Manabozho's Dream WIP Picture

PLEASE comment if you fave! I worked hard on this.
All right, I'm going to try to take part in the 100 Picture Challenge, or whatever it's called here. Basically, you draw one picture each for one of 100 themes. I just started learning how to draw human faces about two months ago. I was going to hold off on entering the challenge until I'd gotten bodily postures down better, but figured that if I waited that long I'd never get anywhere. So I know I still need a lot of work. Maybe doing this challenge will help me improve, maybe not. I like to hope that maybe someday I'll be able to redo this picture and it'll look a whole lot better. For now though, it's much better than what I could have done a couple of months ago.
This illustrates a scene from Part 61 of Return To Manitou Island [link] and pictures the theme of "Illusion." Chakenapok, the story's bad guy, has just taken control of the dream of Manabozho, who is trying to find and fight him...and the following scene ensues. And then a lot of nasty stuff after that.
This is just the inked sketch. I cropped off a bit of the background for now. I'm planning on filling it all in with colored pencil, as that's the only medium I have, that and a photo program which mangles my pictures when I resize and try to up the saturation a bit.
Anyway...the next theme I believe is "Family" and I already have an idea in mind.
This will be scrapped later on when I upload the finished version. Just wanted to put this in my gallery to brag a bit.
Criticism not desired as I already know all the flaws this has, thank you very much.

The wind whispered around him, ruffling his feathers. Then he caught a movement from the corner of his eye, and lowered his head quickly to look at the tree which had earlier drawn his attention. Someone had appeared near it and was now walking his way. He frowned again, still unable to place why he felt like he'd been here before.

The longer he stared at the tree the more the realization dawned on him.

The tree...the Crooked Tree! This is home! But I haven't set foot on this side of the field in ages. No wonder it looks so much different!

And...that's not who is that?

He stayed standing where he was, watching the figure's progress. Once it was halfway across the field he could tell it was a woman, though she was far too young and pretty to be Nokomis. Her step slowed and she smiled at him in a way that made him pause. The back of his neck prickled with unease, yet there was nothing frightening about her. If anything, the look she gave him was welcoming.

"Manabozho," she said, in the same voice he'd heard calling him before he'd even awakened.

He frowned, furrowing his brow in confusion. "Who are you?" he called. "What are you doing in the Crooked Tree? If Noko finds you there..."

The strange woman's smile grew, making him trail off, losing his words. "Silly Rabbit," she said. "Noko already knows I'm there."

"Noko knows...?" Manabozho trailed off again, his confusion growing.

She nodded at him as if he were being amusing. "Of course. I've lived here all my life."

Manabozho continued staring at her, all the color draining from his face. He opened his mouth to speak, yet no sound came out, and when he tried to swallow his throat was dry. He had to do so several times before he could even manage a whisper.


The strange woman smiled wider and held out her arms. "Sweet ' Little Rabbit. I hoped you would come."

Manabozho hitched a breath. He took a hesitant step forward, then another, then started to walk, then trot, then race across the field toward her. He'd never seen his mother before, but somehow...he knew this was her. She just seemed right. Her eyes, her face, her voice...they were everything he'd always imagined she would be like, if he could only see her. Tears started spilling from his eyes and flying out behind him, yet he didn't care. The smile she gave was the only thing that mattered. He had almost reached her when something twinged in his mind, and he slowed his step, staggering to an awkward halt just several yards away, panting.

Her smile faltered and she lowered her arms a bit. "Manabozho...?"

"You're..." He had to pause to catch his breath. "You're...dead. You died...a long time ago."

She almost frowned, then her smile turned slightly wistful. "I know," she said softly.

He stood up straight again, as he'd been leaning on his knee until his breath could slow. "So how are you here?" he demanded, suspicion twinging again. "This is just a dream. Even if you are here, you're not real. My mind just made you up."

"'Bozho." She kept her smile, still holding out her arms. "You yourself know that the line between the dream world and the Spirit Land is thin. You may not be able to see me while you are awake, yet now you can. I am every bit as real as any other spirit you can see when asleep or awake."

The explanation seemed to make sense. Manabozho stood with a conflicted look. He anxiously fingered one of his necklaces, twisting the cord around his fingers, something he hadn't done since he was a child.

" come I've never seen you before now? With how much I've wished for it...why do you only show up now? I used to ask for dreams about you, all the time, but when I never had a one, I just thought..."

"Asking for a dream is not enough," she said. "That medicine you took--you took a lot of it. You could have died, taking that much. The sleep you are in is a very deep one, close to death." Understanding started to dawn on his face. "You've never been in such a sleep before, and so I could never quite reach you. Though I've always been there, 'Bozho. You could just never see me before."

"You've always been nearby...?" His voice held a hint of hope.

She nodded, still smiling. "I could never stop watching over any of you, little 'Bozho. Though I've watched you the closest. I could not be there for you when I was alive...but I'm here for you now."

Manabozho's face lit up and his eyes filled with tears. He took the few remaining steps toward her before he started sniffling and had to rub at his eyes. Her face softened and she held out her arms again; he hesitantly moved closer, as if shy of doing so, but once she put her arms around him he didn't ever want her to let go. He dissolved into tears as if he were a little boy again and she ran her hand over his head.

"Poor little 'Bozho," she murmured as he wept. "I am sorry I left you alone. No one should ever be alone."

* * * * *

Chakenapok's face split in an awful smile and he threw back his head and crowed with laughter.

"'I am sorry I left you alone'!" he cackled. "One friendly face and he starts bawling like a baby. This was almost too easy!"

He stared at the flickering image before him, of the grassy field and the Crooked Tree and Manabozho holding onto Wenonah as if afraid she would disappear at any moment; then he waved his hand and the image rippled and changed. Instead of the grassy field, there was now the leaf-littered floor of the woods; instead of the Crooked Tree, the area was surrounded by regular pines and maples and birch; and instead of Wenonah, it was a Michinimakinong, who was dragging Manabozho to the protected side of a fallen tree and placing him beside it. Manabozho looked to be dead. When the Turtle Fairy let go of him he lay limp and unmoving, his face lifeless except for an occasional twitch of his eyes which proved he was dreaming. Chakenapok started chuckling to himself.

"And they say death is such a horrible thing," he smirked. "At least that one part was true--dreams are close to the Spirit Land--but not that part of the Spirit Land he thinks is so close by." He lifted his hand and the dream image near the Crooked Tree returned. "I wonder how much he would cry if I burned that Tree down...with old Noko in it...or if I had some sort of wild beast come charging through and carry poor Mother away...leaving a trail of her blood for him to follow. Nightmares have always been so much more amusing than dreams. And I would so love to see how hard he can cry." He moved his hand as if to sweep the image away and replace it with yet another one, then paused. He stared at the wavering dream image for a moment before changing his mind and merely flicking his fingers so it vanished entirely. His mouth twitched.

"I'll let you have a moment in private, Brother. I'm not all that bad." The twitch turned into a grin and his eyes flared yellow. "It's the least I can do to give you one more happy moment before you live out your worst nightmares."

Manabozho, Wenonah, Nokomis, and Chakenapok are from Ojibwa mythology. Niskigwun (the Michinimakinong/Turtle Fairy) is © Tehuti.
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