The Werewolves' Story

Healer and Hunter: Chapter Twenty-Four


The priest left, but the werewolf stayed. He did more than stay, he actually tried to step inside.

Shessyi barked again, taking one stiff-legged step towards the werewolf in warning, and he stopped. Resham could see him out of the corner of her eye, holding still and gazing at her companion, though she refused to look right at him. Damn werewolf.

"I'd back out again if I were you," she warned, herself. "He's been trained to track down and kill corruptions like you."

For a moment it was quiet, and she felt safe in hoping that he might retreat. But then he spoke, correcting her softly, "Like us."

"I'll never be like you," Resham hissed, turning even further away from him.

Whether he took the meaning for what it was or not, he still didn't leave. He actually came another step further in, to Shessyi's frustration. Shessyi didn't attack, though; the poor wolf was all confused, with his mistress suddenly smelling like the things he was used to hunting. She felt his confusion, even felt him back off as the werewolf met his challenging gaze and held it assertively. Damn, they'd been right about one thing, at least: this one was definitely the "leader", and even Shessyi knew it. He didn't do more than growl uncertainly when the werewolf sat down at the foot of the bed. Resham scooted further away.

"I'm sorry," the werewolf said quietly.

"You killed my team-mates, and you expect me to accept an apology?" she growled.

There was a slow breath, and he answered, "No. But I wanted to give it, anyway. Usually I control myself better than that. It's been just over two years since I was loose and changed...." Resham didn't answer, she just ducked her head against her knees and glared at the wall. She didn't believe that, she wouldn't believe that. Werewolves were monsters. The way he'd attacked her fellow hunters, the way he'd run her down-- that proved it. Werewolves were monsters. Perversions, corruptions, an affront to nature and true wolves everywhere.

After a long moment of silence, the werewolf continued, even more gently, "I know I bit you. I'm sorry for that, too."

The newly-healed scar on her shoulder throbbed a little at the reminder. Kumar wouldn't even have left a scar, but the... the thing that healed her, whatever it was, apparently wasn't that good at it. But the priests at this temple had deemed both the bite and the welted, half-healed scratches on her back closed and clean enough already and hadn't done anything more for them, too busy fussing over the other werewolf to do more than set her shoulder and bind it up. She would have thought priests of Amerou, of all orders, would have been more likely to destroy such an abomination....

... except then, they'd have to have destroyed her, as well.

The werewolf put a hand on her shoulder, and she jumped, whirling around to knock it away. "Don't touch me," she snarled. "Beast!"

He sat there with his hand still half-outstretched and such a hurt expression on his face-- still gentle, too gentle for a werewolf, dammit-- that she sagged back instead of hitting him, like she was of half a mind to do. She did glare, though.

Taking another steadying breath and dropping his hand, the werewolf said, "Not all of us are beasts. I can control my change-- normally I do. I said it: I've been two years without hurting anyone. If Rythri hadn't been shot, if you hadn't attacked me even after Rythri was shot, I might never have changed again."

"Like I believe that," Resham muttered, looking away.

"Let me say this a different way. Would you hurt an innocent? Who wasn't a werewolf, I mean, since you obviously have nothing against hurting them." Now he sounded less gentle, less patient, and she glared at him again.

"Werewolves are abominations," she repeated stubbornly. Shessyi, from the opposite corner of the room, backed her up with a grumbling sound.

He sighed. "A simple human child, then. Would you shoot a human child?"

"Gods, no!"

"And yet, you are a werewolf."

"I am not-- I'm--"

"Bitten by a werewolf," the man repeated slowly. "And has your personality or morality changed a bit in the past twenty-six hours?" Resham didn't have an answer for him, because the only answer she had-- that of course it hadn't-- would prove his point. He smiled faintly. "I am a priest, ma'am, before a werewolf-- a priest of Glace. I was a priest for eighty years and then some before I was bitten, and I will continue to be a priest until the day I finally retire. My goddess has not abandoned me, because I am the same person. I would no more hurt a child than you would."

"But you--"

"Attacked you and your friends last night. Yes." He nodded. "It was the full moon, and that's... different. It was wrong to let go of my control, and I wish I hadn't. It's terrible when I...." He actually shut his eyes and shuddered. "But most werewolves... are not like that. Rythri isn't. What I am is very rare, and I do everything in my power to control it."

"Didn't control it very well last night," she muttered mutinously. Werewolves weren't supposed to make sense, use logic, out-argue someone rational and intelligent.... They were animals.

Except she was a werewolf now, and as he'd said, she didn't feel any different except for her anger and fear.

"You attacked my-- friend," the werewolf explained. "I was afraid for him. Then you attacked me, and I was angry. Fear and anger... the beast feeds on them, takes advantage of them. Fear turns into protectiveness, anger turns into wanting revenge." He shrugged helplessly. "It was my fault, and I understand that you are very angry. But you had no cause to attack us, either, and I believe that I have a right to be angry at you for that, as well."

"The right to kill us?" she spat.

"No," he answered patiently. "To be angry. The fact that my anger ran away from me and let the beast loose is inexcusable, but I had every right to be angry about an unprovoked and undeserved attack."

"We didn't know," Resham mumbled, pressing her mouth to her knees. "We thought you were human, and we were going to free you from whatever the other werewolf was doing to make you stay with him...."

He actually laughed. "You're kidding. You honestly thought--?"

"When werewolves are nothing but monsters to someone, can't very well think a healer is a werewolf, can you?"

He sobered immediately. "Well, I hope that you change your mind about that," he said, "or you are going to be leading a very uncomfortable existence from now on." When Resham didn't answer, he continued, "We'll be staying here for a few days. Moran-Il will be full then, and I think it will be safest if you change here, your first time. The acolytes of Amerou are fully trained and fully prepared to look after us if we turn out to be dangerous-- they kept me locked up until I learned to control the change."

"Locked up?" Resham repeated in surprise.

"Locked up," he nodded. "In a small, windowless cell, for five days until the moon set and the urge to change went away. It was misery, especially after making an effort to keep my life free of walls. If you doubt my dedication to keeping others safe from me, think on that for a while."

He got up, and she actually looked up at him. His dragon scales were all tangled up in his hair, his bare legs and feet stuck out the bottom of his coat, his face was unshaven, and he looked utterly wild-- but his eyes were still gentle. Werewolves oughtn't look gentle. "What's your name?" she asked suddenly.

He smiled, looking a little surprised, and that made him look less wild. "Zzandoren. What's yours?"

"Resham Fadala...."

Unexpectedly, incongruously, he offered her his hand, as if intending to shake hands now that they'd introduced themselves. She took it automatically. "I wish we could have met under different circumstances, miss Fadala," he said kindly. "And I am sorry."

He left without another word, closing the door quietly behind him, and Resham buried her face in her knees with a shuddering sigh. She didn't want to believe him-- she'd spent her whole adult life hunting his kind-- their kind, she reminded herself, feeling sick. Her kind. But if anything he'd said was true....

Shessyi approached the bed, belly low and tail tucked, and whined at her. She looked up enough to pat the bed invitingly, and he leapt up, licking her fingers and settling across her feet with a sigh almost like hers. "You don't know what to do, either, huh?" she asked softly, stroking his fur, tracing the curled markings on his back.

His silence was answer enough, but at least he didn't pull away. Werewolf or not, trained since puppyhood to attack people who smelled like her, he didn't pull away.... That helped a little. Not a lot... but a little. Maybe she could figure out the rest later. There was still a full moon to contend with. She could decide what to do after that.


Chapter Twenty-Three - Chapter Twenty-Five


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