Alcatraz padded toward the den that housed his family, Athena and the three new pups. He came to bring food to them and the other Arynians left in the densite, though he also liked to take advantage of the visit to spend a short amount of time with his youngest children. His
children, he thought, adopted or not. They would know no different. And neither would he.
As he approached, the den was quiet. Except for one dark little form lying outside of the den, gnawing on a large stick. It was the only brother in the litter, Aivar. By now the pups were somewhat familiar with him, he had met them several times. But each time had been brief, so he knew precious little of each pup, Aivar included. He assumed such was mutual as well. He wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to get to know them better, so he approached his son. “Aivar,”
he greeted the little pup gruffly, “What do you have there?”
Aivar was tired of the densite. He was bored. He wanted to explore, but he wasn’t allowed to go as far as he wanted. He’d grown from the little short-legged ball of fluff, to a spindly-legged pup, and those spindly legs longed to wander. But, while he was ordered to stay by the den, he busied himself with destroying a stick.
Boredom, and a little streak of rebelliousness almost made him abandon his stick, but then the sound of pawsteps caught his attention, and his ears pricked. He sat up quickly, eyes glittering expectantly as his little nose twitched as he inhaled the scents. Who was coming? Alcatraz! He didn’t know his father well, but he was a figure in Aivar’s mind that was up high on a pedestal and admired beyond all others. He admired his mother, too, of course, but there was something special and mysterious about the father he never saw.
His tail wagged excitedly and he whined happily when his father approached. He was particularly pleased when Alcatraz noticed his stick, and he picked it up proudly then set it down so he could actually talk instead of mumble around it like an idiot. “A stick!”
he announced. “I was watching a raven pick at a tree the other day,”
he explained. “It told me it was getting… larvee?”
He realized he couldn’t remember the word, and he didn’t know what it actually was. “Well anyways, it was hunting with a stick, and I thought that was cool so I wanted to try and it told me I was stupid because I couldn’t figure it out, so I’m going to figure it out.”
He was breathless by the time he finished rambling on, but his little tongue lolled from his mouth excitedly. “Can I go hunting with you, dad?”
he asked, bouncing up and grinning. His tail wagged and he yipped. “I want to hunt!”
He had been trying to hunt mice with mixed success. Usually he just ended up with a noseful of snow. “Look how big I am!”
He puffed out his narrow chest and stood as tall as he could, which did little considering how lanky he was. His body was thin and lean, and his legs were long and spindly with too-big paws. But he felt big. Even compared to Alcatraz, who didn’t seem nearly as big as he had the last time Aivar saw him, so the little pup felt sure that he was big enough to go with his father on a hunt.
Aivar’s wild imagination could imagine it already, and he could see himself plowing through the snow chasing after… well he wasn’t sure. He hadn’t actually seen any big prey animals yet. But he had heard of them. He wagged his tail expectantly.
Alcatraz looked down at Aivar as he explained his toy. The Alpha couldn’t help the amused look, “Don’t listen to the ravens, son. You are a wolf, and wolves don’t hunt with sticks,”
he explained. Though it was hard to scorn ravens too harshly any longer… not since it was a raven, with feathers as white as snow so he was told, who had saved the pups by bringing Athena and Raphael to them. But still, that wouldn’t make Alcatraz any more likely to eat larva or use a stick to hunt. How ridiculous!
He considered his son as he asked to hunt. Aivar was certainly too young, even if his long legs were growing quickly and his puppy fat was turning slowly to adolescent muscle. There were other prey to catch, though, prey that was less dangerous. And especially with this raven nonsense Alcatraz figured it wouldn’t hurt to give him a lesson. He would have to be more careful than he was with Killian, however, and be careful not to throw Aivar into a situation he could be too young for. “Perhaps not as big as you think, but you’re getting there, I think a lesson might be appropriate,”
he said, “Come Aivar, and stay close.”
He flicked his tail to indicate to his son to follow. He did not fear taking the pup without informing Athena directly; his scent by the den would be the first thing she would notice if she came out of the den. She would know that Aivar was safe with him.
“Don’t listen to the ravens, son. You are a wolf, and wolves don’t hunt with sticks,"
his father said
Aivar tipped his head to the side, looking intently at his father's face as he spoke. His ears flicked as they grew hot with embarrassment. No, Aivar supposed. Wolves hunt with their teeth not sticks. But the raven had issues a challenge and Aivar couldn't push the thought aside. It was there, begging him to figure it out, but later. He would prove that dumb raven wrong. I am not stupid, he thought.
Still, Aivar was determined to learn to hunt, or do something. He was itching to see more of the territory and do something other than sit around and play with his sisters or chew on sticks and bones.
His large eyes watched his father expectantly, tail wagging slightly hope blossomed in his chest. However, there was also a tiny spark of fear inside of him as he feared that Alcatraz might tell him the words that he most did not want to hear. “Perhaps not as big as you think, but you’re getting there, I think a lesson might be appropriate.”
His hope sank briefly, but then it lifted and soared. The scrawny pup sprang up and gave a yip of excitement. “Come Aivar, and stay close.” "Okay!"
He squeaked, hurrying to follow his father closely. "Where are we gonna go? What's the lesson gonna be?"
He asked, looking up admiringly at his father with his tongue lolling from his mouth.
Alcatraz grinned at his son’s excitement. The best students were the eager ones. “We’ll see what comes up, and go from there. Keep your nose open,”
Alcatraz answered. Though he had an idea of where to head. He scented the air, searching for a very specific aroma; rabbit. A great place for a new wolf to start his hunting career. Aivar was likely expecting them to track some large beast to hunt. Alcatraz wanted to get his expectations to a realistic level as soon as possible. “Together the pack can hunt great prey; deer, elk, bison. But there will be times when you may find yourself hungry, with no packmates around to help feed you. For this reason it is imperative for a wolf to know how to hunt more abundant but smaller prey. Such as rabbits, birds, and fish.”
Alcatraz looked down at his son, “learning to catch these quick little morsels will also help you with bigger prey. Starting with them will teach you to be agile and precise.”
“We’ll see what comes up, and go from there. Keep your nose open.”
Aivar nodded, putting his best determined expression on. He was determined to impress his father, alpha of Aryn. He had big pawprints to fill, and he wanted desperately to outshine his siblings. He wanted to be special.
Aivar padded along beside his father, sniffing the air and trying very hard to pay attention, which was not necessarily his strong suit. He had no idea what he was looking for, but he tried hard to sort through the scents of the forest. “Together the pack can hunt great prey; deer, elk, bison."
When Alcatraz spoke again, Aivar looked up excitedly, hanging on every word. He was unable to focus on looking for scents while he listened. Multitasking was not something he was capable of yet. "But there will be times when you may find yourself hungry, with no packmates around to help feed you. For this reason it is imperative for a wolf to know how to hunt more abundant but smaller prey. Such as rabbits, birds, and fish.”
That sounded scary. Being alone and hungry. He hoped he never would be, or never would have to be, alone. “Learning to catch these quick little morsels will also help you with bigger prey. Starting with them will teach you to be agile and precise.”
Aivar nodded soberly, though he didn't quite understand. He understood that he had to learn how to hunt small things first. But he was okay with starting small. He'd still prove to his father that he was capable, and that he would be the best. He suddenly grinned and looked up at Alcatraz, tail wagging. "Okay!"
He smiled and pressed his skinny body against one of Alcatraz's strong forelegs. "I am gonna be the best hunter ever!"
It was his number one goal. He just wanted to be great at something.
Alcatraz looked back at Aivar when he finished speaking, his pale yellow eyes examining his son, watching his reactions and making sure he was listening to every word. The lanky pup seemed to be paying attention, nodding seriously as he finished. The Alpha nodded in return, satisfied.
Alcatraz paused as Aivar pressed his body affectionately against his foreleg. Alcatraz chuckled, leaning down to nudge the young male’s cheek with his nose. “You very well can be, if you work hard enough,”
Alcatraz replied. He knew better than to build up hopes of an easy ascent to greatness. Instilling the importance of hard work was crucial to being a good parent, in Alcatraz’s mind. It was one area he had slacked on with his first litter… but he would learn from his past, as they all did.
They were a decent way away from the den site now. It was time to get serious with their hunt. He looked down at Aivar, “Have you ever hunted mice? Are you familiar with the smell?”
Alcatraz asked. Teaching Aivar to track was the first step. But it was never easy at first, with so many new smells swirling all around him.
“You very well can be, if you work hard enough.” "I'll work harder than any wolf ever!"
Aivar vowed, his skinny chest puffing up as his father told him what the key to success was. Though Aivar wasn't really sure what hard work felt like yet, for he was still a pup, and knew only of play and aspiring dreams as grand as the sky.
Aivar continued following Alcatraz, his attention span beginning to waver. It was no real fault of his own. As a pup, he was just distracted easily. He tried to focus still, though, even as his eyes began to wander. “Have you ever hunted mice? Are you familiar with the smell?”
Aivar started and snapped back to attention at the sound of his father's voice. Aivar looked up at him and nodded. "Yeah! I try to hunt them around the den but..."
He frowned. "I think they got scared of me. I don't smell them around so much anymore."
He laughed. It was both disappointing and funny to him that the mice had fled the area directly near the den site.
Alcatraz smiled at his son’s enthusiasm. It was not an uncommon anthem with pups, but even if not many grew to adopt such hard-working habits, the ones who aspired to be great were always the ones that ended up great. Aivar may be a pup with a lot to learn, but he was certainly on the right track.
Alcatraz flicked an ear at Aivar’s explanation of his mice hunts, “They are wise to avoid you,”
he said with a small grin at the lanky child, a bit of subtle encouragement as Alcatraz slid into directions for Aivar’s first challenge, “the scent of rabbit is a bit like mouse.”
They were distinct smells, for sure, but when distinguishing from the rest of the smells of the forest, the mice and rabbit were distinct to the trained nose. They both smelled of meat, of musty fur and grass, and of warmth. Alcatraz could catch the rabbit scent on the breeze, but it was faint here. He continued to lead Aivar onward, toward the scent trail in hopes it would get stronger and thus more easily picked up by Aivar. As they walked he said, “Breathe in the scents, do you notice anything aside from the soil and forest, anything that could be similar to mouse?”
“They are wise to avoid you.”
Aivar beamed at Alcatraz’s words and slight grin. His thin tail wagged, but then it slowly ceased when Alcatraz continued, telling him that the scent of rabbit was a bit like that of a mouse. Without even realizing what he was doing, Aivar’s eyes shut and he sniffed at the air, hoping to catch the scent of something mouse-like.
His eyes opened again, and he looked around. Alcatraz continued to lead him along the trail. What Aivar could smell mostly was snow, Alcatraz, faintly other wolves that has passed this way, the sharp scent of pine and cold, and some birds. He wondered if the raven was watching him and glanced up into the trees, following his thoughts along without actually thinking. “Breathe in the scents, do you notice anything aside from the soil and forest, anything that could be similar to mouse?”
Again Aivar sniffed the air, but he kept his eyes open this time. His nose twitched and his brows furrowed as he tried to sort through the scents, walk, and look around. He slowly began to focus more on smelling, but it was too easy to try to look as much as follow his nose. Suddenly his ears pressed forward and his tail lifted slightly. He looked over at his father and grinned. “Yeah!”
He said excitedly in a hushed voice. He didn’t want to ruin this hunt.
He gave a tip of his head in the direction that he scented the prey-scent. "It smells like mouse kinda, but not. Is it a rabbit?"
He asked, still keeping his voice low.
Alcatraz smiled in satisfaction as it seemed that Aivar caught the scent, and recognized the prey scent. “That’s right,”
he answered in an equally soft voice, impressed. “Let’s follow it,”
He tilted his muzzle toward the scent, indicating to Aivar to lead the way. Putting his students on the spot was Alcatraz’s favorite teaching method, it made them focus a lot more than if they were just following him around. And he was right here to correct any mistakes.
His pale amber eyes glanced in the direction of the scent, at the snow covered forest before them, before looking back at Aivar. “Rabbits have very large ears, so step as quietly as you can.”
“That’s right. Let’s follow it.”
As Alcatraz nodded with his muzzle towards the scent, Aivar had to bite back an exclamation of excitement. His eyes widened, however, and he gave a little hop. He tried to force himself to calm down, but he didn’t even know how to. Aivar wanted his dad to see what a good hunter he was, and would be, and he didn’t want to let him down. Alcatraz was the alpha, after all! “Rabbits have very large ears, so step as quietly as you can.”
Nodding, Aivar tentatively took the lead. It wasn’t often that he was given a task like this. In fact, he wasn’t even sure that he had ever been given a task like this. He actually got to lead the alpha. It was intimidating, and suddenly Aivar was more aware of Alcatraz behind him than the rabbit in front of him. Rabbits have large ears. Rabbits have large ears…
he kept telling himself, repeating Alcatraz’s words in his head over and over. Be quiet. Oh no where is it?
Aivar looked back and forth, sniffing the air. He tried to ignore the presence of his father behind him, judging him
. His own ears lowered uncertainly, but he forced them forward to listen to what was ahead of him.
The rabbit scent was stronger, and he tried to stand up on his hind legs to spot it, but he wobbled and fell back onto all fours. He frowned, but pressed on with the sniffing. A breeze cut across his path, and he suddenly could smell the rabbit. His head turned sharply and his muzzle pointed towards the scent. It was behind the bushes. As he stared, he imagined he could see its body, or an ear, move. Maybe it was all in his head.
He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to wait for Alcatraz to tell him to chase it or not, but Aivar suddenly forgot he was with anyone, and he exploded into motion all of a sudden. He ran headlong into the snowy bush, branches scraping his face and breaking as he scrabbled through it. THE RABBIT!
He saw it’s white form dash ahead of him and Aivar raced after it, throwing up snow as he did so. He was quick, but his scrawny, gangly form was still not under his full control, and while Aivar tried to keep up with the dodging rabbit, his own paws got in the way and he fell right over himself. He somersaulted in the snow and settled in a heap upside-down.
He got up quickly, shaking the snow from his fur so hard that his ears flapped. Slowly, the pup looked over his shoulder for his father, ears low at his failure. Maybe he should have waited...
The big Warden followed Aivar, a silent ghost looming large and dark behind the spindly youngster. Aivar’s excitement was clear from the start. But as they approached the dark pup started to slow, looking around, much more serious. This was good, a pup who could focus when the times called for it. He even stood on his hind legs to try and better survey the land around him. ‘Good instincts,’
Alcatraz thought to himself, though didn’t speak. He didn’t want to risk ruining Aivar’s first hunt, nor did he want to break the young male’s concentration.
It was clear that Aivar had pinpointed the rabbit’s location on the other side of the bushes, and next thing he knew Aivar was shooting forward. Alcatraz blinked in shock as the dark pup dove right into the branches, but he was quick to bound after him. He watched as Aivar busted through the undergrowth, chasing the rabbit in a valiant attempt at capture before his own large paws brought him tumbling fruitlessly into the snow.
The rabbit was long gone by the time the Alpha trotted to Aivar’s side, using his nose to push a clump of snow from the pup’s back. He could see that the young male was discouraged by the way he looked up at him in shame. But if anything Alcatraz was proud! “Chin up, son. An admirable first hunt! You’ve got the instincts of a skilled hunter.”
he sat down onto his haunches, looking out at the messy tracks in the snow left by the rabbit and the pup “For next time, it is best to find a clear path before striking.”
He looked back at Aivar with a glint of humor in his sand-baked yellow eyes, “Chasing prey is hard enough without needing to battle a bush just to reach it!”
His gaze grew more serious after he finished speaking, looking closer at Aivar’s face, “you aren’t hurt, are you?”
Branches could be surprisingly painful if hit at high speeds, especially if the branches were stiff and sharp. It didn’t look like any had scratched Aivar’s eyes at least.
Aivar felt like such a little fool as his father trotted up and pushed a clump of snow from Aivar’s back. He’d failed and all he wanted to do was show his dad how good a hunter he could be! He wanted to wail in frustration, but he took a deep breath and vented a heavy sigh instead. “Chin up, son. An admirable first hunt! You’ve got the instincts of a skilled hunter.”
Aivar looked up at Alcatraz, his orange eyes widening in surprise. Was he just saying that? “Really?”
Aivar asked, hope trickling into his voice. His tail, which had been low, began to rise and wag very slowly. “But I didn’t catch anything,”
he added, his tail falling still again as Alcatraz sat down. “For next time, it is best to find a clear path before striking. Chasing prey is hard enough without needing to battle a bush just to reach it!”
Aivar smiled sheepishly. “Heh. Yeah… I wasn’t really thinking about the bush…” he admitted. He just was trying to get to the rabbit quickly so it couldn’t get away, but the bush… well he couldn’t jump over it yet. He was still too short. One day, though. One day that bush would be nothing for his long legs to conquer. And the next rabbit would be his.
Alcatraz’s gaze grew serious and he looked closely at Aivar’s face. Nervously, the pup laughed and sat back. “you aren’t hurt, are you?” “No, I’m okay.”
At least he had been smart enough to close his eyes through the bush as it stabbed at him. His fur had kept him from getting scratched up, even if it was still soft puppy wool. “But next time the rabbit won’t be!”
He declared with a laugh.
Alcatraz realized in that moment the great expectations Aivar had set for himself. And this right now was a lesson on more than just hunting, it was a lesson on the inevitability of any learning; disappointment and failure. Concepts that were difficult to wrestle with, but essential for a proper ascension to greatness. “I’ve never known a wolf to catch the first rabbit they chase, most don’t get near as close as you,”
Alcatraz explained. It was likely thanks to those long legs. “He’s running for his life, remember. If it didn’t take some practice to catch him then, well, there would be no rabbit’s left!”
Alcatraz pointed out. To think of a hunt from the prey’s point of view tended to help him understand the art of hunting better in general. A wolf was driven by hunger, a strong drive. But the prey was driven by the desire to continue living, which surely was a drive even stronger, and much more desperate. It took a long time to develop the skills necessary to overcome such will.
Alcatraz leaned back when Aivar assured him that he was okay, looking satisfied, “Good,” It would be difficult to break it to Athena that I blinded our son on our first real outing together,
he thought inwardly, a thought that was only amusing after he was sure Aivar was alright. It was his third time being a father to a litter, and so he liked to think he was experienced at handling pups. But still, each pup was different, each situation was different. Even after eleven pups, one could never afford to not
stay on their toes. “If you make it so,”
Alcatraz agreed with a simple smile, reluctant to indulge him in such a promise but also reluctant to dampen the young wolf’s spirit. He got to his paws, “Now come, let’s get back to your mother. She’ll be proud to hear of this.”
He narrowed his pale eyes affectionately and then flicked his tail, leading the way back toward the den.
“I’ve never known a wolf to catch the first rabbit they chase, most don’t get near as close as you. He’s running for his life, remember. If it didn’t take some practice to catch him then, well, there would be no rabbit’s left!”
Aivar considered his father’s words and smiled. It was still disappointing that he had missed it. He wanted to be better than that. However, Aivar was determined to be better. Second-best, or worse, average, was just not good enough.
It was hard for the young pup to put his mind into that of the rabbit’s, but he would try to think like one. If it would make him a better hunter, he would try just about anything.
Alcatraz seemed content to know that Aivar hadn’t hurt himself, as was the pup, but Aivar was none the worse for wear. “If you make it so.”
Aivar’s youthful ears only heard the positive to that short sentence. He missed the reluctance in his father’s voice to promise Aivar that next time the rabbit would not be okay. Next time it would be dead by his own teeth. He was certain
it would be so. I
will make it so. “Now come, let’s get back to your mother. She’ll be proud to hear of this.”
Aivar gave an excited yip and pranced after the big brown wolf. He hoped she would be.