The cub ran through the woods, playfully chasing the raven he had made fast friends with. To Katja, who stood at the mouth of the nearby cave they called home, it was as if the wind itself favored the pup. He was more bird than wolf the way he bounced from tree to tree, his feet hardly ever touching the ground, in his comical attempt to reach the raven who always managed to keep just out of reach. With his black coat flying through the air it almost looked like he was trying to be a raven himself.
It was hard to imagine that only two moon cycles ago he had squirmed his way out of her, only to be promptly imprisoned and sentenced to death the next day. It seemed only yesterday that she had discovered the strange clearing where he was held captive, discovered her father’s treachery, and saved her pup from certain death at Cajal’s maw. Only yesterday that she had made herself outcast from her clan for the sake of her son…
“Azule, come to me pup!”
Hearing his mother’s howl, Azule abandoned his play and flopped to the ground before bounding home. The raven, laughing at Azule’s ungraceful landing, followed.
Azule came crashing up the slope, still brimming with energy. His wild smile melted her heart, how could anyone want to kill such an adorable bundle of joy.
Shaking off the unpleasant memories, Katja watched as, unable to stop, the pup came crashing into her leg.
“You know, for a wolf that is so light on its feet, you sure are clumsy, pup,” Katja remarked, giving his fur a lick.
The raven cackled, alighting on her back.
“As for you Neve, stop teasing your brother,” She told the bird.
Katja had found the baby bird only days after she had found sanctuary from the clans. After finding the caves, it took her two moons before she believed it safe enough to venture out and hunt. The pup of course had enough sustenance to keep him sated for weeks before it would need the more substantial nutrition of a fresh kill. Unfortunately, Katja was reaching her limit and feared the pup would outlast her, and that would not bode well for the wolfling.
But even as she left the cave she fretted, for she was now a lone wolf and her pup would be alone and vulnerable as she hunted. Necessity, however finally drove her from the cave in search of food, but not before she did the best she could to mask the pup’s presence. The Moon willing, the hunt would be quick. Unfortunately, food seemed to be a scarce luxury in this part of Feilandal, luck however proved to be on Katja’s side.
As she was preparing to give up on food she heard the strange call of a raven’s mimic. Knowing ravens to be the Mother’s messenger she immediately looked to skies. True to form she found one circling above her head. The raven, noticing it had her attention, flew off Katja following close behind. After a time, Katja came across the fresh carcass of a wounded deer. The deer looked to have had an unfortunate accident, but as the rule of the forest dictated, one creature’s misfortune was usually another’s blessing. Grateful for the meal, Katja proceeded to relieve the carcass of its more succulent contents. With the edge of her hunger dulled, Katja began to feel uncomfortable, and then she realized that the whole time she had been gorging herself, the raven had done nothing but watch.
“I thank you for the food, messenger, but I fear its price, for you have refused to share in this meal with me.”
The raven laughed, its feminine voice both soothing and uncomfortable, “I see you are not only daring, wolf, but wise as well,” she paused cocking her head to the side, “I’m glad to see I have chosen well, take care of my baby girl for me Katja.”
Before Katja could think of a response, the raven vanished in a wisp of smoke.
“Okay, that was strange…”
More importantly, how did the raven know of her and…baby girl?!
A rustling pile of leaves near the deer carcass interrupted her musings.
Curiosity beckoning, Katja gently nudged the pile to find the ugliest little thing she had ever laid eyes on. It was basically a fluffless, two-legged rat with a beak, and two stubby appendages that she guessed would turn into wings someday. She almost laughed, till then she’d never known how the beguiling tricksters looked as hatchlings, and considering how much grief they gave wolves over their appearance…she sighed instead, yes it was ugly, but it was also helpless. Even if the raven hadn’t tasked her with its well keeping, for she had no doubt this was the aforementioned ‘baby girl’, she would be hard pressed to ignore the poor thing.
“It is true,” she thought, “I have a weakness for the little ones.”
Sighing once more, she finished her meal, gently picked up the chicklet, and headed home.
Watching her two children fondly, Katja remembered how quickly they had taken to each other. How the very first time the two had met they had formed an immediate connection. The first thing Neve had done when Katja brought her home for the first time was to waddle over to the sleeping Azule, curl up into a ball, and promptly fall asleep. She chuckled at the memory.
Now, Neve was already beginning to grow into her beauty and the ugly thing she had found in the woods that day was nowhere to be seen in her daughter, though her feathers were still duller than her adult counterparts, and Azule was growing at a rapid rate, no longer a ball of fluff barely the size of her paw, he now stood to her underbelly.
“How fast the young ones grow,” she thought, feeling a little sad.
“Okay younglings, front and center.”
While she had been reminiscing, the two had taken it upon themselves to once more resume their play, with Neve tugging on Azule’s tail while the latter attempted to return the favor. They immediately came to attention at their mother’s command.
“Good. I trust the two of you are ready?”
“Ready for what mama?” Two small voices squeak in unison.
She smiled, they really were too adorable.
“It’s time I taught you how to hunt.”