People of the Wolf (The First North Americans series, Book 1)

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9780812521337: People of the Wolf (The First North Americans series, Book 1)

A sweeping epic of prehistory, People of the Wolf is another compelling novel in the majestic North America's Forgotten Past series from New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear

In the dawn of history, a valiant people forged a pathway from an old world into a new one. Led by a dreamer who followed the spirit of the wolf, a handful of courageous men and women dared to cross the frozen wastes to find an untouched, unspoiled continent.

Set in what is now Alaska, this is the magnificent saga of the vision-filled man who led his people to an awesome destiny, and the courageous woman whose love and bravery drove them on in pursuit of that dream.

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About the Author:

Kathleen O'Neal Gear is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Achievement Award for ""outstanding management"" of our nation's cultural heritage.

W. Michael Gear holds a master's degree in archaeology and has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1978. He is principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants.

Together they have written the North America's Forgotten Past series (People of the Songtrail, People of the Morning Star, People of the Mist, People of the Wolf, among others); and the Anasazi Mysteries series. The Gears live in Thermopolis, WY.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1
The Long Dark continued, unending, eating their souls.
Wind Woman whipped across the frozen drifts, whirling wreaths of snow into the arctic night. In her fury, she blasted the mammoth-hide shelters of the People with a gust that battered the frozen skins over the head of the one called Runs In Light.
Blinking awake, he listened to the howling gale. Around him, the others of the People huddled in their thick robes, deep asleep. Someone snored softly. Cold, so cold...An uncontrollable shiver made him wish they had more fat to burn in the fire hole, but it was gone. Seventeen Long Darks hadn’t put much muscle on his skinny bones to start with--and famine had wasted the rest.
Even old Broken Branch muttered that she’d never seen a winter like this.
Carried on the wind, a faint whimpering came from behind the shelters. Some animal scratched for food scraps the People had long since chipped from the ice. Wolf?
Heart pounding with hope, Runs In Light traced chill-stiff fingers over his atlatl--the ornately carved throwing stick used by the People to catapult stone-tipped darts. He squirmed out from under frosty hides. Creeping tendrils of cold stroked the last warm places on his body as, bent low, he stepped silently over fur-wrapped sleepers. Even in the icy air, the stink of the shelter--occupied for months--came to his nose.
Buried under the hides, Laughing Sunshine’s baby squeaked its hunger. A spear of sound, its pain reflected in Runs In Light’s pinched expression.
“Where are you, Father Sun?” he demanded harshly, tightening his grip on the atlatl until his fingers ached. Then, like a seal through an ice hole, he wiggled under the crawl flap. Wind Woman rushed down from the black northwest, shoving him backward. He steadied himself against the shelter, squinting into the lighter darkness beyond. Snow crystals chittered mutedly on the packed ice.
Wolf’s muffled sounds came again, claws scratching at something buried in the snow.
Runs In Light circled, following the lee of a drift, hoping Wind Woman would keep his scent from wolf’s keen nose. On hands and knees, he crawled to the top of the drift and slithered over the crest on his belly. Dark against the stained snow, wolf struggled to dig Flies Like A Seagull’s body from the clinging ice.
He bowed his head in sorrow.
He’d found his mother frozen in her robes a week before. Echoes of her stories would haunt his mind forever, voice warm as she told him the ways of the People. He smiled wistfully, remembering the light in her eyes as she chanted of the great Dreamers: of Heron and Sun Walker and other legendary heroes of the People. How soft and caring her hand had been as it resettled the furs around a younger and happier Runs In Light’s cold face.
A bitter chill touched his soul as he saw a more recent visage of her toothless death rictus--her frost-grayed eyes.
So many had starved.
Too weak to do more than stumble out of the shelters, the People had carried Flies Like A Seagull’s corpse only this far. Here, on the ice, they’d left her to stare at the skies, praying and singing her soul up to the Blessed Star People. Wind Woman had blown her stiff corpse over, snow drifting softly to bury her--until wolf came to chew her frozen flesh.
The urge to rush down over the drift, screaming his rage and hurt, rose powerfully. He forced it back. Food, wolf was food.
Father Sun looks away when hunger forces hunter to stalk hunter. What had they done that He would punish them so?
Runs In Light took a deep breath, rising slowly to his knees, judging the distance.
Wolf stopped short, head coming up, pointed ears pricked. Willing himself to remain motionless, Runs In Light gauged the wind, waiting, hoping his hunger-robbed limbs wouldn’t betray him this last time.
Wolf turned his head, sniffing, gaunt ribs working as he searched the wind, an uneasy presence leaving him wary.
Runs In Light cleared his thoughts, shifting his eyes slightly to the side. He breathed softly, relaxing, forcing gnawing twists of hunger from his consciousness. He himself had experienced that feeling of being watched, that subtle prickle of eyes upon him. For long moments he waited while wolf’s nerves settled and the animal’s gray nose dropped to gnaw the corpse again.
Runs In Light tensed--threw his weight into the atlatl--and watched the dart as it arced. True to the Spirit Power he’d breathed into the shaft, it caught wolf just behind the ribs.
The animal yipped--a startled leap carrying it straight up. Landing on all fours, wolf shot away into the night.
Hollow hunger voices echoed in his head as Runs In Light followed, the dark blotches of blood on the snow. He stopped, dropping to one knee. Weakly raising his atlatl, he pounded the stain to chip it loose. With a mittened hand he lifted a bit of red-splotched snow, sniffing. Gut blood, it carried the pungency of severed intestines. Burning blood, it would slow wolf, bring him to an eventual stop.
From blood smear to blood smear, he worked out the trail, growing uneasy as the distance stretched between him and camp. Wind Woman’s breath shifted across the land, blowing snow to fill his tracks. The eyes of the Long Dark lay heavy and menacing upon him.
He gazed upward, murmuring to the spirits, “Leave me alone. I must find wolf. Don’t eat my soul...don’t....” The drain on his soul abated, but the presence clung in the air, floating, waiting to see if his honor proved worthy.
In the lee of a drift, he studied the tracks. Wolf had stopped here and even lain down for a short while. A blacker patch of blood stained the snow.
Runs In Light’s fingers trembled inside the heavy mittens as he used a stone dart point to carefully pry the frozen blood from the ice. Heedless of the wolf hair sticking to it, he chewed, grimacing at the gut-juice taste. Food. The first he’d enjoyed in four days.
Four days? The Dreamer’s number. His mother had told him that. A day for each of the directions to bring the soul awake.
He stood, slowly scanning the landscape, whispering, “You’re here, wolf. I feel your spirit close.”
In the Long Dark, the white waste gleamed deep blue, shadows of purple creeping along the drifts. To the north, the land undulated, jagged peaks shining starkly in the light of the Star People above.
Eyes to the snow, he clutched his weapons: two darts, both as long as he was tall, and his atlatl, blessed by the blood of mammoth and Grandfather White Bear. He shuffled ahead, pace just fast enough to keep warm. Hunger stalked his rubbery legs as he stalked his prey.
Wind-sculpted snow wavered, shimmering in his tear-blurred eyes. How long since he’d slept? Two days?
“Dream Hunt?” he muttered hoarsely, wondering at the unreal sensations; hunger and fatigue played with his mind and senses. He staggered, dazed by his swirling balance.
“I must catch you, wolf.”
The soul eaters of the Long Dark drifted closer, eerie whispers haunting his ears. He clamped his jaw tightly, crying, “The People need meat. Hear me, wolf? We’re starving!”
* * *
An age-cracked voice murmured in Light’s shifting memory, “Sun Father’s losing his strength. Cloud Mother wraps herself around Blue Sky Man and sucks up his warmth.’ The old shaman, Crow Caller, had blinked, one eye black, the other white with blindness as he told the People of coming famine.
Seeing only snow, the aged leader had prophesied, “This year mammoth will die. Musk ox will die. Caribou will stay far south with buffalo. The People will wither.”
And it was so. The melting time during the Long Light had barely lasted through one turning of Moon Woman’s face. Then Cloud Mother had covered the skies. Constant rain and snow raged out of the north to kill the Long Light. Cold lay heavy on the land when the grasses, willows, and tundra plants should have grown tall to feed mammoth.
Crow Caller spent his time singing, praying for a Dream. The old shaman trapped Seagull once and twisted his neck four turns. The limp bird in his callused brown hands, he’d sliced through the down feathers with an obsidian blade to expose the guts. He’d peered, his one good eye gleaming, to see what news Seagull brought from so far out among the floating ice mountains on the great salt water to the north.
“Back,“ he had croaked. “We must go north...back the way we came.”
The People had looked at each other anxiously, remembering the ones who pursued them, the ones they called the Others: mammoth hunters like themselves, but men who murdered and chased the People from the fertile hunting grounds to the north. Could the People go back? Could they face those fierce warriors?
Once--so the elders told--the People had lived on the other side of the huge mountains to the west. There, Father Sun had given them a wondrous land of rivers abounding in grassy plains rich in game. Then the Others had come, driving them from the land, pushing them north and east against the salt water. Father Sun, in his wisdom, had given them a new land at the mouth of the Big River where they could see the Big Ice extending out into the salt water. The Others had followed, pushing the People away from the lush hunting grounds at the mouth of the Big River, pushing them down this last long valley, ever to the south. Now the ground rose, the mountains hemming them from the west, the Big Ice encroaching from the east. What was left? And behind the Others continued to push, forcing the People ever higher into the rocky hills devoid of game.
So the elders debated while the People worried. Was there enough game in this high rocky country where little grass grew for mammoth and caribou? What would the People do?
And then the young hunter called One Who ...

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