Chapter Twenty Three
Chapter Twenty Three
He whispered taking a step forward. “It’s an injured wolf. I need to put it out of its misery.”
I glared at him at the thought that the poor beast was hurt and his only thought was to kill it. I wasn’t having that at all. “You will do no such thing!” I exclaimed with anger and stepped around him. He grabbed my arm trying to pull me back. I jerked out of his hold.
“Tis a dangerous beast lass. Now get ye back.” He whispered as he tried to catch my arm again.
“I will do no such thing.” I walked slowly towards the wolf. He was lying on his side his back to me, his head up slightly with forlorn big yellow eyes. I could see blood across the silver coat of his side. I continued to step slowly towards him.
“Morgan get back. Ye can no trust a wolf.” Conall was beyond anxious. He knew the wolf even in a state of injury could attack with strength.
I ignored him and continued my approach cooing to the beast. I had never seen a wolf before. He was huge, his body as long as mine, and so beautiful. “There, there you don’t have to be afraid of me. I’m not going to hurt you. You poor thing. Have no fear I will not hurt you.”
The wolf made no move to attack or bare its teeth. Conall kept calling me to get back. I continued to ignore him. I knelt down still cooing at the wolf. I suppose I should have been afraid but I wasn’t. All I could think of was how much pain it was in. I could finally see what had caused so much blood on his coat. An arrow was lodged in his side.
“Look he’s been shot with an arrow. We can’t let him suffer like this”
“Aye that is why I need to put him out of his misery. It will be quick lass.”
I looked at him with disdain. “You are not going to kill this beautiful creature.” Conall let out a frustrated sigh. I began my cooing again and moved my hand very slowly to the animal’s shoulder. His fur was soft and warm. Still the wolf did not growl or look in any way as if it would attack. I kept stroking his fur, it laid its head down on the ground. “Conall we have to get the arrow out, now.”
“Lass if’n ye try he will attack ye.” Conall pleaded.
“No, he won’t” I said calmly. I didn’t know why I knew that. I was sure that the beast meant me no harm. I moved my hand up to his head and continued to stroke him. He didn’t move. “Conall I will keep talking to him while you pull the arrow out.”
“Lass I can no do that, he will bite ye!”
“Conall do as I say. He will not bite.”
“Well if’n he takes a mind to separate ye heid from ye body, then don’t say I didnae warn ye.” Conall laid his dirk on the ground next to where he crouched beside the wolf mumbling God’s blood as he did so. He gingerly laid his hand on the fur close to where the arrow was.
“Lass as soon as I pull the arrow out, he is going to turn on ye. I canna risk it.” Conall was worried. The size of the wolf’s jaw was big enough to take Morgan’s head in one bite. How she had gotten this close to it amazed him, but to try and pull the arrow out would cause insurmountable pain. An injured beast was a dangerous beast.
Morgan was still cooing to the wolf as one would a pet. This was however, no pet, it’s teeth were as long as his fingers if not more so.
“He will not attack Conall, do it now.” I uttered reassuringly.
Conall took a deep breath. He knew this was the wrong thing to do. Slowly without taking his eyes from the beast took hold of the arrow. The wolf moaned but did not move. As quick as he could he yanked the arrow out. Still the wolf did not move, and still Morgan continued to coo at it.
“See there now the nasty thing is gone.” I murmured stroking the wolfs head. I felt a heat and something like a light electrical charge emanate from my right palm. The Cailleach said I could heal. Was this how? With my hand? I moved my hand over its body to where the arrow had been, holding it just above the wound.
Closing my eyes so I could concentrate, I prayed to Mother Earth for the ability to heal this beast. With no idea if it was going to work it felt right to be doing this, as if I had inbuilt instructions suddenly merging to the surface. I still had my eyes closed when I heard Conall’s familiar exclamation, Gods blood.
I opened my eyes to see Conall’s face had paled. He was staring at the wound on the animal. When I looked down the wound had gone. I don’t know who was more surprised me or Conall. I took a deep breath not believing what I had done. “See now my strong boy your wound is all healed.” I cooed again.
The wolf’s head lifted, and he licked my hand, as if in thanks for healing him. I wonder if the wolf knew somehow that I could do this and that is why he had remained still.
Conall got up and walked backwards slowly. “Lass come away now.” He still held is dirk in hand just in case the wolf had a change of mind and decided to attack.
As I rose the wolf rose to, coming to stand by my side. I looked down at a pair of yellow eyes. Patting him gently on the head I took a tentative step towards where I had been sitting under the tree. Not from fear of this mighty silver animal, but so I didn’t frighten him with sudden moves. To my surprise the wolf padded along with me. Conall stood with a look of utter shock on his face.
Sitting down to finish my biscuit the beast also sat. Breaking my biscuit in two I gave him a piece which he took gently from my fingers, and laid down to eat it.
“I think ye have made a friend.” Conall said nervously. He leaned against a tree a distance away, not wanting to relinquish his dirk. He didn’t know what to think, never in his life had he seen such a thing. Not just the lass’s ability to heal the beast, but how the wolf had allowed her to get as close as she did, without attacking her.
“It would seem so. He is just thankful I think because he is healed now.” I was still stunned that I had been able to do it. It felt natural though as if I had been doing it my entire life. Why I had thought to invoke Mother Earth in the healing I had no idea, but again it felt natural. Was all this hidden in me somehow? It was somewhat frightening and yet at the same time exhilarating.
“Lass if’n ye have finished we have to go now. The beast will go find it’s pack. So ye no need worry about him now.”
The horses were restless and shifted uneasily. They were skittish with a wolf so near them. I patted the wolf’s head one last time before I got up. I walked over to the horses and stroked my hand down each of their necks. They settled quickly glancing at me as if to say I trust you. I turned to see the wolf still sitting under the tree watching me.
Conall lifted me into the saddle and we left the area at a slow walk. We were soon cantering once again over moors of heath. Slowing down when the terrain became boggy. My hand was still tingling with sensation and I felt delighted with my new-found ability. I wondered if I will have the same feeling when I discovered how to use my earth ability as well. I still was not sure what it actually meant or what I could do with it, only time would tell.
Conall rode just slightly ahead suddenly pulled back to ride beside me. When he caught my attention, he pointed to my left. In the distance on the rise of a hill I could see the silver streak of the wolf as he kept pace with the horses. He was far enough away so the horses weren’t spooked but close enough to see him bounding along.
I assumed that the wolf was either going in the same direction or he was going to follow for a while before dropping off to join his pack. Watching him move and jump over fallen branches was a wonderful sight. He moved with such ease and stealth one would never know that he was so badly injured only an hour ago.
As soon as the sun began to dip below the horizon Conall pulled up to a small clearing. “We will camp ere for the night. Would ye collect some firewood lass. With wolves in the area we need to be heedful and keep it going.” Conall unloaded the horses and tied them to a tree closer to camp than he would normally have done so.
“Are you afraid of the wolves Conall?”
“Nay lass just a healthy respect, tis all. No need to take chances though. Best ye keep yer bow close by.” Conall answered firmly. “I’d go hunt us a wee bit of dinner but I dinnae want to leave ye with….” He didn’t finish his sentence as a rustling of leaves came close by.
The wolf appeared with a rabbit in its mouth. It padded to where I stood with an armful of twigs and dropped it squarely on the ground in front of me. It padded back the way it came giving Conall a resounding glare as it passed him by.
“What the devil?” Conall grunted.
“Oh, look he brought me dinner.” I said happily and perhaps a little sardonically to Conall. It was obvious that he was still clearly nervous were the wolf was concerned.
“Aye I see. Well then I’d best be getting to dress it then.” Eyeing in the direction of where the wolf had padded off.
I assumed that dressing the rabbit meant he was going to skin and whatever else would be done to the little creature. As for keeping my bow at the ready, if we were caught by a dozen ravenous wolves I wasn’t sure if I could bring myself to shoot them.
Conall got a fire going before he took the rabbit to a stone closer to the trees, to do what needed to be done for it. returning to skewer it and set it above the fire on a makeshift stand.
When the rabbit was cooked he handed me half of it. I looked down at the hot scrawny piece.
“Just in case ye have forgotten its name tis Bugs.” he said as he handed me a bannock.
I broke into a fit of laughter. Looking up to see Conall grinning. After we had eaten he laid the blankets down. I sat cross legged watching Conall across from the fire sharpening his claymore.
I was deep in thought about what the Cailleach said about my abilities being Earth. How the hell did I used it.
“Morgan what has ye so worried?”
Letting out a sigh. “Earth abilities.”
“Oh, I see and ye are no sure how ta use it.” I shook my head.
Conall put his sword down and moved so he was crouched in front of me. “Lass how did ye ken to heal the wolf?”
Shrugging I said, “I don’t know, it just sort of felt right, as if I knew what to do.” That was what it felt like at the time, I couldn’t say how I knew it was as if I had always known, and I had suddenly woken up.
Conall tilted his head. “So do ye no ken that it may be the same with ye earth ability then? Morgan close yer eyes.”
I looked at him a little startled and wondered if he wanted me to shut my eyes because he was going to kiss me again. He nodded at me with a questioning look on his face. So, I closed them, was I supposed to pucker up for what was coming? Then glad I didn’t because he began speaking.
“Lass listen to the sounds around you, what can ye hear?”
I listened and the first thing I heard was the crackling of the fire. Then a bird or maybe it was a bat far away in the distance. I told him what I could hear.
“Anything else lass?”
“Then ye are not listening. Can ye no hear tha leaves rustling in tha breeze, crickets in yon trees.”
I still had my eyes closed and now that he said it I could hear them. “Yes, I can hear them.” Feeling pretty smug with myself.
I strained listening hard but I couldn’t hear anything else. I shook my head once again. I heard Conall sigh.
“I heard that.” I jumped in.
“Can ye no hear me breathing? An ye are still no listening.”
I opened my eyes a little annoyed at his tone. “Ok Mr smart ass, what can you hear?” I watched as he sighed again then shut his eyes.
“I can hear the trickle of water from a brook no too far, tha scurry of feet of a squirrel running up a tree, no doubt wi something fer it’s dinner. I can hear the wolf moving dirt, sticks and leaves so as he can lay doon fer the night, and the cooing of a deer. I can hear ye breathing and how ye foot just moved in the dirt a wee bit. Ye hands rubbing on yer pants and an owl ruffling its feather.”
He opened his eyes to my stunned expression. Damn he was good, not that I was going to tell him that.
“That is just the listening. Ye have ta feel them as well, ye have to feel tha energy of everything aroond ye. Connect wi it and draw from it. Right, now close ye eyes and try ta hear tha sounds then feel the energy of it.”
I closed my eyes once again and listened, I could hear more this time but I had no idea how I could actually feel their energy, but I tried nonetheless. Until I felt I was getting nowhere. I opened my eyes to another questioning look on Conall’s face.
“Let’s try something a little easier. Hold yer hands out palms up.”
I did as he asked and then he put his palms on top of mine, lightly so not as to push my hands down.
“Lass close ye eyes agin and concentrate on my hands on yers. Right now, feel the energy of my hands, like ye did with the wolf when ye healed him, but this time instead of pushing it to me, pull it to you.”
When I closed my eyes I could feel the heat from Conall’s hands searing into my skin. I wasn’t sure if it was energy I was feeling, it sure was something. The fluttering began in my stomach and I was sure I was sweating from his closeness. I tried to move my thoughts away from what his body was doing to me and focused on the energy from his hands.
I began to feel something else almost like a small dull electrical charge, similar to the one I felt when I healed the wolf. This time though I tried as Conall had said to pull it to myself. I felt it move along my hand and up my arm. Just as it reached my shoulder Conall’s lips touched mine as he had done at the inn. His lips so soft it could have been the wings of a butterfly.
I opened my mouth to his, hoping he would not stop as quickly as he had done so the first time. He brushed his tongue across the bottom of my lips before suddenly pulling back taking his hands from mine. I opened my eyes not believing he had done it again to find that he was moving back to where he had been sitting.
“You did well lass,” he said without looking at me. “Ye just need ta concentrate on doing tha same thing wi the things around ye.” He picked his sword back up and took to sharpening it.
I sat stunned that he had done it again, what is it with him? I wanted to scream at him. Ok two can play this game, I thought. I decided I would dismiss what he had just done, I will seek my own revenge, so look out Mr protector with your butterfly kisses, karma is going to bite your butt.
I kept my voice as business like as possible to show him I was over what had just happened. “When we were with the Cailleach it seemed you became upset, I am assuming over the dagger. Was there something you remembered about it that you didn’t say?”
He continued to sharpen his sword without lifting his head. “It wasn’t the dagger.” he finally said.
“Oh, then what was it?”
“It was ye wee pendant.”
“What about the pendant. Have you seen it before?”
“In a manner of sorts.” he put down his tool and sword and looked at me reservedly. “I’ve no seen yers but I have seen one similar.”
“Where did you see it” Now I was curious.
Conall looked very uncomfortable, shifting slightly were he sat as if he was sitting on rocks.
“In me saddle bag.”
“Say what? What do you mean in your saddle bag?”
He let out a sigh then went to his saddle bags returning with a black pouch. When he emptied the contents in my hands it was similar to mine. It was the other half.
“Hang on a minute. This is the other half of my pendant. Why do you have it?” He took the pendant from my hand and placed it back in the pouch. It was if he didn’t trust me to hold it for too long. He sat back down on his blanket.
“Conall, where did you get it?”
He sat staring into the fire, his arms resting on his knees and his head on his arms.
“The Cailleach gave it to me.” he mumbled
“When? I didn’t see her give you anything.”
“When I was five. She came to castle McLean where I was fostered. She sought me out an gave it to me then.”
“Why would she give it to you?” This didn’t make a whole lot of sense. “Why didn’t she say something about it while we were there?”
Conall shrugged. “I dinnae ken. When she gave it to me she told me it was part of another. When the two come together they formed the crois cheilteach, the Celtic Cross.”
“Well what does it mean?”
“She told me it was the dá anam.”
I looked at him questioningly waiting for him to explain what that meant. My patience grew thin. “And, that means what?”
“Two souls.” he laid down on his blanket with his arms behind his head staring at the night sky.
“That’s it?” I expected to have heard more of an explanation. “Two Souls?”
“Well, do you know what it means or would you like me to guess?”
“As you will.” replied Conall closing his eyes.
The infuriating Conall had struck again. If he didn’t want to answer you, he didn’t. This was just another annoying piece of information that made no sense at all.
The pendants made a Celtic Cross pattern and the meaning was two souls. Well that could mean anything or nothing. I had an idea though that it meant a great deal.
I remembered seeing in Harold’s jewellery window in Castle Cary town, two pendants that when brought together created a heart. It was advertised as a Valentine’s present for a couple. Surely the meaning of these pendants didn’t have the same annotation as the ones in Harold’s store.
Perhaps the two pendants belonged to my parents. When my father was killed his part might have been lost. The Cailleach found it and gave it to Conall seeing as he would become my future protector. That made more sense. I huffed as I lay down. Conall will just have to give it back to me then. When I looked at him he was sound asleep. I curled up on my blanket with the plaid over me and drifted off to sleep thinking of wolf, hearts, pendants, souls and bloody butterfly kisses.
Conall however wasn’t asleep. He could not do so with wolves or Brollachans about. He needed to stay awake, but let the lass think he was, so that she wouldn’t continue to ask so many questions. He was annoyed with himself for again kissing her, well sort of kissing her. His lips had barely touched hers but the tongue slide across them shouldn’t have happened. He thought it strange though that she had not reacted afterwards, which he had expected.
He was however, as confounded by the pendant halves as she was. He felt now that he should have probed the Cailleach more about the intent of them, deciding that if and when the mission came to an end he would visit Agnes on his own, to discuss it further.