“The Escape of Motley’s Rose” – Chapter 2

by Aylya Mayze
© 2021 Wittily Writ Publishing

Chapter 2

Motley and I continued our silent conversations through the next days, weeks, months. He quickly became my best friend – an easy accomplishment since he was my only friend. Though he often disappeared for stretches at a time, he always returned and, when roses were blooming, I’d find them scattered on my paths or left in front of my cave. Funny thing was they seemed cut, rather than torn. I knew they were gifts from Motley, but I could not figure how he plucked them for all their thorns. I wondered, sometimes, if, when he wasn’t with me, he had found another human to help him. Another woodsie perhaps? There were many around, though I tried to avoid them.

Motley showed up sometimes when I was doing my chores – washing my laundry, digging a new latrine, sweeping out my cave. Sometimes when I was singing or swimming, I would look up to see him watching me. He would keep me company every-so-often when I went gathering, toting water from the stream, setting my traps, or when I was crafting, Most often, however, he came by when I went hunting, eager to help. What could be more natural for a wolf?

He showed me how to better track game, helped me assess a herd to find the easiest prey, separate it from its fellows, and corner it. He liked the chase better than the kill. Sometimes, only because of his massive size, he could leap onto the prey’s back like a cougar and snap its spine, or sometimes he could grab the prey’s snout and shake with such power he could break its neck, but more often he tore at it, ripping legs and throats. He was vicious, doing what wolves do. I, with my knives, could give a swifter, easier death with less fear and pain for the prey. So, though I hated killing in general, I’d race him to the act as a kindness to the critter.

One windy, cool day in early autumn, on our sixth hunt together, this time targeting an aged moose that we had driven to near exhaustion, Motley caught a kick with his face and crumpled to the ground. I screamed and ran at the moose to scare it before it could trample Motley. It hobbled off while I rushed to Motley’s side, fearing he was dead. He watched me approach, and I thanked the Lord for his life remaining, but I could see the pain in his eyes.

“The prey?” he asked, silently.

“It’s wounded. We can get it later.”

“Something else might…”

“Hush! It’s you I’m worried about.”

He had not moved, and I feared maybe he couldn’t. Maybe his neck or back had broken. Maybe his ribs had punctured his lungs. I was no veterinarian, and I hadn’t a clue what I could do.

“What hurts?” I asked.

“My pride.”

“In your body, I mean. I’m afraid to touch you lest I make it worse.”

He didn’t seem to be struggling for breath. His lungs were probably intact. There looked to be blood gathering around his mouth, however.

“My jaw feels shattered.”

“Anything else?”

“That’s bad enough. I can’t open it or bite, which means I can’t eat or drink or defend myself.”

“We’ll figure out a way to feed you and I can defend you. Can I move you?”

“You think you can carry me?”

He gave a small grunt, as if he was laughing at me, then winced with pain.

“One way or t’other, I can figure it out. I’m strong. I’m just afeard of injuring you more in the trying.”

“I can walk.”

“Show me then.”

He growled softly. “What’s the rush?”

“There’s a storm rising. Don’t you feel it? If I have to make a shelter here, over you, then I have to start now. I don’t want to leave you long, but I’ll need to take that moose for our food, make a fire, bring some water…I’m carrying only a pan. I got no pot to boil the broth you’ll need. You’ll have to do with the moose’s blood – if I can find something in which to gather it and some way to get it in you.”

I could sense his displeasure at that thought. Motley was an odd wolf. When we hunted together, we split the kill. Our first hunt together I had given him his share raw, then cooked mine – only to discover that he preferred my cooked meat. From then on, I had cooked it or dried it for both of us before splitting. I never ate any blood. It says clearly in the Bible not to, for a critter’s spirit is in the blood. So I hadn’t fed any to Motley either, but I never thought he would have minded it.

“It would be better if I could get you home,” I said.

“Your cave?”

“Yeah. Even if we leave now, we might not outrun the rain. Then I’ll have to come back for the moose, before he finds a worse fate with that torn leg of his.”

“You can’t carry him all by yourself.”

I shrugged. “I’ll take what I can and leave the rest for others, but I have to get you safe and healing first.”

I could fashion a travois from branches that could make it home. With a quick butcher I could probably pack most of the good parts of the moose on that and drag it myself. In fact, I could do something similar to drag Motley if I needed.

Motley pulled his feet under him and struggled to rise. He whimpered in pain as he moved his head, then fell back.

“Wait a moment,” I said as he was about to try again. I took off my jacket and top so I could unwind the long piece of cloth I used to bind my breasts. “Let’s see if this will work.”

“For what?” he asked, his gaze fixed on my naked breasts.

“To keep your jaw as still as possible.”

I wrapped his muzzle shut then kept wrapping around his head to hold his jaw stiller yet, while leaving his eyes uncovered.

“How does that feel?” I asked. “Tight enough?”

He didn’t answer. He just kept staring at my breasts. It was beginning to make me uncomfortable. I slipped back into my shirt, which was one my da had used to wear. With my breasts now loose and jiggling all over, the shirt fit a bit weirdly, pulling at places it hadn’t before, and my jacket couldn’t close properly. The shirt was white, a light bleached cotton spun thin and woven for summer, so when it got wet it would likely go transparent. If we got caught in the rain…well, luckily there was no one to spy.

The wrap seemed to help Motley’s pain. As soon as he gained his feet, he was off.

“Wrong way!” I shouted after him.

He glanced back to me and I got the picture of the wounded moose in my mind.

“For heaven’s sake!” I swore.

“I want my meat!”

“You can’t even eat it.”

He paused, to allow me to catch up, then said, “He’s hurting.”

Of course, that got me, as Motley knew it would. The thought of an animal in pain was more than I could bear. I knew Motley was in pain too but, if he really preferred to deal with the moose first, so be it. It was a kindness to the critter, for sure.

It was drizzling as I butchered and packed what I could on my makeshift travois. I could hear thunder in the distance and the wind was already growing wild.

“Pack one for me too,” Motley told me.

I ignored him. No way was I letting an injured wolf pull a travois.

The storm broke full upon us only half-way to home and, soon after, I found myself slogging the travois through mud.

Motley cut in front of me to stop my steps.

“How can I help?” he asked.

I had been thinking about the points of the travois where it met the mud of our trail. It was just branches bound in a V shape, the angle at my shoulders with pointed legs dragging the ground and the meat tied to cross bars that firmed its shape. The legs scraped the ground only a bit when the earth was dry, but now they sunk deeply into the mud, creating massive friction. If we could afix something to widen the bottom, spreading the weight over more of the ground, it would not sink so much. The wide parts of the moose’s rack would be perfect for the job, I knew, but it was a beautiful rack and I didn’t want to break it for such a purpose. I’d been arguing with myself, trying to find a different way, telling myself that my strength alone could be enough, but clearly it was not. If I couldn’t get any of it home, what mattered the rack anyway?

I shrugged off the straps of the travois and went to examine the problem. The moose’s rack was a large one, weighty, and wide. I had already sawed it off the head so I could leave the heavy skull behind – minus the pluckings of course, for which I had carried bags. Measuring with my eye, I realized that I didn’t have to break the rack. I laid the rack on the ground so that it curved up and away from the earth, then placed the travois legs upon it. It was a perfect fit, as if God, Himself, had planned it just for this. I bound it together and continued on, the travois now sliding better over the mud instead of sinking into it.

“Genius,” Motley said, padding along behind me.

Not genius, I thought. Only stupid that I had let my own stubbornness stop me from doing it sooner.

By the time we reached my home it was deep night made darker by storm clouds. No moon nor stars could be seen. We were both soaked through, as though we had been swimming for hours, and we were shivering in the cold wind. Motley looked especially miserable, his head hanging low and his tail dragging. The pain of his jaw was getting to him, I knew.

I had to unbind the moose’s rack to make the travois fit through the narrow, low entrance to my cave. It was a bit of a tunnel that ended at a hidden door I used to keep out critters and such. From the outside you couldn’t see the door, which is important when you’re hiding out. You want a cave to look like any cave that might house a bear, a cougar, or any other fearsome critter.

I went in first, dragging the travois behind me. I expected Motley to follow me and didn’t think on him until I had set the travois against the far wall of the cave and relit the fire in the vented fireplace my da had built. Only when the firelight brightened the room did I realize I was alone in it.

“Motley,” I called. “Come in!”

All I heard in answer was the crackling of the fire.

I rushed out to see my friend slowly moving away, into the night.

“No you don’t!” I yelled.

He startled and looked back.

“Get yourself in here. Now.”

He padded back, silently, toward me.

“I promised to feed you and defend you,” I reminded him. “I don’t want to have to do that in the storm. Come in and dry by the fire while I cook a stew.”

I made him go first so I could sweep our tracks from the dry dust in the cave entrance. Inside, I pulled out the sleeping mat that had been Ma’s and stuffed it with some fresh dried grasses I had been preparing to refresh my own, then placed it at what I hoped would be a comfortable distance from the fire but close enough to warm and dry.

Next, I took a hunk of the moose meat and chopped it in chunks large enough to make them easy to strain. I tossed in onions, garlic, lemongrass, and carrots, with extra ginger and turmeric root as a remedy to pain. It worked with humans. I could only hope it would work with wolves. I set the pot to hang from a hook over the fire and turned my attention back to Motley.

The wolf was wandering around my cave, looking at the shelves and cupboards we had made, the books and things from town we had stored there, my spinning wheel, my pottery wheel, my loom, my paintings on clay tiles. As he approached my diary, laying open on my bedside table atop my Bible, I got nervous, for no good reason. Wolves don’t read. Besides, it wasn’t as if I had written anything shameful. The most shameful thing about it was that it was boring. I did have moments, though, where I was sad and lonely and wondering if my life was what I really wanted it to be, after all, and I wrote my feelings down with more honesty than I would have spoken them to any other.

“Come now, Motley, let me see to you,” I said, sitting on my chair at the table. He came and sat on his haunches, facing me. With us both sitting so, he was as tall as I was.

“Is the binding helping?” I asked.


“It’s wet, though. I want to take it off and dry it, and let you dry as well.”

I unwrapped it gently, trying not to move his head.

“It felt better with the wrap,” he said.

“I have a second one, for when I’m washing this one,” I told him, “but I want you to dry first before we put it on.”

He lay by the fire while I lit a candle and read to him from “The Jungle Book” – an ancient fiction by Rudyard Kipling about a boy who is adopted by a wolf pack. It had been one of my da’s favorites – so much so that he had not been sure he wanted to leave it behind. Then he reasoned he could buy another copy, it would add to the weight of his luggage to carry, and I might enjoy it, so he left it for me. The fact that he had left it for me made it dearer to me than it had been before. I read it again and again for his sake and came to love it for my own. Now I hoped, since it was about wolves, Motley might enjoy it too.

A strange thing happens when I read. I forget myself and all about me. I become part of the story. In fact, I become all the parts. I wheedled as Tabaqui, the jackal. I defended my cub with the fierceness of Mother Wolf, and purred power and wisdom as Bagheera, the black panther. When Mowgli, the man-cub, cried at having to leave the jungle, my tears choked my own voice so badly it was a struggle to read on.

“Why do you cry?” Motley asked. The question startled me. I had forgotten he was there. I held up my hand in a gesture telling him to wait. It was rude to stop a song, poem, or story in the middle. I finished the chapter then set the book aside and went to kneel beside Motley on his mat, so I could stroke his fur to see how much more drying it might need. He pressed his cold nose against my warm cheek, catching a tear that was still falling.

“This story is not real,” he said.

“All stories that come from the soul are real,” I told him, “even if the facts of them are not strictly true.”

The story had said that Mowgli, because he was a human, could stare down all the other critters. I looked Motley straight in his beautiful, green eyes, wondering if I could stare him down, but he was more than a match for me.

“Why were you crying?” he asked again, a sweet gentleness in his voice.

“Weren’t you listening? Those Mowgli loved as brothers were plotting against him. They would not even tell him of their fear of him and give him a chance to mend their brotherhood. They just wanted him dead or gone. He had been helping them and caring for them, but it didn’t matter. He was being cast out of his home – sent away from everything he knew and loved. That is a horrible loss. I think where you are, where you are born and raised, is a part of who you are. Adam, the first man, was formed from the earth by God. He was made from the place where he was set, and even named for it. “Adam” means “man of red earth.” If that doesn’t tell us we are formed from our places, what can?”

“Do you ever want to see any place else?” Motley asked.

I shrugged. “I guess so, to see. I’m likely curious enough to want to see every other place. I’d even take a peek at Hell. But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

I went to stir the stew and add some more ginger and spices for flavor. How was I going to get this in him, I wondered.

“Where’s your pack?” he asked next.

“I don’t have a pack anymore. I’m a loner, like you.” I added a sprig of rosemary and tasted the stew to see if it needed anything else.

“Where is the pack you were born to?”

“My pack that was is in town.”

“Which town?”

I frowned, puzzled by his question.

“Is there more than one?”


Of course. There was a whole world with many continents. I could draw the map from memory of the way it was now and the way it had been before the last two continental shifts, including not just the rivers and mountains and all, but also the bigger gathering places of humans, called “cities.” It was just, whenever Ma or Da talked, they referred to “the town” as if there was only one. I had thought maybe “The Town” was its name.

“I don’t know, then. Whichever one’s closest, I guess.”

“Why aren’t you with your pack?”

“Well, you know.” Then I remembered he was a wolf. What would he know of the ways of men? “The towns are full of humans, but also there are monsters.”

“Monsters?” He seemed shocked by the word. I wondered if he understood it. Perhaps wolves never talked of monsters. Then he said, “What are the monsters?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think either my ma or da ever saw one. They’re called “beasts,” which is only another word for critter. Critters can be dangerous but, if you know how to give them respect, humans can usually live with them. These monsters, however, are supposedly half human. I guess that’s the problem. You don’t know what to expect from them. And they’re powerful strong. With critters you have to know how to act to avoid getting killed, but when they’re a mix with men and you don’t know…it’s scary.”

“Then you learn,” Motley said.

“If you live long enough,” I agreed. “The thing is, they kill people. Apparently, lots of people.”

He was silent for a while, long enough for me to chop some more greens and add them to the soup. It was a shame I had no bread left, nor time to make more. But then, Motley couldn’t eat it right now, even if he were wanting to.

“Then why did your pack go there?” he asked suddenly.

“Why did they go to town?” I asked, having forgotten what had been said before. “It isn’t dangerous for them, only for me. It seems, sometime before I was born, the humans found a way to calm the beasts, sort of. They agreed to give them women. Kind of a human sacrifice. Every year all the unmarried girls who are old enough, or almost, are gathered and offered up. Then the beasts take whomever they want of the girls and no one sees those girls again. As long as the townies give them enough girls, the beasts won’t kill anyone for the following year. So, it is safe for my ma, because she’s married, and da and my brother, because they’re men. It’s just not safe for me. If I go back, I get sacrificed.”

“What happens to the…sacrifices?”

“I don’t know. Maybe the beasts eat them. Some say they rape them to make more beasts. I’m not sure which is worse. Anyway, when I was born a girl, my folks ran away to hide me out here, where, when I grew, I wouldn’t get taken and given to the beasts. They stayed with me until I was old enough to live on my own. Then they took my little brother back to raise him the rest of the way in town.”

“Is that why you dress like a boy?”

“I don’t dress like a boy!”

A picture flashed in my mind of me with my short hair, bound breasts and wearing my da’s clothes.

“I dress the way that’s best to get things done. That’s all. My da’s clothes are more practical than my ma’s and fit me better. Ma was a little thing. Making clothes is hard, you know. I use what I can from what they left.” I shrugged. “I just do what I need to get by.”

I strained the broth of the stew into a bowl and set it aside to let it cool a bit. I placed an old metal spoon nearby, but I didn’t think it would work for Motley since he couldn’t open his jaw. Seeking around, however, I found a small pile of hollowed out reeds I had thought to use for flutes. I hadn’t drilled the holes yet. Most were too wide, but one looked maybe thin enough. I also grabbed my hairbrush and comb and my second wrap.

“May I brush out your coat while the broth is cooling?” I asked.

If a wolf could frown, that would have been the look Motley gave me.

“Come now,” I said. “It’s dirty and matted. If I had more water in my barrel, I would bath you, but at least you can let me brush out the dust and tangles.”

“I hurt,” he said.

“I’ll be gentle,” I promised.

He sat up with a huff that sounded like resignation. I started with his body, avoiding his head. Bit by bit, I worked out the mats. He had bruises and scratches all over him that I hadn’t noticed before. Most of them I discovered by watching him wince as I pulled his fur. At last I could brush with long strokes from neck to tail. He shivered with pleasure and made a soft sound that was almost like a cat purring. I had never imagined a wolf would make a sound like that. Then, very gently, I began working on his head, stopping when I got near his jaw.

“There now,” I said, stepping back to admire my work. He was so beautiful! God had outdone Himself making this one. Now, it was up to me to keep him well.

I was right that the spoon could not work. Instead I used the reed as a straw. I sucked the broth part way up, then stopped the end with my finger, holding the broth inside the straw, until I could put it in his mouth through a gap in his teeth toward the back. The reed was a bit wide and it was hard to place it properly without hurting him. The first few times I tried, more came out than went in, but we finally managed to get his head tilted just right, without too much pain, and I think he started sucking it in a bit, so soon it was working. I got the whole bowl of broth down him, then offered him another.

“You haven’t eaten,” he noticed.

“When you’re done, I will. I want to save the meat in case I have to make more broth from it.”

Just when I decided he was dry enough to wrap his jaw again, he needed to go out. So did I, actually. Without me asking, he gave me my privacy and was waiting for me, laying on his mat, when I returned inside.

“Do you want me to read you to sleep?” I asked.

“I want to know why you have not mated.”


“You said the monsters you fear only take women without mates. If you mated, you could go to the towns and find your pack without fear of the monsters.”

“Maybe, but then I’d be stuck with a mate. It’s a high price to pay just to see them again – especially since, if I stay here, they know where I am and can come visit me as they please.”

“Have they visited you?”


Motley watched me silently as I stoked the fire and banked it against the night.

“Wouldn’t you like a mate?” he asked me as I was stripping down for sleeping.

“What for?”

“Most creatures do.”

“You know, in the Bible it says that man is not good alone. That’s why God made Adam a wife. She was meant to be his blessing. She made him good. But then, when the first man and woman had disobeyed God, part of the woman’s punishment was that she would crave her husband and he would rule over her. So, if you’re asking if I crave a husband, I guess so. But I know he’ll rule over me, and I know I’ll hate that, so I’m going to resist those cravings. There are plenty of other women to be wives. No one needs me.”

I knelt and, fingering my rosary, I prayed the prayer I had set for each of the roses and rose hips, inhaling the scent of each as I finished. One of the roses was for Motley, that he should be safe and well and soon find his perfect mate, intended by God, and start his family. I liked the idea of his pups playing in my forest. With any luck there might be at least a few as beautiful as he was. I added a prayer that he would heal quickly and perfectly. As I finished my prayer, with a sniff of the rose, I glanced his way and smiled.

When my prayers were all done, I checked on him one last time, asking if there was anything he needed, before I stripped off the rest of my clothes, snuggled under my blankets in my own bed and quickly fell asleep.

The talk of me mating had gotten to me, however, for in the wee hours I dreamed of a man, slipping into my bed behind me. His hands stroked my hair. He buried his face in the curve of my neck, his naked body pressed against my back, as his hand continued on to rise over my shoulders, down my side, dipping into the deep valley of my waist, then rising again over my hips. The scent of him made my skin tingle and heat almost to burn and my heartbeat wild, with my breath catching in my throat in small gasps and sighs. I loved being stroked so. His hand slid around to cup one of my breasts, his thumb playing with my nipple, sending waves of pleasure through me. Just as I thought I could stand no more for the thrill of it, he began trailing his hand in slow circles down my stomach, toward the place between my legs. I felt his heartbeat quicken and his breathing grow heavier the closer he got.

It was only a dream – a very nice one at that. I was tempted to let it continue, but my thoughts shifted to monsters who would rape me then eat me.

“You want me,” he whispered in my ear or in my mind, for I was dreaming and I could not tell. The deep, masculine sound of his voice delighted me.

He wasn’t wrong but…”I want no man to rule over me.”

“I want to be your mate, not your master.”

Was there a difference, I wondered.

I blocked his hand before it reached its goal. When he tried to go around, I caught his hand in mine and pushed it behind me, then moved until I was almost lying on my stomach. I felt him pull away with a sigh…or was it a huff, like a wolf makes?

I drifted deeper into sleep. Sometime later I woke and became aware that Motley had left his bed and joined me in mine. He was curled up against my back. It made me feel safe and protected. Whoever that dream man had been, I figured the wolf would keep him away.

In the morning, when I woke up fully, Motley was gone. In the dry dust in my entry, however, it was not only wolf prints I saw but also those of a shoe-less man. It had seemed only a dream but…I suddenly felt very vulnerable and alert.

Please comment on this chapter, while it is fresh, before proceeding to the next chapter. If you really cannot wait to read on, however, please let me know.

Chapter 3

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