Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022 (Now available for pre-order from Amazon)
A low rumble woke Luui, and she jerked her eyes open. But instead of Aassik’s gaping and bloody maw descending upon her she looked up into the elven face of Naaluk, hands clutched around her empty belly, as the Qamaarlutik peered down at her.
“She’s awake,” Kalaagi said as Luui lifted her head.
“I can see she’s awake, Brother.” Naaluk rolled her eyes at Luui. “I’m staring right at her.”
“Then you should move, Sister. And let me talk to her.”
“Naamik,” Naaluk said. She lowered her voice to a whisper as she wrapped her tiny hands around Luui’s finger. “I have to say something first.”
“What is it, Naaluk?” Luui blinked again, then pressed her free hand to her head, exploring the bandage wrapped around it. “What happened?”
“Kalaagi will tell you that in a second,” Naaluk said. “But first, I have to tell you what I did.”
“I know,” she said, nodding. “I was bad. But you were…” Naaluk blew out her cheeks, tickling Luui’s nose with her breath. “You were…”
“I was sad, Naaluk,” Luui said. “I missed my Ataata. And my friend was stuck in the north. I was…” Luui sighed and said, “I was alone.”
“You had us,” Naaluk said, frowning.
“I know. But…”
“It doesn’t matter.” Naaluk squeezed Luui’s finger. “We will always stay with you. And so will the big woman.”
“Aunix? She’s here?”
“She’s coming soon,” Kalaagi said as she climbed onto Luui’s bed. “She took your boat to Uummannaq. She’s buying things.”
“Presents,” Naaluk said. “Imaqa.”
“Sister…” Kalaagi nudged Naaluk. “You were apologising.”
“Well, Luui,” Naaluk said. “I’m sorry I tricked Northwind and made her challenge you.”
“You did this?”
“Go on,” Kalaagi said as Naaluk shivered.
“I may have,” she said. Then, at a prod from her brother, Naaluk nodded. “I did,” she said. “I told Northwind you would bring her pujoralak.”
“You told her that?”
“Aap,” Naaluk said. “But she doesn’t need it, of course. But maybe I told her she did, and the only one who could get it for her, was the shaman’s daughter.”
“You said that?”
“Because,” Kalaagi said, as Naaluk slumped onto her bottom. “She loves you, Luui. We both do. But you have been sad.”
“So very sad.”
“And you weren’t doing anything,” Naaluk said. “Tell her that, Brother.”
“You just did.”
“I know I did. But you should tell her… Because…”
Naaluk stopped speaking as Luui sat up. She held her breath, finger and thumb poised to snap her fingers as Luui reached for her. Kalaagi snuffed the magic from Naaluk’s fingers just as Luui wrapped her in a gentle but unyielding hug.
“Qujanaq,” Luui said, pulling Kalaagi into a hug too. “Both of you.”
She let them go, and Naaluk turned, fiddling with something she said was stuck in her eye before sliding off the bed to sit on the floor.
“What happened, Kalaagi?” Luui asked once she was sure Naaluk was all right.
Kalaagi took a tiny breath and then sat beside Luui.
“Everything happened,” he said. “Everything all at once.”
“Tell her about how I knocked the ice away from her head,” Naaluk said, looking up.
“The ice still hit her, Sister.”
“Aap,” Naaluk said. She picked herself up and climbed back onto the bed. “But only a little.”
“It’s true,” Kalaagi said. “Naaluk bumped the ice with her wing. It hit you…”
“Here,” Luui said, rubbing her fingers over a bump beneath her bandage.
“And another one on the back of your head,” Kalaagi said.
“I don’t remember that one.”
“You couldn’t,” Kalaagi said. “But when Sermilissuaq caught Aassik again…”
“When he ripped another worm in half,” Naaluk said, demonstrating with an aggressive wringing of her hands and a fierce look pasted onto her tiny face.
“And it became two more,” Kalaagi said.
Naaluk nodded. “Bothersome worms. We’re going to have to do something about them.”
“Later,” Kalaagi said, throwing his sister what he hoped was calming look.
“He became a bear, shedding all his ice.” Kalaagi smiled as Luui nodded, as if he had known it had been her plan all along. “But even a great bear like Sermilissuaq is not match for three ice worms. He ran away.”
“Very fast,” Naaluk said. “I tried to follow him, to see where he went. But even with help from your little wind…”
“Naalanngitsoq,” Luui said.
“Aap.” Naaluk nodded. “Even with her help, I didn’t see where he went.” Naaluk turned as Aunix thumped the snow from her boots against the side of the cabin before opening the door. “But she did.”
“I did what?” Aunix said. She hung her jacket on a hook on the wall and then she spotted Luui and grinned. “You’re up.”
“And looking better already.” Aunix dumped the cardboard box she carried, and then pulled off her boots. “No peeking, Naaluk,” she said when the Qamaarlutik rushed past her as Aunix approached Luui’s bed. “Let me see that bandage.”
Luui tilted her head, and then reached for Aunix’ hand.
“You came back,” she said.
“I had some help.”
“I know,” Luui said. “Naaluk told me about Northwind.”
“She stopped blowing,” Luui said.
“Well, she did, but that’s not the help I mean.”
“Tell her about the bear,” Naaluk said.
“I will when you get your nose out of that box.”
Aunix made a shooing gesture with her fingers and Naaluk stepped to one side.
“What happened to Sermilissuaq?” Luui asked. “Did he reach the sea?”
“I don’t rightly know exactly what happened, and I don’t think anyone – present company excepted – would believe me if I told them. But the mountain shrank. I thought it was a quake, but the damned thing just slipped into the earth somehow. And this happened while that bear of yours was hightailing it down the mountain to the sea. It’s almost like the mountain wanted to make it easier for him, shrinking the distance, encouraging the bear into the sea. Now, it was a helluva splash that bear made when it got there. I tell you. It’s what I saw. Because, let’s be honest, it was a helluva bear you found in the mountains, Luui.”
“And those worm things…”
“Smaller than to begin with,” Luui said, only to frown when Kalaagi shook his head.
“They started small,” he said. “But they grew bigger once they stopped fighting Sermilissuaq.”
“I told you,” Naaluk said. “We’re going to have to do something about those worms.”
“But not before coffee, and soup, and…” Aunix pushed off the bed and padded across the floor to the box. “I’ve got chocolate. I’ve got some kind of meat –foul, I think.” She caught Naaluk’s eye as the tiny Qamaarlutik gulped. “Not ptarmigan. Just not duck, or whatever you’re supposed to eat in Christmas Eve in Greenland.”
“It’s Christmas Eve?” Luui said.
“Yep,” Aunix said with a grin. “I flew home for Christmas. Just like the song says.”
“But those worms….”
“Later, Naaluk,” Luui said as she slipped free of the covers and slid out of bed. “Food first.”
Kalaagi clicked his fingers softly to send a spark of magic at his sister. She caught it, and, at a nod from Kalaagi, she followed him out of the trapdoor in the cabin floor to give the big folk, as they called them, some space.
“What did you mean when you said you had help in the north?” Luui asked once Aunix had finished heating the soup. She wrapped her fingers around the enamel mug as they sat at the table by the window.
“It was the strangest thing,” Aunix said. “There was this creature.”
“Ugly.” Aunix shook her head at the memory. “It had the rankest breath. A skeleton head. Thin, saggy breasts, and…”
“A penis?” Luui asked.
“That’s right, but…” Aunix frowned at Luui as the shaman’s daughter fidgeted on her chair. “What’s gotten into you?”
“This is wonderful,” Luui said.
“I’m not sure wonderful is how I would describe it. But this thing topped up the tanks when the wind stopped blowing. She got me home for Christmas.”
“More than that.” Luui reached for Aunix’ hand. “She gave you a lot more than that.”
Luui took a breath, pausing at the rattle of the windowpanes, and then turned to look at Aunix. “The creature’s name is Uersat Inuat. She, and he, is a helper spirit.”
“She helped me,” Aunix said.
“But that’s not all, is it?”
“No.” Aunix leaned back in her chair. “There was a moment…” She shivered at the memory of it. “Honestly, Luui, I thought that thing was going to rape me.”
“And it might have,” Luui said. “If you didn’t listen to it.”
“If I didn’t what?”
“It showed you something, didn’t it?”
Aunix nodded. “I saw something in the Northern Lights. Strange mountains – lots of contrasts.”
“She showed you the spirit world.”
“Aap,” Luui said. “Uersat Inuat only comes when they find someone suppressing their powers.” Luui grinned, and then slapped the table. “I didn’t see it. But she did.”
“You’re a shaman, Aunix. You have powers.”
“Powers?” Aunix shook her head. “I don’t see that I do…”
“Exactly. You don’t see it. And if you don’t…” Luui paused as the glass in the window rattled again, louder the second time. “Well… It’s dangerous if you don’t. Uersat Inuat has shown you. Now it’s up to you…” Luui sighed as the glass rattled for a third time. “I’ll help you,” she said as she pushed her chair back from the table.
“I need to go outside for a moment,” Luui said.
“You can’t leave me with a cliffhanger like that.”
“But I’m going to.” Luui grinned. She stuffed her feet into her boots and grabbed Aunix’ thick winter jacket. “I’ll be right back.”
Luui climbed the slope to the ridge above the cabin. She zipped the jacket as an insistent breeze curled over the top of the ridge, teasing at the flaps, snapping at the sleeves. Luui smiled as she recognised the wind – stronger now, as if Naalanngitsoq had grown since they parted.
“It’s good to see you, too,” she said as the cheeky, but not so little wind, gave Luui a gentle push the last few steps to the top. Luui squared her feet in the snow and stared into the black sky. “I’m here,” she said.
Luui leaned forward as an icy gust of wind rushed into her body.
“Shaman’s daughter,” Northwind said, shushing and fizzing the ‘s’s. “Friend of Qamaarlutik.”
“Aap,” Luui said.
“Me?” Luui shrugged. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“You had help.”
“Only a little.”
“You called Aassik…”
“Now, wait a second,” Luui said, raising her finger. Northwind flurried a great scoop of snow into the image of Aassik and Luui on the mountain, seconds before the ice worm devoured the shaman’s daughter. “I can explain that,” Luui said.
Northwind changed the image to create something that resembled Assagissat, the helper spirit with the pincers.
“She wasn’t as much help as I had hoped.”
“And yet, they helped you up the mountain.”
“Aap,” Luui said, unable to deny it.
Luui’s breath caught in her throat as Northwind drew the image of her father in the sky before her.
“He helped you?”
“Aap,” Luui said. “He always has. Even when he couldn’t.”
“But you let him go.”
“I had to.” Luui swallowed. “I didn’t want to.”
“Sometimes we must.”
The image of Tuukula Angakkuarneq dissolved in front of Luui and Northwind settled. And Luui frowned again as she latched onto Northwind’s last words.
“I cannot always be the north wind,” Northwind said. “In the summer, when the warm fronts disrupt me, I am sad. Just as Naaluk said you were sad.”
“I was,” Luui said.
“As am I.” Northwind sketched another snowy image in the black sky, and Luui smiled at the crude image of Aunix’ little plane, and the way it bustled before her. “I am happiest in winter, but I can be cruel.” The plane settled into a less tempestuous flight. “I have learned.”
“Aap,” Luui said. “And so have I.”
“I do not need to blow through everything. I no longer care about pujoralak.”
“I think Naaluk might have fooled you on that one.” Luui smiled at the thought of the tiny Qamaarlutik and the great reach she had. Enough to influence the wind and force me into action. Luui made a mental note to take more interest in the Qamaarlutik. When they’re not looking, of course.
But Northwind wasn’t finished, and a gentle nudge from Naalanngitsoq bumped Luui back into the moment.
“I will teach other winds to blow far and free,” Northwind said. “It will be my purpose.”
“Aap,” Luui said. “I’m happy for you. Happy for you both.”
Naalanngitsoq brushed Luui’s fringe and then whisked away, her cold touch lingering a moment on Luui’s cheek.
“You will also teach,” Northwind said. “That will be your purpose.”
Northwind drew another quick sketch of Aunix’ plane.
“Ah…” Luui nodded. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled at a steady wisp of smoke rising out of the cabin’s chimney. “Of course.”
“Then we can part, on good terms?”
“We can,” Luui said. She lifted her chin and stared into the wind. “Juullimi Pilluarit,” she said.
“And to you, daughter of the shaman.”
“Actually,” Luui said, as she straightened her shoulders. “I think it’s just shaman now.”
“As you wish.”
“I do,” Luui said, nodding as Northwind retreated. She turned, ready to take her first step back to the cabin, only to pause as she looked to her right. A plume of snow on a far ridge deep in the Svartenhuk Mountains caught her eye, and she sighed. “Right,” she said, as another plume joined the first. “About those worms…”