This story is by Dawn C. Munnings and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
“Goliath! You got out again, huh?” She laughed as she placed her fingers around the 120 pound deerhound and into his thick wiry red fawn coat hugging him. she said, “Well, I am glad. It is such a nice day outside. Nanny would not take me to the garden to sit in the sun. But she didn’t want to take me for a walk either.” She let him go and turned around to glance back at the dog kennel. No one was out looking for him yet. “So I decided to take myself for a walk. Great idea, right? I don’t know why I did not think of doing it before.” She patted the hound on his back. At the shoulders, he stood at two feet, ten inches. She continued walking to the old elm tree. “Looks like you got clean away as usual. Now I won’t be alone. This will be fun! Just you and me.”
Goliath veered to the left and bent his head to sniff around in the grass. He looked up at Fiona wagging his tail, so she walked over.
“What is it?” Fiona looked down where he had sniffed. She swept her foot across the top of the grass like she had seen George, the dog trainer do. She didn’t know why George did it but repeated the gesture anyway. Not being the most graceful, she tipped over and fell giggling to the thick grass. Goliath bent beside her and licked her face. “Hey! Cut that out, Goliath! Ha, ha. Your breath stinks!”
Fiona rolled over to her knees in a twist of cloak and skirts to stand. “What’s so interesting, anyway? I didn’t see anything. Do you want to follow it?” The dog suddenly took off running toward the meadow like lightning from a cloudburst.
“Wait for me, silly! I want to see too, you know!” Fiona picked up her skirts laughing and running as fast as her feet carried her. A dozen yards ahead, Goliath stopped and pricked up his ears with one twitching to the side, to listen for Fiona. He sat down to wait while she caught up to him.
“You are so fast Goliath.” She smiled, reached her right hand out and patted him on the head, and then bent over to catch her breath. When he stood up to travel on, she told him, “Now, Goliath. I am only little you know? You have to slow down. We have come a distance from the formal gardens and I am not familiar with this part of the castle grounds. I need to stick with you. Please do not go off without me. If we get to the point where I cannot see any of the buildings, I will not be able to follow.”
Goliath bolted forward.
“Hey! Were you not listening to me?” Taking a couple running steps, she tripped on her dress. Flailing forward to the back of one shoulder first, her petticoat skirts and feet followed over head to land flat on her back with her cloak covering her face. “Ow.” Getting back up, she looked down at her dress and brushed it off. Luckily it was just dirt without any stains. She looked up and Goliath was completely gone. “Goliath? Goliath!” Not seeing him return, she took a deep breath and screamed at the top of her little lungs, “Gooo-liii-aaath!”
She heard him bark to her left. “Okay. I’ll come find you! Stay where you are!” She hiked up her dress and started to run towards her dog, but now she could hear children yelling. She picked up her speed, sprinting over a small knoll.
Cresting the hill, she could see the front half of Goliath standing amidst boulders in the meadow beyond. He was baring his teeth at a group of children standing before him. Drawing closer, Fiona could see there were two girls and three boys. They were all older than her, taller. And their clothes were much dirtier. Their faces looked like they hadn’t bathed in weeks.
When she was halfway down the knoll, Goliath glanced at her. He barked wildly at the kids. The smallest boy also noticed Fiona approach. Pointing at her, he shook the arm of the tall pudgy boy who was yelling at the dog. The pudgy one stopped yelling, looked at her and then turned to the group standing beside him. Without looking at her again, they all ran deeper into the meadow.
Several feet away from the dog, she paused, bent over until her heart and breath eased. “Oh, Goliath. I’m so glad you are all right. I don’t think those children were very nice. Come, Goliath. We need to go back.” He didn’t move. What is it now? She walked to him pounding her feet to the ground. Fiona opened her mouth to speak harshly to him but something caught her eye amongst the rocks. A torn rag lay in a crevice between two huge rocks and a boulder. Turning to look at the rag more directly, she questioned the dog. “Did you smell those children? Or something in there?” She went over and bent to pick up the cloth, Goliath growled. She turned her face to him and asked, “What is that for?”
She picked up the scrap while Goliath continued to growl. It was squishy. A red drop of liquid splattered the hem of her dress. “Blood!” Fiona dropped it. “Goliath, where did that blood come from?” She ran her hands up and down and all over his body but found nothing. She examined his mouth, “Did you bite someone?”
Pulling his head away from her, he padded over to another piece of cloth and started to dig. Soon a shoe was revealed in the dirt. He nudged it with his nose, whimpering. Fiona walked over and pulled the cloth away from the crevice. Beneath, she saw a stockingless foot. “Oh! Hello? Those kids ran away. You can come out now.” The foot didn’t move. “Are you stuck? Do you need help? I’m only little but I might be able to pull you a bit.” Fiona gripped the ankles and the legs slid easily toward her. She pulled again and again until she had the whole body out. “There you go. You is out.”
They didn’t move. Fiona walked to the head, moving the shirt that had dragged over it. She jumped back in shock, seeing what was under it. “Ahhh!” The side of the face was covered in bruises and blood. Okay. Short hair. It is a very badly hurting boy. “Goliath, you saved him!” Fiona hugged him tightly around the neck. “Good boy, Goliath.” Moving back away, she looked down at the boy. “What do we do now?”
Goliath licked the child’s face, removing the dirt and blood. The boy moaned in pain. “Stop doing that Goliath. You’re hurting him. Let me think.”
Fiona walked around the length of his body with Goliath following close behind her. “Well, he seems shorter and slimmer than I am. I might be able to lift him but not carry him though. So I cannot get him to the castle that way.”
She walked back to his head and Goliath sat at her feet. “We have to get to the castle though for help. But we cannot just leave him here.” She copied her grandfather’s thoughtful look- one arm across the chest and the other hand scratching his sideburns. “I got it.” Goliath stood and wagged his tail while she took off her cloak and laid it next to the child.
“I am afraid this is going to hurt you some, little boy. But I got to do it.” The boy moaned as she gently dragged him over to the cloak, setting first his head, then his legs onto it. His entire body fit leaving a few inches for Fiona to grab on for pulling.
“Let’s try this out, Goliath.” The dog surprised her by using his teeth to tug the cloak. “Good boy, Goliath. Now let me try.” She took quick tugs to see if she could actually pull him along. “It will be a slow return, but I believe I can do it.” While she dragged him, Goliath picked up the bottom corner and carried it in his mouth. “Thank you, Goliath.”
Three quarters of an hour later, Goliath correcting her along the way, Fiona could see several dogs played next to the dog kennels. One of the dogs spotted them and ran in their direction, barking. “Now we’ll have help, Goliath. You’ll see. And I can tell how you saved him.”
Rounding the back corner of the kennels, George shouted to someone Fiona could not see. A small group of men joined him to see what the commotion was. One of them ran in the direction of the castle’s servant door, while George and two others ran toward Fiona.
When the men got to her, she stopped, put down the cloak, and stood tall, stretching. The dog trainer was the first to speak, “Where have you been, My Lady? Your family and nanny have been looking all over for you. Did you let Goliath out of the kennel?”
“No, George. He was…”
“Look! There’s a boy behind her!”
“He looks in right bad shape. I’ll go get the midwife from the village.” He ran towards the stables.
“We will take him the rest of the way, My Lady,” said George.
“Where did you find him?” the other man asked.
“Goliath found him somewhere over a little hill where the meadow starts. He was following his nose and I was following him. We may not have even been on the castle grounds anymore.”
The stable hand picked up the boy and cradled him in his arms. “You’d best not mention that point when you explain where you have been, My Lady. You might get into more trouble with your mum than you already are.”
“Of course. You’re right about that.” Fiona agreed hanging her head. Between being gone so long and my dress, she will be angry enough.
Fiona’s mother kept loudly asking questions of her with no pause. Finally, her father, Ecobo had enough.
“Aparna! Lower your voice. You are not allowing Fiona time to speak. No answers will be had that way.” Her father turned to face her and pointing to her ruined dress, asked, “Did you hurt yourself, Fiona?”
“No, I was not hurt. I fell down twice trying to keep up with Goliath. Though, now my shoulders and back ache something rotten.” She held her hands out. “And I got these sores on my hands on the way home. They is stinging.”
“Are. They are stinging, Fiona. The midwife may have something for those blisters. You got them from dragging the boy. Your shoulders and back are from dragging him too.’ Brushing dirt from her cheek he added, “You did well bringing him back with you to get help.”
“But why would you do it? Why would you not have come home first instead? This was not your responsibility, Fiona. In fact, you should not…”
“Aparna. I know why she did it. She has a big heart, leaving…” started Arkaan.
“Father, Aparna doesn’t know and needs to hear it from her. Go ahead, my little beauty, answer your mother.”
“He was hurt. Enough Goliath knew he needed guarding from those village kids. I thought about walking back to bring someone to carry him but I didn’t know the way since I had followed Goliath. And if he brought me back, that left no one to be with the boy if he woke up. Or to keep away wild animals.”
Ecobo asked his daughter. “How do you know they were village children?”
“I have not seen them here at the castle. Where else could they have come from?”
Arkaan smiled at her. “You are a very smart girl. You did the right thing in seeing him to safety.”