came to a hazy awareness the next morning. Still too tired to get up,
she dozed fitfully. The blankets felt warm and comfortable and she had
one moment of sleepy thought that maybe she was back at home. But she
smelled pine trees and heard a wash of bird chatter from all around,
and cruel reality crashed in around her. She was still at Kamp Kwitcherbeliakin.
She let her feet hang over the edge of the mattress, the cool morning
air contrasting pleasantly with the warm blankets.
parents...' she thought bitterly. 'Dump me off at this crazy camp and
make me sleep in the same room with a BEAR.' She sighed, feeling lonely.
'I wish Grimm was here.' she thought. 'He'd know what to do...' Grimm
had always been there to look out for her since their first day in Pre-K.
She had gotten used to him always turning up when she needed him, and
she always tried to help him with whatever he was doing, desperate to
prove she was good enough to be his friend. Now she was stuck here,
and there was no way Grimm could help her.
eyes flew open, as she became suddenly aware that something warm and
wet was washing over her toes and she heard a low, snuffling breath
that spread warmly across her feet....
Sakituya heard a shrill cry and hurried to Rhonda's cabin. The door
was swinging on its hinges as if it has been blasted open. Gentle Paw
was shuffling out the door with a clumsy gait like a puppy, looking
confused. Sakituya heard a rustle of leaves and looked up at a large
tree that was next to the cabin. Rhonda was scrambling up into the lower
should not scream, Rhonda.' said Chief Sakituya, calling up to her.
'It frightens him.'
crazy bear tried to eat me!' Rhonda shouted down to him.
shook his head. 'Please, young one.' he said. 'He meant you no harm.
If he was going to attack you, he would have done it in the night while
you were sleeping.'
that supposed to calm me down?' she said sarcastically, feeling bolder
now that she was up out of the bear's reach.
say again, you have nothing to fear from Gentle Paw.' said Sakituya.
Gentle Paw was snuffling gently at Sakituya's fingers. The Indian chief
looked down at him, and the bear made some high pitched yowling noises.
What's he saying about me?' Rhonda yelled down to him.
looked up at Rhonda in surprise. Somehow, she had known that Gentle
Paw was talking to him, and more - she knew he was saying something
about her. Everyone else who heard his growls thought that it was simply
that - growling. He smiled. 'Gentle Paw says, your Indian name should
be "Toes Taste like Berries".
sputtered. 'Oh yeah?' she said. 'Well... tell him his Indian name should
be "Fuzzy-Faced Jerk!"
his side, Gentle Paw shook gently with a series of short, gasping growls.
heard that!' said Rhonda, now shaking a fist and looking angry. 'So
now he's laughing at me, huh? Well, right back at'cha Clyde!'
continued to look at her, his expression now curious. 'Breakfast will
be served in the main hall soon.' he said. 'I will take Gentle Paw with
me. Please be ready in twenty minutes.'
said Rhonda sulkily. 'Just keep Chewbacca there on a short leash...'
was not until Chief Sakituya moved away with Gentle Paw following behind
him that Rhonda would climb back down. The Indian chief looked back
at the cabin as Rhonda disappeared into it. Gentle Paw growled quietly
as they walked. 'I know, my friend.' he said. 'She is a strange one,
this Rhonda. She fears nature as if it were a striking snake. But nature
cleaves to her as if she were its firstborn daughter. No one else has
ever understood your voice.'
Paw let out a sonorous breath.
like her too.' said Sakituya. 'There is more to her than meets the eye,
I think. If you are agreeable, I think you should continue to share
your cabin with her. Just be patient and try not to frighten her. I
hope that one day she will also call you 'friend'.
Paw growled softly.
- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +
looked out at a panorama of trees and small mountains that lay beneath
them like a vast, green blanket pocked with the sapphire blue of many
lakes and ponds. The fresh, clean smell of the woodlands penetrated
his senses. He deliberately slowed the cycle, admiring the view as they
scudded over the treetops.
say Rhonda,' he said looking back at her, 'this place doesn't look so
bad from up here.' He had spent many years listening to her horror stories
about Kamp Kwitcherbeliakin, making it sound like a place where boogeymen
and hobgoblins lurked behind every tree, waiting to jump out and start
poking unwary victims in their eyes.
wait 'till we're on the ground.' said Rhonda, and Grimm felt her arms
shuddering as she held him. 'Trust me, this place is nothing but bad
be better for flying.' he answered, weaving around a cliffside.
bad road, bad road....!' she chanted over and over again.
sighed and dipped the cycle lower, seeing in the distance a clearer
patch among the dense trees. The GPS panel showed their location plotted
in comparison to Kamp Kwitcherbeliakin, and they were almost on top
of it. He saw cabins and other log buildings spread out beneath them,
and several bays in a nearby lakeside which docked a number of canoes
and other boats. It looked as if several sections divided into smaller
camps were laid around the circular rim of the lake, but the largest
cluster of cabins was unmistakable as the main camping area.
here.' he said simply. 'Open your eyes Rhonda, you'll have to look sooner
looked down at the camp as they descended. Grimm circled around and
they lowered until they were parallel with the main road leading into
the camp. At about twenty feet up, the tires rotated back to a vertical
position and they lowered slowly to the ground, the flaps and the nacelles
rotating back up.
Grimm shouted, and Rhonda felt a sudden lurch and heard a crunching
of gravel and the sound of the tires spinning. She saw two familiar,
and hated posts with a sign arched between them, reading Kamp Kwitcherbeliakin.
to a smooth stop in front of a large building which looked like a main
hall. Grimm turned off the bike, and the faint hum of the turbines faded
to silence. Taking off their helmets, they looked around for a few moments.
A hawk screech sounded faintly in the distance. Otherwise there was
no sound, and no indication that anyone was there besides themselves.
not get the memo?' said Rhonda, turning her head back and forth as she
surveyed the empty camp.
was getting off the bike, and kickstands snapped down to keep it level.
'We're early.' he said, glancing at his watch. 'No need to panic. The
trip didn't take as long as I thought. Jade's earned herself another
cake.' he looked proudly at the bike and ran a gloved hand across the
swung her legs across the seat and dismounted, moaning and twisting
her back, popping sounds snapped through the still air. 'Glad you
enjoyed the trip.' she muttered.
Fatigable?' came a low, soothing voice. Rhonda whirled and saw Chief
Sakituya coming out from the hall. He looked the same, except his face
was slightly more lined, and there were grey hairs at the roots near
his scalp. But he was still dressed the same as she remembered, with
a reddish-brown poncho, animal skin breeches over a pair of brown jeans,
and moccasins on his feet. His ever-present staff was still in his hand,
the feathers and beads rattling as he stepped forward. 'I heard you
were coming.' he said softly, a strange look in his eyes. 'You were
expected to return much sooner. It has been far too long, young Rhonda.'
looked away from him and muttered. 'Not nearly long enough....'
must be Grimm Probable.' said the Indian chief, stopping in front of
Grimm and putting out his hand. 'Many is the time that Rhonda has shrieked
your name when she was last here.'
smiled faintly and shook his hand. 'Chief Sakituya.' he said. 'I've
heard a lot about your camp. I hope none of it's true.'
chuckled. 'A thousand people will describe something that is true a
thousand different ways.' he said. 'You will see the camp and decide
for yourself what is true.'
someplace I can store this?' he said, pointing to his bike. 'I don't
want to leave it out in the open.'
nodded. 'Yes, I can see why. Most unusual. Silent, swift and guarded,
not unlike yourself, young Grimm. If it were not for the eyes of the
eagles who noted your approach I might not have been aware of your arrival.
We have a storage cabin which will suit it well and protect it from
were wheeling the bike towards the cabin, Rhonda finally spoke again.
'Not seeing any kids....' she said, her voice a low mumble. Rueful had
popped his head out of Rhonda's backpack and was looking around the
camp, his whiskers twitching.
is a summer camp, young Rhonda.' said Sakituya. 'Not many come here
during the fall. The leaves have not yet turned, but only a few holidays
remain between now and the time when the quiet of the winter snows will
bring sleep to the forest. For the most part, the camp remains quiet
in these months, and people come here who wish to find peace.'
'So what are you still doing here?' Rhonda said, still sounding suspicious
and sulky, looking around as if she were expecting to be attacked.
camp is more than just a business for me.' said the Indian chief. 'It
is also my home. I dwell here and maintain the camp during the months
when we do not have many guests.'
explains a lot.' Rhonda muttered. Sakituya looked at Rueful, who was
running in circles around Rhonda's neck like a slithering fur stole.
you have a new friend.' he said, smiling. 'He seems most eager to explore.'
sighed. 'Knock yourself out, Rueful.' she said. At once, Rueful leaped
down and shot across the grounds like a furry bolt of lightning.
unlocked the chained double-doors of a larger cabin and swung them open
with a low creaking sound. Inside were some tools, some boxes, ropes
and tackle, but there was room for the bike in the center of the structure.
Grimm and Rhonda pushed in the bike and after closing and locking the
doors, Sakituya gave Grimm the key. 'A gesture of good faith.' he said,
smiling. 'I sense that trust does not come easily to you, young Grimm.
Perhaps this will set your mind at ease. I trust you to return this
to me when your task here is complete.'
said Grimm, taking the key and looking curiously at the Indian chief.
'Speaking of which, we were supposed to meet an expert here, a man named