by Olaf Havnes
(an excerpt from the first book about the Nightwarrior)
The Rawhide Clan camped for summer deep inside the Mother Mountains. A stream flowed through the valley, thick grass growing beside it. Tough, evergreen bushes grew together in small clumps, and the odd mountain birch had even managed to put down roots in the rocky ground.
Each hut consisted of three poles, pointed at one end and two-pronged at the other, with the entrance between two more poles. Sinewy branches and twigs were woven around the frame and clad with turf. A rug covered the entrance to preserve warmth from the fire. Smoke could find its way out through an opening in the roof. In the end there were fifteen such huts along the two sides of the stream.
There was no valley more beautiful than this, thought the dog boy. At times even Scarface forgot about him. As long as he carefully avoided any attention, he could live almost like the others.
The summer would last forever, and never again would he feel the cold of winter. The nights could still be chilly, but it was a long time since he had shivered after sunset. When the clan went to sleep, he curled up just outside of the village. As often had happened lately, the wolf dogs curled up beside him.
* * * * * *
The next morning he stumbled outside Scarface's tent and spilled a sack of water at the chief's feet. He made himself clumsy and stupid, not trying to evade the kicks and blows that followed. Afterwards he fetched a new sack of water, dragging his feet all the time.
Nobody thought that the dog boy would run now, not from this valley, and not at noon. So he ran.
He ran the whole evening, breathing evenly, not breaking a sweat. He hoped that the disappearance would not be discovered until the next morning. Scarface always looked for him in the morning. And surely they all had to believe he still was in the village after all the beating and screaming.
At nightfall the dog boy gathered moss and made himself a soft bed under a bush. He slept without dreaming. The next morning he yawned and stretched his arms towards the sky. He drank some water and chewed some fat from a bone, making sure that his stomach did not become heavy.
The dog boy was eight summers old. Today he would be hunted by the most dangerous man in the Rawhide Clan.
He started the run.
* * * * * *
By noon a pair of eyes burned in the back of his neck. The dog boy did not turn, yet he knew that Scarface was somewhere behind him. He ran a bit faster, but just as steady.
A ptarmigan flew by, flapping its wings and not fearing this human at all.
"I am Sister Ptarmimgan, and you know me," the bird said.
The dog boy thought that the bird spoke with the voice of the dead medicine woman.
"Yes, I know you," he thought as he ran, a bit confused at being spoken to by a bird.
"You know what I do to protect my young from the fox?" Sister Ptarmigan asked.
"You pretend your wing is broken," thought the dog boy. "The fox assumes you are easy prey. He runs after you as fast as he can, not stopping to think or smell for your nest."
"Yes. And now you will do like me."
The dog boy stumbled and rolled twice. He got up at once, but now he ran with a limp. He could feel Scarface burst into speed behind him, certain that the prey would soon be exhausted. But Scarface did not notice the limp disappear and the dog boy run on just as steady.
After a while he could feel the anger as Scarface slowed down, knowing that the prey was still not exhausted.
By evening the dog boy started to stumble for real. A big dark shape lumbered up beside him.
"You know me, I am Uncle Elk, and you have seen my tracks, big old me, climbing up the side of a hill."
The dog boy nodded. The voice was deeper, but it still sounded like the medicine woman.
"Yes, I know you," he thought. "Everyone knows that your tracks are the easiest way to the top."
"Run uphill with me. It is harder for you, but it is harder for Scarface too. And I will guide your step."
The dog boy changed his course slightly, more uphill and harder on the lungs and heart, but he thought like the elk and found the surest foooting. Behind him he could feel Scarface stumble in rage that he still had not overtaken his prey.
By nightfall the dog boy still ran uphill. His arms and feet were numb, and his throat burned with pain from every breath. He would never outrun Scarface. The dog boy hoped that he would be able to run until his heart gave out.
Something gray and sleek ran up beside him.
"I am Wolverine, the hunter, kin to no one. Sister Ptarmigan don't fool me with her broken wing. And I run down Uncle Elk if it takes seven days and seven nights. Do you know me?.
"Yes I know you," the dog boy thought. "I have seen your tracks, how they cut like a knife across the hills."
"I am Wolverine, the hunter, kin to no one, but tonight I will run with you, and tonight you will run like me."
The dog boy nodded.
He hovered above it all, saw the dog boy run on the ground, saw the chief burst forward and almost catch up. But the boy on the ground ran faster, like a knife his tracks cut through the hills.
The dog boy still hovered above all this. Now he saw that Scarface was the hunted. Like a reindeer being chased by the wolverine, it knows the wolverine will never give up once it has singled out its prey. And Scarface knew he would never win. The knowledge of defeat that kills a reindeer, now made the chief stumble and fall, tears streaking his face.
Then the dog boy was back in his body, still running, never once turning to see the chief pale and shrink in the distance.
* * * * * *