Chakenapok and Charmian both wonder where on earth they are...
|Main story folder & table of contents: "Escape From Manitou Island"
Previous chapter: "Part 115: Over, Under, Around, Through"
PART ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN:
Dude, Where's My Camp?
THE EYES REMAINED as shut as ever. Still Chakenapok stared up at them, pensive look on his face, his own eyes narrowed slightly. The bands holding Ocryana aloft glowed and throbbed with color, still as bright as they'd been the day she'd first been imprisoned here, seemingly so long ago. He studied the bands, the power of all the elements and dreams of all the Islanders combined, probably the greatest effort anyone on the Island had ever made for anything.
When she fought me it was merely herself and my brothers. I was more powerful than Ocryana then...but it was a different kind of power. I had that power only because my brothers gave it to me. Now I know I wouldn't stand a chance against such a creature, on my own.
He could feel her emotions, even if he couldn't read her exact thoughts. They were one of the reasons why he'd awakened again in the first place, Malsum the Wolf steering his thoughts more into line with hers. Although her face was peaceful and it looked as if she merely slept, he knew her heart was otherwise; he could practically see the blackness swirling around within it, the deep red throbbing like the bands of light that held her. He'd heard the old stories of her first imprisonment, how she had seethed beneath the Island until her bonds were broken, at which she had killed the very one who'd freed her, and set out promptly to find her former mate and do the same to him. She'd felt hatred that strong only two other times that he was aware of. When her daughter had disobeyed her and saved the life of the Wemitigoji who lived in the stick-house, and when the mainlander had at last imprisoned her again. He sensed that much of the blackness that swirled in her spirit was for those three alone, and that if she were to somehow awaken again, they would be the first to go. Yet the bands of light held her as steadily as ever and in all the time that he'd dwelt under the Island, he'd never sensed her stirring.
As it turns out, I rather had the thought that your affairs with her were not quite settled as of yet...
Chakenapok's brow furrowed slightly. What would Kabebonikka, the North Wind, know about a demon on some Island he no longer cared for...?
He is a trickster. Even I know this. More so than anyone. I believe that if I took after anyone in this family, it was more likely he than Father.
So why would he say such a thing...?
He stared at her harder, trying to detect any sense of movement or awareness. But it was just the same as always. There wasn't the slightest sign that she was aware of anything going on around her, much less something happening in some land so far away that even Chakenapok had trouble reaching it now.
He narrowed his eyes and leaned toward her. Reached out one finger to gingerly touch one of the glowing bands--then drew his hand back without doing so. He rubbed it as if he'd been stung anyway and frowned. Something was giving him a strange pressing feeling but he couldn't tell what it was. It was almost like a feeling of déjà vu...though he couldn't figure out why he would be feeling that now.
He stared at her for a moment longer, then let out a frustrated sigh and took a step back.
Something flashed right before him and he gasped, hands shooting up to shield his eyes. He blinked the glare away, then his stare turned into a gawk when he found himself being stared at in return. Angry blue eyes focused on his.
"What did you do that for?" the Red Swan demanded, dainty fists clenching at her sides.
Chakenapok just blinked and looked her up and down. "How--how did you do that--?" he blurted out. "You shouldn't be able to travel here--" His eyes widened, then started to narrow, and he swung a hand at her. It connected with nothing; the Red Swan's image didn't waver, but Chakenapok's patience did. He clenched his own fists. "How did you get in here? What's more what are you doing in here? Aren't you aware that--"
"You made me disappear!" the Red Swan cried, eyes flashing. "How dare you do that! I thought we were supposed to be working together, then you go and make me DISAPPEAR! What sort of ally are you--?"
Chakenapok began to scowl, ignoring the nagging voice in his head. "The sort who is aware not to trust strange manitous so easily."
The Red Swan blinked, her eyes growing wide. A second later, they flashed brilliant blue--Chakenapok took in a breath, the muscles of his arm tensing--and then found himself staring at a large fountain spitting water into the air. He blinked again and dropped his arm, gaping at the structure, then glancing from left to right.
He turned in a circle. A stream of water flowed from the stone fountain...a stand of trees stood behind it, and rolling grassland to the left, a valley dipping to the right. Chakenapok furrowed his brow.
"The Borderlands?" he exclaimed, his confusion forming into a scowl. He turned back to face the fountain, then stalked toward it and bent over to look into the water. He didn't even flinch or jump when he saw Manabozho staring back at him. The two of them scowled at each other. "What--you think you'll shut me out?" he snapped, Manabozho mouthing the words back at him. "She already knows she'd do better than to trust you! I hardly care if she distrusts me. But it seems like you have an awful lot to lose if she distrusts you."
He paused. No answer was forthcoming. He lifted his head to look skyward; no sun was visible, but everything was sunny and bright anyway. "Nothing to say?" he called out. "For some reason that's not so surprising. People say the least when they have something to hide."
He fell silent once more; still no response. He couldn't even feel her presence, and this infuriated him; he dug his fingernails into his palms and considered smashing the fountain before remembering exactly whose it was, then he forced himself to take a breath and let it out first. He still steamed then, but at least he wasn't ready to take it out on the mainlander's dream.
So now I know she's more powerful than I thought, he thought to himself, scowling again. As soon as I find a way out of here I won't let her do that again.
IF I find a way out of here. He paused and bit the inside of his mouth before shutting his eyes and concentrating. It took him a few moments to sense something else somewhere in this land, not too far away...he opened his eyes and grimaced, but turned to head toward it anyway.
I practically locked her out of her own home the last time I was here, he thought. She has no reason whatsoever to help me...but maybe if I convince her of what exactly we're dealing with here...
He suppressed a sigh and picked up his pace. He never thought he would miss Croghan Water, but he did, and he hated that someone had gotten the better of him. But that certainly wouldn't happen again.
* * * * *
Charmian trudged down the crunching slope of the glacier, Pakwa and Augwak following close behind. She kept her hands stuck in her pockets, trying not to shiver. Despite how far they'd gotten down the mountain without incident, she couldn't help but wonder if Kabebonikka had at least lowered the temperature somewhat. She had to keep blinking herself awake, and yawned more than once, jumping and gasping whenever Pakwa reached out to pinch her leg. She glared at him, but didn't snap; if she fell asleep again, she knew she might not wake up. Apparently she had some adjusting to do, as far as the cold was concerned.
"I should've asked him not to do anything to anyone in the camp," she lamented. "I just knew I was forgetting something. What if he went after them? I bet that would be just like him...I ALWAYS forget something important!" She fell silent, seeing as the GeeBees weren't exactly offering anything useful in return, then sighed and waved her hand at nothing in particular. "Pakwa--see if you can fly on ahead a bit and make sure we're going the right way, okay? It feels like we've been walking forever now."
"And you keep calling me the baby," Augwak groused as Pakwa rose into the air and drifted away. "On a good day I could have made it down from this mountain in the clap of a hand!"
"And what's today, an extraordinarily lousy day--?" Charmian snapped back at him, then sighed when Pakwa drifted back. "Well? Think we'll make it down in time for dinner?" She made a face. "GOD I hope they don't flavor everything with maple here, too..."
Pakwa settled down on the ground with a very perplexed look on his face. "Well..." He shrugged. "Can't see the camp from here."
Charmian and Augwak both stared at him. "What do you mean, can't see it?" Charmian echoed. "It's got to be right ahead of us. This is the exact same path we first took up...over there's around where No-Tongue started pelting us with rocks...see?" She pointed at a disturbed area of gravel, then furrowed her brow a little and slowly lowered her hand. "At least...I think." She turned in a half circle to look back up the path. "I mean...it looks the same..."
Augwak started letting out an unpleasant growling noise. "Don't even tell me that we're lost!" he barked.
"No, we're not LOST!" Charmian shot back. "Pakwa! Go check again. There's no way in hell we could've taken a wrong turn! This was the only way up the mountain in the first place! The only way we could've gotten lost is if we wandered over onto the OTHER mountain--and that's still right there! See--?" She pointed at the mountain just west of them, giving the other GeeBee a smug look. Augwak just scowled while Pakwa shrugged and rose again.
"Not going to see it," he said, but floated off anyway.
"Whatever," she grumbled in response, then rubbed her arms. "I hope Winter Born's okay..."
Augwak's claws gouged into the ice. "You've SAID that with practically every ten steps we've TAKEN down this stupid mountain!"
"I can't help it that I actually CARE about other people, unlike YOU!" Charmian yelled, whirling to face him, and the two of them clenched their fists and bared their teeth at each other. "So sorry you're so SELFISH!"
"Here's a thought! Stop being so SORRY and then maybe we'll actually start GETTING somewhere!"
Charmian flailed her arms. "AS IF THAT'LL HAPPEN WITH YOU AROUND!!"
The GeeBee opened his mouth wide enough to swallow her head whole, when a voice said, "If you two are done, no camp down there."
Charmian blinked, then turned back around. Pakwa crouched in front of her; when he saw that he had her attention he again shrugged. "Looked all over," he said. "No camp."
"But...!" Charmian rubbed at her suddenly aching head. "It HAS to be there! They couldn't have just up and left! Could they--?" She bit her lip pensively.
"No sign of camp either," Pakwa replied. "No firepit, no branches, no nothing. Don't really know how else to say it."
"But that doesn't make any sense!" Charmian protested, and went jogging down the slope. Augwak muttered under his breath; Pakwa glanced at him, then turned to amble after Charmian, the other GeeBee following.
That's the same stand of pine trees we passed on our way up! Charmian thought as she jogged. And that's the same boulder. I remember that bluish patch of rock over there...I made sure to keep track of landmarks...just in case this would happen! So how come the stupid GeeBee is lost--?
She came out onto a little rise that she previously remembered overlooking the camp, stopped, and blinked.
Maybe because...I'm lost, too...?
Her mouth fell open. There was no camp below. No wigwams, no main lodge, no fires, and in the bay in the distance, she didn't even see Mishupishu swimming around.
"Huh--?" she blurted out, bewildered.
Pakwa came up beside her. "Told you," he said.
Augwak came out on her other side. "What--?" he barked, and his own jaw dropped. "THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE! What happened to the damned thing--?!"
"Do either of you guys smell anything--?" Charmian demanded.
The two GeeBees started sniffing at the air. Augwak's expression grew strange.
"I don't smell any of them," he said, after a moment. His lip curled back. "THAT makes no sense!" He rose into the air and started drifting downward just as Pakwa had earlier.
Pakwa rolled his eyes. "TOLD you it isn't there," he said, then turned to look at Charmian. "Smell something, fleshling, but nobody in the camp."
"I really don't like this," Charmian said, anxiety seeping up in her chest. She took in a sharp breath. "The passageway into the mountain! Maybe it's like the way to the Island--? What if we ended up in a different time--?" She began jogging again. "Keep your eyes open, Pakwa. I really don't like the looks of this!"
She barely heard the crunching of the other GeeBee following her as she ran. I knew Kabebonikka would make it hard, but I didn't think he'd let us off in a completely different TIME or PLACE! she thought in confusion. If he can do this then how will we ever reach the west? I figured he'd at least guarantee us a chance. So how come he broke his promise--? I thought manitous had to KEEP their promises--!
It felt like it took forever to make her way down from the mountain and across the sloping swath of land at its foot, but there was no change once the land leveled out. Augwak was already pacing in circles. There wasn't even the outline of where a lodge had stood, nor any smudges from the fires. She called out to Mishupishu but got no response. A whistle brought no wolves out of hiding. She tried to find where the fire was which had consumed Stands Somewhere's heart, but the ground was intact everywhere, not the slightest singe visible.
"This--this isn't even POSSIBLE!" she cried, pulling on her hair. "They CAN'T leave all of that with no trace whatsoever left behind!" She shut her eyes. "Chakenapok! Can you hear me--?"
Her eyes popped open, going wide. Chakenapok--? she called out, more loudly, in her mind; when no response came a second time, or a third, her stomach began to pitch, panic welling up in her chest. CHAKENAPOK! she practically screamed, but couldn't sense him. It was as if he'd completely disappeared--and before now she hadn't realized just how useful and unalone he made her feel.
She gasped, then hurriedly ducked and smacked her hand against the ground. The GeeBees turned to look at her curiously but she ignored them, shutting her eyes again.
Apakwaanaajiin can't leave me! she thought feverishly. Is anybody there? ANYBODY at all...?
She concentrated as hard as she could. It was a very long time before she began to sense anything at all, and even when she did, it was so faint that she was almost ready to just give up; there were only so many times one could thump a staticky TV before having to give up lest it break. She focused on what she felt anyway, biting the inside of her mouth...she sensed at least a few different presences, though they were so vague that she couldn't place them clearly enough. Still, it was more than she'd had before, and she dared to feel a little bit of hope. She tried to focus on where exactly they were coming from...a tiny group seemed concentrated near the mountains, one or two somewhere in between them, and something else...
Her eyes slowly opened when she began to realize what she was feeling. She peered down at the ground, brow furrowing, then looked at Pakwa.
"Pakwa. GeeBees can sense people, can't they--?" When he shrugged, she waved at him. "Come here and see if you can feel anything. Concentrate really hard."
Pakwa sighed a little but obeyed. The two of them sat in perfect silence for a very long time, Augwak sitting, then fidgeting, then scowling nearby. Just as he flung his arms up in the air and opened his mouth, the other two looked at each other and frowned.
"Is something there," Pakwa admitted, puzzled. "But very very weak."
"Yeah," Charmian agreed. "I feel it too." She paused. "It feels almost like the powers in the camp...but it's like looking out a dirty window when everybody's standing a couple hundred yards away!" She looked down at the ground again. "How can that be? How come we're picking up some sort of ghost if they're not even here...?"
Hold on a minute, Charm...think about the Island itself. Isn't it kind of the same way?
What's the Island got to do with this--?
Think about it! No two objects can occupy the same space...but maybe...
She took in a breath. "I think I've got it!" She pulled her hand away, rubbing it as if it hurt. "The Island," she said. "It exists in one place, the same place that Mackinac Island exists in...the same but just a little bit different. They're in the same place but different dimensions...planes...so to speak," she said, seeing their perplexed looks. "I'm guessing that...somehow...we slipped into another plane...and they're still here, we just can't reach them from here." She shivered. "I hate to think of exactly WHEN we might be--!"
She gasped when Pakwa's hand shot out and grabbed her wrist tight enough to hurt; one look up at him showed her his agitated look. He was staring toward the mountains. "Bad feeling, fleshling," he warned. "Something's coming."
"Coming--?" Charmian stood up and scanned the area. "What is it--?"
Pakwa shook his head. "Not sure." He gave her an anxious look now, and that worried her. "Doesn't feel good."
Charmian's fingers curled in and she slowly stood. She tried concentrating, but at first couldn't feel anything. It was a moment or two before she at last sensed something vague in that direction, and it seemed to be coming closer. It also seemed just vaguely familiar, somehow.
"Damn it," Charmian murmured. "It's like something right on the tip of my tongue, too."
"Try not to think so hard," Pakwa said. "Like looking at water."
Charmian furrowed her brow a little, then an odd thought flitted through her head--those stereogram books she had back home, where one would stare at a jumbled picture until it popped out in 3-D; she'd never been able to relax her eyes enough to see one, though she found that crossing her eyes worked just as well. The thought was the same, at least. She shut her eyes and took a breath, letting it out and trying to relax a little. She tried feeling whatever it was peripherally, rather than straight on, and found that it seemed somewhat clearer now, even if not crystal so. Then her muscles immediately tensed again and she opened her eyes.
"Little Wind!" Her fists clenched. "I recognize him now! He's here--?" She felt the back of her neck prickle. "Then that must explain it--Mishosha's the one doing this, not Kabebonikka!" She whirled in a circle. "Wabanos can have such power--?"
"Don't you rather think we should GET GOING?" Augwak exclaimed, gnashing his teeth.
Charmian turned back around. "What about Winter Born? And the others! If he's just shielding them from us then they must still be here and we can hardly leave them alone!"
Augwak started pulling on his ears and making his odd teapot noise again, but she ignored him. They're coming from the mountain, she thought anxiously. Winter Born was still up on the mountain! Did they pass her? Did they catch her--? How did they even GET here so fast--? And how the hell did they hide the camp like that--?
The anxiety flared into panic. Are WE hidden from everyone ELSE--?
What if we never see them again--?
Charmian started jogging, then sprinting. Pakwa and Augwak both blinked, staring after her in surprise as she sped back toward the mountains. A moment or two later they'd caught up with her, Pakwa floating at her side and Augwak jogging awkwardly at her other side.
"Fl-fleshling!" Augwak wheezed. "What are you doing--?!"
"Fleshling?" Pakwa asked. "Have an idea--?"
"YEAH, I have an idea!" Charmian snapped, and stumbled to an abrupt halt. She clenched her fists again and opened her mouth as wide as she could. "LITTLE WIND!! I KNOW YOU'RE THERE, YOU JACKASS!!"
The two GeeBees halted now, Pakwa vanishing in a puff of wind. Augwak threw his hands up. "FLESHLING!! Are you completely INSANE--?!"
"LITTLE WIND!" Charmian yelled again, ignoring him. She turned in a half circle, addressing all three mountains since she couldn't tell exactly which one the feeling was coming from. "I know you're there! Mishosha's not protecting YOU! So why are you hiding, HUH? Don't have any more SCROLLS to use on me? Too CHICKEN--or--PARTRIDGE--or--WHATEVER to come out and face me?"
Augwak started whimpering and gnawing on his fingernails, shifting from foot to foot. "I hope you know what you're doing but at the same time I'm pretty sure you DON'T!" he cried.
Charmian cupped her hands to her mouth. "Liiiiiiiittle Wind! Come on! I thought you were in training! What's wrong, have to hide in Mishosha's SHADOW all the time? No wonder I can barely sense you! His head is so damn BIG it's hiding you PERFECTLY!"
Augwak promptly stopped whining, began digging a hole, and stuck his head in it.
Charmian's face screwed up and she shut her eyes tight. "HEY LITTLE WIND!! IS HIS HEAD SO DAMN THICK THAT YOU CAN'T HEAR THROUGH IT, EITHER--?!"
A faint snorting noise came from ahead, and her eyes shot open, her breath suddenly fleeing her. Augwak cowered with his head in the hole; Pakwa hadn't reappeared yet, though she could feel a small cool wind breezing around her and knew that he must be hiding. What caught her attention most of all, however, was the large shape now standing not far from the foot of the mountains, staring back at her. She felt her fingernails gouging into her palms and gritted her teeth.
"So it was you," she muttered, recognizing the moose that she'd seen in the Iroquois land. There could be no mistaking who it was now; as it lowered its head and came pacing toward her, she stood straight to face it, raising her voice again. "What's wrong, Little Wind? Mishosha wouldn't teach you to turn into a bear? So what are you--a--Moosewalker?" She made an odd face.
The moose snorted as it approached but didn't say anything else.
For some reason that just irritated her. "What's wrong! He won't let you talk, either--?" She started walking toward him. "Fine then. I can do just fine without talking." She lifted her hand. "For starters, why not try showing us where the hell that CAMP went, huh--?"
She tossed a fireball at him. The moose halted and turned his head sideways so the fireball glanced off his antler, and she saw him wince, but it didn't hurt him. He turned his head and jerked his antlers toward the ground; Charmian gasped and fell flat when a plume of flame shot toward her, just barely singeing Augwak, who screeched and leapt up into the air, frantically paddling away.
"Wow," Charmian said, clambering back up. "REALLY impressive. It looks like he didn't teach you jack in terms of that, either!"
The moose's eyes flashed and she froze in surprise--Little Wind was human--so why should his eyes flash like that--?
As if in response, she felt a breeze of cold air against her arm, then Pakwa's voice exclaimed, "Fleshling--DUCK!"
Charmian dropped to the ground without thinking. She felt something else breeze over top of her, and clamped her arms over her head. Something heavy thudded against the ground some distance ahead of her and her head shot up. Her eyes almost fell out when she saw the big mitchi manitou wheeling around to face her, his eyes glinting like murder. His lip curled back, muzzle wrinkling, as he lowered his head and pawed at the ground.
That light--a reflection--? He was right behind me--!
Little Wind raised his head and let out a blaring whistle. Keep her back! he exclaimed, just as the manitou snorted and charged straight at her, hunks of earth flying every which way.
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