The Werewolves' Story

Healer and Hunter: Chapter Nine


When Zzandoren changed back late in the afternoon, flopping onto his back in the grass and catching his breath, Rythri changed with him, and flopped down next to him. Zzandoren looked over at him and laughed, and he embarrassedly pulled his panting tongue back into his mouth. 

"Sometimes I think there's more wolf in you than man," the priest told him, chuckling.

"Maybe there is," Rythri shrugged. "But what's the harm in that?"

"Probably none," Zzandoren acceded passively, then shut his eyes and relaxed into the earth with a sigh. "It's so good to be out of there...."

"Was it really horrible?" Rythri asked sympathetically.

"Yes." There was no hesitation in Zzandoren's emphatic answer. "Going back there will probably be the hardest thing I've ever done. But I have to."

"You shouldn't have to!" Rythri growled. "You lasted three and a half whole days before you shifted-- and I bet it would've been a lot easier if you weren't locked up!"

But Zzandoren was shaking his head sadly. "It would have been harder outside, smelling people and seeing the forest to run in and... it would have been harder. I wouldn't have lasted a day."

"It's not fair," Rythri grumbled. "You shouldn't have to go through that...."

"Life isn't always fair, Rythri," the priest told him gently, looking over at him with a small smile. "I accept that, and make do with what I'm given."

Feeling a little foolish-- damned old men and their mature, accepting philosophies-- Rythri looked away and rolled over onto his stomach, putting his chin on his folded arms and staring off into the trees. "I'm sorry," he muttered-- for everything: biting him, his curse, not understanding....

"Don't apologize," Zzandoren told him warmly. "It's not your fault."

Rythri couldn't look at him, still feeling like he should have controlled himself better-- or been smarter, able to help somehow. "I hope Jestin does find a way to help," he said impulsively. "There has to be something that can be done...."

"Anything that I can think of would only make things worse," Zzandoren said regretfully. "A window would only show me what I couldn't have, and be another point of weakness that I could exploit if I did change. Drugging me would make me unable to control the change, and probably wouldn't work on the beast itself. Company would be torn to shreds...."

"If only I was a bigger wolf," Rythri sighed. "Or you were smaller. Then I could stop you, and you wouldn't have to be locked up at all...."

"Even if we were closer in size, I don't think there would be much you could do if I really got angry...."

That was probably true.... Sighing again at the injustice of it all, Rythri buried his face in his arms and tried to think of how he could help, somehow. There really wasn't any way he could stop Zzandoren's hunter-self, he knew that... he was simply too small, and worse, instinctively submissive to the priest, no matter what form he was in. He hadn't forgotten the fear he'd felt when first confronted with his full-moon change, even if he was ashamed of it. He certainly couldn't stop him except in the vague and generally useless ways he'd tried, that first moon, through his simple terror of approaching anything larger than a small farmstead or trying to get in his way at just the right moment to let the prey get away. If only he were larger, big enough to actually beat the beast down-- or more assertive, more alpha... but who could possibly be assertive enough to stand up to something like that?

An idea struck him, then, and he looked up sharply. "But what if someone was?" he asked eagerly.

"Was what?" Zzandoren asked lazily, having apparently let the thread of the conversation go.

"Was strong enough, big enough, alpha enough to stand up to you-- to the beast?" he clarified excitedly.

"Who possibly could be?" Zzandoren sighed. "The Riihan?"

"Exactly!" Rythri beamed.

"Rythri, no Riihan would consent to bond to a werewolf... I expect we're practically Tainted, in their eyes. And even if one did, my wandering days would be over. Riihan join the Order of the Dragon, or some other organization geared towards using their talents. They'd never be happy alone, isolated from their kind, in the woods with a pair of half-wild werewolves."

Disappointed and deflated as his idea was so quickly and thoroughly shot to the abyss-- because he expected Zzandoren was right; he probably knew tons more about the Riihan than he did-- Rythri sighed heavily. "Well, it was just a thought...."

It came out a little sulky, but Zzandoren's response was soothing: "And it wasn't a bad one. Having someone larger and more powerful, as long as the curse couldn't affect them, would be...."

When Zzandoren trailed off, Rythri looked over at him hesitantly. His expression had gone blank and he was staring up into the sky at nothing. If Rythri didn't know better, he'd think he was listening to something, except he knew his own hearing was sharper than the priest's in this form. "Zzan?" he asked tentatively.

"Oh, gods, yes...."

Well, that didn't exactly sound like a response to him. "Uh, Zzan?" he repeated, a little concerned. Who did he think he was talking to?

There was another pause, but then Zzandoren blinked and seemed to shake himself a little. He sat up, looking around sharply, as if only just now seeing where they were. Rythri pushed himself up, too, and gave his packmate a wary look. "Zzandoren, what is it?"

"Oh-- sorry." Looking back at him, Zzandoren flashed him a smile-- a smile that looked far too happy for someone who'd just been contemplating a curse and a beast and being locked up or restrained.

"Who were you talking to, a minute ago?" he asked, still wary. Had being locked up actually damaged him somehow?

"What? Oh. Glace." He gave one last look around, then sank back down with a sigh, while Rythri gaped at him.

"Glace?" he repeated. "As in, the goddess Glace?"

"Well, yes." Zzandoren's voice was amused. "She's my goddess, remember? My patron? She drops in now and then when she has some advice for me. And she just had some truly excellent advice...."

"She just... drops in?" Rythri repeated weakly again. He'd never so much as seen a deity, much less had one drop in on him to offer advice.

"Sometimes I'll call her," Zzandoren shrugged, still sounding amused at his surprise. "She's really a very obliging deity, very helpful, friendly-- even motherly. She comforted me after that first moon, reassured me that she hadn't abandoned me... told me that I could resist it...."

"I'd wondered how you knew that," Rythri marveled, understanding a few things about that night now, even if he was still a little stunned by the idea of actually being on speaking terms with a deity. He didn't think he would want that. What if he messed up, or something?

Nodding, Zzandoren said, "That was her, yes."

"Did she say anything about me?" Rythri couldn't help but ask.

Zzandoren laughed. "That you're a young scamp of a pup and I ought to keep you better in line!" he said.

"She did not!"

"How do you know?" Zzandoren's smile was teasing.

"Because-- because-- she's a goddess, she wouldn't say something like that!" Rythri said indignantly. "And I am not a scamp-- or a pup! And I do not need to be kept in line," he sniffed as the priest laughed helplessly.

The laughter was infectious, however, and soon he was grinning sheepishly at his own affrontedness. It seemed to be relieving the last of Zzandoren's tension from the long past week, his laughter, so even if it was at his own expense, he figured he shouldn't protest. "Maybe," he growled playfully as Zzandoren caught his breath, "I ought to be keeping you in line!"

When he shifted, pouncing and "attacking" his face with an enthusiastic wolf tongue, Zzandoren laughed anew, and soon enough the priest was chasing him four-footed through the forest again. It was good to be free again, and even better to have Zzandoren back himself again. They could worry about his change later. There was time.


Chapter Eight - Chapter Ten


Back to Zzandoren - Back to Rythri