|Main story folder & table of contents: "Escape From Manitou Island"
Previous chapter: "Part 63: Back To Earth"
Spy Vs. Spy
CHARMIAN OPENED HER eyes to find the Red Swan staring at her, wringing her hands and looking rather anxious.
"Maanaa..." Charmian started to say, then frowned, and tried again. "Maanaabiziiquae?"
The Red Swan's eyes slowly widened. "How...how did you learn that name?" she asked, sounding surprised.
Charmian took a quick glance around herself, and found that they were in the same underground cave as before, and she was leaning against what must have been its wall. She pushed herself forward a little.
"Nigankwam--the Animiki ogimah--told me," she said. "At least, I think that's what he was saying. I think he knows you, but he wouldn't tell me." She frowned. "Why would the ogimah of the Animiki know you?"
The Red Swan shook her head. "I would not know...for I've never even met this Nigankwam! Perhaps whoever has captured me knows him--?"
This thought filled Charmian with fresh anxiety, and she fell silent. The chief of the Thunderbirds--in league with whoever was behind the Red Swan's captivity? "Do Thunderbirds not like swans?" she asked hesitantly.
The woman in red shrugged a little. "I would not know...not from what I'm aware of, but I've been wrong before..." She trailed off, peered to the side, then back at Charmian. "He wanted me to tell you that they're listening in."
Charmian stared at her. "He...? Listening?"
"He said he can shield you from them, but only long enough for him to speak with you," the Red Swan said. She fiddled her fingers. "I did not wish him to hear this, but...well...I saw your past with him, and...do you trust him to be alone with you?"
Charmian felt a brief twinge, then nodded. "Yes...I do. He has to tell me something?"
The Red Swan nodded. "I can send you to him...he said he'll let you back as soon as he's done."
Charmian nodded. "Okay...see you in a minute, then."
"Hopefully," the Red Swan said softly, and she and the cave slowly faded away. Another cave replaced it, and Charmian had to peer around herself to gain her bearings. When Chakenapok appeared she nearly jumped, and had to take a breath and let it out.
"Sorry," she said. "This is like a really weird party line or something."
"Those wabanos are listening in on everything you dream," Chakenapok said, and her anxiety returned. "I don't know how much they've heard already; but they shouldn't be able to reach you here, as I'm guessing their medicine doesn't extend to the Island." He paused, then said, "This is only half of the reason why I called you here."
Charmian's brow furrowed. "What else is there--?"
"There are two things," Chakenapok said. "One is that I've sensed some sort of medicine following you, which is not of the wabanos. It feels like a manitou's medicine, but for some reason, it's shielded from me." He frowned. "What's strange is that I don't sense it's that powerful. It's weaker than the stronger of the two wabanos. If I had to compare its medicine to anything, it would be most like that of the manitou who shared his spirit with you."
"Mani--?" Charmian blurted out. "You mean there's a tribal manitou following us--?" When he nodded she said, "It's the mitchi manitou...isn't it?"
He nodded again. "The only three ways he could shield himself from me so well are if he is unliving, if he is incredibly powerful--and most tribal manitous do not possess such medicine--or if..." He paused, and his frown grew. "It sounds strange...but the only other way he could fool me so is if he's from the Island, himself."
Charmian stared at him again, almost gawking. "You mean--that manitou that tried to kill us is from Manitou Island--?" When he pursed his lips in a perplexed manner before nodding reluctantly, she put a hand to her head. "But--why would one of THOSE manitous be trying to kill us? The only manitous like that that I met there were Mani's people, and Ocryx's, and Mani and Ocryx would KILL their manitous before they'd let them come after us like that!"
Chakenapok let out a small sigh. "I wish I could explain it to you, Mainlander, but it confuses me just as much as you. As much as I hate to say it, I think you know more of the Island's history than I do. Can you think of any reason why one of the Island manitous would set after you?"
Charmian shook her head, beyond confused. "Not a one! Mitchi Manitou was always pretty pissy, but the only time he came after us was when Ocryana told him to--and as soon as he found out he was being used he gave that up. I've seen how Ocryx treats him. That Mitchi would NEVER come after us like that!" She furrowed her brow. "And it didn't look like a lake manitou, either...not like one of Ocryx's, at least...it looked more like one of Mani's people...but they were all nice to us! Even the manitous west of here aren't as nice as they were!" She fell silent, then furrowed her brow even more. "You said two things. What's the other thing...?"
Chakenapok shut his eyes briefly, then opened them. "She can't sense you right now," he said, and her unease returned. "I wished to tell you to keep on your guard around this Red Swan. I feel she may know more about this situation than she tells you."
"The Red Swan--? Holding out on us--?" She nearly shook her head, it was so hard to believe. "Why do you think that?" she had to ask.
"Because her medicine is far stronger than she's led you to believe," Chakenapok replied. "This one who 'trapped' her, if indeed she's as trapped as she claims, must be truly powerful in order to contain her. I did not like letting her take you back, but you wanted to keep connected to me, and this was the only way. So I wanted to advise you to be wary of her." He paused, then said, "I heard what she said, before she let you come here." Charmian felt cold again. "I know you feel you cannot trust me, and I understand; in your position, I don't know that I would either. But I felt you should feel the same of her. Her presence, in just the place where you need to go, and her dreamspinning powers, just when you happen to need them, just seem too convenient to me."
"Do you think she's been lying to me?" Charmian asked.
"I would not know. But I do know that she's also spoken with Winter Born."
Charmian blinked. "Winter Born--?" She paused. "You mean the dream she said she had, with the cave..."
He shook his head. "She's spoken with her since then. Part of the reason why she found her way back to you, in the east, was because she followed the thoughts of the girl. Just the same way this manitou followed her, right to you," he said, and Charmian's hands crept up to rub at her chilly arms. All sorts of thoughts felt like rushing through her head, but she carefully stalled them, not knowing if letting him hear them would be such a good idea.
"Can she hear everything any of us says?" she asked quietly.
He frowned thoughtfully, then shook his head. "If you conceal your thoughts from her, as you're doing from me, then I think you should be safe." Her face flushed and she ducked her head with a slight wince. "Relax, Mainlander...I understand. But it's something you may need to start doing more often."
Charmian nodded. "Got it." She glanced over her shoulder. "That was it...?"
He nodded. "I'll ask about on the Island as best as I can," he said, earning a look, "to see if this manitou has any history. Perhaps someone who has been there longer knows of him."
Charmian nodded, feeling a bit of relief. "Thanks...I appreciate it." Another glance. "I should be going back now...?"
He lifted a hand--whether to send her back, or to say farewell, she wasn't quite sure. "Good luck," was all he said, and she managed to nod at him once more before he faded from view, his yellow eyes going last, almost like the Cheshire Cat. The cave of the Red Swan again faded into view, and she replaced him, still staring at Charmian and wringing her hands. She let out her breath as soon as Chakenapok and his cave vanished completely.
"Thank goodness," she murmured.
"He's not bad anymore," Charmian said, still rubbing at her arms. "We took care of that the last time."
The Red Swan bit her lip. "Still...how can you ever be certain? He fooled you at least once or twice before..." She paused, then said, "Charmian...are you shielding yourself from me...?"
Charmian winced again. How could everybody tell that! "Sorry," she hastened to say, hoping that she couldn't detect lies, too. "I was doing it with Chakenapok and...kind of forgot to stop doing it." She allowed her thoughts about him to start wandering around in her head, even as she kept what he'd just told her, and what thoughts that information had roused, closely fettered. The Red Swan paused for a moment or two, then let out her breath again, as if relieved.
"I think you are right to be anxious of him," she said softly. "You were ready to head back now?"
Charmian nodded. "Yeah...I think so. I know it's kind of a lot to ask, and you might not be able to help much, but do you think you could watch us, and try to keep your eye on this manitou--?"
"Manitou?" The Red Swan gave her a blank look, and Charmian was surprised to sense complete ignorance from her. She nodded.
"The one who's been following us, like the wabanos."
The Red Swan's brow furrowed. "I...wasn't aware that a manitou had been following you!" She shut her eyes, much like Chakenapok had done, and frowned a little, turning her head to the left and then the right. She faced Charmian and opened her eyes again, and shook her head. "I sense nothing like that...you're sure there's one?"
"Chakenapok said there was," Charmian said, growing confused. "He said it followed us from the west." The Red Swan looked vaguely skeptical. "I don't think he's lying about that! What would he have to gain from it--?"
"I don't know," the Red Swan said, "but why would he be able to sense a manitou--and I, a manitou, cannot?"
Charmian had no clue how to counter that. "Maybe the two of you could pool your talents," she sighed. "I know you don't like him, but maybe you could get over that a little just to help us out...? I don't like the sound of this manitou." She glanced at the cave walls. "I think I'm ready to go now."
The Red Swan hesitated a bit, then nodded somewhat reluctantly. "Very well...I'll look again for this manitou, and let you know should I hear anything else."
"Thanks," Charmian said listlessly, and the cave slowly faded away.
She opened her eyes and found herself staring groggily at a fluffy tail. Marten was curled up before her, Kenu clinging to him like he was a bed toy, and both of them were sleeping as well. She blinked a few times before pushing herself up with a yawn. They had set out before the sun had even risen, but several of them were apparently still quite tired. She glanced back at one of the other canoes, which had been erected on the spot, and her mouth twitched when she saw Singing Cedars in it, sitting upright but with his head occasionally bobbing. She was still surprised that he had even come along with them.
"You don't have to come if you don't want to," she'd said as the canoes were readied near the riverbank, the Onondaga standing in front of her and fiddling his fingers anxiously. "You've already helped a lot more than you know. I know you don't want to leave here, and you don't like the Island much. I won't be upset if you decide to stay."
He'd stared at her, chewing on his lip, and glanced eastward several times, as if with longing; his fingers fiddled even quicker and she could tell that he wanted almost more than anything to head back to his own camp. She well remembered his terror and frustration on the Island, and hated to think of how he would feel in a land that even she didn't know. And so when he turned back to her and his face set, she had been a little bit surprised.
"I'm hardly just letting my little sister go off without anybody to watch after her!" he'd groused.
She'd furrowed her brow and waved at the canoes. "But...there's LOTS of people to watch after me!"
He'd shaken his head. "None of them are your big brother. You think I'd just entrust you to anyone...?"
He sure is using that "big brother" card an awful lot, she thought, glancing toward him again just as he started to lean forward, then snapped awake with a snort and rubbed furiously at his eyes. They were out of Seneca territory now, as the absence of Tooth and his men showed; the others had pulled away from their little fleet not long after they'd set out, and headed back eastward into their own land. She had to admit that her throat had hurt a little as she'd waved goodbye to them, Tooth merely scowling and waving a hand at her as if she were a large bug that needed to be swatted; though as soon as everyone but herself had turned away, his face had lit up a bit more and his wave had looked a little bit more courteous. She'd smiled, and his face had gone red before he'd scowled and turned himself around in his canoe, barking an order at one of the others to paddle faster. She hoped they would make it home safely, and also that Little Fawn wouldn't hit him too hard when she spotted his wound.
By now, the sun was at last up, though not very high; a mist still arose from the river, which was narrow here, and every so often she could spot one of Singing Cedars's okis trailing along through the trees off to the north. Once in a while she could just barely see a swirl on the surface of the water as Mishupishu or Mani swam underneath. She sighed and sat up, rubbing at her eyes and yawning.
"Not that bad, thanks," Charmian murmured, and turned to look at Thomas--only to see that he too had started to doze off with the paddle in his hands. She blinked. Augwak was perched atop the stern; as soon as she met his eyes, he blinked as well, then bared his teeth.
Charmian furrowed her brow. "Did you just...ask me how I slept?"
Augwak hopped up and down, somehow managing not to capsize the canoe. "STOP STARING AT ME!! I only asked because you--SNORE when you're sleeping, and I couldn't sleep MYSELF with all that noise!!"
Charmian's jaw fell and she clenched her fists. "ASS! I DO NOT SNORE!!"
Kenu popped upright, still squeezing Marten and looking around himself sleepily. "Wha...?" He apparently found nothing interesting, and promptly lay back down and went back to sleep, cuddling Marten against his chest.
Thomas blinked a few times and yawned, then hurried to grab the paddle before it floated away. "Charmian...?" he asked. "What are you yelling about...?"
"He--" Charmian cut herself off when she saw how Augwak grimaced, then scowled herself. "He said I snore!" She stuck out her tongue at the GeeBee, then turned back around as if to ignore him. There was a pause, then she could feel him jumping up and down again.
"AND YOU DO, MIGHT I ADD! LIKE A DRUNKEN MOOSE!!"
She decided to ignore him, as she found his question rather creepier than his insults. She rubbed at her arms. "How long have we been moving...?"
"A few hours now," Thomas said with another yawn. "At this rate, Kabebonikka's mountain will be melted by the time we get there."
"Well, we are going against the current now..." Charmian peered at the water slinking past, and nearly hypnotized herself staring at Francois's paddle; she looked at the one that Thomas still held, and rather wished that she was strong enough to keep it up for a while. "I have to wonder though," she murmured after a while. "If maybe there's a shorter way, like the way that Shore and I used to get here."
Marten's head popped up. "Did I hear shortcut--?"
"It would have to be a Weaver passage, wouldn't it?" Winter Born asked; she sat ahead of Kenu, just behind Francois, and turned around to face them. "Are they all over, then?"
"Judging by what Wabun said, I would guess so," Charmian said hesitantly. "But he didn't mention where any of them are, except for the ones we need to take away from Gitchi-Gami--and that's a little far from here."
"Well...isn't there a way to find the Weavers?" Winter Born suggested.
Charmian paused, then tried casting out a mental net; it was something she'd gotten good at, on the Island. After a moment or two she sighed and opened her eyes. "If there are any, I can't find them...maybe I can't detect Weaver medicine, or maybe I'm rusty, or maybe it doesn't work too well here...it seems like every time I find their tunnels, they're abandoned anyway."
"Perhaps you've merely been looking in the wrong places, ma chère?" Francois called back without missing a stroke. "The first batch, you found them in a deep dark cave, did you not?"
"That's right," Charmian said, with a frown. "So where would I look for them?"
"What are the Weavers like?" Winter Born asked.
Charmian rubbed at her neck. "Well...they're like big giant spiders, basically! GIGANTIC giant spiders. HUMONGO gigantic giant spiders!"
"But awfully polite humongo gigantic giant spiders," Thomas interjected.
"Yeah, they were pretty polite," Charmian agreed.
Remy leaned over the edge of the canoe he rode in, sticking his arms in the water up to his shoulders and making a face at Winter Born, who made a face right back. "If you want to find spiders then why don't you look where you would find spiders?" he asked.
Winter Born stuck her tongue out. "That's stupid!"
"No...wait a minute," Charmian said, earning a look from each of them. She furrowed her brow a little. "I think maybe he's right. The Weavers on the Island were in a big dank cave. All these tunnels we've been in so far have been kind of shallow and dry." She paused thoughtfully. "All the spiders I find back at home are always in really gross wet places! Like under rocks and logs and stuff." She clambered to the edge of the canoe and cupped a hand to her mouth. "Hey, Cedars!" He snapped awake and had to grab onto his own canoe to avoid toppling over, blinking and shaking his head before looking at her. "Could you tell your okis to keep their eyes open for any icky old wet places--? Like where you'd find spiders--really, really BIG spiders?"
He frowned at her, opened his mouth, then sighed and rolled his eyes. "I won't even ask." He turned his head and whistled to catch the okis' attention; they peered back at him for a moment, then vanished into the woods.
"You're hoping to find a live nest of them?" Thomas inquired. When she shrugged he said, "Really think you're ready for that?"
Her eye twitched. "I can handle spiders now. Don't tell me that YOU didn't freak out when you first saw those things!"
"Well..." He put his paddle in the water. "I'm not the one who screamed and jumped into somebody's arms."
"You jumped into his ARMS?" Winter Born and Marten both echoed--then, "Ooooooooooo!"--they both started making kissy noises. Thomas looked ready to start laughing, until Stick-In-The-Dirt, in the canoe with Moon Wolf and Walks-On-The-Shore, glanced toward them both with hope in his eyes; then Thomas and Charmian both sank down as far as they could without flattening themselves against the bottom of the canoe.
Augwak hopped up and down and shook his fists. "Can a soul not get ONE BIT of QUIET around here?! STOP ACTING LIKE JUVENILES!!" he bellowed at Winter Born and Marten, and they both cut themselves off abruptly, then shrank down themselves without another peep.
Kenu rubbed at one eye. "Somebody say something...?"
Charmian twisted her head back to look at Thomas, and hissed under her breath, "Is it just me or is Augwak being WAY TOO MATURE today...?"
"Maybe you're rubbing off on him," Thomas said, and all of the blood fled her face. "OW!" he yelled when she thwacked his arm, and sat up again, crossing her own arms and scowling at Francois's back; Winter Born and Marten both inched out of her way, as if her eyes were hurling fireballs at them.
"Do you have to keep hitting me like that...?" Thomas grumbled, wincing as he rubbed at his arm.
"I do as long as you have to keep being an ass!" Charmian snapped. "Francois! How long to get there?"
"If the weather continues in our favor, ma chère, perhaps a week," he replied. "And this is if we paddle all the day, with only the shortest of stops...do you really wish for that?"
Charmian let out a miserable sigh and sank back; Winter Born patted her knee. "It may be the only thing we can do," she mumbled. "If we ever want to get Turtle and get back to the Island in time."
A whistle came from the trees and they lifted their heads to look. Mani materialized in the water and whistled; the two okis followed suit, then the manitou turned his head to look at Charmian.
"They've found a spot," Singing Cedars said, just as Mani thought the same thing in Charmian's head. Then they both blinked, and turned to look at each other; Mani gave Singing Cedars a livid glare, and Singing Cedars blushed and shrank in on himself a bit.
"What is it?" Charmian called out.
Singing Cedars answered this time while Mani huffed and evaporated back into the water. "They say there's a great fallen tree a little way into the woods, and the soil has caved in where the roots used to be. They poked around a bit and found a great many insects and spiders crawling around." He frowned. "And they say they think there could be large spiders there. Little Sister...is there some good reason why we're now looking for large spiders...?"
"I'll explain it when we get there," Charmian replied. "How exactly do we get to this tree?"
He pointed. "There's a little streamlet ahead, branching from the north bank. Just turn in there and head northeast a bit, and the top of the tree is practically blocking the way."
"Back east again," Thomas sighed, looking skyward.
"It's not that far," Charmian protested. "I hope. Francois, think we can find that stream...?"
The canoes managed to turn about, and headed toward the north bank. The okis trailed along, keeping in sight until the stream appeared, after which they vanished; after turning in on the rivulet, Charmian spotted them again, moving in and out of sight among the trees. It wasn't long before the fallen tree came into view, indeed blocking the stream, almost like a giant beaver's dam; it had been lying there for a long time, as all of its leaves were long gone and a great pile of branches and sticks had gathered around it. The water was shallow enough to jump out, and a few of them did so, taking a peek around.
Stick-In-The-Dirt clambered over the trunk of the tree to peer at the stream on the other side, then returned, splashing down into the green water and wading their way. "It's barely a trickle on the other side," he said. "Mostly sandy."
"Hey, Charmian! Guys!" Marten exclaimed, racing along the trunk. "I spotted the roots back there in the woods. Easy as pie to find spiders! See what I found?" He held up his hands, and Charmian and Winter Born both screamed at the sight of the spiders and centipedes wriggling there. Kenu leapt up beside Marten and grabbed a centipede and tossed it in his mouth; Charmian's and Winter Born's screams grew into shrieks. The Thunderbird just chewed once or twice, made a face, then spat the remains of the centipede out and stuck out his tongue.
"Blech! THAT'S not a snake...!" he groused, and hopped back down.
"Are there any really big spiders...?" Winter Born asked, putting one foot in the water and then splashing down into it. Her dress floated up a bit and she hurriedly pushed it back down before wading toward the tree.
Charmian looked up at the way that the trees, thick with leaves, formed a canopy over the sluggish stream. "It feels like a rainforest here...so I wouldn't doubt it."
Mani approached behind her and whistled. She turned to look at him. "Hm...?" He jerked his head behind him and she had to crane her neck, not sure what he was talking about, then she blinked and took in a breath.
"Oh! Mishupishu!" She turned to the others. "The stream's too shallow for him here!"
"He can't just crawl like the REST of us?" Augwak groused. He yelped when Pakwa flicked his ear.
"He's a Lynx and needs water," Charmian insisted. She jumped out of the canoe before Thomas could stop her and waded toward the bank, climbing out and shaking herself off as best as she could; Winter Born followed, then Marten and Singing Cedars. "Let's go look at this thing first and see if it's promising or not. Then we decide what to do with Mishu."
"Try not to step on any spiders!" Peepaukawiss called. "Else they might not help us!!"
Charmian made a rude gesture at him as she started tramping through the heavy undergrowth. The mosquitoes were thick here as well, and she made numerous faces while swatting them away, feeling rather resentful that they didn't seem interested in attacking any of the others. They followed the tree trunk as best as they could, considering how chaotic the geography was, before finally reaching the upheaved root system; they batted the weeds and grass aside, the two okis standing nearby, and peeked at the hollow beneath the end of the tree. Charmian reached for it a few times before grimacing and wringing her hands.
"Something wrong?" Singing Cedars asked in a voice which clearly said, "I already know, but I'm asking anyway."
"No," Charmian retorted, then glanced down at the mess of wet soil wriggling with various insects, and shuddered. "Okay. Yes."
"You don't like bugs, Charmian...?" Winter Born asked.
"It--it isn't that!" Charmian insisted. "I just...don't like a LOT of bugs!! All at once! I mean, one is okay, now and then, as long as it doesn't land on me, but a WHOLE BUNCH of them...well...aren't any of YOU kind of...you know?"
She looked at them imploringly, but found only three puzzled faces staring back. She scowled. "Oh, FINE! One of YOU do it then, since you think it's so normal!"
"Yippee!" Marten exclaimed. "I was hoping you'd say that!" He hopped down into the hollow and began digging; Winter Born clambered in herself and started scooping at the loose soil with both hands. Charmian and Singing Cedars stood at the edge of the pit as the two flung dirt at the air, their hands soon going as black as the ground. Charmian made a face.
"If Black Elk Horn were here he'd kill me," she muttered.
Singing Cedars rolled his eyes. "If he were here he would likely kill EVERYONE!"
"He's not quite that bad...I think he'd leave Marten alive, just because he's so weird looking..."
They trailed off and watched as the two dug for a few minutes, then Charmian frowned and called them back out. She craned her neck to peek at the hole they'd started, but couldn't make out any difference from before. She glanced at the okis.
"Are they sure they sensed something here...?"
Singing Cedars nearly started huffing. "Of course they are! I can't help it if you don't want to dig for it!"
"I hardly see YOU offering!"
"I already called the okis," he protested. "Why should I have to dig?"
"Charmian," Winter Born said, holding up her filthy hands. "If it helps any, I thought I felt something too."
Charmian blinked at her, then slowly turned around. "You...you did?"
Winter Born nodded and pointed at the dirt. "Something down there. But I don't know what or where..." She trailed off, then her face lit up. "I can ask!"
"Ask who?" Charmian asked, perplexed.
Winter Born rolled her eyes. "The bugs, silly! There's all kinds of them after all!" She gestured at a beetle crawling up her knee, then looked back up at Charmian. "I bet they could tell me if there's anything bigger back there!"
Charmian just stared. "You can talk to bugs?" she said, after a moment.
Winter Born's lip stuck out. "Well...what else was I supposed to learn? I'm not old enough to learn lots of other things just yet..." She gave Charmian a hopeful look. "If I talk to them and ask maybe then you can teach me something bigger--?"
Charmian cut her off. "If you can find us a live Weaver tunnel," she said, "then I'll teach you whatever I can." Winter Born's eyes lit up again. "Just see if you can do it first. Either of you know how to talk to bugs--?" she said to Marten and Singing Cedars.
Marten shook his head. "Nuh-uh! Not that I haven't tried, but all I get out of them is 'Bzzzzzz, zzzzzzz!' No IDEA what THAT means!"
Singing Cedars flushed a little and scowled. "Do I look like I know how to talk to bugs?!"
"Please please PLEASE let me do it!" Winter Born cried, and turned back toward the pit. She held out her hands. "It's really easy! Mother taught me! All you have to do is really listen before you talk, and you can hear all sorts of things...people say bugs don't talk, but they do, all the time!--it's just that if we always HEARD them talking, we'd lose our minds--!"
"You can say that again," Charmian said under her breath.
"--But aside from that it's really easy! Watch!" Winter Born lowered her hands, then slowly sank her fingers into the damp soil; Charmian shuddered when the bugs started crawling over her fingers, and Winter Born shut her eyes. "They're talking already," she said more quietly. "If I listen I can make it out...and find out who else is there..."
A brief silence fell, and Charmian and the others held their breath, not wanting to distract her. When a whistle broke the silence they jumped and grimaced, Charmian glancing around them as Winter Born lifted her head and blinked in confusion.
"Was that Mani again--?" Charmian demanded, beyond irritated. "What's he want NOW--?"
The two okis bristled, then whistled as well and leapt aside. Marten hopped atop Winter Born's shoulder when she got to her feet, Charmian and Singing Cedars taking a step back, something making crashing noises deeper in the woods. Charmian's muscles tightened.
"What is that--?" Winter Born exclaimed, casting a quick glance back at her. "Did I do something wrong--?"
Charmian opened her mouth to answer, but didn't get the chance. Before the greenery burst open, and the huge manitou from before came leaping out, landing on the other side of the pit with a fearsome snort and livid eyes.
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