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Alkamar, the village in the moonlight

Little Eagle was seven when he decided to find the cave with his father and mother. For a week he stole bones and scraps of meat from the wolf dogs, tying the food in a bundle inside his ragged shirt.

He waited until after a great hunt, when the men were lazy with meat and praise from their women. After midnight he snuck past the guards and started running. He ran the whole night and the whole day. By sundown he found a brook, slaked his thirst and gnawed at a bone. He curled up to sleep in the gravel.

He woke just to see Scarface looming in the darkness. Little Eagle tried to get up, but he was kicked in the stomach, and anyway he was too tired to run more. Scarface turned him on his stomach, forced his face into the gravel and ripped his leather shirt up across his back. Little Eagle laid still, fearing the anger of the chief, not understanding what was happening. Then Scarface forced himself on Little Eagle.

The boy bucked and snarled and tried biting the hand on the back of his head. Scarface grunted and knocked his face into the ground until he lay still. Then his buttocks were ripped and torn and the pain shot up the spine and exploded in his head. His mouth filled with vomit, and then he did not remember much more.

He was dragged some of the way back to the village, and he stumbled some of the way, all the time feeling blood on his buttocks and inside his legs.

Later, whenever he emptied is bowels, the blood would run down his crotch and the insides of his thighs, and he would be sick with shame. He would sneak off and just lie in the river, letting the water run down his body. And long after the blood stopped coming, he could still feel it on his skin.

The second time he ran away, he ran with fear gagging his throat and his heart beating so wildly he thought it would burst in his chest. When Scarface tracked him down, he just laid there, trying to feel nothing.

"If you run a third time I will cut off your big toes," Scarface said. "Then you will never run anywhere."

He was carrying an armful of branches when three boys stopped him. Their leader was Jojote, the eldest son of Scarface. The young of the village had learned that one way to find favour with the chief was to bully the dog boy.

Jojote was a good head taller than other boys of his age, and he walked with his chest sticking out, as befitted the son of a chief. He picked up a clump of hard earth and threw it at the dog boy, who let it whistle by his head without moving a muscle. Jojote turned to his companions, a smile on his face.

"Can you smell the stink of dog?" he asked. "It is not a boy, it is a dog."

The dog boy lowered his eyes, but a blow with the flat of the hand knocked his head up again. He took a step backwards, and felt his feet being kicked from under him. When he had struggled to his feet, he saw the boys tossing around the branches of firewood. His face still burned from the blow, but he just stood there looking at them with large, dark eyes.

Suddenly Sintaje stood among them. The hunter's face was stretched like a mask over his skull.

"Shame," he whispered. "Shame will be the food we eat, the water we drink, the wind we breathe."

When he was in sight of others, the dog boy dragged his feet and stumbled beneath his load. But on his own the dog boy never stood still.

Fetching water to the chief's household, he ran along the river bed, skipping from slippery stone to slippery stone. Gathering firewood he burst through tiny openings in the sagegrowth. One wrong step and barbed thorns would rip his legs to shreds.

Always out of sight, never faltering, running on bare feet over razor sharp flint stones, every step was for his mother and father. If he ran fast enough, he would see them before death came.

The Rawhide Clan camped for summer in a valley deep inside the Mother Mountains. A stream flowed though the valley, with thick grass growing beside it. Bushes with tough, evergreen leaves grew together in small clumps, and the odd mountain birch had even managed to put down roots in the rocky ground.

Here the tribe erected their huts. Each hut consisted of three poles, pointed at one end and two-pronged at the other, with the entrance between two more poles. The frame was covered by numerous thinner poles, sinewy branches and twigs weaved together. Finally the hut was covered with turf. A rug covered the entrance to preserve the warmth from the fire, and smoke could find its way out though an opening in the roof. In the end there were fifteen such huts along the two sides of the stream.

There was no more beautiful valley than this, thought the dog boy. In this valley old and young alike had all the time they needed to do whatever they had to do. There were times when even Scarface forgot about him. As long as he was careful not to attract attention, it was possible to live almost like the others.

The dog boy loved this valley. Here summer would last forever, and he would never again feel the cold of winter. The nights could still be chilly, but it was a long time since he had shivered at the going down of the sun. When the clan went to sleep, he curled up in the outside of the village. As often had happened lately, the wolf dogs curled up beside him.

The next morning he made sure to stumble with a sack of water outside Scarface's tent, not trying to evade the kicks and blows that followed. Afterwards he fetched a new sack of water, dragging his feet all the time.

Nobody thought the dog boy would run now, not from this valley, and not in the middle of the day. So he ran.

He ran the whole evening, making sure that he did not tire himself. At nightfall dog boy gathered moss and grass and made himself a soft bed under a bush. His disappearance would not be discovered until the next morning, he hoped.

Dog boy slept without dreaming. The next morning he yawned and stretched his arms towards the sky. He drank some water and chewed some fat from a bone, making sure that his stomach did not become heavy.

Dog boy was eight summers old. Today he would be hunted by the most dangerous man of the Rawhide clan.

He started the run.

By noon dog boy felt eyes in the back of his neck. He ran a bit faster, but just as steady. A ptarmigan flew by him, flapping its wings and not fearing this human at all.

"I am sister Ptarmimgan, and you know me," the bird said.

"Yes, I know you," he thought as he ran, a bit confusd at being spoken to by a bird. And did not the voice sound like the dead medicine woman?

"You know what I do to protect my young from the snow fox?" sister Ptarmigan asked.

"You pretend that your wing is broken," thought the dog boy. "The fox thinks you are easy prey, and he runs after you as fast as he can, not stopping to think or smell for your nest."

"Yes. And now you will do like me."

The dog boy stumbled and rolled twice. He got up at once, but now he ran with a limp. He could feel Scarface burst into speed behind him, certain that the prey would soon be exhausted. But Scarface did not notice the limp disappear and the dog boy run on just as steady.

After a while he could feel the anger as Scarface slowed down the speed behind him, knowing that the prey was still not exhausted.

By evening the dog boy started stumbling for real. A big dark shape lumbered up beside him.

"You know me, I am uncle Elk, and you have seen my tracks, big old me, lumbering up the side of a hill."

The dog boy nodded. The voice was deeper, but still sounded like the medicine woman.

"Yes, I know you," he thought. "Everyone knows that your tracks are the easiest way to the top."

"Run uphill with me. It is harder for you, but it is harder for Scarface too. And I will guide your step."

The dog boy changed his course slightly, more uphill and harder on the lungs and heart, but he thought like the elk and found the surest foooting. Behind him Scarface stumbled in rage that he still not had overtaken his prey.

By nightfall the dog boy still ran uphill. His arms and feet were numb, and his throat burned with pain from every breath. The dog boy knew that he would never outrun the man behind him. He just hoped that he would be able to run until his heart gave out.

Something gray and sleek ran up beside him.

"I am Wolverine, the hunter, kin to no one. Sister Ptarmigan don't fool me with her broken wing. And I run down Uncle Elk if it takes seven days and seven nights. Do you know me?"

"Yes I know you," the dog boy thought. "I have seen your tracks, how they cut straight across the hills like a knife."

"I am Wolverine, the hunter, kin to no one, but tonight I will run with you, and tonight you will run like me."

The dog boy nodded.

He hovered above himself, saw the dog boy run on the ground, saw the chief burst forward and almost catch up. But the boy on the ground ran faster, straight and true his tracks cut through the hills.

The dog boy still hovered above all this. Now Scarface was the hunted. Like a reindeer being chased by the wolverine, it knows the wolverine will never give up once it has singled out its prey. And Scarface knew he would never win. The knowledge of defeat that kills a reindeer, now made him stumble and fall, tears streaking his face.

But then the dog boy was back in his body, still running, never once turning to see the chief pale and shrink in the distance.