(1735 A.D., Near Ste. Marie Among the Hurons)
Rene could not believe his eyes. There was a boy, a thin, pale stick of a child, splashing in the clearing’s slate-grey pool. Rene could go weeks without seeing a single other soul, and when those he saw were typically other trappers like himself, searching for elusive mink, beaver, and rabbit fur. Every now and then, tribes of Ojibwe and Lakota would pass through wilderness. But this was a white child.
The boy was nude, maybe eight, eleven years of age at the most. His skin, at least the part that wasn’t begrimed, had a dewy luster; it was like swathes of moonlight peaking through dark clouds. He had a lion’s mane of sable hair, miraculously free of snarls and tangles. He splashed in the water joyfully, and made rough, grunting sounds. Could he not speak? Perhaps he had been abandoned by his family, or was the sole survivor of an attack. Rene laughed to himself, thinking of his grandmere back in the Old Country. She would tell him that the boy was a lutin, a supernatural creature of the forest. But Rene knew this wasn’t the case. This was a treacherous, cursed place, full of savages and dangerous beasts.
As if to underscore that stray thought, Rene saw movement on the rocks behind the boy. It was the same color as the rocks and the surrounding twilight. Then there was the hot green flash of eyes and night vision. A wolf slunk low to the rock at the pool’s lip, silently, in full stalking mode.
Rene dropped his pack quickly, and dug through it in frenzy, searching for and finding arrows. It took forever, to fit the arrow to the bow and get the right tension between them. He heard grunts and growls all through his frantic fumbling. Fear stuck his body as if he’d been pierced.
He would be too late.
What he saw made him drop his gear.
The boy sat with the wolf. A lion with a lamb. He scratched the mangy beast’s hide, which the beast seemed to enjoy immensely, lolling its tongue as if it were merely a great dog rather than a wild creature. The boy barked, softly. The wolf responded, as if in conversation with the boy.
Rene gathered his equipment, and left the two of them alone.
Perhaps Grandmere was right about some things.