The Wolf shook his head rapidly from side to side as if trying to dislodge a dream stuck in his ears. When that didn’t work he laid on the ground and pawed at his head. Eventually he leapt to his feet, threw back his head and howled the invading pain that was clogging his nostrils and his mind. His feet were moving before he’d even finished, following his nose to the source of the pain, to the exposed roots of a large tree where he found an owl. A small, tawny owl with brown feathers with a hint of red. The Wolf couldn’t tell if it was blood or natural colouring. It lay on its back, tangled in the roots, one wing stretched out, broken and lifeless. The Wolf sniffed and licked the Owl, searching for wounds that did not exist. The Owl’s heartbeat was faint and limping.
The Wolf cocked his head to one side, turned in a circle, sat back down and became a boy.
“Shhh,” he cooed, gingerly picking the Owl out of the roots. “I’ve got you.”
The Wolf whispered songs of healing over the Owl all the way home.
The Wolf made a nest in the corner of his bedroom, set the Owl’s wing, slipped into wolf and licked the Owl clean again. Whenever he could the Wolf would lie with the Owl, offering his energy to aid the healing process. The miasma of pain clung to the Owl’s feathers like dandelion fluff.
The Wolf was putting away groceries when the Owl finally woke up. There was a faint hoot and a groan, and when the Wolf got to the bedroom he found not an owl but a boy with brown hair and a red beard on the floor, surrounded by reddish-brown feathers.
“Hello,” said the Wolf.
It took the Owl two tries. “Hi,” he finally managed. The wolf disappeared briefly and returned with a glass of water.
“Here.” He waited for the other boy to drink. “How do you feel?”
A look like a storm crossed the boy’s face that made the Wolf’s vision jump in time with his heartbeat and the air become thick to breathe.
“Okay,” was all he said. “My…” A cough. “My arm hurts… it feels… tender.”
“You broke it.”
The Owl looked up sharply. “How long have I been here?”
“Not long. Two days.”
“Well, your wing was broken, anyway,” he says, staring at the boy.
The boy looked back at him sharply; his eyes narrowed. “My arm doesn’t feel broken.”
“It’s not. Not completely.”
“You just said it was.”
“What? How is that even..?”
The Wolf smiled. “You’re not the only one who knows a little magic.”
“Oh,” The boy suddenly realized he was naked. Before the blood could creep up his cheeks the Wolf was holding out a dressing gown. “Help yourself,” he motioned to the wardrobe and the chest of drawers. “I’ll be in the kitchen. Are you hungry?”
“I’ll make food.”
The Wolf laughed. “A vegetarian Owl? Okay. No meat.”