Man's Best Friend

We had stopped watching for him. His brother had returned weeks before, clear-eyed and stern. His brother had tamed the eagle yekyua, the mother spirit of raptors. His brother became our shaman, became Kulakik Ya’Rus. Kulakik, son of Rus. Son of his father.

His brother had strode into camp, reborn as a leader of men. He stumbled at the edges, glaring with bloodshot eyes at the camp dogs. The hounds would not have him back. He stank of death. We wondered what had happened on that mountain slope, what brought one brother back imbued with the spirit of Creation and the other a haggard smear of a man.

Kulakik was called.

‘Stranger,’ he said.

‘Brother,’ said his brother. ‘You know me, Kulakik. I am your brother, Lulul.’

‘My brother died on the mountains. Eaten alive by wild dogs.’

Lulul left the camp, and as he sank into the snow my thoughts caught a stray image. A dog, lean and cruel, snapping and snarling at Lulul. And an eagle; no, a crow, enveloping the head of my chieftain.

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