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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Tales from Virdura: Wolves

William walked into the kitchen just as Kathryn was serving breakfast. He kissed his wife Kathryn on the cheek and sat down, hanging his head in shame.

“What's wrong, papa?” Jeremy, the eldest son.

This made William feel even worse. He was not the children's father. Their real father, Marcus, had been an evil, abusive man who had tried to frame him for killing the children's favourite cow. That had been a year ago. He couldn't believe it had been that long since he had stood in the queen's court, facing allegations that he had had no idea about.

He sighed. “Wolves, my boy,” he said. “I have been up for many hours before dawn protecting our stock, trying to ward them away. They have taken three of our cattle this week, and I fear it may be a losing battle.”

Kathryn bent down and placed a plate of bacon and eggs on the table in front of William. “Have you considered going to Jacob with this? I really think we ought.”

“Jacob's the constable of Virdura Castle, my love. And there's been no crime. I wouldn't want to waste his time; besides, what does he know about wolves?”

Kathryn sat down at the table, and began eating her own breakfast, when there was a knock on the door.

William rose to his feet and opened it. In the doorway stood Jacob, holding his hat in his hands against his chest, looking very concerned.

“Constable, what seems to be the problem?”

“There's been an accident, sir,” said Jacob. “Young Master Thomas, from the farm opposite yours. He has been mauled by a wolf, on your property. He has been rushed to the healer.”

“Oh dear,” said William. “That's terrible! Is he going to be all right?”

“It seems so, sir,” replied the constable. “But it could have been worse. Those wolves on your property are becoming a real nuisance. You should really consider doing something about them.”


***

"Be vigilant, boy," said William to Jeremy. "These wolves could attack at any moment."

The moon was high in the night sky, and the two could hear night-larks in the distance. Jeremy brandished his pitchfork.

"Don't worry, papa. We'll get them. No wolf is going to take any more of our cows. As I live and breathe, I promise you that.

William smiled and ruffled Jeremy's hair. Brave young boy, he thought. First his cow is murdered by his own father, and now the wolves. He's had a hard life.

“It is strange though,” continued Jeremy. “I've never heard of wolves stealing cows before. Sheep, yes. But never cows.”

As William was about to respond, he heard a snarling sound from behind him. He turned, just in time for a snow-white wolf to leap into him, knocking him to the ground.

Jeremy screamed as William tried to fight off the wolf with his arms. The animal's jaws locked around William's forearm, and the blood flowed. The boy took courage, and charged at the wolf, pitchfork in hand. He ran the beast through.

The wolf yelped and then fell silent; Jeremy followed through with the pitchfork, pushing the beast off of William. The man sat up and cradled his arm. The blood seeped through his fingers and onto the ground.

“Papa, are you all right?” said Jeremy. “We need to get you to a healer!”

“I'll be fine, son,” said William. “Wolves always hunt in packs. The others must be close.”


***

Fully two hours later, there was still no sign of any other wolves, which William found strange. What was also strange was the fact that he was beginning to feel very sleepy.

“You're very pale, papa,” said Jeremy. “I think we should go to the healer.”

“I'll be fine,” said William. “I just need to... lie down... for...”

“Papa!” Jeremy screamed. But no response came from William. The boy got up, and ran as fast as he could for the healer.”

***

William opened his eyes, slowly. He looked down at his arm, and saw a clean white bandage on it. Looking up, he saw Kathryn and Jeremy, smiling down at him.

“Where am I?” he asked.

“You're at the healer's,” replied Kathryn. “You gave us quite a scare. Jeremy said you passed out.”

The memory started rushing back. “It's thanks to Jeremy that I'm still alive,” he said. “The boy killed a wolf, all by himself!”

Jeremy blushed. “It was nothing,” he said.

“We searched every inch of the farm,” said Jacob, stepping forward. “We found no other wolves. It seemed as though that one was hunting alone.”

“Strange,” said William. “They always hunt in packs.”

“Indeed,” said Jacob. “Perhaps the one that you saw was a loner, but you'd best keep an eye open anyway.”

“Yes,” said William. “Or perhaps it wasn't a wolf at all.”

* Image from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dmuth/8176793116/










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