The Wealding Word

The Wealding Word by A C Gogolski Page B

Book: The Wealding Word by A C Gogolski Read Free Book Online
Authors: A C Gogolski
Rawley shot forward, knocking the beast away.
    They faced off, Rawley giving his fiercest snarl, but the grumlin was hardly intimidated. It came at the dog with practiced ease, knife stabbing low. Nell winced to hear her pet yelp in pain. Rawley foundthe creature’s leg though, grinding his teeth into fishy flesh. The grumlin made an angry gurgle, lurching to free itself, but Rawley held on. The notched blade was raised high to finish the job when Peter’s voice rang out from the trees, “Og! Go-mlash to-klee!”
    The creature hesitated, checking its stroke and allowing Rawley an instant to stumble back to Nell’s side. Wide, saucer eyes darted about, trying to take in Peter more clearly. Why was this old human using its language?
    “Er, pardon,” the hermit stammered. “Need to check something.” He stooped to shuffle through a pile of worn volumes in his bag. In horror Nell realized that, rather than food, supplies, or weapons, the whole sack was crammed with nothing more than books.
    As the grumlin stared at the old man, Rawley mustered his strength for another attack. “Stay Rawley, stay!” Nell pleaded, but her friend slowly edged toward the creature, leaking blood with every step. The grumlin waved its knife, flicking its red eyes between the border collie and Peter.
    Rawley knew well enough to keep out of reach this time. They came to an odd impasse while the hermit tossed more books onto the leaves. Rawley could not get past the blade, and the grumlin seemed genuinely puzzled, waiting to hear Peter say something else. After a few tense moments, its patience ran out. It suddenly uttered a series of grisly syllables that might have amounted to a question. The sound of the grumlin’s speech was like the wet crack of crab shells. It filled Nell’s mind with the desolation of the sea.
    Peter gave a weak, “Erm…” in reply.
    The creature spat another bitter word at him, but they could now hear hooves pounding through the forest, and the grumlin seemed to feel that this strange trio was not worth the effort. Fins behind its head slapping violently, it sprang away toward the trees.
    “Here it is,” Peter said at last, producing a small book, “My Vodyani Grammar!”
    Danger past, Nell ran forward and clung to Rawley. “You saved us!” She buried her face in his fur. When she brought her arms away, she found her hand was smeared with blood. The dog endured her fawning with a strained look. Drips of red splattered the leaves, but there was little Nell could do.
    Looking up from his book, the hermit laughed triumphantly, “Go-mash to- klas ! ‘We mean you no harm!’ I accidentally told him: ‘We mean you no pork.’ Well, it worked anyway!”
    Nell ignored his mirth. “What else is in your bag?” she demanded. “Do you have bandages?”
    Peter’s smile faded and he shook his head. “No. No bandages – just books. And it’s lucky I brought this one,” he said defensively. “Ah, it’s been too long since I brushed up on my Old Vodyani. I can almost taste the sea on my lips.” It didn’t seem to register with the old man that Rawley had been wounded. Perhaps it didn’t matter to him.
    Nell put her hand over the tiny puncture that was leaking so much blood. She tried to coax the dog to lie down so she could press the sleeve of her coat against his side, but nothing would stem the flow. At that moment Nell knew she was truly cursed: stuck with a useless old man and powerless to help a dying companion. She sobbed in frustration, leaning her head on Rawley’s soft fur. Stroking the dog’s neck, she murmured soothing words to him, feeling the fast thump of his heart. When she looked up, however, three riders on horseback were speaking to Peter. The hermit pointed in the direction the grumlin ran, and two of them galloped off through the trees. The third swung off his mount.
    “Nell!” he cried. “I found you!” She knew the voice immediately: it was Edward, her friend from the castle.

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