The Werewolves' Story
Healer and Hunter: Chapter Twelve
Zzandoren had never really felt old before, despite having
over a century in age and experience, and yet after the past few days he found
himself thinking wearily that he was too old for all the new places and new
experiences he'd been through. Dragons, flying, the Sanctuary of the Sun with
its Nexus Gate, Star City and its bright lights and moving pictures, its
artificial smells and unfamiliar noises, its herds and herds of people....
It felt like he'd only just gotten used to being cursed, and all the changes that went with it-- well, some of the changes, anyway. He still wasn't sure how to handle the more wolfish personality changes that kept sneaking through his more familiar behaviors and feelings when he wasn't paying attention. And now he'd been thrown into this new, exotic, and difficult place that taxed his ability to cope all over again-- though so far, at least, he'd merely been expanding that ability, and not failing at it. The full moon days didn't count. At least everyone on Star City seemed to speak the common trade-tongue from home, so at least it wasn't a place full of unintelligible noise, but it was still a very busy and confusing place. He could only hope that the Abstract Destiny, and whatever waited there for him, would be less baffling and overwhelming.
After being escorted by the dragons and malakym to their personal apartment, where they were told they could stay free of charge, Zzandoren and Rythri hadn't left it. They would have to soon, as much out of restlessness as actual necessity: with free rooms, they had enough coin for decent clothing and supplies, so Zzandoren refused to visit the Abstract Destiny in rags. Both of them could stand a haircut, too. But that would be later, when they absolutely had to get out to escape the apartment, and so far it had been a safe, quiet place, even if it was enclosed, in the midst of the bustle of the city. Or the "space station", whatever that meant. Tyrnus had started to explain, but Zzandoren had, by that point, given up on actually trying to understand the place, so he stopped him with a smile and said that "city" was probably good enough for him, whether it was firmly on the ground or hanging in nothingness above a foreign planet.
The apartment was a combination of three "dragoner" suites, Ahina had told them, with the walls taken out between the larger parts so they could visit each other, but there were three human-sized kitchens and living rooms and two dragon-sized kitchens and living rooms between them, making for plenty of space for everyone. He and Rythri were told they could sleep in whichever living room they preferred, though all the bedrooms had been claimed. Since neither one of them were particularly interested in beds after spending the bulk of their time sleeping on the ground, and the carpet was plushly soft, they were perfectly happy with the arrangement.
The others had split up and scattered shortly after arrival, leaving them alone for a while to investigate their generous hosts' home and nap off the shock of transition between worlds. Zzandoren had truly needed it, and though Rythri had seemed more excited than afraid by all the strange things around them, he loyally stayed to keep him company. He thought with some amusement, as the youth fell asleep first, wolf-formed and sprawled out on his side on the invitingly soft carpet, that perhaps he was more worn out by all the excitement than he'd appeared.
Zzandoren stayed awake long enough to try to call on Glace, which he found far easier to do than he'd expected, given he was technically outside her domain. It hadn't felt or sounded any different than talking to his goddess at home, to his surprise and great relief, and she was only too happy to put his doubts to rest. If he hadn't known better, he would have thought that she'd followed him here. She answered his call readily and warmly, reassuring him that this was where she'd intended for him to be, as strange as it was, that of course he'd be all right with the station and ship if he kept his mind open, and that yes, she was still watching over him, even though this wasn't her realm.
The returned group of couriers, after he and Rythri had woken again and experimented with the washrooms in a thankfully successful attempt to take a bath, was much reduced. "Tyrnus had some business to take care of for a few days," Ahvaku said with a smile, in answer to Rythri's confused expression at the lack of familiar scents and faces. "Shuna and Chandara and the wolfdragons went with him."
"And Kikira," Janu added, riding on the malakym's shoulder.
"Have you looked up the Destiny?" Repertius asked, human-formed, as he came in behind his bonded. After spending the past few days together, it had gotten easy to tell who was actually attached to whom, whether in the way Kaja Riihan were attached to their bonds or just in friendship or guardianship.
"Er," Rythri said.
"We haven't been out," Zzandoren admitted.
"Oh, you don't have to go out," Culari said with her characteristic lazy smile. "You can use the computer."
"Com... puter?" Rythri repeated blankly.
"I'll show you," Repertius offered brightly.
It was actually remarkably simple, when the shifted dragon showed them how to do it. There was even a little magic in the machine that made it possible to translate the text into something he could read-- the only translation spell Zzandoren knew only worked for listeners and speakers, not inanimate objects. Repertius cheerfully guided them through the process of getting to the "internet"-- he tried explaining what exactly that was, but he got very technical and theoretical so finally Zzandoren just suggested he just show them how to get around in it, regardless of exactly how it worked-- and just as cheerfully directed them to a "website" within this internet called "the Draconic Relations Ministry". From there, they navigated alone.
Well, Zzandoren navigated, anyway. Rythri refused to touch the little glowing windows, for all he peered curiously and eagerly over his shoulder while he dabbed fingertips here and there, exploring. Star City itself had "hatching bays" with dragons for bonding and adoption, as well, which probably would have suited their needs just fine if the Abstract Destiny place didn't. When they found the Destiny-devoted part of the website, though, that was where they stayed.
"I like this fellow," Zzandoren said more than once, reading about Doctor R. Schroeder, the man who owned and operated the ship, and organized the "biosynths" there that resulted in dragons. He seemed... good. Moral, honest, helpful, friendly-- devoting his skills and services to helping people who couldn't have children to have them, anyway, and instilling his own values into those creatures he designed himself.
"Doesn't it seem a little fishy to be fiddling around with... with people?" Rythri frowned. "I mean, they're dragons and all that, but they're still smart, like people."
"One could say the same thing about parents, when they decide to have children," Zzandoren shrugged. "And Glace wouldn't have suggested this place unless she had respect for it."
"I suppose," the youth reluctantly agreed.
When they found the Abstract Destiny's hatching bay website a moment later, all of his reluctance disappeared. They both turned down the idea of the biosynth in the "alpha bay", as there was the possibility of actual, native-Kynnese Shadow Taint, and Zzandoren had heard about the Citadel of Shadows and didn't particularly want to be involved in anything associated with it. He was a werewolf; that was close enough to Tainted, to most people's minds, without having that sort of connection. Rythri just didn't like the idea of something that was half cat, which caused Zzandoren quite a bit of amusement.
The "bravo bay", however, captured both of their attentions immediately, once they'd read down that far.
"This is perfect," Zzandoren said, scanning the brief text on the "yautjadragons" and hybrids that would be inhabiting that bay. "Look at this-- they're healers! And good! And they're certainly going to be strong enough and fierce enough to keep me safe."
"And they're hunters," Rythri exclaimed, looking excited. "Healers and hunters, just like us!"
"One is even parented by a Koha Riihan," Zzandoren noted. "From home."
"And one's see-through," Rythri added, squinting at the small picture of the three firstborn. "How weird is that!"
Zzandoren didn't answer that, as he'd found a part of the website now that was describing the base species, itself, and quickly set about reading. They were fierce, as he'd surmised from the first bit he'd read, but they were good, and were only fierce in the pursuit of good. Like priests, they fought when necessary to protect the innocent and rid the world from evil. "They're all liable to bond," he mused, backing up again to the hatching bay page where it said the biosynth was accepting "bonders only". "I suppose that's what the goddess meant by a similar commitment to the Kaja Riihan."
"Is that all right?" Rythri's expression, when he glanced back at him, was surprisingly neutral. Usually, when he wore no expression, it was an attempt not to be wearing another expression, whether good or bad. Rythri simply wasn't naturally an expressionless person. It seemed this was an important question to him, so he thought a moment before answering.
"Yes, it's all right," he answered slowly. "As long as the lifestyle of a traveling priest doesn't make them miserable, I don't think I'd really mind it-- if we got along, I might even like it. But whether or not we did, it would be worth most anything to keep the beast in me controlled, and maybe a mental connection would help that."
"You wouldn't be worried about... I don't know, privacy?"
A little amused at Rythri's serious face, wondering if the youth was talking about himself more than Zzandoren, he answered, "My mind is open to my goddess at any time. I can't imagine a dragon, 'yautja' or otherwise, would be much different. They might actually choose to give me privacy."
As if that hadn't occurred to him, Rythri blinked. "Oh."
"Oh," Zzandoren repeated with a chuckle. "It said somewhere on here that you could sign up here, on the-- website--" he pronounced the word carefully; it wasn't exactly a Kynnese word, "--didn't it?"
"Oh, yeah, go back two pages."
Half an hour later, with the aid of some apparently standard "voice recognition program" that turned spoken words into words on a glowing window and the ever-helpful Repertius to check the spelling for them, Zzandoren had officially applied to be a candidate at the Abstract Destiny. He then pretended not to notice when Rythri snuck back into the room with the computer an hour later with Repertius's quiet but eager help to do the same. Why should he comment or interrupt? Zzandoren had no qualms with Rythri bonding, as well, for two would be even more effective at keeping the beast away from people to hunt than one, and perhaps more intelligent minds around would keep him from slipping into the wolf mentality, even when he was still human. Perhaps it would even make Rythri happy.
He did wonder, though, whether Rythri thought he would be able to keep it a secret until the hatching itself, in six days. Somehow, Zzandoren thought with a smile, he doubted he would.
Characters in this story not belonging to the author can be found here.