"Of course.  My father and mother have been here for some time.  We consider it home now.  Though we come from the mainland, same as you--if what the gentleman here says is true."

"Gentleman!  In case you didn't notice that--THING--is a GeeBee!"

"I have noticed that...however he doesn't appear to be interested in devouring you, at least not at the moment, so I think you could show him a bit more gratitude."

Charmian's mouth fell open.  She gaped at the GeeBee next, and he spoke up, saying, "She gave me a sweet.  I owed some payment."

"There, you see?" Justin said, spreading his arms.  "You entered into a contract with him, and then you treat him like this when he fulfills his duty?  What sort of person are you?"

What!!  Charmian's blood, frozen before, now felt as if it were boiling.  She clenched her fists again.  "The sort that doesn't like cannibals, that's what sort!"

Justin stared at her a moment, then threw back his head and started laughing.

"WHAT'S SO FUNNY!!" Charmian screamed, flailing her arms madly.  "This is a matter of LIFE OR DEATH!!"

The man managed to stop laughing, though he had to catch his breath.  "Ma chère, please, you worry too much.  If you expect to be eaten you're passing time with the wrong GeeBee.  Poor Pakwa left Chief Augwak's kind behind long ago."

"What?"  Charmian stopped flailing but glared at him nonetheless.

"Truly, Miss.  I think you'd have more chance of being devoured by a cocker spaniel than by Pakwa here."

Charmian glanced back at the GeeBee.  He still stood much as he had before, arms crossed, staring at her through half-closed eyes.  The strangely neutral expression on his face seemed so out of place--she was used to seeing GeeBees sneering.

"You mean he's not a cannibal?" she asked.

"That's just what I mean, Miss."  Justin cocked his head this time.  "You must be a mainlander, else you'd know...I apologize for assuming you did and for laughing at you like that, it was most rude of me."

"Yeah, well, that's true," Charmian muttered.  Her ears were burning.  She felt stupid.  How come Tal Natha or Silver Eagle Feather had never told her about any of this?  What would she come across next, evil bloodsucking Uroona?  She could hear Tal Natha's voice in her head now:  "Oops, we forgot to mention that one.  Sorry!"

"In any case," Justin said, catching her attention, "you look rather out of sorts here; would you like to come back, with me?  My home is not too far from here.  You could get yourself cleaned up, and get something to eat."

"Oh."  Charmian turned back to him.  "That's nice of you...but actually I was looking for someone.  Someone I know is in trouble and I was trying to find help."

"Help?"  He peered at her.  "What sort of trouble?  Who are you looking for?"

"It's..."  She trailed off.  What if this person didn't know much about the Ocryxes, or worse yet, was an enemy of theirs?  Best not to take any chances.  "...just a friend of mine.  He was wounded and I think it might be infected.  A couple of friends of mine went off to get help for him, but he was getting worse, and they hadn't returned yet, so I went off into the woods to look for them..."

"You say you came from Sugar Loaf?"

"Yeah...it's kind of hard to explain.  I thought I might find Old Mother Manitou but I don't know where she went."

"I'll tell you what, then.  Come back with me and get yourself cleaned up, and then I'll go back to Sugar Loaf with you and see if I can't help out in any way, is that good?"

Charmian flushed a little.  "Well...okay.  I guess.  If you have any way to get there.  I mean, I didn't exactly walk here..."

"No worries.  I'm certain Pakwa would oblige you."  Charmian cringed.  The GeeBee just stared at his foot.  "As for me, I'll see if I can't summon one of those manitous..."

"Oh."  It came out before Charmian could stop it, his comment had surprised her so much.  He'd started to turn for the woods, but heard her and turned back, look inquiring.  "You...you know how to talk to them?  The manitous?"

He smiled slightly.  "Of course.  My father taught me.  They all speak the same language, it's just a matter of getting them to respond."  He held out his hand.  "You'll come with me?"

"Okay."  She glanced at Pakwa.  "Um...does he come, too?"

"Pakwa may go where he wishes.  I'm certain he'll be along when we need him."  He waved at her.  "Come along, follow.  It's not that far."

"Okay."  Charmian tramped through the grass toward him and followed him off through the trees.  She heard the sound of Pakwa leaping into the air and vanishing in a current of wind that went breezing over their heads, stirring the leaves on the trees.

She shivered as she walked, despite the warmth of the air.  And she wondered how X was doing.

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