GENRES: Fantasy, mythology, thriller/suspense, drama.
SUMMARY: As if one angry demon isn't enough...here's his mate!
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2002.
LENGTH: 3100+ words.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Fantasy violence, 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 story of how the demon Ocryana was reawakened and freed from her captivity; for how Ocryx himself was released, please see "Unleashed." For the background story on these two characters and how they came to be in this situation, please see "Hatred's Birth." (One small correction--when Old Mother Manitou and Stick-In-The-Dirt look "northwest" from Sugar Loaf Rock toward, I assume, Devil's Lake, they should in fact be looking more west/southwest.)
SOMETHING TWITCHED. BEING where it was, no one would have been able to see it. If they had been able, they would not have been there long anyway.
Far beneath the rocks and caves, beneath the Island, something stirred, slowly, sluggishly began to come conscious.
He is awake.
This realization seemed to quicken the being's awakening, and now even one eye slid open, to face wall upon wall of impenetrable rock.
He is awake.
He is free.
A slight stretching. Muscles tensed against the rock, barely able to move against their restraints. Consciousness came fully now, and with it, a quick spark of anger.
I am not.
The rock groaned from the pressure, but didn't give. The medicine holding it in place held fast itself, refusing to move. The being relaxed, calmed itself, and thought.
She could be patient.
She had been before.
The brave picked his way through the woods, ducking around trees and occasionally stifling a yawn. He'd been trying to find food all morning now, it seemed. Apparently small game--and large--didn't like to frequent this part of the Island. He glanced about and tried to figure out why, but it looked the same as anywhere else. Trees, rocks, the occasional cave. In fact, this place seemed to have more caves than the rest, and he nearly fell into one. Perhaps that was what had happened to all of the prey. They'd fallen and broken their legs?
Or else they lived down there. He stooped and contemplated entering one of the caves when a faint cry made his ears prick.
"Help! Help me..."
He stood up abruptly and stared off into the woods. The voice had been a woman's, and had sounded as if it were in distress. He waited for it to come again before setting off in that direction.
"Help me! Please!" the voice begged. His heartbeat picked up; she sounded truly troubled. He skipped over the caves, glancing about as he went.
"Where are you? Keep shouting!"
"I'm down here! Please help me!"
He jumped one more cave before noticing her, and had to skid to a halt. She was down in the cave itself--a young woman with wide fearful eyes and a pained look, pinned against the cave wall by a large boulder. She reached up one hand to him, tears in her eyes. He shuddered to think how agonizing that must be.
"What happened?" he exclaimed as he scuttled down the rock toward her, careful not to dislodge any other stones.
"The--the rock pinned me in," she gasped, voice weak. "I've been down here for so long. Please help me! The rock!" She clutched at the boulder that pinned her, and he saw that it bore some sort of ancient symbols upon it, faded by time and weather. He couldn't read them; he didn't care to. He had to find a way to free her from it.
"Hold on," he urged. "I'll try to pull you loose."
He reached down and grabbed onto her hand, pulling. She screamed and he could tell it was hurting her even more. She pulled her hand free and shook her head wildly, pointing at the rock.
"You have to move it! I'll be trapped here if you don't!"
The panic in her voice, the anguish, spurred him on. He planted his foot against the other side of the cave and clasped at the rock with both hands, gritting his teeth and pushing. His fingernails began to tear yet the rock refused to move.
"Please hurry!" the woman cried.
He bit into his lip so it bled. Ducking down, he planted his knee against the offending rock, attempting to lift it instead. It wasn't exceptionally big, but it was big enough to block part of the cave entrance and keep her trapped against the wall. How had she even gotten into this situation? It must be incredibly painful...
She twisted her head to look up at him, and it was her eyes, wide and glistening, that gave him the final bit of energy that he needed. With a harsh groan he felt the rock begin to give, lifting away from the cave wall. His muscles cracked but still he kept pulling until he felt it come free; the woman gasped and pulled herself up the side of the cave, away from the boulder. He waited until her legs were clear of it before letting it go, and it crashed down into the crevice with a reverberating boom that seemed to echo across the Island. He staggered and had to catch himself from falling after it; panting weakly, he stood propped against the opposite wall for a moment, before remembering he wasn't alone. With a wince he pushed himself forward, heading toward the woman to see if she was all right.
She sat upon the edge of the cave, grimacing as she rubbed at one bruised leg. He couldn't believe she wasn't more badly hurt, with how the rock had been crushed against her. He held out one hand and she accepted it, letting him pull her to her feet. She brushed her hair back and looked at him with wide thankful eyes, and he flushed under her stare. He hadn't even noticed before that her eyes weren't brown like his own, but instead a strange greenish color.
"You freed me," she said.
"You were trapped," he replied. He glanced back at the dislodged boulder. "How did that happen, anyway? You are lucky you are still alive! Those symbols on there probably state to keep away from here, you know; the caves can be dangerous. Especially to a woman..."
He turned back to look at her, and his own eyes grew uncertain. She no longer looked upon him with grateful awe, but with a sneer. Her eyes appeared to be...glowing?
Before he could say a thing her hand had shot out and grasped him by the throat, lifting him into the air. He gasped and choked, clawing at her fingers, but it was as if she didn't even feel it. Her mouth twisted up and her eyes narrowed.
"As if you intended merely to come along and rescue some helpless woman? Stupid Islander." Her voice, even, had changed, from soft and high pitched to husky and grating. Her fingers tightened their hold on his throat, cutting off his air. His face grew red and he started struggling. She looked down at the cave and nodded at the rock.
"Do you want to know what those symbols really say? You're partly right, at least. They tell others to keep away. Others like yourself. If I hadn't been down there so long, your kind would probably still know the language, and you'd know it also said to never move that rock. Of course, then I wouldn't be free now, would I? So I suppose I really do have your ignorance to thank for that." She started laughing, a harsh, unpleasant sound that would have made him shudder, had he been able to. Instead he let out a pathetic rasping noise, drawing her attention. She looked up to see she still held him aloft, and a look of mock surprise came to her face.
"Oh. Do I make it difficult for you? I suppose I should be grateful...you did set me loose...however, I've never been a very grateful person." Her eyes narrowed further and she smiled, the expression as unpleasant as her laugh. Now he knew that her eyes were glowing.
"I won't be a complete ingrate, however," she murmured. "Even I have my sense of decency. So I'll let you go quickly. Feel lucky I'm in such a good mood right now--otherwise I would have some excellent sport with you. Oh, and thank you for removing that annoying boulder. Thing has been bothering me for centuries now!"
With another harsh laugh, she squeezed. The man's eyes bugged as her fingernails dug into his neck, her fingers instantly crushing his windpipe. After a brief moment of panicked, instinctive struggling, he slumped limp in her grasp, and she tossed the body into the cave. His head cracked against the side before he tumbled out of sight, and she turned away, dusting her hands against each other.
"One small problem dealt with."
She scaled the remainder of the rock, making it to solid ground, where she stopped for just a moment to sniff at the air, much like a wolf. She picked up a faint hint of the scent she was looking for and another grin came to her face. She turned and started in the direction of the scent--only to stop with a gasp and double over as a sudden pain shot through her. She groaned and fell to the ground, curling in on herself. A strange glow passed over her body, once, twice.
Her grimace started to change, the lines of her face growing longer. Her bones grew in length as well, coarse fur sprouting from her limbs; feathers emerged from her back, a tail from the base of her spine. As if by some strange medicine, her clothing disappeared rather than tore to shreds, as it would have done considering the abrupt change in her size. Yet she hardly stood naked, her entire body clothed instead in the same thick fur, her ears coming to points and her teeth extending into fangs. Her eyes opened when the pain vanished and she gasped again, pushing herself up. She held up her hands only to see the long fingers and dainty nails had been replaced by crooked digits crowned with wicked claws. A cursory examination of the rest of her resulted in the same reaction, and she reached up to feel the top of her head. Horns protruded from her skull. A muscle in her back twitched, and one wing stretched. Just before she threw back her head and let out a thunderous scream bordering on a roar, her claws digging into her palms so hard they drew blood. Her tail lashed through the air like a whip, slicing open the rock as if it were the softest clay. A flock of birds rose up in a cloud from the trees and scattered at the horrendous sound, the bellow finally forming into words.
"THIS CURSED FORM!!"
Her scream echoed through the woods for a full moment before dying away. She lowered her head, panting and staring at her hands, now so ugly. They curled in again, but she took a breath and let it out, and after another moment the smile slowly returned to her face. Her eyes were still bitter...yet she knew this was the least of her worries right now. Her curse would work to her advantage, as long as she was here. She had other things to take care of at the moment.
She lifted her head once more and again sniffed at the air. In her new shape, the scent was much more noticeable, and she knew she would be able to easily find its source. Fangs flashing in an awful grin, she flapped her wings and pushed herself off from the ground, following it as if it were a beacon.
Stick-In-The-Dirt's head jerked up. He glanced upwards, just to make certain he hadn't imagined the sound, to see scores of birds flying overhead, squawking in panic as they raced away from the direction of the noise. It still echoed through the woods, and though it had said something, he hadn't been able to understand it. He'd only known it was angry. Furious.
He swallowed, his throat suddenly dry, and forced his legs to start working again. He placed his bow back over his shoulder and forced himself to remain silent as he crept. He didn't want to face whatever had let out such a horrible noise, but knew he had to find out what it was. The old woman who lived within Sugar Loaf Rock, Old Mother Manitou, had made it pretty clear that ever since he had accidentally released the demon from the Devil's Lake, he was in charge of keeping an eye out for any strange occurrences. That sound had certainly been strange.
The woods grew eerily silent now, without any birds chirping or singing. The only time he remembered ever hearing such a silence before was when he'd met the lake demon for the first time, the realization of which only caused the fear within him to grow stronger. He might have been elected the informal protector of his people...but it didn't mean he was brave about it.
The silence was suddenly broken by the sound of flapping wings. He glanced up before gasping and falling to the ground. Something large and dark coasted just over the treetops, its head swiveling from left to right as it searched for something. His eyes grew when he recognized its form as that of the lake demon--yet this one was different. It was smaller, its wings of a different color, and its horns different in shape and size. For the briefest moment it glanced down at him and their eyes met--he couldn't be certain it had actually seen him--before it was on its way again, apparently deciding he was harmless, if he had in fact been seen. In that brief instant, somehow, he knew that it was female.
The creature--the demoness--soared overhead and disappeared beyond a thick stand of trees, wingflaps stirring the leaves before they fell still entirely. Stick-In-The-Dirt let out his breath and immediately began shaking. He scrabbled to his feet, accidentally dropping his bow, though he didn't care enough to pick it up. He raced off as quickly as he could toward Sugar Loaf.
The medicine man knew one thing for certain. If that creature had in fact been female--which it was--then there was only one being it--she--could be. Old Mother Manitou had told him a story about this being a long time ago. Back then, he had hoped he would never have chance to meet up with her.
Gitchi Manitou banished her to the caves near the middle of the Island, not far from here; as with the lake demon, her former mate, he took away the bulk of her medicine, and placed both of them into a deep sleep... From what I heard, she was twice as bad as her mate, maybe more so...if you or one of your kind hasn't dredged her up yet, that's where she'll be, in her own prison...
Someone set her free, his fevered mind thought as he ran. Someone finally set her free!
The large tower of the rock came into view and he had to slow himself down to catch his breath, leaning over and placing his hands on his knees, gasping and panting. He lifted his head to see the old woman already standing in the entranceway, staring up at the sky and sniffing disdainfully. He approached and she waved at him as if she had expected him all along.
"You needn't tell me...I can smell the ugly thing from here. Ugh! Even worse than the other one, she is."
"So--it is--it is her?" Stick-In-The-Dirt panted, hoping he'd been wrong.
"Eh. Of course it is, what else would it be? Some fool must have gone and released her! No idea how your kind can be so stupid sometimes...I'm certain Gitchi put some sort of warning around where she was, my mother showed me some rock markings a long time ago..."
"They...they were still there. At least, the last time I was in the area."
"You?" The old woman gave him a sour look. "Don't tell me YOU set her free! The same as with that other one--!"
"No! I did not!" The medicine man threw up his arms in a supplicatory gesture. "I admit that I am a fool, but at least I learn from my mistakes! It must have been another who saw the signs yet didn't heed them, for whatever reason."
"Well, the hand they're written in has long become unknown to your people. Aside from the old stories you folks have no way to know to keep away from there. Meanwhile we manitous have been able to sense the bad medicine all along, and that's what's kept us away. Truly, you humans, you would never survive long on your own."
"Why would somebody trifle with the rocks?"
"Perhaps they were merely in the wrong place at the right time, as you were. Doesn't matter now, she's loose. And I doubt any one of you will have an easy time putting her back, now that she's looking for her mate. It would be like shoving a porcupine into a bottle. A porcupine with fangs and bad medicine!"
Stick-In-The-Dirt grimaced. Old Mother Manitou waved again and turned back for the rock.
"I give you the same advice as the rest of the times. You can't do anything about it! Just make sure to keep out of her way--she's twice as bad as the demon!"
"But how do we defend against her?" Stick-In-The-Dirt cried.
The old manitou glanced back at him and her mouth twitched.
Stick-In-The-Dirt opened his mouth to protest--how could she always remain so calm at times like this?--when the woods again echoed with a distant, thunderous sound. The two of them fell silent and looked upwards, then to the northwest. The sound came a third time, but now it was different, louder and deeper. Old Mother Manitou's mouth twitched again in what might have been amusement, might not.
"I think she just found him."
Stick-In-The-Dirt swallowed. Once more the old woman turned to the rock and went within. "Don't worry yourself about her too much right now. I think Ocryx is the one who should be doing the worrying. In any event...I'm supposing we'll soon find out whether that's fighting we hear right now, or something else! Good eve!"
The woods again fell silent but for the continued bellowing sounds of the two demons, and the medicine man had to rub away a shiver as he crept backwards toward the woods, keeping his eyes trained upon the sky just in case. He slipped in under the trees, but even they didn't make him feel safe. Still too fresh in his memory was the sight of the toppled trees Ocryx himself had left behind. If Ocryana was worse than he was...he didn't want to think of what she could do to a mere tree.
Even less did he relish the thought that they might not be fighting right now! Why did the old woman have to even suggest that...?
With a shudder, he finally turned and loped off through the trees, determined that if one or the other of them should decide to rampage across the Island again, he would at least be with his family when it happened.