Friday, December 06, 2013

Wolf in the Night (#FridayFlash)

This was supposed to be much less serious than it turned out to be.



Image source: openclipart.org
Once upon a time, in the Strange Lands north of Aht-Lann-Tah, a wolf harassed a certain village in the Rival Kingdom. They would hear the wolf howl on dark nights, and livestock was always missing the next morning. King Tightfisted offered a reward for anyone who would bring in the wolf’s hide, but none thought the meager sum worth the risk.

Finally, one day, a poor boy’s hunger spoke louder than fear. He sat quietly in their tiny house, wrapped in his blankets, until his father’s drunken snoring shook the walls. (His mother had fled to Aht-Lann-Tah some time ago, with the butcher’s brother.) The boy took his father’s hunting spear, covered in dust from long disuse, and slipped away into the evening.

It was a new moon night, and the boy reckoned that the wolf would choose this night for its depredations. He walked the dusty street, until accosted by the watch guard at the edge of town.

“It’s past curfew, boy,” said the guard. “What do you here?”

“I’m wolf hunting,” the boy replied.

“Eh. Your funeral.” The guard waved him through.

After a few minutes, the boy reached a copse near a large chicken farm. Wolves have a keen nose, but standing downwind of chickens would do to a wolf’s nose what looking into the sun did for one’s sight. He wandered into the trees, hefting his spear, and waited, hoping to catch the wolf by surprise.

He heard a voice growl behind him: “Drop the spear, boy.”

The boy jumped, but did as he was told. He turned, hands raised. “I was just—”

Before him crouched the wolf, teeth bared! “Just what?” the wolf snarled.

“Just—I—I was—waiting for someone,” he stammered.

“Oh, really? Were you waiting for Lupé?”

“Who is Loop-pay?”

“I am Lupé,” said the wolf. “Why would you be waiting for me with a spear, eh?”

“We’re poor. It’s hard enough to live, when the wolf is taking our food. Why would you do such a thing?”

Lupé sat and scratched behind one ear. “Follow me, boy, and you will see.”

The boy thought. If the wolf was going to eat him, he’d already be dead. Curiosity overcame fear, for in fact the boy was rather brave, and he followed Lupé through the copse.

Presently, they reached the edge of the copse. Before them stood the fences of Baron Griid’s large farm. Guards walked the perimeter.

“What are we doing here?” the boy whispered.

“Watch and see. Do not move or call out,” said Lupé, and the wolf eased into the tall grass. The guards walked by, and Lupé charged, bounding through the grass and leaping high into the air—over the fence, and disappearing into the night.

The boy did not have long to wait. Lupé again jumped over the fence once the guards had passed, and slunk into the copse, carrying a dead chicken. The wolf trotted into the trees again, and the boy hastened to follow. They worked their way around the village to a tiny croft in the shelter of a grassy knoll. Here, Lupé left the chicken on the doorstep, then returned to where the boy crouched on top of the knoll, and loosed a mournful howl.

The door opened, and an old lady looked toward the knoll before picking up the gift. “Oh, Lupé,” the boy heard her tell the darkness, “I say again, run free. Do not worry for me. I will be all right.” She brushed a hand across her face, then closed the door.

“Why did you do that?” the boy asked.

“She is alone,” said Lupé. “There is no one to take care of her. She cannot tend her garden on her own. So I take care of her, as best I can, since she took care of me when I was a lost pup.”

The boy thought. “I can take care of her,” he said. “At least, I can work her garden. It would be a better life than the one I have now.”

“Perhaps.” Lupé cocked an ear to the wind. “And perhaps there is something I can do for you. Let us fetch your spear.”

Again, Lupé led them through the night, until the boy could hear cries for help, and yelping and snarling. Before them stood a coyote, leaping at a tree and foaming from the mouth. On a branch stood two people, just out of reach of those dripping fangs. “Go collect your reward, but remember your promise,” said Lupé, and disappeared into the night.

The boy slunk forward, spear in hand. He spitted the rabid coyote, which thrashed in the grass then lie still.

“He has killed the wolf!” one of the people in the tree shouted, leaping down to embrace the boy. “Let the entire village rejoice!”

Before the boy could drag the carcass back to the village, all the people turned out to meet him. They raised him on their shoulders and made merry until dawn.

The boy kept his promise and took care of the old woman. The reward money bought them a milk-cow, and food enough until the garden was producing. In time, the old woman died, and left her croft to the boy.

As he stood in the garden, soon after the funeral, he heard a voice behind him. “What will you do now?”

“I once thought to sell the croft, and find my destiny in Aht-Lann-Tah,” he told Lupé. “But I have found my destiny here.”

“You, and perhaps another.” A tiny wolf-pup ambled around Lupé’s still form. “He is a runt, as I was,” Lupé explained. “Take care of him, and he will take care of you.”

The pup hopped to the boy’s waiting hands, and Lupé loped away. Boy and wolf grew together, and not all their days were happy, but they had each other. And it was enough.

13 comments:

  1. The complexities of this were terrific. Well done.

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  2. Aww... Adorable. Seemed about right level of seriousness with plenty of cute and fun.

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  3. With all the name puns at the start I wasn't sure this was going to do much for me, then it settled into something older feeling. I think I like your fairy tale style stuff the best.

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  4. This one hit the Jung jackpot. Excellent teacher-wolf story!

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  5. Oh that was a lovely story, everyone wins in the end! Excellent Larry.

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  6. I hope they live happily ever after. I don't think he would have liked Aht-Lann-Tah anyway, I heard it stank... er, I mean sank. :)

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    1. Heheh!! Hi again Larry, I just re-read through my comment, and guess what? In your story I read Aht-Lann-Tah as Aht-Lann-TIS... Doh!

      (Wanders off to find an optician.)

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  7. I loved this one, Larry, as short as it was it was a powerful one.

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  8. It seems to have an appropriate amount of seriousness to me. Nice one.

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  9. I think that this is my favorite piece that you have written. The story is so well written that if someone had told me that it was a true fable passed down through generations, I would have believed them. :-)

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  10. There's a great fable feel to this Larry, complete with moral. But what really clinches it for me is the twist on the happily ever after...
    "...not all their days were happy, but they had each other. And it was enough."

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