Walking along the wooden platform the sounds of woodwork met my ears before I even reached the armory. You would often hear these kinds of sounds travel through the village, the workspace being the louder quadrant.
Climbing up to one of the higher platforms, I looked into the workshop, one of the armors on display catching my eye. Walking over, I ran a paw along the material. The stitching of leaves bumpy under my pads, before it moved along to the rougher plating.
Reaching up, I removed the headpiece running a claw along the shell, small shivers running down my spine. Putting it on, I grumbled as my vision went dark the helmet having to be pushed up to sit right. It was too big for me.
“And what do you think you're doing with that?” A voice asked behind me, paws meeting wood as they walked up to me, the rhythm slightly uneven.
Turning, I tipped the helmet again. “Just trying out the new design.”
Laughing, the older rat nodded, his whiskers twitching. “I see.”
Paws on my hips, standing tall, I puffed out my chest ears held high. “So? What do you think?”
“Hmmm, well I think it may be a bit big.” He sat back on his hind legs, paw tapping his chin.
“Ignore that uncle.” I waved a paw at him. “Take in the whole picture.”
Giving a small nod, ears curled back, he gave me a good look over, humming slightly to himself as if deep in thought, eyes roaming over me. “Well, Alister, it's hard to see the picture you're talking about.” He said after some time, making a box motion with his paws. “The armor, it's too big, and you're still too small. Ahhh, sorry young one but I just can't see it.”
Ears flopping back, I nodded, disappointment settling in, it wasn't like he was wrong thought. Pouting, I looked down, picking a loose strand in my tunic.
Reaching forward, he plucked the helmet from my head. “You still need time and training before you can get your own set.” Smiling he ruffled my ears. “But..” Placing the armor back he glanced at me. “I believe it shouldn't be long now.”
Swatting his paw away, I grumbled. “Father hasn't given you orders yet, has he?”
Pausing, my uncle shook his head. “I'm afraid not, Alister. You're still young, too young.”
Dark eyes looking back at me, we both glanced down at his leg. The fur had never grown in like it used to. Though the healers had said it was normal, but to never expect him to walk the same again.
Quickly averting my gaze I turned away, picking at the fur on my arm, flicking the strands that would come loose, watching as they fell to the floor many levels below. Would I ever be a great warrior? Someone that others would follow into battle? There were expectations to live up to...
I jumped when I felt larger paws wrap around my own, pulling me from my thoughts. Looking up, I saw Ryan standing before me, a somber look clouding his face, the gray fur only making him look older than he was, perhaps that was the scares doing?
“Walk with me, Alister.” He said softly, nodding his head towards a platform that looked out over the village.
Getting to my paws, I followed after him my gaze flicking to his right leg, you were more likely to notice the hobble when walking behind him. I had asked if it was painful but he always said it didn't bother him. I know he goes to the healers for herbs every few days though.
Sitting next to my uncle tail curling around my feet I looked over at him, scanning his expression, but he still had the same look as before. Ears falling back, nose twitching, I glanced towards the armory then back to Ryan.
“Alister.” Ryan started, breaking the silence, the sun reflecting off of his face. “Tell me what you see?” He asked, nodding towards the distance.
“Past the glade?” I asked, frowning. What was he getting at?
“Well....” I trailed off, eyes scanning my surroundings. “I guess my home...”
“Safety, community...but...” I trailed off, eyes moving from the village below towards the outskirts, black silhouettes painted against the clear blue backdrop.
“There is also a hint of mystery.” Ryan finished, following my gaze. “A wonder, just out of reach.” He smiled, small wrinkles forming at the edge of his eyes.
Eyes wide, I looked up at him, astonished. “How?”
Ryan chuckled, glancing down at me. “You wouldn't be the first to have these curiosities.” Curling his tail around his paws, he looked towards the distant forest rich greens fading off into a sun-dappled horizon. “I too wanted to venture out when I was a young pup, wasn't much older than you are now.”
“Did you?” I asked moving forward a little, ears pricked eager to hear everything.
Ryan shook his head. “No, I came close though.”
“Why didn't you?” I cocked my head, confused, a slight frown covering my face.
Ryan shrugged, “Let's say my curiosity didn't outweigh the fear of not knowing what larked beyond.” He let out a small sigh, turning towards me. “I learned to enjoy my simple life, where it's safe and you can rely on those older than you.”
“Oh...” I huffed, scowling at the sky.
Taking my paws again in his own, my uncle gave them a soft squeeze, a gentle warmth seen in his eyes. “Try not to grow up too fast, Alister. You're still young, enjoy the life you have before it's too late.”
Staring back at Ryan, his words going around in my head, I gave a small nod.
“That's a good lad.” Ryan smiled before licking the top of my head. “And before you know it, you'll be joining me in the patrol group wearing your own set of armor.” He pointed to the armory. “Now come, I have a small errand for you to do for me. If you are up to it?”
I nodded, knowing how hard it was for him to get around in his state. Why he continued patrolling was something I always wondered about, but never asked feeling it wasn't my place to question his role in the pack.
Getting to his paws, Ryan led me to the workshop into one of the back rooms, shelves lining the wooden walls. Slowing my pace I took a moment to look over the items, stones, wood, and a few nut shells.
Pushing some vines aside, Ryan walked into one of the back rooms, his tail fading into the darkness after him, mumbling following shortly afterward. Edging closer, I could hear rustling from within the room but didn't go in, not sure if I was allowed, and from what I could make out where I stood it was mostly dark in there anyway.
“Aha! Here it is!” Came Ryan's voice before he walked out of the room, a woven basket clutched within his paws small silver items neatly stacked within. “I would like you to take these to Zerkar Griffen.”
Taking the basket from my Uncle I looked inside, all too familiar with these kinds of items. It wasn't often you would find them within the glade, but I would come across one or two by the river on a few occasions.
“Looks like you've been stocking up.” I mused, looking up at Ryan, before tapping one of the stone-like pieces with my claw.
“I wish.” Ryan sighed. “But these kinds of things are becoming more frequent as of late. Found these on our last patrol.”
“Oh...” I frowned wondering what could be causing these things to show up so often. “Do you think it could be that winter is coming?” I asked.
My uncle shrugged. “I wish I had all the answers, Alister. Your Father has sent word of it, but we've been yet to hear anything back.” He gave me a reassuring smile before bumping his nose with mine. “Now, can't keep Zerkar waiting, I told him yesterday I would have these items to him by midday.”
I sent Ryan a look after observing the sun's position. I didn't get the chance to say anything before Ryan continued, grabbing me by the shoulders and turning me in the direction of the lab.
“Now you best be off, I'm sure he will be pleased with your visit!” Ryan said giving me a light push, before heading back into the armory barking orders at a few other rats.
Grumbling, I rolled my eyes. I was sure Zerkar would be anything but pleased to see me. I was sure he rather the items be a day late and delivered by an adult, than on time and a pup showing up.
Huffing I made the long trek to the old rats tree, to a degree I didn't mind helping my uncle. Couldn't expect him to make the delivery himself without lots of herbs for the pain...
“Maybe I should get him some?” I pondered walking past the healers, wood creaking under my feet as the bridge rocked slightly. “Maybe on the way back,” I mumbled continuing on my way.
It wasn't long until I reached the old rat's tree, the air holding a cold chill to it. Looking around, I could make out one of two rats walking past the entrance to the lab but other than that it was barren, you would think it was abandoned.
I snorted. You would think it was with just Zerkar living in the tree, and even then he didn't show up for most occasions, but even then he wouldn't stay longer than he had to. Oliver often joked we should send rats to check if he was dead with long sticks so we wouldn't have to touch him.
Of course, they never dared. Zerkar's stories always leaving a lasting impression, he could be unpredictable sometimes. I shivered, looking down at the items within the basket.
I let out a long sigh I pushed past the vines that lined the labs entrance. “Might as well make this quick.”