Nahanni ran. She had been running since shortly before sunrise and had covered a couple of miles along the path that ran along the river bank. She came to a ravine where a small creek ran down over the rocks and turned away from the river to follow it. She ran up along the creek, climbing the ravine and then turned back, following the edge of the cliff overlooking the river until she came to the clearing.
She stopped. She took a couple more deep breaths, and her heart pounding beneath her breast calmed. She stood on the cliff top with the river below her. The morning sun had risen a little way over the horizon to her right, and the frost was starting to melt under its warmth. The hills across the river to the north were covered with red and gold from the trees that were about to lose their leaves. The sky was the deep blue that only seemed to happen in the autumn. She could hear the roar of the waterfall just a little farther up the river, and see the mist from it around an outcrop of rock.
Nahanni was amazed. She had never run this far, this quickly. It usually took her at least twice as long to reach this lookout point, and she would have been out of breath with her heart pounding for minutes after doing it. Today she felt like she could make the run again, just as quickly, carrying a heavy pack.
That wasn't the only change. Yesterday morning she had been helping gather firewood, stocking up for the coming winter. She had tried to shift a log that would have taken half a dozen men to lift, and it had come right off the ground in her hands. She had been so startled she dropped it again right away before anyone noticed. That afternoon she had been wrestling with one of the boys. Kesuck was one of her favourite wrestling partners. He usually 'won' but this time she bested him easily, and he had gone off in a huff, leaving her frustrated.
Most disturbing were the dreams. They had started a week ago. In them she was fighting. Sometimes with people she knew, but their faces were horribly disfigured. Their foreheads were distorted, and their eyes were yellow. Their teeth were fangs that bit into the necks of their victims. Knives didn't kill them in her dreams, but an arrow or a wooden stake through their hearts caused them to explode into dust.
Nahanni sat on a rock, looking out over the river and thinking. She could hear a few birds moving through the trees behind her, though most had departed already for the winter. Travellers told that they went south, to lands where the snows didn't come. Nahanni's village saw a lot of travellers. Down the river led to a greater one, which led out to the sea. An endless expanse of water that they said was too salty to drink. Up the river led to rich trapping grounds, and somewhere far beyond them was a source of ochre. A smaller river led south, into a network of small lakes, and then to a great lake, so large they said you couldn't see across it. Canoes could cross it though, carrying furs and ochre south, and other goods north. Nahanni's hand went to the knife at her belt. Its blade had come from the south, when her father was young. It was her most prized possession, one of the few reminders she had of him. He had vanished on a hunting trip three winters ago. Her mind went back to her dreams. One of the faces she saw was his, just before her knife slashed through his neck.
Nahanni shuddered, trying to pull her mind away from the dreams. She concentrated on the sounds around her. She could hear a dear moving almost silently through the trees behind her. She knew it hadn't noticed her sitting there. She could also hear other animals that she knew she wouldn't have a week earlier. A raccoon was sheltering for the day in the hollow center of a dead tree nearby, mice were moving through the grass.
She sat and thought about her dreams, and the strange new strength and awareness that flowed through her body. She wondered what they could mean. She decided to talk with Grandmother.