“Roanik stood before the young men and did not move. He spoke to them, but no one still living knows was what said. As they turned to each other to question what they should do, the air shuddered. When they turned back toward Roanik, he was gone.” Joanuh smiled slyly at his children. Their eyes were wide, reflecting the dancing fire within the room's brick fireplace.

 

Embers from the fire cause the shadows in the room to dance as Talus stirred the burning wood. He locked eyes with his father, and a look of doubt pierced the stare. Joanuh frowned with a knowing disappointment, but turned back to his youngest children, summoning his smile again.

 

“It is important for young ones to know these stories. They instill wisdom where there is none and teach you to always question the world in which you live,” Joanuh spoke quietly. Talus' brother and sister gathered themselves and hurried up the wooden stairs to their beds.

 

Talus and his father began to clean up the dinner table without a spoken word. The young man was tall with average proportions for an Inouk. His constant outdoor exposure rendered his skin dark and thick, but there was a gentle nature to his movements.

 

“Talus, go ahead and finish your chores in the bedding house. I will finish here.”, Joanuh said as he walked off toward the darkness of the kitchen.  Talus stared at his father's back before reluctantly putting on his snow attire. In this part of the Inouk land, layers of clothing were required to prevent fatal frostbite.

 

“At least the bedding house is well heated,” Talus thought as he walked the path between his home and the small wooden building nearby. The bedding house was split into two areas, one housing the sled they used for travel, the other housing the animals that pulled the sled. Talus first checked on the sled, ensuring that the rails were not iced over. He then passed through the door leading to the chambers of the honiks. These reptilian animals stood tall enough to brush against Talus' knees. They were not cold-blooded as most reptiles are. Over centuries, they have evolved to live in the temperatures that are now the norm on Alouric.

 

Ten honiks are needed to pull a sled with a full family inside the sled. When they pull the sleds, they part the snow with large, scaly, wing-like features that protrude from their jaws. There was a time, long ago, when they were used in races. In these hard times, they are too valuable to use for frivolous purposes.

 

After checking the temperature of the honik chamber, he glanced at each one in turn taking a head count. The need to check on them in the night was tiring. Their predators were many and the honiks had a fatal flaw. When they slept, they could not be woken. They would only wake when their bodies had recovered. If they were not protected, they became easy prey.

 

As Talus pulled his hood over his head and prepared to head back to the house the air shuddered behind him. In his father's stories, he had pictured the shudder as a shimmering light of some kind, but this was not a visual shudder. He felt it. His bones shook.