. . . Caribou felt the child on her hip wake with a start, his little body suddenly rigid against her. . . , his eyes cast toward the rise in the middle of the gorge where they stood. . . .
Suddenly she saw what it was that had caught the child's eye. On the crest of the rise, bright-lit, in sharp relief against the stark hills behind, stood a great reindeer stag of tawny gold. Taller he was than even the biggest stag she had ever seen. His rack of horns rose from his brow like a nest of golden arms and hands, webbed fingers wide-spread to the gray-bright sky.
He pawed the earth, stamped once with this great splay hoof, and the tendons clacked. The plumes of breath that shot from his nostrils made little clouds. His great, expressionless eyes as they studied the child in Caribou's arms were deep, pure gold.
The child reached out to him with a delighted cry, so much like one of recognition that Caribou was baffled. The great deer circled, pawing the earth again. His breath spurted and steamed.
The child laughed, and the reindeer started forward, then halted suddenly, stiff-legged. His eyes, as they settled on Caribou, grew dark and dangerous. She grasped the bundled infant tighter and stepped back. The golden stag lifted his head and belled--long, deep: a challenge.
Caribou backed away from him, toward the sloping hillside of the trough. . . . The reindeer stared at Caribou, his head high, half turned.
The child began to struggle in her arms again, more violently than before. Caribou was hard pressed to keep her hold. Crying, he twisted toward the deer, opening his tiny hands, and reached out to him. The stag let go an answering cry, strangely mournful, and launched his great golden form toward them.
Caribou stumbled into a run. . . .