A Good Deed Done

an excerpt



ChapterOne

Moving carefully through the forest, Conner hesitated, listening intently. He was sure he'd heard a sound. A soft, pained, whining sound. He wasn't far from the trap he'd set to catch a rabbit, but this sound came from something much bigger than a rabbit. He hefted his weapon, a stout blackthorn stick, and crept forward.

From behind a thick bush, Conner carefully parted some branches and peered into the clearing ahead. His trap was in sight, a rabbit in it, but it was the young, black wolf lying nearby that made the pained noises.

The wolf raised its head and struggled to lick at its side where its fur was matted. Conner guessed the poor beast had hurt itself in some way. Easing the branches back into place so as not to startle the animal, Conner carefully made his way into the clearing.

He crooned softly as he approached the injured beast, hoping it wouldn't run away. However, it remained lying where it was, watching him. As Conner neared, he still couldn't see the cause of the wolf's problem, but the young beast was clearly in a great deal of pain.

Keeping a tight grip on his stick, he crouched by the wolf. The beast's head lolled to the side so it could look at him, but the creature didn't growl or try to bite him. Conner deemed the wolf to be a young male. Crooning a lullaby, he ran his hand gently over the area the wolf had licked, and parted the lush, dark fur.

A soft exclamation escaped him when he saw the cause of the wolf's distress. A wooden barb was buried in its side. Conner winced. The wolf must be in agony, and yet bore his touches.

"The barb has to come out, boy. As gentle as you've been, I can't trust you not to bite me." Conner murmured quietly as he drew some twine from his spliuchan. He was pleased he'd worn the pouch. It held many small but useful items.

Tying the twine carefully around the wolf's jaw, Conner smiled at the beast licked his hand and remained docile as the twine was tightened enough to keep that dangerous maw closed.

Taking a small knife from his spliuchan, Conner cut the barb from the wolf's side. The beast shuddered and whined, but made no attempt to stop Conner or try to escape. Conner was certain the beast had almost given up the will to live because of the pain.

Once the barb was out, he cleaned the wound as best he could with a torn piece of his jerkin and the water he carried. He cut the twine from the wolf's jaw and offered the beast some of his water which it lapped from his hand.

Although it hadn't been his intention to stay out overnight, he was loathe to leave the wolf while it was so weak and helpless. Looking around, Conner decided the clearing was sheltered enough to spend the night. He left the wolf while he gathered wood for a fire, then lit it with his tinder box. He was close to one of his snares and Conner made sure the fire was safe before hurrying to check his trap.

The trap held a good-sized rabbit. Conner took his prize back to his impromptu camp and skinned the rabbit. Once his pieces were being roasted, he took the rest to the wolf. The beast ate all he gave it without snatching and after another drink of water, closed its eyes.

Once his meat was cooked, Conner settled against the bough of a tall tree to eat. The sky darkened as twilight progressed toward night. Conner checked that the fire was out, then ambled away to take care of personal necessities.

On his return, he settled against the tree and pulled his cloak tight around him to ward off the chill of the night. The wolf seemed to be asleep and Conner smiled on hearing the occasional snore or snuffle from the beast.

The night passed swiftly and when Conner opened his eyes, he saw the wolf slowly rise to its feet. It padded back and forth for a moment, deciding whether or not it felt happy enough to move. It trotted to the edge of the forest, stopped, and looked back at Conner.

While the wolf had been pacing, Conner had also risen to his feet. He felt a pang of sorrow that the wolf would leave, and yet he knew the beast needed the freedom of the forests, not the confines of Conner's farm. "I'll miss you too, my handsome man. But life on a farm sure is not the life for you."

The wolf's head tilted from side to side as Conner spoke as if weighing his words. It came toward Conner, stopped, then reached forward and licked Conner's hand. Conner ruffled the thick fur the wolf's head, marveling at its softness. "Maybe we'll meet again, bonnie boy. But for now 'tis best you go home. I've tarried in the forest long enough."

The wolf ducked his head and trotted into the forest. Smiling, Conner grasped his stick and headed home. Since the death of his mother last winter, he'd managed the small farm on his own. He hummed to himself as he walked, an old proverb his mother had taught him ringing in his head. "Blessings are won by a good deed done."