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Aurora

Spirit Bear of the North

2nd Edition

By

Erik Daniel Shein & Melissa Davis


Though inspired by true events, this book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

World Castle Publishing, LLC

Pensacola, Florida

Copyright © 2017 Arkwatch Holdings, LLC, and Erik Daniel Shein

Co-Author Melissa Davis

Smashwords Edition

Hardback ISBN: 9781629899459

Paperback ISBN: 9781629899466

eBook ISBN: 9781629899473

LCN: 2016957981

Second Edition World Castle Publishing, June 10, 2018

http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com

Smashwords Licensing Notes

All rights reserved. Aurora, Spirit Bear of the North™ is a Trademark of Arkwatch Holdings, LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means—electronic, Digital, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for the author or third party’s web sites and their content.

Requests for information should be addressed to:

Arkwatch Holdings, LLC

4766 East Eden drive

Cave Creek, AZ 85331

Cover: Len Simon Animation

Illustrator: Paul Barton, II

Editor: Maxine Bringenberg


Acknowledgements


To the best team in the world,

Missy Davis and Karen Fuller.


Table of Contents


Chapter 1 – The First Winter Thaw

Chapter 2 – The Importance of Heritage

Chapter 3 – Puti & Toots

Chapter 4 - Something Extraordinary

Chapter 5 – Fishing Lessons

Chapter 6 – Kaghi’s Quest

Chapter 7 – Story of the Spirit Realm

Chapter 8 - Heartbroken

Chapter 9 – Ursa, the Great Bear in the Sky

Chapter 10 – Lost and Hungry

Chapter 11 – Kaghi Has News

Chapter 12 – A Leap of Faith

Chapter 13 – The Waterfall

Chapter 14 – Aurora to the Rescue

Chapter 15 – Aurora Learns About Technology

Chapter 16 – Mountain Lion

Chapter 17 – Home


Chapter 1

The First Winter Thaw


A small trickle of water filtered through the silence, the first sounds of the thawing snow. The drip-drop against the cold stone floor was like nature’s first alarm clock. A slow twitch of life worked its way through the sleepy bones of one young bear cub. Her nose wiggled as the water tickled its tip.

Aurora stretched her limbs as far as she could in the cramped confines of her den. Snuggled in a pile of fluff, the three cubs and their mother had slept comfortably throughout the harsh bitter winter that had blanketed the world outside their door. When her paw swiped her brother, he stirred slightly.

“Watch it, Aurora!” The cub grumbled at her.

“Sorry, Ollie,” whispered Aurora.

“Do you mind?” Cici opened one eye to glare at her sister. “We’re sleeping here.”

“But we’ve been sleeping forever!” Aurora rolled away from her siblings and barreled into her mother.

“Patience, little one.” Her mother Azure pulled her closer with her large paws.

Aurora snuggled against her mother for a moment. She knew she should try to settle back down, but she had been waiting all winter to see if her wish would come true. With the lack of light in the den around her, Aurora could not see any changes. She was bursting to see for herself.

As if Azure could sense her anxiety, she stroked her head. “All right, Aurora, but just for a little bit.”

“Woohoo!” Aurora nudged her mother’s arm away from her and climbed over it.

With every step Aurora took toward the entrance of the tunnel, the faster her tiny heart beat. For a few months she had been able to ignore the reality of her situation as she hibernated in the deep sleep of winter. Now the world was waking up, and Aurora was bursting with curiosity. Only a few more steps, and then she would be able to see.

Aurora was about to move into the first light of spring when a loud noise interrupted her.

“Move it or lose it!” Ollie rolled into her and she went flying into the air.

Aurora tumbled a few times, her body covered in a mixture of mud and snow. She could feel it sticking to her fur and she turned on her brother. Before he could ready himself for her attack, Aurora tackled him to the ground. The two of them rolled over and over, while their sister Cici giggled at them from the cave.

“You two are out of your minds!” The small Kermode cub shook her head at them as if they had gone around the bend a little.

“Oh, yeah?” Ollie untangled himself from his sister and turned to face the other one. He dug his paw deep into the mud and flung it as hard as he could. His sister, Cici, ducked at the last second, and the mud landed smack dab in the middle of his mother’s face.

Azure swiped the mud away, one paw after the other, and lowered her head just so her son could see the level of annoyance he had caused. Her roar meter was about to go off if he continued. “Ollie….”

“Sorry, Mama.” He hung his head low and added a fake sniff just to see if it would help him beg his case. “But Aurora—”

“Where is Aurora?” Cici interrupted him.

“I dunno. She was right….” Ollie turned around and scratched his head.

“I’m still here.”

A loud sigh could be heard from the snow in front of them. Aurora popped her head up from the ground and shook the snow away from her face, revealing the dark nose. She hung her head in disappointment as she looked at her family sitting nearby. Every one of them sported dark black coats, all Kermode bears like her. The only thing that set them apart was the fact that Aurora was completely white from head to toe.

Ollie trotted over to her and wiped some of the snow away from his sister. “You’re still white.”

“Aren’t you master of the obvious,” teased Cici, who was still near their mother Azure. Cici was the oldest of the three bear cubs, but she was not the bravest. She was the last to do everything, mostly because she wanted to see how dangerous it was before she tried it.

Aurora closed her eyes and wanted to bury herself back in the snow. Why did she have to be so different from all the others? From the moment she was born, Aurora was a blank canvas devoid of any color, unless you counted the black on the bottoms of her feet and the dark nose in the middle of her face. This was something her siblings teased her about. While she was thick-skinned, words did hurt, even if they were not meant to.

“Can I just go back to sleep and try again?”

“No, silly!” Cici laughed at her sister.

“Maybe we could coat you in mud,” suggested Ollie with a slight snicker.

“Ollie, Cici.” Azure’s words were a cue to the cubs to take themselves somewhere else for the moment as the mama bear made her way to her youngest cub.

When Azure had awoken last spring, no one could have prepared her for the surprise life had in store for her. Not one, or two, but three beautiful cubs that she called her own. Cici was the oldest and more thoughtful of the three. She was not likely to get into danger unless she knew how to get herself out of it. Ollie was the biggest, and a fast learner. He would be able to hold his own in the wild for sure. But Aurora, she was the one that Azure worried about the most. Aurora was timid, afraid of the world around her because she was different. Azure did not love her any less than the others, but she had her work cut out for her.

“Look at the beauty around us, Aurora.”

Aurora sniffed slightly as she followed her mother’s directions. When she gazed upon the beginning of spring, she saw life just beginning all over again. A few birds chattered in the tree branches with a song that would have been beautiful to anyone’s ears. Small green sprouts poked their way through the thin layer of snow, and water glistened on the tips of their leaves. Life, all about to bloom into something new. She only wished that were the case for herself. Smaller than her siblings, Aurora felt very much like the oddball.

“Everything has its time, Aurora. So do you.” Azure nuzzled against her cub and smiled when Aurora wrapped her arms around her neck.

“Do you really think so?” It was her way of asking if she would always be a blank slate in a world filled with color.

“I do. Have courage and be strong, Aurora. The world cannot give you those things. They come from deep inside.” Azure moved away from her cub and used her paw to point to Aurora’s heart.

“I will, Mama.”

Aurora’s nose popped high into the air as if to say she were up to the task. At least she hoped she was. There was very little Aurora was sure of. The only thing that seemed true to her was her family’s love. Even though her siblings often teased her about her white fur, Aurora knew they cared about her. Even so, Aurora still could not help feeling like her life would be so much better if she could just look like the rest of them. Maybe she just needed to wish harder on the next star that fell across the sky.

“For now, we need to find food. Stay close, Aurora.”

“Yes, Mama.” Aurora followed her mother.

As if sensing their cue, the other two cubs joined their ranks. Aurora turned around to see Ollie making faces at her sister. Cici swatted at him with her paw, but he ducked just in time to miss it. Aurora rolled her eyes at the two of them, knowing this was not the time to get caught up in their antics, especially when she heard the slight grumbling from her mother’s belly, the low pitch that warned them she was not in the mood for their games.

“Sorry, Mama.” Ollie’s ears dropped, and the grin slid down his face into a pout.

Aurora could see the way her mother’s head bobbed back and forth and the small outpouring of breath, both signs that her mother was praying for patience, as she often did when they were all awake. Aurora wrinkled her nose as she thought about all the antics they had gotten into over the past year. With the new spring ahead of them, she was sure there would be even more adventures. Aurora only hoped she would be brave enough to survive them, because the older they became, the more they would explore the world around them. Aurora was not sure the world was really ready for a bear like her. She looked down at her white fur and sighed.

“Have courage and be strong,” she whispered to herself as she closed her eyes. Could she? Only time would tell.


Chapter 2

The Importance of Heritage


The darkness of night was slowly illuminated by the rich reds, lavenders, and purples of the Aurora Borealis, which lit up the evening in a swirl of colors against the backdrop of the star-filled sky. A campfire cast a warm glow in the air around Akule and his grandchildren, who were scattered around him listening with rapt attention. The storyteller sat in front of the large totem that had been part of his family for as long as anyone could remember. It was his job to pass along his knowledge of their history and culture to each generation.

The children bowed their heads as they communed with Mother Earth. Their customs were important to them. The Northwest Pacific Indians were divided into many tribes, but their love for the earth and all its bounties was something they all shared.

“What do you hear?” Akule asked the children around him.

“Nothing,” one child answered. His eyes were small curious orbs as he tilted his head left, then right.

“Are you sure?” Akule’s gentle smile prodded the child to listen closer.

“A cricket?” The boy asked.

“If you have to ask, your ears are still closed. Listen closer. Open up all your senses,” he encouraged the children. He looked over at a little doe-eyed girl who was unusually quiet.

“I hear the crackle of the flame,” answered Aiyanna with a slight crack in her voice. She had heard more than that, but she was afraid to tell everyone.

The gentle musings of the animals around them was something she was having trouble blocking out. Not only that, she was having trouble believing her own eyes. Next to her family’s totem were ghost-like animals that were watching them quietly, their smoky shapes illuminated in different shades of blue and green, like the aurora that lit up the night sky. These animals hid in the shadows of the night, easily camouflaged from the rest of the living world. Aiyanna could not figure out why she seemed to be the only one that could see them. But since no one else could, she would not bother bringing it up.

“Me too!” Taimi interjected. He was not one to be outdone, so he threw out another answer. “And an owl somewhere.”

“I hear the whoosh of the wind.” Milap was paying much closer attention. His smile was excited now. The youngest of the bunch, the five-year-old was just thrilled to be out past his bedtime.

“Very good, children. Next time, I will tell you a story.”

“Can we play a little?” Milap begged him.

Akule leaned over and ruffled the boy’s hair. “Only a little, or your mother will have my hide.” He winked at them. “Now, go, go! Enjoy the night sky, children.” Akule gestured for the children to depart. They rose quietly. A few hushed whispers followed them as they walked. Akule smiled as he watched the children leave.

While the other children had risen quickly, Aiyanna took her time. At twelve-years-old, she was the oldest of the group. Soon, she would be too old to sit within their circle. The stories would hold less magic for her, or so her mother always said. But Aiyanna loved her grandfather’s stories. She did not think she would ever tire of them, no matter how old she grew. She almost understood his need to pass them down to the children. They were like a heartbeat to her people, the myths and legends of the Nuu-chah-nulth. Their lessons were important even in this century.

Aiyanna reveled in the way the cold grass tickled her toes. The ground beneath her feet might make others shudder as they thought about the dirt collecting on their feet, but to Aiyanna it was a reminder of life, earth, the renewal of all things. These were things her family had ingrained in her. Even so, the air was starting to chill her feet. She sighed as she slid one shoe over her left foot, then repeated the process.

A small whisper of leaves in the tree caught her attention. She looked up to find a small bird glowing in the branches above her. A wren? Aiyanna shivered slightly.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

Aiyanna jumped at the voice. She put a hand over her heart. “Grandfather….”

“Lost in thought?” His eyebrow rose curiously as he looked to where Aiyanna had been staring.

“Always.” Aiyanna smiled at him.

“It’s good to think, but why don’t you give that brain a rest?” He nodded to the children running around him.

“Children are tedious.” She rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically.

“I see.” He chuckled softly. “Enjoy the night and all its treasures, Granddaughter.”

Aiyanna hugged Akule. “You too, Grandfather. I think I have a tree to climb.”

“Then climb you shall.” Akule’s eyes twinkled as he walked away from her.

Aiyanna gripped the first low branch, one she had known well. From the minute she had learned to climb her first tree, Aiyanna spent most of her time climbing as high as she could manage. Her grandfather called her fearless. Her mother called her a heart attack waiting to happen, referring to the stress Aiyanna was constantly putting her through. It was not Aiyanna’s fault that her mother was not the adventurer that she was. It was in her blood. She gazed down on the boys and smiled. They were up to their usual antics.

Taimi was chasing Milap around in a nightly game of tag. “I’m going to get you, Milap!”

“You’re too slow!” Milap dodged his cousin’s outstretched hand and circled around him.

Aiyanna chuckled at them from her perch high in the tree above them. She shook her head and continued to look up at the sky, wondering if the great spirits above painted the image each night. Akule was her grandfather, and he had filled her head with so many magical stories that she truly believed that anything was possible.

“Aiyanna!” Taimi shouted up to her. His brown hair was long enough to cover his ears. “Come on! It’s your turn!”

She rolled her eyes. “Having trouble, Taimi?”

“No,” he grumbled, even though he was clearly having trouble catching Milap.

Hopping down from the tree, she tapped her little brother on the head. “Fine, Taimi. But we have to go soon. Akule will be making his rounds tonight.”

“Right!”

After running around for a bit, Aiyanna stopped. “Wait. I need a break. You two keep playing.”

The boys shrugged their shoulders at her and went racing into the shadows. Aiyanna watched them go. Taking a deep breath, she let the night speak to her just like Akule had taught them. Aiyanna closed her eyes and smoothed her long black hair behind her ears. The air swirled around her and she could smell its sweetness.

When she opened her eyes, she saw a glowing light in front of her. A tiny shape formed, and the ghostly shape of a mink bounced around her feet.

“Whoa!”

The mink looked up at her as it stood up on its hind legs. Aiyanna was tempted to reach down and pet it, but she knew her skin would not connect with anything earthbound. This animal was from the spirit realm.

“This is unreal.”

From the shadows behind her, Akule watched his granddaughter with pride. He turned to the Great Eagle Spirit on the tree stump behind him. “Soon, she will learn the world is filled with more magic than you ever thought possible. What say you, Great Eagle. Does she have the gift?”

The bird did not have any answers for him, but that was to be expected. His spirit guide was quiet most of the time. The eagle tilted its head left, then right, as if it were studying him quietly. The bird seemed to have lost some of its glow, its age showing through.

“Yes, my friend. We are both old men now. Soon it will be her time, and then we can rest.”

His weathered hands gripped the walking stick in his hand. No longer in the spring of his youth, Akule was more like the autumn leading into the cold winter. His time would not be forever. If Aiyanna was the one who the spirits chose to replace him, Akule would see even more signs from the spirit realm very soon. He would keep his eyes and ears open to the magical world around him.


Chapter 3

Puti & Toots


The world was covered in shades of green as the breath of life falling on the forest filled the ancient cedars of the Great Bear Rainforest. Winter was just a distant memory, with spring now surrounding the forest with all its colorful life.

Laughter filled the air as Ollie and Cici wrestled around on the floor of the forest. The vigorous scuffling of the tiny animals was infectious. The birds in the trees chirped back and forth to each other as they discussed who they thought the victor might be.

“My money’s on the girl,” Puti whispered through his wingtip to the other cormorant sitting next to him on the branch.

“Why’s that?” Toots asked him.

“It’s always the quiet ones.” Puti gestured to the other cub sitting nearby.

That one?” Toots looked at Puti as if he were crazy. “But she’s so….”

“Little?” suggested Puti.

“And she’s….”

“Quiet?” Puti still did not see why Toots was making such a big deal on his choice.

“Well…different.” Toots looked down at the bear cub, who was watching a frog jump nearby.

“Aren’t we all?” Puti held up his foot as if to demonstrate. This foot was just a hair smaller than the other one, something that had been pointed out to him several times in his life.

“Well, yes, that’s true, but you can hide that pretty easily. It’s not as glaringly obvious as—”

Before Toots could say anything else, the tree shook as the cubs rolled into it. The siblings were a blur of claws and teeth as they continued to wrestle all over the ground. When Ollie got the best of Cici, he stood up and strutted his stuff. His rear end shook in the air with a bounce to the left and right in his winner’s dance. “Loooo—ser! Bam! Take that!”

Having taken his eyes off Cici, he never saw her coming. His big sister slammed into him, sending him toward Aurora, who looked on helplessly. She tried to move out of the way, but his rear end landed on her face. Aurora tried to push him off her, but only ended up getting further stuck in the process.

When a small burst of air erupted near her nose, Aurora gagged. “Ollie! That’s disgusting!”

Ollie giggled as he rolled off her. “Hey, if the toot moves you….”

It certainly did move her. Aurora plowed into him, her small body moving to her advantage as she dug into the earth and tunneled under him. He slid over her body and rolled into the tree next to them. Aurora turned to face him, determination written all over her face. Her stance was reminiscent of a bull ready to charge. “Are you ready for this?”

“I was born ready.” When Aurora ran at him, he sidestepped out of the way easily. He held up a paw and made an exaggerated yawn. “Is that the best you can…oomph!”

Before Ollie could get another word out, he had two bears piling on top of him. Not to be outdone by his siblings, he struggled to find his footing. When the first tickling claw met his skin, Ollie burst out in deep belly laughs. “Stop! I’m warning you!”

“Or what?” Aurora was not going to give him an inch. She would not stop until he said uncle. Unfortunately, that was not in the cards today, for what she had smelled just a few minutes earlier was nothing compared to the foul odor that was now saturating the air. “Ollie!”

“Oh dear. What in the world did you eat, Ollie?” Cici was choking when she rolled away from him.

“Hey. I tried to warn you.” Ollie sat up and smoothed the dirt from his fur. “You should know better than to mess with the master of—”

“Stench?” Aurora suggested.

“Yeah. You smell like something crawled up inside you and died. You really should get that checked out, Ollie,” suggested Cici.

“You’re just jealous that I came out on top.” Ollie stood up and started to strut away. He did not make it very far before Cici raced after him.

Aurora sat there shaking her head. If only life were as easy as this moment. But Aurora found herself stuck in her thoughts for much too long. While her siblings tried to include her in their games, she was still left feeling like an outsider. Like now, for instance, as Ollie and Cici were already up to their next adventure. Neither one had thought to include her. Aurora sighed and looked down at the ground, trying not to feel the sadness that seemed to follow her everywhere.

“See, even they notice how different she is.” Toots continued right where he had left off.

“Do you mind?” Aurora called up to them. She had heard the birds earlier but had tried to ignore them. “You know, I can hear you.”

“Oh! Beg your pardon.” If Toots did not have black feathers covering his face, his blush would have been much easier to see.

“Don’t mind him, really. I never do.” Puti rolled his eyes as if to demonstrate how crazy his friend was.

“I guess I should be used to it by now.” Aurora stood up and started to walk away, but at that moment, her brother returned with his mother right behind him.

“What kind of bird are you?” Ollie called up to them.

Cici looked up at the Puti and Toots. “Yeah. I’ve never seen birds like that!”

“They are sea birds,” Azure chuckled. “They are always straying off course.”

“Like an adventurer?” Ollie stood with his chest puffed out, as if to model courage.

“What’s an adventurer?” asked Aurora. She had never heard the word before now.

Azure put a paw out and ruffled Aurora’s fur. “Adventurers take chances and try new things.”

“Sounds like the life for me!” cheered Ollie.

“You’ve a few more lessons to learn before you start an adventure, little man.” Azure smiled at her cub.

“I’m never going on an adventure,” promised Cici.

“That’s because you’re a chicken,” teased Ollie.

“Am not!” Cici shrieked at him.

“Are too!” Ollie wrinkled his nose and stuck out his tongue.

“Children!” With one word, Azure silenced them immediately. “Adventure is a part of life. While they can be good, they can also be filled with peril.”

“Perils?” yelped Aurora. She did not like the sound of that at all.

Azure turned to talk to the cormorants. “Puti, Toots. It’s been a long time since I saw you last.”

“Need I ask who they belong to? They are gorgeous.” Toots gestured to the cubs before them.

Puti agreed. “Yes, they are. You must be very proud.”

“They are my heart and soul,” answered Azure. Her love shone in her eyes when she looked at her cubs.

“They will bring joy to everyone,” Toots predicted.

“Why are you so far away from the ocean?” Cici asked them.

“Don’t you miss it?” added Ollie.

“What about the other birds?” asked Aurora.

“Children, now, now. Give them a chance to answer.” Azure chuckled at her cubs. “They’re a little excited to meet new friends.”

Puti considered his words before he spoke. “Once in a while, we miss our home and friends. But we love making new friends...like you. It makes all our travels worth it.”

“So do we!” Cici’s body bounced excitedly.

Aurora wished she could feel so excited, but just moments before she had heard Toots. She looked down at her feet, imagining all the cruel thoughts that must be swarming in his head. If this was what it would feel like every time she met someone new, Aurora was not sure she wanted to make friends.

“I would be honored to call you friends.” Puti gave a long, sweeping bow, and his shorter foot was exposed slightly.

“What happened to your foot?” Ollie asked him curiously.

“Nothing. It was just the way I was made.” Puti held it out in front of him. “Sometimes our differences are what make us unique.”

“Like Aurora,” suggested Cici.

Aurora’s ears perked up at her name. She looked up at Puti shyly. Part of her wanted to hear what he had to say; the rest of her was too resolved to her own sad thoughts. What could he possibly say that would make her feel better? Sighing deeply, Aurora looked back down at the ground.

“Being different is never easy, but some things are easier to hide than others,” Puti answered. He put his foot back down on the tree and spread his wing back over it.

Hide? That was exactly what Aurora wanted to do. She wanted the earth to open up and swallow her whole. Anything to not be the in the spotlight. She turned to her mother and yawned. “Mama, can I go back to the cave? I’m a little tired.”

Azure looked over her daughter with concern. She smiled gently at her. “Yes, Aurora. But don’t sleep too long, or you’ll be awake all night.”

Aurora headed back to the den with a heavy heart. Why did it have to be so hard to be normal? She was like any other bear cub. Aurora could swim, hunt, climb, and forage with the best of them. Would anyone ever be able to see past the white coat that covered every inch of her body? Would they ever treat her like everyone else?

Her siblings had it much easier. They looked like every day black bear cubs. Ollie was black from the tip of his nose all the way down to his tail. The only other color on his body was the brown crescent shaped rings that slid over the top of his eyes. Cici was just as dark as Ollie, but she had light brown fur around her nose and mouth. Cici’s eyes were highlighted with the same color around her eyes, which made them stand out more than her brother’s dark eyes.

Even her mother, Azure, was as dark as the deepest night sky. She was covered in black fur, with a small amount of cinnamon thrown in around her mouth leading up her nose. Her amber eyes were a shade lighter than the cubs, but still not like Aurora’s at all. Her siblings were practically spitting images of her mother.

Now, Aurora, she was an entirely different story. White fur covered her entire body. Even her eyes were different, for instead of the chocolatey brown color the rest of her family had, Aurora’s were bright blue. It was one thing to stand out in a crowd—that she could probably handle. But every day she was faced with the fact that none of her family looked like her. In a world filled with joy, all she could find was the sadness that sank in her heart. Her head hung low as she made the slow trek back to her den.


Chapter 4

Something Extraordinary


Light seeped over the horizon as dawn broke. Tiny fingers of illumination made rippling colors in the water below it. Aiyanna could see the ocean from where she stood. The vast blue sea was rippling into white frothy waves on the beach below. Even though she was young, she appreciated the power rushing through its current. Grandfather had always taught her that water was a healing element. It brought life to the world. All living creatures depended on it.

Nature was powerful in that way. This was a lesson Aiyanna was just starting to learn as she viewed the world around her with new eyes. Something was changing in her, something that was confusing and exciting at the same time. At first she had started to see the spirit animals only at night. But today something had changed, for the minute she woke up, Aiyanna seemed to be surrounded by them. The otters, for example. Two otters played in the stream nearby. Unlike earthbound otters, these were filled with a glowing light that was noticeable even with the bright sun shining down upon them.

“Good morning, Granddaughter,” Akule greeted her.

“Grandfather!” Aiyanna turned with a smile. She had not expected to see him there.

“I see you’re enjoying the beautiful weather. May I join you?”

“Of course. Please, sit.” Aiyanna gestured to the small boulder near her.

Akule gripped his walking stick as he lowered himself onto the rock. He looked out over the waters below them. When he saw the otters playing in the stream near them, he smiled. “Playful little things.”

“What?” Aiyanna turned to where Akule looked. “You can see them?”

“As clear as day; and so do you, I see.” Akule smiled at her. “They like you.”

“Why are we the only ones who can see them?” Aiyanna was curious.

“It is our honor. When I was a child, I was chosen, just like you, to talk with the animal spirits who have come before us.”

Aiyanna’s mouth sprung open in surprise. His words were not what she had expected. “You talk to them?”

Akule chuckled. “Sometimes. But mostly, I listen.”

Aiyanna was having a hard time wrapping her mind around it. None of the animal shapes had spoken to her. What would they sound like? Did they speak in human words, or did they use regular animal chatter? She wondered if this was something that might happen to her too. There were so many questions, each one stranger than the one before it. “How did you learn to speak with them?”

“By finding my totem spirit.” Akule seemed pleased with her question.


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