The Adventures of a Boy Called Wolf

Donald Knowlton

Prologue

November twenty four in the year of our Lord eighteen and sixty nine:

These are my last words as I have no more paper or ink with which to write.

It has been three years since I have been blessed to be visited by a living soul. I am very tired and I fear this body will soon breathe its last. It is my fervent desire that the blessed wolves who are my friends will be protected from the men of my dreams with their long guns. But, I fear that they must leave the valley that is their home. I see the slaughter of my companions without mercy. I see them rubbed out from the land. I also see men and women with children come and visit, but they will not know the wonders of the land, for who will show them if I am no longer around. I must find another to protect the wolves, one who will protect this land, I cannot see if it will happen, but I must use what time I have left to prepare for one who might come. I must find ink and paper to write what I know, that they can learn from me, that they may care for this forest. I must stop now, for a man is coming and I must greet him; perhaps he is the one I seek.

He is not the one I seek, but I see promise in him, for he is of good heart. He wishes to build a school. He is a knight, and has pledged himself to teach the children about this valley and its forest. I have given him permission to visit with his children; perhaps I will meet my follower among them. It gives me hope and I will stay for a while longer. I have decided to send the wolves away until the day when they can be called back. While this man would not hurt them, others will follow with their long guns, I must act soon. I bless him for his gift of paper and ink; I know it hurt him to part with such valuable possessions. I have only dreams to give him in return, I hope he understands.

Maud


Chapter 1 - A Boy's Story

May Twenty Second, Two Thousand and Six.

Caleb awoke to a wet tongue licking his face. He jerked his eyes open to stare into the gray eyes of a wolf. The wolf let out a low growl and backed up to bare its teeth.

The boy threw off the dew wet blanket as he shook and popped to his feet. He turned and started off at a tear to escape from the big animal. A glance over his shoulder had the wolf chasing behind him, Caleb pushed on, his heart pounding, and his lungs screaming for air, but the beast kept pace.

At the end of his breath, he emerged from an opening in the trees. He heard the wolf snarling, he looked back one more time to see the beast leaping at him. He felt its paws strike his back, and he slammed to the ground, pressed by the full weight of the large animal. He tried moving, but the wolf snarled. He reached out to find nothing: no sticks, no rocks, and no ground. He lay at the edge of a cliff. Feeling the weight on his back let up, he stole a glance back at the animal, but it vanished.


Caleb opened his eyes to stare at the glowing orb of the sun rising between the trees, sweating, even in the cold dawn.

Dragging himself to his feet, he thought about his situation; at twelve he wore a dirty sweater, his hair lay uncombed, and his fingernails were grubby. It had been days since he had slept in a bed, and he felt miserable.

Rolling up the moist blanket, his sole possession, Caleb tied it with a string and marched up the slope to the highway where he jumped the ditch at the edge of the road, but his foot slipped back into the black mud at the bottom. He avoided falling by grabbing onto a root. As he pulled his foot out of the muck, his shoe, held by the suction, came off. Cursing, he stuck his hand down through the slime to find the muck filled shoe and work it loose.

Scrambling up the bank, he picked up a stick, and scraped the rotten paste off of the once white shoe. He scooped it out from the inside with his fingers. Finished, he slid the shoe back on his foot and stood up to look at the road.

With no cars in sight he started to walk on the shoulder. He just wanted to dry out. Hearing a noise in the woods; he looked to see a small deer bound out of the trees and across the road in sheer panic. It passed right in front of him and in two hops sprang over the ditch and disappeared into the woods again.

The source of the deer's panic appeared as a huge dog charged out of the woods and crossed the road. It skidded to a stop and stared at Caleb, sniffing the air while keeping a steady watch. The boy realized he now faced the big wolf of his dream. The wolf snarled a warning at him, and then took off after the deer.

Shivering, the boy started walking again and it didn't take long before an old pickup truck slowed down and stopped across the road from him. The stocky driver with a bulbous nose and well muscled arms asked, "Where are you going kid."

"West," mumbled the boy

"Come on, get in. It's a long ways to anywhere around here."

Caleb, now beyond hungry, walked across the road to get a better look at the man. He looked safe enough, just a farmer. He walked around the truck, opened the passenger door, and climbed in. The inside of the old truck was a mess. The more the boy looked around the truck, the nastier it appeared to him, with moldy half eaten sandwiches on top of the dash and crumpled papers everywhere. He stared at a big pistol on the seat between them.

The man noticed the boy looking and said, "Pick it up if you dare."

The boy shook his head.

The short man with a big grin said. "You ain't afraid of a little gun, are you?"

Caleb's chest tightened. "No." Afraid not to, he picked up the weapon with his fingertips. It could have weighed a ton.

"You want to try it?"

The boy blurted out, "No."

The man shrugged his shoulders, "Suit yourself, it's fun."

He lowered the gun back down on the seat.

They rode in silence a while until they reached the outskirts of a town. The man asked, "You hungry, boy?"

Caleb, startled, replied, "No," although he hadn't eaten in two days. When they arrived at the center of the town, he announced, "I have to use the bathroom."

The pickup stopped in front of a grocery store and the little man pointed, "They have one in the back of the store, and on the way out pick up some food. I'll be waiting here for you."

"I don't have any money."

The man smiled, "I don't either. Just grab it and run out. You aren't afraid of that are you?"

Caleb felt trapped. Sure that the man would be waiting to take it out on him if he didn't come out with food, he said, "No, I'm not afraid."

The man grinned, "Good, I know we'll cross paths again."


Caleb ran out of the grocery store and would have made it down the street, but a strong hand grabbed his arm causing him to whip around and drop the food. He jerked and struggled, but the uniformed man held tight. He could have fed himself for a few days. Defeated, he gave it up and glared at the man who wore a sheriff's badge

The man in the pickup truck had disappeared.

Caught, he felt like sinking into the earth, what he imagined dying would be like. The deputy led him to his office down the street and put him in a chair next to his desk. The Sheriff interrogated the boy, but Caleb had been questioned by police before and played it tough, fixing his eyes on the wall clock behind the deputy. He heard the deputy's words, but he didn't let them sink in.

The deputy went easy on the boy and stopped his questions. "You know that if I don't return you to your home, I will have to call the state juvenile authorities."

The boy crossed his arms and kept quiet.

"The store owner is furious. He wants to slam you into jail, after giving you a hard spanking."

"Better that than being in a foster home," snapped the boy.

"So you do talk. Hi, my name is Ben." The deputy smiled and extended his right hand to shake, but Caleb kept his arms crossed. "Are you hungry? I am." He picked up the phone, called a Chinese restaurant, and ordered two meals. "Life is always better when you're full."

They waited in silence for a while until the food arrived. The deputy paid the delivery man and set out several containers of food, drinks, and chopsticks. He slid a carton of milk and a bottle of grape juice across the table to the boy. The officer started eating his meal with the chopsticks.

The boy made no move to eat until the man half-finished. His stomach growling, he couldn't bear it any longer and opened up his container to reach in with his fingers, but the deputy stopped him by clearing his throat. The man passed a fork to the boy who started scooping the food into his mouth. When he finished eating he looked back up at the deputy. Without much conviction in his voice he asked, "Everybody hates me, do you hate me too?"

"No. I think you're a nice kid who's had it real bad. So why did you run away?"

The boy looked down, "They were going to beat me up."

"At school?"

He grimaced and said, "I try to fight them, but they always gang up on me, and I'm the one who gets in trouble."

"What about your foster parents, don't they help you?

The boy shrugged his shoulders, "No. they didn't believe me. They wouldn't do anything about it."

The deputy bent down close to ask, "Did they punish you?"

"No they just ignore me when I complain about it. They said I made it up."

The deputy clasped his hands together and asked, "So where did you hide?"

The boy's eyes opened in surprise, "In the library, but how did you know?"

"I knew another boy with the same problems," the deputy paused, "but he solved them."

The boy stared at the man a long minute, before it hit him, "It was you, wasn't it?"

"Yes." The deputy smiled again, "I grew up an orphan."

The boys face hardened. "How do I know you aren't lying?"

"I don't have a reason to lie, and I think you would rather go to jail than lie."

"I never get away with it. It just makes things worse." The boy looked down and spit out, "Jail's better than being beat up."

The deputy said, "Fighting is never good. Getting beat up is never good. Running is never good. Sometimes you don't have a choice. You can't let people keep beating on you."

"How do I stop it?" pleaded the boy.

"I can't give you a good answer to that." The deputy thought for a minute, then looked the boy directly in the eye. "I feel the answer you need, may come sooner than you think. The only thing I know to tell you is; you have to learn to defend yourself."

The boy started to ask how, but the deputy held up a hand. "You're still in big trouble. I'll have to put you in the jail cell while I go and try to fix your problem."

"And then you're going to call the juvenile authorities, aren't you?" the boy mumbled while looking at his feet.

The deputy said, "I have to."

The deputy locked the boy up and left the office. He spent a long lonely hour stewing over how he got there. When the deputy returned, he let the boy out, "It seems your name is Caleb."

As he entered the office Caleb noticed a very tall broad shouldered man wearing a large hunting knife tucked in his belt. The man looked at him with hard eyes set in a craggy face.

The boy accused the Deputy, "You called the Juvenile guys, didn't you?"

"I had to. They are going to send a car for you.

Caleb started to twitch and, he blurted out, "I can't go there. I'll die! I'm too small. There are gangs there. They beat up kids like me. Just let me go. I'll leave. You'll never see me again."

"I can't do that," said the deputy. "It would be wrong for me to turn you out just like that. If it means anything to you, I don't think you should go to Juvenile Hall; you're a good kid and you didn't do anything to deserve this. Feeding yourself is just basic survival, but, it's not my decision." The deputy paused a moment, "However, I'll give you another choice, if you will take it."

"What is that?" the boy asked, almost pleading.

"Go with the Raven here." The deputy pointed at the large man. "If you leave with him, the Juvenile authorities can't touch you, at least not for a while."

Caleb looked up at the big man, "Who are you?"

The deputy answered, "He's called The Raven. He's a friend of mine and he's just now leaving town. I guarantee you'll do better with him than with the state."

Caleb took a closer look at the man. He was tall, broad-shouldered and had huge hands. He wore a dark green jacket and trousers with knee high soft leather boots. The man's eyes spooked him; they were a flinty gray, hard set in a weathered face. He looked to be very tough and ready for a fight.

The man spoke in a gentle voice, "I can promise you that you won't be locked up, you won't go hungry, and you won't be beaten or abused. There will be some hard work involved, but it won't be anything you can't handle. However, if you don't like it, I'll bring you back here."

"Why should I go with you?" the boy demanded. "You're just going to cut me up with that knife. How do I know you will bring me back here? Besides, what kind of name is Raven? It sounds like a girl's name."

"It's just what I'm called." The man paused a moment before saying, "I can promise you the adventure of a lifetime. You will get a chance to do things you never imagined you could do. You'll learn to ride horses for a start. What you can and will do is up to you. It's much better than your other choice."

Caleb looked down at his feet and thought about it for a long minute. He wanted to believe the man. He also wanted to ask him what he meant. The hard work part scared him, but the adventure part drew him in. He had always dreamed of escaping to a different world. Ever since he had discovered adventure books in the library; he wanted a different life, to explore the world, like the people he had read about, to see jungles and castles. He looked up at the big man and then at the deputy, "Why are you doing this?"

The deputy smiled. "Like I told you, you remind me of myself when I was young. I don't want you to go to Juvenile Hall. I think you can do better if you have a chance. If you continue the way you're headed, I think you will have a bleak life. Living on the street or in Juvenile Hall is an invitation to gang violence. The Raven helped me once. I bet he could help you. He didn't tell you, but the hard part is he will make you keep up with your school work."

"Do I have a choice?"

"Yes, of course you have a choice. The Raven is a fair and good man. He will teach you how to defend yourself against bullies. His word is gold and he will do right by you. In the Juvenile Center, like you said, who knows what will happen to you. My bet is you will do much better with him." The deputy leaned forward so he could look the boy in the eye and asked him, "Do you want to keep running away like you're doing now? Do you think it will get any better the way you have been going?"

Caleb saw his way out. This had to be better than prison. He could always escape. He answered, "OK, I'll go."

"Good," said the deputy. "There isn't much time before the state car gets here. I'll see what I can do to calm the store manager. I am a good friend with his son." The Raven and the deputy signed several papers. Then they all stood up.

The big man said, "Let me introduce you to Red." He led the boy outside to meet a girl holding the reins to four horses. The first horse, a giant, spotted, and gray, bobbed its head up and down. The second horse was all black, and it danced and snorted. The third horse was brown with white legs, and the last horse was loaded with various bundles.

Looking older by a year or two, the girl stood only a little taller than the boy. She extended her right hand, small and calloused and shook his with an iron grip. She dressed like the Raven, but also sported a gray hooded cloak. The most striking thing about her had to be her curly copper red hair, brilliant in the morning sun.

"I guess I know why you're called Red."

The girl smiled and said, "Here, let me introduce you to Easy Rider." She passed the leads of three horses to the Raven and led out the brown horse with the white legs, saddled and loaded with large bags. "You'll ride him. He's a gelding and quite gentle."

"I can't ride a horse," he complained.

Red chuckled, "Well, you could walk, but I wouldn't suggest doing that. We have a long ways to go. Besides it's easy."

He leaned over to Red and whispered into her ear, "How do I get on him?"

She smiled and pointed the boy to the left side of Easy Rider. She showed him how to get onto the horse by first mounting up herself, then dismounting. She made him repeat it in one motion.

Red kept the reins, tied a lead to them and mounted the huge spotted horse. She turned to the boy. "It's easy to sit on the horse. Don't kick or squeeze with your legs. It'll confuse him and he might try to run away with you."

The Raven tied the pack horse's leader to his own black horse's saddle and hopped up.

The Deputy looked up at the Raven, "You had better hurry up; the state car will be here soon. I can't keep them from taking the boy if they show up." His face lit up. "But, before you go I have something for Caleb." He stepped into his office and came right back out with a heavy stiff coat with a Sheriff's badge on it. He pulled the badge off and handed the coat up to the boy. "You'll need this."

The boy took the coat and thanked the deputy, not wanting to appear ungrateful. He put the coat on, despite it being too large and too warm.

The Raven clucked his horse to a walk and turned it down a side street. Red followed with the boy in tow. The boy found it easy to sit on the horse just like Red had said. He had only the saddle horn to hold onto, but felt safe.

From an alleyway a short stocky man looked at the receding caravan, with a grin, and a look of delight in his eyes.

The riders soon reached the edge of town, started up a large grassy hill and soon entered a line of trees. "Watch your head or a branch will knock you off," Red remarked looking back at the boy.

Caleb thought; she ought to watch out herself, sitting on the huge horse in front of him. They continued ascending through the trees not seeming to follow any marked path.

Back in town, the state car never arrived.

When they reached the top of the hill, they entered a large clearing in the woods. "We're going up there," Red said pointing up at several mountains in the distance.

Caleb taken aback by the immensity of the mountains asked, "How long will it take to get there?"

"About a day and a half, then we go through the pass between those two peaks." She indicated two of the closer mountains. "Then it's one more day."

Caleb tried to figure the distance just in case he decided to escape. "How far is that?"

"Farther than you can walk in a week. It's all rough, up and down, switchbacks and rivers. Someone as soft as you would never make it alone."

"I'm not soft!" protested Caleb.

Red grinned, "Oh yes you are and I'll prove it tonight when we camp."

"We're not staying anywhere?" exclaimed the boy in surprise.

"Silly boy, we're in the forest, there is no place to stay except where we make it."

"And where is that?"

"When the weather is nice like this, we sleep out in the open."

"What if it's raining?"

Red said grinning, "Out in the open."

"And if it's snowing?" the boy asked, expecting the next answer.

Red lost her composure and snapped, "Out in the open. You get the idea?"

Caleb drawled, "Yeah, and I don't like it already."

Red rolled her eyes, "You'll get used to it, trust me, and there are ways to stay comfortable. Camping is fun, but sometimes things don't go as expected and you wake up with a wolf in your bedroll." She grinned and winked at him. "You will get used to sleeping outside. Besides I've never seen a wolf in these parts."

He gasped, but realized that she had played with him.

The horsemen continued past the clearing, going back into the woods. They followed a western course, up and down hills, and soon descended into a forested valley. The trees they were traveling through were enormous, and spaced well apart from each other. The going proved easy, with very little undergrowth to slow them down, the ground almost level and soft. The horse's breathing and hoof beats were the only sounds to be heard.

They soon came to a stream and the Raven called a stop to water the horses. They dismounted and let the horses drink their fill of water. Meanwhile Red pulled three paper packets from one of the giant horse's saddle bags. She gave one to the Raven who sat down on a large rock to eat. Red handed another to Caleb and motioned for him to follow her.

They went up the stream for about fifty meters, found a log to sit on, and started to eat the dried fruit. It consisted of dried apples, pears and raisins dusted with cinnamon. "Do you like it?" Red asked with pride. "I made it myself."

"Yeah, it's pretty good, if you're into that sort of stuff."

Red grimaced, "You'll eat plenty of dried fruit and vegetables in the next few months. You'll appreciate it soon enough."

Caleb looked back down in the direction of the Raven, "He doesn't talk much does he?"

Red followed his stare, "No, he doesn't, but pay attention to what he does." She brought up a soft leather water bag and offered him a drink. He took several big gulps before he handed it back to her, and she took a large swallow from the bag.

The boy furrowed his eyebrows, "Why is he called the Raven?"

Red chuckled, "That's easy. He's called the Raven because he's a tracker. He finds people. Ravens are good at finding things. He received his name when he became a knight.

Caleb stared at Red in disbelief. "He's a Knight? There are no knights. You're joking, right?"

Red crossed her arms and gave the boy a challenging stare. "He's a knight, you'll see."

The boy also crossed his arms and said, "I don't believe you."

Red shrugged her shoulders and glared at him. "Look I'm not going to waste my breath, you'll see."

He just stared at Red; something about her manner said not to mess with her. "OK have it your way, he's a knight."

Caleb realized he didn't know one important fact. "Where are we going?"

Red's eyes lit up, "Oh, we're going up to the high country, to the valley where we camp during the summer."

"Just us? All summer?"

"Oh, Heavens no! Most everybody will be there." She spread out her arms. "All summer. Isn't it magnificent?"

"Who is everybody?"

Red beamed, "Just about the whole school."

His eyes opened wide and he sputtered, "School?"

Red looked perplexed, "Well yes, it's more like a summer school."

Caleb started jerking his shoulders and exclaimed, "I hate school!"

"Why?"

His eyes hardened and he spit out, "Just because."

Taken aback, Red considered this a minute, sighed, and then said; "You must have your reasons. I swear to you the class work is hard, but we have a lot of fun afterward. I believe you will enjoy it, please give it a try. It's summer and in the high camp and we get to play hard and have fun."

Caleb stopped jerking his shoulders and asked, "What do you do there?"

"We ride a lot, take care of the horses, learn self defense, and archery.

"I mean what do you do for fun?"

Red laughed, "When the day's work is over I get to ride Mary a lot, There is always something fun to do. Besides most of the work is easy."

"Mary?"

"Yeah, my Percheron. The big horse."

Some music came through the trees. Red pulled a small fife from under her cloak and signaled back with a similar tune. "He's calling us. It's time to get going."

They returned to the horses which were grazing by the stream.

The Raven went over to the pack horse and retrieved something out of its saddle bags. Walking over to Red, he whispered in her ear. She nodded her head and pulled some clothes out of one of Easy Rider's saddle bags, handing them to the man. He looked at the boy deciding what to say next. "Why don't you come with me? You need to do something."

Caleb decided it must be important. He started walking behind the man as he went downstream.

When they were out of sight of the horses the man stopped and faced the boy, "Take off your coat."

"What?"

"Take off your coat."

"What? No."

The Raven furrowed his eyebrows and repeated with a more stern voice, "Take off that coat or I'll take it off for you."

Caleb's opened his eyes wide, but slipped the coat off and handed it to the man, who tossed it aside. "Now what?"

"Here are some clean clothes; you're going to take a bath"

Caleb yelled, "No, no way! I don't know you!"

"I'll be back up there, but before you go back to the horses, you're going to wash up, both you and your clothes. You smell like a goat."

"Hell no!"

"Suit yourself." The Raven took one step and grabbed the boy by his belt and shoulder, lifted him, and walked straight out into the stream until the water came up to his thighs. Caleb struggled, but the Raven held tight and tossed him out into the swift water. He landed with a large splash and submerged before popping back up, gasping for breath. The shock of the freezing water seized his muscles robbing him of speech as he fought to regain his feet.

The man reached into his pocket, pulled out a bar of soap, and held it out to the boy. "I'm going back to the horses. Wash everything, even where the sun doesn't shine. Then wash your clothes and throw them on the bank. When you're clean get dressed in those dry clothes and come back to us. We'll be waiting." He climbed the bank and walked upstream to the horses.

Caleb pulled his sweater off and started scrubbing it with the soap. He tossed it on a rock and then worked on the rest of his clothes. He managed to finish cleaning them and himself with stiff frozen fingers. Scrambling out of the stream he struggled to put on Red's shirt, tunic, and trousers, followed by the deputy's warm coat. Carrying his wet clothes, he stomped upstream to the two riders, his clean sneakers squishing water.