Inook stared out across the tundra, looking for any small movement that might indicate life. If he felt the blizzard stinging his eyes, he didn’t show it and kept his vision fixed firmly on the horizon, checking for any discrepancy in the sea of white before him. Inook knew the snow intimately and he couldn’t remember a life without it. The tribal elders had spoken of the before times, but Inook wasn’t sure he believed them – suspecting that it was nothing more than myth. He missed the elders. They had gone long ago and now it was just him and the snow. Every hour of every day, he scoured the blasted ice for some sign of life, some indicator that he was not alone in this frozen hell.
Amidst this flurry of wind and ice, a shape emerged. Inook had seen visions in the storm before and knew better than to chase after them without proper confirmation. Too many of his brothers had succumbed to the madness of the storm, chasing after visions that were nothing more than wishes dancing on the wind. Inook knew better than that and stayed where he was, steadfast against bitter frost and cruel hope. He pulled his husky pelt tighter around him, remembering the day that he slaughtered his faithful companion just to drink the hot blood and regain some semblance of warmth. His last friend died so that he might live and Inook wrestled with the consequences of that deed every single day.
But perhaps he didn’t have to be alone any more. The shape in front of him was coming closer, gaining definition and becoming increasingly man-like. Grasping the handle of his jawbone axe, Inook readied himself for the possibility that this stranger might not be glad to see him. He found himself growling in a low, gutteral voice – indecipherable to anyone else above the howling wind, but a reassurance to himself that he was poised and ready to strike at a moment’s notice.
The shape came closer and Inook could see that it was definitely a man, albeit one dressed in a manner that seemed alien to him. His pelts were unnaturally coloured in a lurid yellow and red and on his head he wore some kind of face protector made of a substance Inook could not comprehend.
Frightened and angry, Inook leapt at the stranger, his jawbone axe held aloft.
“Wrrraaargh!” he roared, his mighty battle-cry loud enough to be heard over the screaming winds. “Wanagoona maka rata!”
The stranger stopped walking and looked at the savage for a moment. “Ian?” it said, lowering the face protector and revealing a clean shaven chin. “Is that you, mate?”
Inook jabbed his axe at the stranger warily, unsure of what he had said. That first word had sounded familiar, like a song heard in childhood that echoes on the wind. “Rana!” Inook shouted, but without the same force as before. “Tata maneeka do-wo?”
The stranger reached into his ears and removed two small buds on strings.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that. What did you say?”
“I said: ‘Do you want to go to the pub for a livener?’” Inook stated, finding himself strangely at ease with the colorful stranger.
The two trudged off to the west and it was some time before either of them spoke.
“How long’s it been snowing now?” Inook asked. “I can’t seem to remember.”
His companion tilted his head and thought for a moment.
“About three hours.”
Ian Oak nodded.
“Seems like longer.”