The Werewolves' Story
Healer and Hunter: Chapter Fourteen
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
Walking away from the tables of meat and various other foods to
entice hungry dragon-children, Zzandoren felt more than a little unsteady. If
he'd hoped whatever was waiting on the Abstract Destiny would be less
overwhelming than everything that had come before it, he'd been sorely mistaken.
Ronan might not have been the last thing he was expecting, but he was close, and
he was only the very minimum of what he'd been hoping for: someone bigger,
stronger, and unaffected by the curse who could keep him in line if, and only
if, he lost control.
There was so much more he could have been... but that he obviously was not, could never be, and did not want to be. There was no healer in Ronan, no nature-lover, not even a particularly interested mind to keep him from lapsing into wolf-instinct. There was definitely no partner. There was hardly even any liking, much less affection-- not that Ronan was letting him see, anyway. Ronan wasn't even interested in letting him get the individual platters off the table for him, having stretched up to do it, himself, before Zzandoren caught up to him.
He hadn't even bonded a dispassionate, wary watch-dog, which had been the least he'd hoped for. Instead, he had been bonded by someone who didn't want to be a watch-dog at all, but who, he expected, would leave as soon as he could, as often as he could, to live his own life, fight battles somewhere, be a warrior so completely alien to Zzandoren's nature that it made no sense to have even chosen him. Ronan was independent and proud and would be every inch the lone warrior, once he grew up. Just why he bothered to bond, at all, Zzandoren really didn't know.
It was, to say the least, disappointing. But Zzandoren had told Rythri that "fair" had nothing to do with life, and he would take even what the grudging, irregular, and minimal help he could get. Anything was better than nothing.
At least, he thought, Rythri had wound up a little better. The younger werewolf seemed less than comfortable, perhaps, and his expression was unhappy at first, but it settled into something more relaxed when white Thonyn let him thump down on the ground next to her and pick choice bits of meat off the platter for her, rather than serving herself as Ronan was doing. There was the promise of friendship there, despite their mutual misgivings, and if Zzandoren was reading them rightly, they would grow into each other in a way he expected he and Ronan would not.
He refused to be jealous. There was one reason he had come to bond here, to find someone who could keep him from killing anyone even if he forewent the horrible little cell in Amerou's temple. Anything else-- friendship, partnership, shared interests and goals-- was just excess, just trimmings, not necessary and certainly not to be mourned. He still had Rythri, anyway, and he'd never been a terribly social person, to begin with.
At least he'd been right about one thing, he mused: his new bond was definitely giving him privacy. Either he wasn't listening to his thoughts at all, or else he simply didn't care, and didn't care to make even that known. He suspected it was the former, as Ronan had said he cared, at least a little.... Well, they would talk later, all four of them, and decide what they would be doing; until then, apparently Ronan wanted to keep his own counsel. Zzandoren wasn't going to hold it against him. He had made his choice and now both of them were going to have to accept it, work with it, and live with it.
The couriers would be waiting outside the hatching bay, quite likely outside the ship itself, to take them home. It had been nice getting to know them, but it had also been too long since he smelled fresh air and trees, had a good run, or been needed to heal, bind up, or just comfort someone in pain. He was gratified to know he missed his work as much, if not more, than the "creature comforts" of Kynn; there was at least that much of his humanness entirely intact. He'd miss the couriers-- some of them were friends, now-- but his work was more important. Perhaps they could ask about meeting them again on one of their routes, or perhaps it wouldn't be too small a thing to ask Glace for their locations now and then to drop by.
"You'll get along with him, I'm certain of it."
Zzandoren's head snapped around at the sound of an impossibly familiar voice, not sounding in his head but... in his ears.
"He enjoys surprise visits, even from me."
And not speaking to him, as far as he could tell.
Zzandoren stopped walking to stare, and Thonyn actually ran into him, looking over her shoulder at something down on the bay floor. ::What?:: she asked, sounding annoyed, but Zzandoren didn't answer, staring in shock at two women making their way out of the row of audience seats, one of whom who had the voice of his goddess.
And the appearance of her, as well. Though Zzandoren had never actually met her face to face, he'd read descriptions and seen pictures, and that woman fit the mold perfectly. She looked young, human, just above average height with long, black hair and violet eyes, dressed in soft pastels and a refreshingly familiar style, and radiating her usual matronly aura. There was even a string of golden scales woven into her hair, much like his own only, obviously, less well-worn and much richer.
"Well, you're a bit more cuddly," her companion retorted, smirking. She was taller, more intimidating, blonde-haired and blue-eyed and wearing darker, storm-like colors. Unless Zzandoren was much mistaken, that was her wilder sister, Lilith... goddess of the sea.
" ... Glace?" he asked as she reached the stair. Just in case it really was her.
Glace merely focused on him, smiled unsurprisedly, and asked, "Yess'm?"
"Is that-- are you really here?" he stammered, momentarily stunned.
"Mmmhmm," she agreed with a smile. "I thought it would be more fun to watch in person."
Glace. His goddess. Here, on this strange world, just to see him bond. She'd come here. He hadn't ever expected something so... so personal. No matter how friendly and caring a goddess she was, Glace was still a goddess, and still had hundreds, thousands of other devotees, problems, and minor crises she could be handling. But instead, she had come here, to watch him bond on her suggestion. For a moment, all disappointment and resignation faded away into a happy, cherished, even flattered warmth in his chest, and he returned her smile.
"Glace??" Rythri gaped, a couple steps below him. "That's Glace? You're serious?"
"Goddess-- goddesses," he amended politely with a half-bow to Lilith as well, "this is Rythri. I expect Glace, at least, knows who he is."
Glace chuckled at the expression on Rythri's face. "It's very nice to meet you, Rythri-- and you, as well, Zzan. Face to face, I mean."
"I never even considered that we might..." Zzandoren admittedly, still smiling delightedly-- Rythri seemed incapable of managing speech. "The pleasure is all mine, I assure you."
Rythri's bond, however, was not entirely speechless. ::Goddess? -Es?:: Thonyn repeated, looking surprised.
"Well, where they're from, anyway," Lilith amended, looking amused. "We tend to leave the titles aside when we're visiting elsewhere."
"That is Thonyn... Mei'Dtande, yes?" The young white hatchling nodded, still giving Lilith and Glace a curious and startled look. There was another to introduce, however, the one Glace had come to see choose him. Clinging to the proud-happy feeling as a bolster against reality for at least a few more minutes, he beckoned the fourth member of the group, and Ronan sidestepped around Rythri to present himself with a small but obviously respectful bow. "And my bond," Zzandoren said. "Ronan Mei'Lerlande."
Glace nodded at them both in turn, and if she knew Ronan's feelings regarding his chosen, she didn't comment on them, not in any way he could sense or even guess. Ronan's expression and posture didn't change, at any rate. ::It is an honor to meet you,:: he said politely. ::I know how important you are to Zzandoren.::
Again the goddess nodded and smiled. Then she turned her eyes on Zzandoren again, and he heard silently, as he was more used to hearing her voice, I know you're worried, Zzandoren. But be patient. It will work out.
I hope so, goddess... he thought, shutting his eyes briefly. A warm hand reached up to touch his cheek, and he took a moment to rest against it.
Trust me, she reassured him warmly.
::Father is calling me down there,:: Thonyn interrupted, and Zzandoren blinked his eyes back open, turning away from his goddess long enough to see where the white hatching pointed, down at the bay floor. She looked a little anxious to get away from the pair of deities-- or maybe just embarrassed by the show of affection from one of them.
"Then I suppose you'd better see what he wants," Zzandoren told her, then glanced at Glace, to see if she needed anything in particular more from him. Poor Rythri didn't look much better than Thonyn; he actually still seemed speechless. "Goddess?"
"That's fine," Glace said gently. "Have a safe trip home." She gave his cheek a fond pat, making him chuckle a little, then stooped to brush her fingers under Ronan's jaw and over his tusks. He blinked at her with a little rumble, as if not expecting the touch, then bowed again as she straightened. "What a formal little one," Glace smiled, then took her sister's arm again and started up the stairs with her. Thonyn, her tusks relaxing with what Zzandoren could only guess was relief, grabbed Rythri's elbow to pull him back down the stairs with her. He stumbled with a wordless sound of protest at first, then went without resisting when he spotted Zzandoren followed placidly along behind them.
Ronan trailed after Zzandoren, and glancing back at the dark hatchling, he hoped the deity was right and there was nothing to worry about.
Characters in this story not belonging to the author can be found here.