Introducing the story’s hero-an Irish wolfhound
“Let’s get out of this chilly wind,” the Comte urged, setting Claricia on her feet. “Bonhomme has hot food prepared.”
“Wait!” Laurent insisted, beckoning to one of the men-at-arms who had accompanied him. “Cousin Gallien has sent a gift.”
The man came forward pulling a dog on a leash. It was a shaggy-haired breed Elayne recognized, Cù Faol, kept by King Dabíd for hunting wolves, but she’d never seen one so tall. Halting in front of Alexandre, the handler braced himself as the dog put its massive paws up on his shoulders, towering over him. The beast looked down lazily at the group assembled in front of him, his tongue lolling out of his mouth, as if to say, “See how magnificent I am.”
Claricia crushed into the Comte’s legs and he put a protective hand on her shoulder. “What kind of dog is that?” he asked. “He’s a monster.”
“A wolfhound,” the handler replied. “Don’t worry. He looks fearsome, but he’s an obedient dog. Wolfhounds are gentle, only becoming fierce when provoked.”
“We have dogs like that in Scotland,” Henry asserted bravely.
The dog lost interest in his handler and licked Henry’s face. The boy laughed, pushing the persistent hound away playfully.
The soldier handed the leash to Laurent. “Seems he likes the young lad.”
“I think the feeling’s mutual,” Romain observed.
Apprehension skittered up Elayne’s spine when Laurent held out the leash to Henry. “Think you can handle him?”
Henry beamed as he took the leash and led the dog with legs longer than his own to the doors of the Keep. Elayne let out a long, slow breath. Her son’s regal bearing reminded her of his grandfather.
Smiling, Alexandre took Claricia by the hand. Elayne’s throat constricted. It seemed he really cared for her children. That augured well for their stay.
As the group moved indoors, Henry grinned at a well-dressed boy standing at the open door beside Steward Bonhomme. He looked about the same age as Henry, and he returned the smile, gawking at the huge dog.
It gladdened Elayne’s heart. Her son had made a friend.