Frost and Thaw

Chapter 4: The Hunt

Nansen finished tying the line to the last harpoon and examined it critically. "Look," he said, as if in disappointment. It has no balance, and the shaft is not straight. This is no weapon." He dropped it to the floor of the snow-house.

Savea, beside him, shook out the garments she was working on and held them at arm's length. "These are no better," she said in a frustrated tone that did not entirely hide the self-satisfaction in her eyes. "The stitching is poor, and it is too large for any of our clan." She dropped them to the floor as well. "They are fit only to be abandoned."

"Many hands have been clumsy of late." Nansen sighed. "Perhaps when a man goes to hunt, these may be left on the outskirts of the camp." It was nearly time for him to be going. He picked up his ice-hunting gear to examine it for any flaws, while his wife took down his outer garments. Even in the warmth of the snow-house, they had frozen overnight, and she diligently pounded and chewed them back into flexibility.

Years of experience meant that they finished their tasks at almost the same moment. Nansen slipped on his furs and hunting bag, and immediately the heat of the snow-house, pleasant a moment before, became oppressive. Stooping to gather up the garments and weapons from the floor, he hurried out the entry tunnel.

Cold wind struck him like a blow, stealing the warmth he had built up inside. He stood still for an instant, allowing his body to adjust. Before he could start out of camp, his dogs came up to him, barking gleefully.

"Down! Quiet!" he ordered sternly, holding his burden high where they could not gnaw at the skins. Reluctantly, they moved aside so that he could proceed with his task.

The sky was still dark, but the lamps inside the snow-houses sent out a faint glow, enough to lead his steps as he turned away from the camp of the clan. The useless items he carried needed to be abandoned away from the clan's dwellings. If that site also happened to be near the snow-houses of the Tall Men, of course such a thing was purely coincidental.

He set them down carefully in view of the entrance to the far snow-house. If the Tall Men chose to retrieve the discards, he hoped they would find them before the hides grew too stiff. They had no wives to make them supple again; they would be forced to do it themselves.


Nansen stopped in the midst of stepping away from the pile of fur and bone. He had not heard Arvedui emerging from the other snow-house. "It is early yet for rising," he answered in slight surprise.

Arvedui ignored the implied question. He was looking at the garments near Nansen's feet. "You have been bringing these things?" he inquired. "We are grateful."

Nansen shook his head, frustrated by the stranger's obtuseness. "Gifts were given when the new snow-houses were built. These are not gifts. They are ill-made, useless. They are being left here because they are of no value."

Comprehension dawned in the other man's eyes. "Ah. I see. Of course, as orphans, we have no choice but to attempt to use what others cast aside."

"Who will know?" Nansen spread his hands. "No attention is paid to refuse."

Arvedui bowed slightly, an answering smile on his lips. "Sensible, indeed." He turned away from the heap of furs. "We now all have proper clothing," he remarked. "Perhaps it is time for us to join the ice-hunt?"

Nansen paused, slightly surprised by how quickly the Tall Men had been equipped. He would have to tell Savea to cease her wasting of their skins. He also needed to decide whether it would be safe to allow the Tall Men on the ice.

"The ice-hunt is dangerous," he reminded the man once again. "Particularly to those not born to it."

Arvedui stiffened. "The same could be said of the land-hunt here, and yet we have managed to succeed at times."

Nansen knew he spoke truly; the Tall Men and their bows had been valuable additions in recent days. Even when the men had been out on the ice, the Tall Men had managed to slay enough of the birds and small creatures that the children usually hunted to feed themselves. He wished they would stay in the land-hunt, where their skills were an asset. The ice-hunt was completely different, and of it the Tall Men had no knowledge.

But it would be impossible to dissuade them. The land-hunt was the province of the boys nearly old enough to join the hunters, boys whose only thought was their opportunity to kill seal and become men. It was no surprise that the Tall Men behaved the same way.

The difference lay in the fact that the boys had fathers and uncles to teach them of hunting, while the Tall Men were alone. Nansen could do nothing more than give sparse advice. In the way of orphans, the Tall Men would learn on their own, growing stronger than those who relied upon fathers to teach them, or die.

"That is true," he answered Arvedui's statement at last. "And there is no way to come to know the ice-hunt but by experience."

The Tall Man's face lit with a smile. "Thank you," he said with a bow.

Nansen smiled in response and turned away to allow the Tall Man to recover the clothing and harpoons he had discarded. He could do no more than hope that all would be well.


"Snow-bear," Markku said.

Torsten frowned. "Why?"

"Look." Markku began to imitate the heavy strides of the Tall Men. Torsten laughed aloud.

Nansen shook his head. His sons had done nothing but jest about the Tall Men since they set out toward the Sea, and it was growing irksome.

"Speak in their tongue, so that they might have the opportunity to respond to this rudeness," he said, hoping to put a stop to their ill manners.

Instead, Torsten dropped back to walk beside one of the strangers - Thalanur, Nansen thought he was called. "Does the snow-bear live in the Southlands?" he asked with a smile.

Thalanur looked at his companions before replying. "I do not know. I have seen black bears, but I have never heard of a snow-bear. Are they similar?"

Torsten shrugged. "Snow-bear is a great white creature, taller than even the Tall Men if he stands upon his legs. He does this when he is angry. Usually, he sleeps the winter away, but sometimes he wakes up and wanders around, confused, like this." He, too, began to parody the way the Tall Men walked, still unused to the furs they wore. Markku and some of the other Snowmen laughed.

"It sounds much like the bears I have seen, except in colour," Thalanur replied, ignoring or missing the mockery. "At times they are peaceful creatures, but they can easily become dangerous. Bear hunts are perilous."

Nansen looked at the man, wondering if he had intended his words as a simple statement of fact, or whether he had recognised the jest and was making a light threat.

Torsten was not cowed. "Ah, snow-bear is dangerous, but the Sandulven can chase him off, without trouble. Snow-bear is easily confused, especially in winter, and the Sandulven tease him until he gives up and returns to his den."

"That, I have never seen," the Tall Man admitted. "We have no Sandulven in our land, only wolves and wargs, creatures corrupted by the Witch-king. They do not tease; they surround a foe, often in secrecy and under cover of darkness, and tear him down." Bitterness crept into his voice. "They are foul creatures, worthy only of destruction."

All laughter left the group, and Nansen felt anger rise in him. Did the Tall Men still doubt the honesty of the Snowmen? His people were not in the service of Hekskonge and never would be. The Tall Men had best learn that.

Another of the Tall Men broke the tense silence. "There are no wargs here, Thalanur," he said with a smile, touching the other on the arm. "Save your speeches for when we actually have a foe to fight."

"That will come soon enough, when we return home," another man said. Nansen recognised them now; they were the two men Arvedui said could not agree, Romendil and Gildur. "Our people will likely need more aid than a few heartening speeches."

"There is naught we can do about it now," Romendil countered. "We can only regain our strength, so that when we return, we may give that aid."

"Assuming that we even get home. And that there is a home when we return."

"There will be." Arvedui's tone forbade disagreement. "Our people are safe in the Grey Havens. And from there, we will retake what is ours."

There was another moment of silence after this statement, though the earlier tension was replaced with something that Nansen could not quite name. For a short moment, Arvedui seemed even taller than usual, tall and terrible and powerful like the Sea-kings from the South, matter of half-forgotten legends. Nansen blinked and the by now familiar figure of Arvedui was back: too tall, face too gaunt and clad in clothes that seemed to belong to another, but the Tall Men regarded him with open admiration, the hunters with wariness. They had not forgotten the Tall Men's earlier threat.

Startled, Nansen realised that the green-blue colour of the older, thicker ice, a shadow in the grey predawn light, already faded to a pale white. In listening to the Tall Men, he had ceased to watch how far they had yet to go. They were nearly to the edge of the fast ice. The rest of the Snowmen had noticed the change as well, and they came to a halt.

As they unfastened the dogs from the two sliding carts they had brought, Nansen glanced again at the Tall Men. He could give them no more advice - they were not kin - but still, despite his annoyance, he worried. Accidents on the ice would endanger them all.

He glanced over at Torsten, his usual hunting partner, and nodded toward the Tall Men. His son smiled in agreement.

He called Fugl to him and made his way through the group to stand beside Arvedui. As his hunting partner, at least he could give some aid to the stranger. It was far safer than allowing the inexperienced to pair off together. Torsten followed his example, joining a small group of the Tall Men that included Thalanur. He saw others among his kinsmen watching them, considering. The choice belonged to each man alone. Nansen turned to his companion. "Ready?"

Arvedui merely nodded. Nansen pointed out over the first-year ice. "Hunt seal!" he commanded Fugl.

She leapt forward, barking. Nansen trotted onto the ice behind her, Arvedui beside him.

Nansen quickly recognised that at least some of his worries had a basis. Arvedui seemed to have an unerring ability to find every patch of slick ice and slip, sometimes forced to wave his arms to keep his balance. The sight might have been funny, but it was slowing them down considerably. Nansen sighed and stopped so that his partner might reach him.

Arvedui stepped up beside him. Nansen did not speak, but he raised his harpoon conspicuously as he used the butt to test the thickness of the ice before him. Then he stepped forward, holding to the shaft for balance. Arvedui imitated him.

"The dark ice is common today," Nansen said nonchalantly.

"Dark ice?"

Nansen used his harpoon to tap a section of it before him, then stepped around it. "It can be dangerous to walk on such slick ice."

Arvedui did not answer, but when Nansen looked over at him, he saw the Tall Man intently studying the ice directly ahead of him. Relieved, he looked back ahead to see where Fugl was.

Before him, the dogs fanned out across the ice, as they had been trained. Small groups of men followed, most proceeding at the slow pace of the Tall Men. He made a mental note of where the closest groups were: Egli and Reidar up ahead to his left, and Markku, Kirk, and several of the Tall Men to his right. If any of them was in need, he would have to be able to get to them quickly.

Positions set in his mind, he returned his attention to his steps. Behind him, the sun slowly climbed above the horizon. The red glow illuminated the ice.

As the colour faded, Fugl halted and began to bark. Nansen increased his pace. She was the first of the dogs to locate a breathing hole.

"No seals will come this near the fast ice," Markku shouted good-naturedly across the ice.

"Seals will come here before Sanger even finds a breathing-hole," Nansen called back, pointing to where the other dog had stopped and was shaking his head vigorously, seeking to dislodge something.

Markku turned to look and snapped at the dog, which sprang up and began tracking forward again. "The only way a seal will be here so quickly is if She takes note of the hunter!"

"She is more likely to note the hunter who forgot to give water to the seal."

Markku flushed, and Kirk laughed in spite of himself before coming to his hunting partner's defence. "Is a child's mistake his first day upon the ice the fault of his own memory, or that of his father's teaching?"

Nansen stopped where Fugl was still pawing excitedly at the ice and reached down to pat her head. "Who can say?" he responded nonchalantly, waving aside the needling barb. "She will decide, and send the seals to the one who was not responsible for the fault."

Markku nodded and smiled, good humour restored. "She shall decide," he echoed, and passed on, farther from the fast ice.

Nansen looked up as Arvedui reached him; he had fallen behind when Nansen had increased his pace to join Fugl. "Here," he told the Tall Man, squatting down to point at the hole, only lightly covered by a thin layer of new ice. "Here will the seal come to breathe."

Arvedui examined the place and nodded, turning his harpoon and holding it ready to strike. Nansen smiled at his eagerness and reached into the hunting bag on his back.

"This is for standing upon," he directed, passing Arvedui a piece of reindeer hide. "The seals are sharp of ear; should they hear movement, they will not come."

Obediently, the Tall Man stepped onto the hide and stood motionless. Nansen took his own piece of hide to another breathing-hole several paces away and settled himself, preparing his harpoon for a quick thrust.

"And now there is only waiting."

Nansen settled himself comfortably and stood motionless. Behind him, he could hear first Egli, then Markku stop as their dogs found breathing holes. There was barking, talking, and then silence, spreading across the ice.

In the quiet, he scarcely registered the passage of time as the sun climbed higher overhead. He allowed his mind to wander freely, confident that at the sound of a seal breaking the thin ice, his harpoon would fly before thought was required.

The shout of a hunter behind him roused his attention. It was immediately echoed. He looked back. Egli and Reidar had both hurled their harpoons and were tugging on the ropes. Nansen stepped away from his own hole and went to help them, Arvedui trailing behind him.

With two men on each rope, the seals were quickly pulled to the surface. "They are large," Nansen commented admiringly as both men stooped to place fresh drinking water into the seals' mouths.

"These?" Reidar laughed. "These are merely small fish. Surely others will catch much greater prey."

Though he protested to keep away ill luck, he looked pleased. Two such seals were a fine catch.

"Perhaps," Nansen agreed, turning back toward the breathing hole he had abandoned. Before he had made it more than a few steps, however, he heard another shout. Markku had also struck a seal.

As Egli and Reidar roped their catch so that they could pull it back to the fast ice, Nansen and Arvedui moved toward Markku. Nansen's eyes widened. There were three Tall Men pulling on the rope, as well as Markku and Kirk, and they were struggling to bring in the creature. It must be one of the great bearded seals.

They arrived just as the creature was at last heaved from the water. As Nansen had suspected, the tufts of bristles on its muzzle, even beyond its unusual size, marked it as a bearded seal. Markku grinned with pride. Likely pride in the fact that his catch exceeds that of Egli, Nansen thought with a sigh he did not voice.

"It seems She has made Her decision," Markku said, looking up from where he squatted to give the seal a drink.

Nansen shook his head slowly. "There is still much of the day left," he told his son, keeping his face solemn.

"This catch will be beaten?" Kirk laughed. "Perhaps a whale will come to that breathing hole!"

Nansen laughed as well. "No, surely not. Two of the great seals would be quite sufficient."

"There is always a chance, however unlikely," Markku grinned. They began to tie ropes so that this seal, too, could be dragged to the sliding carts.

"A chance that dwindles with every moment spent in idle talk," Nansen replied. He turned to go. "A good catch," he added over his shoulder.

"This is nothing but a fish," Markku denied automatically. "Although, it would seem, a slightly larger fish than that of Egli."

Nansen shook his head at his son's foolhardy words, but he did not try again to make his son cease this bitter competition. Perhaps the song-fight would alleviate matters. He could only hope.

"Why did they all put water in the seals' mouths?" Arvedui inquired as they made their way back toward their breathing holes.

Nansen chuckled, amazed once again at the ignorance of these Tall Men. "The seal is always thirsty. When he gives his life, he must be thanked with a drink of water. That way, he will tell the Lady that the hunters were good men, and She will not withdraw the creatures."

"You often speak of this Lady. Who is She?"

"She is the Lady of the Seas. She can control the seals and other creatures; if She is angry at someone, She will let no prey go near him. She must be respected." They were approaching the breathing holes. "Perhaps Her story will be told at the feast."

Arvedui nodded and returned to his reindeer hide. Nansen did the same. He tried to relax. For some reason, it was difficult. Something felt wrong. He looked around. Egli and Reidar were more than halfway to the sliding carts; the group pulling Markku's seal were not too far behind. As he watched them, wondering what disturbed him, Markku sped up, as if trying to catch Egli. His quarry looked back and broke into a run as well. It quickly became a race. Nansen almost thought he could hear Markku's laughter.

There might be trouble when they reached the fast ice, but Kirk and Reidar would surely prevent their hunting partners from doing anything too foolish. That was not what made him uneasy.

He scanned across the ice, but only motionless hunters met his eyes. Nothing was wrong.

The answer came when a sudden gust of wind pushed the wolverine ruff away from his face. Before him, a thin layer of snow swirled out toward the open water. The wind was changing.

Without second thought, he spun his harpoon from a ready-to-throw position into one more suitable for walking and grabbed up his reindeer hide. He broke into a run. He only made it a few steps, however, before memory pulled him to a halt. The Tall Men would not know of their danger.

He spun around to face his hunting partner. The man had heard his footsteps and looked up, his own harpoon drifting down to rest against the ground.

"Arvedui!" Nansen shouted, hoping the man would heed him. "The ice moves! Run!"

He was too far away to read the Tall Man's face, but the stiffening of his posture showed that he had understood the warning. Instead of joining Nansen, however, he turned away. Nansen was about to call to him again when he realised that the man was looking for his companions.

His back to Nansen, Arvedui yelled something that the Snowman could not understand. The effect on the Tall Men, however, was instantaneous. Each man broke into a run, following the Snowmen, who had already begun the race for safety.

Confident that his men were alerted, Arvedui joined Nansen, and the two men began the gruelling run for the fast ice. The distance was not short, and Nansen spared a brief thought of gratitude that Arvedui had not insisted on coming out on the ice the first day he and his men had arrived at the camp. The Tall Men had been exhausted and would not have been able to deal with the treacherous moving ice.

Alternating his gaze between the sliding carts and the ice before his feet, he watched for sudden shifts while trying to keep to the most direct line for the fast ice. Arvedui stumbled on an uneven patch of ice, and Nansen caught his arm before he could fall, dragging him onward. If they did not hurry, the ice would begin to shift beneath them, and they could fall into the icy water below.

That possibility was looking more likely with each step. Arvedui's feet were slipping under him, and he was having too much trouble keeping his balance to run at full speed. Nansen found himself slowing down to stay beside the Tall Man, reaching out often to save him from falls.

Nansen measured the distance to the fast ice once again. It seemed not to change, and his worry grew. However, he did not see any new fractures opening between them and the fast ice. He only hoped that the Lady's forbearance would last.

Beside him, Arvedui was beginning to breathe more heavily. The Tall Man was still weakened by the foolish clothing he had worn out for days in the snow, and he was clearly unused to running on ice. The two combined made their flight across the ice far more difficult than it should have been.

Nansen spared a moment to look to both sides, catching sight of the rest of the Tall Men. They were no better off than Arvedui, but they did not appear to be significantly worse. To his relief, some of his kinsmen were aiding them.

Nansen looked down again just in time to avoid a patch of slippery dark ice. Arvedui was not so lucky. Seeing Nansen turn, he tried to follow suit, but he was too near the slippery spot and too clumsy. Nansen felt the ice quiver as the Tall Man fell heavily.

He checked his run just long enough to reach a hand down and pull the Tall Man back to his feet. "Come!" he called, sparing a smile, despite their circumstances. "This is no time for a rest!"

Within a heartbeat, Arvedui was up and running again. Gradually, he was beginning to learn how to run on the ice. He slipped less often with each breath.

Nansen looked to the fast ice again. This time, to his relief, it was clear that they were growing closer. Indeed, some of his kinsmen had already reached it. Relief suffused him.

But then the dark splintering cracks started to appear in the ice before his feet. Fractures were beginning to open. The first of the cracks were small enough to take in stride, but they grew quickly as the wind continued to blow the ice away from the shore. Soon they could see the dark, chill water beneath.

"Is a swim desirable?" Nansen inquired as they leapt one such crevasse. A splash to their left stopped any answer his companion might have made. He slowed, although he dared not halt his own run for the fast ice until he knew exactly what they faced. The fractures were growing in the direction of the splash, he noted absently. A longer glance revealed that Aricin had fallen. Apparently, his grandson had misjudged the fractures, but his hunting partner was coming to his aid ... Nansen blinked. No, it was not Kirk. It was one of the Tall Men who threw himself on the ice and reached out to Aricin.

Nansen applauded the Tall Man's courage, but his lack of knowledge of ice rescues was glaringly apparent. He did not properly brace himself, reached out too far, and began to slip. Worse, the piece of ice he lay upon was small, and at that moment it hit another floe with a shudder and began to slope, threatening to spill the Tall Man into the water beside Aricin.

Nansen had not realised he had turned and begun running to their aid until he looked down to leap another crack in the ice. Arvedui was a step before him, and Reidar was coming from the fast ice, but their aid was not necessary. Stian and Ingo were nearer than any of them. Ingo reached out to Aricin from the opposite side of the fracture, while Stian shouted to the Tall Man. Nansen caught Arvedui by the arm.

"They are well enough. Come. The fast ice grows no closer."

Arvedui would clearly have preferred to continue, but Nansen refused to release him. "There is no time to waste in foolishness," he insisted. "Come."

The Tall Man on the floe had managed to get to his feet without falling into the water - an impressive feat, considering how off-balance he had been - and was preparing to jump. Reluctantly, Arvedui turned to follow Nansen to the safety of the fast ice.

They reached the group of men around the sliding carts just before Aricin arrived. Nansen grinned at Ingo's cheerful teasing. "Such a graceful leap, straight into the Lady's embrace."

"So eager to go visit Her?" Stian inquired, laughing. Aricin, struggling into his raincoat to keep him warm while his coat dried, did not reply.

"Clearly, She was not eager to have him. She took one taste and spat him back out." Laughing, the Snowmen gathered around, all prepared to tease the hapless Aricin.

"She had a different man in mind the entire time," Aricin countered. He nodded toward Manomir. "That man was Her true desire. That fall was merely Her attempt to lure him in. But he was too quick for Her."

Nansen waited for the Tall Man to join in the joking, or at least turn aside the bad luck attracted by the compliment, but he did not speak. Belatedly, Nansen recalled their unfamiliarity with proper ways and spoke for him. "Quick? Were he quick, he would have easily outpaced such a slow runner as my grandson." He shook his head. "It is a wonder that he has not fallen in more often, with his slow pace."

"The true wonder is that the Tall Men did not all fall into the water," Reidar countered. "They are as clumsy upon the ice as seals upon the land."

Nansen looked at him, worried. It was Reidar's right and responsibility to defend his son against others' jests, but his answer had held too much hostility for Nansen's peace of mind.

Torsten ignored that implication. "Land-seal!" he exclaimed in delight, pointing at the Tall Men. "That is a better name than snow-bear. Look at them. They are land-seals." He laughed merrily.

"Of course," Markku said, only a hint of the irony of his statement conveyed in his voice. "After all, they must be prey, not something dangerous like snow-bear."

The rest of the Snowmen laughed, as Torsten tried to think of a way to defend his own choice of name. The Tall Men, however, did not. They spoke to one another in their other language, the one the Snowmen could not understand. Looking at them, Nansen thought he saw signs of anger. But who grew angry over mere jests?

Egli, too, had noticed the Tall Men's behaviour. "The Tall Men have no manners," he said to Reidar in the tongue of the Snowmen. Although his voice was quiet, everyone heard the words, and there was a moment of silence.

"It seems the Snowmen have no manners," Nansen interjected. "No one has complimented Aricin on trying a second time to catch a seal bare-handedly."

The boy blushed fiercely as the other men turned their jokes back on him. Nansen smiled to himself. It was something of a tradition to tell a boy that on his first hunt he was expected to jump into the water, swim after a seal, and slay it with his hands alone. Often the boy caught on to the joke, but sometimes, with a good enough storyteller and a naïve enough youth, the results were highly amusing.

Nansen looked back at the Tall Men, wondering if anyone had tried to tell them that old tale. They were still speaking in their own tongue, and Nansen felt a surge of annoyance. If they were making no effort to join the hunt, why had they come along?

Walking over to Arvedui, he gestured away from the hunters. He would ask. He led them far enough that the laughter of the Snowmen was soft in the distance before stopping, cocking his head to look the taller man in the eye. "Egli has said Tall Men have no manners, and perhaps he is correct."

Arvedui glared at him. "No manners? We have stood there listening to your people insult and laugh at us, and you accuse us of having no manners?"

Nansen was surprised at the anger in Arvedui's voice, but he glared in return. "Tall Men stand stiff as frozen hides and speak words the Snowmen cannot understand. This is polite?"

"I merely asked my Men to remain calm in the face of your people's insults. Manomir risked his life to help Aricin, and you mocked him!"

Taking a deep breath, Nansen tried to understand the stranger's words. "The Tall Man was brave to try to help when he knows not the ice. Foolish, but brave. Snowmen were impressed."

"So they laughed? He nearly died. What was there to laugh about?" Arvedui's voice was edged.

Nansen spread his hands. "Snowmen laugh."

"At him?"

"At anything." He folded his arms across his chest. "If he does not wish them to laugh at him, he should say something to make them laugh at another."

"Such as Aricin? He nearly died as well."

Nansen did not move as he reiterated, "Snowmen laugh."

"I cannot laugh when another of my men nearly dies."

There was deep grief in the man's voice, and Nansen unfolded his arms to look more closely at him. Suddenly he remembered the conversation they had had when the snow-houses were built. "Hekskonge has stolen laughter from all of the Tall Men?"

"I beg your pardon?" Arvedui's gaze had been distant; now he shook his head and fixed bright grey eyes on Nansen.

"Hekskonge has sucked laughter from the Tall Men like marrow from a bone." Nansen grew more certain as he spoke. "Tall Men see near death where Snowmen see life. Tall Men see insult where Snowmen see jest. Tall Men have no laughter. They think only of fighting 'the beast from Angmar.'" He felt sickened as he imagined such a life. "Tall Men grieve always, too much."

Arvedui had been listening intently, but at the last statement he became angry again. "I cannot count how many of my people fell during the last year. My own brother died scarcely a month ago. How can you say I grieve overmuch?"

"When grief harms the clan, any is too much." Nansen gestured back to where the hunters stood. "Laughter is part of the hunt. If Tall Men do not laugh with Snowmen, they do not hunt with Snowmen."

For the space of a few breaths they stood in silence. At last Arvedui said, "We cannot laugh at death, but we will join the hunt. In any way we can."

Nansen only nodded, hoping it would be enough.


To be continued ...

A/N: Thanks, Laurelin, for letting us know that you like our story!

Written by Wolfwind & fliewatuet
Posted: 2005-03-10