Return To Manitou Island: Part 11
She's Got The Power
TAL NATHA STARED out at Lake Huron, glittering under the moonlight. He remembered how it had been so long ago, with him looking out over these same waters as he pondered how best to bring the mainlander to the Island. Back then, things had been uncertain, surely, but at least he'd believed in his plan. And in the end it had worked, after all.
The thing was...this time, it wasn't his plan, and he had no clue whose plan it even was. He had not called Charmian here.
Red Bird came out to stand beside him, putting her hand on his shoulder. Dakh and Sikt stayed on the ledge above, preening themselves. Tal Natha sighed.
"You're sure that it wasn't yours...?" Red Bird asked quietly. The demon's gaze drifted down to the rock outcropping they stood upon, and his tail swished across its surface.
I am certain. I would have known, otherwise. Dreams do not happen by accident. There is always a cause.
"Maybe there's another one like you, then."
Nathalit never spoke of another Dreamspinner. I would have thought that since I carry the title, I am the only one. His ears folded back. Perhaps I've grown too comfortable in this role...perhaps it is Nathalit's doing, and she wishes to teach me a lesson.
Red Bird shook her head. "I don't think she would do that. It has to be someone else...maybe them...?" She looked up at the two Ocryxes perched above. This time Tal Natha shook his head.
They do not spin dreams. They only influence them. And they would not do this without me knowing, also.
Red Bird stared pensively down at the trees below. "Then...it must be someone else."
This is what I do not like, Tal Natha said, his wings flaring. The not knowing. Dreams have great power. In the wrong hands, they can bring chaos. I should have asked her what this dream was of. Perhaps that would have told me who sent it. Not knowing, I do not know their intentions. This frustrates me no end.
"She didn't seem too worried," Red Bird insisted. "It couldn't have been very bad. Maybe it'll even be helpful to her."
Tal Natha pressed his head against Red Bird's hand. You may be closer to the mainlander than I will ever be, Little Bird...but I know her mind more. She was concerned. She merely did not wish to upset us. I feel this dream worries her more than she would say.
Red Bird looked crestfallen. Tal Natha rose and touched his muzzle to her face, nudging her toward the cave with his tail.
Come...do not worry about it too much. She surprised even me the last time she was here. Perhaps her being here is a sign. She appears when the Wolves are ravaging the Island at their worst...maybe she was meant to be here, after all. I was just not the one to call her first. Let us go back inside. If she needs to speak with us again, she'll be here.
Red Bird turned around and obeyed, still staring at the ground. They disappeared within the cave as the last traces of moonlight disappeared from the ledge, lighting up and glittering instead in the eyes of the demons above.
Charmian approached a tree in the woods from whence a voice had come, and grinned and put her hands on her hips.
"I was starting to think you'd never show up!"
A glowing shape appeared upon one of the branches, taking human form but for two odd feathers which protruded from the top of the head like the ears of a rabbit. Charmian stood and waited for the transformation to complete itself before approaching the base of the tree and starting to climb up.
"And leave you claiming all the glory like you did last time?" Manabozho said in a taunting voice, lying back on the branch and crossing his arms behind his head. Charmian's mouth twitched and she reached for one of the lower branches to pull herself up.
"Yeah, right! The way I remember it YOU left before I even had a chance to say goodbye!"
"As if you would have? I know your type. Make a sweeping entrance, save the Island, make a sweeping exit without so much as a thank you to all the little people who helped along the way. Leaving the true warriors who taught you to sit in the shadows."
Charmian reached up and pushed on his leg. Manabozho yelped and fell from the tree, hitting the ground below with a thud. She shimmied down the trunk and kicked leaves onto him as he tried to scramble to his feet.
"You sound like you know the type a little too well! Makes me wonder exactly what you do in your spare time?"
"You have no sense of respect for your elders!" Manabozho snapped. He dusted loose soil off of himself, attempting to retain a shred of dignity. Charmian laughed.
"I don't really think of you as an 'elder.' A buffoon, maybe, but not an elder."
Manabozho made a face. The feathers on his head fanned out to the sides in a comical gesture. "I see that this 'Social Studies' class of yours has yet to teach you any decency."
Charmian's smile grew. She walked toward Manabozho and put her arms around him, hugging him tight.
Manabozho grimaced. He glanced around the woods a few times before patting her on the head and then prying at her arms, muttering in an annoyed voice. "Heyyy...all right. Enough. People will stare."
Charmian let go and rubbed at her eyes. "There isn't even anybody around," she said, but her smile didn't vanish. Manabozho rolled his eyes and let out a gusty sigh.
"As a matter of fact that tree has been laughing at us the entire time. Where are your senses? Can't you even hear it?"
Charmian's smile finally faded and she took a step away from him, looking at the ground. "I...I don't have those senses anymore."
"What?" Manabozho squawked. "What are you talking about?"
"Just like I said! Ever since I got here I haven't been able to use the powers I had before. They're all gone. I can't sense things, I can't call up elements, nothing."
"Surely you can hear thoughts?"
"Only when somebody sends them to me. I can't send any back."
Manabozho clutched at his head. "How do you know this? None work? At all? Have you even tried using any of them?"
Charmian bit her lip. "...No. Not really..."
"You haven't even TRIED yet?!"
"They didn't work for me the whole time I was on the mainland! I tried them then! And none of them worked! After a while one starts to feel kind of stupid trying to make trees and water do stuff when NOTHING HAPPENS!"
"You haven't even tried yet," Manabozho taunted. "So why you say all of this with such confidence, I have no clue." He waved at her with a scornful look. "Go on! Try one! See if it doesn't work here!"
Charmian scowled. "I tell you I'll be wasting our time," she muttered, but held her hand out toward the tree they'd both descended from, her palm facing it. She dug through old thoughts, trying to come up with the proper words to address the manitou dwelling within the tree; as she recited these mentally, she turned to Manabozho and stuck out her tongue.
"See? Nothing hap..."
Manabozho gave her a smug look and nodded at the tree. Charmian turned back to look and saw a face peering at her from the bark, large dark eyes and a soft muzzle framed by knotty antlers.
"--AAAKK!!" Charmian screeched, jumping back and falling in the leaves. Manabozho started laughing aloud as the manitou gave Charmian a curious look, blinking its doelike eyes and tilting its head before vanishing back into the tree. Charmian jumped to her feet and whirled on Manabozho, clenching her fists.
"YOU did that! To get back at me! Jerk!"
"I did absolutely nothing but laugh at your expense. You didn't even TRY before you claimed you had lost your powers! How well did I teach you after all? This is the same person who defeated Ocryana? All upset because she can't squeeze a woodling out of a mainland tree?" He snorted. "Of course your powers wouldn't have worked there. The mainland doesn't have the same type of medicine as the Island does! You would have to learn an entirely different lesson. But one never just 'loses' their powers. It's much like those...ah...what are they called...those things the long knives ride all over the other island, with the two wheels...?"
"You mean bicycles?" Charmian asked, growing confused.
"Yes!" Manabozho snapped his fingers. "Bicycles. It's as your people say...once you learn to ride one you do not forget. Your powers are the same way. Once you've learned how to use them, they're always there unless someone takes them away. You don't lose them."
Charmian stared at her hands. "So...you mean I still have all my powers? Like before?"
Manabozho nodded impatiently. "Yes. What did I just say? Of course, they'll be a little out of use...you'll have to practice again a little bit, but they're still there. Unless you met some manitou on the mainland who took them all away, and somehow I doubt that."
Charmian could only continue staring at her fingers, as if disbelieving that any part of her held any power anymore. After a few moments a smile crept up her face and she wiggled them. Then she gasped and her head jerked up so abruptly that Manabozho almost jumped back.
"What is it?"
"What happened! I had this weird dream the other morning. Only Tal Natha told me he hadn't sent it; he didn't even know I was here."
Manabozho frowned. "He didn't know?"
"No, he didn't. Which makes me think that maybe somebody else suddenly has this power." She stared off into the woods and her face set in concentration. "There's only one other person I know who might have control over dreams like that..."
Manabozho took a step forward, a tense look on his face. "But if you mean who I think you mean, you imprisoned her long ago. She hasn't..."
Charmian held up one hand, cutting him off. She shut her eyes and tried casting out a mental net, searching the Island and everyone upon it, seeking something that felt similar to the presence she'd felt in her dream.
Apakwaanaajiin, she thought, calling up the name of her spirit animal, the bat. Let me see whoever's doing this. Whoever sent me that dream. If they're here anywhere...
And now suddenly, it was as if her mind was flying over the Island at top speed, mentally checking everybody it came across. She sensed the manitous, the GeeBees, the demons and various spirits who lived there, as well as all of the people; she didn't stop to focus on any of them as none felt right. She flew down into the ground, tunneling through soil and rock and crystal. She felt the ethereal air of the Borderlands and the Gemfields, far beneath the Island, and traveled even deeper than that. She flew along through centuries of earth until--a great wall of resistance struck against her, and she gasped and jerked.
"What is it?" Manabozho asked.
"It's..." Charmian stood with her chest rising and falling. "It's Ocryana. She's..."
"...She's still there." Charmian's mind felt around the edges of a great barrier which pulsed and glowed brilliant rainbow colors, a vague dark form encased within. She sensed a great malevolence...but it was restrained, latent. Asleep. "I can tell it's her...she's still imprisoned. Right where I left her."
"Are you certain she's asleep?" Manabozho's voice came as if from far away.
Charmian nodded and her brow furrowed. "But...if it's not her, then who...?" She trailed off and bit her lip. I must not have looked far enough. I have to keep digging.
She stood in silence, Manabozho a few feet away. They stayed this way for what seemed to be a very long time before Charmian's eyes slowly opened and blinked a few times. She continued staring into the woods for a few moments more, then her shoulders sank slightly.
"Well?" Manabozho prodded, after another pause.
"I can't find it," Charmian murmured.
Manabozho leaned forward. "What?" he asked, in obvious surprise. "What do you mean, you can't find it?"
"It's not here. The presence I felt in my dream. Either that, or it can disguise itself so I can't sense it."
"That's impossible," Manabozho insisted. "For it to do that it would have to be more powerful than Ocryana--you're one of the most sensitive people I know!"
Charmian just stared, as if in a daze. "I thought of another possibility," she said.
"Another? Like what?"
"You thought of only the obvious one. That it's more powerful than Ocryana. Maybe it is...but maybe there's another reason. Maybe it doesn't have any presence to sense?"
He made a face. "That's impossible. EVERYTHING has a presence, unless it doesn't exist!"
"When does something not exist?"
"EVERYTHING exists. You're asking a nonsensical question."
"I don't believe that," Charmian retorted. "There has to be SOME exception. If I learned anything from this place it's that there's always an exception!"
"The only way one does not exist here is if they are--" Manabozho cut himself off, then finished in a somewhat subdued voice, "...is if they are dead." He frowned as if just realizing this.
"You mean the dead don't have any presence to them?"
"They do. But out of their own realm, one may not sense them, unless specially trained to do so." His face twitched. "I never thought it was necessary to teach you to seek out the dead. For the most part...they stick to their own kind!"
"Well, I think maybe that's one thing you should have taught me!"
"Look. Just because I brought you back from the Spirit Land doesn't mean I run the place. That was a one-time thing. I don't have powers like that!"
"What would it take to get you to teach me that, then?"
"Nothing. Because I don't know that medicine. You would have to seek out a wabano and I advise against that! Strongly!"
"Wabano?" Charmian frowned. "I don't remember that word, and I read all the books in the library. What is it?"
"Best that you don't know. Wabanos are nothing but trouble, especially for a mainlander like you." He held up his hand when she started to protest. "I tend to think this is the former. Merely somebody more powerful than Ocryana. That makes more sense."
"AND it's the more difficult of the two! Do you even remember how hard it was for me to defeat her? Hello? Were you even watching?"
"Yes, I was. Don't belittle me! I merely state that you jump to conclusions. If you defeated her, then I'm willing to bet you could defeat anyone except Gitchi Manitou. Perhaps even him, if you are lucky." He grimaced and ducked low to the ground, glancing skyward and covering his head. "It was a jest! Nothing but a jest! I didn't mean it, it just slipped out!"
"If anyone's jumping to conclusions, it's YOU," Charmian said. "I think my idea is just as valid as yours! I think I'd rather fight an undead person than somebody stronger than Ocryana!"
Manabozho jumped up and clamped a hand over her mouth. "Don't SAY that! Do you have any idea what you just wished for?!"
"I have more of an idea than you do!" Charmian turned away from him, fuming, and stomped off into the woods. He let out a huffing sound but made no attempt to follow.
"And where do you think you're going!"
"If you won't tell me what a wabano is or where to find one, then I'll find one on my own!"
"HAVE YOU ANY IDEA HOW INSANE THAT IS?"
"AT LEAST I HAVE IDEAS!!" Charmian screamed back, before continuing on her way. She kicked at a pile of leaves as she went, wishing it was his shin instead.
All that time I spent training with him and Moon Wolf and neither of them thought to teach me how to see dead people! Some use all of that was!
She tried to convince herself to calm down, and slowed her step as well. She took a breath and let it out. This wasn't making any sense. She couldn't very well search for something if she had no idea what it even was.
Wabano, she thought to herself. Is it a person or a thing? Are there even any on this Island? She ground her knuckles against her forehead and sat down on a fallen tree. I didn't think this trip through very well...
She let her hand drop and stared off into space. She glanced upwards, but the sky had grown overcast. There was still just enough glow for her to see where she was going, but not to go running around like an idiot.
Why would a dead person be interested in me? Who's shielding me from Tal Natha? And what the hell is a wabano?
Charmian sighed and lay back on the log. "Maybe I really would have been better off at home."
I can't believe I just said that.
She forced herself to sit up again, rubbing tiredness from her eyes. "Maybe Stick would know," she said aloud, and this thought gave her a little courage. Stick-In-The-Dirt had been the very first Islander she'd met, aside from Tal Natha, and he she had met first only in a dream. As a medicine man...albeit a rather skittish one...perhaps he would be able to help her.
He didn't meet me back at Silver's tribe. So where can I...
She nearly slapped herself. Stick-In-The-Dirt was alive, at least as far as she knew--Little Dove had never mentioned him being dead--so all she had to do was seek him out.
Charmian sighed as she stood up, putting a hand to her head. "Am I really that out of touch?" she asked herself, and started mentally feeling around the Island as she had before. He had to be here somewhere...
Her searching was cut short when something flickered out of the corner of her eye. Charmian paused, wondering if she should just ignore it or not--when, with a start, she realized it was moving. She turned and blinked in surprise to see what appeared to be a flame wandering around the woods, flitting from tree to tree of its own volition. It paused beside one tree and hovered there, as if staring back.
Charmian felt a chill creep over her. She got the feeling it was staring.
The two of them stayed like this for a time before the flame...or ball of fire, for such was what it resembled, now that she could see it better...fluttered a bit, then drifted on through the woods. Charmian felt her feet begin moving, though she didn't consciously will them to walk. She stepped forward and trailed after the glowing ball, wondering where it was going.
Sentient ball lightning? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised...
Charmian followed the ball of fire for a time, climbing over fallen trees and boulders in an attempt to keep it within her sight. She felt that if she lost sight of it it might disappear completely. A few times it did duck behind trees or dip over rises, but it always reappeared on the other side, following its own odd course. Charmian began to wonder if it would ever stop.
"Hey!" she shouted, trying to get its attention and feeling rather stupid that she was doing so. "Maybe you know a shortcut or something? Because this is getting stupid."
The ball dipped down behind another hill. Charmian let out a gusty sigh and started climbing the rise. She froze and her skin prickled when a low growl arose behind her.
She cringed. Not NOW!
Charmian dared to take a peek over her shoulder, dreading what she might see. When what she saw was two glittering eyes in the woods behind her, she didn't even take the time to think twice. She bolted up the slope as fast as she could go, jumping over the top and tumbling down the other side. The ball of light flared and zoomed to the side to avoid her descent. Charmian landed on her back and rolled over, pushing herself to her feet and bolting forward just in time to avoid the claws that dug into the earth where she'd been a second before. She let out a yell and went running heedlessly through the woods, the Shadow Wolf close behind.
"DON'T YOU GUYS HAVE ANYTHING BETTER TO DO?!" she screamed as she went.
The Wolf responded by panting, tongue lolling from its mouth as it ran. When she glanced back at it she could see the grin on its face and had the sudden urge to punch it.
Duh! HELLO CHARMIAN! You've got POWERS now, remember?!
Now she felt like punching herself, if she'd been able. Instead she put on a burst of speed and managed to vault over a rock, landing messily on the other side. The Wolf leapt over her head and crashed to the ground several yards away. It scuffled in the leaves in an attempt to get to its feet and whirled around to face her, teeth dripping. It paused for just a moment before coming toward her, and that was all the time she needed.
Charmian flung one hand out and hesitated, trying wildly to think of what to use. The Wolf didn't halt its approach; Charmian could only shout out the first thing that popped into her head, and prayed that it would work.
Before she could think even further, a wall of soil shot up into the air, catching the Wolf just under the chin. It yelped as it was dragged into the air. Charmian got to her feet and started running again, the ball of fire--which still hovered nearby, seemingly watching--bobbing out of her way. As she ran she heard the growling, snarling rage of the Wolf as it regained its balance, back on the ground, and came racing after her.
What kind of element is their weakness? I don't know which one to use!
Charmian gasped and suddenly went flying, her foot catching under a root. She landed hard on her stomach; instinct made her clamp her arms over her head when she heard the Wolf leap into the air. She bit her lip and waited for its claws to sink into her back.
So not earth. Maybe their weakness is--
The rasp of hot breath fanned across her back and Charmian cringed. The heat only increased and for just a moment she could swear she felt it tearing into her, razor-sharp claws ripping through her skin--then a flash of light, visible even through her closed eyes, flared briefly, and there was a tremendous CRACK.