Ouroboros Spine ugguanik ⏞⏟
Moonglow

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a cut in her forearm, nipped there by her teeth.

blood welling against the paleness of a softer flesh.

kukutux lifted her paw and smeared the red against @Sialuk's alabaster pelt, across face and along chest, leaning forward to smooth her muzzle against the girlish brow, ensuring her own blood would mar the driftwhite all the way to the raindrop's ears. not nearly enough to soak through as she would have done with a fresh kill. but she could not give so much. these drops must be enough. 

she ducked her own muzzle, superficial pain fading under sorrow. the markings were not well-made, but then again, she had not done such before. nine days. "it covers us from their eyes. we sing them to the dancing lights." mouth twisted with the effort of holding back her tears, but several escaped, running rivulets of dark rose to her chin.

she had asked the girl to soak the pelt given by the hunter. it lay within icewater now, and she breathed to think of such relief, numbing surface closing over her own head.

the woman stood to face toward moonspear as the sun faded, retiring to the sacred sleeping place, light narrowing to a fierce yellowed glow over the teeth of the round mountains.

a breath. she began the first guttural song, grief compelling it from some place in her chest. it is time to leave. it is time to leave this place of sorrow. it is time to lift from flesh and walk to home, the voiceless words came. do not be afraid. do not be afraid. our voices walk with you, beloved spirit.

a breath. a continuation. a breath. exhaling through nose. it would not come easily to sialuk.

kukutux began the first death song again, closing her eyes as cheeks grew stained with blood and wet with salt.
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Moonglow

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Sialuk was silent as anaa drew blood, smearing it across her to protect her from their eyes. In the past hours, before finding her mother, she had spoken their names aloud to the wind for the last time. Again and again she said them so she might not forget, even if they would never cross her lips again. In her mind, she would remember them.

The sunset was a thing of beauty, and Sialuk found the contrast of it against her own pain unfair and cruel. Sixsix she had not seen since early afternoon; perhaps he knew that these sad songs were coming, and he did not wish to interfere.

When the song began, Sialuk listened the first time to learn it, then began to join in the second time. The words were cruel and kind, sour and sweet in her throat. The way they were sung was difficult, but Sialuk worked her voice to mimic anaa's.

It is time to leave. It is time to leave this place of sorrow. It is time to lift from flesh and walk to home. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Our voices walk with you, beloved spirit.
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Moonglow

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THE SECOND SONG

foxpelt beneath her good paw, holding it. she had worked through the daytime hours in silence, barely speaking and only exchanging long glances with sialuk where relevant. there was no cause for words. she had stayed close to the ulaq, trading sleep for the whispered prayers.

those too she had passed to sialuk. in her life, she might say them many times, though kukutux hoped that it would not be so.

"daughter."

the sun, dipping below the stone heads of the mountain range once more.

a sigh breaking from the duck. she set her gaze upon moonspear. sing, the inner spirit urged; the green eyes closed. she felt sialuk close by, steadied herself upon the edge of her raindrop's presence.

lift yourself from bones now, beloved spirit.

there is a time to wait and a time to depart.

we sing you now to your home within the dancing lights,

when you open your eyes, you will be at peace.

tears for the second dusk falling, trembling alongside the red stains upon muzzle, red that had turned to burgundy in the night.
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Sialuk had awoken with a sore throat, no doubt from the death songs to which she was unaccustomed. She had avoided speaking to anyone the day after, knowing that she must save her voice for the songs for the next eight nights. The sun rose, and the sun began to set. It was then that Sialuk returned to the ulaq, breaking away from her every day tasks to greet anaa with a heavy heart, touching their foreheads together in silence. Her voice would be saved for the song, which came not long after.

Lift yourself from bones now, beloved spirit. There is a time to wait and a time to depart. We sing you now to your home within the dancing lights. When you open your eyes, you will be at peace.
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THE THIRD SONG

do you hear it?

caribou running.

do you hear the sound of their hooves?

they are calling you home

hunt us in the world of the spirits, they say

go to them

go where the caribou lead

we call them to the dancing lights for you, beloved spirit

the duck found that the words of her mother began to become muddled with the ones she had heard as a child, floating skyward from the shaman's ulaq.

her mother and the tradition of women had kept the duckling at bay.

it is not for you.

why did her heart remember them now?

why did she sing a prayer sacred and only for men to say?

the inner spirit spat.

you and your daughter will be cursed.

but we are cursed now.

the death songs lifted the bleakness from them as well. they sang their love to the dancing lights. they gave all to those who walked alone. and when the nine days had passed, they would be cleansed. but not now. they would labour beneath the dark in their travails for now.

it was third day. this was the first of the secrets; a curl of her tongue. "pukak. if a spirit comes now, after three days, they are not who they say. they wear the face of one who has gone. but they are not them. our voices go on for the rest of the days. they walk the narrow place between the edge of the moon and the start of the lights. sedna swallows them slowly."

mourning upon mourning.

kukutux sang again.
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Moonglow

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Again, Sialuk spoke to none, though she cast them glances when she saw them. Her eyes were sorrowful, thinking of the loss she was singing for each night. She ate enough to sustain herself, but no more. Her heart ached, her throat ached, she felt the loss within her spirit.

She returned to the mourning place once more, pressing herself briefly to anaa before they began the song.

Do you hear it? Caribou running. Do you hear the sound of their hooves? They are calling you home. Hunt us in the world of the spirits, they say. Go to them. Go where the caribou lead. We call them to the dancing lights for you, beloved spirit.

Anaa spoke of what might come. Of those who may take the place of their loved ones. Sialuk hoped she did not see them outside of memories held close. She did not wish to see these imposters.

Again, they sang.
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Moonglow

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THE FOURTH SONG


ah.

she wheeled.

i wish i had the tea that eases the head, she told the inner spirit. it flicked her tongue to her own dry mouth, and she felt it in slow confusion.

you would not drink it. you have not even had enough water.

is sialuk ready for these things? have i made her ready too soon?

you were wife to the seal hunter at her age.

why she did think of him now? but his name rolled to the front of her mind, a mossy stone clambering down an incline.

see; you have not forgotten. let him go now too, daughter.

tears sparkling again — always — in her eyes.

we do not ask if boys are ready to become men. they do not ask us when girls are ready to become women. they trust us to know. you are firstmother. she will be in your place, and her daughter after. you speak the secrets in your circle so that they know when to spread their wings.

the black bird.

yes.

their song would come late that night, and this time it was not words at all. kukutux only shrieked and keened the marrowdeep pain the crushing rocks had placed inside her spirit, how in all she had lost, and how it had been repeated again. and she allowed anger close enough to warm her through the cold night; "let it go, sialuk" — for this was how they grieved. it was another sort of death song.
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Moonglow

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She spoke on the first day, only with anaa and of what she must speak of. What they were to become here on this ring of mountains. What they were to do to create their path forward. But before she could set her heart to that, she must sing again. No words came out with their haunting notes this evening, and it was a relief to her throat, though not to her spirit, which sank just as deep as it ever had since the strange storm.

Sialuk thought of the ancestors Nikai had spoken of, and how her grandparents may still walk the mountain in their own way. She wondered now, her voice mingling with anaa's if her father and brother's spirits would walk there, too. Unseen, unheard, but keeping them safe.
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THE FIFTH SONG

grandfather

he watched kukutux from across an ice floe. no matter how she ran she could not reach him.

granddaughter. you have suffered another blow

kukutux swallowed snow as his voice reverberated inside her head.

i watched you die

i have died a hundred deaths. you will too.

somehow it did not fill the duck with dread; somehow a warm feeling of relief crept into her stomach.

her ankle throbbed with less pain.

low tones as the sun lay down for the long night.

beloved spirit, you walk through sedna's throat.

it is dark, but do not be afraid.

we are with you.

go toward the stars beyond

go to the light beyond

do not turn back

do not look back

she would repeat it once, and then no more, staring silently toward the sky that trailed starlight and moonfire over the darkened mountain.
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THE SIXTH SONG

at last lynx came to her.

kukutux lifted her head from the snow.

sister. your husband is dead.

tears stung her eyes.

i know this.

what do you mourn now?

i mourn my own hope.

it is time to have renewed hope.

but i do not want a new husband. i do not want to start again. i do not want to continue my mourning.

if you stop now, you know what will happen.

the spirits, caught between this world and the next, unable to free themselves or be freed. kukutux would not condemn them to that.

i know this thing. i do not want to start again. i do not want to live again.

the yellow eyes glowed, shards of sunlight in the long dark.

make another sort of beginning.

tonight the death song of kukutux and of sialuk would come late, two voices winding around one another and fading over the conifer forest. not sung again.

we ask for healing.

we know the green must come again.

remove the winter from our bones.

we shed it as grandfather bear leaves his snow parka behind.

take it from us.

take it with you to the dancing lights.

our love will warm your shoulders there.

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THE SEVENTH SONG

listen.

tooteega, shuffling forward. the old she-wolf's gaze was a sharp knife she slid between kukutux' ribs.

daughter.

the elder wore a wrap of white fur. with her came the scent of the rich wet earth waiting to thaw beneath the sun.

your son is dead.

this time kukutux wept, for the losing of a hunter was one thing. but her boy had not yet come to that age; she had not sent him out among the young men, where he might learn the secrets.

sialuk must begin the training for irnisiksiiji. you must teach her a new healing, new medicines. you see how she has kept you alive? she is ready.

and this, the seventh night of mourning. in two more, kukutux must be finished. she must pick up the threads of her life.

i will be widow.

tooteega scoffed, spitting into the snow.

a fertile widow.

but the edges of her heart were cold.

i do not want a husband.

the old woman's breath seemed to hang in the air.

two dead. aya. perhaps it is a curse.

a pause.

or perhaps you are not made to be a wife.

kukutux felt her throat constrict.

but it is all i have known.

it is time to know new things, daughter.

quick breaths to punctuate the meandering song. the moon's arms were beginning to grow empty.

do you hear, beloved spirit?

it is the moon of white hawks —

their wings bear you to the dancing lights now.

you crawl out of the sleeping place of sedna.

open your eyes and see.

your journey is almost at an end.

your journey is almost at an end.
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THE EIGHTH SONG

no singing this night.

kukutux lay beside sialuk.

the tears had ceased to come.

lynx leant closer, flicking snow from the tip of her long ears.

they have reached the dancing lights.

pain tensing the edge of the duck's jawline; she forced it to whisper away and straightened her shoulders.

soon they hunt with the old ones.

the tears did not arrive.

grief clenched her throat all the same.

you have done well.

i have done well.

starlight racing through the turning heavens as night went on.

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THE FINAL SONG


we will honor you as ancestors.

we will not forget your names.

go now.

go now.

tavvauvusi.
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Moonglow

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The fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth songs felt as though they were a blur. Sialuk spoke not to anybody outside of anaa, preferring to share her grief with her mother and nobody else. She knew there was much to be done with the few who gathered here, but her spirit sank low, and it was all she could do to keep herself rested and fed.

The ninth song, the last song, the one Sialuk was most fearful of, sped toward her each day until it arrived. And when it did, the raindrop found that, instead of resistance, there was a sense of calm, of peace, of contentment. Taataa and brataa were guided gracefully to the dancing lights, and Sialuk and anaa would keep them in their hearts.

Tavvauvusi.
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