Raj lifted his nose to the air, the black bulge twitching and his nostrils flaring aggressively. The cool air mixed with the hot breath that wafted from his nose, creating a soft, white puff to curl from his exhaling nostrils. A quiet bark was released from his slack jaw as he watched the clear sky. Slate grey eyes peered at the curled forms around him, their backs rising and falling slowly and evenly- a deep sleep engulfing their prone forms. "Good," he thought, pink tongue sliding over his lips.
An answering call echoed from the skies, and Raj's eyes flicked back up to the soft, orange-tinged sky. A black dot circled overhead, gradually becoming larger and taking the shape of a raven. The wolf's ears perked and flicked forward as he forced himself onto his spindly hind legs, only to drop down a moment after. The raven fluttered onto the snow covered ground before him, its black eyes glinting in the dim morning light.
"Raj," the raven crowed, though the sound was thoughtfully soft. Its wings fluttered gently against its form as it settled its feathers.
"Nunka," Raj greeted. He dipped his head to nudge the raven's side lightly, earning him a soft peck on his cheek. "What news do you bring?"
"Straight to the chase, I see. You waste no time." Nunka stretched his left wing out to indicate the sleeping forms, some covered in a light layer of snow. "Are you sure it's wise to speak of such things in earshot of unwelcome company?"
Raj merely lifted his shoulders in a poor excuse of a shrug. "Their knowledge of our affairs mean little. They will hinder us none."
Nunka seemed to pause, and his little brows furrowed slightly before he dropped the snide comment burning at the tip of his tongue. "If you have no concern for their presence then I assume it is nothing for me to worry about. Now, on to more pressing matters."
"Yes," Raj needlessly cuts in. "Tell me of the tigress." He caught the uneasy look Nunka threw his way and merely twisted his lips into a slow grin.
Nunka clicked his beak together before bringing his wings in front of him as if lacing nonexistent fingers together. "She's young. Can't be anything but newly turned and thrown into The Pit. Poor girl can't even control The Change."
Raj made a noise that sounded something like a purr, if a wolf could even make such a noise. "Has she established territory yet? A den, at least?"
Nunka shook his head. "No, nothing of the sort. She sleeps in the open, though she remains a beast during the nights. The days, however, she loses the control and often switches back and forth. It causes her obvious and great distress."
Raj hummed as he drank in the information. "And what of the packs in the north?"
At this, Nunka's chest puffs. "Discord, chaos. The alpha of Haajin Peaks was slaughtered by his own daughter. She's now on trial, though I hear that the jury has already pre-sentenced her to death by poison. An injection of silver and a mixture of wolfsbane powder to be fed by mouth or inhaled."
"Haajin Peaks," Raj murmured. His gazed swept over the sleeping forms, landing on the trio nestled in the center of the group. "The triplets should be able to secure the territory easily."
Nunka shrugged. "Kyra's aggressiveness will likely scare the beasts into submission. Flokai's intelligence and silver tongue would easily woo them into our favor. Though I'm not sure of Azengo's purpose."
"Azengo will be useful in keeping the other two from going into a power trip. He's their anchor, the voice of reason. He'll make sure they don't cross me." Raj's gaze burned into the three sleeping forms until he adjusted his attention back to the raven. "And the others?"
"The Haviin and Fodressa packs are readying for war. Though the reason is pitiful, in my opinion. The alpha of Haviin Valley fucked the Fodressa Plains' mate under the guise of a concubine. Why she wanted to be mounted by him is beyond my comprehension, but she now shows signs of the seed taking."
Raj chuckled. "They're sisters, the alphas. Amasé always wanted what she couldn't have, and now she pays for it by going to war with Serviti. Amasé's pack is small and the structure is unsteady. Loyalties aren't as thick as they should be to their alpha, and so she will suffer greatly with the upcoming bloodbath her sister will wrought in the wake of her actions. We will take what Serviti will not."
Nunka clicked his beak together. "Will that not spread your pack too thin? Those territories you plan on acquiring are far to the north, and yet you are in the deepest ends of the south."
Raj rolled his shoulders. "With the triplets securing Hajiin Peaks, we will have both that territory and the beasts within. Since we border that territory now, we'll simply meld together to form one big mass. Therefore there will be no problem with spreading ourselves too thin." The brute eyed Nunka until the raven soaked in and processed the information, his little head soon nodding in comprehension. Satisfied, Raj continued, "I will send Shio and Chryven to Haviin Valley to negotiate with Serviti."
Nunka ruffled his feathers and eyed the two wolves closest to the edge of the clearing. He spoke, not meeting Raj's gaze. "You are very ambitious, aren't you, my friend?"
Raj chuckled, his smile drawing his lips up to reveal his yellowing canines. "What else is there to do here? We have been ripped away from our families and injected with a beast's blood only to be thrown into The Pit because we are too different to return to our regular lives. Territory is all we have here- all we have to entertain ourselves with here. And I want to control all of it."
"There is always plotting our escape," Nunka mused, bringing his right wing up to swipe across his face.
Raj laughed at that, loud enough to stir a few of the prone bodies mere feet away. "Once you enter The Pit, there's no escaping, Nunka. You, of all people, should know." The statement came out a biting retort, and Raj was pleased when he saw the wince that flashed across the raven's face.
"I was stupid and newly turned at the time," Nunka squawked, his wings snapping outwards as he prepared himself to take flight. "I thought that it would have been easy to escape, that there would be nothing to hinder my departure."
"And you were met with collared beasts who were mere bitches at our captors' disposal. Beasts who, if they weren't collared, would have killed any who tried to cross the border and render their bodies into nothing more but piles of shredded meat and partially eaten innards."
Nunka made a low hissing cry, flapping his wings enough to boost him into the air. "Yes," he admitted, head dipping to acknowledge Raj's morbid- yet true- point. "But that was only with one beast trying to escape and my form is far from intimidating nor is it challenging to subdue, beast or no. Imagine the possibilities of the whole of The Pit gathering to escape, however. The Collars cannot subdue that many beasts, no matter how frenzied they become."
"Are you suggesting an uprising, Nunka," Raj's head tilted slightly in question, eyes glinting in the morning light.
"What else is there to do here, my friend," Nunka chuckled, repeating Raj's earlier question. "Territory isn't the only thing to entertain us. Our freedom can be as easily attained as the land which you seek so avidly."
Raj made a sound close to a disgruntled "humph", and Nunka outright laughed. "I'll think about it," Raj relented, scoffing as a delighted trill came from the raven above. "Though I make no promises. Do not hinge your hope on me."
"Hinge my hope on a power hungry, demented, poorly built wolf beast? I'd have better luck depending on a felled tree." Nunka said in jest.
Raj snarled, though it held no heat behind it, and snapped playfully at the air beneath the raven. "Leave. The pack wakes."
"As you wish. Shall I return the same time next week?"
"Whatever tickles your fancy," Raj allowed, head swinging to watch the stirring forms. "I expect news from the northern packs upon your return."
"Of course. Do you still wish for me to watch over the tigress?" Nunka was steadily rising in the air, his voice growing louder so that he could be heard below.
Raj pursed his lips. "Yes, keep an eye on her. If she learns how to control The Change, her presence will be valuable to me, as will her partnership."
"How are you so sure she will agree to the terms you put forth? She is a tiger, after all. Stubborn and solitary, they are. Not to mention you are both on very different spectrums- you, a dog. She, a cat."
"You said she was young, did you not? The young can be manipulated easily, especially after being thrown in The Pit. They seek companionship and someone to trust, even if their beast is meant to be solitary. She will comply."
"Your overconfidence is both a bane and a boon, Raj," Nunka said, his voice now small since he'd risen far above the trees. "I will return in a week's time. Until then!"
And with that, Raj lost sight of his feathered friend.