Kenu proves useful, and the South Wind is located...
|Main story folder & table of contents: "Escape From Manitou Island"
Previous chapter: "Part 35: The Mighty Kenu"
"I WOULD'VE GONE along with the other Animiki," Kenu said meekly. "But I don't know where they went!"
Charmian and everyone else stared at him in silence. After a moment or two the Thunderbird began shuffling his wings and looking about uneasily. Charmian's brow furrowed a little and she tilted her head.
"You don't know where they went...?" When he shook his head her frown grew. "Well...why didn't you just go along with them?"
"I was left behind," Kenu said in an impossibly small voice.
Now everyone stared at him again and he again fidgeted. "Left behind?" Charmian echoed. "What sort of Thunderbirds just leave another Thunderbird behind?" she asked Niskigwun.
The Michinimakinong shuffled his own wings, looking rather flustered. "I...I do not know! I've never even heard of such a thing--you are certain you were left behind--?" he asked Kenu.
Kenu's lower beak stuck out. "I think I know when I'm left behind!"
"How did they leave you behind?" Winter Born asked, peeking out from behind Charmian.
Kenu ruffled his wing a bit. "Well...I was out...doing things." When they stared at him his beak stuck out again and he boomed. "IMPORTANT ANIMIKI THINGS! YOU DOUBT ME?"
Charmian waved her hands to try to placate him. "No! It's not that! It's just--kind of strange that they left you alone, that's all!" She chewed her lip. "Well...you can't fly home, then? Surely they'll know to look for you there if you aren't with them?"
The Thunderbird's beak quivered. "But...I don't know the way," he whined.
"You don't know the way to your own home?" Manabozho asked, then rolled his eyes at Charmian. "Now that is foolish."
Kenu started to puff himself up, eyes flashing, but Charmian quickly spoke up. "Can't you just fly back the way you came?"
"I don't REMEMBER which way we came!" Kenu cried, and his eyes squinched shut, wings shaking. "They never taught me which way to go!"
"Told you," Winter Born said in an I-told-you-so voice.
"Why is it they never taught you?" Charmian pressed, growing confused.
Kenu shrugged. "I wasn't supposed to be going with them in the first place," he said. "I was supposed to stay back with the tribe." He blinked, then raised himself. "BECAUSE IF I TRAVEL TOO FAR FROM MY HOME, I AM APT TO DO DANGEROUS THINGS TO PEOPLE! MY POWER IS BEST CONTAINED AMONG MY OWN KIND! HUMANS ARE TOO TINY AND INSIGNIFICANT TO UNDERSTAND SUCH THINGS!" He coughed and lowered himself again. "No offense."
"Um...none taken," Charmian said, rubbing at her head. She sighed. "Well...then I guess you come with us. At least until we can find you a new cave," she added, when Manabozho and Niskigwun glared at her. She glared right back. "What! You want us to leave him behind, too--?"
Niskigwun flared his wings. "What are we to do with an Animiki?" he cried. "Surely you realize what sort of additional difficulties this gives us?!"
"I won't cause trouble!" Kenu exclaimed, and the group shuffled back immediately when he came hunkering toward them, eyes alight. "Please can I come? I don't make much noise--"
Manabozho made such an awful face that Charmian was sure it would stay that way; she elbowed him in the ribs.
"--And I only like to eat fish and snakes once in a while," Kenu went on. "I can catch my own fish and snakes! I'm really good at it! You don't need to provide for me at all." He lifted himself. "BECAUSE I AM THE MIGHTY KENU AND I CAN FULLY PROVIDE FOR MYSELF!" He lowered his head. "Except for finding my way back home. But that's it. Honest."
"With no offense to the great big bird," Walks-On-The-Shore said, "but where do we keep a great big bird when traveling--?" He gave Francois a pointed look; the voyageur blinked in surprise, but didn't get to say anything.
"I can fly," Kenu said.
"Really...?" Charmian looked at him skeptically; his feathers didn't seem in much of a state to fly very far. "I thought maybe your wing was hurt or something, and that was why you were staying in a cave."
Kenu shook his head quickly. "Of course not! I can still fly. I haven't a problem with it at all. I fly all the time." He lifted his head. "IN GREAT WIDE CIRCLES ENCOMPASSING THE ENTIRE SPAN OF THE SKY! BECAUSE I AM THE MIGHTY GRANDSON OF NIGANKWAM!" He lowered his head. "And I like to stretch my wings a little bit each morning, is all."
Charmian stood rubbing at her ear; it must be an Animiki tendency to yell random boasts every few sentences, she guessed. "I guess that's good...seeing as we aren't exactly equipped to carry a Thunderbird around." She coughed. "Well...you wouldn't mind tagging along until we find you a nice cave to stay in, then--?"
Kenu's face fell. "But I HATE caves!"
Charmian's face screwed up. "But--you were just LIVING in one--we had to flush you out!!"
"But I never said I liked it," Kenu whined, scuffing one talon. "I just hid in there because--I JUST WENT IN THERE BECAUSE ALL OF YOU LESSER CREATURES WOULD OTHERWISE HAVE DIED, OVERWHELMED BY THE MIGHT THAT IS KENU!"
Even Winter Born was making faces and screwing her fingers in her ears by now. "Okay!" Charmian exclaimed. "So where do you want to stay until the other Thunderbirds come back?"
Kenu seemed to purse his beak, as much as that was possible. "Well...I was kind of hoping..." He scuffed his talon again. "Maybe you would help me find the other Animiki...?"
"WHAT?" This came from Manabozho; he bellowed it so abruptly that everybody jumped. He stomped toward Kenu with clenched fists and halted before him, feathers flaring. "We're ALREADY seeking someone!" he snapped. "TWO someones! Two someones MUCH more important than a dumb lost Animiki! What makes you think we have time to escort YOU around--?"
Niskigwun launched himself at him and dragged him back. "He--he doesn't mean it that way!!" he yelled in an odd high-pitched voice. "What he means is--ah--we are in the midst of an important mission, you see, and we do not have much time to follow other paths at the moment!"
Kenu's brow furrowed. "But you won't help me find the other Animiki...?" His beak quivered. "I thought you wanted to help me..." He raised his head. "BECAUSE I AM THE MIGHTY KENU, AND--"
"Maybe we'll run into the other Thunderbirds along the way?" Charmian blurted out desperately; they all looked at her and she bit her lip hard enough to hurt. "Well--maybe? I mean, they come from the west, right? And we'll have to go that way eventually--"
"We can HARDLY keep that thing around the entire TIME!" Manabozho yelled.
Niskigwun grimaced and started bobbing up and down, reaching into one of his own pouches and tossing tobacco madly at Kenu. "Please forgive him, Grandfather Thunder!! He does not know what he says!!"
"Grandfather Thunder...?" Kenu blinked, then lifted himself up; Charmian and Winter Born--and most of the others, for that matter--knew to plug their ears this time. "YOU ARE CORRECT THAT I AM A GRANDFATHER! I AM THE MIGHTY KENU, AFTER ALL! HOW DARE YOU TINY PEOPLE THINK OF LEAVING ME BEHIND TO FEND FOR--UM--TO FACE SUCH INDIGNITIES AS BEING LEFT BEHIND BY SUCH TINY PEOPLE?! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED FOR TREATING A GRANDFATHER SO!"
Niskigwun fell to the ground and prostrated himself. Charmian rolled her eyes and sighed. "FINE," she said loudly. "He can come along until we run into the rest of the Thunderbirds! Then you can head off with them, and maybe pay attention so you remember the way back this time, okay--?" she said to Kenu, and he lowered a little but bobbed his head excitedly. "Fine. It's settled, then."
Manabozho started grousing aloud. "We hardly have time to babysit a Thunderbird!" he muttered as they started walking back the way they'd come, Francois again taking the lead. "You have no idea what sort of annoyance they even are...!"
"Believe me, I think I'm catching on," Charmian said in response from the corner of her mouth; Kenu ambled along behind them, as cheery as anything. "But you heard what he said. He's lost, and doesn't know where to go, and besides, that manitou said to take him with us anyway. We can't exactly leave him here even if we wanted to. And he can catch his own food, and fly, so what sort of trouble could he be?"
Manabozho gave her a venomous glare. "You'd be surprised!"
"Manabozho, I just made a deal with a bird the size of an airplane," Charmian said. "I rather think we're beyond surprised, by now."
He turned away and started muttering, though she couldn't be sure that he wasn't just saying random nonsense noises under his breath just to be irritating. "In any case," she sighed, "if we just take him with us we can go on our way and find Shawondassee now. That manitou gave me the directions--we should find him in no time. Who knows, maybe the Winds will help us find the Thunderbirds, too."
"Winds--?" She gasped and nearly fell over when the ground started shaking, and an instant later Kenu's massive head was right beside her, his giant yellow eye fixed on hers. "You're looking for the Winds?"
Charmian's brow furrowed. "Well...yeah. Shawondassee right now, then the rest."
"Why are you looking for the Winds?" Kenu asked.
She shrugged a little, perplexed by his sudden curiosity; she had to pick up her pace, as he was threatening to bowl her over with his wing. "Well--because we have to find the West Wind, Kabeyun, but we don't know where he is. We thought we'd try the other Winds first. We need to fight this big manitou. He destroyed this Island a long time ago, and he's threatening to do it again."
"REALLY?" Kenu's eyes grew as huge as moons. "I know that story! My grandfather told me it!" He lifted himself. "MY GRANDFATHER, THE GREAT NIGANKWAM, THE FIRST THUNDER, ONCE SOUGHT OUT THE WEST WIND HIMSELF! HE SOUGHT HIGH AND LOW, EAST AND WEST, UNTIL HE FOUND HIM!"
"Why he didn't just look west first is beyond me," Thomas whispered to Charmian.
"Your grandfather Nigankwam is the one who found Kabeyun the last time--?" Charmian had to call out.
Kenu nodded, and the motion made a rumbling noise. "Of course he is! What else would the mighty Nigankwam do? He searched near and far for the West Wind, and retrieved him, to fight the manitou who destroyed this Island."
Charmian tilted her head. "Well...huh! How's that for a lucky coincidence...maybe your grandfather can help us find Kabeyun!" When Kenu just looked at her she grinned. "Since he found him the first time! All he has to do is tell us where to go!"
Kenu frowned. "But...I don't know where he is," he said, and Charmian felt like slapping herself for being so stupid. "But maybe we'll run into him!" the Thunderbird pressed on hopefully. "Like you said? If you keep me co--um--if I accompany you on your travels, I can speak for you should we come across him! I am, after all, his grandson." He raised his head.
"THE GREAT KENU, GRANDSON OF THE MIGHTY NIGANKWAM!!" Manabozho bellowed, making the Thunderbird hunch his wings in. "WE GET IT! THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!"
"Did your grandfather ever tell you anything about where the Winds live?" Charmian asked. "That manitou just advised us where to go, but...I don't know if I trust her the most...and I've never spoken to a Wind before." She got an odd look.
Kenu started moving along even faster and everybody scattered to the side. "Of course! I think that manitou was telling you the truth. At least, if we're in the right place. I don't know where we are, so I can't say for sure. But everything else sounded right."
"So we just go into the woods and find this mountain," Charmian said.
The Thunderbird nodded. "Once inside, perhaps let me speak! We Animiki speak with the Winds all the time."
"I thought it was your grandfather who spoke with Kabeyun, and he had to look all over before he even found him," Manabozho muttered.
Kenu deflated a little, then ruffled his feathers. "I SAY WHAT I MEAN! YOU DOUBT ME, TINY MANITOU?"
Manabozho opened his mouth to say something that certainly wasn't pleasant. "Let's just follow the directions the manitou gave us," Charmian said, "and when we get to the mountain, we'll decide!" She waved. "She said to go back the way we came, then go straight south. So that's what we do."
Thankfully, no one objected, and they made their way back toward the mounds in the woods, then turned directly south. True to the manitou's word, a very faint trail asserted itself, and after a short while of walking Charmian spotted a large stand of trees looming into view. She paused to examine their leaves before continuing. Even as they walked, she couldn't quite stop looking at them.
"I'm not used to oak trees," she mused aloud. "We don't have many of them where I come from."
Marten was hopping around, gathering up all of the acorns he could find. "We should make a STEW with these!" he exclaimed, tucking them into his pouches and clothes until he bulged all over. "Glooskap makes the BEST acorn stew! Only he doesn't use real acorns!"
"Fake acorns...?" Charmian said.
"Uh-huh!" Marten nodded. "He called them 'Fakecorns'!"
Peepaukawiss hurried forward and started picking up several as well, unable to suppress his giggling. "'Bozho! Baby Brother!" he cried, standing up and holding two acorns aloft. "Remember when you were little, and your ears were so big, and I took those two acorns and--"
He collapsed as soon as Manabozho passed him, an acorn striking him remarkably hard dead between the eyes. Charmian and Thomas winced while Winter Born and Marten slowed down to look him over; they ended up helping him atop Mani when he didn't get back up.
"Yes, I remember the acorns," Manabozho said, going on his way.
"Any idea how long we're actually supposed to go?" Augwak groused, still wincing and limping. "That stupid manitou was pretty VAGUE on it all!"
"We just keep walking until we find it," Charmian replied. "Pakwa, maybe you can help out here--? Since Augwak is so useless and all." Augwak started muttering and stomping, before stepping on an acorn and yelping in pain. "You can fly around and try to spot this mountain," Charmian said to the other GeeBee when he ambled up beside her. "Because if we're still in Michigan, I find it hard to believe there are any actual mountains down here..."
"O-ho!" the loons cried. "We, Kwemoo and Maang, shall assist! O-ho!" They flapped their wings and ran in several awkward circles before taking off, nearly smacking into a branch as they did so. "O-ho! O-OUCH!" one of them yelled as soon as they were out of sight, and several oak leaves drifted to the ground.
Pakwa gave Charmian a frank look. "Will find the mountain myself," he said, in an oddly resigned voice, and drifted up into the air. They watched him float away before picking up their pace. Charmian guessed that evening must be coming, because the trees seemed to be fading slightly from sight, even though the source of light wasn't itself visible from here. Every so often little blue lights appeared, and she sensed the manitous watching them, but none of them spoke. She chewed on her lip a bit self-consciously.
"I kind of wish we hadn't made such jackasses out of ourselves back there," she murmured, Thomas glancing at her. "I hate that we made such a bad impression on the manitous here. What if we need their help again? They're already not talking to us anymore."
Winter Born tugged on her vest. "Actually, Charmian..." she said, and pointed into the woods at one of the pairs of blue dots, "...these're different manitous. Those were the cave manitous you talked with before...these ones are the tree manitous."
"They don't talk to each other around here?" Charmian said skeptically.
"Well..." Winter Born rubbed her head. "Actually they're just wondering if we're manitous, because we look so strange." She paused, then said a bit awkwardly, "They're calling you Fire Summer One and they're calling me Ice Winter One."
Charmian blinked, then felt her ears grow warm; she and Winter Born looked at each other, then quickly away. She saw where the oak manitous must be getting their ideas, but it still unnerved her a little. "Mind telling them we're not manitous...?" she mumbled under her breath, but Manabozho slowed so that she caught up with him and he took her other arm.
"Why not let them think it?" he whispered. "If they think we're all manitous, then our passage is secured! They might even serve us!"
Charmian rolled her eyes and yanked her arm loose. "I'm hardly going to go treating manitous like my lackeys!" she exclaimed, and glanced at the nearest set of blue lights. "We're not manitous! Not most of us, at least--I mean, he's half manitou, and so is he, and that's a manitou he's riding, and--" Kenu coughed, catching her attention; she couldn't believe how he was managing himself, yet he was, picking his way very carefully among the trees "--oh yeah--and that's a Thunderbird--and that's about it. We're just looking for Shawondassee's mountain, so we can speak with the South Wind. We won't cause any more trouble."
There was a pause, then one of the sets of blue eyes came forward and Charmian found herself staring at a young black manitou. It whistled softly. Wendigo One already found it. On his way back right now. Not too much further.
Charmian let out her breath. "Thank you," she said, grateful for a straight answer for once; the manitou turned and vanished back among the trees, and they were then left alone, until they met up with Pakwa and the two loons in the middle of the rough trail. The GeeBee pointed over his shoulder.
"Mountain that way," he said. "Come on." He floated into the air.
"Is it that much of a mountain?" Charmian asked.
Pakwa gave her an odd look, and she realized then that he was from the Island, and likely had no idea what a mountain was supposed to look like, himself. "Manitou says it's a mountain," he said, "so it's a mountain." He floated away.
"It's likely merely a steep hill, ma chère," Francois said. "They have a different understanding of 'mountain' in these parts."
"I kind of figured," Charmian said. "Just as long as we don't have to deal with Everest, or whatever that was we climbed when we were looking for Mudjikawiss! It can't be nearly as bad as that." She started nearly jogging, almost stepping on Kwemoo--or Maang--as the two loons waddled out of her way. "That manitou said to look around the base for the entrance! So at least we won't have to climb too much..."
She jogged along a short ways before realizing that the way was growing harder, and she slowed her step, gasping for breath and wondering just how lazy she'd become; that was when she saw that the others were coming up behind her, and she was in fact standing on a slight slope. "Huh...?" She started looking around. "Don't tell me I'm already climbing it...?"
"Looks that way," Thomas said, clambering up after her and looking around. The others slowed a bit and peered at the incline, but it didn't seem terribly bad. "Well...if it's all this easy, then looks like we haven't much trouble ahead of us, doesn't it?"
"I guess not!" Charmian said, then looked south. Her face blanched. "Um...I guess not not."
Thomas followed her stare, then his face paled as well. Everyone craned their necks to try to see where the ascending wall of earth and grass and trees ended...but the tops of the oaks were so thick that they couldn't. All that they could tell was that it seemed to go way up, and it grew steep almost exponentially, so that a bit of a distance ahead it looked like the trees were floating in midair. Charmian grimaced and rubbed at her head, but started tramping on anyway. "Let's go," she said miserably. "As soon as we find Shawondassee, then we can head back down...and down is the part that's EASY!"
"That's what Glooskap always says, too!" Marten cried, and went cartwheeling up the slope. Charmian was content to walk slowly and let the Mikumwesu do all of the work if that was what he wanted; they started to fan out, examining the ground for any signs of an entrance, though now that they were there Charmian had no clue where to start. The manitou had said in the base of the mountain...but this "mountain" arose so gradually that the base could be anywhere in this general area of the woods. She guessed that she should have known that manitou wouldn't be helpful after all.
"Wish we had a satellite image," she sighed.
Marten came dashing back down the slope, panting hard. "Dun...dunno why you want to sit on a light," he panted, "but I think I found something over there by that bendy tree! It looks kind of like one of my shortcuts--only mine are MUCH better hidden!" He dashed off toward it again.
"But..." X'aaru hurried to catch up with Charmian, looking confused. "But that last shortcut, with all the shells--"
"Never mind, X," Charmian said. "You'll understand someday." She had to practically lean forward and put her hands against the ground by now. "I hope it's CLOSE, at least!! I like exercise as much as the next person but I'm hardly Spider-Man!"
Mani came up on her left and whistled forlornly; Puka was still draped atop him, his head hanging over the manitou's side and his tongue lolling out. Would give you a ride, Red Land One, but for this thing...
"It's okay, Mani," Charmian said, having to fight to catch her breath by now; she grasped onto an oak and worked her way around it, as the slope was so steep now, she feared falling down. She envied Augwak as he seemed to have no trouble whatsoever, and Winter Born was small and agile enough to not mind the ascent; she gasped and nearly shrieked when something bumped into her from behind and she did fall, but she felt herself land in feathers, and blinked in confusion.
"Niskigwun--?" she blurted out, only to see the Michinimakinong making his own way up the slope some distance away. He glanced at her with a frown. She dug her hand into the feathers behind her, then felt further to the side and touched something wet.
"OW!" a great voice bellowed, and she almost felt her hair turn as white as Winter Born's; she yanked her hand back and shook it with a grimace. "THAT WAS MY EYE!!" Kenu yelled. "WHAT SORT OF TREATMENT DO I GET FOR HELPING TINY HUMANS--?!"
"Sorry!!" Charmian cried, flustered; she realized now that she was in fact being gently nudged up the slope by the Thunderbird's head. "Next time maybe warn me before you do that!"
"Right here!" Marten cried, waving at the base of a tree. "Right in plain sight! What did I tell you? AMATEUR! EVERYBODY knows that if you want to hide a secret shortcut, you surround it with colored shells, and streamers, and feathers, just so they distract from the shortcut itself, and then it's NEVER found...!"
"A little to the right. A little bit up," Charmian instructed, Kenu nudging her in the right direction. "There!" She fell forward and grasped onto the tree's exposed root system; a large opening yawned in the earth here, a soft warm breeze emanating from it every so often. "I think this is it. Feels like wind, at least." She glanced over her shoulder at Kenu and almost got sick from the dizzying view behind him; most of the others had quit climbing and stopped about halfway down the slope, and were now standing about, looking back up at her. "Um...Kenu? I think maybe it'd be best if you stayed out here today...seeing as, if you tried going in, you'd probably blow up the mountain. This tunnel is way too small for a Thunderbird."
"Oh." Kenu looked crestfallen, but at least he didn't boom. "Well...all right. But make sure to address Shawondassee as Grandfather, and give him some tobacco, and treat him with respect! The Winds are grandfathers, just like we Animiki are, after all."
Charmian nodded. "Got it." She gestured at a few of the others. "Manabozho...Niskigwun...you two come along, since he might relate to you better. Thomas?" He craned his neck to look up at her. "Maybe you too...since you know wind...and if Shawondassee isn't too friendly, that might be useful."
They clambered up after her and started filing into the opening, though Manabozho did push Niskigwun out of the way so that the Michinimakinong ran into Thomas and they both had to grab onto the roots. They both blinked at him, then Niskigwun began huffing and turning red; Charmian climbed through the hole before there could be any homicides.
You don't need to be a jackass, Manabozho, she thought as they picked their way down the rooty tunnel.
He didn't need to be so pushy! Manabozho retorted. Trying to go first when he's just a Turtle Spirit and I'm half manitou! If anybody should face the South Wind firstly, it should be ME. He glanced over his shoulder at her. "Just leave the talking to me, all right? I'd hate for you to muss it up and say something foolish like you tend to do."
Charmian's jaw fell, then Niskigwun and Thomas had to grab hold of her before there could be any homicides.
Oddly, this tunnel was much different from all of the others that she'd been through; the walls were composed entirely of soil and roots, rather than stone, and every time a stone appeared it was merely a small reddish crystal set in among the roots, and these glowed as if to light the way. Charmian frowned at them in puzzlement. She was so used to seeing the Island's ever-present multicolored crystals that these ones seemed strange in comparison. In addition something was lighting up the end of the tunnel, so that they found themselves illuminated in dim orangish-red tones.
"Any of you know anything at all about the South Wind?" she whispered. "Just so we're not totally unprepared?"
"Well..." Niskigwun started, and they all glanced at him; he cupped a hand to his mouth as if getting ready to gossip. "According to what I have heard...he is the weakest of the Four Winds...not that any of us should bring this to his attention, by any means...but he is also the easiest to get along with. He brings the warm breezes that come in the summer, and he is of a quite placid temperament." They neared the end of the tunnel and crept out into a large room, formed again of earth and roots, and looked up at the assortments of feathers and shells and other knickknacks dangling from the latter, all seeming to decorate the room rather than perform any sort of useful function. It took them a moment to notice that the warm breezes were coming from a small space inset in the far wall, and here they saw what appeared to be drapes made of more feathers and shells, and they drifted outward, then back in, with each breeze. Upon closer inspection Charmian was surprised to see what looked to be a pallet on the other side, with somebody sleeping on it. She blinked when she realized that the breezes were in fact this person's breath, and they were snoring slightly.
"Oh," Niskigwun said, as if just remembering, and they looked at him. "Also according to what I have heard," he said, rubbing at his neck a bit, "the South Wind is a bit...ah...disinclined toward overexertion."
"You mean he's lazy?" Charmian asked. Niskigwun blushed a little and nodded, and she turned back to the shifting drapes. "Well...I guess it's better than him being a blowhard like Mudjikawiss! At least I can deal with lazy people..."
She started walking across the room toward the pallet, and the others hesitated a bit before following. She couldn't help but continue looking at the decorations, and knew that Peepaukawiss would have enjoyed it here, had he been conscious enough to ask along. Everything was in shades of coral, red, and orange, mostly due to the lighting, but she found that the effect was pretty rather than overpowering. The air was pleasantly warm as well, and carried a faint scent of flowers. She mulled over all of this as she tried to figure out what to say; apparently the South Wind was more interested in aesthetic things rather than fighting and boasting, so perhaps he would be easier to speak to.
She didn't pay proper attention to where she was going, and so when she tripped over something she ended up stumbling forward and stubbing her toe, and let out a yelp of pain. The others froze in place with wide eyes; Charmian held her aching foot and suppressed a curse, glancing at the floor of the room. Various items--instruments, nuts, pebbles, articles of clothing, things she couldn't even name--littered the floor, and only now did she realize that the place was a mess by any normal standards. She huffed and glared at the little drum she'd tripped over as if to spite it. "What sort of self-respecting person lives in such an awful mess--?" she blurted out.
The snoring abruptly stopped with a snort, and their heads all jerked up to look at the pallet. The figure within the alcove sat up, rubbing at its eyes and yawning loudly. It turned its head and Charmian felt a lump enter her throat.
"What's going on?" a gravelly voice muttered rather grouchily. "Who's out there?"
Charmian tried to swallow the lump, faltering for words. Manabozho leapt to stand beside her and clenched his fists. "Just--just some visitors to your noble abode, Uncle Shawondassee!" he exclaimed in a shaky voice. "Come to see the great South Wind and seek guidance!"
"Uncle...?" A hand reached out and parted the feather drapes and a face peered out, though it was saying a bit much to call it a face; long dark hair trailed in it and all that they could see was one bleary eye and part of a mouth. The person frowned. "Who's calling me Uncle...?"
"Um...that would be Manabozho, Sir--um--Grandfather--whatever," Charmian stuttered, not sure how to address him now. It had been a lot easier before remembering that Manabozho was related to him! "And me...though you wouldn't know me...and a couple of others..."
"Manabozho...?" The bleary eye blinked. "Kabeyun's boy...?"
Manabozho blinked this time, and Charmian sensed his surprise. "You--you've heard of me?" he asked.
Shawondassee--for that must have been who it was--yawned and stretched. "Of course I have. I'm a Wind, after all." He started rubbing at his eye. "What are you all doing in my place...? I was sleeping so nicely, too..."
"Sorry to bother you, Grandfather," Charmian said, digging in her tobacco pouch. "But it's kind of important...I brought tobacco..."
"Tobacco?" Shawondassee perked up immediately and his one visible eye lit up. "It's been ages since I've had a good smoke! I hope it's the nice kind--" He got up from his pallet and came toward them, only to trip on one of the items littering the floor. Everyone gasped and jumped back when he let out a yelp and pitched forward to land with an awful noise on his elbows. Charmian grimaced; that must have seriously hurt.
"OOWWWWW!!" Shawondassee wailed, and rocked back onto his haunches, holding his elbows in his hands. His hair flew back from his face and he grimaced as well, then furiously batted the offending item aside, his voice cracking. "STUPID THING!"
Immediately, Charmian's, Thomas's, Niskigwun's, and Manabozho's mouths all fell open as Shawondassee pushed himself up to his feet and started cursing the junk on the floor, kicking more of it aside. For his voice, motions, and face now made it pretty clear that the South Wind was a woman.
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This item is NOT looking for literary critique. I already understand spelling/grammar, and any style choices I make are my own. Likewise, I am NOT seeking publication, so suggestions on how to make this publishable are not being sought.
This item IS looking for people who are simply interested in reading, especially in long/multipart stories, and who like to comment frequently. My primary intent is to entertain others, so if you read this and find it entertaining, please let me know so and let me know why.
If in the course of enjoying the story you do find something that you feel could use improvement, feel free to bring it up. Just know that that's not my primary purpose in posting this here.
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I do hope you enjoy! :)