Words of Hope and Faith for the Weary

Treacherous Deceit Excerpt

In the Yukon, nothing is more important than family. This is what Mona must face when her Grandfather, who rescued her from death as a child and raised her as his own, tells her she must return to the Yukon from her New York apartment to go into the mountains and search for an ancient city of gold that is her legacy.

Chief Shaw, her Grandfather, has become aware of the mystical gold when honeymooners brought a piece by his diner and showed it to him. Convinced now that the ancient city exists he sends his team on ATV’s to find it; his adopted son Jonas to lead them the others including his cherished granddaughter.

Jonas is happy to lead the expedition while planning on somehow getting Mona alone. His plan goes astray when they are forced to team with four more including Bryan, the geologist who immediately falls for Mona and becomes a huge interference. The team overcome severe obstacles and setbacks along the way but make it to the golden city through water filled caves.

Now the truth hurts when they discover that the long standing legend of not being able to take the gold is true. The gold sickens their minds, and the exposure to the metal, Bryan suspected, made them lose all reason and try escaping with the forbidden gold. Mona and her new hero Bryan fight together to save each other from Jonas while leaving the gold behind forever as they try to escape flooding caverns.

An exciting adventure story! Ms. Blue did her research, and it shows! Extremely life-like, and easy to imagine, join this rag-tag group of characters in their hunt for gold!
-Adventures Thru Wonderland-

I am a fan of search for gold adventure stories because I would like to find some myself. Treacherous Deceit does not disappoint.

Author Zola Blue obviously has done her research in order to offer such a well crafted enjoyable story of a life in the Yukon. -Mark Parry, writer, producer and film

The Return Home

Finally, they arrived in Chilla Falls. The trip had taken over 20 hours, and she was tired. Wayne, her Gee-pa’s friend and employee, picked her up from Whitehorse and a slow driver, never ran over 50 mph, making the trip longer than necessary. The drive alone took over 13 hours. Nevertheless, the trip allowed her time to talk with Wayne and she tried to rekindle their friendship. However Wayne had bored her as all he spoke of was the legend and Chilla Falls. She surmised from his conversation that nothing had changed in the village and was thankful to have moved out.

Six feet five, Wayne wore his long black hair tied back by an elastic behind his head and braided in a single plait that hung down his back. Wayne’s muscular arms were big and his chest was thick and beefy as if he spent a lot of time at the gym lifting weights, but Wayne spent no time working out. His broad chest and shoulders looked swollen and oversized making his body appear odd, especially when his hips and muscular legs grew smaller moving down to his size 14 feet. His body reminded Mona of an ice cream cone, teetering on its pointed end when he stood erect with his feet together.

He was dressed simply in faded blue jeans, a black sweatshirt with the name of her Gee-pa’s store printed across the front, and worn brown cowboy boots. With his kind and calm personality, Wayne was considered a gentle giant. The naïveté in his eyes and his straightforward demeanor made it clear he was from a small town. Wayne possessed a modest appearance, had dark tanned skin and dark eyes; in Mona’s opinion, he looked First Nations, and anywhere he went, he would be an Indian to them.

Mona was glad at least that she could pass as an oddity. When people asked her about her race, she always said, “My father was white and my mother First Nations. I guess you can say I am a human being.” This usually made them drop the subject when she laughed girlishly afterward.

On the way to her Gee-pa’s home, Mona insisted that Wayne stop by the cemetery. It had been several years since she visited her mother’s grave, the remembrance of her mother’s death always made her unhappy. The gloomy graveyard had an ill-omened sensation and caused sadness to seep within her the moment she stepped on the brown dying grass where the plots were located. Cautiously she eased around the crosses and decorative headstones, trying not to step upon the burial ground of the residents below. Most of the tombs were unkempt and tall grass grew over them, hiding the plots and memorials. Although the sun made the glittery marble tombstones shine with brilliance, despair and loneliness hovered over the burial grounds and Mona’s skin grew chilled. Not bothering to read the names of the people who lay beneath the ground in the cold darkness, she walked on apprehensively approaching her mother’s resting place.

The Anglican church in the distance and added a manner of sadness to the place. It was no longer used and its state of disrepair deprived the worship of God to those who used to pray within its walls. Mona remembered the Sundays she and her Gee-pa spent there. She never learned anything much about God but attending the small community church always seemed to please her Gee-pa, so she went along with him on the Sundays he did not work at the trade store.

Anxiety and sadness crept within her as she crouched down between her mother’s and her grandmother’s graves. Fresh yellow silk roses sat across each grave, and the white stone crosses looked clean and almost new. They were well taken care of and Mona realized her Gee-pa still missed them both badly. She began to weep softly.

The Lost Tears

Leon, her father, had lost his job when she was only a small child. Her Gee-pa said he was drunk on the job and almost killed a man with a backhoe, but her mother had defended him. She told Mona that his supervisor did not like her father and that was why he lost his job. Mona knew her mother would never lie to her, so for a long time, she believed Leon was not at fault for his problems although she witnessed him beat her mother terribly. Each day Mona watched her lovely mother grow worn and battered. Her beautiful mother lost her strength and blissful nature, she grew into a thin, sad woman who no longer had any dreams.

He beat Mona as well and stopped her from attending school because one of the teachers saw the bruises over her body. The teacher visited their home and questioned him about her injuries which infuriated Leon and he threw her out of the house. The poor teacher left their home in tears, quit the job and left the Yukon.

For revealing the bruises he tried putting Mona’s hand in a pot of boiling water to punish her but her mother stepped in before Leon could push her hand into the water. The two of them began struggling and the pot of boiling water flipped over and splashed down the back of her mother’s legs scalding them and leaving a large burn scar down the back of her calves that was there until her death. Mona did not to return to school that year and no one in the small community said anything when she no longer showed up; she had rarely attended classes in her preschool and first-grade years. Her mother tried homeschooling her, but as she herself had left school after the sixth grade she, could not teach Mona much.

Leon started doing drugs, the beating grew worse, and Mona watched her mother, coaxed by Leon, sitting up all night and shooting up heroin too. In the beginning she tried to maintain some sense of home for Mona, cleaned houses on some days to get a little money to buy groceries while Leon slept, and her mother made sure Mona always had something to eat. Her mother’s heroin addiction took away her appetite and she barely ate anything. She grew thin and frail and was embarrassed to take Mona to see Gee-pa. When her mother fell ill and could no longer go out and earn any money there was nothing for Mona to eat. Leon would sell some of their few possessions and come back home with chocolate pudding and more drugs; the taste and smell of chocolate, now nauseated Mona, and she could not stomach eating anything chocolate.

From time to time, she witnessed Leon rape her mother. He was drunk and stoned and made her do things Mona would never forget. Once he tried attacking Mona, but her mother fought him bitterly. On that occasion, her mother lost her front teeth, but he never tried raping Mona again. Mona was thankful he never touched her that way, but watching her mother die haunted her forever. Since Leon refused to get medical attention for her mother, she determined to go get her Gee-pa and let him know she was sick and left the house one day. Leon found her wandering down the long gravel road near the highway. When she saw him coming behind her, Mona began running frantically, hoping she would reach the road, however she slipped on the gravel and fell onto her knees, skinning them badly. When he caught her, Leon beat her all the way home with his belt.

Her legs stinging, and bleeding from the belt slaps, she lay next to her mother, and put her head on her mother’s chest who was barely breathing.

“You must be strong for me Mona,” her mother whispered weakly to her.

Mona cried tears all that night, refusing to move from her side until Leon made her leave the next morning. The welts stayed on her legs for weeks, and all but one disappeared; only a small scar remained to remind her of the horrible beating. A couple of days later her Gee-pa came and took her away. Her mother did not make it, and she always mourned the fact she did not make it to the highway that day. If she had reached the road, her mother would be alive today. Gee-pa rescued her and gave her the most normal life he could, yet, all the good that happened afterward could not erase the pain of her youth. The time alone in the mountains she spent writing about her grief. “The Tear that Would Not Fall” gave her some solace, but returning home still brought up a lot of regret and suffering.

“Come on Mona, the chief is waiting,” Wayne yelled out.

“I am coming,” replied Mona. Wiping her eyes she stood up and left the graves.

Gee-pa’s Home

Mona opened the door of the jeep and stepped out. “Thank you for picking me up Wayne,” she said and smiled graciously.

Always stoic Wayne nodded his head. “It was no problem at all Mona,” he told her.

A small curve appeared along the corners of his mouth. His dark eyes were trusting yet guarded and he was attractive in a teddy bear sort of way, she thought. Mona remembered the crush Wayne had on her and how she had argued with her Gee-pa for hours, trying to explain why she did not want to go out with him “Don’t go there Wayne,” she said to herself. Wayne was 10 years older than her, besides his traditional thinking, simple ways and manners held him captive to the village, and she did not plan on staying; she wanted to be in the community only long enough to help her Gee-pa.

Before she could close the door, Wolfdog leapt up from the porch and sprinted towards Mona; when he reached her, he bounded up on his hind legs and his forceful strength pinned her against the side of the vehicle.

“Wolfdog, I missed you so much,” she chirped, wrapping her arms around his neck.

Mona loved Wolfdog and wanted to take him with her when she moved to New York, but her Gee-pa told her New York was no place for a wolf, so she’d left him. She treasured the wolf and was so glad to see him. Wolfdog’s thick black and gray coat tingled her face when he pressed its massive head against her, playing with her like he was only a puppy, although he weighed over one hundred pounds. Mona grabbed Wolfdog’s big head in between her hands, stared into his dark eyes, and kissed his wet nose. Wolfdog’s long tongue licked across her nose and mouth, making Mona squirm as its rough texture brushed against her face. Wolfdog was over 10 years old; short gray hairs covered his muzzle, but his white eyes were bright, and his mostly black coat still shone brilliantly.

“Oh Wolfdog, I did not plan on coming back here this soon. But I am so glad to see you,” she said rubbing the wolf’s massive head.

As if he understood her, Wolfdog licked her hand. The front door of the house opened, and her Gee-pa stepped out; except for a few more strands of gray in his dark hair, his appearance never changed either. “Gee-pa!” Mona cried out and waved at him. Always somber, he stood and waited for her to approach the porch unsmiling.

Mona glared at the two-story yellow frame cottage home belonging to her Gee-pa. Nothing had changed since the last time she was home; even the swing on the porch and rocking chair she played on as a child remained. The same white curtains with yellow roses still hung across the top bedroom windows; their long green stems and once bright colorful tops now faded from the sun. Her Gee-pa must have recently painted the house as the paint was pristine, whereas the last time Mona was there the brown paint was peeling off its trim, and the yellow was cracking across the wood siding. Mona smiled for although it had recently been painted, the house was still the same color and not even a shade darker or lighter. In this way it matched the posts holding up the homemade tire swing off to its left flawlessly. Mona remembered the evenings her Gee-pa and she would spend on the tire swing; he built it for her a couple of days after he brought her to live in his home.

The rocking chair sat in the center of the porch in front of a small window with a custard yellow curtain hanging across its small rectangular frame. A yellow and brown stripped shabby pillow lay in the seat of the rocker and the chair’s wooden rockers and arms had signs of wear and tear; but other than those few flaws, the maple wood chair was in good condition. Some of the worn-out boards on the porch her Gee-pa had replaced had not been painted and maintained their natural creamy yellow. In all the porch looked sad, Mona thought.

Chief Shaw was happy to see his granddaughter again, and her bright smile lifted his heart, releasing his fears over the sudden appearance of the gold. “Hello granddaughter,” he said.

Mona stepped forward and hugged him, but he quickly pushed her away.

“There is not much time, we have to hurry,” he said to her.

“Gee-pa. It is so good to see you. I missed you so much.”

Her Gee-pa did not like closeness, and she was not surprised at this unenthusiastic hug, but she knew he was happy to see her. At least he was eating, and taking care of himself. His body was still solid, his dark eyes still bright, and his brown complexion looked healthy. He was still taller than her by four inches, and his posture was erect and straight for his 75 years. He was always distant but his indifferent attitude did not upset her because even though he never displayed his affections outwardly, she felt his love every time she was near him. It was in his instructive strength and caring nature that he showed her his love. Every now and then he gave her a warm hug, but she never looked for them. However while it was no surprise he released her from his embrace quickly, her Gee-pa was not typically rushed about anything. He was always calm and relaxed so his hurry concerned Mona.

“Why is there such a rush Gee-pa?” asked Mona.

“Enough Mona, we don’t have much time. You will need to leave first thing tomorrow.” He turned quickly and opened the screen door, whose rusty hinges creaked as it swung open. “I just have a feeling; I need to consider this now,” the chief said as he walked back into the house.

This room too was still the same; the wooden walls were bare of color and the original shellac covering was dull and lackluster. Old shag carpeting she played on as a child, exceedingly worn in the center of the room, made it difficult to tell the actual color of the flooring except for in the corners were a greenish blue coloring was still present. A path in the carpet down the hallway leading to her Gee-pa’s office had only its loomed bottom remaining; the weft fibers had worn away long ago.

When she entered her Gee-pa’s office, Mona sat in the chair in front of the desk and gazed at him. He sat down in the old swivel chair behind his desk; the same chair she played in as a child, spinning around in it and holding on tightly to its leather arms until she was sick. The head of the big moose her Gee-pa shot over 30 years ago still clung to the top of the wall above the curtainless window; its antlers and furry face were now covered in dust, and its eyes were dull from a coat of dirt. The lamp on the chief’s old maple desk burned brightly and giving light to the dark room. Its golden lampshade was faded and there was also signs of corrosion covering its metal spindle tube and circular copper base that rested on a white doily.

The chief’s old swivel chair squeaked as he sat down and studied his granddaughter. Mona was different from the granddaughter that left home a couple of years ago. Her eyes had grown in wisdom, and she had developed a maturity within her face. From their conversation last night, he knew she had also increased in confidence. He leaned back in his chair back and said, “I missed you, granddaughter.”

“Thank you Gee-pa,” Mona replied and smiled at him.

Although he was now more relaxed, the discovery of the gold by the outsiders had caused him anguish. Somberly Chief Shaw said, “I need you to go into the mountains and see what is going on up there. A young couple from the States came to my store yesterday, and they showed me a big nugget. It was the gold of the legend.”

“Gee-pa, how do you know it was the gold?” asked Mona.

The chief opened his top drawer and pulled out a faded leather pouch. Opening the bag he took out three golden nuggets and threw them on the desk. Their light golden color had confirmed for him they were the same type of gold the couple brought into his store. Melted into nuggets from a bracelet worn by Tayla, the wife of Running Hawk, the gold was never sold or traded; it remained within the family line. It would belong to Mona after he died. The gold in his pouch had been passed down through the generations; the three nuggets were the only pieces of gold from the village of Goldum, until 10 years ago, then some of locals began finding small pieces of it.

Mona couldn’t understand why her Gee-pa wanted her to go on a hunt for the gold, “I don’t get it Gee-pa. The legend says the gold can’t be sold or traded so why is it being found by outsiders? Can’t the mountains continue to protect it?”

“Granddaughter that is why I need you to see what is going on. So far, only locals have found the gold and they keep it for their own treasure. Only this couple today concerns me; they are outsiders and found a really big nugget.”

Mona rubbed her face in her hands. She did not want to go into the mountains; although there was no snow yet, it was freezing this time of the year. “Gee-pa, so they were outsiders but it doesn’t mean they will sell the gold.”

Chief Shaw sighed heavily. His granddaughter was arguing with him so he raised his voice above its usual slow, dull conversational level. “He will try to sell it, Mona.” He saw Mona’s surprised look, she stared at him, so he took a deep breath and continued, “The man left my shop to look for more gold; before he left he said the gold would make a hefty deposit on a house.”

“Gee-pa, maybe it is alright if the gold allowed itself to be found by outsiders,” Mona replied sarcastically. He was upset she could tell, but her Gee-pa was sending her on a hunt for a myth and no one really knew if the village ever existed.

Wayne had entered the room earlier and was standing in the doorway listening in on the conversation. Mona had been away from the village too long and her tone was disrespectful. Respectfully butting in he remarked, “Mona, that is our chief, and your grandfather.”

Chief Shaw felt the sting of Mona’s unbelief. “Mona how long have you been away? Has the big city changed you that much?” he asked. “You know the importance of the gold; it is from the lost village of Goldum and belongs to our people. It belongs to you.”

Mona leaned against the back of the chair, shaken by her Gee-pa’s reprimands and Wayne’s disapproval. She had never seen the two of them show so much emotion. Her Gee-pa had died inside after her mother’s death, and the two of them cried together only once after the funeral. After that, her mother was never spoken of again, except for the times her Gee-pa belittled Leon and her mother’s name casually popped into the conversation. Since then, she had never seen him display any emotion, however the possibility of discovering the lost village had excited him. Mona felt she should have been happy, but she was not. “I am sorry Gee-pa. I am tired. It was a long flight and a long ride.”

“It’s all right granddaughter. Listen now, we have plans to make,” Chief Shaw said to Mona.

“Gee-pa, are you sure it was the same gold?” she asked.

Wayne cleared his throat as if he was going to speak but her Gee-pa waved for him to be quiet.

“Mona, as soon as I touched it, I knew,” the chief said picking up one of the nuggets from his desk. He rubbed the nugget between his fingers and gazed at it, lost momentarily by its glistening’s hypnotic nature. “Its electricity draws me.”

Mona stared at him; her Gee-pa was acting strangely.

“This is no accident. The spirits of our ancestors are reaching out to me, they are warning me I should do something. If we don’t do something quick, they will come in and destroy the mountains, our town, and life, looking for the gold,” he lectured.

She realized her Gee-pa had his mind set on her searching for the gold so she should take a quick trip into the mountains and return in a day or so to make him happy. She could not let him down either, regardless of her feelings. “Alright Gee-pa, what do you want me to do?”

“I have been studying some maps of the mountains.” Chief Shaw stood up and stepping from behind his desk, he walked over to a hand drawn map on the office wall. Like the one he printed on the placemats in the restaurant it had childlike pictures of animal heads, roads, and mountains drawn in black chalk that depicted the image of the village and its surroundings. “Pitt Falls Creek is where you need to go. The spirits gave me this location some months ago in a dream. Only now have I understood the meaning of the vision. Come over here you two.,” he told them. With his finger, he traced an invisible path along the map. “We know the original trail to Goldum started here. You start here. Follow the creek. Let the ancient spirits guide you. Billy and I have prepared all day; the ATVs are packed with everything you need.”

Mona nodded, acknowledging his instructions, “Sure Gee-pa.”

“By the way, I am going to ask Jonas to go to,” he told them.

“Gee-pa why does Jonas have to go?” She did not like Jonas. Her Gee-pa took him in when his father went to jail, but he was still a thief and crook. Jonas was 18 when she moved in as a little girl; he was very odd and always watched her. Jonas had her Gee-pa fooled, always playing the virtuous role when he was around, and lying to him when he was in trouble with others. After Jonas saved the little boy from drowning at age 19, when they young child fell off a 30 feet cliff into the river, the community accepted him. Jonas fought the raging waves, and pulled the child to safety. Afterwards the people of Chilla Falls praised him, and to this day she imagined they still held him in high regards as Wayne bragged about his tracking skills on the trip from Whitehorse. Evidently, he had become quite expert in locating lost hunters before they froze to death, and the corpses of missing persons, mainly women, which had disappeared from the surrounding communities. Mona never accepted Jonas’s heroic standing among the villagers, and never would. Her Gee-pa treated the misfit as if he was kinfolk, which bothered Mona, and now he was sending him along with her on family business.

Sitting back down hurriedly in the chair facing his desk she said, “We don’t need Jonas, Gee-pa.” Her butt hit the wood bottom roughly, stinging her pelvis for a moment, “Ouch,” she whined.

“You do need him. He knows those mountains better than you both do; not to mention he is an expert tracker and guide,” argued Chief Shaw.

“But he is such…” Mona began to speak but her Gee-pa’s stern glare stopped her. She looked down and crossed her arms protectively.

“Mona it is for the best. Jonas will go with you,” the chief ordered, turned and left the room.

Mona buried her hands in her face; she could not believe she was going on a gold hunt with Jonas. She sat sulking.

Wayne glared at the back of her head, remembering how she was before she left home. Before moving to New York, Mona was one of the most attractive young women in the village. Many of the young men, including him, had been infatuated by her independence, knowledge of the land, and loveliness. This Mona was nothing like the one that left; her beautiful appearance remained, but her attitude was different and he did not particularly care for the change. “Mona, you know the chief is right. This is our gold. We have to find it, and we must protect it.”

Sarcastically Mona cried out loudly, “If we find the gold Wayne; what has gotten into you and Gee-pa?” She could not believe she had put off her speaking engagements to trace through the mountains in search of a myth.

“It is there and I believe the chief,” Wayne replied. “Your grandfather is a wise man. He keeps our town alive and active while the government and the hydro company continue to try and tear it apart. Think what this gold can do for us, Mona.” Wayne walked over to her and gazed down at her.

As he stood over her, Mona thought she saw a sparkle in Wayne’s eyes – it was like they were in some type of trance. “I know that Wayne, it just seems so unbelievable to me,” Mona remarked and stood up as his gaze became uncomfortable.

“We all know why you left us,” Wayne stated. “You gave up on our people to go live in the big city; now you doubt the chief. Well, the chief never gave up on us, or you. You have no idea how much he believes in you even though you left him. He tells everyone he meets about how great you are,” Wayne snarled.

Wayne’s words wounded her and she felt a stab of guilt. “Alright, we will leave in the morning. Just stop talking Wayne.” Wolfdog, entering the room and licked her hand. “Are you coming too, Wolfdog?” Wolfdog shook his massive head, and Mona laughed.

After she had left the chief’s study, Mona walked into her old bedroom. It was as if she had stepped back into a previous part of her life for her Gee-pa had not changed anything. The poster of Johnny Deep in his pirate costume still hung against its painted white walls, pinned at its corners by four silver thumbtacks. Mona giggled as she thought about the childhood crush she had on the famous actor. The white and yellow flowered drapes still hung neatly, covering the two tiny picture windows that only let a small amount of light enter the room. The room was only large enough to take four steps in before she reached the white dresser against the far wall, Mona wondered how she had been comfortable in such a small room. Her bedroom now was five times this size and she still found it cramped, however the room gave her peace and Mona felt sheltered from the world outside.

A colorful native blanket Mona had weaved with the image of a black wolf, still lay across the single bed sitting in the corner by the dresser. The bed looked like it did the day she left and the blankets hung crookedly along the side of the thin mattress. The room was clean; Mona suspected that her Gee-pa had Shauna, the old woman that cleaned for him, dust and make sure it was tidy. Mona walked over to the bed and sat down; the hard mattress barely gave in beneath her body, and she could feel the wood slats under the thin padding. “The bed is not as soft as I remember.”

Her Cabbage Patch doll Suzie sat on top of her dresser. Its hair was in disarray, the puffy cheeks no longer red, and the face paint had long worn off. The cute dress it had worn was missing and Suzie wore a pink, baby-sized T-shirt someone gave her long ago. Mona picked her up. “Hi Suzie,” she said, staring into its big brown eyes and smiled. Her mother gave her the doll for her birthday and it was the only thing she had taken with her the night she left Leon’s home. Mona hugged the doll; its soft body gave in beneath her hug. “I am going to take you back with me to New York, Suzie,” she said gleefully. It still smelled of the baby oil she used to rub its rubber face with to keep it shining.

Wolfdog lumbered into the room slowly and jumped on the bed. When he lay down, his large body covered most of the single bed. As he stretched his long legs pushed Mona and she rubbed his belly. As he closed his eyes preparing to fall asleep Mona giggled, “Oh Wolfdog, I don’t think we both can sleep in this bed together now.” Wolfdog continued to lay in his comfortable position, determined not to move. Mona placed Suzie against the wolf’s belly as he slept and peered over to see her bow and quiver laying atop of the chest at the foot of her bed.

Her Gee-pa taught her how to use the bow and arrow when she was only eight. Over the years, her expertise had grown in using the weapon and Mona entered and placed in many of the competitions at fairs and community events. Only a simple composite bow, she loved it because it was efficient and she could knock baby pine cones off trees over two hundred and 80 yards away. Many of the competitions required hunting smaller prey which Mona did not mind, and by her senior year her skills had impressively refined enough that she could effectively target and take down both live and dummy prey effortlessly from a distance.

Its birch wood was still smooth to her touch when she picked up the bow, and the sinew of the bow string still taught. Mona pulled the string back and released it. The bow vibrated slightly and its cord quivered. She held the grip tightly. She and Gee-pa made the bow together when she was only a child. Mona would never forget her first experience with the bow; that day, she realized that hunting could mean life or death. Her lack of skill using the bow failed her then, but she made up her mind never again to be intimidated by the hunt.

Mona Finds Wolfdog’s Mom

She was 9 and had been living with her Gee-pa for a couple of years; he had taught her how to hunt small prey and that day they were tracking down a cougar that attacked and killed several sled dogs. Although she was female, he raised her to know the ways of the land, how to hunt, scavenge, and take care of herself in the wilderness around the town and mountains. She could track, fish with her bare hands, read the weather by looking at the way the leaves were facing, and control a pack of sled dogs. Most of her feminine ways, she learned from teachers, television, or other females around the village, but deep in her heart Mona was a tomboy and felt just as comfortable in a pair of boots, jeans, and sweatshirts as in an evening gown and heels.

The day was chilly so she had bundled herself in her long johns, a thick cotton shirt, jeans, two pairs of socks, and a wool parka, but still she was cold. It was 15 degrees Fahrenheit that day, but Mona had been thankful that the snow was light. It was only up to her calves in most places and tramping through the mountains in the thick white mush was strenuous and hard for her. Every step was deliberate; she had to struggle to lift her foot from beneath the wet snow and place it back down, where it buried itself back under the thick slush.

“How do we know this is the right cougar, Gee-pa?”

“It is the right one Mona,” her Gee-pa told her and bent down to stare closely at one of the tracks. He placed the butt of his .22 Remington rifle down into the snow. “Look here. There is a small indentation on his back left foot. Probably the result of a bad cut in its paw a while ago.”

Mona saw it, a small crease in the snow on the cougar’s left rear footprint and replied excitedly, “I see it now Gee-pa.”

“Well that ridge is the same in the footprints around the village.” He used the skinny barrel of the rifle as leverage to stand, and started walking away.

That day was one of the coldest she could recall and too cold to snow. The deep snow had a thin layer of ice across its top and when she stepped it crushed beneath her feet. Her Gee-pa told her to be quiet, she tried, but she was not like him. Even across the frosty ground, his movements were silent, and he could not be heard coming.

“I hope we find it soon,” Mona whined, “it’s cold out here.”

“The cold makes you grateful for the heat Mona,” he told her.

“I know Gee-pa, I know,” she said. “There is a cave, Gee-pa, maybe the cougar is in there,” Mona whispered, pointing at a hole in the snow-covered mountains.

“You stay back here Mona,” he ordered softly.

Her Gee-pa moved carefully towards the opening, making no crunching noises as his booted feet pressed down into the iced over snow. Mona was not allowed to carry a gun, but she had her new bow and arrows. She fiddled around with the bow, popping its strings playfully. Finally positioning the bow in front of her, she pulled out one of the two arrows she carried in the small quiver on her back. Trying to correctly place the arrow on the knocking point, Mona did not see the wolf approaching her.

She heard Gee-pa screaming out her name and looked up to see a gray wolf stepping out from behind one of the snow-covered trees and coming towards her. It looked massive, and its long legs moved deliberately as if it was stalking her, as a vicious snarl, showing all its yellowed teeth, emitted from its throat. It frightened her and she froze.

Her Gee-pa’s words were a jumble of unrecognizable syllables; “Relax gran…dau…hter, pull theeeee …tring slowww….ly; grasss…p the k..o…ck of the aaaaarrowwww tig…”

The bowstring taut, Mona held onto the arrow nock; she felt her heart beating, and her hands grow sweaty. Mona tried to slow her heartbeat, she held her breath and aimed the quivering arrow at the wolf. The large animal continued towards her as she steadied her shaking hand. The bobbing arrow head finally stopped, and she released it at the wolf; the arrow tumbled to the ground and landed on her feet.

A moment later, her Gee-pa stepped in front of her holding a branch from one of the frozen trees. He waved it at the wolf. The wolf continued snarling and moving closer. “Go on, get out of here,” he shouted.

Mona walked backward away from her Gee-pa and closed her eyes for a moment but the vicious snarls made her open them again.

“Get out of here,” he said again.

A moment later, the wolf opened its mouth, bared its fangs and lunged at him. Her Gee-pa dropped the rifle and branch, grabbed his hunting knife from the holster on his leg belt, and pulled it out just as the wolf knocked him down. Mona screamed loudly. Her terror deepened as she watched in horror as her Gee-pa struggled with the wolf. He grabbed its neck and pushed it back as its sharp teeth snapped at him. The wolf continued trying to bite her Gee-pa and snapped at his face and neck. Mona’s screams of terror echoed through the snow-covered mountains as she watched the wolf’s long yellowed incisors grabbing at the sleeve of her Gee-pa’s parka. Her Gee-pa yanked his left arm out the animal’s grip and the material frayed as if it were paper.

The wolf’s massive head ferociously lunged for his face again and just as its fangs came close enough to bite him and it opened its mouth wide, her Gee-pa plunged the knife into its neck. Mona turned away from the blooded animal and heard it yelp out in pain. Mona’s heart skipped a beat and she turned back to see her Gee-pa push the dead animal off him. Its blood covered the front of his jacket.

“Gee-pa are you alright? Did it bite you?” she asked and ran up to him.

“No, Mona it did not bite, I am alright.”

Mona noticed the blood covering the front of his jacket and pants; the blood smelled pungent and she was almost ill. “Gee-pa, you will be cold.”

“It’s too bloody to wear now. We will head back home now,” Chief Shaw told Mona. He took of the parka and stared down at the dead wolf. “I can use this fur. I will drag it back to the ATV.”

“Can you put it on my jacket, Gee-pa?” Mona asked. She heard whining and walked towards the cave.

“Wait, Mona, what are you doing? Don’t go in there,” he scolded as he grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her back roughly.

“I hear something. It sounds like a puppy,” Mona said, she tried to gaze into the opening of the dark cave. She heard the whining again, “Hear it Gee-pa? There is something in there!”

Her Gee-pa crept slowly toward the cave and Mona followed him. She was right, something was in there but it was not the sound a cougar would make. A moment later, she saw a single wolf pup against the back of the cave from the light given off by her Gee-pa’s flashlight. The pup’s irises were blue like glass marbles as it peered frightfully up at her; it was scrawny and looked to be starving. Mona felt sorry for the pup, it tried standing but weakly fell back down on its belly.

Her Gee-pa grabbed her quickly by the hand and commanded, “Stay away from it Mona, it might be ill.”

Mona looked down at the pup; it was alone now, and its small eyes appeared sad, and its desolation reached out toward her. It was like her when she lost her mother. She cried out sadly, “You killed its mother, Gee-pa. It will die if we leave it here.”

“Yes Mona, that is nature, but it was probably going to die anyway. It’s obviously starving,” he said and grabbed her by the shoulder to usher her out.

Mona snatched her shoulder from his grip and said, “But Gee-pa, you killed its mother and that was my fault.” The pup was so small, and innocent, she could not leave it behind. Mona started to cry softly.

“It’s not your fault. That wolf was going to kill you,” her Gee-pa replied annoyed at her. “Come now, let’s go.”

But Mona could not leave it and cried, “I know Gee-pa, but we can’t just let it die. You did not let me die, Gee-pa.”

“That wolf is a wild animal; it will never be a pet Mona,” he told her.

Mona turned from him and gazed down at the pup as tears swelled up in her brown eyes. Mona did not hear anything he said; he’d killed its mother, and she was only trying to protect her baby as he protected her. “Gee-pa, we have to try. Can we take it, please Gee-pa, please?” she begged.

“If we take it, then you carry it back to the ATV, and you take care of it,” he said grouchily.

“I will, I will Gee-pa, I promise,” Mona said cheerfully and reached down to pick up the scrawny pup. Before she picked it up, she noticed a flat medallion made from copper beside it. The light from her Gee-pa’s flashlight made the coin glow brightly. Mona picked up the medallion and stuffed it in her pocket, and then took up the baby pup. As they left the cave, holding the starving animal in her arms, she said, “It’s not heavy at all Gee-pa.” Its fur was thick, but it was only skin and bones. “I can feel its ribs Gee-pa,” she remarked and cuddled the pup next to her chest.

He looked down at her and said, “It will fatten up.”

Her Gee-pa never skinned the wolf’s mother but buried it out of respect for its pup. Mona loved the wolf and they became best friends until it disappeared several years later. Gee-pa had explained that it was impossible to keep them captive so they had never locked her away. When the wolf returned she was pregnant. Only one of her pups survived and Mona talked her Gee-pa into keeping it too. Mona hugged Wolfdog, the only pup to survive; he shifted his body slightly but continued sleeping.

“I wonder if I still have that medallion I found,” Mona said as she jumped from the bed, and opened the top drawer of her dresser. She dug through an old wooden box that contained many childhood treasures: two green marbles because green was her favorite color, a couple of old US nickels stamped with the date of her birth, oddly shaped stones from the mountains, and other small trinkets she kept tucked away safely in her treasure box. The medallion was at the bottom of the box, and its surface was still shining. “Maybe I will take this with me. My good luck charm,” she thought to herself and placed it near her backpack.

“Come Wolfdog, let’s go fix Gee-pa’s supper. I hope he has some venison.”

Wolfdog stepped off the bed and followed her down the hallway.