Once I Knew // Part 3
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For a split second, she wondered if he might be dead. In which case, what was one to do with a dead body in the woods? One did not simply report it to the local authorities. These days, misunderstandings with Kingsmen were too common place that they might just think she was responsible for the man’s death. Especially if he were one of their own.

A sudden movement on the part of the corpse made her gasp out loud. A moan escaped between the cracked and bleeding lips and with all hesitation leaving her body, she knelt beside the injured man and adjusted his oddly positioned head to a more comfortable angle that she was able to view the man’s wound better. His clothes were muddy and stained beyond recognition with holes and tears prevalent. His rather generous mop of hair was caked with mud, leaves and other forest debris, and matted to the back of his head with blood.

Untying her apron, she pulled it from around her waist and folded it so that the dirty side was folded in. She wrapped the rather generous piece of cloth around his head and used the ties to ensure that it stayed in place. She glanced over the rest of his long form to ascertain the extent of his injuries. Abrasions through the rips in his clothes were visible and when she caught sight of his left foot, she grimaced. It was twisted at an odd angle and a clear picture of what had happened came into her mind. He had lost his seat, whether he hit his head before or after that, but by the shape of his clearly broken and twisted ankle and the wounds and rips across his body, he had been dragged for some way. She glanced behind her at the stately horse who now grazed on forest weeds as if nothing had happened.

She bit her lip. How was she, a mere slip of a girl to get this rather long and lanky man atop a horst that she herself would need assistance to climb?

She glanced around the forest floor and had an idea. She gathered a few small but sturdy pieces of wood and used them as a splint for he man’s leg and then set to work.

Dragging the longest, straightest branches, she could find, she bound them to sides of the horses saddle. With a shake of her head trying to get her outspoken granny’s voice out of her head at the impropriety of it. She shut the voice out and untied, then stepped out of her skirt. The hem of her patchwork petticoat was muddy from the garden and the woods. She ripped out the seam of the skirt and pulled the gathers out until it was one long strip of fabric. She fastened it to the two logs extending from the horses royal crested saddle and formed a makeshift travoise.

Slightly out of breath from her exertion, she leaned her hands on her knees and took a few deep breaths. But she dare not tarry here. The sun was lowering while she had been hard at work and one never wanted to be caught in the Raintamount forest at night.

Tying the horse tight to the fallen tree that was wider around than three of herself, she didn’t want him spooking again.

It took a good bit of time and while she was strong, half-dragging, half-lifting a grown man even a short distance was strenuous at best.

With great relief, she succeeded and started on the journey home. The sun was just now casting it’s last rays over the forest floor and the thickening gloom and the growing chill and dampness made her skin crawl. They needed to get out of the forest.

Leading the horse and constantly checking back to make sure that her patient was still safe took longer than she expected and it was nearly pitch black when she reached the forest edge.

“Halt! Who goes there?” The gruff voice made her heart rocket into her throat.

To be continued. . .