Part 28

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PART TWENTY-EIGHT:

Head Below Water

CHARMIAN GASPED AND lifted her head.  She blinked when bright yellow light met her eyes and it took her a moment to reacquaint herself with her surroundings.  She was startled at first to see Tal Natha before her, and thought that she still dreamed, but then realized he was still unconscious; she was holding onto his hand tightly.  Her fingers ached and she realized she'd been squeezing it the whole time.

Red Bird sat on the other side of him, holding his other hand.  She stared at Charmian with large eyes.

"Well?"  Old Mother Manitou's voice came to her ears and Charmian looked up at her.  The old woman handed her a wooden cup filled with something; Charmian took it and drank without bothering to see what it was.  "Did you find out anything?"

Charmian nodded, swallowing; she didn't know what she'd just drunk but it had a woody taste to it.  "First there were two Ocryxes there--Dakh Natha and Sikt Natha.  I don't know, maybe they were twins.  They told me that Tal Natha lost his faith and I'd have to find him on my own."

As she said this Red Bird slowly backed away, letting go of Tal Natha's hand and balling her fists against her stomach.  Her face went nearly white but she said nothing.

"Other Ocryxes?" Old Mother Manitou just muttered.  "They spread like flies.  What else did you see?"

"I went through this cave and then I found Tal Natha.  He's still there, he just can't see or sense anything anymore.  He took me in his dream and then showed me the dreams of others.  I went looking around for someone, first I went into one person's dream and then another..."  She sat up and started patting at herself.  "I brought something back...or I tried to..."

She panicked inside.  What if her plan hadn't worked out?  What if dream objects had to stay where they belonged, within dreams?  Just because she'd been able to take the necklace out of Miss Anne's dream and into Tal Natha's didn't mean it would survive its trip back into reality.

But...she felt a small bulge in her side pocket where one hadn't been before, reached inside, and felt velvet.  Relief flooded through her.  She pulled out the small bag and held it up with a huge smile.

"Ta-da!"

The others frowned at her.  "What's that?" Drake asked.

"A little gift for somebody."  She opened the bag and pulled out the necklace.

Drake's face lit up.  "Hey, I remember that!  That's the one you wanted so much back at home!"

"Yep.  I'm surprised you were paying attention.  This is what I need right now."

The others--Red Bird, Silver Eagle Feather, X, and Old Mother Manitou--merely looked perplexed.  "How can that help him?" Red Bird asked.

"It's not this that'll help him," Charmian admitted.  "Rather it's the person I give this toHe can help Tal Natha."

A long pause while the others pondered over what she'd said.  She sensed they didn't get it.  When Red Bird finally spoke, she realized that they did.

"He won't do it."  She cast her gaze at the floor.  "He doesn't care for Tal Natha that much."

"I don't know about that," Charmian said.  "I think he just doesn't want him around because of the--well, it's obvious, they can end up killing each other.  But I don't think he hates him."

"You don't understand.  I know him better than you do.  I lived with him for most of my life."  She fell silent a moment, then, remembering that Charmian knew already, went on.  "Ocryxes...full-blooded Ocryxes don't get along with each other.  There's just too much tension.  They think of themselves most of the time.  Tal Natha's the exception, of course, but even he's worried about protecting himself and me...I also believe Fa--Ocryx is angry that the two of us found each other.  He wouldn't bother risking himself to help Tal Natha."

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