The Werewolves' Story

Healer and Hunter: Chapter Fifteen


After such a day-- after such a long day!-- all Rythri wanted to do was flop down somewhere, roll for a minute until he felt comfortable in his fur again, then curl up and go to sleep. Even the hatchling-pups looked tired, blinking too much and sitting down as soon as they had the option-- not that Thonyn would admit to being tired, when Rythri called her on it. Rythri knew better, though: her thoughts smelled of weariness and comfortable-looking, leaf-padded cradles of tree-roots, and he'd caught her yawning behind her tusks more than once.

So it seemed only logical that sleep was going to be first thing on the schedule when Zzandoren finally deemed them at a good place to do so. So it was a surprise when they finally stopped to make camp early in the afternoon and Zzandoren gave him a poke with the butt of his staff when he sat down, ready to indulge in the much-longed-for roll. The hatchling-pups-- Rythri still couldn't decide on which to call them, though "baby" had finally lost out, as neither were particularly child-like; he knew they were technically hatchlings, but his brain kept trying to call them pups, too-- had sat down and started to relax, why couldn't he?

"What?" he asked, glaring tiredly at Zzandoren and his prodding staff. After fretting, bonding, bickering, goddess-meeting, bickering some more, being thrown through Nexus Gates, flying and teleporting, and then traveling for the entire morning-- they'd arrived back in Talma just before dawn-- to get away from civilization again... he though he deserved a shift, a roll, and a nap!

"I need you capable of speech and understanding," Zzandoren told him sternly. "We have to talk."

"Can't we talk in the morning?" Rythri groaned. "Or evening? Or whenever I wake up?"


Rythri glared rather more fiercely at Ronan, who glared back and did his best not to look tired, himself. Since the hatching, he'd heard no more than ten words out of the beast, and none of them had been particularly friendly. He was starting to think Ronan actually disliked him. Well, even if so, it was one more reason to make it mutual.

::Rythri...!:: Thonyn sighed exasperatedly at him.

What? he thought irritably back at her. All I wanted was someone who likes him and wants to help. He's got neither.

::You don't know that,:: Thonyn shot back defensively, ::And you have no right to judge.::

He's my packmate. I have every right to worry about my packmate's happiness.

"If you two are done bickering?" Zzandoren interrupted pointedly.

Muttering an apology, Rythri obediently let the argument go. To his mild surprise, Thonyn looked contrite, too, and actually focused on the group as a whole again. She glanced at him with her bright eyes narrow, as if she wanted to comment on said surprise, but she refrained out of deference to Zzandoren's request for attention. Huh. Well, at least she wasn't going to challenge Zzandoren's authority or anything. For now. Hopefully not ever.

"I know the two of you know pieces about each of us and our situation," Zzandoren began, speaking mostly to the hatchling-pups. "I don't know the extent of what you picked up, though, so let me summarize for you both, if that's all right."

He paused, as if waiting for an answer. Thonyn merely nodded, though Ronan's eyes were already wandering and judging from his slumped posture, he was expecting to be bored. Zzandoren eyed him for a moment, like he expected a protest, but when he got none, he continued. "Rythri and I don't have a real home-- and for the most part, we like it that way. I have a vow to my goddess to travel to those in need of a healer and help them, usually going from village to village, but sometimes I'm called off in another direction. Rythri simply doesn't like anything less than an entire territory, so... no home."

::Do you expect to just... wander aimlessly... forever?:: Thonyn asked, her mental voice smelling faintly of dismay.

"Though it is not exactly 'aimless', yes," Zzandoren nodded. "Until I'm released from my vow, a need keeps me in one place for long enough, or I retire."

"And it's not like I've got anything better to do," Rythri put in. "I go where he goes."

Thonyn didn't look particularly pleased, but didn't protest, either. She nodded once and said, ::Continue, then.::

Though he now eyed her a moment first, Zzandoren did so. "Ronan knows the reason we went to the Abstract Destiny to bond, but do you, Thonyn?"

She pointed up at the sky, where a record five moons hung in the sky, in various stages of fullness. ::Because you're dangerous when one of those moons is full, and Rythri doesn't want you to be locked up,:: she answered readily, but she was frowning, as well. At least, he was pretty sure she was frowning. With her perpetually lowered brow, he had to rely more on posture, tusks, and what little of her actual mouth he could see between said tusks. The way her tusks were currently pulled tightly together across her muzzle, mostly hiding her mouth, looked frown-ish. Her thoughts, when he tentatively sampled them, smelled confused.

"Well, to be honest, I didn't like being locked up much, myself," Zzandoren said with a shudder. "But it's more important that I don't hurt anyone."

Thonyn only barely managed to suppress a snort at the idea of Zzandoren hurting anybody, and Rythri thought she was taking that far too lightly. Annoyed, he brought to mind the image of the moon-beast Zzandoren turned into-- a memory of the creature at its worst, during the first Shinan-Al-- and threw it at her. She jumped a little, looking at him, and the scent of amusement and disbelief died in her thoughts. Just how she'd managed to miss that tidbit in his own memories, when she'd bonded him, he had no idea.

::If you have something to do,:: Ronan spoke up impatiently, ::what did you need me for?:: His dark eyes flicked to Thonyn. ::Us for?::

Teeth bared, Rythri snapped, "I signed up for myself, so you leave her out of it. Thonyn isn't obligated to do anything she doesn't want to. And neither are you," he added in a growl, reminding the little beast that he had chosen Zzandoren. He had to have at least some inkling of what he'd chosen, hadn't he?

"Rythri," Zzandoren said sharply, and he cringed back unhappily.

"But he--"


Feeling mutinous, but obeying, Rythri didn't say anything more. Ronan and Thonyn were both watching him, the former with what was definitely a scowl and the latter with such mixed emotions on her face that he didn't know whether she was smiling, scoffing, or scowling, too. He focused his gaze on the ground, flushing.

"The reason I needed you," Zzandoren explained patiently, ignoring Rythri's embarrassment, "was because I don't like being locked up. I am a burden on the temple that takes me in, and a danger to anyone there if they are not completely watchful. I am a danger to myself when I cannot be free, and a danger to others when I can." He shrugged a little. "I would prefer to control the change-- and I think I can do it; I lasted two and a half days last time-- but if I cannot, if I don't want to endanger myself and others, and be a burden on top of it."

::What do you expect us to do about it?:: Ronan persisted. ::I'm not going to be a baby-sitter my whole life.::

Zzandoren paused, closing his eyes and bowing his head-- Rythri wanted to growl at Ronan again, but he knew he'd be pushing his luck-- then answered steadily, "All I ask is five days every four months and three weeks. You won't even have to be with me, as long as you can get to me quickly if anything happens."

There was another pause as Ronan considered that. ::I think that might be acceptable. We'll see.::

Acceptable. Maybe. Gods, why had the brat even bonded him, if he didn't want the duty bonding would require of him?

Before he could growl, though, Zzandoren spoke again. "What do the two of you want?" he asked politely. "Know that I cannot give up my vow, and spending too much time in large groups of people makes us both uncomfortable-- it always has, werewolf or not-- but I'm sure some compromises could be made for the two of you, as well. Am I right in guessing that neither of you particularly like the idea of simply following after a wandering healer?"

Looking a little surprised, Thonyn shrugged. ::I don't know yet. Probably not, but... I might like it better if you had a home, or even made it a little more exciting, or... I don't know what it's really like.::

::It's pretty boring,:: Ronan put in heavily. ::I saw it all in his head. I already know I won't be able to stand it....::

Rythri refused to acknowledge that the hatchling-pup sounded regretful, much less a little apologetic. He liked being able to hate the beast for not making his packmate happy; he didn't want feel sorry for him that he'd picked someone whose lifestyle he couldn't live with. Ronan could have picked someone else, after all. The fact that Thonyn was giving Ronan a curious frown, as well, only made him feel more justified.

"Is there anything we can do to make it better?" Zzandoren asked. Rythri wanted to snap at him for sounding so sympathetic and so damned helpful. It wasn't his fault Ronan had latched onto him despite his misgivings....

::I'll need to think on it,:: Ronan admitted, blinking tiredly.

Looking around from hatchling-pup to Rythri to hatchling-pup, Zzandoren finally nodded and gave in. "Perhaps if we sleep on it. It's been a long day."

Though she looked like she was going to protest it, Thonyn was caught up in a yawn that, this time, she could not suppress or hide. Rythri smirked at her as she gave in, too, and muttered, ::Maybe a rest is a good idea.::

Finally. Rythri stretched and yawned, himself, and amazingly enough, Zzandoren beat him into wolf-form, stretching himself and giving his heavy coat a vigorous shake. Thonyn looked dismayed. ::What are you doing that for?:: she demanded.

Rythri held anari form long enough to answer, since Zzandoren merely cast her a look that was far too long-suffering for an animal's face and set about pacing around the tree they'd all congregated under, as if inspecting it. "More comfortable," Rythri said succinctly. "Safer, too: no predators would attack a pair of wolves our size, sleeping or not, and no bandit would bother. Come on, Thonyn, we're not going to stay on two feel all the time."

Though she still looked like she had misgivings, she didn't try to protest again. Thank the gods. Rythri shifted at last and flopped down, rolling onto his back and wriggling happily in the leaf-strewn ground. It felt wonderful, the dirt and plants rubbing into his fur, the occasional root scratching against his spine, the way he finally felt relaxed and well-stretched. It felt wonderful not having to think anymore, too. There'd been too much thought lately.

He could still scent the pup's disapproval at the edges of his awareness, but he also found he didn't care as much. She was pack, even if she wouldn't admit it, connected to him some way he could sense but didn't bother looking at too closely. Enough to know it was, and so she was. Rolling back onto his paws, he shook himself to get the worst of the dust off, and he felt nimble forepaws plucking a dead leaf off his shoulder with another surge of disapproval. He thanked her with a pounce and an enthusiastic licking to the muzzle and tusks-- she yelled and tried to shove him off.

Only when she hollered, ::Stop it!:: in his head did he leave her alone, snorting his displeasure at her. She smelled good; he had her thoughts and feelings buzzing around just outside of his own; why shouldn't he tussle a little with her, to show he liked it?

Oh, well. His pack-leader had settled down on a grassy patch with a heavy sigh, and he felt a yawn pressing at his jaws-- he let it come, wide and toothy and ear-flattening. Time to sleep. Convincing the pale pup to accept being part of the pack could come later. He did wag his tail a little at her, looking invitingly over his shoulder: she could come curl up with them. She was a pup, even if she was an awfully big one, and ought to be snuggled up with the pack. For protection, if nothing else. She sighed at him and, radiating reluctance but exhaustion that made protesting moot, followed him.

Finding the other pup, the dark one, already crept up against Zzandoren's side, head pillowed on his flank, made Rythri want to snarl and chase him away. That pup wasn't pack-- that pup had no right to be here--

Zzandoren's warning growl killed his own, but he did show his unhappiness by walking, tail-tucked and ears back, around to his pack-leader's other side, curling up back to back instead of the usual front to front, and not quite touching. The white pup's thoughts smelled unhappy-- too complex for him to try and figure out the exact ins and outs of it, but unhappy seemed to cover it for now-- but when he whined at her and thumped his tail once or twice in another invitation, she sighed again and came around to his side and mirrored the dark pup's position.

Ah. That was better. That felt more right. Not as right as including his pack-leader in the sleep-pile, but....

... he was too tired to worry about it, now, and he fell asleep before his wolfish brain could consider it further.


Chapter Fourteen - Chapter Sixteen

The Abstract Destiny: Genesis Two Hatching


Back to Zzandoren - Back to Rythri - Back to Ronan - Back to Thonyn