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Pen Your Pride

Part 9

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PART NINE:

A Shy Bird Emerges

CHARMIAN STARED UNTIL the girl looked ready to go back into the cave just to get away from her.  Then she blinked and shook her head, holding out her hand.  "Oh--I'm sorry.  I just--I recognize you, and I didn't expect to see you here."

"Recognize me?"  The voice that came from her matched her looks, frail and timid.  The girl looked Charmian up and down, then hesitantly shook her head.  "I don't think I've seen you before."

"Oh--you haven't.  But I saw you.  In a photograph."

"Foh-toh--?"

"Photograph.  A picture."  Charmian found herself patting her pockets, only to remember she'd never actually brought the picture along with her.  Darn!  She held up her hands again.

"I don't have it with me...but somebody showed me a picture of you.  You were wearing this white dress.  Amer--um--European clothing.  There were a couple of other people with you."

The girl's eyes widened.  "Picture?  Dupries?"  She came forward; Charmian found herself wondering what she'd meant by Dupries.  Where had she just heard that name?  "You saw the picture they took?  Who has it now?"

"This lady on the mainland.  Miss Anne her name is.  It's in a silver frame."

"Does she keep it away, or does everybody see it?"

Silver Eagle Feather stepped forward before Charmian could answer the odd question.  Which was a good thing, as she wasn't sure how to answer.  "He's coming back down now.  Make some room for your friend; I don't think this will be a very pleasant landing."

Red Bird retreated into the cave and Charmian and Silver Eagle Feather moved aside.  The dust around them stirred as if a small helicopter were coming in for a landing; a moment later Drake dropped gently to the ground, only to scramble to his feet with a bloodcurdling scream.  He stumbled over to the cave, meaning to run inside and hide, only to slam into Red Bird who let out a startled cry.  Drake backed away, eyes boggling, and then pointed at her.  "HEY!  You're that Bird Lady!"  He turned to Charmian and waved his arms frantically.  "Charm, Charm, I found her!  The Bird Lady!  She's right here!!"

"I know that, idiot!" Charmian hissed.  "Shut up and quit spazzing out, for God's sake!"

Tal Natha landed on the ledge, raising one arm to examine it.  A bit of the fur was missing and he bore a few nasty-looking scrapes.  Charmian flushed and shot an evil look at Drake, who also turned red and attempted to brush wolf fur off his hands.

"Um...sorry about that," he murmured.  "I'm...I'm not very good with heights."

"It's of little concern," Tal Natha said.  He looked toward the cave, saw Red Bird standing just within, and his features, tense a moment before, seemed to relax.  Red Bird.  You stayed here.  Good.  I wish for you to speak with these people.

"Mainlanders?"  Red Bird looked at them a little anxiously.  "Usually when mainlanders show up it means trouble.  They say they saw my picture.  Are they the people you keep talking about?"

Charmian wondered how much Tal Natha had told her about--the situation--whatever the situation was.  Would he tell them more, now that they were all together?

Yes, this is they.  The Ocryx spoke in their minds, yet apparently they all could hear him.  He turned to the three still standing outside and spoke aloud.  "Please, follow me inside.  We are not unsafe out here, but anyone choosing to pass by might see and hear us."

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