Undeserved 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 105 of Return To Manitou Island [link] and pictures the theme of "Sorrow." Charmian and company are in the Fairy Realm and are trekking through the snowy woods in search of a band of Iroquois who are possessed by Wendigoes (cannibal spirits), when they stumble across something even worse...and this scene follows.

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 "Happiness" and I already have it inked in.
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.
*****

"Hey! Guys!" Marten looked back at them over his shoulder and waved one small hand. "I think I found something!"

They started drifting his way. "What is it, more tracks?" Charmian asked, rubbing at her eyes, which were stinging from the cold.

Marten shook his head. "Nuh-uh! Well, at least, not like the other ones!" He paused, peering at the snow, then lifted his head again, scratching his ear. "Hey, snow is usually white, isn't it?"

A few of them shared odd looks. "Yeah," Charmian said slowly. "Unless an animal took a leak, or something."

Marten peeped at the ground. "Do animals leak in red, then? Because this is red."

Everyone froze where they were. An instant later they had gathered around him, Puka scooping him up from the ground with a gasp as the others leaned over a dark patch in the snow. Moon Wolf held his hand up high and its flickering light clearly revealed the ugly reddish color of the spot, and Charmian felt another chill settle over her.

"Is it..." She had to force herself to swallow before continuing. "It isn't blood...is it?"

Niskigwun gingerly poked at it with his finger, then sniffed. "It smells like it is," he said, an uneasy look coming to his face.

"But--where would it have come from?" Puka cried. "I thought they were Wendigoes! They aren't--EATING themselves now, are they?!" He shut his eyes tight and smooshed Marten. "EEEEEWWWWW!!"

Wabasso stood up from where he'd been crouching nearby. "There is more over here," he called out, and they spread out along the riverbank to see, noticing a wide scattering of the reddish spots. They seemed to lead back into the woods, deerlike tracks running every so often between them. Charmian poked her way into the trees and the others followed, the ominous trail growing more distinct the thicker the trees grew.

"Something's definitely wounded, at least," Charmian said, voice tense. "Maybe they turned on each other?"

"Wendigoes will attack each other if given the slightest chance to believe they can stand up for themselves," Moon Wolf said. "Perhaps this is what happened."

"Perhaps this works in our favor?" Mudjikawiss grumbled. "If they are attacking each other, so much the easier for us."

Charmian glared at him. "Insensitive ass!" she snapped, and saw him blink, before she turned to the woods and pushed herself over a fallen tree, hoping to follow the trail. Niskigwun leapt over it with his wings spread and shot her a look which clearly said she was not going to take the lead; she slowed herself down and allowed him and Moon Wolf to move ahead. Manabozho joined them, the others hanging behind. They picked and stumbled their way through the dense trees and ground cover for several minutes, scratched and panting by the time that the woods began to open up somewhat. Charmian nearly fell forward into the clearing that emerged before someone yanked her arm and pulled her back, and she bumped into the tree behind her. She glanced up at Niskigwun in confusion but he was too busy staring ahead to notice. "Niskigwun? What's..."

His fingers dug into her arm hard enough to hurt, and she winced; he started to pull her behind him, but she lifted her head and at that moment noticed how Moon Wolf and Manabozho also stared ahead with wide eyes. She ducked and pulled herself loose of the Michinimakinong's grasp, turning to look into the clearing. Her heart squeezed up into her throat, nearly cutting off her gasp.

What must have once been pristine snow...was now a mess of rutted, messy red. The snow had been kicked and strewn into piles, muddy patches of earth showing through, the sickly water gathering in the ruts tinted the same ugly color. At first, this was all that Charmian's overwhelmed eyes could see, until she started to look from side to side, and then spotted numerous forms half buried in the snow, unmoving. Her heart felt like it twisted in on itself as soon as she saw a wide antler jutting from one of the ruts, and she took a shaky step forward, eyes wide with shock.

The rest of them filtered slowly into the clearing. At least a dozen, perhaps more, manitous were lying here, their necks twisted at impossible angles, their antlers cracked and broken, their legs sticking out stiff from their bodies. Their tongues dangled over their teeth, still glistening, but their eyes had already glazed over in the chill, staring blankly across the snow or up into the trees. They were of varying sizes, some male, some female...Charmian's chest started to hitch, and her eyes filled with tears, when she noticed one particularly pathetic small form lying crumpled near the mouth of the clearing. She knelt down near it and slipped one hand underneath the calf's head, gently lifting it; it was completely limp. She couldn't suppress a whimper as she picked up its tiny body and rested it upon her knees, stroking its cold fur. Nearby, a female manitou lay with her legs twisted under her and her head upon the ground; a great bloody swath across her neck told what had happened. Everywhere, above all else, was the color of blood.

Niskigwun stepped to stand beside her. "They..." His own voice faltered, and she could tell even without looking that his own eyes must be wet. "They...slaughtered them."

Charmian squeezed her eyes shut and the tears streamed down her face. "But...why would they do this?" Moon Wolf's voice asked, sounding confused. "These manitous had nothing to do with them! It's obvious there was no fight to be had...what was the point of this?"

"I tell you now!" Mudjikawiss growled. "Does it sound like they need a point? We should stop trying to figure things out, and start getting things done, so I can head back home!"

"Please, Brother!" Puka's voice, strained and cracking, came. "Show s-some res-spect!"

"I want to go home too," Marten whimpered, and sniffled. "Glooskap never told me about this..."

Niskigwun stepped away, into the clearing, to look over the dead manitous. Charmian opened her eyes to see the way that his wings quivered, and his spear hand shook. Every time he arose from looking at one the expression on his face was worse, and she had to stop watching. She turned her eyes down to instead look at the manitou calf she still held, and only now did she notice that its fur was brown.

Mani is brown...

Her eyes flooded and she shut them again, biting back a strained noise.

How could he...how could he do this! After I talked to him! How could he do this--?

"They didn't have anything to do with us," she murmured under her breath, her shoulders shaking. "Why did you do this...?"


Peepaukawiss (Puka), Wabasso, Mudjikawiss, Manabozho, and Chakenapok (the "he" Charmian speaks of) are from Ojibwa mythology and Marten and Glooskap are from Micmac mythology. Charmian, Moon Wolf, Niskigwun, and Mani are © Tehuti.
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