Manitou Island

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PART ONE:
The Dream Begins

CRYSTALS LINED THE edges of the high cave.  If more light had been able to make it within, they would have set the place aglow in every color imaginable, but as it was, they could only gleam dully in the flicker of a primitive torch or two.  The one who lived within had no need of much light.  His own eyes glowed brighter than any gems that surrounded him, floating like two disembodied emeralds in the dimness.  One of the torches flared and then sputtered in a small gust of wind, and the light bounced off him when he moved.  The faint glint of a curving horn.  The glossy blackness of a wolf's fur.  Feathered wings, and a long winding snake's tail, whispering softly across the sand on the ground.

He had an interest in only one of the crystals, the biggest one, set in a small stone hollow.  This one glowed more brightly than the others, and it glowed of its own accord; it didn't need the fire to light it up.  Within it, he kept his emerald eyes on the one thing that held his interest now, the one thing he knew that mattered more than anything else at this time.

Humans.  Humans would be coming here soon.  Outsiders, not from the Island.  The Island had been visited by outsiders several times in the past, but most of them had not stayed long, and most of them had never been able to find their way back once they were gone.  That was the way it was.  The fog kept the Island hidden, protected it from outsiders, just so he and the other residents could go about their lives in peace.  He was certain most of the natives weren't even aware of all the changes that had taken place on the mainland in all the years they'd been here, "trapped" on the Island; in this place, time didn't have quite the same meaning it did as on the outside, and that could be a problem for both his kind and the natives, and for any outsiders involved.  Which was why it had to be important for him to want outsiders to come.

Not just any outsiders, though.  A particular outsider.

He could see her in the crystal now.  A young girl, standing with a boy about her own age; from the looks of it they were in some kind of store.  An antiques store, if his albeit flawed understanding of the outside world served him properly.  He could not hear their voices as they spoke, but they spoke excitedly, poring over an old photograph in a silver frame.  He recognized the photo.  It had been taken many, many years ago, on this very Island.  Not on the island these outsiders thought it had been taken on; for as of this moment, neither of them had any idea this Island even existed.

This will change, soon, he thought to himself.

He leaned forward to peer at the photograph for himself, and felt a pang.  He recognized one of the subjects of the photo.  A young woman, her features like those of the natives on the Island, yet her hair--even in the black-and-white photo--not the same as theirs.  Lighter in color.  He knew it was red, although one could not tell by looking at the picture.

Red Bird.  Perhaps you do not believe the camera can steal your soul, but this time it may very well come close.  You should never have given the outsiders your picture.  Now I will have to interfere with everything.  Outsiders started all our troubles, but outsiders will also be the ones to help us end them.

This particular outsider--the young girl holding the picture, staring at it, wondering who the red-haired woman within the frame might be--she would be the one to set things right.

But first he would have to convince her to come to the Island.  She already held the picture in her hands; already the seeds of curiosity had been planted.  All that he needed to do was inform her that her curiosity could only be satiated by coming here.  Not to that other island, the one where all the mainlanders headed in the summer to ride the horses or see the sights...but this Island, his Island, the Island in the fog that so few mainlanders ever got to see.

He would make certain she saw it.  He had a way with dreams...he would have his way with hers.  By the time of the next great fog, she would be on her way here, to him, and she would find out what she had to do.

He stepped to the mouth of his cave, peering outside, to the south, where the mainland lay.  The mainland, so easily sighted by him, from the Island, so invisible to the outsiders.  He lifted his head and sniffed at the air, nose twitching, emerald eyes searching.  Evening was coming on, and here and there a wisp of fog floated by.  He stared up at the stars.  Fog.  Not enough yet.  But soon.

He would see her in her dreams soon.

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