The Great Crossing
"You've run my lead caribou to the ground," the giant continued, "Which is impressive but inconvenient. Now you must take his place."
"But I haven't eaten!" protested the runner. "Grumble!" agreed his stomach.
"Here, drink this," said the giant, pulling out a flask from beneath his heap of furs and beard.
"What is it?" said the runner, skeptical of drinks from strangers.
"Reindeer milk. Old arctic secret. Restores energy, helps blood flow, used to cross great distancs at incredible speeds." The runner, still skeptical of drinks from strangers but more skeptical of starving in the Arctic, drank greedily. Warmth seeped down his throat, silencing his stomach, soothing his legs, releasing all the knots and tension and scar tissue that one gets from running to the North Pole via some celestial detours.
"This is amazing!" the runner exclaimed, his stomach gurgling in agreement. "So, why do you have a sled of caribou?" His brain, unable to speak over the din of his stomach, was now politely asking for his attention.
"Caribou can keep up. Dogs fret themselves away too early. Caribou are more patient," the bearded giant explained.
"Where are we going?" the runner asked. His brain, a little more urgent now, tugged at his consciousness with an urgent memo.
"Tonight we are crossing the sky," said the crimson-clad Arctic-dweller.
"In one night?!" the runner asked incredulously. His brain lost patience, called him an idiot, and left the memo on the tip of his tongue.
"Oh, it's not too impressive; it'll be night for another month, still," said the man with a sled full of reindeer.
"You're the Shaman of the North!" exclaimed the runner, finally.
"I am," said the Shaman of the North.
"I've travelled a long way to train with you," the runner told him.
"And train you have," the Shaman agreed.
The runner thought about escaping the wolf Amarok by running past death and clear into the sky. He thought about fighting the bear Nan'nuq atop the Norther Lights and winning His boots. He thought about running the Shaman's spirit caribou to exhaustion. He thought about the speed, strength, and patience that he had earned over his journey.
"Still though," said the runner, who had crossed land, sea and sky but wasn't exactly sure how he had done any of it, nor was he certain he could replicate it, "How do we do it?"
"As swift as wolves, as strong as bears, as patient as caribou," replied the Shaman of the North, "And a little bit of magic," he added. Which wasn't exactly specific, the runner thought as he strapped himself into the lead position, but it seemed impolite to ask for clarification on mystic directions. Besides, it made spiritual sense, which was enough.
And if it wasn't enough, there was always a little bit of magic.