“The Wolves of Evanheir: Pt 3—Healer”
“Hello, Asthore. Welcome among us. I am Aod, son and advisor to Llyr and Cuini. She is gone, we know. Llyr, please, let Asthore help you! We need you with us!”
“My son, is the bowman back among his people?”
“Yes, father, but he is of no consequence here!”
“Aod, tell me that he was not harmed by any of you! You were merely to drive him off!”
“He is fine, Llyr. His blood he spilled himself. He tried to put another arrow to his bow when we turned on him, and in his haste to run, stabbed himself in the arm. You are not fine!”
“Asthore, can you help him?”
“The arrow is deep, next to his heart. Removing it will be risky, but, yes, I can try…IF he will let me. It is his decision, Aod.”
A collective howl came then from the pack. Asthore’s mind was flooded with their pleading with her and with Llyr.
“Enough, my children, my friends,” came the rueful command from the fallen wolf.
“All right, Asthore,” Llyr acceded. “I doubt there is enough time or enough strength left, but go ahead if you will.”
The Queen of Evanheir shuddered then at the flooding emotion of responsibility that came over her. Gathering herself, she knelt again at the huge black wolf’s side and drew her healer’s bag to her lap. From the pouch she selected a packet of herbs, a vial of sticky salve, and a roll of gauzy linen. From her right boot she drew the razor sharp hunting knife sheathed there. It was not the broad-bladed weapons favored by men but a fine thin piece of steel, more filet knife than butcher’s blade. With it hovering close above where the arrow’s shaft protruded from his barely rising chest, she spoke to Llyr:
“You must be still, King Wolf, despite the pain, or you may indeed slay yourself. I must probe with my knife as the arrow is drawn out so that the barbs don’t do more damage. Hopefully I can guide it out and not make it worse.”
“Do what you must,” Llyr replied. “The pain is what it is.”
Sprinkling the herbal powder around the wound, Asthore explained, “This may help somewhat, but it takes a while to be fully effective, and I don’t have that much time.”
She almost smiled at what was obviously a mental shrug from her patient, and then set her face grimly for the task ahead. Aod and the pack gathered around. They seemed to send her strength and reassurance as well as simply warm the space with their bodies.
Her knife in her left hand, Asthore reached for the base of the arrow, then carefully inserted the tip of her blade. With her eyes closed in concentration, she looked with her healer’s sense and the fine touch of her hands to guide the blade down the shaft until it reached the steel arrowhead. There she paused and took a breath and realized that Llyr had not even whimpered. “I’m all right,” she heard him say. “Go on.”
Her right hand tightened slightly on the arrow and gently began backing it out of the wound. The left hand, controlling the thin blade of her knife, eased the backward-pointing barbs away from muscle, sinew, and bone. Finally the resistance ended, and Asthore opened her eyes to the bloody arrowhead suspended above the gaping wound.
Quickly she sprinkled more of the anesthetic powder into and around the wound; then spread some of the healing salve over it. This would help the wound to close as well as provide some antiseptic properties. Next she made a compress of some of the gauze, placed it over the hole in Llyr’s chest, and wrapped the rest of the linen around him, digging a bit into the snow beneath him to get it all the way around. She tucked the loose end into the wrap to hold it securely.
With a sigh, Asthore turned to Aod and the pack, and said to them and her patient, “Now you must see that he is fed, has water, and is kept warm. Do not let him try to get up or even move about too much for several days!”
“Thank you, Asthore,” said Aod. “We will take care of him, and I’ll lie down on him if he even tries to get up!” he said with a wolfish grin. The other members of the pack sent her their silent thanks, as well. Then, as one, they seemed to bow before her when she stood to stretch stiff muscles.
“I must return to the castle and see if I can explain my absence without too much trouble. I intend to find the hunter who has done this damage. Although there is nothing I can do for Cuini, I will see to it that the young man pays for this crime against you. He should know this is not allowed, and even more that it is just wrong!”
Aod nodded and said, “I know we put quite a scare into him. His bow and the rest of his quiver of arrows were scattered down the mountainside in his haste to get away from us. We harried him clear to the meadow near the stable. He won’t be hunting anything for a while.”
“Well, I plan to use this as a reminder to everyone of the laws governing our relationship with all of the creatures of my kingdom.”
“I will return to check on you, Llyr, as soon as I can.”
“I think it is safe to say that I will be here, thanks to you,” said the great black wolf. “Thank you, again. I look forward to your return.” With that he seemed to finally give in to the strain and the anesthetic and fell into a peaceful slumber.
* * * * * *
“The Wolves of Evanheir: Pt 4—Wolf Tongue”
Aod took over and stationed two wolves to curl next to Llyr for body heat, and assigned two more as sentinels at either side of the amphitheatre. The rest of the pack he charged to hunt for food for all of them, but mostly for Llyr. Then he turned to Asthore.
“I will go with you as far as the meadow.”
“We will have to see how Ivy abides your company, Aod,” Asthore replied.
“Oh, she won’t mind,” said the wolf. I will speak to her and let her know I mean no harm. She may be a bit skittish at first, but she will warm up to me. I’m a very likeable fellow.” Again she saw that grin and knew he must be the pack’s joker as well as King’s Counselor.
Ivy did, indeed, accept the wolf’s company. Asthore had gotten somewhat used to speaking with the wolf and was reminded then of how strange it was. She asked Aod about his conversation with Ivy and why the horse could not communicate with her in the same way as the wolves.
“Ivy is merely a horse,” he said. “I speak with her in the language of animals. We of the mountain pack are a bit more than just wolves, as you have already gathered.”
“And how is that?” Asthore wondered. “And why isn’t this known to us? Why have I been honored to learn this secret?”
Aod stepped ahead of Ivy and, blocking the path, sat down and looked up at Asthore. “I think it must be time for our paths to cross in more ways than one,” he said.
“Llyr’s conversation with you shocked us all. We have not been able to communicate with men until today. Our world must be changing. According to our stories, long, long ago we, too, were once a race of men who lived in the mountains. It was a time of ice and cold the world had never known before. We were perishing because we could not withstand the cold, and food was becoming too scarce.”
“Then the leader of the pack—the clan then—led the people into a cave he happened to discover. It is a sacred place to us still. It was warm inside, and more than because the twisting entrance blocked the howling winds and snow. Water was there, seeming to rise from the floor. They had carried in as much food as they had and all of their belongings. In the shelter of that mysterious cave, they knew they were safe for a time, and everyone eventually slept. The tale does not say how long that sleep lasted. I doubt anyone ever really knew, but when the people finally woke, they were no longer men. Each one had been transformed into a wolf, larger than any they had ever seen before, and able to speak in the language of wolves, but also in the thought-speak with which we have been able to converse with you today. The transformation saved them and saved the pack. We are better equipped for the cold and snow of the high mountains, and better hunters,” he grinned.
“I think this is a revelation that I will keep to myself for a time. I need to think about how my people will react and what is best for you and your kin,” Asthore thought both to herself and aloud.
“You are wise, my queen,” agreed Aod.
“Aod, why do you…and Llyr as well…call me your ‘queen’? Cuini was your queen, not I.”
“You are Queen of Evanheir, correct?”
“Then we are your subjects, too. Llyr is called ‘King in the Mountains’ because the pack and the other animals follow him, but you are ruler of all Evanheir. We have been aware of you, felt your care for all of your subjects, even when we could not speak with you. The pack has been with you since you first dared climb the mountain paths. Your heart is open, Asthore, and you are well-loved.”
From astride her mare, Asthore bowed to Aod. “I am honored by your deference, Aod, and hope to continue to earn it. I think my people and my pack may benefit one another greatly, but I have to figure out how best to make that happen. Some of my people will not understand this at all.”
“Agreed. Remember that we are here to help and yours to command, my queen.”
“We are almost at the meadow. I will leave you here. If we need you, you will hear us call. Come back to the mountain as soon as you can. I am still fearful for Llyr. I am not ready to lose both father and mother.”
“Oh, Aod. I am so sorry for your loss. I heard and felt the pack’s grief the other night.”
“Tonight you will most likely hear us again. We will survive, but we must bear our grief, as well.”
With that he turned and trotted back the way they had come, his great brush of a tail sweeping low behind him. The great white wolf soon disappeared as if swallowed by the mountain itself. Asthore reined Ivy toward the greening meadow, the lower altitude already starting the progress to spring. The mare picked up her head at the promise of her warm stable, a bucket of oats, and a good brushing. The queen, meanwhile, was lost in her thoughts and plans for dealing with this new situation.