Tehuti's Per On The Web 2.0!

Return To Manitou Island: Part 23

Blood Ties

CHARMIAN AND THOMAS stared at each other in dead silence. Charmian frozen in midstep beside the stream, Thomas frozen several strides away, a bloody bowl tipped to his mouth.

Charmian's stare wandered to the wrapping he still held--the same one which had soaked up the blood from her arm wound--then to the bowl itself, which was supposed to be filled with stream water, but was apparently filled with the drippings from the wrapping itself. Some of which lined Thomas's mouth at the moment.

She perceived feeling coming back into her limbs, and started shaking as soon as it did. Thomas must have noticed the reaction, for he slowly lowered the bowl from his mouth. Charmian didn't give him a chance to say a word. She turned and started running as fast as she could.

"Charmian--!" she heard him yell.

Her heart already felt like it was beating a hundred miles a minute, so the run didn't tire it any. And fear could have made her legs go on for miles. She couldn't remember ever having run so fast, even while being chased by Ocryana or Shadow Water. The trees whipped past her in a display of dark green and blue--she didn't even bother to wonder how she avoided running into or tripping over anything, until just that happened, a root appearing seemingly out of nowhere and catching on her foot. With a strangled sound she went down hard, slamming chestfirst into the ground. All the air left her lungs in a whoosh and she shook her head, dizzy.

Rustling noises came up the trail behind her. "Charmian!"

Charmian's heart leapt into her throat. She snapped out of her daze almost immediately, scrabbling to her feet and stumbling ahead a yard or two before falling again. She stood up, and again the procedure was repeated. It took a moment for her to feel the pain in her ankle, she had been so set on escape. She put her hand to it, then attempted to stand up again, but this time a jolt of fire seemed to sear through the joint, and she yelped and collapsed. Already a bruise was forming where she'd twisted it.

The rustling resolved itself into steady footfalls, and she glanced up to see Thomas come running up the trail. He slowed as he came within sight of her. Charmian quailed and pulled herself over, trying to crawl up the trail, but couldn't make very good progress. Several glances showed her that all he had to do was walk and he could keep up with her, which he was doing, a perplexed look on his face. She gave up on crawling and rolled herself onto her back, picking up a stick and holding it in front of her. That managed to stop him, though he held out his arms in a supplicatory gesture.

"Charmian," he said. "It's not what you think."

"What I think?" Charmian echoed, her voice going high pitched from fear. "What I THINK is that I saw you drinking my blood!!"

Thomas looked as if he wanted to reply to that, but didn't have anything to say. He put a hand to the back of his neck and furrowed his brow as if trying to think of an excuse of some kind.

Charmian started shaking again. "So you were." He looked at her and she pulled herself back toward a tree, still holding the stick out in front. "Are you..." She trailed off, then tried again, her voice barely above a shaky whisper. "...Are you a vampire?"

"What?" Thomas gaped at her as if she were insane, then shook his head adamantly, taking a step toward her. "No, I'm not a vampire! I--"

"Stay back!" Charmian put her free hand against the tree's trunk. Thomas halted again. "One step closer and I can call the manitou out of this thing! You've seen me do it!" When she was certain he wasn't going to come closer she struggled to pull herself up, using the tree for support and balancing on one foot, always keeping the sharp end of the stick pointed at him. "So if you're not a vampire, then what are you? How come you're drinking my blood?" she demanded.

Thomas rubbed at his neck again. "It's hard to explain," he said in a petulant voice.

"Try me! Go on, I mean, you already did! LITERALLY!"

Thomas dropped his hand with a frustrated sigh. When he did so, a thought, a memory, suddenly flashed through Charmian's mind. She looked at his hand, then up at his mouth again. After a moment of staring she pushed herself away from the tree, slowly approaching him. He stood and watched her in some confusion as she came closer, stopping just inches away, leaning on the stick. She stared up into his face for another moment or two before reaching out one finger to slightly push up his lip. Thomas blinked, but didn't object.

Instead of human canines, what looked to be long, pointed fangs greeted her eyes.

Charmian gasped and quickly pulled her hand away. She looked up into his face again, then reached up and brushed his hair back from his left ear. The look on his face changed now as he seemed to realize what she was doing. And as if to confirm this thought, she for the first time noticed that his ears were pointed, their tops coming to narrow little tips.

Charmian pulled her arm back and backed away again, to the comfort of the tree. "What are you?" she asked, her voice quiet now, but with an undertone of dread.

Thomas didn't reply. He looked almost apologetic, for some reason.

"Your hand," Charmian continued. "The second time I took it it was ice cold." An almost imperceptible shiver passed through her, and she clutched at the stick, her knuckles going white. "You're...you're a GeeBee, aren't you?"

Thomas paused, as if trying to gauge what her reaction would be. "No," he finally said. "I'm not." Her arms started to relax just slightly when he said, "I'm only half GeeBee."

Charmian blinked. "Half GeeBee?" Her face formed into a scowl and she shook her head. "That's not possible. There's no such thing. GeeBees aren't interested in humans that way!"

"There's an exception to every rule, isn't there?" He sounded almost offended, now. He sighed and appeared to regather himself before continuing. "My mother is human--just like you. My father was a GeeBee."

"I can't imagine how THAT happened," Charmian groused.

"My mother is a very kindhearted woman," Thomas said. "Perhaps too much so. One day as she was walking the woods she came across a GeeBee. He'd been wounded and left there. He likely would have died, and been eaten by his companions, if she hadn't taken him in."

"She took him in?" Charmian echoed in disbelief. "Your mom cared for a GeeBee?"

Thomas's mouth twitched. "I already told you she's kindhearted. I'm not saying it was the wisest thing for her to do, but she did it. He must have been grateful for this, for he didn't try to kill her. She tended to him until he was better. And...a while later, I was born."

"So you mean your mother, and a GeeBee..." Charmian's face screwed up. "Ew..." She shook her head and tried to shove the repellent images out of it. "And he didn't try to eat her? Not even once?" she challenged. "I still find that hard to believe. That's what GeeBees do, after all! Even YOU were doing it!"

"She had to keep him fed," Thomas retorted. "Yes, she fed him her own blood--no, he didn't try to kill her. I already told you. Why you won't believe me, I have no clue."

"And so where is he now--?"

Thomas shrugged. "I don't know." When Charmian's look grew puzzled he continued, "He left long before I was born. I never saw him. You're right, in that he was just a GeeBee, and you know how they are. I imagine he went back to Devil's Kitchen. But at least as long as he was in our house he never did anything to anyone."

"You never met him...?" Charmian echoed. Thomas shook his head and she slowly lowered the stick. They stood in silence for a moment until she shook her head again, snapping herself out of it and raising the stick once more.

"That still doesn't excuse YOU. You're still half GeeBee! That means you're half cannibal! One minute you're drinking my blood from a bowl--how do I know the next minute you won't be sucking it out of my neck?"

"I would never do that!" Thomas exclaimed. "I would never hurt anybody like that!"

"If you're part GeeBee, then you have to eat people!"

"I only have to drink their blood!" Thomas fought to control his anger. "I don't eat people. I'm only half GeeBee, remember? I eat just as you and everyone else does--I only need human blood every so often, to keep from becoming weak. I've never eaten anybody and I most certainly have never sucked somebody's blood!"

"Hel-LO!" Charmian yelled, waving her arms. "There's no bloodbank on this Island, remember? And I can hardly imagine people just lining up to stick their arms out for you. How ELSE do you go about getting all that blood?"

Thomas gave a frustrated sigh. "If I told you, you'd likely hate me."

"I'm not exactly liking you a whole lot right NOW, am I?" Charmian fumed.

Thomas stared at her for a moment, then dropped his arms. They stood in silence for a time, but Charmian didn't back down. Thomas finally sighed and looked toward the woods.

"When I was young, my mother was the one who made sure I was fed. However, she couldn't keep that up if she wished to maintain her own health."

"Obviously," Charmian muttered.

Thomas gave her a cross look before continuing. "Some years back, the Shadow Wolves started appearing," he said. "At first nobody quite knew what they were or where they came from. They appeared and disappeared so quickly, some people thought they were spirits. One time they found a horse torn to shreds near the edge of the big field and assumed the Wolves had done it. One of the children from the tribes went missing that night. Some of the more suspicious people took it as a sign, and decided to leave offerings for the Wolves in the woods. They cut themselves and filled a bowl with blood, and left it out where the Wolves had been seen before." He rubbed at the back of his neck again. "When they came back in the morning it was empty, and so ever since then they occasionally leave another one, especially when the Wolves have been active."

Charmian stared at him in disbelief for a good long while before she could even find her voice. "You...you take their offerings?" she whispered. "You let them think the Shadow Wolves are taking their offerings, when you're the one taking them...?"

Thomas frowned. "It's something they already gave up," he said. "I never told them to leave it--they did it on their own."

"But you're still just feeding off their fear...literally!" Anger surged up in Charmian's chest. "You're taking advantage of this situation. They're afraid of the Wolves attacking them and you're stealing their offerings?"

"The Wolves don't go for the offerings!" Thomas retorted. "I even watched them once. Nobody is losing out."

"That doesn't MATTER!" Charmian waved her arms again and ground her teeth. "So long as you're just letting them think something ELSE is taking those offerings, you're part of the problem!"

"So what would you have me do--? Turn into a vampire?" Thomas shot back. "At least this way nobody gets hurt. If there were a better way, then I'd do it. There isn't, and so THIS is what I have to do. You have any better suggestions--?"

Charmian held her hands up and shook her head. "I can't--I can't deal with this right now." She turned away and faced the woods, squinching her eyes shut. "This is just too much."

"Where are you going?" Thomas called when she started hobbling away. "You shouldn't be walking on that foot--!"

"I need to think," Charmian said.

"Think about what--? I already told you! This is the only way I know of where nobody gets hurt. Why is it bothering you so badly--?"

"You DRINK BLOOD!!" Charmian screamed, whirling around and flailing her arms once more. "You were drinking MY BLOOD! I tend to get pissed off when people CONSUME MY BODILY FLUIDS WITHOUT MY PERMISSION!!"

Thomas threw his hands up in the air. "Would it have helped if I said PLEASE first?!" he yelled.

"I can't DEAL with this right now!" Charmian turned away again and continued hobbling through the trees. Her breath was coming fast in her throat; she heard nothing for a moment, then Thomas called after her again.

"Charmian," he called, his voice normal again. "I'm sorry! I didn't think it would upset you so much. Would you just stop and come back?"

"I have to go think," Charmian echoed herself, unable to completely disguise the crack in her voice. "I just need to be left alone right now."

She heard him sigh once more, but he didn't speak any further. She limped along as best she could, grimacing at each stab of pain through her ankle and rubbing at her sore arm. After she had hobbled some distance she started muttering to herself, grating her teeth and keeping her eyes focused on the ground ahead.

"Should've just known. It always goes like that. If he's not five years older than me and half demon, then he's just my age but half CANNIBAL! How do I do it! How do I keep FALLING for these guys...? Am I CURSED or something...?"

Her eyes started burning and she hissed and swept a hand across them, convincing herself the dampness was just a result of the pain in her foot. She stumbled behind a tree and sat down in the tangle of its roots, stretching her leg out before her and scrubbing her eyes with the heels of her hands. She couldn't believe how angry she felt.

No, angry isn't the right word...what am I feeling right now?...betrayed...? Why would I feel betrayed...? Is that what I feel he did to me...?

She bit her lip to avoid letting out a furious yell and rubbed at her eyes again. "Half GEEBEE," she groused aloud. "It would just have to be something like THAT! I didn't think you'd be upset if I drank your blood...? Who does he think he is? Like being a GeeBee just gives him that right?"

Part GeeBee. Remember he's only part GeeBee.

Like that matters. He still lied to me! He could have told me a long time ago and he didn't. What sort of person does something like that!

Giving a loud sniffle, she wrapped her arms around her knee and rested her chin upon it, scowling into the woods. She tried breathing deeply, to stop her heart from pounding so hard, but for some reason it hurt. It took her a few moments to realize that the pain in her chest was just her anger itself.

It feels like it's wrapped around my heart. Squeezing it.

She took a deep breath and let it out, shutting her eyes briefly. When she opened them she stared out into the darkened woods, at the patterns formed by trees and sky.

This is the last time I ever get friendly with a guy. Every single one of them's hiding something. No decent person hides things like THAT.

Something flickered. Charmian lifted her head. She squinted, then after a moment or two recognized the vague form of a halfling spirit drifting through the woods. It was odd to see one this far from Arch Rock, but not unprecedented. As she watched it alighted in a tree and sat there for a few moments, its odd furry GeeBee ears slowly turning this way and that, then it drifted down from the tree and floated out of sight. The woods grew dark again, and Charmian was left staring at nothing.

She sat still for a long while before lowering her head to look toward the ground again. A dark opening yawned several yards off to her right. A cave. One of many that littered the Island in all locations.

X'aaru and Khiieta might be looking for one just like that right now.

She felt a throb in her arm, and winced and rubbed it with her free hand. The fresh bandages were soaked now as well, and she didn't have anything to replace them with.

Justin could take care of that, if he were here...or Silver Eagle Feather...

Charmian pulled her fingers back and looked at the red glistening on their tips. She bit her lip again, feeling the sting return to her eyes.

X'aaru and Khiieta. Justin. Silver Eagle Feather.

She slowly lowered her hand to her lap and stared at the ground in silence for a long while as the crickets started to sing.

Thomas sat in the shelter of the upturned tree, poking at a small fire he'd started a little while before. He didn't pay any attention to the bowls he'd set out, not feeling hungry anymore. He leaned on one hand and sighed before giving up his halfhearted poking, tossing the stick into the fire and letting the flames consume it. The crickets had grown loud by now, and the woods just as dark as they were going to get, yet he was still alone out here.

He lifted his head when a rustling noise came from behind the tree, then gasped when a bowl appeared before him. "Here."

Thomas glanced at the contents of the bowl, then looked up and gasped again. He was on his feet immediately. Charmian stood holding out the container with a meek look on her face, her skin pale and the soiled bandages wrapped haphazardly around her arm. She swayed a little bit unsteadily and looked ready to be sick.

"Charmian--!" Thomas blurted out. He took the bowl before she could spill it, but then took hold of her arm as well, pulling at the bandages. "What did you do?" He pulled them loose and gaped at her wound. It looked even worse than before.

"You said you needed blood," Charmian said. "I figured, I have a few pints, what's one less here or there...right...?"

Thomas stared at her in disbelief, mouth hanging open. "You took your own blood?" he cried.

Charmian nodded. "It wasn't that hard...the mask guy did all the work for me..." She swayed a little and her face blanched. "And I think I have to lie down now."

Her eyes rolled back in her head and she started to slump to the ground. Thomas gasped and managed to catch her under the arms before she could collapse, her head lolling back and all her limbs going limp.

Black and blue. These were the first things Charmian saw when her eyes slowly came open, an odd tangle of black and blue which eventually resolved itself into a pattern of tree branches against sky. She stared upwards for a moment before starting to remember where she was, then lifted her head.

"Here." A bowl appeared before her and she had to look in it to make sure its contents were safe. She took it from Thomas when she smelled soup. "Eat this," he said, sitting down beside her as she pulled herself up and leaned back against the overturned tree. Cloud stood off to the side, swishing his tail and eating grass as always.

Charmian put the bowl to her mouth and sipped. "Usually I get orange juice and a cookie."

Thomas's mouth twitched. "Well...I don't happen to have either of those on me. So this will have to do." He furrowed his brow. "Charmian, that was very foolish. You could have hurt yourself."

"I wanted to help," Charmian protested. "You said you needed blood."

"Not that much!" He glanced at the other bowl sitting off to the side. "Although I have to admit, that's probably the most generous gift anyone's ever given me. As morbid as it is." He turned back and took the second bowl from Charmian when she finished drinking the soup. "Besides, I thought that you needed some time to think. What made you change your mind?"

"Nothing much," Charmian murmured as he got up and went to put the bowl and a few other supplies away. She lifted her arm and saw it had been rewrapped. "I wanted to say I'm sorry."

Thomas glanced at her over his shoulder with a puzzled look. "What for? I was the one who never told you about me."

"For acting like that." Charmian huddled in on herself, feeling miserable. "I shouldn't've said any of those things."

Thomas came back and draped the remains of his jacket over her shoulders, sitting down again. "It's understandable," he said.

"No it isn't!" Charmian sighed and rubbed at her eyes. She stared at the fire for a while before speaking again.

"When I first came here I noticed that a lot of people tend to just judge something based on how it looks. It's the same way where I come from. The thing is it's not always right. Take a look at X'aaru, for example. He's one of the freakiest things I've ever seen, but he's also one of the sweetest people I've ever met. I know he'd never hurt anyone. But a lot of people are afraid of him just because he looks like that. Then take a look at Silver Eagle Feather. She looks completely normal, but then notice all those powers she has...you can't tell what somebody's like just by looking at them. I told myself that I'd never be that way, that I'd never hate somebody just because of the way they look, or because of what they are. There's enough of that here and where I come from, there doesn't need to be any more."

"It's not as if you could exactly tell just by looking at me," Thomas pointed out.

"Yeah, I know; but I can't even use the argument that if it's a GeeBee, it's bad, because I know they're NOT all bad. I know at least one who's pretty decent. Who's to say you're not, too? I just took all the bad things I know about the GeeBees and used them on you, when you're not the one who ever did anything wrong."

Thomas raised an eyebrow. "What about taking those offerings?" he reminded her.

"Well, you said you had to get it from somewhere, didn't you? And based on what you said, that really sounds like the only way, which doesn't really hurt anybody..."

"I also took yours, remember. And didn't think to tell you about myself."

"Yeah, but take a look why. If that's how I reacted, I can only imagine how anybody else would have reacted. No wonder you didn't want to tell anybody." She sighed again. "All this time I thought I was so much more accepting than most of the people here, and take a look what I do. I wasn't any better than those people who are afraid of X'aaru." She lifted her head to look at him. "I'm sorry I acted like that. I shouldn't have thought you were bad just because you're part GeeBee."

Thomas looked at her a moment, then smiled; she felt a bit of relief knowing that he'd forgiven her. "I think me drinking your blood had a little bit more to do with it," he said as he got up.

"It's not like you tried to bite my arm off, like Augwak would've," Charmian said, accepting his hand when he held it out and pulled her to her feet. She winced and shifted to stand on her other foot. "But what if I end up defeating these Shadow Wolf things sometime," she said as they went toward Cloud, "and people stop leaving offerings; then what will you do?"

"I imagine I'd have to look around for a new way to get what I need," Thomas replied, helping her atop the horse's back.

"I suppose I wouldn't want to dwell on it too much, either." Charmian shivered and rubbed her arm. "Do you know the way to the Dupries place from here? Justin would know how to take care of this, and my ankle."

"I believe I do." Thomas took Cloud's reins and turned the horse around, seeking out the trail they'd left behind. "All in all it wasn't that bad a tour," he said over his shoulder with a grin, "though you do need to work on that ending."

Charmian grimaced. "Don't remind me. I think my career as a tour guide is officially over."

"Why so pessimistic about it?" They found the trail again and started back toward the other side of the Island. "Like I said, it wasn't so bad. Except Whoever-He-Is seems to have something against you."

"That's what I can't really figure out." Charmian frowned. "He acts like he knows me. But I don't have a clue who he is. I wish he'd dry up already and leave me alone--!"

Thomas halted so abruptly that Cloud stomped and snorted. He looked back down the trail, the way they'd come, and now that Charmian noticed his ears she saw them twitch.

"Oh God, don't even tell me," she moaned, leaning over to hug Cloud's neck. "PLEASE don't even tell me he's back there!"

"Not him." Thomas pulled on the reins and they started forward again, though he continued looking over his shoulder. "I think it's your other friends this time."

"You mean--?" Charmian craned her neck to look, but saw nothing. Her mental net brought no results, either. "I don't sense anything. How can you tell--?"

"I think like you I've just gotten a little used to them by now." He stopped and led Cloud past him so he stood behind her, facing down the trail. She sat up in alarm.

"Thomas, they can come right at you! You're an Islander--they'll attack you!"

"Don't worry. I think I can hold a few of them off." He looked back up at her. "If it gets serious, though, I want you to take Cloud here. You're already injured; I don't think you can take another blow just yet."

"But Thomas--"

Scuffling, padding sounds came from the far end of the trail, beating fast and coming closer. Charmian's fingers clutched at Cloud's mane and she felt the horse paw the ground nervously. Several dark shapes emerged, like puffs of ash drifting quickly along the path, coming straight toward them. Even while they were still a distance away Charmian could see their yellow glowing eyes and grinning teeth. Their breath rasped in their throats and their claws tore up the earth as they ran, hackles raised.

"Thomas--" Charmian called again, just as he raised his hand and held it palm outwards. The only thing she had time to think was that whatever he planned on doing, it wouldn't be nearly enough to keep a Shadow Wolf at bay, much less a pack of them--even she hadn't been able to fight them off very well with BOTH hands, much less one--

She blinked when a blaze of white shot from Thomas's hand, and the air seemed to solidify. It took her a second to realize what had happened when the lead Wolf yelped and skidded to a halt, forepaws raking at its face. Spikes of ice protruded from its muzzle; it tumbled off the trail, barking in pain, and the second two ended up pressed flat to the ground as an icy blast of wind rolled over them. The fourth Wolf halted, running back and forth as if uncertain what to do, before braving the ice wind and dashing forward, ears flat and tongue streaming.

Thomas merely blasted it again, sweeping the three Wolves clean off the path; the wind rose so strong it picked them up and slammed them into the trees, where they then fell to the ground in a furry heap.

Charmian's eyes widened. Amazing! Then a flurry from the corner of her eye caught her attention, and she turned her head to see the first Wolf come clambering back up the little slope, ice needles still sticking from its face like a porcupine's quills, its eyes flashing mad. "THOMAS!"

Thomas whirled around just a second too late. The Wolf leapt the rest of the distance, jaws open and claws spread, and hit him in the chest, knocking him to the ground. He managed to hold its teeth at bay, but the other three Wolves had regained their footing and were shaking their heads and looking their way, snarling and turning around. Cloud tossed his head and whinnied. All Charmian could do was stare in fear, knowing that even if she tried an elemental attack, there was no guarantee it would work--and she didn't even know if she had that energy right now--

Thomas twisted his head around, his hands clamped on the Wolf's snarling jaws. "Charmian! Go on!" The three other Wolves jumped up onto the trail, slavering and trotting forward. "NOW!"

Charmian grasped the horse's mane. Although she didn't command him, he backed away a step and started to turn from the scene just as one of the remaining three Wolves darted at them, jumping into the air.

WHUMP. The Wolf never got to make contact before something hurled it through the air again, this time so far that she didn't get to see where it landed. The other two halted once more--then WHUMP, WHUMP--they went flying in opposite directions. The one standing over Thomas jerked its head up. Charmian blinked; something had knocked the Wolves away, but it had been so fast that she couldn't tell what it was. It was only when the last Wolf faced it that her eyes at last gained focus on an immense dark shape that loomed up from the woods, standing taller even than Cloud, palm-flat antlers branching out even wider than Charmian was tall. She caught a glimpse of glittering blue eyes and recognized the shape of a manitou as it came out of the woods, snorting steam from its nostrils and pawing at the ground. It and the remaining Wolf made eye contact and it let out a horrendous bellow which made the Wolf's fur prickle.

Thomas took his chance to scuttle out from beneath the creature, his own eyes just about popping. Charmian couldn't blame him. This manitou was HUGE! Even Cloud snorted and shied away from it as it squared off against the Wolf, the two of them snarling at each other.

I think maybe we better give this guy the right of way!

Thomas stumbled toward Cloud and grabbed his reins, then turned to see what would happen. The Wolf stood its ground, but the way its fur stood up they could tell it wasn't happy with the situation. It barked at its companions in the woods; Charmian saw them finally rise painfully to their feet, and was about to yell out a warning, when she noticed the way they cowered. Rather than run forward to assist their packmate they backed away with their tails between their legs. The lead Wolf snarled as if to say, "BE THAT WAY!" then turned back to the manitou. It was a huge brown-furred one, and from the looks of it it could smush the Wolf into a pulp if it wanted to.

It didn't. Instead it lowered its antlers, sweeping them from side to side. The Wolf fidgeted but still didn't back down. When the beast raised its head again the Wolf finally took its chance, lunging upward at its throat.

"No--!" Charmian blurted out.

The manitou's eyes flicked to the side, seeing her--then it tossed its head just as the Wolf grabbed onto its throat. The Wolf swung through the air like a terrier clamped onto a rope, then swung back the other way--and Charmian's fear for the manitou's safety died. The Wolf was barely holding on by its fur, its yellow eyes bulging in fright; the manitou tossed its head once more and the Wolf was sent soaring. Charmian heard it go crashing down through the trees, yelp after yelp after yelp until THUD--she assumed it must have hit the ground, and not too softly, at that. She craned her neck to see where it had gone, but couldn't.

A blasting snort caught her attention and she turned back to see the manitou plodding right toward her. It lifted its head and let out a blaring noise. Cloud reacted by whinnying and rearing up in a panic, Charmian yelping as she slid from his back and tumbled head over heels to the ground. The horse's hoof just missed striking her head as he shied toward the woods. Charmian grasped at the leaves and roots to roll herself over and try to get up, when a shadow fell over her and Thomas cried out, "Charmian--!"

Her head jerked up and her eyes grew. The giant manitou towered directly over her, blue eyes blazing; it stomped one great hoof, making the ground shake. It let out the strange blaring noise again and she inched backwards, wanting to scrabble away but feeling frozen.

CRAP!! Why can't I ever move when I MOST NEED TO!!

The manitou lowered its head now, and Charmian cringed at the sight of those huge antlers coming her way. Her eyes met the strange blue ones--and then the manitou whistled.

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