The Werewolves' Story

Healer and Hunter: Chapter Twenty-Seven


"So?" Zzandoren asked. "Are you coming with us?"

Resham shrugged, as if she didn't care, but there was a smile hovering about her mouth. Even Ronan, who didn't exactly pride himself on understanding human facial expressions, could see it. Her wolf, Shessyi, thumped his tail in his own agreement.

"It's going to be really different," Rythri warned.

"Not so different," Resham countered lightly. "We were always on the move, in search of-- of people and places who might need us, before. This won't be any different."

::Except there won't be any shooting at the end of each search,:: Thonyn said pointedly. ::Or any other form of attacking.:: She seemed to have taken the attack on her bond rather personally, and even though the werewolf hunter seemed much more comfortable in her skin after four days of running the woods in wolf form, while Moran-Il was full, Thonyn had confided to Ronan that she was still keeping an eye on her, just in case she had a relapse. If it had been up to her, she would have taken Resham's silver weaponry, just in case, but Zzandoren hadn't let her.

The priest in question sighed. "Yes, yes, no more shooting. Unless it turns out the situation calls for it."

"Which hopefully it won't," Rythri added, frowning. "But we're not even doing that for another few months," he added, and gave his bond's foot, resting beside him, a fond pat. "Thonyn has her testing first."

Ugh. Ronan wished they wouldn't keep bringing that up.

"I can't imagine a few months of travel without expecting a kill at the end of it would come amiss," Resham said, sounding uncomfortable.

Rythri eyed her, looking a bit mollified and a bit wary all at once, then nodded. "If you're sure."

"Paradigms don't change overnight," Zzandoren said peaceably. "I'll be glad to have some time just to get used to each other before we start on any missions to save werewolf kind." He gave Resham a slightly apologetic smile, but as she seemed to have gotten over her anger at him for biting her and then forcing her to look at her life differently, she hadn't taken offense.

The five of them-- six counting Shessyi, which Ronan figured they ought to, given he was every bit as clever as a shifted werewolf, if not moreso-- were settled in the overgrown garden in the front courtyard the House of the Moons. It seemed as good a place as any to talk out their various plans, just as the temple grounds had seemed as good a place as any to return to as Resham's moon lost its hold on her. The six of them had spent the past four days-- that's how long Moran-Il counted as full-- running the woods near the temple, four wolves and two yautjadragons keeping an eye on them just in case they ran afoul of any two-footed trouble.

They made an interesting patchwork of colors, brown and red and gray and black, with the white and black beasts lurking around and behind them and curling around them when they stopped to sleep. With four wolves, it felt even odder to be considered part of the "pack" and groomed and snapped at in turn by creatures so much smaller and less sentient than he was-- though he sometimes wondered about Zzandoren, who seemed far too complex a thinker for a wolf, even though there were no real words to his thoughts. He'd been used to the inclusion from Zzandoren, and to a lesser extend from Rythri, but it was easy to think that a fluke, given there were only two of them. When, after an hour or two of wariness from Resham, both she and Shessyi treated him like an overly large wolf, themselves, it felt decidedly odd.

At least it didn't make him uncomfortable, like it did Thonyn, who kept trying to talk to him, as if in need of intelligent conversation in the midst of wolfish instinct. After five months away from her, though, he found he could tolerate her more. It helped that distance and time had brought him to the realization that things he had once taken as signs of her attempting to change her bond not only had no affect whatsoever, but also were more exasperated tolerance and half-hearted suggestion than true efforts at forcing Rythri to deny himself. There had been compromises, perhaps, but on the whole Rythri had settled more solidly into himself rather than becoming someone else, like Thonyn's efforts had not changed him but refined him, and the bond that had started off tenuous had firmed into something true and strong. That took away Ronan's biggest source of contention with her, and so, to her surprise and gratification as much as his own, conversation was not so hostile and even managed to be easy now and then.

Now if only she would stop harping on that stupid, elitist, prejudiced test of hers, things would be great.

Coming back from the full moon running, Jestin had insisted on interviewing Resham, an annoying exercise that Zzandoren cut short with his own, more gentle insistence that she be allowed to sleep, after her first transformation. Jestin then transferred his eager questions to him, which he fielded admirably despite, Ronan could tell, being a little annoyed, himself. It wasn't until the next morning, just an hour or so ago once breakfast and baths had been had by all-- well, by all who fit in the bathhouse; Thonyn had been so unhappy, the first time she realized she could no longer enjoy the temple's hot baths-- that the serious talks began.

Zzandoren hadn't allowed Resham to say whether she wanted to stay with them at first, though that was obviously on everyone else's mind. First, he had to explain exactly what their current lifestyle was like, as well as what he hoped their lifestyle would turn into. Some time over the past week, between coddling Resham through her acceptance of her curse and eating up any information Jestin could give him about werewolves-- including testing himself with a number of metals to determine his own "allergy", to Thonyn's amusement and Ronan's respect; it took guts to keep hurting one's self just to find out how one reacted-- he'd made his decision about seeking out other werewolves. He wanted to do it, if just to warn them of the dangers of hunters, metal allergies, or other werewolves, and he'd deal with the consequences of being around others of their kind if they came up. He didn't know how many would want to join them, anyway: Rythri did have a point about attracting attention, after all.

Thonyn was excited about the prospect; that was one of the things she'd wanted to talk about, when he got short with her for talking too much about the test and she found another topic to talk about. Though she had no desire to leave her bond and his friend-- she avoided "wolf" terms when she could, so only called Zzandoren the pack leader when she wasn't paying attention-- she had feared the endless, drudging round of healings, with only rare bits of excitement now and then to spice things up. This, at least, would use her hunting talents and give her more of a purpose in life. The thought of someday finding an isolated spot to make theirs, to make into a home, enticed her even more, though Ronan thought that wasn't very likely to happen.

Rythri was less enthusiastic, but if he had the chance to voice any protests about someone wanting to join their pack that he didn't like or trust-- and presumably have those protests heeded, in turn-- he said he could deal with it. "I go where you go," was his final word, which made Zzandoren blush happily at the support.

And Resham, though a bit uncomfortable in general, seemed quietly determined to right a few of the wrongs she'd done over her life, or at least make an effort to. As there was no better way to make up for hunting and killing werewolves than hunting and warning them about the danger of being killed, she seemed genuinely interested in Zzandoren's plan. Ronan pondered briefly whether she was, as Thonyn seemed to think, liable to "relapse" into thinking about werewolves as monsters, but she had a healthy self-esteem and wasn't stupid, so he didn't think it likely. Her silent acceptance of becoming a part of the pack-- of Zzandoren as their leader-- in order to do that was given almost without thinking about it. It looked like the priest had won her over as thoroughly as he had her wolf, despite the upheaval in her life being technically his fault-- even Ronan admitted that she and her team had been partly to blame, as well, but really, if Zzandoren hadn't lost control, none of that would have happened. He had promised himself and Zzandoren early on that he would never make excuses for the werewolf's behavior, if he was loose and wild, and he was not taking that promise back. 

"I guess it's settled, then," Zzandoren said, and smiled, offering Resham his hand. "Welcome to the pack."

The woman who had just a week before wanted to kill him, calling him an abomination and a corruption, smiled back a little shyly and let him take her hand in a warm clasp between both of his. Ronan had to wonder whether he had that kind of charisma his whole life, or if it was just a result of his curse-- were all Hunter-types capable of inspiring loyalty? He didn't know, and he was honestly a little curious to find out.

However, all of Resham's protestations of the unnaturality of werewolves had been making Ronan think. The rest of the little pack seemed to think she was merely mistaken, prejudiced because of whatever aspect of her past had led her to hunt them to begin with, but Ronan wasn't entirely sure. And when he spotted Jestin watching from the shadow of the temple, early on in the conversation, Ronan started pondering whether he ought to ask the man. He was probably the closest thing to an authority on werewolves that there was... perhaps he would know.

As the rest of them broke up to see about lunch and chat amongst themselves before they left that afternoon, Ronan, who wasn't at all hungry and probably wouldn't be until the next morning, sent over to Jestin before the priest could escape, ::I have a question for you.::

Jestin blinked at him, whether surprised to be noticed or surprise to be contacted. Ronan glanced at his bond, found him immersed in conversation with Resham, then padded over to the shadow of the temple wall to join the priest. ::I need to know if what Resham called werewolves is true,:: he said.

"Er. Resham said a lot of things--"

::That they are unnatural and a corruption of the natural order of things.::

Blinking again, Jestin stammered, "Ah-- well, some would say-- no, they are not natural, exactly--"

::So they are, one might say, corruptions.::

"In a very broad manner of speaking, it's possible, yes," Jestin admitted. "But no one has been able to really pinpoint where they came from, how the curse exactly came to be, or what, exactly, can be done to cure it-- if anything. There are multiple parts to it, so wrapped up in each other that affecting them separately would be difficult, if not impossible. Deities have tried to affect it, to no avail." He gave Ronan a piercing look. "I don't imagine this has anything to do with that 'purification' ability your bond has mentioned, does it?"

Ronan glared back. ::Do you think it might help?::

"Maybe if you had a number of you working at once," Jestin frowned, thinking, "and you had a deity or two helping, and we found a counter for the last few elements so it could all be tackled as a whole. Maybe."

::Well, look into it,:: Ronan suggested. ::You've been wanting something that could help-- maybe we're it.::

Jestin looked up at him thoughtfully. "I will look into it," he promised after a long moment. "But keep it quiet, would you? I don't want to offer anyone any false hope if it doesn't wind up possible."

::Wouldn't dream of it,:: Ronan nodded, pleased.

"But do tell them to come back after your cousin's test thing," Jestin added, ignoring Ronan's twitch-- it was nearly involuntary by now, every time that stupid test was mentioned. "I'll hopefully have a few leads for him, by then, to get you all started."

::I will,:: Ronan nodded. ::Thank you.::

"If it turns out you and your cousin there can help out," Jestin told him with a smile, "it will be me thanking you."


Chapter Twenty-Six - Chapter Twenty-Eight


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