Lazarus bounded over to his sister, his tail high and his eternal smirk on his face. ”Hey Storm!” the black pup greeted her warmly. ”Wanna go play?” he asked, a mischievous glint in his pale gray eyes. He had something in mind, something a little more than mere playing.
Storm had been lying on the ground outside the den, pawing at dead leaves among the frost, but when she heard her brother's voice she looked up. She shied away, knowing that whatever Lazarus had in mind probably wasn't in line with Mother and Father's rules. "I dunno, Lazarus," she said in a small voice, sitting up, but still seemed tightly curled into herself, and was only looking at her brother from the corner of her eye. Then her gaze slowly moved from Lazarus back down to the ground, where the tiny details in the frost seemed to demand her rapt attention once again. "I don't really feel like playing right now." And to her, that was that. The ground was more interesting. Eyes fixed on the dirt, she lay back down and began reshuffling the cold-crisped leaves.
Lazarus glanced at the ground, wondering what was so fascinating about it. It was just a bunch of dirt and frost and leaves. ”Alright, not play.” He bounded right over to her, trotting around her and nudging her with a shoulder, ”an expedition.” His muzzle was close to her ear, ”to discover the secrets of the land...” he grinned.
Though it wouldn'tve been obvious to any who didn't know her, that got Storm's attention. She stopped pawing at the leaves, as if trying to think. The pup looked conflicted. She sure did want to explore...but wasn't that against the rules?? Mom and Dad would surely want her to stay in camp! But at the same time, she couldn't help but feel the beckon of the open woods...
Storm bit her lip and rocked side to side on her paws, seized by great confliction. Ohh, they'll be so mad...! "...Okay," she finally said, "but if Mom or Dad finds out we'll be in big trouble!"
Lazarus narrowed his eyes with a smile of triumph. He knew as soon as she stopped pawing at the leaves that he had gotten her. Storm was not one to break the rules. But she was a thinker. Storm liked to know. And, same as any pup, he had no doubt that she was curious. This was their home, and so much of it was undiscovered to them. How could any wolf resist such a temptation? He trotted forward, circled around, and stood right in front of her, his pale silver eyes fixed on her as he waited for her decision, even if he already knew what it would be.
Lazarus laughed out loud at that answer, as if her concerns were ridiculous. ”We’ll just have to make sure they don’t find out, then, won’t we?” He said, brushing past her with a beckoning flick of his tail. He glanced behind them. Their parents were out, leaving an Arynian as the babysitter. But with eight pups to look after, it was only too easy for Lazarus to lead the pair unseen through the bushes behind the nursery. He was good at slipping away. He snickered as they began their trek into the forest, glancing behind him at Storm. ”See? Isn’t this better than being stuck at camp all day? Out here there is so much going on! So much more than… your frosty leaves on the ground.” He teased.
Reluctantly, Storm picked herself up and paced after him. As she followed, his comment about the leaves didn't pass by her. "But frosty leaves are cool," she murmured. "They're so pretty..." She seemed to retain misgivings about the situation, but her curiosity was now engaged.
As they drew further away from the camp, Storm seemed less and less unsure and more and more outgoing. She began to sniff around every which way, getting distracted by all the little things on the ground and a frozen-looking anthill or two. At one point a bird flew overhead, at which Storm seemed to become enraptured. The sky was becoming more visible as the trees slowly thinned, and the wide blue expanse seemed to deepen and grow broader with every step she took. Storm found herself looking up as she walked, never back at the ground, as her eyes seemed to become entranced with the endless azure. The mountains rose up to touch the pale horizon like majestic alphas, and Storm felt like she could stay out here forever. Forgetting that Lazarus was with her, and not fully conscious of the action, Storm stopped and instead stared up at the sky, lost in its eternity. She slowly sank onto her hind legs, sitting down, never once breaking eye contact with the vastness. "Wow..." she murmured, the word barely formed in her mouth.
Lazarus rolled his eyes in affectionate amusement before focusing back on the path ahead. Only his little sister could find frozen dead leaves on the ground interesting. But whatever. If she found that interesting, just imagine how interesting she would find the world! He looked forward to showing it to her.
Lazarus found he had to keep an eye on her as they bounded through the forest for she was not just going to follow him step by step. He kept a straight, casual path while Storm darted this way and that around him, pausing here to sniff an interesting mount in the dirt, stopping there to admire a bird taking flight. Lazarus watched it all with a pleased smile on his face. How cool it felt to be the one to cause his sister so much joy. But what seemed to impress her the most was the sky. He trotted past her as she paused to admire it, and it took him a moment to realize that she was not following. He looked over his shoulder to see her staring up at the blue expanse. Lazarus glanced up himself, but saw nothing unusual about the normal blue sky that was always there. ’Only Storm could find such awe in something so ordinary.’ Lazarus thought.
He turned and walked to her side, patting her roughly with one of his paws. ”Hey. Are you coming? Or are you going to just daydream until mom or dad comes home? You can see the sky anytime. Now come on!” He made a mental note to take her out sometime during sunset or sunrise. She likes the sky now! Imagine seeing her react when faced with something even he found spectacular! He turned and flicked his tail on her cheek as he continued to lead the way.
Storm snorted at his pat, then shook herself and trotted after him. When she caught up, she remained silent for a moment, but her eyes stayed bright and inquisitive - if mysterious - as usual. Though she kept pace with her brother, for the most part her gaze still swept across the land of Aryn, taking it all in with rapt attention to detail. The mountains far on the horizon, the tall straw-colored grass, and still above it all, the endless pale sky, which grew darker as it swept above her head before fading out again near the tops of the mountains.
After a long moment of walking in silence, she turned her head a little, though still not all the way, to face Lazarus. "Where are we going?" she asked, though still somewhat absentmindedly.
Lazarus trotted along happily, sniffing here and there and glancing around with pale silver eyes. Surely there was something interesting going on today. And then a strange scent entered his nose and he smiled to his sister, ”We’ll see.” He said, veering off suddenly to the side and toward the new scent. He didn’t know the scent, but now was as good a day as any to learn.
Storm craned her neck in curious surprise as her brother suddenly changed course. After a brief moment of hesitation, she quickly followed after him, head low. That sure is vague, she thought, though she kept it to herself. Her focus diverted away from the scenery, her attention was now drawn instead to whatever it was her brother was planning, and a thought began to brim in her mind. Storm's eyes narrowed.
She paced a little faster to catch up to him fully, and side-eyed her brother with cynicism. "You're not gonna get us in trouble, are you?" she asked suspiciously. Knowing Lazarus...he just might be. They weren't even supposed to be outside the camp anyway - but no doubt...if her brother of all people had something in mind, it was probably going to make this already preexisting offense worse.
The black pup gave her a smile, ”Come on, Storm, you know me! When have I ever gotten anyone in trouble?” He asked with a snicker, knowing that his words were far from comforting. The scent was stronger now and Lazarus stopped, holding out a paw in front of his sister to stop her. ”Wait! Do you smell that…? Do you know what it is…?” Lazarus didn’t know what it was himself, but he planned on finding out. It smelled like an animal, earthy, strong… they were close!
Storm narrowed her eyes and looked away uncomfortably, but kept trotting until her brother stopped her. She was silent at first, just listening, until suddenly she perked up as the scent reached her nose as well. "Oh, dear...Ah, Lazarus, I...I don't think this is a good thing..." she mumbled, backing up. Whatever it was they were smelling, it probably wasn't good. She'd had some teaching from other Aryn wolves about scents, but more than anything, how dangerous some of those scents could be. Or rather, how dangerous the owners of those scents could be.
Briefly she felt a little panicked - this was what he was looking for all along, wasn't it?? She'd been right, ohhh boy she had been right, and she hated it - now it was going to spell their doom!
"I think we'd better go, Lazarus," she repeated urgently, nudging him in the shoulder with her head.
Lazarus smiled, amused by her anxiety. ”Relax, Storm, we’re fiiiine” the black pup insisted, trotting forward until he reached a dark hole in the ground. The scent rolled out from the den. Lazarus peered inside curiously, ”Peeee-yew! Storm, come smell this! Someone needs a bath!” Lazarus cried, sniffing deeper into the cave.
A deep growl suddenly sounded from the den and Lazarus stepped back a few paces, lowering his head to peer into the shadows. He barked excitedly and growled in return. The growls turned into loud snarls and then a large badger emerged from the den, its dark eyes fixed threateningly on Lazarus. The wolf pup was around the same size as the badger, but the badger was ferocious with long claws and bared teeth. ”Storm look! Look at it! What IS this thing?” Lazarus did not seem to notice that there was any danger at all as he bowed playfully to the badger, his tail wagging. The badger snarled a warning.
"Lazarus, I don't think that's a good idea....!" she grimaced, feeling unease in the pit of her stomach. Then a deep growl rumbled from the den, and Storm felt her breath catch in her throat as a badger crawled from the shadows - and her brother only seemed completely unaware of the danger.
Storm's eyes flew open and she shrieked. "Lazarus, no!" she cried, leaping forward to grab her brother, but instead stumbled and crashed to the ground beside her brother, right in front of the badger. Storm looked up wildly, but seemed suddenly stricken and paralyzed, as the snarling face of the beast was suddenly right in hers. Whether the badger was truly so dangerous remained to be seen - but Storm's heart refused to let her think rationally, and perhaps for the best. Just as Storm finally regained her senses, the badger lunged forwards and swiped at the place where she had been only a moment before. The puppy stumbled away and struggled to remain on her feet, but in her haze of mind she still saw Lazarus in the way of the lumbering creature. "Laz!" Storm yelped.
Lazarus barked again, his tail wagging as he sprang forward toward the badger, swiping boldly. That was when Storm leaped toward him, landing sprawled on the ground beside him when she stumbled and fell in her panic. He looked at her, startled, ”Woah, careful, Storm, he’ll catch you if you lie down!” He explained brightly, as if this was a prime teaching moment as the badger sprang for his sister. Lazarus scrambled to the side to avoid the large claws, and watched Storm as she narrowly escaped. And then the badger turned toward him and Lazarus realized that maybe it was a bit more dangerous than he thought it would be. Time to bail.
The badger lunged for him and he darted to the side, racing up to Storm. He grabbed her by the scruff and pulled her strongly to her paws, ”Time to go!” He said urgently, but despite the rush they were in his eyes alight with joy, and then he prepared to sprint, waiting for Storm to start running first.
Storm scrambled to her paws as Lazarus dragged her up, then stumbled and charged away, wheezing as her throat started to close up in panic. Fighting to draw air through her windpipe, Storm struggled to keep up the pace as her lungs labored to find enough oxygen. Squeaking as she ran, the pup leaped clumsily through the undergrowth, until her paw struck a root and she hit the ground. The pup scrabbled to get up, but as she heard the badger crashing through the foliage behind her, her mind revved up into a whirl until it shut down - leaving her stuttering and frozen on the ground as if locked up. Everything that she had feared before and more had come true.
Lazarus was racing beside his sister, panting happily as the rush filled his mind and muscles with sweet excitement. But suddenly Storm was no longer beside him. He skidded to a halt, looking behind him, ”Storm, woah, look out!”
The badger was nearly upon her as Lazarus wheeled around, raced forward several long strides, and leaped for it. He sailed clear over where his sister crouched with white-tipped paws outstretched and an exhilarated snarl on his face as he prepared to meet the beast in battle.
Just at that moment a terrible snarl ripped through the air and a huge wall of brown streaked past, taking the badger with it. Their father had arrived, likely just in time to save both his life, and the life of his sister. Lazarus didn’t seem to even fathom that, however, as he landed harmlessly on the ground and spun around to look at Storm, ”Hey, you alright?” he asked her, walking to her side and prodding her with a paw. He was smiling a bit, but for once it was a nervous smile. And that was because in the brush beside them their father was dispatching the badger. And Lazarus would soon have quite a bit of explaining to do.
Storm yelped as Lazarus suddenly whipped around and took a flying leap over her, straight towards the badger's face. She buried her face in her paws with a cry, dreading with baited horror the inevitable sound of her brother's grisly demise - but instead, another, heavier whoosh of fur tore around her, accompanied by a ferocious snarl and the meaty whump of a badger being thrown out of the way. Storm gasped and snapped her head around. Never had she been more relieved to see her father than right then. She could have fainted from the release.
As Alcatraz took care of the badger, Storm finally managed to start calming down. Her heart rate eased and so did her breathing, and was able to nod feebly when Lazarus spoke to her. However, despite her relief at not being badger food, as she sat up another dread soon came over her - realization that, oh, great spirits, she was in big, big, trouble. Storm's fur flattened and she felt like fainting all over again.
Lazarus and Alcatraz
Lazarus watched Storm, that same dumb grin on his face, as she recovered. ”Geez, little sis, you look like you’ve seen a ghost,” he teased her lightly.
”She nearly did, and became one herself,” the deep voice that Lazarus was dreading growled from the shadows, and then Alcatraz stalked through the brush to stand before them. He looked down at his son and daughter, the blood from the dead badger smeared on his dark brown muzzle, which was crinkled in his displeasure. Lazarus thought it made him look even more like he was going to murder them.
The black pup ducked his head slightly with a helpless smile at the dark wolf, ”Hey dad…”
Storm seemed to register nothing from Lazarus's comment, instead taking on a mortified expression as the bear-like Alcatraz emerged from the brush with blood smeared across his snout. She briefly whimpered something that sounded like it could have been a "hi, Dad", but because her mouth was more or less glued shut nothing more articulate came out. Then, slowly, with a weird sort of strangled wail/sob she toppled over sideways into a dead faint.
Lazarus and Alcatraz
Alcatraz gave them both a good long glare, letting the silence linger ominously. Lazarus cleared his throat slightly, his eyes darting to his father, then to Storm (who looked like she was going to be sick), and then at the forest beside them as he tried to make it seem like he didn’t really care what was going on.
Alcatraz opened his mouth to speak finally, but no sooner did Storm topple over with a small cry, fainting. Alcatraz let out the breath that had intended to carry stern words, letting it hiss through his clenched teeth as he glared accusingly at his son. Lazarus looked over at Storm in shock as she fell, ”Storm!?” he whimpered, and probably for the first time in his life his voice sounded afraid. Now he was really worried. He felt his father’s burning gaze on him and looked up. Oh boy. He was in trouble now alright.
“If I had come but a moment later, this would be permanent,” he pointed with his muzzle at Storm’s motionless form, ”Your own little sister. And it would have been your fault.” Alcatraz knew that his son did not listen to directions or scoldings. But perhaps he listened to his guilt. The Alpha picked his daughter up gentle in his jaws and left Lazarus there as he stalked back to Aryn’s camp, his pace hurried as he rushed to get her to a Vicar.
Lazarus was shaken by the words, finally seeming to understand what had almost just happened… nawwww we would have been fine! Dad’s such a stick in the mud. he insisted forcefully to himself. The true measure of his confusion of what had happened came next. Rarely did he antagonize his father, but this way different, this was sort of scary, and he would do anything to try and diffuse what tension, however inappropriate. ”What about the boar? I’m hungry!” With that a muddle-minded little Lazarus raced after his father and sister. His question was never answered.