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Author's note: I had just finished watching the movie Brother Bear, and the artic has always fascinated me. I enjoyed writing this very much, and if you are confused about any of the words, there is a glossary of the words at the end!
“It is almost time. When the girl returns, I want her to die. She will be hard to kill, but her death will be the ultimate triumph. We must hurry though, and we must make it seem like there was nothing that could be done. It must be done swiftly, and it must be done so that no one suspects anything or anybody,” whispered a large figure over a fire. A smaller person across nodded, careful not to let the firelight come close to lighting his face.
“We can’t let anyone guess that I am a part of it, nor can they guess it is you. We must kill all the younger children, in each family, including yours. Injuquaq must never suspect, we must stay behind the scenes, we must not be suspected,” repeated the man. Across the fire, the other person nodded.
“Do you understand?” leered the man, leaning forward into the fire. The light illuminated a long scar across his cheekbones and highlighted dark, bushy eyebrows with an asiavik tattoo between them.
A cold wind blew across the flat landscape of northern Canada as a single dogsled made its way across a frozen piece of land. The dogs were spread out in a fan formation to help the dogs tire slower, as the sled had a long ways to go yet. The musher, a tall, dark man, stood ready on the back of the sled, occasionally shouting out directions in Inuktitut. Every now and then he looked down at a young girl of fourteen sitting inside a pile of furs on the sled in front of him. She didn’t seem to be feeling the cold, although she was snuggled deep inside the furs. We’ve got to get her some real clothes when we get to the village, thought the man, squinting as the sun popped out from behind a cloud and reflected off the snow into his eyes.
“I have something to say to you,” he said, his deep voice rumbling from deep within his chest. The girl made no movement, but the man thought that this was something so important that he didn’t need her to tell him if he should say this or not.
“I am very happy that you have finally come, however, you must know something. We up here are different from where you came from, and we have certain rules that apply to everyday things. You, my child, must learn these if you ever wish to become a wife and have a home of your own,” began the man.
“But what if I don’t want to become a wife?” asked the girl with such fierceness that the man was startled into looking at her. He regretted doing so, because her dark eyes, so like her mother’s, sparkled with something that he couldn’t quite place, but it made him very uncomfortable.
“There is the first lesson. People do not speak unless they are spoken to or unless they ask for permission first. Another thing is you must call them by their names. My name is Taliriktug, although you may call me Amak, and your mother Aga. Her name is Yuralria, and she is so excited to see you again,” Taliriktug babbled, feeling as if he must fill up the empty silence left by the girl. She didn’t yet have a name in their language that would have to wait until she received her heart spirit, but that didn’t matter. At that moment, however, she wasn’t thinking about names, or heart spirits, she was thinking about the home she had left in southern Florida. Her aunt and uncle had taken her in when she was four because of a disease in her family, and the Angakuq, or spirit talker, had told her parents that she was destined to help save their community from an evil yet to come. She had stayed ten years in the United States and had just arrived on a small plane that landed in the middle of nowhere and left as soon as she got off. Her aunt and uncle spoke both English and Inuktitut, although around her they spoke nothing but Inuktitut, as they wanted to make sure that she could speak it fluently.
“Child, look at me,” ordered Taliriktug, his tone of voice changing slightly. The girl turned around and looked at him, her eyes betraying nothing of what she was feeling.
“We are about to enter my village, and I want you to know that we will be going directly to our tupiq, and once there you must run in quickly so that Yuralria can get you some proper clothes,” ordered Taliriktug, thinking of the embarrassment that he would go through if his daughter, the one who is destined to save the tribe, didn’t have real clothes. She nodded, and then turned back to watching the landscape, noticing a small brown spot on the horizon that was growing steadily nearer. They pulled up to their tupiq in the gathering darkness, and the girl couldn’t see anything four feet ahead of her. She jumped out of the sled and went inside as Taliriktug, Amak, her father, had told her to. She nearly bumped her head on the opening, and wasn’t fully inside when a medium-sized woman asked who was there. The girl didn’t reply, knowing that she didn’t yet have a name with this community.
“Is it my buniq? My sweet daughter?” asked the woman, moving closer.
“Are you my Aga?” haltingly asked the girl, the word feeling strange on her tongue.
“Yes, my buniq, yes!” cried the woman, who the girl now knew to be her Aga and the one that others called Yuralria. She smiled softly and gave the girl a hug, enveloping her in the musty smell of her caribou parka.
“Now, let’s get you some clothes, since you are inadequately dressed,” said Yuralria, leading the girl to the back of the tupiq. The girl followed silently, stunned by the sudden rush of affection given to her by the woman who she barely knew. In the back of the tupiq, Yuralria rummaged through a chest of caribou hides, pulling out a tunic and leggings. The girl put on the clothes, and was surprised when the tunic came down to her knees.
“That is a good size, I’m so glad that you are the same size I am, you know you will not grow anymore,” smiled Yuralria, her friendly brown eyes searching her newfound daughter’s face for any sign of recognition or acknowledgement. The girl felt slightly out of place. She knew Inuktitut, but her Aga’s accent was slightly different from hers.
“I guess that I don’t feel very comfortable taking your clothes, and I don’t know anything, like what I’m supposed to do or things like that,” sighed the girl, feeling as if she had to say something to Yuralria.
“It just takes time, don’t worry, you will fit in no time. You’ll see, what’s this?” gasped Yuralria as she saw the v-shaped scar in between her eyebrows. Tracing it over with her cold-roughened fingers, she looked at it in awe, making the girl feel slightly self-conscious. She moved her hand down and grabbed the girl’s left hand. Slowly, she raised it to the bear-grease light, and it danced over a v-shaped scar larger than the one on her forehead, the tops between the first and second knuckle and the fourth and fifth knuckle.
“My buniq, you are destined to be an Angakuq,” whispered Yuralria, her eyes filled with wonder.
“But I don’t know what an Angakuq does!” whispered the girl, her eyes filled with a sudden fear. “I don’t want to be an Angakuq!”
“My buniq, it is your calling, if you don’t know what it is, why, Injuquaq will teach you,” replied her Aga, smiling at her daughter, thinking that of course she would accept her future because now she knew who was teaching her.
“I don’t care if this Injuquaq wants to teach me, I just want to be a regular girl!” shouted the girl, her eyes bright with withheld tears. She pulled herself out of Yuralria’s hold and flung herself down on the floor. At that moment, Taliriktug walked in through the door. Yuralria ran to him and quietly explained what had just happened, respectfully keeping her head low.
“I must see the girl, explain her future, maybe then she will understand. Until then you must teach her how to be a good wife, because even if she does become a Angakuq, she will still have a husband, and we must find a suitable match for her,” soothed Taliriktug, pulling his wife close to him and stroking her long black hair, so much like his daughter’s.
“We’ll show her that this is what is needed of her, don’t you worry.”
Yuralria did worry, even when she was showing her daughter how to cure a caribou hide that the hunters had brought in. They stretched out the hide on the ground and pinned it to the ground with wooden pins. Scraping off the excess flesh that was set aside, Yuralria showed her daughter how to make the skin-softening mixture by smoking the flesh, liver, and brains together. They spread it across the hide to help prevent it from rotting, and then Yuralria chewed it to make it even softer. The girl tried it, but her jaw wasn’t strong enough to chew it without hurting herself because she didn’t have the practice Yuralria had. However, Yuralria couldn’t say that she hadn’t tried, and she knew it would only be a matter of time before the girl could chew it as well as any of her elders, and now when Yuralria went out of the tiny circle that encircled her home she kept an eye out for any of the eligible unmatched boys. She knew that some of them might be matched up with the almost-women in her tribe, but she also knew that her daughter would have first pick because she was already a woman, and even though she didn’t know everything that a respectable woman should know before having a home of her own.
“Aga, I was wondering, where did the dogs that Amak used to bring me here go?” asked the girl as they made her an ulu knife to help shape the hide that they had preserved a couple days before. Knowing what to do in daily life helped make the girl feel more at home, but she was still unsure of herself, and she didn’t seem to enjoy the closeness of the home and the small family. Yuralria thought that the girl would like it more in the middle of winter when every bit of warmth was essential to help them stay alive. As they started to shape the hide, Yuralria noticed that their store of water was low. The caribou hide at this moment need a lot of water to keep it soft enough as they made it into a covering for a bed, but there wasn’t enough water to keep it soft for the rest of the shaping.
“My buniq, run and fetch me some water, will you not?” asked Yuralria as she shaped the hide with expert hands.
“Yes Aga,” replied the girl, noticing that Yuralria had expertly avoided her question. She knew if she waited any longer, Yuralria would get irritated and wouldn’t answer any question, so she grabbed the water bucket and headed out toward the community well. On her way she passed by a tupiq circle and heard barking. Knowing that Yuralria needed the water, the girl tried not to listen to the sound of the dogs, but she couldn’t help it. She also knew that it was disrespectful to enter a person’s tupiq circle unless invited, and because she didn’t have a heart spirit, she could be considered a tornuaq, an evil spirit. However, that didn’t stop her from trying to get as close as possible to the tupiq circle without seeming rude. She got the water and half-ran back to her tupiq, thinking that if she was able to get through with her chores quickly, she might be able to go back. Her plans were quickly put aside when she noticed that Taliriktug was home.
“My buniq, we are getting ready to prepare you for your heart spirit ceremony, as it has decided to show itself to Injuquaq,” smiled Yuralria, her hands shaking nervously as she finished shaping the hide with the water the girl had brought.
“Go and wash yourself with the excess water, then dress in the new caribou furs we made yesterday, I’ll fix your hair while Taliriktug leaves the room,” ordered Yuralria, her gaze hard on Taliriktug.
“Yes ma’m,” replied Taliriktug, looking all too glad to leave as his daughter began to undress. She washed in the steaming hot water, and then dressed herself. Yuralria braided the girl’s hair in two long braids down her back, and then showed her to a bowl of water on the table that served as a looking glass. A medium-sized girl looked back at them, her eyes a dark brown, almost black, and her long black hair braided showed off high cheekbones and a small nose. The silvery scar between her eyebrows was prominent because her skin was a dark chocolate brown, and the caribou tunic and leggings made the Inuit girl complete. Yuralria gave her a beautiful warm parka of sealskin, and the two stepped outside in the setting sun.
“My ancestors, to this young girl who has of now been unnamed and unrecognized by her heart spirit, I wish for you to listen to me and hear her name and spirit. From now until the moment of her death, unless by some wish of the spirits, her heart spirit is the Nannuraluk, the great white bear that inhabits the same land we do, and she will be called such, her name will be Nanuq,” called Injuquaq, his deep voice echoing over the small tribe. Nanuq looked up into his face, but didn’t see him, as he had already left.
“Nanuq, oh what a beautiful name for my beautiful daughter,” cried Yuralria, throwing her arms around her daughter and holding her close. Only Taliriktug could see the worry in her eyes, and he too worried, because the ceremony was shorter then a regular heart spirit ceremony and the wording was different than usual. Did this mean the spirits did not accept her?
Four days after her naming ceremony, Nanuq had grown used to her name, and now that there was no fear of a tornuaq inhabiting her, Nanuq and Yuralria were ready to start their lives as women of the tribe. That night there was to be a feast for one of the boys who had made his first kill all on his own, and the boy’s mother had asked Nanuq to make his portion. According to Yuralria, that was a good thing because it meant that she was considering Yuralria and Taliridtug’s proposition to have their children be mates. The mother had also decided to give Yuralria the best part of the sealskin, the animal her son had killed.
“The other women have already begun to make the food, come, let us join them,” Yuralria said, pulling Nanuq to where the other women waited. They all greeted her, while continuing on with their work. The mother, who was called Makoktok, pulled Nanuq over to a pot of water that was just starting to boil.
“Here, add the meat when the water is hot enough to cook. I will help you with the spices, don’t worry about it,” directed Makoktok, smiling softly as the girl watched the pot. Nanuq found it easy to enjoy herself, being with the other women and girls was easy, and soon she was talking as much and as fast as the rest of them. They didn’t seem to mind that she had come from a different place, or that her upbringing was different, or that she was just learning some of the things they had known all their life. Smiling, Nanuq thought to herself that she might actually enjoy it here. That was when she noticed a gangly youth standing just outside the circle of fires where the women were cooking.
“Who’s that?” she whispered to Yuralria, pointing inconspicuously in the direction of the young man.
“That’s the American, Jonatan. He doesn’t have a heart spirit, but all he says he is doing is studying the way we live. More like sitting around and eating whatever his wife, who we were good enough to give to him, is cooking at that time. I don’t know how she does it, personally, with twin boys and everything,” sighed Yuralria, looking over in the direction of a harassed-looking woman with two boys climbing all over her.
“Shhh, not now, can’t you see I’m trying to cook? Go bother Amak, wait, no, go see if Yuralria’s daughter, Nanuq will tell you a story,” hushed the woman, looking over in the direction of Yuralria with a pleading glance. Yuralria nodded, turning to Nanuq.
“Tell them a story about anything, I’ll take care to make sure the meat doesn’t burn and I’ll call you when it’s ready,” she hissed, giving Nanuq a small shove, aware that the mothers of some of the young men she was considering were watching to see if she was good with children. They both looked at her, then at each other, and then back at her from behind their mother’s legs.
“Don’t worry, Nanuq won’t hurt you, she came from the same place Amak did, and she probably has different stories to tell you,” comforted their mother, looking up at Nanuq and pleading with her eyes. Nanuq swallowed, smiling a half-smile remembering one of her favorite stories when she was their age. She decided to tweak it a little, to help them understand it, but hopefully if they had heard it they wouldn’t see enough similarities to figure it out.
“Have you heard of the story of the ataninnuaq and the aipalovik?” she asked, settling herself down on the hard-packed snow. The twins peered out from behind their mother who was working around them.
“Well, once there was an ataninnuaq named Cikuq Corazon because it was said that he had a heart of ice. One day an aipolovik named Miki was walking along a road when she noticed a golden spur that belonged to Cikuq Corazon,” began Nanuq, renaming a couple of the characters to make it sound more interesting. The twins walked away from their mother, captivated by this young girl who was telling them a story that they had never heard before. Nanuq continued, her voice weaving a tail of treachery and love. At the most exciting part, Yuralria called for her because the meat was ready.
“No! Don’t leave. Itigiaq want more story!” cried one of them. Nanuq noticed that he had a red band on his parka, and stored in her mind that Itigiaq was the one with the red band.
“I have to go make dinner, but afterwards, if you’re good, I might tell you the rest,” promised Nanuq, untangling her legs from the tight hold of the twins.
“Thank you, now boys, if you go to Amak and sit quietly, I’ll ask Nanuq to tell you another story some other time,” smiled their mother. The twins complied, mostly because their stomachs were growling and they wanted to eat. Nanuq made her way back to the pot where the meat was to see Makoktok standing there with a bag of spices in her hand.
“Are you ready? Grab out a handful of spices, just enough to fill the inside of your palm, like so. A little less, there you go. Now, carefully pick out the largest leaves, yes, that’s it, there you go. Now, this will sting a little, but you must do or the meat won’t be seasoned properly. Close your hand like a fist, tighter, tighter, there you go. Stick your hand in the water and hold the leaves in there for a count of ten. I’ll count with you, ready, go!” directed Makoktok. Nanuq closed her eyes and thrust her hand under the boiling hot water. She almost screamed in pain but didn’t for fear the men would hear. She almost couldn’t hear Makoktok’s counting through the blood pounding in her ears. Near the end, all she could hear was a roaring sound, then a shower of sparks exploded in front of her eyelids and she heard an unnatural sound, like the singing of angels.
“Nanuq? Nanuq!” cried Yuralria, her voice rising in horror as she saw her daughter start to crumple. Makoktok pulled Nanuq’s hand out of the pot and quickly wiped the herbs off the girl’s hand.
“Yuralria, your daughter is an Angakuq! No one else would have such a reaction to putting their hands with herbs in water!” whispered Makoktok in an awed whisper as she supported the girl who was slowly regaining consciousness.
“She doesn’t want to be one, but this has to convince her,” replied Yuralria, helping Makoktok with Nanuq. The men thankfully hadn’t noticed, and to help Nanuq come around fully, Makoktok took some of the cold well water and splashed it over her head. Nanuq came to with a start. She would have screamed if Yuralria hadn’t put her hand over the girl’s mouth.
“Nanuq, we need you to give the young man his food,” hissed Yuralria in Nanuq’s ear. Nanuq shook herself, and then looked up at Makoktok who nodded and helped her up.
“My son’s name is Nukilik, but you won’t need to ask him anything unless he asks you something,” quickly said Makoktok as she ladled out some of the soup. She knew that the soup would be something special because of what happened to Nanuq, but as to what it was, she didn’t know.
Nanuq and the other women followed Makoktok out where the men waited. Nanuq took her bowl to the young man sitting at the head of the line of men. Keeping her head down respectively, she placed the bowl in front of him and was beginning to step back when his hand came out of his parka and grabbed hers. All Nanuq could think of was how glad she was to not have put it down with her left hand.
“Why isn’t my mother doing this? I thought that unless you were a mate you did it for your own family,” hissed Nukilik, his eyes looking slightly confused.
“Makoktok wished for me to give you this portion, and if you do not wish to eat it, I’m sure Makoktok would understand,” replied Nanuq, feeling slightly nauseated as Nukilik held her hand tighter, cutting off the circulation as he pulled her closer. She smelled herbs on his breath, and her eyes rolled up in her head as she tried to keep of a hold of the present. He said something else, but all Nanuq could understand was that the herbs on his breath were the same she put in the meat. She was struggling to listen to what he was saying, but wasn’t succeeding very much. She felt him let go of her and reeled back in to the complete and blissful darkness of unconsciousness.
“She’ll be okay, don’t worry Yuralria. Her heart spirit isn’t compatible with sarsaparilla herbs, that is all,” spoke a deep voice vaguely familiar to the dizzy Nanuq. She tried to open her eyes, but found that there was a cloth tied tightly around them.
“Wha-” Nanuq tried to speak, but her throat closed tightly before she could get out the words she wished to say.
“Keep the blindfold on for a few more hours, and make sure she has plenty of water to drink. I won’t be back to check on her, as I have meddled with her spirit enough,” continued the voice. Nanuq heard steps and a flurry of activity as someone went outside. She felt the cool hands of Yuralria on her forehead, and slipped back into sleep.
In the middle of the night Nanuq woke up screaming. She called out that demons were upon her, and she cried that she could not see. Cool hands were laid upon her forehead and water was poured down her throat. With little trouble, she fell back asleep. When she woke up, she felt the presence of someone beside her. She looked over in the direction of the person, and smelled the comforting smells that surrounded Yuralria.
“Are you awake, my buniq?” asked Yuralria, her hands cool on Nanuq’s feverish forehead.
“Yes,” croaked Nanuq, feeling around her mouth that felt as if is had never felt water in her life.
“I’ll get you some water, then we can take off that blindfold,” Yuralria smiled, her voice comforting and soothing. Nanuq sat back and listened as Yuralria walked to the water bowl and back with a ladle of water. Nanuq eagerly drank the water, feeling the smooth coolness running down her parched throat. When she was finished, Yuralria went back for more, and then brought it back. Again Nanuq drank it. Yuralria made four trips more until Nanuq was satisfied. Carefully, Yuralria sat on the edge of the bed and slowly untied the blindfold. The brighter light of the dark tupiq stunned Nanuq for a second, but her vision quickly became used to it.
“Aga, how long-” began Nanuq. Yuralria quickly interrupted her by saying, “Do you feel up to doing work? I have decided to make sealskin boots for you and I from the sealskin Makoktok gave me.”
“Yes, Aga,” obediently replied Nanuq, knowing that if she pushed, Yuralria would scold and tell her that nosy children come to no good. Why her mother wanted to hide the secret of how long she was unconscious, Nanuq didn’t know, but she knew that she wouldn’t be told it unless she was ready.
Four days after Nanuq woke up; she was walking around the little tribe because she had finished her chores when she heard the dogs barking again. She tried to be inconspicuous about it, but she did walk over closer to the tupiq circle to try to see these animals that were making such loud noises. She thought she caught a glimpse of one of them, but suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. She whirled around, and found herself facing a tall, formidable man. She quickly looked down again, trying to be polite, however she did notice that the man was much darker then any other person she had seen in the tribe.
“Aren’t you supposed to be helping the women clear the camp?” asked the man, his voice rumbling from deep within his chest. Vaguely, Nanuq remembered the voice from the time when she had touched the sarsaparilla, but she was too frightened to say anything.
“Why are you here?” asked the man, “Do look at me, I won’t make you study my boots.” Slowly, Nanuq looked up at the man, trembling slightly.
“I-I heard the dogs, Oogrooq, and I wanted to see them,” she replied steadily.
“What did you call me?” demanded the man. Nanuq looked down quickly, quailing.
“I-I called y-you Oogrooq,” stammered Nanuq.
“Oogrooq, I like it, I really do like it,” hummed the man, scratching the beard that made Nanuq think of the name. “Well, I think I know your name, its Nanuq, isn’t it?” Nanuq nodded, still frightened of this large and rather intimidating man.
“Do you want to see the dogs?” he asked, turning away from her slightly. Nanuq hesitated, but her wish to see the dogs was so strong that, despite her fear of him, she nodded and eagerly followed him back behind his tupik. He pointed to a spot just beyond him and told her to get into a crouching position and not move until he told her to. She agreed, and he let out a team of eight sled dogs. Two immediately went up to her and started sniffing her. Crouched down at their level, Nanuq was very aware of the large, sharp, white teeth shown as the dogs panted around her. One of them sat right in front of her and stuck his nose in her face. He licked her, and then started wagging his tail.
“Good, good!” cried the man as the other dogs started wagging their tails and fearlessly coming up to her.
“You can stand now, but do it slowly, don’t spook them,” directed the man. She smiled as she slowly stood with the dogs jumping around her.
“Come over here and I’ll tell you their names,” said the man as he started pointing out the dogs.
“The dog with the red fur around his ruff is our leader, his name is Issora, this one here with the black ruff with blond streaks is Ataciara, and the one over there with the white belly is Qimugta, he’s the father of most of these dogs. The one with the black underbelly and white paws is Desna, she likes to think she’s the boss, and Illiivat over there with the brown ears is just learning the ropes, he and his sister, Sakari, the one with one brown ear and one red one, are new to this. Their father is Qimugta and their mother is, where is she, ah, there she is, the one with the red-brown coat, yes, that beautiful one, her name is Pitsiark, and I think that name fits her just fine. The last three are the ones over by you, the one with the blue-black fur is Tungortok the one next to him is Sesi, as you can see she is almost as white as snow, and the last one is Qimukti, he and Qimugta are our dogs in the back closest to the sled,” explained the man, carefully pointing out the different dogs and showing Nanuq how to recognize them.
“I think I get it, Issora has the black back, and Tungortok’s color is almost the same, but they also are very different colors as well. Qimukti and Qimugta are the pullers, they both start with the same letter, Pitsiark is beautiful, Sesi is like snow, and Illiivat and Sakari are the qimugkauyars of the group,” repeated Nanuq with a tiny bit of confidence. The sunlight caught her just right, and for a moment her scar between her eyebrows stood out, glowing with a silvery sheen. The man blinked one, twice, and a third time. He thought he had seen a polar bear walking up to join the spirit world with blue lights all around it, but it had to have been a trick of the light. Then again, he was Injuquaq, and the visions came to him for a reason. He looked back at the girl, and shook his head. No, the polar bear and the blue light leading it to the spirit world was just a trick of the light. However, the scar between the girl’s eyebrows wasn’t. He watched her lean down to pet Sakari as he rubbed the exact same scar between his eyebrows, deep in thought.
“Wow, their fur is so soft!” exclaimed Nanuq, carefully running her hands through the soft fur on Sakari’s neck. Without thinking about doing it, Injuquaq almost smiled, then remembered that he didn’t smile, for reasons known only to him.
“Would you like to see the other qimugkauyars?” he asked, trying to think of other ways to distract the girl so that she would stay with him for a while.
“Of course!” she exclaimed, looking very excited, if that was possible. She already looked very excited. Turning around, Injuquaq just barely managed to retain a smile, and let out the four qimugkauyars. All four of them had the distinctive coloring of their mother-Ataciara-but the muscular build of their father-Tungortok.
“I haven’t named them yet, but I was wondering if you would like to help me name them,” suggested Injuquaq. In fact, he wasn’t even thinking of naming these pups, just because that would mean he would have to take care of them and train them how to pull the sled, and he already had eight good dogs to do that for him. Oh well, he thought, and internally shrugged. If she likes them enough, I can have her help me, and that means I could teach her the ways of the spirits! Of course! Hadn’t her father said that she didn’t want to learn to be an Angakuq? That was it! She wouldn’t suspect it that way, and he could still teach her. Yes!
“I think we should name the one with the one white paw Qannik, and the one behind her, it is a girl, right? Yes, the one behind Qannik we should call Qimmiq because he already looks almost full grown. Look, this one came right to me, why don’t we call her Qatqain, and that leaves one more. What shall we call you, my little one,” murmured Nanuq, carefully lifting the little puppy up off the grown. Ataciara came over and nudged the little one in Nanuq’s arms, communicating with her eyes that she wanted this one to have a good name.
“I know! I’ll call her Buniq, because you are Ataciara’s sweet daughter, aren’t you,” smiled Nanuq. Injuquaq thought that now was the right time to tell her what he wanted her to help him with.
“Because you have given these qimugkauyars names, you must help me take care of them, feeding, training, and all that good stuff,” started Injuquaq.
“Of course I will help you Oogrooq, I’d be happy to!” cried Nanuq. She would have hugged him had he not stiffened as he saw her approach. She happily skipped home, thinking to herself that she was lucky to get to help with such sweet animals, especially Buniq. She helped Yuralria make dinner, and cleaning up she said not a word of complaint. Yuralria was slightly worried, and when Nanuq had gone to sleep she spoke to Taliriktug of her worries.
“I talked with Injuquaq today, and he said that she would be taking lessons from him under the pretense of learning how to train the four puppies that he has from the latest litter. I honestly don’t know what that man is thinking, but he knows what is best for our buniq, I’m sure he does,” comforted Taliriktug, holding his wife close. He repeated to himself the last line, hoping that it would make it true.
“No! Don’t take her! She didn’t do anything!” screamed Nanuq in the pitch-blackness of the night. Yuralria quickly padded over to her daughter’s side, whispering softly, trying to quiet the girl. Nanuq screamed again, her cry echoing over the silent camp.
“My buniq, shhh, don’t cry, shhh,” hushed Yuralria, her hands smoothing the wrinkles on the girl’s forehead. They came away sticky with sweat.
“It’s too dark, they are coming, it’s too dark,” moan Nanuq, her voice thankfully quieter now. Yuralria lit a small lamp, and Nanuq’s breathing became less ragged.
“Are you frightened of the dark?” murmured Yuralria, pulling her daughter close. Nanuq started to cry, and nodded.
“We won’t put you in the dark any more, don’t worry,” soothed Yuralria, rocking Nanuq back and forth. She started to sing a soft lullaby to calm her daughter and herself, and soon Nanuq was fast asleep. Yuralria placed her back on her bed and went back to hers without extinguishing the light.
The next day, Nanuq woke up with excitement, thinking that the work of training the qimugkauyars that she had helped to name should push the dream she had that night out of her mind. She ate quickly, did all her chores, and was dismissed by Yuralria, who wanted to go talk with Makoktok about her son. Nanuq would have skipped to the man who she now thought of as Oogrooq's tupik, but she decided not to because it is extremely hard to do so in sealskin boots. Instead, she walked carefully and nicely to his tupik and waited outside the tupik circle until he called for her.
“Thank you for coming, now, I want you to take Buniq and Qannik on these leather thongs, and I’ll take Qimmiq and Qatqain. I want you to run with Buniq and Qannik out to that tree, do you see it?-and back. I’ll wait here, and once you’re back you can take Qimmiq and Qatqain. Why, oh why did you have to name three of them with Q’s,” muttered Injuquaq as he pointed out the tree. He expected the girl to complain, most of the boys did when asked to run that far, but she didn’t, only said, “What should I do about shoes?” Injuquaq looked down at her feet and saw the sealskin boots she wore yesterday, and regretted not telling her to wear other footwear.
“Nanuq! I’ve got your other shoes right here,” called Yuralria, holding up a pair of moccasin-like shoes, except made out of caribou hide and slightly shorter, reaching up to the middle of her calves instead of up to her knees.
“Thanks Aga!” smiled Nanuq, pulling off her boots and putting on her other shoes. She jumped up and grabbed the leashes that had Buniq and Qannik on, then, pulling them and calling them, she headed off to the tree.
“How did you know that she needed those?” asked Injuquaq, looking at Yuralria. Yuralria, unused to being addressed directly by the Angakuq, looked down at the ground.
“I went over to Makoktok’s house, and she told me that you would most likely make her run, and I remembered that she was wearing her sealskin boots,” murmured Yuralria, blushing slightly, although few could see that because of her dark skin. Injuquaq noticed, and decided to say nothing about it. Instead, he looked over, and too his immense surprise, Nanuq was coming back. She stopped in front of him and looked up at him with a look that reminded him of how Sakari and Illiivat looked when they were asking if they did well, or what was next.
“You did well, now take Qimmiq and Qatqain there and back,” ordered Injuquaq.
“Yes Oogrooq,” replied the girl, breathless with the run and the brisk air of the fall morning. She grabbed the leashes and raced off again, Qimmiq and Qatqain looking ecstatic about being able to run. Buniq tried to follow them, but with a quick pull from Injuquaq she sat instead, looking forlorn at not being able to follow her new friend. When Nanuq came back, she doubled over trying to catch her breath.
“After you catch your breath, I want you to do it again, this time with all four of the dogs,” ordered Injuquaq, grabbing the girl as she sagged to the ground. “This time, pace yourself so that you don’t get so winded.” Nanuq could only nod. After she could breath, she grabbed the dogs and started off again, this time slower.
“You do think she’ll be able to do it, won’t you?” fretted Yuralria.
“Yuralria, come with me, I wish to talk to you about that young girl of yours,” spoke one of the mothers of one of the boys that Yuralria was thinking about. Yuralria pushed the matter of Nanuq to the back of her mind as she walked off with the other mother, chatting about marriage and the like. Injuquaq inwardly smiled, keeping his face decidedly straight. He didn’t want to show any affection for this girl, especially if, no, he wouldn’t think of his vision. He turned back to watch Nanuq as she ran back in. He was not the only one. From the shadows of a doorway a figure stood. Its eyes glowed softly in the half-light, blinking slowly. I wonder why she is so honored, so accepted, after all, she did spend most of her life in America. She is a foreign invader, she must be got rid of, thought the figure. It turned around, leaving no trace of ever being there, standing still in the new-fallen snow.
After she got back from the second run, Injuquaq had her find the harnesses for the older dogs and study them, then had her draw them in the light snow covering the ground. She remembered each detail perfectly, and he noticed she used her left hand, although she kept her glove on as she drew. Remembering when he did that to avoid people noticing the scar on his hand, Injuquaq added that to the growing list of things that started to define this young girl as his successor.
“Now, Nanuq, we must cut a harness out of leather for each of the qimugkauyars, and we need a large caribou hide,” instructed Injuquaq as he walked back to his tupik. He went inside and grabbed a caribou hide that was large enough for all the qimugkauyars. He also picked up his ulu and another, smaller one for Nanuq. He tried not to think of the last person to use that ulu. He walked back outside and saw Nanuq playing with the dogs while the newly named qimugkauyars waited on the side.
“Now, I want you to take this ulu and hold it like this, different from when cutting a regular hide, there you go. Now, I want you to re-draw your recalling of the harness from the older dogs, just make it smaller,” directed Injuquaq. Nanuq tried her best, but in the end Injuquaq had to trace the design on the hide for her.
“Using the ulu knife, I want you to cut along these lines, don’t worry about the inside ones, there you go, carefully, carefully,” cautioned Injuquaq. Nanuq went slowly, and by the time the sun moved above their heads, she had made a fairly good harness, much to Injuquaq’s pleasure.
“Wonderful job, wonderful job. We will cut out one more, and I want to see you do it without me telling you what to do,” praised Injuquaq, handing Nanuq the tracing knife. Carefully, Nanuq made another harness, making sure that she didn’t make any mistakes. There was nothing that Injuquaq had to complain about, except the amount of time that she took, which was long enough that his legs started to tremble from being in one position the whole time.
“Now, I want you to learn about different types of herbs that you can use for your dogs, come with me,” beckoned Injuquaq. One of the women who was passing by noticed, and found a reason to wait around the tupik circle to see if Injuquaq really was going to invite Nanuq into his tupik, something that was until that point, highly improbable. Why, the last time he had even let someone inside his tupik circle was fourteen years ago, when Yuralria, the girl’s mother, was having a hard time giving birth. The terrible tragedy had happened then, and after a while no one could make Injuquaq smiled, or do anything of the sort. He wouldn’t even talk. He would go along with his life, and then the next tragedy happened. Nanuq had to go to America, before she was named even. Injuquaq hadn’t spoken for a year, then realized that he had to move on. Now, he was letting the girl, the one whose mother had caused the tragedy, was being allowed where no one had gone for years. Yes, this indeed was amazing.
Nanuq was the first person inside Injuquaq’s tupik since his wife died, and therefore she was amazed to see just how similar it was to her own tupik, except that there was only one bed, and only one pot of water boiling over the stove. She smelled the smell of meat cooking with sarsaparilla herbs and immediately felt woozy. Injuquaq noticed, and handed her another handful of herbs.
“These are for illness of the heart spirit. You give a handful grounded in a tea for those who are sick at heart before they are an adult, and you give two handfuls grounded in a tea for those who are an adult and are sick at heart. They are called autumn crocus, and you can only gather them before the first frost. They work best when fresh, but they also work well dried,” started Injuquaq. And so began a month of learning about plants and other healing medicines as Buniq, Qimmiq, Qatqian, and Qannik were trained to pull a sled, hold steady while the harnesses went on, and as they learned to work with others. Injuquaq even made Nanuq a sled so she could help the dogs learn. Injuquaq wasn’t the only one with dogs, there were several others; however, he was one of the best dog mushers in the tribe. One day, after cleaning the equipment and putting away the sleds, Nanuq walked with Injuquaq into his tupik, excited because he was going to teach her how to use the most dangerous plants, the ones with some of the most lethal poison, in medicine. They had just settled in when something was heard outside the tupik circle.
“Injuquaq!? Qatqain, quick! Something is wrong with Silatuyok, I don’t know what it is!” cried a woman from outside. Injuquaq grabbed a bag and motioned with his hand for Nanuq to follow. He strode quickly towards the woman’s tupik and didn’t ask for her permission to enter the circle. Nanuq looked at the woman, who nodded and let her follow Injuquaq. Once inside, they saw a young girl lying on a bed near the fire. Her face was red and bathed in sweat, and the blankets were drenched with water. Her long black was spread out across a lump of blankets, and every couple minutes her body curled in spasms. A young boy of about twelve sat on the edge of the bed with an older sister behind him. The sister’s mate and their son were behind the sister, and the father of the girl was holding her hand. He looked pale, and his face was drawn. As Nanuq walked in the poor girl curled up in a tight ball and cried out in pain.
“We’ve tried everything we know, but she got worse and worse. She can’t move unless the spasms make her, and her fever has steadily grown since this morning. I don’t know what else to do,” said the father, helplessly. Nanuq noticed that his dark black hair was speckled with grey hairs; his beard looked salt and pepper-like. There were dark circles under the eyes of everyone, including the sister’s boy who didn’t look to be more than seven. Even Nanuq didn’t have to be an Angakuq to know that these people were putting themselves in more danger by trying to keep their daughter, sister, aunt, alive then just letting the illness run its course.
“It has been going on for about a week now, the first signs were that she was sleepy, and didn’t have enough energy to do her chores. She didn’t go outside, and when light touched her, sunlight, she would scream in pain and call out that she was going blind. We tried to bring her outside, but if she took a step out the door, she couldn’t move because of pain. I thought that she might be expecting, but I couldn’t think of how she could be. I didn’t think that it was of any worry, but then she just-” the mother broke off as she started to cry, large tears rolling down her ashen cheeks. Injuquaq walked over to the girl, looking closely at the family members while appearing to study the girl.
“May I ask you all to leave the room, except for Nanuq? I’d like to see the girl privately,” requested Injuquaq, a sense of urgency surrounding him. The family nodded and left the tupik. The rest of the village was gathering around the tupik circle, murmuring soothing words as the family left the tupik.
“Nanuq, remember the amount for autumn crocus for children?” asked Injuquaq as he peeled back the layers of blankets covering Silatuyok.
“Don’t bother, please. I won’t make it,” pleaded Silatuyok, her eyes full of the suffering she was going through, although she tried to hide it. Her voice sounded scratchy, as if she hadn’t had a drink in days. She spoke so softly that Injuquaq had to bend close to hear it. He knew that she was too far gone for him to help with herbs and such, but autumn crocus was also good for preparing a person so he could speak with their life spirit, to plead with them to stay on the earth for a while longer, if not because they wanted to, but because of the people that loved the person they chose to live with. Usually, he didn’t have to go that far, but every now and then he did. Suppressing those troublesome thoughts, he moved closer to Silatuytok, hoping that his presence might help.
“Don’t say such things, you are a young and healthy girl, you will make it through with the help of your spirit fox,” calmly said Injuquaq. Nanuq looked up suddenly, remembering her dream that woke her up. She had seen a vixen arctic fox making its way up to bright lights filled with other animals. Her hand started shaking so much she was unable to measure out the right amount of autumn crocus the first time, she had to re-measure it. She carried the cup of tea to the bedside of Silatuyok, keeping her eyes down so as not to betray any of her thoughts or doubts. She didn’t want to believe that Silatuyok would die, she was too young. Injuquaq carefully poured the tea down the girl’s throat, and all of the sudden Nanuq felt a strange feeling, it felt as if something was moving through her body. She collapsed in a heap just as Injuquaq felt Silatuyok’s spirit leave her young body.
“Silatuyok! No! Qatqain back! No!” cried Injuquaq as he pulled the body to his chest, trying desperately to bring life back into it. He pounded its chest, trying to make it rise and fall again. He heard a thump behind him and turned to see Nanuq crumple to the ground and felt some alien presence in the room before it swept out the door into the open air outside the tupik. Heavily he went over to Nanuq, afraid that all he would find would be an empty shell like the one that had once held the lively spirit of Silatuyok. As he drew near, he saw with relief that her chest was rising in quick, rasping breaths. Carefully, he picked her up and looked back at Silatuyok’s body. He placed Nanuq down beside the body and arranged it so that it looked like she was sleeping. With a heavy heart he went outside, carrying Nanuq. The family of Silatuyok turned around, their eyes filled with hope that was dashed when they saw Nanuq hanging prostrate in his arms. A hush spread among the members of the tribe as they waited for their Angakuq to say something.
“I’m so sorry, Silatuyok’s spirit has joined those of her ancestors,” whispered Injuquaq, his voice heavy with grief. Silatuyok’s mother crumpled in her mate’s arms as she cried out her pain and sorrow. It was scenes like these that brought him back to the day his wife died. Nanuq’s mother was right there to comfort Silatuyok’s mother when she saw her daughter in Injuquaq’s arms.
“No! Nanuq!” cried Yuralria, held back barely by Taliriktug. A whisper spread around the assembled members of the tribe, wondering if whatever took Silauytok took Nanuq at the same time.
“Nanuq is alive and breathing, however, I believe that there is a tornuaq among us. I felt it, I think Nanuq felt it, and it was what took Silauyok to the spirit world,” spoke Injuquaq, feeling that Silauyok’s death was not the first one, nor would it be the last.
A week later, almost all of the youngest of the tribe were with their ancestors or getting ready to join them. There was nothing Injuquaq could do, all his herbs only sped the death of the children. Much to Nanuq’s dismay, not one child was spared. The hardest one for her was when Itigiaq and Ikiaq, the twins, went to join their ancestors. Injuquaq managed to give them the herbs that would allow them to go to their mother’s ancestors, as their father’s were not with them. Nanuq cried for three days after their death, the only one who could comfort her was Buniq. During that time, Nanuq neither touched nor talked to anyone, and when she was talked to she only half-listened. She moved as if she were a robot, everything she did was by instinct and habit. Not even Injuquaq could get her to talk. He could see within her that a battle was going on, but shat exactly that battle was, he could not see. Injuquaq was exhausted; he knew that there was nothing he could do to prevent this disease, or to cure it. He just had to trust that the heart spirits of the children were being accepted. The funerals were hard, even though by the end of the week only the family of the child were coming, every time it reminded him of when his beloved wife was buried. Since the start of the deaths, his wife’s spirit, a Shesh was coming and visiting him in his sleep. He tried to avoid sleeping, for he couldn’t stand even thinking again about how his wife died. This was one of the hardest things that he had ever experienced, but there was much more then just waiting for his wife to come back. He had to help the children.
“Injuquaq? I know that you are sick, and exhausted, and all that, but I must ask you, can you in any way help Nanuq?” Yuralria’s question interrupted his thoughts. He turned and saw her standing just outside his tupik circle with a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. Her face was turned down and away from him, and somehow that hurt him. It felt to him as if she was trying to sever the bond that he had built up over the month and a half.
“I will try,” replied Injuquaq, knowing that it might be fruitless. He took Nanuq by the hand and led her over to the sled he had made for her and the dogs she had come to love. He ran her hands over it, letting her feel every crevice, every hidden flaw. The grain of the wood had been sanded smooth, but every now and then her hand would come across a rough spot, or a splinter. She would wince in pain as the splinter struck, and Injuquaq would carefully pull the splinter out. Then he would put her hand back where it was and continue the exploration of the sled. She seemed like an empty shell, but inside of her he could fell her spirit coming back to life. He ran her hands over the runners of the sled, and when she found a rough spot this time, he would hand her a sanding knife and would slowly guide her hands to sand these rough spots to help make the sled as frictionless as possible. She started making small sounds, ones that sounded like she was trying not to cry. This was a good sign; it showed that she was starting to feel again. She needed to feel the grief that was bottled up inside her; it was something that would show her that life had to move on. Once they had finished the sanding, Injuquaq called over Buniq and her siblings and led Nanuq over to them. He ran her hands over all them, sending them to the very base of the thick fur. By the time he had led her hands over Buniq, she started to move them on her own. When they reached Buniq’s head, Nanuq freed her hands, put them around Buniq’s neck, rested her head on Buniq’s head, and cried. Injuquaq felt a releasing inside of her, and he knew that she had finally decided to accept that grief is a part of life, and that she must go on.
“Oh Oogrooq, I’ve been such a, a” started Nanuq. Injuquaq shushed her, telling her that she wasn’t the first one to do it. He knew that it took him a longer time to recover from his grief, and he didn’t have someone to show him how to feel again. He still had scars from when he had used his hunting knife to try to bring back feeling to his hands. He felt it, but it was a far off pain, nothing that could bring him back. Just like Nanuq, he needed a real animal to show him that he could feel again. In fact, it was a brown bear, his wife’s heart spirit animal, who showed him how to feel again. Nanuq looked up at Injuquaq, then over to where the harnesses were kept, asking with her eyes if they could go out. Injuquaq looked at the sun, and then nodded. Nanuq leapt up with an excited cry, she loved to go outside the camp and race with the dogs. She hooked up the dogs, putting Buniq front left, Qimmiq front right, Qatqian behind Qimmiq, and Qannik behind Buniq. Injuquaq quickly hooked up his dogs and started off with Nanuq right behind him.
Once outside the village, Nanuq yelled out to the spirits, “I don’t know why you chose to take the twins, but you can’t make me forget them!” Spurred on by her grief, Nanuq quickly left Injuquaq behind her. Injuquaq just let her go, knowing that it was sometimes easier if you didn’t have someone right there to hear you cry out your grief or anger, or whatever else she was feeling. When she went out of his sight he urged his dogs on, just to make sure that she stayed in his line of sight. He topped a small hill, and nearly lost his composure. Nanuq was standing less than two feet away from a giant nannuraluk, one of the giant white bears that stalked the land. This one was female, but she was very, very large. Not with cubs, but just her mass. She shifted her massive weight to her hind legs as she stood up. Looking around, she spotted Injuquaq, frozen on the hill. She bellowed to let him know that she knew he was there, and then turned back to Nanuq. She sat down and put her nose right up to the girl. It seemed to Injuquaq that they had a conversation, then the nannuraluk turned around and rambled off in the opposite direction. Nanuq looked up to where Injuquaq was, got back on the sled, and rode it up to him.
“Did you see her? She was so amazing!” cried Nanuq, her last emotions seemingly forgotten.
“She told me to not grieve about the twins, or any of the other children. She said that the spirit world has accepted them. But, she also said that I need to go to the kinguyakkii, in order to be safe from the tornuaq, and to learn how to be an Angakuq. Oogrooq, I don’t want to be an angakuq!” The girl’s eyes grew wide in horror as she thought of what might happen when she became an angakuq.
“Oogrooq, I don’t believe that spirits talk to angakuqs, I don’t think that there even are spirits, or dreams or anything like that. My conversation with the nannuraluk must just have been my imagination. I won’t go, I don’t want to go. You’ll see, I won’t go, there is no tornuaq that is taking the lives of the children, and it’s just a natural sickness, disease, whatever. I won’t go,” vowed Nanuq. Injuquaq was slightly confused. Just a moment ago, the girl had been awed with the fact that a nannuraluk, no less than the one that showed up in his dream about her heart spirit, had talked to her, and now she was saying that spirits don’t exist, and that her conversation was just in her head. Injuquaq sighed and put the brake of his sled down in the snow. He motioned for Nanuq to do the same. When she was finished, he led her to the top of a hill in front of the place where the nannuraluk had stood and talked to her.
“Look over there, between that tree and the lake. What do you see?” asked Injuquaq, pointing his finger over to a picturesque landscape. The snow was bathed in a red-rose color from the setting sun; the sky was a lighter shade of it. The tree which normally would stand out, a dark streak against white, blended in, showing just how powerful the shadows were in that area. The lake shone with a silvery sheen, the ice covering just a shade lighter white then the snow, with a blue tint to it. As the sun sank below the horizon, the colors lingered for a few more minutes. Then all went black. Nanuq strained her eyes to see something, anything, but couldn’t. She couldn’t even see the stars or the moon, because it was behind her and waning rapidly. She felt Injuquaq’s hand on her shoulder, moving her so she could see the miraculous event unfolding. At first, she thought it was just some trick of the light, leftover from the sunset. Then, more colors started to form. Bright blue-greens, yellows, true blues, rose pink, reds, so many different colors, different shades of colors, it was amazing. She had never before seen such a different array of colors. As she watched, they started moving in a wave formation in perfect synchronization. There was nothing more beautiful that she had ever observed.
“Those are the spirits of our ancestors; they all dance during the winter months to show us that spring is coming again. I don’t know what they do during the summer days, but they are always here when we need assurance of spring coming again,” whispered Injuquaq, his voice right by Nanuq’s ear. She was too stunned by the beauty of the lights to reply. Injuquaq thought that she might have heard them, but he couldn’t be sure. He knew her statement about not believing in spirits was going to be hard to break, but he thought that with time, he might be able to do it.
The next day, as usual, Injuquaq waited for Nanuq. She came quickly, and they began to start training with the dogs. Injuquaq refrained from mentioning anything that had happened the previous day. Nanuq brought it up as they were inspecting the sleds to make sure that they weren’t any worse from the freeze the night before.
“Injuquaq, I realize that thinking about the twins and morning them for so long wasn’t very smart. They were ready to go; I remember what Itigiaq looked like when I last saw him. He looked like death itself, and they both were in so much pain, they probably were glad to have the coldness of death fall upon them. I think also, that those herbs you gave them really helped with their passing one,” said Nanuq with certainty.
“Those herbs were supposed to help them move on to the next life, so that even though their father was not an Inuit and didn’t have a heart spirit,” replied Injuquaq, slightly annoyed that she hadn’t seemed to be paying attention to what he had been teaching her about those herbs that day, long before all the deaths. By now, all the families except for hers had lost a young child, and they were all in deep grief, although they still went about their normal lives. It wasn’t surprising any more if a mother was gathering snow from outside her tupik when she would suddenly burst out in tears. The men were quieter, more subdued, and the children who were still alive and well weren’t very loud as they played. The younger girls who normally would be outside flirting with the younger boys were mourning with their parents, although if they were mourning their own sibling or their playmates it wasn’t apparent. Injuquaq wished he could show Nanuq what the spirits meant to these people, but he was unable to.
“Oogrooq, really there aren’t any spirits. If there were, surely the children would have survived. There is really nothing that would have prevented these ‘spirits’ from saving the children if there really were spirits,” continued Nanuq as she slipped Buniq’s harness over the young dog’s head. She tightened the straps, noticing that it wouldn’t be too long until she and her pup mates would be ready for new harnesses. Qimmiq came over and nosed Nanuq’s legs, nearly taking them out from under her.
“Qimmiq! You are too big to do that anymore,” laughed Nanuq as she caught the sled to keep from falling. Qimmiq whimpered and went over to his owner to see if she was okay. Nanuq smiled again and looked back down at him, reaching down to pet him. Injuquaq thought that she looked so beautiful when she smiled, it almost broke his heart as he remembered the last person to smile in his presence. He shook his head, he had to concentrate on the task that he had to deal with. He pulled the harnesses over his dogs, tightened them, and attached them to his sled. He looked over to see how Nanuq was doing, and saw that she was practically buried under all the qimugkauyars, who where more like full-grown dogs.
“Nanuq, what are you doing?” asked Injuquaq as he walked around his sled, hiding the smile that was threatening to come up on his face.
“I think that they think I’m their new toy,” replied Nanuq, her voice muted because Qatqain was sitting on her head. Injuquaq pulled the dogs off Nanuq and helped her stand up. She grinned at him and hooked her dogs up to the sled. Injuquaq wished with all his might he could smile back, but his face didn’t seem to remember how to do it. Nanuq got on her sled and looked back at him, her eyes dancing with mischief.
“What are you doing now?” warily asked Injuquaq.
“I’m going to race you out of the village, but I’m not going to let you win!” cried Nanuq as she started off. It took Injuquaq a minute to process the words, and when he realized what she was doing, he climbed back on his sled and started after her. He knew he had the advantage, six full-grown, fully trained dogs, whereas she only had four, half-grown, half-trained qimugkauyars. He soon caught up to her, and they raced, side by side until they came to the place where the nannuraluk had been. There were large paw prints all around the area, covering small prints of a human the size of Nanuq, and the prints of all the dogs. Injuquaq thought that this was perfect evidence that the nannuraluk was real, and that she had a conversation with her, but Nanuq didn’t seem to think the same. She glided over the area, looking towards the lake in the distance.
“Nanuq, we really need to talk,” called Injuquaq.
“About what Oogrooq?” asked Nanuq as she pulled the sled around to look at Injuquaq.
“This nannuraluk. If you study the prints, you will see that she didn’t come from our land, that she came from another. There are no whorls or ridges like regular nannuraluks have. You must believe in the spirits, there is no reason for you to not,” explained Injuquaq with a pleading tone to his voice.
“I’ve told you, if there really were spirits, the children wouldn’t have died, and they wouldn’t be sadness in our village,” replied Nanuq hotly. She wasn’t happy that Injuquaq kept bringing up the topic of spirits. They didn’t exist as long as she was concerned. There was no reason for Injuquaq to waste his breath trying to tell her that spirits were around them all the time. Injuquaq noticed this, and he heaved a sigh as he stood up. He looked to the north, then above him to see how much longer they had before night fell. Nights were getting longer and longer, soon the longest night would come, and they wouldn’t see the sun until the spirits released it. Nanuq wouldn’t understand it.
“Oogrooq, what is that cloud in the east doing?” asked Nanuq as she pulled up alongside Injuquaq. He looked over in the direction she was pointing, and shivered in horror. The spirits must be angry because Nanuq has proclaimed that she doesn’t believe in them! Injuquaq thought with trepidation.
“We must get home, and fast!” replied Injuquaq, urging his dogs and Nanuq’s on. Soon all of the dogs were running out flat, they could smell the pirtuk coming, and they knew instinctively that it was bad. Nanuq fell behind Injuquaq, but her dogs were still pulling hard. Injuquaq knew that she wouldn’t make it before the pirtuk hit if she fell back any farther, but his instincts were yelling at him to go faster, to not wait for anyone. He was torn between what he should do to save himself, and what he should do to save Nanuq. He felt a spirit whip around his head, pulled along by the wind. It grabbed onto him, stretched out, and grabbed onto Buniq’s head. Injuquaq felt a sense of security, this pirtuk wasn’t mad at them, it was mad at someone else, and it was going to help them home before it hit. The spirit pulled Nanuq towards Injuquaq, and soon the dogs were tied again, although Nanuq was still slightly behind. They made it into camp with the wind swirling around them.
“Nanuq, leave the dogs! I got them, leave the dogs!” shouted Injuquaq over the sound of the pirtuk approaching. Nanuq tried to protest, but a strong wind swept her off the sled and into a tupik circle. She scrambled out, aware of the major rule that she had just broken. Injuquaq shouted something else, but it was lost over the cry of the wind. The snow blew into her eyes as she tried to locate her dogs, but they had disappeared into the white snow. She was left to herself to find her tupik. She stumbled along, occasionally bumping into things, until she found a tupik under her hands. Recklessly, she felt her way along the tupik until she came to the door. She pulled it open and was blown inside.
“Nanuq! Thank goodness you made it!” cried Yuralria. By chance, Nanuq had found her own tupik, and that in itself was very lucky. Her tupik was the last one in the line she was traveling, and if she had continued on, she would have gone out into the tundra and been lost. Yuralria hugged Nanuq close as Taliriktug put his large and on her shoulder. Nanuq was glad she had found her family, they were becoming as important to her as her aunt and uncle in America had been. She let Yuralria pull her close as the pirtuk howled and cried outside.
The pirtuk lasted for six days. At the end of the six days, Injuquaq looked outside and noticed the sun was shining brightly, and it took on the shape of the nannuraluk for a second. He turned to see Nanuq running towards him, stumbling slightly.
“Are the pups okay?” she shouted once inside earshot. Injuquaq nodded, and glanced over to where the dogs stayed. He did a double take for the cage was filled to the top with snow.
“Issora!” called Injuquaq, thinking that if Issora, the lead dog, heard, by all means the others would let him know that they were alive. Sure enough, loud barks and whimpering came from inside.
“Nanuq, can you get a digging stick for both of us from my tupik?” asked Injuquaq. Nanuq nodded and went inside. Injuquaq notice that she seemed slightly uncoordinated, but that was of no immediate worry. After all, she had probably been sitting the whole time during the blizzard. She came out a couple seconds later with the two sticks and they started digging. Nanuq soon stopped, panting.
“Sorry, but-” she broke off in a fit of coughing. Injuquaq looked at her with concern.
“Maybe you should go home and rest, it sounds like you have a cold,” suggested Injuquaq. Nanuq shook her head, but that only worsened the coughing.
“Yes, you are going home, I’ll make sure the dogs are okay,” decided Injuquaq as he lead Nanuq down the path between the houses. Nanuq tried to protest, but she couldn’t for lack of breath from her coughing fit. Later on, Injuquaq brought some coughing relief herbs, but he didn’t enter for fear of catching her cold.
The next day, however, he waited for Nanuq to come until the time when the sun was above his head. He was about to turn and go back into his tupik when Yuralria came running towards him with Taliriktug right on her heels.
“Nanuq!” Yuralria didn’t have to say any more. Injuquaq twirled around hurtled into his tupik. He blindly grabbed for his spirit bag and raced back out. Hurrying over to Nanuq’s tupik, he went over the amount of herbs he had, and wondered if there was anything that wouldn’t speed up her death. Once inside the tupik, he stopped short. Nanuq was lying on her bed, her face almost white, her scar was bright red. Only one thing could make the scars turn so red. Injuquaq walked to her bedside and lifted the sheets to see her left hand. It rested on her chest, showing a vivid red against her pale complexion. She sensed someone there and moved away, trying to hide her scar. Her eyes were tightly closed, tears were barely seeping out. As if moving caused it, she shrieked in pain and curled up tightly in a ball. Coughs racked her chest after she screamed, and her face was screwed up in pain.
“The light, the light, where is the light?” she murmured. Injuquaq was confused, all the other children hated light and would scream until they were in total blackness.
“She is scared of the dark,” explained Yuralria, wringing her hands.
“When we give her one, she screams that it’s too bright, but once we take it away she calls out for it,” added Taliriktug. Injuquaq thought this was strange, but whatever it was that had the young girl, and had taken all the other young children… Injuquaq stopped moving for a second. The spirit has only affected the youngest of the families; all the other children are healthy and well, thought Injuquaq. His thoughts raced faster, and faster. The spirit must only want the youngest, the most loved, he turned to Nanuq. She was the only child, but she wasn’t the youngest in her family. What she didn’t know was that she had two other brothers. They were triplets, and she was the first one born. Her brothers had died before they were recognized by their heart spirits, but she wasn’t the youngest. Even a tornuaq would know something like that. This tornuaq must not know her family well enough. There had to be some other force, something that directed the tornuaq, something or someone that lived within their tribe. Nanuq cried out again, her body curling in the spasms that were the signs that the tornuaq was ready to take her spirit sometime soon.
“How long has she been like this?” asked Injuquaq, worried that she was showing such advanced stages of the tornuaq’s disease.
“She complained of a headache this morning, and when she was boiling the water for breakfast, she fainted and wouldn’t wake up until we put her on her bed, and she started crying out in a different language. I think it was English, that language she learned to speak in America,” responded Taliriktug, holding a sobbing Yuralria in his arms. Injuquaq looked back down at the girl who had straightened out again, but was sweating considerably.
“Oogrooq, where is Buniq, I want her!” demanded Nanuq, her eyes snapping open. Injuquaq was surprised that she had even remembered whom he was, but immediately stood up and replied, “I will bring her presently.” He strode out the tupik and looked straight ahead until he found his tupik. Inside the dog enclosure, Buniq was standing and wondering where in the world her human was. By now, she should have been let outside and given a good brushing.
“Here Buniq, Nanuq wants to see you, but she’s sick, so don’t get rough with her,” warned Injuquaq, wondering how in the world this large, cream-colored husky would understand him. He didn’t know that Buniq’s spirit was able to help her understand humans. She also knew that Nanuq was what her human was called. She walked beside Injuquaq, smelling in his comforting scent that her mother had taught her before Nanuq came into her life. That scent was what brought them food and gave them exercise. When Nanuq came, Nanuq’s scent soon became the primary one in Buniq’s knowledge of scents. They reached another place-where-humans-live, and Injuquaq led her in. She saw her human laying on a platform, looking almost as white as snow. This was confusing to Buniq; usually she was the color of Qimmiq, her very brown brother.
“Buniq! Come over here,” rasped Nanuq, reaching out a weak hand to her favorite dog. Buniq trotted over and pushed her head under the hand. Nanuq smiled a weak smile, and slowly moved her hand across Buniq’s head until she reached her neck. There she stopped, and she didn’t move her hand to bring it up to Buniq’s head again. Buniq looked over at her human with confusion. She sent messages to Injuquaq, the one who could understand her talk, asking him to tell Nanuq that there was still a lot to do in life yet; she hadn’t even beaten Ataciara, her mother yet. Injuquaq looked back at her, nodded, and turned to Nanuq.
“Buniq tells me to tell you not to go yet, she still wants to beat Ataciara, she hasn’t done that yet,” reported Injuquaq.
“I don’t think Buniq said that, but I won’t go, I will watch her beat Ataciara by a mile,” smiled Nanuq. Buniq pawed Injuquaq and asked with her eyes why Nanuq didn’t believe she could talk. Injuquaq replied that she didn’t believe in spirits. Nanuq screamed suddenly and the room when deathly quiet. Buniq looked over in alarm at her human; she couldn’t hear her breathing anymore. Injuquaq reeled away from the girl. He lost conciseness, and behind his eyelids he saw the nannuraluk who had spoken to Nanuq, was it just yesterday? She looked at him and spoke in a deep, resounding voice that had a melodic tone to it.
“Come to the place we met. I have something I want to give to you, but first you must carve the white dog pulling a sled with the girl standing on it out of a bone you will find in her blankets. Make a small hole in the girl’s head, and then bring it to me. I will see you there.” She disappeared behind a snowdrift and Injuquaq woke back up. Nanuq was breathing again and her parents were looking at Injuquaq hopefully, maybe the vision he had just had was something that would help their daughter get well again. Injuquaq went over to her bed, and lifting the covers, saw in her left hand a bone that must have been left by the nannuraluk. He carefully pried it out of her hand and walked out of her tupik. He had a feeling that she wouldn’t die until the nannuraluk had given him the information she wanted to give him.
Once in his tupik, Injuquaq took down an old knife that had been passed down for generations. It had been specifically made for carving bone and wood into amulets or ornaments, but hadn’t been used since the angakuq before the one before him. As he studied the bone, he felt some sort of spirit guiding his hands. His vision shifted, and in the bone he saw the curve of the sled, saw the alert head of Buniq pointing straight ahead. He plunged the knife in; not worrying about being careful about how he was doing it, trusting that whoever was guiding him knew what it was doing. He sat there for hours, carving out of a bone one of the most beautiful dogs in the world. He attached her to a sled made for the spirits themselves. On the sled stood a young girl standing tall, a scar on her forehead, and one on her left hand that was clutching the grip of the sled. She looked ahead with a confidence that didn’t show any fear of anything. Her face showed one of suffering, of rejoicing, of laughter. The most important feature, and the one that was perfect, was the smile spread across her face. It was one of pure joy, one that showed the joy the girl felt just in being outside and sledding with Buniq. Her eyes shared that joy, although deep inside them they also showed pain and separation.
When he was finished with carving, Injuquaq delved into the supply of herbs that gave color to amulets and ceremonial clothing. With careful strokes, he gave the carving the colors of snow, wood, animal hides, and the color of the young girl that throughout his time with her, he had come to love. He didn’t bother to look at it while it dried; he went straight out and hooked up Issora to his sled. He went back in and wrapped it in a soft hide for the journey, bundled up tightly, pulling his parka over his head and adding extra fur to his boots. He stepped back outside and got on the sled. He called out to Issora and Issora jumped into a run. When they reached the place where he had seen the nannuraluk the day before, he stepped off his sled and was surrounded by the colors of the northern lights. The nannuraluk ambled over to him and sat down.
“Let us see your handiwork,” this time, her voice was like the millions of spirits that lived together. It was both airy and deep, melodic and rough. It echoed like in a canyon, but also didn’t reverberate around the area. The nannuraluk took the amulet in both her paws, surprisingly gentle with it. She looked over it, scrutinizing every cut made, every spot of paint. She grunted approval and handed it back to him.
“Hold it with the hole facing me,” she ordered. Injuquaq turned the piece so the small hole he had made in the top of the girl’s head was facing the giant white bear. She took a deep breath and exhaled deeply into the hole. The brilliance of her spirit passing through the air was too bright for Injuquaq. He closed his eyes until he could feel the darkness of the night. Slowly, he opened them and saw a k'eyush in the place of the once colossal nannuraluk. The k’eyush opened its mouth and spoke in the same voice the nannuraluk had.
“I will now go back to where I belong, but make sure that Nanuq holds that amulet before sunrise tomorrow. If the sun is up before she is touching it, she is too far-gone for even us spirits to help her. Go now, Issora is getting anxious,” directed the k’eyush as she turned around, headed for the kinguyakkii. Injuquaq stood spellbound for a few seconds, watching the place where the k’eyush had disappeared. Shaking his head, he caught sight of the kinguyakkii, which shone brightly with a white light. This wasn’t natural, although the kinguyakkii had many different colors; white was not one of them. A thought struck him; maybe the k’eyush was going back the place she called home when she wasn’t looking for whoever had her as their heart spirit. The kinguyakkii dimmed, and Injuquaq realized that the morning was coming soon, and with that, the sun. Injuquaq hurried back to the sled and called out to Issora, who leapt into a run once more and headed for home.
He looked over to the place where the sun woke up, and saw to his great horror that the sky was brightening in that area. He urged Issora on, trying not to look over again, but now his attention was fixed on the slowly rising sun. He could not see the actual sun yet, but he knew that it would be a matter of minutes until the sky became rose color, then a matter of seconds until the sun reached over the horizon. Nanuq was depending on him, and on Issora. If they didn’t make it, she would be getting ready to join the spirits. He called out, urging Issora on, waiting anxiously for the sky to grow brighter. He didn’t want the sun to rise, he didn’t want to have to say goodbye to Nanuq, he didn’t want to deliver her spirit to the spirits of her ancestors. She was too young, she didn’t deserve to die. These thoughts bounced around his head as he grew closer to the village. Just as he turned down into the village, he saw to his dismay that the sky was rose-colored. He cried out to the spirits to keep the sun asleep for a minute more as he jumped off the sled and hurtled down into the small tupik of Nanuq’s family. Nanuq was curled in a fetal position; her eyes were closed shut so tightly that tears were barely coming out. Her mouth was clamped shut and he could hear the muted screams that were trying to escape.
“Nanuq, Nanuq, don’t go yet, Injuquaq is here, you must hold on!” hissed Yuralria, cradling the girl’s head in her hand. Injuquaq carefully unwrapped the amulet and unclenched Nanuq’s hand. Just as the amulet barely brushed her palm, the sun rose, flashing inside the tupik with its brilliant light. Nanuq let out a bloodcurdling scream, her body unwound rapidly and her skin became so pale she seemed to be a ghost. Injuquaq wanted to run far, far away from the poor girl who was suffering so much, but he couldn’t move or else she would drop the amulet. He wrapped her hand around it, and she clenched it tightly, so tight her skin was white on her knuckles. Her whole body relaxed suddenly, and Injuquaq was just able to keep the amulet in her hands.
“Nanuq, you can do this, don’t worry, we’re all here, we’re all waiting for you,” whispered Injuquaq, his eyes worriedly searching for any sign of recognition from the girl. She didn’t do anything except clench her fist tighter. Her whole body clenched tight, and she opened her moth as if to scream. Yuralria behind him covered her ears as Taliriktug prepared to do the same. Instead of screaming however, something escaped from through her mouth. Injuquaq watched with fear in his eyes as the spirit-like tornuaq turned about in the air. It looked at Yuralria, who still had her hands over her ears, then at Taliriktug. Finally, it looked at Injuquaq, red eyes materializing for a second. Injuquaq looked back at the tornuaq, daring it to come closer. The tornuaq didn’t, instead it fled through the opening in the roof where the smoke from the fire went out through. Injuquaq looked at Nanuq, praying to the spirits that she wasn’t dead. Her chest wasn’t moving up and down, and for a moment, Injuquaq thought that he had lost her, that he had been too late when he first had her touch the amulet. Then, to his amazement, with her left hand, the one she kept under the blankets, she grabbed his left hand and held it tightly. She turned her head to him, and opened her mouth to speak.
“Shh, don’t, you’re going to be okay, don’t worry,” hushed Injuquaq, looking at the girl with a certain tenderness in his eyes. Yuralria and Taliriktug were surprised to see such kindness and tenderness in his eyes, the last time they had seen that in him was when his wife had been alive.
“I must say something,” panted Nanuq, her voice just above silence. Injuquaq leaned in closer to her to hear what she wanted to say.
“I’m sorry I didn’t believe in the spirits. I know that the tornuaq is really there, and that it is capable of killing many children. I know that it will be back, I want to go to the kinguyakkii,” whispered Nanuq, her voice getting stronger with each word she said.
“We can wait, until you’re better,” replied Injuquaq, his voice sounding smooth and clear. To Nanuq it felt as if she was floating, being lifted by just his voice. She felt as if the world would be right if only Injuquaq were there, to help guide her and help her. Something poked her, and she opened her eyes and brought her right hand up in front of her face. A beautifully carved bone of a girl riding a sled was sitting in her hand; a large dog that resembled Buniq was pulling it.
“This, this is beautiful,” she said in an undertone, looking in awe at the handiwork and colors. This was the first time that Injuquaq had actually seen it, and he too was awed at what his hands had done.
“Injuquaq, this, this is truly amazing,” Yuralria spoke, her voice sounding more afraid then awe. Nanuq turned her head and almost screamed as pain seared down her spine. She was able to close her mouth shut in time, but her pain did not go unnoticed by Injuquaq. His medicine back was still there, waiting for him to use it. He searched through it until he found some of the willow leaves that a medicine man from the last time their tribes met gave him. They worked wonders, and he saved them for only the most important ailments. He boiled them in water and poured them into a dipper for the girl to drink. Nanuq couldn’t move anything except her arms and hand, but she did accept the drink. It flowed smoothly down her throat, making her body relax and she was able to move without pain.
“Thanks,” she whispered, handing back the dipper. Her color was coming back rapidly, and her eyes were no longer tearing up. She was able to open them up, and she could look into light without crying or screaming. Injuquaq left with orders to let her sleep and give her water whenever she woke up. He stepped outside into the bright sunlight and stretched. People from the tribe had gathered around, preparing for the worst. When they saw Injuquaq stretching nonchalantly, however, they were confused.
“Isn’t the girl near death?” asked one of the women, her arm around her son.
“No, her heart spirit has given her the strength to move on,” replied Injuquaq, prepared for what came next.
“Why didn’t the rest of our children get the strength of their heart spirit?” demanded one of the men, shaking his fist. Injuquaq knew that he had four children, and their only boy had died from the tornuaq. If Injuquaq explained this in full, he would have to reveal what her heart spirit really looked like, but that was against what the people believed in. Instead, Injuquaq had thought of a different answer, just as whole and complete, but didn’t give away too much.
“The heart spirit of the girl was able to resist this tornuaq that had invaded her body. It was hard on the girl, and now she must rest and recover. She still might go if we allow any others to come into her tupik circle before she is entirely well. I am truly sorry that the rest of your children died, but I believe that this girl will make the tornuaq go away, and for that we must be grateful,” replied Injuquaq, noticing that Jonathan was standing near the back of the crowd. This was unusual, as he did not usually immerse himself in the tribe’s family concerns, he had not been present at any of the other families’ tupiks, although he must have heard the pain and grief that the family had gone through. That was a hard thing to hear, and most had rushed to the scene to comfort the family.
Jonathan turned his head slightly towards his wife who was crying because of the loss of the twins by the same thing that hadn’t taken Nanuq. Whether they were tears of joy for Nanuq’s survival, or tears of sadness and anger that her son’s hadn’t done the same, Injuquaq didn’t know, but he did know that she didn’t love her mate as much as she should have, and that was because he didn’t have ancestors where the boys needed to go so that they could be remembered in peace.
Nanuq was slowly regaining her former state of health back, and while she was doing this, Injuquaq was gathering food, water, blankets, and all the other things needed for a long sled ride to where the kinguyakkii was. According to legend, the kinguyakkii spirits would only accept a girl into their midst if there were two boys other than an Angakuq present. Therefore, on all his forages out into the village, Injuquaq would study some of the young men close in age to Nanuq. He found two, Shtiya and Nukilik, both of them respectable young men who were able to take on the harsh journey with a half-well girl. However, he didn’t count on Jonathan, the American. Soon after he heard of the journey to the kinguyakkii, Jonathan hurried over to Injuquaq’s tupik and burst inside, a very rude thing, and told him that he must come along, to study what they did at rituals such as this. Injuquaq saw no reason in being rude back to him, and although the people of the tribe would never think of doing such a thing, Injuquaq decided to let Jonathan come along.
“On one condition, however. You are not to come near the place where the spirits will touch the earth, as it is sacred ground and only a few are admitted there. I will not have you making the spirits angry, and I will not endanger our expedition if you fall behind. I am not going to wait for you, or do anything of the sort. Do you understand?” questioned Injuquaq. Jonathan nodded his head, although he was annoyed that Injuquaq was talking in a slower tone, as if he didn’t understand Inuktitut perfectly well. Walking away, Jonathan spat on the ground to show what he thought of Injuquaq. This did not escape the notice of Injuquaq, but he decided to ignore it. This irritated Jonathan even more; Injuquaq didn’t even seem to get angry.
“Nanuq, are you sure you want to do this, you know that you don’t have to,” pleaded Yuralria, wringing her hands as Nanuq stumbled out to her sled.
“Aga, I have to do this. The nannuraluk told me that this was the only way to stay safe. I’ll miss you,” replied Nanuq in a scratchy voice. The only sign that she had fought the tornuaq was that her voice was slightly scratchy. Yuralria went over and hugged her daughter, followed by Taliriktug. Shtiya and Nukilik both came up on one sled, they were going to take turns running and riding, and Injuquaq appeared with the last bundle to strap onto Nanuq’s sled.
“We’re all here, except for Jonathan,” counted Injuquaq.
“Jonathan’s coming!?” exclaimed Shtiya, surprised.
“Yes, we wouldn’t want to be rude, especially since he asked to go along,” replied Injuquaq. Shtiya mumbled something under his breath to Nukilik, but to his dismay Yuralria heard him.
“Shhh, you shouldn’t say such things about your elders. I don’t care if he isn’t one of us; he is still your elder. What did your mother teach you?” scolded Yuralria, her hands on her hips.
“Aga,” mumbled Nanuq, blushing slightly, although you couldn’t see it. This was the first time that Shtiya had seen Nanuq, and so he turned and found himself looking at a young woman slightly shorter then Yuralria. The sun was just coming up, and it silhouetted her figure as she slowly advanced. Her long black hair shone in the morning light, and her dark eyes stood out of her gaunt face. Both Nukilik and Shtiya had heard of the miraculous story of her recovery, and to Shtiya, whose sister had been killed by the tornuaq, she was even more a miracle.
“Sorry I’m late, I forgot-” called Jonathan, his sentence cut short as he first laid eyes on Nanuq close up. Shtiya and Nukilik turned around, Nukilik with a frown on his face. Nanuk smiled in greeting, and croaked a good morning. Jonathan at first didn’t understand that the voice came from her; he thought that surely she would have a voice like the angles of the God he believed in.
“Are you ready Jonatan?” asked Injuquaq, Jonathan’s name awkward in the older man’s mouth. Jonathan nodded, and Injuquaq pulled out some provisions in a backpack.
“Here,” he said, handing the backpack to Jonathan. Jonathan sank down in the snow under the wait of the pack.
“What’s in here?” he exclaimed. Injuquaq didn’t say anything, just handed the packs out to Nukilik and Shtiya who shouldered the packs without a complaint. Injuquaq also handed one to Nanuq, but from sight Jonathan could tell it wasn’t as heavy as his and the other two young man with unpronounceable names. Nanuq smiled in thanks before her body shook as coughs racked it. The three young men all exchanged glances of concern, Nanuq seemed much to thin to be out of bed, let alone getting ready to travel a grueling distance in difficult conditions.
“Does she really have to go?” asked Jonathan, his concern for the girl almost too great to control.
“Shh, we don’t talk about other’s problems, but yes, she does have to go,” scolded Shtiya softly as he checked over his sled.
“Jonatan, you will be going with Nukilik, Shtiya, I need your sled for provisions. Nanuq is also taking some, but her dogs aren’t quite ready for as much as you and I can carry, so we will be taking most of the provisions,” announced Injuquaq as he pull out bags of food and water and started taking them over to where the small party was. Shtiya walked over and helped Injuquaq, as did Nukilik after throwing a glare Jonathan’s way. Jonathan didn’t understand why Nukilik couldn’t have taken the provisions, or why he seemed to hate him so much. There was that other thing, but then, no one knew about that, he had been promised.
“Jonatan, come help us,” grunted Shtiya as he lifted a large bag of food. Jonathan walked over and helped Shtiya left it, and together they heaved the bag over to the sled. Shtiya was very friendly, and Jonathan thought that he could get along very well with him, whereas with Nukilik, that was another story.
“Jonathan, thank you for coming,” whispered Nanuq as she walked past him. For a second, Jonathan was surprised to hear someone say his name correctly, until he remembered that she had lived in America and had learned how to speak English fairly well.
“Jonatan, come help us,” called Shtiya again as he headed back over to the pile of things. Jonathan followed with an inaudible sigh.
“Let me help, please,” begged Nanuq, her voice sounding rough from the coughing fit she had just experienced.
“No Nanuq, sorry, but we’ve got it,” muttered Injuquaq as he lifted up a large caribou-hide bag with little effort.
“Nanuq, come over here, your father and I have something for you,” called Yuralria. Nanuq trotted over to her mother, only to be overcome by another coughing fit. Yuralria patted her back until she recovered, and then Taliriktug stepped over with a small package in his hands.
“I never really thought that I would be giving my daughter something like this, but I feel like you need guidance, and your mother and I would like to be with you wherever you are,” grunted Taliriktug, slightly embarrassed. Nanuq took the small package from her father’s hands and opened it to find a small carving of an arctic fox and an arctic hare hugging each other. Nanuq looked up with tears in her eyes, the carving was hastily done and hadn’t been finished, but it meant the world to her. Injuquaq was surprised; the girl’s parents were practically trusting their heart spirits to the girl, barely recovered from the sickness of the tornuaq as she was. Nukilik turned his head away to hide his surprise, Shtiya busied himself in the supplies he was checking, but Jonathan openly stared. Nanuq turned and saw him, and when her eyes met his he turned his head, red with shame. In her eyes he had seen not anger but surprise that he was not abiding by the rules of privacy and was staring at her and had seen the conversation between her family.
“Jonatan, Shtiya, Nukilik, Nanuq, dogs, are you ready?” asked Injuquaq, breaking the awkward silence. The four young adults nodded, loaded on their respective sleds, and headed off. Yuralria and Taliriktug waved until they could no longer see the sleds, then turned and entered their tupik, knowing full well they may never see any of the sleds, dogs, or people again.
Nanuq enjoyed the feeling of the wind on her face again, so long after her confinement in the tupik. She knew that she should take it easy, but she didn’t really care. She just wanted to ride until she reached the end of the ice. The vast landscape was before her, and she was going across it until she found the kinguyakkii, the place where the spirits she now believed in with all her heart danced and where they would cure her.
“Nanuq, slow down!” laughed Shtiya, urging his dogs on to catch Nanuq. Nanuq smiled at this young man she barely knew, liking him already for his boyish and easygoing character. Shtiya seemed like a good pikatti, she couldn’t wait to get to know him better. Nanuq smiled at the wind that was blowing in her face, and wanted to scream out her joy at being able to be out in the world. There was nothing she would rather be doing, and being out here with Injuquaq was even better.
“Nanuq, slow down, you must be careful,” called Injuquaq as he pulled up beside Nanuq’s sled. Nanuq smiled at him, feeling for all the world she could continue smiling until she reached the kinguyakkii.
“Nanuq, Nanuq, Nanuq, slow down, slow down, slow down,” replied Nanuq. “It seems like all you are doing now is telling me to slow down. I don’t want to slow down, I want to run forever, life is so good!”
Injuquaq didn’t want to quench her fun, but he knew that sometime she would have to stop because of what she had been through. He thought again about smiling, but yet again, his face did not remember how to do it.
“Injuquaq, why are you grimacing?” asked Nukilik, pulling his sled close to Injuquaq’s.
“Nothing, I just, I just stepped on a rock in my boot,” replied Injuquaq, embarrassed. Nukilik gave Injuquaq a quick disbelieving glance, but didn’t comment any more. Jonathan was very uncomfortably situated in the top part of the sled, cushioned by hard bags of dried meat on his back and bum, and over him he had more bags, these of water. Water in large quantities was very heavy, but because the other thing he could be doing was running beside the sled, he chose to sit in the uncomfortable sled. Shtiya had fallen back a bit, but he was still close enough to see everyone and their facial expressions. On Nanuq’s face there was an expression of pure enjoyment, on Injuquaq’s face there was an expression of kindness and adventure/excitement, on Nukilik’s face there was one of distaste, and that was easily figured out because of the face disfigured by pain and discomfort sitting on the sled before him.
“Shtiya, hurry up!” called Nukilik, seemingly unaware that Shtiya had been studying him. Shtiya urged his dogs on, passing Nukilik, knowing that his competitive streak wouldn’t let him stay behind for long. Sure enough, Nukilik soon came even with Shtiya. The two, with the extremely frightened Jonathan screaming all the way, raced until they came to the start of a fjord. There they raced each other in circles, losing some of their items until Injuquaq and Nanuq appeared. Nanuq saw them, and laughed so loud it echoed across the fjord. Injuquaq immediately stopped, and called for the boys to do the same. Ears alert, he scanned the walls of the fjord. Jonathan had stopped screaming, but wasn’t silent. He stepped out of the sled and almost shouted, “That is the last time I am getting in a sled, I do not like moving fast, I do not like watching dogs kick snow up at me from behind their-” A low rumbling sound came from the top of the right side of the valley. Four human heads and forty dog heads snapped up to where the sound came from. Jonathan continued his rank until Shtiya jumped off his sled and knocked Jonathan down so that his loud voice was muted by the snow. Injuquaq held up his hand for silence, although it was not needed. Everyone, except Jonathan, whose head was in the snow, was perfectly silent. The rumbling sound continued, followed by a large crack!
“Run!” screamed Injuquaq as a large slab of snow slid off the sides of the fjord, both sides had a truyi headed down toward the travelers. Shtiya pulled Jonathan up out of the snow and almost threw the full-grown young man back onto Nukilik’s sled. The two Inuit boys grabbed the things that they had dropped when playing around and jumped back on their sleds as the dogs started moving forward. The racing snow was coming closer and closer; it was bound right towards them, and would bury them if they didn’t get out of the way soon enough. All four of the sleds were headed flat out of where they could see the land flattened out; knowing that even once they were out there would be no assurance that they would be safe from the racing snow.
“Oh no!” cried Nanuq. She stopped and turned back to grab the spirit carving of the animals her parents had given her.
“Nanuq, no!” called Injuquaq as she raced back to her sled. He knew that she had cost her life the precious time that might have helped her make it out to safety.
“Injuquaq, don’t wait for her! If she is really to live, the spirits will let her, they won’t let her be killed by the truyi!” called Nukilik, seeing Injuquaq hesitating.
“Injuquaq, don’t worry about her, just keep moving!” shouted Shtiya urging his dogs on faster.
“AHHHHHHHHH!” screamed Jonathan, shutting his eyes tight. This was worse than when they were racing, because at least that time they had been perfectly safe, there had been no worry of being buried under a large amount of snow. All Jonathan was really hoping at that moment was that his God would be able to take him even though he was where no one had even heard of Him.
“Nanuq!” called Injuquaq in anguish as Nanuq’s sled move quickly towards him and the boys, but not fast enough. Injuquaq and the boys got out of the way fast enough, they were soon out of range of the truyi, but there was nothing they could do about Nanuq. The snow was approaching her closely; it was almost on the back of her sled. On one side, the snow was in front of Buniq and Qannik who were running full-out. Ataciara and her mate were whimpering in worry about their pups who were very clearly not going to run all the way to them without being taken out by the truyi.
“Injuquaq, Nanuq will be okay, the spirits will surely reward her for not letting them get covered in snow, they won’t let the same fate happen to her,” grunted Shtiya as he and Nukilik held Injuquaq back. Injuquaq let out an anguished cry as he saw Nanuq’s head disappear under a wave of snow. Ataciara let out a long, hair-raising howl, joined soon after by all the dogs. They stopped for a second, then did it again. Four times they repeated it, until however faintly everyone heard a replying howl from under the now-stopped truyi. Injuquaq unfastened his dogs and motioned for Shtiya and Nukilik to do the same. The dogs spread out and put their noses to the ground. Jonathan was sobbing in Nukilik’s sled, thinking that Nanuq was lost forever and they were lost and it was all his fault.
“Jonatan, hurry up and come over here,” hollered Shtiya. “And bring some of those shovels you’re sitting on while you’re at that.” Jonathan didn’t know why they would bother, but he did as they asked him to. Armed with shovels, the three Inuits spread out across the area where they had heard the howl. Soon enough, they found the area where the howl sounded the loudest and they furiously dug. Soon they uncovered the fingers of a caribou glove.
“Nanuq, if you can hear me, wiggle your fingers!” bellowed Injuquaq, making sure that she could hear him. The fingers wiggled very slowly, and the furious digging intensified. Jonathan could only watch in amazement, he didn’t think that anyone could have survived; he had read somewhere that the snow would set in like cement around a victim caught in it. Soon Nanuq, her sled, and the dogs were uncovered. Everyone was checked over, and the only injuries were a couple of bruises and a mild case of hypothermia that was quickly taken care of. Nanuq didn’t seem to care that she had been within an inch of death; she told them that all along she had felt her mother and father’s spirits within her, helping her breath even buried under six feet of snow. Although Injuquaq was worried about how her already weak body would react to the plunge under the snow, he didn’t voice any of his worries to her just because he was afraid of the brushing off that he was bound to receive.
“Oogrooq, I’m fine, really, don’t worry about it,” Nanuq said softly, noticing that Injuquaq was slightly on edge. Injuquaq tried to smile, but it didn’t happen, to Nanuq’s eyes, he looked only more worried.
“Injuquaq, the sun is setting sooner, soon the spirits will put him to sleep,” observed Nukilik. Nanuq was surprised to hear Nukilik talk so freely, the dark youth had seemed to be the kind who wouldn’t talk unless they were specifically asked. Nanuq looked out of the corner of her eyes at the young man who had pulled her out of the snow’s icy hold. She could see why Yuralria had been extremely excited when his mother had talked to her about a possible union. Still, there was some sort of foreboding air about Nukilik, something that made Nanuq wary of him. She didn’t like him, she decided, she really didn’t like him. She felt a slush ball on her back and turned to see Shtiya’s guilty face a few feet away. Injuquaq was preoccupied trying to tell where they were in the surroundings that were less familiar now that the tryui had almost buried the small fjord. Nanuq scooped up a bit of snow off the ground and flung it right in Shtiya’s face. He howled in fury, but before he could retaliate, Injuquaq had pinpointed something in the distance and called out the directions for them to follow.
“Nanuq threw a snowball at me!” complained Shtiya as he loaded up his sled. Jonathan was helping move things from Shtiya’s sled to Nukilik’s, as Injuquaq had decided that Shtiya was better suited to watching out for Jonathan than taking care of the supplies, he had lost a major bag of dried meat while racing from the tryui because he hadn’t taken a second to make sure it was completely tied down. Injuquaq thought that if Shtiya couldn’t watch out for Jonathan, there was nothing he could do.
They traveled for several more miles, keeping up a steady pace. They soon came to a place to spend the night, where they dug a small pit to put the dogs in, another for the food which they covered up, and finally started on another for them, as the wind had picked up and was blowing fiercely. Using their ulus, they all dug small blocks of snow and laid them in a circular pattern, slowly building up the walls until they had made a spacious place known to Jonathan as an igloo, but to the Inuits it was an iglopuk. They finished it just as the wind howled fiercer, causing their parka’s to whip up around their heads. They quickly went inside, putting a flap of animal skin between them and the howling wind.
Overnight, the wind turned into a ferocious pirtuk, tearing at the sides of the iglopuk. Nanuq kept them entertained using her ulu to sketch stories in the snow and telling them. Although they were all tales they had heard before, with the wind blowing outside, there was nothing more comforting than the sounds of old storied being retold. Near the end of the pirtuk, Nanuq was telling the story of how four men had built their first iglopuk, but they hadn’t done it well, and during the first unalaq the iglopuk groaned once, twice, and then fell down, burying the unfortunate men underneath. The people of the village had come out to laugh at the men’s folly, and their Angakuq had told them that they didn’t deserve to have a wife if they couldn’t build a good house over their heads. At that point in time the iglopuk shook with laughter because the Nukilik and Shtiya had both had their iglopuks cave in on them, but that was only because they were roughhousing and didn’t pay attention to how close they were to the walls, and the summer sun melted most of it.
“What was that!” cried Jonathan, hearing a low groan from the wall behind him.
“Nothing Jonatan, you’re just imagining th-” started Shtiya. The low groan grew louder, and with a heart-stopping grumble, the iglopuk caved down on the travelers. Nanuq felt the blocks of snow falling on top of her and screamed in horror. There was no light, she was trapped under snow. It was worse than when the tryui had buried her, because at least then she had been able to see light. Now she couldn’t even tell if her eyes were open or not because of the complete darkness.
“Help! Help!” she screamed, feeling the darkness close in on her. She felt a cough coming up her throat, but tried to push it back down, unsuccessfully. Her coughing fit lasted two minutes, and when she was finished, she heard more crunching of snow. The last blocks were settling in, and she knew unless they moved they would be stuck under the snow forever, a freezing grave. She tried to speak again, but her voice rasped and she couldn’t even hear herself, let alone those who where buried ten feet away from her. She moved her feet and felt a sharp pain go up her calf. Moving her hand down, she blindly felt for her ulu, and found it. Remembering the story she had told, about the four young men, she remembered the part about how a kindly woman had taken pity on them and dug them out with her ulu, she dug her ulu into the snow. She rotated it around and around, snow falling down on her head from the frozen blocks. The ulu pierced through and she saw light, precious light from above. She continued to dig furiously, making her way out. Once outside she breathed in the fresh air, feeling the soft breeze, all that was left of the pirtuk, move along her furry, snow-covered parka. She heard yelling and remembered her duty to her friends.
“Hold on, I’m coming!” she shouted, hoping they could hear. She grabbed her ulu again and dug deeply into the snow, slowly making her way down to where Injuquaq was. He hauled himself out and helped her with the digging of the others. When they were finished, they quickly packed. Injuquaq patched up her leg where she had cut it on her ulu, and they started off again, in near darkness. The kinguyakkii was glowing brighter and closer, and as they traversed the snowy miles, Injuquaq began to feel a darkness on his heart.
Four days of traveling across a steadily darkening landscape was soon almost unbearable. Nanuq, Injuquaq, Shtiya, and Nukilik were having trouble keeping their eyes open, every now and then their eyes would shut and they would sway off course before opening them up again. Nanuq’s cough was worsening, Injuquaq was sure it was because of their time buried in the iglopuk, although he didn’t feel very well himself. He watched the kinguyakkii every night, but he still didn’t feel any closer to it than they were the last night, although he knew they had to be closer because of the miles they had crossed during the day, that certainly felt like night to Jonathan. He slept the whole time they traveled and was wide awake when the others slept. Part of why he didn’t sleep was because the kinguyakkii were so bright. He remembered his science teacher in middle school calling the Aurora Borealis, some of the most beautiful things the earth had ever experienced.
“They are made of the matter called plasma, although if you go back in time to other legends, it is really interesting to read about what the Eskimos called them,” his teacher had said. Now Jonathan knew what his teacher meant, and also how wrong he was. The people still believed that the Aurora Borealis were spirits, and they were not called Eskimos. Right off he had been told that Eskimo wasn’t who they were, it was what the pale-faced men, like him, had called them. They were Inuit, that was who they were, it was how they lived.
“Jonathan, what are you doing up so late?” Nanuq’s voice by his ear startled Jonathan. He jumped and turned to see her standing behind him.
“Can’t sleep,” he shrugged. Nanuq looked slightly puzzled, then, quickly turning to glance back at the others sleeping she looked back at him and replied softly, “Why are you speaking in English. Surely you can speak in Inuktitut.”
“You’re speaking in English too,” accused Jonathan, but he did not revert back to Inuktitut. Nanuq asked a question with her large, brown eyes, and Jonathan nodded. She took a seat next to him and looked up at the kinguyakkii, studying every mysterious movement that it did as it danced across the night sky.
“I’m worried about Oogrooq, Injuquaq, I mean,” she said abruptly. Jonathan was slightly startled; she had never openly talked to him, especially about private things.
“Why?” he asked, as soon as the words were out of his mouth he realized what a dim-witted question that it was.
“Well, he is quieter, and he doesn’t reply as quickly as he usually does. He doesn’t seem to get enough sleep, but he sleeps more than the rest of us. I think he’s sick, but I don’t know what it is!” she chewed her lip. “If only I knew what it was, maybe I could give him something.” Only Nanuq would notice if Injuquaq was quieter, or if he answered slower. Injuquaq seemed like the quietest person Jonathan had ever met, and he also didn’t have very much to say, but he always seemed to think hard before answering a question, thought Jonathan. He heard a soft sigh from her, and turning to her he saw to his surprise tears running down her cheeks.
“Nanuq, what’s wrong?” he asked, feeling awkward.
“Injuquaq is more like a father to me than anyone else; I don’t know what I would do without him. Did he tell you that he saved my life when the tornuaq had me in its claws ready to take me away?” she quietly explained, wiping her tears before they froze on her face in the negative degree night. Jonathan was starting to feel really awkward, but he tried not to show it.
“What exactly does having the tornuaq feel like?” asked Jonathan, reaching around Nanuq’s shoulders. She leaned into his arm, something he hadn’t expected, but sort of welcomed.
“Terrible. You feel like you can’t sleep, can’t drink, eat, or even talk. The slightest movement hurts, whether it’s on purpose or on accident. Oh Jonathan, if I lose Oogrooq, I don’t know what I’ll do!” Nanuq shuddered in Jonathan’s arm, her sobs shaking him. Jonathan looked up to the kinguyakkii, the lights fading softly, signaling the start of another day.
“If Injuquaq dies, I’ll take care of you,” he vowed, unaware that from behind him Nukilik was watching, and the look he gave Jonathan was anything but friendly.
Four days later, Injuquaq spotted an inukshuk. He turned slightly off course to get to the inukshuk. When Jonathan asked him why, Injuquaq replied that often times an inukshuk showed travelers how to find food. When they reached the inukshuk, Shtiya soon spotted an uglu in the ice not far from it. A seal was coming up for breath at that moment and Shtiya was able to catch it quickly. Injuquaq blessed the spirits for bringing the seal at just the right moment, almost all their food was gone. The seal was a full-grown young male; he would supply food for the rest of their journey and for most of their return journey, if they were careful. Nanuq took out her ulu and cut out the seal’s bladder and handed it to Injuquaq. Saying the proper words, Injuquaq thanked the seal for coming to them when they most needed it, and tossed the bladder back into the ocean so that the seal’s spirit could return to its home. Nanuq cut up the rest of the seal and that night they had a feast.
“Wow Nanuq, this food is really good!” exclaimed Shtiya as he got his second serving of the stew Nanuq had made. Nukilik was silent, although it was apparent that he was enjoying his food. He had a far-away look in his eyes, as though he was remembering. Nanuq too was remembering, the last time she had served this stew it was for Nukilik’s coming-of-age ceremony where she had passed out. She flushed slightly as she remembered, although she didn’t bring it up, Injuquaq noticed her blush.
“Jonathan, have some more soup, please,” pleaded Nanuq since all Jonathan had eaten was half a bowl. He shook his head and turned away from her. Ever since that night when they had sat together under the kinguyakkii he had been feeling wrong, and even eating what Nanuq had made out of the pure goodness of her soul made him sick. He wanted to shout out what he had done, but he couldn’t pull the words out from where they were stuck in his throat, the whole reason he wanted to come along. There was something in his throat, choking him, restraining his breathing. He saw out of the corner of his eye Nanuq asking him something, but it was all lost in blackness as he fought to say conscious. He felt heavy thumping on his back, but it did not hurt him, he tried to breath but he couldn’t. Blackness, cool, dark, blackness enveloped his mind.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” asked Nanuq for the tenth or twelfth time. After Jonathan had passed out, Shtiya had pounded on his back and was able to dislodge the piece of seal meat that was choking him. Jonathan nodded, rubbing his throat just the same. Shtiya thought that it was just Jonathan being careless and not watching how big his bites were, but Injuquaq and Nukilik thought differently. While Jonathan and Shtiya were packing up camp and Nanuq was hitching up the dogs they conversed in low tones.
“I saw his face right before he blacked out, there was defiantly something that was causing him to choke, and it wasn’t the food,” whispered Nukilik hotly.
“I know, I saw it too, but we cannot accuse him of something we don’t know of for sure,” replied Injuquaq, lowering his voice as Jonathan came near to gather the sleeping furs.
“What’s more, I saw him with Nanuq the other night, he had his arm around her but it wasn’t because he was trying to comfort her, even though she was crying. I think that he was trying to do something to her, because when she moved away his face looked like she had just thwarted his plans,” hissed Nukilik, just above silence. Injuquaq shushed Nukilik, but did think about what he had said. Cursing his slowness and inability to see the closeness until now between the young Inuit girl and the young American man, Injuquaq made his way over to the sleds to inspect Nanuq’s work. She looked on anxiously, until a coughing fit made her turn away. Injuquaq could find nothing wrong with the harnesses, and so they moved on.
“I hope to be within the circle of the kinguyakkii by the time the sun sets, for tonight is the night that the spirits will put it to rest,” announced Injuquaq as they started. Nanuq noticed with concern that even that short statement had put Injuquaq out of breath.
“Oogrooq, are you okay?” she asked softly, pulling her sled up next to his. Injuquaq nodded, looking straight ahead.
“No, you’re not, you’ve been sick, you need to rest,” responded Nanuq decisively.
“Not yet, we’ve got to get to the (pant) kinguyakkii,” panted Injuquaq. Nukilik watched the conversation between mentor and student, but felt like there was something missing. Sure enough, he looked and saw Jonathan staring at the two as well, but there was something else in his eyes besides admiration for Nanuq. It was murder, realized Nukilik with a start. Jonathan was the one who was responsible for Injuquaq’s decline. At Nukilik’s moment of realization, Injuquaq suddenly grabbed his left hand and fell off the sled with a howl of pain. His dogs, unused to having no rider stopped immediately.
“Oogrooq, no!” shouted Nanuq, stopping her sled and racing over to Injuquaq’s prone figure blinded by tears. Jonathan was somehow out of Shtiya’s sled and in front of Nanuq before she could get to Injuquaq.
“Jonatan, get out of the way!” shouted Nanuq, tearing at his clothes as she tried to get to Injuquaq.
“No Nanuq, I told you I’d take care of you, didn’t I? This old man,” here he kicked Injuquaq, who moaned in pain, “wouldn’t do the same for you as I would. Come with me Nanuq, come back to America with me,” gestured Jonathan, somewhat hurt that she hadn’t pronounced his name correctly in his grief.
“Jonathan, no, you must let me by,” replied Nanuq in desperation, she could see that Injuquaq was in pain.
“He won’t give you what you need, what you want, I will do all that, and more,” replied Jonathan, his hands wide in an invitation.
“Jonatan, not, you aren’t doing this, let me by!” screamed Nanuq as Injuquaq convulsed once.
Don’t let her by, don’t let her by, hissed a voice that seemed to come from everywhere and Jonathan all at the same time. With a chill of horror, Nanuq recognized it as the voice that had tormented her when the tornuaq inhabited her.
“Jonathan, you sent the tornuaq, you are the one who did it all!” shrieked Nanuq.
“No, he didn’t, but I did,” said another voice. Nanuq twirled around to see a large Inuit with Nukilik and Shtiya in his grasp. Both the boys were trying to warn her, but because of the giant’s hands over their mouths, not a word could escape. The man towered over her, his appearance was frightening. A scar cut across both cheeks, and busy eyebrows almost covered a small tattoo that Nanuq couldn’t quite make out. His feet were twice the size of Taliriktug’s, who had the largest feet in the tribe.
“Jonatan here was just the one who scouted out the children. I wanted to make sure that my tornuaq affected everyone in that tribe of yours, the one that threw me out,” snarled the man, bringing Nanuq’s attention back to his face. Nanuq was in shock, Jonathan, the one she had began to trust with her life, the one she had even started to love, was in cohorts with this man and the tornuaq?
“Ah, you wonder why your beloved tribe threw me out, don’t you eh?” sneered the man as he misread the look of disbelief on Nanuq’s face. He plowed on without letting Nanuq reply.
“Yuralria was one of the women my mother took into account when she started thinking about a union. Both Taliriktug and I were the best of friends, and he already had a wife, Anernerk, and he was happy with her. Then tragedy struck. Anernerk died during childbirth with the baby, and Taliriktug was heartbroken. Yuralria felt for him, and instead of me getting her, your father got her instead. I didn’t think that was fair, after all he had already had his chance at raising a family and they had all died. Also, Yuralria had already pledged her love to me, but Injuquaq, our esteemed Angakuq said that Yuralria was destined for him.
“I didn’t understand so I went out a got enough meat for our whole village to show I could take care of a family, but in my absence Taliriktug killed off a asiavik who was threatening our tribe. In anger I threw my bola at him, nearly killing him. Injuquaq forbade me to come near Taliriktug again, but he still allowed me to live in the village. Then his wife and Yuralria became pregnant. Yuralria went into labor early, and had to be taken into Injuquaq’s tupik. She was the last one. Two days later Injuquaq came out of the tupik with three small, black-haired babies, tears in his eyes. Taliriktug thought that Yuralria had died, and he almost turned his back on the tribe and would have left us forever until Injuquaq looked him straight in the eye and held him in his place.
“’Yuralria is not dead, although she came very near. During her labor, my wife went into labor too and the spirits took both her and her child. Yuralria gave birth to these three, they are yours,’ and there his voice broke. I was enraged, why would Yuralria survive the birth of three when Injuquaq’s wife didn’t survive the birth of one. I turned on Taliriktug; know that those would have been my children if he hadn’t been mated to her. I would have killed him if Injuquaq hadn’t stepped in my way. He told the entire village my heart spirit was now an asiavik, for I was as horrid and terrible as they were. I was never to been seen again, and I was banished from the tribe. Now, I have had my revenge, but not completely. After the old man, it’s you!” snarled the man. Nanuq shrunk in terror as she heard his story, she hadn’t before heard it.
“You’re wrong!” shouted Shtiya who had freed his mouth from the man’s hands. “Yuralria didn’t ever love another; Taliriktug was always her one and only love!” The man covered Shtiya’s mouth up again, saying, “That will be enough from you, young man.”
“I don’t believe you, I never will. You are a big-headed, good-for-nothing, stinking asiavik tornuaq, and this is what I think of you!” declared Nanuq, sweeping her hand full of ice particles up into the big man’s face. In one motion she pivoted and did the same to Jonathan just as the kinguyakkii shone brighter. Jonathan moaned in pain and blindly ran off. Nanuq raced over to Injuquaq’s side.
“Oogrooq, I’m here, don’t go, please don’t go,” whispered Nanuq, her eyes filled with tears.
“Nanuq, oh Nanuq,” whispered Injuquaq, looking up at her. She searched his eyes for the light that had filled him before, the light of his life, but couldn’t find it.
“Don’t go Oogrooq, please,” begged Nanuq, clutching his hand.
“I must, but before I go, I need to tell you something,” panted Injuquaq as he squeezed his eyes shut in pain.
“Shh, don’t say anything, shh,” shushed Nanuq as she stroked his face. He yelled in pain, but Nanuq didn’t seem to notice. She saw across Injuquaq’s body the form of a k'eyush, a white one. She seemed to be pointing at something, and Nanuq heard in a breath of wind Use your amulet, use your amulet. She tore off the amulet of the girl riding a dog sled out from under her clothing, tearing the strip of leather that had held it around her neck. She held it close to Injuquaq’s heart, not knowing what else to do. For a second, she heard nothing, then she heard the unsteady beating of Injuquaq’s heart. It faltered, and then continued, trying to keep the beat it once had so effortlessly. Moving the amulet up and down Injuquaq’s body, she found she could hear inside his body. A low hissing sound near his head told her of the location of the tornuaq. She dug deep inside her body and found her heart spirit, that of a full-gown, ferocious nannuraluk protecting her cubs.
“Oogrooq, don’t go yet, don’t go yet,” she hissed as she pulled her heart spirit out to fight the tornuaq. The nannuraluk was a fighter, once she noticed the foreign invader in Injuquaq’s body she raced out to meet it. The tornuaq was an asiavik and didn’t give up a fight easily. The large man had dropped Shtiya and Nukilik and was trying to hold off Nanuq’s spirit, but wasn’t succeeding. Nanuq’s spirit was pure and clean of all evil, but his was full of evil, and he had the blood of innocent children on his hands. Nanuq fought with all her might, and eventually the tornuaq fled from Injuquaq’s body. Slowly, Injuquaq regained his color and looked Nanuq straight in the eye.
“How did you do that?” he asked, his voice incredulous.
“I-I don’t know,” replied Nanuq, slightly stunned.
“So, the great Injuquaq returns to life. Mark my words, this will not be the last you see of me!” panted the great man as he turned and ran off.
“What lies did that tonrar tell you?” questioned Injuquaq as he watched the man run off. Nanuq was slightly stunned to hear that Injuquaq sounded just like he did in full heath, as it had taken her awhile to regain her strength.
“He told her the story of her birth,” replied Nukilik for her.
“And that in itself is a lie,” sighed Injuquaq. All three heads snapped up.
“Nanuq was not born to Yuralria and Taliriktug, although she was born at the same time as their children. Nanuq is my daughter, my firstborn. My wife was pregnant at the same time Yuralria was, and she and Yuralria went into labor together. Nanuq was born as my wife died, and Yuralria had three. One was dead, a small girl. I exchanged Nanuq and the stillborn and told Yuralria that she had three healthy children. She asked about my wife, and I told her she didn’t make it. After your birth, Nanuq, Yuralria and the other two fell deathly ill, and I couldn’t do anything to help them. My wife’s spirit came to me and told me that I needed to keep our daughter safe, and so I had her sent off to America to keep her safe. Nanuq, I never meant to hurt you, I wanted so much to have you as a daughter, but I couldn’t take care of you without a wife, and so I entrusted your care into Yuralria’s hands, knowing she would take good care of you. Nanuq, my daughter, I love you, I’ve loved you ever since I first saw you when I named you,” recounted Injuquaq. Nanuq sat still in shock, she hadn’t know that she was Injuquaq’s daughter.
“You! You knew all along, you told me lies! I will have your precious daughter for this Injuquaq, I will!” bellowed the man, who hadn’t left after all. He thundered towards Nanuq, pointing his finger at her and shouting to his heart spirit to get her.
“Run Nanuq, run all three of you!” screamed Injuquaq. The three young people scrambled to their feet and started sprinting in the direction of the kinguyakkii. The tornuaq moved faster than they did though, and soon caught up to Nanuq. She fell to her knees and screamed in pain. Injuquaq was suddenly by her side, holding her up and encouraging her to keep moving forward. The tornuaq struck again and Nanuq screamed her pain out to the heavens. Nukilik stepped in and helped Injuquaq drag the girl to her feet.
“Nanuq, keep moving, we’re almost there, keep moving,” yelled Shtiya in her ear. Nanuq nodded and gritted her teeth. With the help of Nukilik and Injuquaq, with Shtiya encouraging her all the way, she walked step by step closer to the circle of the kinguyakkii. With a deep breath, she stepped inside the circle, and felt something life from her chest. Looking around, she saw a chu spirit land in front of Shtiya, a nauja land in front of Nukilik, and a very large and intimidating sos land in front of Injuquaq. Then a loud barking sound broke the silence and a large female nannuraluk landed in front of her. As one, all four Inuits bowed to their heart spirits, and the spirits bowed back to them.
The tornuaq screeched in fury, it had not yet gotten Nanuq, and that was what its master wanted it to do. It spiraled down and plunged deep into Nanuq’s heart. Jonathan was watching from the outside, and when Nanuq saw him she called to him, trying to make him understand that she needed his help. It almost broke Jonathan’s heart to see that she still trusted him after he had betrayed her, but he stood still, as still as a block of ice. Nukilik looked at him with anger and hate, but his attention was quickly brought back to Nanuq who sank to the ground with an anguished cry. She convulsed once, twice, and was still. A light blue mist rose from her body and joined with the colors dancing around her. The nannuraluk sitting in front of her rose and began to join the spirit ancestors, those who had come there many years before.
“No! Don’t take her! She is only a child, give her back!” cried Shtiya, his voice echoing over the hills. Nanuq’s body on the ground convulsed again, but only once.
“Nanuq is mine! She is the next Angakuq, don’t take her yet!” roared Injuquaq, his voice rumbling like that of a sos. Injuquaq continued to beg the spirits to give Nanuq back, but his only answer was a growl of a taqukaq.
“Ublureak, she’s our daughter, please let me have more time with her,” pleaded Injuquaq, turning his face up to where the taqukaq was. The taqukaq hesitated a moment, swung her head over to the mist that was forming a nannuraluk, and then swung her head back to Injuquaq.
“I will allow you to have Nanuq back, but she will come to me, I want her too,” replied the taquakaq. Injuquaq nodded with tears of joy on his face. Nanuq’s spirit slowly joined up with her body, but her bout with the tornuaq was not through yet. With an enraged shriek that it had not killed her, the tornuaq attack again, but was not prepared for what it would touch. A powerful nannuraluk burst out of the surrounding kinguyakkii and attacked the tornuaq. Within minutes, the tornuaq was gone, however, Nanuq’s life was nearly gone as well. Injuquaq raced over to her and held her in his arms.
“Nanuq, don’t go, please don’t go yet,” prayed Injuquaq, rocking her body back and forth. His tears flowed down his cheeks, soaking her parka. She was lifted up out of his arms and lifted through the kinguyakkii on the back of a kanut. In front of every animal heart spirit the kanut stopped, and the spirits touched Nanuq’s forehead. When she returned to the ground, her scar on her forehead was bright blue, and the one on her hand was a vivid red. The spirits cried blue tears as Injuquaq knelt by his daughter. She opened her eyes, but because of the blessings she had received from the spirits, they were a clear, sightless blue.
“Oogrooq, I can’t see, where are you?” she asked, afraid.
“I’m right here, don’t worry,” Injuquaq said, tenderly reaching out and touching Nanuq’s face. Nukilik and Shtiya followed Injuquaq and nearly jumped when they saw Nanuq’s eyes. Nanuq smiled at them, and her mouth dropped open in amazement.
“Oogrooq, I can see now, but you don’t look the same, you look like a sos,” she said, puzzled. For the first time since his wife’s death, Injuquaq smiled, a real, true smile.
“I am a sos, now you can see all spirits now, my Angakuq,” smiled Injuquaq.
“You smiled, I can see you, for real now,” replied Nanuq, reaching up to touch Injuquaq’s face. Her eyes were darkening again, back to their original color, although they were the slightest bit brighter, a mark of her being able to see spirits. Jonathan was lurking outside the circle of the kinguyakkii, watching the whole thing with no expression. Even when the large Inuit man was killed when his heart spirit died, he made no move. Nanuq saw him and frowned.
“Jonathan, you must go back to where you belong, you do not belong her. Go, now,” ordered Nanuq. For some strange reason, Jonathan felt compelled to do as she said. He turned around and left, walking towards some unknown destination. Nanuq sighed unhappily, and the slightest bit of tears came to her eyes, but that was quickly pushed away.
“He was bad from the start, you shouldn’t have trusted him,” grunted Nukilik. Nanuq looked back at him and nodded. Injuquaq stood up and stretched.
“It’s time we start heading back. Qatqain, we must hurry,” decided Injuquaq.
In what seemed like no time, Nanuq, Shtiya, Nukilik, and Injuquaq were back at their village. Everyone was astounded to hear that Nanuq was really Injuquaq’s daughter, and that Jonathan and the man that had be re-named the Asiavik were behind the tornuaq that was killing the children. Of course, the empty hole that all the children left was going to make a lasting impression on the people of the tribe, but there was nothing they could do about that. Nanuq continued her training as an Angakuq, Buniq, Qannik, Qimmiq, and Qatqain became some of the best sled dogs for miles around, Yuralria and Taliriktug were saddened to hear that Nanuq wasn’t their daughter, but they continued to raise her as their own and Nanuq continued to call them mother and father. As for Shtiya, he became one of the best hunters in the village, had a beautiful wife, and had many young children to whom he told of his magnificent journey with Nanuq. Nukilik and Nanuq soon found companionship in each other, and were soon husband and wife. They had four children, and two of them were born with the blue eyes that marked them as being able to see spirits, but only one of them, the only girl, had the scars that marked her as an Angakuq. Injuquaq continued to take care of dogs, people from miles around came to buy his dogs. Several of them raced in the Iditarod, and every time they were part of the winning team.
Every night when the kinguyakkii shone the brightest, Nanuq, Shtiya, Nukilik, and Injuquaq would sit outside and remember the journey they had taken. Sometimes they cried for their losses, sometimes they laughed over the funny times, but they always reserved a special time for Jonathan, the American who had decided to do what is wrong, although he always knew what was right.
Oogrooq-bearded seal, one who has had a long life
Issora (Issorartuyok) leader dog
Ataciara-dog that looks like a bird
Qimugta-dog (literally, puller)
Illiivat-person young or old who is learning something
Phrases and words:
tupik-similar in shape to that of a tent
iglopuk-large snow house
tonrar-devil; ghost; spirit
sivudlerk panik-first daughter
Animals/ Heart Spirits: