Shepherd’s Winter – Part 5

amarok[1]A Pleasant Visitor

Shepherd endured two days without sleep. It was reminiscent of New York City; unable to sleep because of sirens, arguing neighbors, and fear of robbery.

“I have trained myself to be afraid,” Shepherd said. “I cannot live without it. It is fear. Fear stokes the imagination.”

Shepherd crawled into his bed and curled under the blankets with his rifle close. He slept for twelve hours and was awakened by Pal standing with his front paws on the bed and a puppy whimper.

“Are you hungry, Pal?” Shepherd said.

Shepherd swung out of bed and pulled on his pants and stretched into his shirt. He walked out into living room. He grabbed some kindling to toss into the fireplace, but the fire was burning.

“I started the fire for you.” It was a female voice.

Shepherd jerked.

On the bench next to the window was a young woman.

“I fed, Pal,” she said. “My native name is Illuak, but my legal name is Nancy, Everyone calls me Nan.”

Shepherd stared at her puzzled. She was pleasantly and calmly beautiful with a strong sharp face, a raw untainted beauty born from naturalness. She was healthy and strong.

“I am Daniel’s daughter,” Nan smiled and stood.

Shepherd buttoned his shirt and still seemed confused.

“Father wanted me to check on you,” Nan said.

“It’s dangerous out there,” Shepherd said.

“This is my home,” Nan said. “I’m used to it.”

“How did you get here?” Shepherd said.

“Snow machine,” Nan said.

“Let me get you some coffee,” Shepherd said.

“It’s already for you,” Nan said.

Shepherd rubbed his eyes and stumbled to the kitchen.

“I’m sorry, Nan,” Shepherd said. “I had a couple of sleepless nights and I’ve been sleeping for a long time.” He removed two tin cups from the cupboard. He leaned into the living room and rubbed his eyes again. “Are you real?”

“I think I am,” Nan said. “Perhaps I should pour the coffee.”

“No, no,” Shepherd said. “I’ll get it, just got to get the cob webs out.”

“My father wanted to check on you,” Nan said. “He had to drive into Ruby and report one of our dogs was killed.”

“How?” Shepherd said.

“It broke loose and Father found it,” Nan said. “It was mauled to death.”

“Mauled?” Shepherd said. “Is that common.”

“No,” Nan said. “That’s why Father reported it. The animal was only killed. It was not eaten.”

“What does Daniel think?” Shepherd said.

“Father was quiet,” Nan said. “He does not believe in old tales told by old men who drink too much and old women who only want to talk.”

“What are the old tales?” Shepherd said. He poured two coffees and sat the cups at the table.

Shepherd and Nan sat at the table.

“Are you sure you want to hear about these things?” Nan said.

“Yes,” Shepherd said. “I’m interested.”

“There are legends and myths,” Nan said.

Shepherd interrupted, “Like Amarok.”

“Yes,” Nan said looking quite serious. “You have heard of it?”

“Before coming here I read as much as I could about your people and their culture,” Shepherd said.

“Father says that the stories of Amarok are only meant to keep foolish men from hunting alone,” Nan said. “It is not animals that must be feared; it is the cold, it is thin ice, or becoming lost. Such legends keep our people safe.”

“If these are only legends and myths how do dogs get mauled without being eaten and why does your Father go a long distance to report it?” Shepherd said. “And why does he send you to warn me?”

“You know why if you had read about our people,” Nan said.

“Amarok will not go near virgins,” Shepherd said.

Nan smiled, “I think that was made up by protective fathers.”

“Amarok will seek vengeance on a man who takes a woman not promised,” Shepherd said.

They sipped coffee for a half hour. Shepherd told Nan about some of his background and she told him a little about herself.

She glanced out the window. “It will be dark before long. I must hurry home.” She stood, slipped on her parka, and flipped the hood over her head.

“I’m not letting you go alone,” Shepherd said.

“I will be safe,” Nan said.

“I don’t believe in myths,” Shepherd said. “Only man kills something and does nothing with it. I’ll follow you in my snow machine until you are safely home.”

 

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