Calling Wolf

Once there was a village who’s entire economy was based on their sheep farming, they had one reasonably sized herd which each person in the village took their turn at looking after – they were what fed the village! The villagers even bartered the spare sheep they had for all their fruit and vegatibles and things like salt and oil.

The sheep also provided milk to drink which was immensely healthier than fatty cow milk and so the villagers were all fit as can be. They also had a secondary industry of fabric design and production, again however this was based upon the knitting abilities of the inhabitants of the village and was in fact all based upon the wool from the sheep – as was the sheep skin rug industry. They even had a tertiary industry of tourism, every year tens of people came from the neighbouring villages to what the annual sheep races, where little knitted sheep jockies where mounted on the sheep and they would race away. Bets being taken (of course the village had its very own betting shop) and drinks and cakes galore would be sold.

It was a happy prosperous village with only a little problem of minor alcoholism (the vet tended to sip all his remedies as he was the doctor and the farrier as well this caused a few problems but nothing his apprentice couldn’t smooth over even if it did mean making a new leg for Mr Regan’s Horse). Oh and also there was a little tisny bit of a betting fixation amongst the middle aged population who’s offspring had left home but whom’s grandchildren had not yet arrived.

That was until the fateful day that Edmund Esquire Montique came of the grand age of 12 and was thus deemed old enough to do his turn out on the hills keeping the sheep safe from the viscous blue furred wolfs. reputedly they were the origin of the wearwolf myths that would latter perpetuate the area in centuries to come. They considered them selves royal even among the other wolves who’s fur was no where near the lushous coats they had.

Edmund Esquire Monteque was the son of the Squire who actually owned the village and had been brought up with every luxury available to him so that meant other people did things for him such as bringing the spring water, lighting the fires and being beaten for misbehaviour in his sted. He was very fond of practical jokes and thought that anything involving the metaphorical banana skin was a great hoot (metaphorical as the banana did not exist in such temperate climates at that time). He was in short a spoilt little sod and drove most people metaphorically bananas!

He was also incredibly arrogant and his father did not like the way his attitude was going and so to help make the point that a society like this only worked when everybody did their bit the young Edmund was whisked up to the hill side the moment he turned twelve – he had in fact not even recovered from the dizzy effects if the various things he’d had to ceremonially imbibe as was tradition during his coming of age ceremony and he certainly hadn’t got to making an idiot of himself telling Cellia the butcher’s daughter how graceful he found her chopping action to be.

For two whole weeks he sat on a cold limestone boulder with Wesly the old and decrepit shepherd in the drizzel and freezing fog, he had to listen to the endless lectures on how keeping the fire burning though the night was important and about how the Wolves were said to have mystical powers that would play on your secret weaknesses. Unfortunately for Edmund he paid little attention to what he considered to be pointless and dull sound bites that obviously had no relevance to him. They weren’t fun so he decided that they may as well not exist.

Wesly also had an incredibly inane game he thought was The Thing, it seemed to involve hitting acorns into rabbit holes with his shepherd’s crook and the ‘course’ as Wesly termed it seemed to mysteriously circumnavigate the pasture where the sheep where kept at night. The old man even had special crooks he had fashioned to hit the acorns in just the right way and seemed to give himself arbitrary points for no reason what so ever.

Now Edmund it turned out did have very keen eyesight which was only really tested once in the whole two weeks he was apprenticed with the old man, a young wolf, grey blue mottled fur shining in the moisture ladened air, came slinking towards them and sniffed the air. Edmund with excitement spotted him and wanted to blow the horn he had around his neck to alert the villagers but Wesley wisely shook his head and pointed to the fire, at that moment the wind changed and the smell of smoke reached the sensitive snout of the wolf who ‘s ears prick – his keen eyes scanned the hill seeming to rest on Edmund for a second too long, it gave a little shrug and then slinked away.

Edmund was sorely disappointed at the anticlimax, not a drop of blood spilt! And had sat in a sulky silence for the rest of the night, his humour not improved by the early realisation that he had in fact sat in a load of pellet like sheep poo nor Wesley’s lesson on the fragility of the village’s economic situation within the larger context of the valley.

But if Edmund had thought the sheepwatch had been deathly dull with only the decrepit Wesly to talk to it was nothing compared to the mind numbing monotony of it without the old man. Especially as Edmund had completely failed to recall how to keep the fire alight and so the first night on his own as lone watchman, he sat there dejectedly huddled underneath the itchy course woollen blanket watching the little bundles of wool moving calmly from one tuft of grass to another.

He got through the first night and was only a bit twitchy during the second but by the third night of his two week solo shift he began to see the potential – to be his arrogant prankster self and so with a malicious grin and his heart thumping with glee he lifted the horn to his lips – hesitated for a second and then he blew it until he was red in the face.

And to his great delight the entire village came running with fire and pitch forks and big clangy things to scare the wolves away – oh and of course the bolases to kill the fiends with (if they where lucky and a very very good shot – bolases being sling shot type things and it being dark and the wolves being moving targets). The fitter members of the village and surprisingly Wesly came puffing to a halt in front of Edmund, weezily Wesly panted the question that was starting to nag at all of them, especially as Edmund appeared to have been hit by some sort of hysteria, shock they all assumed, ‘Where…. (weeze) are…… (weeze) the……(weeeze) wolves…. (weeze) then?’

With tears of laughter Edmund explained his humorous joke.

An angry incredibility swept the villagers in a sort of mexican wave except Mexico had not yet been discovered. Then the rightous indignation flared and some wanted to skewer him then and there and it was only by virtue of his title that he remained unscathed, the same however could not be said for his poor whipping boy Sam who though he could not complain as he received a lot of money for the whipping and even if he could not sit down for a week he could at least buy some nice soft cushions to try and sit on and it meant that Cicilia the butcher’s daughter bought and cooked him some lovely lamb chops as he was so brave and so hideously injured.

It was explained in patient detail to Edmund why his joke had not been a brilliant idea but he glazed over in the middle of it and failed to take note of such words like ‘and people will stop responding to you and the fire really needs to be kept alight’.

The next night found him yet again on the cold dark hill side, the fire was a smouldering reck as he had put damp leaves on it with some sort of failed reasoning that the fire would dry them out and then they would catch nicely and be a roaring blaze. So much damp smoke was produced from this little experiment that his eyes stung and he sat miserably prodding it. The sheep barred and moved in little white blobs around him and he felt lonely. That was when he made the mistake of trying to pretend one of them was Cililia the Butcher’s daughter, he tried asking it for a date but the animals mad yellow eyes looked at him in a sort of cross eyed way that made his spine shudder.

The dark began to draw in closely and Edmund was once again bored. The previous night had been such a hoot he wondered if the idiots would fall for it again and so he raised the horn to his lips and blew. Once again the whole village turned out with implements of destruction and once again there were no wolves of any variety especially not the royal blue furred fiends they all feared.

Weezing once more Wesley berated the young man who stood there nonchalantly preening himself to look cool in front of Cicilia who was actually tapping her foot in disgust at what he had done and wondering if she could stop poor Sam the whipping boy receiving yet another beating.

Edmund was so proud of himself he barely registered the words, ‘… and this is your last chance we wont keep running.’

Edmund’s father had to get his men to physically intervin to stop the boy being hurt this time but Edmund still thought of it all as high jinx and took no notice of the displeased crowd.

The next night the fire remained a light a little better than before though, there were strange clouds in the sky that looked if Edmund let them, like wolves boiling out of the twilight. He blinked and shook his head and felt the loneliness more keenly than the boredom. It was something that he would never admit to but Edmund was scared. The night felt close and clamy, it was a feeling that had been creeping over him since that wolf had stared so intently at him. He shrugged and gave himself a little shake. Pulling false bravado over himself like a cloak he once again thought of how funny it had been to see the villagers with pitch forks in their night attire and he really felt very lonely.

Without thinking it through without even remembering the warning, he blew the horn. Slowly the villagers straggled to the hill, murder was written upon their faces, Edmund’s laugh froze on his face as the Squire grabbed his shoulder and shook him in anger. Sam was not going to get paid for this whipping and Edmund, pleaded and begged and was a miserable little oik. He moaned continuously for the next two days though he stood up to eat his meals.

He still had to go out and watch the sheep, Edmund hated their white fluffiness and the village to boot. Cilicilia hadn’t bought him any lamb chops and that hurt the most.

Gingerly sitting on a pile of moss he had made he wrapped himself miserably in his cloak. The seconds dragged and the sky purpled and the drizzel began. Shivering he prodded the fire but just made it more feeble until it just gave up and died. The darkness seemed to pull at Edmund and he wished he hadn’t been such a fool blowing the horn. The villagers said they wouldn’t come now no matter how much he blew it. That shouldn’t have been a problem but the fire was going out and he thought he saw movement at the edge of detection. He shivered some more.

Then the shadows liquified and moved and darkness became blue mottled fur in the half dark and Edmund moaned in fear. He placed the horn to his lips and blew. No one came, no sign of movement form the village, he counted sixteen wolves panicked he blew again. Not a single light came on. There were twenty now and leading them was one larger than the rest and it was grinning at Edmund. He blew the horn again and again but no one came. More and more wolves appeared from the gloom and then the carnage began. They ripped and sliced and tore at the sheep with no regard for young or old, fat or thin. They did not eat what they slew but rather moved on to the next victim and the next and the next.

Edmund blew the horn, and knew they would eat him too, but they didn’t they circled him as if bowing to him and one even dropped a hank of bloody meat at his feet then finally annoyed murmers arrived from the village – they were angry but at least they were coming. Edmund sank in relief and the wolves scattered into the night.

But the villagers had come too late – all but the stragglers had been killed and not a single breeding pair was left. The villagers began to starve – they bought meat in but what wealth they had amassed filtered away, all their industries were gone, and they were doomed. Complete social economical collapse ensued, those that did not starve did so by selling kith and kin to the peddlers as slaves for else where. Cilillar the butcher’s daughter was one of the first to be sold – she was too be a maid at one of those pubs and Sam joined a passing army fighting for some king he’d never heard off. The Squire was lynched and hung from the black thorn tree whilst Edmund sobbed on top of the hill watching a flock that no longer existed. Eventually the village burned and no one was left except Edmund and the wolves.

Though it is recorded that a young solder was court marshaled for killing the landlord of one of those pubs and hiding a young woman as a solder but it wasn’t very server and apparently it ended in the King of a small province blessing their wedding so no one really minded.

Posted: Thursday, October 11th, 2012 @ 3:49 pm
Categories: Short Stories.
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