Alcatraz stood at the Aryn borders. He had caught the scent of the returning patrol and ever since prowled the area, awaiting their return. There was a lot of news he had to share with Lady Athena. And he knew she would not be pleased. Soon the shapes came into sight and Alcatraz bounded forward to greet them. He dipped his head in greeting to the rest of the patrol before heading straight to his Alpha. ”My Lady, there is urgent business I must discuss with you.” The Warden growled. His voice was not particular urgent. He just sounded exasperated, and annoyed. He stalked away from the others, toward a quiet place for them to talk, then stopped and glanced behind to make sure she was coming.
Athena’s eyes picked out Alcatraz, even from a distance. Excited, she cantered forward on light paws. “I trust you’ve kept every-” Her banter cut off sharply at his greeting. Not even a hello, or an inquiry about Vale. He did not sound panicked, but there was something strange in Traz’s tone that set Athena on edge. What had happened?
Stunned into silence, the Lady nodded to the rest of her party and followed her packmate into the seclusion of the wood. Bracing for the worst, Athena prayed her worst fears would remain unrealized. “Alcatraz… what’s the matter?”
Alcatraz gave no buffer to lessen the blow of his words. ”Crash betrayed us. She was actually a Blutwald spy all this time and attempted to escape with Bloom. But the pack chased them down and we managed to catch them in time. Now Crash is our prisoner as well.” Alcatraz explained. Even as he spoke he sounded very irritated. Yes, they had caught them in the end, but that such a thing had happened on his watch, especially at his own fault, it was a difficult pill for him to swallow. He waited for her answer.
Bristling, Athena’s expression changed so slightly anyone not paying attention might miss it. A cold fury was building up inside her, brimming at the surface but not quite breaking through.Had anyone but Alcatraz told her, she would have first accused them of joking. But such ill humour would be out of character for the grizzled warrior. The Lady would not mock the situation with stupid questions.
“Take me to them. Now.” She commanded in a voice cold as ice, and hard as steel. Athena had many questions but they could be asked on the way to the captives. She took a step toward him, saying nothing more but thinking a great deal.
Alcatraz saw the she-wolf bristle and even if the change in those cool icy eyes was subtle, he could see it. Athena was always good at keeping her composure in any situation, but Alcatraz could see how livid she truly was right now. He dipped his head at her words. He did not flinch, but he felt shame nonetheless, and he turned quickly. ”At once, my Lady,” He said, his paws swift as he lead the way toward the Rockhollow Tarn. His pace was brisk, but not so fast that Athena would have to strain herself to keep up.
She followed after him, slim legs trotting nimbly alongside Alcatraz’s long, quick strides. How could such a deception have taken place? Crash had been trusted by the whole of the pack, not even Athena had suspected the grieving mother of being a plant. Why would Bloom have gone with her, knowing even a successful escape would only stir tensions between the packs all the more? Seven moons of silence and this was how Blutwald chose to break it?
“Was anyone hurt?” The Lady asked, looking to Alcatraz with a pang of worry, “How did this happen? Tell me everything.”
Alcatraz shook his head, ”No, no one was harmed.” He said quickly so she would not wait long with concern. That of course was the most important question. When moving on to the rest he hesitated. He felt defensive about his actions, so he struggled to find a way to word it objectively… but also without sounding too much like a fool. ”I was guarding Bloom. Crash came to me, out of breath, claiming Seaver and some others needed help with a bear on the other side of the territory. I left Crash with Bloom and howled for them, and when we met I realized I had been tricked…” He glanced at Athena out of the corner of his downcast eyes, shame flashing in their pale yellow depths. He wondered what she thought of the story so far, if she would chide him for trusting Crash when he really hadn’t, just because he didn’t trust any new wolf really, but he had seen no other option when faced with the potential of his other packmates being slaughtered by a bear. He moved on quickly, ”They ran toward the Nostril pursued by Seaver and myself while Lawson ran around to secure the border. Luckily Varrick and Alexandro were able to cut them off before they could escape. They are both at Rockhollow Tarn now.” He left out the curses and anger Crash had said to them. He was sure Athena would hear well enough of that soon. And besides that, he had little mind to care for words.
She gave a sigh of relief, glad that if nothing else, her pack remained unhurt. “Praise the One for that, at least.” Heaving herself up to a rocky ledge, the Lady growled, “I should’ve been here to help.” Not chasing an alliance with Vale to prepare for a threat that has not yet taken root! Blutwald had only been waiting for them to lower their guard. “I’m glad you were here to subdue her. Who knows what would have happened otherwise.”
Alcatraz clearly bore a great deal of guilt over the ordeal, but Athena did not know enough yet to blame him. Thoughtful, she only replied to his explanation, “We all trusted Crash. If this is a true betrayal, the blame falls to me for letting her into our home in the first place.” Her ‘if’ was skeptically toned, Alcatraz’s word was hardly one Athena had inclination to doubt.
Alcatraz followed her up the ledge with heavy bound, grunting once in agreement as she thanked the One for the safety of their pack. Alcatraz looked at her in surprise when instead of scolding him she actually praised him for subduing the problem. In truth, although he had sent the orders, he had been the last one on the scene. Still, it was a load off his chest to know that she was not disappointed in him. ”The others were very brave. Particularly Varrick was the first to cut them off. All wolves in the situation did well.” the dark Warden said, feeling wrong accepting the praise by himself. All he had done was shut them up in the end and order them back to Rockhollow Tarn.
Alcatraz shrugged his large shoulders as they walked along. ”No wolf could have known. Everyone trusted her.” Alcatraz pointed out. He was not a very sentimental wolf, so he did not feel particular hurt or betrayal at Crash’s actions. He just kinda felt miffed at the inconvenience more than anything else. He never really trusted her to begin with, as he never really trusted new members of Aryn for the first few months, so it did not surprise him too much.
“Varrick? Really?” She asked, surprised. her nephew was young, untested in a real fight. She was glad he’d been brave, though it was difficult for her to imagine Varrick holding off both Crash and Bloom by himself. Shaking her head, she decided the details could be explained later. Whatever had happened, it was clear Aryn had risen to the occasion, and that was a comforting thought. The terrain was getting rocky, the trees sparse. They would reach Rockhollow soon.
Thinking back to her every interaction with the supposed Blutwald outcast - the facade seemed obvious now. Winema was hotheaded, sure. But nothing she had done gave any indication that the Red Pack’s leader would be capable of murder, and especially not that of children, as Crash had claimed. “No. I should have.” Athena replied, quietly.