Though asleep Skadhi could sense the presence of something hovering over her. As she opened her eyes she saw a massive brown shape blocking out the dawn sunlight. When it saw her eyes open it growled and waved its long front legs menacingly above her, its large claws outlined against the clear blue sky. Skadhi shook her head, and took a long breath before she said, " It is too early for this my furry little friend. " The young bear growled even louder as it backed away, and lowered itself onto all four paws. " Yes, yes, " Skadhi said wincing. " I know I promised to give you fishing lessons today, but can' t I rest just a little longer ? " With that the bear shook his head from side to side and stomped his front paws up and down. " Oh, Alright ! ", Skadhi exclaimed. " A promise is a promise. " When the little brown bear that Skadhi had named Little Growler heard this he rolled over on his back and made a howling sound that echoed through the mountains and into the valleys. Skadhi just laughed and said, " Oh, now you are very happy my furry friend ! "
Skadhi made herself a breakfast of dried meat and berries before gathering up her gear and breaking camp. Though Little Growler paced back and forth impatiently, Skadhi took her time cleaning up the area she used for camping , and always left her camp exactly the way it looked before she had used it. She never left even a trace that she had been there. Finally, she strapped on her snowshoes, and joined by her furry companion, headed off to the stream to do some fishing.
It was a cold crisp morning that lesser beings would have found uncomfortable, but to Skadhi it was wonderfully invigorating. As they came to the slope that led down to the partially frozen stream, they hit a snow drift and Little Growler sunk into the snow up to its neck. It stared over at Skadhi with the look of a helpless child who was seeking assistance from its mother, and Skadhi, who never sunk into the snow on her magical snow shoes, walked over to her helpless friend and gently lifted him up, and placed him further down the slope out of the snow drift. Little Growler roared his approval, and then shook himself to remove the snow. Skadhi smiled and remembered the time when she first met the little bear cub. It was digging in deep snow trying to get to its mother who had been buried and killed in an avalanche. As she approached the tiny cub, it turned and growled at her as menancingly as it could. Skadhi, a giant, towered over this little creature, and she laughed at him for his bold defense. She decided right then and there to adopt this tiny bear cub, and to raise and teach him as best she could. They had been together ever since.
When they reached the stream Skadhi took off her snow shoes, and her boots made of reindeer hide, and waded into the flowing water. Little Growler went over to the edge of the bank of the stream and dipped one paw into the frigid water, and then withdrew it just as fast. Skadhi looked at him and with a scowl upon her face said, " You are a bear my furry friend, so in you go. " With that she picked him up and deposited him into the middle of the stream. When Skadhi saw the startled look on Little Growler's face, she laughed hysterically, and fell over backwards onto the bank. After the moment had passed she went back into the stream and showed Little Growler how to look through the water to see the fish swimming below. After a few minutes she saw a large fish swimming just in front of her, and with reflexes that were as fast as any animals, she plunged her face into the frigid water, and caught a large salmon in her mouth. Little Growler looked at the fish, then at her, and let out an approving roar. He snapped at the fish, but Skadhi pulled her face away and let the fish go. " You won' t learn if you don't do it yourself ! ", Skadhi explained. " Now do as I showed you, and get one yourself. " Skadhi turned and walked out of the stream and dried her feet off on the bank . As she was doing so she watched her student splashing around in the water, failing time after time. All she could do at this point was smile and encourage his efforts. She knew Little Growler would eventually catch one it was just a matter of practice.
As she sat there watching her student intently she heard in the distance a familiar howl. She howled back in response, and within minutes was joined by a pack of large grey wolves. She looked over and asked, " Where have you been all morning ? " The leader of the pack , Skadhi called him Swift - Runner, lifted its head skywards and let out a howl in response. " Hunting ? " Skadhi asked. " Well, where is your prize ? " Swift - Runner laid down on his belly, crawled over to Skadhi, and let out a small whimpering howl. " You lost it in deep snow ? " She said shaking her head. " You know you have to circle your prey so you can lead it to where you want it to go before attacking ! " All the wolves then put their heads down and crawled over to Skadhi. She just laughed and said, " Well, next time you will just have to do better ! " Hearing that, one by one, the wolves jumped up on to her lap and received Skadhi's affection.
By noon Little Growler had started to get the hang of it, and had caught two small salmon and a trout. He proudly brought each catch over to Skadhi on the bank, and laid them at her feet. Skadhi gave her pupil a big hug while the wolves howled their approval. Then Skadhi pointed back to the stream, and slowly, reluctantly, Little Growler waded back in to try again.
As Skadhi sat petting her wolves she noticed out of the corner of her eye that Swift - Runners' ears had perked up. " Yes, I see it too my friend." she said in a low voice. On the other side of the stream, and about 50 yards away was a large reindeer that had come down to the water's edge to drink. She slowly stood up, and with a fast and fluid motion she pulled an arrow from her quiver, set it on the string , sighted the prey, and let loose the bolt. The reindeer did not even have time to blink its eyes before the arrow hit it just below the shoulder, and pierced its heart. A second later it hit the ground with a dull thud. The wolves began howling and jumping up and down. Even Little Growler, cold and wet in mid - stream roared his approval. Skadhi just frowned and said, " Well I guess I will have to go over and get it ! "
That night, a short distance from the stream, Skadhi roasted her reindeer meat over a blazing fire while her wolves, and Little Growler, made a meal of the 22 salmon that the young, but now experienced, bear had caught. She yelled over to Swift - Runner to save her one, and he quickly grabbed one and placed it behind him. To make the point he growled menancingly at the others to stay away. As Skadhi looked up at the twinkling stars that shone in the clear night sky, she thought of Njord back in Noatun. She loved him dearly, and wished that she could be with him, but she knew that only here in this cold and desolate world of hers could she be truly happy. She smiled as the last thing that she sensed before falling asleep that night was Little Growler nudging her as he lay down beside her.
- Glenn Bergen, Copyright, 2011
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