. The boy returned back to the fire once more, and was dismayed when he saw an old man sitting there.
“Come boy, and sit by the fire.” The old man said. The boy did as he was told, and sat down and warmed himself. It was a welcome contrast to the cold of the night.
“Would you tell me the story?” The boy asked. The old man smiled and nodded.
“I will tell you a story, though it is a long one. It begins long before the ancestors of our ancestors ever walked the land or swam in the water. That is because the story of this place starts at the beginning of time. There was a time when there was no light or land, before there was a single tree or the sky had come into being. In that time, there was nothing but blackness and an endless bitter cold.” The old man said.
“I have already heard this story.” The boy said.
“But you have not heard it from me. It was dark because there was not yet any light in the sky. No stars shone in the blackness, not at first anyways. Then it was that fire spread across the sky, a thousand thousand fires in the night sky. They are the campfires of the old people, and that is where they lived.” The old man said, gesturing to all the stars in the sky.
The boy noticed that two other lights had appeared outside the fire. With a chill of fear, he also realized that these were not lights, but the shining eyes of a wolf. The old man must have seen the wolf as well, because he gestured to it.
“Come old friend, and sit by the fire.” The old man said.
“That is a wolf!” The boy said, in terror.
“That she is, but of no concern to you. She has come to listen to the story.” The old man said with a smile.
“Though I have heard it many times in my long years.” The she-wolf said as she strode up to the fire. The boy saw that she was mostly grey and black, though with white around her muzzle and under her belly. She had the same aged, weary look of the old man.
“Yes, we have told many stories together, though now our time grows short.” The old man said.
The wolf curled up near to the fire, and the old man continued with the story.
“The fire people spread across the sky, and so it was that the fire people came into the empty space, and thought it a fine place to build a home for their children. So it was that the fire people set to work, and the burning heart of this world was forged by their hands. They found it to be a good home, and they multiplied.
Yet, the sky was still mostly dark, and in the places the stars did not light, it was still very cold. That is where the people of shadow and ice dwelled, in the cold places beyond the stars. The ice people saw what the fire people were doing, and found it a very curious thing. So they came by for a closer look.
It happened that the sons of fire found the daughters of ice to be beautiful beyond compare, and they sought them out eagerly. It came to pass that sons of fire courted and wooed the daughters of ice, and settled down to start families with them.
They had many children, diverse in form and kinds. There were many peoples born to ice and fire, and I will not name them all. However, among their children is the land, which came into being when the fire cooled because of the ice. The sky too came into being, from all the steam and smoke that came from the union. Great rivers of water, lakes and seas, these too were the children of Ice as it melted and warmed.” The old man said.
“That is how the land, lakes and sky came into being.” The she-wolf said.
“What about the plants and animals?” The boy asked.
“I will tell you of these things. As I have said, ice and fire had a great many children, and those children went on to have more children of their own, and fire, ice, land, lake and sky we count among the oldest of our ancestors. As such great many peoples spread across the world, and they were very diverse indeed. Life itself spread across the world, with many branches. Plants were among the oldest. Small plants, such as grass and flowers, and great trees as well spread across the world.
Animals came in time too, some that fed upon the plants, and some that fed upon one another. Animals of all kinds were counted among the children of the world, and the people of plants and animals multiplied.” The old man said.
The young boy turned to the wolf.
“Is that how you got here?” The boy asked. The wolf looked at the boy and nodded, and then she spoke.
“The story of my people starts just as the old man has said. Those of my kin are counted among the descendants of the land, and of the trees and forests. The first of our kind were born to the forests, and we multiplied and spread across the world. My kindred are counted among many different tribes, Grey ones such as myself, Red far to South, White far to the North, and many others besides.
From the beginning the first of our kind has kept watch on all their descendants. Our ancestors are still with us, and they teach us the old ways. The ways of the forest, the hunt, and the ways of the four legged. Those are the ways we lived by long before your people came into being, and that is when things started to change.” The she-wolf said.
“When my people came to be?” The boy asked.
“Yes, and that is a story worth recounting as well.” The old man cleared his throat and continued.
“The story of our people young man starts like that of all others on this world. From the oldest of people, we trace our descent. We are a young people in this world, far older are the ancestors of the Wolf, and older still the trees and the land.
The land is the ancestors of our ancestors, and the peoples of the land have long been tied to us. We were hunters, and we knew the ways of the land and the water. We hunted for our food in the vast forests, fished in the lakes and seas, and foraged for plants of all kinds.” The old man said.
“It was in those days that we knew you as brother and sister, and we looked upon one another as equals. We were hunters, kin bound by blood and bone.” The she-wolf said. The old man nodded.
“There is an old story that tells of the bond between man and wolf. A Hunter was out on the trail, and got separated from his companions. He got lost in the woods, and traveled for days trying to find his way. He wandered into a strange area, and soon found himself growing hungry and tired. He finally sat down to have a rest, and fell into a deep sleep.
When he awoke, a large wolf was standing over him. He panicked and reached for his knife, but he had left it far away from where he slept. Besides, the wolf was already upon him, and he would have no chance of fighting off such a large wolf with his bare hands. He fully expected to die.
But the wolf did not strike, just starred. The hunter and the wolf met the gaze of one another, and saw deep into one another spirits. There, the two of them recognized kindred, and saw one another has being more alike then different. Both were hunters, both loved their families.
So it was that a ancient oath was made, and the wolf taught the hunter his ways, and the hunter taught the wolf in return. The two of them became like brothers, and went together wherever they went. The dogs with us today are the descendants of that old promise, though they are far removed from the ancestors of their ancestors.” The old man said. The she-wolf picked up the story.
“But that is not where it ended…” The she wolf-said.
This is in fact an older story I once wrote for a wolf anthology, but alas it was rejected. But it no small way, it has found a new home here. For that reason it does differ in form a little bit from the previous stories in this series. As I have explained before, some of this in inevitable, because the focus and perspective of each story is a little different. This one is told by an old man, and so his telling is different. There is also the she-wolf, and her perspective is also different, and so are her stories.
However, one of the reasons I am including this story in this series is because of the Altai mountains. In Razboinichya Cave, there was found a dog-like canid dated to about 33,000 years ago. It was determined through genetic testing that this canid was closer to modern day dogs than the ancestral wolves from which dogs descended from. The time range we are talking about in this chapter is from about 50 kya to about 30 kya, so I felt this was a fitting addition to this series.
Thanks for reading!