Chapter 1: Spanish Wolves
He runs along the small river that carves its way through the mountains. Water pulses through the valley so clean and pure that the shepherds drink directly from the ice-cold water that trickles drop by drop from snow covered peaks of treacherous grey stone reaching into the clear blue sky like the gnarled fingers of an old woman begging for god’s mercy. His muscles ripple as he powers himself along the mountain trail. He reaches the crest of a small hill and peers cautiously at the small Spanish village nestled in the mountains in the North of Spain, a smattering of white houses with orange roofs in a sea of lush green.
His footfall is quick and silent and does not leave any sign of his passage through the picturesque valley. He is a shadow of a ghost passing from tree to tree and doesn’t want to be seen by the Spanish villagers engaged in their daily duties. He catches the musky scent of livestock and sees a young boy, no more than 13 years old, sitting on a boulder and gazing into the light of a sky filled with the orange, red and purple of a setting sun. Light cascades off the ice caps that are visible all year long and feed the creek in late summer, remnants of past storms and a reminder of storms to come.
He stops and watches your grandfather for a moment, crouches lower so as not to be seen, before he continues on towards the village. He leaves the trail that runs along the river and heads over a small hill. He slows before reaching the crest of the hill to make sure he is not seen coming over the top and gets low to the ground. He freezes at the sound of two young girls giggling, stops breathing, and sees them heading straight for him.
The girls, Sonya and Isabella, are headed home after a long day of chopping La yerba, tall green grass that is cut by slashing it and leaving it to dry in the sun and later bailed to feed the family livestock, which is how most of the Spanish villagers are able to sustain themselves through the long cold months of winter. In winter, Northern Atlantic storms slam into the mountains and bury the hardy Spaniards in snow, but they have learned to live off the land in this treacherous mountain valley, toiling long hours during the summer months is the price they pay in order to prepare for the long cold darkness of winter.
The girls walk by Pedro and the oldest, Sonya says “Hola Pedro” she looks at him smiles and giggles.
Pedro smiles and replies “Hola” not knowing what else to say. She walks away and Pedro watches as she disappears on the horizon.
The wanderer slips by the young girls, unseen as they continue giggling and talking about a young shepherd boy on the other side of the hill. The older girl, Sonya, has a crush on Pedro, and talks about him. A few meters behind the girls, their mother and father are silent on their walk home. Shoulders bent from long hard years fighting against the elements in this mountain valley, where every day lived is a day hard earned. The giggle of the young girls echoes through the spirit of their mother as she thinks of her husband walking by her side with his staff in hand as she recalls him in the vigor of his youth. Their flocks of sheep, gaggles of chickens, family pigs and cows are what they live off during the cold winter months. The Spaniards have found the balance of living off the rugged terrain and produce their own meat, milk, cheese, eggs and wool.
He turns his head and recognizes a familiar scent in the wind, passes the family and continues down the trail next to the river as the silver and grey haze of dusk begins to settle over the small Spanish village and he continues along the mountain trails creeping ever closer to the small village. He notices other farmers and shepherds as they begin their long walks home after a hard day in the late summer sun. They are returning to the warm orange and yellow lights that begin to sprout up over the Spanish countryside. The lights shining through the windows become beacons for all the people returning home. Some tending their flocks of sheep and goats that graze along the dangerous mountain trails that the hardy men and women tend, and others are returning with their blades slung over their weary backs after a day of hacking at the tall, sturdy, green grass that grows in this mountain valley and is fed by the runoff from the snow pack that remains in the valleys of the steep and dangerous mountains that cradle the small village of Cordiñanes.
The farmers, shepherds and peasants follow the pungent smell of grass that has been hacked and left to bake in the summer sun. The musky aroma of livestock in heat rises like steam over the valley and the farmers and shepherds return the livestock to their small stables attached to their homes to keep them safe from danger and theft. After drying the grass in the high summer sun, the Spanish farmers use it to feed their family animals during the cruel dark months that test the will to survive of the Spaniards each winter.
As he watches the Spaniards return home, he notices something different on this day, a small squad of soldiers heads towards the same village as him and he makes sure not to be seen. He slows down and follows parallel to General Francisco Franco’s soldiers as they make their way along the small road that connects the small villages high in the mountains.
He follows along the road and makes his way with naught a sound, like a whisper of smoke. He does not want to be seen by the Spanish soldiers walking into town as the sun sets, so he follows the tree line and creeps through the shadows, always making sure to be downwind of the soldiers traveling from village to village.
The troop of soldiers stops outside a small farmhouse that has come to life with the sound of families returning after a long day of working the mountainside. The soldiers have found a hole that needs investigating, long lost prey. They slow as they approach trying to avoid the eyes of happy laughing children preparing for dinner. A sense of excitement not normally felt at the end of a day. The soldiers creep up closer to the small home nestled up against the mountainside.
He senses a change in the wind and stops at the edge of a small grass meadow and watches the soldiers. They surround the home in silence, creeping ever closer to the unsuspecting family, as laughter and joy streams forth from their home, sounds not heard for many months, serves as cover for the impending danger. The voice of Visita, youngest daughter of Causimiro, rises above the sounds of birds, goats, cows and barking dogs and fills the valley with love.
Three of the largest Spanish soldiers break down the door and burst into the small home. The sound of screaming children breaks the stillness of the brilliant, late summer night’s eve. He grows more and more tense and his powerful sinewy muscles tighten, ready for anything, muscles that have been turned to steel from traveling the steep mountain trails, and a chill goes down his back, his hair bristles as an electricity grows in the air. He knows that Death has arrived because he now recognizes his scent.
Voices turn to growls as the soldiers bark their commands at the family, and become more intense. Laying still in the tall grass he crouches lower and lower, his bright yellow eyes peering over the very top of the grass and he begins creeping backwards just as a man is pulled out into the courtyard. Two thin and wiry soldiers drag a haggard, bearded man out into the courtyard. They hold the man upright while the others begin taking turns slamming their iron fists into his gut until blood spurts from his mouth and he can no longer stand. Death approaches and stands next to the injured man. They stand the beaten farmer against the side of his own home one last time. He is gaunt and frail looking with blood dripping from his mouth from the beating, but his spirit fills him with strength.
With his last breath, he shouts “Que Viva España Libre!”.
The Spanish lieutenant shoots your great grandfather in the heart and watches him crumple into a heap on the ground. The echo of the shot rips through the heart of the mountain valley followed by the stillness that follows freedom being released. The large black and grey wolf that had been watching the Spaniards from the tall green grass freezes, and then let’s out a long howl that shatters the silence of the night. Death looks up as the soldiers turn and watch as the wolf turns tail and runs from the edge of the meadow and begins making his way up the mountain to escape the evil of men.
On the other side of the hill, your grandfather still thinking about the young girl in the village, Sonya, hears the gunfire followed by the long howl of the wolf. Pedro stops and checks the wind and moments later sees his wolf making its way through the mountain trails. He will find out later the pain of the howl that murdered his heart. This will not be the last time that Pedro encounters his wolf.
The powerful wolf has seen enough, the evil deeds and oppression of men, and makes his way through the mountain trails without a sound trying to get away from the sound of gunfire. His paws carve a trail along the ridge overlooking the village where the Spanish villagers that had stopped at the sound of the long wail over the valley. His paws strike the ground confidently as he makes his way up the mountain and away from the Spanish soldiers. The large magical wolf stops and takes one last look into the village before turning towards the mountain. He will not have to resort to taking sheep until winter commences its grip on the mountain valley. On this night, the village will belong to Franco’s wolves and Death.