The expression “The Wolves Will Come” was supposed to be a negative and represent a danger; colonists are on the run from their enemies, and they are forced to leave their home and their elderly behind. I wanted the elder to be abandoned by necessity, but proudly, not as a victim. It wasn’t until I started writing that the tribal, pseudo Native American flavor seeped into it, and from there the wolves came. It seemed natural that the wolf in his solitude would have a commonality with the old man that the two didn’t share with their own kind, and that they would bond.
Here’s the blurb:
How will you answer when they are at your door?
The Tribe is leaving their world for a new home, but Bear is too old to make the journey. It is of no real consequence – neither is it in him to run from his enemies, nor to abandon his heart’s home. It’s just a matter of time before the Exiled find him – or will age and the wolves get to him first? See which it is – read “The Wolves Will Come.”
And here’s the excerpt:
“Long life, Grandfather. May the wolves be kept ever from your door,” she says.
Merriwing and I have always been close. She looks to be her grandmother’s twin. My dear, sweet Magpie – gone forever, yet forever here.
I see fire reflected in the glint of tears on Merriwing’s cheeks as she slides her arms around me beneath my furs.
“There will be no tears now, Precious One,” I say softly. “This is not a time for grieving.”
“I will miss you,” she says, and she holds me tighter.
“And I you, but an old man must be able to breathe. As should my great grandson.”
She eases back in alarm, but there has been no harm – the baby but sleeps, cushioned between us.
“I will name him Bear,” she says.
“It is not time for that; he must write his own name,” I say, and although I try to remain firm, I can see in her eyes that my true pleasure at this parting gift is not hidden from her.
“Goodbye, Grandfather,” she smiles, and walks away with her little Bear to be.
Then my children.
My two daughters, good women both, and strong, with good and strong husbands as well. They will help ease Redhawk’s burden. The tribe will survive.
Goldfinch. Silverdove. We exchange kisses and blessings. I watch until they have ascended the stairs, and only Redhawk and his wife, Raccoon Eyes remain.
“Long life, Father of my husband,” she says, and she kisses me. “May the wolves be kept ever from your door.”
“And from yours,” I say, and point at my son. “Keep this one in line for me.”
“Don’t I always,” she says, and they exchange frowns of mock annoyance, as they always have, and she heads for the stairs. It makes my heart glad to see the spark that still flies between them.
“Once I am aboard, I will wait ten minutes to launch,” my son says when we are alone at last. “Is your mind made up?”
“Yes. Even if I could leave with you, I would not,” I say. “Who would honor your mother’s memory?”
He nods. “I will see that you, too, are remembered.”
We embrace, two mounds of fur.
“May you fly swift and true, son,” I say. “Lead well.”
“I have learned from you,” he says. “May the wolves be kept ever from your door.”
He trudges away across the snow. I watch him wave from the top of the stairs – then I turn my back and hobble with my spear downhill through the drifts, away from the fire and the rocket. Ten minutes is as long as forever, but finally, I hear the roar, and the shadows lengthen in front of me, and, even as far as I have gone, I still feel the warmth of their leaving. I turn to see them propelled on a flaming pillar of cloud, rising to pierce the night sky’s cottony underbelly and then they are lost to me.
The roar fades into the quiet of the snowfall, and only now can I hear the pack wailing its farewells from further up the mountain, echoing through the trees. I remember myself and I am grateful I no longer must make the return to Home That Was in the valley. It is but a short walk now to my cave of Home That Is, and even a crippled warrior can be there before the wolves.
When I come to my clearing, I pause and gently brush the snow from Magpie’s cairn stones, so that they can once again be seen for what they are.
“I am returned, Beloved.”
She says nothing, but it gives me peace that my Magpie is buried so close, facing the cave from across the clearing – there will be no need for me to yell to speak with her. I pull aside the wall I have woven of thorn and thistle to keep the animals from Home That Is, and as I turn to close it back, I see His eyes – bright, watching me. Hidden among the trees and the darkness beyond Magpie, yet I know it is him. None of the others hunt separate from the pack, but the silver-grey is a cripple, and no longer runs with them. He makes his way alone.
“We are not so different, Hó’nehe,” I say.
I pull the wall back across the cave mouth and, lying on my pallet, I can still see those eyes watching me through the weave as I drift off with the snow. In my dreams I see those eyes, but they belong to my Magpie; she steps out from the trees looking radiant as always, but now she is a young bride. Her hand rests on Hó’nehe’s head, and she points at me and whispers something I do not hear.
I see him again in the morning as I check the snares downhill from the cave. He keeps his distance, limps through the shadows of the birches as he parallels me. The winter has not been kind to him, and there is not much meat beneath his silver-grey hide. The rabbit I am pulling from my snare has been there long enough that he could have taken it while I slept. It would be a feast for him. I do not need it – there is a plenty of rations in the cave, more than enough for the time I have left on this world.
I hold the rabbit up, an offering toward him.
“For you, Hó’nehe,” I say, and set it down between us.
I do not wait to see if he takes it, but move along the path to check the remainder of my traps. One more rabbit, enough to justify a real fire in the cave mouth, instead of the heat packs the tribe has left me. I do not fear the coming of the Exiled; let them see my smoke.
He is at the edge of the woods again that night, the flames glinting in his eyes as I once more drift off.
The next day my old bones betray me.
Checking my uphill traps, I hear the boom I have been expecting, and I look up to see the Exiled have arrived. Their ships are three arrow heads against the clouds, sleeker and darker than our antique craft, and need no smoke to travel. They pass overhead on their way to the valley, and I wonder if they have seen me where I stand on a hilltop. As I crane my neck to track their progress, I lose my balance. I tumble and slide all a jumble over the snow until a tree decides to stop me. I intend to simply stand back up, but I am an old fool; my traitorous leg will not support me. It stabs at me and I grit my mouth closed against yelling and pain as I fall again.
I can almost see her, pointing a finger and shaking her grey mane.
“Tsk, tsk. You should be more careful at your age,” comes her quiet voice in my mind. “Here we see The Great Warrior, taken down by a tree.”
Hó’nehe has been watching me, hiding behind trees as I make my rounds. He does not advance, but no longer hides from me. I must not show weakness. I reach for my discarded spear, and between it and the tree that has felled me, I am able to struggle onto my one good leg. He sees this, but does not back away. It is good I am uphill from the cave – it will be all I can do to make it home.
He trails me all the way, but keeps his distance and does not concern me. I have much bigger worries; I take shelter under a low spread of pine branches as one of their ships returns from the valley, hovers over my tracks on the hilltop, follows my careening path downhill, and then begins to trace my progress. I had hoped to have more time, but there will be no hiding from them.
“Magpie, give me strength,” I whisper.
I move out from under the pine tree, and chance losing my support long enough to brandish my spear overhead as a sign of challenge. The ship turns to face me, as an arrow aimed at my heart; it holds position while I wonder if the tales are real.
“Have you truly lost all honor?” I shout.
Finally, it dips its nose, and I am relieved to lean once more on my spear. The ship shoots away, back down the mountain to its clan before I resume my tedious journey. I at last reach the clearing and slip once again, there in the snow by my Magpie’s side.
“Do you think they will send but one of their braves?” I ask, as I look up at the sky from my back. “No, they fear me – they will send a war party, to face Bear, the fierce warrior of The Tribe.”
Oh, were she here, she would pull out my war feathers, dress me in finest buckskin breeches, and paint brave symbols on my chest and arms to ward off evil and drive fear into my enemies’ hearts.
“Who do you think to fool?” she says, and I can see her smiling – mocking, and not mocking in the same instant. “Keep your furs on, old man, or you will catch your death!”
She is right – my Magpie is always right. What point would there be in decking myself out in my finest? So that I can freeze to death waiting for the shut-outs, and them be greeted by my pale, withered corpse? No, I must stay warm and save my strength, to give them a proper welcome.
Who will be welcoming whom? I’ve always liked wolves, and that may be a small part of why this story remains one of my personal favorites. Or it may really be as good as I think it is – you be the judge… “The Wolves Will Come” is a speculative fiction short story, and is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
It’s also included in the collection And Yet Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND:
“Flee Markets” is also in the collection The Next Three ‘Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND’. (The next ten people who purchase the collection on Smashwords with coupon code RAE50 will receive a 40% discount. That’s only $2.99 for EIGHTEEN stories – such a deal!):
Swordsmaster – my first novel – is ready for your reading pleasure, so give it a look, won’t you?
Fate is neither something to run away from, nor something to run towards.
The first bright-eye to be seen on the mountain in living memory, Sandrik didn’t want anyone to think of him as they did the ominous Aurae of legend, so he had worked hard to keep his special abilities hidden. But there was more to Sandrik than even he knew. Now that it was time for him to enter the ancient ruins of Taernfeld and be declared a man, what other changes might he be forced into?
Swordsmaster is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
William Mangieri’s writing, including his Detective Jimmy Delaney series, as well as another 80-some-odd short stories (plus his collections) can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
• Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
• His Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
• Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/william-mangieri?store=book&keyword=william+mangieri
He also has a story (“A Background Poorly Written”) on Daily Science Fiction, here: https://dailysciencefiction.com/hither-and-yon/magic-realism/william-mangieri/a-background-poorly-written
To CONNECT WITH HIM (and LIKE and FOLLOW – you know you should…), go to
• His site on WordPress: https://williammangieri.wordpress.com
• “William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink
• His Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6893616.William_Mangieri
• Or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri