Alcatraz padded through the main den site. It was early in the morning, the sun streaming through the trees and dappling the forest floor below. His eyes scanned the clearing for potential pupils. It was his job as a Warden to train wolves in Aryn should their enemy attack. His eyes rested on a dark shape. Lawson. Yes, he remembered bringing the male into the territory, but it had been quite a bit of time since then, and Alcatraz had kept a sharp eye on the wolf. But his intentions seemed nothing but pure, and Alcatraz had accepted the fact that he trusted his new pack mate. It was difficult for him to trust at first, but now that their pack was getting larger he found trusting the new members was getting easier and easier.
He trotted to Lawson, ”Alright, Lawson,”
he said, going right into it without a proper greeting. ”Are you up for some combat training this morning?”
It was too early. The sun's rays were relentless this morning and poor Lawson was their victim. Slowly meandering out of the den, he stretched his front paws forward and dipped, yawning loudly, then shook to rid the sleep from his eyes. The effort was in vain since he had a hard time keeping them open. Life in Aryn had been going swimmingly. He had made new friends, promoted to a Delta Courser, and wasn't afraid of Alcatraz anymore! Well, that last one was a bit of a stretch... He wasn't terrified at least.
Speaking of which, the larger male appeared and his voice boomed to his ears, causing Laws to jump slightly. That seemed to happen a lot... The request made him blink. Do I have a choice?
he thought. At least he was smart enough not to say it out loud."Good morning Sir Alcatraz,"
he said, fighting back another yawn. The specifics about the Cold War with Blutwald were unfamiliar to him - or he wasn't listening when someone did tell him - but he knew most of the new members were being trained for battle. "Sure, I'm game."”Mmm, good.”
Alcatraz said, deliberately ignoring Lawson’s hesitation. He flicked his tail as a beckoning and then trotted toward the most common pathway out of the main den site. He could see the exhaustion in Lawson’s eyes, and he had gotten the feeling that perhaps Lawson was now always the most enthusiastic pupil, but he also knew that Lawson knew better than to protest against the likes of him. Alcatraz did not have much tolerance. Aryn could be attacked at any moment, and Alcatraz wanted all of his pack mates to be prepared.
He glanced behind him, slowing and falling into step with Lawson, ”How have you been lately?”
He asked the dark male with a good natured smile, starting casual conversation as he thought of the best place for them to train.
Oh, they were going right now. Biting back a sigh, he mustered what energy he could to force his legs to follow the Warden. There was no use arguing with him. The few weeks in Aryn together had taught Laws that quickly. He still felt a slight uneasiness around Alcatraz which was odd. Maybe it was him being an authority figure, or their first meeting, but it always felt like he had to double check what he was going to say before saying it. The whole concept was hard to explain and left the wolf feeling a bit confused."Its been going well,"
he answered, once again choosing his words wisely. "How, er, have you been Sir?"
It was beginning to be a bit frustrating. When talking with his other packmates, the words came effortless and he enjoyed conversing with them. It wasn't like he didn't like Alcatraz, but the older wolf kept him on his toes. ”Good, good.”
Alcatraz said. He often observed Lawson, especially when he first entered Aryn, and had noticed several things about the young male. First of all, Lawson was much more friendly and playful wolf than he ever expressed to Alcatraz. With wolves who introduced themselves more kindly than he had, Lawson was near instant friends with them. He was playful and outgoing. But as soon as Alcatraz strolled into the picture, the dark male changed. His playful smile faded, his posture lowered, and his words became carefully chosen, not the easy speech that most often streamed from his mouth. Good.
Alcatraz thought, satisfied with himself. But still… he wondered if perhaps he should have been easier on the former loner in the beginning. After all, they were pack mates now. Did he really want his packmates to fear him? Maybe, but...
They padded through the forest in silence until they reached a clearing close to the main den site. Alcatraz bounded ahead and turned to face the young male. ”So what sort of combat experience do you have?”
the dark male asked.
He didn't mean to act so different in front of Alcatraz. It was like his subconscious took over and made him act like a completely different wolf. He felt more relaxed with Lady Athena! Every once in a while, especially when he was slacking, that ominous warning he got during their first meeting would pop into his head, chilling him to the bone. The dark wolf had no trouble making friends and even had his sister by his side but couldn't get a good read on his superior."Not much, to be honest.
" He lowered down onto his haunches, glancing sideways towards the forest. "My birth pack didn't have any enemies so none of us got much training."
In other words, he was useless.
Alcatraz nodded, his own thoughts echoing Lawson’s. Useless. ”Well, you’ve got teeth. That’s all you need.”
Alcatraz said. He paused a moment as he looked at Lawson, remembering his task, ”You are a Courser, yes? So you are quick, stealthy, agile… I assume.”
Alcatraz circled Lawson once, looking over his dark pelt. Honestly, Alcatraz believed that Lawson possessed more strength and fighting abilities than he probably was aware of. His form was muscular and solid, but sleek for agility as well. Strength and agility is an excellent combination. If Alcatraz had to guess, he would say that Lawson had much potential to become as good a fighter as any Warden.“Y-yeah, I have those,”
Laws said slowly, watching the Warden surround him. He started to feel more and more nervous under Alcatraz’s critical eye. Perhaps subconsciously, his muscles under his shaggy coat tensed, revealing a good amount of muscle in his legs. “Yes, just recently.”
He was one of the bigger coursers; not nearly as quick and agile but he could sprint short distances with the best of them. Gulping down a lump in his throat, he shifted his weight nervously before looking towards his elder. “What kind of fighting did you have in mind?"
Alcatraz stopped and stood before Lawson once again. ”I think that using your abilities as a Courser will help you become a very formidable fighter. You have both large size and agility on your size. You can surprise them with you speed and then use your strength to strike hard.”
Alcatraz gave a small smile, noticing how the other shifted and tensed uncomfortably. ”You can relax, Lawson. I’m not going to bite.”
Alcatraz assured him.
It was an unexpected compliment that Lawson took gleefully. Heck, he felt his posture straighten and his chest poof out a bit with that. Even if he had little training, he apparently had the tools. The way Alcatraz described it, the technique sounded similar to how he hunted. His main task was to bring the bigger stuff down once he caught up.
Laws felt himself relax, stood up, and chuckled quietly. "Sorry, Sir."
For the first time his true personality was starting to show and he felt comfortable. He would have to remember to not address him too informally.
Alcatraz thrust his muzzle suddenly into Lawson’s face, ”You should be sorry!”
he snarled, but when he withdrew with a teasing, toothy grin and a few chuckles in return it was clear that he had only done that as a joke. Maybe Alcatraz’s humor was a little rough for Lawson, but he hoped his dark companion would understand it. Lawson finally seemed to relax, and Alcatraz hoped that it would stay that way.
He backed up a few paces, ”Alright, attack me. Give it your best shot.”
Alcatraz said, play bowing with his dark tail swaying back and forth and a sly smile on his face. He hoped to keep the training light, fun even. That usually yielded the best results.
He wasn't expecting that reaction in the slightest. Lawson's eyes widened and he took a step back, staring at him with a puzzled expression, then broke into a lopsided grin. "Just when I thought we were getting along!"
he exclaimed. It was nice to see the two of them much more at ease."Are you serious?"
Lawson looked at him with a raised eyebrow then shrugged, lowering down to match his stance. Part of him wanted to ask if his old body could handle it, but his father's warnings about respecting authority popped into his head. Smirking broadly, he leaped and jumped, trying to get him from behind.
Alcatraz narrowed his eyes impatiently, ”Of course I’m serious. What else could you possibly be expecting?”
It was in instinctive question on Lawson’s part, but Alcatraz did not know how to train others in combat other than with practice. The dark wolf accepted his order and leaped and then jumped at Alcatraz, attempting an attack from the ear. Alcatraz watched him, spinning to face him as he lunged and meeting his attempt with a huge snap of his jaws and an assertive swipe of his paws. “It is easier to defend than to attack, that is true.”
Alcatraz said. While Lawson had to dance around in an attempt to find an opening while watching for potential counterattack as well, all Alcatraz had to do was make sure his teeth were between Lawson and the rest of his body. ”But sometimes the attacker has the advantage. Relentless attacks, one after the other with little pause in between, can pressure the defender and overwhelm him in time, and putting him constantly in the defensive will prevent him from planning a counterattack…”
Alcatraz paused, there was one thing that a wolf needed to have in order to use this method, however, ”How is you endurance?”"No, that's not what I - never mind,"
he mumbled with a defeated sigh. There was no use in arguing with him. His strategy was to attack in his blind spots which quietly proved useless as Alcatraz's teeth were snapped close to his face. His eyes widened and he jumped back, grinding his teeth in frustration. Tensing slightly, he pushed off his back feet to make another dive, trying to knock into him. It's not like he was given instructions on what to do!
Lawson jumped back and panted lightly. It was more from frustration and confusion rather than fatigue. He listened to the advice closely and nodded. That sounded like a bit of what he was trying to do, though not as well. "I think it's ok?"
Laws offered. Endurance wasn't something he really thought about. He would just do stuff until he got tired.
Alcatraz nodded, ”Good. Keep me busy and constantly on the defensive. If you have the energy to attack continuously, while being careful not to get hit, I will inevitably misstep. The trick is to tire them out, or mentally overwhelm them, before you yourself get tired. And that’s when you have to strike and strike hard.”
Alcatraz explained, ”Now go ahead, do what you’ve been doing. Let’s duel for a while. See if you can use your greater agility to disarm me.”
Alcatraz said. He was not going to try hard against Lawson. After a year of intense training with his birth pack, years on his own as a loner, and now as a Warden of Aryn, Alcatraz was definitely a fighting force to be reckoned with. But that did not mean he was going to let Lawson win easily! After all, he wouldn’t learn anything if he wasn’t challenged.
Lawson felt... uneasy, confused even. Biting his tongue, he listened at Alcatraz's instructions and would nod, but he couldn't shake the odd feeling about practicing fighting techniques. It was hard to think of using these against another wolf with the intention to hurt them. Now they were just practicing but this training could someday save his life. The whole concept was hard to swallow.Easier said than done,
he thought. Just by looking at the large brute, it was clear that Alcatraz had years of training and experience under his pelt. It would be a huge lie to saw Laws wasn't intimidated. Ok, he was nervous as hell. The two of them had reached a mutual understanding oh, five minutes ago, and he hoped the Warden was going to go easy on him. Gosh, it would be embarrassing to be slammed into the dirt.
He lowered his eyebrows in determination. To avoid being pummeled, he would just have to keep moving. That was his supposed technique, right? Mustering some courage, he lowered himself towards the ground, gaze hard, before springing forward to nip at his haunches. Here goes nothing!
Alcatraz watched his packmate through calm yellow eyes. Lawson looked hesitant, but soon his eyes narrowed and he lowered himself to the ground. He leaped forward, nipping at the Warden. Alcatraz sidestepped away, narrowly avoiding the blow. Lawson kept moving. He had surprising speed for his size, his agility quite impressive as Alcatraz dodged the blows.
But there was something else on Lawson’s mind, it seemed. He was hesitant, and seemed nervous even reluctant. Alcatraz knew that he could do better. He was a hunter, and if Alcatraz were an angry moose he had a feeling his hooves would have cracked his packmate’s skull by now. And as soon Alcatraz saw a particularly sluggish attempt, he counterattacked ferociously, springing with full force into Lawson’s side enough to thrown him to the ground, although admittedly Lawson was most likely quite surprised at his sudden assault. Alcatraz stood over him, his teeth bared and a large paw pressed on Lawson’s neck, ”You are not trying. You want to die? You want your packmates to die? That is what you are telling me right now. What’s the problem here?”
Alcatraz snarled, and then he was silent, clearly expecting an answer. They were harsh words, far too harsh, and he was certainly not giving Lawson enough credit. But he spoke to provoke a reaction.
This still felt... weird. His job was a courser - he was a hunter to help his pack survive. Fighting wasn't that much different, was it? They both required smarts, agility, and strength to bring their opponent down... Hunting was needed to survive; he couldn't grasp the concept of killing another wolf. Perhaps his outlook and attitude were changed if it was a matter of life or death?
The internal struggle going on in his head was the reason for his sluggish attempt. He wasn't even aware of it himself until suddenly, the weight of his packmate hit him squarely, sending him flying to the dirt with a loud, painful thud. The male gasped with wide eyes as every ounce of air was knocked from his lungs. His eyes pinned shut in pain as he struggled to regain his breath. There wasn't even a second to do that before there was a paw on his throat, wiggling desperately beneath the weight. Despite himself, his lip curled and he growled, whether it was instinct, frustration, or embarrassment, he wasn't sure himself."What the hell?!"
he snarled, forgetting all signs of respect. His eyes widened then narrowed as Alcatraz spoke, the words washing over him like cold water, and his eyes felt hot with frustration. The words were like an antler gauging him in the stomach over and over and over. Of course he didn't want his friends and family to die! "That's a stupid question! I don't want them to.. die,"
he gasped as he continued to struggle under the weight. There was clearly an answer his Warden was seeking but Lawson didn't have a clue what it was.
Alcatraz tightened his jaw, glaring down at Lawson for another moment as Lawson defended himself from Alcatraz’s accusation. The Warden glanced to the side for a moment, glaring at nothing in particular, and not moving as the Courser tried to escape, ”Of course you don’t.”
He grumbled, and then he finally stepped off and sat down. His yellow gaze was not angry anymore, but still looked irritable, and tired. Alcatraz found himself irritable nearly all the time now. Pack life was not being kind to his mental health, he had realized. He was constantly worried, constantly paranoid, and just… angry. Just like he had been as a juvenile growing up with his old pack. More and more he longed for the quiet solitude and lack of responsibility that came with being a loner, the life he had known for so long before he joined Aryn’s ranks. Yes he had been lonely toward the end, after he had met Athena, but… how much happier he had been, overall. None of these petty politics to threaten those he cared about. Why couldn’t it be simple and all wolves just live?”Forgive me, Lawson,”
Alcatraz growled, ”I find my frustration mounting as the threat of Blutwald looms over our borders.”
It was heavier and more menacing than the low dark clouds of a thunderstorm. Like an impending doom promising to rake the land and leave it ruined in its wake. He let out a heavy sigh, glaring into the trees for a moment before turning back to the dark male, ”Listen… every wolf in the pack has a job. In times of plenty that is all that matters...”
Alcatraz paused a moment before going on, ”but in times of war, every wolf must become a Warden. The skills of a hunter are akin to those in fighting, but it is different too. Your enemies are smarter than your prey. Wolves are not made to run away as are elk and deer. They are made to fight, and to kill.”
He paused, waiting to let Lawson respond to that… but there was more he wanted to share. He wanted Lawson to understand where he was coming from, and why this was important, and perhaps sharing his own story would assist him.
That answer somehow did the trick. The weight was suddenly lifted and he inhaled deeply, coughing at the sudden rush of air, trying not to curse the warden under his breath. What was that all about? They were training to fight then all of a sudden, Alcatraz went crazy! I know he didn't do it to be mean,
he thought as he stood slowly. Their friends' lives were at stake; the possible war with Blutwald was always in the back of their minds. Trying to pretend it wasn't there was only going to lead to someone getting hurt. If it wasn't Lawson, it was going to be someone he cared about. That's the message he's probably trying to tell me.
He waited another minute before walking over to Alcatraz and sat across from him, meeting his tired, almost apologetic gaze. The Warden was a good, honest wolf and one that Lawson revered in his own way. There was no denying how much he loved the pack but something was clearly troubling the larger male. Was it his place to ask? Alcatraz was going to share with Lawson what he wanted to.
His ears pressed back against his skull. "I know,"
he said slowly with a sigh. "When push comes to shove, it's what happens. Maybe it's something I'll understand if - when - the time comes for it. I... I didn't mean to make you think I didn't care."
Hopefully those words would offer some sort of reassurance that, when it came to it, he would be there to fight their enemies. It was still a hard concept to grasp but one he would no longer be ignorant to.
Alcatraz nodded at him, ”Yes… I hope you do.”
he said. There was another pause, and then he said, ”When I was a pup, a lived with Gabitrix. Our pack was ambushed by strangers my pack had taken no precautions against, and many were slaughtered, including my father, two of my siblings, and I thought Gabi as well. The few of us left were forced to flee”
Alcatraz paused for a moment. That day had been the first time he had ever cried. One of the only two times he had cried in his life. ”I had been too young to have made a difference in the fight, but I vowed to never let it happen again. I trained as hard as I could from then on, insisting that my family protect its borders more strongly. Not let outsiders in. But they did not listen, they were scornful of my ‘cruelty’ toward strangers. I grew increasingly frustrated….”
Alcatraz was still ashamed of what he did, but he did not regret it. He had been miserable there. No one understood him, and he understood nothing about such a peaceful community. ”...so as a juvenile I left.”
Alcatraz paused a moment before going on, ”the reason I tell you this is because I’ve seen for myself what happens when a wolf pack does not actively protect their borders. When the members are weak and unwilling to lift a claw toward those who threaten them. They get walked over, they get attacked, and they get slaughtered like fawns.”
Alcatraz explained, stating as if it is fact. But it was all he had ever known. He added one more point. ”I am immensely lucky to have found Gabi again. But rarely is one so lucky to be reunited with loved ones after they are lost. More often than not, they are lost forever.”
Lawson listened to Alcatraz's sad, educational story. If this were any other time, he would be happy to see the older male finally opening up, but the message from the tale was an unhappy one. His gold eyes met the Warden's yellow ones, offering what sympathy he could with them. "I... I'm sorry that happened to you."
The pain Alcatraz must have experienced.. He couldn't even imagine what it would feel like to lose his sister, Erin. The thought alone made his throat feel tight.
Clearing his throat quietly, he closed his eyes and nodded mostly to himself, then stood with new resolve. "Sir, please don't misunderstand,"
he mumbled slowly, trying to find the right words and sound polite. I don't want to see o-our family get hurt. I want to protect the pack and do what I can. I'll be the first to admit I'm lazy, but I would never purposely do anything to jeopardize them."
For the first time since he arrived in Aryn, he felt an odd, almost overwhelming love for all of them. Sure, he considered all of them his friends and was desperate for their company, but it was a new feeling, a stronger one that was hard to explain. "C'mon! There has to be more to teach me, right? I won't let you kick my ass twice."
Alcatraz blinked slowly at his sympathy but said nothing, accepting it graciously but also shrugging it off. He did not grieve any longer. He had made his choices, and especially with his dearest Gabitrix by his side again against all odds he could not be more grateful for how his life had turned out.
He heard Lawson’s words and he smiled, accepting the dark male’s intentions. It seemed that he understood what was at stake, and his now willingness to fight put the Gamma Warden in better spirits. Alcatraz’s eyes narrowed at the challenge, a playful grin on his menacing muzzle, getting to his paws with his huge muscles flexing, ”We’ll see about that.”
Alcatraz knew that he could work Lawson harder now, push him to his limits, and soon Lawson would be a force to be reckoned with, increasing the chance of Aryn success in this tension-filled war with Butwald.