"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 30 The Bands p368~375

The wind howled its mournful song in the small Inuit
camp surrounded by darkness. There were a large
number left, though some had left and to be truthful,
Peter couldn’t blame them for doing so. Early in the
season, some in Peter’s band had left to work with the
Dundee and Yankee whaling ships. Peter had wanted to
go but Ahnah took his arm and shook her head.
“This time they come, the men in my dreams,” she said
in an almost desperate and pleading way. “Please Peter, I
know, please believe me!”
Peter sighed. Ever since Ahnah’s unfortunate
“incident” in time past, she had become quiet and more
withdrawn, shying away from any contact with others,
not that anyone could blame her after what those
animals did. After this season began, Ahnah began to
toss and turn in her sleep and she began to talk more,
more about the old dreams that Ahnah seemed cursed
with.
“Ahnah,” said Peter gently, “maybe these are the men,
maybe these are the ships that you see when you sleep
dear sister.”
Ahnah shook her head, “No Peter, not these ships. It is
one ship and it is not here, the ship itself is very clear
and the place has been made known to me over the last
few periods of rest.”
“Well, where is it then?”
“The post where we trade, with the hairless one, the
post,” she said with some desperation. “That’s where the
ship will be and the outsiders in my dreams.”
Peter sighed. He had his responsibilities and though he
loved his sister, he believed there was a time when a
person had to stop chasing their dreams and ground
themselves in the reality of the present and prepare
themselves for the future.
“I know what you are thinking Peter.”
He shook his head, “If you know my thoughts then why
do you continue to insist on these men, this…ship. I’ve
seen nothing different, to me they are all the same!” he
said with some anger. “For years, I’ve heard you speak of
these men, but I’ve never seen them, no one in the band
has seen them, only you. They only exist for you!”
Ahnah nodded her head, “I know, it is…difficult Peter,
but please, I’m sure now is the time.”
Peter turned his head away he was tired of this talk,
he’d heard it all before. His sister pleaded with him.
“Please Peter, one last time. If they do not show, I’ll
forget all of this, you’ll never hear of it again, I promise.”
Peter looked at his sister and into her eyes, there was a
certainty that showed. This was important to her, it
always had been. If she made a promise, he knew she
would keep it.
“Alright Ahnah, this one last time, we’ll go to the post. I
know mother and Allawah will go, but you can’t expect
the others to make the journey if they do not want to go
Ahnah, they have to think of themselves.”
Ahnah nodded, she understood. When put to the others,
the answer was simple, they had trusted and followed
Peter this far and they would continue to do so. This
whaling ship that Ahnah spoke of concerned her and
Peter but a ship still meant work and their young leader
had yet to steer them wrong. Where Peter went they
would follow.
They were packed and ready to go, all fifty of them
within four hours. Waiting for “morning” made little
sense to them as at this time of year it was always dark.
Leaving then was as good a time as any they figured and
the sooner the better. Ten days of hard travel to get to
the Dane’s post. They stopped when they needed to, to
rest the dogs and themselves, eat and sleep. As they
traveled, Peter became more and more anxious. Would
Ahnah’s ship be there? Their future? Admitting the truth
to himself, he realized he needed to know just as much as
Ahnah did. And if there was no ship, would he be
disappointed? The answer was simple, yes.
When they reached the post, they turned over their
sleds and made inquires and finding out that no ship had
arrived, Peter decided they would wait and the small
group set up their shelters around the post. They had
food to last them another three weeks, so they weren’t
hurting there, still to be on the safe side, Peter and some
of the other men would start a hunt in the next week,
which would keep the people busy at least, to be doing
something. That was the worst thing about the arctic
night, inactivity.
Peter sat outside smoking, listening to the wind and
barking dogs. The environment that frightened most was
comfortable for the Inuit hunter and truth be told he was
uncomfortable around the trading post or any trappings
of civilization for that matter. He longed for the wild
stretches of ice and water, nature’s beauty and wonder.
He heard some noise behind him and turned to see his
wife Allawah, plump and smiling, coming out to sit with
him or more than likely to ask him to come inside and
join the others. She didn’t like it when he spent so much
time alone.
“Come husband,” said the Inuit woman, “come inside.
There is warm food and soft furs that await you. Leave
your troubles here and come inside.”
Peter gave a short laugh, “Does it show that much?” he
asked.
“Only to me but then again I am your wife.”
Peter nodded his head and sighed. “I keep wondering if
I’m a fool and if this is right, maybe this is a mistake,
maybe I’ve listened to Ahnah for too long, followed her
dreams for too long.”
“She is your sister, she is my sister and besides the
band would not follow you if they thought you were a
fool.”
Peter looked at his wife, “I know she’s my sister, but
I’ve got responsibilities, to you, our son and the rest of
the band. I cannot continue to blindly follow her. If there
is no ship, no outsiders, then we move on and I will hear
no more of it.”
“Ahnah has told me, she is grateful to you Peter. She
understands.”
“What about you?” asked Peter.
Allawah looked down on the dirty snow. “You are a man
that is easy to be grateful to. You have saved the lives of
many. You saved my life and have given me happiness,
together we are happy. Ahnah has suffered at the hands
of lesser men such as I have. Please Peter, allow her a
chance for happiness like you have given me. It is what I
ask of you.”
Peter nodded, “Go inside wife, I’ll be in soon.”
Allawah understood and left her husband alone with
his thoughts while she tended to matters that required
her attention.
A man finishing his business at the trading post
prepared his sled to depart. He was a man that few
would notice. He did not drink, he was not load or
boisterous. He spoke little, using words as needed which
gave him an ability few people ever mastered in their
lifetimes. He listened. He observed all about him,
watching and listening. Snippets of conversation, a laugh
or a giggle, sad faces, happy faces, a sob of despair a look
of anger or distrust, all these bits of information were
safely tucked away with the quiet stranger. From these
pieces, fragments really, he was able to put together the
puzzle that interested his leader. Snapping his dog quirt
the dogs began to move pulling the quiet man and his
sled away from the trading post into the night. The man,
called Ogwah handled his sled well, a skill needed to
survive the harsh landscape that he inhabited.
By looking at Ogwah, it would be hard to imagine that
he had a cruel streak but he did a mean one that could
cause pain and inspire fear to anyone who crossed him.
That was why he was second to Lak.
The time passed. The snow fell, the wind blew and the
dogs barked. On such a journey, a minute was the same
as an hour just as day was night or day was day. After a
period of said passed time, the sled came to a final stop, a
temporary camp, a hard place suitable for Ogwah and
the others who occupied it, brutish men who cared little
for anyone or anything, renegades and exiles. Leaving
the sled with a younger man he entered the tent of the
camp leader.
“I have returned,” he said simply without preamble.
Lak sitting next to a kerosene lamp nodded his head
and gestured for Ogwah to sit down. He wanted to hear
what his lieutenant had to say but he remained in
control. His position required that he have patience, it
showed others that he was not a fool who rushed blindly
into situations. Lak like Ogwah was a man who observed
and when opportunity presented itself, he acted quickly
without hesitation.
“What did you see?”
“Peter’s band arrived at the post four days ago and has
about fifty people. Some went with the outsiders to hunt
the big fish, but most stayed with him. They trust him he
has that quality about him.”
“So he is waiting,” said Lak.
Ogwah nodded. “All know of Ahnah’s power, she speaks
of things to come, true things. It comforts most, though I
believe this vision frightens her.”
“Why would she be frightened of something that has
yet to happen? She can change what is to be,” said Lak.
Ogwah shrugged his shoulders, “Maybe she can’t. No
one can escape what is to be, she just knows more about
it than most.”
“Is the Dane still running the post?” asked Lak.
Ogwah nodded. “There are guns and ammunition just
as Keelut spoke of, a couple of women that work there as
whores, they’re half drunk most of the time anyway. We
won’t have a problem.”
“Good,” said Lak. “Send three men to watch the post. I
want to know when that ship gets here and if it’s the
right one, when Peter and his band board it, and bring
back Keelut. He shouldn’t have any problem sneaking
away, he’s good at that. And before I forget, some of our
people are unfamiliar with guns see if those two that
came with Keelut can be of any use. The only thing they
do is eat and sleep.”
“How will we know where the ship is going?”
Lak smiled, it was a sinister greasy look. “Don’t worry,
I’ve taken care of that, I’ll know when the ship arrives.
What else can you tell me about Peter?”
“He’s strong and confident, the band think well of him.
It is easy to see him in the position he is in.”
“And not Keelut?” said Lak with a grin.
Ogwah shook his head. “You know as well as I do that
Keelut is weak, that is easy for all to see except for
Keelut and those two fools that came here with him.
Have you thought any more on their future?”
“They have their uses,” said Lak. “When the time is
right we shall be rid of them.”
“As you say Lak.”
“Now eat,” said Lak, “we still have much work to do.”
The one called Ogwah nodded his head and in silence
ate the meal that was offered by the leader of his band.

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