The gray and black pup loped around in the tall grasses that lay in a field just a few feet from her den-site. Weaving between the tall stalks of flowers and wondering what laid ahead kept her mind busy as she moved, her tongue lolling out of her mouth and tail bouncing around behind her. Her bright eyes were alert and darted around as she moved, taking in every sight around her, and her nose was seemingly working in overdrive as it took in every new scent. Of course, at this age, every scent was new and overwhelmingly interesting.
Her mother had said to not stray far from the den-site and Keeva had nodded fervently at her words. Her father was away hunting so of course Evita, her mother, would let them have a bit of fun exploring. When her father was around, he was a bit overbearing and would hardly let them out of his sight. She was grateful her mother was so relaxed when he was away, but not so much that she would be careful as to how far she strayed away.
She trecked on and on through the grasses, leaping and bounding this way and that and having a grand old time. Exploring and adventuring had quickly become among one of her favorite things to do and she just felt absolutely fearless about the world that lay ahead of her. If she got into too much trouble her father would appear and help her, right?
Soon enough all the scents she was catching were completely unfamiliar to her, and faintly in the distance she could hear her mother howling out for her. She paused to listen, mouth agape in an 'o' shape and her ears perked forward. She blinked and shrugged it off and began bounding in the direction of the woods nearby, more interested in the next interesting scent that lay ahead than whatever boring old chore her parents wanted.
Alcatraz stalked near the borders of Aryn, letting out a deep sigh as he scented the air for intruders. A lone howl sounded nearby and Alcatraz lifted his head. The wolf was far away… but close enough to hear. She was calling for someone… Alcatraz narrowed his yellow eyes at a rustling sounded in some bushes up ahead, just past the border. Alcatraz bounded forward. It was probably just a rabbit…
Until he caught the scent of a pup. A loner pup. Alcatraz saw the pale silver fur ahead. She assumed the howling she-wolf was the pup’s mother, but she was too far away to be a danger to him, and too far away to keep her pup from danger as well. Alcatraz thanked heavens that he was the wolf to find her and not someone….else.
His strides were deliberate and quiet as he approached her from the side. Alcatraz was decent at stealth, certainly not the best, but in any case with how distracted she was, the pup most likely would not know how to pick out his sounds as an approaching stranger. She was walking right toward Aryn, but no doubt she would feel terror when she saw the huge brute approaching. She was small, very young. ”You are a little young to be trecking these hunting grounds, little lady.”
Alcatraz growled when he drew near. It was a soft growl. Not warm, or kind, but not menacing or dangerous either. It was just a neutral sound, nonthreatening but certainly not comforting.
Keeva abruptly halted when she heard a low growl rumbling behind her. Her brows furrowed and her little ears twisted back as she quickly whipped around to see who was there. She looked up at the large brown wolf with wide eyes that were filled with intrigue more than they were terror. She had never met a strange wolf before and her nose twitched as she took in his scent.
It took her a moment to regain her composure to speak and when she did she ignored his comment on her age. She wasn't too young for anything! "I'm exploring!"
She exclaimed, jumping a pace towards him and now having to crane her neck up to see him. "Is this your, um,"
She paused as she thought of the word. She was learning more and more words every day, sometimes it got hard to keep them all straight. "territory?"
She also didn't quite yet understand the rules that came with other wolves territories. Wasn't everyone friendly?
The pup whirled around to face him, her eyes wide. But not with fear as most pups would be of a wolf so much older and larger than them. She looked at him with fascination, and curiosity. And when she spoke she had nothing but innocence and warmth in her tone. This pup was young. She knew nothing of the dangers of the world. Alcatraz let out a weary sigh. He should have ambushed her, pinned her down with teeth bared and eyes hungry for her blood. That might have scared her. Of course he wouldn’t have hurt her, but maybe then she would have had her first lesson about running off from her parents.”No, but my territory is nearby. The land you tread is more dangerous than any territory. It is loner lands.”
Aryn wolves would never hurt a pup, but lone wolves were as unpredictable of a summer storm. One loner may be hospitable while the next could slit your throat in the night with no cause. ”What is your name, pup?”
Alcatraz asked her, lowing his large, bear-like head to assist her in her struggles to see him properly. Dangerous? Loner lands?
That sounded exciting! Keeva's large pup ears were perked forward, not wanting to miss a single word this interesting wolf had to share. As he lowered his head closer to her, she plopped down in the dirt and tilted her head to the side, studying his face."Keeva!"
She perked again at his question and began offering up all kinds of information about herself. "I have a sister too! My family lives that way."
She turned to point her nose from the direction in which she had come, staring out at the tall grasses as they swayed in the wind before turning back to the large wolf. "What's your name?"
Alcatraz glanced at the direction the puppy had pointed to. That was where he had heard the howling coming from. He glanced down at at Keeva as she asked his name. ”Alcatraz.”
The dark Warden said. ”Come Keeva. I’ll walk you home. I’m sure your mother is worried.”
Alcatraz said, taking a step in the direction Keeva had pointed, and then he stopped and watched her, making sure the adventurous pup would follow. "That's a cool name."
Keeva noted with a smile. It was unlike any other name she had heard before! Before she could learn anymore from this interesting stranger, suddenly he was trying to take her home. There was a whole big world for her to explore! How could she even consider going home? She shook her head vigorously and jumped forward to lope past him. "I don't want to go home! I want to explore!"
Alcatraz didn’t respond to her compliment, and he shifted his weight, reaching out with a paw to bar her way forward. ”You will have plenty of time to explore when you are older, Keeva.”
Alcatraz said, but looking at the light in her eyes and the perk of her ears he knew that he would not reach her. Not this way. But there was another way. ”You know what, Keeva? Why don’t we explore.”
Alcatraz glanced in the direction of her mother, memorizing the route for when he would show her the way home. But this puppy needed a lesson first. And if he didn’t teach it to her, he had a feeling she would learn the hard way… and probably die.
Keeva was happily focused on loping off to her next adventure when a massive paw was planted in her path. She bumped right into it, landing on her rump with an "Oof!"
She looked up at Alcatraz with sad eyes as he began talking to her just like her parents did. This was certainly not
fun! He seemed to quickly change his tune, though, as he offered an adventure. "Oh really?!"
She hopped up, tail wagging behind her. "Let's explore!"
She gave an excited little attempt at a howl and looked up at him. A new adventure with her new friend! "Where will we go?"
Alcatraz smiled the ghost of a smile, clearly forced. He liked pups, and those younger than him, but he certainly was not looking forward to what he was going to do with this pup. But he did not hesitate to do it, because in his mind she needed to learn or else she would die. It was for the best, after all. And then straight back to mom.
He watched her howling attempt, using a huge paw to gently nudge her chin higher. ”Wolves howl to the sky.”
he told her, ”or else your voice will get lost in the trees.”
Alcatraz had to say he already kinda liked Keeva. She was really full of life… ”I know just the place.”
Alcatraz lead the way along the outside of the Aryn border. He was sure it was safe here, he had just patrolled it himself, but he could never be too careful so he kept alert. ”Do you go on adventures on your own often, Keeva?”
Alcatraz asked her.
Keeva happily allowed Alcatraz to correct her howl, hanging on his every wise word. Had her parents tried to do this, she would have acted quite haughty about it. But this wolf was strange and new and probably now her idol.
She pranced alongside him as he led the way, boiling over with excitement. Where were they going?! At his question she opened her mouth to speak instantly before stopping herself. Under most circumstances she would lie and give him a hearty 'All the time!' response, but there was something about Alcatraz that made her think lying would not be right. "No,"
She spoke almost sheepishly, glancing up at him. "This is the farthest I've gone from our den..."
Alcatraz enjoyed her willingness to learn and she could not contain her excitement. She was reluctant to tell him the truth about her wanderings, but Alcatraz was happy to hear the answer that she gave. He nodded, glancing down at her with pale yellow eyes. ”Then let’s hope you learn something.”
He said. A stink began to linger in the air as they continued on. It was a bad smell, rank and heavy and thick.
Keeva shot a dubious look at Alcatraz's mention of "learning something". Why did everything have to turn into a teaching lesson with these adults? She had thought Alcatraz was supposed to be her fun friend, not just another parent! Suddenly she was ripped from her thoughts as she caught a nauseating scent. "Ew!"
She looked up at him with squinted eyes and a wrinkled nose. "What is that smell?!"
Alcatraz glanced at her sideways as she gave him an uncertain look at his words. He gave her a half smile in return. The dark Warden pushed through the undergrowth, and there lay a wolf. He was several days dead, his fur ripped open by a vicious fight. Alcatraz glanced at Keeva. She was definitely too young for this. But he had been too young to witness the deaths of his father, brother, and sisters too. Keeva could have seen and experienced much worse than this. In Alcatraz’s mind it was fine. ”I heard the sounds of a chase the other day when I was patrolling. All the scents belonged to loners. I investigated, and found this. He’s dead.”
Keeva cautiously followed him through the undergrowth and what lay before her was really
something she hadn't seen before. Blood and stink and flies... she didn't like any of this! The only dead things she had smelled were the fresh kills her father brought back to the den - and those smelt appetizing. This, well, this just smelled positively foul. She wrinkled her little black face in disgust, watching flies buzz about the bloodied wounds of the dead loner. She glanced between Alcatraz and the body as she listened to his story, her stomach churning. Perhaps had he only told her the story instead of showing it to her, she would have thought it interesting and cool, but to actually see it was something else. "I don't like this adventure."
She looked up at him fully now, her face still twisted in revulsion.
Alcatraz turned away from the body, sweeping his tail around Keeva’s side to beckon her to follow him away from the scene. ”Yes, well, if you are not careful, that is how one of your adventures could end.”
The dark Warden explained, his pale yellow eyes glancing down at her, ”Wolves, especially young wolves, often think they are invincible. But it is a grievous mistake to believe so. No wolf is invincible. Any wolf can meet that fate. Any wolf.”
Alcatraz, having once believed himself basically invincible, had learned the hard way. But he had gotten lucky. He was still alive, with only the large scar on his shoulder to remind him of where his journey nearly came to an untimely end.
As his tail swept around to guide her away, Keeva hesitantly followed, looking over her shoulder at the battered body lying in the grass. She certainly didn't want that to happen to her... She gave it one last good look before trailing along after Alcatraz, loping to keep up with his long legged pace. As she caught up and was loping alongside him, she looked up at him and noticed the scar on his shoulder. She wasn't sure how she had missed it before, but now that she saw it she thought it made him look pretty tough and cool! "Is that how you got your scar?"
She questioned, brows raising.
Alcatraz glanced at her, noticing how she had to trot along to keep up and he slowed his pace to better match hers. The fresh air ahead of them was slowly washing his muzzle of the dark scent of death. ”Yes,”
he answered, ”I was a loner once. A lot like you. I strayed too close to pack lands and was attacked without warning. It took me weeks to recover on the verge of death.”
Alcatraz growled. ”If it was not for the kindness of one stranger, I would have ended up like him.”
Alcatraz gestured with his muzzle behind him, toward the body they had just left behind. He remember briefly Ocala, the blue she-wolf who had dressed his wounds and saved him. He wondered where she was doing… Keeva looked a bit like her, actually… ”Learn from the mistakes of others, because sometimes mistakes are fatal.”
the dark Warden explained.
As Alcatraz slowed his pace so she could better keep up, she fell into step beside him as best she could. She listened intently again as he spoke, nodding occasionally. "Well... Okay."
She decided to agree with him finally. There was something about the large brown wolf that made Keeva want to impress him and listen to what he had to share. That hardly ever happened with her parents.
At the thought of her parents she looked around at their surroundings. The scents and sights were starting to become very familiar. They were nearing that tall grass she had been loping through earlier. "Hey! Are you taking me back home?"
She shot him an accusatory look.
Alcatraz nodded curtly. ”Good.”
he said, happy that maybe he had gotten through to her. But it was hard to tell. He glanced at her as she angrily asked if he was taking her home, ”Yes, didn’t you learn anything? It’s dangerous out here.”
Keeva sighed, trudging along beside him through the tall grass. "Yeah but I didn't think you'd take me home."
She grumbled, ears perking forward as she caught her mother’s scent in the wind. "You can meet my momma!"
She yipped up to Alcatraz, bounding forward with excitement.
The brown she-wolf had been able to corral one of her pups, Savoy, into the den and had spent the rest of her morning in search of Keeva. Rikki, her mate, would no doubt be back at any moment and if he knew she had given the pups some freedom to play he would not be happy. As Evita followed Keeva's scent to the field near their den, she lifted her head up to see a large brown male wolf headed her way. She eyed him suspiciously, one ear twisting back, until she heard the yipping of a pup coming from the grasses beside him. Keeva.
Her tail wagged gently behind her with relief.
Alcatraz grunted in response. But in reality he felt a little bad, and even a little sad, as Keeva’s mother’s scent drifted toward him. He found himself attached to Keeva already… it had been so long since he had spent time with pups, and he found that he really missed it....
But of course he did not show any of these thoughts as the little brown she-wolf came into view. She looked suspiciously, and rightfully so. Alcatraz was quite large and not the most friendly looking wolf. But when she saw her pup she immediately relaxed. Alcatraz padded forward and stopped a respectful distance away, dipping his head, ”You are Keeva’s mother, I assume?”
Alcatraz asked, his voice formal and polite. ”I am Alcatraz, a Warden if the nearby pack of Aryn.”
Keeva raced to her mother with excitement when she spotted her. "Mom! Mom! Guess what?"
She called to her, skidding to a stop in front of her."Yes, I'm Evita."
Evita responded to Alcatraz, the relief she had previously been feeling was beginning to turn into embarrassment. A pack wolf? Her brows furrowed with worry and her eyes widened slightly. "Oh my... I hope she wasn't in your territory!"
She gave a quick glance down to Keeva, eyes momentarily narrowing, before shaking her head sheepishly. She couldn't even keep tabs on her pups and she only had two. "I must look like an incompetent mother right now."
Her ears twisted back and she found it hard to meet eyes with the Aryn wolf.
Keeva, meanwhile, was hopping around Alcatraz's front paws, weaving back and forth, trying to grab the attention of the two older wolves with her yapping. "Mom! This is Alcatraz! He's my new best friend!"
Alcatraz glanced at Keeva as she danced around her mother, yapping excitedly. Alcatraz spoke to Evita courteously, ”No, just nearby. I spotted her and decided to make sure she didn’t get into too much trouble.”
Alcatraz glanced at Evita for a moment. She was young, Alcatraz was almost certain from everything about her answer that this was her first litter, and she looked a bit overwhelmed and certainly ashamed of herself. Alcatraz paused for a moment, glancing down at Keeva as she circled his paws excitedly, claiming him as her best friend. ”Pups like her are hard to keep track of. I was similar as a child.”
the big brown wolf assured her. That statement would be hard to believe looking at the big stoic bear-like wolf he had become, but it was true. He was quite the little hard head when he was a puppy. He even spared Keeva a small smile as she looked up at the two with shining yellow eyes.
Evita finally acknowledged Keeva, nodding down at her with a strained smile. They would discuss this later. Alcatraz's words were promising and a relief to her ears as she looked back up to him. "Well, I hope she turns out half as well as you did then."
She couldn't imagine what would happen to Keeva and Savoy if they stayed just as they were in personality through to adulthood. Looking back down at Keeva with a stern expression she said, "Back to the den with you before your father gets back from hunting!"
The absolute last thing she needed at this moment was for Rikki to return and see her and Keeva chatting with this pack-wolf. She nudged the pup in the direction of the den with her nose. "Thank you so much, Alcatraz."
She said, expression clearly truly grateful that he had been the one to find her daughter. Next time, she would keep a better watch over the two pups.
Keeva's grin widened as Alcatraz smiled down at her, as did her mother though she didn't notice the strained way in which she did it. She plopped down on her bottom, tongue lolling out in the hot sun, but she wasn't sitting for long when her mother nudged her and told her it was time to go. She opened her mouth to complain until she saw her stern gaze. Her ears fell back and a fallen expression came over her face as she looked up at Alcatraz with her sad little puppy eyes. "Fine..."
She drew the word out, walking slowly as her mother nudged her. She looked back over her shoulder at Alcatraz, not ready to leave her new friend yet, but she knew her father would be home soon and he'd certainly have a cow if he found out about the whole situation. "Bye, Alcatraz..."
Alcatraz smirked at Evita’s words, a bit uncomfortable at the compliment. It sparked a feeling he had not felt in a long time. An old, hollow emotion. Pride. He had been quite vain even a few months ago, and he greedily would have accepted the compliment then. Maybe even drawn it out and let himself bask in his own self-righteousness. But now he felt like he had been years younger with such a mindset. Instead of pridefully agreeing with Evita, he kind of hoped that they didn’t end up like how he once was. He was an angry juvenile, abandoning his family out of bitterness, and traveling the land with reckless abandon and his head and ego higher than the clouds. But… he supposed he was okay now. At least he hoped so. ”Surely she will become even better.”
Alcatraz said modestly.
He dipped his head to Evita, turning to go, ”Not a problem. Best of luck to you and your family.”
He said. He glanced down at Keeva as she looked back sadly, ”Stay out of trouble, Keeva.”
He said, fixing her with a stern gaze and then a more gentle smile. With that he made his way back to Aryn territory to continue his patrol.