Alcatraz had never been a particularly sensitive father. He tried his best to guide his children along with a steady paw, and instill important lessons early, but when it came to… mental well being, well, Alcatraz tried
to pay attention but ultimately… it had never been his strength, and he could only do so much. His pups had their pack to support them, and if they needed his help they could ask and he would make time. But otherwise, they were adults. Full grown wolves. Their lives were their own.
Despite this, if he did
notice a clear issue, he often tried to address it. As was the case with his oldest son, Lazarus. The black wolf had been acting… strange lately. Stranger than usual. Strange in a different way. Usually he was laughing and smiling and socializing while skirting his duties. Now he seemed distant, nervous, and he tended to avoid others. And perhaps related, Alcatraz couldn’t help but notice that his son seemed to have grown apart from his best friend, Seven. It wasn’t like Alcatraz to notice such things, but rarely was the young wolf’s black pelt not
accompanied by the tawny fur of the she-wolf. So when suddenly their sightings were separate, well, it was noticeable.
Personal issues, unless they impacted the pack, mattered little to Alcatraz. What he was slightly concerned about, though, was the fact that Lazarus had recently left on a mission to Fellfang by himself. Alcatraz hadn’t even checked in on his son’s mental health before letting him go, only given him a curt goodbye and quick nuzzle. For a wolf to be acting strange among a pack was not usually a deadly affair. But out in the wilds… it would do no good for Lazarus to be out there, jumping out of his skins at the fall of every leaf.
So he figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask the wolf who knew his son best. Or once had. Despite the fact he hadn’t seen Lazarus and Seven together lately, she was his best lead at figuring out what might be going on with Lazarus. And besides… it never hurt to check on his packmates themselves. Seven was a wolf in his pack just as much as Lazarus was. Her well being was important to him. So he trotted over to the pretty young she-wolf and cleared his throat to get her attention. “Good morning, Seven. Can you spare a word?”
It had been a long while since Lazarus had departed...On a mission Fellfang,
she had explained, feigning a smile. Oh how deeply she wished those words to be true. No-one else knew of the dark prince's true intentions...Her eyes narrowed regretfully. The huntress felt as though she was betraying her pack; her Alpha's in particular. After all, Lazarus hadn't just been her friend, he was their son.
They deserved the right to know what had become of him..who was she to keep it from them? What if something had happened? Would they blame her? I would.
Dread clawed its way through the she-wolf's chest as her thoughts grew darker.
She felt trapped, torn by her lingering loyalty to Lazarus and an obligation to Aryn. Her confusion had driven her from the pack, almost obsessively. Being in constant company only aggravated her guilt. The open space and crisp air calmed her whirling thoughts. Offered her some peace of mind, however temporary.
A rumbling voice broke the female from her thoughts, eyes jerking upward. The sight of Lazarus's father sent a ripple of shock and panic down her spine. "Lord Alcatraz!"
she exclaimed, straightening up. "O...of course"
The young beta responded. She let her gaze wander downward in a poor attempt to hide the anxiety glazing her gaze.
Alcatraz frowned with his eyes narrowing slightly at how clearly startled she was. It seemed…. odd. Quite unlike the she-wolf who was usually so confident and happy. It turned out Lazarus was not the only one acting strange. Perhaps there was something going on here after all. But it seemed quite the behavior change on both sides for it to have been a mere falling out. But Alcatraz’s grasp on what they may or may not have had between them was little and less. Maybe heartbreak could be the cause. But maybe there was more. He eyed her, somewhat suspiciously, “is everything alright?”
Her immediate instinct was to answer, yes. But the words caught in her throat as she locked gazes with the tawny he-wolf. A rare and genuine concern flickered in their amber depths, masked by a subtle suspicion. She swallowed hard, gathering her words carefully. How much detail should she go into? How much did he care
about? Lazarus was his son
, after all...but did he really wish to sit and listen to their mess of a situation?
Surely their Lord had better ways to spend his time. "I..."
she began hesitantly, eyes flicking downward. "Yes, m'lord...of course."
the huntress muttered, shuffling her paws. Her tone was hardly convincing, but she had little else to say. Raising her sky-coloured eyes hesitantly, she watched her Alpha's face for a brief moment. "Are...you ok?"
the huntress dared, tone soft. He had, after all, approached her about something.
Perhaps this would draw the attention from herself.
His frown deepened at her less-than-convincing answer to his question. Anyone could see it was a lie. There was much bothering her. Well, Seven had been one of the wolves there when the kidnapping had taken place. That must have been traumatic. At least, however, she had packmates who went through it with her. They were all going through these uncertain times as one. “Very well,”
he said, “if you change your mind about that, I’m here to listen.”
Yes listening was a huge part of his job. How surprised his younger self would be to find how seldom he used his massive bark when compared to his ears. And he knew now that was for the best.
He met her gaze evenly when she turned the question on him. It was a natural question, after all she knew he had come here for a reason. “Yes, well, I wanted to ask about Lazarus. He’s been acting strange lately, and now he’s off on a mission on his own.”
he glanced for a moment into the rustling leaves of the forest as he went on, ”I’m not sure how… friendly you two are at the moment, but I wonder if he was fit to leave the pack on his own.”
his pale yellow eyes flicked back to Seven, watching for her reaction. That his son was doing anything other than what he had claimed to Athena had not even crossed Alcatraz’s mind. He was just a little concerned about his fitness.
Her cyan eyes trailed upward, meeting her Alpha's steady gaze. Lazarus.
The huntress worked to suppress a wince, muscles growing rigid. The question was, of course, to be expected. But at this stage, every mention of the silver prince sent waves of distress down her spine. She debated fleeing then and there, but his burning gaze held her firmly. She shifted, paws shuffling uncomfortably. "L....Lazarus and I....we..."
Seven broke off, an image of Laz's face breaking through her vision. She could still feel
the desperation, still hear his final plea. "You can't tell anyone about this Seven."
The silence grew steadily between the two. "We had a falling out, m'lord."
The auburn huntress uttered eventually. "I.....I hope so."
she finished quietly. The courser knew she was being vague, teetering between honesty and discretion. A lump rose in her throat, lips pulling tight. "He was upset."
Seven admitted, "We both were."
The young she-wolf’s distress was palpable as she struggled to answer. Whatever it was, it must have been bad. He was concerned from Lazarus, but perhaps his son had needed an excuse to get away from it all for a time and clear his head. And while he was at it he could get some Ranger experience and diplomacy practice with Fellfang. Perhaps Lazarus, like Teva, would do well with a pilgrimage. Alcatraz frowned slightly as he recalled the distress of all the children of his first litter. He tried to detach their actions from his opinions about his parenting, after all they were grown wolves responsible for themselves, but part of him had to wonder...
He also had to wonder what could have happened between Lazarus and Seven that had been so distressing to them both, though perhaps it was a combination of that and the hard times their pack had recently been through. “I’m sorry to hear that,”
Alcatraz said. “Your first heartbreak can feel like the end of the world,”
His gaze grew distant as he thought of Gabitrix, his first best friend, who he had thought for years had been killed in a raid of his pack. He didn’t know how he would go on without her at the time. He still couldn’t believe at times that she had survived. “And your first war…”
It was years ago that the war with Blutwald proper, that all-consuming war that had haunted them for so long, had settled darkness over the newly formed Aryn. After the fact Lawson had struggled to recover, almost falling into the despair of it all before deciding that life was more worth his time than death. A more difficult decision than some may think for those suffering through the trauma of war. Many in Aryn hadn’t even been born then. But the current attacks within their own borders and the looming prospect of further conflict could easily be a stressor on Seven as well. It was her first time seeing large-scale battle. Perhaps she was fearful for the future that she wasn’t sure would even be. “But they aren’t. They, like all things, will pass away.”
he shifted his thick tail tip to brush her flank in a subtle gesture of comfort. “Your Lord and your pack are here for you.”
Her ears swivelled towards the he-wolf, throat clenched whilst he spoke. She could see memories glittering behind his golden gaze, weighing down his words. This was a hauntingly familiar conversation. Except last time it had been Lady Athena, who offered consolation. In the shadow of Kris'tran's death, she had seen no hope. No chance of things returning to the way they were...but they had, eventually. Of course, she had
changed in the process; but perhaps that wasn't a bad thing? His loss had given her a strength she didn't even know she possessed!
Although the circumstances were different, she knew from experience that she could trust in their judgement. "I know,"
she whispered at his touch. "I just wish....I wish I could have solved things sooner! Before it all..."
the huntress trailed off, stifling a wince, "Exploded."
Sighing softly to herself, she shifted positions, allowing her eyes to meet his. She couldn't keep it from him any longer. "I don't know if he'll come back."
She choked despairingly, lip quivering. "I told him to leave! I told him to leave and he...."
she broke off, unable to maintain her composure. Gritting her teeth, the courser worked to suppress the sobs.
Alcatraz expected the conversation to be over, but Seven slowly began to open up. He looked at her, perking his ears to listen to his whispered words. He nodded empathetically. Yes, many wolves had regrets. He had many himself. He thought of his daughter Teva, of the invading rogues, of all the many mistakes in his past. Everything is clear in hindsight, however. All you can do is learn for next time.
He was going to articulate that to her, but when their eyes met he was startled by the desperation within them. Not just pain of memories, pain that was fresh and new, that still haunted her like a hanging threat. He narrowed his eyes at her words. “What?”
he hissed. His oldest son… could not come back?
Seven was nearly crying as she finished. Alcatraz paused for a moment, quite alarmed now, trying to figure what could have happened from her words. She told him to leave…? There was a lot to unpack from what she had just said… her grief, guilt, feelings of betrayal perhaps. But first he also needed more, to confirm what she was implying. He shifted closer to her to offer his shoulder and mane in case she chose to use it for support. “You are telling me,”
he said in a quiet rumble, “that Lazarus did not leave us to go to Fellfang, as he claimed.”
Seven recoiled as her Lord leaned downward, stern gaze burning her coat. She bit her quivering lips, blinking profusely to clear her tear-filled eyes. She jumped as Alcatraz's shoulder brushed against her own, shocked by the comforting gesture. Daring to lift her muzzle, she met the he-wolf's gaze. His expression was serious, yet a gentleness softened his features.
She nodded shakily, "Yes, m'lord."
she sniffed. "He made me promise.....he made me promise not to tell you,"
she quivered. "He wanted to run away....he asked me to go with him but I....I couldn't leave"
she finally choked.
Unable to hold his eyes any longer, Seven dropped her head. "Forgive me,"
she whispered, "I should have spoken sooner."
Alcatraz let her words sink in for a moment. Lazarus had run away from Aryn. He wasn’t coming home. He had wanted Seven to come with him, but Seven wouldn’t come. Alcatraz knew that wolves who paired up often desired to leave their birthplace to create a pack of their own, but it didn’t sound like that was the nature of Lazarus’ leaving, as he left with or without his best friend. And the use of “run away…”
and “promise not to tell”
further indicated that this was no healthy coming-of-age journey. His son fled in fear, into a dangerous world. Alcatraz didn’t answer her at first, then let out a long sigh. There wasn’t anything he could do. Finally he answered her in the way as he would answer for any other deserting packmate. “Lazarus is an adult. He will make his own choices. Just as you will make yours.”
He wasn’t angry with her. He wasn’t sure yet that telling him that day or right now would have made a difference. Would Alcatraz have gone after him? And say what?
No… he was not a babysitter, and this was not his fight. As for her withholding of information, every wolf could have their secrets, as long as it did not threaten the pack. This was a conflict between friends, and within one’s self. “Don’t be burdened by this guilt any longer, Seven. You’re a good and loyal member Aryn. I am proud to call a packmate.”
There was a deep disappointment settling in his gut… and a mounting sorrow… as he really started to registered the actions of his son. Despite his gruff handling of many situations, to hear that Lazarus was gone forever… that he had left his family and his home… I suppose I had done the same to my family pack…
The Lord then wished to be alone. But he couldn’t leave Seven mid conversation, so to the she-wolf he asked quietly. “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?”
The huntress swallowed hard, shaking her head slightly. "Only that I wish things could have been different, my lord."
she responded sadly. Her eyes lifted, "I...I'll take my leave."
she added, taking a few short steps backwards. Her heart went out to the father, knowing that this information must had stirred him greatly. "I'm sorry. Truly I am."