Posted 2021-03-17 11:08:35 (edited)
1.10: Unknown Dangers
Autumn, Year 01
⚠️ Death ⚠️
The first chilly winds could already be felt around camp, a signal that winter would be arriving soon… and that fact had thrown most of the adult wolves into hasty last minute preparations. This would be the first winter they would weather together as a pack after all, and it was easily noticeable that all the pack members wanted it to go by without a hitch or any preventable troubles.
”Ashbreeze, darling, would you mind accompanying me today to gather herbs?”
”Oh, Mudtail...? I would, but the pups...”
There was a hesitant look given to the sleeping pile of puppies not too far away, before a gruff bark echoed from deeper in the cave as Azaleastorm fixed her eyes on the young Ashbreeze. ”The pups this and the pups that… stop using them as an excuse.” The sharp words were enough to shock Ashbreeze, before another figure entered the den.
”Bite me, you know it’s true.”
A soft sigh echoed from the younger mother before she shook, Duskleaf turning her attention to a stammering Ashbreeze as the female tried to argue that Azaleastorm was wrong. ”It’s alright dear, I know all you want is to keep them safe… but Azaleastorm is right. She and I can watch over the pups today, dear, so why don’t you go and help out Mudtail hmmm?” Eventually the darker female nodded, following the pack’s herbalist out of the pup den, before Duskleaf turned to look at Azaleastorm as she laid down.
”Would it kill you to be kinder?”
”No, but keep coddling Ashbreeze like that and you will kill her.”
”I’m not… look, she’s had a rough start in life, alright?”
”So did Nightstream and Spottedpelt—”
”I know, Azaleastorm, I know... but each wolf is different. She just needs a bit more time, and some gentle nudges in the right direction.”
”Hrmph, if you say so...”
Duskleaf knew that the older female meant well, even if her approach could sometimes be too crude and rough. Unlike Nightstream and Spottedpelt, who were eager to try new things, Ashbreeze found it harder to get out of her comfort zone… not to mention she seemed overly protective of Duskleaf’s own litter as if they were her own. The female suspected it was due to her own traumas as a young pup, but aside from giving her time Duskleaf was at a loss of what else to do. Mudtail had been the one to suggest today’s outing when the she-wolf had gone to her best friend for advice, and it wasn’t a lie that the herbalist could use some additional paws and jaws to help her finish stacking up on herbs before winter arrived.
The rest of the afternoon had come and gone as usual, and at one point when the pups had woken from their nap they had all moved outside of the den and onto the camp so they could have space for play. When Talayazhi and Mackenzie returned the male had gone off to join the pups in their roughhousing, while the coywolf had joined the females for a nice chit chat.
”Pssst, Dawnpup… now’s our chance to get out of camp!”
”But I wanna play with uncle Mack too...”
”Uuughhh, why play with him when we can go find big sis Ashbreeze and play with her instead?!”
There was another protest by the youngest of the litter, causing Duskpup to groan before she yanked at Dawnpup’s tail to get her moving. ”Come on, before they notice us!” Finally Dawnpup got to her feet, the runt letting out a long yawn, before she followed behind her older sister.
The hunting party returned by early evening, with both Sandwhisper and Bearpelt carrying a beaver each in their jaws while Nightstream and Spottedpelt carried a whitetail between them. Behind the squad came Mudtail and Ashbreeze, both she-wolves carrying mouthfuls of herbs that they had gathered before meeting with the hunting squad on their way back. Once at camp Ashbreeze had followed Mudtail to her den, helping the she-wolf store the gathered herbs while listening to the advice the herbalist had to offer.
”St. John’s Wort is especially helpful. We can use it to help treat open wounds, when combined with yarrow and winterfat, or to fight off infections, for those we combine it with feverfew and oregano.”
”What about these then? We got so many, so what are they for?”
”Ah, the dandelions and charcoal… those you can mix to create a healing salve. I know, it sounds like a weird mix due to the charcoal, but it actually works wonders when done right—”
Their chatter suddenly came to an abrupt stop as an anguished cry echoed from the camp, both she-wolves exiting the den to come across the sight of a frantic Duskleaf as she cried out.
”My girls… has anyone seen my girls?!”
The pack had been gathering together for their meal when Duskleaf had become aware of the missing presence of two of her pups, a now confused and worried Sunpup huddled besides Stonepup and Auburnpup as his mother frantically looked around the camp—he’d been busy playing with Mackenzie and the other pups to notice his sisters had gone missing.
”They’re out there…! My girls, they must be out there! I need to find them, I—”
”Calm down, Duskleaf, you can’t look for them when you’re like this…!”
”Bearpelt is right, Duskleaf…”
”Azaleastorm, Mudtail and Ashbreeze—you three will stay here along with Duskleaf in case the pups return.”
”N-No, I have to look for them! My babies—”
”It’s alright Duskleaf, I’ll find them… I promise.”
It took a few moments for the worried mother to finally calm down enough to accept Talayazhi’s decision, the she-wolf curled around Sunpup now and joined by Ashbreeze and Mudtail who tried to calm Duskleaf down while Azaleastorm watched over her own pups.
”We’ll form two squads to look for them… on the first will be Mackenzie, Sandwhisper, Nightstream and Goldpaw. You’re in charge, Mackenzie, I’ll leave the north and west to you.”
”Got it, Talayazhi!”
”The rest come with me, we’ll search east and south… if anyone finds them be sure to howl loud enough so we can hear you.”
With roles decided and orders given the two searching parties rushed out into their territory, slowly but surely attempting to search every nook and cranny for the missing pups before the sun fully dipped and nighttime rolled in. Bearpelt and Spottedpelt were specifically focused on trying to find the trail of either pup, and while a young Goldenpaw wasn’t sure why these pups would be dumb enough to leave the comfort of camp she was smart enough to not voice those thoughts out loud given the circumstances and the company.
It’s not until the last rays of sunlight remain that Bearpelt finally catches the familiar scent of the pups, the small pack rushing through the undergrowth in response. The darkness is quickly spreading, sending a sense of urgency among them as every adult knows the nightly wilderness is no place for lost and confused pups. Silver rays of moonlight creep through the canopy, offering some light in the otherwise obscure night, and it’s under one of those lights that they finally spot the two small figures huddled in a spot.
She hadn’t called him like that since her younger days, Duskpup’s voice filled with fright and insecurity... but there’s also a small sliver of relief as she realized Bearpelt was already rushing over to her. He’s the first to reach them, nosing over Duskpup as she whines and whimpers while trying to huddle in closer to his chest.
”Where have you been?! Do you know how worried your mother and I have been, Duskpup?!”
”I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…!”
He was about to say something more when Talayazhi’s voice cut in, the large male turning to look in the direction his alpha pointed before he felt his blood run cold. There’s a surprised gasp from the back as Goldenpaw finally catches sight of it, before a wave of nausea causes the female to backpedal and shove her face into the nearest bush.
Spottedpelt only manages to handle the news better than Goldenpaw by a fraction, the male looking deathly pale as he barely manages to utter that single word before he falls silent once more. There, not too far from where Duskpup had been, is the limp body of the runt—with a contraption that none of them have ever seen, but that looks like terrible jaws, snapped shut right around the torso of the tiny female. Bearpelt instinctively pulls Duskpup closer still, the female now reduced to a whimpering mess, while Talayazhi moves closer to inspect Dawnpup.
”It’s no use… I can’t pry it open.”
”I c-can’t yank it out, either...”
Eventually Spottedpelt seems to sober up enough to help, and while the coywolf is trying to pry the cold jaws from the pup he follows an equally cold link to a spot on the ground not too far. It seems to be connected, or at least he thinks so, but no matter how much he tried to pull or dig the thing would not give way and come loose from the spot it was anchored to.
”Spottedpelt and Goldenpaw… you both go on ahead, howl to let the others know we found them.”
”We’ll bury her for now, make sure no scavengers can get her.”
”We’ll return tomorrow with the others, see if there’s a way to bring her back to camp...”
There’s a glance in the direction of the sniveling pup still close to the male’s chest, before Talayazhi quietly shakes her head in response. ”We’ll take her back once we’re done here.” At that Spottedpelt nods, the adolescent besides him clearly more than eager to get the hell out of there already, before the pair of wolves starts heading back to camp.
Their howls echo in the distance as they go, alerting the other search party, and Talayazhi works silently on digging out a hole around the cold body of Dawnpup while Bearpelt keeps Duskpup close to him. Only when they’re satisfied does the pair finally start heading back, the male picking the tear stained pup by the scruff of her neck, before the long and silent walk to camp begins.
”Y-You found them…?! Spottedpelt said you found them—oh, Duskpup!!!”
A frantic Duskleaf greets them on arrival, and by the looks of it it seems they are the last to return back to camp. The she-wolf’s eyes quickly turn away from Talayazhi and towards Duskpup once Duskleaf spots her, and Bearpelt carefully places the pup down as the mother quickly begins to fuzz over her.
”Oh, thank the moon you’re safe…! You’re finally back—wait, where is she?”
”I’m sorry, mamma! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m s-sorry…!”
”Duskpup…? What is going on?”
There’s a confused and worried look in Duskleaf’s eyes as they move away from her daughter and towards Bearpelt and Talayazhi, their somber looks and silence letting the she-wolf know more than words could say. ”O-Oh no… no… my baby, she can’t be—!” Bearpelt’s the one to finally cross the distance and pull the now sobbing Duskleaf close to him, the echoing cries of Duskpup muffled between the two adults as he quietly informs Duskleaf of what they found. Not too far away Spottedpelt is also doing the same with Ashbreeze, the she-wolf surprised gasps soon muffled by quiet crying of her own.
The others eventually disperse to their dens to give those grieving some private time to themselves, and at the crack of dawn a small party is made to retrieve Dawnpup’s body. Duskleaf is among them this time, the sleeping Duskpup and Sunpup left behind in the pup den curled besides Ashbreeze.
”No, it should be here… it should be here!”
Confusion reigns across the party as they reach the same location from the night before, having followed the markings Spottedpelt and Goldenpaw made on their way back to camp. They know it’s the right place, the scent still lingering, but where Dawnpup’s buried body should have been is now an empty hole… and both her body and the cold jaws that had trapped her are now gone.
That night a small vigil is held in remembrance of the young pup, with Talayazhi bestowing her the full name of Dawnbreeze as a parting gift. Though available no food is had that night by any of the adults, and even Goldenpaw finds herself deciding to skip a meal as well after the gruesome scene she had witnessed the night before. Goldpaw and the pups are the only ones to feed that night… all except for Duskpup, who also refuses a meal.
🌲 The Ashen Cypress Pack 🌕
Alpha: Talayazhi Moon
Hunter(s): Sandwhisper (Tracker), Bearpelt (Chaser), Nightstream (Chaser), Spottedpelt (Chaser)
Pupsitter(s): Ashbreeze, Azaleastorm, Duskleaf
Pupil(s): Goldpaw (Mackenzie), Goldenpaw (Bearpelt)
Pup(s): Auburnpup, Duskpup, Stonepup, Sunpup
Deceased: Dawnbreeze, Pebblestep
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