Bree awoke beside Fudin on the hard packed earth. The sun beat down upon them. It was hot and Bree was thirsty. She sat up and looked around.
Nes crouched over his brother with his hand pressed upon his brow. Santon sat away from them, leaning against the outer stone walls of the shrine, with his head lowered into his hands. He looked heartbroken.
“She’s gone,” he muttered to himself. “She’s gone.”
“You’re alright?” Bree asked Nes.
He paused, thinking. Clearly he was not all right.
“My wounds have healed,” he said. He let go of his brother and looked up into her eyes. “You saved my life, Bree.”
Bree nodded. “You’re my friend.”
He paused, unsure of how to react.
“What’s wrong with Fudin?” Bree asked.
“Are you afraid for him?”
Nes shook his head. “Yes, and no. Fudin will be fine. But I… am not well.”
He looked perfectly healthy. Bree frowned. “I didn’t heal you enough?”
Nes shook his head again. “No, I… What do you know of lycanthropy?”
“Lycanthropes?” Nes asked. “Were-creatures?”
“You mean werewolves?” Bree asked. “We have them back home.”
“Sort of. Lycanthropy is a disease which is transferrable through bites. It causes its victim to become part animal each full moon, or when they are under stress. There are many kinds or lycanthropes. Werewolves are one of them.”
“The man on the barge was a lycanthrope,” Nes continued. “A wereleopard. I believe his… illness has infected me.”
Bree paused, stunned. “But…” she stammered. “I healed you.”
“Not all wounds can be healed, Bree. Some must be overcome.”
Bree shook her head. “You can’t overcome being a werewolf! It will turn you into an evil beast! You’ll murder your family and friends!”
Nes shook his head. “Not necessarily. Lycanthropes become more animalistic, it’s true, but their demeanor is determined by the animal itself. Werewolves are evil. As are wererats, but werebears are good.”
“And what are wereleopards?”
“Evil.” Nes said matter of factly.
Bree eyes widened in shock. How could he be so calm? Another two or three days and he’d be trying to devour her liver!
“However,” he continued. “If one’s will is strong enough, one can keep oneself, despite the transformation.”
“You mean you won’t try to eat us?”
“My will is strong. I will fight the change when it comes, and I will win.”
“And if you can’t?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I will.”
“No.” Bree said stubbornly. “There has to be another way.”
“There is.” Nes responded. “There is a flower called wolfsbane. It has a chance of curing lycanthropy if it is administered before the first transformation. But, it is incredibly poisonous.”
“We could try it.”
Nes shook his head and chuckled. He gestured at his frail frame. “You think I would survive?” He shook his head. “No, Bree. My body is my weakness. My mind is my strength. I will fight the transformation and I will win.”
Bree paused, saddened. She had a bad feeling about this. But Nes seemed certain. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps he could keep himself.
Nes looked down at Fudin and stroked his head. “Wake soon, my brother,” he whispered.
Bree frowned. Nes never finished, but she knew what he left unsaid.
‘Just in case.’
Nes wanted to say goodbye.