The Werewolves' Story

Healer and Hunter: Chapter Twenty-Five


"Werewolf hunters?" Rythri exclaimed, staring at Jestin from his seat on the borrowed bed. After a day and a night of fever, pain, and bad dreams, he'd only been awake, and shifted back to anari form, for the past half an hour: time enough to be ecstatic to see Zzandoren, exchange relieved assurances for gratefulness with a Thonyn who seemed more subdued than usual, devour a meal, and be stunned by Jestin's proclamation that they'd been attacked by werewolf hunters.

"I'm afraid so," the priest sighed. "There are those people who make it their life goal to track down werewolves."

::"Track down" and shoot them?:: Thonyn put in, watching with Ronan through the open window.

"Some are kinder about it than others," Jestin admitted, "and merely investigate whether a werewolf in question is safe and unlikely to hurt anyone on purpose. Others... well, they tend to shoot first and ask questions later. As it takes great dedication to the cause to be a werewolf hunter-- they are not paid for their efforts, more often then not-- the latter type is unfortunately more common, because they bear grudges."

"Why didn't you tell us about this before?" Zzandoren asked seriously. "I didn't have any idea, or I might have been more careful."

"Slipped my mind, I suppose," Jestin said. "I'm sorry, Zzandoren. If I'd heard of a group anywhere in the area, I would have let you know, but there hasn't been a peep. Priests of Amerou are usually the first to know."

"We've been on Ilmendor," Zzandoren said. "I expect you wouldn't have heard of it, over there."

Jestin blinked at him in surprise-- it was an entirely different continent, after all-- but shrugged it off. "The dragons got you there, I suppose. Well, now you know... unfortunate, that you had to learn in such a hands-on manner."

Zzandoren ran his hands through his hair, winced at a tangle, and asked, "Is there anything we can do for her? She's so... angry."

"Be patient," Jestin answered. "Talk to her, help her through this. She was in shock when Thonyn brought them both here, only started coming around a couple hours before you got here, really."

::Took long enough to believe me when I told her she'd been bitten,:: Thonyn grumbled. ::Kept trying to deny it, even when I pointed out the bite marks. Took that pet of hers coming around and growling at her for it to finally sink in.::

"When you think werewolves are monsters, it's hard to think of yourself as one," Zzandoren said quietly. Rythri didn't think he'd be quite as understanding about it if he'd been the one shot.

::Guess you didn't notice,:: Thonyn told him privately, voice dry. ::Writhing on the ground and all--::

Hey! he shot back, ruffled. I was allergic. Jestin told you about that.

::--but he did get shot. Crossbow bolt to the shoulder. Didn't react like you did, though....::

Rythri glanced at Zzandoren incredulously. He couldn't see even a mark. Rythri, for all Thonyn and the Amerou acolytes' efforts, still had a scar. The idea of Zzandoren shot made him almost as mad as himself shot. Just because of what they were-- something they couldn't help-- not because they'd done anything wrong... it wasn't fair. "Are there lots of werewolf hunters out there?" Rythri asked Jestin.

"Not really," Jestin said, to his relief. "As I said, it takes a lot of dedication and a lot of personal motivation. They aren't organized by any central agency or individual, and are only loosely organized amongst themselves. They don't have any funding except what payment they can extract from people who call them, what side-jobs they take along the way, and what they can beg from wealthy benefactors. I'd say they number about the same as werewolves themselves, perhaps a little less."

"So there's not really that much danger," Rythri said with a sigh, settling back again.

"I didn't say that," Jestin countered. "The requirement of dedication and motivation means they are usually very fierce in tracking down their quarry. This batch found you, after all, and I expect no one had any cause to complain about your being in the area."

::Not that we know of,:: Thonyn agreed.

"No one expects a healer to be a werewolf," Zzandoren put in sadly. "The one I bit told me that."

"They expected I'd be traipsing around with you if you were human?" Rythri snorted. "They're not very smart."

"Oh, I'm sure they're intelligent enough," Jestin said mildly. "Just blinded by prejudices. I'm certain the lady believes werewolves are little more than vicious animals."

::Hopefully she gets over that,:: Ronan commented darkly. ::If she winds up thinking that still, I can only imagine how she'll act, trying to live it out.::

"She doesn't think she's a monster," Zzandoren said. "Just the rest of us."

"She's intelligent. She'll get past this," Jestin said firmly. "Especially with you as a perfect example."

Zzandoren flushed, but didn't speak.

"So if these-- people," Rythri began, gulping a bit, "are so good at tracking us down... do they kill a lot of werewolves?"

"Unfortunately," Jestin sighed. "A fair number, yes. If they had anticipated Zzandoren's presence and nature, they would have killed you. It's even possible that, if the dragons hadn't shown up, they would have eventually succeeded in killing both of you."

There was a long silence at that as all five of them contemplated that horrible little possibility. 

"They're not a well-known group, are they?" Zzandoren asked suddenly, looking up from his hands. "Werewolf-hunters, I mean."

"Not at all," Jestin blinked. "They don't exactly advertise."

Zzandoren's expression was firm. "So a lot of werewolves, perfectly innocent ones, won't know they exist and might stumble into them, just like we did."

"What are you thinking, Zzan?" Rythri asked suspiciously.

::He's thinking about finding other werewolves,:: Ronan said, and there was a definite frown on his muzzle.

"Just to warn them," Zzandoren said defensively. "Maybe offer what protection we can, if they want it."

Thonyn's eyes were bright. ::I think that's a good idea,:: she put in, her mind smelling of excitement and hunting and an abstract, confusing wish for a purpose. ::After my testing, I mean, but I do like it!::

"I don't know, Zzan," Rythri said. "If we all start congregating in one place, won't that sort of attract attention? Then we'll have to offer that protection, and I'm not sure I like the sound of that."

"We'll have to think on it, certainly, but I like the idea of being able to help people like ourselves," Zzandoren said wistfully.

Jestin coughed. "Now, don't let me think I'm dissuading you, Zzandoren," he cautioned, "but there are probably a few things you should know about congregating werewolves."

Various expressions of surprise-- polite and otherwise-- marked all four listening faces. "There's something else you left out, Jestin?" Zzandoren said, with the kind of patience that suggested he wasn't happy.

"It wasn't really an issue until now," Jestin sniffed. "Hunter-type werewolves won't hurt their own kind unless cornered and desperate-- yes? You knew this?" Zzandoren nodded tersely. "There is a reason for this. When in the presence of another werewolf, no matter the type, the Hunter is strengthened. The more werewolves around him, the stronger he is when he is shifted. That is why you will not hurt Rythri unless forced to, and it might even be part of why you are so attached to the notion of a pack. The Hunter aspect of you may well instinctively want to bolster his strength."

Zzandoren stared at him. "And this wasn't an issue before?" he asked incredulously. "When were you planning on telling me?"

"When you had more than just Rythri as a packmate," Jestin admitted, having the grace to look a little guilty. "If you wound up keeping this lady you bit with you, or took it into your head to do something like this, going out and finding other werewolves."

Rythri was tempted to growl. "None of that matters if he doesn't change, though, does it?" he pointed out, annoyed.

"It could also make the change harder to resist," Jestin added apologetically. "It doesn't have to-- it depends on the pack. The more human they are, the more they'll pull towards your human side. The more wild they are, the more they'll pull towards your Hunter side." He spread his hands helplessly. "There's not been a lot of research done, but what is out there is pretty clear."

"Gods," Zzandoren sighed and put his head into his hands. "I'll have to think on it. I've got too much to think on, right now...."

"You don't have to decide now," Rythri told him sympathetically-- especially since he wasn't sure what he thought about expanding their comfortable little pack, Hunter-instinct or not.

"After Resham's full moon," Zzandoren said, pushing his hair back and wincing at another tangle. "I'll decide then, depending on how she does and what she wants to do. We'll all talk about it," he added when Rythri bristled jealously. "I'm not going to make a decision you don't want, Rythri."

Relaxing, he huffed a little unhappily. "So we're staying here until she's shifted, huh?"

"At least," Zzandoren nodded. "If that's all right with the temple."

"Perfectly all right," Jestin assured them, looking relieved that he wasn't going to make more of a fuss about the information he'd "forgotten" to tell them. Zzandoren's gaze on him was narrow, though, and his relief faded into trepidation.

"While we're here, you can tell me everything you know about werewolves," he added sternly.

Jestin, to his credit, just smiled sheepishly and nodded.


Chapter Twenty-Four - Chapter Twenty-Six


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