I decided to do something a little different this week - instead of some flash fiction, I decided to give you a peak at the first draft, opening scene of the novella I'm working on. I hope you enjoy it - do let me know in the comments!
Ghost lights danced across the sky, their mysterious patterns creating portents that only the shamans could read. Chu shivered and pulled his hood tighter around his face, stamping his feet in the deep snow. Nearby his dogs whined, sensing his tension. Man, and dog alike cringed when another scream rent the air. Armak had insisted that he stay away while she gave birth; she did not want him to see her pain.
It was too soon for the baby. Chu knew that there was a strong chance the child would not survive; it had been only seven months since Armak had told him their prayers would be answered. Now it seemed she may have spoken to soon.
Armak screamed again and Chu clenched his fists at his side, filled with frustration at his inability to help her. Ananh was doing all that she could to help and she had been delivering babies since Chu himself was on the breast, but you didn’t have to be a midwife to know that things were not going well.
‘How are you coping, my friend?’ asked Nalatuk, walking up and throwing some whale meat to Chu’s dogs.
‘Armak is strong,’ Chu answered, avoiding the question.
‘As strong as the wolf,’ Nalatuk agreed. ‘But I asked about you.’
‘The waiting is hard,’ Chu sighed.
‘Harder out here. Why not come inside, have some food? You know it could be a long wait.’
‘I want to be ready, if she needs me.’
‘You’ll be no use to her if you freeze to death. Come inside.’ Nalatuk put a hand on Chu’s shoulder, the fur from the edges of his mittens rippling in the wind.
Chu looked longingly at the entrance to his own igloo and then allowed himself to be led away. Ananh would know where to look for him when the time came.
Chu knelt in the snow and crawled through the entrance to Nalatuk’s home. Iluak was waiting, a bowl of broth in her hand, and Chu realised that she had most likely sent Nalatuk out to fetch him. He got to his feet and accepted the bowl gratefully, allowing the warmth to seep into his hands. Nalatuk crawled in behind him, taking a second bowl of broth from Iluak and kissing her on the cheek.
Chu shrugged out of his polar bear coat and stripped off his beaver mittens, settling down on some hides by the small fire in the centre of the igloo.
Despite the walls between them, he heard Armak scream again and felt a stab of guilt that he should sit here warm and comfortable while she suffered to bring their child into the world. He swallowed hard, trying not to think about all the things that could go wrong.
Oh, great spirit, hear my prayer and let them both live. Or if you cannot, take the child, leave Amrak with me.
Chu shot to his feet as Amrak let out the worst scream yet. He was on his knees to crawl outside without even replacing his coat and mittens when he heard a sound that stopped him in his tracks.
A baby’s cry sounded over the winter village.