Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022
Luui Angakkuarneq, the shaman’s daughter, trudged to the top of a small rise in the foothills of the Svartenhuk Mountains at the north of Uummannaq fjord, six hundred kilometres above the Arctic Circle on the west coast of Greenland. Her breath beaded in pearls on ice on the deep neck of her wool sweater and coated the tips of her short dark hair in socks of rime ice. Luui thought nothing of it, focusing instead on tugging her feet out of the deep snow clinging to her sealskin kamiks and threatening to pull them off with each step. The tiny, fur clad Qamallarlutik accompanying Luui said nothing. Kalaagi, Naaluk’s older brother cautioned his sister with a shake of the head each time she opened her mouth to comment on Luui’s progress.
“Leave her be,” he said.
“But if she took the ridge…”
“She doesn’t want to take the ridge.”
“It’s firmer and faster,” Naaluk said. “Why won’t she take it?”
“Luui doesn’t want firm or fast.”
“Because she’s stupid,” Naaluk said, albeit quietly, almost a whisper, as both she and her brother knew it was not true. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
“You shouldn’t.”Kalaagi pressed a tiny hand to Naaluk’s arm, holding her back as Luui struggled to free herself from another deep drift of snow.
“But why won’t she…”
“Because,” Kalaagi said, with a sigh, as he prepared to explain one more time why Luui Angakkuarneq was punishing herself with yet another steep climb to the top of the saddle in the shadow of the Svartenhuk Mountains. “She’s looking for Aunix.”
“Aap,” Kalaagi said. “Of course Aunix is the pilot. You know that already.”
“I know I know.” Naaluk rolled her eyes, compensating for her brother’s exasperated explanations each time they discussed the strange ways of Luui and the other big folk – including Aunix Cobick, the pilot – that continued to confound them. “But why doesn’t Luui know?”
“She doesn’t want to know,” Kalaagi said. “She wants it to be difficult, because she thinks Aunix is having a difficult time…”
“And she feels guilty,” Naaluk said. She smiled as her brother was suddenly lost for words. “See, I know things,” she said. “I listen, and I see.”
“And you understand.”
“Don’t be so amazed, brother. Of course I understand.” Naaluk slipped her tiny hand out of the deep cuffs of her fur smock and pointed at Luui. “She feels guilty because she sent Aunix north to check on Sleeping Beauty.”
“Aap,” Kalaagi said, remembering the polar bear they had worked so hard to protect in the far north of Greenland. Sleeping Beauty was supposed to be the last polar bear, but Luui had found another, and then the two bears had found each other. “And Aunix has gone to check on them.”
“That’s what I said,” Naaluk said, giving her brother a swift slap on the arm. “Aren’t you listening?”
“Then listen, brother,” Naaluk said. She pointed at Luui again. “Luui climbs the rise to listen for Aunix’ plane. She does this every day.”
“And we come with her every day.”
“Because we care about Luui.”
“Naaluk,” Kalaagi said. “You don’t have to tell me that. I know that.”
“I’m not telling you,” Naaluk said. “I’m telling them.”
Kalaagi ducked and looked around as if they were suddenly surrounded.
“Stupid brother,” Naaluk said, giving Kalaagi another swipe on the arm. “I’m talking about them, the ones who are listening.”
Naaluk pressed a tiny finger to her lips as she thought for a moment and then nodded. “Aap,” she said. “They are listening. Sort of.”
“Okay,” Kalaagi said. He stood up and brushed snow from his knees. “They’re listening, and we’re watching…”
“And Luui is nearly at the top of the rise,” Naaluk said. “We have to get there before the show starts.”
“The show?” Kalaagi huffed up the rise after his sister. “What show?”
Naaluk said nothing until she stopped just a short distance from Luui. When her brother caught up, she drew him close, pressed her face inside his deep fur hood and whispered in his ear. “Arsarnerit,” she said. “The Northern Lights.”
Kalaagi nodded, and then, when his sister pulled her face out of his hood, he took her hand, and together they watched a curtain of dark green lights drift and shimmer across the black winter sky above the mountains. The lights reflected on the snow, and on the face of the young Greenlander – not yet twenty-seven years old – as she searched the sky for the lights of the tiny electric aircraft she had hoped to find twice a day when she climbed the rise to look for Aunix Cobick. Kalaagi took another look at the lights, and then turned to look at Luui. He started as Naaluk squeezed his hand.
“She will be all right,” she said, when Kalaagi looked at her. “She’s strong, you know?”
“And smart. Perhaps the smartest girl…”
“That’s what I said.” Naaluk rolled her eyes once more, mostly as she knew it made her brother frown each time she did it. “She’s strong and smart.” Naaluk let go of her brother’s hand to count Luui’s strengths on her tiny fingers. “She can conjure spirits. She knows how to stay warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s hot.” Naaluk prodded Kalaagi’s arm and said, “That’s very important.”
“I know,” he said.
“And she’s brave.” Naaluk lifted her head to look up at Luui as the young Greenlandic woman stared north into the never-ending black sky. “Brave and reckless.”
“Aap,” Kalaagi said, as Luui turned to walk back down the rise to their cabin. “That’s what worries me.”
They watched Luui trudge back down the hill, held their breath as she sought out the deeper patches of newly drifted snow, and then followed at a discreet distance.
“You know what the problem is, don’t you, Brother?”
“And what’s that?”
Kalaagi stopped when Naaluk tugged at his fur smock. She pointed at the tumble of fresh snow plucked from the mountain and deposited in the prints Luui left in her wake as she walked back to the cabin.
“Northwind,” Naaluk said with a scowl. “She’s up to no good again.”
The Qamallarlutik looked up as the wind blew snow from the jagged peaks of Svartenhuk into a cloud of ice to compete with the Northern Lights above them.
“She’s the reason Luui’s friend hasn’t arrived yet. And she’s got it in for Luui, I bet you.”
“Aap,” Kalaagi said. “You might be right.”
“I know I’m right,” Naaluk said. She swiped her brother on the arm a third time, and then tumbled down the hill after Luui, leaving Kalaagi alone with thoughts of a malevolent wind and the games she intended to play with Luui Angakkuarneq, the shaman’s daughter.
To be continued on December 2
Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022
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