Chapter 1

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"That's not scary!" a bucktoothed lad named John interrupts. His doubtful tone and squinty chestnut eyes shatter the Woodcraft Indian scoutmaster's trance over his four-man troop.

"We want to hear a scary story, not a y-u-c-k-y love story!" his brother protests, curling his fingers like claws and baring his missing front teeth. The most obvious difference between the two brothers is that Luther's hair is pitch-black and John's is light brown.

"I don't want to hear a scary story." Kevin, a five-year-old Korean boy, whimpers. He pulls his wool blanket over his bowl-cut black hair. He does this not because he's cold, but because Charlie, his scoutmaster, terrifies him.

"Me either!" Zack, John's youngest brother, shouts, almost matching Kevin's squeaky tone. He glances over his shoulder, flashing the same chestnut eyes his brothers have. The most handsome of the Taylor brothers, he moves closer to the fire and pulls his winter cap down farther, nearly covering his sandy blond hair.

"You're two years older than me," Kevin whispers to Zack. "You're supposed to be braver than I am. Who's gonna protect me in this dark, scary place?" Kevin scans the looming woods. "Run, kill, or die," he chirps. Without a doubt, he knows he would run.

Luther lifts a flaming marshmallow out of the fire and holds it to his lips. The orange flames illuminate his freckled face and scraggly black hair. "I'm not scared." He cocks his head and teases them. "You guys are titty-sucking babies!"

"Are not!" John cries out, leaping off his stump.

Luther puckers his abnormally puffy lips and says, "Are sooo!" as he makes a sucking noise. He turns his attention to the scoutmaster. "Tell us the story about the one-legged man, 'Click Shaw'!"

The scoutmaster's big blue eyes and bulging gnome cheeks divide with a prominent English nose, a bushy mustache, and narrow lips. His pudgy frame fills his khaki Woodcraft Indian shirt out to the point where the buttons pucker and nearly pop off. The fiftysomething man sits on a log stump near the fire and sips a steaming cup of coffee from a worn tin cup. It nearly matches the color of his silver-speckled brown hair.

"Yous fellas don't want to hear about the great Canadian wolf hunter?"

"Yeah, I wanna hear about that!" John turns to Luther with a sour face. "'Click Shaw' is a stupid story, and we've already heard it!"

Insulted by his oldest brother's protest, Luther gasps and shouts, "IS NOT!"

"IS SO!"

The two continue like this until Charlie calms them.

"It's super-duper dumb!" Zack aligns with John and makes sure he gets the last word.

"No way. It scared me so bad the last time I heard it, I slept under my mom's bed for a week." Kevin whimpers, blinking with pouting eyes. "Don't tell us scary stories in this dark, eerie forest."

"Scaredy-cat!" Kyle mocks him.

"All right, all right, settle down. It's not a scary story, Kevin. 'Chai Ma Kue' is a story of Indian love and magic."

Charlie pauses and waits for a response. When the boys' faces sag, he adds, "It has some scary parts, though!"

The boys' faces light up.

"There's a war," he emphasizes as he sets his coffee mug down.

"A war?" Luther perks up, raising his brows hopefully.

"It began a long time ago. Imagine, if you can, a place where prairies stretch out like an ocean until the grasslands recede and turn into dry desert lands."

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