Charmian describes a strange new ability, and Kenu introduces the mighty Nigankwam...
|Main story folder & table of contents: "Escape From Manitou Island"
Previous chapter: "Part 59: Borrowed Medicine"
When The Sky Was Opened...
"YOU'RE GLOWING," CHARMIAN said, and Singing Cedars blinked in surprise.
"Huh--?" He glanced down at himself and his brow furrowed. "I am--?"
Charmian just stared at him. She'd just come out of the "waking vision," only to find the Onondaga before her, a faint greenish mist hovering around him. She frowned a little, blinking and wondering if something had gone wrong with her eyes, but no, the glow remained. She lifted her hand to try to touch him, then was caught staring at her own fingers. "I'm glowing, too," she blurted out, beyond perplexed. Her own hands and arms were surrounded by an orangish glow, and she moved them around, wondering now if she was still dreaming.
Singing Cedars frowned and looked at himself again, then at her. His look plainly said that he felt he was missing out on something.
Charmian carefully pushed herself up, the two okis taking a step back as Singing Cedars did the same. "Are you sure you should be walking?" he asked; she nodded, took a step, and almost toppled into the hole. She blushed and leaned on his arm when he offered it.
"Well...assisted, maybe," she admitted, and he helped her out of the little quarry, the two okis leading the way down the safest route. As soon as they reached the ground and stepped among the trees, the spirits faded from sight and she glanced around to try to spot them, unsuccessfully. "Where did they go--?"
"They're still here," Singing Cedars said, looking a bit awkward. "They just slipped into the trees...which way did you come from, the river--?"
Charmian nodded. "We met up with the others--they're setting up a camp there for tonight." She looked up at him. "Do you want to come? We're heading to Lake Superior--Gitchi-Gami--I'm afraid I don't know what your people call it," she said, somewhat apologetically. "You don't have to come," she added when he bit his lip. "You've already helped me a lot..."
He shook his head. "I already said I'm hardly leaving you now!"
"But I'm not exactly alone..."
"If how that Wyandotte cared for you is how all those others look after you, then you'll definitely need me!" He helped her over a root. "That Wyandotte probably would have let you trip over that..."
I'm hardly in need of any MORE people to watch after me! Charmian thought, but didn't have the heart to tell him; she found, to her surprise, that she rather liked the idea of him coming along. "Okay then," she said, using her weariest voice. "I guess."
He snorted, but didn't argue further, and she smirked to herself; he reminded her of Manabozho in more ways than one.
Moon Wolf was sitting at the end of the rough trail out toward the camp, and he glanced up at them with some surprise when they appeared; as soon as he met Charmian's eyes, he got a quite inscrutable look, and silently rose and went into the camp. The reaction from the others wasn't much different. Thomas frowned a little and arched an eyebrow at her but said nothing; Mani snorted a bit and shook his antlers but didn't bother rising from his nest under a tree; Francois, Marten, Winter Born, and X'aaru all looked quite curious, the latter three all approaching at once. Charmian felt Singing Cedars's fingers dig into her arm, and she nearly winced before he abruptly let her go and took a step back. She glanced at him and he made himself freeze, although he looked about ready to grimace; and he actually did, once X'aaru was sniffing him over, and Marten was clambering up atop his shoulders, and Winter Born was staring up at him with wide eyes.
"He smells funny," X'aaru said doubtfully.
"Wow! I betcha come from far away, huh--?" Marten exclaimed, dangling upside-down over his shoulder.
"Wow," Winter Born echoed, and looked at Charmian. "Is he an Eera-koy--?"
Singing Cedars ground his teeth; "Actually, he's an Onondaga," Charmian said, and his tensed muscles relaxed a little. "Singing Cedars...this here is X'aaru...don't worry, he won't bite...and this is Marten...he might bite, but only if you piss him off..."
Marten waved up at him. "Hi!"
"...And this is Winter Born. Um...you remember Black Elk Horn, right--? The guy who hit me in the face," she added, in case he didn't remember the name. "Well...this is his daughter," she said, and Singing Cedars's eyes went wider than she'd ever seen them, and then his face went brilliant red. The Seneca who'd been playing the shell game with Marten earlier let out a whoop then, Remy having joined them, and Winter Born promptly lost interest; she turned and dashed back to the game without another word. Singing Cedars quickly ducked his head toward Charmian.
"She's nothing like him, is she--?" he hissed.
Charmian rolled her eyes. "I hope not! Marten--" she addressed the Mikumwesu still dangling off of Singing Cedars's shoulder "--have I missed anything much--? Any plans made yet?"
"Oh!" He righted himself and hopped from Singing Cedars's shoulder onto hers; Singing Cedars let out a breath of relief and rubbed at his shoulder as if Marten had been a scorpion, then yelped a little when X'aaru pressed his nose into his palm. "They were all gonna wait until you had your vision thingie! Then we were gonna head back west and north--northwest, I guess!--and try to find the big lake just like you said! Francois said to leave the decision up to you though."
He did...? "Thanks, Marten," Charmian said, and gestured at Singing Cedars, starting to walk toward Thomas. "C'mon, I need to warm up...and hopefully get a real sleep for a change..."
"Might be easier said than done," Thomas said as they approached; when she frowned at him he glanced skyward, and she followed suit. At first all she saw was the dark clouds, made even darker in the last light of the day; but after a moment of staring, she thought she spotted a far-off flicker, and then heard a faint rumble in the distance. "It's been coming closer," he said. "Francois says it should arrive in the next hour...and these trees are nice but they won't block out all the rain, if it comes to that."
Charmian sighed. "Well...'tis the season."
"I'll ask my okis if they can help with shelter," Singing Cedars offered, and turned back to the woods before she could protest. The three of them watched him walk away, X'aaru trailing after him; Thomas then turned to look at her and raised his eyebrow again.
She shrugged. "I told you he lived not too far from here! He wasn't going to come, but he has this idea in his head..." She trailed off and began to frown when she spotted Thomas's mouth twitching. "All right, what?"
He shook his head. "Nothing! I'm just wondering why you even have to explain? I already said you make friends every single place you go! Go figure that you'd make friends with the fellow who tried shooting you once!"
Charmian's mouth fell open. "That was just a misunderstanding!!" She hit his arm and started toward the fire again, grasping Marten so he wouldn't fall. "And anyway! It was all his decision. And I think it would do him well to get out of his...longhouse...for a bit." Thomas started laughing now. "NOW what's funny--?!"
Another shake. "NOTHING...it's just...get out of his longhouse? Whenever I'm with you, I hear the weirdest bits of conversation..."
"Want me to bite him, Charm?" Marten asked.
Charmian shook her head. "No thanks, Marten...maybe later, when he's sleeping." She glanced over her shoulder to see Singing Cedars returning, walking a bit faster, as X'aaru was right behind him; he glanced at her a bit desperately, yelped, and just about jogged toward the river, the demon following; then Mishupishu lifted his head out of the water, Singing Cedars screamed, and ran back toward the trees, the demon still right behind him. There was a great deal of rustling; he emerged once more, teeth chattering, but at least he was walking again, even if he did still cast panicked looks at X'aaru. Whenever he stopped, X'aaru merely sniffed him over again. Charmian and Thomas stared at them until Singing Cedars grimaced and patted X'aaru on the head. He blinked when X'aaru's tongue lolled out, made an odd face, and then scratched his ear. A moment later the big demon was rolling on the ground and panting happily as Singing Cedars scratched his belly, though he did give Charmian a very dirty look before she turned away with a smile, Thomas doing the same.
"Going to have to remember to try that in the future," Charmian said, finding a seat near the fire. She spotted the okis over near Mani, and the three spirits appeared to be conversing; she remembered that the manitou used to be a woodling before joining Ocryx's manitous in Devil's Lake. "Take a look, everybody getting along! If Black Elk Horn were here...he'd either kill everybody, or just not know what to do."
"Or both," Thomas said, sitting beside her; Marten went hopping back to the game players. "So...your vision?"
Charmian nodded and rubbed at her head. "He helped me...I got through to them again." She looked Thomas in the face and he frowned a little.
"What is it...?" He put a hand to his nose. "Do I have something--?"
She shook her head. "No...it's just...well, since I came out...everything looks kind of funny." She blushed a little. "For example, you're glowing. Just a little bit," she added when his frown grew. "Blue," she finished, rather lamely.
He stared at her for a moment, then turned back to the fire, keeping his hand over his nose. "Hope I'm not coming down with something," he said, his voice muffled.
She shoved him in the arm again. "I'm glowing TOO! And Cedars..." She lifted her head to scan everyone else. "And...just about everybody else here, too...that's weird." She frowned now as well. "Well...Francois isn't glowing...and neither is Tooth or the other Senecas...or Remy...or Walks-On-The-Shore...and Stick's glow is really really faint, too..." She turned back to Thomas. "What do you think that might mean--?" Her eyes widened. "I saw an old episode of The Twilight Zone once--! Every time somebody glowed they were going to DIE!"
"Can you tell me whose glow is the brightest...?" a new voice said, and she jumped when she noticed Moon Wolf standing just behind them. She met his eyes to make sure he wasn't joking--even though she'd never known him to joke--and bit her lip a little before glancing at everyone in the camp. She turned back to him after a moment.
"Well...Manabozho's glow is pretty strong...Niskigwun's is, kinda...and yours is kind of bright too," she said, frowning again when she noticed the oddly shifting glow around him; it seemed to alternate between blue, like Thomas's, and shimmering purple. She took another look and finally spotted Kenu further along the river, pecking at the soil. "And Kenu's...his is pretty bright...and..." Her voice trailed off when she turned to look back into the camp, then a perplexed look came to her face.
"What is it?" Thomas asked, looking around as if he hoped to spot whatever it was himself.
"Someone has an even brighter glow?" Moon Wolf asked.
"Well..." Charmian couldn't seem to answer. "I think..." She looked at him, her confusion growing. "You're telling me it's something, right--? It means something?" When he said nothing she asked, "Is it medicine?"
"Medicine--?" Thomas echoed, cocking his head.
She turned back to him now. "The only ones here who aren't glowing--are the people who don't practice medicine! Francois, and Tooth, and Remy and Shore! And the people glowing the brightest are the ones with the strongest medicine, so far--Manabozho, and Puka, and Kenu, and Moon Wolf...Pakwa's glow isn't so bright, but it's brighter than Augwak's, and remember Augwak just lost most of his medicine--? Why else would Pakwa be brighter than he is--?"
Thomas frowned once more. "You started to say that someone here is even stronger than Manabozho and Moon Wolf--?"
"Well..." She chewed furiously on her lip and looked once more at Moon Wolf, almost reluctantly. "Sort of..."
"Who is it?" Moon Wolf pressed.
"Well..." Charmian trailed off once more, losing her voice. Her eyes drifted toward the camp, however, and the other two carefully followed the direction of her stare. They both peered at each other, then back at her.
"Winter Born...?" Thomas said, his brow furrowing a little.
"What do you see around her?" Moon Wolf asked.
Charmian fiddled her fingers. "It looks like the..." She paused. "Aurora borealis."
Moon Wolf seemed even more confused than ever. "Aror--?"
"The northern lights," Thomas said, and gave her a look that was just as perplexed. "You're saying she's lit up like the northern lights--?"
"I can't really describe it otherwise," Charmian said. "She's all pink, and blue, and green and yellow...all over...and..." She looked up at them. "And she's about as bright as Manabozho is."
They all fell silent and stared at the young girl as she successfully guessed where Remy had hidden the stone, and jumped up, hooting and making faces at him. She started running triumphantly around the camp, jumping over roots and making her way down to the river where she splashed her feet in it, then came running back, beaming from ear to ear, her feet muddy. She passed them by with barely a second glance and she and Marten started chasing each other around.
"Her...?" Moon Wolf murmured, disbelief plain on his face.
"Maybe I hit my head in the quarry or something," Charmian said. "Or maybe it's a side effect...remember that funky Turtle Fairy sleeping medicine Niskigwun gave me the last time? That made everything glow. For all I know it's just a funny side effect and it'll go away soon. Maybe she's just glowing so much because she's moving around or something." She stuck her hands out toward the fire, as if dismissing any further conversation, and the other two were forced to give up. "I bet it's nothing," she said, finally, and rubbed her fingers.
The thunder grumbled again in the distance, and most of them glanced up at the sky, frowning. Mishupishu turned and slunk away into the water, an anxious look on his face, and Charmian remembered what she'd been told about Thunderbirds and Underwater Lynxes not getting along. She glanced again at Kenu, dozing under a long branch that hung so low it brushed against the top of his head; it looked almost as if he slept with his eyes open, until she realized that what she was looking at was some sort of inner eyelid, and she made a face. She turned back to Thomas, as Moon Wolf had walked off further into the camp, pensively rubbing his Megis shell between his fingers. "You know, I've been wondering what Thunderbirds dream about; do they dream that they chase Lynxes--?" She made an odd face. "Doesn't it seem like it should be the other way around--?"
The sky flashed and their heads jerked up. A couple of moments later the thunder let out a low boom, and Thomas tapped Charmian's arm so that she got to her feet along with him.
"Those trees are looking better and better," he said, "especially after dunking in that water like that..."
"It's not like I told you to swim to me when you had a perfectly good canoe!" Charmian retorted.
He rolled his eyes as they started walking toward the woods, the two okis wandering back and forth before the trees. "Oh fine, see if I act all chivalrous again..."
"You mean that was an act--?"
Another flash and boom made them pick up their pace, and Charmian heard the first patters of rain against the river and the ground. Mishupishu completely vanished with barely a ripple; Kenu snorted and his head popped up, the branches getting in his eyes, and he tried looking around, unsuccessfully. Charmian saw him frown.
"Where did everybody go--?!" he exclaimed. "I'm sca--I, THE MIGHTY KENU, HAVE BEEN BLINDED AND BEWILDERED!"
His voice echoed off the trees--at least, Charmian thought it did, until she realized that it was just another boom of thunder. She blinked as soon as she thought this, and her mouth fell open; she whirled to Thomas and started to speak, but all that she got out was, "Tho--"
Kenu immediately shot to his feet so abruptly that he tore the lowest branches from the tree he rested under, and they went sailing into the camp, one crashing right over the fire and half extinguishing it; the Seneca, except for Tooth, all scrambled to their feet and dashed into the woods, and even Tooth sat up, the pipe falling from his mouth. Charmian and Thomas stumbled away from the fire as the Thunderbird reared up and stomped along the riverbank, flaring his scraggly wings and flashing his eyes. His head cocked back so that he stared skyward, and Charmian saw his eyes widen.
"THUNDER!" he cried. "ANIMIKI!!" And without another coherent word, he went rampaging down the riverbank and away from the camp, screaming at the top of his lungs. Charmian couldn't make out words; if she'd had to spell it out, it would have looked like "AAIIEEEEKKKKAAAAIIIIEEEKKKKAAAAIIIIEEEEEKKK!!"
She clamped her hands over her ears, wincing in pain; the trees themselves shook, the two okis whistling and bolting. Even Mani stumbled to his feet and let out a blare; Charmian screamed when something attached itself to her neck, and tried yanking it off, only to hear chattering noises right in her ear. She opened her eyes to see Marten's face squashed next to hers. His eyes looked ready to fall out.
"HE'S CRAZY!!" the Mikumwesu wailed. "HE'S GONNA SMUSH EVERYBODY!!"
Charmian glanced back at the river, seeing the huge hunks of earth that Kenu had gouged loose; she jogged toward it and peered westward. The Thunderbird was still running, but he was flapping his wings as well; he finally halted, craning his neck back and screaming at the sky. Her brow furrowed as she tried to figure out what was going on.
"I think--I think he's calling them!" she blurted out, Thomas and Winter Born joining her.
"Calling who--?" Winter Born exclaimed.
Charmian looked up at the lowering sky. "The other Thunderbirds!"
Manabozho appeared at her other side, fists clenched. "I TOLD you they're more trouble than they're WORTH!" he snapped.
She shook her head. "No time for that! We'll lose him if we don't follow!" She grabbed up her pack, set Marten down on a log, and went running. Manabozho huffed a little; she glanced over her shoulder and jerked a hand at him. "C'mon! YOU seem to know what you're talking about, for once!"
Thomas and Winter Born looked at him. He blinked, then puffed up--"About time you noticed!"--then deflated and scowled. "What do you mean, for once--?"
Charmian bared her teeth at him. "Would you just COME ON?!" She went running off again without another word, so he was forced to follow.
The forest along the river opened up somewhat here, the trees retreating from the north bank and revealing a grassy meadow which continued ahead in a northwesterly direction for quite some time. Kenu was stamping across the field, wings flailing and voice shrieking madly. Every so often he would halt, let out a boom, and start running again, the ground shaking with every step he took. Charmian couldn't stop wincing. What Niskigwun had warned her about earlier, about how the Animiki often forgot or overlooked just how powerful they really were and smaller creatures paid the price, came back in full force, and suddenly seemed like a terrible understatement. She nearly tripped in one of his footprints, they were so massive.
Manabozho grabbed her arm and hauled her to her feet. "Got a PLAN?" he yelled in more-than-obvious irritation.
She shrugged helplessly. "Just--follow him! I get the feeling he doesn't really know what he's doing unless he's being WATCHED!" She started jogging again. "I think we should keep an eye on him! And if he does manage to get their attention--can't it only help us? We might have to fight off some Lynxes, remember--!"
Manabozho opened his mouth to protest, but didn't get to. At that moment Kenu halted once more, and the noise that he let out was nearly indescribable; they both had to stop and drop to their knees to avoid toppling over, as awful cracking, snapping, clapping, rending noises came from the Thunderbird's throat. It sounded like a bowling alley full of microphones turned up as high as possible.
She clambered to her feet again and ran after him, managing to catch up at last. "Kenu! KENU!" she yelled as loudly as she could, as he was still flapping his wings and letting out little snaps and cracks, like the world's biggest firecracker. "KENU!!"
The Thunderbird halted abruptly and glanced around before looking down at her and blinking. He turned around and flared his wings wide. She had to correct herself. He was bigger than a little passenger plane.
"CHARMIAN!" he yelled, making her grimace. "THE ANIMIKI, MY ANIMIKI, HAVE ARRIVED! I, KENU, SHALL BE RETURNING TO MY PEOPLE! I MUST THANK YOU, TINY INSIGNIFICANT HUMAN, FOR ASSISTING ME!!"
Charmian didn't think her face could screw up any worse. She waved her arms at him. "Kenu!! You mean you're leaving--?"
"HUH--?" The Thunderbird blinked again, then his wings sank. "Huh--?" he echoed himself, his voice dying down.
Charmian pointed up at the flashing clouds, which were growling and booming now as if in response to Kenu's cries. "You're going home now?" she shouted, Manabozho still rubbing at his ears.
Kenu's brow furrowed. "Well...yes, I guess. That was rather what I was looking for...why?" He craned his neck forward a bit. "You wanted me to stay?"
"Well..." Charmian rubbed at her own ear. "I was kind of thinking you wanted to come along with us...we're going to be facing some Lynxes, after all." She waved at him. "But if this is what you wanted, it's fine! I know you want to get back to them aga--"
Kenu puffed up, and she knew enough to clap her hands to her ears again, just in time. "I, KENU, HAVE FOUND THE MIGHTY NIGANKWAM, THE FIRST THUNDER! I, KENU, INTEND TO RETURN TO MY GLORIOUS HOME WITHIN THE SKIES! BUT I AM A GENEROUS ANIMIKI, KIND AND GIVING, NO MATTER HOW TINY AND INSIGNIFICANT THOSE WHO ASK FOR MY AID! I SHALL REFUSE NO ONE, FOR I AM THE GRANDSON OF NIGANKWAM, A MIGHTY THUNDERER MYSELF!" He lowered his head and gave her an earnest look. "Maybe--maybe you can come up with me and talk to him! I have to talk to him before I go off anywhere on my own--so if you want me to come with you--maybe you can come up and see him--?"
Charmian stared at him stupidly. "You mean--you have to ask him before you leave--?"
"Huh--?" Kenu blinked, then raised himself; more ear plugging. "I, MIGHTY KENU, NEED ASK NO ONE FOR ANYTHING! I MERELY HAVE TO INFORM MY FELLOW THUNDERS OF WHEN I LEAVE, SO THAT THEY DO NOT MOURN ME IN MY ABSENCE, FOR I FACE MANY DEADLY ENEMIES DAILY, AND OF COURSE THEY WORRY ABOUT ME, AS I AM IN GREAT STANDING WITH THEM! GLORIOUS GREAT STANDING!!" He lowered himself and gave her a pleading look. "Please? I'm sure if you talk with him he'll believe me more!"
Charmian reluctantly pulled her hands away from her ears, wincing. "Well...okay then!! If it means you'll stop yelling..."
He didn't hear her last words. He rose and spread his wings, turning in a circle. "I, THE MIGHTY KENU, GRANDSON OF THE ALMIGHTY NIGANKWAM, SHALL BRING THE TINY INSIGNIFICANT HUMANS WITH ME TO BEAR WITNESS TO MY BRAVERY AND FORTITUDE! FOR IN THE END ALL TINY INSIGNIFICANT BEINGS SHALL OBEY THE ANIMIKI!" He dropped down and spread out a wing. "Climb on my back! I can fly you right there! Easy as anything!"
Charmian suppressed another wince and hurried toward him before he could start screaming again. She waved almost frantically at Manabozho. "C'mon, Manabozho!" She said to him mentally, Before he starts Mighty Kenu'ing again!!
Manabozho clenched his fists. "Do you have any idea how STUPID this is?!"
Kenu opened his beak; "PLEASE?!" Charmian yelled, her voice so shrill that both of them winced. She gave what she was sure was a ghastly smile. "Right NOW?" She hurried up Kenu's wing and nestled herself between his shoulders, waving again. Manabozho fumed for a moment, but when a boom of thunder came from directly overhead, he jumped and dashed at them, clambering atop Kenu's back himself. When Charmian stared at him he flushed and scowled.
"Well?" he barked. "Let's get this stupidity OVER with!!"
"Hold on!" Kenu said; then, just when she was starting to sigh with relief that that was the worst of it, "I, THE MIGHTY KENU, AM KNOWN TO FLY QUITE FAST!" Then he flapped his wings with a terrific CRACKing noise, and lifted into the air, ponderously rising toward the clouds. Charmian managed to glance back over her shoulder, and saw several of the others, Winter Born among them, jogging out into the field and staring up at them with wide eyes. All that she could do was shrug, then gasp and cling onto Kenu's feathers as tightly as she could.
The wind picked up and started roaring around them the higher they went; soon she was chattering madly with cold, rain whipping against her face and soaking her clothes. Manabozho didn't seem to be faring much better, and it wasn't long before she was shaking and wet and miserable. Kenu's feathers appeared to be waterproof; she surreptitiously dug herself into them to try to keep warm, but made a face, as the Thunderbird smelled kind of funny.
"He smells like ozone!!" she yelled at Manabozho.
"O-WHAT?" he yelled back.
She sighed, but the wind carried that away as well. "NEVER MIND."
Soon enough she began to forget about her damp state, as the clouds above surged closer, flashing and cracking and booming; her eyes widened and she stared up at them in awe as they roiled and started to break apart, forming an opening up into the sky. She spotted stars glinting overhead and her jaw fell open--it was like being in the eye of a storm, as if she could know what that was like, but she was pretty sure that if it was like anything then it must be like this.
"Wow," she whispered, but of course no one heard it.
"HOLD ON!" Kenu shouted. "IT GETS A LITTLE TRICKY RIGHT HERE!"
She obediently burrowed her head into his feathers, Manabozho ducking as well. She felt the Thunderbird's body lurch as he tilted back and aimed at the opening; then she could feel heavy moisture clinging to her arms, and opened one eye just enough to see--nothing much. It took her a moment to figure out that they were passing through the clouds, and she couldn't even see the tips of Kenu's wings anymore. Every once in a while the haze around them lit up like a fireworks display, then went back to black; then she had to squint her eyes shut when the air BOOMED around them, making her teeth vibrate.
GOD I hope this doesn't take too long!! she thought in desperation. If this kept up, she'd have to learn to start reading lips just to keep up in school. As if that weren't bad enough, another BOOM came, and Kenu answered it with a BOOM of his own, and she thought her insides would turn to mush.
Think this is such a great idea NOW?! Manabozho shrilled in her head.
She didn't bother answering him, as by now she was starting to feel sick. She bit the inside of her mouth, praying that she wouldn't throw up--because not only would she do it on a Thunderbird, but it would likely fly back to hit her in the face, and get Manabozho as well; and that was hardly a tale she needed told about her in years to come. Behold Charmian! a voice in her head exclaimed. Mighty defender of the Island, fighter of Ocryana, and thrower-upper on Manabozho! She grimaced and prayed even harder.
Suddenly the heavy wet feeling vanished, and she could literally feel the air opening up around her. A second later Kenu lurched, making her choke and hold her breath, and then with a thud his feet hit something and he went still. He bowed himself forward and she opened her eyes in time to see him spread a wing. He peered back at her through one large yellow eye.
"Right here!" he exclaimed cheerily. "This is it!"
"Huh...?" Charmian barely dared to speak, lest something besides words come out. She didn't have much to say anyway. She found herself staring up at the impossibly high ceiling of a...
"...Wigwam...?" she said, and her brow furrowed. She and Manabozho looked around themselves. "Are we in a lodge?"
Kenu frowned a little. "Well...yes. What did you think we lived in?"
She started gingerly working her way down off of his back. "I kind of figured...you just...lived in the clouds!"
Kenu let out a horrific sound which made her slap her hands to her ears; she assumed it must be a laugh. "IN THE CLOUDS!" he bellowed. "THAT'S FUNNY!"
"Kenu?" a new voice boomed from further along in the huge lodge, and the Thunderbird immediately ducked his head, wincing. The other two looked up at him as he shrank in on himself, and Charmian frowned; the voice was even more authoritative and thus ominous than Kenu's, but not quite as painful to hear. If she'd had to describe it, she would have said it was modulated.
She and Manabozho both peered ahead into the lodge--it was long, like the medicine lodge in the Island camp, yet far bigger than any she'd ever seen anywhere, its beams looking as if they were made up of grown trees rather than saplings. She found that the patch of sky she'd seen was in fact the view through a smokehole set impossibly high above--the hole alone was big enough for her to see scores of stars, and they were brighter than she'd ever seen. Her eyes widened and she wondered just how high up they were, then glanced down toward the end of the lodge again. She could hear something coming their way, though the lodge was so long that she still couldn't see it.
"Kenu?" the voice said again, and this time the Thunderbird ducked his head, looking embarrassed. "WHAT was it I told you about running off without notice...?"
"I'm...I'm sorry, Grandfather," Kenu said in a very small voice.
"That's your grandfather--?" Charmian asked, glancing at him, then back toward the lodge and taking a step forward. "Um--hello?" she called out, her voice echoing. "Nigankwam--?"
"And you bring HUMANS into our lodge...?" the voice said, with a cutting edge to it, and this time Charmian was the one to duck her head and take a step back. She started fiddling in her pouch, looking for tobacco, when a long shadow stretched out into the little lit space they occupied, and the voice continued, "What have I told you about messing with humans, Kenu...?"
"I'm sorry, Grandfather," Kenu said in an even tinier voice.
The shadow grew shorter. "Um...Grandfather Nigankwam?" Charmian said timidly, hoping she wasn't addressing him incorrectly; she still felt oddly calling total strangers by relative names. "I hoped maybe we could talk..."
"I assume you have good reason for trespassing in the home of the Animiki," the voice said, and Nigankwam stepped out of the shadows, his yellow eyes fixing on hers--but Charmian's mouth fell open when she found herself facing a human.
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Please DO NOT RATE if you won't review.
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.
If you have any questions about the story or anything within it, feel free to ask.
I do hope you enjoy! :)