Chapter One: Trouble in the Clan

"The Spirit of Light Dry Snow took the Spirit of Granular Snow and his mate, and, after a time, she gave birth to a Mountain of Ice far to the north. The Sun Spirit hated the glittering child spreading across the land as he grew, keeping away his warmth so no grass could grow. The Sun decided to destroy Ice Mountain, but Storm Cloud Spirit, the sibling of Granular Snow, found out the Sun wanted to kill her child. In the summer, when the Sun was most powerful, Storm Cloud Spirit fought with him to save Ice Mountain's life.

"On some days, the Sun won the battle, and beat down on the hard, cold ice, turning it to water, draining Ice Mountain's life away. But many days Storm Cloud won, covering the face of the Sun, keeping his heat from melting the Ice Mountain too much. Though Ice Mountain starved and shrunk in summer, in winter, his mother took the nourishment her mate brought and nursed her son back to health. Every summer, the Sun struggled to destroy Ice Mountain, but Storm Cloud kept the Sun from melting all that the mother had fed her child the winter before. At the beginning of each new winter, Ice Mountain was always a little bigger then he had been the winter before; he grew larger, spread farther, covered more land every year.

"And, as he grew, a great cold went before him. The winds howled, the snow swirled, and Ice Mountain spread, creeping closer to the place where the People lived. The Clan shivered, huddling close to the fire while the snow fell on them.

"The Clan didn't know what to do. 'Why are the spirits of our totems no longer protecting us? What have we done to make them angry with us?' The mog-ur decided to go off by himself to find the spirits and talk to them. he was gone a long time. Many people became restless waiting for the mog-ur to return, especially the younger ones.

"But Durc was more impatient then anyone. 'The mog-ur will never come back,' he said. 'Our totems don't like the cold, they have gone away. We should leave, too.'

"'We cannot leave our home,' the leader said. 'This is where the Clan has always lived. It is the home of our ancestors. It is the home of the spirits of our totems. They have not gone away. They are unhappy with us, but they will be more unhappy without a place, away from the home they now. We cannot leave and take them away. Where would we go?'

"'Our totems have already left,' Durc argued. 'If we find a better home, they may come back. We can go to the south, following the birds that flee from the cold in autumn, and to the east, to the land of the Sun. we can go where Ice Mountain cannot reach us. Ice Mountain moves slowly; we can run like the wind. He would never catch us. If we stay here, we will freeze.'

"'No. we must wait for mog-ur. He will return and tell us what to do,' the leader commanded. But Durc would not listen to his sound advice. He pleaded and argued with the People and a few were swayed. They decided to leave with Durc.

"'Stay,' the others begged. 'Stay until the mog-ur returns.'

"Durc would not pay attention. 'The mog-ur will not find the spirits. He will never return. We are leaving now. Come with us to find a new place where Ice Mountain cannot live.'

"'No,' they replied. 'We will wait.'

"Mothers and their mates grieved for the young men and women who left, sure they were doomed. They waited for the mog-ur, but, after many days had passed, and the mog-ur still hadn't returned, they began to doubt. They began to wonder if they should have left with Durc.

"Then, one day, the Clan saw a strange animal approaching, an animal who was not afraid of the fire. The People were frightened and stared in wonder. They had never seen such an animal before. But, when it came closer, they saw it wasn't an animal at all, it was the mog-ur! He was covered with the fur of a cave bear. He had finally come back. He told the Clan what he had learned from Ursus, the Spirit of the Great Cave Bear.

"Ursus taught the People to live in caves, to wear the fur of animals, to hunt and gather in the summer and save food for winter. The People of the Clan always remembered what Ursus taught them, and, though Ice Mountain tried, he could not drive the People from their home. No matter how much cold and snow Ice Mountain sent before him, the People would not move, they would not get out of the way.

"Finally, Ice Mountain gave up. He sulked and wouldn't fight the Sun anymore. Storm Cloud became angry because Ice Mountain would not fight, and refused to help him anymore. Ice Mountain left the land and went back to his home in the north, and the great cold left with him. The Sun exulted at his victory, and chased him all the way to his northern home. There was no place he could hide from the great heat, and he was defeated. For many, many ears, there was no winter, only long days of summer.

"But Granular Snow grieved for her lost child, and the grief made her weak. Light Dry Snow wanted her to have another son, and asked Storm Cloud Spirit for help. Storm Cloud felt pity for his sibling, and he helped Light Dry Snow to bring her nourishment to make her strong. He covered the face of the Sun again while Light Dry Snow hovered near, sprinkling his spirit for Granular Snow to swallow. She gave birth again to another Ice Mountain, but the People remembered what Ursus had taught them. ice Mountain will never drive the Clan from their home.

"And what happened to Durc and those who left with him? It is said by some they were eaten by wolves and lions, and by some they were drowned in the great waters. Others say that, when they reached the land of the Sun, he became angry because Durc and his people wanted his land. He sent a ball of fire down from the sky to devour them. they disappeared, and no one ever saw them again."

Durc felt happy as the story ended. It was his favourite story, as it had been his mother's. As the Clan began to go back to their hearths, he walked back to his, Ura following close behind. He seated himself on his furs at his hearth, and barely had time to get settled before Broud came over.

'Durc,' he motioned, walking right into the hearth as though the boundaries didn't even exist. Uba, sitting on the opposite end of the hearth, and Vorn, her mate, sat next to her. Broud hardly noticed the man to whom the hearth belonged, which could only mean something about Durc had angered him…again.

'You are to stay here tomorrow,' Broud said. 'You are not coming with us on the hunt tomorrow.'

'What?!' gestured Durc, outraged. 'I can hunt as well as anyone, Broud!'

'You will stay here!' Broud said, angry. 'A deformed man has no place on a hunt!'

'I am not deformed!' Durc said, angry, standing up and glaring at the leader. As they continued to argue, Brun, watching from another corner of the cave, felt, once again, the pang of disappointment. He was not happy with how the son of his mate had turned out, but he could not say anything. Broud was leader now.

'Mog-ur was wrong to let you live!' he said. 'He was a fool, but that is nothing compared to your mother! She was worse! She should never have been accepted into the Clan! She was a stupid woman!'

And Durc hit him. He had few memories of Creb, the Mog-ur, and just as few of his mother, the one they called Ayla, but he was not about to let Broud insult either of them.

Broud looked at him, stunned, unable to hit back. 'Don't you ever insult Mama,' Durc motioned furiously, 'or the Mog-ur, either. I will stay here if you wish, and I will not object, but I will not allow you to speak about Mama that way!'

Durc turned away. He sat beside Ura and clenched his fists to control his temper. He had made Broud angrier, he knew, by referring to his mother as "Mama". She had told him to call her that – one of his few memories of her was playing a game with her, where they would make odd noises, and he said "mama". He could remember her saying, "That's right, Durc. Call me 'Mama'." And he had never done anything different. Never since then had he used the Clan sign meaning "mother". Broud didn't like it. Most of the Clan didn't like it – they didn't like unnecessary noise – but he had never stopped. Broud, especially, hated it. He hated everything to do with Mama.

I hate it here, Durc said. I am never allowed to hunt, never counted for anything. And, at the Clan Gathering this year, I was only told to compete in the races! It is not fair that Broud does this to me. …I'm not deformed…am I?

'Durc,' Grev said, then made a motion telling him to come foreword. Grev had always been Durc's friend, almost brother, since Broud's mate, Oga, had nursed them as children. Durc came to him and the other men, sitting in the circle. Sitting down with them, Grev filled Durc in on the conversation.

'We were discussing the Clan Gathering this year,' Grev said. 'We lost a lot of status. We went from being first at the Clan Gathering to last.'

'And we lost in all the contests, except the races you did, Durc,' Grev's older brother, Brac, motioned, 'and, if we did win, no one believed it was on our own merit.'

'It's because we continued to compete, even after the others were tired,' Durc said. 'Brun would never have allowed it.'

'You're right,' Brac motioned. 'My mother's mate's mother's mate was a far better leader.'

'All of this is Broud's fault,' Durc put in suddenly, angry. 'He thinks only of himself, not for the good of the Clan. You know he excluded me from yet another hunt?'

'What?!' Grev said, looking disbelieving. 'He did not.'

'He did,' Durc motioned solemnly. 'I do not think I will be able to stay here much longer.'

'Don't talk like that!' Brac motioned. 'You have a mate to think about! You can't just leave the Clan.'

'If this continues,' Durc continued, looking at Brac determinedly, 'I will not even be able to provide for Ura, or her children. I must leave soon.'

The other men simply stared at him, all of them wishing Broud never caught wind of the plan, for Durc's sake.