Return To Manitou Island: Part 72
Deal With The Devil
CHAKENAPOK BLINKED. THE light flared up in front of him and he had to tilt his head back, it was so strong. It felt as if a million different images were coming at once, and the sensation almost overwhelmed him.
Slow them down! How do you expect me to take this all in at once--?
He felt a twinge of irritation, not coming from himself. The strange distant voice murmured far away in his head.
You are a tiny little Shell, aren't you...
Chakenapok scowled. "So I am not quite as up on things as you are. If you think you can find someone better, I challenge you to do so!"
Do not grow prissy with me. I gave you everything you needed, and you still cannot seem to work things just right. You can see the Fairy Realm--the mainland--the afterlife, and this life. You can see from your own people and from others' peoples. You can see what goes on upon the Island and within it and everywhere else. Yet you say you are still needy...?
Chakenapok ground his teeth. "Perhaps if you did not toss everything at me at once. I have been asleep for years! And somehow, there are still great gaps in my information!"
Ah, I remember. He started when he felt something start to burn into him, and reached into one of his pouches with a hiss, withdrawing a small rock and letting it fall to the ground before it could singe his fingers. He put his fingers to his mouth to cool them off, except that they had not been burned...at least, not by something hot. The little crystal lying on the ground hissed and emitted what looked like steam, though its presence made him want to shiver instead of sweat.
You intended to make use of this, did you not...?
Chakenapok stared at the little crystal, then stooped to pick it up. It stopped steaming and this time it didn't freeze his fingertips. "And so what if I did?" he asked.
You are angry because you cannot see from everyone's eyes, the voice said. I suppose I shall just have to give you a bit more assistance...though this is hardly fair for that poor mainlander, don't you think?
Chakenapok's temper flared. "Seeing as this was YOUR idea, I fail to see why you're suddenly so reluctant--!"
Never mind, little Shell. I'll make a few more selections for you...so you can see more clearly. Do not say I never did anything nice for you.
The light flared and grew bigger, then smaller. Chakenapok stared at it and caught a brief glimpse of the great lake rippling--then of the front end of a canoe--then of the Island itself, as if he were soaring over it, and deep into the cave upon the west shore where the GeeBees dwelled--then of the dark little lake just inland from the cave, and of the caves which rested far beneath that--then of a spot deep in the woods, surrounded by trees--the images flashed through his mind so quickly that it was hard to keep hold of any of them, though he tried, his eyes growing wider with each one.
Enjoy yourself, Shell, the voice said, and then faded away. Chakenapok was left with the barrage of new images flashing before him, each one presenting an ever more complete picture of the Island and everything that lay around it.
As he studied the images he began to scowl again.
Something is still missing. The most important part...why doesn't he ever bring me that? Why is she so hard for me to read? I should be seeing many more things, learning many more things, about her! Yet all I get is this one image...and it confuses her as much as it does me...what good can that do me?
Does he not have the power to bring me more of her...?
This thought made him take pause. Then he winced when the little crystal in his hand burned again, and he looked down at it. He quickly lifted his head and focused on the light and soon enough the vision clarified into one of Devil's Kitchen from above. He focused his thoughts, and found himself descending into the cave, deep within its hidden insides far below the Island, and his scowl began to smooth out into a crooked smile.
Well, at least HE is easy to read...
"I may make use of you a little sooner than I thought," he said to himself, looking down at the little crystal. "If I cannot see, then you will." And he abruptly waved the image away.
Several bones flew into the air before smacking against the wall and clattering to the cave floor far below. It was daytime, and so the cavern was mostly silent; a few snores broke into snorts and a head lifted here and there, large yellow eyes blinking groggily. Their owners glanced up at the one source of outside light, an opening far up in the wall, the merest trace of daylight peeking through it. A shadow appeared in this opening, batting more bones aside as it came.
"BONES!" Augwak snapped, his voice cracking off of the cave walls and making the GeeBees dozing below wince. "Dust and dirt and BONES! You could at least be useful and drag in something DECENT to eat for a change!" He spotted a deer skull and with a grimace of disgust smacked it so it flew across the opening and struck one of the GeeBees in the head, making him yelp and vanish in a puff of air.
The other GeeBees sat up, crouching like vultures as their chief descended into the cave, swatting bones aside and grumbling with every step. "Every day we return here with deer! And rabbits! And squirrels!" he fumed. "When we should be eating FLESHLINGS! I cannot tolerate this! We are meant to receive BETTER than this! Are we not the mighty GeeBees? Once the land was filled with the fear of us! We ruled the ice and the winter! We raged with the wind and fleshlings fled from us! And every night, we feasted! We drenched our hands and our teeth with their blood! We picked our teeth with their fingerbones! Their skulls were our cups and their brains were our appetizers! We NEVER ate vermin, and we NEVER went hungry!"
His ranting at last managed to rouse the rest of the GeeBees and they started nodding, bobbing their heads and murmuring in agreement. As soon as Augwak saw one of them he snarled and smacked him upside the head so hard that he too let out a cry and puffed into nothing. The few remaining GeeBees made faces and started backing away into the shadows. Augwak hurled his arms into the air and screamed.
"SO WHY DO YOU ALWAYS BRING ME PESTS TO EAT! I DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS! WE WERE MIGHTY ONCE! NOW WE ARE LAUGHINGSTOCKS! ALL BECAUSE OF THAT STUPID PIDDLING MAINLANDER!!"
With this he let out a horrid shriek and began spinning madly in circles, lashing out at everything within reach. The remaining GeeBees squawked and retreated from the cave. Augwak spun about so wildly that the air started to moan, the wind growing so strong that all the piled bones rattled and threatened to take flight.
"All would be well if SHE had never arrived!" he shrieked. "We were weak, but we were becoming strong again! We died with the old Island, but with this one we were born anew! A second chance! We had lost most of what we once were, but we would have gained it back--someday!" He raised his hands, fingers crooked at the cave ceiling as he spun. "And what becomes of us--? A LITTLE GIRL makes a mockery of us! A little girl gets lucky JUST once, and for this WE are laughed at and mocked for the rest of our days! This Island should have been OURS by now! Yet the fleshlings are not even afraid of us anymore! We have to bring this fear BACK!" He halted in his spinning and clenched his fists, gnashing his teeth. "I WILL MAKE HER FEAR ME--BEFORE I SUCK HER SPIRIT OUT!!"
Then Augwak's eyes rolled in opposite directions and he clamped his hands to his head. "Uhhh..." He tottered to the side and promptly fell over, the room still spinning around him.
He stayed still, blinking furiously and clenching his teeth, waiting for the spinning to subside before sitting up with a groan. "Stupid pathetic fleshling," he grumbled, rubbing at his head. "I fail to see how she gets her power...she is not even of the Island! Why does it favor her so...? Have we not done our part, by limiting the growth of the fleshlings? If not for us, they would have ruined this Island by now! And so why does it turn its back upon us...?"
A slight breezing, whistling noise made his head pop up, his ears flaring. "Hm--?" He leapt to his feet and craned his neck, peering around the cavern; when he saw nothing he first sniffed at the air, then scowled and clenched his fists again.
"All right! I know someone watches! And you are HARDLY a Wendigo! I can smell the reek of fire all over you!" He started to turn in slow circles now, looking upward. "Come on out and show yourself before I suck YOUR spirit out!"
The breeze grew, and its warmth fanned over him; Augwak chattered and rubbed at his arms as if cold, jumping away from it in revulsion. He saw that it appeared to be emanating from a crack in the far wall, and went over to investigate, frowning. He peered at the crack, tilting his head left and right, poking it with one finger, sniffing at it.
A sulfurous smell belched out and the GeeBee gagged, nearly falling over.
I could not help but overhear your complaint, a disembodied voice said, and his head shot up, eyes wide and ears flaring.
"Where are you--?" He looked around himself, then stuck his eye to the crack. "Where are you speaking from? How did you get in here--?"
These things hardly matter. The warm wind blew through the crack again and Augwak jumped back. His eyes grew when ripples of hot air emerged from the crevice, drifting into the room and starting to glow. He stared at this glowing mist with goggle eyes for a moment or two.
The mist shimmered. And so here is the mighty chief of all the GeeBees.
Augwak's scowl began to return. "And so here is the talking burning mist-thing!" he snapped, then shook his fist at it. "You had BETTER have a good reason for intruding in my cave--because we do not take kindly to YOUR sort! What hole in the ground did you drift out of? I am hardly in the mood for dealing with FIRELINGS like you!"
The mist shimmered as if silently laughing, making Augwak gnash his teeth. I am hardly a fireling. It flashed. Although I do have such powers, so if I were you, I would consider my words carefully before speaking.
A tendril shot out of it, lashing at Augwak's arm. The GeeBee yelped and rubbed at his burned arm, baring his teeth. He gave the mist an apprehensive look, then hissed and regained his composure. He started hopping around it like a giant bald green monkey, making faces.
"That is the LAST time you will try that, wretch! I've dealt with stronger beings than YOU! Fire may melt ice but ice can douse fire! You hardly frighten me! Take your misty glowing ridiculousness elsewhere!"
The mist rippled. So you are still here? Good. I had thought you might run off squalling. The fact that you are still here actually gives me hope. Augwak's face grew dark. The mist drifted toward him, making him take a step back, baring his teeth. It shifted and writhed.
"What is your business here?" Augwak snapped. "Make it quick, before I jam you back in that crack myself!"
I had thought to give you a little present, the mist said. Augwak's eyes grew. Though now, it seems you are not so interested in it.
"What? A present--?" The GeeBee stared at it just a moment, then began hopping up and down, flailing his arms. "Give it to me! Give it to me! I demand to see it!"
I do not think you would be interested...
"I said GIVE IT to me! You brought me this much irritation, so give me the damned thing already!"
Very well. A tendril grew forth from the mist, and Augwak cringed back, covering his head; when it didn't attack him, he peered out from under his arms with a grimace. The bit of mist unfolded from itself, and a little crystal shimmered and sparkled on its tip. Augwak's eyes grew big again and he leaned forward to look at it more closely. He tilted his head to the side, then frowned.
"This is it--? This is the cause of all the ado?" He scowled. "You interrupt my day bringing me a ROCK? I can get one of those anywhere!"
This is not a rock, the mist said. It is a spirit stone.
Augwak spat. "I can get one of THOSE anywhere I want, too! Take your little pebble and go away. The only reason I do not kill and eat you is because MIST is not remarkably filling!"
The mist shimmered. Now I see how you've survived all these years. You have a very thick skull, which no one can quite bash in. Augwak began to puff up, before realizing he'd just been insulted, then began gnashing his teeth and making threatening noises. It is not just any spirit stone, the voice continued. Rather it is one with which you yourself may very well be familiar. This is the spirit stone of a GeeBee.
"Piddle!" Augwak groused. "I hardly have need of such trash!"
I think you'll change your mind once I speak my piece, the mist said, and lowered the bit of crystal to the ground. This is not the spirit stone of any old GeeBee. This is the fragment of a spirit stone of those who came before--those great Wendigoes of the old Island--they whom you were praising, but a moment ago. Do you find this so piddling now?
Augwak's eyes slowly widened. He looked at the shard of crystal on the floor, then scratched his chin with one long finger.
"An Old Wendigo spirit stone, you say...?" he said.
The mist rippled. Gathered from the remains of one of your own kind, yet when you were so tall that you reached the stars, and your might was such that every Islander fled from the sight of you. It dimmed a little bit. So...you are not interested in this stone...?
"Hold on, hold on!" Augwak waved his hand with an irritated look. "I'm willing to listen," he said, keeping his voice neutral. He narrowed one eye. "And so what exactly is the good of this stone--? I'm guessing you would not hand it to me if it were worthless!"
You guess correctly. With the spirit stone of the Old Wendigoes comes their power. Everything that they were, you now possess in your hand.
Augwak squinted and frowned. "But what good is that? I can hardly do anything useful with a little fleck of rock!"
The mist rippled as if annoyed. Its good is in how you use it, it said.
Augwak rolled his eyes and let out a gusty sigh. "Well a lot of good THAT is! Are you suggesting I take it as my own? Because that cannot happen!" His face started to contort, and he clenched his fists, eyes glowing and ears flaring. A wind picked up in the cave. "I remember all too well what happened the LAST time some other fool's spirit stone was wedged into my body! I spent far too long as a FLESHLING and had to let that MAINLANDER lead me around like I was helpless! I had to eat--" he made a horrible gagging face "--HUMAN food!"
The mist quivered. That was different. As the Old Wendigoes are still a part of you and your kin, and as their bodies have long since crumbled to dust, then this is a spirit that is already part of you, and it has nowhere to return to. It is also but a fragment, and...
"UGH! Do NOT remind me!!" Augwak snarled, flailing his arms. "I ALSO recall what became of me because some OTHER held but a fragment of my spirit stone! I will never live the humiliation down--!"
If you would cease rattling your jaws for but a moment, then I will tell you how this works, the mist interrupted, and Augwak scowled but obeyed. As I was saying...this spirit is already a part of you. But not in such a powerful form. You and your kin were made up of wind and water and of the dust which was once the Old Wendigoes. As such, you are but a shadow of what they once were. This, on the other hand...is pure and intact, despite being but a fragment. It has not crumbled with time. Its power is still concentrated. And even though it is but a piece, its power is far more than you have ever imagined you could be capable of.
Augwak held the fragment between thumb and forefinger, interest piqued. "And so what does one do with it...?"
Simply treat it as if it is part of your own spirit--since it is. The mist shifted. It will accept your existing spirit, and you will accept it. And it will give you the same powers and medicine that the Old Wendigoes once possessed--you will grow to be just as they were, so long ago.
Augwak's eyes grew and his face brightened. "You mean--I put this in my chest, and I can become--like one of them?" he exclaimed, growing excited. "One of the Old Ones--?"
The mist rippled, a sort of nod. This is exactly what I mean. Everything that they were, you will then be. And then you will no longer need to sit in your little cave and gnash your teeth and wish for your revenge. The entire Island will be at your mercy. Gitchi Manitou himself once imprisoned your kind, you were so strong. It is time that the Wendigo GeeBees rose again.
Augwak leapt into the air, hopping up and down. "JUST like them--?" he cried. "I will be JUST like them--? They terrorized all in their path, and none could ever hope to escape them! I would be INVINCIBLE!" He stopped jumping abruptly and narrowed his eyes. "Wait a moment--what of the other GeeBees? This is but one puny shard! This would hardly suit all of us!"
The mist glimmered. Forgive me if I am wrong...yet I was of the mind that you are a selfish creature, and would not care what becomes of your fellow GeeBees.
Augwak stared at the mist for a moment, then clutched the shard to himself. "Eh," he said. "And you are right! Forget them! They've never done me any good as it is--I am the only one DESERVING of this power!" He held the little stone up over his head with a great wide toothy grin and let out a cackle...then lowered it, narrowing his eyes yet again.
"Wait a moment," he growled. "What is the price to be paid for this? I do not think you would show up and give me such power without getting something in return!"
As a matter of fact, there is one small thing you may do to return the favor, the mist replied.
Augwak bared his teeth and pointed one finger accusingly. "A-HA! I knew it! NOTHING comes without a price!" He scuttled back toward the cave wall, clutching the stone to him as if afraid of it being taken away. "What is it? What sort of ridiculous payment are you going to demand of me? Lest you think you can take this thing back--I am MUCH faster than you think--!"
The mist rippled again, seeming exasperated. If you utilize this spirit stone in the proper manner, it said, then you may easily give me what I want. For all I wish...is for you to seek out this mainlander you despise so much...and kill her. Along with they who keep in her company. Every one you may reach.
Augwak's muscles slowly untensed. He stared at the glowing mist in great confusion.
"You mean...the girl?" he asked, and his brow furrowed. "You want me to kill the red-haired girl?"
This is correct. The mainlander...she who is the cause of all your grief, as you yourself just recently claimed. Finish her, and all in her company--but for Manabozho and his brothers, if you can spare them, for I wish them for myself--and this gift will be all paid for, and more. That is all I ask of you, in return.
The GeeBee still seemed uncertain. "And after that...?"
The mist rippled once more. After that...you may do whatever you wish. The Island is yours. Any havoc you may wish to wreak, is yours to wreak as you wish.
Augwak stared at the mist a moment more, still suspicious, before his grin slowly returned. He held up the little crystal between thumb and forefinger and turned it left and right, watching it glint, then hopped forward a step and clenched it in his fist. "It is a deal! That pathetic little scrap will be SHREDDED MEAT when I am done with her!"
A light flickered through the mist. Let us hope you can fulfill this promise, it said; but Augwak wasn't paying attention anymore. The mist drifted back toward the crack in the rock and slipped into it, evaporating from sight. Augwak hopped up and down, brandishing the shard as if it were a teeny sword.
"At last! What I have always wanted!" he crowed. He lowered his fist and gnashed his teeth. "And finally that little brat will be GONE from my life forever!" He cackled wildly, flinging his arms in the air and dancing around for several moments before gathering himself with a cough and scuttling from the cavern and into a side tunnel. He loped down the passageway until he emerged into a small cave at the end. The floor was littered with bones; he made a face at them, then kicked a deer skull aside. His eyes focused on a human skull--coated with several layers of dust--and lit up, and he picked it up in his free hand. He stuck his long fingers through it and jiggled it back and forth as if it were a puppet.
"'Ohhh, don't eat me, don't eat me!'" he cried in a falsetto voice. "'I'm from the mainland! I'm too POWERFUL to be eaten by a GeeBee! I'm too smart, and clever, and pretty!'" He stopped talking and blinked, then scowled and tossed the skull away. "FEH! She is NONE of these things! And once I have all my old powers back, it will hardly matter WHAT she is, anyway!"
He squeezed himself into the furthest corner of the little cave and cupped the crystal in his hands, slavering over it as if hoarding a precious treasure. Now that he actually had it...he was almost too afraid to use it. It was so perfect!
"I can't just jam it in my chest like it's a regular old rock!" he muttered, and held it up again, turning it about. "This deserves special treatment." He glanced around himself. "Should I even do it here--? If it works as that puff of air claimed, then I should become immense...will I hit my head...?" He stared at the rock ceiling with uncertainty, then shook his head and smacked himself. "Enough of that! I will be ALL POWERFUL! Like some bitty CAVE should bother me!" He grinned at the crystal and licked his lips. "Very well then! Prepare yourself to become a part of history, little rock! The return of the Old Wendigoes is imminent!"
And with this, he brought his hand down and in a flash of light jammed the dark crystal into his breast.