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Shadow of the Wolf
Member No.: 42
Joined: 16-July 09
This is a story I am writing in my own spare time. I have other stories too but this is the one I feel the most comfortable sharing. This isn't a fanfic to anything (it's original so don't steal it!) but it is a rough draft so, right now, it is about as good as a fanfic can get. After I finish the tale I will edit and refine it. So here it is:
BTW: This is a "please criticize me" kind of story. Meaning that any complaints you post such as "you spelled this wrong" or "that part's so stupid" are greatly appreciated!
Winter is a time of rest, a time when nature can sleep. It is a time when animals hibernate for the season and when people can take a break in the course of life. In the mountains, however, winter has a very different meaning. Not much grows up there and snow falls in heavier amounts. People in the mountain villages can never rest no matter how cold. The yaks must be fed, snow must be cleared and leaks in the wall must be mended.
No, to the villagers winter means isolation. Winter represents being cut off from the rest of the world and whatever you can benefit from it. Not because they choose to, but because the weather forbids it. Frigid temperatures keep even the bravest of hearts from leaving the village. One could lose his life if he managed to lose his way and fall prey to the forces of the unrelenting snow storms. Winter was never hated, but neither was enjoyed. It was a test of patience, where one had to wait… wait until the coming of spring and the warmth and life it would bring.
One morning in early winter a fierce wind blew snow continuously on the mountain. It had doing so for nearly two days and by now the ground was blanketed in fresh, perfectly white layer of snow that steadily rose higher and higher with each blast of wind. Everyone was safe in the villages no one wanting to leave the security of their insulated, thatched homes.
A lone tiger dashed across the snow that morning running away from the village and up the mountain. She bounded across the snow leaving behind enormous paw prints. The reason for her dash…because she felt like it. She could not stand the wait, her powerful muscles ached to be used and so she ran. As part of her own personal routine she would spend time everyday running to the top of the mountain and then back down again. Not even the intense blizzard could keep her down. She had grown used to it and even knew the way.
When she reached the top peak, the tiger nosed her way straight to her own personal cave. It was not really hers. Other climbers had found it long before on warmer days, but for now winter allowed her to have the grotto all to herself. She enjoyed that, it gave her the opportunity to lie down, keep silent, and think. She thought many things, considering questions that for some reason she could not ponder over while others were around her. Questions she desperately wished to know. She yawned, a great yawn that stretched her maw to an unbelievable length. It was still morning, but she had woken up early so as to sneak out for her run. She closed her eyes for the moment, completely snug in her own cozy den.
The tiger awoke with a start. She rushed to the cave’s entrance and peered out. The snow still fell, but it had lightened up. The sun streamed through the hazy snow to show that she had not slept long, one maybe two hours at most. She yawned, and bent her striped back downwards as her forelegs extended forwards. When she finished her stretch she carefully left the grotto before swiftly racing down the mountain with a quick burst of speed. She appreciated the run down but was eager to get back to her home.
After several bounds, she abruptly stopped and gently skidded down. The side here stooped downward sharply forming a steep slope. She had learned long ago to be especially careful at this point. Half cautiously, half enjoying it, she slid down the mountain until her feet touched firmer terrain. Again she dashed across the mountain’s face her long fur flying in the wind. After a short run, she reached the point where the slope suddenly went flat as the ground changed from mountain plateau. Not too far away was the village hidden in the cloud of falling flakes.
As she began to run she halted. The wind had changed direction and brought with it a smell. It was not a particularly potent smell but it was definitely something different and the tiger had caught it. She turned to the base of the cliff and stepped slowly in that direction. Half buried in the snow she saw a boy, lying on the ground with his face on his arms. She gingerly stretched out a paw towards his head and gently nudged it.
Alarmed, she then tilted his face to see who it was. It was not anyone she recognized from the village. His face had a small look to it, not that it really was small but it features made it look that way. He had small ears and his hair was a very light brown tint. His nose was also small and formed a gentle slope from eyes that were closed. But his cheeks were pale and lips blue.
An outsider, she thought, a foolish boy who gallivanted off in the dead of winter. She felt that he might still be alive but there was not much time. Carefully, she stooped and shoveled him on her back. Making sure he was secure, she ran towards the village.
On most days the village would be alive at this time, filled with people stumbling about to their chores. However, it was winter and almost no one wanted to leave this early if they could help it. The tiger stopped before the nearest house, a three-room hut. As much as she wanted to rescue the poor boy as soon as possible, she knew she had to do her routine for safety purposes. She carefully put the boy down making sure that he was face up. Then with two massive leaps she bounded on top of a box by the side of the house. With her mouth she tugged at the cord, open the shutters, and climbed inside.
Once inside, she changed. The brownish-orange fur with black stripes melted away into bare flesh. Her tail vanished and her limbs turned into normal arms and legs. Her eyes, ears mouth, nose and other features turned into the human face and her long, dark hair promptly reappeared on her head. When the alteration ended, she stood up as if nothing had happened. Then she quickly closed the shutters behind her and grabbed her clothes. She could not wear them as a tiger because it would have been too suspicious if someone had seen her.
After dressing in her clothes, a thick, brown fur coat and boots, she ran to the front door not too quietly. She left the cabin, if it could be called a cabin, darted to the back to the waiting boy. She went on the other side of him and lifted him up, at the same time intentionally stamping out any evidence of her former footprints. She let out a huge “hmn” as she felt the weight of the boy. Though she did not possess the strength of her former form, she retained some of its unnatural power. With short steady steps, she made her way to the door. At the front entrance, she finally yelled, “Momma! Momma! Papa, quickly!”
“Snow-found, what is it? What is wro-”
The older woman took one look and understood everything. In no time at all the older man placed a bed by the fireplace and the boy was put on it. The girl rushed to get blankets and the woman began examining him. The girl returned quickly.
“He is still alive, but barely,” the woman solemnly stated. She undid his clothes as they were drenched in snow. Quickly, she took the blankets from the girl and overlapped them on the boy. In seeing his condition, the girl felt sorry she had to delay bringing him in. The poor boy looked so cold and lifeless.
“Snow-found,” the woman said calm but firmly, “I need you to heat the water.”
“Yes,” she replied. Snow-found hastened over to a chest in the corner and pulled out a small iron pot, an object so uncommon in the village most only had one. Soon, she had water boiling over the fire all though it took longer for the water to become really hot. Presently, the older man came to them.
“Snow-found, as much as I know you want to help him, first you need to do your chores,” reminded the man.
“Avere is right,” replied the woman. “I will take care of the boy.”
“Thank you,” said the man.
Reluctantly, Snow-found rose up from where she was sitting and walked out the door. For the rest of the morning, Snow-found found it difficult to accomplish her tasks. The commotion she had recently made had awoken the sleepy villagers and now they were eager to find out what was the matter.
“What happened?” one man growled.
“We found an unconscious boy outside,” Avere said trying to calm the hyped crowd with his arms. “Eyye is watching over him right now.
“Where did you find him?” inquired one woman.
“Um…b-by our house,” stumbled Snow-found and quickly glanced away.
“How is he?” asked another man.
“Is he injured?” yelled yet another.
“Where did he come from?”
“How long has he been in the snow?”
“Is he dead?” piped a boy.
The questions continued on and on. Avere had to keep the knowledge hungry people occupied while Snow-found fed the yaks. Eventually, the swarm died down and everyone went to their work. It was nearly mid-day when Avere and Snow-found came in the house after milking the yaks. They both set their precious load of milk down and sat at the table for late breakfast. The meal was simple: meat stew with milk to drink. It was a monotonous meal for them but filling. The three of them chewed gratefully.
“How is he?” Snow-found asked breaking the short silence.
The older woman looked up from her meal, “He will live. Luckily, the weather did him no physical harm but I am not quite sure. For now, he needs to rest and regain his strength.”
All eyes turned to the bed by the fire. The boy lay there motionless but his pale face began to gain color. He was bundled in large, thick quilt that was sown together with intricate patterns and shapes.
“I hope the boy wakes soon,” said the old man dryly. “We need our quilt to sleep tonight.”
“Avere!” the woman scolded, “You know he needs it more right now than we do. We can live for at least one night without our quilt.”
“But I doubt we can sleep-” he added half-humorously. He stopped speaking under her icy glare. Eyye was not a woman to take nonsense. Again there was a silence.
“So,” began the older woman, “How did you find him, Snow-found?”
Snow-found had just finished her meal and was about to leave but respectfully sat back down again. She looked into the woman’s eyes and tried to show her calmest face.
“As I said before,” she said coolly, “I found him outside.”
“That was not the question I asked,” Eyye replied firmly.
Snow-found’s face calm expression disappeared and she diverted her eyes. Then she stared back again with an understandable face.
“Oh,” responded the woman.
“Mmphem,” muffled the man with his mouth full of food.
“I found him close to the mountain slope,” Snow-found recovered. “It was not far from the village. I didn’t carry him for too far.”
“Were you careful?” the man said suddenly. “Did you tread back cautiously and make sure you erased any trace?”
“Yes, I did,” she replied firmly. She looked away again feeling a little hurt. The man rested his head on his hand and let out a sigh. He continued to finish his stew.
“Avere, try not to be so hard on her,” the woman coaxed forgetting her words only a moment before.
“I know I shouldn’t…,” said Snow-found with a bit of dry throat. “I shouldn’t be out…roaming.”
“Snow-found, your father and I are only caring for you. We don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“I know…,” Snow said now looking at them, “…that it’s…unsafe. But-”
“Perhaps,” interrupted the father, “We should wait for another time to continue this discussion.” He vaguely gestured over to the boy. Silently, they all agreed. Snow-found gave a small smile and at the bidding of the older woman she began to pick up the dishes, grateful for something to distract herself.
The boy stayed on that bed throughout the night. Both Snow-found and Eyye took turns watching him that night making sure he was still alive. By the next morning he had apparently regained his health for now he slept peacefully. Through examination, the only things of interest that could be found on the boy aside from his clothes were a few packs of water and food, some bits of paper, a stick of charcoal, and a small wooden box that was firmly locked with a thick bolt. His wet clothes had been taken off and replaced (much to the dismay of the older man) with new garments.
Snow-found had just finished her turn watching him and instead of going back to sleep decided to stay outside for a bit, though she did not go back up the mountain again. Instead, she chose go to her other favorite spot. It was a boulder mostly buried in the ground with top part forming a smooth pyramid-like face and it lay just at the edge of the village. Snow-found dusted the snow off the peak of the stone and sat down on the open spot.
Then she stared at the beautiful sunrise that cast beams of light across a glorious landscape of mountains. Everything in the distance except for the lowest valley was covered in gleaming white snow. At the farthest she could see the horizon appeared to be a massive jaw with the highest mountains forming the white-capped teeth. The wind blew a hard chill in Snow-found, but she did not care. Her total attention was fixed on the stunning scenery. It was the only scene of such beauty that she had known in her life; she had never gone beyond any of these mountains. In her heart, she longed to see what was beyond those monoliths and what other lands held. Even the harsh wind seemed to whisper softly to her, “Follow me.”
Aside from the wind, the only other noise that morning was the waking hustle and bustle of the village behind her. The houses were stationed close one another so as to be safer. There were no street or roads barring the small one that led down to the valley villages lower down. Snow-found turned her head when she heard the sound of footsteps drawing near. She turned her head back and moaned while rolling her eyes. Why him? she thought and spun back to the approaching boy.
“Hello, Snow-found,” he said in a cheery voice.
“Morning,” she stated flatly.
“I was hoping to find you out here,” he replied.
“Well, I was simply sitting here.”
“Mind if I joined you?”
She shrugged, but did not move. The boy just stood there as if waiting. Snow-found shifted her legs uncomfortably. Finally, she spoke again.
“I’m sure you are curious about what has happened to the boy we found yesterday.”
He gave her a teasing look and smile. “Well, not really. I just wanted to say good morning.”
She returned the gaze but did not smile back. “Oh, come on, Shast! Everybody’s been pounding me about the boy.”
“Well, then I’m not like other people am I?” he commented humorously. “Though now that you brought it up…”
“He’s doing fine, right now sleeping and Momma says that he should wake up soon,” she said bluntly. Her head was turned away towards the empty field.
“Do you think that he…” he began.
“Ah! Ha! I knew you were interested in him!” she lashed out.
“Well…of course, yes,” Shast stumbled while trying to recover, “But I also wanted to see what you were doing.”
“As I said before, I was just sitting here, thank very much,” she said pompously.
Shast nodded politely. He stared out into the yonder. For a while there was an awkward silence with both merely gazing out into the distance. Then Shast brightened up.
“I wonder what other lands exist beyond those mountains,” he commented modestly.
“Yes,” she sighed with her voice more calm this time. “I do wonder.”
“Do you think that perhaps the boy came from beyond those mountains?” he began again.
“Maybe,” she consented. “We might find out after he awakes.”
“I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of other worlds more beautiful than this,” he said contemplating. He glanced back at Snow-found. But she kept staring.
Why doesn’t he go away? she thought.
“My guess is that he was trying to deliver something from another place.”
Snow-found turned her head back. “What would give you that idea?” she inquired.
Shast pondered for a moment. “Well, being that it is early winter right now it seems pretty ridiculous to attempt to climb this mountain for anything that isn’t important, such as visiting someone. He probably was ordered to personally transport something of great importance, or deliver some message, to somewhere else as quickly as possible, which might also explain why he chose to climb this mountain.”
“I suppose that might make sense.” Snow-found thought back to the locked box that she and her mother found on him.
“Then again,” continued Shast, “He might have been running away.”
“Running away! From what?”
“Well, I don’t know. I’m only trying to deduce the possible answers. None of us know where he came from and why he would even think about climbing to us at this time of year. I believe that he was carrying something or running away.
He smiled at her. Snow-found could see that he was rather proud of his logical reasoning and that he hoped that she would be impressed. But of course, she was not or at least she was determined not to let herself show it to him.
“Yes…well, we will all see what the true reason is when he wakes up, not before then,” she replied rather coldly.
Shast looked hurt and he stepped back a bit as if regaining his balance after the blow. “There’s no harm in guessing. Sometimes I wish strange things like this would happen more often, just so I can wonder what possible answers there are.”
“I suppose,” she sighed. “Nothing amazing ever happens around here in the mountains.”
“That’s not necessarily true,” Shast countered, “Occasionally in the summer we do have visitors up here. Or sometimes we might go to town to the valley below, or maybe the yaks break away, and now and then a tiger might threaten the village and we have to fight it!”
Snow-found shifted unnervingly.
“And you have no idea how colorful the arguments with Old Jock are,” he laughed. “Sometimes he gets so red in the face I think he’s going to explode!
Snow-found let a little smile spread on her face, but only a bit.
“Life up here isn’t all that boring,” he continued, “You just have to find where fun is.”
“Well, life is pretty dull for me!” she complained. “You wake up, eat, work, eat, do some more work, sleep.”
“Then maybe it was good for you to have found the boy. Maybe he might brighten your life up.”
Before she could reply, she heard Eyye call out, “Snow-found, your father needs you, please come!” And without saying good-bye, Snow-found dashed away to her call, grateful that her mother had inadvertently ended the uncomfortable conversation. For the truth was that she knew that Shast liked her. But she didn’t like him the same way and because of that she found him really annoying.
Member No.: 42
Joined: 16-July 09
Here is the fifth part. And remember, this is only a rough draft.
Time slowly crept by for Snow-found. For two more whole days since she found him, the boy slept on the spare bed as his color gradually come back to him. On the second afternoon, he finally awoke. Snow-found was on her turn watching for so long that she had dozed off by the side of his bed. He peered through his stiff eyes and gazed around the small room. His eyes finally rested upon Snow-found as she herself awakened. For a moment they both simply stared at each other not understanding what happened. Then realization dawned on Snow-found and she immediately sat straight up.
“Ughn…where…is this?” the boy groaned. “Where am I?”
But Snow-found yelled in another direction, “Momma, he’s awake! He’s awake!”
And in rushed Eyye who blurted, “My goodness, so he is!” She looked to him, “Do you need anything?”
“Mmgh…water,” he said in a thin, coarse voice. Eyye hastened to the storage.
Snow-found turned back to her patient and said, “You’re safe in here. We found you almost dead outside in the cold. What were you doing there in the middle of winter?”
The boy did not reply to this inquiry. He looked away from her face and moved his face upward while letting out a quiet grunt. Eyye came back with the cup in hand and carefully put an arm around his head, lifted him up and helped him drink. He finished the whole cup with a few sips and then three gulps. “That’s better, could I have some more?” he said. After another cup he asked, “Are we in Tréton?”
“Tréton…Tréton?” the older woman repeated trying to remember that word. “Tréton…oh, goodness no! You are on the mountains, Tréton is far from here, all the way beyond the valleys.”
The boy let out a sigh sudden sigh of relief before catching himself.
“Are going to Tréton?” asked Snow-found eagerly.
“Ughn…no, no…I was…uh…wondering because…umm…I thought that it…might be…where I am,” he stammered.
“Oh,” responded Eyye, “I see, well wherever you were intending on going you should know better then to travel in the winter, especially up the mountains!
The boy coughed, “Boy, do I know now. But then, where are we?”
“You are in a simple village on a simple mountain,” Eyye answered. “My name is Eyye if you must know, but you may call Ma’am, understood.”
“Yes, Ma’a…”, he said as he mumbled the last part. But that was good enough for her and she remembered his ill condition.
“I will fix something to eat.” And she turned and went to her supplies.
The boy then fixed his attention on the younger girl. “I’m called Martel.”
“Mine is Snow-found,” she replied.
“Snow-found, that’s a strange name.”
She purposefully ignored that comment and continued asking, “Where did you come from?”
“Umm…well, I came from…Quintus.”
“I’ve never heard of…Quintus…”
“Then again, never heard of anywhere beyond these mountains,” she
sighed sadly, “I’ve seen only a few other villages in my whole lifetime.”
“Ah, I’m sorry to hear that. This is actually the first time I have ever left my home,” he added.
“Which would explain why you came to here in wintertime,” she laughed.
“Yes” was all he said. He closed his eyes and laid his head back. “Thank you…for saving me,” he added. He then fell back into slumber.
Snow-found fixed his blankets. “You’re welcome,” she replied under her breath. She continued to watch him even until Eyye came back with food. “We still don’t know much about him.”
“He’s still regaining his strength; there will be plenty of opportunities later.”
“What is Tréton?”
“What's that dear?”
“Where is that place he mentioned…Tréton?”
She pondered the question. “The only thing I know for sure, dear, that is a city far away from here.”
“Yes,” continued Eyye, “an even larger village with more people than you can imagine.”
“I can imagine what a city is, Momma, even if I’ve never seen one. You didn’t have to explain.”
“Well, aside from that I have no other knowledge of Tréton.”
“What about Quintus,” she further added, “he also mentioned that place too.”
“Dear, I have never heard of Quintus. There is only so much that comes into the village about other places. If you wish to know about them you should probably ask Avere.”
But as it turned out, he was of even less help. As far as he knew that was some place somewhere that he happy not to be a part of. No one else for that matter knew much else about Tréton or Quintus as Snow-found found out. The one person who did give her a bit more was Old Jock.
“Tréton is a city,” he told. “But not just any city; they say that that is where the rulers reside. The rulers of this very country.
But unfortunately by the end of the day, Snow-found was left with more questions than answers. Anything else she wanted to ask would have to wait until the boy was entirely better. Late that evening when everyone went to bed, she snuck out to have her climb. It had been at least three days since her last trip. She had neglected to do so partly because she did not want to leave the boy and partly because she did not want to worry the adults. Her stroll was uneventful and she arrived home quickly due to the cold. The moment she changed back into a human in her room she suddenly found herself in a pitch-black environment. This always reminded how different the sight of her current form was than from her animal side. Before she fell asleep she thought out the things she did learn from the day.
His name is Martel. He either came from Tréton or wants to go there. Either way he knows something about it and he’s hiding something too.
* * *
The next morning, Martel was well enough to walk and by evening he was completely better. But Snow-found had a hard time trying to learn anything more from him. Whenever she brought the topic of his whereabouts he would either avoid it or find some way to change the subject. Despite this, she gained a great deal about him. She found out that he was friendly and incredible talkative, much to her delight. She also found him to be apparently well-educated.
“Those mountains,” he explained during one fruitful conversation, “are known as the Settleback Range.”
“Hmm, that’s funny. Around here we just call them the Thorn Mountains.”
“Well, they are called that, but the reality is that they are actually part of a bigger range that forms the eastern border of the country.”
“How big is the “country”?”
“Oh, how do I describe? Imagine all these mountains only a hundred times more of them! And that would be just the border! The midlands themselves would…”
“How do you know all this,” she interrupted, “if you said yourself that you have never left your home before?”
“Well,” he paused, “I’ve never actually seen them. But I know they exist.”
“I have read multiple maps, that is how.”
“Maps? What are maps?”
“You’re kidding me, right? You mean to tell me you have never seen at least one map?”
“Sadly, yes,” she sighed.
Martel gazed outward in response. “Man, I really am out in the middle of nowhere.” He looked suddenly back at Snow-found. “I’m sorry. I did not mean to offend you.”
“Don’t worry,” she shrugged, “I am not.”
“As best as I can describe it,” he said returning back the subject, “maps are…pictures…on paper that tell you where anything is.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” she said gravely.
“You see…there are shape of the countries and…oh, you know what, forget it. It is just one of those things that you have to see to comprehend. Back home we have hundred of maps, maybe even thousands!”
“Back home at Quintus, that is.”
“What’s that? Oh, right! Quintus,” he remembered.
“What is…Quintus…like,” she inquired carefully.
“It’s…um…quite nice really.” She could see he was floundering.
“It’s big…and friendly. You know it is amazing how you can live your whole life somewhere and not know much about it. I mean it is strange!” he ended awkwardly.
“I like to know at least a little bit more about it,” Snow-found asked more firmly.
“And I would like to know when the next meal your mother is cooking is ready. I could sure use another meal. Let us go check.”
And that was how he dodged most of her questions about his life. By the time she was in bed she felt that she had learned so much and yet so little.
Not know what a map is. How could I have been so stupid in telling him I had no idea? Still, at least he is fun to be around.
But all the same, she felt upset that she had not learned why he came to the mountains or why he was there at all. She could not depend on her parents. Avere would not have the bravery to talk to him and Eyye was completely satisfied in knowing in what she knew of the boy. As far as she knew it was up to her to find out who he really was.
Tomorrow, she resolved, I will confront him and find out. The only question was how?