A cool breeze slid through the forest as the sun set on another quiet summer day. The dimming skyline brought Grayback to his feet, stretching and yawning as he prepared to patrol his territory. Seeing her father stand Stormdancer trotted over to his side, waiting for him to take the lead. She had become his shadow on the nightly routine, learning the rounds and becoming familiar with the land she would soon be free to roam. She and her brothers awaited their chance to prove themselves as valuable members of the pack, and until then they were limited in their range. She was given special concession when on patrol, her father welcoming the company and another keen set of eyes.
Her brother, Cinderscar, watched Stormdancer fall in alongside their father and silently resented her. At first he had tried to join them, but after only a few outings Grayback had forced him to stay behind, having been unable to keep up and delaying the journey. As he watched them walk away he licked at the jagged white line along his side, a habit that seemed to sooth his nerves if nothing else. The scar rarely bothered him, but still he administered to it as if it were a fresh wound. What had caused the scar was a vague memory, negatively attached to his father and a sense of abandonment. His feelings soothed for the time being Cinderscar slipped quietly out of the den site. He wasnít supposed to be out alone but had managed to get away with it for several weeks now. His dark colouring blended with the twilight, and with Fieldspirit still huddled in the den with the newborns he wasnít missed. He had been denied the opportunity to be at his fatherís side, but that didnít mean he wasnít learning.
There was still a lot of damage caused by the fire from last autumn, the lingering winter having stunted the regrowth until late into the spring. Cinderscar roamed this area, knowing that his parents wouldnít be quick to look for him there, if they looked at all. He had found their old den site along the riverbank and made it his own, visiting it often. The beavers hadnít yet returned to tend to the charred dam downstream and it had begun to break away, speeding up the current as the water was given more room to move. The river provided fish, which he had become skilled at catching, and at least the rodents had found there way back to give him game to hunt. He would stay if he knew he could get away with it, but sooner or later his sire would track him down and he knew he couldnít face the discipline that would bring.
Making it back in was easier than sneaking away. Graybackís route never wavered and he and Stormdancer would be gone several hours, longer if they ran into trouble. Circling the area a few times allowed him to come from behind the escarpment, strolling casually as if only gone for a few minutes. He nosed his way into the den, seeing his siblings nestled in asleep. He longed to curl up with them, but instead huddled alone, not wanting to disturb them and draw attention to himself. Stormdancer slipped in through the opening some time later, followed by Grayback. Right on time. As usual they were winded from racing back, Grayback easily winning but keeping it close to encourage his daughter. They either didnít notice or chose to ignore him as they joined the rest of the pack, curling up wherever they could find room and falling asleep quickly.