“There is a boy in my castle. He is my friend and is waiting for his enemies.” I knew this was what Andrew was saying as he told the allies of my fate. He would bring soldiers to fight for my cause – I knew he would. But why did he not come? The night kept getting later, and still he did not come back to me. There were crashings and growlings outside the gates, a terrible roaring, snorting, and stamping and I trembled at the approach of my enemies. The oak door shivered on its hinges and I knew Andrew would not return before it crashed down. I looked around the courtyard and found my sword and shield, which were hanging where I had put them when we built the high walls, and standing guard in the dark, I got ready to meet my enemies.
With a mighty crash they rushed my castle, and there were more wolves than I had ever seen. I slashed with my sword and slew as they approached, but there were always more, and I slew again and again, crying out into the darkness, “Back, you foul beasts. Hiya! Take that!”
Alone, I fought those animals. Their blood had bathed me but still I did not falter, and all night long, I fought them. When there were at last too many, and I could not stand my ground, as they yapped at my bones to drink my strength, I finally ran away.
The wolves were breathing heavily at my feet, tearing at me with their teeth as I disappeared deep into the woods. How would Andrew find me now?
I did not know it right then, but he had gone straight to Diane when he left me, and without hesitation, she had leapt from her bed and run to the castle. But just when she got there, she saw me disappear into the woods. So she followed me into the woods to take me home.
All of a sudden, I felt her warm arms around my chest, and I fell into her. My chest heaved but I fed on her strength and she gave me all she had. “I’ll give you the energy of my pumping blood,” she whispered, “If you will be the bones. Give me your endurance.”
“Let’s be wolves,” I whispered, “howling at the great white moon.”
“There’s no moon tonight,” she said.
“There never is unless the wolves howl at it,” I explained, surprised that she did not know this. “But they’ve all become enemies, and Andrew is not enough. We have to be wolves and light up the night.”
I couldn’t see her face, but I heard the smile in her voice. “You and me light up the sky? What a beautiful idea.”
I could hear the barking and growling coming closer – we were running out of time. “Quick!” I cried. “Howl!”
We lifted our faces to the dark sky and lifted up a howl of sharp beauty. Our voices trembled and blended, soprano notes floating high into the night. There was a faint glow, a silver disc shimmering like a reflection in water, and I was excited. It was working!
But then the wolves caught us. Her blood was on my bones, and I fled. I thought she was beside me, but when I looked back, they were carrying her away. I was too tired without her strength, and could not fight anymore. I sank into the ground and fell asleep.
I awoke to the sound of my dreams. Uncle was yelling at Andrew, telling him he couldn’t go, it was crazy, it was impossible, it was too much. When I opened my eyes, it wasn’t a dream because they were both standing in front of me. It was the first time I had woken to yelling and not thought it was my father.
“They kidnapped her,” growled Andrew. I had never seen him mad before, but he was now. “They took her so you would save her.”
“So it’s a trap,” uncle said it like it was an excuse.
“They are your enemies, and you left David and Diane to face them alone. If it hadn’t been for your fears we would have returned in time to save them.”
“Andrew?” I whispered and they both rushed to my side.
“David, oh David!” cried Andrew, and I felt his warm tears running down my cheeks as he bent his great head over my face. “Are you really alright? We thought we’d lost you.”
“There was so much blood,” whispered Uncle, who had fallen to the ground in shock. “We thought…we thought…”
“We thought they’d eaten your heart,” supplied Andrew and uncle shuddered. He didn’t understand war talk like me and Andrew.
“No,” I said, “but they drank all my blood and took my strength.”
Andrew nodded. He knew what I meant, but uncle was confused so my friend explained. “David cannot fight anymore. I must stay to protect him, and you must go save Diane.”
“I told you I can’t do that! I don’t know how to fight. Besides, it’s a trap – they’re standing in wait to kill me.”
“Uncle,” I said, “we all know how to fight. You’ve just forgotten. Here, take my sword. You can use it to save her.”
Uncle stood above me large and whole, and I lay beneath him beaten. But I saw now it was the other way around.
“How can I face my demons?” his voice shuddered from him in a moan. He was not asking us, but was facing away into the forest. “Oh, Melissa. You were my strong sister and I was your valiant warrior, but now I have forgotten how to fight. You left me to protect your child, and I am too weak. I stand alone in the darkness and hear the echo of my breathe, and though you may be the one who is dead, all I see is my ghost. I am shaking like a leaf – with all my flaws and all my faults,” he fell to his knees, clasping his hands before him up at the stars. “I am a wreck.”
My eyes followed his clasped hands up to the shining sky above us, and I saw the archer. But it was different this time. This time, the archer was my father. Then I saw the twins there too, and now it was my mother and uncle when they were children. The entire heavenly menagerie gathered behind them, ready for battle.
“Andrew,” I whispered to him so uncle could not hear. “Where are our allies?”
“Oh, David, I’m sorry – they would not follow me. They need a man to lead them.”
“David,” uncle’s voice startled us. “David, I have failed you. I left you to fight both our enemies all alone. I don’t know if I can defeat these wolves, but I will go save Diane.”
Then with my sword gripped tight, he ran away into the forest. As soon as he was gone, I jumped to my feet. I had energy again! Andrew quivered with excitement and stood ready.
“Come on, my friend!” I yelled. “Let us ride together, one purpose, one fight, one wolf in the night!” Then we flew through the land, calling upon all creatures to rally to our cause. We found the queen of the bees and she flew before her subjects. We met the prince of the foxes, and he gathered his army. We met the baron of the bears and his large family armed themselves for our cause. The sound of trumpets filled the forest, trembled the trees, and roused our hearts. Our blood boiled freely and we howled like the wind.
We descended upon the wolf den where uncle was slashing his sword and slaying his enemies and Diane was urging him on as she battled her captives. I thought to myself that she had the heart of a lion. We fought those wolves until the sun lit up the morning sky and the stars faded from view. We saw that the battle had brought us to the door of the castle, and we were standing on the drawbridge. Our allies left us to go back to bed, but Andrew, Diane, uncle, and I stayed.
“Look at that river,” Diane marveled. “How it rushes wild in the moat. This is a true castle, David.”
“There may be more enemies it will have to face,” said Uncle, “and foul weather.”
“It is made well of heavy stones,” declared Andrew. “Heavy stones do not fear foul weather.”
Uncle came over and put his hands on my shoulders. “I will never again leave you to face your enemies alone, my little one. You are my prince and I am your knight, and I am going to build an empire for you.”
“Let us be wolves!” I cried. “And howl at the moon.”
Uncle started to protest that there was no moon, but Diane put her hand on his shoulder. “Just trust us.” Then we all howled at the brightening sky, and it was not just soprano tones, but vibrating baritone and wild, deep throated calls that rose together in a complete sound beating against the sky. And just in the last moments when it was visible, the moon was a lacey, silver disc against the blue.
This story was inspired by a playlist my brother compiled called Wolves.
It included songs from:
Of Monsters and Men
Mumford and Sons
and The National Parks