Part 10

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CHARMIAN AND DRAKE had to wait their turns being lifted up to the top of the cliff by Tal Natha.  By the time they'd both been brought back up there Silver Eagle Feather was already waiting; Charmian glanced around, not quite sure how the woman had done it.  Red Bird came up last, Tal Natha carrying her under the arms; he set her down just as gently as he had the others before landing himself.

"So, where is it we have to go now?" Charmian asked.

"I wish to take Red Bird to Old Mother Manitou.  To the large rock.  Your people call it 'Sugar Loaf,' I believe."  He frowned as if puzzled by the name.  "It is not that very far from here.  I could carry two of you at once."

"C-carry?"  Drake's face went white.  "Um...this is the highest point on the Island, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is.  This means it would be a long and difficult walk for you to 'Sugar Loaf.'  You must remember that our Island does not have the amenities that yours does.  You will find trails here, but they are just as difficult as anything else."  He stretched one wing.  "You may always simply close your eyes."

"That doesn't help much!!" Drake retorted.

Charmian nudged him.  " Sugar Loaf, I guess.  What's waiting there?"

"Old Mother Manitou.  I will leave Red Bird with her for now.  She is old but she has strong medicine and might be able to protect Red Bird while you two become better acquainted with the Island."

"Oh, all right."

"Can't we walk just a little bit first?" Drake begged.  "I mean, okay, it's a long walk and probably will have to f-fly us part of the way...but can't we walk part of the way too?  Just so you don't have to f-fly us so far and...maybe...we can get a little used to the idea first?"

Charmian gritted her teeth.  Drake could be such a baby sometimes.

Tal Natha cocked his head, looking puzzled again, but then shrugged, a strangely human gesture.  "I suppose this is walk part of the way down from Fort Holmes.  It simply means I will have to fly you higher once we get to the bottom, but if this is what you choose I have no argument."  He hopped on one foot and lifted into the air.

Drake had gone chalk white.  "F-fly h-higher?" he stammered.  Charmian grabbed his arm and pulled.

"C'mon, fraidy-cat.  You asked, you shall receive."  She started towing him along behind her, toward the trail Silver Eagle Feather and Red Bird were heading for.

"Yeah, b-but--I didn't know he'd have to f-fly HIGHER!" Drake cried, trying futilely to resist Charmian's pulling.  He let out another wail as they reached the path and headed downhill from the fort.

Tal Natha had been right...there was a path leading down from Fort Holmes, but it wasn't much of a path.  The only real way it could be distinguished from the rest of the land was by its absence of trees; aside from that, the numerous roots and rocks made it not that friendly of a path.  Once again came the stumbling fun Charmian had gone through before; she found herself holding onto saplings a lot more often now.

For some reason Silver Eagle Feather and Red Bird had hardly any difficulty navigating the rough terrain.

High overhead, above the treetops, she heard occasionally the sound of great wings flapping and the leaves rustling; when she looked up she could see Tal Natha's form flitting in and out of sight over her head.  He stayed above the trees yet followed the same course; she assumed he could see, hear, and smell them to know where they were going.

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