Posted 2021-02-28 17:33:43 (edited)
1.02: A Stranger in Need
Spring, Year 01
Each day that passed felt better than the one before, easily flowing into weeks… before the trio of wolves knew it another full moon had come and gone as another month flew by. While their initial meeting had a rough start eventually the pack had started to sync and fall into a routine of sorts. Granted, on occasion Erwin’s personality seemed to tick Mackenzie off (it didn’t help that the former also seemed to enjoy roughling the latter’s fur a bit too) and even Talayazhi had found herself snapping at the bear-like male on more than one occasion… but overall he wasn’t a bad wolf, and he sure performed his hunting duties well too.
Although at times the trio would hunt together more often than not the responsibility of keeping them all fed fell onto Erwin’s shoulders. Mackenzie was busy scouting unknown areas, it was best to know more about their neighbors (and possible enemies) before any trouble came knocking at their borders, and Talayazhi herself was often busy still exploring all the unknowns these newly claimed lands were hiding from the young pack. Today had been one of such rare days where the three had hunted together, and their teamwork had been generously rewarded with a juicy and fat buck that currently lay on the ground between the three.
”You both go on ahead, I’ll drag this one to camp myself.”
”On your own, Erwin…?”
”Surely it’d be best if we all helped—”
”Nah, I got dis’un lil’ miss leader~ You both go on and scout more of these parts, by the time you come back to camp this baby here will be all ready and waitin’ for ya.”
There was a glint to the male’s eyes as he caught Mackenzie’s own in his sight, a quick wink given to the gray stud that caused him to snort and look away in response. Erwin had noticed the way the male looked at their lil’ coywolf alpha on more than one occasion, and with the sun now starting to set he’d figure some time alone for the pair might do them good. Soon enough the brown wolf was locking his jaws tightly onto the buck’s neck, ensuring a firm grip, before he grunted as Erwin began the hard labor of bringing their prey home.
”Well Mack, are you coming along then?”
”Wha—uuuh yeah, I’m coming...!”
The voice of the female besides him had finally snapped Mackenzie from his own thoughts, somewhat surprised and perplexed at this thoughtful generosity that Erwin had given him, before he nodded in Tala’s direction and fell in line besides the coywolf. She was lithe and petite, almost like an adolescent pup when compared to someone as him, and yet that tiny body housed so much will and spirit… perhaps it should’ve been no surprise that the male had fallen head over heels for the hybrid long ago. Mackenzie had been curious to learn more about her as a result, and during many moonlit chats the male had slowly come to learn more about Talayazhi’s past as she began to feel comfortable enough to share.
”Hey Mack, can you hear that? Mack…? Mackenzie!”
”... huuh?! Oh, hey Tala—what’s up?!”
He had been too absorbed into his own thoughts as they had walked through the underbrush, barely paying attention to their surroundings and mostly guided by the lithe she-wolf besides him instead. It wasn’t until a pair of jaws had snapped shut loudly, right besides his ear too, that the male finally snapped out of his own daydreams and focused on Talayazhi’s exasperated expression instead.
”I said can you hear that?... something wrong with you today, Mack?”
”N-No, uuuh, nothing at all… I just, uuuhm, I thought I saw a weasel back there…?”
”Uuuh huuuh, suuureee… well, whatever made that noise didn’t sound like a weasel to me. C’mon, let’s see what’s up...”
There was a soft snort by the coywolf before she resumed walking, her tail thumping against his front leg as Talayashi walked ahead, and with an audible sigh Mackenzie finally nodded and followed. His ears pricked forward, straining to catch whatever noise Tala had heard before in the hopes of bettering the she-wolf’s current view of him after his small blunder. For a moment nothing seemed amiss, the only noises the pair could hear belonging to the usual fauna that also called these lands home… until a soft snap caught their attention, the recognizable sound of a twig snapping as someone carelessly stepped on it. Before either one could reach another noise could be heard, a hurried shhh echoing from a nearby bush before it actually wiggled as something inside it shifted.
”We know you’re over there…!” The coywolf’s voice rang loud and clear as she spoke, but Talayazhi tried to keep any hostility hidden for the time being… whoever this was wasn’t really that good at hiding anyways, so she doubted they were seeking any trouble. ”Come on out… I promise we won’t harm you so long as you have no ill intent, stranger.”
There was a pause, some words quickly whispered but inaudible to the duo, before finally the leaves of the bush parted to reveal a dainty form as she stepped through.
”I see… your hiding spot is commendable, staying downwind certainly ensured we couldn’t catch your scent—oooh!”
Well now, it seemed the young she-wolf wasn’t alone after all… two pudgy and dark figures soon stumbling out after her from the same bush. No wonder she’d been unable to remain hidden, pups this young would be hard to keep silent and still for long. A slow lookover was given again to the female as she lowered her snout to lick at the slightly lighter of the two, trying to hush the pup’s whining before she looked apologetically at the two adults before her. She was certainly emaciated, but even in her stage her bellies still held a faint and firm rotund form to itself that signaled a pregnancy in process.
”F-Forgive us!!! We didn’t mean to intrude on your lands… I swear we’re just passing through and will be out of your hair in no time, so pleeeaseee don’t hurt them...!”
The young adult is quick to assume a submissive posture as she lays down low, her body also serving to shield the two young pups in the process. Her frame is shivering even though it isn’t really cold this evening, and there’s a panic glint in her eyes when the darker pup manages to wiggle her head out from below the female and yaps in the direction of Talayazhi and Mackenzie. The coywolf can only begin to imagine what terrible encounters they all must have already sustained before arriving here, and her tail lowers as a result to signal she’s not hostile towards any of them.
”Oh no, please, we would never even think of harming them.! How… where have you all come from?”
Mackenzie follows the coywolf’s lead, his posture also relaxing before he even gives a wink in the direction of the second pup that has now poked her head out as well. He can tell Talayazhi’s already made a decision, one he isn’t about to question in the slightest, as the female walks closer to nudge the stranger’s shoulder with her snout.
”W-We… uuuhm, we’re from—”
”Actually no, don’t answer that for now. You’re all nothing but skin and bones and probably starving...”
As if on cue two audible and high pitched growls echo from under the she-wolf, the puppies’ stomachs rumbling in response to the coywolf’s words. She blushes in return, noticeable even with her warm fur, as Mackenzie lets out a chuckle by mistake. Whatever their story was it wasn’t important enough to have such young pups with empty stomachs out here, although the scent of sooth still clings strongly to their furs now that Talayazhi had come closer.
”A-Are you s-sure…?”
”Trust me kid, she ain’t gonna take a no for an answer today.”
The deeper voice of Mackenzie causes the stranger to flinch at first and Talayazhi can’t help but shoot a sideways glare at him when the smaller pup also wiggles back under the stranger’s body for shelter as a result.
”Our camp is not far from here, and our hunt finished not long ago… you’re more than welcome to eat your fills and rest from your travels with us.”
”R-Really…?! I… we… oh, thank you!”
It’s the first true word the stranger has spoken without a stutter or wariness, and Talayazhi is able to see the sincere gratitude behind those chocolate eyes of the female as she stares at them. It’s enough to reassure the alpha that her choice is the right one as she offers a soft smile in return to the disheveled trio.
”Mack, you go on ahead… let Erwin know we’ll be having some guests this evening.”
With a final nod the male turns and takes his leave, his heavy footsteps echoing against the forest floor until Mackenzie is finally out of range. Once he’s fully gone the stranger finally lets out a long and relieved sigh, her posture visibly relaxing from the tensed up state it had held all this time. For whatever reason she had seemed more wary of the male than the coywolf from the start, something that Talayazhi had picked up from her body language as a result, and with Mackenzie now gone perhaps the stranger will truly feel safe at last.
”You’re safe… I promise. Now come along, the den is just a little farther up ahead.”
”Mmm, come again…?”
”M-My name… it’s Duskleaf.”
”Ah I see… I’m Talayazhi, and it’s nice to meet you all today.”
There’s a shy smile that forms on the warm colored wolf’s snout before she nods, before her head lowers to pick up the darker of the two pups by the scruff of her neck. Once Duskleaf has shifted, a signal that she’s alright accepting the coywolf’s assistance, Talayazhi reaches slowly for the tinier pup before both females begin to make their way back to camp together. Eventually the terrain gives way to rockier paths, and before long they are now at the heart of the Ashen Cypress’ lands. The pups gasp in awe upon seeing the large and ancient cypress tree that grows in the camp, its roots serving as a sound structural support for the dens the trio of wolves have begun to carve out into their home. Mackenzie and Erwin are already there and waiting, and upon catching sight of them once more Duskleaf can’t help but freeze in her footsteps.
”Erwin won’t hurt you or the pups either… none of us would, I promise.”
”R-Right… I k-know, it’s j-just...”
”I’ll wait inside the den… already had my fair share anyways while waiting.”
There’s a look of surprise as the coywolf turns to look back at Erwin, he’s an awfully perceptive male for one that’s also so gruff at times, and true to his word Erwin soon disappears into the comforts of the den he’s dug out for himself. Mackenzie too mirrors the same look in Talayazhi’s face, just as surprised as her, before the gray wolf gives a nod and walks a distance away to lie down.
”It’s alright, don’t worry, take your time to fill your belly and theirs.”
Another soft nudge is given to Duskleaf’s shoulder by Talayazhi, smiling softly at the she-wolf, before she watches the dark pup that the female had been carrying bound right on over to the kill and begins feeding from the spot that Erwin had already torn open. Eventually the other one follows, the scent of fresh meat and blood hard to resist, and with a final nod Talayazhi leaves them to eat as she walks over to lie down besides Mackenzie for company.
”Not mad about missing the first bite?”
”Nah, sometimes you need to bend old traditions a bit anyways… right?”
He thumps his tail approvingly before the duo watch as Duskleaf and the young ones eat their fill. Eventually the pups’ bellies are big and round, filled with delicious and nourishing meat, and just as one of them yawns loudly Erwin finally steps out of his den. Immediately Duskleaf seems to tense once more, and for a moment Talayazhi and Mackenzie both fear the worst, before the brute’s voice carries loud and clear.
”Ain’t gonna hurt them, but my den is warm by now so figured the pups could sleep comfortably in it for a while.”
”I s-see… we’ll t-take you up on t-that offer t-then.”
Erwin nodded in return at that before stepping aside and clearing the way, watching as the she-wolf and the pups slowly disappeared into his chambers. The pups soon are huddled together and fast asleep in record time, and after a while Duskleaf emerged once more to join Talayazhi and the others as they feasted on the buck. It is then, finally, that the young wolf’s façade finally crackles away and she regales them with their tale.
They had belonged to a large and harmonious pack far away from these parts, tier alpha and his mate being kind and sympathetic leaders that only wished for the well being of their pack. Their lands had been fertile and prosperous, a paradise on earth one could almost say, and for many seasons all had been well…. Until a few years ago. Suddenly droughts had become longer than ever before, and the plants had shriveled and dried up as a result. Even the recent winter hadn’t been enough to revitalize their flora from its state, and one night the she-wolf had awoken startled by the close sound of rumbling thunder. They had cheered at first, hoping for a much needed downpour to nurture their lands… but instead everything was suddenly engulfed in fire and smoke.
She had recently become a pupsitter at the time, and the two pups traveling along with Duskleaf had been her first charges when the fire had broken out. As the flames fanned and grew stronger and more intense they had huddled together inside the den as the other adults had tried to keep the fire at bay from their camp… but once it was clear hope was lost their own alpha had stumbled into their den and gotten them out.
”He t-told us to get as far away as p-possible… t-that everything would be f-fine...”
Their pack, once large, had drastically been reduced in numbers as the dry seasons had persisted and prey had become scarce; most wolves had either left the pack or succumbed to old age by now. She and the pups had been the youngest then, and the pack had always done everything in their power to protect them and keep them safe… down to the very end.
”N-Nightpup is the oldest by just a bit… she’s always b-been a brave one too. I k-knew she would be able to f-follow me on her own, even if it was a bit r-rough, so I grabbed Ashpup and we r-ran as far as we could...”
Duskleaf had made sure Nightpup had kept her jaws locked to the tip of her tail the whole time to not lose the pup as they went, carrying the younger Ashpup by the scruff of her neck as they had left. Upon finding a safe spot they had curled together and waited for days, Duskleaf still kept hope that someone from the pack would come find them soon and bring them back to camp once everything was safe… but that time never came. Eventually she was forced to face the cruel reality that their pack and home were both gone, and ever since she had been wandering the lands with the two in search of a new place to call home. At one point Erwin had inquired about the sire of Duskleaf’s own forming litter, but when the she-wolf suddenly felt silent and stiff Talayazhi had taken it upon herself to shit the topic into other matters as the night slowly enveloped them all.
Everyone had their secrets, and it wasn’t right for the alpha or anyone else to pry them out onto the light if their owner didn’t want to share them at the time.
🌲 The Ashen Cypress Pack 🌕
Alpha: Talayazhi Moon
Hunter(s): Erwin (Chaser)
Pup(s): Ashpup, Nightpup
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