The Werewolves' Story

Healer and Hunter: Chapter Seventeen


The first compromise was an easy one all around: Ronan wouldn't leave until he was fully trained in his various abilities-- dull things like healing included, unfortunately, but he did admit that he ought to at least know how to use them-- and able to defend himself and others, and Zzandoren would train him until that time. The priest was learned in a moderate variety of weapons and a slightly smaller variety of styles, but it was more than Ronan was learned in. Getting weapons to practice with would be problematic, given how terribly poor they seemed to be, but Zzandoren assured him that they wouldn't need any actual weapons until later on, and they could save up. Zzandoren himself, to Ronan's mild surprise, was remarkably fit and in-practice for someone who considered himself a peaceful healer sort.

"Sometimes one must defend one's patients," he'd said gently when he caught Ronan musing on it. "Or one's self, so that you can go on to help others." It made sense, and it was an honorable sort of notion. Ronan could respect that.

The training was kind of fun, and practicing kept him from getting too bored. It was something he and Zzandoren could do together, in the morning before leaving camp, and again in the evening before bedding down for the night. They didn't speak much outside of training and practice-- Ronan found he was not very talkative with any of the group, though he did at times wish he was-- but it wasn't necessary to. Thonyn tried a few times, but unless he was in a particularly bad mood, he tried, in turn, to ignore her. He even resented her when she joined in Zzandoren's lessons. They fought too often, since she thought he never should have bonded Zzandoren and he thought she had no business bonding someone with the intention of changing them or abandoning them. He liked Zzandoren perfectly well how he was, after all, he just... didn't want to spend his life doing what Zzandoren wanted to do. And thought Zzandoren ought to be controlling himself instead of looking to someone else. That was all.

So went the first three months of being bonded. It was a little awkward, but not too bad, and Ronan thought he'd learned a lot already, though not all of it he really cared about. When Zzandoren had him listen in while he set bones, bound or stitched up wounds, treated fevers, and used his magic on the same maladies, he did listen... he just practiced a few forms, out in the woods, while he did so. Otherwise he just got too bored, sitting still in the quiet forest. They figured it would probably do more harm than good to let strangers see the two hatchlings and cry "demon" or something, to they kept to the trees instead of coming into town. Though really, watching from some townie's window probably wouldn't be any less boring. Thonyn watched via Rythri, but Ronan noted a little smugly that she wasn't as good at multi-tasking, and wound up missing a form or a few minutes of healing instruction rather than concentrating on both. The fact that she had less direct teaching on the physical aspect, so it was less automatic for her, didn't matter at all. Really.

As the fourth month and the winter season dawned, however, things seemed to shift subtly. Zzandoren's seemingly endless patience and acceptance started to have ending points, and there was an increasing restlessness to him. They spent one day in a village before fleeing, rather than the usual two, and only a couple hours at a farmstead the next day, and they'd been traveling in the four days since then. Rythri slowly went from playful and energetic to careful and subdued, lest he be snapped or growled at in earnest rather than just in warning. There were less changes into wolf form, even at night to sleep, even though it was colder now and they had to spend some of their rare, hoarded coins on cloaks for the growing dragons and better boots. Even Thonyn kept her sharp retorts and attempts at bickering with Rythri and Ronan to a minimum.

It was, of course, the moon. Shinan-Al, the huge green-ish glowing moon that dwarfed most of the others, was almost full. Once Ronan figured that out-- gods forbid he ask, after all, and he usually kept out of Zzandoren's thoughts unless invited-- he was torn between exasperation, contempt, and a tiny kernal of pity that he refused to acknowledge. His one attempt at bringing up the subject, however, nearly got his skull cracked for him, so he just chewed on Zzandoren's inexcusable behavior quietly, ignoring the priest's seemingly heart-felt apology a moment later. If Thonyn accused him of sulking later that day, well, she just didn't understand. Zzandoren had no business not even trying to control himself... it was that sort of thing that Ronan didn't like about his bond, and the thing that stood between them even more than the difference of profession and temperament.

As the week wore on and the moon got fuller, however, he braced himself for confronting Zzandoren on at least one thing: he was not going to stand for the idiot letting himself run free. He was not a guard dog, and he refused to be used as such. Before he got the chance, however, Zzandoren broke the morning silence, even before the usual tossing of cut branches at Ronan and Thonyn for practice, by saying, "We'll be reaching the House of the Moons this afternoon. We'll be a few hours early, but I think it's just as well. We can get cleaned up and get decent meals in us, before the full."

::Wait, what?:: Ronan asked stupidly, staring at the priest in surprise.

"The House of the Moons," Zzandoren repeated with careful patience, his breath fogging in front of him in the chilly air. "The temple of Amerou, goddess of the moons. Surely you remember my telling you about that."

::You're going back there?:: he repeated incredulously.

The look Zzandoren gave him made him feel like he was being dreadfully rude, though he didn't really know why. "I'm not about to risk being free when I'm not sure I can even control a change in conditions like that. Besides, you're both still so small, I wouldn't risk being loose unless you were large enough to physically stop me."

Since Ronan felt sure he had grown at least two feet in the past months, he might usually have taken offense, but he did remember just how big and fierce the Hunter could really be-- and, more importantly, he was still both stunned and a little embarrassed that Zzandoren had already planned to lock himself up. ::Oh,:: was all he said.

Even as tense and restless as he'd been lately, Zzandoren was still clever enough to pick out what was really going on. "You thought I was just going to run wild and let you look after me, didn't you," he said rather than asked.

Ronan looked at the ground. Now that he said it, it seemed like a stupid thing to have thought. Zzandoren was responsible, even if he was oddly irritable these days. It wouldn't really have been in character for him to just forget about his responsibilities and duties like that, to allow himself to be dangerous. Actually peering through the priest's thoughts-- which were so open that Ronan suspected he was being invited to do so-- he found so many things that proved his callous assumption to be completely unfounded. There was distaste for his current temperamentalness, intense and very physical discomfort in his own skin which fueled the bad mood, terror kept carefully in check at both the change facing him and the torment of resisting it, tempered with resignation, a reassuring sense of duty, and shame for his fear.... There were even remnants of guilt for the first time he changed-- when he'd killed, because he hadn't known what would happen. And, lastly, he found a little bit of hurt that Ronan, himself, had made such an unflattering assumption about him. 

Withdrawing, and feeling a little ashamed of himself, Ronan muttered a quiet, ::I'm sorry.::

Zzandoren smiled at him, obviously doing his best to be reassuring. "It's all right." And then he tossed the day's length of unsmoothed wood across the distance between them, and it was routine again-- all right again.

The temple was bigger than Ronan expected, given the sense of "trapped" that Zzandoren associated with it in his head. The walls enclosed the temple proper, the dormitories, and an expansive, wild garden-- currently brown and sleeping for the winter. A tall, slightly awkward-looking man greeted them with obvious delight at the front door, glanced over the yautjadragons only briefly and without much interest-- though the other couple priests they passed stared unashamedly-- and ushered the four of them inside. He plagued Zzandoren with a number of personal sorts of questions, endured the snappish responses without batting an eye, and ran the first hot bath Ronan and Thonyn had enjoyed since leaving Star City on their hatching day.

"I have been teaching these two combat," Zzandoren told the annoying priest, whose name was Jestin, as he undressed. To explain, he motioned at Thonyn, who had already dived into her own tub and was making happy thrumming noises, much to Rythri's amusement, and Ronan himself, who was still standing at Zzandoren's side. "Do you think you might have anyone who could keep up their training while I'm locked away? They'd probably benefit from a different hand than mine now and then, anyway."

Ronan actually stared up at him in surprise. That was more than he'd expected from the priest, given how surly both of them had been, and how much else Zzandoren had on his mind. It was kind of him to remember and ask about it.

"Oh, I'm sure we can think of something," Jestin smiled at Ronan. "We have a few among us who prefer the more martial aspects of priesthood, despite their dedication to the temple."

::Thank you,:: he said, trying to sound grateful rather than gruff.

"Not at all, not at all," Jestin waved him off. "I'll set about getting everyone a meal, shall I?"

And he mercifully slipped away, letting them all get clean in peace. Even Ronan had to admit that it felt good to wash with real soap and actual hot water. Zzandoren helped him get burrs and tangles out of his tail-fur, which was getting longer even as he was getting bigger; eventually he'd have to cut it. Normally, he would have done it himself, but it seemed like having something to do helped keep the priest from reverting to pacing and growling restlessly, and Ronan figured that if he was still too small to do a lot of good out in the world... well, it wouldn't kill him to do a small good instead, like keeping a moon-restless werewolf from chewing on his own skin. If the cost was a little indignity-- he was embarrassed to find he liked the attention of someone combing out his hair and fur-- well... he could survive a little indignity. Both of them even unbent enough to share amusement at Thonyn's obvious bliss at being able to properly wash and soak; who would have thought the tough, scathing-tongued hatchling would have been so obsessed with staying clean?

Then Jestin came back with dinner for all of them, and a reminder that Zzandoren had a little over an hour until the actual full began, and the moment of rapport was broken. For the first time since their bonding, they were going to actually be separated. Zzandoren had a cell to be locked up into, and Ronan... well, he'd probably spend the time practicing, stalking the quiet woods around the temple, and wishing he were somewhere else, doing something more important.

Even so, it was a little sad, an hour later, when Jestin shut that heavy door between him and his bond, and the pair of priests there to keep watch threw the sturdy latch and the additional deadbolt shut. Rythri actually stalked away with a growl, Thonyn trailing after him and looking over her shoulder at the door. Ronan didn't move for a while, glaring at the door as if somehow, it were all it's fault.


Chapter Sixteen - Chapter Eighteen


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