The small herd of four male elk stumbled through the dry, rocky tundra. The dominant male, with antlers the length of 2 meters led the group, followed by his smaller mate. It was unusual for elk to openly display homosexual behaviours, but just because this particular elk did, it did not mean he was weak.
“Berwald, Mattias is dropping behind again...” The huge elk stopped, looking back. His smaller mate was a light brown, had much smaller antlers, only a little larger than his ears. A few meters behind, an elk slightly shorter, but definitely bulkier than the dominant male was trudging along slowly. He was being forcefully pushed along by the smallest of this group of four.
“Ow! Ow! Lukas! Your puny antlers are stabbing my hind!”
“Good! Get a move on!”
“I'm too hungryyyyy!!!” The dominant males smaller mate was about to trot over when an antler brushed against his side affectionately.
“Try not t' get involved, Tino.” The smaller elk, now known at Tino, moved back to walk by Berwald's side.
“If we don't hurry up, the winter could catch up with us... We need to reach the forest before we freeze to death...” Berwald stayed silent as he listened to the wise words. He might be the dominant male, but all four of the herd knew Tino was really in charge. The huge elk trotted over to Lukas and Mattias, nudged the smallest out the way, and stabbed Mattias's behind with his own huge antlers.
“OUCH! Hey! Aren't you meant to be my nice brother! OUCH!”
“Get a move on, y'u big lump! Do y'u want the winter t' kill us?!” Mattias gave a groan of pain mixed with complete dislike for moving.
“Can we at least stop for food?!” Berwald couldn't stop the frustrated growl as he started to walk off, leading the herd again. Whilst Tino followed obediently, Lukas took the chance of not being watched to headbutt Mattias's front legs.
“WAH!” The 700 kilo elk fell forwards, his bulky head flattening on the tundra ground. Lukas celebrated his victory with a pleased huff, using his back hoof to kick dirt in the large elks face. He trotted forwards happily to join Tino and Berwald, the white underside of his tail flickering playfully. Mattias stood, his large muzzle pressed together tightly. His brown ears lay flat against his head, and he trudged along, just about keeping up with the others.
“Idiot, there's no food around here anyways.” The large elk lifted his head, blinking, and looked around, his dark brown shaggy fur fluffing up gloriously as he did.
“... Oh yeah. You're so smart LuLu~!” He recieved a gentle hoof to the flank.
“Don't call me that!”
“You'll chase away the females!”
“We're not at the breeding ground yet~.” The blond fluff on the back of Lukas's neck bristled in embarrassment.
“Sh-shut up!” The sound of Tino's and Berwald's barked laughter echoed out in the empty tundra silence. Whilst they did not need to attend mating season, as they were already partners and not that interested in female elk, they still attended, due to Berwald leading his herd in. They were one of the smaller herds, but Mattias generally struck lucky with a female or two... Lukas had yet to.
“Aw~, no worries LuLu~! I'll put in a good word for you with the ladies~.” Lukas's short antlers butted Mattias in the flank once more, with less playfulness and more of a hidden anger.
“Lukas! Stop m'ssing around!” At the dominant elks call, Lukas came stomping back over to the leading males. Tino brushed his fur up against Lukas's in a sign of worry. The younger responded with a soft grunt to show that he was okay. A little less worried, Tino moved back to walk step perfect with Berwald.
“Ja, just hoping we get there in time. For Mattias's sake as well as avoiding winter... ” Berwald glanced back at his older brother, who followed about three meters behind, head nearly on the ground. The dominant male once again growled in frustration. Why was his own sibling so useless? By now, the strong elk should have had his own herd, but was insistent on sticking with this little group. It confused Berwald to no end. The golden coloured elk turned back to Tino, nudging him softly with his muzzle.
“I'll talk t' him. Y'u and Lukas go ahead.”
“Ja~. I know the route~.” And so the two smaller males set off, talking quietly about useless topics. Berwald waited until his muscle bound brother caught up.
“Right. What's up with y'u?”
“I- I don't want to say it...”
“... Don't want anyone to overhear...” The largest male raised his elk eyebrow, questioning the sanity of his hyperactive sibling. There was no one in sight over any of the tundra. Well, except the light brown of Tino and blond of Lukas fading into the distant fog.
“... Just tell me. Quietly.” He perked up his ear. Mattias moved closer, as if he was going to whisper in the answer. However, he grinned in a manner of mischief, one that Berwald would wish he hadn't missed.
“I'M STARVING!!!!!” Grunting and crying out, Berwald jumped away, shaking his head to try and clear the ringing in his ears. He snorted as he glared angrily at the older elk, rolling around in the dead tundra grass, barking with laughter.
“... Y'u idiot...” The clacking of antlers rung out in the silence as Berwald issued a challenge. Mattias instantly sobered up, rolling to his hooves, and getting into a charging position. But whilst Mattias was doing this playfully, in a practice manner, Berwald was serious. It was long past time that the older elk learned to be more mature. They charged towards each other, heads crashing as their antlers cracked together. Their strong neck muscles rippled as they shook their heads, both trying to gain the upper hand and throw the other to the ground. Mattias was stronger. But Berwald was well practiced, intimidating and smarter. There was a reason he was the herd leader, the dominant male. Mattias found himself leaning to the right as he tried to tip the younger brother, and he dug his hooves into the ground to steady himself. Bright blue eyes glared back into his own ocean blue ones, Berwald's intimidating gaze already showing he had won, even though Mattias was currently winning.
“Big mistake, Mattias.” Berwald suddenly jumped backwards, pulling his antlers away from Mattias. The golden brown elks hooves rose up in front of Mattias, landing on the dark brown elks muscled shoulders. It was bound to hurt, but prove no lasting damage as Mattias was pushed further into the ground.
“H-Hey! Ber! Stop! Okay, okay! You win! I submit!” Berwald removed his weight from the other. With a grunt, he turned and started walking off, taking the trail he had taught to Tino. Mattias struggled to remove his hooves from the ground, starting to feel a rising panic.
“B-Berwald! Wait! Bro, please! You- you can't leave me stuck here! There's no food here! There's no females here! You're my brother, don't leave me!” Little elk whimpers sounded out as Mattias whined and pleaded, Berwald getting further and further ahead.
“I'm sorry okay?! I'll stop complaining about food! I won't shout in your ear anymore! I won't call Lukas LuLu anymore!” Berwald stopped in his tracks. His ears flickered to show he was listening. Mattias continued to struggle, still up to his knees in the soft, crumbly mud.
“I- I won't pretend to hit on Tino! I won't headbutt anyone from behind again! I won't steal your food anymore! I- I won't boast about my amazing success with females! I promise!!!” With a sigh, Berwald turned around used his antlers to lift Mattias up slightly. From there, the large elk was able to wrestle his legs free from the ground.
“... Thanks... Sorry bro...” At the very least, Berwald was pleased that Mattias could at least look shameful. He started walking, and Berwald followed behind. He could see that Mattias was obviously feeling very bad about what had happened, but to comfort him now would completely undo the lesson just learnt. A strong, cold breeze caught them off guard, their long fur being ruffled.
“... We need t' hurry. The winter is catching up fast.” Rarely would the elk gallop unless they were in trouble. But for this once, the two broke into a sprint, racing at roughly 30mph to catch up with the other two members of their herd. If they remained separated, Tino and Lukas were under strict orders to join another herd for safety in numbers. Berwald would prefer to avoid that. Dominant males did not let members of the herd go easily, should they one day be reunited after seperation. However, as the two males galloped over the dry tundra, they were catching up quickly. After all, Lukas and Tino were unaware of how fast the cold front was approaching, and walked at a normal pace towards the forests.
“Ah~, look! The first trees~!” The light brown elk trotted happily over to the tall, thin tree. He rubbed his muzzle up against it, smelling the scents of many many elk, all heading this way. Lukas came over slower, his sandy blond fur heavy with snow. Although young, he was already learning to detect scents.
“There's a lot of female scents... Mattias will be happy about that.”
“Ja, and yourself? After all, you could end up getting lucky this year~.” The blond elk looked away sharply, visibly shy at the conversation. He wasn't exactly as brave or forward as his companions, and was extremely shy with meeting other elk.
“I- I don't know Tino... I might just graze instead...” The light brown male frowned worriedly.
“I'm sure you could if you try Lukas... Just go for one of the younger females. They're probably shy too~.”
“... Thanks... B- but I'll just graze.” Tino was about to say something encouraging when the thundering of hooves interrupted. He looked to the trail they had just come from to see a dark brown elk and a golden brown elk come hurtling towards them. Berwald skidded to a halt right in front of the duo. Mattias, on the other hand, rather elegantly slammed into the tree.
“Berwald, what's wrong?” The dominant elk rubbed the side of his face against Tino's in a romantic greeting, but it was rushed, almost panicked.
“The cold's coming too fast. We need t' get to safety, quickly.” Tino nodded, turning back to the forest.
“Lukas, Mattias! We're leaving!” The two trotted over from their irrelevant argument, and the little herd of four entered the realm of trees. They had no idea how much their lives would change in this one season.
When spring came again, the group left the safety of the forest. After all, the empty tundra they had trekked across was now waterlogged, with large ponds, swollen streams, and a huge amount of moss and grass. It was elk paradise, and the tiny herd of four wasn't about to miss out.
“Mattias! Quit splashing me!” Hyperactive as always, the darkest brown elk was galloping through the wet ground, leaping from one pond to another, and quite often purposely into the pond Lukas was feeding from. At this point, Berwald and Tino were about seven meters off, in their own little pond and pulling the fresh, nutrient filled shoots from the bottom of the pool. With growing antlers, Tino needed to eat almost 20 kilos of this fresh food a day.
“Mattias! Stop it!” Lukas jolted forwards, his own stubby antlers which weren't quite in the growth stage getting the older elk right in the ribcage. Mattias bellowed more in shock than anything else, and sprung away. Being the herd leader, Berwald came over immediately.
“What's going on here?”
“Mattias keeps splashing me!”
“Lukas is being grumpy!” The dominant male resisted the urge to drown himself in the knee-high waters. It was like babysitting, and he and Tino couldn't even have calves!
“I think y'u both need t' grow up a bit. Honestly, y'u only make things worse for y'urselves.” The two looked at each other, one young, blond and irritated, the other dark brown and playful. Mattias wiggled his little elk tail in delight, having provoked a reaction from the current youngest.
“Berwald! We have trouble!” At Tino's desperate cry, Berwald lifted his gaze from the misbehaving duo. His blue eyes widened with the slightest hint of fear, and worry for his little herd.
“Get in the deepest water, quickly!” The light brown elk did as he was told, and Lukas and Mattias obediently followed Berwald out to the same point in the centre of the largest, deepest pond. Lining the wet grounds, trying to creep closer and closer, was a pack of wolves. They stalked along the embankment, looking over the potential prey.
“Lukas, get in the middle.” Reluctantly, the youngest of the elk moved to stand so that he was surrounded by the other three. It was obvious the wolves would go for the youngest, the one with the smallest antlers, the one who appeared the weakest in strength terms. A few of the more experienced wolves came closer, paddling in the shallow waters. Berwald gave a huge, almighty bellow, warning the wolves to stay away. But this was a pack of hungry predators. The wolves drew closer, snarling and snapping. One of them was close enough to nip Tino's front leg, but it recieved a hefty kick to the face. Small as he may be, Tino was unexpectedly strong. Just as suddenly as they had appeared, the wolves had gone, but the ominous feeling had not.
“Y'u alright, Tino?”
“J-Ja... I think I broke its jaw...”
“Heck Ja! I made it do a backflip with my antlers! Backflipping wolves are as funny as squirrels on fermented fruit!”
“... Ja... Okay... Lukas? Y'u okay?” Lukas sighed as he stretched himself out, moving away from the herd.
“Yes... But I'm not weak! You don't have to always baby me!” He recieved three bewildered looks.
“Sorry Tino, but I'm not just the calf who was left with you from an inexperianced mother anymore. I don't need protecting.” Tino looked away a little. Maybe it was true that he had babied the rare blond elk a bit, but only because the mother had been a good friend of his... It felt like a duty, and Tino welcomed the challenge. Not to mention Mattias had been practically bouncing at the thought of another brother. Apparently, Berwald was a 'boring' calf growing up.
“S-sorry Lukas... I just... I didn't know you felt that way...” The blond elk shuffled in the water, looking down at his reflection.
“I should have said something sooner, but there was the whole migration, and the breeding season, and... And you just looked so happy when all the calves were being born that I didn't want to ruin it...” Understandingly, Tino moved closer, butting Lukas's front with his antlers gently.
“I'll start treating you like a fully grown elk then... But please don't leave the herd?” Lukas nodded in response. He didn't say out loud that he would never think of leaving the herd. It was more of a family. A family with all it's flaws... One of which, was called Mattias.
“Hey! Hey! I know where the wolves went! I know where the wolves went!” Berwald quickly jabbed the eldest in the side.
“Be quiet, y'u idiot! Do y'u want t' bring them back over here?!”
“... Nah, I think they're too interested in that bear.”
“Bear?!” Three heads turned in synchronisation to the grassy side of the embankment. Sure enough, the wolf pack was surrounding a bear, which carried something in its mouth. Tino recoiled in horror.
“That poor elk...” The carcass being fought over was undeniably an elk, a rather round, female one. She had probably left the forest before birthing, a new and inexperienced female. That may have been her first calf. Or it would have been, had the bear and wolves not bought her down.
“H-hey! Bro?! What are you doing?!” Berwald had charged from the waters, heading straight towards the ferocious predators. He stomped his hooves, swung his heavy head, and brandished his antlers like weapons. Without delay, Mattias followed, backing up his younger brother with the same display. Tino and Lukas stayed back, approaching once the bear had gone and the wolves scattered.
“Ber! What the hell bro?! You just charged like th-!”
“Shh! She's still alive...” Mattias came closer. Sure enough, the weak, almost torn apart female elk was breathing painfully. Her eyes were already glazing over.
“Berwald... It's too late...”
“No it isn't.” The female gave a huge groan of pain, and the other three suddenly understood as a calf was born. It was tiny. It was pale, almost silver. It was without a parent elk to take care if it. Tino nudged the tiny one gently, and it shook in response.
“Oh...” Motherly instincts taking over, the light brown elk began to groom the tiny newborn, waking it up from its slumber in the womb. Berwald stood guard, often stomping once or twice as a wolf tried to move forwards from its crouched position in the undergrowth. Mattias wasn't too bothered, and had started to eat the long, juicy looking grass. After all, it only came once a year. On the complete other hand, Lukas watched in fascination as the tiny calf started to respond, emitting small little cries and moving its head to meet with Tino's tongue. It didn't take long for Lukas to realise the little one had identified Tino as its mother, even though he was male.
“Tino... He-... He thinks you're...”
“I know~... Isn't he cute~?”
“Tino... Y'u can't keep adopting calves...” Bright, lilac eyes looked up at Berwald almost pleadingly.
“Please Berwald...? He-he already thinks I'm his mother... A-and he's so cute! Please~?”
“... He stays until we find him a herd with a nursing female.”
“Yay~! Thanks Berwald~!” Tino's hooves tapped the ground lightly in happiness, as he celebrated the acceptance of this little calf. Meanwhile, Lukas had taken to nudging the little one himself, and was surprised when it suddenly started to stand. Well, tried to stand. The calves thin legs were weak and wobbly, and it was only newborn. Generally, it took elk calves an entire 25 minutes to try standing. This little one was strong.
“Lukas, did you want to name him?”
“M-me?!” As the tiny calf leant up against soft, light brown fur, the blond elk took a surprised step back. But Tino's eyes were serious in a gentle way.
“Ja~. He's your brother in the end~.”
“My lillebror...?” Tino nodded kindly, almost feeling the awe radiate from Lukas.
“Then... Then... Emil... I like the name Emil...” Tino leant down, pressing his muzzle to the tiny, silver forehead. The calf leant into it, a tactic which meant he would take on the scent of his 'mother'.
“Emil... It suits him~.” The response from the calf who now had a name was a small bleat, followed by a hiccup. The corners of Berwald's muzzle twitches upwards, but it also attracted the attention of the wolf pack. A newborn calf was easy prey, and the meat tender and soft.
“Can we get out of here now?! This dead carcass is freaking me out!” Mattias swallowed down one last batch of grass before he half galloped away, unnerved by being so close to a mauled member of their own species. Lukas couldn't agree more, glancing over at the open wounds. The large claw marks on the stomach showed the tiny calf would have been ripped from the stomach and eaten if Berwald had not intervened.
“That explains why he's so tiny...”
“Hm? What did y'u say, Lukas?” The dominant male walked alongside the blond elk, checking back to make sure the wolves weren't following.
“The calf. It's premature. Giving birth was the mother elks last line of defence for her baby...” Stern blue eyes glanced up and forwards, at the small silver baby, Emil, being led encouraging forwards by Tino. The poor thing stumbled and fell quite a few times, but Tino always patiently waited for him to gain his footing, helping out if needed. All Berwald could think of was how he was now a father... Just out of the blue, with no warning whatsoever. It was a disorientating thought. The youngest elk he had ever interacted with was Lukas when he had been left with what was once the group of three. Even then, he had been old enough to fend for himself, play fight, and find his own food. This calf was so young, it still needed milk from a nursing female. Which the herd of four males certainly didn't have.
“... Ja. It's too young t' take care of. If the cold doesn't get it tonight, the lack of food will.” Lukas looked over the silver newborn, stumbling a little better, getting the hang of his gangly little limbs.
“I think... I think Emil will make it... He's already proved he's a strong calf... Premature and already walking about. ... Falling about. I see what you mean about food, but I think Tino will come up with something...”
“Ja. He's desperate for a calf. Now he has someone t' baby instead of y'u~.” Lukas looked away at the playful comment.
“Sh-shut up...” He sped up a bit moving to walk a few steps to the side of the calf. With the two adult elks there, little Emil only bounced from one to another instead of falling over. It was rather humorous for Berwald to watch, especially as the newborns tiny ears and tail flicked up at every bounce. Maybe... Maybe having this newborn in the herd wasn't such a bad idea...
“Berwald... Berwald, wake up...” The gentle giant groaned in his slumber, lifting his head.
“Tino? It's still dark... Are y'u okay?”
“Ja, but it's not that dark~.” Berwald blinked open his bright blue eyes, and was met with a beautiful array of colours, dancing in the sky. He felt a strange peace come over him as he watched, snuggled up next to his mate. Of course, the peaceful moment was disturbed when a loud snore sounded out.
“... Should we wake them?” Mattias and Lukas were practically entangled with each other, inseparable. Tino bleated lightly with laughter, and shook his head.
“No~, we'll let them rest.” Berwald's muzzle twitched up in a smile. He looked down at the small gap between him and Tino, eyes widening.
“Where's the calf?!” Tino brushed forwards, the side of his face gently rubbing against Berwald's in a comforting, loving manner.
“He's over between Lukas and Mattias.” The dominant male let his panic escape in a sigh, which Tino found rather amusing.
“I knew you'd come to care~.”
“Ja... Hard t' believe y'u only adopted him a few hours ago...” The two elk moved closer together, nuzzling each other in affection. They often did this when nobody was watching, showing their love in the firm of small gestures and silent contact. In the cold air, they were warm with each other, and the warmth in their hearts was just as much as the warmth of their fur. The sky continued to be alive above them, greens, reds, and lilacs mixed in with daytime blue and the midnight backdrop. Few stars shimmered in the vast open air, and it was the perfect romantic moment.
“Nooooo... Don't steal my tree...”
“...” Berwald glanced over at his sleeping older brother with concern.
“... Strange elk...” Tino snorted with laughter at his mates analysis, which may have woken Lukas. The blond raised his head slowly.
“... I can't feel my legs...”
“That's because Emil is lying on them~.” Lukas turned his violet eyes to look softly down at the silver calf between him and Mattias. For once, the blond wasn't going to complain about the closeness of the other, as it was a freezing night. Emil's fur seemed to change colour with the aurora above, the light silver reflecting all those beautiful hues from the heavens.
“When did he move over here?”
“About twenty minutes ago. Berwald was fidgeting in his sleep again.” Berwald coughed lightly at the accusation, but Lukas only nodded. Back when he'd been small enough to nestle between the two, he'd been victim to quite a few fidgeting taps. Emil was so tiny, it probably felt like being kicked. No wonder the newborn had moved...
“Do you think the wolves or that bear are still about?” Tino rested his head down again, using Berwald's shoulder as a pillow. The dominant elk smiled slightly and pressed his muzzle to Tino's head in a goodnight kiss, before turning back to Lukas.
“Most likely. Are y'u planning on going down t' the ponds?”
“Ja. I need a drink.” Mattias gave a loud snore, almost rolling over onto his back.
“... And to get away from this idiot.”
“I'm coming with y'u.” Berwald stood, shifting Tino off his shoulder gently. Lukas went to get up, but then stopped.
“Lukas? Y'u okay?”
“... I-... If I move, Emil might get cold...” Berwald looked down at his adopted son with concern. Born premature, Emil's fur wasn't thick enough to keep out the cold, and the tiny calf was already shivering. The golden brown elk sighed sadly.
“Survival of the fittest, Lukas... If he doesn't make it through the night, it isn't anyone's fault.” The young blond shifted his gaze between Berwald and Emil multiple times.
“... Ja... I just hope Mattias doesn't crush him with his stupid bulk.” He stood, shaking lumps of mud out of his fur, and following Berwald over to the ponds. They'd moved far enough away that night time predators wouldn't be instantly led to their location, but close enough that they could get a drink and some fresh weeds before moving on again. The water splashed as Lukas stepped into it, dipping his muzzle below the surface to drink greedily. The precious liquid wet his dry throat, and he could feel the water filling his belly. Just as he was finished, more splashes came from behind. Berwald whirled around defensively, antlers posed at the ready, but stopped when he was met with a small, squeaking calf. Apparently, Emil had decided to follow the two, nose to the ground and legs wobbling. It was impressive, considering the calf hadn't even opened his eyes yet.
“... He's already going t' be a troublemaker...” Gently, Berwald starting nudging the little one back towards the sleeping members of the herd. The tiny calf simply pressed himself into the thick, golden-brown fur, trying to bury himself in the warmth.
“Oh Emil...” The powerful leader of the pack was reduced to smiling and feeling great comfort in how this adopted calf seemed to accept him as a father.
“We should head back, Berwald. If the idiot wakes up and we're not there...” The last time Mattias woke up and no one was around, the elk had gotten into such a panic, he'd ended up with antlers stuck in a tree, only his back legs on the ground. At the memory, Berwald sighed once more. With the calf stumbling along next to him, draped in the comforting coat of fur, the dominant male led the way back to their settling grounds for the night. Lukas immediately went back over to Mattias. Despite their petty arguments and what might seem like hatred for each other, the two were inseperable. Sometimes, Tino would joke to Berwald that they'd end up as a herd of two male partnerships. He fully believed it. Now, there was another member to the herd-!
He stopped himself in his thoughts. Yes, Tino had adopted this poor orphaned calf. Yes, that did make him the adopted father. Yes, the other herd members were already attached to Emil. But that did not mean the calf would survive. From the way the young one shivered and stumbled, Berwald knew it very likely that he would not. He had made a promise to himself not to get attached. Even if the calf did miraculously survive, he would be passed on to the first nursing female the herd met. It was for his own good.
There was still something about the calf that made Berwald have hope though... Maybe the way it squeaked and flicked its tail every now and then? Maybe the hiccups that threw it off balance and left the calf circling? Maybe the way the tiny elk snuggled up to him, as he settled on the ground next to Tino? He couldn't help thinking that the silver was a lovely addition to their rare colouring anyways. Only Mattias had a normal fur coat, and even Tino's was a few shades lighter than the norm.
Not to mention eye colour. Every other elk Berwald had seen possessed eyes of a dark, tree trunk brown, or a beady black eye like an owl. Ocean blue, lilac, violet, and his own electric blue? He had never seen any other elk with such vivid eye colours. He found himself again thinking about the calf. What colour eyes would Emil have? His thin, undeveloped coat was already as strange as their own, a shade of silver, not just white. When Emil opened his eyes, would he be albino, with ruby red orbs? Maybe they'd be forest green, or a bright glowing amber? They might be blue like his, or a shade of purple like Tino's? They could also be normal brown or black, but something told Berwald they would not be. He looked up at the active night sky, picturing how proud he would be if Emil's eyes reflected the aurora as much as his bright fur did.
“Ber...?” He looked over to Tino.
“You're saying colours out loud... Please go to sleep...” Tapping his antlers to the ground as a sign of submission, Berwald felt deeply embarrassed. He could hear in the tone of his mates voice that he was exhausted, so with a head full of colours, hope, and the pride of fatherhood, Berwald went to sleep.
A week later, and Emil had survived so far. Every night, he had cuddled up between two others for his own sake. He had learnt to walk, even if it was with nose joined to the ground, or pressing flanks with his mother and father. Lukas was often trusted as a walking guide, which he took great responsibility in. However, it was not all aurora borealis's and green grass. The calf had yet to open his eyes, or make a noise that wasn't a squeak. The lack of development had Tino thouroughly concerned. It was mostly down to lack of food, or nutrients.
“He's so hungry... We need to find something for him...” An entire week without food was one of Mattias's worst nightmares. The bulky elk had gone ahead early this morning to find something soft enough to eat. Even convincing a stray, female elk to feed him just once was becoming an option.
“Ja... He could die soon if Mattias doesn't come back t' us soon.” Hooves thudding into the ground echoed out as someone approached. Lukas paused in nudging Emil forwards to roll his eyes.
“Speak of the carnivore...” Mattias stopped in front of them, strangely serious for once.
“Bring the kid, quickly.” The herd followed him, Emil tripping a few times as he was rushed forwards in such a weak, malnourished state. His prematurity demanded that he not only needed more food than other 1-week-old calves, but also that this food had to be high in nutrients, supplements, and vitamins.
“Come on lillebror... Mattias might have found you some food.” The word was strange to the calf, having heard it so many times but never known what it was. Tino hurried to act as the support, allowing the small calf to lean against him, and guiding him whilst Lukas nudged from behind. They could see an almost bare forest ahead of them.
“I know what you're thinking bro, but trust me.” Using his antlers, Mattias removed almost an entire bare thorn bush. Underneath, was the rotting, soft berries of a blackberry bush that had survived the cold, but not the dark.
“Ta-daa~.” Gently, Berwald pulled a single berry from the bush, dropping it in the ground directly in front of Emil. The young calf's nose twitched a mile a minute, before he leant down and ate the berry. A pleased and surprised squeak escaped the small one. Tino rewarded him with a lick on the head, and Berwald uprooted more of the plant for his adopted son to devour. The decaying berries were ravenously devoured by the hungry calf, so desperate for food since birth.
“That should keep him going for another day or two~!”
“Y'u did a good job, Mattias.”
“Aww, shucks! Thanks bro~!” With only thorns and stripped twines left, the silver calf stepped forwards, sniffing around for more. Tino felt a sadness as he watched this adopted member of the herd foraging for food that didn't exist. He knew Emil needed a larger intake of food to help him grow, especially as he was so tiny... He was almost as small as white-tailed deer... A sudden thought struck him.
“Berwald! I have an idea!”
“The reindeer in the east! All the other elk herds are further south than us, but if we hurry, we can pass by the reindeer.” Lukas's sharp mind caught on.
“You mean... Ask a reindeer to nurse Emil...?” The light brown elk flicked his ears upwards in excitement.
“Ja! Elk and reindeer are both from the deer family after all~.” There was a pleading silence. Berwald was considering it, Lukas and Tino waited for a response, and Mattias was trying to dig in the soft mud, for whatever Emil was sniffing at. It turned out to be a few mushrooms.
“Hold on a sec, buddy. These ones might not be safe.” Mattias gently nudged Emil out of the way, tasting one of the mushrooms. It was sticky, tangy, and downright disgusting.
“EW! Oh that is gross! Don't eat those Emil! Oh yuck!” At the outburst, Emil had already backed off in surprise, now hiding behind his 'mother'. Tino snorted gently in amusement, leaning down to nuzzle the silver fur gently.
“It's okay Emil~. It's just Mattias~.”
“Ja, being an idiot again.” Lukas took a step closer, and the calf moved to greet his brother. After watching the small interaction, Berwald made up his mind.
“We'll head for the reindeer track. It's going t' be dangerous...” Mattias had wrestled himself out of the undergrowth, stomped the mushrooms to a pulp, and was now eagerly wiggling his bum in the air.
“Where no elk has ever been before?! That sounds amazingly fun! We're going on an adventure~!” Almost regretting his decision, Berwald jabbed Mattias in the side with his antlers.
“Y'u idiot... It won't be all fun. There's going t' be wolves, bears, melting ice, strong rivers, and plenty of danger. I expect y'u t' be the first t' go...”
“Go? Go where?” Berwald grunted at his elder siblings extreme stupidity. Lukas, however, was not going to hold back his words.
“If anyone dies, it'll be you, Mattias.” The dark brown elk groaned in response, though he knew it was probably true. Not because he was immature or stupid, not at all. But because he was willing to risk everything, even his own life to save his close knit little family.
“Ja, Ja, I get it...” Berwald started to walk, the silver calf moving to stumble along next to him. Although the calf was weak and small, Berwald knew that Emil might one day be a challenge for other males, fighting for a herd of his own. Though, looking down at the wobbling elk now, he knew that was a slim possibility for many many years.
“Hm?” Tino knocked his smaller, but developing antlers against Berwald's.
“You were lost in thought again~.”
“... Ja. I was thinking about how strong Emil is going t' be, if he survives.”
“He will.” Blue eyes met lilac as Berwald took comfort in the confidence Tino held.
“How can y'u be so sure?” The light brown elk smiled gently.
“Because he has us. He'd be dead a week ago if you hadn't saved him, and even if he had escaped those wolves, he would have frozen to death.” A soft squeak interrupted them. The pair stopped in their tracks to look down at the calf, who had his muzzle buried under the layers of snow, shuffling along blindly. Lukas and Mattias followed behind, nudging the calf back on track when he started to stray. Emil's squeak had come from when he moved a little too close to his father, Berwald's hoof tapping the little ones nose.
“Y'u okay Emil?” Of course, the calf did not respond, but shook his silver head furiously to clear snow off his muzzle. His large ears flipped as he did, and his scrawny legs jumped about with the force of the shaking. Emil fell to the side. Lukas huffed out a cloud of air in amusement, gently nudging the younger one to his feet again.
“Come on lillebror~. We'll find you some food soon...” Tino let go of a panicked breath as Emil stood again. For an adopted parent, he panicked as if he'd birthed the calf himself.
“Hurry up. We need t' cross the river before the tundra thaws.” The river that separated elk territory from reindeer territory was large, fast, and swollen. If the tundra thawed, any method of crossing would be completely destroyed. Usually, there were rocks which formed a small path. As calves alongside their mother, Mattias had often played on these rocks, whilst Berwald had preferred to graze. Now, however, their memories from long ago seemed to serve a purpose. To step where no elk had ever stepped before. To cross the raging river, into the land if reindeer. To find a way for a calf to survive.
“Well, this is it~! This is the plain Ber and I were raised on~!” Mattias proudly strutted around this small area, a stretch of land unclaimed since the brothers had left to find herds.
“Ooh~, it's very nice~.” Tino took great joy in overlooking this flat landscape, with a small pond just beyond a fallen tree, and conifers lining the edge of the river.
“I'm surprised no other elk have claimed it yet, since you left.” Scratching his large antlers up against a tree, Berwald glanced over at Lukas.
“Ja, but it's ours now. Once we get back from the reindeer, we'll settle here.” He left a deep gouge on the tree, a sign that this territory now belonged to him and his herd. Emil came over, leaving Tino's side to sniff at the tree. Then, almost as if he had seen what Berwald had done, the small calf started to headbutt the tree. The four other elk bleated and snorted in laughter. Mattias and Tino couldn't deny the utter adorableness of this action, and it was amusing to watch. Lukas knew the calf was learning. Through imitating the dominant male, Emil was gaining skills that he would one day use as a herd leader. Still, it was cute. Berwald's snort of laughter came more from pride, the feeling of hope for this ever so young elk. He and Tino were unable to have a calf of their own, so Emil was probably their only chance of ever being parents.
“Lillebror, you're going to get dizzy...” Encouragingly, Lukas started to nudge Emil back to their collective herd. There was a small gap in the conifer lining, and Mattias was pushing through to try and break branches and widen it. He didn't want to get his antlers stuck in a tree again. With an exclamation of success, he snapped an entire branch off one of the tall fir trees, and the empty space was now large enough for the grown elk to fit through. There, just a few hoofsteps away, was a fast flowing river. It would be impossible to swim across, but the rocks Mattias remembered playing on as a calf were still there. They would be able to leap from one to the other, all the way over to reindeer territory.
“This is going to be great~! The furthest I ever got was halfway before bro used to ruin my fun and tell our parents~!”
“Y'u could've gotten y'uself killed.”
“Yeah, well, I didn't! Ha!” Mattias hopped merrily from rock to rock until he was already three rocks in. There was only about 12 more to go...
“Mattias! Be careful you idiot!” The elk bucked teasingly.
“I knew you cared LuLu~! Oops... I mean, Lukas...” Berwald rolled his eyes as Mattias teased and Lukas growled. The dominant elk started to leap, following the path Mattias took. Tino was gently nudging Emil, but even with unopened eyes, and inexperienced mind, the young calf was wary of the waters, and seemingly terrified of the rushing sounds of the roaring waves.
“It's okay Emil... You can do this...” In all honesty, Tino was just as terrified. Although he was nervous about having to jump from rock to rock, he wondered in fear at how Emil was meant to do this, with eyes closed, weak legs, and no previous jumping practice. Lukas was waiting by the very edge of the bank, ready to intervene should anything happen to Tino and calf.
“Come along lillebror. You want food, don't you?” The calves silver ears pricked up. Food? Wasn't that those delicious, soft, tangy berries he had eaten earlier? With stomach near empty, the calf was undeniably enticed by this promise of 'food'. He stepped forwards, and following the scent of Berwald and Mattias, leapt onto the first rock. Tino almost had a heart attack.
“That's it Emil... Y'u can do it...”
“Yeah! C'mon buddy!” Emil waggled his little tail in the air, the wide underside fluffing up in fear and adrenaline. He jumped again. Once more, Tino had to look away, hooves tapping the ground in fright. This truly was a life or death situation.
“Are you going next Tino?”
“J-Ja...” The light brown elk recollected his breath, before steeping forwards onto the first rock. If he leaned forwards, he could just about reached to give Emil a reassuring tap on the hind. At the very front, Mattias had already crossed the river on the stepping stones, and was pacing nervously as he waited. Berwald stomped his large hoof on each rock, before moving onto the next. Using sound alone, Emil was able to follow the father figure. At the very back of the group, Lukas still stood on the bank. There was something he hasn't told the others. Something no elk wished to admit.
He was absolutely petrified by rivers.
Standing there all alone, with even Tino four rocks ahead, Lukas was starting to think he'd have to spend all his time just waiting here for the others to come back. He stepped backwards, as if to try and disappear into the tree line. The roaring of the raging waters had him flatten his ears to his head, trying to get rid of the noise. Even he didn't know why he was so terrified.
“Lukas? Are you coming?” Berwald had made it across. Emil had made it across. Tino had made it across. A wide river seperated the lone elk from his herd.
“I-... I'll wait...” His voice was only just audible above the rivers great rumble, a constant threat to his well being. Fear rooted him to the ground.
“Hang on! I'm coming back!” Mattias had an inkling that something was wrong. Lukas's voice had been shaky, and the blond elk never lowered his head unless he was hiding something. With an elegance that greatly conflicted his muscular build, the dark brown elk leapt from rock to rock to cross back to his herd companion. He quickly realised that Lukas was breathing far too quickly, in short pants. A panic attack.
“Hey... LuLu... It's okay Lukas... I'm here... Hey, you can do this okay? You can do this...” He leant down, brushing the side of his face against Lukas's in a comforting manner, one usually reserved for gestures with mates, but it was acceptable with close friends within a herd. From the way Lukas pressed back, the comfort was well appreciated.
“Shh... You can, you can do this... I'll be right by your side, okay? You think you can do that? Yeah?”
“... O- okay...”
“That's the spirit~! C'mon LuLu, you can do this~.”
“Don't c-call me... L-LuLu...” Mattias let out a soft bellow of laughter, keeping his larger antlers gently pressed to the stubs atop Lukas's head. Whilst the dark brown elk walked backwards, the blond one was led forwards, onto the first rock. He drew in his breath with a gulp, on the verge of breaking down into nervous recluse. The water was visible beneath his hooves as he stepped onto the first small rock.
“Shh, shh shh... You're doing great... That's it Lukas... Come on, you can do this, you're doing it...” Lukas's ears were as flat as could be above his head, and he closed his eyes tightly as droplets of water splashed up into them. Mattias was patient, waiting until those brilliant violet eyes reopened. He could feel the shake through his antlers, and gently stretched out to nuzzle the younger on the cheekbone.
“J-Ja...” Following the same method, they were able to make it halfway. That was when the trouble started. The stepping stones were now further apart. If Mattias were to step back as he had done before, he would only end up in the water, swept away downstream. If he were to remove his antlers from Lukas's, it was likely the smaller elk would panic so much that they would both end up in the water. A large exhale escaped Mattias's muzzle.
“Lukas, I need you to remain calm okay? I'll still be here, right beside you, but you have to do the rest alone now...”
“What?! No! Mattias, don't leave me! Pl-please!”
“Hey hey hey! Lukas! It's okay! It's okay! I'm still gonna be here, I promise.” Panicked violet eyes met deep, ocean blue.
“I promise.” Those beautiful eyes reflected his words. Taking a deep breath, Lukas pulled his head away. Almost instantly, the sounds and senses came rushing back to him. The roar of the water, the coldness of the river, the slipperiness of the rock underfoot, and nothing else. Whereas before he had been focussing on Mattias, all he could feel now was the rising panic and urge to flee.
“Lukas!” He snapped back to attention. The dark brown elk was only two rocks ahead, the one in front of him ready to jump onto. He took a deep breath, and did so. Keeping his focus on Mattias, Lukas was able to follow him, all the way to the reindeer side of the river. He was quickly greeted with the dark brown oaf brushing up against him, comforting him as much as physically possible. For once, the affection was not rejected.
“You did it Lukas... I told you! See, you did it all by yourself~!”
“N-not all by myself...” Having witnessed the entire thing, Berwald and Tino greeted Lukas with their own quick exchange, as if greeting a long lost member of their herd.
“Do y'u want t' rest here quickly?”
“N-no... We have... We have to help lillebror...” Emil recognised the call, and the young calf came over to brush up against his sibling. Hearing the little one squeak softly, Lukas calmed just the tiniest bit more than he already had with Mattias.
“Thanks lillebror~...” Tino looked over Lukas like a concerned mother would, and came to a conclusion. He pulled Berwald to the side.
“Lukas is still shaken. We need to rest, no matter what he says.”
“... Tino... He's not a calf anymore... Y'u know that...” Lilac met electric blue, and both could see the stubbornness in each others eyes.
“Don't make me argue with you.”
“I don't want y'u t', but Lukas can decide for himself.”
“He needs. To rest.” He knew that tone of voice. Berwald sighed.
“We'll just get off the flood plains. Then, y'u can tell Lukas t' rest as much as y'u like.” Tino sighed in relief. He kindly pressed the tip of his muzzle to Berwald's in an elk kiss.
“Thank you...” The two turned back to see how the others were fairing. Emil had managed to wiggle his way between Lukas and Mattias, and was practically sapping up their warmth through his thin silver fur. The calf was content, but Lukas was not. He was still extremely shaky, and didn't seem to be settling in the slightest. Mattias kept him close, as close as physically possible with a calf between them, and was stepping back slowly, leading Lukas away from the waters edge.
“We're going t' go a little further, just off the flood plains. Then, we rest. That means y'u too, Lukas.”
“J-Ja...” The little herd set off again, walking at a slow pace to accommodate for Lukas's slower, unnerved walk. It wasn't long before they made it across the flood plaines, and reached higher ground. Here, they could rest safely without being in fear of the river swelling.
“Get some rest.” Obediently, which was a key indicator something was wrong, Lukas followed Mattias's command. Almost immediately, he was surrounded by his herd, settling on the ground in one large group for once. And again, Lukas didn't complain. He needed the comfort at that moment in time, still disturbed from crossing the river. All he could think about now was how in the name of the great elk was he meant to get back?
The sunrise bathed the cliff in the distance in bright orange over the layers of green.
“Nearly there! C'mon bro! C'mon!”
“Slow down Mattias. The ice is thin and y'u don't want t' fall through.” The small herd walked lightly over a frozen lake. Well, Berwald, Tino, Lukas, and Emil walked lightly. Mattias appeared to be running as far ahead as he could, with no regard for personal safety. It was fun! The ice was slippery, and if Mattias tried to skid to a halt, he ended up gliding across the surface of the melting lake! It was great!
“Mattias!” All of a sudden, Tino was there and forcefully shoved Mattias out the way, as the ice he would have been about to skid on gave way. The cracks began to spiral outwards, heading straight towards the duo. Hooves thudded against the surface as Berwald, Lukas, and Emil came galloping over. Together, the five raced as fast as they could over the rest of the lake, Mattias screaming the whole way with excitement. They just managed to crash into the snow pillowed up on the side of the lake before the last of the ice sheet cracked, giving way to cold, deathly water.
“That... Was too close...”
“Ja. Good job Tino~.”
“Thanks Berwald~” But there was a hidden danger the elk hadn't yet seen. In a small, snow-hidden hut not too far off, the sunrise reflected the glint of a firearm. Humans were in the vicinity, and they were there for the Scandinavian wildlife.
“The reindeer should just be to the east-!” Lukas's speech was cut off as something hit him in the flank. Hard. He crumpled to the ground.
“Lukas!” Mattias was the next to fall. Tino started to panic, standing over Emil protectively. The calf was his first priority, and Berwald stood to protect Tino. Something hit him in the flank, and he grunted in pain. His vision blurred, and his balance was off. Colours all seemed to become one. He just about managed to see Tino pull something from his flank, before he fell to the floor, blacking out.
“B-Berwald!” Tino cried out, before he bolted, nudging Emil along as fast as the calf could go, squeaking in fear. But it wasn't fast enough. Whatever had hit the other three, had the tiny calf stumble in the snow.
“NO!” Overcome with grief, Tino didn't care anymore. He stopped running, lowered his head down to the calf, and prepared to be taken down himself. Except he wasn't. The next thing he knew, a net was thrown over him, and those strange two-legged creatures were trying to pet him, the same way Berwald did. The light brown elk simply stepped backwards. The two-legs were in a large herd of their own, and were shoving the elk onto the back of a strange roaring monster, made of reflective metal. Tino allowed himself to be led into the back, surrounded by the bodies of his herd. That was when he realised. They were breathing.
“B-Ber...? Mattias? Lukas? Emil?!” He nudged each one, careful of where he was stepping. His frantic actions were rewarded with a groan. Mattias stirred.
“T-Tino...? What...? Where...?” Tino sighed in relief, moving to get down onto the cold metal floor. It wasn't comfortable, but it was the only thing available.
“Strange creatures... A herd of animals I've never seen before... You- you all fell to the floor... They- they hit you with things that looked like splinters with bird feathers on...”
“Oh! Those are darts!” Mattias's ocean blue eyes shimmered with a glow of happiness.
“That means there should be food here somewhere!” The large elk stood, circling around, before he pulled out a huge clump of vegetation from behind Berwald's sleeping body.
“How- how did you know...?”
“Ehh... Been there, done that... Those creatures are called humans, and this is a lorry~! I... Uhh... I spent a few months as a calf with a herd of humans, far down south...” Tino blinked his lilac eyes.
“So we're going to be okay?”
“Ja! The worst they do is make you pull a thing filled with logs! They use it to build their territories~!” Emil stirred. It came as a great relief to Tino, who wasn't sure if the calf would wake or not. But the silver fur rustled as Emil lifted his head, shaking it to clear the buzz.
“Morning buddy! Here, have this!” Mattias deposited a large amount of the greenery over Emil, and some clung to the tiny elks head. He squeaked excitedly at the smell, eating it straight from the end of his nose and burying his head in the mound. Even though he was still worried, Tino chuckled at the enthusiasm, leaning forwards to brush against the calf reassuringly. Mattias busied himself with nudging Lukas in the ribs with his antlers.
“LuLu! LuLu! LuLu! LuLu!”
“Shut up, idiot!” Grouchy from the pounding headache and motion sickness, Lukas jolted upwards to jab his stubby antlers into Mattias's front.
“GLACK!!!” The bellow awoke Berwald, who instantly got up onto his feet unsteadily, stumbling about in rather a panicked state. Tino gently pressed up against him, supporting him.
“Ja, it's okay Berwald~, we're safe. We're safe...” The golden brown elk looked around, seeing all but one.
“Where's Emil?!” Suddenly, a silver head popped up from the pile of greens in front of him, happily chewing with a squeak of delight. Berwald chuckled, and gave the calf a soft lick. That was when a miracle happened. Silver eyelids blinked, raising up slowly to reveal gorgeous eyes, a shade of purple somewhere in between that of Lukas's and Tino's.
“Tino... Tino, look.” The 'mother' looked around after talking to settle Lukas, and gasped in excitement.
“They're beautiful! Oh, Emil, it suits you so much!” Berwald felt a surge of pride, looking down at this calf who had been born premature and surrounded by wolves, adopted into the herd, survived so long with so little food, and filled the missing gap in their hearts. This little calf who had completed their family. Berwald was so glad now, that he had acted way back then.
“W-wow... Lillebror... You're so cute...”
“He's gonna be a bigger hit with the ladies than his big bro~!” Emil didn't quite understand the attention, and went back to burying his head in the food.
“There's food here?” Lukas was quickly drowned in a larger pile of food than Emil had been. The greenery stuck to his stubby antlers as he glared at Mattias with a visible irritation. There wasn't enough room in the 'lorry' for Mattias to run away.
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” The cries continued the rest of the journey.
It had been a long, tiring journey. Now, only Berwald remained awake, keeping an eye out. He was about to drift off when the thing Mattias called a lorry screeched to a halt. He lifted his head, making sure his large antlers didn't hit Tino. The back of the metal monster opened up, and harsh light flooded in. It wasn't natural light. But Berwald quickly adjusted. He pulled himself to his hooves, and started creeping forwards. He was met with a great site. Greenery. Lakes. A small waterfall. Snowy areas. Wait... Spring and winter in the same small area?! That wasn't possible! As he stepped out further, he realised this wasn't open Scandinavian tundra. The entire area was surrounded by an invisible territorial wall, and two-legs pressed themselves up against it. Young ones, small ones, large ones, old ones... And from the way they moved about, they were many different herds. He backed away a little, back hooves clacking against the dropped metal truck door. Of course, this slight sound awoke Lukas. He lifted his head and started to join the other, ears tilted backward.
“B-Berwald? Where are we? What is this?” The dominant male could sense the slight distress of his herd member. He nudged the other lightly, in reassurance. If Lukas panicked, there was a %100 certainty that Mattias would freak out to the point of having a heart attack.
“I don't know... But I think we're safe...” Lukas took a deep breath, surveilling the area.
“... This isn't home, is it?”
“No. But we're safe. Do y'u want t' wake Emil and Tino? I'll get Mattias, before the idiot breaks something.” Lukas huffed in amusement. He headed over to the sleeping calf, hidden away in the lorry.
“Lillebror... Lillebror... Time to wake up...” The calf yawned and got to his feet, shaking himself awake so enthusiastically that he nearly fell. Glancing back into the harsh, unnatural lighting, Lukas could see the two-legs were pressing up against the invisible wall almost as if they were looking for something... Could their herd of elk be that thing? A squeak bought Lukas back to the darkness of the lorry. Emil was headbutting the front of Lukas's chest, like the blond elk had done to Mattias earlier. Lukas snorted in laughter, and led the calf out of the lorry. It made more sense to get Emil settled before he woke Tino. Otherwise, the motherly elk would probably refuse to leave the lorry for the potential dangers. Almost instantly, Emil headed over to the little pool that the waterfall went into and he leapt around happily in the shallow water, tumbling a couple of times. His silver fur glistened in the water and flashes of unnatural light. But with newly opened eyes, the calf knew no different. To him, these flashes may as well have always happened.
“Emil!” A light brown elk emerged from the back of the lorry, coming straight over to the calf. They greeted each other with great affection at the reunion, and the flashes of light increased. Over the audible announces coming from the 'humans' behind the territory blockade came the clacking of antlers. Berwald and Mattias came out the back of the lorry, antlers locked in playful sparring. Tino sighed, rolling his eyes with a small smile on his muzzle. Lukas's muzzle twitched up at the corner, before he calmly trotted over and pressed the stubs of his antlers flat against Mattias's head. A romantic proposal. Berwald came back over to Tino, leaving the two to interact. From the way Mattias's tail waggled at light speed, white-underside showing, he had accepted the gesture he had been waiting years for.
“Looks like Lukas finally gave in~!”
“Ja, y'u were right the whole time.”
“I told you Ber~.” The golden brown elk silenced his smaller mate with a passionate nuzzle to the muzzle. Emil had interested himself in the available food, filling his belly to the brim when it had once been so starved.
Over the passing seasons, the elk herd learned they were in a zoo, protected, fed, and watched over by humans. Mattias was all too happy to pose for the flashy things the humans possessed, whilst Lukas preferred to hide away in the provided stone cave, his new antlers now a little larger than Tino's. Tino and Berwald weren't too bothered by the attention. They would graze the local area, with their new calf. Yes, they had a new calf. The red-tailed deer on the other side of the zoo had not taken well to their newest born, and now the fawn, Peter, was in the care of elk. Emil had grown into a fine young teenage elk, his fur as silver and radiant as ever, with bright, lavender eyes. Unfortunately, because he'd been born premature, he didn't even have the stubby antlers Lukas once had. It was very easy to mistake him for a doe.
But the all important summary was that they were all alive, and they were all a family. This little herd had survived against all odds, before finding themselves in their own little paradise. Elk life was perfect.
“Hey guys! Look! I made a hole in the wall!”
“Mattias, don't y'u dare!”
“Can't catch me~!”
“Papa, wait for me!”
“No, Peter! Don't follow them! Peter come back!”
“Mattias! I'll drag your skinned flank back here in pieces, you idiot!”
“Don't leave me on my own! ... Lukas? ...Tino? Berwald? Mattias?! W-wait for me!”
Well, almost perfect.