The attack came at nightfall. This is what our biggest roundhouse looked like, and it was alight in seconds, bursting into flames from a lit torch thrown by one of the warriors towards our village. Soon, fire was everywhere. The scent of it filled my throat, making me cough and gag. It was difficult to see anything in the smoke. That was just what they wanted.
They were upon us in seconds, and we were fighting for our lives. I’d never known a fight like it. I’d thrown my spear plenty of times in the forest, taken out my knife to gut a fish or skin a rabbit, but never before to face another human being. My heart hammered in my chest, the breath tearing at my throat as I fought blindly, just trying to defend myself, with no sense of what was happening to the rest of my village. As the fires burned on, and the smoke grew thicker, blocking out the light of the moon as it rose in the sky above us, I wished then that we had run, that I’d told my people to find safety instead of protect our home.
I knew it was all for nothing.
Because the wolves would not come. I’d asked them to, stood in the depths of the shadowy forest, knowing they were watching me. But they had not responded. They’d returned to their dens, to wait out the battle. It did not matter to them who lived on the green fort. They’d faced us in battle themselves so many times that of course they would not protect us now.
There was nothing I could do.
I watched in horror as more of our roundhouses caught alight, as the ground thundered with the pounding tread of our enemies, as the metal of their weapons flashed in the darkness and cries erupted around me. The green fort was lost. My home was lost. All was for nothing.
The shadows closed around me.
And then there was something in the shadows. Something that slunk, that moved with an incredible speed and grace. Something with a pink tongue and sharp teeth and speckles on her nose. And then the others joined her, on soft paws with yawning mouths, and they leapt past me into the fray and they fought, alongside us, and as they did, the smoke cleared and the moon beamed down, full and bright, and we were renewed. My heart rose, full of hope once more and I joined the wolves, and so did my people, and we fought until we had beaten back our enemies, until the green fort was ours once again, until our home was safe.
And when morning came, the sun rose, and it was the finest day that had ever been.
Just as the sun crept up, the wolves crept away, back to the forest, as if they had never been there. But we had all seen them. They had protected us.
Before the celebrations could begin, before the feasting fires could be lit, before we could join together and dance and sing and tell stories of our victory, I gathered all the village at the edge of the oak forest. I pointed into the shadows, where the wolves watched us.
“We will never again hunt the wolves,” I told them. “And, in winter, when their food is scarce, we will give them some of ours. We will live alongside them, and protect them, just as they have protected us.”
And that is how things were, from then on, here, on the green fort.
I have one final piece of my story left for you. Come with me, but before you do, take a rubbing of this image, of the place where I once lived.