Charmian's and Little Wind's faceoff reaches ludicrous dimensions...
|Main story folder & table of contents: "Escape From Manitou Island"
Previous chapter: "Part 119: A Pain In The Head"
PART ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY:
Gimme That Manitou!
LITTLE WIND'S EYES went as big as moons. Then he let out a startled yell and threw up his hand, aiming at Charmian and the others gathered around him.
Charmian tensed when his fingers started glowing, and put up her own hand to ward off the attack, seeing Moon Wolf do the same. Then she and Moon Wolf both blinked when nothing happened. Little Wind blinked as well, then turned his hand to look at it in disbelief. He started shaking it at them, gritting his teeth in panic.
"Work!!" he cried. "Come on, work, work!!" His eyes filled with tears. "You always worked before!!"
Everyone just stared at him. Charmian's eyes shifted to look at Moon Wolf, then they both lowered their hands. Little Wind kept shaking his hand, now letting out little snuffling sounds as he did so. Charmian saw the tense look on Moon Wolf's face start to fade into uncertainty, then annoyance, then exasperation, and he finally turned away.
"Hold on!!" Little Wind yelled, and managed to push himself upright. "You don't turn your back on a wabano!" he cried. "To do this is to risk your own agonizing death! COME ON ALREADY!!" He flailed both hands now as if they really were on fire. Charmian sighed and crossed her arms as the others started losing interest and turning away as well; Little Wind saw their disinterest and his own frustration grew. "Don't keep walking away! YOU CAN'T TURN YOUR BACK ON ME!! Dammit!!" He gave his hands an agonized look. "Why aren't you working?!"
"Maybe you should try asking a little rather than demanding," Charmian said.
Little Wind jumped and yelled--"AGH!!"--then saw her again, and blinked furiously. "You!" He ground his teeth, throwing up both hands at her. "I don't care what Mishosha says! You really ARE more trouble than you're worth!" He shook his hands at her, then let out a weird yell which made everybody wince, then keeled over with a thud.
Marten puffed up, leaping atop Winter Born's shoulder. "Is he dead--?"
"No," Charmian said, leaning over him and looking him over. "Just really weak." She turned to wave at Mudroot, who snorted but came back toward them. Little Wind could only moan inarticulately. "His shoulder's hurt pretty bad. I think he lost a lot of blood. Do you think you can patch him up a little...?"
"Mm," Mudroot grunted, and stooped down to roll Little Wind over; he yelped when she did so. She pressed her fingers against the wound; the dressings that Stick-In-The-Dirt had provided earlier were long gone, and the back of his robe was stained dark. "What exactly happened to him? Can't believe the fool's been running around like this..."
"You can thank him," Charmian said, pointing toward Walks-On-The-Shore, who responded by cupping his hands around his eyes to look like a raccoon.
"Probably the only smart thing he's ever done," Mudroot muttered, and started digging in her pouch. "Should be stitched up. But I've got just the stuff to rub in it and clean it out and make it heal faster. Leave a nasty scar, though." She pulled out a smaller pouch and stuck her fingers in it. Little Wind tried to lift his head and roll over to see it but she jammed her knee into the small of his back and bent down to rub some thick black substance over the injury. Charmian, Marten, and Winter Born all went pale; Little Wind's eyes goggled before he started writhing and screaming like she'd just set his head on fire. Charmian had to turn away; despite how he'd acted, she rather pitied him, now.
"Stand still and stop being such a big baby!" Mudroot snapped. "Spirits, I have no idea why you were ever allowed to become a wabano in the first place. Do they accept people just off the cradleboard, now? And I thought YOU looked a mite bit young!" She glared at Moon Wolf, whose eyes went wide before he flushed and scowled, turning away.
Charmian steeled herself and turned as well, stalking around Little Wind and kneeling down in front of him. He was gritting his teeth and trying not to cry, though a few tears were already trickling from his tightly shut eyes; his fingernails were digging into the ground. She reached down and grasped his hand, making him gasp and flinch. His head popped up and he stared at her with wide wet eyes.
"Just hold on for another minute or two and it won't hurt as much," Charmian said.
Little Wind blinked a few times, then she saw his eyes go glassy. He cringed when Mudroot started slathering another helping of the black goo on his shoulder, and his fingers squeezed Charmian's hand painfully tight, but at least he didn't thrash or yell anymore.
Several of the others were still watching. Lieutenant Barrington's mouth fell open, then he let out an exasperated huffing noise. "You mean to tell me you'll hold his hand now--?" he exclaimed. "The fool just tried killing you--and now you hold his hand--?"
"I've learned she's funny that way," Walks-On-The-Shore, now holding his hands spread over his head like moose antlers, commented.
Winter Born knelt beside her. "Do you really think this is a good idea, Charmian...?" she murmured.
"His manitou left him," Charmian said. "I really doubt he can do anything else right now."
"I don't get it," Little Wind choked out. "It's always worked before. Why won't it work now...?"
"It doesn't matter whether you ask or demand something from a manitou," Charmian said, leaning over him. "After a while, if you ask or demand too much, eventually it's going to stop giving! Especially if you don't give it anything in return!"
"How would you know--?" Little Wind looked up at her again and managed a watery half-scowl--though he looked more pained than anything. "You're not even one of us! People like you don't have--AGH!!--" his fingernails dug into her hand "--manitous!"
"Hate to break it to you," Charmian said, "but when we hang out around them enough, yes, we do."
"You're not even a wabano," he went on; Charmian's mouth twitched when she realized that he sounded jealous. "Not a fire-juggler! Why they obey you but not me, when I've been training for this my entire life...!"
"Well, that can't have been terribly long," Thomas mused, leaning on his knees. "How old are you anyway--?"
Little Wind tensed. "Old enough! AGH!!" He curled in on himself a bit. "I'm a student of the great Mishosha himself!!" he cried. "Therefore NONE of you should have power over me!"
"So it's just like I thought," Charmian said. "That scroll you gave me, Mishosha's the real one who created it, isn't he?"
Little Wind gritted his teeth. "It's none of your business! I've learned from the very best!"
"Well, I just thought you should know that the very best seems to have tossed you out," Charmian said. "In case you didn't notice how he and that other bear ran you over back there."
Little Wind blinked, then his eyes went wet again. "That isn't so!" he insisted. "They'll come back for me--which is why you should be looking after yourself and not me, seeing as you'll need all the power you can get once he arrives...!"
"Cedars," Charmian called out, and Singing Cedars, nearest the entryway, blinked at her. "Take a look outside and tell me if there's any giant bears or evil medicine men coming this way--?"
The Onondaga furrowed his brow, but lifted the flap and peered outside anyway. He pulled his head back in and shook it. "Not that I can see," he said.
Little Wind gouged at the ground. "Of COURSE you won't SEE him! That's how he surprises you ALL!" He started whimpering when Mudroot at last pulled away from him. "Is she done yet?!" he wailed tearfully.
"Looks okay," Charmian said, lying somewhat, as the black goo didn't exactly make the wound look much better. She gestured at Winter Born, who divided her batch of moss in two and started gently pressing some over the injury. "And truthfully, I think you might have a lot more to fear from him than we do, seeing as he's taken your medicine away from you!"
"Huh--?" Little Wind blurted out, his head popping up again. "What do you mean?" he cried, seeing the looks on their faces.
"Well..." Charmian shrugged. "You did lose your power not long after he left you behind."
"That--that doesn't necessarily mean anything!" Winter Born pulled back as the young wabano started struggling to push himself upright. "And it's not like I get all my medicine from him anyway! I fasted for days to get my medicine! Just so you know!"
"Then toss another one of those nice fireballs," Charmian challenged. "I'd like to see one right about now."
The others backed away a bit when Little Wind clenched his fist. "You don't want to ask for that!"
"Yes I do," Charmian said. "Come on. Such a powerful wabano trained by Mishosha himself shouldn't be so chicken. A little itty-bitty bird," she said, when he and several of the others gave her puzzled frowns, and she stuck her hands in her armpits and started bobbing her elbows. "Bawk-bawk-bawk!"
Winter Born, Marten, and Peepaukawiss started giggling. Several of the others just got very odd looks. Little Wind's eyes slowly grew wide and he gawked at her in disbelief as he started to catch her meaning; the others backed away further, Barrington putting his hand on his gun, but Charmian held her place when Little Wind clambered to his feet and aimed at her.
"How--how DARE you say such things!!" he yelled, his voice going shrill and cracking. "I don't rely on ANYONE for my strength!" His fingers started glowing anew, and Charmian frowned a bit tensely when little flames at last appeared over his fingertips. Little Wind grinned from ear to ear, shoulders hitching almost madly. "See? See just how strong YOU are now when I show you MY full power--!!"
He flung his hand out at her. Charmian held up her own, but found herself blinking in surprise when the flames over Little Wind's hand flew toward hers and alit upon her fingertips, quivering there as if she'd called them up herself. She stared at them in disbelief as Little Wind did the same; his jaw fell, then he started tearing at his hair and letting out a strangled noise.
"What are you doing?!" he cried in a very weird voice.
"Charmian!" Winter Born exclaimed, leaning forward to look at her hand. "How did you do that--?"
"I--I don't know!!" Charmian shook her hand a little, but couldn't feel any burning; the fire really did seem to be coming from her. She cast Moon Wolf a baffled look. "How DID I do that?!"
"You didn't," Moon Wolf said in a flat voice, arms crossed; he was sitting not too far from Black Elk Horn now, watching the proceedings with a mildly irked expression. When all that she could do was start letting out bewildered huffing noises he scowled a little. "He did it," he said. "He angered his manitou, and so it's passed over to you."
"What?" Little Wind and Charmian both shouted at once. Then Little Wind commenced tearing at his hair while Charmian commenced waving her hand around as if--well, as if it were on fire. "Get it off! Get it off!!" she yelled, and started stumbling around the lodge, everyone staring at her. "GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFF!!" She halted before Moon Wolf, still waving her hand. "HOW THE HELL DO I GET IT OFF?!!"
"You don't," he replied sourly. "Think! Would you order your own manitou to get off--?"
Charmian blinked at him, then turned and went racing back to Little Wind. She thrust her hand in his face, making him jump back. "Say you're sorry!" she demanded.
"What--?" Little Wind blurted out, then huffed as if offended. "How dare you order me to--"
"SAY YOU'RE SORRY!!" Charmian yelled at the top of her lungs. "This is YOUR manitou! I already HAVE one of my own! I hardly need ANOTHER one!" She stuck her fingers up close and he cringed away from the little flickering flames. "You want it back? Then you have to say you're sorry!"
"All right!! All right!!" Little Wind cried. "I'm sorry!"
Charmian's face screwed up. "Say it like you MEAN it!!"
Little Wind's face screwed up just like hers and he looked ready to cry. "I'M SORRY!! I DIDN'T MEAN TO BE SO RUDE!!"
Charmian took in a breath and held it. Everyone else followed suit, looking on in awe as the little flames wavered a bit, then detached from Charmian's fingertips. Charmian and Little Wind stared at them with wide eyes as the little flames drifted through the air and gently settled on the young wabano's fingers again, then resumed flickering as if they'd always been there.
Winter Born's mouth fell open. "Wow! It really did work--!"
"It--it did--?" Little Wind whispered, blinked, then leapt back, brandishing his hand at Charmian again. Her own mouth fell open wide when he let out a triumphant cackle.
"NOW!" he shouted. "WITNESS THE POWER OF LITTLE WIND!" He flung his hand outward. "BURN!"
When the little flames jumped off of his hand this time, Charmian simply held up her own hand and grasped onto them. They turned into a small fireball in her palm and rested there like a fluffy little chick. She cupped her other hand over it and gave Little Wind the most venomous glare that she could muster.
Little Wind was practically wailing now. "How do you keep DOING that?!"
Charmian had to keep herself from clenching the fire to bits. "If you don't start treating it properly then I'll take it and give it to somebody who DOES want it!" she snapped back.
Marten hurried forward and started hopping up and down. "Oooo! Can I have it, can I have it--?" Charmian opened her hand and Marten gently scooped the little fireball out, cupping it in his hands and making faces at it. "AWWW! It's so SMALL and CUTE!"
"You can't do that!" Little Wind protested, on the verge of tears. "That's MY manitou! I fasted for six days to get that thing!!"
Charmian whirled away from the cooing Marten and stomped toward him, making him flinch back. "You don't just GET a manitou and then tell it to do whatever you want!" she shot at him. "It's not something you GET, it's a PARTNERSHIP! You ASK it to do things, and then you PAY IT BACK!" She put her hands to her head. "How the hell you became a medicine man is BEYOND me!"
"Finally," Mudroot said, poking at the fire, "somebody who gets it."
"But I earned it," Little Wind protested, mouth quivering. "I worked hard to get that manitou!"
"And you have to keep working hard to KEEP it!" Charmian gestured sharply at Marten and he hopped up onto her shoulder; she carefully took the fire from his hands. "You want it back? Then you have to promise to treat it properly! The only one responsible for all this is you! Your manitou wouldn't have any reason to leave you if you treated it right!" She held out her hand and he hastened to make a grab for it, but she yanked it back. "NOT like that! You want it back, then you say you're sorry and you'll never mistreat it again!"
Little Wind ground his teeth. "I'm sorry!" The little fireball started flickering toward him. "But it's my manitou and it's supposed to do whatever I want!"
The fireball halted and promptly rolled back up Charmian's arm and over her shoulder and down her back. She started laughing hysterically and twisting and turning in circles, trying to reach it, Marten doing the same; Winter Born and Remy and Peepaukawiss started laughing as well. Charmian danced her way toward Black Elk Horn and Moon Wolf; the ogimah quickly got to his feet and scurried toward the other corner of the lodge, eyes wide and teeth bared, his hand grasping the gun; Moon Wolf rose and grasped her wrist when she reached him, though she continued giggling and twitching and practically did a limbo toward the ground. He held out his other hand and snatched onto the fireball just as it was ready to roll down her other arm, then let her go and she fell to her knees, hugging her ribs and gasping for breath.
Lieutenant Barrington said, "Would someone mind explaining what in the bloody hell was that?"
Moon Wolf strode across the lodge toward Little Wind, the fireball still clasped in his hand; he halted before the younger wabano and they both stared at each other for a moment, then--"Ow!!"--he slapped his hand down over Little Wind's head. Little Wind threw his arms up to cover himself, cringing, when Moon Wolf clenched his free fist.
"What sort of teacher is this Mishosha of yours--?" he railed. "EVERY medicine man down to the most piddling third-rate wabano knows that eventually everything must be paid back in full! You think you can fast and gain a manitou and then enslave it? You're fortunate it hasn't ended up enslaving you in return. I think your so-called teacher did an admirable job of that HIMSELF!"
"I--I j-just want my m-manitou back!!" Little Wind wailed.
"Then play fair!" Charmian snapped, pushing herself to her feet and storming toward them. "Even Mishosha'll have to pay back his manitous sometime, or something bad will happen--just like what happened to you! You honestly think all of this was just coincidence? You may be a lousy wabano but I doubt that you're THAT lousy!"
Little Wind's head shot up and he looked ready to rebuke her before he seemed to understand what she'd actually said, then his brow furrowed. "You--you don't think I'm that lousy--?" he echoed, then gasped and ducked when Moon Wolf threatened to hit him again.
"No, not that lousy," Charmian returned. "Just remarkably STUPID for taking orders from Mishosha! You don't even remember how he left you behind, do you--?"
"He--he would've come back for me!" Little Wind exclaimed. "If YOU hadn't carried me off first!"
Charmian grabbed at her hair. "That bear RAN YOU OVER! You REALLY think he gives a rat's ass about you--?!"
The doorflap of the lodge flew up and Kenu came trotting in. "What's all the noise--?" he exclaimed, glancing around as if he were ten feet taller than he really was. "Is there some sort of INCIDENT that I must take care of--?"
Charmian just waved her hand at him. "I don't know what the hell it would take to convince you," she hissed at Little Wind, "but I think it's pretty obvious when my boss RUNS ME OVER that he doesn't care for me anymore! How did you even end up working for such slime in the FIRST place--?"
Little Wind clenched his fists. "W--watch your tongue!! He had you under his power once before, he can do it again! As a matter of fact he can get ANY ONE of you whenever he wants! Nobody speaks back to him or Makwaquae and lives to tell about it!"
"Hate to tell you, but we already have," Charmian snapped. "But I think I agree--if YOU go back to him, without your manitou, safe to say he'll have your head on a pike!"
"Or perhaps he'll just roast you and eat you," Walks-On-The-Shore added thoughtfully.
"Why would he want his head put on a fish...?" Marten inquired, puzzled.
Little Wind scowled, though he looked more like he wanted to cry. "As if you would know of what you speak," he grumbled. "You're just a little girl!"
Charmian's face blanched, then went violently red. Little Wind blinked when she held out her hand and Moon Wolf dropped the little fireball into her palm as if they'd been planning this all along. She lifted her hand and the fire flared up around her fingers, making him take a step back.
"You really want to find out exactly what I know...?" Charmian grated in an awful voice.
Little Wind's bravado at last seemed to falter, and he drew his hands in toward his chest and started fiddling his fingers and gnawing on his lip.
"Just give me back my manitou," he said at last. "And I won't burn down this lodge and all of you in it!"
Charmian huffed. "SOME DEAL! And the answer is NO! The only way you get this back is if you promise not to HURT anyone with it!"
Little Wind clenched his fists. "You can hardly keep my manitou from me! That's against rules also! Besides, when I attacked you you blew it off like it was nothing! You're afraid of me now--?"
"Hardly afraid of YOU," Charmian retorted. "More like of that moron you call a boss! If I give this back then who's to say you won't go running right back to Mishosha and telling him where we are, and then that's it--?"
"You'll have to face him eventually!"
"Yeah, but on OUR terms! Funny how you claim you're such a GREAT wabano yet you can barely even fight your own battles!"
"You already said I'm practically harmless!" Little Wind shot back, apparently embarrassed to say it. "So how is it that now you're so afraid to see me go--? Mishosha already knows exactly where you are. He hardly needs me telling him anything!"
"Yet you sure seem to need him," Charmian said. "And who's to say that as soon as we let you go you won't end up following some lame-ass idea of his and killing somebody else--?"
Little Wind looked ready to start screaming. "I haven't killed ANYBODY!!"
Charmian clenched her hand around the fireball. "Then what do you call what you did to Nigankwam?" she yelled back.
Little Wind opened his mouth to say something that looked like it would have been quite nasty when a small voice echoed, "Nigankwam...?" His mouth snapped shut then and his eyes grew, brow furrowing; he turned his head. Charmian looked as well and noticed Kenu again, still standing several feet behind the young wabano; his eyes were wide and confused, and his mouth quivered like he wanted to start sucking on his finger. He looked at Little Wind, then at Charmian.
"What about Grandfather Nigankwam?" he asked.
Charmian saw Little Wind's posture go rigid. "Grandfather--?" he echoed, glanced at Charmian, then back at Kenu. "You mean--that's an Animiki--?"
Charmian let out a breath. "That's the Animiki whose grandfather you killed," she said. "With that scroll you gave me!"
Little Wind's brow furrowed further in disbelief. At the same time, Kenu hitched in a breath and stood up straight, his eyes going watery. "He's the one who killed Grandfather--?" he asked, his voice quavering.
Charmian opened her mouth to answer, then felt somebody grasp her wrist hard enough to hurt. She glanced back at Manabozho and started when she saw the look of near-panic on his face--then she saw that his feathers as well as his hair were starting to drift upward. She blinked, then tensed when she felt her own hair beginning to prickle and rise.
"Oh crap," she managed to say, when Kenu's eyes flared brilliant yellow and a terrible CRACK reverberated throughout the lodge.
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