Shawondassee clears up more than a few things about the Four Winds...
|Main story folder & table of contents: "Escape From Manitou Island"
Previous chapter: "Part 36: Shawondassee's Mountain"
SHAWONDASSEE SHOT TO his feet, kicking aside all of the stray junk littering the floor around him; his face went livid and he bared his teeth. "Stupid JUNK!" he yelled, voice cracking. "What're you trying to do, KILL me?!"
Charmian and the others, Manabozho foremost among them, stood staring at the South Wind in silence, their mouths hanging open. Even as Shawondassee turned in awkward circles, kicking everything away and cursing, they couldn't stop staring. He wasn't anything like what they'd expected. Firstly, and mostly, he was a woman.
Charmian slowly turned her head to meet Niskigwun's eyes; at any other time she would have glared, but as it was, she was too shocked to do anything but stare. The Michinimakinong did the same in return, his eyes showing that he was just as baffled as she was. He shook his head and shrugged a little.
She turned back to the cursing Shawondassee and swallowed hard, trying to speak, but nothing came out. Shawondassee finally finished turning in circles and halted, swaying dizzily and panting for breath. He--she--ran a shaky hand across her brow and let out a breath, looking like she wanted to sink into the floor. She finally noticed them still standing before her and blinked, then brushed her hair out of her eyes. They were large and reddish-brown.
"Oh. You're still here--?" Her voice was a bit gravelly, and could have easily passed as a boy's voice, though now that Charmian thought of it, she didn't sound like a man, either. Her hair was unkempt and she wore no sort of paint or makeup--even her deerskin robe could have passed for a man's clothes, and it didn't bear any more decoration than was absolutely necessary. If Charmian had had to describe the South Wind in one word, she would have been sorely tempted to use the word slovenly. The state the room was in rather proved that much, at least. Charmian started looking around, hoping to spot the real Shawondassee somewhere, but he was nowhere to be found. The messy woman took another step forward and squinted at her.
"You said you had tobacco...?" she asked, hopefully.
Charmian blinked, then clutched the tobacco pouch to herself more closely, taking a step back. "For Shawondassee!" she exclaimed.
The woman rolled her eyes. "I know that." She snatched the pouch from Charmian's hand before she could react, and Charmian opened her mouth to yell in protest, only to have Thomas squeeze one arm and Niskigwun the other. The woman stomped back toward the pallet and started digging around underneath it. Her face lit up when she found what she was looking for and she pulled out a carved pipe, and tapped some of the tobacco into the bowl. She let the pouch fall beside her--Charmian nearly swallowed her tongue--and took a deep whiff of the pipe's contents before letting out a long sigh, a blissful expression on her face. She managed a weary-looking smile.
"It smells so nice," she murmured, and with a snap of her fingers lit the pipe. She put it to her mouth and started puffing, letting out another sigh and blowing out a smoke ring. "Nobody ever remembers to bring tobacco! I've been meaning to quit..." she tilted the pipe a little "...but it's so hard!" She inhaled again, and let out more smoke, looking ready to reach nirvana.
Charmian just gawked at her like the others. She finally stepped forward to snatch her tobacco pouch back, but by now the woman paid no attention to her whatsoever, being too lost in smoking. "We..." Charmian started, then had to struggle to find her voice, this entire situation was flustering her so. "We're looking for Shawondassee," she blurted out. "The South Wind!"
The woman rolled her eyes again. "I heard you the first ten times!"
Charmian clenched her fists. "Then just tell us where to find the South Wind and we'll go! We have to talk to him!"
The woman let out a huge sigh and pushed herself upright, as if doing so were a great chore. She put her free hand on her hip and glared at Charmian, a lock of hair falling in her eyes. "Well--TALK then! I haven't got all day, and I was right in the middle of a really nice nap!" She took a puff and let it out with yet another sigh. "Though the smoke was nice..."
Charmian lost her voice again. She waited for one of the others to step up, but none of them did; another glance showed the bewildered looks in their eyes. She turned back to the woman and her brow furrowed.
"But...you can't be Shawondassee," she insisted, and when the woman arched an eyebrow at her she waved her hands. "No offense, but--I was kind of informed that the South Wind is a guy!"
"'Guy'...?" the woman echoed.
Charmian nodded wildly. "A man! Just like the other Winds--you know--four brothers!"
Another eye roll; the woman was certainly giving them a workout. "Oh, brother...not THAT story again!" She sighed gustily and sat down with a thump on the edge of her pallet, taking a drag. "Look...I'm a woman, you're a woman, let's call the whole thing off, all right?"
"But I don't get it!" Charmian cried.
Shawondassee--or whoever--took another puff. "Look," she said. "Basically everybody thinks I'm a man, because it makes more sense to them that way, so bam, that's what I am. A 'guy,' as you put it."
"THAT doesn't make much sense!!" Charmian snapped.
Another puff. The woman looked skyward as if Charmian were the world's biggest annoyance, and Charmian started steaming. "All right...how to tell it so you actually understand. Pretty much, our parents were expecting four sons, just like you said, so when I was born it was kind of unexpected, and three brothers and a sister doesn't have the same nice ring to it, right?" She nodded and went on before anybody could answer. "So basically...ever since I was real little I've done things just like my brothers did. Tagged along after 'em, hunted like 'em, all that fun stuff. Because truthfully, sitting at home and beading and quilling just...zzzzzzzz." She made a snoring noise and let her head droop before taking another puff. "So basically I just act like they do, and so everybody just assumes, because I'm one of the Winds, that I'm a 'guy.'" She took a puff and gave Charmian a frank look. "Doesn't it just drive you crazy being surrounded by guys--? I mean, the four of us never even really hung out much, and it's STILL so much work! You know I had to work TWICE as hard just to be HALF as good as they are...? Or something like that." She shrugged and puffed. "Numbers've never been my strong suit."
Charmian couldn't stop shaking her head in confusion. "But...even Geezhigo-Quae called you a guy," she said weakly.
Shawondassee shrugged. "I can't help what people call me. You can call me Mitchi-Mitchi-Bo-Bitchi if you want, doesn't mean that I am." A particularly thoughtful puff. "Every time I go out and fight and stuff I have to dress the part, so that's likely it, why she thought I was a 'guy.' I'm not gonna go out in a dress and beads!" She made a face. "Can you imagine how stupid that would be...?"
Charmian looked once more at the others, then let out a gusty sigh and rubbed at her head. "Well...if you really are the South Wind...then I came here to talk to you. If you're NOT the South Wind then you can't really help, so you'd better be telling the truth!"
Shawondassee yawned. "I said spill it, didn't I?" She rubbed at one eye. "Don't be all day about it either, because I need to finish my nap. Do you have any idea how tiring it is being a Wind...? Blow this, blow that...blaaaaaahh." She made a face.
Charmian suppressed a grimace. "Well...basically...we're having a problem with Mishupishus. They might be trying to attack Manitou Island. There's this big guy named Megissogwun," she said lastly, seeing that her first comments were going over Shawondassee's head, but this last name made her eyes light up and she sat up straighter, setting the pipe against her knee.
"The Pearl Feather--?" she asked, and Charmian nodded. She rubbed her head. "Spirits...I haven't heard of him in AGES! I thought Kabeyun did him in long ago!"
"Not quite," Niskigwun said in a flat voice.
"He's threatening the Island again," Charmian explained, "and we were told to go look for the Winds."
Shawondassee shrugged. "Well, I'm flattered, but I hardly think I'm the Wind you want! Need I tell you how this Pearl Feather kicked my behind the last time? I knew it was a stupid idea to face him, but who turns down Geezhigo-Quae, right? And I thought maybe if by some chance I defeated him, or even did a good job, just maybe my lunkheaded brothers would show me a little respect." Yet another eye roll. "But noooooo. All he did was LOOK at me and that was practically it. 'I hardly have time to waste on a woman,' he said. Can you BELIEVE that? I mean, the NERVE of it! You understand--right?" she asked, leaning toward Charmian, who blushed and took a step back. "I mean, ever have some self-centered pompous GUY call you a little girl or something like you don't mean a bit and it just completely burns you up--?"
"Yes," Manabozho, Niskigwun, and Thomas all said at once; Charmian's face went scarlet and her ears felt ready to burn off of her head. She stomped on someone's foot as hard as she could and heard Thomas yell and start jumping; she rather wished it had been one of the others, but decided that he deserved it just as much.
"Anyway," Shawondassee went on, taking a puff, "as soon as he said that I was like, 'What--?' and that was pretty much it--next thing I know I'm lying in a completely different location and my eyes are both black and I think my nose was broken too. Ugh." She rubbed at her nose as if still feeling it, then gave a great shrug. "Can you BELIEVE it? I mean, sure, I wanted to be tough and all, but, hitting a girl? What sort of person does THAT? I rather think he's lacking in self-esteem, to go hitting women, you know, though that's just my opinion. Anyway, what were you going to ask me?"
Charmian blinked, surprised to be so suddenly spoken to again. She chewed her lip. "Actually...we weren't wondering whether you could fight him..." she started in a cautious voice.
The South Wind let out a big sigh. "Thank GOODNESS! Because, you know, if you asked me to do it, then your Island would pretty much be doomed. I may be a Wind, but when it comes to fighting, I really, completely--" She paused thoughtfully. "What's the term your people would use?"
"Suck?" Charmian said, confused.
Shawondassee nodded sagely. "That's it. I would really, completely suck." She took a puff and let it out.
Niskigwun leaned toward Charmian and whispered ever so quietly in her ear, "I have heard that the South Wind is quite honest, as well. To a fault."
Charmian rubbed at her forehead now, feeling a headache coming on. "Anyway...we didn't come to ask you to fight him," she repeated herself, wondering if Shawondassee would benefit from some Ritalin. "What we wanted to ask was, if you might know where we can find Kabeyun, so he can fight him."
Shawondassee started coughing and choking, making them all jump. She started thumping her chest and puffs of smoke came out of her mouth, tears welling up in her eyes. She waved at something at the side of the room; they all glanced at it, then Niskigwun dashed over to pick up a small gourd sitting in another alcove. He rushed it to her and she took a long drink from it before letting out a breath and wiping her mouth. She let the empty gourd drop to the floor and coughed again.
"Kabeyun!" she said, and let out a raspy laugh. "Funny." When she noticed the look that Charmian was giving her she stopped laughing and narrowed her eyes at her, then frowned. "Oh. You're serious."
"Of COURSE I'm serious!" Charmian snapped, throwing up her hands. "Why else would we come all this way?"
Shawondassee looked at her closely again. "Where are you from, exactly--?"
Charmian pulled on her hair. "MANITOU ISLAND!!"
"Oh." The South Wind nodded again. "I remember now...anyway...you're serious? Looking for Kabeyun, and all...?"
"With respect, Grandfa--er--Grandmother, Kabeyun is the one who defeated Megissogwun the last time," Niskigwun said. "We had hoped that we could find him, and convince him to do so again."
Shawondassee let out a bark of a laugh. "That's RICH! You honestly think you can talk him into doing that again?" She turned to Charmian and leaned forward. "Listen, take some advice from me. Kabeyun's impossible! I honestly think he only did that in the first place because Geezhigo-Quae asked him so nicely! What makes you think he'll listen to somebody like you?"
"Is he really that bad?" Charmian asked in dismay. "I thought that since he was a Wind, he might be a bit more mature..."
Shawondassee started cackling now. "M-MATURE!" She had to gasp for her breath and put the pipe down before she could burn herself, wiping tears from her eyes. "Oh...that is rich. I'm sorry to tell you, really, because we all fell from the same tree, but he's about as mature as that other boy of his, you know, the big stupid one, who likes hanging out with bears all the time."
"Mudjikawiss...?" Charmian said in growing despair.
The South Wind nodded. "Yeah, that's the one. The fruit doesn't fall too far from the tree, they say! Well, Mudji took after Kabeyun. You wonder why he doted on that boy so much? Because he was just a little mini-Kabeyun himself. Peepaukawiss, Wabasso, Manabozho, not like Kabeyun, so that's why he wasn't really interested." She glanced at Manabozho. "No offense."
"But he did it before," Charmian insisted. "Why not now?"
Shawondassee rolled her eyes. "Need I even try explaining? Let me tell you a little something. What KABEYUN did to me all while we were growing up made what the Pearl Feather did to me look like fun! He's pretty much the same when it comes to women, y'know. If Geezhigo-Quae hadn't been who she is and if he hadn't had something to prove from all our failures then I really don't think ANYTHING could've convinced him to save that Island. He really only did it for himself. When we were little, Wabun and I, it was Kabeyun's and Kabebonikka's hobby to run our noses into the ground! You'd really have better luck just looking elsewhere. Who knows--maybe somewhere out there there's another manitou strong enough to take this guy on--?" She shrugged and puffed. "The Pearl Feather came from somewhere, didn't he? Maybe he's got a brother who'd love to run his nose into the ground." She chuckled.
Charmian felt her spirits rapidly sinking; the looks on the others' faces proved that they felt the same way. "But...we came all this way," she murmured in a small voice. "We have to find him...he's the only chance we have."
Shawondassee looked at her closely, then frowned, her lip sticking out. "You're really serious about this, huh...?" When Charmian didn't reply she pushed herself to sit upright and crossed her arms. "Well...it's all just as I've told you, pretty much. I really don't think you stand a chance with Kabeyun. And I hate to say it, but even if you did, I can't tell you where he is. I don't have any idea. We were never exactly like this, you know." She rubbed two fingers together.
"So you don't know where he is?" Charmian cried.
Shawondassee shook her head. "Sorry...never kept in touch with him. The last I heard of him, he was visiting with that woman of his, and seeing to Wabasso...but that was ages and ages ago and only once that I know of." She shrugged. "After that...no clue."
Charmian let out a miserable sigh and felt like sinking into the floor. "Well...thanks, I guess," she said a bit bitterly. "Maybe somebody else knows where to find him?"
Another shrug. "How would I know?"
"We were going to go ask the East Wind next," Thomas said. "Do you think he might have any idea?"
"What, you mean Wabun?" Shawondassee blurted out, then started laughing again. She stopped after a moment and wiped one eye. "Oh...you're serious again." She coughed. "Well...I can't say. If anyone in this family is a bigger mess-up than me it's Wabun! I already said, Kabeyun and 'Bonikka liked making examples of us. Wabun wasn't really one to fight either. And not even in a stupid girly way like me." She paused and frowned. "Then again..."
"What--?" When Shawondassee said nothing Charmian took a step forward, fists clenching. "What? You know something--?"
"Well..." The South Wind rubbed the back of her neck and tapped the pipestem against her head. "Maybe. I'm not real sure."
"Could you tell us, Grandmother?" Niskigwun asked. "Perhaps any small thing could help!"
"Quit calling me Grandmother!" Shawondassee snapped, making Niskigwun blush. "For goodness' sake! Makes me feel all old!" She coughed and tapped her chest. "I was just thinking...Wabun and I parted on somewhat better terms than the others...he made this claim that he was going to work harder at improving himself, 'cause what the others did really irked him no end. Me, I just brushed it off, because they're big brothers, you know? What other things do big brothers do besides beat the dung out of their little siblings, right?" She shrugged sagely. "It's not like it was anything personal. In any case, Wabun didn't take it quite so well. So he said he was going to work on that. I told him good luck, because he'd need it, but he must've meant it because he didn't even take any offense at that, and out of the four of us he was the touchiest that way. I dunno. Maybe he meant his word and since then he's proven himself."
"Proven himself?" Charmian echoed, confused. "What's this have to do with finding Kabeyun?"
Shawondassee rolled her eyes. "Well, duhhh. What better way to prove yourself against a sibling than by facing them? What I'm saying is, maybe Wabun does know where to find Kabeyun. I mean, he can't really make his point unless he meets him again. Who knows. Maybe he can help you more than I can."
Charmian's eyes started to light up. "Seriously--?" She clasped her hands together. "Then--do you know where to find Wabun?"
The South Wind rolled her eyes. "East." She gave Charmian an odd look, then cupped a hand to her mouth and whispered to Thomas as if she weren't even there. "Not too bright, is she...?"
Charmian brought her foot down on Thomas's again and he again yelled and started jumping. "We already know that!" she snapped, making Shawondassee blink. "WHERE east?"
Shawondassee chewed her lip a little. "Well--I hardly know! All I know is you head east. I mean, you found me by heading south, didn't you?" She frowned. "Unless you CAME from the south...? Spirits, no wonder everybody has trouble finding us." She rubbed her head and made a face. "This whole four directions thing doesn't make much sense out of context..."
"With respect, Grand--ah--great South Wind," Niskigwun said, "but we received assistance in finding your abode. How might we then find the abode of Wabun unassisted...?"
Shawondassee frowned again. "Well--maybe get help, again--? If somebody told you the way to my place, then surely somebody knows the way to Wabun's--I mean, pretty much?"
Charmian's head sank; Thomas took her arm to keep her from sinking herself. "Thanks a lot," she murmured under her breath.
The South Wind's brow furrowed. "Well...I'm real sorry I can't be of more use. That's honestly all I know." She tapped the pipe against her teeth. "Hey, here's a thought! Maybe you should try to seek out a wabano. If anybody knows where to seek Wabun, it's likely a wabano."
Charmian's head shot up at the word wabano. "You mean a fire-juggler--?" she blurted out; Shawondassee nodded and she took a step forward, fists clenching again. "Why would a wabano know where to find Wabun--?"
Shawondassee sighed heavily. "Looks like I'm never going to finish my nap." She rubbed her eyes and stifled a yawn. "Well, look at it. Wabun. Wabano. See the similarity?" When Charmian's brow furrowed she rolled her eyes. "Wabanos get their name from Wabun-Anung, the Morning Star. This is what their name means. The Morning Star Men. Where does the Morning Star get its name--? From Wabun, of course, because it rises in the east. Wabun's always been close to Wabun-Anung. The wabanos pledge their devotion to this star. So, just ask a wabano. Maybe he can tell you just how far east you have to go." She pursed her lips. "Though I'm afraid I couldn't tell you where to find a wabano..."
"That's okay," Charmian said, and pivoted on one heel. "It's taken care of!" She jerked her hand at the others and they blinked in surprise before turning to follow.
Shawondassee waved her pipe. "Thanks for the smoke!"
They made their way almost to the end of the tunnel out of the hill before Charmian slowed her step, panting a little. Thomas jogged up beside her and tapped her shoulder.
"You plan on talking to Moon Wolf about the whole deal...?" She nodded. "Do you really think he might know anything?"
She shrugged. "It couldn't hurt to try, and right now, it's the only idea we've got."
"It seems he would've told you about this sooner, if he knew where to find Wabun," Thomas mused.
"Maybe, but it can't hurt to try, can it?" She stopped so suddenly that Niskigwun nearly ran into her, and glanced over her shoulder at Manabozho, who was walking behind them. "Oh. Manabozho." He lifted his head and frowned a little. "You didn't really get to talk to Shawondassee much...do you want to go back and say anything? I mean, she is your aunt...uncle...whatever...and all."
Manabozho blinked, then scowled a little. "We don't have to," he grumbled, nudging his way past them to take the lead. "I already heard everything I needed to know."
The other three stared after him, then furrowed their brows at each other. After a moment they followed in silence and made their way back to the entrance to the hill.
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