Alcatraz pounded through the forest, huffing as he went. He was in hot pursuit of a deer, plunging after it and quickly gaining. It was wounded, for he had it in his jaws for a brief moment before it managed to pull away. A trail of dark scarlet blood followed it as it ran, making it all the more easy to follow. Already the dark loner’s mouth watered in anticipation, ready to sink his pearly teeth deep into the delicious flesh of his prey. But he had to catch it first.
He allowed himself to slow a bit as it’s pace began to decline in its exhaustion, but Alcatraz made sure to keep a persistent distance behind. The deer would tire out soon, and the wolf had stamina to outlast its energy. Soon it would be his.
She had been grooming out a knot in her chest when the smell of blood caught Athena’s attention. Standing and shaking her fur out, she turned her nose to the air in hopes of pinpointing the source. The carried the fresh scent from the East, along with the pungent musk of deer.
Slipping easily through the fall undergrowth, the lone she-wolf stalked forward until she came to the crest of a small hill. A good forty or so strides ahead of her, a doe staggered into sight. It was bleeding heavily from a wound to the neck and was visibly winded. She watched it for a long moment before deciding whatever had attacked it pursued the creature no longer, and moving toward it on silent footfalls, hardly believing her luck.
It kept moving, but the pace continued to slow, exhaustion and blood-loss taking their toll. Now is as good a time as any,
Athena decided. She bolted from cover without warning, clearing the distance between her and her prey before it knew what was happening. Her ivory fangs closed down on the doe’s neck, snapping through bone and sinew as easily as water.
The prey fell beneath her and Athena let out a growl of satisfaction before proceeding to drag the doe downwind, where scavengers would be less likely to come calling.
Alcatraz picked up his pace as the blood trail got thicker and the scent got closer. The deer would surely be quite injured now, and it was time for him to make the kill! He sped up into a full out sprint, his last burst of energy that he would use to slam himself into his prey, but when he burst through the undergrowth what he saw shocked him.
A dark blue-gray she-wolf had his doe in her jaws, dragging in confidently downwind. Alcatraz struggled to stop, his paws skidding on the rocky dirt and grass beneath his paws. He nearly slammed right into the icy-eyed she-wolf before he abandoned his attempt to stop and pushed off to the side, hoping around her and trotting to a stop in a wide circle. His paw pads were raw and sore from such a rapid attempt to stop, but he didn’t think of that now. He locked his eyes on the she-wolf before him, his thick mane of fur bristled up threatening, making him look rather huge. ”Hey! What do you think you are doing?”
he snapped as he rounded on her, ”That doe is mine, didn’t you see the wound in its neck?”
Hunger made Alcatraz more irritable than usual. Hunting came naturally to the male, and he had been quite able to even take on an elk in his better days. In fact, Alcatraz could not remember the last time he was this hungry. But ever since he had wounded his shoulder he had more trouble hunting, and he did not know if he could afford to lose this kill. But he was confident he would end up with the doe in the end, for he was sure he could take on this slender female if it came down to that.
Lifting her head at the sound of fast-approaching footfalls, Athena released her hold on the carcass to prepare for whatever was coming. She held her ground, even as the larger he-wolf came barrelling out of the brush toward her full tilt. There was nothing friendly in this newcomer’s gaze. But as it appeared she’d stolen his kill, the hostility wasn’t entirely surprising. ”Apologies. I thought the hunt had been abandoned.”
Athena replied, teeth gleaming beneath her even tone. Maintaining a civil stance, she let her silver-grey eyes drift over the male and then met his gaze. The scar on his shoulder still looked fresh, a good place to strike if worse came to worst. He was angry, perhaps desperate, and that would make him vulnerable.
Nodding her head in greeting, the female continued, ”I am Athena, new to these lands. To whom do I owe the pleasure?”
A faint edge of sarcasm dripped off her tongue as she asked for his name, ears tilted forward curiously.
The dark male let his fur fall flat, still huffing for breath as he glared at the blue-gray female suspiciously. She was civil and polite as she apologized, and Alcatraz decided that she would perhaps be of no threat, so long as he kept his cool as well. He shifted his position slightly, turning so his scar was hidden from her view by his large form and thick fur.
Alcatraz did not like her tone, but he knew that he was not in a good state to fight, so it was best to hold his tongue. He took a deep breath, sounding impatient, but he was more impatient with himself. He had been so irritable and paranoid ever since he had been taught a lethal lesson by the huge Blutwald male Ivan. As his old self he was cool and collected, never ruffling his fur over anything. What had become of him?”My name is Alcatraz.”
he said tiredly, ”and welcome to these...lands.”
He did not know quite what she meant by that. How far away had she come from? As far as he was concerned, he was new to these lands as well, or at least new to the land below his paws. He knew much of the land that lay behind him. He trotted around her, placing a large paw on the doe and nudging it, as if making sure Athena had done the trick. He peered at its neck and blinked in surprise. ”Athena is it? You are quite the huntress.”
he said, examining the deep wound that had quite cleanly taken the doe’s life.
She felt a warm glow of pride at his compliment, despite the shaky start to their conversation. Acknowledging his answer with a nod, she sat back on her haunches. “To have lamed so large a doe, you must be a skilled hunter yourself.” Especially with your injury,
she thought, but kept the words to herself. Such a comment would be likely provoke this Alcatraz. Her eyes perused his muscular form, admiring it silently.”Please, help yourself to the meat. The kill was mine, but the hunt belonged to you.”
She set about licking a paw and rubbing her nose against it; wiping the blood from her jaws with a feline meticulousness. It had been some time since she’d crossed paths with another wolf, and was eager to share news. But he must be hungry, it would be impolite to force small talk on him now.
Alcatraz grunted at her compliment as he sniffed the meat, acknowledging it uninterestedly. But he was happy for the compliment anyway; Alcatraz always was happy for compliments. He glanced at her as she said he could help himself. His pale yellow gaze was more interested than suspicious, and he watched her for a moment as she calmly cleaned the blood from her fur. He turned back to the doe, beginning to use his strong jaws to tear into its belly.
After a moment his conscience got the better of him and he paused to say, ”You are free to feed as well. I may have wounded it, but you were the one to bring it down.”
He swallowed the meat in his mouth and then stopped, waiting for her to join him in the kill before he continued. Whether or not he would have killed the deer, she had been the one to actually do it. And her civil behavior over the matter gave him even less of an excuse to be rude. It was only right to let her feed as well. They had killed it together.
She smiled faintly, debating whether or not to share a meal with this roguish stranger. Her first thought was to refuse and wait; in her experience only friends and family shared meals and they were neither. But he seemed to be waiting for her to join him, and it would be impolite to refuse such an extension of kindness. “My thanks.”
Athena replied sincerely, crouching down to join him. She was hungrier than she’d realized, and took several hearty mouthfuls before remembering her manners. With a thick swallow, the she-wolf looked over at her dinnermate. ”It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten with company.”
Alcatraz tucked back into the meat after he saw the dark blue head of the loner lower beside him. He ate large gulps of the deer, wet with blood so it easily slipped down his throat. Even over his own gnawing, however, he heard the ravenous feasting of his new companion. He felt a warm glow of satisfaction at the sound, knowing that he had been right to offer her the food. She must have been as hungry as he was. ”Mm.”
Alcatraz agreed shortly between gulps, but it was a moment before he lifted his head to properly respond to her comment. ”Yes, loners do not often have company.”
he took another few mouthfuls before sitting down, getting close to satisfaction, ”Where are you from, Athena? It sounds like you are far from home.”
he said, referring to her comment about being new to these lands. He was curious to know what lands she had come from in the first place.
With a nod, Athena returned to eating, though less ravenously than before. She thought quietly for a long minute, first trying to decide whether to answer Alcatraz at all, then unsure what to say. “I was born far West of here… But I left many seasons ago, and have never gone back.”
That would be the simplest answer for a stranger… more than enough to sate the curiosity of her companion, wouldn’t it? He didn’t need to know about the drought, or that she had been an alpha, or that under her lead the pack had died a long, slow death she’d been powerless to stop. He didn’t need to know any of that. And she didn’t need to tell anyone, either. It was her private shame, her secret grief. The guilt was her’s to bear in silence. “What about you? Did you have a home before… this?”
Alcatraz took another few bites before backing up a pace, sitting down on his haunches as he licked his lips clean and listened to his companion.”Far west, hm?”
he echoed. She was vague, and he found himself curious about this mysterious female. He wanted to know more about where she had come from, and how she had ended up here…. but he was silent, for he knew that his answer to the same question, a question he had no doubt would soon come, would be very similar,
And sure enough, she asked. And sure enough, Alcatraz would give her as much as she gave him, as he gave to anyone who asked. Nothing more. He was not without his own shame and regret, but of course he would never share it with a wolf he had just met. Not even with a wolf he knew well. Never had he spoken of his past, in fact. Not with anyone. ”I did.”
he said, arching his neck to lick carefully at his bloody chest. ”Also west of here, but to the north as well.”
he said. Although it was mostly a guess at this point. He hardly remembered anymore. He had left when he was only about a year old, right after he had killed his first deer independently.
He peered at Athena curiously, but was unsure exactly what to say. He was surprised at his urge to ask her more about where she was from, or what she had experienced, but something stopped him. He respected Athena already, and did not want to push her patience. ”Are you headed somewhere?”
he asked, curious as to if she had traveled here with a purpose or if she was more like him… a wanderer.
So he had his secrets too. She could respect that. Athena even found a bit of comfort in it. Somehow she found it comforting - he was like her, if even in a small way. And just as he’d asked nothing more of her, she chose to remain silent as well, and not prod into his private affairs, curious though she might be.“I’ve been travelling East.”
She answered. “But I don’t really expect to find anything there. It’s the same everywhere after a while. Different faces, familiar stories.”
A world-weary sigh passed through her, but she smiled nonetheless. Surely this he-wolf didn’t care to hear her lament. “Nevermind me. The road gets long sometimes is all.” “Thank you for sharing your meal.”
Athena would have liked to continue speaking, she just wasn’t sure what else to say.
Alcatraz listened to her with a mild look in her pale yellow eyes. In his past he would disagree with her. The dark loner had always been a lover of beauty, traveling from place to place, climbing the tallest mountain, forging the strongest rivers, just to get a glimpse of the sunrise from the top, or the lovely lupine fields that rolled on the other side. The world was full of wonders, amazing sights that could take your breath away…
...but instead of disagreeing with her he found himself accepting her dreary opinion. It had been a slow process, realizing that he was missing something. For so long he was content on his own, never fearing and enjoying the days that seemed to fly eternally by. But the change started after his encounter with the ferocious male Ivan. He had almost died. He would have disappeared like a grain of sand on a fleeting breath of wind. Who would remember him? What would he have accomplished? After much reflection he had realized that he was not satisfied… he was not ready to die. But what did he want now, then? What would console his restless mind? He didn’t know…
Due to this revelation his travels had been less for leisure and more of a search. A search where he did not even know what he was searching for… it sounded like perhaps she was in a similar emotional state. Or perhaps she knew what she was looking for. He didn’t know, but whatever it was she wanted, it was clear she was have difficulty getting it by the tired sigh that passed through her dark lips. But the gentle smile on her muzzle lightened his spirit a bit. She still hadn’t given up, and she was going to keep trying. As should he, however hard it was sometimes. ”Yes…. it does.”
he agreed quietly, glancing at his paws with a somber look, despite trying to hide it.
He looked back up at her as she thanked him for the kill with his ears perking again. ”Oh, sure thing.”
he said, ”Thank you for, well, taking it down.”
he said with a bit of a smile. She had done most of the work, after all.
She laughed tonelessly, getting to her feet and shaking the dust from her pelt. “Ah ha, of course! Anytime.”
Athena winked, looking almost playful. A light, cool wind blew through the trees, sending vibrant red and gold leaves spinning through the air like so many birds. The lone she-wolf looked up at the light flittering through the colourful branches, eyes distant for a moment.
When she looked back to Alcatraz, her solemn demeanor had returned, masking her face like a veil. For a moment she had forgotten what she was. But only for a moment. “Well, ...I should be moving on. It was nice to meet you… Alcatraz.”
Some warmth returned to her voice as she said his name. They weren’t likely to cross paths again. Her life was made of strangers; it was a constant cycle of ‘Just passing through’
, and faces that came and went like the leaves. Alcatraz was no different. Fortune favour you, brother.
She thought, it was very nearly a prayer. And Athena hoped indeed that this wolf found his place in the world, wherever it might be, and that he was happy there, whatever might come.