[P] When the devil's on your back.
#1
The darkness was just starting to melt into dawn; his nostrils flared as he raised his head to scent the air. There were animals beginning to stir, rousing from their nightly rest to resume their lives. It was his full intention to end one of those lives before the creature had a chance at another good night's rest.

Marius had shifted into a four-legged form as soon as he was out of the building where he resided. He walked purposefully toward the forest. It was soothing to have no one else really walking out and about so early in the morning. Others seemed to prefer sleeping in until the sunshine woke them. Sometimes he enjoyed that, too, but he also liked being alone in the stillness of the early morning. It was good to balance out his social time with his alone time.

The green-eyed Prova kept his head up and his nostrils occasionally widening then narrowing to catch the scent of prey. So far, nothing had caught his attention; he was sure that would change soon enough.
#2
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Lupus (+446)




She had woken up early per her usual routine. The horses were visited, and the falcon—for, the female had gone missing for a little while now—was seen too and socialized with. Sylvie had given her a challenge to fulfill at the end of the previous day’s training. Teagan’s body buzzed with excitement and eagerness at the thought of it. She had until sundown to accomplish it, but, the young princess was eager as ever to make the most of the hours she had until such time. Using only her Lupus form, she was to bring back something worthy of a meal. To any other, the challenge might have been a simple task. For Teagan though, the Lotta saw it as a test of her abilities to bring her mentor the biggest and hardest thing she could catch.


The Stryder had shifted down into her primitive, four-legged form once her morning chores were finished, and had set out into the forest beyond the fort. So many ideas buffeted her energized mind. Her first thought had been to catch a rabbit, but, they were too easy. Birds were off limits since she had a soft spot for them. That left something more unique to be on the menu. A weasel? No, that was too small. A fisher? Now that would be a catch, but, would it really count as something ‘worthy of a meal?’ Likely not. So…what else was there? A porcupine? A gopher? Deer tasted good, but, she had never tried hunting one before.


Her inner conflict was put on hold as she caught a whiff of a familiar scent. It was her cousin, Marius. What’s he doing up so early? The cream-coated girl almost thought to leave him be, but, some part of her suggested seeking his help. He was older than her, so, perhaps he’d have a few ideas, and maybe a few pointers as well. Teagan wove her way towards the direction of the Damaichu. When her canary eyes finally fell upon his shadowed form, it appeared he was in the midst of something.


Not wanting to spook the older male in the dark, morning hours, Teagan let out a soft chuff to announce her approach if he hadn’t already sensed her. “Marius,” she greeted with a small, slight wag of her tail. She hadn’t interacted with her cousin much, but, he was still a relative none the less. It also didn’t hurt that he was the son of her favorite uncle. “What are you up to so early this morning?” The Lotta came to a stop a few paces from him.




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Teagan Stryder
[Image: kezoZZ68_o.png]

#3
The daytime was slowly creeping further, but nothing had taken him away from a meandering path. Marius was not disappointed. This was life as a wolf, sometimes it didn't fall into your lap. Sometimes it took hours, even, of searching before you found what you wanted. It was something Mari was content to do, because it was the proper way of the wolf. His nose was close to the ground and he felt at peace, focused on what he enjoyed most. He missed doing this more, but his new pack was differently focused. If he was ever going to rise here, it was not going to be with his nose to the ground or a hare in his mouth.

A scent on the wind, but not prey. Wolf. Family. Teagan. The name rose easily in his mind and he bobbed his head to her in greeting when she came into view. Her bloodline was royal, but then so was his when you looked back far enough. No one expected him to pander to her just because she was his Uncle Luca's child. So she was treated as any other would be of her rank. She was still a Lotta, a child growing toward her rank. "Teagan." he replied to her greeting, his tail swaying behind him a few times to show his good feelings toward her. It was always good in his mind to see family.

"I was going hunting. I find early morning is a good time to catch prey before they are really awake." he replied, raising his head to the air and inhaling again. Still nothing that drew his attention particularly. Marius looked back to his cousin. "What're you doing?" the Prova asked in turn.
#4
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(+424)





She was happy to see a welcome reception from her cousin. She had almost been afraid that he might dismiss her or act like she was a nuisance. The male was not exactly known for being overly friendly and outgoing. He was older than she, and, as she had found out, time was precious to the more mature crowd. Being bothered by a young girl, who was still hardly more than a pup, would likely annoy the busier sort. Marius didn’t seem set on getting rid of her as fast as possible though, and for that, Teagan was thankful.


Her ears flickered with interest when the Damaichu explained his purpose for being up so early. He was hunting too? This is perfect! Maybe he would let her tag along and show her some pointers? Even though Teagan had received plenty of hunting lessons since she had graduated to Lotta, it never hurt to learn more. From what she had been told, her Uncle Callum and his family had come from a pack very different from Casa di Cavalieri. Marius was old enough that he probably knew of a technique or two that the more sophisticated knights didn’t use. If she could persuade him to teach her, perhaps the young princess could show off her new skills to her mentor!


When Marius scented the morning wind, the Lotta mimicked him. She was a bit disappointed to find nothing worthwhile on it either though. Maybe they just weren’t far enough away from the fort though… The older boy returned his attention back to her, and the Stryder straightened. A question was made and Teagan shrugged nonchalantly. “Hunting as well. Miss Sylvie gave me a task today to hunt down something ‘worthy of a meal’ in my Lupus form,” she explained with a bit of pride and a puffed up chest.


Her ears fell to her skull and her confidence deflated a bit as she continued though, “I don’t want to get something that’s easy though. I catch rabbits and squirrels the other small game all the time.” She looked her cousin up and down. He looked old enough and big enough that they could go after something much more difficult if they worked together. Teagan’s canary eyes looked up at Marius with a curious but calculating gaze. “Since you’re hunting too…would it be alright if I tagged along?” Her tail wagged softly and lowly behind her, showing respect to his age and higher rank despite them being relatives.




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Teagan Stryder
[Image: kezoZZ68_o.png]

#5
Marius was unaware of a reputation that his dispassionate nature might have formed around him. He was far from unfriendly, he simply didn't have a desire to go around getting to know everyone. Nor did he tend to get excited or particularly social outside of that, even when he was with packmates. Usually it was only around Guinevere that he found his rational side loosening up for the emotional. Though he was like that somewhat with his parents, too; it used to be that his brothers got more emotion from him. He so rarely saw any of them, though.

Teagan mimicked his behavior when he lifted his head and the Prova was glad to see it. Pups that did what their elders did were good. Ones that were distracted and idling off in their own heads didn't succeed in the long run. At least not with the concrete, strong skills that Marius held in high regard.

She was to hunt. Sylvie had told her to hunt. That made sense. Obviously she had a mentor. "Hunting is an important skill." he replied with a nod. "It's one of my personal favorites." it had once been his job. Now, he lived here. Where the hunting job was a co-rank and he had to prioritize other things. Things he liked far less. It was why he hadn't risen as fast as he had wanted. Because he couldn't frame his head from hunter to fighter as quickly as he would have liked.

His cousin was watching him, though. Calculating. Interested. He waited for her to say what she was thinking and it didn't take long. Work together? Her face was curious, her tail wagging and swaying in a friendly way. Marius shrugged. "I don't see why not. More heads are almost always better in a hunt. What do you think would be something that you and I could take down?" he was testing her, curious to see what she would think of as a good option to seek.

If she said elk or something extreme, he might rethink his agreement to work with her.
#6
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(+371)





Her ears flickered at Marius’ statement, and she nodded in agreement. “Mine too! Everything you take from hunting can be applied to fighting and other stuff,” she explained unnecessarily. “And…it keeps everyone alive.” That was perhaps, the most important part of it. If one didn’t know how to hunt, how could they survive? Within a pack setting, it was perhaps no big deal, but, what if one found themselves alone? The pack wouldn’t be able to help them anymore. They would starve, and have no one to blame but themselves!


Marius’ answer was nonchalant, being neither overly eager at the prospect, but also not being disgusted by it. It was better than nothing, and Teagan was happy that her cousin agreed to let her tag along. “Thank you, Marius!” She said with a small smile, wishing to show him her gratitude with his decision. At his question, her tail ceased its friendly motion as her lips formed a thin line. Her canary eyes dropped from his face as she admitted, “I don’t know…I’ve only ever really hunted smaller animals so I can focus on my technique.” She had been doing well, or so she had been told, but that didn’t make up for the fact that she hadn’t been taken out to hunt larger game in a while.


She mulled over the subject for a moment or two before looking back at Marius. “We could go after a small deer maybe?” Her canary eyes were bright with determination. “Uncle Callum took Indi and I out to hunt one of them a few weeks ago.” She left out that Marius’ father had been in his Secui form though, as she felt it was more for the siblings’ protection than it had been for lack of strength.


Teagan stood a little taller as she tried to persuade him. “I’m bigger and stronger now.” She sized her cousin up. “And you’re pretty big too, and are probably really strong, so, I think we could take one on?” There was a pause before she added, “Unless you have an idea of something else we can go after?” What else was there that could be edible?



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Teagan Stryder
[Image: kezoZZ68_o.png]

#7
He was glad to hear that she was a fan of hunting as well, though he could have guessed that she was since she was out there hunting. Then again, hunting was a necessity even for those that didn't like to do it. They all had to eat. "All skills help other skills. Especially feral ones. For instance, a cub playing at wrestling with its sibling. What is it learning?" he asked. It was always interesting to hear what others thought a cub learned from play. Sometimes they had thought of things he hadn't considered. It also helped him feel out the way her mind worked.

So far she was inexperienced in team hunting. That was unsurprising. They usually learned to hunt solo or with one teacher, usually one guiding more than anything. Nothing overly big would work, then. Not that he had thought an elk was within their range, anyway. Perhaps a doe... but even that seemed too large with too much risk to Teagan. He was calculating in his head as he turned to start walking in the direction of good hunting. Marius figured she would follow, as he had already agreed to let her tag along.

Her response was an adequate one. His father had taken her and Indi to hunt them recently? Marius was disappointed he had not been invited, but the disappointment passed quickly. His father could only take so many with him and was teaching the girls; it was hardly as if Mari needed to be there.

"I was thinking along the same lines." he said with quiet approval. "How would you think we should find a small deer or separate one from the larger deer?" a fawn, a smaller doe, a younger buck... there were options. Perhaps.
#8
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(+402)

Sorry if this is kind of disjointed Dx Writing this with distractions everywhere out here!



She hadn’t mingled with her older cousins a lot, so, the whole experience would be one of feeling out where she stood in her social structure with her blood kin. Her relationship with her uncle, Marius’ father, was good, great even. She loved her Uncle Callum. His children and the rest of his family though? Teagan had only interacted with them a handful of times; enough to recognize that they were family, but not so much that she was close with them. Auntie Veyra hung out with her mom a lot. The two boys seemed content to do their own thing though. So, it was nice to interact with one of them without the forced family get-together atmosphere.


Her explanation turned into a lesson, and Teagan was more than eager to participate. Her tail wagged softly behind her and her ears pricked with attention. She knew the answer to this one! “How to fight!” She answered confidently, smacking a paw on the dirt before her. “And how to problem solve!” She wrested with Indi all the time. Teagan knew how to throw her weight around to pin her sister, and her sister’s agile body made it so the Lotta had to calculate when and where to put her paws in order to trip up the more lithe sibling.


When Marius approved of her choice of deer, Teagan’s heart soared. She had been itching to hunt something more prestigious than the average-day prey items, and the Prova was willing to help her do that. She was sure to not let her excitement get the best of her though. She had to be poised, calm, in control; just like her mother. She took a slow breath to calm her excited heart. She had to get into hunt mode.


“Deer don’t like to wander too close to the Fort because it reeks of Luperci, so, we should probably head further out,” she answered, turning her cranium out towards the forest and open grassland that she knew laid beyond it. She thought a bit, her brows knitting together as she tried to think of a good answer to the second half of his question. “Hmmm…maybe scare the herd, and, in the chaos, separate the smaller deer from the rest of its herd?” Her canary gaze sought Marius for his opinion and perhaps more experienced answer to his own question.



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Teagan Stryder
[Image: kezoZZ68_o.png]

#9
He held his friendships back in a way he hadn't before in New Dawn. It was hard to want to get to know members of the pack when he had his initial pack destroyed by a greater force. Of course this was a pack of warriors; they celebrated fighting abilities above all else. It was part of what made it hard to fit in. It was also part of what made it highly unlikely that they would be obliterated as New Dawn had been before it.

His young cousin was enthusiastic about the lesson he was trying to teach about how cubs learned. Fighting. And problem solving. "Good, very good. They are also learning about hierarchy from the natural perspective. The strongest and smartest wins, the weaker or less strategic loses." he explained. "It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses. Let no one exploit the latter and learn how to best overcome them in a circumstance." it was what he held tightest to his chest in regards to strategy. Let no one take your weakness and use it to destroy you.

They were walking and so he didn't look at her. That was preferred for him, anyway. He found it unsettling to stare at others. Even if it was far more commonplace here than it had been back home. In New Dawn, looking someone in the face for more than a second would have felt like an open challenge from one party or the other. The ways of the wolf were less here. It wasn't bad. It wasn't good. He missed how it had been in his birth pack, though.

She was speaking of her experience with deer and how to split one from the herd. There was hesitance. That right away made him question if it was best to take her on this hunt. He frowned slightly as he glanced back at her eager face. Their eyes matched for a moment. "That could work, but it is dangerous. Hooves are not something to play with at all, so if we can avoid the possibility of someone getting stampeded that is best... although depending on your distraction, it could be safe enough." he said with a faint smile that he forced onto his lips to show that he wasn't trying to criticize her, merely to teach. "How would you seek out the prey you wanted to separate? What signs are we looking for?"
#10
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(+485)

Feel free to PP their movement and stuff! <3



Her head cocked slightly to one side as Marius took the answer further, elaborating on what else there was to learn from something as simple as play fighting between pups. She had never considered the lesson he spoke of before, and her eyes moved away in quiet thought as she rolled the idea over in her mind. Hierarchy? Was there a hierarchy to be had between her and her sister? No. Some part of her whispered. Both girls were dominate, and they both won and loss as many bouts as the other. She couldn’t think of one or the other standing taller than the remaining sister, but, perhaps it was because of how close they were to each other. The Stryder wondered if the same could be said about Marius and his siblings.


Marius continued, and to his words of wisdom about strengths and weaknesses, Teagan nodded firmly in agreement. She took the words to heart, liking the confident and uplifting ring they had to them. Let no one exploit her weaknesses. The Lotta would be sure to put the quote in with the other many mantras she had for how she lived and carried on with life. When Marius began to put their hunt into motion, she eagerly trotted along after the older boy so as to not be left behind.


To her inexperience, the Damaichu provided constructive criticism, reminding her that hunting deer had more risks than hunting, say, a rabbit. A rabbit rarely fought back, using its speed and agility to evade its pursuers. Deer, however, were large and carried with them natural weaponry that could be used to defend themselves if backed into a corner. Marius offered her a ghost of a smile, and Teagan shook her head to show that his comment hadn’t dampened her spirit. She could take whatever he had to say! After all, it’d only hamper her learning if everyone coddled her. She was tough! She could take it!


“How would you do it, Marius?” She inquired after him, seeking his experience in the matter. “With only two of us?” Her first thoughts had been to bark or cause an audible racket to scare the fleet-footed beasts. Obviously though, such an act would put the animals into a panic, and their direction could not be guided so easily with just two Luperci on the hunt.


When the lesson had moved to another subject, Teagan took a bit more time to consider her answer to ensure it was the best that she could come up with. “We have to look for the old or the weak. They’ll die soon enough anyways, and, that way, the strong members of the herd live on and reproduce,” she replied, her voice more firm this time around. “They usually lag behind the herd when it moves, or they’ll be limping or otherwise show signs of distress.”




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Teagan Stryder
[Image: kezoZZ68_o.png]

#11
There was much to be learned in any situation. Often it took multiple brains processing it to really absorb it all. Wolves of different types. He assessed a different way than she did, each of them processed it differently than their parents, and so on. It was why it was important to have multiple animals in a group instead of being loners. Willing loners still baffled him. Why would one want to be alone and processing the information by themselves? Without a group to protect and spend time with them? Marius was not overly social in a chatty sense, but he needed the connection nonetheless.

She was a tough girl and he saw that in her reaction. Teagan wanted to be seen as a brave, capable wolf. Not as a child. No one ever wanted to be viewed as a child, it seemed. Which was problematic because some of them were children. Teagan was growing, though, and slowly becoming an adult. Which was really the only reason he was allowing her to hunt with him anyway. It wasn't like he would have let a pup go after deer with him.

"With two?" he considered. It wasn't the best number. He preferred three at least. It wasn't impossible, though. "First, I would make the expectation that we are going to fail but learn from the experience. Because the likelihood of success is lower with two than any other number. Except one, naturally." there was actually a point where more was worse. Four was about the perfect amount in his experience. The exact same amount of wolves in hi slitter.

"I would suggest one lie in ambush if possible in an area where the other wolf is likely to guide the deer. Run at the deer, scare them hopefully in the correct direction. The ambusher can leap up when the selected prey is near or earlier if they determine that they will not just go the direction they're being guided. It also depends on the prey. If there are more weak deer, it's much easier. More options."

He nodded. "Good thoughts on how to spot the best options. We have to be good caretakers of our herds or they'd die off. Not to mention the risks to our bodies if we go after the more able bodied members." he remarked.

Mari lifted his head and paused, flicking his tail slightly. "Do you smell that?" blood was in the air.
#12
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(+411)

Feel free to PP them moving to the animal/herd!



She nodded wordlessly when Marius rhetorically clarified the question. When he began, her ears fell a bit. He expected them to fail? She’d thought he’d give some awe-inspiring answer, some neat trick that would turn the odds into their favor not…not his blunt, damning verdict. Teagan supposed he was right though. At the very least, they’d learn from the experience, and she’d get some practice at a mock group hunt. She continued to pad along after her cousin, hoping that, by some off chance, they might succeed despite their odds.


Marius went on to explain how he would have done the hunt. The Stryder nodded at intervals, mulling over his words and trying to play the scenario in her head. An ambush? She liked that idea. Having the element of surprise was always a good thing to have. If they did it right, the deer wouldn’t have any time to react, and it’d be an easy kill for them. Plus, by doing it ambush style, they wouldn’t have to expend too much energy running around trying to catch and course the deer. Only one individual would have to do that, and with the other in reserve, their fresh strength would heighten their odds of victory.


“Let’s go with your idea,” Teagan suggested, nodding to his larger body, “I’ll do the chasing and you can do the catching since you’re stronger than me?” There was no doubt in her mind about their differences in strength. She was still a child when compared to him, her body still lanky and thin when compared to a matured adult’s, no matter how young he was for being one. He’d have the power they’d need to bring down the deer.


The Lotta prided herself a bit to receive good marks for her answer. She was sure to not let it get to her head though, doing well to carefully listen as Marius continued his impromptu hunting lesson for the girl. Suddenly, the Prova’s head lifted. As soon as the question left his mouth, Teagan smelt it too. “Blood,” she answered, taking a few more sniffs as she stepped forward. “Maybe we’ll have some luck today after all,” she mused with a smirk to the older boy. If their quarry was already hurt, it would increase the odds of the two of them being able to successfully take it down.



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Teagan Stryder
[Image: kezoZZ68_o.png]

#13
He was realistic. Not in the dumps sad pessimist, not shining smiling happy optimist; a balance. At least he liked to believe he saw the world clearly for the most part and that was the reason for the way he observed things. Reassuring his cousin that they could succeed or that they would do well would have been out of character for him. It was truth that they would likely fail. But great successes came from potential failures, so there was that.

They were going to hunt together. He wondered if it would be a good bonding experience with a cousin he scarcely knew. Her bright, eager face made him think they wouldn't get along when she was grown. Though Munroe was more eager, happier than him as a general rule. No one seemed to judge him for being more withdrawn or introspective. At least not to his face. Not his family. They had always taken him in with open arms. The pack itself had taken them all in with open, willing arms.

Marius tuned out his internal thoughts to focus on Teagan as she spoke. He nodded to her decisions. "Good." was what he said, no need to expand further. They were focused on finding the deer first, of course. Hopefully it would be located somewhere that they could actually hunt it as they planned. Terrain played a large part in the hunt.

Blood, though, was a great sign and easy to follow. He lowered his body and crept toward the smell, moving as quietly as he could through the land that had become almost as familiar as his birth pack's land. There was a doe standing, one leg lifted delicately from the ground. Her head was lowered to eat, blood marking the wound that had left her there without her full stance. It was good that she was wounded. Better chance.

He glanced at his cousin; ready?, he tried to silently ask, before he would head around to ambush the deer.
#14
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(+513)


Sorry for the crazy long wait >___< I was trying to finish training threads, but, this has waited for too long to push it back any longer!


He seemed satisfied with her final decision on how to progress with their situation. However, his stoic demeanor made her cousin hard to read on whether he actually thought well of her plan or whether he was simply agreeing with the facts and her ability to acknowledge them. Not a muscle on his face moved unchecked. He was poised, controlled. Someday, she hoped she could have as much discipline as Marius had. It kept others on their toes, and made assumption-making nearly impossible to do.


For now, she would take what small cues she could. The Lotta took on a similar stance as the older boy committed to their hunt by dropping into a hunter’s stalk. Teagan did her best to keep her paws as silent as possible, just like her mother had shown her. One wrong step, and one’s target would be alerted to their approach, and their sneaky attack would have been for naught. Practicing on the expert huntress was rewarding as it was difficult. Her father was easier to ambush, though, sometimes, she got the sneaking suspicion that he let her win on purpose…


It wasn’t long until they finally came upon the origin of the metallic scent. The deer, a doe, hung along the outer edges of the small herd that fed in the area. It was injured in one of its hind limbs, which would make prancing and bounding like deer normally did very difficult for the doe in the predators’ sights. As well, it made bucking or rearing a hard feat to perform as well. It was as perfect as they could get with just the two of them.


Teagan’s canary eyes moved to her larger cousin, finding him asking her a wordless question with his steady gaze. She nodded once, and then let him move into place. Once she saw where he had settled in wait, Teagan moved to the most ideal position she could find that would guide the injured deer towards Marius. Once she made sure the Prova was ready, she lunged into action.


The wolfdog let out a threatening and booming bark as she broke her cover. Her teeth were bared and hackles were bristled to make her seem imposing enough that they would flee in fright rather than in simple routine. The doe limped after its companions, but, the Stryder was quick to move and cut it off, snapping and snarling at its injured side. The scent of panic and fear wafted the area as the injured animal dove away from the cream-coated Luperci, desperate to live, but so overcome with the desire to flee that it didn’t realize it was being shepherded along a particular path.


None of the herd came back to save their companion in their fright, and, injured and without the safety of the herd, the doe was as good as dead. Teagan drove the doe straight into Marius’ hiding space, and the young girl only hoped his strength had enough stopping power to prevent the doe from escaping the area.




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Teagan Stryder
[Image: kezoZZ68_o.png]

#15
<33333 no worries! I was kinda slow back oops. XD

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Marius didn't intend to look cool or collected. He merely wasn't particularly expressive. If he had thought her idea didn't hold merit or that he wanted to attempt a different way, he would've said so. The male never lingered on what others thought or perceived about his responses. If they wanted to know more, generally, they had to ask. Otherwise he was just going to tell them what he considered important, then move on to the next thing. In this case, the actual hunt.

Their plan was in motion. She had a good stalking stride. It didn't surprise him too much. They were proficient here with their ways. Although hunting was not emphasized, all wolves needed to hunt to survive. These were skills a cub began learning when they first started moving around. Even before their eyes were open, they were moving on top of each other to get to the best nursing spot. Stealth wasn't usually learned then, but the beginning of wolf skills, the more feral parts of their nature began then.

He thought about this briefly but let it go when he had to focus fully on the hunt itself. It was easy for him to lose himself in this, it was his favorite thing to do. The older wolfdog moved into position and settled, his heart beating a bit faster as he watched. Would she succeed in their plan? Would she send the right deer toward him? All he could do was wait and have faith. The one downside of hunting with others.

Teagan shifted from gentle cousin to angry predator quickly. She snapped and drove the animal toward him. Of course the rest of the herd ran. They were not interested in dying to protect the injured doe. Though sometimes in certain seasons, a more protective stag might come to the defense of a mate, it wasn't common. At least not in his experience.

As luck or fate or skill would have it, the doe ran toward him. He let it almost get past him, then leaped so that he landed on its bad side and grabbed at its neck. It fell, as any creature would when its momentum was thrown off. That was all the wolves would need to take hold and keep it from getting up again.


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