Return To Manitou Island: Part 73
THOMAS SAT AT the large oaken table, fingers nervously tapping the side of his cup. His eyes wandered all over the ornate room, lingering more than once on the chandelier of candles hanging overhead, and on the wall cabinet filled with china and silver at the side of the room. Every so often they drifted to look toward the parlor off to his other side, and the giant staircase leading to the upper landing. The chairs in there looked as if someone could sink into them and disappear forever if they sat down. His gaze wandered up to look at the smaller stained-glass windows in the parlor. One of them had an image of a manitou in its deer form, walking through the woods. He frowned a bit on looking at it.
"She noticed that as well." Thomas turned his head to see Justin looking at the stained-glass image. He took a sip from his own cup and nodded at it.
"Who?" Thomas asked.
"Charmian. She was pretty much the same way about this house as you are, only she couldn't quite hold her tongue."
Thomas smiled. "I rather get the feeling she doesn't much like to hold her tongue," he said, and Justin's own mouth twitched at this. He looked back at the glass. "So that's a manitou...? It looks...slightly different from the ones I've seen, somehow."
"It's a lake manitou. They are the ones who..." He trailed off. "Live in Devil's Lake, with the demon."
"I think I remember her saying something about there being two kinds...this is all dreadfully strange to me, you know." He nodded at another window, this one set above the door in the parlor, and not very noticeable unless one happened to be looking for it. "That's one of those demon thingies, isn't it...? It looks somewhat like that big fellow she introduced me to...I can't ever remember his name, but it's very odd, and then there are more of them living up near the fort..."
"That one is Ocryx. He is the demon of the lake." He paused again and he and Thomas stared at each other for a good long while. "I'm not certain how much she's told you," he said after several moments had passed.
"I was about to say the same thing," Thomas returned.
The silence resumed until the room itself seemed to be ringing. Then they both spoke up at once.
"My father is the demon." "My father is a GeeBee."
The silence returned and they stared at each other. Then they both picked up their cups and took a sip.
"Well," Justin said, "now that that is out in the open..."
"It looks as if I'm in good company, then," Thomas said; when Justin gave him an odd look he shrugged. "She said she had a crush on you. Well, she didn't actually say it. More like, I had to drag it out of her unwillingly."
Justin untensed and started laughing. "She did everything but admit it the last time she was here," he said. "The poor thing, I never had the heart to tell her I noticed. I think she would have died. But she wasn't very subtle. She tends to...turn a rather brilliant shade of red, and run into or trip over things a lot..."
"Yes, that sounds about right." Thomas laughed now, then rubbed at his eyes. "Oh, I feel awful talking about her behind her back...I wish I knew how she's doing. She's been through that Arch a long time."
"If she's been injured, this is likely the first place she'll come." Justin paused. "Well, the second place she'll come...I swear that she takes pain far better than anyone else I've ever seen."
"So..." Thomas paused until Justin looked up at him again over the rim of his mug. "That thing that you do...is that from him?"
Justin nodded. "At least, I assume it is." He bobbed his head at Thomas. "And that...?"
Thomas looked down at his mug and noticed that there was frost around the rim. He blinked, then set it down with a slight flush. "The same," he said. Then, "She was a little unsettled, when I told her..."
"Yet she still lets you hang about, doesn't she?" When Thomas looked toward him again Justin picked up his cup as if to hide a smile. "You are fortunate to be in her company," he said; when Thomas frowned in puzzlement, he added, "She has many friends, but only a few she keeps close. You should feel privileged."
Thomas stared at him for a moment, then looked down at his frosty mug and smiled slightly. "I do." A thunking noise suddenly came from above the house, and they both glanced up at the ceiling. Outside, the wind picked up, whipping the trees into a frenzy; the branches began creaking loudly and knocking against the roof.
Thomas frowned. "What is that--?"
Justin stood up slowly, staring at the ceiling as if he could see something there; Thomas's frown grew at the odd, perplexed look on his face, his eyes seeming to look right through the house. He moved his head as the wind roared around the house, tearing the leaves from the trees.
"What is he doing away from the lake...?" he murmured, brow furrowing.
Thomas stared at him, then looked at the windows, feeling uneasy. He got up from the table and went to the front door, pulling it open and grimacing at the gale which whipped around him. He had to shield his eyes as he looked around the yard, and finally up toward the sky. It had darkened, yet there were no clouds. Even as he looked, the wind began to die down, until it vanished entirely, the trees falling still again. A moment later the birds resumed their singing.
He stood on the porch, rubbing at his head in confusion; footfalls came from inside and Justin leaned out the door.
"He's heading toward the East Bluff. You said that was where she would arrive--?"
Thomas was jumping down the steps before the words had even completely left Justin's mouth. He went running across the yard and jumped atop Cloud's back, the horse racing into the woods so the trees engulfed them.
Charmian, Manabozho, and his brothers made their way up one of the paths leading toward Sugar Loaf. Manabozho and Peepaukawiss snapped and barked at each other the entire way, Wabasso occasionally trying to intervene, with no success; yet Charmian's thoughts were elsewhere. She stared at the trail as she walked, yet hardly saw it.
Missing dreams. My own, and Francois's, and Morning Star's, and Yellow Turtle's. Who would want to steal them and why? If it's Chakenapok, why doesn't he steal everybody's, if it's power he's looking for...? Four people can't give him nearly enough power. If that's not the reason...then why us? What do we have in common...?
Is he trying to hide that dream from me...? But even if he is...then who sent it? Tal Natha can't even sense me here anymore...
And why is that...?
A scampering noise came along and Marten hopped atop her shoulder, grimacing and covering his ears. "Charmian, make them stop!" he cried. "They just keep YELLING and YELLING and YELLING!"
Charmian blinked at him. "Huh--? Oh. Marten...I didn't even know you were still here."
Marten's lip stuck out. "I'm not THAT forgettable!" he retorted, and hopped down from her shoulder.
"Sorry." Charmian rubbed at her head. "It's just that all this thinking's giving me a headache..."
Marten hopped up and down as they walked. "Glooskap always says to hold your breath when you have a headache!"
Charmian rolled her eyes. "You do that for hiccups."
"Nuh-uh, for headaches! He says that if you hold your breath long enough, you fall over, and then the headache spirit flies out of your ear and goes away! I've tried it. It really works!" He paused and looked thoughtful. "Of course, I always wake up on my side--but my headache's always gone!"
"Has anyone ever reported Glooskap to Social Services?" Charmian inquired, then gasped and jerked to a halt. Marten ran into her leg with a little cry and jumped back, rubbing at his head. He gave her a dark look.
"Hey, now I have to hold my breath!"
Wabasso appeared on her other side, frowning. "Charmian? What is it?"
Charmian didn't reply, but continued staring into the woods. Wabasso and Marten followed her stare, Manabozho and Puka doing the same as soon as they caught up. At first all they could see was trees and more trees, but after a moment or two a vague form emerged, seeming to blend in with the greenery as if a part of it. They sucked in their breath when they could make out the red and green eye glinting at them, and the wide bull horns sweeping up into the air.
Puka took a step or two back, chattering. "Is--is that a--a demon?" he stammered, creeping behind Manabozho.
"Ocryx," Charmian whispered. She stared through the woods at the barely visible eye, which glared back at her for a long tense moment before the demon turned his head and slipped through the trees so carefully that the leaves barely rustled. She couldn't believe something so big could be so quiet. As he made his way past them she felt her senses return, and promptly pushed her way through the trees, jogging after him.
The others' eyes goggled. "Charmian?" Marten cried.
"What are you DOING?" Manabozho yelled. Wabasso hesitated before following, then the other three did the same, Manabozho glowering and the others grimacing in anxiety. They made a great deal of noise as they tripped and stumbled after her, Charmian by now barely visible herself through the dense undergrowth.
"Would you mind explaining what you're doing?" Manabozho muttered as he caught up with her, swinging his hands at low-hanging branches.
"I haven't seen him in my whole time here," Charmian said. "And now all of a sudden, here he is. I know him well enough to know that he doesn't leave his lake without a damned good reason--and he certainly doesn't come to this side of the Island without an even better reason." She bit her lip, frowning with worry. "And he never slinks around like this...blustering around like a tornado is more his style. Something's wrong."
"I think we've established that by n-OW!" Manabozho made a face and whapped aside a tree branch. "What I want to know is--any particular reason for following him--?"
"If something's so bad that it's convinced Ocryx to leave Devil's Lake and come way over here, then I want to know what it is. You don't have to follow me! I just want to see where he's going."
"And THEN what--?"
Charmian didn't answer this time. She kept her eyes focused on the disappearing tip of the demon's tail, then, when that slithered out of sight, his wings, as they lifted up into the branches and then lowered again. He seemed to know exactly where he was going, and the thought confused her. Most of the natives lived near the East Bluff; Ocryx had always seemed to make a point of not wandering near there. What could have flushed him out now...?
"This place looks familiar!" Marten exclaimed, jumping up on her shoulder again. He tugged at her sleeve. "Aren't we headed back toward the pretty lady--?"
"Pretty lady--?" Charmian almost stopped, and her eyes widened. "Silver Eagle Feather! You mean he's headed for her--?" Before any of the others could respond she turned onto a side trail and went running as fast as she could. The others stumbled to a halt, then ran after her, nearly tripping over each other in their haste to catch up.
Marten clung to her shoulder for dear life, jostling up and down as she ran. "I-is it s-something I s-said--?" he cried, bouncing like a furry ragdoll.
"Ocryx kind of has a history with Silver Eagle Feather," Charmian panted. "And it's not a pretty one! Of all the crappy timing on this stupid Island--!"
She tripped on a root and fell to the ground with a thud, Marten yelping and lodging in the hollow of a tree. Charmian scrambled back to her feet, quickly dusting herself off. She plucked the wriggling Mikumwesu out of his hole before running again. Somewhere far behind her, Manabozho and his brothers made a tremendous racket which made her want to grimace. "If anything could scare Ocryx off it's THAT!"
She reached the edge of the bluff and started scampering down it, cringing and grabbing onto trees. After a moment they started to lean toward her, giving her plenty of handholds to keep from falling. The little lodge Silver Eagle Feather had erected came into view; she didn't know if the medicine woman would still be there, or back with her tribe. She didn't see anyone, and came to a stumbling halt, looking around, then turning and dragging herself back up the slope.
Marten cringed as well. "Are we almost there?!"
"If he went to the camp," Charmian said, grinding her teeth as she nearly slid backwards, "then it's REALLY bad news--he has an even WORSE history with them!"
She made it to the top of the bluff again, gasping and panting, and had to stop to catch her breath. She turned onto the trail leading in the direction of Stick-In-The-Dirt's tribe and jogged now, too tired to run. When she rounded a bend and practically came out on top of Ocryx, she tripped over her own foot trying to halt, and crashed sideways into the woods. When she groaned and batted some ferns aside she saw that the demon was glaring right at her, over his shoulder; then to her surprise she saw Silver Eagle Feather standing right in front of him, also looking perplexed by her sudden intrusion. Charmian pushed herself to sit upright, rubbing at her shoulder and making a face.
The other two turned away from her and looked at each other. They stared into each other's face for a long time, before Silver Eagle Feather reached up one hand to touch her fingers to the demon's muzzle. Charmian's brow furrowed in confusion at the odd gesture. Before she could say anything, Ocryx turned and paced back up the trail. He shot her a dark look as he passed, and she ducked her head, face flushing. She turned to watch him disappear again into the woods.
Charmian waited until she was certain he was gone before attempting to push herself to her feet. Silver Eagle Feather noticed her predicament and came toward her, offering her hand.
"Charmian?" she asked. "I thought you were heading to Sugar Loaf. You could have hurt yourself running like that!"
"I think I did." Charmian grimaced, then looked around her. When she looked down she saw Marten smooshed into the ground where she'd sat on him, and gasped and picked him up, dusting soil from his fur and fluffing him up as best as she could. His eyes goggled and his tongue dangled from his mouth, his little limbs sticking out every which way. She tucked him under her arm. "Silver...what was that? Why'd Ocryx come all the way over here, and why'd he want to talk to you--?"
Silver Eagle Feather frowned slightly, looking back up the trail where the demon had disappeared. "He is...troubled," she murmured. "He did not know who else to talk to."
Charmian's brow furrowed. "Ocryx is troubled? What could get him upset enough to leave Devil's Lake and come here to talk to you?" She blushed when she realized how rude she sounded. "Not that there's anything wrong with that...it's just that...well, you two..."
Silver Eagle Feather gave her a reassuring look. "I know. You needn't feel awkward about it." Her frown returned. "But you are right, him coming here only proves how worried he is...and this worries me as well."
"What's bothering him?"
"It seems what we spoke of earlier has spread." She paused. "He has not been able to remember his dreams from the past night."
Charmian frowned. "The past night--? Isn't it kind of early to worry about something like that?"
"He says that he has always remembered his dreams, from every night he sleeps. And I believe him. He also says much the same as you yourself mentioned--he knows that he dreamed, but it feels as if it were taken from his head, so he can no longer remember. He's simply forgotten." She paused again, then added, "Several of his manitous have said the same thing. And as he came here, he heard the talk of the GeeBees, and even they seem to be experiencing it."
Anxiety flared in Charmian's breast. "Then--maybe it's exactly what Ocryana did! She started stealing dreams, too--that's where she got all her power!"
Even as she said it Silver Eagle Feather was shaking her head. "Remember that she didn't have to steal dreams--they were given to her," she said. "She did not have the power to take someone's dream against their will. This...is something different. More powerful. And it seems to have struck only a few. Just a few of the manitous, and a few of the GeeBees. And a few of us."
Charmian fiddled her fingers nervously. "I still don't like it," she murmured. "It doesn't make sense that there's someone out there with this kind of power over dreams. Tal Natha's the only one who should have such power!"
Silver Eagle Feather frowned. "But what Tal Natha does is spin dreams, not take them away." She saw how Charmian started to shrink in on herself and tilted her head. "Charmian...? What are you trying to say?"
Charmian fiddled her fingers again, looking meekly at the ground. "I...I'm not quite sure how to put all this," she said in a small voice. "That dream of mine that went missing...Tal Natha didn't spin it. When I first showed up, he was surprised to see me--he hadn't even sensed me here. And it's still the same. When he brought me a dream at Fort Holmes, it was only because I was nearby and he knew where to find me. But this dream...it keeps coming at weird times and places. I know I dreamed it at least once or twice in the Fairy Realm. There's no way Tal Natha could reach me there. And I can't remember at all what happens in it...but I remember I got the feeling that he wasn't behind it, but Chakenapok wasn't, either...but..." She sighed and shrugged, nearly dropping Marten. "That's all I can remember. It's like a little pit's been dug out of my mind. The impression of something's still there, but whatever left it is long gone."
Silver Eagle Feather stood silent for a moment or two. Marten let out a tiny groan and Charmian tilted him upright, watching his little hands and feet start to slowly wiggle. When Silver Eagle Feather spoke again it was so sudden that she nearly jumped.
"Charmian," she said, and Charmian looked up at her. The medicine woman had a strange look on her face. "I was told of how you came to the Island this time...you used a gift you had been given? A dreamcatcher?"
"Yeah." Charmian tucked Marten between her knees now and pulled off her backpack, rummaging around in it. She pulled out the deerskin packet and handed it to Silver Eagle Feather, who unwrapped it and pulled out its contents. "My grandma gave it to me before she died," she said. "The moon shone through it, and the next thing I knew, I was at Arch Rock."
Silver Eagle Feather turned the dreamcatcher about so that the sunlight hit it at different angles. "Have you been told anything about its construction?"
Charmian shrugged. "It's store bought, I think...just a regular old dreamcatcher. Oh, except Geezhigo-Quae said it has Weaver medicine in it. She said that's how it brought me to the Island."
Silver Eagle Feather examined the hoop intently, running her fingers along its web. "I can see them," she murmured as she did so. "Weaver webs..." She looked up at Charmian. "Have you ever thought of using this as it was intended to be used?"
Charmian frowned. "Intended...?" She paused, then rubbed at her head. "You mean, to catch dreams? I don't get it."
"You do know what a dreamcatcher's purpose is, don't you?"
Charmian nodded. "It catches the bad dreams, and lets the good dreams through when you sleep under it. A dreamcatcher."
"This is somewhat simplified...what it truly does, is catches the small, useless dreams, and lets through those of importance. You may still have a 'bad dream' even with a good dreamcatcher...but even a bad dream can teach one something."
"Oh." Charmian's brow furrowed slightly. "I still don't get it. I never had any reason to use a dreamcatcher; I mean, it was just by accident that I found out it does this."
Silver Eagle Feather handed it back. "Perhaps what you need to start figuring out this mystery has been with you all along."
Charmian stared at her, then looked down at the dreamcatcher for a long while. Her eyes slowly grew wide.
"You mean..." Her head popped up and she gasped. "A dreamcatcher! A snare!" She looked up at the medicine woman in great excitement. "You mean--use it to catch my dream that keeps getting away--before Chakenapok can get to it--? Is that it?"
Silver Eagle Feather merely tilted her head to the side.
Charmian's exhilaration faded a bit. "But...will it even work that way? It's not really magical...I think it was made for a store or something...like a whole bunch just like it. Like a replica. Would it really catch dreams the same way...?"
Silver Eagle Feather gestured at the hoop. "So long as it has powerful enough medicine in it, it seems as if it could function. And no matter what its purpose was when created, you yourself know what its true function is. You should know how to properly use it. The Weaver medicine should help. If it brought you here from the mainland, it should be able to do this."
Charmian stared at the dreamcatcher with a renewed sense of interest. "Wow--if Grandma only knew just what she was REALLY giving me!" She quickly wrapped it back up in its skin and tucked it away, replacing her backpack and retrieving Marten. "So--what do you think I should do? Should I prepare myself first, or...?"
"From the way you speak of him, this Chakenapok seems to know how to find dreams, even if he doesn't spin them," Silver Eagle Feather cautioned. "So perhaps you'd best not be alone if you wish to go through with this. He may come looking for you."
Charmian nodded. "Will do." She grinned from ear to ear. "Thanks, Silver! I can't believe I never would've thought of that. I'll look into all of it right away!"
She turned away and started back the way she'd come. "Be careful," Silver Eagle Feather called, and Charmian waved her goodbye before breaking into a trot, Marten bobbing under her arm.
A dreamCATCHER, she thought as she jogged. That's exactly what it'll take to keep the next dream from getting away! Then maybe I can figure out what Chakenapok is up to!
This thought lent her new hope, and she dashed out into the woods to seek the others.