A chord of aching compassion sifted behind Ira’s chest. He unfurled one hand slowly, reaching out towards the lonely creature under the wagon. With a pout and limp, it fell back over itself. Ira drew his arms to his core for warmth and sighed.
“How long have you been here?” He cast a half-attended glance to his side, maybe looking for somebody. An owner possibly, or someone that might be able to help. They were alone, so he returned his attention to the young beast. It was longer than his arm and slender like a crystal river, smooth tufts of hair gathering where scales were absent. Ira stirred. Between its dainty paws and the mercury glow of its eyes, the fledgling creature gathered old thoughts of a runt hound from his youth.
But this was hardly a hound or even a mutt. Something in its build reminded Ira of a gargoyle, or one of those spirits from his father’s library.
It whimpered something low and rolling, scratching its broken claws into wet earth. Ira pursed his lips and settled both knees into the mud. Whatever it might be, it was hurt and made the distinct cry of having been betrayed. A sound shared by men and beast alike.
Fumbling in his coat pocket, Ira broke off a chunk of stale butter-bread. The rain reached down and made it soft. He extended the supplement until the whole of his arm was beneath the wagon, his cheek against its hardwood carapace. For a long minute there was nothing, but soon after, something nuzzled his fingers and lapped the food from his hand. It tickled. Ira dipped his head under the carriage to watch his new friend lick up the last of the bread. “I don’t want to leave you here,” Ira fell back on his haunches and cast his head low, “But I don’t know where to take you.”
Curious silver rings peered back at him, now suddenly interested, but resilient in wariness.
“I would never hurt you,” Ira said. He did all he could to keep his tone soft and distinctly motherly. “But words are fickle, aren’t they? Like water.”
To his surprise, the young creature moved closer, one leg damaged enough that it could only drag. Ira eased back into the rain, providing a space for it to join him. The gargoyle’s eyelids flittered as the rain came against them. Several deep lacerations crept along its sides, staining the surrounding fur in a blood darker than oil. A swell above one eye seemed to be in advanced stages of healing, but that was the best of it.
Reciting the importance of caution to himself, Ira made clear for the beast that he was a friend, and then reached out until they were touching. It purred meagerly and let him run fingers along the scales of its crown. “I’m sorry.”
The gargoyle rustled its jaw and came closer.
“I’m so sorry. Please forgive us. I forget how cruel we can be.”
If the creature acknowledged or understood any of Ira’s words– which it may, he couldn’t be sure it didn’t– then it would be a hideous deed of him to abandon or send it away. Ira was dirty and unwanted even among his own kin. What could he offer? If it came with him, it would die before the week closed. There was no home with warm hearth-fire to greet them. No quiet place that was safe from the rain.
Perhaps sensing his own conflict, the gargoyle slid its head onto Ira’s lap and closed its eyes. Ira heaved a single dry sob and clenched both fists before laying his head atop the beast’s own. “What is your name, I wonder?” A rhythmic, throaty tremble came from the beast. A noise and feeling like a great cat’s purr. The rain bid forth with greater fury, crushing the wagon’s steeple. The collapse startled them both, and the creature looked back to Ira with a gaze of mixed pity and comfort. An idle wind tossed the rain slantways.
“I think I have something,” Ira grinned with a trace smile like honey, “Ysuna. Hmm? A Southern word. I think it’s religious. ‘Daughter of the rain’. How does that sound?”
As woefully inadequate as Ira felt most his decisions were, this one seemed right. Seemed strong and pure. The creature must have agreed, because it licked a frothy pink tongue against the flat of his arm.
Gathering the injured creature into a cradle, Ira made a point to avoid hurting Ysuna any more than she already had been. “Come on, let’s get out of the rain,” Ira laid Ysuna on her better side, back against the inside of the wagon’s wheel. There was just enough room for him to crawl underneath the carriage and rest beside her. “We will rest here, and when the rain stops we will find someone who can help,” Ira stroked the beast’s brow, “Hold on until then, okay?”