Kim Possible is copyrighted/owned by Disney, etc...

Author: Special thanks again to the "Native Languages of the Americas" website and it's co-ordinator, Laura Redish, and their myriad of experts. http://www.native-languages.org/ There are several verses in this chapter which they have kindly translated to Blackfoot. I hope to set up links for these translations in chapter 7 as my cute way of 'bribing' you into visiting their website. The rituals and rites in this chapter are fictional, and are not meant to be an actual portrayal of Blackfoot ceremonies.

Chapter 6
The Great Bear Spirit

Sakituya looked at the children as their guide led them back into the camp from their hike. They looked tired, but well, and he hoped they had enjoyed the sights on the trails. It was nearly time for the evening meal, and the troop separated to go back to their cabins and get cleaned up.

But Sakituya heard a soft noise next to his elbow. Gentle Paw was nudging him, and a sad sounding growl came from his throat. The Indian chief felt troubled and went to the guide. 'Your group had Rhonda Fatigable listed among it's members,' he said. 'But I did not see her return with you. Where is she?'

'Firebringer?' the guide said. 'She was partnered with Trickster and River Walker. When I called roll after the last break, I thought they all responded.'

Sakituya felt his unease growing. 'I will check her cabin.' he said. 'Find Trickster and River Walker and have them brought back here by the time I return.'

Gentle Paw followed Sakituya to the cabin, but there was no sign of Rhonda. Gentle Paw sniffed and shook his head mournfully. They returned to the main entrance of the camp, where the guide was looking sternly down at Trickster and River Walker, both of whom looked nervous and guilty. 'Tell him!' said the guide to Trickster.

Trickster looked down at his feet. 'She fell asleep when we took that break a while back.' he said. 'We didn't wake her up when we left.' He added sheepishly. 'We thought it would be funny....'

'Funny?' said the guide, and cold anger was entering his voice. 'Do you feel that way now?' Neither Trickster and River Walker said anything.

Sakituya stared down at them. He did not shout or even frown, but his gaze alone had the two children squirming. 'What you have done was foolish, and dangerous.' he said. 'You will return to your cabins and stay there until I decide what is to be done. I will know if you have not obeyed.'

Without another word, Trickster and River Walker practically fled toward their cabins. Sakituya turned to the guide. 'Call the other counselors at once.' he said, 'Have a small number remain here to look after the children and see that those two make no more mischief. The rest must be sent into the forest at once. It is essential that we find her.' The Guide nodded and rushed off to obey.

Gentle Paw let out another mournful sounding growl. Sakituya shook his head. 'This is not good, Ikkinikinsstiwa.' he said. 'It was my intention to gently introduce Rhonda to the natural world. Having it thrust roughly upon her could drive her away and make matters worse.'


Rhonda stumbled down the trail, practically swooning with weariness. Still, she didn't feel tired enough to lie down or to rest. She shouted out occasionally, pausing to listen for any answering shouts.

She paid little attention to where she was going, thinking vaguely that she would try to find higher ground so she might see a landmark to shoot for. And she found herself on a steeply ascending trail, with a rocky face on one side, and trees growing on the other. She kept following it without thinking, and noted after a while that the side of the trail which had trees on it was now overlooking a long drop to the forest below.

She was climbing a winding trail up a mountainside, and she could see a long distance off. But she could see nothing except the endless green expanse of the forest beneath her. She continued on, hoping that as the trail wound around the mountainside, she might see the camp eventually.

Finally, she saw a side trail leading off from the main path, and she felt herself drawn to see where it led. She entered an area where the mountain stone seemed naturally carved into a large dome-like hollow, which opened up from the mountainside and looked out onto the forest. It was like being in a vast, empty room with an open bay window.

Everything was quiet, and even the sound of the wind and the birds seemed to have been silenced. Her footsteps echoed in her ears as she stepped gingerly towards the edge and looked down. She was looking over the edge of a sheer cliff, with the forest far below her. She could see a large lake in the distance, at the base of another mountain from which a waterfall was cascading down into the lake. But she could see no sign of the camp, nor any trails that might lead to it. She sat down glumly near the edge of the cliff, wondering what to do next.

Then she stiffened, and a prickle on the back of her neck told her that she was not alone. She stood up, turning around, terrified of what she might see, but unable to stop herself. She was looking at the curve of the rocky mountainside as it swept back towards the entrance to the hollow. In a dark recess of the stone cliff, she saw a vast statue, at least nine feet tall, carved roughly into the shape of a bear that was standing on its hind legs.

Rhonda shuddered, for the feeling that something was there with her got even stronger. All was utterly silent as Rhonda glanced around, trying to find the source of whatever presence she was feeling. 'Who... who's there?' she said timidly. 'Whoever you are - I've... I've got an imaginary friend and he's HUGE!'

And from the statue, she heard a whispering voice, as plain as if someone had hidden a speaker inside it.

Katasistsikoowa....

Barely one instant later, the hollow was empty again as Rhonda fled back down the trail, screaming.

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Rhonda swallowed hard.

'Indefatigable.' said Grimm, staring at her. 'Rhonda - the voice is calling you. I guess we finally know your Indian name - Katasistsikoowa.'

Rhonda wasn't sure how to feel. On the one hand - she was hearing the same mysterious voice from nowhere that had reduced her to a shivering wreck over eight years ago, which meant they were one step closer to finishing their mission. On the other hand - she was hearing the same mysterious voice from nowhere that had reduced her to a shivering wreck over eight years ago.

Maze's eyes were boring into her like lasers, an eager light now shining behind them which had not been there before. 'If you are truly hearing this voice - can you tell where it is coming from?'

Rhonda glanced sideways at him. The truth was, she could tell which direction it was coming from. The voice was still so far distant she could barely hear it, but there was no mistaking that it was stronger in only one specific direction, and Maze seemed to know it. 'Yeah.' she said reluctantly.

The confident smirk was returning to Grimm's face, the same look he always got when a mission was as good as accomplished. 'Lead on.' he said.

Rhonda stopped. 'We, uh, gotta leave the trail.' she said. The direction she was feeling was the right way plunged straight into the forest.

Grimm patted his hip pouch where the communicator was. 'I got us marked.' he said. The GPS might not be working, but Jade had set up the communicator to mark their location based on landmarks and other features listed on the nature trails. Rhonda sighed, and stepped off the trail.

The next hour of the journey was quieter, but much more tense. Neither Grimm nor Maze said anything, as if they were afraid of interrupting her. Even Rueful was breathing more softly. Rhonda heard the voice every so often, and each time it seemed a little clearer, making her flinch. It was like being in a horror movie, climbing up a darkened stairwell with creepy music playing, knowing that something bad was about to happen.

Rhonda had always laughed at how stupid the characters in slasher flicks could be, but she suddenly had a new appreciation of their plight. The dumb kids in those movies were controlled by the script writers, who drove them helplessly towards their doom. And here she was in almost the same fix - being driven towards something that was scaring the snot out of her, but too nervous to back out.

She threaded her way through groves and clusters of trees, pushing aside the leafy strands of bushes and undergrowth. Finally, she paused. She was standing in front of a thick network of bushes that seemed to spread out on either side for several dozen yards. The branches were stiff and thorny looking. Threaded among all of the bushes were tall plants with spiny protrusions and serrated leaves.

'Nettles.' said Maze, who had come up behind her and startled her. 'The voice - it leads you beyond these thickets?'

Rhonda nodded. 'I'm not going through this.' she said. 'We should find a way around...'

But Maze quickly shook his head, a curious look on his face. 'I know these woods. On the one side, the forest falls down into a series of ravines and gulleys - very treacherous. On the other side the trees and the undergrowth become too thick to walk through. The trail was made to loop around these hazards, but the straightest and easiest way is through these bushes.'

Rhonda glanced at Grimm, who was looking at the screen on his communicator. After a moment, he looked up and nodded. She sighed and turned back to Maze. 'What's the rush?' Rhonda said. 'Have you got some kind of business meeting you need to get to?'

Maze stared impatiently, but with a look of forced politeness. 'It is already late afternoon. If you still do not know how far we must go, then I would rather travel quickly in the hope that we might reach our destination before nightfall. Traveling around would take too much time.' He smirked. 'The nettles will be unpleasant - but surely you are not afraid.'

Rhonda stared across the expanse of bushes and the nettle plants that grew among and over them. Grimm squared his shoulders. 'Let's get on with it then.' he said, then he began pushing aside some of the branches, moving into the thickets. Rhonda followed after him, more reluctantly, but determined not to make him do all the work by himself. Rueful slithered into her backpack and peered out nervously as they moved into the bushes.

Rhonda looked back at Maze, who showed no sign of moving to help them. 'Hey, since you respect nature so much, why not give us a hand?' she said.

Maze looked shrewdly at her. 'Of course I respect nature.' he said. 'I respect the nettles enough not to touch them myself, but to have hirelings do it for me.'

Rhonda growled, but Grimm laid a hand on her. 'Ixnay.' he said softly. 'He's the ientclay...'

By the time they had made their way through the bushes and stalks, both Rhonda and Grimm were wincing, their fingers twitching. Pushing their way through some of the bushes meant they had needed to get a firm grip against the thicker branches, many of which were bristling with nettle fronds. The heavier thorns on some of the branches pulled and tore at their outfits and Rhonda even saw Grimm flinching every so often as a stray thorn would punch through his glove or tear at his shirt sleeves.

Maze strode up once they had exited the clearing, following in the wake of the path Grimm and Rhonda had made. He looked down at their gloved and grimy hands. 'You would do wisely to remove those.' he said. 'Those gloves were not made for gardening, and the nettle hairs have burrowed deep. Continuing to wear them will only inflict more pain.'

Rhonda was reluctant to do anything that Maze suggested, but she eased her gloves off after Grimm removed his own, and the stinging eased almost at once. Grimm stowed them in his pack, still rubbing at some of his scratches and scrapes.

Rhonda looked at her outfit, which had several small tears on her sleeves and the cuffs of her pants. Grimm's outfit was similarly damaged. 'These were brand new.' said Rhonda. 'Talk about a bon-diggity-downer...'

Grimm smiled. 'Don't sweat it. Remember, we're switching back to the old outfits when this is all over.' Maze raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

They continued on for some time, and as they walked, Rueful seemed to become more fidgety, as if he were anxious to get to a planned destination. He kept poking his head forward on either side as Rhonda walked, finally scurrying down her arm and running ahead of them, pausing every so often to look back expectantly.

Rhonda would have started feeling bored again except that every so often, she heard the ghostly whispering and would get her bearings again to follow it after shuddering. One time, hearing the voice quite distinctly, she paused, trying to stifle her nervousness.

'The voice - it is getting stronger?' Maze spoke from the rear, sounding as excited as Rhonda was apprehensive.

'Yes!' Rhonda snapped. 'We're getting closer and it's freaking me out, OK?'

After some time, the trees came to a sudden end. They found themselves at the base of a large mountain which jutted up from the forest interior. Rhonda paused, the dim memories of her ascent up a mountainside flashing through her head. She remembered following a trail, but she could see no sign of one from where she was standing. But she could feel they were still heading the right direction. Rueful came back through the underbrush and was chittering excitedly. Rhonda followed him, and found him standing on his hind legs, looking back at her and pointing. She saw a clear trail laid out before her, winding through the thick undergrowth towards the mountainside.

Grimm and Maze came up behind her. Grimm had his communicator out, checking the map files. 'This mountain is labeled,' he said, looking up at the towering cliffs which had shelfs on them that were thickly wooded and which ascended upwards past their field of vision. 'But there aren't any hiking or climbing trails marked.' He turned to Maze, who was looking eagerly at the trail. 'Have you ever been this way before?'

'Yes, many times.' he answered. 'I remember well exploring the base of each of the mountains near the trails. But I have never seen this path before....'

Grimm took out two drink packs, throwing one to Rhonda. 'Tank up.' he said simply. 'Before we start climbing we could use a refresher.' Again, he offered one to Maze, but Maze again refused, looking anxious for them to finish and move on.

'Let me guess,' Rhonda thought as she sipped, 'CapriSun used to be flavorful - until the white man came.'

They followed the trail, and they climbed. The trail wound steadily around the mountain, rising higher and higher. On their left side, the steep cliffs towered above them, while on the right side there were cliffs that were bare and rocky in some places, wooded and shaded in others. Rhonda could feel nervousness and fear beating against her like strong sunlight. Rueful seemed untroubled and kept exploring up ahead....

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Chief Sakituya hurried through the network of cabins with Gentle Paw beside him. He stopped in front of Rhonda's cabin. There were several counselors standing outside, all of them looking like they were afraid to go in. 'Who found her?' said Sakituya, 'Who brought her back?'

The lead counselor shrugged. 'As far as I can tell, she came back by herself. She ran through the camp, went to her cabin, shut herself in and hasn't said a word.'

Sakituya opened the door. Gentle Paw sniffed, but Sakituya waved him back once he saw Rhonda. She was sitting on the bed, curled up and shivering. Her skin was pale white, her hair was tangled and matted; her eyes were wide and glassy. She didn't seem to notice anyone else.

'Rhonda?' he said softly, but as he reached out a hand, Rhonda flinched.

'I... want to... go.... home!' she said, and her voice quavered pitifully.

Sakituya slowly lowered his hand and sighed, nodding.

Mr. and Mrs. Fatigable had been understanding when they learned what had happened. The end of summer was close anyway, and they didn't mind coming a few days early. Rhonda had stayed in her cabin the whole time, muttering 'bad road' over and over until her parents arrived to pick her up. The moment she saw them, she had taken her luggage and dashed to the mini-van as if demons were chasing her.

'I am sorry.' said Sakituya, as Mr. and Mrs. Fatigable walked more slowly back through the camp to the parking lot. 'The boys who did this have been sent home as well. We do not tolerate this sort of trickery in my camp.'

Mr. Fatigable nodded. 'Well, I got ditched in the woods myself when I was in scouts. I hoped she'd get a better feel for nature after a while here.'

Sakituya stopped at the edge of the parking lot and shook their hands. 'That may still happen in the future.' he said. 'Your daughter is quite remarkable. She may not remember this place fondly - but I think she will one day return....'

Gentle Paw watched the mini-van as it drove off, and he growled sadly.

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Grimm was impressed with Rhonda's endurance. Maybe it was all the practice she'd had in running away from super heroes when they were on their missions, but she never seemed to tire out while there was a clear path in front of her. He and Maze had actually fallen behind her several times during the ascent. The forest floor was now far beneath them, and Rhonda had disappeared around a wider bend in the trail. The path had widened, and there were actually wooded thickets on the right side near the cliff edges. When Grimm and Maze caught up with Rhonda, she was standing still. Her fists were clenched and she was staring at the ground.

'Rhonda?' Grimm said, laying a hand on her shoulder.

Rhonda looked at him, her eyes edged with fear. 'This is it.' she said, pointing. There was a small offshoot from the path, barely visible, which led to a dark opening that was nearly overgrown by two tall trees that stood on either side. Grimm pushed aside the overhanging leaves.

They stood at the entrance to a large hollow, like a lightly wooded cavity in the side of the mountain. The main trail continued upwards, but the hollow branched off a short distance into the mountainside itself, the rocks of the ascending slopes forming a semi-roof above them. The hollow was still and silent, the trees and the rocks forming a sheltered den that seemed to muffle and deaden any sound. It was spread out like a room the size of a small house, finally ending at an oval shaped opening which looked out on the forest below.

Over the edge of the opening, some way In the distance, there was a small lake. Grimm could also see a smaller mountain beyond it. He was able to look down on its summit, and saw a waterfall spilling into the lake beneath. They were nowhere near the summit of the mountain where they stood, but they were still hundreds of feet above the forest floor.

Maze's attention was focused on the cliffside which formed the overhanging wall and 'roof' of the hollow. Several yards away from the edge of the cliff, the rock swept back towards the entrance to the hollow, and in a recess of the stone, looking almost like a grotto, there was a large boulder.

The boulder was made of rock that was darker than the surrounding stone, a pillar that rose up over nine feet tall. It was hewn roughly so that it looked like a large bear. On either side, there were petroglyphs etched into the stone, and also the fading remains of two white handprints.

Maze knelt down in front of the statue, running a trembling hand over its surface, and examining the petroglyphs. He seemed to have forgotten that Grimm and Rhonda were even there. Indeed he gazed at the statue for so long that Rhonda began to fidget.

'So... mission accomplished?' she whispered to Grimm. To her relief, the voice did not sound out again. She was half tempted to examine the statue herself to see if anyone had hidden a microphone in it, and whether it was all some kind of weird game just to freak her out.

Maze stood and turned to them, and his face looked eager and happy, which Rhonda found more unnerving than his familiar scowl. 'This is an amazing find.' he said. 'In all my years of exploring and collecting, I have never seen the like of it.'

'It looks almost like a totem pole,' said Grimm, staring up at the crude form of the statue. 'But it can't be - the totem pole isn't common except further north among tribes like the Haida...'

Maze looked impressed. 'That is right.' he said. 'The Blackfoot do not make totem poles, nor statues - which makes this find most unusual. It is older than anything I have ever seen before, and I believe this hollow has been undisturbed for hundreds of years. It may predate even the oldest Algonquian tribes. It's discovery is cause for great celebration.'

'Celebration?' said Rhonda, perking up. She turned to Grimm. 'Can we break out the chips?'

Maze glared at her. 'It will be more proper to perform a ceremony of purification for this site.'

Rhonda nudged Grimm in the ribs. 'Yeah...' she said, backing away. 'Well, you go ahead and get on with that, and we'll just be on our way....'

'I would actually be grateful for some assistance with the preparations.' said Maze, looking almost longingly towards the statue. 'They are somewhat complicated, and I wish to complete them before the sun fully sets. This is a sacred place, and I must offer many prayers of gratitude that the white man has not yet defiled it.'

'Uh hello, we can still hear you...' said Rhonda waving her hands.

'What kind of assistance are you asking for?' said Grimm, looking curious.

Maze was regarding the monument and looking over the entire hollow. 'A fire must be built, and sacred signs will need to be drawn,' he said quietly. Both should be done before it becomes too dark.'

Rhonda shook her head. 'I can't draw sacred signs, I can't even draw Hello Kitty....'

'Otaatoyiwa can help with those.' said Maze quickly. 'Gathering wood for the fire will be enough assistance from you.'

Grimm and Rhonda left the hollow and scrounged for some kindling and some dry wood, which they found near the edges of the trail without much difficulty. Rhonda kicked a pebble on the ground as they worked. 'I have had it with this guy!' she said. 'So what if it takes him longer to 'purify' this dump without us? Let's go now. If I hear one more 'white man has destroyed this forest' speech I'm gonna scream! Does he even notice that we've been wandering around in this 'destroyed' forest for two days?'

Grimm laid a hand on her shoulder. 'Relax, we're nearly done here.' he said.

'Nearly?' said Rhonda. 'You're not actually going to help him with some weird rain-dance are you?'

Grimm shrugged. 'I admit I'm curious.' he said. 'I'm an Eagle Scout after all, and Indians normally don't let outsiders even close to their ceremonies. To actually be invited to participate...'

'Grimm, I don't like this guy.' she said. 'He's a jerk. Every time I say anything, he acts like I've 'offended his people'. How do you offend an entire race by saying 'break out the chips'?'

'The Indians have a proud culture,' said Grimm. 'And they've got issues that go back a long way.'

Rhonda sniffed. 'So do I, but I don't go around yammering about it all the time....'

'Yes you do.' Grimm laughed. 'Look, I'll just help him out a bit and see what all the hullabaloo is about. Then we go home and check off another successful mission.'

Rhonda sighed. 'Grimm, I'm serious - he gives me the creeps. If he wants to blame everyone else for his problems, then let's just give him back his money and let him stew in it. We've got plenty of cash already. I've got a bad feeling about this....'

'I'm not saying I'm going to turn my back on him.' said Grimm, smirking. 'Besides, what can he do against a master of Tai Shing Pek Kwar? You don't have to come. Just pick up some more dead wood, stack it at the entrance to the hollow and wait. I'll be back before you know it.'

He went back into the hollow, carrying an armload of kindling. Rueful poked his head back around Rhonda's shoulder, a soft squeak coming from his throat. Rhonda sighed heavily and started searching for more firewood.

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When Grimm reentered the hollow, he saw Maze had already gathered a small amount of wood and was setting it up about ten yards away from the statue. He glanced at Maze, who nodded and stood up, picking up his pouch, which had been lying a few feet away. From his pouch, he took a smaller bag. He opened it and took a handful of white powder, letting it fall back into the pouch through his fingers.

'This is used in sandpainting ceremonies similar to the Blessing Way of the Navajo.' he said, handing the bag to Grimm. 'While I draw the signs, I would have you lay a circle around where I have arranged the wood for the fire. Extend it about seven feet from the center in either direction.'

Grimm carefully did as Maze instructed, drawing a perfect circle while Maze quickly laid out a network of complicated patterns within the circle itself. He also set aside a flint and a sharp stone. He looked up at Grimm as he let the powder trickle through his fist, forming the circle as he moved around Maze.

'Good.' said Maze. 'These signs will represent the Earth and its four quarters.' He said. 'Next, make a round sphere outside the circle at the top, to represent the sun. Then a hollow circle at the base, to represent the moon. Then beneath and above, several pointed circles to represent the stars.'

While Grimm worked, Maze took some of the kindling Grimm had brought and then began striking the flint, sending sparks onto the wood. Soon the tinder was smoking and Maze knelt to blow softly on a soft yellow glow that was shining from within the wood. He paused. 'Have you any skill as an artist?' he said.

'Some.' Grimm shrugged. 'But it's not my strongest point...'

'Stand within the circle, and in the empty spaces I have left, draw the figure of a man, to represent mankind. Then a buffalo, to represent the animals. And near the base of the circle, a hollow man to represent the spirits of this world.'

Grimm did so more carefully, unsure if his work would be good enough. He could draw a little, but he was a firm believer in the philosophy of only doing a few things, but doing them better than anyone else. His eye strayed to the rock wall where the bear statue was set, seeing some drawings among the petroglyphs, and he tried to match them as best he could. He had not devoted much time to art in school, but when he was finished Maze seemed satisfied. He had built the fire into a small blaze which lit the hollow with a yellow light.

Smoke began to trail up into the hollow, and Maze took a smaller bag from the pouch at his side and cast what looked like plant leaves into the flames. He breathed the smoke and stood up, then took the larger pouch back from Grimm.

'You have done well.' he said. 'The ritual I must perform will soon begin.'

Grimm's hand was itching and he scratched it softly. 'If you're satisfied with what you've found then our contract is over.' he said. 'I know that Indian ceremonies aren't supposed to be shared with others, so Rhonda and I will.... will be on our way.' he said, feeling a sudden lightness in his head.

Maze smiled quietly. 'Of course.' he said. Grimm felt a sweat breaking out on his forehead. He felt nauseous and was breathing heavily. 'You seem ill, young Otaatoyiwa.' said Maze, his voice now silky. 'Perhaps you should rest.'

Grimm fell to the ground. The fumes from the smoke were now making his head swim. He rolled onto his back, staring up at the overhanging cliff, and the stars beyond it, which seemed to be circling slowly. 'What... did you... do to me...?' he said, his voice coming in ragged breaths.

Maze stood, staring down at him. 'I have never found much to recommend the white man.' he said. 'But I do not deny their science has its uses.' He held up the large pouch, dipping his hand into it and letting the white powder sift through his long fingers. 'I did not lie, Otaatoyiwa. But I did not tell you everything. This powder is indeed used to draw sacred signs. But the powder I carry has been specially prepared. It contains a concentrated infusion from the plant you call Lophophora williamsii.'

Grimm panted. 'Peyote.' he breathed. 'But... it has to be eaten, or drunk....'

Maze smiled. 'Normally, yes. But this has been altered to be absorbed through the skin into the blood stream. The effect is the same. You should be grateful, Otaatoyiwa. You are experiencing something that is normally reserved in some tribes as a rite of passage into adulthood.'

Grimm saw vividly in his memory, how Maze had insisted on taking the course where the nettles were, how they had needed to clear the path, laboring until their gloves were torn and covered with the stinging hairs, then suggesting they remove them. And how permissive Maze had been in letting Grimm handle the powder and draw the symbols, when normally such things were kept secret. 'Stupid...' he thought to himself. 'Walked right into it like a stupid newbie. Last time I play nice to be politically correct...'

'But... you....' Grimm breathed, trying to lift his arms. Every limb felt as if he had been blanketed to the ground with layer upon layer of duct tape.

Maze smirked. 'Yes, I touched the powder as well.' he said. 'But I have developed some measure of tolerance.'

Grimm had a sudden, funny vision of a man in a black mask, talking about Iocane poisoning. But Maze was still talking, as if to himself, looking out through the wide opening in the side of the hollow as the last light of the sun disappeared below the horizon. 'In my solitary wanderings, I have found and discovered much that was thought to have been lost.' he said. 'I have never shared them, not even with my own people. Sakituya is wise in some matters, but in many ways he is a fool. He believes that our people and the white man can exist together in peace. He says it would be wrong, even if we had the strength and numbers, to fight and take back what is ours. After tonight - he will see that he is mistaken.'

Maze had bent down and was lifting Grimm in his arms, carrying him until he was inside the circle. He laid him down carefully near the base of the symbols, and then he knelt down, taking a small drum about the size of a tambourine from his pack. He beat it softly, filling the air with a light rhythm, and then began to chant.

Sipimottakiksi, Sipimottakiksi,
Nikaahtomaana nitaanistsi'toyiiwa...

As Maze's voice filled the hollow, Grimm felt his awareness fading. The shadows around the edge of the hollow seemed to be getting nearer, blotting everything else out. The light of the fire and the details of things around him became an ever shrinking circle, until at last everything went black and the shadows engulfed him like a smothering blanket.

Maze fell to the ground, the drum rolling out of his hand. The fire crackled and popped for a few moments as silence fell in the hollow. Then Grimm slowly got to his feet. He sighed and breathed deeply, flexing his fingers. A smirk crept onto his face and he turned to Maze, lifting him up and carrying him to the top portion of the circle, laying him down so his head faced the fire, and his feet faced the bear statue.

Grimm bent down to open Maze's pack, and he took out an elaborate vest, which he put on as if he had worn it many times before. He picked up the drum, tied the bag containing Maze's powders and pouches onto his belt, and he took an earpiece from the pack, with two eagle feathers tied to the end, and hooked it around his left ear. Finally, he took Maze's staff and gripped it in his hand.

He looked at Maze, lying still and silent, then he looked up at the bear statue. He stood behind the fire near the base of the circle, and hooking the drum to his belt from the left hip, he continued the chanting rhythm that Maze had been using before he collapsed.

Sipimottakiksi, Sipimottakiksi,
Nikaahtomaana nimaataakaniiwa....

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Rhonda laid yet another armload of dead wood outside the hollow, adding to a significant pile she had already collected. She could see a yellow-orange glow and could tell it was a campfire. She also heard what sounded like a drum. 'Are they jammin' in there?' she thought. She waited a few more moments, and finally she fought back her fears and re-entered the hollow.

Rhonda paused at what she saw. Grimm was standing in front of a small fire, but he was dressed funny, in some kind of vest and she saw he was holding Maze's staff. He was tapping a small drum that hung from his hip and didn't seem to notice her.

Sipimottakiksi, Sipimottakiksi,
Nikaahtomaana nimaataakaniiwa....

She felt confused. Grimm had never studied Blackfoot, but he was chanting it as if it were his second language. Rueful was shivering as he lay around her shoulders and Rhonda looked down to see Maze lying on the ground as if he were asleep. Despite the glow of the fire, the area around Grimm and Maze seemed darker somehow, like a dome of misty shadow was surrounding them.

'GP?' she said, clearing her throat. 'What's with him? Too many mosquitoes?'

Grimm turned slowly and looked at her, and Rhonda felt a cold chill. He was glaring at her with hate in his eyes, as if she were an insect he wanted to squash. He said nothing but resumed his chanting.

Rhonda was feeling more and more like something was horribly wrong. She could no longer hear the whispering voice, and somehow its absence was even more disquieting. She wanted to leave, and more than ever she felt as if a trap was slowly closing around her.

'Come on Grimm let's go.' she said, a hint of pleading in her voice. 'We got Mr. "I-respect-nature-more-than-you" what he wanted. If he's just gonna crash here with his statue let's leave him to it.'

Grimm stopped chanting again. 'Your friend can't hear you.' he said.

Rhonda flinched, for his voice was much deeper than normal. It was colder, disdainful. In fact, he sounded like...

'Maze?' Rhonda whispered.

Grimm winced, his smirk fading into a grimace. 'It is pronounced mah-zay.' he said. 'In all my days, I have never met a white girl as slow to learn as you, Katasistsikoowa.'

He still did not turn to face her, and Rhonda walked around a pale white circle drawn into the ground until she could see him from the side. 'Come on GP, this isn't funny.' she said. 'Let's get out of here....' she reached out her hand, but as soon as she reached the edge of the circle, she found herself stopped. Her hand and fingers bent as if she had pushed them into a solid wall. She gasped, for there was nothing between them, but she pushed with both hands and was still unable to get any closer.

Grimm looked to the side, and a wicked grin spread across his face. 'Use all your strength.' he said. 'It will accomplish nothing. Scream until the stars shake. There is no one to hear you.'

Rhonda thudded her fists against whatever was separating her from Grimm. It was as if the air had solidified into a barrier that was harder than steel, but it had some give to it, as if the steel were covered with a thin layer of foam. 'What the heck is going on here?' she shouted at last. 'What did you do to Grimm?'

Grimm smirked. 'It is one of the many skills I have.' he said. 'I can call on the shadows of the night - and they answer. With them I can shield myself from harm, as you can plainly see. They will also allow me to take possession of the bodies of my enemies. And beyond finding the statue, a vessel was what I needed to complete my plans.'

'A vessel?' Rhonda said. 'But why...?'

'This statue - this monument - is older than the oldest. I suspected, and was right, that this was the first monument ever made by the ancient people of this land to honor the Great Bear Spirit. The Great Bear is a being of unlimited power, who watches over the forests and the woods which the white man has nearly choked with their greed.'

'Hey!' said Rhonda. 'If us white people were that greedy, we'd have paved over the whole thing ages ago! But we didn't - what does that tell ya?'

'That you wish to keep nature itself as you have tried to keep the Blackfoot - hemmed in and controlled.' Maze growled. 'But nature will not be controlled - and neither will my people. Not after tonight.' He gestured to the monument. 'The ties of this statue to the Great Bear are strong - so powerful that as ignorant and stupid as you are, you could still feel it. The Great Bear Spirit's strength and power are all around it. And soon that power will be mine.'

'Well, la-dee-dah.' said Rhonda, defiant but still fearful. 'You want to be a super-villain and take over the world. There's a whole club of like-minded people out there waiting for you to join up. So let Grimm go. You can hire him again once you become 'Great Bear Junior' or whatever it is you're planning.'

Maze frowned. 'It is not that simple. To take this power, I will need... a sacrifice.'

Rhonda felt fear closing around her almost as solid as the barrier of shadows that surrounded Maze and Grimm. Maze continued to speak. 'I had thought that the one who discovered the Bear Spirit monument would be Blackfoot, and would share our noble heritage. Imagine my dismay when I saw only a pair of foolish white children.' he shook his head in disgust. 'Still, your friend is young and strong. I think he will serve well. His respect for our ways will not go unrewarded - he will have the honor of being the vessel and the sacrifice I need to take the power of the Great Bear!'

'Let him go!' Rhonda shouted. 'What do you mean, sacrifice?'

'You still do not understand?' said Grimm, using Maze's cold voice. 'You truly are a fool - but what else could I expect from a pale-faced girl who cannot even say my non-Indian name correctly?' His face was twisted into a dark sneer that was colder and creepier than anything Rhonda had ever seen Grimm use before. 'My true name is Sskipoyiwa - the Shaman of Shadows!' He turned and stretched his hand out to the bear statue, and began chanting in a low voice.

Sipimottakiksi, Sipimottakiksi,
Omahkkiaayowa itapisskowa...

As he spoke, Rhonda saw beads of sweat running down Grimm's face, and his teeth were gritted. As he continued to chant, his whole body shuddered.

'Stop it!' Rhonda yelled, pounding uselessly against the invisible wall that separated them. 'You're hurting him!'

Grimm paused, turning to her. 'This is the only way to cross the gulf between the world of spirits and this world.' he said, his voice now sounding strained. 'It will allow me to channel the power of the Great Bear into my own body through the medium of your friend.' he gestured to Maze's body, which lay at the top of the circle, a pale light making them both look like corpses. 'The incantations weaken the one who speaks them - but I must continue until all the Great Bear's power is mine. Or until the medium dies.'

'Let him go!' Rhonda screamed, kicking and scratching at the solid wall of shadows in front of her. 'Please...!'

'I am sorry.' said Grimm with Maze's voice, though there was a curl in his lips which said he was not sorry at all. 'But his sacrifice is necessary. It will be the beginning of the restoration of the Blackfoot to power and prominence in this world. We were once the masters of this land - and through me, we will be again.'

'But what about Grimm?' she shouted.

'His loss is... regrettable. But do not worry.' Grimm's lips twisted into a smile as he spoke with Maze's voice. 'You will still have your precious money.'

'I don't want your money, I want Grimm!' she shrieked.

But Grimm had turned away, raising his arms again, and was chanting softly as he stood above Maze's body.

Sipimottakiksi, Sipimottakiksi,
Omahkkiaayowa itapisskowa...

A thin line of bluish light seemed to be connecting Grimm to the bear statue. Grimm was grimacing and wincing, and the light flowed over him like a thin shell before gathering in his hand and becoming another beam of light that led from his palm to the form of Maze's body.

Because she could think of nothing else to do, and because she had to do something, she found herself leaping between them and the bear statue. She thought wildly, if she could block the beam of light, prevent it from reaching them, maybe Maze would stop...

As she stepped into the beam, she froze, an unreal sensation seizing her. A flashing of scenes went through her mind, a blurring haze of visions of the forest, then clear and strong came a deep rumbling voice.

Katasistsikoowa......

Rhonda stared in amazement. Grimm and Maze were still there, but the rippling beam of light now seemed more like a slow moving stream. Grimm's mouth was only moving ever so slightly, his body seemed frozen. Everything was dark. It was as if the forest had disappeared, as if the whole world had disappeared, and only this scene of fear was left. It seemed as if everything had suddenly become a film moving in super-slow motion, while she herself remained untouched.

And then from the bear statue, a light began to grow. It became stronger and stronger, like a blue bubble expanding to a great height. Then a squarish, hulking form took shape, towering above her.

'Come closer, Katasistsikoowa.' came a voice so deep that it actually felt like thunder sounding in the distance. Shaking from head to toe, Rhonda took one baby step before freezing in her tracks.

She was staring up at the colossal form of a grizzly bear - larger than a small building. It was glowing and slightly transparent, surrounded by a halo of blue light that bathed everything with a pale sheen.

The bear looked down at her almost lazily. It spoke without moving it's mouth, but the voice seemed to come from everywhere, shaking the very ground she was standing on. 'Do you know who I am? Do you know who you are?'

Rhonda's voice was shaking as much as her body. Terror washed over her. With everything else going on, this was too much. She wondered briefly if she was going crazy, but she was so scared she didn't dare to disobey. 'I'm... Rhonda Fatigable.' she said. 'And... you're a giant, glowing bear and I'd really like to go home now!'

The bear let out a breath that thrummed around her like an earthquake. 'I am the Great Bear Spirit.' he said. 'This creature, Sskipoyiwa, is tapping into my power. You will stop him.'

'The whuh?' she said stupidly.

'Maze seeks to claim my strength for his own purposes.' the Great Bear said, his voice sounding almost sleepy. 'It cannot be allowed. This power is the legacy of the Bear Priestess.'

'The who?' Rhonda cowered as the Great Bear loomed over her, fixing his gleaming eyes down on her.

'Over the course of ages - there have been chosen vessels among your people. When I have need or desire to influence events in the mortal world, I send these chosen ones to act in my stead. These are my servants - and to each was given a measure of my power to work my will.' He turned his head to the circle where Grimm and Maze remained frozen and immobile. 'Maze has put himself forth to claim my power, without permission, and without understanding - to work his own will and ascribe it to me. He is not my servant, but he claims the rights of one and merely presumes that he has my blessing.'

Rhonda was still shaking, not really understanding everything the Great Bear was saying, but she gathered he didn't want Maze succeed in his plot. She also got the feeling that if this giant bear was talking to her, it meant he wasn't planning to eat her, and she felt some of her terror fading. 'But... you're Mr. Great Bear guy!' she said, her voice coming out in a frightened squeak. 'If this power is yours, can't you just... like... flick him away or something?'

'I am trying.' said the Great Bear. 'I am attempting to send the new Bear Priestess to stop him. But she is proving quite reluctant.'

'Well, kick her in the pants and....' Rhonda started, but then felt as if she had suddenly stepped into a pool of ice water. 'Bear Priestess? Me?'

The Great Bear Spirit squinted his eyes. Rhonda felt the cloth around her left bicep suddenly fly apart and one red spot, surrounded by five smaller ones at the top flared blue on her skin. 'You carry the sign of the bear paw.' he rumbled.

'That's just a birthmark!' Rhonda said. 'You’re saying because there's a freckle on my arm that looks like a pawprint that you want me to be a priestess? Shouldn't you be talking to Pocahontas or Sacagawea or some nice Indian girl?'

The Great Bear almost looked like he was forcing a tired smile. 'With every word you speak, you prove you are the spiritual heir of the Bear Priestess. She did not want this power either. That is the way of things. Those who seek true power will never have it. They can only clutch vainly at the trappings of what they call power among their own kind. True power is never taken by seekers. Power seeks out those who it wills.'

Rhonda stood dumbstruck. 'But you said Maze was stealing your power.....' she said.

'What Sskipoyiwa is doing is a perversion.' the Great Bear rumbled. 'I have slowed time around us and spare you what your world would perceive as one brief instant - so you may understand. Maze has used a victim to bridge the gap between the spirit realm and mortality, not caring that he must take the life of your friend to funnel power into his own body. He thinks nothing will stop him. He is wrong.'

Rhonda looked back to where Grimm and Maze stood frozen in place. 'I can't stop him.' she said. 'I tried! I couldn't even get close to him. And even if I did, he's got some kind of weird body swap thing going on - how am I supposed to fight that? I'm just.... Grimm's useless sidekick. Without him, I'm nothing.....' She ended sadly, all the doubts and misgivings she had been feeling since the caper in Middleton hit her in full measure. Grimm was in trouble - but as desperately as she wanted to help him, nothing she had tried was any use.

The Great Bear regarded her. 'You are stronger than you think, Katasistsikoowa.' he said. 'And that strength will let you wield my power. And with that power, you can save your friend.'

Rhonda felt a tear running down her face. Here was a chance to step up, to prove her worth. But she had played second fiddle to Grimm for so long. Over her life she'd had fantasies about doing things that were incredibly cool and skilful, and about Grimm and everyone at school being totally impressed by her. But that was just normal kid stuff. She wasn't incredibly cool, or skilful. She'd lived a life of mundane geekyness that became something more through an extraordinary friend. And like a normal kid who fantasizes about becoming someone extraordinary, she found herself paralyzed at the sudden prospect of it actually happening.

The Great Bear seemed to sense her doubt and her hesitation. 'Do you know how many have fallen to their knees before this monument, begging for a mere scrap of this power which you do not even want?' he rumbled. 'It has been long since anyone discovered this hollow, but the greatest spiritual men from many tribes across the centuries have come here, seeking the power of the Great Bear, or demanding it as a perceived birthright.'

'Then why not one of them....' she whispered, but the Great Bear continued over her.

'This power cleaves to you, Katasistsikoowa. Did you not feel the summons when you were here as a child? Even though you did not know what it meant?'

'But I'm not an Indian!' Rhonda said, looking away. 'I'm just a white gal who ain't got no rhythm. To be an heir to something don't you have to be related?'

'The color of your skin is nothing.' said the Great Bear. 'And a person's bloodline is nothing. All of humanity comes from one source. It is only the pride and stubbornness of mortal men which denies it.'

Rhonda looked at Maze, all of his angry words he'd spoken over the last two days sounding in her mind. 'No one's gonna buy me being a chosen one.' she said. 'Guys like him, they've already got their minds made up about who's who and what's what....'

'That,' he said, 'is mortal arrogance. The first Bear Priestess was named Abish - a girl not unlike you. Abish did mighty works with this power, but in each instance she was driven to it by circumstance. Her deeds were spoken as tales by those who witnessed them. But over time, truth became rumor, and then legend, and then myth. And like the endless branchings of a crooked tree, each tribe of what you call Indians bent the myths to their own understanding - twisting the truth - thinking in their pride that the power of the Great Bear was a legacy of their own tribes and no others. The truth is nothing the white man would recognize. But it is also nothing the red man would expect.'

'You said there were chosen ones over the ages,' said Rhonda, still trembling. 'Besides this Abish chick, how many others have there been?'

'Including yourself - one.' said the Great Bear. He paused, bending his massive head down and looking at the statue with one giant eyebrow slightly raised. 'Abish made this monument.' he rumbled, sounding as if he were remembering something both funny and annoying, 'Partly to honor me, and partly to cheese me off because she knew she wasn't a very good sculptor.'

Rhonda let out one half-hearted chuckle that died out before it was half way through. 'Yeah... great.' she said. 'But... you didn't really answer.' she said. 'Why are you laying all this on me when you could just... kick his butt yourself?'

Again, the Great Bear looked like his was smiling faintly. 'I'm hibernating. D'oy.' He looked down at Rhonda, then to the figures of Maze and Grimm. 'It is time to take your place as the new Bear Priestess, Rhonda Fatigable. You cannot refuse - it has been ordained and any words you speak to excuse your fear are useless, for I know them all before you speak them.'

'You think you know me? You don't know me!' she said, suddenly aware that she was sounding like a guest on Jerry Springer.

'I knew you were going to say that.' said the Great Bear.

'But I can't....' Rhonda sputtered.

'I knew you would say that too.' said the Great Bear.

Rhonda stood for a moment, trying to think of something unexpected. 'Rubber baby....' she started, but the Great Bear broke in.

'...buggy bumpers.' he rumbled. Rhonda stood flabbergasted.

'Time is running short,' he continued, and the glow around him seemed to be fading, 'You have a task before you, and a friend to save. Prepare yourself... Katasistsikoowa.'

'But...' Rhonda said, but the Great Bear was no longer there. Time seemed to resume, and she had just leaped between the bear monument and Grimm. She saw a blue light surrounding her, and screamed. Her very skin felt like it was on fire, as if a layer of something was being burned away from her. She felt her legs give way, but she did not fall. It was like her whole body had locked up and the air had solidified around her, suspending her in mid-leap between the monument and the two figures within the circle.

'No!' she heard Maze shouting through Grimm's mouth. Grimm was striding forward, reaching a hand towards her, but there was a flash of light and he was flung backwards, landing on the ground with a rough wheeze.

But Rhonda was still screaming. And like in all previous times in her life when she felt fear or terror, she called for one thing. 'Grimm - help me!!' she cried.

'I can't help you.' Rhonda gasped, and as if she were in the midst of a sphere of light that blocked out everything else, she saw the ghostly shade of Grimm before her, though she could also see his body still lying on the ground a distance away where he had fallen.

'Grimm - I'm scared - please!!' she reached out her hand, and it passed through his as if he was made of smoke.

'This is only the form of my spirit.' said Grimm, staring at her anxiously. 'Maze is still controlling my body. But whatever's happening, it's letting my spirit touch yours. There's only one thing I can do for you - take my courage.'

'What?' said Rhonda, staring at him. Through his transparent form, she could see his body standing up, his face enraged.

'Through my spirit, you can use aspects of my personality.' he said, reaching out his hand. 'Take my courage - use it and you can get through this. Trust me.'

She reached out her hand again, and though she still couldn't touch him, she kept her fingers together with his. 'Just pretend you're drinking from the Cloud Guardian's enchanted well in Fortress.' he said, smiling faintly. Then he vanished.

The feeling of burning was still sweeping over her. She gritted her teeth, her fists clenched while Rueful spread out his paws from Rhonda's backpack, the same blue glow touching him as well. Rhonda thought of Grimm and tried to ignore the pain. 'Must... become... that... which I fear... the most!!' she thought, and she threw back her head, screaming at the top of her lungs

Maze flinched, for though he heard the scream, it no longer sounded fearful or pained. Her voice thundered in his ears like the roaring of a bear. The glow around the statue faded, but Rhonda was still shining with a light that seemed like a flame around her. She was standing on the ground again, her fists balled up, her mouth snarling, and her eyes burning with a white glare.

'Get out of my BF's body!' she growled. Then she felt her tongue loosed and heard herself speaking words she didn't understand.

Omahkkiaayowa, Omahkkiaayowa,
Nitsiinihkatsimatsiiwa!

Maze was thunderstruck. To his eyes, only a few seconds had passed. Everything had been going exactly as he planned. Now the power he had felt in the statue was gone, but Rhonda was standing before him, and a power was radiating from her like waves of heat from a bonfire. She stepped forward, and Maze felt a shudder of fear as she passed through the edge of the shadow barrier...

Rhonda wasn't sure what was guiding her, but she felt certain of what she was doing. She raised her hand with another scream that thundered through the hollow, she brought it back down, slashing the air in front of her.

There was an exploding crack like a thunderbolt and five sickles of white light, like the tearing claws of a bear, spread from her fingertips. With a roar like a passing train, the blinding white curves of light sped across the ground, leaving deep gashes in the stone, and slammed into Grimm's body. She heard Maze's voice screaming and saw Grimm stumble and fall sideways, collapsing with a moan at the circle's edge.

And Maze's body was slowly struggling to his elbows. Still disoriented from the change in perspective, shifting from Grimm's awareness back to his own, he cast his eyes around to get his bearings. A bright glow shone in front of him and he cried out, shielding his eyes from the blaze of light, and desperately chanted.

Sipimottakiksi, Sipimottakiksi,
Nikaahtomaana nimaataakaniiwa....!

The shadow barrier surrounded him, but he cringed, throwing up his hands. He saw Rhonda charging towards him, her face livid with anger, her whole form surrounded by a bluish white halo. But behind Rhonda he saw something else. As if through tinted glass, he saw the ghostly form of a beautiful Indian woman. Her expression and her movements were a perfect match to Rhonda's, charging towards him, her face cold and angry.

'Abish....?' Maze whispered, but at that moment, Rhonda brought her hand down in another slashing motion, and Maze heard two distinct voices, crying as one.

'Spirit strike!!'

Five sickle-shaped curves of light rushed towards Maze, laughing through his shadow barrier. He cried out in pain, tumbling backwards. He rose to his knees, groaning, and shrank to see Rhonda still coming towards him.

'Stay away from me!!' he shouted, and desperately he turned to Grimm, who was struggling to his feet, shaking his head. Maze concentrated and brought forth what little strength he had taken from the bear monument, casting his arm towards Grimm.

'No!' Rhonda shrieked. A tear of white light issued from Maze's hand, lashing across Grimm's chest. She saw Grimm sailing backwards over the edge of the cliff....

Without thinking, Rhonda leaped after him. She saw him falling, his face not looking afraid, only confused. 'Just like him,' she thought. 'Always has to be cucumber-cool...' But he was reaching up to her as she reached down to him, the realization of what was happening seeming to dawn on him.

Rhonda then realized herself - they were both plummeting towards the earth from a drop of over five hundred feet, and there was nothing between them and the ground. They were both finished. She didn't know what she hoped to accomplish by leaping after him except to show her loyalty by dying with him.

'I only wanted to save you....' she thought, tears running down her face, the cold air chilling them as she fell. Their reaching hands were so far apart, the ground rushing towards them seemed like a blurry dreamscape under the starry sky. Again, she heard herself chanting words that she didn't know, but they flowed from her mouth as if she had used them countless times.

Omahkkiaayowa, Omahkkiaayowa,
Nitohpoksiiyikitapiiyi...!

She was not aware of it happening, but the blue glow flared around her like a star. And suddenly she was level with Grimm, clasping his hand and holding him tightly...

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +

Maze crawled to the edge of the cliff where Grimm and Rhonda had gone over, looking down, and he gripped his staff in stunned amazement. He saw Rhonda catching Grimm and slamming into the ground like a meteor, a shockwave of light spreading out beneath them like ripples in a pond. There was an echoing explosion and the trees around them bent and swayed, the stone of the ground where they had landed crumbled into dust. He rose up, shaking his head in disbelief, and with a last glance at the dark pillar of the bear monument, he shambled down the trail towards the forest.

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +

Rhonda knelt in the crater where she had landed, holding Grimm tightly. She opened her eyes slowly, looking around. The blue light that had surrounded her was gone. She could hear only the roar of the nearby waterfall, a fading echo like thunder, and the hissing sigh of wind in the pines. The smell of freshly turned earth and broken stone was all around her, a cloud of dust settling around them.

'Ow....' she heard Grimm's voice in her ear.

'Grimm!' she shouted, feeling an embarrassing wetness streaming down her cheeks. 'Grimm you're alive...!'

'Yeah,' he said softly, sitting up. 'The dead don't ache like this....' Rueful's head popped out of Rhonda's backpack. His eyes were crossed and he looked woozy, but he seemed otherwise all right.

'Are you OK?' she said, checking Grimm hurriedly.

He flexed his feet and hands, and winced. 'Right arm's broke.' he said.

Rhonda stood up, not seeming to notice that she herself was completely unharmed. 'That... jerk!' she said, looking back up to the top of the cliff. She started towards the trail.

Grimm was standing up. 'Where are you going?' he said.

Rhonda turned back. 'I'm going back up there and I'm gonna kick his scrawny double-crossing butt!!' she said furiously, pointing towards the mountain.

'Forget it.' said Grimm, shaking his head with a wan smile. 'You'd never find him. He's too woodcrafty. Besides, we need to get back to Kwitcherbeliakin and get this arm taken care of. Even a minor injury can be fatal in the wild if you don't tend to them fast. If the worst that happens after taking a header off a five hundred foot cliff is a broken arm, I'll count myself lucky.'

Rhonda was looking at the cliff, and then at the crater, then to Grimm and herself. 'Holy crud.' she said, as if just realizing what had happened. 'We just... I mean, we just... The cliff... and the thing with the.... and the.... and the.... whaugh... oooh....'

'I think the word you're searching for is booyah.' Grimm said, his smirk creeping back into place. 'You just jumped off a cliff without any kind of protection and walked away without a scratch. Way to step up, girlfriend.'

Rhonda was staring at her hands, and the mark on her shoulder. She smiled at Grimm, looking at him adoringly. 'I couldn't have done it without you.' she said softly. 'You gave me your courage - that was the only thing that got me through.'

'Yeah, about that.' said Grimm. 'I didn't give you my courage.'

Rhonda's mouth fell open. 'What??' she screeched.

Grimm shrugged. 'Courage isn't like an iPod that you can just pass around from person to person.' he said. 'You can't give courage to someone else, you can only inspire someone to use their own.'

Rhonda stammered and sputtered. 'But... you said.... that speech about spirit stuff...'

'Duh.' he said. 'I lied.' and he was smiling mischievously. 'I had to say something to jump-start you or you'd never have gone through with it.'

'Why... you... lousy...!' she said, punching his arm.

'Ow!' he said. 'Not that arm!'

She gasped. 'Oh, sorry.' she said.

'I guess this means I'll have to pay more attention to you from now on.' he said with a soft laugh. 'You were right when you said this place was trouble.'

Rhonda paused, looking at him. 'What did you say?'

Grimm sighed. 'I said - you were right.' he answered, looking resigned.

Rhonda looked excited and tapped her backpack. 'Rueful - Rueful!' she squealed, 'It's time to do the "Rhonda-Was-Right" dance!!'

Rueful leaped out of her pack with a chittering squeal and stood beside her, both of them doing a synchronized series of taunting steps. 'I was ri-ight! I was ri-ight!' she chanted while Grimm rolled his eyes and watched. 'Oh yeah! Oh yeah! It's mah birthday - I was ri-ght! Uh-huh! Uh-huh! Uh-huh-uh-huh-uh-huh!!'

'Do you have any idea how cute you are when you do that?' Grimm said. Rhonda lost her rhythm at those words, blushing from head to toe.

As they walked, Grimm made himself a makeshift sling out of Maze's vest, gingerly using his other arm to take out the communicator and check their location. 'That fall off the cliff actually gave us some good distance.' he said, 'We're not too far from one of the main trails leading back to camp.'

'Never thought I'd be glad to be going back there...' she said quietly, straightening her hair. It was then that Grimm noticed that tied behind her left ear were two eagle feathers, which looked pale in the darkness around them.

'Where did those come from?' he said, gesturing with his good hand.

Rhonda hadn't noticed them either, reaching up and feeling them trailing down behind her ear and mingling into her hair. 'Beats me,' she said, looking nervously at Grimm. 'I can ditch them if you don't like....'

Grimm's hand wisped across her cheek, tracing her ear where the feathers hung down. Rhonda shuddered, tingles running down her spine at his touch. He was looking at her, his face smiling faintly.

'Keep it.' he said. 'It does something for you.'

Chapter 7
Epilogue: Aw, Natural

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Author: A very special thank you goes to the Native American Languages website: http://www.native-languages.org/
and the resident webmaster Laura Redish and her associates for their unmatched assistance in making the Blackfoot chants which were used for both Maze and for Rhonda. I have not put translations for these chants here - but as my cunning way of getting you to visit their site, to explore it, and to see just how great it is, I hope to place a link to their site's FAQ in chapter 7. Then the translations may be placed there for you to explore and find. The languages and the site itself are treasures well worth the trouble to explore... And Team Probable's experience at Kwitcherbeliakin isn't over just yet....

Blackfoot word pronunciation guide:
http://www.native-languages.org/blackfoot_guide.htm

Rhonda Fatigable: Katasistsikoowa - (Kah-tah-sist-sih-koh-wah) 'Never Gets Tired'.
Grimm Probable: Otaatoyiwa - (Oh-tah-ah-to-yi-wah) 'Cunning Fox'.
Gentle Paw: Ikkinikinsstiwa - (ick-kih-nih-kinse-stih-wah) 'Gentle Paw'.
Maze: Sskipoyiwa - (Sis-key-poh-yi-wah) 'Stands in Darkness'