Published: April 26, 2018
She had grown so fast, and she no longer considered herself a small young pup any longer. Though others would most definitely tell her otherwise. She was learning to keep herself busy, trying to keep her mind off of certain things.
Taking on the task of Courser was by far the best decision she had done so far, the training was what she felt she needed. The reward was the honor she felt by providing for her adoptive family. This training,everything she was working on,everything she was doing,she felt it was necessary...but then there was that one specific thought; one she tried to shove to the back of her mind constantly. Was it worth it?
The charcoal she-wolf was starting to find herself creeping away from her family for longer periods of time. It was during these times away from them that she would sit and think,trying to clear her mind of any doubts and troubles. This day would most certainly be no different.
Almost like clock work her eyes sprung open; it was early dawn. The sun was starting to rise ,and slowly without waking her mother and her new siblings; or anyone for that matter, she crept out silently from the den. Training was definitely starting to pay off. Then like any other day...she began to move forward aimlessly, to space herself from everyone...from the world itself it seemed. Almost like a trance it seemed she just continued about in her daily routine, unaware of her surroundings,unaware if she was even noticed.
Alcatraz had woken up early, as he often did, to go on a pre-dawn patrol. He had dragged a few unfortunately packmates with him as well. They returned just as the light was beginning to spill across the forest. He sent the others back to bed, but Alcatraz himself stayed up. He wasn’t tired, he rarely was anymore. But he liked to have some peace to gather his thoughts. He perched on a rock near the dens, resting as he watched the forest come alive in the new light. He thought of what was being done, and what could be done in addition to see the pack through this winter. Winter was always a hard time on a pack. So far Aryn was thriving as well as any winter before, so he was not as stressed as he had been in times passed. But there was still no reason to not continue to stay on top of things. He needed to think about the hunting parties that would be sent out, and the patrols to secure the border and where to send them.
A familiar form caught the corner of his eyes and he looked over to see his daughter, Neka, making her way out of the den. She was up early. Perhaps this was a good excuse to speak with her… he spent much less time with his children than he wished he could. He ought not let chances such as these slip away. Alcatraz got to his paws and leaped from his rock, trotting to catch up to her. “Good morning, Neka,” the dark wolf said as he approached, falling into step beside the young female, “You are up early.”
It was almost as if she was caught in a trance, staring blankly forward at the endless white before her. Her head dipped low, as she just stared, watching her paws. One in front of the other, aimlessly moving with no destination except to break away. Her mind was slowly chipping away, why...why me. What is my purpose...what am I here for? The thoughts were creeping up again on her.
Then out of no where they subsided for just a brief moment. The young females ears flattened as she heard a voice, familiar;yes, but it came out of no where unannounced. Instantly she jumped out of response, startled, she twisted her frame to face the familiar being. Looking like a scared doe at first her expression was shock at first. As her trance was broken and she came back to focus, her tensed frame after the jump slowly eased up as she finally realized whom the figure was who had addressed her.
"Oh! Good morning Fa-" pausing for a moment " Lord Alcatraz"
The word 'father' still remained a sensitive word to her, yes Alcatraz was the only male figure who she had come to know as a fatherly figure. Yet she felt as though she was not privileged enough to address him as such. She was not his after all...she was just a cub that was dumped onto them. She still remained thankful to them however, and grateful to her adoptive family, though the word 'father' was a word she left strictly for his blood bourn kin.
" I couldn't sleep any longer, I'm sorry...so I thought I'd get a bit of training in...more practice"
Lies...she just wanted a moment to herself.
" How was your patrol?" Throwing questions to keep him from prying more into her motives.
Alcatraz watched the pale she-wolf jump in surprise from his sudden appearance, spinning to face him. He made a mental note of it. Her mind was far away just a moment ago. And what could that be about? A young mind, full of fantasies, he thought dismissively. He wasn’t the type to pry into the lives of others, after all, even those he loved.
The Arynian Alpha was unaware of the true reason for Neka’s avoidance of the word father; he might have protested if he had known. Alcatraz didn’t know what it was like to be adopted, but he remembered what it was like to be a pup, and how important his parents had been at laying down the foundation for who he would become. His father especially… any pup The One placed under the care of himself and Athena he tried to give the same tools to make that foundation (even if it didn’t always turn out well). Either way, he understood as well that Neka knew she was not a trueborn child, so he didn’t think much of her calling him whatever she liked.
He nodded approvingly at her explanation, “Very diligent of you,” he said, looking at her sideways and smiling a bit. “Already you are shaping up to be a fine Coarser, one Aryn will be proud of.” He flicked an ear at her question, honestly appreciating that she asked. Most in Aryn were aware of the pre-dawn patrols from being dragged on a few themselves, but rarely did many show much interest in them. “All quiet, nothing to report.” he answered, a boring answer but he said it proudly. It had been unusually quiet, in fact. Usually they found at least a coyote to run off or a murder of crows to follow to some old kill. But not a twig out of place in Aryn, except for the stale wafting scent of a loner likely carried in from distant lands.
He looked back at her before she could say more; time to bring this up. “I gave you quite a start,” he said. “You shouldn’t be so distracted when you make your way into the forest alone. It’s not always safe.”
She stood quiet as his words began to sink in, 'Diligent'
'A fine courser...one Aryn would be proud of'
To her it seemed time stopped if only for a moment, as a faint smile curled upon her maw. Words of encouragement, it made her feel so different from what she felt earlier when she was escaping the den. It was warm, compared to the numbness previously. She felt wanted.
Though just as quick as the warm feeling came, it left just as quickly. Her own mind betraying her, doubting her, breaking her down. Telling her lies just like she told her own adoptive father, and in an instant the smile faded and she looked away towards the ground.
" Thank you Lord Alcatraz, I do try hard" she sounded almost monotoned.
Then there was silence once more from her, Alcatraz voice began to become muffled and faded, as she began to become engulfed in her mind once more. There it was that cold, dark feeling once more. ' I don't know why you even try...they really could care less' her own voice echoed into her head. Sighing softly.
" huh? What?" She regained composure in the middle of conversation." Oh, yes...you did indeed frighten me. I apologize sir, I just get caught up in thought...a flaw of mine I suppose" yes...a flaw. A flaw she could only hope she'd grow out of. Though for some odd reason she could feel it, the darkness creeping closer, she just hoped the One would bring her light to keep it at bay.
His tail wagged a bit when he noticed the little female’s smile. She wasn’t the most perky of young ones, Alcatraz knew, so he was always glad to see her pleased. Even if barely. She was back to her less-than-enthusiastic self when she thanked him.
Again she seemed not to be completely aware. She was right beside him, yet Alcatraz felt her mind was far away. ”A flaw to be worked on. We Wardens try our best to keep the pack borders secure, but Aryn is vast, and there is always the possibility that something may slip through. A wolf must always be vigilant.”
He looked at her again, frowning slightly, and finally decided to bring up her formalities.“You need not be so formal with me, Neka,” he said, “we are family, after all.”
"We are Family"
Yes, family, but not by choice nor by blood. A blank stare was given towards her adoptive father. She wanted to ask him if there were ever times he regretted Athena for taking her in, though she knew not of what truly happened before her coming though later she had heard some whispers of the past. Oh a stolen she-wolf, though she knew not her name, only that it had started with a 'M'. Either way now since she was older, looking back at her arrival she now understood she came at such an inappropriate time. Why call her family? She was just some insignificant cub plopped on their doorstep, another mouth to feed.
Though she would give Alcatraz what he wanted, she didn't want the caring male to begin to suspect that she wasn't alright. More lies to sugar coat the real truth. That she was truely not alright, that deep down inside...she was starting to feel like she no longer belonged...she had no place here.
"Alright...father. No more formal terms" the word was so foreign to her, much like calling Kane uncle at first. It left a rather weird feeling on her tongue almost. " By somethings do you mean someone? "
Again she had only heard muffled stories of the events that happened before her. She wanted to hear some form of the truth, to keep him off her trail she was trying to change the subject. Better for him to start talking of a different topic then to start questioning her own mind. " I know I'm still...training. But I'm not a pup anymore...so....if there's anything I can do to help the...family" with the words quickly spoken her gaze shifted back to the ground...yes where they belonged...she's not worthy of eye contact." Let me know...I..want. To help"
Alcatraz was satisfied when she called him ’father’ and agreed to no more formal terms. There, all patched up. Hopefully. He wonder if perhaps he should have brought it up earlier. Well, either way…
He twitched an ear at her question. “Perhaps,” he agreed, “Bears may stray to these parts, perhaps even an angry moose…. Or a skunk. The latter may not be deadly, but you’ll have a lonely few days should you stumble upon one of those,” he let out a snort of amusement at his own jest. No wolf liked the stench of a skunk. He went on, “Though you are correct. Intruding wolves are not an uncommon occurrence. And they are, at times, the most dangerous of all.” Bears, cougars, bison, moose, and someother animal foes may be bigger and stronger than wolves, but wolves were smarter…
He looked over at Neka as she asked what she could do to help. He nodded approvingly at the very question, “Your diligence with training helps. You are the future of this pack, Neka, that you take it so seriously helps more than you know. Though we can speak to Masters Lawson and Hani about your Courser training. Perhaps it is time to give you more responsibilities,” Aryn was blessed with a bright and shining next generation. And Lord Alcatraz always expected the most of the wolves who he and Athena raised. In his mind it was never too early to throw them into the deep end when it came to growing up and learning skills. “Why don’t you train with me at some point? I may be a Warden, but cross training and becoming well rounded in your skills makes for an even more able Arynian.”
She couldn't help but let loose a soft chuckle once the animal ' skunk' was brought up. Yes, those little stink buggers would prove to be bothersome depending on the end you greeted.
" So, lone wolves are dangerous? Should I stumble on one when I'm out, what should I do?"
She doubted that she would ever come into contact with others from outside her home. Though, she couldn't help but wonder for a moment should the situation ever arise.
Her ears would shift forward, more training. Yes, maybe that's what she needed. More physical training, to keep her mind from wandering. Maybe she needed something else to focus on, YES! THATS IT!" When should I go meet with Master Hani and Master Lawson. I'm...more then willing to step up my game"
Though quick as she was and eager to start, it faded just as fast when offered to train with her ' father'.
" I'm...not strong I don't know how warden training would help" she was just being honest for a moment. Her light build lacked muscle and she knew it. She wasn't built for that kind of work, it was one of the reasons she had chosen courser as her task. " I apologize, it's just...I don't think I could..fight" yes...she was just better at running. Just like always.
Alcatraz nodded, “They can be. Not all… I was a lone wolf once, as was your mother. It is difficult to tell whether a wolf you encounter will be dangerous or not. Always err on the side of caution. Do not travel the reaches of the territory alone, and if you should see a loner within the borders do not engage, just come straight home and report it. Many wolves here are trained to deal with them, after all, and we don’t want you to be in danger.” Wolves in Aryn could be noble and brave, but Alcatraz always tried to encourage a more team-centric approach. One that discouraged a non-Warden individual confronting a threat (and even Warden individuals if the threat looked formidable). Pack wolves were strongest when they were together.
Alcatraz thought back into his memory when she asked the question, wondering if Lawson or Hani had mentioned their plans for this day. He couldn’t think of any, but wolves need not report their every move to him so they could still have gone out on their own. “When you return from the training you have planned we can find them.” Maybe he would even mention it to them first when he returned to the den site, if he saw them.
Alcatraz let out a sympathetic grunt, then said, “Ah, well, there may be a time when you have no choice but to fight.” The dark Lord didn’t say so to scare the young female. After all, he misliked the thought of the slender Neka locked in combat probably near as much as she did. But unless one would accompany her wherever she went, there was always the chance she could find herself in a dangerous situation. “Strength is not the only tool a Warden has,” Alcatraz pointed out, “in fact, there are many self-defense techniques that are transferable from your training as a Courser.” he paused before saying, “No wolf wants to fight. But should you ever find yourself in a situation, it’s best to have a bit of knowledge on what to do.” While running from a threat was always preferable there may come a time when Neka is with someone who is perhaps less fit than she and thus she may be inclined to stand her ground, or there could come a time where she is trapped and somehow fleeing is not an option. Instinct can take a wolf a long way, but Alcatraz at least slept better at night knowing that he had taught his children at least the basics of self defense.
The young she-wolfs ears soon pinned firmly against her skull. The thought of fighting was something she couldn't really fathom, she didn't truely have a mean bone in her body. However, her fathers words made perfect sense and she truely understood it. She wasn't opposed to the training by all means, she just lacked faith in herself along with her skill.
Her hues soon shifted towards the ground, it wasn't going to kill her she guessed to throw in some outside course training, though somewhat hesitant at first.
" Alright, I'll...give it my all if you feel as though it would help me" her words were soft, with a tint of subtle doubt.
Just like that she was quick to try and change subjects however, she was moving on from the other training topic with haste.
" If it is alright with you I'll get back to the training I was going to do, and then I'll search for Master Hani and Lawson...when I'm done there then one on one training if the sun is still in the sky?" She shifted her frame as if readying herself to flee that very moment, though she gave her father a brief smile, trying to put a bandage on the current conversation...making things seem as if all is well.
Alcatraz could tell she wasn’t pleased with the idea still, but she agreed reluctantly in the end. “It will,” Alcatraz promised. He leaned over, touching his muzzle gently to her ear, “The One bless your gentle nature. It is a gift, one to protect.” he murmured. Her gentleness wasn’t something he wanted to squash. But he had seen too much to let this dove of his fly without at least honing her beak.
Alcatraz stopped when she proposed a plan for the rest of the day, ready to head back to the den site. “Very well. Don’t go too far.” His mind was stuck on all the dangers now, but she should be safe enough so close to the den site. He paused for a moment and looked at her, noticing how... eager she looked to leave his presence. His brow furrowed a bit. She must truly mislike the idea of this training. Well, hopefully she would find it not as bad as she thinks. He returned her smile, “If Hani and Lawson put you to work late into the afternoon, fear not of our training. There are other days.” he gave her a curt, dismissive nod.
She gave her father a final nod " Either way, I'm sure today will be a very busy day for me" yes, busy indeed. " Don't worry...I won't travel too far...ill stay within ear shot is that ok?" Normally she liked to travel as far as they'd let her, anywhere quiet and secluded to be honest but...after the conversation she had with her father...she decided not to test her luck and their patience. It was best to stay close by then to anger her ' parents' in anyway...or to have them worry about her, she had a feeling he was just being a tad bit protective. Nothing wrong with that. In fact the young she-wolf couldn't help but retain her smile for a little while longer, as her lanky frame turned and started to head out into the opposite direction from her father.
It wasn't until that she was father away that the smile began to fade, with his words ringing in her head.
'Your gentle nature, it is a gift'
A gift...no, more like a curse. Her ears soon pinned to her skull as she lowered her head towards the ground. Releasing a heavy sigh...here it comes again. It was something she just couldn't seem to escape....this vile enemy...that was her own mind.
" The One...please...save me" muttering words under her breath.