The Werewolves' Story
Healer and Hunter: Chapter Twenty-Six
When they came for her, to take her across the hall to what she'd
heard called both "the cell"-- by Zzandoren-- and "the werewolf
room"-- by the priests-- Resham went without a word. One room or another,
windows or no windows, locked door or no locked door, nothing would have
It had been a very uncomfortable four days since her arrival at the little temple. First being left in that horrible little room, with an equally uncomfortable companion who nevertheless refused to leave her, knowing that the acolytes of Amerou were tending to that werewolf Herryan had shot-- knowing that she was a werewolf now, too, and not wanting to admit it. The grief, the sorrow for her friends' deaths-- the anger at their killer, which only led her in a vicious circle back towards the knowledge of her own, newly cursed-- newly perverted-- nature. Fear... there was fear there, too, shameful as it was. Fear of herself, of her future, of how she would have to live now. Of what would happen if any of her friends, even Mollath who knew her longest and loved her best, found her now.
Then that other werewolf, with his too-gentle eyes, who had done this to her and who now refused to leave her alone. He visited her every few hours during the day, talking to her, trying to draw conversation out of her, winning over her wolf. That last was positively insulting; he had no business luring Shessyi into complacency about his presence, letting him sniff to his heart's content, convincing him it was all right to let him touch him, bringing him choice bits of meat for his dinner, filling the long silences between Resham's rare answers with commentary on what a fine beast he was that seemed to make Shessyi trust him even more. The wolf at least had the grace to give her an apologetic look when she caught him wagging his tail at Zzandoren's entrance.
And Zzandoren himself grated on her, too. Cleaned up, with his hair combed and stubble shaven off and halfway-decent clothes on, he looked too domesticated to be a werewolf-- not like the other one, Rythri, who had a wild look to him no matter how well-groomed he was. It put her off her guard, the way Zzandoren looked-- clean, gentle, soft-spoken, kind-- which only made her more on her guard. She remembered him silver and charging, running her down, plowing her into the ground. Those first couple days, she promised herself she was not going to forgive him for that, no matter how soft-spoken he was, or how well he'd enamored her companion with him.
The second day, though, when she was starting to realize just how tiring all the anger was-- and how uncomfortable it was making Shessyi-- and was getting to the point where it just seemed easier to stop fighting the man-- the werewolf-- he made a point that startled her out of her hatred completely.
"You're a druid, right?" he'd asked her.
As if it wasn't obvious. A simple ranger or hunter wouldn't carry the weapons she did, and no one else would have an animal companion.
He took her silence as a yes. "You take your magic from nature, then, yes? Talking to trees and animals and the like, making nature work in your favor."
"So?" she grumbled at him wearily. It was accurate enough, though "making" was a bit strong of a word.
"If you're so concerned about being a perversion or an abomination," he suggested gently, "why not see how nature reacts to you? Have you tried using your magic since you were bitten?"
Stunned, she'd answered in a stammer, "I-- no--"
Smiling a bit, he'd actually led her outside, Shessyi trailing along behind them both. "Why don't you sit out here a while," he told her, guiding her to a half-hidden bench beneath a leafy tree. "I think you'll probably be surprised."
Resham could do more than just see how nature reacted to her, though Zzandoren obviously didn't know that. That was the sacred knowledge of her profession, not to be handed out lightly or shared with those who wouldn't understand it. Resham herself wasn't very good at it-- unable to be still and quiet long enough, she readily admitted-- but she was good enough, and it simply hadn't occurred to her until that moment. But if anything could help her now, that would-- if anyone or anything could take away what had been done, cleanse her again, that would.
She'd slipped off the bench, put her hands on the warm earth with Shessyi sitting reassuringly beside her, and opened herself up desperately to the spirit of the planet itself.
After the murmurs of sadness and regret that were all she got in answer-- the proof that there was nothing to be done, not by the gods which had failed Zzandoren's request to take it away, not even by the all-powerful spirit of Kynn itself-- Resham stopped caring. Her life, as she knew it, was over, and there was no hope for a life that she could even imagine being happy in, now. The purpose she'd spent her life fulfilling was moot in the worst possible way, and to add insult to injury, she was starting to think that it had been a faulty purpose to begin with, if these werewolves who had made her one of them were telling the truth about themselves.
After that, she didn't leave her room except when propelled out, and alternated between pacing with a kind of manic restlessness that made her skin itch, and laying listlessly on her bed, letting Shessyi lick her hand and whine at her strange behavior. Zzandoren kept visiting, and apparently was even more shocked than Shessyi, but when she was pacing she merely chased him out and when she was listless, he couldn't get her to answer him at all-- what would be the point? He was right, she was wrong, why couldn't he just leave her alone? He even yelled at her once, making Shessyi finally growl at him again, but that didn't stir her, either.
Then the full moon finally came, and the tall priest-- Jestin-- came during one of her listless periods to guide her across the hall to the cell or the werewolf room or whatever it really was. Zzandoren was there, looking unhappy and helpless, and he crouched to call Shessyi over to him.
"Your friend has to stay outside," Jestin said gently as Zzandoren put his arms around the wolf's shoulders, holding him still. "Just in case."
It didn't matter. Inside, outside... it didn't matter.
"If nothing untoward happens, we might be able to let you out again shortly," Jestin continued, ushering her past the first room and into the second, where the door and walls were solid-- and horribly scarred by claw marks-- and where he sat her down on a flat, minimally-cushioned bed. "You have a few minutes until the full. I'm going to close the door for now, all right?"
Resham shrugged at him, and he withdrew. The door closed behind him, blocking out everything-- Zzandoren's worried face, Shessyi's whining and fear, Jestin's small and apologetic smile-- and she shuddered out a sigh, closing her eyes against the dim light and resting her head against the wall. At least the waiting was almost over. Zzandoren had told her how unlikely it was that she would turn out like him, a beast that actually tried to kill, but the thought had been skulking around in her mind that it would serve her right. Might as well make even more of a mockery of her career by becoming the worst possible type of werewolf there was. At least she was safe, in this little room. This little cell. A cage for a beast, right?
She didn't move until the last shadow left Moran-Il's face, and though she couldn't see it, she certainly felt it.
It didn't hurt. One minute she was sitting upright, leaning back against the wall, and contemplating the unfairness of life, and the next she was sprawled out on her side and contemplating nothing more serious than her mild confusion as to how she got to be there, and vaguely aware that something rather serious had changed and she wasn't entirely sure what it was. But the wall felt cool against her fur, the ground comfortably cushioned, and she still had no real inclination to move....
Until the wall opened up and someone came bounding in, scrambling against the stone part of the ground and whining. Resham was on her feet, startled and teeth bared, until she recognized the familiar worry that went with the intruder-- and the familiar smell, that she'd never really noticed before but still knew as well as she knew herself. Shessyi.
Her companion stopped, ears flat back and fur bristled, but he didn't growl. She was different-- and bigger than he was-- but he still knew her and would not growl. No growling-- but he looked afraid, he smelled afraid, she could smell it on him. Feeling unaccountably heavy and slow, Resham turned away from him, her own ears falling back, and curled up facing the wall. Shessyi whined softly, and then there was a long silence.
Then paws crossed the room, canine claws clicking on stone. Resham didn't move, merely flicking one ear in dismissal. Shessyi could do what he wanted; she didn't care. When a canine tongue started washing the top of her head, she whimpered and lifted her head, craning her neck around to look.
That wasn't Shessyi. Shessyi was still in the other corner of the room, tail tucked and head low. A pair of honey-colored eyes, not quite a wolf's golden amber but no longer quite brown, met hers. Not red-gold, like she remembered them, but honey-colored. Small, furry ears perked-- not long and ragged; small, triangular, and nestled in thick, brown fur-- brown fur, not silver. There were no horns, no lashing tail, no mad snarl... just a far too gentle face with far too kind eyes. She whimpered again, looking away, and Zzandoren sat down and went back to licking her forehead.
Resham shut her eyes with a sigh and let him.