The Werewolves' Story
The Pack: Chapter Five
Chavarin woke with the sensation that he'd had unhappy dreams-- which, given the past two weeks, wasn't surprising-- but at least by the time he'd slogged his way out of sleep, he couldn't remember any of them. It didn't exactly start the day off on a good note, though.
Nobody else seemed particularly glad to greet the morning, either. Breakfast, retrieved from the general store by Resham, who had woken first, was subdued and quiet. Trying to convince the three victims to eat came next, and that was a trial and a half. Not even Chav, who they ostensibly knew and trusted, had an easy time of it. Bandin was afraid of all of them, even Chav, and made constant attempts to escape or claw at their faces with his ragged fingernails, while Faye scolded them all unintelligibly and refused all offerings. Oraeven just didn't seem to notice them, oblivious but at least peaceful, and he they managed to get a some tea into.
All of them sat by the door, Thonynde peering in, worn out and defeated after only an hour of working with the survivors.
Zzandoren broke the silence first, with a sigh and an admission, "I don't think I can do anything for them."
"What do you mean?" Chav asked sharply, afraid he already knew. Resham gave the priest a sideways glance, and Rythri gaped, as if amazed that Zzandoren couldn't do something, no matter what it was.
"I've tried everything I can think of," the priest said heavily. "Magic, herbs, divine petition... nothing works. I can't bring back their minds. This disease-- it's done something permanent that I can't undo."
Zzandoren looked over at him, looking both guilty and apologetic. "We can take them to a temple that cares for the insane. They'll be able to look after them there."
Chav looked away, swallowing his automatic protest. "Then they'll never get better? Be the way they used to be?"
"It's marginally possible, that with time and care, they could improve...." Zzandoren sighed. "But I doubt it."
Chav didn't answer, and Rythri leaned against his shoulder. "Chav, I'm sorry."
He just shrugged a little, not looking up and not daring to speak yet. He hadn't told anyone yet about his worst fear, not wanting to see the pity in their faces, their immediate assumption of the worst. He hadn't mentioned anyone in particular, in fact, or how he knew any of the dead they'd found. The identity of his former employer, the owner of the general store, had slipped out on accident, and they'd made a fuss about that. How much fuss would they make if they knew Bandin had looked up to him like an older brother-- Chav had never figured out why, since he wasn't particularly admirable, but it had made him feel important and responsible-- or the body of the once-pretty girl, the last one before Zzan kept him at the temple, was the girl he'd been tentatively courting? How much fuss would they make if they knew he hadn't seen the faces of his family yet? What would they say if they did find his family and he couldn't help but break down and cry?
As long as he'd thought there was hope for recovery for the afflicted who had survived, he could have hoped that his family might have survived, so they could be healed. Resham and Thonynde hadn't found their bodies yet, so they might not be dead, but if they hadn't avoided the plague-thing, they might was well be. They wouldn't know him, or if they did, they would probably turn on him through some delusion. He didn't know which one would be worse: his parents and brothers not recognizing him, or his parents and brothers knowing exactly who he was but hating him, anyway, for some unfathomable reason that would never go away. That was half the reason he hadn't brought himself to check yet-- the other half being that he'd been afraid to leave the store.
Maybe... maybe they were safe, holed up in their house-- or maybe oblivious to the whole affair. It was harvest season; they didn't come to the village much in harvest season. Resham hadn't gone as far as their farm yet, so it was possible they hadn't even caught it. It was pretty far out, their farm, a whole half-day's walk out, and though Resham had found bodies from farther farms, those-- those had been in the other direction. There was still hope that they were alive and well. He had to cling to that. He had to, or he didn't know if he'd manage to keep going.
He rubbed at his nose with a sleeve, blinking back tears because he would believe they were alive, so there was no reason to cry. Resham and Zzandoren were pointedly not looking at him, at least, giving him the illusion of privacy until he knew he was going to be all right. Rythri kept casting him furtive glances, though, but he didn't mind that so much.
"Are we doing that now?" he asked when he thought he could. "Taking Oraeven and Faye and Bandin somewhere?"
::We ought to,:: Thonynde spoke up from the doorway, peering in at Bandin suspiciously, who was curled in a corner and panting like he'd just run a mile. ::They'll get into trouble by themselves, here, and we have more work to do.::
Zzandoren sighed again. "She's right. And we won't be doing them any good waiting until later. Thonynde, do you mind?"
::I can't imagine how you're doing to get them near me,:: the big creature said with a wordless rumble that made Bandin jump and scream-- Chav winced-- and made Faye shout something foul at her. ::The priest, maybe, but the other two?::
"We'll put them to sleep again," Zzandoren said heavily. "I can't think of another way, and it's probably just as well. It will be easier on the temple as well as us."
"I'll go," Chav said immediately.
::There's no way I could carry you, three dead-weights, and Zzandoren,:: Thonynde told him gruffly. ::I'm going to have a hard enough time getting off the ground, as it is. Sorry, kid.::
"We'll go hunt for some more survivors," Rythri suggested, nudging him with one knobby elbow. "How's that? Maybe we'll find somebody holed up and healthy, huh?"
Chav couldn't speak, not after hearing his own hopes stated so casually and obliviously, but he nodded. If he couldn't go with Thonynde, he had to be doing something.
They could go in the direction of his parents' farm, this time. He had to know they were all right. Or not all right. He had to know, especially now that their escaping the plague was the only hope he had.
"Let's go now," he said, getting up. He couldn't bear the sight of Zzan or Resham carrying the unconscious bodies out to Thonynde-- or floating them, or walking them like zombies, whatever it was they were going to do.
"Zzan?" Rythri asked, looking quickly in the priest's direction. Zzandoren gave Chav a sympathetic look that he couldn't bring himself to meet, then nodded silently. Thonynde pushed herself up and out of the doorway, letting him out, and he hurried past her. Rythri and Shessyi, both wolves now, bounded after him, and Rythri let him pick their direction. He looked around once, then found the road leading towards the eastern farms. Even if it took him all day, he was going to find his family.