((NOTE: Anything bracketed like this <> is Easterner, not the common woodlander language.))
He trembled under her fingertips for a moment or two, and then fell still. Still, but not dead. Mei could detect the steady, weak thump of a heart under her hand, and he was, miraculously, somehow, still a little warm. If she didn't get him in soon, though, he'd die of exposure before any of his wounds did him in. "<not that="" i'd="" let="" happen,="">" she promised, speaking softly in her own language.
Carefully, Mei lifted his arm and wrapped it over her shoulders. She pulled him forward, wrapped her own arm around his lower back, and groaned as she slowly shifted from kneeling to squatting, and then finally, unsteadily, standing upright, holding the ferret up with her. She was small, and strong, but he was heavy and as awkward as a bag of sand, and he drooped over her shoulder.
As she was about to start steering him towards the steps and into the cottage, a door squeaked open and a sleepy voice called out "<mama?>"
"<derry,>" Mei huffed, starting to half drag, half carry the unconscious ferret. "<leave the="" door="" open="" and="" go="" unroll="" one="" of="" extra="" matresses,="" right="" by="" fire.="" our="" new="" guest="" is="" very="" cold.="">"
From the porch, Derry watched his mother hobble into view and start to slowly heft a soggy, beaten-looking male of some sort up the porch steps. His eyes got huge and he shrunk back from the door a bit, before peeking out again. " <is he="" dead,="" mama?"="" asked,="" curiousity="" getting="" the="" better="" of="" him.="" they="" often="" saw="" travelers,="" even="" in="" colder="" seasons,="" but="" never="" one="" so="" badly="" injured.="" <br="">"<no,>" his mother strained, her breath coming in little puffs as she made her way up the steps, one at a time. "<but it="" would="" be="" nice="" to="" keep="" him="" that="" way.="" hurry!="">"
Derry scooted in, and by the time Mei was in the door way of their cottage, he had rolled up their mattresses and blankets, and had put one of the extra ones they kept for travellers to rest upon as close to the hearth as he dared. There were a few thick blankets staked along side it, too, and he was feeding the sleepy embers kindling, bringing it back to small flames. He had even thought to bring the lantern over, a fat beeswax candle inside already. Even with her heavy load, she smiled. He was a good boy, her little Derry.
Mei staggered in with the ferret, dripping water and huffing with exertion, and made their way to the bed. Gently, slowly, she kneeled and supported him in a sit with one arm while the other hand worked to get his soaked, muddied cloak off him. Once it was flung away, she lay him down and for a long moment, just sat there, letting her body rest as she looked him over. It was a small relief to see that a little of his color was returning. But that wouldn't be enough, so she stood with a groan and went to the kitchen, where a massive cabinet sat against one wall. She opened it, sighed softly, and gathered an armful of dried herbs and bandages and little clay pots of salve. Almost as an afterthought, she reached in passing and caught the kettle and a small cup in her other hand. "<derry,>" she called, her voice brisk but trembling from the cold water she hadn't shaken off yet, "<light the="" candle="" in="" lantern,="" please.="">"
He jumped, from his position near the ferret's feet, watching him wide-eyed. He was unsure, she knew. She was unsure. Never had anyone come to them like this, almost dead from cold beaten to a pulp. But she could help him, fix him, and she would.
The better part of an hour later, she fastened the last bandage and sat back, surveying her work. In the end, she had to cut his tunic off, and it and his other belongings sat in a neat pile by her side. He smelled of herbs, and she had to wrap his chest tightly, for fear that the bruises there were accompanied by cracked ribs. She had cleaned the blood and dirt from him, and now he smelled of herbs and salve, things to promote healing and kill the pain and ward off infection. With a deeply exhausted sigh, she ran an hand though her still-soaking hair. Now all that was left to do was wait.
She stood, went to her wardrobe, and pulled out clean clothes for the day. As much as he'd disrupted her morning, she needed to get it back on track. She still had a child to feed and chores to do.</light></derry,></but></no,></is></leave></derry,></mama?></not>