Read an Excerpt
I was never my father's favorite, I'm afraid. Not that I shunned work, for I would work hard, for long hours at a time. He felt that imagination was fruitless, and was a stolid, serious man. He found me frivolous and given to flights of fancy and my mother was often needed to mediate between us. My older brothers felt much the same way about me, though for different reasons. I was, and am, small and thin and pale and my brothers were inclined to trounce me for nothing more than that.
So, it was with great relief on both my part, and my family's, when Lord Gregori came and spirited me away. It was the Dark of the year I turned three and ten, and the rivers and inlet waters were solid ice, allowing for ease of travel when he came, looking for furs. Somewhere, somehow, he had heard of the fur of the great white bear, and heard that my father was the last man to kill one. At that time I never even knew that other people existed outside of us and a few similar groups of hunters and fishermen, I was so ignorant. So when my Lord came, in his sleigh pulled by ferocious looking hounds, bundled in furs and jewel colored cloth, I thought he was the most bewitching thing I had ever seen. It was as if he had stepped straight out of a tale told to me by my musha. He must be a king or a prince, I thought. Something more than human. Perhaps one of the very saints, come back up to the earth.
Apparently my Lord was much taken with me, even then, as filthy and illiterate as I was. I have very dark hair in contrast to my milk pale skin and light blue eyes, and back then my mother teased that I was more girl than boy, and that she was only waiting for me to sprout teats. The first night Lord Gregori wasin our camp he sat at my father's fire with the old men trading stories and the smell of bear grease and roasted meat was strong about him, and his eyes sought and found me almost as much as mine did he. Looking at him made my belly ache, so much that I thought I was sick somehow. He was utterly lovely to me, and so foreign, though I remember being much impressed that he spoke our dialect, even if his accent was strange.
His long, dark hair was clean and neatly combed, and my fingers actually twitched to touch it, making me hide them in the folds of my coat, so dirty and cracked were they. I was ashamed of them. Next to his soft, fine hands mine were an abomination. His eyes were so dark, so deep, and flashed with a ruthless intelligence behind the calm surface of his face, and I wanted to just sit and watch him forever. Whenever his eyes met mine I felt a thrill, and when he smiled at me I thought I might just melt away into nothing.
That very night I dreamed of him, one of those dreams that wakes you with your heart pounding and your furs wet and my brother put an elbow to my stomach and told me to shut it, as he was trying to sleep. I was hot and cold by turns, thinking how bad it would have been to get caught doing that, and how good it had felt anyway.
The next morning I heard from my next oldest brother, Nimahl, that Lord Gregori had successfully concluded his trade with father and was leaving as soon as his sled was ready. I was devastated. Really, the affect on me he had was so profound I cannot express it within the formality of the written word. I wanted to throw myself at his feet and beg him not to leave without me. I wanted to stow away on his sled, even if it meant sleeping with his dogs at night. Instead I crept away, miserable, and hid among my father's furs, crying for something lost that was never mine.