WINEMA / ASKUWHETEAU
At such a brisk pace, the Blutwald troop had passed the border at the high rise of the sun. They’d stopped before crossing the border to drink and hunt. Each had managed to catch something to fill up their bellies. They had to be strong when meeting the wolves of Aryn. At each paw step, Winema’s heart beat faster. Anxiety filled her from the bottom of her paws, to the tips of her ears. It had many 2 seasons since she’d seen her daughter and Crash. Her prayers went out to them, hoping they were safe and well. If they weren’t...she didn’t know what she’d do.
If there is anyone out there watching,...give me strength to bring them home. Winema did not wish for bloodshed. She had promised that wolf Varrick that she’d do all she could to avoid bloodshed. Turning her head, she stared at her daughter Estella and tried to smile. Her two remaining children gave her the will to hold onto the little amount of sanity she had left. With them beside her, she could only hope they kept her together.
Asku flew above the group, flying a bit ahead of the group to make sure nothing was standing in their way. Then, he’d circle back and relay. Staring down at the wolves, he hoped Winema would see her pup again. In the distance he could see the Aryn territory. It was a relief that the ground between Aryn and Blutwald was flat, no trees to trip up the wolves. The only bad thing,..was that they could be spotted by Aryn wolves..
Who knew if Athena would even let them reach the border.. What if she decided to keep the back and Bloom and Crash would forever be a captive of Aryn.. No, he had to have hope. At least he’d be able to see if anything untoward should happen. As of now, the borders remained quiet toward Aryn, but they did have a forest shielding their movements.
The sun was lowering in the sky behind Aryn as Winema and her troop neared the border. Standing just in front of the border, Winema stood. Looking back to her pack, she scanned their faces. This was it. They were here. There was no turning back now. Taking a deep breath, Winema threw her head back and howled. I AM HERE ATHENA, AND WE NEED TO TALK!
ATHENA / JOSEPH
She got to her feet the moment Joseph came running through the brush, breathless and covered in brambles as though he’d run a straight shot to her with great speed. “They’re coming! Winema has brought all of Blutwald’s strength!” The fox panted, sinking to the ground.
With a grimace, Athena glanced at the wolves she had gathered. Alcatraz stood close, his strength unwavering. Quentin and Varrick were also within hearing distance, neither proven warriors but both standing loyal. Between the courser and warden, Crash and Bloom waited under guard. The Lady’s lip pulled into a brief grimace as she looked at the two Blutwaldans, and then she nodded to Gabi and old Toby, reminding them to stay close in hopes their presence would help diffuse tensions during the meeting. “Let’s not keep them waiting.” Athena said, and motioned for the pack to move out.
They were close when Winema’s call went up, and Athena answered by materializing from the shade of the pines. Most of the pack would stay behind the treeline, ready to advance if necessary. But Alcatraz, Gabi, and the others would come forward with their alpha, bringing with them the two captives. Father, bless us with a peaceful end. The Lady prayed, grey eyes drifting over the Red Pack’s group. Joseph wriggled underneath her, poking his head out from between her forepaws to watch the proceeding.
Composing herself, Athena let her tail rest level with her back, neither submissive nor angered. “Let us speak then.” She invited.
Alcatraz prowled beside his leader, a large brute beside the slender form of the black female. His pale yellow eyes flicked around suspiciously, as if he expected them to come at any time. He glanced at Joseph as the fox burst from the bushes, and the wolf regarding him coolly as he always did. It sounded as if there would be many wolves with Blutwald and he felt anxiety flutter in his chest. He feared for Athena’s safety and Gabi’s safety as well as the rest of his pack. He’d fight his best if he needed to but he would definitely greatly preferred peace.
He stayed close at Athena’s side as she lead the way toward the border. Soon the Blutwald wolves came into sight. Alcatraz regarded them all coldly, as he did any stranger, but he was careful not to look angry or threatening, keeping his thick hackles flat. He stood protectively beside Athena but slightly back as a gesture of respect toward her authority and as a nonaggressive gesture to the other pack showing them that negotiation was what everyone wanted. His ears were perked and his expression looked serious and slightly irritable. This had better go well.
His eyes rested on one wolf in particular in the line of Blutwald wolves. She had a white pelt splashed with gray with streaks of auburn and… she looked… familiar. He found himself staring at her for longer than he intended, his look intensely thoughtful, before his gaze wandered absently away as he searched his memory. His eyes caught sight of the towering white clouds that floated across the sky through the trees behind the Blutwald line… and then he remembered a young she-wolf rolled on her back in the grass enjoying the beautiful day and the memories rushed back. His gaze went to the she-wolf once again. Kestrel. When he had first met her she was a loner like him… by The One that must have been over a year ago! She had been searching for a place to call home.
‘Perhaps the next time I see you, you will have a pack at your side,’ he had said, ‘and I do hope you will remember me kindly when that time comes.’ Of course he had said that as a jest, for at that time he had never imagined he would also join a pack. But here she was, in the exact situation he had wished upon her… except he was not so sure that she would remember him kindly, or remember him at all. He looked away again. It didn’t matter that she was a good wolf. He was part of a pack now and his first loyalty was to Aryn. If it came to a fight he didn’t have a choice. His tail tip twitched in irritation. Another reason why he had resented packs so… a reason he had forgotten but now was sourly reminded. Loyalty trumped sensibility. Still, all the more reason to keep this encounter peaceful.
With green eyes much like her mother’s, Estella gazed coolly at the wolves in front of her.
She had walked alongside her packmates, her family, to get here but she had said little during their trip. Even when her mother had looked at her with an attempted smile the Ace ranger had wordlessly brushed against her pelt, she didn't need to say anything - Winema knew she would be there.
Now she stood tall, not threateningly, but calmly, sizing up the wolves in front of her. She knew none of these people, -other than Athena.
However perhaps this was a good thing if there should be a fight, she considered. It does pay to know your enemy and having no knowledge of the good and evil another had done was also leaving the way open for poor judgement. However the plus side of having no past interactions with these wolves meant her loyalty to friends or her pack would not be clouded; these wolves were soldiers of Aryn and that was all she knew them to be. She knew it was never this black and white, but for now they could simply be her enemies and nothing more.
For as much as the Alpha’s daughter had not wanted it to come to this, that is what they were now; enemies. Anyone or anything that threatened the safety of Blutwald was an enemy. How had it come to this point, How had we let it get this far? She had never wanted it to be this way, but Estella could not stand aside when her pack needed her. Blutwald was not just a pack to her anymore, it had become a way of life. She couldn't imagine life without the Red pack, and right now, in this moment she would refuse to think that way. Peace was the best option, and she hoped it would be attainable.
Truth be told, the courser had doubts about the whole thing. He had been in Aryn for a while now, his new pack being the place he had stayed the longest since he was young. Over the weeks he had gotten to know the other wolves in the pack, watching quietly from the sidelines unless asked to do something. From what he had learned through the weeks about Blutwald and the whole situation, he didn’t have very high hopes for a peace talk. However, he stood strong near Varrick with the others until Joseph appeared and Winema howled.
He said nothing as Lady Athena lead them toward the wolves of Blutwald, occasionally looking at Crash and Bloom, distrust clear in his gaze. It was obvious that he didn’t trust the two, but it wasn’t like he trusted their pack in general. But despite his lack of trust toward them, Quentin hoped that something, anything, could be done to stop blood from being spilled. He hoped with all his being that it wouldn’t come to violence, but he would still do whatever he needed in case it did, and he figured he would.
When he first saw wolves from the other pack, he realized that he would be facing wolves that he didn’t know, something that was both a good thing and a bad thing to him. One one hand, he wouldn’t have to worry or think about meeting any wolves that he knew or was fond of. On the other hand, he knew nothing about them, and they could have families back at camp that could potentially be torn apart if something bad happened. Shaking his head, he forced the thoughts out of his mind. If there was no reason for conflict then maybe he would feel more sympathetic toward them, but he couldn’t now. His loyalty was to Aryn, and they had reason enough to defend themselves from any attacks. The most he could do was stand up tall and do what he could for Lady Athena and the pack, so that’s what he would do.
The old wolf peered over his shoulder at the sun, now settling into soft evening hues of red and gold. He hadn’t been a member of the Aryn pack for as long as others, but he had been welcomed after the startling initial encounter with Lady Athena by the river…. His years of roaming the plains and wilderness, his lithe build and steady pace, had earned him a position as courser. During his time in Aryn, he had learned their ways, and of the ever increasing unease between the mysterious Blutwald pack and his fellow wolves. He had grown quite fond of his queen, Athena. She was a lovely wolf with sleek black fur, almost indigo in the light. She was wise for her age, and he respected her. When she came to him one evening, as he was sitting on a rocky outcropping, facing the west, as he often did… She began to discuss her musing about the approaching confrontation with Winema, expressing her desire for a smooth encounter. He had volunteered his services, to stand with her this day, as a show of peace. After all, he was far from threatening, and had seen many wolves and many seasons. He had experience, and his humble presence may ease Blutwald’s suspicion. That was the plan… And now the hour had come.
After Joseph returned with news of the approaching pack, Aryn was on the move. Tobias eased onto his feet, shaking the leaves from his scruffy fur. He trotted forward, and slipped up to Athena’s side, turning to give her a gentle smile. “I’m here if needed, m’lady,” he said softly. “I pray all goes well.”
Kestrel had remained, as was her wont, at the back of the group of Blutwaldians as Winema lead them- she was certain, she couldn’t shake the feeling- into confrontation. Surely this couldn’t be resolved without violence. She hated to think like that, but as the two groups of wolves drew near and faced off, everyone sizing everyone else up, tension crackled in the air as thickly as if the lightning storm of the century were about to strike.
She, too, had begun running her gaze over all the Aryn wolves, trying to read their expressions, trying to observe something, anything that might help them. She was relieved to see that Crash and Bloom were both present and, if not unharmed, exactly, at least not apparently in immediate danger, but how long would that last?
Suddenly her pessimistic ruminations were interrupted as she noticed a large Aryn male’s eyes resting on her. She instinctively cowered a little lower to the ground at the apparent attention, forgetting that she should probably be trying to look confident. But then she realized- he was familiar. She had met him a long time ago… long before joining Blutwald… Alcatraz. He, too, had been a loner then. He had been so kind to her then, under his rather scary exterior… Her heart quailed at the thought of fighting him when she remembered the things they had discussed. Cloud watching. Finding a family. Not violence and war… Not that I’d stand a chance in hell if we did fight, it occurred to her. There were other members of the Aryn company that were small like her… She wondered if there were juveniles among the company, one dark wolf in particular seemed very young. She didn’t want to have to fight him either. She took a couple of small steps forward so she could glance sideways at Winema’s face, trying to see what she was thinking, as Aryn’s alpha Athena invited her into conversation in a cold tone. What have I gotten myself into?
Somehow the male retained his placid composure, despite the tightening flutters in his chest. He kept his doubts to himself, burying them under confidence. This meeting will not come to violence, he had seen to that. Though just in case Varrick made sure that when it was time to escort the prisoners, he was next to Crash. When he first saw her he had to swallow down the urge to growl remembering their last encounter. Now being tall enough to tower over the female helped quell his anger, the height giving him an air of dominance over her. Should a battle break out he would not let her cower away unseen.
As they entered the glade Varrick perked his ears at the sight of the Red alpha, his gaze loosening its tension. Despite all of her flaws both physically and mentally the red wolf was still a loving mother, and Varrick couldn’t help but respect her for that. He was glad Athena decided to bring the prisoners to this meeting, allowing the alpha to see her daughter for the first time in seasons. If all went well the two would leave together, and never be parted again.
When she joined Aryn, she joined knowing that this pack was on the brink of war. Something the pale female was all too aware of. When Winema howled for Athena, Gabitrix was up and ready to follow her as she had promised. She never saw herself willingly throwing her life into a battle, but now she had something worth fighting for. Emerald eyes flit from face to face, lingering on Alcatraz’s and Lady Athenas. Her best friend and her Alpha. She would do her best to help, to do whatever possible, to avoid war. Though Gabitrix knew better. Wishing for peace was what any wolf should do, but being blind to the possibilities.. to the fact that war was a real horror, well.. being that naive was what killed her family.
She followed quietly behind the group, picking up the rear and padding silently behind Crash and Bloom. She hadn’t spoken to either captive, though her heart hurt for them. They didn’t seem like bad souls.. Green eyes move to the back of Alcatraz’s head and Gabi’ silently wished for the days they roamed their pack land together, wrestling and seeking out the many beauties of the world. Of their world, the little world they knew anyway. Look at them now..
Gabitrix’s steps slow to a halt as the groups does and now her gaze slips across the way and upon those of the other pack. Blutwald. She had never met those within this pack but had heard enough stories to never really want to. She was sure they weren’t all terrible and dark, however the reputation of the pack itself was well known. As the tension in the air prickled, Gabi’ took a slow deep breath, head raising to attention and lips pursing. The beginning of anxiety started to flutter within her chest, though she attempted slow easy breaths to calm it.
Staying silent beside his older sister and mother, he looked around nervously. His mother did not want to leave him behind. If anything should happen, she wanted him to flee. He was a young a wolf, he could find a pack to seek shelter with. It frightened the young blonde male when his Mother spoke the possibility of her not making it out of this. She was old and tired, she told him. But, she would give it her all to protect her family and pack.
As the Blutwald group arrived at Aryn’s border, he nuzzled against his sister and mother for reassurance. He only could pray that his sister and friend were safe. When his mother howled to alert the Aryn wolves, they were greeted almost immediately by a large group of Aryn wolves. His pale blue eyes searched the group for Adrian, the wolf who’d saved him from coyotes, but he did not see the wolf here. His eyes though brightened upon seeing his sister.. Though a bit withered, she did not have any wounds. At once he wanted to lunge toward her and embrace her.
Seeing her son move, she side stepped in front of him and pressed her forehead against his. Keeping beside her children, it leant her strength. Especially, when she saw the red coat of her daughter. Her young daughter looked skinny, ragged and malnourished. But, really..how could she have thought of anything else? Bloom had been a prisoner for 2 seasons; of course they wouldn’t feed her like a normal pack wolf. However, there were no wounds on her and besides looking like skin and bones she didn’t look worse for ware. Green eyes met, green eyes and she saw her daughter’s tail wag tiredly. At least Bloom had not given up hope, she only wished she’d gotten to her faster.
Pulling her green eyes away from her daughter, she rested them on Varrick. Not, Athena..the she-wolf who’d lied to her saying she was nothing but a lower-ranked wolf, not an Alpha. No, her eyes rested on the young wolf who got her to come here peacefully and and not run with fangs drawn back, ready to draw blood. Giving Varrick a tight smile, she winked at him, until finally resting her cool, cold eyes on Athena.
Her jaw set as she chanted to herself to calm down. Think clearly. You don’t want blood shed. Apologize for your stubbornness and being so hard-headed. “Thank you,...for meeting with me Alpha Athena. I knew you were no low-ranked wolf when we met.” Her voice was shaking, trying to remain calm and casual. Her eyes fell to Crash and Bloom once more and then back to Athena.
“I want to apologize for my stubbornness. Shall we talk terms to get the release of my Beta and my daughter?” Her voice was tight as she tried to remain calm and not make demands of the release of her wolves.
It was plain to see how deeply Winema cared for her children, and in that moment Athena wondered if Varrick was right, and all the Red Alpha’s madness sprang from the desperation of a mother trying to protect her pups. She cocked an eyebrow as the leader of Blutwald winked at Varrick, glancing briefly over her shoulder to give the young Warden a knowing look.
Winema was clearly struggling to maintain her composure, but Athena felt strangely calm. She would keep her promise to Charaka, and keep her temper in check. They would return the captives and tell the Red Pack to stay out of Aryn’s lands. Nothing more, nothing less. The Lady was spent. She had no interest in sparring words over it. This was buisiness, a deal long overdue.
Her fury at Crash’s betrayal was still a blistering sore in the back of Athena’s mind, but she knew her family was strong enough now to stop any attack Blutwald tried to muster. And surely, Blutwald knew that too. Lip quirking at Winema’s accusation, Athena gave a faint shrug. “Forgive me, as I did not know what sort of welcome to expect of Blutwald at the time, a disguise seemed prudent.” And it isn’t as if you have been without disguises, yourself… She thought of Crash, a serpent masking herself as a friend for two seasons, waiting for the right moment to strike.
“Thank you, for agreeing to come peacefully. This feud has gone on long enough.” She stated, a forthright apology for her own misactions left out. Bloom’s captivity had been a necessary evil, the only defense Athena had seen available to her all those months ago. Controversial? Certainly. But after everything Blutwald had done, Athena chose to pass up the opportunity to count bruises. It was a small display of defiance, one Winema and her entourage might not even notice. Even if they did, perhaps it would be forgotten considering what the Lady was about to do next.
Turning her head, she motioned for Quentin and Varrick to release the captives. Athena’s grey eyes watched them flatly as they crossed over, and then she said, “These are my terms. Stay clear of Aryn lands, do not let my patrols find you even within sight of our borders, not for any reason. In return, we will grant you the same courtesy, and remain well away from Blutwald. Do you find these conditions suitable?”
The young male pushed back his ears as he begrudgingly stepped away from Crash, allowing her and Bloom to pass. His eyes trailed the small female disapprovingly, her words of disloyalty still ringing in his ears; not her betrayal to Aryn, but to her own pack. Forcing away his disgust the male loosened his jaw and looked instead to Bloom. A soft smile crept across his face as he saw mother and daughter reunite at last. A deep sense of pride filling his chest knowing that he had some part in it.
The moment didn’t linger long as a more rigid mood fell upon the group. Varrick listened intently as lady Athena laid out her terms to the Red pack. They seemed more than reasonable, and he turned to Winema hoping that she agreed.
Surrounded by the wolves of Aryn, Crash and her both were ushered out of the area where they’d been kept. Hearing whispered words that the Red Pack’s Alpha was calling to them, her heart leaped to her chest. Looking as happy as a tired wolf could, she brushed her side against Crash. They were finally going home. Together the Aryn wolves walked them to edge of the Aryn border. Adrenaline pumped excitedly through Bloom’s veins as she saw her mother’s red coat.
Finally the group stopped and she met her mother’s eyes. Those cool, green eyes were observing every inch of her body. A bit unkempt and malnourished, but she was relatively healthy. The Aryn wolves may not have given her a full belly, but none had lied a paw on her. It was close with Charaka; but still she was safe.
Athena’s particular terms made her eyes narrow slightly. Really? Was that all? If that was all you wanted, I could’ve been seasons ago. Bloom let out soft huff, and looked to her mother. No doubt these were easy terms to abide by. She was sure her Mother had no intentions of leaving her borders again. Turning her gaze to the dark wolf just ahead of her, she smiled. Varrick. Though she never really had a conversation with him, she knew this was his doing from whispers around the pack.
Taking a step forward, but not leaving unless allowed to, she nuzzled his side. “Thank you, Varrick. None of this would’ve gone peacefully without you.” She whispered, smiling at him, then averted her eyes back to Athena and her mother to await what happens next.
The travel to Aryn’s borders had been excruciatingly long in Crash’s mind. She was surrounded by wolves who held nothing but disdain and disgust for her. Even Bloom was on better terms with them. She supposed it reasonable enough that they disliked her, for her masquerading as one of their own, but was disappointed they could not see past it. She snarled at Varrick as the wolf held himself high, jostling her slightly as he pressed against her to keep moving.
At the meeting, Crash scanned the Blutwald crowd, meeting Winema’s eyes for a moment before continuing her search. She found not what she was looking for, and scanned again, an air of panic rising from her when she couldn’t see either of her children. They would be old enough to accompany the group - even Caspian was there!
She hardly listened to the discourse between the packs, shooting forward when her captor stepped aside. Fear gripping her heart, she pushed through the ranks of her own pack, hoping they just hadn’t been visible from where she had been held. When she was unable to find them, she turned to Winema, the danger of the other pack completely forgotten in her anxious state.
“Where are my children?” she cried to the Alpha, her eyes wide with distress. “Where are they? Alpha, where are my pups?” Crash had not seen them in two seasons, a horribly long time. She had missed much of their adolescence, and had been eager to meet with them, to make sure they were okay. Her heart felt like it was in a vice tighter than any wolf’s jaws, beating out of rhythm in tune to her worst fears.
When Athena signaled to him and Varrick to step away from Crash and Bloom, Quentin did so quickly, watching as the two captives made their way back to their own pack. He was relieved to see them going back, hoping that now Winema would agree to his Lady’s terms. They were simple, and things that seemed obvious to him and definitely easy to follow. The courser doubted that they would even want to come back anyway, not wanting to be around the pack who had held one of their own prisoner for seasons. Surely, it would be something the Red Pack’s alpha would agree to.
Turning his attention from the two former prisoners to their alpha, he studied her face, trying to see what she would say or do now that her packmates had been returned. This seemed like a simple enough exchange, since they had gotten Bloom and Crash back, and there wasn’t anything extreme in Lady Athena’s terms, but he didn’t hold his breath. Something could still go wrong and there could still be bloodshed. Finally looking away from Winema, he quickly looked around at the wolves from Aryn, trying to see if he could tell what they were feeling about it, despite already having guessed that they all felt the same as him. They would all be waiting for a response, too. It had only been a few moments since the terms had been laid out, but it seemed more like a lifetime to him, the possible outcomes of this meeting stuck in his mind.
A slight smile slid across Kestrel’s lips for a moment as she watched Crash and Bloom cross to join the Blutwald group. Despite her months with the pack, the Guardian didn’t really know either of them. But she didn’t need to- it warmed her heart to think that they were coming home. As Athena named her terms, her mood lifted even higher, but then was immediately shot through with a healthy dose of skepticism. Could… could it really be this easy? Maybe they could avoid bloodshed, after all… Her conviction strengthened as she heard Crash demanding after her children. Anyone could see she was a desperate mother who needed to see her pups. And wasn’t Winema the same? Maybe this whole thing really was just a big misunderstanding, and maybe, just maybe- were they lucky enough that Athena understood that? And… did Winema understand that?
She ran her glance over the faces of some of the other Aryn wolves and realized she saw her own hope mirrored there. They, too, wanted this to blow over without violence, it seemed. Please, please, let this all be over, just like that… Please, Alphess. Just say yes. Kestrel would never be bold enough to speak aloud at such a meeting unless spoken to, but she directed her gaze at Winema and stared, hoping she might notice the slight nod she was giving her, would notice all the faces that looked so eager for all this to end, right now.
As Bloom crossed the distance between the two packs, Winema leaped forward and pushed her face into Bloom’s neck. Whining softly, Winema threw a paw over her daughter, holding her close. When Crash came, she was in hysterics. Side stepping away from her daughter, she met Crash’s eyes. Mother to Mother, she spoke softly.
“Ramona is in the tree line,” She whispered, then glanced over her shoulder. In the distance, but close enough to hear their voices and see them, some figures could be seen in the tree line. A white coat stood out amongst them. “Your son, though..Delsin. He left to strike his own path in the World. I don’t know where he left off to.” Frowning, she looked sadly at Crash. Most of her children had left, striking out on their own. It was a hole that couldn’t be filled; she knew Crash would get that feeling as well.
Turning her attention back to the other Alpha who seemed to be patiently waiting for her answer.. Glancing back at her thin daughter, she tightened her jaw, then flicked her eyes back to Athena. “Despite looking emaciated..you haven’t harmed my daughter or my Beta. The terms are agreeable. My wolves or I shall not enter or even come near the Aryn Border. You have my word as an Alpha and a Mother, for what it is worth to you.” Releasing the breath she was holding, she visibly relaxed and looked like she was about to collapse. It felt as if the world had been lifted off her back and she felt unsteady.
Circling above the group, Asku tilted his head down to view the group. Hearing Winema’s whines of happiness, it gladdened his little heart to see his new friend happy. Winema had been so drawn and tired when he first saw her. Her anger boiled close to the surface, though it still did, he could see the happiness of being reunited with her daughter. Letting his eyes wander over the field and into the tree line, he could see a group of wolves huddled at the tree line, but couldn’t make them out. Blutwald also had wolves waiting in the shadows, two Alphas ready for war, but hopefully..war would not come.
Whining happily, Bloom leaped toward her Mother, licking excitedly at her chin as if she were a young pup. Sitting on her haunches, she nipped at her mother’s chin and nuzzled against her, rubbing her sides and muzzle against Winema’s body. Reacquainting with her mother’s scent gave her the strength she had lost over the seasons. Turning to her little brother, she jumped on top of him and rubbed against him, licking his chin and biting his ears. He was such a tiny pup when she left that Winter morning. Happiness flooded her, Adrian may not be here..but it was thanks to him she was seeing her brother now.
Turning to her other sister, she half pounced on Estella’s back, and rubbed her face against her sister’s neck, then licked her cheek happily. The family was reunited. And she was never..going to let them go again!
Upon watching his sister rush to their Mother, brought stinging tears to well in his pale blue eyes. His tail wagged slowly back and forth, watching Mother and daughter reacquaint themselves. His mother looked so much younger now, life began to shine again in her forest eyes that had faded since Bloom’s capture. Now, she was whining like a puppy, nuzzling against her lost daughter that was returning to her.
When Bloom turned to him, he yelped as she pinned him to his back and nuzzled against his chin. In truth, Caspian had little memories of his older sister. Though she’d been there when he was born, when his eyes opened and watched over him as he tried to get her to play with him; the memories were brief. Still, her familiar scent washed over him and the seasons spent apart no longer mattered. She was his sister..and she had risked her safety and freedom to feed him and the other newborn pups that had been during that Late Winter. When Bloom retreated to give her affections to Estella, he sat up, looked to the Aryn wolves. His mother agreed to the terms. They could all finally go home.
Her sister was back! It warmed the young Ace rangers heart to see Bloom reunited with their mother, Winema surely had missed the spirited pup - they all had. Now at the sight of Caspian and Bloom together she allowed a smile to creep onto her previously stony features, seeing her brother and sister together proved all the stress and trials so far had all been worth it.
Finally it was her turn. Estella allowed her cold exterior to shatter when he beloved sister, Bloom embraced her. Her tail swished from side to side and words escaped her, they didn't need words right now anyway; her family’s joyful expressions were more than enough. Her heart felt full and for the first time in a long while she felt like things might turn out alright. She hugged Bloom close but out of the corner of her eye she kept a watchful gaze on Aryn.
It took everything Crash had to not just run over to the tree line. She restrained herself, eyes tracking the white pelt she just knew belonged to her daughter. Her head was swimming, distressed that her only son had left her. She knew all children left their parents at one point or another, but had there been something she could have done to prevent him leaving? Did she not try hard enough in her relationship with him?
She tore her gaze away from the tree line, instead looking back to Aryn. Her eyes ran over every wolf assembled there, lips lifting in a silent snarl at some of the less sympathetic wolves. Crash would be glad to rinse her paws of that place, and those wolves. Some she could have been friends with, in another life.
But now there was nothing but a congealing animosity. Crash stood to the side of Winema, in her place as Beta of Blutwald, and listened quietly to the exchange, keeping her head held tall and her ears pricked. Hopefully, she would be able to return to her familiar home soon, and catch up with her remaining child. She would do everything she could to care for Romy from now on.
He grinned widely at seeing Bloom and her mother reunited, looking up from under Athena to see if she was as moved by it as him. Her expression remained stoic, but the fox could pick out the subtle signs of the alpha’s satisfaction, and knew she thought it was a good thing too. Maybe Athena’s family always came first, and maybe her possessive devotion to them was what had started this whole mess, but she wasn’t some child-kidnapping warmonger. He was pretty sure she even liked Bloom. At least... a little bit.
The relief he felt at hearing Winema agree to the terms evaporated as Crash’s frantic searching reclaimed Joseph’s attention. The little creature bristled, glaring at the beta’s aggressive display - apparently unsatisfied with being freed and reunited with her pack. They had made peace, hadn’t they? What sort of ranger was arrogant enough to bare fangs during such a sensitive arbitration, and after their alpha had settled terms? The same sort which lied to an entire pack for two seasons, and chose to run off like a thief in the night rather than broker a reconciliation, he supposed.
Frowning sadly, Joseph shook his head at the childish display, looking to Winema to see if she would reprimand her Second. Above him, Athena had visibly tensed, and he knew the Lady was having difficulty ignoring the insult. Everyone wanted peace, so why was Crash putting that in jeopardy?
Winema turned her attention to Crash, seeing her fangs pulled back in contempt for the Aryn wolves. Her ear pinned back, “Enough Crash, what is done is done. You’re home safe, despite the seasons we lost, you are home.” Trying to soothe her Beta, her body tensed for any movement from Aryn. The wolves all seemed tense at Crash’s anger, she hoped they wouldn’t act on their intentions. When there was no movement, Asku, her falcon landed on her shoulder.
As Winema called Crash back into line, the fox prayed earnestly that both sides would be able to set aside their pride for the greater good. But even as Athena swallowed her own indignance and prepared to reply, a blood-curdling roar echoed from the tree line where the rest of Aryn waited, and Joseph felt as though a void had opened up beneath him.
From the shadows of the trees, he'd waited with bated breath, frustration mounting with every word and gesture of the negotiations. Rhaegan snarled as he heard Winema’s promise, and knew she was lying. NO! There could never be peace. There would never be peace. This was his one great opportunity to take back what was owed the line of Roman, and the heir of the Red Alpha was not going to let it slip away because one little black she-wolf decided to take Blutwald at its word.
Everything all came together in one bright flash of perfect clarity. There was no time to consider an alternative. He knew what he needed to do, and damn the consequences. Damn them all!
“TREACHEROUS CURS!” He bellowed, lunging forward in a full-scale assault. “There will be no peace with your kind!” Some of the other wolves near him lurched forward as well, whether to stop him or join in, it didn’t matter. Blutwald would see an attack, an ambush, and they would react predictably. There would be too much fear and confusion for anyone to speak out before the blood was running. Even Athena would not be able to voice a clever excuse to stay the onslaught. Blutwald would never trust her word. And Rhaegan would not give Winema any opportunity to spin more lies.
If there was one thing the traitor she-wolf loved more than her own self, one thing she would start a war to defend, it was her children. She was the one Rhaegan truly wanted, but all of Stallion’s kin were a blight. All of them would meet their end at his fangs. And he would start with the son.
With devilish roar, Rhaegan crashed into the ranks of the Red Pack, scattering their formation and aiming straight for the small, creamy youth beside Winema.