The Werewolves' Story
Healer and Hunter: Chapter Ten
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
Trotting towards the edge of the trees, Zzandoren finally slowed
and, scenting the quarry up-close at last, shifted back and dusted himself off a
little. Rythri, hugging close to his leg, whined a little. "They're not
going to hurt either of us," Zzandoren told him, giving the end of one wide
ear a tweak.
Snapping half-heartedly at his fingers, Rythri shifted back, himself. "I'm still not so sure this is a good idea," he said, eying the open grassland past the trees, that somewhere held an approaching group of not-Riihan. Given the alien nature of the scents, Zzandoren could understand his unease.
"Glace sent us here," he shrugged, a little nervously, himself, but trying not to look like it. "She wouldn't send us to people who would hurt us."
"She's also a nice goddess," Rythri mumbled. "Trusting, and all that."
Sighing a bit, Zzandoren stepped out into the sunshine, staff in hand. Really, unless these "dragons", as Glace had called them, knew the scent of werewolf, there was no reason to expect trouble.
Even with that thought foremost in his mind, it really was only the memory of Glace's suggestion to come here that kept him from hurrying back into the trees at the sight of several very large creatures pacing along the tree-line towards them. But it had been two and a half weeks of anticipating this moment-- remembering over and over again his goddess's suggestion, to keep him going-- and he wasn't going to back down now.
There are more creatures of a size, temperament, and skill to control a werewolf than the Riihan, he had heard, and still remembered clearly. Creatures who will see the noble heart beneath the curse.
He'd been too startled by his goddess's sudden, unexpected voice echoing within him to reply immediately.
It will be just as much of a commitment on your part as the bonding of a Kaja Riihan, she continued in warning, but the creatures I speak of might not interfere with your lifestyle as much-- they might even insist on continuing it and taking part in your vow. I cannot guess. Are you interested in trying?
Well, of course he had been. When she'd then given him instructions on someone to speak with, and how to find them, Zzandoren had been nearly incoherent with gratitude. A chance-- a hope-- of escaping the torment of the cell and still being safe, still keeping others safe from him... it would be worth just about anything. It had been hard to wait, though he knew he had to wait, until after Rythri's moon: Glace had indicated where this group of strangers would be today, and besides, if this cost them money, they needed to actually make a little. After three weeks of living off of what they could hunt and forage-- well, mostly what Rythri could hunt, being better at it in either form-- and taking nothing but coin or barterable goods for Zzandoren's services, he hoped they'd scraped together enough.
At least, he thought vaguely as he stared at the creatures, just as alien in appearance as in their smell, they were definitely big enough to hold back a werewolf. Though the colors were awfully bright: purple, pink, red, blue, green and gold, white, another purple.... Gods, what a strange bunch they were. Some had wings-- most of them had wings-- and a couple were even flying. One had a beak, another had fins, and another had feathers, and two had what looked like extra wings on their tails. Their sizes were so varied that Zzandoren could hardly decide where to look.
There were two natives in the bunch, though, so he wound up trying to focus on them, despite their small size. To his further surprise, both were... malakym, he thought. What else could they be, with wings and tails, themselves? Zzandoren had only seen a handful of malakym in his time, but he recognized these as the same-- even if they did have strange metal augmentations, like golems or some other created being. Or perhaps that was some kind of partial armor.
The whole pack of them slowly came to a stop as one by one they spotted Zzandoren and Rythri, the latter shifting around nervously as if he couldn't decide whether to hide behind Zzandoren or stand protectively in front of him. The two in the air-- a big red one, and a small blue one, both of them with two sets of wings apiece, if Zzandoren wasn't mistaken; how did they manage to stay aloft like that?-- circled overhead like giant hawks.
One of the malakym, the smaller of the two with dark metal on his wings, called a little hesitantly their direction, "Ah... hello?"
Brushing a little self-consciously at his well-patched tunic, well aware of how shabby they both looked next to the well-groomed "dragons" and well-dressed malakym, Zzandoren flashed a slightly nervous smile. At least he'd shaved that morning. "Ah, hello. You wouldn't happen to be... Ahvaku, would you? Or Tyrnus?" It had to be one of them, since those were the two natives Glace had named.
"Ah," the malakym said, as if in understanding or acknowledgement. "Tyrnus would be me. My brother is Ahvaku." The taller one waved. "Can we help you with something?"
"If you don't mind." Zzandoren came closer, since these did, indeed, seem to be the right people-- not that too many groups of this size and unique makeup could even be wandering around Talma, to begin with. "This is going to sound rather strange, but... we were told you might, er, understand what an 'abstract destiny' might be."
Tyrnus blinked and exchanged a glance with his brother, then they both smiled. Tyrnus even chuckled. "The Abstract Destiny--" and he said the words with capital letters, as if it were an important place, "--is a ship. All sorts of baby dragons hatch there."
"Like... those?" Rythri asked hesitantly, pointing up at the tall creatures standing, and flying, around the two malakym. "Er," he amended, belatedly realizing that if they were like Riihan, they were probably sentient, "like you?"
No one took offense, but most of the dragons got a laugh out of it. The small, beaked one, clinging to Tyrnus's wings, said, "Most of us. Me, and them." His open wing indicated the variety of furry ones: red, two purple, and one white. It was a disproportionately large portion of the group, almost half of them.
"Oh." Rythri stared at them, apparently uncertain what else to say.
"Do you happen to know the way there?" Zzandoren asked politely.
"I suppose we could show you the way," Tyrnus said doubtfully, "but you'd have to do a lot of traveling on your own. We'll be going back that was in a few days, ourselves, if you'd like to come."
Sharing a glance with Rythri himself, this time, Zzandoren said, "I don't know if you'll object to our company.... I don't know if the-- dragons--" he pronounced the foreign word carefully, "would understand, but if we're to travel with you, you might wish to know...."
"Zzan," Rythri whined a bit, but he hushed him with a look-- he wanted to be honest, if they were going to be spending any amount of time in their company, especially if they might find out on their own-- and continued.
"We're both werewolves."
All that got them were a few comments and a laugh. "You don't look furry," one of the dragons chuckled at them.
"Smell fine, to me," said another.
The actual answer came from Ahvaku, who shrugged. "Not all stories are true. If you can put up with a couple of malakym, we can certainly oblige some werewolves."
Sighing with relief, Zzandoren smiled again. "Thank you. We'll be glad to accompany you, then."
"And I'm just not furry now," Rythri put in, to a few more chuckles.
"We'll be making our first stop soon, if you're curious," Tyrnus said, as the whole group of them started walking again, and Zzandoren and Rythri joined them. "Hope you don't mind walking for a while. We won't be flying until after a stop or two."
"Walking is how we spend most of our days," Zzandoren assured him, then sighed at Rythri's hopeful look. "Go on, if you'd rather," he told him.
"Thanks. I promise I won't bite anybody," he grinned, and promptly dropped back down to all fours, furry and obviously much more comfortable. He capered around Zzandoren's feet, sniffed briefly at the big red one's toes, then bounded off ahead.
"He seems energetic," Tyrnus chuckled.
"He's young," Zzandoren said, watching the wolf running, stopping to sniff, then running back and feeling, to his own amusement, a bit indulgently paternal. After almost half a year now in his company, Rythri felt a bit like family. "And relieved. We were both a little nervous about finding you, honestly."
"We were surprised you knew us by name," Tyrnus answered with a smile. "Why were you nervous?"
"Werewolves have a bad reputation," Zzandoren shrugged. "And all we had to go on were your names-- not what you were like. And, well...." He looked up at the dragons flying overhead. "We've never smelled-- er, or seen-- anything like most of you."
"Fair enough," Tyrnus smiled, remarkably friendly considering who he was talking to.
Somewhat lengthy introductions were made all around, lengthy because of the great number of them and great number of particularly long names. Zzandoren introduced Rythri for him, obviously, since he wasn't in any position to be sharing his name with anyone just then, and then he asked hopefully, "So tell me about the Abstract Destiny? I have to admit, I'm not sure exactly what we're in for."
The whole group was eager to tell about their experiences with this mysterious ship, and Zzandoren laughingly let each one have their say. Though with each new tale, each new tidbit of information, he was less and less certain about what they were about to do. Everything seemed very strange and different, with the Abstract Destiny, and he didn't know what to make of it. It was still his only hope of avoiding being caged for a week at a time, however, so he was going to give it his best shot, no matter how intimidating things got.
Characters in this story not belonging to the author can be found here.