It was another beautiful and sunny day in Aryn. The sun had risen moments ago with its beams creating a serene picture. Foliage sparkled with the morning dew as most of the world still seemed asleep. There was one awake among them, though it wasn’t by his own choice. For a wolf who loved sleep next to eating, it was odd that he was awake so early, but a nightmare made him jump awake. After trying for a few minutes in vain to fall back to sleep, he meandered out from the den and stretched, a small cloud of white escaping his jaws as he yawned.
As he was usually one of the later risers, it wasn’t very often he got to experience a sunrise like this. Despite the twinge of annoyance he felt for being up this early, the view eased some of that, and a large smile grew from one cheek to the other. Life in Aryn was better than he could have ever imagined. There were times he missed his parents and other sibling something fierce; thankfully, his sister and the other pack members truly made him feel at home. He sighed quietly before he stood, shook, then started to walk towards the creek for a drink.
Alcatraz has slept outside, curled in a patch of grass beside a large tree trunk. The gentle touch of the sunlight was what opened his light yellow eyes and he got to his paws, stretching with a yawn. He trotted into the main clearing and was surprised to see a dark shape making his way toward the river. It was Lawson. Alcatraz was surprised. Lawson never was up this early unless forced… and Alcatraz himself was probably the only one who would force him so it certainly could not be that. The dark Warden trotted forward to catch up to Lawson. ”You’re up early.”
He said as he caught up, falling into step beside Lawson.
Another yawn was forced out and he shook his head, blinking slowly, and smacked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. What he would give to fall back to sleep. This really could be the first time he was awake before anyone.
Or not? His ears twitched at the sound of heavy paws against the ground and he turned, spotting Alcatraz as he fell into step. "Oh, morning Al- Sir Alcatraz."
Just when he was remembering to add titles. It must be due to the lack of sleep. Now that he thought about it, it was usually the Warden who forced him to come out of the den.
Alcatraz flicked an ear. Lawson sure did sound tired. Why was he up? ”Everything alright today, Lawson?”
Alcatraz asked as he padded along casually. Perhaps he was just thirsty and wanted a drink from the river. After all, that was where they were headed. The birds sang happily around them and the sun was streaming warmly through the trees. It appeared that today would be a beautiful mid-summer day. “Oh yeah, everything’s fine. Just woke up before everyone else unfortunately.”
The sun was getting higher and higher in the sun as the two dark wolves walked. They moved further away from the main den towards the creek and reached it in a few minutes. Slowly, the younger wolf stopped at the bank and lapped at the water greedily, licking the remaining droplets from his lips. He cleared his throat, sat down, and stretched his front legs in front with a small moan. “Are you always up this early? I don’t know how you do it.”
Alcatraz snickered, ”Unfortunately.”
He echoed in agreement. They soon reached the stream and Alcatraz took a drink himself before settling down beside Lawson, enjoying the early morning air. ”A long life as a loner teaches a wolf to only sleep when he needs.”
the Warden explained. ”You planning on going back to sleep or shall we make use of ourselves this morning?” “I feel bad for you,”
he said with a smirk. Alcatraz’s story from their last time together echoed in his head. What had happened to his previous pack, his time as a loner… Lawson couldn’t even fathom being alone for that long. The trip to Aryn had started to get rather lonely until his sister showed up out of the blue. Having to fend for yourself, hunt, always be on alert, and with no one to talk to didn’t sound like a good life to the young male. Then again, to each their own. If it ever came to that, he hoped he would be able to find a way to be happy about it.
His question tore him from his thought and smiled. “Well, if I had my choice, I would go back to bed,”
he commented with a chuckle, “but I have a feeling you’re going to suggest something. What did you have in mind?”
As he began to get more comfortable in the pack, his optimism was really starting to shine through. Well, as much as it could if it won the battle with his laziness.
Alcatraz shrugged at his words, ”I wouldn’t. Surely you would rather be awake to experience the world than sleep your life away.”
Alcatraz pointed out. Alcatraz chuckled as well at Lawson’s answer, clearly assuming that he was joking because he paid it no other mind. ”Perhaps a hunt. The pack is running low on food and between the both of us I believe we could bring down something formidable for breakfast.”
Alcatraz suggested, and in a strange sign of respect and friendship he did not just turn and start leading the way, he actually stopped and waited for Lawson’s response. “It’s too early for such a deep thought.”
It was surprising how much more comfortable he was around the Warden. In the beginning, the very sight of Alcatraz would have him running for the hills. Now, he had no problem joking with him, though the large male would let Lawson know when he crossed that line. He had to keep up with his manners, after all.
He blinked at the suggestion and nearly hung his jaw open when Alcatraz stopped. Every other time, the Warden would lead the way, not even wait, or smack Lawson in the nose with his tail. But he was waiting?
Ha! He didn’t even mind hunting on his day off with that kind of invitation! With his tail wagging, he caught up and nodded, unable to hide his smile. ”Sure! Let’s go have some fun.”
Alcatraz snorted. Lawson was a peculiar kind of wolf, in his opinion, but definitely an enjoyable one. The dark Warden was often uptight and being relaxed and jesting was just not something he often did. But Lawson was naturally laid back, and in a strange way it put the dark wolf at ease. He wasn’t a loner anymore. Not everything was life and death. He could relax. ”Yes… fun.”
Alcatraz agreed as the two males set off through the territory, noses up. ”I’m thinking, since we are both rather large, we could go for anything from a buck to an elk.”
He said, breathing in the scents as they traveled through the forest. If Alcaraz were on his own or with a lankier companion he would not be too keen on taking on prey too large. But Lawson had strength and speed, so he would be able to contribute greatly to the actual bringing down of the prey.
He scanned the Warden over once with a mischievous smirk on his face. “You do know what fun is, right?”
The question left his lips then he barked a laugh, picking up speed in case Alcatraz decided to retaliate. He was allowed to poke fun at the Gamma every once in a while, right? Hopefully it didn’t backfire.
Once it felt like he was a safe distance away, he turned back around and looked towards the sky, thinking over the idea. “Yeah, we can probably manage that together. The pack will probably appreciate it too.”
A certain gold female popped into his head then quickly shook it, trying to ignore the flush of warms to his cheeks. Clearing his throat, he lifted his head and inhaled deeply, taking in all the scents of the area, before turning his head towards the east. ”I think I smell something over there. Maybe we’ll get lucky!”
Alcatraz glared at him ”Of course I do. Hey!”
A determined smirk crossed his muzzle as he surged forward in pursuit of his dark friend. After the brief chase the two slowed down, Alcatraz admitting a good-natured yet grudging defeat, and he breathed in deeply. The dark Warden nodded at Lawson’s words. ”Yes, they would.”
Alcatraz said as a certain black female popped into his head but he pushed it away with a shake, ignoring the sudden warmth under his fur. Alcatraz nodded as Lawson’s words. ”Yes, I believe you are right. Let’s go.”
The Warden’s pawsteps were silent as he turned into a hunter, his pale yellow eyes sharp as he carefully followed a promising scent trail into the trees.
Lawson tried not to boast at his victory. It was no surprise that he could beat Alcatraz in a race – he was a Courser, after all – but when it came to a fight, the big wolf would have no problem beating him down. Alcatraz already demonstrated that during their training and the bruise on Lawson’s hindquarters was proof enough. They had continued training in preparation for the upcoming war which had helped with his hunting skills too. The idea of having to fight other wolves still made him uneasy, but he would do what was necessary to protect the family.
As they both shook certain females from their mind, they made their way towards the forest as quietly as possible. A still safe distance away, he tilted his head towards the Gamma. “So what’s the plan?”
During hunting trips, one of the swifter, lighter coursers would drive the prey out and he would bring them down. Alcatraz was much bigger; the role reversal made him a tad bit nervous.
The scent of a large male elk soon made itself clear. And he was close. Alcatraz had brought down such prey even just himself when he was a loner. He was quite confident that it would be even easier with Lawson to help. ”I will make my way down toward the river and set up an ambush near the water. All you must do is herd the prey to me. But all you really must do is herd it toward the river. We can trap him against the shore if we must.”
Alcatraz explained. ”Sound good?”
Lawson was solely a hunter, after all, and Alcatraz was open to suggestions from someone who specialized in the field.
Alright, so that was the strategy. Lawson was definitely a follower, not a leader, so he appreciated Alcatraz taking the lead on this one. His ears flickered as he listening, already his muscles tensing at the impending hunt. He wasn’t thrilled with his task as a Courser when he was first assigned, but now that it had been a few months, there was nothing else he’d rather be doing. It was a rush whenever they prepared to take down their target.
Catching the Warden’s eyes, he nodded with a large smile. “You can count on me, Sir!”
The adrenaline was pumping through his veins now! After they finished talking strategy, Lawson slowly made his way into position to run the deer towards the river. His muscles tensed while he crept into the foliage, standing downwind as not to frighten the large buck. This was one of the largest elk he had taken down, but with Alcatraz there, what could go wrong?
Alcatraz nodded curtly at the dark Courser, and then turned and slipped into the bushes. Alcatraz was in hunting mode now, his large paws silent as they made their way through the undergrowth. He was once as good a hunter as he was a fighter, but since joining Aryn he had done much less hunting and much more combat training and fighting off loners from the borders, so he could not move quite so fast with his muscular bulk as he once could while staying silent. But he had not lost all of his abilities by any means as he rounded the unsuspecting prey like a dark ghost. He crouched in the bushes by the river and his yellow eyes peered out at where Lawson waited, his glance a signal that he was ready.
It was a bit surprising how well Alcatraz moved while getting into position, Lawson thought with a smirk. The big wolf definitely still had some skill. He changed his attention from his pack mate back to the deer, too moving stealthily in the brush behind it. Brown shoulders rolled to loosen his muscles when his gold eyes caught the signal. Show time!
His upper lip curled as he leaped out from his hiding spot. The large buck's head swiveled and its eyes widened, exposing the whites. It snorted before taking off toward the river. Laws ran near its hindquarters, snapping his jaws to keep the buck moving and steering him towards the warden lying in wait.
Alcatraz waited in silence, his yellow eyes narrowed in concentration. Lawson was doing an excellent job, steering their victim right toward him. It was then that Alcatraz sprang. He snapped at the buck’s legs and it reared up, flashing sharp hooves at the dark wolf. Alcatraz dodged them easily, slipping nimbly beside it and springing, clamping his jaws around its nose.
This was a common trick for a hunter, at least one he used often, clamping the jaws around the muzzle to suffocate the prey. Alcatraz used his powerful legs, hanging in the air, to parry the kicking flails of the desperate beats’s front legs. But after kicking away one leg, Alcatraz swung forward again just as a powerful hoof kicked out, pummeling Alcatraz right in his belly. The Warden released the prey as the breath was knocked out of him and he was sent tumbling into the grass. He panted for breath as he lay where he landed, numb and in shock at what had just happened, as he soon became the victim. The buck charged at his motionless body, fury in its eyes, as it meant to trample the Warden.
His heart and footprints pounded in rhythm while chasing the elk towards the Warden. This was going surprisingly well! Lawson dug his claws into the dirt while snapping his sharp canines at their prey as it attempted to veer towards another direction. In the blink of an eye, the larger male sprung from the brush and was already sinking his teeth into the herbivore’s flesh.
Lawson slowed down his pace a bit to leave room for Alcatraz to bring the beast down. The Warden was using all of his skill and he couldn’t help but watch. And just like that, everything took a terrible turn. A sickening thud rang out as soon as a hoof struck at the large wolf’s belly. His gold eyes widened in absolute panic as he skidded to a stop, panting effortlessly to catch his breath. “Alcatraz!”
he screamed. Black ears swiveled at the very angry snort coming from the buck. Oh no, oh no, this was very, very, very bad. “Get up! C’mon, get up!”
What now?! The powerful Warden looked completely at a loss while still trying to collect his breath. There was no way he would be able to get up in time, especially with that elk meaning business! He snarled angrily and pushed off the ground, his stride tearing up the earth as he ran for his friend’s life. It would be suicide to try and pull the stunt the Warden did, but maybe going for the legs would at least distract the thing long enough for Alcatraz to get away. Lawson growled as he ran alongside the elk, doing whatever he could to either get the elk off course or, even better, turn its attention on the younger wolf.
Alcatraz could hear the horrified calls of his packmate, but they seemed miles away. All he could hear was the ringing of his ears… and his own muffled grunt, that sounded unusually loud to his ears. He tried to get to his paws, his head spinning and the world turning around him. Suddenly a flash of movement and the pounding hooves reminded him of exactly where he was, and that he needed to move!
The Warden sprang to the side, stumbling, narrowly avoiding the furious hooves as the elk fought to bring down his attacker. As his paws landed his body raged in pain, causing the dark wolf’s legs to fail him and he was on the ground again.
Alcatraz looked up at the elk as it reared again, his yellow eyes wide with fear, but then a flash of dark fur and Lawson was there, snarling and snapping in an attempt to draw its attention. It worked, and the elk kicked out powerfully with its back legs, turning to fend off Lawson next. ”Lawson, fall back!”
Alcatraz called, heaving himself to his paws, and now that he was not about to get trampled he could take care in his movements so they did not cause such unbearable pain, and he stiffly limped, as quickly as he could, in a wide circle, his pale eyes fixed on Lawson, waiting for him to retreat as well, and watching in case he was needed… but to Alcatraz’s dismay he did not think he could move quickly enough to help Lawson if he was in need of it. He only hoped that the Courser’s well-known speed and agility would serve him now more than ever as he faced the furious beast alone.
This could be the most dangerous thing the Courser had ever done. There was no hesitation when he ran into the path of the elk but now, it was obvious that one wrong move could have them both seriously injured. It was a miracle the large brute was able to move just in time to avoid those sharp antlers. Alcatraz hadn’t quite come back to his senses; the situation was getting worse by the second.
Why couldn’t the thing run off?! Being surprisingly agile, he sidestepped quick enough to miss the elk’s hooves when he reared up, causing it to back up with ferocious snarls. His hackles were raised and his upper lip was pulled back, while his white canines snapped at the closest body part. Once again, he jumped to the side when it bucked, barely getting out of the way in time. He could hear his packmate’s orders and ignored them stubbornly. There would be a stern talking to about this later, but all he could focus on was giving Alcatraz as much time as possible to get a safe distance away. There was no way the Warden could outrun the elk if it decided to charge at him again.“Quit yelling at me and get going!”
Lawson screamed back. Of all the times to be stubborn, Alcatraz! Luck was on the wolf’s side when the elk hesitated for a moment, the whites of its eyes exposed, he lunged forward and sunk his teeth into its front leg. A terrified call came from their prey and it kicked its leg out hard, causing Lawson to lose his grip and get thrown, tumbling across the ground like a leaf in the wind. The dust settled as he scrambled back up on his paws, growling menacingly with blood staining his teeth. Hopefully that bite would be enough for it to give up!
Alcatraz was still too shocked to be offended or angry at the lower rank’s order, but he still did not move besides a few startled steps backwards despite the Courser’s words. The elk faced Lawson for another moment, but it sensed the wolf’s hesitation and with that it took off and fled into the forest, trusting that no wolf would follow after the fight he had given them. Alcatraz limped forward toward Lawson. ”Are you injured?”
He growled urgently, looking the Courser over with his sharp yellow eyes.
It felt like eternity that the prey and the predator stared each other down. Despite the hard throw to the ground, Lawson held his ground, every muscle tense in case he needed to spring forward or dodge again. After another tense few seconds, the elk leaped and disappeared into the forest. The brown and black wolf released a long, relieved breath, and felt his limbs nearly give out once he relaxed.
He turned his head to see the Warden limping towards him. He scanned the large male over, his lips pulled down in a concerned frown. ”No, I’m totally fine,”
he breathed. There would definitely be some new bruises, but nothing serious. ”What about you? Are you alright? Can you make it back ok?”
he asked in a rush, worry and urgency creeping into his tone.
Alcatraz nodded, accepting that Lawson was unharmed. Alcatraz turned back toward the main den site impatiently. He could hear his friend’s concern, but Alcatraz hated being fussed over. Already he felt hot under his thick brown fur. ”Yes, yes, I’m fine.”
He growled, ”Just a bit sore. Let’s go.”
He sounded even grumpier than usual, clearly frustrated at himself and embarrassed at what had happened. He limped forward. He moved as fast as he could without the risk of injuring himself further, which was not very fast. Already he felt self-conscious and as if Lawson’s eyes were training on him with pity, whether they were or not. It was going to be a rough walk home.
This was going to be a very long walk back home. Already the annoyance and gruff in Alcatraz’s voice had Lawson on edge. He had a flashback of when the first two met – it was a similar tone the Warden had then. Oh, great,
he thought while resisting rolling his eyes. Not only was Alcatraz hurt physically, but so was his pride.
It was a few seconds later that the younger male fell into step. He was silent for a moment as he let his eyes drift aimlessly to the side. It was probably best not to say anything for a little bit. Clearly, even if Alcatraz was more injured than he was letting on, there was no way he would ask the Delta for help. The big brute was stubborn that way. Eventually, he cleared his throat quietly, trying hard to fight a smirk from showing. ”Don’t worry Master, I won’t tell the others what happened.”
Now grinning like a fool, he trotted a few paces ahead before yelling over his shoulder, ”Especially Lady Athena!”
Alcatraz flicked his irritated gaze to Lawson as he promised not to tell anyone. He bared his teeth at Lawson’s stupid grin, frustrated that he could not give chase as Lawson trotted ahead. Alcatraz gave him a dark look. ”That would be wise.”
He muttered dangerously. His injury was starting to feel better as the initial pain and shock faded and he was getting used to the steady movement of walking, but it was still a burning kind of sore that made him want to wipe that smug look off Lawson’s face… with his teeth. Alcatraz had matured immensely over the past year or two. But some things were harder to change than others. Alcatraz was less openly arrogant than he once had been, but he was still very proud in his heart, and his mind reverted back to his more prideful, immature self in this vulnerable state.
The Courser couldn't help as his smile grew, loving being able to tease his friend. Alcatraz's reaction just made him bark with laughter. It was obvious Lawson was pushing all of his buttons. This had to be the first time he had ever seen Alcatraz appear as a mere mortal. He may not show it, but Lawson respected the Beta more than anyone."Aww c'mon, don't be like that!"
he quipped, slowing his pace down. "The mood was getting too tense. I'm glad you're alright, really."
They both were lucky to have made it without any serious injuries. It wouldn't been worse if they got trampled or, worse, pierced by an antler. The thought made him grimace.
Alcatraz glared at him again for a minute, and then glared at the ground, finally making an effort to get over himself. His anger faded as he sighed. Lawson was just being Lawson. Alcatraz was not seriously injured, so being teased about the situation was something that should not bother him. He looked up at Lawson more seriously. “Thank you,”
he said, ”Your bravery and quick thinking saved my life. I should be dead, but you stopped the elk.”
He even gave Lawson a smile, a true, affectionate smile. ”I will endure any mockery in return.”
The smile actually surprised him; so much that he tripped slightly over his own paws. He bumped his head against Alcatraz's fluffy neck before nodding with a serious expression. "Yup. I saved your life. That should get me a day off or something."
Giving him a sideways glance, he laughed loudly. "Nah, just kidding. You let me past the border, remember? Now we're even."
Alcatraz blinked gratefully. He was not usually a sentimental wolf, really, so he appreciated the way that Lawson brushed off the situation. Still, Alcatraz hoped that Lawson knew how truly grateful he was.
He lifted his large head a bit, giving Lawson a small smirk. “Nice try, but you get the day off after the pack is fed. Once we reach camp, get Seaver and try again. Maybe... if you catch something… you can have tomorrow off.”
Alcatraz said, as if he was giving Lawson a great deal.
He stopped dead in his tracks. ”What? You want me to try again? But, but I - ”
Was the Warden being serious? After saving the wolf’s life, he wanted him to go out hunting again? Obviously, Alcatraz had no idea how exhausting being a hero was. His lower jaw was hanging open in disbelief at the comment, and then he groaned, and licked his lips in frustration.
Alcatraz wasn’t going to change his mind, was he? No, probably not. It didn’t help Seaver was the same rank as the Warde; if his best friend said he had to go hunt again, then he really had to. It was a no win situation at this point. Sighing in defeat, Lawson dramatically dragged his paws against the ground, kicking up dirt. ”Fine, you win. But I’m going to hold you to that promise.”
He looked towards the sky and smiled.