Excerpt from the new novel Wife of Lappidoth: A Mountain Tale. This book will be available soon in digital and print form. Stay tuned for publishing dates.
The dog's leg was open to the bone from its lower loin to its hock. Crystallized blood was already encrusted along the outer edge of the wound, while fresher blood still bathed the bone. Leah peered over the rock watching for signs of flight or signs of defense, but the wolfhound was nearly spent. Its eyes were beginning to glaze over with deep suffering. Leah knew that something needed to happen soon or the animal's life would pass. Leah decided to move and was near the wounded leg in an instant. She heard the low growl, formerly strong but now merely a shallow intent. The strong head moved toward her. The hound bared white and ferocious teeth as the beast used all the remaining strength to reveal the menace that could be. The strong neck shook for a moment and then the valiant head fell into the sod. Leah felt she could now begin. She carefully poured water over the wound permitting it to do its work. After the blood stains and scabbing were removed she tenderly put salve over the open flesh. Time was of the essence. Her pouch contained the most essential tools of survival, of those being a sturdy, sharp needle and substantial thread. Few would understand how essential these two things would be, but she knew. With them she maintained warmth and safety and her legs were not slashed from underbrush or lurking thorns. And with them she quickly stitched the raw edges of the wolfhound’s wound together.
The dog's breathing became shortened to gasps and a moan came from deep within his chest. Leah spoke gently and in low tones. "You must not worry yourself. I am here." Leah placed her strong hand on the side of the dog, closing her eyes to concentrate all of her senses on capturing the rhythm of a heartbeat. The coarse gray hair pushed up through her fingers as she pressed more firmly into the ribs. The beat was slow but strong.
The trees grew dark and gray against the evening sky. Leah took in their surroundings before she lost all daylight. She would need to collect wood for a fire this night. With no fear she bent close to the great head of the hound. "Do not give up. I am with you. I will not leave you. I must make a fire to keep us warm." Leah felt relief as the warm breath eased in and out of the immense, black nose. Leah set to her tasks quickly. Protection and heat were essential if they were both going to survive until daybreak.
The fire crackled to life with sharp bursts of the kindling. Leah was patient to let it come to full flame before setting the wood onto it. She was thankful to see the fire work its influence on the bark and then the meat of the fallen limbs. An erratic circle of light spread out around them. She paused for a moment to watch the chest of her patient. Although the breathing was still shallow the chest was rising and falling now more rhythmically. There was ample time to set things up for the remainder of the night. She made a place to sleep near the fire where she could easily watch the dog. Sitting there she ate her cold food, thankful she had enough for a day or two. She was content that her purpose for the day had been fulfilled. Rising to stretch, she drew near the dog and placed her hand on its side again. It was alarmingly warm to the touch. She carefully stroked the side to the haunch speaking lowly with each stroke. "You will be all right, great one. We are in this together." Kneeling down, Leah exposed the wound. The flesh was red hot and swollen. "This hurts, I am certain of that. But it is necessary to bring healing. Breathe deeply now." Leah carefully poured more water over the wound. Four more times she repeated this ritual, each time speaking softly to the wolfhound. She covered the stitches with sticky salve again and then with leaves. "This will keep it clean," she whispered. "Now rest."
Leah stretched out near the fire. It was an unusually clear night. She marveled at the stars as if she were seeing them for the first time. It was always this way. Wonder was one of her traits. She would sleep for a while then waken to care for her charge. Just before sleep she ruminated about the clean cut of the dog's wound. It was the wound of a knife skillfully and deftly used. She hoped she would never meet the person who did this.
Leah awoke to deep snarls and groans. She listened before moving and registered that the sound came from across the fire. The coals glowed brilliantly but not enough to see beyond them. Cautiously she rolled on her side to put more twigs into the coals. Quick and sharp flames jumped high enough for her to see the dog sleeping in the same position, but its teeth were bared while its eyes remained closed. She listened closely again to be certain that there were no other beasts or persons nearby. Relieved that it was still just the two of them, she got up and renewed the fuel for the fire.
Leah moved near the hound and scanned its entire body. The chest was still moving as it should. If it could stand it must come at least to her waist. The bristly hair shot heavily out of its lower jaw like unkempt chin whiskers. Its deep chest rose upward into shallow withers and forged into powerful haunches. It was neither little cared for nor poorly fed. Leaning down she checked the wound again and replaced the covering of the leaves. She stroked the strong side of the hound. "I believe we are going to make it. I believe we will."
Dawn opened with another opportunity, and Leah wakened wearier than most mornings. Tending the fire and the wolfhound had captured a good deal of her rest. Turning her head toward the dog she saw that its front legs were up and it was trying to clean its wound. As Leah sat up the great head turned toward her, not in alarm but in acknowledgment. She watched it work for some time. The leg was apparently still too tender to move, but she took heart that the dog was moving. She knew it must be thirsty. She filled a cup with water and with a stick slowly pushed it toward the dog. It stopped for a moment, a bit of its tongue resting between its lips. It blinked twice and returned to its effort of cleaning the wound. After a few moments the large muzzle turned toward the cup and hovered over it and a snort of hot air shot out. One great paw lifted over the cup and pushed it toward the other getting the cup beneath its chin. It looked carefully at Leah again, blinked and then began to drink.
Leah enjoyed the sounds of lapping water, grateful that there was enough strength for the dog to drink. Beads of water clung to the hair on the long jaw and became jewel-like in the morning sun. Soon all resources were expended both in the cup and in the hound. The hound slowly lowered itself down again and with a great sigh closed its eyes. Sleep returned as the great healer.
Copyright M.R.HYDE 2011