Charmian finds Wabasso's spirit, but it's not as agreeable as expected...
|Main story folder & table of contents: "Return To Manitou Island"
Previous chapter: "Part 121: The Drowned Labyrinth"
PART ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-TWO:
The Return Of White Rabbit
CHARMIAN STARED IN stunned silence. The Ogimah-Quae stood beside her, also looking on into the cave that they had reached; like most of the others in this place it was dark and damp, but something pale and glowing hovered at the far end of it. Charmian sucked in a breath when she recognized Wabasso...only he didn't look quite the way that he had, the last time she'd seen him.
She took a hesitant step forward, then another. Her feet carried her slowly across the room until she stood several feet away from him. He sat near the side of the cave...only "sat" wasn't the correct word, since he was hovering, a few feet above the floor. Almost all of the color had been drained from him so he was nearly white, and she could see through him, so that the jagged waterworn rock on his other side was visible to her. He wavered now and then, as if threatening to simply fade away like one of the lost spirits near Arch Rock...but what was worst was the look on his face. It was blank, but for his eyes, which were heavy lidded and distant, almost sad looking. He stared vacantly off into space, and if it weren't for the fact that he slowly blinked every so often, and shifted his hand now and then, she would have thought that he was just some sort of static illusion.
She stared at him, unable to speak. "What...what's wrong with him...?" she whispered at last, afraid that her breath might blow him away. When the Ogimah-Quae didn't answer her at first, she raised her voice. "Wabasso? Can you hear me?"
He lifted his head, just slightly, but other than that made no move. He can hear you, the Ogimah-Quae replied, and Charmian glanced back at her. Her eyes glowed. Yet he cannot remember you, she added, and Charmian's brow furrowed.
"What--? What do you mean, he can't remember--?" She glanced back at Wabasso. "I just made him remember everything--back on the Spirit Road! He remembered everything! How can he forget it so soon--?"
A lost spirit remembers only that place it was in just before or after it died, the Shadow Wolf said. He remembers the water...and this is all. Everything else is gone to him now.
"Manabozho...? And--and Noko--and everything...?" Charmian's eyes started to well up when the Shadow Wolf nodded. "How can he forget all of that...?" She stepped right up to him and waved her hand at him. "Wabasso! It's me! Charmian! Remember--?"
This time, Wabasso finally lifted his head. His eyes met hers and she shivered at the paleness of them...yet aside from that vague sadness, there was nothing else there. No memory, no recognition, nothing. He gave her the same look that one of the halfling spirits might give, before slowly turning to stare off into space again. His image wavered.
Charmian bit her lip and felt the tears flood her eyes. She took a step back and turned to the Ogimah-Quae. "Is there any way to make him remember?" she asked, having to force her voice to work. "Any way to convince him to come back with me?"
The Shadow Wolf tilted her head and her own look grew sympathetic. I am afraid he will never remember, as long as he is lost, she said.
Charmian clenched her fists. "But Chakenapok's a lost spirit, and he remembers everything! Why not Wabasso--?"
Remember. The Flint has the help of the Wolf, who made him remember. She slowly shook her head. You have no such power over him. His brothers, his grandmother, the Island, none of these have any significance for him now. All he remembers is his death. You cannot make him remember.
Charmian stared at Wabasso's wavering figure with watering eyes. She lifted a hand to rub at them, sniffling, and made herself take a breath and let it out. "If I get him back, then," she said in a shaking voice. "You said as long as he's a lost spirit. That means that if I get him back to his body, then he'll remember." She reached out and tried to grasp his arm, but of course her hand went right through him; she felt a small chill, and his image rippled like smoke, but then fell still again. She tried taking hold of him more slowly but again had no success; she bit her lip and tried to keep herself from yelling in frustration.
"Wabasso?" she said; then, "Wabasso! HEY! WABASSO!" He turned his head to give her that same dull look, which she was starting to find infuriating; she waved her arms in his face. "It's me! I came to take you back to the Island!" When he said nothing she ground her teeth. "THE ISLAND! I have to take you back! I know you don't remember--but it doesn't matter, if you come back with me!" She took a step back and waved. "Come on!" Another step, and another wave. "It's this way! Just follow me!"
He stared at her for a moment or two, then turned away to stare into space again.
Charmian's mouth fell open and she let out a gasp of disbelief. "HEY!" She started jumping around him, waving wildly and even flailing out at him; every time his image rippled, and he gave her a neutral look, but he still didn't move. "What the--? Why isn't he coming?" she cried, clenching her fists. "I thought all I had to do was take him back with me! So why won't he come--?"
He has no reason to, the Ogimah-Quae said, and Charmian fell still and glanced at her. She cocked an ear. You have never wondered why it is that the lost spirits stay near the Arched Rock...? It is all they know. This is all he knows. Why should he go elsewhere when this is all that has meaning for him?
Charmian's brow furrowed. "But--you said I had to get him back to his body!!" She threw up her hands in frustration. "How can I do that if he won't COME with me--?"
You do not have the power to take him with you, the Shadow Wolf said.
Charmian's eyes welled up again. "Then you made me come down here for nothing?"
In response the Ogimah-Quae took a step forward, and lowered her head so that her muzzle pointed at Charmian's chest; Charmian gasped and took a step back, her elbow going through Wabasso, before she glanced down to see her spirit stone glowing. Her look of confusion grew when it was revealed, red and angry black; by now the two colors were almost equal, and as they throbbed Charmian winced, more in anxiety than in pain.
The Shadow Wolf tilted her head slightly to the side. He did this to you, she said. On the Spirit Road.
"That's right." Charmian's face screwed up and she wiped her eyes angrily. "You saw it, didn't you?"
You took the most difficult path. The Shadow Wolf rose again to look down at her. He awaited you there, and you walked past him anyway. Even though you knew he would hurt you.
"It was the only way to get to Wabasso," Charmian murmured, still wiping her eyes. "Lot of good it did."
Yet you did bring him back. If you had only remembered his body, he would be with you by now. The Ogimah-Quae tilted her head in the other direction. This is the one thing you fear the most--to lose yourself. To forget everything you have ever known and stood for, everything that is you. The Flint is making you forget even as we speak.
"I still remember!" Charmian exclaimed.
Yet your time is growing short. Even as she said this, Charmian winced and pressed a hand to her chest, feeling her spirit stone throb painfully; she clenched her teeth and willed the pain to go away, but this just made her anxiety grow worse. You realize now, what your reflection was telling you, the Wolf said. What will become of you if you forget who you are.
"What--?" Charmian's head jerked up, eyes wide, and she took in a shaky breath.
Ocryana! My reflection--I thought I would become just like her--
That's what Chakenapok is doing to me--? He's going to make me like her--?
He cannot do this, the Ogimah-Quae said, and she realized that her thoughts had been heard again; even Wabasso lifted his head and looked at her vaguely. This darkness has always been within you, the Shadow Wolf said, and Charmian drew in another breath. All that he has done has brought it to the surface. Every spirit stone contains darkness.
Charmian shook her head wildly. "No--no they don't! I've seen them! Tal Natha's doesn't! Neither does Justin's, or Moon Wolf's! Their spirits were healed! They were all light--!"
The Wolf was already shaking her head. The light is only that which you see. Light can only exist so long as there is darkness behind it. They have controlled their darkness, not destroyed it. She touched her nose to Charmian's chest. You, however, have a problem now...he has taken this control away from you.
Charmian chewed on her lip so hard that it hurt, hating the feeling of tears streaming down her face, yet unable to stop them. She pressed her hand to her chest and willed the image of her spirit stone to disappear, which at last it did. "I said I would get Wabasso back," she said, her voice failing. "And that's what I tried to do."
The Ogimah-Quae stared at her for a long while. At the risk of your own self? she said quietly. You consider this Island and these people worth that?
Charmian let out her breath. "It has to be worth it. Or I wouldn't have done it."
The Shadow Wolf's ear flicked. Do you realize that if you succumb to this, even if the Island is saved, you will no longer care for it? It and everyone you know will be nothing to you. You may even become its enemy, its Ocryana, its Chakenapok. The next time around, there may be someone who will come to fight you. She tilted her head. You do realize this?
Charmian's vision blurred but she clenched her fists again and forced herself not to break down. "At least they'll all be all right," she said in a quavery voice. "And if someone comes to fight me, then I hope they win, too."
The Shadow Wolf stared at her again, her eyes faintly luminous. She was silent for so long that Charmian was beginning to think that the entire meeting was over--when the Wolf turned and took a step or two toward Wabasso, and slowly lowered her head. Charmian turned her head to watch as the Ogimah-Quae placed her nose against Wabasso's breast and stared him in the eyes, even though he didn't look back. After a moment or two his own eyes fluttered shut, and he opened his mouth, letting out a breath; then his image began to dim, rippling and wavering as it gradually faded away. Charmian gasped and took a step forward, ready to yell out--but by then Wabasso had already disappeared, leaving only a slight chill in the air to indicate that he had ever been there. The Ogimah-Quae lifted her head and Charmian turned toward her.
"What did you do to him?" she demanded, her voice growing shrill. "You better not've hurt him--!"
He is still here, the Ogimah-Quae replied calmly, Charmian cutting herself off. Within me.
"Huh--?" Charmian blinked, confusion settling over her again. "What--what do you mean, within you--? You mean--you sucked him in--?"
The Ogimah-Quae lowered her head and a glow appeared at her chest; Charmian looked at it to see her spirit stone emerge. It glowed a deep purplish-pink, but within it she thought she saw a tiny blue glow. Her brow furrowed and she stepped slowly forward, trying to understand what she was looking at.
"Your...your spirit stone." She stared at it in awe. "He's...he's inside your spirit stone...?"
You have seen something much like this already, the Shadow Wolf said, and Charmian gasped.
Chakenapok--! HIS spirit stone! Malsum had it--! TWO of them!
"Then--that means--you've imprisoned him?" Charmian cried. "He can't get out now--?"
The Shadow Wolf shook her head. No...I have not imprisoned him. But for now, I am his Shell, just as the Flint is the Shell of the Wolf.
Charmian shook her head, bewildered. "But...why did you do that...?"
Because, the Ogimah-Quae said, meeting her eyes. You have already done all you can, and it is my turn to assist. She turned around and started stepping for the direction that Charmian had come in.
Charmian's confusion grew. "What do you mean?" she exclaimed, hurrying to jog after her.
The Shadow Wolf's giant tail swung from side to side. You have endangered the one thing you hold dearest, to save the one other thing you hold even dearer than that, she said as she walked. I had thought your greatest fear was to lose yourself, to forget all that you are...yet it appears I was wrong. You fear the loss of the Island even more. You put this Island not only before yourself, but before your self. There are not many humans who would do such a thing for any piece of land.
"It's not a piece of land," Charmian insisted, jogging alongside her. "It's the Island. It's everything that means anything to me!" She waved her arms. "All of my friends are there! Francois and Justin and Silver and Stick and Mani and everybody! And Thomas! If I save myself instead of that then I'm even worse than Chakenapok! I wouldn't mean anything if I didn't do everything I could to help them!"
Even at the cost of remembering this Island, the Shadow Wolf said, not looking back. You would rather give up its memory, and forget it even existed--perhaps even endanger it yourself--instead of allowing it to face danger now. What sort of person does this?
Charmian's breath caught and she had to halt. Her fingers tightened again when the Ogimah-Quae turned her head to look back at her, and her eyes darkened.
"The sort of person who realizes there's more to her life than living," she said, and her voice didn't quaver once.
The Shadow Wolf stared at her again. After a moment she turned and continued walking.
Then I am going to help you for once, she replied, and Charmian again had to catch up. Because if it is something a human--a mainlander--is willing to do...then it should be something I am willing to do.
Charmian's brow furrowed. Huh...? she thought, but no answer was forthcoming. They made their way back the way she'd come, until reaching the underground lake, Shadow Water still seated by its shore. She turned her head to look at them and her eyes grew huge; before Charmian knew it she was on her feet, edging away from them, and Charmian wondered why she didn't turn into a demon. She hastened forward to wave at her as the Ogimah-Quae headed toward the water.
"It's--it's okay!" she hurriedly said. "We're...um...I guess we're going back." She glanced at the lake, then back at Shadow Water, frowning slightly.
She may come along with us, or go back the way she came, the Shadow Wolf said. I may reach the surface much faster than either of you can.
Charmian winced. "You're sure...? The last time I tried getting out of here...well..."
"Charmian...?" Shadow Water said softly, wringing her hands.
The Ogimah-Quae flicked an ear and glanced back at Charmian. Make your choice now. I have told you only the truth up to this point.
Charmian gave a tiny nod and stepped toward her. She glanced at Shadow Water as she went. "You'll be okay on your way back--?" she asked uncertainly.
Shadow Water stared at her for a moment, peered at the Wolf, then back at Charmian. She nodded slightly and clutched the silver pendant; Charmian wondered if she'd been looking at it the entire time that she'd been gone. "I...I'll be all right." Her brow furrowed. "Will you--?"
Charmian nodded again. "I'll be fine...tell Ocryx I'm sorry and I'll make sure to bring him a really nice necklace the next time around, okay?"
Shadow Water nodded once more. "Good luck," she said as Charmian clambered atop the Shadow Wolf's back, when the Ogimah-Quae knelt down on one foreleg. Charmian waved at her, then clenched her teeth and dug her fingers into the Wolf's fur as hard as she could--the creature was so big and her fur so thick that she couldn't even reach down to her skin--and she shut her eyes tight, biting off a whimper as the Ogimah-Quae padded into the water, ears flicking. The last thing that Charmian saw, peering out under her arm, was Shadow Water staring after them with wide eyes, before she felt herself plunging forward, and remembered at the last second to suck in a breath of air, just as the icy water closed over them.
Charmian felt a twinge of guilt at leaving her behind so abruptly, when she'd gone to all the trouble of carrying her there. She is not even thinking of this, the Shadow Wolf said, and Charmian blushed again. She is merely worried for you.
Charmian opened her eyes now, and squinted against the cold rush of the water. You're sure...?
The Shadow Wolf flicked an ear. Her legs paddled rapidly. This, and she is considering what you have said, she replied, and Charmian frowned a little, confused.
What I said...? she thought, privately this time. About Moon Wolf...?
Moon Wolf--! He's supposed to be up there waiting--!
She lifted her head. The little circle of light appeared, and she hoped that the Shadow Wolf would even be able to fit through the pond, her size was so great. As they drew closer she thought that she could see little shapes leaning over the water, but wasn't sure; they disappeared just as the two of them zoomed up at the surface, and then the water was cascading off of her head and over her shoulders, and her fingers nearly slipped in the Wolf's fur. She sputtered and coughed, feeling now the pressure of gravity as they rose with a deafening splash filling her ears. Her eyes popped open to see first sky and trees, then this zoomed upward and she got a perfect view of the little shore, everyone standing around the rim of the pond gawking up at them with open mouths. As soon as the Ogimah-Quae lowered her head and shook the water from her ears, Niskigwun's spear was aimed at them, and Moon Wolf's fireball, and Thomas's ice crystals, and Peepaukawiss and Manabozho were both holding their arms out in front of them with panicked looks on their faces. Charmian took in a breath and then waved her arms frantically.
"WAIT A MINUTE!!"
Their heads popped up and they all widened their eyes as soon as they noticed her, huddled against the Wolf's back. Puka started doing an odd dance, or else he was hopping around in relief--she couldn't be sure. Niskigwun lowered his spear and Manabozho lowered his hands; Moon Wolf and Thomas were the only ones not to completely stand down, though they still didn't attack. They all took several steps back as the Shadow Wolf clambered ashore, towering over them--the tree branches brushed against her shoulders and Charmian had to make certain not to get hit by one as they rose--and lightly shaking herself off, though not hard enough to dislodge her burden. Charmian started crawling down from her back even before she could lean down on one leg, and hit the ground with a small thud, stumbling forward.
"It's okay!" she yelled. "This is the Shadow Wolf I talked about!"
"The Ogimah-Quae...?" This from Niskigwun--he stared up at the Wolf with wide eyes, and stepped forward again. The Shadow Wolf stood peering down at him as he approached, his face full of awe; Charmian frowned slightly when he crossed his spear to his breast and sank down on one knee, lowering his head. He dug at something on his belt and scattered something on the ground before her; Charmian blinked when she realized that it was tobacco.
"Thank you for coming, and for honoring us, Grandmother," he murmured as he did so.
The Shadow Wolf tilted her head to the side. You are one of the Old Ones, she said in a thoughtful voice; Niskigwun lifted his head and Charmian was surprised to see that his eyes were brimming.
"I am honored that you remember us, Grandmother." He cringed. "I am sorry that we did not protect the Island."
This was no longer your duty, the Shadow Wolf said, and turned to look at Charmian. Where is he?
Charmian bit her lip, seeing the hurt look flit across the Michinimakinong's face at being so quickly dismissed. "He's...over there," she said, noticing that Wabasso had been placed between the roots of a nearby tree. He was curled up in the hollow of the roots, and still looked just as if he were sleeping; she couldn't quite understand it.
He is half manitou, the Ogimah-Quae said as she stepped toward him, the others moving out of her way. This is why he looks still alive. The water protected him, even as it killed him.
Charmian had to wait for her to walk past before catching sight of Manabozho and Puka again; they stared at the Wolf while gnawing on their lips and wringing their hands. What is she going to do--? Manabozho thought at Charmian; Puka cast the Wolf a reproachful look and Charmian nearly winced.
I can hear you both, the Ogimah-Quae said, and they jumped. Their faces went red and Puka slunk behind a tree.
Thomas, Moon Wolf, and Niskigwun sidled up to Charmian, peering at the large creature as she bent down to sniff at Wabasso. "You didn't say you were planning on coming through with...well...that," Thomas whispered, furrowing his brow.
Charmian shrugged slightly. "Wasn't planned that way..."
"What does she plan to do?" Moon Wolf asked.
"I couldn't bring Wabasso's spirit back with me," Charmian said, walking toward the Wolf. "He's lost now, which means he doesn't remember the Island or anything, and so he doesn't have any reason to come back on his own."
"What--?" Manabozho scuttled toward her, actually dodging his way between the Wolf's legs. "What do you mean, he's forgotten--?" he blurted out, feathers flaring. "How can he forget--?"
Charmian shrugged and shook her head. "I don't know how it works, Manabozho. But I saw him--he didn't even remember me." She bit her lip. "I couldn't even get through to him..."
"So--how is Baby Brother coming back--?" Puka called out from his hiding place behind the tree, his own lip quivering.
In response Charmian glanced at the Shadow Wolf. "She brought him back," she said, and they all looked at the Wolf at once. Niskigwun's brow furrowed.
"She...?" he murmured.
Charmian nodded. "She has this power...I guess." She turned to look at Wabasso. "Though how she does it, I have no clue..."
She trailed off when the Ogimah-Quae pressed her nose against Wabasso's breast, nudging him back slightly so that his head rolled against one of the roots; Manabozho and Puka both started and opened their mouths, but a sharp wave from Niskigwun cut them off. "Let her work!" he snapped, a flick of the Wolf's ear showing that she'd heard. "If she has come all this way, then she knows what she is doing!"
"She's a Shadow Wolf!" Manabozho snapped. "Why should we trust her--?"
Charmian gawked. "Guys!" she cried. "She came here to help--!"
"The Shadow Wolves are under her command, are they not?" Moon Wolf said, giving the Ogimah-Quae a dark look himself. "Who is to say that she wasn't telling them what to do all this time--?"
Charmian clenched her fists. "GUYS!"
"I just want Baby Brother back," Puka said in a quavering voice, and slunk back behind the tree, sniffling. "I don't care how anyone does it..."
Charmian whirled to Thomas but all that he did was shrug and give her a confused look. If you wish me to bring his spirit back to his body, then say so now, the Ogimah-Quae said, and everyone now looked at her. She turned her head to look at them all and Manabozho and Moon Wolf actually lowered their stares a little. Otherwise, he will remain lost.
"You can do this--?" Charmian blurted out, taking a step forward. "And--and he'll come back? Just like before--?"
He will come back, the Ogimah-Quae said. Yet I cannot say just as before.
Manabozho scowled. "What does that mean--?"
Puka leapt out from behind the tree. "BABY BROTHER!" he yelled. "Do you really CARE what it means--? Just as long as he's back, right--?" He clasped his hands and dashed toward the Shadow Wolf. "Please, please, PLEASE bring him back!!"
Mainlander--? the Shadow Wolf prompted, still staring at Charmian.
Charmian blinked, and glanced at each of the others around her, flushing a little. She finally turned to Manabozho.
"Manabozho...?" He blinked when he realized that she was addressing him. "What do you want?"
His mouth opened, then shut. He chewed his lip, then his feathers lowered. She saw his eyes start to well up. She turned back to the Shadow Wolf.
"Bring him back," she said quietly. "Please."
The Ogimah-Quae nodded once, and turned back to Wabasso's body. She pressed her nose to his breast again, and a small glow appeared there. Everyone took in a breath and leaned forward to stare at the sight.
Mainlander, the Ogimah-Quae said as the glow grew stronger, enveloping Wabasso's body; a quick glance to the left and right told Charmian that the thought had been addressed only to her. She lifted her head with a small frown.
From her vantage point she saw the Shadow Wolf's eye shift to look at her. I bid you farewell, she said.
Charmian's brow furrowed. Farewell--?
An almost imperceptible motion that might have been the slightest nod. This, and I wish you luck. I believe you love this Island even more than I...almost.
Her eyes flared blue, then slowly started to dim. Just as her words finally made their way through Charmian's mind, and Charmian's eyes grew as she sucked in a shaky breath, realizing at last what they must mean. She flung out one arm, seeing all of the others glance at her in puzzlement, but it felt now like her legs were made of lead.
Niskigwun grabbed her arm as she started to dash forward, and she nearly fell to her knees. She opened her mouth to cry out again, but the glow flared, and surrounded the Ogimah-Quae now as well, and her shape and Wabasso's began to shift and merge almost as if they were one; Charmian struggled against Niskigwun's grip, baring her teeth in a panic.
"Charmian!" Niskigwun exclaimed over the loud humming which had arisen before them. "What are you doing--?"
"She told me goodbye!" Charmian shrieked, wrenching on her arm. "SHE'S KILLING HERSELF--!"
Everyone's face lit up in alarm. As one they all jerked their heads around to look at the Ogimah-Quae, but by now her shape was almost indiscernible, and even as she looked Charmian could see that she was growing smaller, and smaller, and even smaller, her glow slowly, and then more quickly, seeming to seep into Wabasso's chest. Charmian's vision blurred and she felt tears spill down her cheeks, and she let out an inarticulate sound as the Ogimah-Quae's form at last faded away, leaving nothing but giant pawprints behind her; she fell to her knees now, her fingers digging into the earth, as everyone stared on in awe. Only Wabasso remained now, curled up and glowing in the hollow of the roots, the glow throbbing like the beating of a heart.
Manabozho took a step toward him. "Is--is he--?"
They all gasped and jumped back; a jerk shot through Wabasso's body, and Charmian felt herself being dragged backward, even Niskigwun and Moon Wolf panicking at the sight. They stared at Wabasso's body as he slowly slumped forward, his head lolling so that his chin rested against his breast, his eyes still shut and his feathers drooping; his shoulders rose, and their eyes grew once more as he very slowly started to rise into the air. His knees and then his feet scraped against the tree as he did so, his arms held aloft out at his sides; they followed his progress as he ascended, until his feet dangled a foot or so above the ground, as if he were the world's biggest marionette being held aloft by invisible strings. Charmian almost expected him to start dancing, and this thought thoroughly unnerved her.
They gasped again when bands of light formed, shooting around him like electrons around an atom; Charmian's jaw slowly fell open to see that he was changing. His deerskin clothes began to glow, their color shifting into white; the color bled from his feathers until they were left white as well, and even his pouches and belt and all of the accessories that he wore faded, shifting into snow, ivory, and mother-of-pearl. The rabbit fetish that he wore began to glow and change, and Charmian leaned forward, mesmerized, to see it shift into the shape of a wolf, the carved image of the rabbit still faintly visible within its outline. And with this, Wabasso started to sink again.
Manabozho and Puka sucked in a shaky breath each as he descended, inch by inch, his moccasins--now white--brushing the ground and then pressing against it. His legs, then his body, followed, until he stood before them, his arms lowering until they rested against him. The glow shimmered and then faded, dying away, and everyone stared at him in a mixture of awe and tension. He said not a word, made no move, and for a moment Charmian worried that this had all been for nothing.
But--if that was so--then why--?
A little flicker of light passed over Wabasso's head like a ripple of water, and he then lifted it, his eyes opening and seeming to fix on all of them at once. They were brilliant blue, and everyone stared at him, unable to speak. Charmian wondered if some strange foreign force animated him now, until his eyes glimmered, and with a shaky breath she knew that he was alive.
She and Manabozho both stepped forward at once. Wabasso's eyes shifted almost imperceptibly, and Charmian almost lost her nerve when she saw him staring at her--yet he apparently stared at Manabozho also, judging by the way that Manabozho halted just as abruptly, feathers flaring. Charmian stared into those odd liquid-blue eyes before swallowing away the pain in her throat and struggling to find her voice.
"W...Wabasso...?" she at last whispered.
"Is...is it you...?" Manabozho asked faintly.
Wabasso's eyes shifted through all different shades of blue, then glimmered again. He moved his head now, and his voice came at last, the same as Charmian remembered it, yet--different, somehow.
"This is no longer my name," he murmured.
Charmian saw Manabozho's brow furrow, and felt her own doing the same. "What...is your name, then...?" she managed to ask, only after another moment of confused silence had passed.
Wabasso's eyes shifted just barely to meet hers. They shimmered, and her heart thudded hard.
"My name," Wabasso replied softly, "is Chibiabos."
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