The Viking (Chapter VIII, page 1 of 6)

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They went to see about it at the same time for the sad whimper of a dog was a sure sign it was hurt. But when Stefan finally found it, it was not a dog but a gray wolf. Just as he parted the bushes and saw the animal lying on its side hopelessly tangled up in twine, bushes on the other side of the wolf parted and he was face to face with a boy not much younger than he.

Stefan nodded and then pulled out his dagger, "I say we cut it free."

"I say we kill it," the boy said. "Many's the lamb who will not be sorry to be shed o' that one."

"This wolf? This precise wolf? Have ye any proof?"

"'Tis a wolf, what more proof are ye need'n?"

The animal's eyes were wide with fright and Stefan felt sorry for it. "Even a wolf has the right to survive any way it can and this one has cubs somewhere."

"Aye but…"

"We kill lambs for food too, should we be put to death?"

There was little the other laddie could say, though he did wrinkle his brow. "If I help ye free it, do ye pledge not to tell my father?"

"I do."

The boy knelt down, struggled for a moment to get a firm hold on the wolf's mouth to clamp it shut and then held its front paws while Stefan carefully cut the twine away. They stared at each other, then when the boy nodded, both he and Stefan let go and quickly moved away. The scared wolf scrambled to its feet and darted through the bushes toward the river. Then it stopped and looked back at them for a long moment.

"Ye are welcome," said Stefan. With that, the animal ran down the river bank and out of sight.

"I am Diarmad from Clan Macoran."

"I am Stefan…"

"I know, we have all heard. Is it true there be a giant in the north that be slow o' wit?"

"Aye." Stefan had a feeling he was about to get trapped in his lie and decided to head home.

But Diarmad quickly caught up. "When ye go north again, may I go with ye? I would see this giant."

So would I, Stefan thought. "'Twill be a long time afore I go back."

Diarmad was disappointed. "But when ye do, will ye take me?"

Stefan stopped and looked at his new friend. Already he was much taller than Diarmad who had the famous light skin and red hair of the Macorans. Nevertheless, he had blue eyes instead of green and a warm smile. Stefan hesitated to agree to take him north, but decided a lot could happen before then and he probably would not be held to his promise. "Aye."

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