The Werewolves' Story

The Pack: Chapter Six


For most of the morning, while they followed the road at a pace that looked difficult for Chav to keep up with, Rythri was confused. Chav was the one setting the pace, even though it was making his face turn red and his breath come badly. He ignored his and Shessyi's howls when they caught a scent that would have lead them to a body or a survivor-- most of the time Rythri was sure they were bodies; there was a stagnancy of scent when someone was dead compared to when that someone was alive, among... er, other things. When he had to, he stopped, but never for long. He also ignored the paths branching off from the dusty road and leading off to farms or small collections of farms.

When Rythri asked-- and he did shift back to ask-- Chav said a few things but didn't explain them, and he lied a little.

"We've already found the people who live there," he said between gasps once when he stopped and Rythri formed up next to him to ask if they ought to check down a side-path. That one was a lie, Rythri could tell; Chav wasn't very good at being dishonest.

"I've got someplace I want to check," he admitted next time he stopped, when Rythri wanted to know why he was ignoring them when they caught a scent.

"Someone you know?" Rythri asked sympathetically, trying not to think about exactly who that might be. If Chav had family here, and they were all dead-- or all insane-- he didn't know what he'd be able to do for him. Absolutely nothing came to mind when he tried to think, just a helpless blank. So he didn't want to think about it.

"Something like that," Chav said, and then he went back to running.

::Where the abyss are you?:: Thonynde asked late that morning when she got back from Zzandoren's temple. ::Resham says she hasn't seen any of you in hours, and Shessyi is frustrated.::

Chav is going someplace, Rythri thought back at her, changing back long enough to answer so he would have more to say than a mental wash of his own frustration. It's taken all morning. You're probably going to have to come get him once he gets wherever he's going, or we're going to be all afternoon getting back. He's really slow.

::Going someplace?:: Thonynde repeated. ::Where's he going?::

Don't know. I'm afraid his family lives out here....


Yeah. Let Zzan and Resham know, would you? I don't know what to do if-- you know. There's a problem.

::Will do. Keep in touch.::

Then she was gone, and Rythri shifted back to paws and fur to catch up.

He found Shessyi first, hanging back and whining. There was an acrid, angry scent on the air, and even though it was old, it still prickled Rythri's fur to bristling. Something nearby had burned. Every animal alive knew that scent, and knew to stay away from it. Rythri, despite not being a natural animal, exactly, was still no exception. Shessyi wanted to run back to his druid, and Rythri wanted to run back to his pack leader and bond, as fast as they could.

But there was still Chav, whose more recent scent mingled with that of the fire, up ahead. Rythri couldn't leave a packmate to face smoke and fire alone, not even a new, oddly man-creature-ish packmate. Tail tucked low and ears protectively back, Rythri nipped Shessyi to get him to move-- the companion-wolf yipped, growled, then ran back to get his druid-- then he loped reluctantly closer, following Chav's scent down the hard-packed-ground-place, off to a trail of less-packed-ground, under the dubious shade of winter-bare trees. He didn't know where he was going, or what he'd find when he got there, except that it would be burned.

Both scents led to the charred husk of a man-creature den, and it took all of Rythri's willpower to creep through the embers-- still warm, but not hot, and still lazily drifting with a few wisps of smoke. The fire was gone. Chav was not. Chav was kneeling amidst the ashes, hands buried in the remains of some man-creature-made thing, shaking and crying. Rythri padded up behind him, hunched low with nerves, and licked his elbow.

"Go away, Rythri."

Chav sounded all wrong. Even wolf-formed, Rythri knew the way his voice was supposed to sound, and that was all wrong: too thick, too stuffed, too strained. He licked his shoulder and whined, and got shoved away for his trouble. He growled, Chav cringed appropriately, and he forgave him when he didn't shove again.

"It burned," Chav moaned, maybe in explanation, maybe just to say something. The words didn't mean anything to Rythri, really, but he sat down to listen, anyway. "My home, the farm-- everything. I don't know-- if they-- if they--" He made a funny choking noise, and Rythri licked his face. It was all salty, and wet already. Chav wasn't stupid enough to push him, but he did turn away. "Stop it, Rythri."

He got up again, and Rythri trotted after him as he trudged through the remains of the man-creature den, stopping to dig into things here and there, climbing as far up the skeletal hill-step-things as they safely could. Since it didn't hurt, he even let him dig his fingers into the scruffy fur of his back each time he stopped, as if he were afraid of something. Each time, he got back up again, both more and less unhappy. They went like that, Chav full of tension and Rythri only vaguely aware of what the problem was. Something about pack. Another pack. Family? Missing family? Something like that, but it disturbed Chav and made Rythri whine at him.

They ran out of ashes to sift through without finding anything, but by then Rythri, as used to the scent of smoke and burned wood as a wolf could get, had caught a whiff of what Chav had probably been looking for. It wasn't in the charred timbers or the varied ashes left behind by the fire, but out past them, in the fields behind the man-creature-made thing they'd been fruitlessly searching. Wanting to help, to maybe ease some of that odd tension in the newest packmate, Rythri yipped, tail flagged, and tugged at Chav's wrist.

"What, Rythri."

Chav tried to get his hand loose, but Rythri chomped down so he couldn't pull free.

"Ow! Hey! What is-- oh."

He stopped short of actually swatting at Rythri-- good pup-- and looked past him at the tall, wind-waving, grain-stalk-things behind the house. "Oh," he said again, very quietly, and then followed willingly as Rythri gratefully left the fire-smell-place behind and tracked the man-creature scents into the field.

When he found them, he sneezed at the overwhelming scent-- dead man-creature meat, yuck-- then looked up at Chav and wagged his tail hopefully. He'd found them, even if they were all sprawled out everywhere around that weird wooden thing. There sure was a lot of them. But still, he'd found them. Now everything would be all right, and Chav could go back to the pack.

Except Chav looked funny again. He'd gone all pale, and he was shaking. His hand in Rythri's fur had clenched tightly enough that it was starting to hurt. Rythri sidled away with a whine, and Chav at least let go, but only so he could crumple down to all fours and whimper.

At the end of both patience and wolfish wits, Rythri left Chav to his crying, at least long enough to find someone who could handle this sort of thing better than he could. He'd get his pack leader. His pack leader could handle anything, even crying pups.


Chapter Five - Chapter Seven