"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 36 Lak’s Arrival p433~439

They had been camped at their present location for two
weeks and as were instructed, waiting for their leader.
Thah, Jenson and the others had made good time in their
travel which pleased the Inuit, though throughout it all
Jenson complained endlessly and the one called Smith
just sat quietly and looked pathetic. It mattered little to
Thah.
Upon arriving at their present location, they
constructed shelters and hunting parties were
dispatched and within four days had enough food to keep
them for awhile. Within the period, between the
necessary jobs required to keep everything in some order,
groups of men were at various times began to practice
some form of military drill under the watchful eye of
Jenson who strutted about foolish and pompous as usual
but to his credit, even Thah had to admit they were
learning how to use the newer rifles and a bit about
organized assaults, a double edged weapon to be sure if a
man had the initiative.
In the evenings (if it could be called that, after all it
was that period when the sun disappeared for long
periods, to visit brothers and sisters it was sometime
said) Jenson would visit Thah’s tent as the Inuit had
asked and gave him an update on how things were
proceeding, not that he believed he was reporting to a
superior, Thah was an Eskimo, not a white man and
after all Lak had said he was in charge, but he did
appreciate the fact that Thah had helped him as much as
he did and didn’t mind humoring the native. Thah for his
part played his role well. He always offered Jenson drink
and after listening to Jenson’s report asked if he had any
suggestions that the white man might have for him,
which always caused him to puff up his chest and say no,
he thought that Thah was doing a fine thing running
things but if he could offer a few hints… Thah always
listened, nodded and thanked Jenson for his insight
saying he would make the changes when time was
convenient. Of course that time never came. There was
only one person who was deceived into believing that he
led, even Smith was not that foolish. Only fear of Jenson
and Thah kept him silent.
Jenson sat in the small tent he shared with Smith and
burped. Things were going well as far he was concerned.
The men were learning the guns and commands required,
he felt he was proving his worth and expected he would
be amply rewarded when the time came. He was sure he
knew more and would be of more use than that old fart
that seconded Lak at the moment but he knew he would
have to prove himself. In time he would push the other
bastard out of the way and have what he deserved,
eventually he would amass enough power to surpass Lak
and from that position others would kneel before him.
He’d show ’em, he’d show all of ’em, that’s what he’d do!
“Hey Morton, is there anything to eat?” asked Smith
coming in and poking around the tent.
Jenson looked up annoyed that Smith had interrupted
his dreams of glory.
“Christ, Tobias! Don’t ya just pick the best times!”
“What Morton? What’d I do? I’m hungry,” said the little
man sheepishly.
“Ahhhhh, nothing!” he said throwing the other man
some partially cooked seal meat. Smith grabbed it and
devoured it with little thought afterwards he wiped his
hands on his already dirty fur trousers.
“Sorry Morton didn’t mean to disturb ya,” he said. “I
was just hungry, that’s all.” He said sitting on a box.
“Ya know Tobias, I think we’s supposed to be here.
What’s that fancy word the toffs always use?”
“What word Morton, I’s don’t know?”
“Ya know, that word, desta… desta… destin…?”
“Destiny?” said the mousey man.
“Yeah, that’s the one, destiny. That which means we
gotta do this ‘un.”
“Well, I don’t know what we need to do, all’s I know
that its cold here and I don’t like it!” the little man said
sourly.
“Well’s we here and that’s that!” said Jenson with some
finality though there was some reservation in his voice
“We, we… got… grandeur, yeah, that’s it grandeur!”
Smith was unconvinced. “We ain’t got shit! We should
try to get away from here, this place is not good,” he said
with simple simplicity.
“A lot you know,” said Jenson. “Look at me! I’m an
important man! You think we should go back? To what?
Serving toffs? Fuck that! I’ll stay here. And if’n ya know
what’s good for ya, you’ll follow suit!”
“That’s what I been doing, following you’se! And all I’m
eating is fucking half cooked meat and drinking bad
whiskey!”
“Well, be thankful for it,” growled Jenson.
Smith stood up and backhanded the other man,
sending him sprawling. “I’m finished with you, I don’t
need you!” said the shaking little man with a lion’s fury.
Jenson quickly stood up and pulling his knife from its
sheath buried to the hilt in Smith’s chest, the surprise on
his face was evident.
“Morton? You, you… stabbed me,” he said, tears welling
up in his eyes.
“And I don’t need you,” said Jenson as he lowered
Smith’s body to the cold ground. Now he was alone. He
waved for two Eskimos, who upon entering the tent saw
Smith’s lifeless body.
“Get rid of ‘im!” he ordered and the body was pulled
outside never to be seen again. Its final resting place
concerned no one, least of all Jenson.
There were calls and barking dogs. Thah exited his
shelter to see the sleds of Lak and his men approaching.
When they came to a halt, Thah walked over and met the
renegade leader. The travel had been long but by the
looks of the loaded sleds and the frightened faces of the
women taken, it appeared to be worth it.
“I have shelter and food prepared,” said the young
subordinate.
Lak nodded, “Take me there. Ogwah, accompany me,”
he turned to Keelut. “You take care of the dogs.”
Keelut burned at the insult but remained silent. To go
against Lak in his own camp surrounded by his followers
would be suicide. Keelut was vain and foolish but not
completely stupid.
“As you wish Lak,” said Keelut in a controlled voice.
Lak grinned. He knew Keelut was filled with anger but
had little in way of an outlet for such. It gave him
pleasure. “Thah, come!” said the older man. “Talk with
me.” The three men walked into a small shelter and sat
down where they were given food and drink.
“Well, what can you tell me?” asked Lak pulling out the
chart Keelut had stolen.
Thah took a drink of hot tea and wiped his mouth.
“Jenson has been training the men on how to use the
guns. Oh,” he said as an afterthought. “Smith the one
that came with him and Keelut is dead. Jenson killed
him.”
Lak nodded casually at the news as if he’d been told it
would snow tomorrow. “It is no great loss.”
“Just as well really,” said Ogwah speaking up. “We’ve
brought more guns that will keep the outsider busy
enough.”
Thah nodded. “Just as well. He’s less trouble that way.”
“What of the ship?” asked Lak biting into some meat.
“Our people have watched it,” said Thah looking at the
chart that had been rolled out. He pointed with a dirty
finger just past Ellesmere Island. “They are in this area,
moving slowly.” “You made no move against them?” asked
Lak.
Thah shook his head. “No, we’ve only watched as you
told us to do.”
Lak nodded his head with approval. Ogwah ventured a
question. “Lak, we have the guns and the men, why not
take them now?”
Lak shook his head. “We wait. They have a reason for
being here and they won’t be able to move much further.
They have dogs, so they will be on the ice. I think there
will be two groups, one that will separate from the ship.”
Ogwah nodded his understanding, “Divided, their
numbers will be less.”
“And they will be weaker,” added Thah.
“And in an ideal position for us,” said Lak.
The three men laughed. Foolish for the outsiders to
come this far, regardless of their reasons, it really was
going to be easy, of that there was no doubt.
Keelut finished with the dogs as quickly as he could,
having no wish to be taunted by the others who might
see him in such a demeaning position. Finding some food
and drink he made his way to the tent of Jenson. They
needed to talk.

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