It’s no spoiler – I am building up to a fight scene in book two, and Fenna has to break something. Rather, someone has to break something of Fenna’s and I can’t decide what it should be.
Plot devices can be cruel, but she must break something in order to drive the story and her motivation through to the next set piece scheduled later in the story. A couple of black eyes will also do the trick. Which reminds me of my own, self-inflicted, black eye, gained on the ice.
Greenlandic dogs are taught to react to a sealskin whip; with a crack of the whip on the ice to the left or right of the dogs, a skilled hunter can turn the sledge in the direction he or she wishes the dogs to take. I am not a skilled driver of dogs, but my dogs were wary of the whip even if they only ever saw me use it on myself.
When sledging one day in March I wanted to turn the dogs to the right, so I cracked the whip on the ice to the left of the dogs. In my head I had imagined a smooth Indiana Jones-like action, what I achieved was a satisfying crack and a flash of searing pain as the tip struck my cheek beneath my eye. I was millimetres from removing it.
The dogs pulled to the right out of sympathy, the kids at school were less forgiving.
“What have you done this time?” they asked, and, “Maybe you should stop?”
I couldn’t stop, I had a team of dogs to train. But while the lessons learned on the ice were painful and embarrassing, the environment was unforgiving.