The Werewolves' Story
Healer and Hunter: Chapter Twenty-Nine
Zzandoren was relieved to discover that the nervousness and
tension in crowds that both he and Rythri suffered had, apparently, not
transferred to Resham. Thonyn was distracted and impatient, and Ronan was surly
and uncommunicative, so neither one was really of a mood to handle things like
gate officials or hotel managers, but Resham was happy to take charge of the
situation and get things taken care of when Zzandoren hesitated.
"Hard to imagine a capable fellow like you, unable to handle a few people," she'd snorted at him, amused, after she'd stated their case to the Nexus gate official and as they were led to the gate itself.
"This is more than 'a few people', Resham," he'd protested, looking around uncomfortably. "This is an overwhelming stampede."
She'd just laughed, which hadn't made him feel any better. No, he didn't like that crowds made him jumpy and shy, much less that it made him incapable of handling his pack's affairs like he ought to, but even if his pride suffered, he still couldn't help feeling relief when Resham rose to the challenge of dealing with it all, saving him the trouble. Given that they had dragons with them, they were given priority treatment getting to the gate-- Resham had never seen it before, and was gratifyingly open-mouthed with wonder at it-- but after that, once they reached Star City, they were just one of many and traveling mostly by hazy memory and the guidance of a couple helpful officers on the other side. Zzandoren would never really have thought to approach the uniformed woman by the portal-building's exit, but Resham went right up to her and asked for directions to a decent hotel. With instructions for the moving rooms-- Rythri remembered the name as "lifts", which made sense, since they lifted you places, after a fashion-- getting to the hotel was quick and painless.
They'd already planned to spend one night here, since they expected Thonyn to be tired after her ordeal. Two nights was less likely, and depended largely on when they arrived since it would be hard to afford a room for more than one night, but they'd apparently shown up in the early morning, and so were only subjected to-- after a little arguing on Resham's part-- one night's fee. And that wasn't even as much as Zzandoren had feared. It was only one small suite, but it was large enough for both dragons, which was what mattered.
Thonyn, predictably, didn't know what to do with herself. "We're too early," Rythri told her, not unsympathetically, when she wanted to just go and wait at the ship itself. "They probably won't even let us in."
::This room is too small to pace in,:: she grumbled.
"Then go outside," Resham said, not looking up from where she was running a whetstone over one of her blades. It was an annoying sound, stone on steel, but Zzandoren put up with it because to do otherwise meant, as Resham said, going outside.
::Maybe I will,:: Thonyn mused, eying the door for a moment. Then she cast a look over her shoulder at Rythri, tusks pulled closed and clicking together anxiously. She looked-- as much as a dragon of her kind ever could look-- a little bit pitiful.
The youth sighed and pushed himself up from the dragon-sized pillow he'd been lounging on. "All right, I'll come. But you're carrying me!" he ordered. "I'm not walking around at your heels, or anything, not with all those people around."
The pitiful expression vanished as if it had never been. ::I wouldn't have it any other way.::
Zzandoren managed to keep his amusement smothered until the two of them had left, Rythri perched atop his bond's shoulder with one hand twined in her hair. The two of them stalked from the room bickering good-naturedly about hair-pulling and kicking. When the door slid shut behind them, he and Resham shared a grin and a chuckle.
"She really used to think she'd give up on him and leave, huh?" Resham said.
"When she first hatched, yes," Zzandoren nodded. "They've come a long way."
::She's mostly given up on changing him,:: Ronan put in, sounding only a little sulky. ::And he finished growing up, which helped. Besides, with my example right next to her, I think she wanted to prove she could be a better bond than I am.::
Well, the last was a little more sulky. After sharing a quick glance, Resham pointedly bent over her saber, working at a small nick in the steel, as if to give the illusion of privacy to the pair, while Zzandoren drifted over to sit beside him. "You're a fine bond, Ronan," he assured him quietly. "You don't have to be exactly like me, or even with me all the time, to be good for me."
::I know. --Thonyn might not think so, but she's been set against me from the beginning.::
"That's not true," Zzandoren protested. "None of us got along very well in the beginning, but we're all a lot better, these days."
Even with the black mood he was in, Ronan had to see the truth in that. Even Rythri had warmed a little to him since he "left", and treated him civilly when he came back rather than wish mistrust, and Thonyn had been positively glad to see him. So, even though his voice was reluctant, he did answer, ::Well, I suppose....:: There was a pause, but Zzandoren could sense that there were more words coming. He was not mistaken, and Ronan sent out in a rush, ::I just wish you could come with me, when I go. Maybe help-- we could find plenty of people who need a warrior and a healer.::
"Which you are, in and of yourself," Zzandoren reminded him gently.
::You're better, and you like it more.::
"Perhaps. But I also have other callings on my life." He shook his head slowly. "I'm not one to go looking for trouble, Ronan, you know that. You knew it when you chose me."
::I did,:: he admitted. ::And I didn't get into things thinking I was going to change you.:: There was such a ferocity to his voice, when he said that, that Zzandoren stroked the long fur of his tail soothingly. He sighed, bowing his head. ::I guess I just hoped, a little....:: He shrugged, looking at the floor. ::It gets kind of lonely out there, you know?::
"Maybe," Zzandoren suggested tentatively, "you'll find our search for other werewolves more exciting?"
::Maybe,:: Ronan said, though he didn't sound terribly enthusiastic about it, to his quiet disappointment. Catching that, Ronan continued resignedly, ::I'm just in a bad mood, Zzandoren, don't worry about it. Probably will be until that damn test is behind us.::
"That really bothers you, doesn't it?"
::Yes. It's unfair,:: Ronan growled immediately, and Zzandoren could tell he had been keeping a real rant bottled up ever since the night before, when he'd refused to talk in order to let them all get some sleep. He didn't try to stop him, but listened patiently while he let it out. ::Unfair, and prejudiced. Inviting the "pure-bloods" and leaving the rest of us out, as if we're not worthy of it, just because our parents weren't true yautjas? It's-- it's elitist and unfair. Giving them special things just because they can beat something up-- as if beating something up is hard!:: Zzandoren expected he'd be saying something different if he were allowed to participate... but maybe he thought that if he told himself it was stupid, pointless, and easy, he wouldn't feel so bad about being left out.
::And what about the rest of us?:: he continued, still full of words and bitterness. ::Those of us who have to pay to get any equipment at all? What are we supposed to do-- fight with our claws and a lot of hope? We'd need the equipment in question to get money, in the first place, unless someone teaches us some other trade besides what we were made for,:: he added sourly, and Zzandoren couldn't help feeling a little guilty, there. With he and the pack basically living off the land and taking most of their "payments" for his healing services in goods like new clothes and food rather than coin, he hadn't been able to get Ronan or Thonyn anything really useful thus far, not even for practice. Even their practice weapons for lessons had been relatively useless for real battle, and usually completely the wrong size. Ronan had never complained, but he knew that others of his siblings and so-called cousins had bonds with salaries and plenty of equipment for loan. The fact that a number of them were being "given" equipment as a result of this test, when they didn't already need it, apparently only made it worse.
::I just don't see how they can go on calling themselves good and honorable when they leave most of us out,:: Ronan finished, apparently running out of steam at last. ::We're just as good as those "pure-blooded" ones. I bet some of us are even better. So it's just prejudice keeping us out. "Fine grandchildren",:: he muttered, recalling what the female yautja had said. ::Bah. If we were so "fine", she'd treat us just the same.::
There was a moment of silence, where Ronan calmed down from the last of his frustrated hurt, and Zzandoren continued to stroke his tail fur in silence, picking out tangles and bits of Kynn-- briars, grass, bits of dirt that hadn't been groomed away-- from the long hair. Ronan finally said, :: ... thanks for listening. That kind of helped....::
Zzandoren smiled. "Glad to be of service, Ronan."
The dragon gave him a small smile.
"Are you going to come with us when we go to watch Thonyn?" he asked.
"Are you going to be able to be happy for her if she does well?"
Ronan shifted a little uncomfortably. ::Of course,:: he said again, but he sounded less sure.
"It isn't Thonyn's fault that she's taking part, and you're not," he reminded him gently.
Stung, Ronan answered, ::I know.::
Going back to stroking his tail-fur, he suggested sympathetically, "But emotions don't always listen to reason, hmm?"
::If they did, do you think I'd still be complaining about it?:: Ronan shot back, a little rougher than necessary. When Zzandoren just looked at him in silence a moment, he looked away again and muttered, ::Sorry. I'll be happy for her-- or at least act like it, if I'm not.:: The ghost of a smile pulled his tusks apart a little. ::I'll behave.::
Zzandoren chuckled. "I know you will."
Giving him a sideways look, out of one shadowed eye, he added, ::Though I might glare and growl a little.::
Amused and pleased at the slightly mischievous tone in his bond's voice, Zzandoren said, "As long as you don't ruin things for Thonyn or get yourself kicked out, I don't suppose I care."
::I'll make sure that I don't,:: Ronan promised, sounding at least a little mollified at last. ::At least it's almost over.::
"At least," Zzandoren agreed with a sigh, almost as eager to be back home on Kynn as the dragon, now. He had things to do, and he had a bond who needed to do things. Right now, waiting suited neither of them-- at least they had that in common.