Winter Rain, part 46

“Thank you,” I say, though it hardly seems adequate for the pain she’s saved me. “I don’t think I could have fixed it without—”

She waves me silent with her hand again. “Think nothing of it, youngun. We keep the old ways here, and Dugan has deemed you welcome.”

A high-pitched yip interrupts me as I open my mouth to ask. Startled, I turn in my chair.


There, beside the large hearth, is a tiny grey clump of fur and legs I cannot be near. Our eyes connect and he realizes he doesn’t know me. He drops his head and shows his tiny teeth, and growls.

In one tiny instant, in those tiny eyes, I watch all the goodwill they’ve extended us evaporate into nothing. I dart my eyes over to Dugan’s mate and as quickly as I can—but without any sudden movements—back up and out of my chair, away from him, towards the door. It’s still ajar. If only I can make it . . . . My hands up, I beg, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize . . . please forgive me, I had no idea—”

I steel myself for the vicious assault I’m sure will come. She won’t be rational, she can’t be—old instincts, I’ve threatened her infant.

But she bursts out laughing, instead.

“Orlaith!” she calls toward the back of the room, “come and get your little brother. He’s scaring our guest.”

She turns back to me, still laughing. “Be still, youngun. He’s small, but he’s a yearling. You wouldn’t have made it through the door, otherwise.”

Oh, shit. I laugh out a breath and suck in a few new ones. “I guess I’m still a little jumpy.”

“A little?”

We share a laugh as a young girl, perhaps three years old, steps around the hearth and picks up the pup. She looks at me, eyes steady, no sign of fear, and asks, “Who are you?”

Funny that I should be warier than her. I look over to Dugan’s mate. She nods.

“My name’s Tiergan. You’re Orlaith?”

She nods, as the little puppy squirms in her arms, and tries to lick her face. She tilts her head to one side, and says, “You want to hold him?”

I can’t help but smile—of course I do. I haven’t held a puppy since Conlan, and I was still a puppy myself. But she doesn’t realize what she’s offering. I shake my head.

“Go on, if you want to,” Dugan’s mate says.

I look over to her and she smiles encouragingly, and directs me towards her daughter—no, granddaughter, more likely—with her arm.

“You’re sure?”

She nods.

Orlaith crosses the dirt floor, holding the squirming puppy out for me to take and I step forward and drop to one knee to meet her.

I hold out my hand to the little guy and he sniffs at it nervously a few times, then seems to decide I’m okay—he licks my fingers with his tiny little pink tongue. It feels soft against my skin. I giggle, and smile into Orlaith’s eyes as she drops him into my hands.

“Thank you for offering,” I say to her. She eyes me quietly, and steps back.

“His name’s Morey.”

I pull him in towards my chest, and he squirms around in my hands. He thumps his little paws up against my chest, and cranes up to my face. “Well met, young Morey,” I say, and he sniffs at my breath, then starts licking at my chin. It tickles and I pull him a bit away, rearranging him in my arms against my chest.

“He is a bit small for a yearling,” I say to Dugan’s mate, and rub his little head.

“Aye. He was sick for a while.” She frowns for a moment, then continues: “We thought we were going to lose him, but he pulled through. He’s starting to grow again, but he’ll probably always be a bit small.”

I feel his wet nose against my right bicep, and I look down to find him craning for the wound. I cautiously move my elbow a bit closer to him and let him sniff at it. He sneezes once, then starts to lick at the sheen of still-forming scab.

“No, no, little one,” I say, as I pull him away from it. I hold him up and look into his eyes. “It’s a bit sore for that. Thank you, though.”

He sneezes again, and tries to lick my face again. I giggle and put him down on the ground. He wriggles around my feet, and tries to climb up my leg again. I reach down and rub him behind the ears and he drops down onto the ground and rolls over. He squirms quietly, licking and batting at my hand as I rub his tummy.

I look up to Dugan’s mate with a huge smile on my face.

She smiles back.

20 Responses to “Winter Rain, part 46”

  1. Thanks, everyone, for your patience and encouragement, waiting for this installment.  It should be back to normal schedule this week.  There are maybe one or two parts left in Chapter 4, and I’ll start planning ahead for Chapter 5, so there won’t be the usual gap. 

    Tangents was a limited success.  I’ll try to decide before next Saturday whether or not to continue them.

  2. Vercin says:

    I was really disappointed by this installment.

    After all the angst, I expected it to suck, hard. frown Try to do worse next time when you bother with the big long lead-up ;) The only thing confusing me was Tiergan’s expectation of an attack . . . I can’t see any sort of reaction on his part that would invite attack because a puppy growled. I don’t understand what he “didn’t realize”.

    Re: tangents . . . I don’t know your full metric for success, but if “reader enjoyment” is on the list, I hope you maxxed that part out. I thoroughly enjoyed the snapshot—it helped flesh out the world, and gave you the opportunity to address things you can’t easily do in the main flow of the story.

    P.S. “I look up to Dugan’s mate with huge smile on my face.” ?

  3. Hi Vercin — I shall try to make it suck harder next time.  ;-)  Actually, I deleted all of the original text.  This whole scene was written in the last 24 hours — the way it should have been. 

    I think I have to come to an important conclusion about writer’s block: it has little to do with the writing.  Probably an obvious point, but not so to me until the last few days.  It wasn’t that I was unable to fix the problems, it was that I was unwilling to.

    Thanks for the feedback on Tangents.  I was basing “success” on readership numbers and comments.  For the first month, readership was less than a third of the WR audience.  It’s up to about two thirds, now, I think.  I’m wondering if that means people don’t want to read short stories in pieces.  That said, I put more stake in the opinions of people who actually comment, so your vote will weigh considerably in my decision.  :-)

  4. Oh, and on the point of his reaction — certain things are off-limits.  Violently off-limits.  Like a strange adult (male, especially) wolf being around one’s very young pups.  Tiergan mistakes Morey’s small size for that off-limits age and fears the worst will happen.

  5. On the other hand, you can cheer up now — it sucked harder than you thought it did.  ;-)

  6. Vercin says:

    While that’s well-considered and sounds sensible, I don’t think there’s any reasonable way the reader will know all that the way it’s presented, unless I really missed something earlier. If you allow rewrites or clarifications, that would be a very good candidate.

    “Our eyes connect and he realizes his mistake” perhaps replace “his mistake” with “I’m no relative” or some such, and at the end of the paragraph, something about a well-founded reason young pups are kept away from other packs on pain of death. Anything that explains Tiergan’s “see cute lil puppy” —> “OMG I’M GONNA DIEEEEE!”

  7. I’ve made a few changes — hopefully it will clear things up.

  8. srsuleski says:

    I just read it and was quite confused, myself.  After they talked about him being a yearling I kind of guessed, but still since Tiergan had been welcome it would be their own fault to let a puppy near him (“Welcome to our home!  Beware of puppies!”) and I’d wonder what they hell they expected would happen, if they did indeed go apeshit on him.  Perhaps Tiergan’s too in the moment to think that through, though.

  9. srsuleski says:

    Oh, and I’m inferring from this that these creatures are born into wolf form and acquire the ability to take on human form.  (I’m getting an image of a human mother birthing a puppy and then trying to scrub it from my mind — which leads me to wonder if the mother has to be in wolf form the entire time she’s pregnant?  What happens before she knows she’s pregnant?  Wouldn’t changing in that time kill it? Questions . . . questions . . . )

    Also, seems like Tiergan wants to be a daddy.

  10. They are born in wolf form, to a wolf parent.  The ability to change comes later.  As for what happens during the pregnancy, I have some ideas, but I’m not setting anything in stone, at this point.  ;-)

    And you see, when I said I needed a few days for world-building, it all seemed so legitimate.  In future, I’ll just make decisions on the fly and hope for the best.  Grrr.

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