She tripped, and a hand thumped against her chest to break her fall.  "Watch yourself closely," Silver Eagle Feather advised, moving on.

Charmian blushed but followed.  Why did her feet have to feel like such large pieces of lead?

At least Drake wasn't faring any better.

"Who is this Old Mother Manitou and what is she like?" she asked, attempting to stave off the boredom.  As unusual as the circumstances were, she simply didn't find traipsing down a hillside on some wild island to be very interesting.

"She is a manitou, of course...she lives in the Sugar Loaf Rock and from there keeps an eye on the forest.  Many times people have brought foundlings of all sorts to her to care for.  She is a very kind spirit.  Red Bird has stayed with her for a time in the past."

"Really?  You don't have any parents?"  The question had come out of Charmian's mouth before she could stop it; immediately afterwards she clapped her hands to her mouth, turning even redder than ever.  Her apology came out muffled.  "I'm...I'm sorry!!"

Red Bird stared down at the trail as she walked.  Her eyelids were partly lowered; Charmian couldn't be sure if she were upset or preoccupied.  "That's all right..." she said after a moment, her voice barely above a murmur.

Silver Eagle Feather cast a glance back at them, then looked ahead again.

Charmian did the same.  God, how embarrassing.  How could she have done that?  She was starting to act just like Drake!

As if reading her thoughts, a nudge on her arm.  "Jeez, Charm, could you be any more obvious?" Drake whispered.

Charmian brushed his hand away, turning red again.  This was the last thing she needed on a day like today.

From above, she suddenly heard a bark and a snarl.  Her head shot up to see Tal Natha wheel around in midair, wings flaring and teeth bared--but that was it.  Something slammed into her back and knocked her forward, falling downhill--throwing her arms out in front of her, both elbows struck the rocks and jolts of pain shot up her arms.  Someone grabbed her hand--"Hold on!" Silver Eagle Feather's voice shouted, and then Red Bird's--"Let them go!  Let them go, you brutes!"--but then she felt her hand pulling away and the wind started howling past her ears, leaves and branches smacking against her as she--and Drake--were sucked up into the sky.

One brief glimpse of the natives' faces below--Silver Eagle Feather's set angry expression, Red Bird's look of panic--from not too far away came a furious roar that she recognized as Tal Natha's, and a few feathers floated past her.  The rest, insane hooting and giggling--and then she was moving so fast she wasn't certain where she was anymore.

"Ch-Charrrrrmiaaaaaaannnnnn!!" Drake managed to get out, his voice wavering and sick sounding.  She could tell the heights terrified him and a moment later he made a weird sound that convinced her he must have passed out; as for herself, she struggled to lift her head, glancing around in an attempt to gain her bearings, only to find she didn't have any.

Clear blue sky opened up around her.

Instinctively she looked down.  There was the Island, but it was so far below she may as well have just been dropped from a plane!

She gasped and started struggling against whatever carried her.  Something--claws--dug into her shoulders.  She recognized, from feeling Tal Natha do it, that she was being carried by something, the way a bird of prey carries its next meal.  Hearing again the feral howls and hoots all above and around her, she began to fear this analogy might not be that far off.

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