The Werewolves' Story

Healer and Hunter: Chapter Three


Whether out of guilt for what he'd done or out of actual respect-- or some feeling of being lost and adrift, without his... pack-- it was fairly easy to convince Rythri to stick around rather than disappear again. Perhaps he'd been too long with the wolves and he missed his more natural, anari form, or perhaps he simply didn't think he had anywhere else to go, but he followed Zzandoren that day to the nearest farmstead meekly enough, wearing Zzandoren's spare set of clothing. The farmer took in their somewhat bedraggled, obviously wounded, and, by that point, tired and pained state and sent then straight to the warm, straw-filled loft of his barn with plenty of dinner. That Zzandoren, obviously a priest by his dragon scales, promised to see to the ailments of his wooly miiri in the morning before they left probably sweetened the deal for him quite a bit.

So the two of them spent the remainder of the day, and some time into the night as they were assured privacy once the sun set and the farmer and his family retreated to their farmhouse, talking about the curse of werewolves. Zzandoren only knew bits and pieces of the legends, and at least one of those things he'd known had already been proved wrong: that afflicted individuals only shifted during their particular moon's fully illuminated phase. Though Rythri admitted that he was forced to shift then, as well-- his particular moon was Iyan-Il, the Spirit moon, and due to rise full in another three weeks-- he could and often did shift at will other times. He actually said he didn't know which form he preferred, not really fitting in with either "culture", wolves or humans.

Also, Rythri took pains to explain to him, werewolves were not the mindless killers in wolf form that they were painted in lore. Rather, they were merely fairly intelligent animals with slightly more complex emotional reactions and some foggy memories of their lives as humans-- or anari, in Rythri's case. "With the pack, I tried hunting prey like I would like this, with hands and a bow," he said shamefacedly, as if this embarrassed him. "Only it never worked because I didn't have hands and a bow, and I could never figure out why."

"I expect that was frustrating," Zzandoren agreed sympathetically, though he really wasn't sure whether wolves felt frustration-- or if he could even really imagine what it would be like, instead of just politely humoring the boy.

"You have no idea," Rythri sighed.

More interesting, he noticed as night slowly fell and he neglected to conjure a light against the growing shadows, not wanting to startle the shy Rythri, was that he... didn't miss the light as much as he'd expected he would. The shadows weren't threatening, and he found he could see a little better than his normal, utterly human darkvision. Not much better, of course, but there was a definite difference, especially for things that moved, like mice rustling in the hay or an owl swooping through the loft's window into the night. It took him noticing that to finally notice that smells he'd already been accustomed to-- his herbs, his wooden staff, the faint odor of his own body and clothing-- and the obvious smells in the area-- barn, animals, Rythri's distinctive, woodsy scent-- were the tiniest bit sharper. Smells that he hadn't paid attention to before-- the straw, the gold scales in his hair, and the metal of his sword and dagger, even the distant scent of the forest-- suddenly actually were noticeable.

It took him a long few minutes after he'd made that revelation to get back to talking, aside from a brief, stuttered explanation to Rythri for his silence, to try and work out the various scents. That would take some getting used to. Thank the gods his hearing hadn't changed, too, or he might have been too distractible to get much of anything done. Rythri, for his part, merely watched and waited for him to sort it all out with a little smile, amber eyes glinting distinctly wolfishly in the dim light.

"I got a little bit of the smells, myself," he said once Zzandoren was ready to talk again. "Not much-- being a wolf makes them so much sharper-- but a little bit. I had pretty good hearing to begin with," he actually flicked a finger at his tall ears to illustrate the point, "so I don't know if that changed. No change in night vision, I'm afraid."

"Doesn't it bother you?" Zzandoren asked, a little shaken. He was more than a little unhappy at the change-- and wondering what else would bleed over from his new, unexplored, and slightly frightening "wolf side"-- but Rythri actually sounded wistful at the idea of being changed more. "Being altered like that, with no real explanation or even design?"

"Should it?" Rythri shrugged, still obviously unconcerned.

Zzandoren shook his head a little. Whether it was his age-- he was at least twice as old as the anari, probably more like three times-- Rythri's length of time spent as a wolf, or maybe even his own healer-priest training, Zzandoren was disturbed and Rythri was not. The anari did give him a sympathetic pat on the arm at his expression, though. "You'll get used to it. You'll get used to it faster if you shift," he added hopefully. He'd been trying to talk Zzandoren into trying a change ever since they'd left the stream that morning, and Zzandoren was having none of it.

"It's far too late, and we'll be up far too early," he said firmly. "Farmers rise before the dawn, and-- gods, the night's already much farther along than I thought," he realized, blinking up at the moons-- Ranin-Il, the Fire moon, and Shinan-Al, the Earth moon, both moving slowly towards fullness and one of them likely to be his moon-- and their position in the sky.

Rythri sighed. "Maybe tomorrow--"

"Maybe," Zzandoren cut him off. He was immediately contrite at his short tone, and Rythri's cringe back, and added more gently, "We'll see how long goodman Chaswer's miiri take, hmm? And how far we can get from civilized company."

"All right," Rythri said, guessing that he was going to put it off again and sounding disappointed. Perhaps it had been too long for him, and he'd forgotten the fear... or perhaps he'd simply never had that fear. Zzandoren didn't know, and Rythri seemed wild enough even without the wolf-like properties that it was probably possible, but he wasn't particularly looking forward to turning into an animal. What if he couldn't figure out how to change back?

"Let me just cast another couple healings," he said, turning his thoughts to more immediate matters, like the half-healed wounds that were aching just enough to be bothersome. "Then sleep, I think...."

As he ran his fingers briefly over the carvings in his staff that helped bring the words back to mind-- with everything going on in his head today, he felt like he needed the reminder-- Rythri, already on his stomach in the straw, craned his neck a bit to watch. Or really, more appropriately, sniff. Smiling a bit as he murmured familiar words over first his leg, then his shoulder, and finally his forearm-- the bites were the worst of the injuries; the ribs he had taken care of entirely that morning, and the scratches he could let heal naturally-- he let the anari watch. Or smell.

When he'd worked his first spells that morning, before they left in search of a quiet and isolated farmstead, Rythri had been startled by the magic, but hadn't asked questions. After the first couple, in fact, he'd leaned in curiously and sniffed, and now watched almost eagerly every time Zzandoren did a spell. At least he hadn't been changed so much that his goddess no longer recognized him, and he could cast the spells....

Slightly reassuring thoughts, at least. "Have you never seen magic before?" he asked, amused.

"Some, but nothing actually cast since I've was turned," Rythri admitted, eyes on the now-fading marks on Zzandoren's arm. "It-- smells. Not bad, I mean, but-- I never noticed it, before. Smells kinda like honey."

Zzandoren was startled into a laugh. "Magic smells like honey?"

"Well, maybe just yours does. And when you made fire last night-- or light, or whatever-- that was like burned honey. It was weird."

Shaking his head, Zzandoren said, "That is the oddest thing I think I've ever heard. Honey. My patron would be amused, I'm sure."

"So you're a priest?" Rythri asked.

"Mmmhmm," Zzandoren said, rubbing at his arm, where the stubborn marks of his new friend's teeth still shone faintly. "Devoted of Glace, predictably, since I'm predominantly a healer."

"I thought priests were fighters, too," Rythri smirked at him.

Zzandoren threw the unwound bandage from his shoulder at him, which he ducked, laughing. "I'm a bit out of practice. Healer, remember?"

"I'd've thought even an out of practice priest could trump a skinny wolf," Rythri teased.

"Maybe more than a bit out of practice," Zzandoren admitted. "Now hush. I'm tired and sore and want some sleep."

"Yes, granther," Rythri snickered, and fell to laughing again when Zzandoren added the bandage from his arm. At least he didn't say anything more, and there was finally, a few minutes later, peace and quiet and, at last, sleep.


Chapter Two - Chapter Four


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