Return To Manitou Island: Part 70
CHARMIAN'S HEAD DRAGGED down into the water, the bubble sealing above her. She let out half a breath before remembering where she was, and clamped her mouth shut. Her eyes popped open and she saw only blue, as far as the eye could see--then a face appeared before her, large luminous eyes peering into her own. Charmian stared at the Nebanaubae as it stared back, looking for all the world to be merely curious about its new find. It suddenly reached out and grasped her wrist and she felt an odd tingling race up her arm, before jerking away.
She nearly opened her mouth to yell at it, but had to settle for thinking instead, uncertain whether it could hear her or not. I don't WANT to be a fish! So go find somebody who DOES!
It tilted its head and she blinked--Did it hear me?--before a loud flooming noise came from the water just beside her, and a mass of bubbles obscured her view. She managed to see the dark shape of the Nebanaubae turning and swimming away from her, its long fish tail undulating, before she noticed a dark shape just beside her. This time she couldn't help it; she screamed, and bubbles flew out of her mouth, the noise registering as little more than a murmur. The dark shape grabbed hold of her arm and started pulling her upwards. She briefly tried to pull herself free before seeing the color red, and then her head popped through the bottom of Peepaukawiss's bubble, and an instant later Peepaukawiss and Wabasso were hauling her inside. Charmian landed in a wet heap on the floor of the bubble, gasping and sputtering. The others all looked down at her with wide eyes.
"CHARMIAN!" Puka shrieked, throwing his arms up in the air. "ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?!"
Wabasso bent down to look her over. "Did they hurt you at all--?"
"Stupid fish-vermin," Mudjikawiss muttered. "If I had my spear with me..."
Charmian sucked in several deep breaths, trying to keep herself from shaking; she grimaced and wrung water from her shirt. "I...I th-think I'm okay," she panted. "It just l-looked at me...but then there was this other thing--!"
She lifted her head, glancing around in confusion. She nearly jumped when Marten hopped beside her, wringing his little hands. His eyes were large and anxious.
"Charmian!" he exclaimed. "They didn't turn you into a fish, did they?"
Charmian made a face. "No, they didn't turn me into a fish! Do I look like a fish? It just looked at me and then this big thing scared it off, and it's probably still swimming around out there--" She pushed herself up somewhat, looking at Puka and Wabasso. "Did you see where it went? If it scared off a Nebanaubae, I hate to think what it might do to us--!"
The two brothers frowned slightly, peered at each other, then looked back at her. "It didn't swim off," Wabasso said, as if this should be obvious.
Charmian jumped to her feet. "EW! You mean it got in--?!"
In response they both pointed at the floor. Charmian turned to look and blinked when she saw nothing but Marten still standing there, staring up at her.
Charmian's brow furrowed. "You mean that...that thing was you? What the heck was that--?"
Marten stood up at his full minus-one-and-a-half-feet. "It was a FISHER! The world's BIGGEST fisher! If a fisher can't scare off Nebanaubae, what can? It wasn't too hard," he added, hooking one tiny thumb under one of his necklaces. "Seeing as fishers and martens are practically cousins!"
Charmian gawked at him for a moment, then looked up at the others for verification. They both nodded, faces serious. She looked down at Marten again.
"You mean you just jumped in there and saved my life...?"
The Mikumwesu puffed up again. "It wasn't anything! Glooskap does stuff like that every day! Ten times a day, even!"
He yelped and flailed his arms when Charmian snatched him up off the floor and crushed him to her as hard as she could. The other three's eyes grew. Marten squealed and wriggled as Charmian hugged him.
"I take back EVERY mean thing I said about you!" she exclaimed, mooshing him back and forth.
Marten let out a tiny puff of breath when she at last held him out at arm's length. "Even about my feet?" he managed to say with a mildly suspicious look; at this she grinned and hugged him again.
"Your feet DON'T feel like rat's feet!"
"What about me looking like a squirrel--?"
"You don't look ANYTHING like a squirrel. I take back ALL of it!"
"And my shortcuts...?"
Charmian at last paused, thinking. "Well..." she said, then, unable to think of anything else, hugged him once more. "You don't look ANYTHING like a squirrel!"
"Um...we're moving again," Puka called out, waving his hand and gesturing toward his side of the bubble. "The sea cave is right ahead!"
"Do not go inside it," Wabasso warned. "Try to go around...I think I sensed a doorway on the other side. Do you feel it?"
Puka tilted his head and frowned, then his eyes lit up a little. "I think I do! Hey! How come nobody ever taught me about this before? This could be great fun if I could send some sort of joke through a doorway..."
Mudjikawiss's lip curled back. "How is it that EVERYONE seems to sense these things but ME--?"
The bubble slowly drifted around the edge of the rock, the others casting nervous glances at the dark shapes floating around them in the water at various distances. Charmian hoped she hadn't offended the Nebanaubae, though in truth she didn't know if it would matter or not. What would it do, turn her into a bigger fish--?
"Ooooh!" Puka exclaimed, and pointed. "THERE it is!"
They all craned their necks to look. Charmian frowned when she didn't see anything at first, then reminded herself that she wouldn't be able to until one of the others made it manifest itself. Mudjikawiss looked to be equally confused, but Wabasso and Marten looked excited.
"What stone is it?" Wabasso asked.
"I'm not sure if I can work it from in here," Marten admitted. "Give me a minute and let me see!"
He held up his hands and waved them. Nothing happened. He turned to Puka. "Get us a little closer! I can't reach it!"
Puka rolled his eyes. "You could at LEAST say please!" Nevertheless he waved his own hand, and the bubble moved a little further forward. Marten repeated his gesture and a glowing cabochon at last appeared in the middle of the water. Charmian's face fell.
"Red!" She rubbed her eyes. "I don't want to even guess where RED leads to!"
The others looked equally disappointed until Marten perked up. "Oh! Wait a minute!" He waved his hands a third time and another glowing stone appeared just behind the red one. They peered at it in puzzlement for a moment before steering the bubble forward.
"It was just hiding behind the other one!" Marten remarked. "Tricky, huh?"
"Green!" Charmian's face lit up again. "That's it!" She turned to Puka. "Can you try to steer this thing through it--? I don't like the thought of disembarking, just now..."
"On it!" Puka replied, and gestured for the bubble to move forward. They had to very carefully avoid the red cabochon, and it vanished as soon as they passed. The green cabochon flashed and then receded into a little doorway in the water, which grew wider to allow the passage of the bubble. The others kept facing forward as they slipped through, yet Charmian turned to look over her shoulder into the strange blue world. Several Nebanaubae drifted toward the doorway and watched as they left, tilting their heads and waving their fins slowly to keep afloat. Charmian's brow furrowed as the doorway began to close behind them.
Why did they come after me? Out of all the people in the bubble--three half-manitous, and a Mikumwesu...why did they come after just me...?
Her question remained unanswered. The doorway closed, the bubble popped, and they all landed with a heavy thud.
Charmian sputtered out dirt from between her teeth. "Get your mangy behind OFF me!" Mudjikawiss roared, and a second later Puka landed again, arms and legs all askew. Charmian pushed herself up and looked around. Grass surrounded them.
She sighed. "Well, we're back where we started...now we find the green doorway."
"We just came OUT of it!" Puka managed to retort.
"I know, but according to what Geezhigo said..."
"Well, hey! It's still right there!" Marten hopped to his feet and pointed behind her, Mudjikawiss and Wabasso still standing and dusting themselves off. True to what he'd said, the door with the green cabochon floated just behind her.
Charmian frowned. "Well...I guess it's as good as anything!"
Mudjikawiss bared his teeth. "I will HARDLY go visit with those FISH people again! Fish are good only for EATING!"
Charmian glared at him. "It's the same doorway we took to get here! So reason follows that we go back through it!" She paused to look at it critically. "Though reason also stands to follow that it would take us back to the Nebanaubae, too..." She shook her head abruptly and waved her hand. "I say we're on the right track. All in favor, just go through."
Marten hopped through first. Charmian glanced at the others; Wabasso grasped Puka's arm and dragged him through with him, Puka protesting the entire way. Mudjikawiss gave Charmian a venomous glare before stomping toward the doorway.
"If you are wrong," he growled, "I do not care HOW much of a woman you are! Arrows pierce women as easily as men!"
"Yeah, and bears crap in the woods," Charmian said. He managed to give her a look of disbelief before the doorway enveloped him. She sighed heavily, glanced up at the sky--"I really hope this is the last time I ever have to see this place"--and climbed through.
The doorway flashed around her. She yelped and tripped and fell against Puka, who also yelped and fell to the floor. Charmian pushed herself off of him and glanced up. Geezhigo-Quae stared down at her with a puzzled frown. Around them stood the other doorways.
Charmian jumped and threw up her hands. "WOOHOO! We made it! I am SO glad to see this Tree again!"
"Charmian..." Geezhigo-Quae pointed behind her when Charmian looked up again. "Why did you return through that door?"
"Huh?" Charmian looked over her shoulder. The door that stood just behind her had closed again, and set into it was a red cabochon.
She blinked. Then she rubbed her eyes and groaned, and stalked toward the opposite doorway. "I think your Tree is broken," she muttered as she went.
Geezhigo-Quae followed, stepping aside and watching as the others made their way out of the room, all of them but Marten looking around themselves with wonder. "So these are the elder brothers of Manabozho...?" she prompted; they all looked at her as if not having noticed her before, and she nearly jumped when Puka clapped his hands and shrieked.
"OH WHAT A WONDERFUL DRESS YOU HAVE!! I ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE THE PATTERN!!"
Geezhigo-Quae's ears flicked and she stared at him as if he were mad. Charmian stepped between them and nudged him back. "Um--he hasn't eaten in a few days," she hurriedly said. "So he might be a little wonky upstairs."
The manitou woman frowned slightly. "Indeed."
Charmian stepped aside and gestured at the others. "You've already met Peepaukawiss...this is Wabasso, and Mudjikawiss, and this here is Marten."
"Marten?" Geezhigo-Quae stooped forward to look down at the little Mikumwesu and her frown grew. "How is it that you found him through there--?"
"Well...that's kind of a long story." Charmian flushed, not wanting to go into it. "Anyway, I brought them all here," she said, her voice picking up, "so we can help Manabozho defeat Chakenapok! We can probably have the path cleared for Glooskap in no time!"
A rustling noise came from the other side of the hall, making Geezhigo-Quae lift her head. A voice said, "That might be easier said than done."
Charmian cringed a little. She turned back to see Niskigwun standing before the doorway to the outside, and the look on his face wasn't a good one.
Charmian's face screwed up. "What happened?" she cried in disbelief. "How did this even happen?"
She sat inside the small lodge that had been erected partway down the East Bluff, in the woods not far from Stick-In-The-Dirt's tribe. A little fire burned so smoke poured out of an opening in the roof; there was room inside only for her, Manabozho, and Silver Eagle Feather, and for Marten, who crawled in to perch on Charmian's shoulder. Manabozho lay stretched out on a pallet beside the fire, limp and unconscious. Niskigwun peered in the doorway, keeping the flap lifted. Charmian crouched on one side of Manabozho and Silver Eagle Feather on the other, and every so often the older woman checked his eyes.
"I've been caring for him, but he will not wake up."
"Why not? Did something happen to him--?"
"He insisted on facing Chakenapok on his own just after you left," Niskigwun said. "He felt he was fully able to handle this on his own."
Charmian groaned. "Oh, no! I told him not to do that!" She leaned forward to look at him better, chewing on her lip. "Why can't he wake up? Did Chakenapok do something to him?"
The Michinimakinong's mouth twitched. "He stole my sleeping medicine, and consumed all of it in one swallow."
Charmian's eyes goggled. "He ate ALL of it--?" She glanced down at Manabozho, then slapped his arm. "How could you do something so STUPID! All I had was ONE and it was bad enough!"
"He seemed to be having some sort of nightmare," Niskigwun added. "Though it ended just as I was trying to wake him up."
"A nightmare...?" Charmian frowned. "And it ended?"
Niskigwun nodded. "Quite abruptly, too."
"That's what happened when I tried that medicine," Charmian murmured. "Chakenapok came after me...and I couldn't wake up. Then Tal Natha woke me up. I wonder if he had something to do with this. But that would mean he's not controlling what's going on." Her brow furrowed. "Dakh's the one who controls nightmares...but he doesn't bring them. And I keep having this weird dream, too...only I keep forgetting it, as soon as I get back here." She lifted her head to meet Silver Eagle Feather's eyes. "I don't get it. Whatever my dream was, I don't get the feeling Chakenapok sent it. It didn't feel the same as the one he was in, at least. I wish I could remember it! But it's just like..."
"Something has gone missing?" Silver Eagle Feather filled in. Charmian's eyes widened and she gaped at her.
"Yeah," she said after a moment. "That's exactly the feeling. Like--somebody stole it from me." She shivered and drew in on herself, chewing her thumb. "You don't think it's her again, do you...?"
"Every moon I set out to check the bonds that have been set over Crack-in-the-Island," Silver Eagle Feather said, "and they still hold strong. Ocryana cannot be the one responsible for this."
"Well, I guess that much is good to know." Charmian paused, then peered up at the woman again. "How did you know that? That it felt like my dream's been stolen...?"
Silver Eagle Feather poked a stick at the fire and it crackled. "You are not the first to have spoken of this," she replied, and Charmian felt a chill settle over her.
"You mean...someone else had it happen, too...?" she murmured, fearing the answer even before it came. Silver Eagle Feather nodded and pulled the stick away from the fire, shaking it off and setting it aside. "Who was it?"
"The first I heard of this was from Yellow Turtle," the medicine woman said.
Charmian started. "Yellow Turtle--? His dreams were stolen?"
"He told me of this before his health began to grow poor. He did not want me to speak of it to anyone else, as he was worried about what it could mean. Just like you he had no idea what it could be. He too thought it might be Ocryana, yet she still sleeps in the Crack."
"What did he say happened to him?"
"That he had had a dream, he remembered having one, yet whenever he tried to recall it it would slip away, 'as if carried off.' This is how he put it. I've known him all of my life and he has always recalled his dreams well. Yet in the weeks before he grew ill, he could barely remember any at all." She paused. "I have to wonder to myself if this had anything to do with his health failing. He was old, yet the timing is strange..."
Charmian rubbed her arms, trying to dispel the chill. "So Yellow Turtle had the same problem I'm having...at least I'm in good company, not that it helps me much."
"Yellow Turtle himself was not the only other one to tell me of this," Silver Eagle Feather added, drawing her attention again. "So far, besides you, I've heard the same story from the trapper, Monsieur LaCroix, and from Stick-In-The-Dirt's wife, Morning Star."
Charmian's brow furrowed in confusion. "Them too? They all told you about this--?"
A nod. She poked at the fire again. "From Monsieur LaCroix, I heard it only in passing, as he was trading in town. It did not worry him quite so much, but then again, his people have never thought of dreams the same way that we have. It did affect him enough that he said it was strange, however. Morning Star came to me on her own and told me as she was worried about Stick-In-The-Dirt finding out. She felt there might be some bad spirit after her; she doesn't quite know the ways of the Island yet. Both of them said that there are dreams they know they had, yet they had somehow just disappeared, right before they could remember them. Monsieur LaCroix did not seek advice. All I could do was tell Morning Star to not worry too greatly as our manitous do not steal dreams. I believe she decided it was best not to worry. But it troubles me. Missing dreams are never a good thing."
Charmian rubbed her head. "So...Yellow Turtle, Francois, Morning Star, and me...why the four of us? What sort of connection is there? We're all completely different; Yellow Turtle is--was one of your people, and Morning Star is Iroquois, and Francois is French-Canadian, and I'm...just me. If we had something in common, maybe it would make sense...but I'm not seeing it."
Silver Eagle Feather shrugged. "Perhaps the answer lies in your differences?" she offered; when Charmian gave her an odd look, she lifted her shoulder. "I can offer no answer other than that. All I can do is keep my eyes open to see what else might happen." She glanced down at Manabozho. "The same with him. Do you know any way by which to awaken him?"
Charmian sighed miserably. "I have no clue. He took a WHOLE LOT of Michinimakinong medicine. I tried just a tiny bit and even that was enough to conk me out! I hate to think what a whole bag would do..." She bit her thumbnail. "What if he never wakes up...?"
"I do not believe the effects are permanent; from what I've heard of the Michinimakinong, they do not practice that sort of medicine."
"You don't think they might be able to help at all...?"
"Your friend brought him here..." they both glanced toward the doorway, and Niskigwun flushed and backed away "...so I assumed he knew nothing of how to solve the problem."
"Geezhigo-Quae didn't say anything about it either." Charmian scowled and nudged Manabozho in irritation. "Why don't you ever listen to anything I say? I told you you couldn't fight him on your own, then you go and overdose on me--!"
Manabozho's eyes fluttered and his head rolled to the side. Charmian and Marten jumped back, nearly falling over in the small space. Silver Eagle Feather frowned and leaned toward him, peering at him more closely.
Charmian pushed herself up. "Is he dreaming again--?"
"I do not know..." The medicine woman's brow furrowed. She looked up at Charmian and then down again. "This is only a guess...but try touching him again. Like you just did."
"He reacted only when you touched him. That's the most activity I've seen from him since he was brought here."
Charmian's own brow furrowed now--Why would I have any effect on him...?--but she obeyed anyway. She tapped his arm, but nothing happened. She sighed.
"Well, so much for that..."
"Try it again. Only hold onto his hand this time."
Charmian did so, her face going a little red. Manabozho's hand was limp, but after a moment or so of holding it, she felt a twitch. She gasped and dropped his hand and it fell to the ground with a thump.
"He moved! I felt it!" She tried to calm herself. "You're sure it's not just reflexes or something...?"
"These are the first signs of wakefulness that he's shown," Silver Eagle Feather said. She looked at Charmian and Charmian had to avert her eyes, the green stare too sharp for her to bear. "Charmian, did something happen to you among the Michinimakinong--?"
"No, not really...why? You really think I did that to him?"
"It's the only explanation. Unless this is a power you've had for a long time, but have never noticed."
Charmian rubbed her neck. "I kinda think I'd've noticed something like that!"
Marten jumped up and started hopping up and down. "Touch him again, Charmian! Hold his arm--or put your hand to his chest! Try it again!"
The teenager scowled down at him. "Why should I?" she snapped; then, in a more subdued voice, "It seems kind of inappropriate to me..."
Marten rolled his eyes and gave an exaggerated sigh. "Oh, just DO it already! If you can wake him up, then what've you got to lose?"
Charmian sighed once more, but knelt down and looked at Manabozho briefly before gingerly putting her hand to his chest. She held it there for a moment or two without anything happening, then she felt something she hadn't noticed before--a very light tingling in her fingertips--and Manabozho's eyes fluttered again. His head shifted to the side and he let out a small noise, then he turned his head the other way and took a breath. Charmian pulled her hand away and gave Marten the dirtiest look she could muster.
"If I have to kiss him, then I'm killing somebody in this lodge!"
Marten stuck out his tongue. "Oh you're a whiner! Just TRUST me!"
They all turned to look when Manabozho groaned and finally put a hand to his head, grimacing and managing to push himself up. He looked around himself groggily, still rubbing at his forehead, feathers drooping.
"My head is killing me," he moaned. Then he blinked at Silver Eagle Feather, then at Charmian, then at Marten, then at Charmian again. He squinted as if a light were shining in his eyes.
"What's going on?" he asked, simply.
Charmian's scowl began to return. "You fell asleep," she said through gritted teeth. "Remember?"
"I did...?" He looked vaguely skyward. "Oh...I did." He frowned. "I don't remember any of you being there, though. OW!"
He grabbed his arm after Charmian punched it; she quickly got to her feet, having to duck because of the low roof. "I expect you outside as soon as you WAKE UP properly!" she snapped, and yanked aside the doorflap so abruptly that Niskigwun and the others gathered outside ducked away and scattered. Marten bounded out after her.
"I knew it! I knew it was you!" he exclaimed, scampering after her as she took several steps away from the little lodge. "That Nebanaubae did something to you, didn't he--?"
"Wha--? Nebanaubae--?" Charmian echoed, frowning at him. "What about it?"
"Charmian Charmian Charmian!" Peepaukawiss cried, hopping in front of her and wringing his hands so hard that it was a wonder they didn't fall off. "Is he all right? Will he recover? OH! I don't know WHAT I'd do to myself if we came all this way only for him to--to--aaaiiieeeeEEEEEEEE!!" He clapped his hands to his face and started bawling.
Charmian rolled her eyes. "He's fine! Though he's incredibly lucky, the stupid idiot. This is the last time I leave him on his own! If they had any electric outlets out here he'd probably be sticking his finger in them!"
"So he is awake?" Wabasso asked, looking no less worried but at least more composed. "You found some way to counter the medicine...?"
"Well, I guess, though I'm not sure how..."
The doorflap moved aside and Charmian turned to see Manabozho crawling out, still grimacing and rubbing his head. From the corner of her eye she noticed the others' postures change as their attention was caught, though they didn't speak.
"So you came back and woke me up," he muttered as he climbed out and stood upright. "So I made ONE teeny misjudgement. It doesn't make me an idiot, you know! And what's so important that I can't lie there and ache a little longer--?"
Charmian stepped aside to give him his answer. Manabozho lifted his head and his stare fell on his three brothers standing gathered before him. Then his eyes widened.