The summer sun was high in the sky as the scruffy she-wolf trotted across the mainden. She wanted to speak with the Lord and Lady about selecting a task, but she was not sure what the proper protocol was. She assumed she could simply waltz up to the den and wait her turn--alphas often held hearings, right? How else would they know how their packmates were fairing?
In truth, the former loner had no idea how any of this worked. It was all terribly confusing, but she had always enjoyed a good challenge. And besides, learning a skill from trained pack-wolves could be beneficial to her--not just a means of repaying a debt she felt she owed Arynians. She would first have to find a teacher. Ronelle understood that she was to be assigned a mentor, which seemed easy enough, but who. And how.
Just as she approached the entrance of cavern where the Lord and Lady would be--or at least what she thought they would be--a figure stepped out into the sunlight. The omega nearly ran into the towering brute, skittering to a halt a whisker-length from disaster.
“Oh… uh… Hi!” She glanced up, an apologetic grin spreading across her maw. Her sea-green gaze widened when she recognized the brown he-wolf as Alcatraz, the Lord of Aryn. “It’s you!” She exclaimed, shuffling away to a more respectful distance and straightening her posture. “Sorry--I mean-I--uh--” She looked around nervously, anything to avert her gaze from the superior-ranking wolf before her. “I was just looking for you! Or Lady Athena! Either or!”
After a quick hour or two of relaxation in the Aryn den, it was time for the Lord of Aryn to head back out into the territory to see how things were going on this beautiful summer day. Though as he stepped into the sun and his pale yellow eyes adjusted to the brightness Alcatraz was surprised to find a she-wolf directly in his path, nearly walking right into him. He looked down at her and frowned as she scrambled back with a hasty greeting. He made out her grey-brown pelt and bright blue-green eyes to belong to that newcomer Seven had brought to the pack.
In his distant past Alcatraz would often be outright accusatory of new members, watching for any possible mistake or sign that they were disloyal (real or fabricated) and then confronting them harshly until they proved their worth. That way of being had all but left the dark Lord by the time he had become an Alpha himself, since he had seen how many great and true friends had come from lands unknown, and the value in trusting others. But when imposters had infiltrated the pack, taking advantage of his new kindness and the kindness of his pack, and caused such damage, Alcatraz saw it as a wake-up call, a reminder of the wisdom that had been lost to him with time. Well, that wisdom was back now. And while he wouldn’t be aggressive as he had been in his youth, he would no longer let those from the outside think Aryn would be a place any low-life criminal who knew how to smile to find a victim. They would not feel welcomed by him. He would remain suspicious.
She was quite nervous it seemed, and the way she acted and spoke did somewhat assure him that she was probably not someone just here to take advantage. Though that was a judgement he did not know nearly enough to make for certain. He raised his brows when she indicated that she had been looking for him or Athena. “Yes?” was all he answered, an allowance for her to go on with whatever it was she needed to say.
She dared lift her gaze to peer up at his face. It was neutral, but not exactly as welcoming as she had hoped. Living amongst pack-wolves was proving to be exceedingly difficult. Some were kind, of course, but so many others were skeptical and coarse. Sometimes she felt as if they were waiting for an excuse to take a bite of her. It was… disheartening. She let out a breath to steel her nerves.
“Well, I’ve been staying with your pack as a guest for quite some time…” Ronelle began. Her fear of rejection and harsh rebuke was present in the way she shuffled her paws and kept her gaze low. She preferred not to see the dismissal before it came. She would likely become indignant if she noticed a hint of repudiation. “And I think it’s time I start repaying you all. For the kindness and generosity you have offered me.” There was a slight trace of hope in her voice.
“I have been trying to learn about your different tasks here. So that I can start giving back. I think I’d do well as a… a Ranger? I’ve traveled the domain for quite some time as a loner! I could offer a lot of insights, I think--” Ronelle paused. “And of course I want to learn your techniques!” She added quickly, not wanting to sound arrogant, or like she already knew everything there was to know and should be teaching them.
Alcatraz listened as she spoke. It was true that she had been here for quite a while. He nodded slightly, approving that she felt compelled to start repaying Aryn for it’s hospitality. That was good. If she could be given a task then that would keep her busy, and start integrating her into the pack, if she did wish to stay here permanently.
He frowned thoughtfully at her suggestion. A Ranger. If Ronelle was truly a wolf who hoped to be loyal to Aryn, she would without a doubt be quite suited to the rank. Rangers were often out for long periods of time and needed to take care of themselves. As a wolf who was once a loner, Ronelle had plenty of practice doing just that. Rangers also track game, something she must have had to do as well since she hadn’t starved to death yet. And she was quite right when she said that she would have some insight. He was a loner once, and he knew how much a loner knew. But Rangers were also wolves whose loyalty needed to be most solid before they could be sent out ranging. They were spies, and informants, and they spent much time away from the bonds of the pack yet were always expected to return. Well it will be some time before she is sent out in any case, he assured himself.
“You are correct, a Ranger would be a suitable task for once who was once a loner, for they must be intelligent and know how to take care of themselves for their often lengthy missions away from home. The fact that you stand here proves that you are more than capable of that,” Alcatraz said, “And the Ranging need not always be abroad either, you will be a tracker of prey throughout our territory, so we can know where is best to organize the hunt.” Ronelle likely already knew these things if she had been looking into the task, but best she hear what is expected of her from her Lord’s mouth. He decided to learn a bit more about her then, so he could confirm that her judgement in this decision was sound. “How long were you a loner, Ronelle?”
She listened intently to his insights, eager to learn anything she could about the task she was most interested in. She felt her chest puff out a little at his praise, never having been acknowledged as capable before. Ronelle had always felt dependent on others rather than capable. Her relationship with the golden siblings seemed more parasitic in nature—she likely needed them more than they her.
For the briefest moment she let her thoughts drift to the companions she had gotten separated from. She wondered if they were worried about her. If they had searched for her. Perhaps… perhaps if she could become a Ranger, she could journey abroad and find them again one day. If only to confirm their wellbeing.
“Tracking prey…” her brows knitted with thought. “Ye! I think I can do that just fine!” Her bushy tail began to wag enthusiastically. If she could just be useful here in Aryn… loitering around the camp was driving her absolutely mad.
How long was I a loner?
She shuffled her paws nervously, not sure which answer to give him: the long, honest one or the short version embellished with half-truths.
“I use’ta live’n Heyl. That was when I was a pup, but…” Truth or half-truth? The Lord of Aryn’s eyes were intimidating, compelling her to be honest despite her instincts. “I… left when sickness came. I was a juvenile then… and I’ve been a loner ever since.” She let her gaze fall in shame. Would the Lord trust her after hearing such cowardice? Would Aryn want a wolf who turned her back on the first pack who took her in and offered her shelter?
Alcatraz dipped his head once in approval when she confirmed that she could track prey, noting her enthusiasm. She certainly seemed sincere, either that or a good actor. That would be proven with time. He perked his dark, rounded ears as Ronelle recounted her story. The Lord of Aryn picked up on the same point that brought Ronelle shame. Sickness is difficult. Their conflict was a battle of tooth and claw. There were things you could do, ways you could fight. With sickness, you were powerless. In that way, Alcatraz found himself sympathizing with her fear of a silent enemy. Still, he had a family to protect. He had to be firm.
“These are not easy times for Aryn,” Alcatraz said gravely, “the Clan will depend on you. There is no room for those who will abandon their packmates. We will risk our lives for you. As long as you are in our community, you must be willing to do the same.” Alcatraz paused, regarding her for a moment. He could see she was ashamed, and she had been so young then. Perhaps this was her chance to prove herself after a difficult past. “Though we do hope it will not come to that.”
Alright, a ranger… Alcatraz looked around the den site, his pale yellow eyes happening to rest on the limber grey form of his son, Aivar. He was a Ranger. He was also grounded after a particularly long and unapproved journey. Perhaps an apprentice would do him well to keep busy even as he was restricted to stay nearby. There was no better lesson than being a teacher. “Aivar, the grey wolf over there, is my son, and a talented Ranger of Aryn.” Alcatraz flicked his tail to indicate toward the young male across the clearing. “Go speak to him now, tell him I sent you. He will be your mentor for the time being.”
She looked up hopefully when the Lord of Aryn seemed to harbor no ill-will towards her, though his warning rung heavily in her ears. It seemed fair enough--if these pack-wolves would risk their lives for her, surely she should do the same. She had done just that when those heathens attacked her gang, demanding they hand over the boy. Even though it was not her fight, Ronelle had defended her companions bravely--and she had been badly wounded. She might have even died if it weren’t for Aryn.
“I understand.” She spoke solemnly, nodding to reaffirm that she comprehended the choice she was making.
“Aivar…” Her sea-green gaze traveled across the mainden towards the wolf in question. “Right! Yes, m’lord! Thank you!” She was calling to him over her shoulder, already making her way towards the raven-colored he-wolf.