BY: PINKIE PARANYA
When Sedna, Raven Woman, and her clan of Inuit people discover a Viking ship wrecked on the shores of their Arctic island in the spring of 975 AD, Sedna is warned by the Raven Mother not to let her people kill the lone Norseman aboard. Heeding the warning, she stands between him and her angry tribe, causing her people to shun and distrust her. Thanks to her intervention, the Viking, Rolv, lives to repair his ship and sail to his home on a nearby island, where he has been banished for a year by his father, Eric the Red, in Greenland. When Rolv leaves Sedna’s tribe, he kidnaps her, certain that her own people will slay her as punishment for defending an outsider. But he knows nothing of how to survive in the harsh environment and, without Sedna, would surely perish during the coming winter. But even if she can keep this strong, stubborn Norseman fed, clothed, and warm, despite the dangers of her icy home, how can she keep him safe from her people who continually stalk them and what will she do with her heart, when he leaves her world to return to his father in Greenland once the spring has come again?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Sedna North Star Raven Woman by Pinkie Paranya, Sedna and her tribe of Inuit people discover a Viking whose ship has run aground on the shore of their Arctic island in 975 A.D. Sedna, who is a shaman of her people and a Raven Woman, is warned by the Raven Mother not to let her tribe kill the Viking, Rolv. If they do, it will go very bad for them. So Sedna warns her people, who accuse her of taking his side against them. When the Rolv’s injuries have healed and he is able to repair his ship and leave the island, he kidnaps Sedna, fearing that her people will kill her for protecting him. He and Sedna fall in love, combining their two worlds and customs and changing both of their lives forever.
Like the first two books in the series, this one is well written and makes you feel like you are right there in the Inuit village with Sedna and Rolv or on his strange Viking ship. The story has a strong plot, filled with twists and turns, and takes you back to a time long ago when life hung on by a thin precarious thread.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Sedna, North Star, Raven Woman by Pinkie Paranya is the third in the Women of the Northlands trilogy. This one revolves around Sedna, the Raven Woman and shaman of her Inuit clan. In the spring of 975 AD, Sedna finds an injured Viking and his damaged ship on the shores of her island in the Arctic. Her people want to kill him, as he is an outsider, but Sedna gets a warning from the Raven Mother, the first in the long line of Raven Women, that this man is very important to the Raven Women line and she must not let him die. So she and her wolf Aku stand between her people and the stranger, Rolv. She tells her people what the Raven Mother has said. Out of respect for, and fear of, her powers, the people back off and allow the man to live. Sedna takes him back to her summer dwelling, which she shares with her elderly mother and father, and nurses him back to health. But the tribe is unhappy with the situation and is only holding off until the old shaman, the more powerful one, and the hunters return from the hunt, including Sedna’s betrothed. But Rolv fears for her life when the men return so he coaxes her onto the ship and sails away before she can get off. It is a move that will bring them both happiness and tragedy, but neither will ever be the same again.
Sedna, North Star, Raven Woman is, in my opinion, the best of the trilogy. As well written as the others, with vivid descriptions and the author’s deep knowledge of both ancient history and the Inuit people, this story weaves in a sweet romance, among the suspense of the plot and the dangers of life in that time, that pulls you in and warms your heart. Bravo, Paranya!
Sedna heard the high pitched, excited voices rising in hysterical anger, tinged with fear. “Kill him! Kill him!”
Children shrieked and screamed, the sounds merging with the people’s shouts, ripping the smooth arctic evening apart in shreds.
She stood aside from the crowd rushing in one body toward a beach. The sky was no longer sunny, but a dull gray and she smelled snow in the air. Squat huts scattered over the tundra and, behind the huts, fish dryers fashioned of odd pieces of driftwood. The chill wind off the water seared her flesh like a burn, even under the heavy furs she wore.
As a shaman, she had just returned from a mind-journey to speak with Tulunixiraq, the Raven Mother. Now the pandemonium surrounding her crawled beneath her skin and became a part of her aching head as she struggled to normalize her thoughts.
“Sedna! Come and see the stranger. We need you to intercede for us,” one of the men called to her, just barely interrupting his headlong rush to follow the others.
People hurried by, shouting excitedly. “Come! Come!”
Others in the crowd slowed to shout at her on their dash to the beach. “The people need your counsel. Sedna, come!”
She looked down into the yellow, feral eyes of a snarling wolf and touched her hand to the animal’s head to calm her.
Sedna’s father hurried from behind, limping along with a crutch made of a gnarled piece of driftwood, while her mother passed him and clutched her arm. “Daughter, now is not a good time to stand dreaming.” The older woman pulled Sedna along, without waiting for the old man.
Sedna bumped into a person ahead of her who wore a bulky sealskin coat. That person gave way respectfully. “Hiyah, hiyah,” she murmured, pushing away her parka to feel the ivory belt she wore as the next Raven Woman.
The crowd parted, making way for her until she stood in the forefront of the group. At her feet was a large, dark shape of a man lying face up on the beach.
She cried out in remembrance of the thoughts that had come to her in her trance. She recognized the body at her feet as that of a Viking. The ship beached in front of her was a Norse sailing vessel. Shock and fright warred with fascinated surprise as she wondered how she knew the strange words that had come into her head.
Sedna murmured a chant to protect the villagers. This man was one of them. A kablunaet, a giant white man. She moved closer. The man’s head was wet and dirty from the sand, but she could see his hair was not black, like everyone she had ever known. His hair came to his shoulders while the men in her village wore theirs cropped to reach their chins. She swallowed hard, seeing for the first time, the bottom of his face and the area under his nose covered with a curly mass of red hair that caught fire from the sun which momentarily split apart the clouds.
She closed her eyes and murmured a brief chant to the Raven Mother and also to Sednah, her namesake and goddess of the sea. Why would a wondrous creature such as Sednah show her disrespect to the people by casting this stranger on their shores?
Men prodded the sprawled body stretched in awesome length upon the sand, but carefully, with their spears. The children poked at his legs with long sticks.
A force within Sedna caused her to pause, considering the unfamiliar memories whirling through her mind. Anything was possible with shaman, especially in such a grave situation, but how did she come to know who this man was? What he was? Why did she name him Viking when the people’s name for these giant white men was kablunaet? The man was from the other side of the island, the place-of-giants-who-walked-with-heads-touching-the-sun.
The stranger bled profusely from a cut on his forehead. A harpoon might have gone into his arm. Blood also seeped from a large rent in the shaggy fur he wore over his back. She bent to look more closely, to determine if he was safely dead in spite of the bleeding. When he opened his eyes to stare up at her, she almost fell over backward, a very bad sign for a shaman.
His eyes were as gray as the sky above them, as gray as plumed smoke rising from a fireplace. She had never seen any color of eyes but black. He raised his hand and she jumped away, unwilling to be touched by the stranger. Who knew what damaged a shaman’s powers?
Instantly the surrounding Inuit jabbed lances at him, none too gently, and he subsided with a shuddering sigh. As though gaining strength from their pitiless hostility, he glared at them and began to speak in their tongue. He used halting small words incorrectly, such as a child might utter, but understandable.
Did Sednah the Goddess of the Sea, in her mysterious wisdom, thrust this creature up to them for a purpose? Was this a sign? Was he a wiivaksaat, one of those who left their body behind and came around again?
The people surged forward, striving to hear. A barrage of black eyes focused first on Sedna, then on the stranger, then on Sedna again. She knew their thoughts. They might have spoken out loud. They wished for the old shaman, Analusha, but since he was out hunting, she must ward off the demon.
Analusha would have had one of his writhing fits by now. His dramatic display of ferocity was a favorite with the little band of Inuit. He usually whirled around and around in one place, dancing his weird dance until blood seeped from the corners of his mouth. At the end of his ritual he collapsed in a heap and the crowd waited in awe until he awoke to tell them where he had journeyed and what his decision would be.
Sedna did not wish for this power. It was not her way. Perhaps that was the reason the people would never fear her as they did Analusha. Without fear, there was not as much respect.
The stranger struggled to his feet. She could tell the pain made him dizzy and weak and she felt his concern, surrounded by a circle of people who looked like small, angry bears.
He stared down at them. “Are you trolls then? You resemble dwarfs–unfinished people. Skraelings, that is what we call you,” he concluded with contempt.
Sedna felt amazed that she understood many of his words. Her visit inside the glacier with the Raven Mother had changed everything.
He brushed away the weapons poking him. In spite of his weakness, he glared at his captors without fear. Unlike the milder brown bear, he was like one of the giant polar bears, naanuk, a force that even the bravest hunter hesitated to face.
Apparently sensing movement at his back, he turned “Leave my ship! Do not touch it!” His words carried authority. His deep voice sliced through the cold, dry air, startling those who had gained enough courage to touch mittens to his sailing craft. Women who had begun to gather the broken boards scattered on the beach, stopped. The ferocity in his thundering voice frightened them so they dropped their burdens and ran back away from him.
Sedna remembered two summers ago, when she had only fourteen sticks on her mother’s floor to show her age. Strangers, much like this one, arrived at their summer hunting area across the woodland on the other side of the island.
She recalled huge ships as big as glaciers, ships with fierce, ugly faces carved in front to split aside the water. Her people had watched, hidden, when the strangers entered the mouth of the valley.
Unlike their own small skin boats, which could hide nothing, those giant ships disgorged amazing quantities from their bellies. Giant men, women, and children appeared–faces pale like snow and hair the color of fresh blood or like the sun. They were strange beings that should not exist on the Earth.
An ancient crone echoed Sedna’s thoughts. “We had to move from our own shores, leave our good summer underground dwellings because of these men, do you not remember?”
“Yah! Yah!” voices mournfully intoned, with anger seeping around the edges.
“Last season of the sun, four brave seal hunters ventured close to look again upon these strangers. The hunters were captured, only two at last returned to us, two have never again been seen.”
As if on a signal, the families of the two missing men began the death chant.
In the rear, a man shouted and the cry was taken up by the crowd. “We seek revenge for our dead!”
Sedna frowned. With a simple gesture she could have the man punctured by a handful of harpoons and lances and the incident would be ended. Perhaps that was the best decision. She looked up into the stranger’s face, her own body experiencing the pain of his wounds. He swayed, but remained upright. The icy wind off the water had chilled his skin, and the bleeding ceased. His face beneath the hair looked as white as the snow against the side of the nearby hill.
She still detected no sign of fear from him.
Their stares met, locking in place so that she might never be able to look away. She sensed his surprise at their bonding and his eyes held a message she could not fathom. She knew this person from somewhere in time. Chills ran up her arms beneath the heavy fur as she studied the stranger.
‘He is the one. He must not die.’ The Raven Mother spoke again inside her head. Sedna slipped off her belt and turned to the crowd, holding the belt high. “We will not slay him. Wait and see what this person has to tell us. He is a sign from the sea. We must not permit anger and a thirst for vengeance to interfere.”
“Analusha will be angry when he returns,” shouted one of the men.
“Aya, aya,” many voices intoned.
A woman’s voice rang out. “Who then will be responsible for admitting a killer whale into the midst of seals?”
Sedna’s parents moved close beside her, showing their support. She thanked them with a look of affection. “The Raven will be responsible,” she said, turning from her beloved parents to face the animosity in the villagers’ stares. She met each individual’s glare with her own calm one and fastened the Raven Belt around her waist again.
The villagers turned and headed back toward their dwellings. She and the two old people were left to face the stranger. A noise made her whirl in time to see the big man crumple to the beach. Before she gave it too much thought, she ran to his side and knelt, needing to touch him, to impart some of her strength until he regained his. Those strange gray eyes were closed, he was breathing deeply as if in sleep. She stood and faced her mother and father.
“Do you truly wish to be here?” She feathered her fingers gently over her mother’s wrinkled brown cheek in the Inuit’s age-old gesture of love. “The people may become even more angry after thinking overlong on this. They could leap upon us–slay us all.”
“We believe you are a more powerful angokok than even the old shaman,” her mother said with a calm that did not agree with the unrest in her eyes.
Her father, always the practical one, asked the question. “Must we build a shelter over him?”
It hurt to see a once-proud man ask a mere woman, a daughter, such a question. Because Suutak had been wounded by the tusks of a fierce walrus on a hunt long ago, the village had to provide them with food. The people gave them meat mostly because Sedna was shaman and they were afraid not to. Suutak deferred to her as one would a provider.
“A daughter thinks it would be well to drag him by his feet if we have to,” Sedna said. “The people may return and slay him.”
“You mean we must touch him?” Her mother’s expression registered horror. She stood on her toes as she often did to peer up into Sedna’s face, cocking her head sideways so that she resembled the little summer squirrel, siksik. “You are different since you came back from speaking with the Raven Mother and looked upon this man. My daughter the shaman would have had this man thrown back into the water to die and leave us in peace.”
Sedna understood her agitation. Her mother, Kuliit, sensed the transformation that happened within her just before the arrival of the Viking on their shores.
The man on the beach stirred and groaned.
The three waited anxiously until he opened his eyes.
“What curious eyes, the color of seal’s skin,” her father said.
“I can walk, if you only support me a little,” the man said as he struggled to his feet again. In spite of the below-freezing wind, his face broke out in beads of sweat.
Sedna took his arm. She had understood most of his speech, though he mixed the broken Inuit language with his own.
“Daughter, do not touch him. Take my walking stick.”
Sedna stared at her father in surprise. That stick was his totem, he never went anywhere without it. If the stranger defiled it, he would have to burn it or leave it out on the ice.
Her mother and father stood apart, their fear of the stranger even stronger than their concern for their daughter.
“Stay away,” Sedna commanded them. “I am shaman. He cannot harm me.” She was not sure of this. Sometimes through trickery, a shaman’s power could be diminished or destroyed for short periods, or forever. She didn’t know why she was willing to risk it for this man, except that his presence called to something deep within her. To him she said, “It is not far to our home. Lean on me if you must.” Sedna was not certain if he understood her words, but he knew by gestures what she wanted him to do. The feel of his long body against her, his arm held within her own nearly made her stumble. Beneath the furs both of them wore she imagined she could feel his hot skin. A peculiar, thick sense of uneasy pleasure threaded through her body. Her husband-to-be, Nagatok, had mated with her two times, yet she had never felt this pleasurable sense of anticipation before. Was this man some kind of a shaman in his world? Had he enchanted her? She did not want to look up into the stranger’s face, nor stare into his eyes, else her feet would not move.
They hobbled along, the old people trailing a safe distance behind. All the while, Sedna’s whirling thoughts dizzied her. The knowledge that this was what her Raven belt commanded caused a soft warmth to emanate from the ivory links encircling her middle. When the man clamped his big hand on her shoulder for support, she touched the Raven belt with her sealskin mitten to give her courage. No one spoke as they made way through the swirling mists of the incoming fog.
When they neared their hut, people gathered to watch, standing away to avoid being harmed by strange magic. “When Nagatok returns, he will be angry,” an old woman muttered.
The union between Nagatok and Sedna had been arranged since her birth by their parents. With circumstances changed since Suutak’s injury and loss of hunting ability, Nagatok’s father would have liked to cancel the promise but could not, with honor.
“I am glad Nagatok has gone hunting with the shaman,” Sedna’s mother said in a low voice. “He hates strangers more than any of us since his brother was one of the hunters slain by these terrible people.”
“We do not know they were slain, do we?” Sedna asked the question in what she thought a reasonable way. “They could be prisoners.”
She had seen visions of the two men, captives in a dark place below the water on a boat like the Viking’s, only much larger. She saw the waves sloshing alongside the ship and a long journey for the two Inuit men to a land far across the water. They were kept alive, fed well, and cared for like caged bears. Now was not the time to share her vision.
“To be captured as slaves of the white men is worse than death,” her mother said, as if guessing some of Sedna’s thoughts.
Kuliit hobbled ahead to lift the flap of caribou skin over the doorway for her daughter. Sedna hesitated perceptibly at the entrance of the skin and whale rib dwelling and then bent down to enter. The man crawled in behind her, dropped, and lay panting like a spent animal from his exertion. His long legs stretched out to fill most of the interior.
“We can sleep outside,” her father said dryly.
Sedna hid her giggle behind her hand. He was known for his joking and the song-stories from his memory. Perhaps that was another reason the people were willing to share their food supply with the little family.
The stranger seemed to understand their discussion. He pushed himself up against one wall and sat, with knees drawn close to his chest to make room for them. “My vessel–will they carry it away piece by piece?” He sounded more worried about his ship than his injuries.
Sedna only understood him after he repeated his words slowly, mixed with some of her own language. “No. They will leave it alone until Analusha returns from the hunt to advise them.”
“Who is Analusha? Is he your chieftain?”
“Analusha is the old shaman. His name means ‘excrement of wolves’ because when he was young, before even my mother came upon this Earth, he slept with wolves and foxes, in preference to human companionship. He wears his name with pride. He will return soon. Do not worry over matters you cannot control.”
He made a wry face. “Wise words coming from a child.”
Sedna leaped to her feet, her head almost brushed the low ceiling. “I am not a child.”
“Shush, daughter, you act as one,” her mother said. “Tend to his wounds. You have touched him already. What is done is settled.”
Blood had begun to seep out again with the warmth inside the close confines of the hut. The hollowed-out stones of the lamps shed a ghostly light with the burning oil flickering and dancing over the walls and the ceiling of the dome-shaped dwelling.
“Remove your tunic so I may see where you are wounded,” Sedna ordered with a firmness to her voice she was far from feeling. This man filled her with strange emotions she could not quite tie together with her thoughts.
He shrugged wide shoulders, the gesture divesting himself of the bloodied and torn cloth. Kuliit picked up the material between callused fingers, her expression filled with wonder and curiosity that outweighed her fear of the stranger. “What manner of skin is this?”
“It is no skin.” He winced and moved to sit upright. Sedna placed a clump of clean moss on his arm to staunch the flow of blood. “It is a woven cloth from the sheep in our pasture.” He struggled with the mixing of two languages.
Sedna laid another clump of dampened moss against his feverish forehead. Only great resolution allowed her to take his hand and place it against the moss, indicating he was to hold it in place. Where their hands touched, she felt a burning sensation, as though her fingers had dipped into the hot, melted-blubber lamp. She should have been disgusted, but instead wanted to touch him even more.
Kuliit stirred the bubbling, gurgling pot of seal meat and busied herself preparing the meal. Her brow puckered with worry, which saddened Sedna. Her parents had already been very old when she was born. Everyone in the village and even in faraway villages had been shocked when old Kuliit became big with child after being barren the whole of her life. Instead of choosing a name from a departed ancestor to help bring a soul back to life, as was the custom, Kuliit named her child Sedna. Thus she was born a shaman and the next Raven Woman.
As shaman, she must use her strongest powers to cure this stranger and remove him from their tent before Nagatok and the old shaman returned, or they would all suffer. The thought of the shaman returning and working magic on the helpless Viking was almost more than she could stand. She must call the people together for the ceremony of summoning the spirits, to see into the future and how much time she had to cure him so that he could leave without harm coming to him. The shaman would surely inflict vengeance on her family for what she had done without his permission, but he would be less angry if he came home and found no intruder to heighten his wrath.
Sedna studied the stranger. In spite of his wounds and loss of blood, she believed he would be a good match for Analusha–an Analusha without his magic to be sure. It would be a fight to the death.
Her fingers itched to reach up and touch the stranger’s face, touch the curious sun-locked hair on his chin and under his nose. Sedna willed away the treacherous thoughts. It mattered not that she was shaman. She was a woman and belonged to Nagatok. She was lucky to have such a brave hunter and good provider. Even so, she acknowledged an innermost place within her body that wanted to be touched, to be loved, and Nagatok had never come close to it. At that moment she sadly realized he never would.
Sedna stood and moved toward the doorway from the little room. “I must go outside. I must be alone.” Leaving the distress behind her, aware her parents were afraid to be alone with this man, she had to withdraw from his presence. He had somehow cast a magic spell she must fight to break. Sedna walked down to the shore and sat on a large boulder upthrust from the sea.
For a long moment she stared out on the black water, watching the lap-lap of the rivulets coming into shore. Her life had been determined in advance, long before her birth, and could not be changed. Yet something had changed, within her with the appearance of the Viking.
Out in the dark sea, she imagined she saw a form watching her, Sednah, she down there, was close. She closed her eyes and turned back to her meeting with the Raven Mother, reliving it all over again.
When she approached the glacier, the home of the Raven Mother, the ice had screeched and shivered beneath her feet. Recessed within a large crack that formed an entrance, she saw billowing fog and the outline of a woman.
Sedna recognized the tall, stately form of the Raven Mother, Tulunixiraq, just as her mother and grandmother had described her according to the legends from the beginning of time. Without knowing why, Sedna’s heart sang out a greeting.
A welcoming look mirrored in the Raven Mother’s expression when the mist gradually cleared. Tulunixiraq beckoned and Sedna had followed without hesitation, not glancing down as her boots trod a high precarious path skirting on the slippery ice. Her legs felt as if they floated forward, and her feet barely touched the surface. When she came closer to the large crack in the ice, the sun faded away, unable to compete with the brightness of the mound of crystal.
Sedna expected to keep floating off the face of the glacier. Without fear, she crossed the slippery ice and bent to enter the crack. She thought she heard the people cry a warning chorus: “Come back! The wiivaksaat are inside! They will take you away with them!”
She was not afraid. The mournful wails of the people faded and she entered darkness as blue as midnight.
Ahead, a pale green light whispered from the bowels of the glacier. A surprising, dream-like lethargy gripped her, but she was wide awake and alert–her senses sharpened to exquisite heights. The only sound intruding on the dream-state was the continuous creak and groan of the shifting ice. No wonder the Inuit believed such strange noises came from demons.
Sedna moved toward a fur covered object lying on the floor of the glacier in the center of the pale light. The texture of the thick fur surrounding the Raven Mother was unknown to Sedna, though she knew all the fur bearing animals of the area. Once her eyes became more accustomed to the ethereal green light, she could see huge tusks piled against the wall. She recalled childhood stories almost forgotten, stories her father and grandfather told of the ancient animals, the kilivaciaq, that roamed the ice when the Raven first created the Earth. Sedna began to feel more sure of herself. Her hand barely trembled when she pulled away the rest of the furs to reveal the entire length of Tulunixiraq. The Raven Mother lay wrapped in a soft mantle of animal skin, tawny in color with slashes of black against the gold. An identical ivory belt such as Sedna wore, carved also with intricate designs, encircled the Raven Mother’s waist and she wore a headband of woven raven feathers.
The story handed down from generations was that the first women put on Earth by the Raven were very powerful Amazons, with men created to serve as their slaves. When one Raven Woman refused to give up her male child, as tradition demanded, all women were punished by the creator, lost their exalted place and became subservient to man. Sedna had heard the story many times during the first winters of her lifetime. It was one of the people’s favorite legends. She thought she had forgotten it until the moment she saw Tulunixiraq on the furs.
“Why am I here?” The sound of her own voice echoed up and down the narrow chamber and into the depths beyond, startling her. She waited for the Raven Mother to respond, but Tulunixiraq lay still, looking frozen.
The creaking sound from the constantly changing pressure of the ice no longer alarmed her. The cavern was so peaceful, Sedna began to relax and her eyes turned upward beneath closed lids. She did not open them, even when something soft brushed against her cheek and fanned the hair on her neck.
“Tulunixiraq?” she asked softly.
‘Daughter of the Raven. I am Raven Mother. Do not fear, no harm will come to you here.’
Sedna had no thought of fear. She didn’t even know if the voice was audible or in her head. It didn’t matter. She understood perfectly.
‘I have waited long for you.’
“I listened to stories of you as a child. I carry the name Raven Woman proudly.”
The Raven Mother continued. ‘You have been told the story. Our people came in great numbers, following the kilivaciaq across a narrow bridge of ice. At first we saw only ice. Then we came to deep valleys with green forests and more animals than we had ever seen in one place. Not only did we find the hairy beasts, but also giant bison with horns as wide as I am tall, and huge sloths that fed us well, for they were the easiest to slay. Women were the hunters of the tribe. Our men did the work and took care of our children.’
Sedna listened, her eyes tightly closed, not moving for fear of breaking the spell. She saw the tall, graceful huntress, standing in a long green valley. Her shoulders were thrown back, her lance poised and she looked magnificent. She chose her prey from the multitude of bison and mammoths grazing peacefully close by. Her spear found its mark.
‘We pursued the giant beasts and they moved farther into the valley. We awoke one morning and they had disappeared.’
With eyes still closed, Sedna saw the Raven Mother’s body rise up out of the furs and stand looking down on her. Sedna was afraid to open her eyes. The Raven Mother was two places, standing near her and still lying on the furs.
‘We thought to return to our land, but the narrow bridge had gone. There was no crossing back, so we continued forward.’
Sedna tried to imagine how it must have been to come to a strange place and then not be able to return. She saw the icy whiteness surrounding the lush green valley, the huge animals threading through a pass into the next frozen expanse of land beyond.
Tulunixiraq’s lips parted in a slight smile and she nodded with approval. ‘Your vision is good. It happened just so. We followed the animals and they led us toward beautiful, treacherous glaciers, over mountains of ice and into more green valleys.’
The story fascinated Sedna. Huddled on a scrap of fur, she hugged her knees to her chest, unmindful of the bone-snapping, frigid air in the center of the glacier.
‘We crossed treeless, rolling tundra and saw animals as far as the eye could see. We made our camp, staying for the time it takes a small child to grow to the age of mating, but again the way was blocked for us. When we wanted to return, the mountain pass had closed with ice. When the animals moved, we followed, staying in one place until, one terrible night, a giant wave of water came across the tundra, and Sednah claimed many of the people. That was the beginning of the salt ocean and the ice pack as you see it now.’
The apparition folded her hands across her breast and stared down at Sedna as if seeing inside her mind and soul. Her expression was one of satisfaction.
‘You have much to learn of life, but you have inner strength and courage which will serve you well. Put trust only in yourself, I cannot come to your aid. You must not expect it, for I am not of your world. If you fail in this task, the Raven Woman line will disappear forever as if it had never been.’
This time Sedna did not offer a protest. She had a sudden desire to discover what it was the Raven Mother wished her to learn.
Tulunixiraq floated close to her own body and blended with it briefly. When she rose into the air again she held her exquisitely woven headband made of raven feathers which she extended toward Sedna.
‘Your mother has given you the Raven belt. She was not a Raven Woman. You are the first after many descendants. The belt will become a part of you, as much as your own skin or heartbeat. The ivory belt is to make certain that the last Raven Woman does not perish. The headband is my gift to you.’
Sedna accepted the headband, warm in her mittenless hands. She turned the band of feathers and stones over, examining it. Sewn between and among the raven feathers were delicate slices of jade and ivory and rare quartz crystals shot with gold.
“I have never seen anything like this.” Sedna placed it on her head, and immediately felt comforted.
The Raven Mother smiled a secret, sad smile. ‘You must never be without the belt, nor allow anyone else to touch it–until you give it to your own daughter. I learned to make the belt from the priests and shaman in our land across the ice bridge. Each Raven Woman who wears the belt must carve one of its ivory pieces before giving it to the next. Soon a stranger comes to your shore. You must protect him, for he is of the future.’
Sedna fingered the flexible belt. Most of the oval pieces of ivory were carved with delicate lines–and the rest plain, as if waiting to be finished. The pieces were attached by strong swivels also carved of ivory. She wondered how many Raven Women had worn this belt down through the centuries.
‘I am a part of this belt always, as has been and will be every Raven Woman who possessed it. The belt serves each of you at that time you need it most. The belt will give you additional courage when you need it most, and it will serve as a constant reminder that even though I am not of your time and cannot offer aid, you are never alone. Not every generation puts forth a Raven Woman. Only the most devoted, the strongest, the most intelligent, of the succeeding generations will be a Raven Woman.
‘Now you must go!’ Tulunixiraq’s voice became charged with urgent intensity. ‘When my spirit returns to my body, nothing remains to protect you.’
Sedna opened her eyes and saw the Raven Mother fading, settling down into her furs to sleep again, the soft green mist around her growing more dense. Unmindful of the cold, which had swept in like some live being after the green haze faded, Sedna knelt at the side of Tulunixiraq’s body and touched her hand. It was as if another person spoke from inside her own body. “Do not fear, Raven Mother. I will treasure the belt and guard it with my life.”
She leaned over, touching the band on her forehead to the cold, hard hand of the Raven Mother a long moment. When she arose, the green light had diminished to a dull glow hovering just over the body. Sedna gently restored the furs around her, and over her face as before.
‘Go! Now!’ The voice whispered in her ear, compelling her forward. A compulsive urgency made Sedna rush toward the crack and the faint light of day beyond.
By now, the voice of warning filled the inside of the glacier; the eerie whisper echoed and bounced off the walls and the dark ceiling. ‘Go! Hurry!’
Sedna ran forward, panic pressing her heart up against her throat. The glacier boomed and cracked and groaned–loud noises that terrified her, and chilled her from inside out.
As she fled across the slippery floor toward the crack of light, her feet slid from beneath her and she fell.
The remembrance of falling shook Sedna from her dreaming and she looked once more out into the darkness. Over the sea, an iridescent spray of foam lifted from a place out on the near horizon, bringing a comforting warmth to caress her face.
Sedna turned to go back into the hut and face her parents and the Viking.
© 2016 by Pinkie Paranya