The Werewolves' Story
The Pack: Chapter Four
It had been an exhausting day for everyone. The boys had worked
hard cleaning up the temple, and before that out looking for survivors, and after
that making dinner. Poor Chavarin had the added stress of having found so many
of his friends dead, identifying everyone he'd found with the group and everyone
brought back later. He and Rythri were sound asleep in a corner of the temple,
the former using the wolf-formed latter as a pillow and the latter curled around
the former. The two had hit it off well, which was something of a relief: Rythri
kept Chav occupied rather than letting him dwell on the miserable condition of
Thonynde was asleep, too, stretched out in front of the door so that no one could go out or in. She'd worn herself out first purifying the town, then helping Resham and Shessyi carry bodies back into town. It was a messy job, but somebody had to do it, and Thonynde was the biggest, so she was the most logical to get the bulk of it done. She even cleansed each body as she carried it into town. ::Got to get rid of the corrupted disease, even from the dead ones, or it'll just come back,:: Thonynde explained gruffly. ::The more of it I can kill, the better.::
Poor Zzandoren's work had seen the least results of all of them. He could help Thonynde a little-- he banished the original disease once Thonynde rid it of its unnatural traits-- but for the most part he focused his attention, his magic, and his prayers on the three survivors they'd managed to collect. The disease had been cleansed away-- they were no longer in danger of dying or even worsening-- but they were still <u>damaged</u>. He'd been at it most of the day. Rythri made him take a break and eat something, but he had gone right back to the three after he'd bolted down some of Shessyi's contribution to the day, his catch. Now, the sun was long down and he was starting to look a little gray and faded, but Zzandoren was still murmuring over the oblivious priest, Oraeven.
Resham watched him, frowning, as she absently worked out a few tangles in Shessyi's thick fur. She'd kept busy, herself, tracking down the fallen and helping to bring them home, digging a few graves in the temple yard when she ran out of stomach for carrying the dead around and seeing what they'd done to each other. But she certainly wasn't going to go to sleep when Zzandoren there, awake, and seemingly on the road to killing himself for these people.
Though Resham did not count herself a bad person, most of her life had been driven by dealing death and tracking down monsters and, in between those goals, trying to convince poor people that they could spare something for the werewolf hunters who had just fought for their homes and now needed to eat and have their armor mended. Most hunters were hard, mercenary, even cold, opening up and putting aside their armor, physical or emotional, only to their teammates. There just wasn't much room, when you were living day to day for a difficult cause, to be selfless and compassionate. There was loyalty to the team and to the task, but not to outsiders. It wasn't that they were bad people, it was just common sense: you could only look after so many people, care about so many people, and it was only natural to care about the ones who you spent the most time with.
But Zzandoren, for all he was a werewolf-- the most dangerous kind of werewolf there was, for that matter-- and for all he had enough charisma, strength of will, and magical power to do whatever he wanted with his life, had dedicated himself to helping people who never paid him back. Poor people, ill people, hurt people, usually people he'd never met. Before he'd met Rythri and been bitten, in fact, he'd done it entirely alone, with no reward that Resham could see except, occasionally, someone gracing him with a new pair of boots or a warm coat. It had to have been horrible, but he hadn't even had a cause to keep him motivated.
Abyss, he'd done so much for her, even though it was her own fault he'd bitten her-- even though they'd attacked him and his friend with no warning and for no cause. No one had complained about them, they had done no harm, and there had been no reason to suspect them of wrongdoing except a prejudice against their sub-species. But he'd tried to talk her through accepting the change, had stayed with her during the change, had accepted her into his odd little group, even though she'd cursed at him, called him a monster, even attacked him.
And now he was doing it all over again, for these strangers. Was it just because of Chav, wanting to give the young werewolf at least a few of his friends back? Some weird kind of werewolf loyalty? She didn't think so; it didn't explain a life goal of wandering around healing people.
Well, whatever it was, Resham wasn't about to let him kill himself for lack of sleep and too much magic. He looked half-dead already. She gave Shessyi's mane a ruffle and pushed herself to her feet, stalking over to him. A hand on his shoulder wasn't enough to distract him, but when she gave him a good shake he blinked and lost whatever spell he'd been in the midst of. Resham could feel the delicate threads of power scattering, and he actually swore-- he didn't do that often, and it always seemed a little funny when he did.
"You need to sleep," she told him firmly.
"Sleep," she interrupted. "Or I knock you over the head and you wake up with a headache, but at least then you would sleep."
At least he wasn't stupid enough to try her. She didn't think she'd actually knock him out, but she had power, too, and had no problems with weaving her own spell. She knew a couple good ones for sleeping, too-- if he didn't manage to resist it, the way he did bindings. A troubling thought, that was. At least he didn't give her cause to test it, getting to his feet-- a little shakily, and with the aid of staff and Resham's hand on his elbow-- and letting her lead him over to the flame-less "campfire" Rythri had set up by the altar for them to sleep at. Chav hadn't even brought up that he could always go back to the store he'd been holed up in and sleep in a real bed; he'd just settled down next to Rythri, either too exhausted or too nervous to trek all the way back across town.
Zzandoren sat and stared wearily into the ball of light hovering where a fire normally would be while Resham wrapped her own quick spell of sleep around the three survivors. It wouldn't do to have one of them wake up and decide to murder the rest of them in their sleep. She dropped down between him and Shessyi, ruffling the latter's fur as she did so. Despite looking dead on his feet, Zzandoren made no move to lay down, so neither did Resham.
It took him a while to break the silence, but, as she'd expected, he did eventually speak. His voice was quiet, probably as much due to its uncertain tone as to avoid waking the boys, when he said, "I don't think I can do it, Resham."
"Do what?" she asked bluntly. "Make them sane again?"
He actually flinched a little, but nodded. "I've never tried to heal something like this... it's like their minds are-- I don't know."
"You're a healer," Resham shrugged. "A body-healer, not a mind-healer."
"The mind is still a part of the body, Resham," Zzandoren told her miserably. "A combination of chemicals and the brain. If it were something like chemicals being out of balance or the brain itself being damaged, I ought to be able to fix it...."
"Have you ever done that before?" Resham asked.
"Well, no. But I know how it ought to work--"
"Well, there you go." She settled back into the curve of her wolf's body. "How something ought to work and how it does work? Usually pretty different things."
"But it's just physiology. I should be able to just repair the damage or... something."
He really did sound like he felt bad about it. "Zzan, stop beating yourself up," Resham told him. "You're just one person. You can't do everything."
Zzandoren sighed, shutting his eyes against the truth of that. "I know. I just wish, sometimes, that I could do a little more. Something for poor Chavarin, maybe, to at least bring a little order back into his life."
"You're already doing that," Resham told him with a little grin. "He's not stupid. He's not going to expect you to make everything all better."
"No?" Zzandoren smiled a little, too, though it wasn't a terribly happy expression, like he didn't necessarily believe her.
"No," she repeated firmly. "Nobody expects miracles, Zzan."
She regretted the word choice immediately, remembering Thoynde's comment about miracle-workers from that afternoon-- a stupid comment, really, but no one had even remarked on it at the time-- but Zzandoren didn't comment, though she was sure he'd made the connection, too. Instead, he settled back against his pack and his cloak, gazing through half-closed eyes at the ceiling. He looked so dejected over there, just because he couldn't cure a couple people of magically induced madness. Why did the man push himself so hard for people he didn't know? Who would never thank him, who might not be able to thank him-- who would probably chase him out of town or attach him, if they knew what he was.
And why in the name of all that was holy was she following him around? Just her repentance, happening to coincide with his over-all mission of warning other werewolves about people like her? They weren't doing anything like that right now, but still, here she was. Carrying around dead bodies in the middle of a town that had gone insane. It seemed insane, but here she was, and she didn't have any real inclination to go do anything else instead. It simply wasn't like her-- but then, it wasn't like her to be bedding down next to werewolves, either. Maybe more than just her sub-species had changed... though she wasn't sure she liked that idea.
As if aware of her scrutiny, he rolled his head aside to look at her. She blinked at him suddenly meeting her gaze, and he smiled tiredly. "Good night, Resham."
"Good night, Zzan."
And he finally gave in to necessity, closing his eyes and relaxing into obviously much-needed sleep. Grumpy and annoyed at herself, Resham rolled over into Shessyi's furry side and did the same.