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Millard Johnson

The Love Song of Akina

Across the wide river over the shrouded mountains far to the north, and farther to the west, is the valley of the wolves. There is a story of that place, it is only a rumor, of course, a tale told by an old hermit long insane who lived alone in the wild country. It happened very long ago before anyone now alive can remember. Still, to this day on cold nights when the moon is full, when people gather around the fire to find cheer in the company of others, there will be someone, perhaps an old woman, who will retell the story of the love song of Akina.

The story goes: in the valley of the wolves, there were two packs – the red wolves and the white. Though there was no want for game – elk, caribou, deer, and such – the wolves fought bitter and bloody battles for dominance. To end the fighting, Lobos, the God of the wolves, decreed the red wolves would live to the west of Otter Creek and the white would inhabit the east. And so the wolves lived in harmony and peace for many generations.

It came to pass that the monarch of the white wolves, a fearsome hunter, sired a fine big male cub named Kiska. Shortly thereafter on the other side of Otter Creek, a runt bitch pup named Akina was born among the Red wolves. Akina was born not only small, but crippled with a lame hind leg. She should have died a pup, as is the way of wolves, but her mother took pity on her and nursed her until she could eat meat. Still, she was a burden on the pack and was put out on the bank of Otter Creek where she surely would have died had not the young Kiska found her and took pity on her.

Although warned against the practice, Kiska unaccountably cared for the young cripple that, despite her withered leg, was quite lovely, of fine red fur and green wolf eyes.

Kiska’s daily care for Akina did not go unnoticed by the wolves, either red or white. It was unnatural and against the laws of nature by which the wolves lived. The action so enraged the God Lobos that he went to the pretty pup and put a spell on her. He turned Akina into a human girl, who of course carried into her human form the withered leg.

Surely, this would end the unnatural practice and allow Kiska to continue his path toward being lord of the white wolves. But, by then Kiska was so enchanted by Akina that he loved her even in her form as a human girl. He continued to bring her rabbits and squirrels. In her human form, however, she could not eat the raw meat and quickly began to waste away.

Heartbroken and despairing at the sight of Akina near death, Kiska went to the man who was not yet insane and forced him to the spot on Otter Creek where the human girl lay near death. The man picked up the girl and took her back to his log cabin where he cared for her.

Lobos might have punished Kiska for his unwolf-like behavior, but there was no need. The white wolves, enraged, banished the young prince from both den and pack and stripped him of his right of ascension in the order of wolves.

The banishment mattered not to Kiska, who by then felt that life outside the pack was preferable to life in the absence of Akina. And so he left his pack and took up residence near the cabin where Akina lived, cared for by the man. Every afternoon wolf and girl would sit beside Otter Creek and touch each other, skin on fur. And though they shared no words, they communicated with their eyes and their touch, leaving each other at the setting of the sun to go to their separate places – her to the house of the man, him to a grove of Aspen beside the creek. On nights, especially nights when the moon was full, Kiska would go to their meeting place beside Otter Creek, lift his head, and sing of his love for Akina. Akina would hear his song from her bed and think of the Wolf. But the love song of Akina would soar beyond the house of the man, over the trees into the night, even to the dens of wolves, both red and white.

Without a wolf pack to hunt with, Kiska had no deer or moose to eat and lived on only mice, rabbits, small birds, and insects. But he lived the life he was given near the creature he loved.

Now, girls and wolves do not age alike, so by the time Akina was but a fifteen-year-old girl, Kiska was an aged, and arthritic wolf for whom catching even mice and rabbits was no longer possible. He was dying.

There came then, deep in winter, bitter cold with fierce wind and blowing snow – the final day of Kiska’s life. Kiska knew this night would be his last but he wanted to sing his song of love one last time. He lay beside the frozen creek and tried to sing, but only a faint and feeble shadow of a howl arose, and it was quickly blown into the trees unheard. Unheard that is, except for the ear of Akina who was lying in her warm bed. She heard Kiska and knew it was his last song. Unable to bear the thought of his passing alone in the cold, she slipped out the window and made her way across the trackless snow to the edge of Otter Creek where the old wolf lay, barely alive. She lay beside him encircling his mottled and mangy fur with her tender arms as the bitter cold overtook the two of them.
In that moment, in that cold night, the God Lobos recognized their life-long devotion and bestowed on them a gift — he lifted the curse of humanity from Akina.

There was heard that night in the dens of wolves both red and white near and far, two wolves singing as one, the love song of Akina.
The next day, the man who would be insane, journeyed to Otter Creek where he found the lifeless frozen carcasses of two wolves withered with age, gray of muzzle, lying together.

To this day there is heard in the land far to the north and farther to the west, on cold nights when the moon is full, the love song of Akina.

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