A cold breeze blows in from off the rock-strewn coast. Across a small field with cattle bunched together against the onslaught of the cold northern wind, a forest stands darkly against the icy landscape. Seven long structures, family homes, stand in a semi-circle around a small marketplace. Smoke puffs lazily from most of the homes, except one, the roof of which is bowed with age under the weight of its poorly maintained thatch. In front of each home, a wooden carving sits next to the door, swirling symbols of faith and prayer carved into their bases. A bear’s torso, shoulders, and head topped the log in front of the long hut closest to the smithy; a doe, her shale black eyes dull in the evening light sat in front of the second; a rabbit sat in front of the third house with its head pointing to the left. The totem of the fourth house was notably larger than the rest, and stood out as the only carving that was not a beast. Three triangles were woven together into a third, larger triangle, vine-like etchings wrap about the log below the symbol. This house was also the smallest. It was followed by a much larger long hut with an owl totem; a wolf totem stood in front of the decayed house; and closest to the docks which moored six small fishing boats stood the long hut with the predictable fish totem.
Set close to the shore, its stone walls gray with salt splatters, sits a smithy. The forge is cold this evening. Three large dogs lie in a pile near the rear of the open-faced rectangular building, catching what warmth they can from the banked hearth. Chains rattle together occasionally as they shift positions. Two of them jump up occasionally just as they are trained to do as sounds drift in from the dock or across the field. The other dog sleeps on, her hearing long since having faded away.
A young boy bursts abruptly from the bear’s house and runs down the village’s one muddy lane, arms windmilling as he splashes through muck; laughing so hard that he can barely breathe. Behind him, a large man, face red with embarrassment and exertion exploded out of the house after him. The two dogs jump up and begin barking at the sudden commotion.