Part 6

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PART SIX:

First Contact

"NUTS," CHARMIAN WHISPERED.

"Do you think he's a native?" was all Drake said.

"What do you think?  Well...obviously, he is.  I mean, look at how he's dressed."  Charmian slowly lowered the hand holding the guidebook.  "This isn't good...I don't know anything about native tribes.  Are they friendly?  Are they mean?"

"What kind of Indian do you think he is?"

"Well, I know we had Algonquin in the area...but I have no idea what he is...and anyways, I don't know how to speak their language in order to find out!!"

This whole time they'd been whispering back and forth to each other, or more like hissing, but Charmian's mouth clamped shut as soon as she saw the look on the stranger's face change.  He seemed to find it displeasing that they must be talking about him under their breath; his eyes darkened and his frown grew, and Charmian couldn't be sure if he lifted the stick a little higher or not.

"Shhh," she hissed at Drake.  "He's listening to us."

"Well, like I said, if we're lost, we can just talk to him."

"He doesn't look very friendly, if you know what I mean!"

"The worst thing we can do is find out, right?" Drake said, and stepped away from her, toward the cliff.  He raised his hand and actually said, "How!"  Charmian cringed and felt like vanishing into the ground.  She wondered how sharp a stick had to be before it could effectively pierce the human skull.

The native just stood and stared down at Drake as he approached.  He moved slightly, as if to take a step back, and his frown grew as if he were puzzled.

Drake stopped at the base of the cliff and waved.  "Hi.  Are you friendly or not friendly?"

The native blinked.  The hand holding the stick lowered and he cocked his head, staring down at Drake.

"You speak my language?" he said, in flawless English.

Charmian's jaw dropped.  She rushed forward, pushing her friend out of the way.  "You mean...you speak our language?"

"No.  I speak only my own."  A curious look.  "You mean you speak your own tongue, but I can understand you anyway?"

Charmian nodded.  "Yeah.  We're talking English--our language.  And we can understand you."

After a moment the native appeared to relax.  He lowered the stick completely and nodded with a smile that looked relieved.  "Of course.  You must be from the mainland.  There was a big fog this morning, but it's burned off by now.  You came here through the fog?"

Charmian nodded.  "How did you know?"

"People who come here through the fog...they have understanding that others who visit the Island do not.  They can speak and understand our tongue, even while they claim they aren't speaking it.  I try not to question, only Gitchi Manitou can know for sure."  He raised his hands in a sort of shrug toward the heavens.  Then his gaze focused on them again.  "You came here by accident, or with a purpose.  Mainlanders do not come here for trivial matters.  Why have you come to the Island of the Manitous?"

Charmian cleared her throat.  "Well...we were rather...invited to come here."

"Invited?  You mean, you were asked to do so?"

Charmian nodded.  "It's kind of hard to explain...I don't know if you'd believe us anyway."  This was only half of what went through her mind as she said it.  We don't have any idea who this guy is, she thought.  For all we know he could be in league with Ocryana!  Why couldn't Tal Natha have sent out a welcoming party or something?  Just to make this a bit easier?

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