Windago

Author's Notes: I've used this particular spelling variation because the Doctor has previously encountered a different monster called wendigo in the episode "Bad Blood".

Having seen the series three episode "The Shakespeare Code" of newWho is helpful but not necessary.

Many thanks to CharlesRocketBoy for helping me with details of Doctor Who canon.

###

The wind howled.

Winter had come early, even for the Arctic. Early and brutal; this winter had been heralded by a blizzard while families were still trekking back to the cities from their autumn hunting camps. A few had frozen to death in the hard-raging storm, but most had survived. The people of the Water Tribe knew this land and its harshness too well to die so easily.

But it would be a hard winter.

Akna sat up with the fire, adding a measure of whale oil whenever it started to die. He kept it bigger than it ought to be tonight. It made the inside of the snow-shelter slick with melting and refreezing ice, but that was better than the alternative.

His wife Shila lay with the children, but her blue eyes watched the entrance of the shelter.

A smell like an ice-lion's was thick in the air. Like, but just enough unlike to be frightening. It was an acrid scent, but there was a note of almost-sweetness in it like fresh-fallen snow.

He couldn't possibly hear the crunch of snow over the howling of the wind. But he sucked in a breath suddenly and fed the fire higher. The hair on the back of his neck stood up, every instinct telling him there was something out there in the dark.

Ice whined like it was being cut. Akna lifted his face towards the roof of their snow-shelter. He paled as a dusting of snow fell in through a split in the ice, spattering his hair with white. "Shila."

Shila whimpered and pulled the children closer to her.

"Shila," he said again, softly. "I'm going out there. You- You keep the fire lit. You hear me? You keep the fire lit."

Her eyes met his, and he could see the whites all around. She cradled the children close to her, and he knew the both of them had to be awake now, only lying still because this was a time to listen. "Akna, please-"

He shook his head. "Keep the fire lit."

Then he crawled out of the shelter and into the raging snowstorm.

Ice ran like tears down Shila's face, and she crept forward to feed the fire.

###

Pakku slogged along a road branching off from the main road, growling to himself. The sun had barely crested the horizon an hour ago, but he'd been walking for three. He didn't grumble about that, of course, or about being sent out here to help people make it back to the city safely. No, he grumbled about the other young men jeering at him over Kanna's flight.

Apparently he wasn't freezing enough of them to walls. Unfortunately, according to the waterbending masters, freezing people to walls was not acceptable behavior.

His head snapped up. There was something moving out there in the snow, white on white. No, nothing moved now but something had moved-

He sniffed the air but the only smell on the wind was cold snow. Still he kept his eyes on the white, not quite focused but waiting for a movement to focus on.

The snow-covered road cracked wide underneath his feet. Pakku flowed forward onto an ice-slide as the molebear sunk its heavy claws into the road and pulled it down. The young waterbender stared - molebears never came this close to the city! They stayed far out in the rotten ice wastes!

The molebear roared, and snow shook and fell into the hole. It swept the snow back with its back feet, then rose up on its hind legs.

Pakku dove off his ice-slide just as the molebear slammed its full weight against the structure. It shattered, and Pakku pulled at the ice, twisting it to liquid and striking at the molebear's sensitive snout with a water-whip.

The molebear howled and dug into the snow with its claws, trying to tunnel away. Pakku flowed forward in a waterbending stance, turning snow and ice to water so the molebear could not escape. It needed to be killed here and now, before it could turn all this area into rotten ice and tunnel traps.

A wheezing, groaning sound like nothing he had ever heard before came behind him. The hair on the back of Pakku's neck stood up as he felt something shift. It was almost like passing under the gate in the Spirit Oasis at the full moon.

Water froze to ice as he half-turned towards the new threat.

A simple blue box stood by the side of the road, incongruous and strange. Pakku stared for a moment, and there was a sound like a hiss of steam. The door cracked open.

The molebear made a whining sound and lunged forward, mostly burying itself in the snow. Rear paws kicked out snow and ice behind it as it tunneled quickly. Pakku cursed and turned most of his attention back to it. He slid through a series of forms, trying to catch hold of the ice and snow of the molebear's tunnel without turning the whole road into a lake.

"What are you doing?" A man's voice with an unfamiliar accent asked.

"What does it look like?" Pakku snarled as he managed to freeze the tunnel shut. The molebear smashed its heavy claws against the ice.

"Tai-chi," the stranger answered, "Only you don't have an opponent, and you're not really moving in a practicing sort of way-"

Pakku thrust his power into the ice and snow, caging the molebear in steel-hard ice, then yanked the whole thing upward. The molebear roared as it was brought to the surface in the cage, claws scarring the ice bars locked around it.

"- I must admit, bear-hunting was not something that occurred to me."

Pakku finally turned to see who was talking. A man stood in the road, wearing a long brown coat and dressed in browns. His skin was pale, and his face just a bit odd. Earth Kingdom, had to be, though what one of them was doing all the way out here, Pakku couldn't imagine.

He grinned as Pakku looked at him and gave a little wave. "Hello. I'm the Doctor."

###

There were footprints in the snow.

Tullik stared at the footprints. They were odd, circular but without the impression of a hoof-mark cutting into the snow. Heavy, but most things with feet that size were. Long stride, too; looked like for every seven paces he walked, it walked one.

The prints were rimmed with red.

He stared and each breath he took caught the faint, acrid scent of ice-lions.

"What sort of creature leaves tracks like that?" His brother asked, staying back behind him. Tullik could very dimly sense the tension in the snow as the waterbender held his power. Good. City-living hadn't entirely killed his brother's instincts.

He didn't answer the question, though. "We're going back to the city tonight. No stopping."

Nothing he'd ever encountered before made tracks like that. He wanted to keep it that way.

###

Pakku looked at the Earth Kingdom man, then turned his attention back to the molebear. He struck precisely with a piece of ice as sharp as steel, cutting its throat. Blood stained the snow a dark red.

"Was that really necessary?" The other man asked. He didn't look alarmed at all, simply dubious.

"Yes." Pakku folded his arms. The Doctor wore his clothes too thin for the Arctic, but that was his problem. He wasn't a member of the Tribe; Pakku owed him neither courtesy nor protection.

He met and held the other man's eyes.

For the life of him, Pakku had no idea why he didn't flinch away. There was something wrong with the Doctor's eyes, like they went down forever. Like looking into La's eyes when the black koi deigned to swim apart from its mate.

The Doctor smiled and looked away himself, and Pakku knew it was a kindness to him. "Well then! Where are we?"

"The road," Pakku answered. He jerked his chin over his shoulder. "If you go that way, you'll find the city." He studied the other man, then started undoing his parka. His waterbending could protect him from the cold for a day or two. "You'll need this. Just keep going to the left until you get to the city. They'll take you in, give you some food."

"Hm?" The Earth Kingdom man tilted his head slightly. Then realization dawned. "Oh, no, no! Don't take your coat off on my account. I'll be fine."

Wonderful. The man was crazy. Still and all, Pakku had offered. It probably violated the spirit of hospitality not to insist the man preserve his own life, but Pakku knew any argument he got into right now would end with the other party frozen. He shrugged and did up his parka. "Suit yourself."

"I'm guessing you're not going back to the city yourself." The Doctor gave him a shrewd look, then glanced down the road. "So where are you going? And what's your name, I don't think you mentioned that earlier."

"Pakku." He walked past the other man, scanning the horizon. It was as empty-looking as the road ahead, but that could easily be a trick of light and shadow and snow.

"Not a very friendly sort, are you?" The Doctor commented, his tone suggesting he was talking to himself.

Pakku snorted.

###

The wind whistled over the ground, picking up small flurries of white. Pakku trudged through the snow smothering the road, using his waterbending to loosen the snow and push it aside. The Doctor followed in his wake, finally silent for once.

Markers picked out the boundaries of the road, but they were getting few and far between the further the two of them got from the city. Roads out into the wilds like this always petered away to nothing eventually.

The snow in the roads shouldn't be this thick. He'd listened to the storm last night, felt the water in the air as snow and ice. This was too heavy for what had actually been out there.

He paused and took a long breath. "Something's wrong."

"Oh?" The Doctor stepped up behind him, looking around with interest. "How can you tell?"

Pakku shook his head and ignored the question. There was something in the smell of the air, in the taste of it on his tongue that made his skin prickle. He turned slowly, the wind stirring his hair and the edge of the Earth man's coat. Out in the white, nothing stirred. Not even a hint of movement save for the slight whirl of snow picked up by the wind.

The land was empty.

"We should have met someone by now," he said at last. "There's good hunting up this way. There should be people. But there's no sign of anyone."

"That is troubling," the Doctor said, his tone odd. Worried, some, and something else. Pakku couldn't get the taste of it before the Earth man spoke again. "Well. We'll have to find out what happened to them then."

"Of course," Pakku said in annoyance. "Keep up!"

He took off in a lope, moving his arms in waterbending gestures to stiffen the snow under his feet. He heard a surprised sound from the Doctor, then the man was running along behind him. It wasn't a race, but the man ran too fast, and he crested the hill hidden by snow and shadow first.

The Doctor froze, rocking back on his heels, expression dismayed.

Pakku caught up with him a few strides later. There, before them was a cracked open snow shelter. The entire top of it had been ripped off, but the snow piled high all around it was pristine and smooth.

There was a faint, acrid scent on the wind.

He stared down at it. Whoever had sheltered in there was dead. The Arctic was harsh on the Water Tribe, and it did not give much room for mistakes.

But this wasn't a mistake. He started down the slope, eyes hard on the broken-open snow shelter. It looked sound and sturdy from here, better than he could make without cheating by waterbending. Big predators might prowl around outside it, but the only real threat would be a molebear and they simply didn't live in this area.

They certainly didn't attack from above.

"There's nothing that does this," he said as the Doctor started down after him.

"Obviously something did."

"Yes," Pakku said simply. "Something did."

Days were short at this time of year. The sun touched the horizon before they were two miles away from the broken snow-shelter. The Doctor had not said a word to him while they investigated it, only waved his metal tool around curiously. He did apparently have something to say to that, but Pakku knew enough men who talked to their tools not to find it distracting.

His mind whirled in circles, raging and storming. Each breath he took dropped ice to the snow. He needed to get out of this state, but it wasn't until he realized they would need shelter that he saw how.

He left the road without bothering to tell the Doctor why, but the Earth Kingdom man followed him anyway.

"Getting a bit dark," the Doctor remarked. "Are you going to make one of those igloos? Always liked the cunning things."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Pakku informed him. The Water Tribesman slid into a waterbending stance, focusing entirely on the movements of his body. Slowly, deliberately, he relaxed his muscles. Then his movements flowed as he raised snow and ice to form a snow-shelter. It was smaller than a family would have used, but there were only the two of them. They did not need any more space.

Besides, it conserved his waterbending strength. Instinctively, he wanted as much power as he could hold tonight.

Too bad it was the dark of the moon.

"Interesting!" the Doctor said, and he honestly seemed to mean it. "How are you doing that, anyway? The snow-manipulation. It's not acting like low-level psychokinesis, your brain doesn't seem to be working in the right way for psionics-"

Pakku let the man's babble wash over him, waiting patiently for a break in the flow. "I'm a waterbender," he said simply when one such break came, and ignored further questions and babble. The man was obviously insane, though it must be some Earth Kingdom madness rather than the madness of seeing the windago that afflicted the Water Tribe-

"Windago!"

"Hm?" The Earth man gave him a bemused look, arms folded across his chest. "A wendigo? No, this isn't quite right-"

"Windago," Pakku interrupted, correcting his pronounciation. "It's a famine spirit. Twice as tall as a man. Quick as lightning in its tracks. It comes down with the worst winters and gobbles and gorges on people."

"What do you do about it?" The Doctor cocked his head, looking curious.

"I don't know!" Pakku snapped. "They're stories! No one's seen one in generations! You say people who've gone mad have seen the windago, and you do the rites so it doesn't come down, and you tell children stories about great heroes who fought with them!"

"But you still think it could be a windago who killed those people," the Doctor said in a musing tone. "Even though it's a spirit and a story."

"Nothing else fits." Pakku folded his arms. "Nothing cracks open snow-shelters like that. But a windago could. And what does being a spirit have to do with whether or not it could kill people?"

"Nothing, I suppose." A shiver ran through the Earth man, shaking the edges of his long brown coat. He drew his arms in tighter to his chest.

"-Get inside," Pakku ordered. Wonderful. The cold was finally catching up with the Earth Kingdom madman. "You didn't have the sense to bring food with you, did you?"

"No, I wasn't really expecting-"

Pakku snorted and gestured at the entrance to the snow-shelter. "I have seal jerky. And oil for a fire. Get in so I can start one before either of us freezes to death."

Inside was just as cold as outside, at least until Pakku got the fire started. Then the snow-shelter quickly became almost swelteringly hot. Pakku shrugged off his parka and passed seal jerky to the Doctor. The Earth man looked at it dubiously for a long time before trying any. Pakku gnawed on his own share of the jerky and tried to remember all of the stories he could about the windago.

They were scatteringly few. It came with the winter, it killed people in isolation, and it left with the spring. Sometimes people fought it, but it was like fighting La or Iluq - you might win once, but never twice.

###

Pakku sat bolt upright from dead-sleep. All his life, he'd been taught to get up as soon as he woke and to listen to the instincts that told him to wake before he knew he needed to awaken.

He sat up, and the ice forming over his mouth cracked. Air rushed into his lungs, and he sucked in deep breaths for a moment. Then he stilled, staring around the darkened snow-shelter.

He wasn't shivering. It was so cold in here that ice had formed on his skin, and he wasn't shivering.

That was very bad.

His body suffered as he forced it to move, as he crawled across the dead fire to the Earth Kingdom man. The Doctor was asleep and cold to the touch, cold as death. But faintly, faintly, Pakku could still feel his heart beating.

"Wake up, Doctor." With a bit of waterbending, he pulled the ice forming on the man away and let it drop into the snow-covered floor. He paused and reached down to touch the powdery snow.

There was an acrid scent like an ice-lion's in the air.

The Doctor stirred but didn't fully wake.

Pakku shook his head. They needed fire, they needed heat. Moving more by feel and familiarity than sight, he found the flask of whale oil. He reached for the fire-bowl, then jerked his hand back almost as soon as he touched it. He left bits of flesh behind, frozen by its burning cold.

"Fine," he said very softly. "Be that way."

He moved his hands in soft gestures, shaping the powdered snow into a bowl. The whale oil was frozen in its flask, he could feel it, but he yanked the cold out of it and thrust it into the walls of their snow-shelter. Then he poured oil into the snow-bowl. His hands shook, his body finally warming up enough to shiver.

He fumbled for his sparkstones, and his breath hitched with something like a sob as he felt the ice covering them freeze into his hands.

"I've got it," the Earth man said quietly, one hand settling on Pakku's shoulder while he pressed his metal tool into the oil-filled bowl. There was a flash and blue fire rose up, its heat the most wonderful thing Pakku had ever felt.

The sparkstones were frozen to his hands, and Pakku held them out to the fire. Melting the ice in his hands hurt, but he waited until the 'stones dropped to the powder-snow covering the floor.

The Earth man winced. "Right. I'm guessing our friend paid us a visit. Quite lucky you woke up when you did; I've never tried freezing to death before, but really, dying is never pleasant. What?"

Pakku just shook his head and looked away. Whatever madness afflicted the man, he wasn't precisely wrong. "-Do you smell that?"

The Doctor inhaled, and he looked terribly thoughtful for a moment. "I couldn't miss it. Lions. Why does it make me think of lions?"

"Because it smells like an ice-lion," Pakku replied archly. Not just like an ice-lion, though, and it was thick enough to choke a man. He'd have to be in the middle of its den-

He tilted his head up towards the roof of the shelter at the same time the Doctor did. Nothing moved outside, and he hardly dared breathe in case he missed a sound.

There was a very large amount of ice lurking over the snow-shelter.

"Run?" The Doctor suggested.

Pakku shook his head. "Faster than we are."

"That, ah, limits our options a bit." The Earth man fiddled with the metal tool he carried, pointing it at the roof of the snow-shelter. "I don't suppose your waterbending could do anything to slow it down if we did run?"

"Never tried." Pakku settled in a crouch with his toes on the ground, ready to spring up at the slightest need. The ice outside the snow-shelter hadn't moved, and he lifted his hands as he thrust his will into it.

Cold snapped across his mind, searing and biting, and ice shrieked in his voice as the windago tore open the roof of the snow-shelter. After that, everything came through a thick veil of ice. The Doctor shouted, a buzzing alien sound made the windago wail, and then they were stumbling through the night and the snow. Cold, real cold, pressed against his body.

Pakku twisted in the Doctor's grip, looking back the way they had come. All was silent and still, the night pressing down on the snow churned by their footsteps.

"Don't worry, don't worry!" The Earth man sounded entirely too pleased with the current situation. "A little adjustment of hypersonic frequencies through my sonic screwdriver agitated the ice forming a large part of its mass. It's trapped in a bit of a shutdown state right now, I think, trying to reset the frequencies to harmonize rather than-"

"Do you actually speak a language, or are you stringing sounds together as you go along?" Pakku snapped.

"Right, you don't appreciate technical explanations! I'll remember that next time!" The Doctor was grinning like a madman. He tugged on Pakku's arm, urging him faster. "We need to get as far away as we can before it wakes up! Head start! Give us a chance to think!"

Something howled out in the dark, ancient and wild. It sounded like the winds cutting themselves on glaciers, like the crack of rotten ice under a man's foot, like a walruscuda bellowing challenge.

In the darkness, Pakku couldn't tell if the Doctor paled, but suddenly the man was pulling him along faster. "Firm up the snow! Or whatever you were doing earlier! Ah, there must be something we can do with your hydrokinesis-"

Pakku hardened the snow under their feet with a gesture that flowed into the rhythm of their running.

"-A toboggan, no, that's only useful if we were up a hill. We need something like- surfing! Pakku! Do you even know what surfing is?"

"No!"

"All right! We're going to California when this is over!"

"-What?"

"Never mind! Can you ride the snow? Like it was the ocean with waves, and we're letting the waves push us! Or something like that, no room to be picky right now!"

Pakku took a heartbeat to consider it, then he yanked the Doctor back. "Get behind me and hold on!"

The other man stumbled momentarily, then grabbed onto his shoulders as Pakku surged into a waterbending move that he half-invented on the spot. Master Sirmik had always said that most techniques beyond the basics relied more on the imagination of the waterbender than on anything else.

The snow crested in a great wave and flowed over the land, faster than a muledeer could run, faster than a raven could fly. The land blurred into featureless white, and the only sound was the rush of wind and the roar of surging snow. Some part of Pakku couldn't help feeling giddy. If this was what he could do during the dark of the moon-!

A faint boom like thunder came and then again and again. Pakku felt his blood run cold as he recognized the rhythm of running footsteps.

The Doctor's hands tightened on his shoulders. "Pakku," he said quietly. "Keep going forward. Don't look back. Don't look- Good. Good. Just keep going forward."

"It's faster than us, isn't it?"

The Doctor didn't answer him.

Pakku poured himself into drawing more speed out of the wave. He let more and more of the snow drop away until there was only the sliver under his feet. The stars blurred, and the wind cut like knives, stinging his eyes so he could barely see.

The booming footsteps grew louder.

There was no more speed to be gained, no place in the white to hide from their pursuer- A thought struck Pakku, and he slewed the wave hard to the left. It was a long shot, and even if they lived long enough to reach the rotten ice plains, he might not have the power to strengthen the ice under them.

They didn't even come close to making it that far.

The Doctor abruptly yanked him to the side, and the snow-wave collapsed as his waterbending stance failed. A shadow blocked out the stars momentarily as they fell, then they hit the snow hard. Pakku rolled as he hit, digging a trench in the snow. His head felt woozy when he finally stopped, but he thrust out a hand in a waterbending gesture to push the snow away.

He came to his feet with the windago standing over him.

It loomed over him, three times as tall as a man. It was almost skeletally gaunt, with skin that looked dead even in the starlight pulled tight over its bones. Its hip bones had actually torn out of its skin, and they glittered like ice. Its eyes were sunk deep in its face so he could barely see them as it looked down on him, and its lips were torn and ragged. Long fingers that ended in icy blades reached for him.

Pakku transformed snow and ice to water and lashed out with a water whip. The windago made a soft sound and flicked its fingers-

His whip shattered into shards of ice.

Pakku barely had time to blink before he had to leap back from the windago's claws. Cold rolled out from its hands, so deep it hurt to breathe the air it passed through. Pakku stumbled back, and the windago flicked its fingers again.

The snow underneath the Water Tribesman melted, and he sunk into it to his knees before it refroze in the cold night air.

"Stop! Enough!" The Doctor yelled off to the side.

Both the windago and Pakku turned towards him, and Pakku blinked to see the Earth man waving his arms and walking towards them rather than running while he still could. Not that it would do him much good; perhaps he recognized that.

"You," the Doctor said, pointing up at the windago. "Why are you doing this? What have these people done to make you angry?"

The windago chortled softly.

"Don't play silly buggers with me!" The Earth man snapped, sudden rage contorting his face. "An animal would have killed ages ago! You're playing with us, and I will have an answer from you!"

It swung its full attention to the Earth man, crouching down as if to get a better look. Its fingers dug into the snow, and then it spoke Old Ice in a voice like a wolfloon howling. "It is fun."

The Doctor tilted his head slightly, eyes narrowing. "Fun?" He said in Old Ice, his tone fell. "Fun?"

"You are a very strange Earth Kingdom man to speak Old Ice," Pakku said quietly while he worked to subtly loosen the ice holding him.

"Not really from the Earth Kingdom," the Doctor answered absently. "Wait. Old Ice. I knew those sensor readings-! What language do you tell stories in?"

"Old-"

The windago whipped around and laid one long finger across Pakku's face. The Water Tribesman screamed as he felt ice crackle inside him, felt his very blood freezing.

"Windago! Carrionite shock soldier!" The Doctor roared in Old Ice. "Slave of words! Heed me and let that man live without your torment!"

The windago howled, and Pakku's blood melted. He collapsed on the snow, panting raggedly. Blood-as-ice, how could something even do that- Blood ran like water, but it wasn't water. Was it?

"The true name has but one use from your throat, human, for you are not the masters," the windago growled as it reached for the Doctor. "I will crack your bones and suck your marrow."

Pakku turned his head to watch as the Earth man scrambled back. The Doctor looked concerned but not particularly upset, as if he wasn't afraid to die but might find it rather unpleasant.

It was poor hospitality to let him die when Pakku could still do something about it.

"Windago," He muttered in Old Ice, his throat aching from his screams. He wasn't sure which was the true name among what the Doctor had said, so he spoke them all. "Carrionite shock soldier. Slave of words."

The windago froze and twisted to look back at the fallen Water Tribesman. Anger and hate twisted its face, and the cold struck like a physical blow.

Frost crackled in Pakku's hair as he sat upright in the freezing cold. "Heed me," he commanded, "and die."

The windago shattered.

###

Pakku barely had the strength to waterbend a snow-shelter over the both of them before he curled up asleep.

The morning found him with the Doctor's brown coat thrown over him. The Earth man slept nearby, and Pakku blinked sleepily at him before nestling back in the warmth of the coat. Body-heat kept the snow-shelter comfortable, but more warmth never upset anyone.

He woke up starving as the sun set, and he dug through his clothes for a remainder of seal jerky to gnaw on.

"We should head back," the Doctor commented, his eyes closed. "If you're up to a bit of swift traveling like we did last night."

"I am."

The Doctor opened his eyes and grinned at him. "You know, I said I'd take you to California when all this was over. Are you still up for that?"

Pakku stared at him, then tilted his head slightly. "You're stringing sounds together randomly again."

"I'll take that as a maybe."

-End-