Jane kept a wary eye on the sky as she hurried along the path. Everyone knew that you shouldn't get caught out in the forest when the sun began to dip - and here she was, the sun dangerously low and a storm brewing.
“Were those herbs worth it?” she imagined the village sentry asking, refusing to reopen the gates. “Of course they’re worth it,” she mumbled under her breath. What else has been sustaining Mother? But she had gone too far and forgotten the time. A howl echoed in the distance. Jane hiked up her skirts and tried to run.
Barely thirty steps later, the rain began to pour down in torrents. “Who shelters in the forest at night? Only stupid girls like you,” she berated herself, scanning her surroundings for a place to wait out the storm. A dim light just off the side of the path attracted her attention. Her hesitation lasted seconds.
The neat little cottage was quiet.
“Hello?” Jane called as she hurried under the shelter of the porch. She wondered at the lack of the customary lamp by the doorway; the light she had seen shone through a single window. “Is anyone home?”
The door opened at her touch and she called out again. Nothing stirred, so she closed the door and hurried to the fireplace. She had almost fallen asleep in the warmth when the door slammed shut behind her.
“Who’s that?” she asked, her voice thin and shrill in her ears.
There was the sound of scuffling before a deep voice answered, “Shouldn't I be the one asking who you are?”
“I’m sorry, I didn't mean -”
“No, don’t turn around!”
“You - you can stay. But - just don’t turn and look at me.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Jane tried to speak in measured tones.
“No - nothing. You’ll just… Just don’t.”
Jane kept her eyes on the fire, trying not to react to the noises behind her or the growing smell of wet dog. “What are you?” she finally asked.
Sudden silence. “What do you mean?”
Taking a deep breath, she turned around. The face of a young man stared at her, his eyes widening in horror. His four feet scrabbled against the wooden floor as he backed into the corner, holding out a towel as if to hide himself.
“What are you? Half man, half dog?”
“I’m an adlet. I won’t harm you,” he said quickly. “I don’t eat humans. I mean, there are some who - but I’m not - I don’t.”
“You were the howl I heard in the forest,” she said in a near whisper.
“You heard me?”
“Were you following me?”
“No, I was out hunting. I didn't know you were in the area. The rain washed away your smell.”
“You don’t smell that great yourself.”
He blushed. “I was caught in the rain.”
“You’re shivering!” she exclaimed. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you,” she said as she approached him. “You’d better come to the fire and dry out.”
They stared at each other, each trying to judge the other’s intentions.
“I’ll go this way,” he gestured to the left, “and you can stay that way.” Jane nodded. A comfortable distance maintained, the adlet sighed as he settled down beside the fire. Jane sat opposite him, watching him with curiosity across the hearth.
“Do you have a name? I’m Jane.”
“Ataneq.” He stared dreamily at the fire. “Once, a long time ago, I used to be human.”
The transformation had taken Ataneq by surprise.
“What have you done, Keelut?” he cried at the fleeing back of his attacker. Picking up his broken spear, he trudged back to the winter encampment.
He was greeted by the points of many arrows, spears and harpoons. Eventually Qannik took wary steps towards him.
“What is it, wife?” he asked, dropping his hands to his sides. “Why do you cringe from me? What have I done?”
“Ataneq - you are - you are not welcome here anymore.”
“You would be a danger to our children. And you know we cannot spare any eyes to keep watching over you.” And you would hate it too, she added silently, hoping that he would understand.
“You know I wouldn't eat them. You know I have more honour than that!” Ataneq protested. “I would give my life to protect my people!”
“We know, but you wouldn't be able to hunt either. You can’t bear your responsibility to this tribe.”
“Will you come with me?”
She looked down at her feet.
“You must go alone, Ataneq.” Ataneq looked up to see that the shaman had approached them, still in his mask, as if he had just emerged from a trance.
“What have you seen?”
“The spirits say this is an evil thing, too strong for them. But I have heard the echo over the wind. One who may help.”
Ataneq frowned. “Who is he? I have not heard of him.”
The shaman shook his head. “She is not of our culture. She lives where the sun sets. That is all I know.”
Continuing in Baba Yaga on 4/2!
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The Adlet (or Erqigdlet) are a race of creatures in the Inuit mythology of Greenland, as well as the Labrador and Hudson Bay coasts. While the word refers to inland native American tribes, it also denotes a tribe with dogs' legs and human bodies. The lower part of the body of the canine Adlet is like that of a dog and their upper part is like a man's. All Adlet run quickly, and usually encounters between men end up in battle, with man as the victor.
In Inuit lore, they are often portrayed as in conflict with humans, and are supposed to be taller than Inuit and white people. In some stories they are cannibals. Inuit from Labrador use the term Adlet, tribes west of the Hudson Bay use the word Erqigdlit. The monstrous race begotten by the Adlet was identified with inland native Americans by the Labrador and Hudson Bay tribes; Inuit from Greenland and Baffin Land, which had no native American neighbors, use the term to refer to the half human, half canine creatures.
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