Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022
The wind tore through the Svartenhuk Mountains through the long, black winter night, rattling the panes of the glass in the cabin windows, tugging at the bitumen roof, and wrenching the stovepipe chimney back and forth as it tied to rip it from the wall. Luui spent the night taping the windows, she spent the early hours of the following morning securing everything inside the cabin, before pulling on the thickest and toughest of her clothes to venture out the following day, securing herself with lines and karabiners as she secured the weaker patches of bitumen on the roof.
Luui paused in between to scowl at the wind.
“Why are you bothering me?” she shouted as a particularly nasty gust of icy breath threatened to blow her off the roof. “Have you no one else to play with?”
Another gust gave Luui her answer, and she slid off the roof, scrabbling for the rope with her hands before falling onto a drift of snow curiously placed as if the fall was anticipated, perhaps even planned.
“Wait, brother,” Naaluk said as Kalaagi started forward to help Luui to her feet. “Wait.”
“Urghhhhhhh,” Luui shouted as she slapped the drift with her palms. “Tassa! Enough!”
Naaluk pressed Kalaagi against the cabin wall as Luui pushed herself to her feet, unclipped the karabiner and tossed the useless rope to one side.
Luui leaned into the wind as she stomped through the snow drifting around the cabin. She marched up the rise with the Qamallarlutik in tow, leaping into Luui’s footsteps as they followed the young Greenlandic woman to the top of the rise. They sheltered behind her legs as Luui leaned into the wind. When she reached forty-five degrees, Luui lifted her chin and glared into the black winter sky. The fringe of Luui’s short hair bristled with sleeves of ice as her breath steamed out of her nose and mouth like barley quenched dragon fire.
“What,” Luui shouted, “do you want?”
The Northwind –Luui gave it a name for the prevailing direction from which it blew – collected a shroud of ice needles and thrust them at Luui. She closed her eyes and stared into it, then reached down to grasp handful of snow, packing it into a fist-sized ball of ice, before pulling her arm back. Naaluk winked at her brother and then snapped her fingers as Luui hurled the solid ball of snow into the wind. The ball expanded to the size of a plate, and then a boulder, catching the wind and Luui by surprise as it hovered for a moment before exploding like an icy supernova, sending splinters of ice in all directions but Luui’s. Naaluk blew the tips of her fingers as if extinguishing the smoke from a gun and then grinned at her brother.
The Northwind settled.
The bluster of snow and ice stopped as suddenly as it began, and the winter tempest blew itself out, and the ice hung in the air like dust, sparkling in the moonlight and the light reflected from the swathes and patches of snow on the mountains.
“What do I want?”
The voice fizzed like charge atoms streaking across the winter sky.
“Aap,” Luui said. She straightened her back to stop herself falling down the tiny saddleback ridge upon which she stood. “Tell me what you want, and stop all this ruckus,” she said.
“Ruckus?”The ‘s’ fizzed like the tail of a firework rocketing past Luui’s head. “What ruckus?”
“The storm,” Luui said. She jabbed her finger down the rise. “My cabin…”
“Aap,” she said. “I live there now.”
“You used to live further north.”
“That’s right,” Luui said. She took a breath, and said, “I had to leave. I…”
Kalaagi held his breath as he waited for Luui to say it, to put words to what he called her consternation. But the shaman’s daughter shook her head instead.
“I had to leave. So I left.”
“You left the north.”
“It is empty now.”
“It’s emptier,” Luui said, sparing a thought for Aputsiaq, the old hunter, stubbornly eking out a living on increasingly barren wastes, refusing to leave, albeit gently, when Luui pressed him. “But my friend is there.”
“Your friend the hunter?”
“The pilot and her pretty plane.”
“Aap,” Luui said. She paused for a beat, as if choosing her words carefully. “She’s coming home, for Christmas. She’s on her way.”
“She is stuck,” Northwind said, with more fizzing with every ‘sh’ and ‘s’. “I’m keeping her.”
“Naamik!” Luui took a step forward and the Qamallarlutik clutched at her ankles to stop her falling over the edge. “You can’t.”
“Can’t? What is can’t?”
“You mustn’t keep her. It’s not fair. It’s not right.”
“And yet.” Northwind whisked a flurry of snow into the air like a lance, or thin finger. She pointed it at Luui. “I can. I have. And I will… Unless,” she said with another firework fizz and shhhhh. “Unless…”
“Wait, brother,” Naaluk whispered as she clutched her brother’s arm. “This is it. This is what she needs,” she said, pointing a tiny finger at Luui’s face.
“Naaluk,” Kalaagi whispered back. “What have you done?”
Naaluk pressed her finger to her lips, and then they turned to face the Northwind as the lance of ice crystals shimmered into a new shape.
“This,” Northwind fizzed, “is Qaqqaq.”
“The mountain,” Luui said. She nodded as she recognised it. “What of it?”
“It grows where it pleases.”
“Aap,” Luui said.
“It grows tall, some say it never stops.”
Kalaagi tugged at his sister’s hood as he guessed what was coming next, but Naaluk refused to look at him. Luui fidgeted in the snow as the Qamallarlutik peeped around her legs to look at the mountain of ice shimmering in the black sky above Svartenhuk.
“You will find it, Luui Angakkuarneq, shaman’s daughter. You will find it and climb it for me.”
“You want me to climb Qaqqaq?”
“Yes.” The mountain shimmered again as Northwind shaped the ice to form a steep and crooked summit. “At the top…” The summit sparkled and flashed in the moonlight. “You will find Pujoralak. Bring it to me, and I will bring your friend home on favourable winds. Fail and so will she.”
Kalaagi gripped his sister, turning her towards him, but she pressed her hand to his lips, sealing his mouth with a crackle of soft magic before he could speak.
“Wait, brother,” she whispered.
Luui shuffled in the snow. She looked north, staring into the black sky as she pictured Aunix’ beloved little plane lurching back and forth in the sky as the wind batted it one way, and then the other, up and down, hard and heeled over to starboard, before wrenching it again to stand on the very tip, like a dagger blade, on its port wind. She saw Aunix on the ice, shivering in a ragged tent alongside the plane upended on the black, snow-swept granite of the far north. She saw another picture, too – the wreck of the plane, its yellow wings splashed with blood.
“Fine,” Luui said, lifting her head to stared down the wind. “I’ll climb Qaqqaq. I’ll bring you a handful of Pujoralak. But you won’t blow, and you won’t bluster.” She jabbed her finger into the night. “You’ll be good. To everyone.”
“I’ll do what I like,” Northwind said. “I’ll do whatever I please, until you climb the mountain and bring me…”
“Not fair,” Naaluk said as she stepped out from behind Luui’s legs. “You’ll honour Luui’s deal, or there’ll be nothing for you. Nothing for you ever.”
“Tiny one…” The ice shimmered as if Northwind laughed. “Tiny one with teeth,” Northwind said as Naaluk snapped her fingers. The air crackled around Naaluk’s hand and the ice mountain Northwind had shaped crumbled into an avalanche and disappeared.
“Honour it,” Naaluk said as she looked up at Luui, peeking out with determined brown eyes from beneath the lip of her fur hood. “Make the deal, and Luui will honour it too.”
Luui frowned down at the tiny Qamallarlutik, wondering, not for the first time, just how powerful the little folk were. But then Northwind bristled, and the snow flurried about their feet, wrapping around Luui’s legs and hiding the Qamallarlutik as Northwind wondered the same thing as Luui.
“You’ll do it alone, or not at all,” Northwind said. “No help from the little ones. Just you, daughter of Tuukula the shaman. No one… No thing else. Agreed?”
“Aap,” Luui said, ignoring the tug of Kalaagi’s hand clenching the cuffs of her wind pants. “Just me, and the mountain,” Luui said.
The snow flurry settled and the Qamallarlutik were visible once more, as was the crooked summit of a lonely mountain, rising tall above the mountains of Svartenhuk to the north of Luui’s cabin.
To be continued on December 7
Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022
Don’t miss tomorrow’s episode!
Dave Bennett says
Ooh – this was a good one!! (Well, they’re all good – this one was just more CHILLING than the others so far!) The Northwind speaks!!
Christoffer Petersen says
Aha! Well, it gets “worse” from here on in. Kind of. 🙂 Gotta say, Dave, I’m loving the daily feedback. Looking forward to more. No pressure. 😉