While Matthew and Rhianna Anderson prepared for their trip back to civilization, another member of the Anderson clan was on a trip of her own. Lilly Anderson, along with several of her classmates, was on a winter hike; just out to enjoy the open air and the view while looking for a little private time as most teenagers do. Walking with Lilly was Saffy Klink, grand daughter of Robert Klink (one of the community elders); Donny Gord, a year younger but smarter than his age suggested; and Carlo Alvaro, Lilly's age and one of the ever increasing Alvaro clan.
Carlo was also the on-again/off-again object of Lilly's private fantasies, and since at the moment he was on again, she tried not to look at him.
Carlo himself was under no such restrictions. The seventeen-year-old was quite taken with his classmate, and enjoyed being around her a great deal. He was actually working up the nerve to ask her for some private time together, just in case she felt the same way he did.
The foursome walked slowly along the game trail, all bundled up in their winter furs. They chatted amongst each other about inconsequential things, concerning their schoolwork and the people they lived with. Not being exposed to the music or fashions of the outside world, their talk was more adult than you would have expected.
The boys steered conversation toward the upcoming survival tests that they would all have to take in the summer, and all four spoke honestly of their chances. Only Carlo and Donny seemed confident that they could pass the test on the first go.
Lilly and Saffy glanced at each other and smiled at the boys' bravado. Spending a week on the mountain taking nothing with you but your own skin was not easy, but the teenagers made it sound that way. And while they walked, the boys unconsciously followed some of what they had been taught, their eyes continually scanning the surrounding forest for anything out of the ordinary.
It was Donny that spotted the shape on the path ahead of them first. The snow-filled track was blocked by something dark.
A few steps more and the group could see it was an animal, and the boys instinctively moved in front of the girls. Lilly and Saffy didn't protest, subconsciously falling into the more submissive role the women of the Compound grew up in. It was quite normal for them to let the men take the lead, for that was a man's duty, to protect the women. Even though they were young, the teenagers knew their roles.
"Wait," said Carlo, motioning for the girls to stop, and he and Donny continued to walk. Carlo was unarmed except for a survival knife in the pack he was carrying, but Donny had his bow with him, just in case he saw a rabbit. Donny slowly dropped his pack on the trail and unslung his bow.
The animal looked like it was curled up, its head buried in its flank on the other side. The fur was dark and matted and half covered with snow, but as the boys drew close, they still recognized what it was.
No, not a dog; a wolf.
It must have heard them coming, because it suddenly lifted it head and looked straight at them.
The boys stopped dead and held their breaths. Wolves were generally not a danger to people, avoiding contact whenever they could. Yet whenever you found one, it was best to be careful. You could never forget that no matter how much they looked like the family pet (Chihuahuas excluded), they were still creatures of the wild and deserved respect.
The wolf didn't move; it stared at the boys as if examining them from head to toe.
"What is it?" called Lilly from back down the trail.
"A wolf," Carlo replied, earning a dirty look from Donny who wanted to remain silent.
The boys heard footsteps behind them in the snow, and moments later they were joined by the girls. "Can we see?" asked Lilly.
"Stay behind us," whispered Carlo.
The teenagers watched the wolf for a few minutes, not wanting to get closer, yet fascinated by this close encounter. Donny was wondering why the wolf hadn't moved, why it hadn't run away. His dad was always telling him that wolves ran from humans, especially in the daytime, yet this one just lay in the snow and watched them.
"We'll have to go back," he eventually said.
"Can't you scare him off or something?" asked Saffy.
"Look," said Lilly suddenly, "at his side, his left side. He's injured."
Sure enough they could see a thin line of blood caked fur along the wolf's chest.
"Then we should definitely leave," Donny said. "You don't mess with injured animals. They go mad with their pain."
"He doesn't look mad to me," Lilly said, and sure enough, the wolf looked quite calm as it watched them.
"You never can tell," replied Donny. "Besides, what makes you think it's a he anyway?"
Lilly glanced at Saffy, not knowing how she knew, but she did. "I just know."
Carlo chuckled. "I think we should go. Let's head home."
The others nodded and stepped back, instinctively following Carlo's lead. Carlo was one of those individuals who you naturally followed, not because he bullied his way into giving the orders, but simply because of a natural leadership quality. In a regular high school, he might have been the popular quarterback, humble in his achievements and respected for it by students and adults alike.
The teenagers slowly withdrew a few paces, but then Lilly stopped. "We can't leave him there," she said, a look of concern on her face.
"What?" said Donny. "What else can we do?"
"Look at him, he's hurt. We can't leave him out here in the cold!"
"Are you crazy? Of course we can! It's a wild animal, not a stupid dog like the one your uncle Bill has. There's nothing we can do for it!"
"There must be. What if he can't walk? He'll die out here."
"It'll be fine," said Donny with a sigh. "Besides, the rest of the pack will be around somewhere; they'll take care of it."
Lilly looked back up the path to where the wolf still watched them. "I don't think so," she said slowly. "I think he's alone."
"Alone or with a pack, we should still leave it alone. Tell her, Carlo!"
Carlo had been watching this argument with amusement. Donny and Lilly had been arguing a lot over the last couple of years, nothing major, but they liked to get each other's goat at times. Ever since Lilly's uncle Matthew got married, Carlo had noticed that Lilly liked to emulate the attitudes of her new Aunt Rhianna, especially with Donny. Donny was one of those guys that liked to keep things just the way they were, and Carlo thought Lilly liked to shake things up with Donny like Rhianna liked to shake things up with the adults. It was one of the things he really liked about Lilly.
Yet this time, Carlo thought Lilly wasn't baiting Donny for fun. There was real concern on her face as she looked down the path at the fallen animal.
"I'm going to take a closer look," she said.
"No, Lilly," Carlo said, afraid that she was serious.
"It'll be okay," she replied, "trust me."
Carlo fingered the leather cord in his pocket. Recently his father had been showing him the traditional way of binding someone's hands behind them. Something all the men had to know, as this form of bondage was quite common in the Compound. It was used mostly to restrain someone who was either a danger to themselves or the community, but it was also used in a very formal way to bind anyone who broke the rules until their Head of House, the man in charge of the household, decided what to do with them.
Had Carlo passed his survival test and become a legal adult in the eyes of the community, he would have had the perfect right to bind anyone he chose if the situation warranted it. But being a child, yet a very senior one, it was not something he could do without a very good reason.
As the unofficial leader of this little group, he should have had Lilly's deference. Yet her not obeying his order was not nearly enough for him to warrant binding her and effectively placing her under arrest. But saving her from exposing herself to needless danger might just do it. Yet Carlo hesitated, wondering how he was going to explain bringing home a tied up and possibly very annoyed Lilly to her father, a man who just happened to be in charge of the entire community. It might not do that much good for the start of the relationship he hoped to have with Lilly, either.
So instead of stopping her, he decided to follow, just to make sure she stayed safe.
"Carlo," said Donny, not believing that the two of them were going back to the wolf.
"Stay here with Saffy," Carlo ordered.
Donny grunted and began to string his bow. He was going to be ready.
Carlo quickly caught up with Lilly, who had been walking slowly toward the wolf. She glanced at her new companion. "You going to stop me?" she asked.
Carlo felt the cord in his pocket and considered bringing it out. It wouldn't be the first time he had tied Lilly up. She had graciously volunteered to let him practice on her a few days ago, but that was just in play.
"Maybe we'll scare him off," Carlo said.
Lilly smiled and turned her attention back to the wolf. She was glad Carlo had come along. She was actually quite scared of what she was doing, but felt better with him along.
They crept close, to within ten feet of the wolf, but still all it did was watch them. At one point it opened its mouth and yawned, making the couple jump, but then it resumed its silent appraisal of them.
Carlo noticed that it kept its eyes on Lilly, only glancing at him for a few seconds at a time.
"There you go, boy," Lilly began whispering, "It's okay."
Carlo remembered the knife in his pack, and mentally kicked himself for not pulling it out earlier. He stopped where he was and slowly took the pack off, opening it on the snow.
"That's a good idea," said Lilly, looking back at him, "maybe some jerky would help!"
Carlo almost laughed; it wasn't jerky he was after, but he dug some out all the same and passed it to Lilly before pulling out the knife.
Lilly stopped and began whispering to the wolf again, then she tossed a piece of the dried meat just in front of the animal.
The wolf ignored the jerky for a moment, then bent low to sniff at it. Lilly had gotten it really close, and the wolf didn't need to move in order to snap it up. In seconds it was gone, and the wolf resumed staring.
"Try throwing it a little farther away," said Carlo, "let's see if it can walk."
Lilly did as she was told, and this time the jerky landed a couple of feet away.
Again the wolf ignored it for a full minute, but then it began to sniff around in the direction of the fallen meat.
With a start, the wolf struggled to its feet, and Carlo gripped Lilly's shoulder, prepared to push her out of the way should the wolf attack. But instead, the animal walked over to the jerky with shaky feet and ate it in one gulp.
Lilly sighed; the wolf looked terrible. It was very thin, its ribs heavily outlined under its fur. The wound they had spotted looked dark, and went from shoulder to belly; and other cuts and scrapes were evident all over its body. It looked hungry and malnourished, and in very bad shape.
"I think its pack rejected it," said Donny from behind them. He had crept up with his bow at the ready.
"I told you to stay with Saffy," Carlo said, annoyed.
"She's fine," replied Donny.
Lilly ignored the boys; she tossed the remainder of the jerky at the wolf, which gobbled it all down. "Any more food?" she asked.
"The other pack," Carlo said, and he went and got it.
The wolf stayed standing, calm and watchful.
"I've never seen a wolf act like that," said Donny, fascinated in spite of himself.
"How many have you seen?" Lilly asked him.
He didn't answer.
Carlo came back, and they fed the rest of their jerky to the hungry animal.
"I wish we could do something about his injuries," Lilly said quietly.
"We've done enough," said Donny. "It might have been a mistake to feed it, but at least it won't go hungry again for a little while."
Carlo decided to exert some authority. "Come on, let's go."
This time Lilly obeyed, and they rejoined Saffy who had stayed further up the trail. "You okay?" she asked Lilly.
Lilly nodded, surprised to find tears in her eyes. The girls put their arms around each other and started back down the trail, the boys walking behind, instinctively providing cover.
They had gone maybe a hundred yards when Carlo spotted the wolf on the trail behind them.
"It's following us," he said.
"I said it was a mistake to feed it," said Donny.
"Poor thing," said Lilly, and she stopped walking.
The others stopped as well, and were surprised when Lilly started walking back up the trail to the wolf.
"Lilly, wait!" said Carlo.
Lilly ignored him and slowly approached the animal.
"Lilly!" Carlo said again, this time gripping the leather cord in his pocket.
"It's okay," she said without turning, and Carlo wondered if she was talking to him or the wolf.
She stopped, again only ten feet or so from the animal, and crouched down. Everyone held their breath.
The wolf watched her for a moment, then took a step toward her.
"Lilly, get away now or I'm coming to get you," Carlo said quietly, not wanting to spook the wolf. "I don't think your dad would be happy if I bring you home under discipline." 'Or in pieces' he thought.
Lilly ignored him, instead holding out her hand to the wolf and making both Donny and Saffy groan.
Carlo wanted to move, to drag Lilly away, but she and the wolf were so close he didn't want to trigger the attack he sought to prevent.
The wolf slowly walked up to Lilly and sniffed her fingers, then almost casually it licked her hand before rubbing its muzzle against her.
"Damn!" whispered Donny, amazed.
Tentatively, Lilly began scratching behind the wolf's ears, not believing what she was doing. The wolf gazed back at her, not pulling away from her touch nor seeming to react to her in any other way, it just stood.
"This is creepy," said Saffy, shivering in the cold.
"Be very careful," Carlo said.
"I am," whispered Lilly.
Lilly shifted her position to get a better look at the animal. Up close, she could see the injuries weren't so bad; but the big one on his side looked inflamed and infected to her untrained eye. She brushed a little dried blood off the animal's fur, and the wolf whined.
Everybody froze; it had been the first sound the animal had made since they found it.
"Get away," whispered Carlo urgently.
Lilly swallowed, but then the wolf pushed its head against her hand and she resumed scratching it.
"I don't believe it," said Donny. "You know, I have an idea."
"What now!" Carlo said.
"What if it isn't a wild wolf? What if it was someone's pet and it ran off to join the pack, but they rejected it? It would explain why it's in such bad condition, and why it isn't afraid of us."
"And why it hasn't attacked us," Saffy added, catching on.
"I don't know, I haven't even seen ordinary dogs that calm," Carlo replied. He kept his eyes on Lilly, who was now probing the wolf's injuries lightly with her fingers. "What are you doing?"
"He's so thin, like a bag of bones," Lilly replied. "If Donny is right, we can't leave him out here; he'd die. He wouldn't know how to hunt. We have to bring him back with us."
"And it he's wrong we'll be bringing back a wild wolf. Do you know what your dad would do to us when he finds out?"
"He doesn't have to know," Lilly said with a small smile.
"Yeah, right!" Donny said, turning away.
"We can't bring it back," Carlo said.
"I'm going to," Lilly replied, her mind made up.
"Where are you going to hide it? Have you thought of that? No one there will want this animal in the Compound!"
"Actually, I do have a plan," said the seventeen-year-old daughter of
The trip back to the Compound had been a nervous walk for all of them, and on the way, Lilly swore each of them to secrecy. She only got their cooperation in this very risky endeavor because she promised to let the wolf go as soon as its injuries had healed and it had fattened up a bit.
Donny was sure they would be caught, but again the fascination of what they were doing attracted him.
Saffy was a follower and would do whatever Lilly wanted. Carlo went along because it was the only way he could see to stay by Lilly's side and protect her.
"But you promise ME," he said sternly to her. "You NEVER visit this animal alone; you either take me or Donny with you, and I would prefer you take me!"
"Hey!" said Donny, a little offended.
Lilly looked down, unable to look Carlo in the face. She looked properly contrite, but inwardly she was grinning. Not only was she going to nurse the wolf back to health, but also Carlo had shown her that he was really concerned about her. Maybe he did 'like' her after all!
Lilly's plan was actually quite simple, but that didn't make it any less dangerous. The wolf followed the teenagers to one of the gates in the wall surrounding the Compound, and they were all able to sneak in without being seen. Lilly then led the group around behind the buildings to where the outdoor hot tubs, now closed, sat in a cluster. She opened a trap door in the wood deck that surrounded the tubs, and climbed down. She was now in a kind of basement that surrounded the ground level tubs, ceramic pipes crossing in all directions. It was dark, but there was an oil lantern, which she quickly lit.
She looked up at the opening to see the wolf gazing down at her.
"Come on!" she said, and to her surprise, the wolf leapt down.
Carlo quickly followed, afraid that the wolf had leapt for other reasons, but found Lilly and the wolf huddled together next to one of the tubs.
As Donny and Saffy followed, Carlo moved toward Lilly, but was brought short by a growl. The wolf glared at Carlo, showing its teeth, and again everybody froze. Then, just as suddenly, the wolf stopped and began licking Lilly's face.
"Gee, that animal is dangerous."
"Nonsense," said Lilly, the beneficiary of several wet, sloppy wolf kisses. "He just doesn't like you guys much. The way you wanted to abandon him, I'm not surprised!" She giggled at the attention the wolf was giving her, and the others looked at each other in dismay.
"You plan on keeping him here, then?" Carlo asked her.
Lilly shook her head. "No, there." She pointed at one corner, and the group saw a small door set in the wooden wall that marked the side of the building the tubs were next to.
She got to her feet, and with the wolf following her, Lilly opened the small door and crawled in.
The others followed, and found themselves underneath the Compound.
Sixty years ago, when the first of the huge buildings were being built, much thought had gone into how to heat them during the winter. With no power for central heating and no desire for such equipment anyway, much thought was given over to the problem. But one of the founders, Joshua Klink, Robert Klink's father, was a historian, and he proposed a variation on an ancient Roman design.
The buildings were all built with false floors; not one of them flat with the ground except for the livestock buildings and a few of the shops. Under the floors was an insulated space of maybe a foot at some points to almost four feet at others. Into this space flowed air, hot air, provided by furnaces sunk into pits around the buildings. Normal convection kept the hot air moving, and the air would heat up the floor above, which would in turn heat the rest of the building. Private fireplaces in each residence took up the slack, but generally, the buildings were heated from below.
After a little fine-tuning, it worked like a dream.
It was into one of these crawl spaces that Lilly and her friends brought the wolf, and they quickly found a spot where they were assured of complete privacy.
"This is insane!" said Donny.
"Shut up," Lilly replied. She grabbed Donny's pack and dug around in it until she found some rope.
Carlo, who was shedding his thick fur jacket in the heat, stopped to look at her. "What are you doing?"
"I have to tie him up. We can't have him wandering around down here."
Carlo looked on in horror as Lilly fashioned a loop and placed it around the wolf's neck. To his utter amazement, the wolf just sat there, not minding the rope at all.
"That guy HAS to be domesticated," Donny said, and he moved forward to pet him.
The wolf instantly growled and showed his teeth until Donny backed off. Then it was back to normal.
"Seems he only likes you," said Donny.
Lilly looked at her friends for a moment, then focused on Saffy. "Saffy, why don't you try to pet him," she said.
"I don't want to."
"Please, just try. Please?"
Nervously, Saffy moved forward and held out a hand, ready to snatch it back at a moment's notice. She got closer than Donny got, then closer than Carlo had gotten, and still the wolf did nothing. Saffy moved even closer, and was shocked to see that the animal allowed her to come right up to him. She began to pet him, and got a lick on the face for her trouble.
"I guess he just doesn't like guys," Lilly said simply.
"Somebody must have trained him to react like that to men," Saffy added.
Carlo and Donny said nothing.
"Okay guys," said Lilly, tying the other end of the rope to a handy brace, "we need food and water down here, pronto. Also, something to clean him up with, and some bedding, too."
"I'll go," said Saffy, "I don't like it down here anyway."
"I'll go with you," added Donny. He looked at Carlo. "Someone would prefer that he be down here with you, anyway!"
"Hey, I didn't mean it like that!" Carlo said.
Donny grinned, and he left, crawling after Saffy.
Lilly began to shrug out of her winter outerwear; it really was warm under the floor of the hut. "You can go to if you want. I'll be okay."
"No," said Carlo. "If you're here, I'm here. Just because he likes you now, doesn't mean he'll like you later."
"Okay," Lilly said simply. She started to pull off her thick fur pants, and Carlo admired the long, graceful legs that were revealed.
Lilly was wearing a simple leather dress under her outdoor wear, under which was just her loincloth. Once she was out of the furs, she started to pull off her dress, and stopped. It felt odd undressing while alone with Carlo, very odd. It wasn't as if they hadn't seen each other's bodies before. They had grown up together, and had probably spent as much time as kids together naked as dressed. The two of them had even seen each other naked recently, in the bathhouse. But there had always been a lot of people around, and it had felt completely normal to both of them. But here, alone, it felt odd.
Lilly dropped the hem of her dress, and decided to suffer the heat in it. She looked over at Carlo, who had shed his own coat and fur pants, and wondered if he was feeling the same thing.
Along with his winter furs, Carlo had also slipped off his shirt. He still kept his trousers on, though, and in fact was thinking along the same lines Lilly was. He had noticed her aborted attempt to take off her dress, and decided not to comment on it. Right now didn't seem like the time to talk of the things he wanted to talk about.
Instead, he and Lilly sat in silence, the wolf lying between them, and
waited for their friends to return, the wolf staring only at Lilly.
That evening, Lilly did her usual duty in the community kitchen with her mother, but her thoughts were on the wolf. The spot where she had hidden him was close to the apartment she shared with her parents, and accessible through a trap door in the floor. That meant that she didn't have to go outside to get to the wolf, which made things easier, but she still worried about it being alone down there.
Carlo had finally convinced her to leave after she had bathed the long cut in the wolf's side, and she had reluctantly followed her friend out and back into the Compound proper.
She wondered what she was going to do with the wolf; could she really keep its presence a secret? It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, but now that she had time to think about it, she was scared of being caught. Her dad would go nuts!
She hoped her friends would honor their pact and not talk about it to anyone, but Lilly had already broken it herself.
There wasn't a thing she hadn't told to her best friend, Catherine, and she wasn't about to start with this. So, when she saw that Catherine was also working in the kitchen, Lilly got her alone for a few minutes and confessed all.
Catherine shook her head, impressed with the seriousness of what Lilly had done. Catherine was the levelheaded type, practical to the core. She saw a whole host of problems ahead of them.
"You will help, won't you?" Lilly asked her.
Catherine was also as loyal as they came. "You know I will."
Catherine's promise had buoyed Lilly's spirits for a while, but as the supper rush began, Lilly again began to get worried. She kept expecting someone to come into the Great Hall with news of the wolf they had found in the heating spaces. She knew she had to calm down.
As she worked at slicing some cheese, and the community gathered for the evening meal, she caught the eye of Carlo, sitting with his family at one of the larger tables.
Carlo was looking at her, and Lilly felt herself beginning to blush. She was in the standard uniform of the kitchen staff, just her loincloth, and again had the uncomfortable feeling that she wasn't wearing enough. It felt stupid to her; there was nothing wrong with the way she was dressed, yet with Carlo watching...
He winked at her and gave her a warm smile, which made her feel better.
Lilly smiled back.
Down in the darkness, two eyes opened. Sleep had done wonders, and so had the warmth and the food.
He stretched, an extra special stretch, and clumsy fingers worked at the knot in the rope.
It was time to explore.
End of Part 2