SOMEWHERE A BIRD sang. Charmian frowned as the noise cut through her consciousness and she found herself blinking awake. She expected to see her alarm clock, red numbers lit up telling her what time it was; instead she saw a bat hanging upside down right before her, staring back as if to say Good morning.
For some reason this didn't frighten her.
She just frowned at it some more and finally sat up, rubbing her eyes and looking around.
She was at Old Mother Manitou's place again, inside Sugar Loaf Rock. The bat had abandoned its station hanging from the stick in the wall and now hung from a little bit of rock cropping out just over her head. Aside from it, and X, who lay at the far side of the room on a pallet made of pine boughs, deep in sleep, she appeared to be alone.
She looked down at herself. Someone had placed her on a pallet of her own and covered her up with furs. She wasn't certain who. The last thing she remembered was Tal Natha flying her back from Devil's Lake. From the looks of it she had fallen asleep on the way here; they had covered her up and left her to sleep; and then they had left themselves.
How incredibly rude! she found herself thinking. Here I am stuck on some weird interdimensional Island and they all just up and leave me in the middle of nowhere!
She pushed the furs aside and stood up, stretching and yawning. Her legs felt like rubber, ready to go out from under her at any moment and send her crashing to the ground. She looked back at the bat and suddenly felt lonely again. X would be fine on his own; the others couldn't be too far away. She reached down and plucked it from the wall, wrapping its tiny feet over the edge of her vest pocket, and made her way to the door, stepping outside into the sunlight.
She had to shield her eyes, the sun hurt them so much. Yes, it was definitely morning, and late morning from the looks of it; how long had she been sleeping? What kind of weird things could have been going on all night that she didn't even know about? And they let her sleep through it all?
She heard talking from not that far away--Francois and Marcott, from the sound of it--and went in that direction.
Francois's voice: "...The boy is a natural, there is no doubt about it."
Followed by Marcott's: "Well, it may be true, but there's no way you'll ever get me out on one of those things."
"Hello?" Charmian called, still rubbing her eyes and wandering into a clearing. The cool morning air nipped at her skin and she wished she'd brought her jacket with her.
Something rustled off to the side of her. She turned her head to see who was coming. And then she found that her eyes had to keep going up, up, up, for whoever was coming seemed to go on forever.
A huge, hulking beast, skin the color of mud, reared up out of the woods, so incredibly tall that Charmian almost sprained her neck looking up at it. She wouldn't have been able to describe it clearly if she tried. Its head was round, jowly, mastifflike; tiny eyes sunken into a face lined with folds of skin. Barbels--like those on a catfish--protruded from its lower jaw. Its head was small compared to the rest of its body, which hunched over, giant knuckles pressed into the ground like those of an ape. There was something strangely human about it, yet at the same time, it wasn't human at all.
Charmian started screaming.
The beast hardly responded. It tipped its ponderous head a bit and Charmian suddenly stopped screaming as a strange sound that wasn't quite a sound filled her head. She couldn't explain it. She knew she was hearing something, but it was beyond her ability to describe. It was more a very low pressure that pressed against her eardrums, like a deep hum just below her range of hearing. She knew it came from the giant creature, whatever it was, and gaped up at it with round eyes.
YOU ARE READING
Teenager Charmian has been chosen by the demon Dreamspinner to be guardian and protector of a young woman who holds the salvation of an entire island in her hands. But when the Island in question is populated by hideous spirits and monsters bent on...