Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022 (Now available for pre-order from Amazon)
As in everything, Naaluk was faster on the wing than Kalaagi. She turned tighter, dipped lower, and, when she knew Kalaagi was right behind her, she clipped a drift of snow with the tip of her wing to send a flurry of snow into her brother’s face. The only thing Naaluk struggled to do was giggle and fly straight. When she giggled, Kalaagi caught up with her. And, when she stopped giggling enough to notice, it was already too late. And thus, after flying through the night, under a carpet of green Northern Lights, Kalaagi was the first to find Northwind.
It was not a pretty sight.
Kalaagi fluttered to a stop, skidding into the snow until his claws became feet, his arms became wings, and, albeit only for a second or so, the chill air nipped at his naked body until the his furs wove around his skin to cover him from top to toe in thick, impenetrable Arctic gear. Naaluk landed beside him. He averted his gaze as she took a second or two longer to enjoy the fresh bite of the air, before she too was covered, face hidden in the shadow of the sealskin hood she pulled over her head, the same hood as her brother wore.
“What’s wrong with the wind?” she asked as they peered over the lip of a snowy ridge to the granite bowl beneath them. “Is that her?”
“Aap,” Kalaagi said.
What she was was difficult to describe. Kalaagi tried, testing a few words such as flat and heavy on his tongue before settling for something obtuse and at once more fitting. “She’s depressed.”
“Naamik,” Naaluk said with a shake of her head. “She’s a wind, Brother. Winds can’t be depressed or….” Naaluk’s eyes sparkled, then glowed brightly as she chanced upon another word to describe what winds could not be. “Despondent,” she said. “She can’t be.”
“Northwind has no purpose,” Kalaagi said as he thought it over. He turned to his sister and said, “You took it from her.”
“I took what from whom?”
“You took the wind’s purpose.”
“Winds don’t have a purpose,” Naaluk said. She swatted Kalaagi’s arm to make her point. “They just blow. It’s what they do, Brother.”
“Aap,” Kalaagi said. He pointed at the heave and swell of ice crystals in the hollow below them. It was like staring inside a pair of great lungs once the skin, flesh, and bone had been stripped away. “And you tricked her into striking a deal with Luui.”
“I did what?”
“You know what you did,” Kalaagi said. He took a subtle step away from Naaluk in anticipation of a second slap on his arm. “First you set up the challenge…”
“To help Luui,” Naaluk said. “She was despondent.” Naaluk dipped her head and the peak of her hood snapped sharply as she made another point. “Luui needed a purpose.”
“She did.” Kalaagi pointed at Northwind. “And giving Luui purpose, took Northwind’s away from her.”
“Brother,” Naaluk said as she gave Kalaagi a hard stare. “Are you saying I am responsible for everything?”
“You’re sure?” Another hard stare. “Because it sounds like it.”
“I’m just saying every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
Kalaagi paused as he considered what he had just said, wondering if he had made it up, or if other, cleverer, perhaps even bigger folk had said it first.
“Never mind,” he whispered, shaking further thoughts from his head. He pointed a tiny finger at Northwind, and then pointed the same finger at his sister. “You helped Luui into action, and, because of the deal, you forced Northwind into inaction.”
“That doesn’t make sense, Brother.”
“They were the rules.”
“Rules are awkward,” Naaluk said, with a shake of her head as if she had been the victim of such awkwardness on more than one occasion. “I only…”
“Wanted the best for Luui.” Kalaagi nodded. “I know, Sister. Truly, I do. But this…” He gestured at the invisible bellows heaving and swelling in the granite hollow. “This is not good. Northwind needs to blow.”
“She blew for too long.”
“Aap,” Kalaagi said. “But no wind can be just as bad as all wind.”
“You’re making that up.”
“I might be.” Kalaagi shrugged. “But you know I’m right.”
“No driftwood drifting to our shores. The icebergs need more than just a tide to move, otherwise they’ll clog up the fjords.”
“Birds need to fly – easier with wind.”
“And snow – even the little snow we get these days – needs to move. It does no one any good if it just stays in one place…”
“Warming the ice…”
Naaluk clapped her tiny hands and made ready to leap over the lip.
“Wait,” Kalaagi said. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to climb…” Naaluk took a closer look over the lip at the hollow below. “I’m going to fly down there and tell Northwind to start blowing.”
“You can’t do that,” Kalaagi said.
“Because we came here to tell Northwind she couldn’t interfere with Luui, if Luui had help.”
“Luui needs our help,” Naaluk said.
“I know.” Kalaagi waited for Naaluk to catch up.
“Ah,” she said.
“Northwind doesn’t know Luui has had help.” Naaluk lowered her voice to a whisper. “I mean, we don’t even know if she has had any help.”
“But as long as Northwind thinks she is doing it all alone…”
“She won’t bother Luui.” Naaluk frowned as she thought about it. “This makes my brain hurt, Brother.”
“But I think I know what you want to do.”
“And what’s that?”
Naaluk pointed at the hollow. “We need Northwind to blow. Only, not too much.”
“So…” Naaluk tapped her nose. “We tell Northwind that Luui has had a little…” She pinched her finger and thumb together to demonstrate. “Just a little bit of help.”
“And so Northwind might want to blow just a little…” Another pinch of finger and thumb. “A little bit. And that would be all right.”
“If she accepts,” Kalaagi said. “Winds are fickle things. She might not agree.”
“So we tell her about what she can do with pujoralak,” Naaluk said. “And we can use this as an example. If she was wearing pujoralak then we would see her. Everything could see her, and she wouldn’t feel so des…”
“Des… Des… Dejected,” Naaluk said with a broad smile creasing her tiny lips.
“There’s only one problem that I can think of,” Kalaagi said.
“And what’s that, Brother?”
“Northwind has to believe us. If we tell her Luui has had a little bit of help, then we need to tell her what it was, and she needs to believe it was little.”
“That’s easy,” Naaluk said. She held out her hands – ready to clap, ready to fly. “We are little, Brother. We tell her we are going to help Luui, and that she would not be breaking the rules of the challenge if she tried to stop us.” Naaluk dipped her head as if it was all suddenly clear to her, and then she clapped her hands to change form into a ptarmigan before Kalaagi could stop her.
“Oh, Naaluk,” he said, as his body shook at the thought of a long, hard flight through the mountains with the Northwind biting at their feathers. “What have you done?”
But it was already too late.
For every action, there was an equal and opposite reaction.
Kalaagi and his sister wanted to help Luui, and, as Northwind stirred and Naaluk shot out of the hollow and over the lip with a cry of Fly, Brother, fly! he knew Northwind would do the very opposite.
Kalaagi clapped his hands, changed form, and beat his wings to join Naaluk in the air. And, from the depths of the granite hollow, Northwind stirred.
To be continued on December 19
Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022
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