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In the desolate Aleutian Islands, two women, Kiin and Kukutux, confront tragedies that threaten their survival. Having lost her husband, Kiin must journey with an enemy back to the Walrus people, leaving behind her twin sons. Meanwhile, Kukutux watches as the village hunters return once again without food--the body of her husband strapped across their boat.
The First Men
Herendeen Bay, the Alaska Peninsula
Kiin pushed her way through the circle of men gathered on the beach. When she reached open ground, she saw the Raven. His chest was bare, his skin glazed with sweat, flecked with blood. He lifted a long-bladed obsidian knife as though to greet her. It was Amgigh's knife, one Amgigh had made, and the blade dripped blood.
The Raven sucked in his cheeks, let the lids of his eyes nearly close. "Your carvings, wife," he said. "They gave me power."
He pointed, and Kiin looked back at the edge of open ground, where a line of her carvings divided those men who watched from those who fought. The carvings were the ones she had made and traded for meat and oil so the First Men could live through the winter.
"Where ..." she began, then shook her head and said to the Raven, "I am not your wife."
The Raven snorted. "Go then to him." He raised the knife, used it to point, and Kiin let herself look where she did not want to look, let her eyes see what she did not want to see: Amgigh lying in the sand, Samiq kneeling beside him. Then Kiin, too, was beside Amgigh, her arms over Amgigh's chest, her hair turning red with Amgigh's blood. She clasped her amulet, rubbed it over Amgigh's forehead, over his cheeks.
"Do not die, Amgigh," she whispered. "Do not die, oh Amgigh. Do not die."
Amgigh took one long breath, tried to speak, but his words were lost in the blood that bubbled from his mouth. He took another breath, choked. Then his eyes rolled back, widened to release his spirit. Kiin moved to cradle Amgigh's head in her arms, and began the soft words of a song, something that came to her as she held him, something that asked spirits to act, something that begged her husband's forgiveness, that cursed the animals she had carved.
When the song was finished, Kiin stood, wiped one hand over her eyes. "I should have come sooner," she said. "I should have known he would fight the Raven. It is my fault. I ..."
But Samiq came to her, pressed his fingers against her lips. "You could not have stopped him," he said. "You are my wife now. I will not let Raven take you."
Kiin looked into Samiq's eyes, saw how much of him was still a boy, and how little he knew about the kind of fighting that had nothing to do with knives. "No, Samiq," she said. "You do not have the power to kill him."
Samiq's jaw tightened, he shook his head. "A knife," he said and turned to the men gathered around him.
Someone handed him a knife, poorly made, the edge blunt, but Samiq grabbed it.
The Raven clenched his teeth, screamed in the Walrus tongue, "You, a boy, will fight me? You, a child? You learned nothing from that one there, that dead boy in the sand?"
"The Raven does not want to fight you," Kiin said, her breath coming in sobs. "Samiq, please. You are not strong enough. He will kill you."
But Samiq pushed Kiin aside, lunged forward, wrist cocked with the longest edge of the blade toward the Raven. The Raven crouched, and Kiin could hear him mumbling—shaman's words, chants and curses, prayers to the carvings she had made. She ran to her carved animals, knelt among them, heaped sand over them.
She looked up, saw Samiq slash his knife in an arc toward the Raven. The blade caught the back of the Raven's hand, ripped the skin open, drew blood. But the Raven did not move.
"Kiin," the Raven called out, "this man, he is your 'Yellow-hair,' is he not?"
And Kiin, remembering the Raven's love for his dead wife Yellow-hair, said, "Do not kill him. I will be your wife, only please do not kill him."
The Raven moved, his movement like the dark blur of a bird flying. The long blade of his knife bit into Samiq's flesh, into the place where wrist joins hand. Then Kiin was running across the sand, through blood from the first fight, to stand between Samiq and the Raven. Small Knife, Samiq's adopted son, was there also, gripping Samiq's arms.
"You cannot win," Small Knife said. "Look at your hand."
Samiq glanced down, but said, "I have to fight. I cannot let him take Kiin."
"Do not fight," Kiin said. "You have Small Knife. He is your son now. You have Three Fish. She is a good wife. Someday you will have the power to fight the Raven and win. Until then I will stay with him. I am not strong enough to stand against him, but I am strong enough to wait for you. I have lived in the Walrus village this past year. They are good people. Come for me when you are ready."
Then Ice Hunter, a man from the Walrus village, was beside Kiin. He reached for Samiq's arm, wrapped a strip of seal hide around the wound, pulled it tight to stop the blood. "You have no reason to fight," Ice Hunter said. "The first fight was fair. The spirits decided."
Kiin looked into Samiq's eyes, saw the emptiness of his defeat. She pulled off the shell bead necklace he had given her the night of her woman's ceremony. Slowly she placed it over Samiq's head. "Someday you will fight him," she said. "You will fight him, and then you will give this necklace back to me."
She turned to the Raven. "If I am to go with you, I must go now," she said, and she spoke in the First Men's language, then repeated the words in the Walrus tongue.
"Where are our sons?" the Raven asked.
"Shuku is here," Kiin answered, and raised her suk so he could see the child. "But I gave Takha to the wind spirits as the Grandmother and the Aunt said I must." Kiin took Shuku from his carrying sling. "This is your son," she said to the Raven, "but he is no longer Shuku. He is Amgigh."
Kiin saw the Raven's anger, the clouding of the Raven's eyes, but she did not look away, did not flinch, even when he raised his hand as though to strike her.
"Hit me," Kiin said to the Raven. "Show these people that a shaman has only the power of anger against his wife, the power of his hands, the power of his knife." She dropped her voice to a whisper. "A man does not need a strong spirit when he has a large knife, a knife stolen from someone else."
The Raven threw the obsidian knife to the ground. Kiin picked it up, walked back to Samiq, placed it in his left hand. Her eyes met Samiq's eyes. "Always," she said, "I am your wife."
The Raven gestured toward Ice Hunter, toward the other Walrus men who had come with him. One picked up Kiin's carvings, another brought the Raven's ik to the water.
"We will not return to this beach," the Raven said.
But Kiin bent down and picked up a handful of pebbles from the sand. She waited as her mother brought Shuku's cradle and a bundle of Kiin's belongings from the ulaq.
Once more Kiin looked at Samiq, tried to press the image of his face into her mind, then she turned and followed the Raven to his ik.CHAPTER 2
The Walrus People
The Bering Sea
She heard nothing. Not the full round voice of the wind nor the high, curling cries of oyster catcher and gull, not the dip and splash of paddles nor the soft throat purr of Shuku nursing. But the silence was as sharp as obsidian, as dark as old blood. Even Kiin's spirit was still, so quiet that if she had not felt its ache in her chest, she would have believed it was gone—passed on to Three Fish along with the gift of Kiin's son Takha, along with that carving of man, woman, and child made long ago by the great shaman Shuganan.
She had not offered to paddle, nor had she looked back at the Raven, nor at the ikyan that skirted the Raven's trading ik.
Kiin pulled herself away from what her eyes were seeing, what her ears were hearing, until there was nothing but the throb of her spirit, pulsing like a wound. At first, its rhythm was the sound of her loss: Amgigh, Takha, Samiq; Amgigh, Takha, Samiq. But now there was silence, and Kiin wondered if she and the Raven and the Walrus People traders were no longer a part of the seen world, but instead had paddled into some world of story or song. Perhaps even now they were carried in the mind of a storyteller, alive only when words fell from the storyteller's mouth into the ears of those who listened.
When the Raven finally spoke, Kiin did not hear him, but instead, in a rush as harsh as storm wind, heard the noise of the sea. Then she felt the cold of spray against her cheeks, and she knew the choice she had made was not merely a story to be told on winter nights, but something so real that it could separate her mind from her spirit until the emptiness was complete.
So as the Raven called to his men, pointing with his paddle toward an inlet that broke the gray line of the shore, Kiin called to her spirit, until she heard the thin whispers of her spirit voice, its first word, a name—"Takha."
And Kiin answered, "No, Shuku."
Then the Raven's ik touched shore, and Kiin, arms careful of Shuku asleep in his carrying sling under her suk, leaped ashore. She gathered driftwood and watched as the men made a beach fire, and when Ice Hunter handed out pieces of dried fish, Kiin did not ask or wait, but took fish as though she were one of the traders.
Ice Hunter did not speak, but raised eyebrows at her, so that Kiin, biting into the firm, smoky meat, said, "I carve," and before he passed on to another, she reached out for a second piece.
They used the ik for shelter, tipping it to lie with its broad bottom toward the wind. The Raven hung the rectangle of wood that was Shuku's cradle from the ik ribs, then motioned for Kiin to pull off her suk. Kiin looked hard into the Raven's eyes and did as he asked, but she did not put Shuku into his cradle. He would be warmer strapped against her chest.
The Raven pulled off his parka and pushed Kiin into the shelter of the ik's bow. Kiin turned so her face was toward the ik, her back to the Raven. He lay down beside her, draped his feather cape over them, and pressed his body against hers.
Kiin waited, her flesh prickling with the touch of his skin. She laid one hand over Shuku, the other against her belly, and remembered when she had carried both her sons warm and safe under her heart. Then she felt the push of the Raven's man part, hard against her back, and she lay very still, scarcely allowing herself to breathe. But he did not try to enter her, to claim her as wife. Finally, he relaxed, his arm heavy against her ribs, and the rhythm of his breathing smoothed into sleep.
The Raven's warmth softened the darkness, until the night, like fingers weaving, twined dreams into Kiin's thoughts. But then Kiin's spirit spoke, jerking her awake with a voice as shrill as an oyster catcher's cry. "Amgigh, Amgigh, Amgigh." A mourning song.
Kiin let the sorrow fill her until it pushed tears from her eyes. Once again, she saw Amgigh dead on the beach, but she also pictured Samiq, Takha in his arms, the two safe with Three Fish in the shelter of Samiq's ulaq.
Kiin took a long breath and wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand. "I am strong," she told her spirit. "They are safe, and I am strong."
Turning her head in the direction of the Traders' Beach, where the mound of Samiq's ulaq rose from the earth, she whispered the same words to the night wind.
Who could say? Perhaps the wind would carry the words to Samiq. Perhaps someday it would bring his words to her.CHAPTER 3
Kiin guided her son's head to her breast. He drew the nipple into his mouth and sucked, bringing a twinge of pain and then the release of milk. Shuku's body relaxed against her own.
Though she had awakened to the words of a mourning song, Kiin had held those words within until she and the Raven had launched the ik. Now the song filled her mouth and she sang. She rocked, and her rocking joined the rhythm of the Raven's paddle, the swell of waves.
"I hope you mourn our son," the Raven called to her.
A sharp thrust of anger pierced Kiin's pain, and she turned to face him.
"You would tell me to mourn?" she said, spitting the words out toward the man. "You would have allowed two old women to kill our sons. You tell me to mourn?"
The hood of the Raven's chigadax covered his dark hair, and the wooden visor he wore against the glare and spray of water shaded his eyes, but Kiin saw the tight working of his jaw.
"Our son Takha is dead," the Raven said. "You were the one who gave him to the wind spirits!"
Kiin clamped her teeth together to hold in her words.
"Why did you go with your brother?" the Raven asked. "He stole you from your father. He tried to sell you as slave. Why trust him after he had done those things to you? I told you I would let you go back to your First Men husband if you left Shuku and Takha with me. Instead you chose to kill Takha. Now you have lost both son and husband. Did you also help your brother kill my Yellow-hair?"
Kiin's anger filled the emptiness left by her grief. "You were going to kill my sons. You had chosen to believe the Grandmother and the Aunt. You had decided your power could not stand against their curse. You are no shaman!"
"You fool, Kiin!" the Raven hissed. "Why would I kill our sons? I am a shaman. I need their power."
"See!" Kiin said, her arms tightening around Shuku. "You do not care about them except for yourself, for your own power. When the Grandmother and the Aunt made you believe my children could bring a curse to your lodge ..."
"Who told you I would kill our sons?"
"My brother Qakan."
The Raven's face twisted. "When did Qakan ever speak the truth?" he snarled. "If a man uses his sister like a wife, can he do anything but lie?"
The Raven's words moved over Kiin like the dense wetness of fog. So the Raven knew about Qakan, knew that Qakan had forced himself on her. Perhaps that was why he had never taken Kiin into his bed even though he called her wife.
Kiin pressed her hands into tight fists. "He told the truth to save his sons," she said. Her words were quiet, so that the Raven leaned forward, and for a moment stopped paddling.
"He believed the babies were his?"
The Raven dug his paddle down into the water and for a long time did not speak.
Finally Kiin said, "I did not know Qakan killed Yellow-hair. I did not know she was dead until I saw you and Qakan fighting on the beach, until I heard you accuse him as he died."
"You were there on that beach?" the Raven asked.
Grief closed Kiin's throat. If the Raven had found her, he would have taken her back to the Walrus People. There would have been no fight at the Traders' Beach, and Amgigh would still be alive.
Then her spirit whispered, "But perhaps one of your sons would be dead."
"So you believed Qakan," the Raven said. "But if you left me in order to save our sons, why did you give Takha to the wind?"
"His spirit is with his own people," Kiin said, "with the First Men. He does not belong to the Walrus People. I have saved one son, and if the Grandmother and the Aunt were right, if their visions and dreams were true, my people do not have to fear a curse, nor do yours."
The Raven only grunted, then pointed with his chin toward a paddle that lay in the bottom of the ik. Kiin picked up the paddle, turned around, and plunged the blade into the water.
"Be thankful I did not leave you with the First Men hunter Samiq," the Raven said. "The wound he carries—I have seen such wounds before. The hand is useless. He will never throw a spear again. He will not be able to hunt. His wives and children will starve."
The Raven's words made Kiin's throat ache in sorrow, but she did not answer him. Instead she paddled until she felt Shuku stop nursing. She laid her paddle in the bottom of the ik and looked inside her suk. Shuku was asleep. She watched his gentle breathing, then moved her amulet so it would lie close to his head. She had placed the few bits of gravel and sand she had taken from the Traders' Beach inside the amulet. A promise to return to Samiq. Even if he could not hunt.
"We will not stay with the Walrus People forever," she said to her son, but she spoke quietly so the wind that cut in across the bow of the ik would not take her words to the Raven's ears.
But her spirit said, "Can you risk a return? Can you chance that the Raven will follow you, will see Takha, recognize him as your son? What if he fights Samiq again? If Samiq cannot hunt, how can he fight?"
"In several years, the Raven will not be able to tell Takha from any other small boy," Kiin answered. "Men do not see babies in the same way women do."
But her spirit said, "Do not let your anger make you believe the Raven is stupid. There is not so much difference between women and men as you might think."
Kiin picked up her paddle, and as she thrust its blade against the waves, the Raven said, "I would not have killed our sons, Kiin."
Excerpted from Brother Wind by Sue Harrison. Copyright © 1994 Sue Harrison. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 27, 2010
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These characters come to life. This book draws you in it makes you feel like you are there on this beach with Kiin . This book made me laugh and cry and scream out loud, emotionally complelling. I couldnt put it down A MUST READ!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 28, 2004
this book was the best book series ive read.the plot and way it was told caught me when i read my sister the moon that i had to get this book to find out what happend. it ended like i wanted it to but there were some twists an turns. still i want to know how it still goes but it makes you wonder.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 25, 2003
Posted February 27, 2000
The book was beautifully written and carries the true meaning of the honor of being a Native American woman. I started reading the book and was unable to put it down, I would read it any chance I got. I was so into the characters, and plot that I finished it in 3 days. I highly reccomend this book as well as the other two in the series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 24, 2009
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Posted June 9, 2011
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