the older medicine man grabbed his arm and held him back. When Stick-In-The-Dirt looked at him he shook his head.
"Needn't bother. He won't find her."
Stick-In-The-Dirt and White Coyote stared at him with surprise. Two Owls lifted a shoulder nonchalantly.
"I told you. Won't find her. He knows her well, but I know her better. And she knew he'd come looking for her if she took too long, and so she hid herself somewhere. Maybe hard to get to, or maybe using some medicine to cover herself up. In any case, he won't find her."
The two relaxed slightly, then glanced toward the woods. Stick-In-The-Dirt's voice was soft.
"Perhaps you should have told him that...?"
The old man shrugged again and leaned on his stick. "That would've spoiled all his fun, now, wouldn't it?"
The tree chafed at her by now, even through her clothes, though she ignored it. The dead of night had passed, replaced by the dark inky blue of pre-dawn. She wasn't able to rest now, as the pain had started coming more regularly, keeping her awake even though her eyes continued to drag themselves shut. Her muscles burned from being in their stiff position for so long, yet she didn't try to stretch or stand. The only movement she allowed herself was to bring up one shaking hand to place it against the swollen curve of her belly, large against her aching legs.
When will you come?
As if in response, another pain; she gritted her teeth and bit off a cry. It passed, and she shivered and let out her breath. The time between them, still too long; this one was not coming, not yet.
From far off, a faint voice echoed through the woods, calling her name. She opened her eyes and lifted her head, her vision, even in the darkness, blurry and unfocused. She was too tired to look carefully, though she recognized the voice immediately, and sighed to herself. It came out sounding like a gasp. Footfalls came closer, and the yelling grew louder; using a small spell she'd learned long ago, she cloaked herself in the forest, asking the tree behind her for its medicine. This way, when he passed not too far from her resting spot, he did not look her way, nor see or hear from her. She could hear the anguish in his voice, and hated that she had to do so, but it was best that he stay away right now. And again as if to illustrate this, the pain returned, making her wince and clutch her belly. It stayed longer this time, and left her shaking and faint once it had gone.
Still she waited.
Not yet. But soon.
Black Elk Horn was forced to return to the camp in defeat, his feet dragging against the leaves. Stick-In-The-Dirt and White Coyote bit their lips to see his crestfallen look. As soon as he saw them, however, it changed to one of anger, and he threw his bow at them so it struck the ground and bounced. They jumped back.
"You could have helped me! Because you haven't, she's still out there. And still that old woman hasn't shown up!" He spat on the ground and stalked past.
"She will come," Stick-In-The-Dirt said, hurrying to catch up, yet still keeping a respectful distance. "Your wife will be fine. Please trust me, friend, and trust her as well."
"She has a part of him in her blood," White Coyote said, jerking his head toward the southwest side of the Island. "If anyone can take this, she can."
Black Elk Horn stared at them for a moment. When he spoke he narrowed his eyes and his voice was ugly.
"If she suffers, her blood is upon your hands."
Stick-In-The-Dirt paled. White Coyote watched as his friend again turned away and went back to his wigwam. He went inside and let the flap fall shut after him, and didn't come back out again until the next day.
A search of the woods the next day resulted in nothing yet again. Stick-In-The-Dirt and White Coyote even fanned out among the trees, calling out halloos and waiting for a response which never came. They didn't say as much aloud, but their own growing concern was evident. As dusk began to fall, signaling the end of the second day of her absence, they headed back to the camp, worried and discouraged. Black Elk Horn remained in the woods even though it was dark, so they left him behind.
"Two days," White Coyote muttered under his breath as they reached the camp, sidestepping a few children who ran about laughing in the cooling air. "Who are we fooling? This is a lifetime to him. Even now I begin to worry about her. Where is that old woman, anyway? She should have arrived long ago!"
"She may be busy with other things. She is a manitou; she helps us from the kindness of her spirit. Do not take this for granted. She will arrive."
White Coyote stopped and looked back over his shoulder. "Maybe I should go back out and help him..."
Stick-In-The-Dirt put his hand on his shoulder. "You heard what Two Owls said. He won't find her unless she wants him to, and she doesn't want him to. Else we would have found her already. Once she's done, then she will show. Until then, she is Old Mother Manitou's problem." He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "But I agree...if she were my wife, I would grow sick from worry. Tomorrow eve then. If by tomorrow eve neither of them has arrived, then I will seek out the old woman, and you go with Black Elk Horn. My own wife, at the longest, she was gone for a day. Never three..."
White Coyote nodded silently. He nudged the medicine man's hand away and they went back to their own houses, to wait.
The second dusk, little change. The middle of the night, no sleep, yet nothing else either. By dawn, she could no longer bite off every cry of pain, though she tried. Her fingers had gone raw and bloody from gouging at the ground and the roots; she couldn't have unbent her knees if she'd tried. Sweat dripped into her eyes and stung them, but she didn't care. Around the middle of the day, it felt as if something were tearing her apart, and she finally screamed.
Old Mother Manitou arrived at the camp in the early afternoon, but did not stay long. She set foot out of the woods, glanced about with a sniff, then turned abruptly away and started into the woods again. Stick-In-The-Dirt ran and tapped White Coyote's arm as he went past. They looked at Two Owls, but he showed no interest in accompanying them, instead going back into his wigwam with barely a glance. They followed the old woman away from the camp then, toward wherever she was going.
She didn't bother responding to any of their pressing questions, except with an occasional grunt or mutter. Several times she stopped and sniffed the air, then went on. Eventually they stopped questioning her and simply followed. She was a manitou...she must know where she was going.
The agony seared up through her middle. Pressing her back to the tree, she dug her feet into the soil and dropped her head, grinding her teeth and hissing. Her breath came fast, as if she'd been running. During the night a light rain had fallen and so her clothes were soaked with that now as well, even though the sun had long since traveled overhead. The progressive pains had stopped, replaced now by this; and she knew she didn't have to wait much longer. She finally gripped the tree with her hands and bore down hard, a strained sound escaping her. When she could take it no longer, she relented and sucked in a gulp of cool air, gasping in the moisture. Then she bit down and pushed again, her fingernails tearing into the bark. And then paused and took several breaths. She continued this, until she began to feel it, pressing against her inside, seeking a way out. This time, when she bore down, she screamed again, cutting it off short before sucking in another lungful of air, and then repeating the procedure. Her cries echoed off the treetops, and for once she realized how alone she was out here.
She sensed the approach of the old woman and the others long before they arrived. Yet they still had not shown up by the time her final scream shattered through the leaves, rending through the air as the excruciating pain rent through her body, a heaviness pressing against her pelvis, through it, until it finally released and she collapsed back with a gasp, her head thumping against the tree. She stared up at the sky visible above the leaves as she gulped in breath after breath, her hair clinging to her face and neck; her vision was still blurry, but far overhead, suspended in mist and sun, she glimpsed a bit of color against the blue, a streak of red, a streak of yellow and green and indigo.
From below, between her knees, came a faint, tiny whimper.
She slid down the tree to finally sit, as she had not done for two days and nights; shaking and sweating, she reached down toward the clean skins she'd placed beneath herself after she'd first arrived. The crying grew louder and more insistent, though not as much as would have been expected; there was something soft and whining about it. She located its source and retrieved it, quickly wiping away the blood and scum from its eyes and nose and mouth. It whined and cried; she lifted it to her, undoing the shoulder of her dress, and held it close so it started to feed. Its whines subsided and she simply sat under the tree, her breath slowing and her entire body aching, cradling the tiny creature to her breast. She ran her hand over its--his--head, stroking not against hair and skin, but over soft damp fur and budding feathers. As he suckled his tiny teeth nipped at her, and she winced, but then smiled faintly.
Silver Eagle Feather sat and waited for Old Mother Manitou and the others to arrive to lead her back to the camp.
The two braves had no idea how she'd done it. Old Mother Manitou had no difficulty navigating the woods, but they did, despite being as used as they were to the area. This part of the Island was especially knotty and difficult to traverse; it was as if Silver Eagle Feather had sought the most inhospitable place to go. Old Mother Manitou started muttering as she climbed up a rock.
"Told you to just let her alone. That's why she's all the way out here, after all, 'cause she knew one of you or another would try to come looking for her. Smart girl! That husband of hers worries more than a mother duck."
White Coyote's face twisted but he said nothing. He slipped on the rock and tumbled to the ground with a pained noise, and Stick-In-The-Dirt had to help him back up.
The old woman stopped at the top of the rise and took a look around, forcing the two men to do likewise. She waved at them impatiently and vanished from sight. The medicine man let out a gusty sigh.
"Why is she so difficult! For a manitou, she has the temperament of a prickly little bluejay!"
"Bluejay," White Coyote muttered. "More like a porcupine."
"I heard that," a voice snapped, and the two flushed and hurried up the hill.
Old Mother Manitou was far ahead of them by now, and walking toward a large tree at the far side of the woods. White Coyote and Stick-In-The-Dirt saw another figure slumped at the base of the tree and picked up their step; they would have rushed straight to her, but the old manitou put out her arms to stop them. She reached Silver Eagle Feather first, the other two coming up behind her. The young woman sat against the tree with her head hanging, cradling a bundle wrapped in furs to her breast. Stick-In-The-Dirt started to reach down to her, but Old Mother Manitou slapped his hand away.
"Let me, fool! She's not dead."
"But she looks..."
"You'd look that way too if you'd spent two days out in the woods pushing something out of yourself! Now quit harping."
Silver Eagle Feather finally stirred and lifted her head. Dark shadows rimmed her eyes and her hair hung limp and damp, but when she saw the others staring down at her she offered a weak smile. Old Mother Manitou crouched down and looked her over.
"Hm. A little cold from being out here so long...and a little thin from not eating for two days...but otherwise just fine. See? Told you you had nothing to worry about. She's half Ocryx, and Ocryxes are tough creatures."
"We should take her back to the tribe," Stick-In-The-Dirt urged. "She's lost some blood, and it will need to be cared for..." He gave her a quizzical look, and she glanced back down at the bundle.
"A son," she said, faintly. White Coyote's face lit up and he looked at Stick-In-The-Dirt.
"A boy! He will be--"
Stick-In-The-Dirt didn't hear whatever else White Coyote intended to say. He had bent forward to pull back the furs obscuring the child's face, and now he leapt back with a yelp. The other three stared at him and he gawked for a moment, before attempting to regain his composure. He swallowed and lowered his arms, which he'd thrown up in front of his face.
"I--I apologize--I just didn't..."
Silver Eagle Feather turned to the bundle once more. "I know you did not expect it. I'm not angry with you."
"What...?" White Coyote frowned, stepping forward. He peered down at the little face peering out of the bundle and his own face went white. He also backed away, stuttering awkwardly.
Old Mother Manitou just snorted. "Hmph. What do you expect when the demon himself is his father?"
With this, she bent down and took the child from Silver Eagle Feather's arms, handing him to Stick-In-The-Dirt, who nearly cringed away before forcing himself to accept the bundle. "Lend me a hand," the old woman ordered, and she and White Coyote took Silver Eagle Feather by the arms and carefully helped her up. She leaned upon them yet managed to walk upon her own feet, and they slowly made their way away from the tree. Stick-In-The-Dirt cast one more look down at the wolf-child resting in his arms, shuddered, and followed.
A boil of activity stirred up at the outskirts of the camp as soon as some children saw the figures approaching through the woods. "Silver Eagle Feather! Silver Eagle Feather's coming!" they shouted, and ran back to get the adults. A crowd gathered around the four who stepped out from the trees, some standing on tiptoes, others craning their necks. A few of the elders nudged them back and kept them at bay with mock threats, shaking their sticks at them, Two Owls among them.
"Go on! Go back home! It's not your family you're greeting! The father should be the first to see. Go back to your chores!"
Several faces fell, but the crowd dispersed with some muttering. A few of the women touched Silver Eagle Feather's arm as she walked by and smiled at her. One more child remained beside them, straining to get a peek at the bundle Stick-In-The-Dirt carried, but an old woman cuffed his ear and he went running. Two Owls watched them go by but did not interrupt; he tilted his head slightly when Silver Eagle Feather looked at him, and left them alone.
White Coyote left Silver Eagle Feather to Old Mother Manitou and went jogging off as well. He didn't have to go too far; Black Elk Horn appeared at the far end of the camp and broke into a jog himself, his eyes wide and his face pale. They could tell he hadn't slept in a long while, because of his fruitless searching; he reached Silver Eagle Feather and most likely would have picked her up and carried her off had not the old manitou kept him back.
"Hold on, boy! You have a home, do you not? Don't you think it would be nicer to take her there first? Poor thing has to rest her feet sometime!"
Black Elk Horn flushed, but stepped aside. He didn't move away from them though, and kept his hand on his wife's arm as they went. He glanced back at the bundle Stick-In-The-Dirt carried; the medicine man averted his eyes, but Black Elk Horn made no move to take it from him. They proceeded to his wigwam without another word.
Black Elk Horn's reaction was much the same as White Coyote's and Stick-In-The-Dirt's had been.
After taking his first look at the strange child Silver Eagle Feather now held--the creature's red and green eyes blinking as he squirmed and looked about the room--Black Elk Horn paced in circles along the wall, unable to say anything. Stick-In-The-Dirt had excused himself by necessity, to go speak with the elder medicine man; only Old Mother Manitou remained to rebuke him.
"Shame, Elk! I had thought you had more of a heart than this. You knew from the beginning the child was not yours. That your wife's father is his true sire. I fail to see the point of your surprise."
"Grandmother," Silver Eagle Feather said, quietly. Old Mother Manitou waved at her.
"And you too, girl, hush while I'm speaking! I know you mean well but your husband's being a fool." She turned back to Black Elk Horn, who still paced as if he hadn't even heard her. "Are you listening to me? Maybe, if she had not bothered to tell you from the beginning, I would sympathize with you. But at least she let you know the truth. There's no changing it now."
"Have you even taken a look at it--him?" He stopped in his tracks and waved at the wolf creature, which seemed to take his gesture as a sign to play, as he wriggled and let his tongue stick out. "Even if she had not told me from the start. It would not change what's going to happen."
Old Mother Manitou tilted her head with a curious look. Black Elk Horn knelt down so he faced her.
"Do you remember what happened when she was introduced to the tribe? Of course I would not, but I heard that you knew of it. Brother Stick would know as well. I've heard it from some of the others who remember."
Silver Eagle Feather stared at a spot that wasn't quite the floor, wasn't quite the roof.
"I will only be truthful. I feel she was accepted because she passed as one of us." He glanced at the child she held and shivered. "And now tell me this--can he do the same thing?"
Old Mother Manitou frowned. She also glanced over at the baby. Black Elk Horn gestured.
"If he looks like the demon, he will not be welcome here. No matter who his mother, no matter who he calls Father." His face darkened. "You know I speak the truth, Grandmother. With what that creature has done to all of us, my wife included, any who remind us of him so closely will never be allowed to stay here in peace."
As he spoke, Silver Eagle Feather's head lowered until she stared down at her lap. The wolf-child whimpered and squirmed. Old Mother Manitou pursed her lips, then turned and scowled at Black Elk Horn.
"You were always blunt, you know that?"
"I'm only speaking the truth." His fist, balled against the floor, tightened and then loosened. "As uncertain as I might be about him...I would not want him facing the same behavior my wife had to face. If only because I know it would hurt her, as well." He paused, then looked at Silver Eagle Feather. Old Mother Manitou followed suit, then got to her feet and hobbled over to place a hand on her shoulder.
"He's right." Silver Eagle Feather's voice came soft, almost inaudible in the small room. "They will never welcome him."
Old Mother Manitou's frown grew. She stood up straight and flung up her arms.
"Forget what they say then! Raise him as you see fit. They won't dare bother you. If they do, you know enough medicine to keep their mouths shut."
Silver Eagle Feather shook her head. She didn't look up at either of them. "It won't work this way..." She held the bundle up and hugged the child to her, and he whined aloud, an uncertain sound. Black Elk Horn sat back on his heels and stared at the far wall. They remained in silence for a long moment or two, none of them certain what to say or do. After a time Silver Eagle Feather lifted her head, and though her eyes were wet, no tears streamed down her face.
"Grandmother," she said, voice quiet but steady. "Will you care for him?"
Old Mother Manitou blinked. Black Elk Horn looked at his wife, then at the old woman. His brow furrowed as if he were confused.
The old woman stared at Silver Eagle Feather for a moment, then sighed. "Think on this hard, girl. Think on what you're asking. Even if your husband is not the father, the boy is your son. No matter what he looks like. You are willing to give him up, because a few people will sneer at him when he walks by?"
"I will not have him brought up to fear his own people. If they will reject him, then they will either reject me, or he will go where he will not be rejected." She looked the manitou in the eyes. "I ask you this before I decide to leave the tribe, Grandmother."
Black Elk Horn started. "Wife--!"
Old Mother Manitou sighed again. "Very well...very well. Don't get yourself upset yet, boy. Since you put me in such a situation, I can hardly refuse you now." She stood up and winced, rubbing a pain out of her knee. "Very well. I'll take him to Sugar Loaf. I need to know some things first though. Do you wish him to know that you are his mother? Or do you want me to make up a story to tell him? Let me know, before I take him anywhere."
Silver Eagle Feather gave the old woman a look as if she had asked the most outlandish question possible. "He should know where he came from," she said, and the old woman nodded.
"And for how long am I to keep him? Believe me, girl, if he knows of you, someday, he will come looking for you."
This made Silver Eagle Feather pause with uncertainty. She thought for a moment, but nothing appeared to come to mind. Black Elk Horn lifted his head and cut into the silence.
"If he comes looking, then he comes looking. There is hardly anything any of us can do to stop him from doing so."
The two women peered at him, surprised to hear him speak. Old Mother Manitou's eyebrow rose but she lifted a shoulder in a shrug.
"Very well then. When his curiosity gets the better of him, you may expect to see him come hereabouts." She knelt down again, paused for a moment, then held out her arms. Silver Eagle Feather's face grew pained. She held the child to her more tightly and the tears threatened to fall from her eyes, yet stayed in their place. The wolf creature whined more loudly than before, confused by the strange actions of the people around him. The three adults stayed as they were for a time, Old Mother Manitou waiting patiently. After a long while Silver Eagle Feather finally lifted her head and with a quavery breath held the bundle out to her. The old woman received it and stood, tickling the child's furry chin with one gnarled finger. She turned to the door before stopping and standing straight. And then she turned back again to the others.
"Stupid of me! I cannot believe I nearly forgot to ask. The boy's father is not present, and so he cannot rightly give him a name. So I suppose that task falls to you." She nodded at Silver Eagle Feather. "Have you thought of one yet? I cannot leave here with a nameless pup to raise!"
"Yes," Silver Eagle Feather replied. "I have a name for him."
"Well? Spit it out, girl, and let me be on my way. I must still prepare some food and a bed for the little thing, before I can retire, myself."
Silver Eagle Feather lifted her head to look the old woman in the eyes. They held each other's stare for a moment before she spoke.
Silence. Old Mother Manitou and Black Elk Horn stared, eyes wide. Rather than a name, the woman had let out a strange wolfish growl that neither of them could have reproduced in speech, even had they wanted to. After an awkward pause, the old woman coughed.
"Eh...very...well...and...what exactly does that mean?"
"He-Who-Brings-Rainbows." Silver Eagle Feather's stare never wavered. "Rainbowbringer will be his name."
The other two waited a moment to see if she would add anything else, but she didn't. Instead she lowered her head once more, and appeared to draw in on herself, shutting them out. Black Elk Horn's shoulders slumped a little; Old Mother Manitou tapped one, drawing his attention.
"See to her for a while," she said softly. "She'll be fine, in time. Granted, I didn't think it would be too good of an idea either, letting loose an Ocryx pup among your kind. Don't belittle her sorrow, but don't let her dwell in it either. And take a rest, for now. I will tend to the child."
She wrapped the squirming wolf-child up tightly and went for the door, pulling up the flap. It didn't close all the way behind her when she exited, and Black Elk Horn could see her wandering off, cooing to the bundle as a few of the camp's children trailed after her to the edge of the woods. They stopped at the treeline and watched her go, before running about their separate ways, laughing.
Black Elk Horn moved to pull the flap down into place, shutting out the noise of the camp. Inside the home of Black Elk Horn and Silver Eagle Feather it was now silent. Even had he left the entrance open, he would have been too far away to hear the old woman's last words to the small squirming wolf creature as she went on her way.
"Hush, now, little bitty one; Rainbowbringer I'll just call you, then. Because only Gitchi Manitou knows how to pronounce that other name..."