The Werewolves' Story
Healer and Hunter: Chapter Eighteen
It was after the first meal they passed in to him that he
actually noticed the change. It took him until early afternoon-- and he even
knew it was early afternoon, by that point, thank the gods-- to realize what the cause of it
With the first meal they sent in, just before sunrise the next morning, they actually woke him up, which surprised none of them more than himself. The first moon he'd been locked up, he'd hardly slept at all before he'd finally changed, and even less after, just in snatches now and then, and every time he woke up with his heart pounding from dreams of hunting and chasing, half-certain he'd changed in his sleep. But that night, he couldn't remember what he'd dreamed, and it had been longer than a snatch. Not terribly long, surely, but... longer than he'd expected. He didn't even remember settling down to try and sleep, he'd just done it.
Not that it still wasn't torture to be in the cramped, enclosed little room. It had taken all the willpower he possessed to step inside, to let them close that door, to hear the latch click and smell the spells springing up, layer upon layer, keeping him in and the world out. He'd been shaking the whole time, and only after forcing himself to count his breaths and sit, still and quiet, in the center of the room for several long minutes did the tightness in his chest turn into something bearable. Since it was at that moment that the full moon hit, he didn't have long to enjoy the breath of relaxation.
He spent half the night-- at least-- pacing restlessly and without purpose, praying the formal prayers that Glace didn't need but which aided the concentration anyway, reciting every spell he could think of in his head, picking apart what he could tell of the spells surrounding him. He sang to himself, glad that no one else could hear him, because he sang terribly. He even ran through a few of the stretches, positions, and forms that he'd been teaching the dragons-- anything to keep his mind off of the insistent, near-painful tug of the moon.
But, he mused as he gnawed on the hard rolls the priests had given him, he was doing better this time than last, though he still wasn't happy, though some part of him wanted to be banging on the door in an attempt to get them to open it and another part wanted to tear the door down and chew his way through those puny prey-beasts who dared cage him-- and that thought was going to stop right there, thank you. There-- he still had a much larger part of himself that was awake, alert, determined despite his fear, and very much himself, able to derail a train of thought fueled by the beast.
It didn't make sense, when he thought about it-- and think about it, he did, because thinking was better than just reacting. Reacting was what the beast did. Thinking was what he did, keeping the beast at bay with logic and reason and process. That, he'd come to realize, was part of the reason the instinctiveness that came out even when he was still human bothered him: even if he hadn't felt bad about being so much more aggressive, the worst was that it felt like a lack of control. Like the beast was slipping through even when he was supposed to be himself.
So he thought, as hard and as logically as he could. Even if he was thinking about the beast, when he could almost feel it lurking around the edges of his consciousness, waiting to pounce. Just... not with quite the same ferocity as he remembered last time. He didn't think it was, anyway. Could it be his imagination?
No, he didn't think so, but he couldn't understand it. The beast didn't think it was beaten yet: it had escaped last time, and it had no reason to think it couldn't do so again this time. All it had to do was wait until the walls felt like they were leaning in on him, watching him and breathing like a mouth about to close and swallow him into darkness--
He threw down the last of the roll, pushing himself to his feet and hurling himself back into motion to keep down the fear. Think about the holding onto himself part. Think about that. What could be the reason for the change? The way he felt more like himself? What was different?
Well, the first thing that was different, the first thing that came to mind, was the bond. But how much good could that be doing? Ronan wasn't even interested in helping him, and even if he was, he hadn't heard anything from him, whether encouragement or derision. For all he knew, the enchantments on his cell kept them from communicating. And communicating might have only made things worse: he didn't know how feeling sorry for himself would affect the beast, much less anger at the assumption-making whelp.
That had been hard, keeping from being more angry than he knew was rational at the pup thinking he was just... that irresponsible. That foolhardy. That unfair to force a pair of children to deal with his change-- that uncaring to not even try to keep others safe-- that weak to not resist it with everything in him. He knew that he oughtn't hold it against Ronan: he was a child and prone to misunderstandings, he was a yautjadragon and bound to see others with suspicious eyes, and he was a warrior and so prone to thinking the worst of anyone who lacked the desire to follow that militant way of life. But it still made him both angry and hurt to think that someone who had bonded him, who had chosen him and professed to at least like him a little, had so thoroughly misjudged him. That he had already been quick to anger, with the moon approaching, hadn't helped.
That he was even quicker to anger now, with the moon full even though it was technically on the other side of the world at the moment, helped even less. He kept thinking of putting Ronan at the end of a hunt and seeing how arrogant he was then-- but that would only prove him right. And when he caught himself imagining how quickly he could outrun the pup, he felt distinctly ill at himself.
Don't think about him, he told himself firmly. Think about other things that could be causing this unexpected sense of control.
He came up with half a dozen reasons, and it took him a while to do so, distractible as he was. His thoughts kept tracking off in other directions, and he let them as long as they were safe directions: figuring out the phenomenon wasn't nearly as important as keeping his mind working. In the end, though, none of those reasons were any more likely than the first, and considerably less likely. He doubted it was anything he'd eaten lately, and it certainly wasn't that he was more or less tired. He doubted that the amount of overwhelming sorts of situations he'd been in since the last full phase-- if anything, that ought to have weakened his resistance, not made it stronger-- and he didn't think the time since his last caging had done anything but make it more angry at the idea of being caged again. His fear of the cell was nothing but a weakness the moon and the beast could exploit.
What was left? The bond.
Now that he thought about it, the only natural telepaths on Kynn were the Riihan, and Riihan were in no danger from the curse: the thought of them did nothing to the instincts of the beast except instill a slight aversion, a certainty of being stomped by something much bigger than it was, and the ultimate decision to avoid them. So perhaps the various seals on his cell weren't aimed at keeping the sense of them out-- which means it wasn't aimed to keep the sense of a bond out, much less a half-Riihan like Ronan. It could explain things, just a little: why he slept, for one thing. Ronan had probably been asleep, and some measure of that rest bled through. Ronan was not one to ever lose his sense of self, so maybe some of that stability translated, as well. Or perhaps just being bonded to his human self acted like an anchor of some kind.
He felt like he ought to test this new theory. As he was not a Riihan, or one of the very rare individuals with some kind of mental power, he didn't have any idea whether he could even sense the bond much less communicate through it, but he knew the way he communicated in his thoughts with his goddess. Perhaps there was something similar in principle, there.
Settling down on the pallet where he slept, he shut his eyes, slowed his breathing, and quelled restlessness with the discipline of a priest until he could focus again. He thought back to times when he'd called on Glace, times when he'd heard her voice in his head and answered in kind... he did "send" thoughts "out", he decided, rather than simply letting her pick them up. It was more of an envisioning process than something he thought he actually did, something that made those thoughts more accessible but required no actual ability on his part, but perhaps the bond between himself and Ronan made that good enough.
He gave it a tentative try.
There was nothing. No... there was a flicker of something. Some awareness not his own-- fierce, busy, intense-- and after a brief panic and scramble to focus on his own mind again, he realized it wasn't the beast's. It had been Ronan, he thought as he waited for his heartbeat to slow down again, but a Ronan not willing to look up from whatever he was doing, giving only the tiniest bit of attention to a minor irritant, like a gnat buzzing on one's ear.
But he had gotten through to him! The brief, fierce flare of triumph incited another burst of stalking around the room, just to get the excess energy out. He'd have to try again, he thought as he paced, louder or stronger or... something. He wanted to actually get Ronan's attention, now, maybe talk to him. Maybe rational conversation during the full moon would help-- not that Ronan was ever talkative, but he could hope, couldn't he?-- gods, even just knowing what time it was whenever he felt the desire to would help.
Settling down again, he thought eagerly, Ronan?
This time he actually got a response. ::Huh? What?::
Ha! I did it!
::Did what?:: the pup asked suspiciously.
Talked to you, he thought back, grinning to himself. This cell is warded to keep me isolated, but it doesn't block telepathy.
There was a slightly echoey-sounding snort-- was that just in Ronan's head, or did he actually make the exasperated sound?-- and he was answered, ::I could've told you that. You've been driving me crazy all day.::
I have? Gods, I'm sorry, I only just now even thought about it.
Ronan paused, then grudgingly said, ::It's all right. You didn't know.::
He smiled, then asked hopefully, Could I... maybe talk with you? Listen in on what you're doing? Again Ronan paused, a little longer this time, and he half-expected the pup would turn him down. If you'd rather I didn't... I don't want to invade your privacy.
Ronan's voice sighed, echoey again as if perhaps he'd done it aloud, as well. ::If you think it will help. I'm not very good at conversation.::
You don't have to be. Why don't you just tell me what you're doing?
Grunting a bit, Ronan began, ::Well, this big priest fellow-- I think his name is Durham-- he's teaching me and Thonyn some stuff about polearm weapons, and he said....::
Settling back against the wall, Zzandoren just let him talk-- questioning and encouraging whenever Ronan faltered-- and relaxed with a sigh. This looked like it might be a promising escape from both boredom and fear. If he was lucky, maybe it would even keep the beast away. If he was very lucky.