In the thicket of spruce trees, sleek black shadows flashed like frantic swimming fish. They were wolves of the Akatani Pack of the Red Valley, being chased by the invading neighbor Blackspirit Pack; so they headed to the only place that they could, back home to their encampment. Their camp was down a large, circular dip in the earth, though not too deep, and it was surrounded by trees and bushes at the top of the slope.
Once the fearful wolves were in the camp, the others were notified by the strong scent of terror carried by the wind off the bristled pelts of the returning members. “Alpha Benitsuki!” the patrol’s leader cried.
Scrambling to his paws, the Akatani alpha male rushed up to the chase-worn wolves that he had sent out on a territory patrol earlier. s“What happened?” he demanded with panic.
“We were attacked,” the patrol leader named Crag answered panting, his eyes ablaze in shock. “Korax... he’s... he’s dead!”
A ripple of gasps arose from the pack, and murmurs began among everyone. The alpha was silent at first, dealing with the surprise of hearing such a thing, but he got a hold of himself and bared his teeth angrily. “Who would have done such a thing?” he snarled.
No one had any time to answer his query before a chilling voice rang out over the ravine. “Disturbed by the slaughter of your people, Benitsuki?” said a large, scarred black wolf with flaming amber eyes. Everyone looked up on the hill to see him standing upon a rock with a nearly countless amount of wolves behind him.
Benitsuki stepped forward until he was in between Shadowfang’s pack and his own. “Shadowfang,” he flattened his ears, rage clinging to the very tips of his dark crimson fur, “why have you and your soldiers come here?”
Shadowfang, the Blackspirit Pack alpha, licked his chops bloodthirstily. “Should it surprise you, old man? The Blackspirit Pack suffered with weak leadership under my father, we’re all starving and we need more territory to hunt.”
“So you intend to take our land from us?” the Akatani alpha spat, his lips drawn back in a menacing growl. “You think the slaughtering of one soldier will make us run away with our tails between our legs?”
“Oh yes, I remember! That one fool who tried to take us on headfirst,” the black male said mockingly. Turning his head toward one of his own wolves, he said something inaudible. A moment later, the bloodied body of Korax was tossed by the neck into the air and came crashing down behind Benitsuki, dripping in scarlet. His eyes which were usually filled with cheeriness were now blurred with a white cloud. His fur was so bloodied that the original color could not even be deciphered. “You bastard!” a white she-wolf screeched through streams of tears as she raced up to her dead son. “You took my son!”
Howls of grief came from the pack, as did screams of emotional pain and terror. Benitsuki said nothing but glared up at the shady black alpha with calm indignation, not scared by his coward’s attempt at intimidating them.
Shadowfang stood tall and raised his head to address all of the Akatani Pack, not just the alpha below him. “Let this soldier’s death be to you an example,” he called with a warning tone in his voice, “an example of what my pack will do to you if you refuse to leave your territory tonight. We are taking this camp and this forest for ourselves, from the Darkleaf River to the Blackspirit Mountains.”
“You can’t! The forest belongs to the Akatani Pack!”
Benitsuki dropped into a fighter’s stance. “You want to take our land? I dare you to try. Your flea-bitten, half-starved soldiers will not stand a chance against us.”
Lashing his tail to and fro, Shadowfang bared his sharp incisors. “That’s pitiful. We were going to let you leave without any further bloodshed tonight, but so be it! It’s your loss, Benitsuki.”
The Akatani Pack soldiers braced themselves for battle, tensing up. Would they really be able to handle it? Though some doubted, all of them stood by their brave alpha and were willing to fight to the death, to protect their pack and their family and friends. Benitsuki waited for the soon coming moment when the Blackspirit soldiers would be ordered to put their home under siege.
“ATTACK!” the black alpha roared monstrously, his voice rumbling like thunder.
As the enemy soldiers streamed into the camp, the Akatani alpha raised his muzzle to the sky and let out a battle cry, signaling for his soldiers to defend immediately. The fight ensued; wolves ripped skin and fur with their dangerous teeth, and life giving blood was spilled. The normally calm and happy soldiers of Akatani now appeared as monsters covered in gore, but they did so to save their families.
Meanwhile as the packs collided in heated battle, there was a soldier who was absent. His name was Ruko, the son of Akatsuki, the son of the alpha Benitsuki. He should have been defending his home, but instead he chose not to for a very good reason, or at least in his eyes. Slipping away from everyone without being detected, the pale-and-red male scrambled his way into the Birth Den to find his mate. “Amaranth?” Ruko called frantically, scanning around for signs of her body in the darkness. Smelling her nearby, he was relieved when he heard her voice call to him.
“Ruko! Are you alright, my love?” the beautiful gray she-wolf asked, her voice showing that she was clearly distressed by all that she had heard outside.
Her mate raced up to her and gave her a few affectionate licks on the nose. “Yes, I am fine,” he spoke calmly, trying to keep her from freaking out, “but we must go to safety with our pups. I do not want to risk you and them staying here.”
Ruko and Amaranth had three puppies; a dark red female, a dark gray male and a fire red male with dark gray markings and white underfur. The sand colored male picked one of them up, forcing it to stop nursing which made it sadly whine. Their mother stood up, carefully dislodging the other two pups from suckling, and she carried two in her mouth. With that, the parents scurried to the back of the den and clawed their way through a small hole in the cave wall, thus escaping through a secret tunnel in the earth. It led to a fox burrow, which was luckily empty at just the right time.
Out the exit they went, running through the trees with all the speed that their legs could muster up. Their bodies tore across the leafy ground of the spruce woods, the wind hitting their faces and coursing through their soft fur. Once at the edge of their territory, the Darkfang River had to be crossed and where Ruko had led his family there existed some easy stepping stones. “I’ll cross first, Amaranth,” the brave father said, nuzzling her shoulder. His voice was slightly muffled by the fact that he was holding one of his pups by the nape of the neck in his mouth.
“Be careful!” the light gray she-wolf’s eyes widened in worry. The pups began squirming and letting out loud cries, desperate for the warmth of the Birth Den. The scent of mother’s milk was still in the air, and their bellies craved it.
Once the stepping stones had been passed over by Ruko, he gestured with his red tail to indicate that it was safe to cross; so Amaranth cautiously did as he said and met him with a warm look when she made it to the other bank.
They were now out of Akatani land but as they were about to head away from everything they’d ever known for a chance at ensured safety, a scent came to Ruko’s nostrils. Bristling his fur, he turned his head back to the forest that they had just abandoned. Narrowing his eyes, he drew in the scent a few more times, and tried his best to identify it... a wolf from the Blackspirit Pack!
Amaranth stuck close to him anxiously. “What’s wrong, Ruko?”
Before the soldier had even a second to reply, a white wolf shot out of the bushes and crossed the river at full speed, hurling itself at Ruko. The opponent had a light gray back, tail and ears, and its eyes were light purple.
Ruko tossed the pup he was carrying at its mother before he was pinned to the ground. The wolf’s mouth was already dripping with scarlet rivulets of blood. He unsheathed his claws as he went for a throat strike, apparently intent on killing. However, Ruko was too well-trained to be brought down by a simple technique such as that and used the power in his back legs to forcefully kick the white-and-gray fighter off of him. “Amaranth, run! Take our pups and get out of here!”
The enemy growled threateningly, getting back up to his paws, recovering quickly from Ruko’s kick. “You’re not going anywhere except to Hell, by Shadowfang’s orders!” With that being said, another wolf appeared from the bushes in back of the family. He was a dark blue-gray wolf with green eyes, and Ruko recognized him with gladness immediately. It was his brother Nami. The white wolf that was attacking them rotated his ears, giving off a slight signal that he was now intimidated by the fact that he had three wolves against him now.
Ruko kept his eyes fixed on the assailant, teeth bared, but addressed his litter-mate. “I’m glad your here, Nami. I don’t care how you found us, but we could really use the help.”
Nami said nothing in return, but he smirked and lashed his tail, shooting a glance at the fiery furred puppy that lay on the ground by its mother’s paws. Picking it up, ignoring its tiny squeaks, it appeared as though he was going to aid in carrying it—until he caught the eyes of the Blackspirit soldier. “Here, Viper,” he said. “Catch!”
Just like that he became a traitor. Nami tossed the puppy through the air over to the white wolf named Viper, and its poor little body was caught in the killer’s mouth. “So you finally decided to side with us, Nami. Good choice.”
“Nami...” Ruko gasped lightly. How could that have just happened? Did his brother really just do that? He chose to deal with it later. Snarling, he whipped around and went to attack his blue-gray brother, but was stopped by Amaranth’s screams of horror. Their pup was being dangled over the rushing river!
Viper laughed scornfully, clearly enjoying the sick act that he was committing. “You fools! You give us any more trouble and we will not spare your pups. The Blackspirit Pack will make them our soldiers, for Shadowfang has ordered that all newborn pups be brought alive.”
Warm tears welled in Amaranth’s eyes as she looked to her mate. “There must be something we can do! We can’t let our children be raised to become like these beasts!” she exclaimed, her two puppies petrified.
Ruko was trembling with fury; if he wanted to, he could easily slay both of these wolves single-handed, but because the lives of his pups would be jeopardized if he tried anything from this point forward, he knew that nothing could be done to save them from that horrible life that was to be thrown upon them. “Viper, please... I don’t know you, but I’m begging as a wolf to a wolf—please make an exception for our family.”
Now Viper was not as disgusting as Shadowfang, but he certainly was a cold-blooded murderer and loved to torture his victims. Having thoughtlessly slain Korax, he would have to enjoy it. “Well,” the purple eyed male began with a sly smirk on his lips, still teasingly swinging their puppy above the wild flowing river. “I suppose I could make an exception, on one condition.”
“What might that be?” Ruko flattened his ears nervously, wincing at the thought of what it might be.
“I will let you all go so long as you let me kill one of your pups. Only one! Then you can go on like before, far away from here.”
No! Ruko’s mouth dropped in dismay, and even though he wanted to get words out, he found that he was unable to. Amaranth growled, being filled with sudden bravery, but was secured to the ground by Nami who took both of the newborns in his mouth, ripping them away from their mother. “No! Please! Don’t hurt my babies!” she pleaded, the fear of losing them seen well in her golden eyes.
Perking up his ears, Ruko had an idea to ensure that all of his pups survived. “Viper, I agree to your conditions,” he said, keeping himself collected, “but let me choose which one will die.”
Viper smiled with delight. “Oh, even more amazing. The parent choosing which child to have killed. Oh no, wait! I have an even better suggestion. What if you killed it yourself? Oh that’s quite brilliant. Which one will it be then?”
In the night sky above, dark clouds heavy with rain formed. It was going to storm soon. That may work to Ruko’s advantage after he performed what he was about to. He could also work easily with Viper’s rather sickening idea. “The one you are holding. Give him to me. I will kill him.” He was glad that nothing serious was suspected in him from his answer.
Amaranth gave him a questioning look, scared that he was serious. “Ruko? You wouldn’t—”
“Silence!” Nami snarled in her ear.
It hurt Ruko’s heart to force himself to have no reaction to his mate being so mistreated, but he had to if he wanted everyone to live past tonight. Viper handed the pup over to him and the dark blue eyed soldier took it gently in his mouth. His fiery red son squirmed with what appeared to be annoyance, yelping and letting out high pitched growls. It was not pleased with everything that was happening around it, and Ruko liked how it showed no perceivable fear.
Viper licked his red-stained teeth, eager to see more blood spilled, nearly panting psychotically. “Rip his guts out well, I need to see this.”
Ruko paused for a moment and readied himself, but not for what the Blackspirit wolf assumed it was for. Twitching his tail, the soldier’s eyes alighted with a fiery blue glow that was nearly blinding to the murderer before him. “The only guts being ripped out are yours!”
As soon as he said that, he moved instantaneously.
“KAEN SKORA!” He yelled, unsheathing his claws. His paws grew ablaze with a searing hot blue fire, and he slashed across Viper’s face, setting it aflame and burning his whole head with the hazardous heated element.
The evil wolf let out an ear-piercing wail of pain, leaped onto the stepping stones and submerged his head under water to put out the fire. Turning his attention off of his well burnt opponent, Ruko readied his paw again with his special flame attack and seared through the flesh on Nami’s left eye, blinding him there—the strike came so quickly that dodging was impossible. His brother instinctively let the puppies drop to the grass before Amaranth and staggered away, dazed in pain and surprise.
Taking a very defensive stance over his mate and pups, not willing to let anyone near them this time, his eyes still gleamed with a crazed, righteous anger. He might have scared a powerful god with his stance and glare. “Nami, why have you betrayed us? We’re your birth pack,” the son of Akatsuki growled with ire. “What were you thinking?”
Nami turned around to face him with a surprising calmness, his fur bristling and the left side of his face wet with blood. The fire had been put out by the rubbing of his paws, so water had not been needed. “Our pack is weak, Ruko. It has been for a long time.”
“That’s no excuse!” Ruko stressed.
Nami took a few steps toward his litter-mate, but stopped when Ruko tensed up, ready to assault him again if he had to. “The Blackspirit Pack was weak under Jetstream’s rule, and we were the strongest pack... but, things change. Now that Shadowfang has taken over in his father’s stead, he has brought his pack higher in strength and power. They are no longer starving or sickly. Well, you now I have always been a strong believer in the fact that its the survival of the fittest.”
Ruko fought to hold back his tears, and luckily did not show them too much at all. He did not want to seem weak, especially not now. “Nami, you realize you just tried to kill my family? Your family! These are your nephews and nieces, Amaranth is your sister-in-law... and, I am your brother for Fenrir’s sake! How could you?”
“I side with the strongest wolf, so that my own survival is ensured and the survival of the generations to come from my seed. Nothing else matters in life,” Nami drew back his mouth in an indistinct snarl. There was no observable regret in his once familiar, friendly eyes. “Ruko, if you are so upset with me, then why not kill me now? Save yourself the trouble later, if it so happens to come to that in battle.”
Ruko furrowed his brows, astounded that the dark blue-gray wolf would even propose that. “I don’t know who you are anymore. You used to be my best friend, but now all I see is another selfish beast just like those Blackspirit snakehearts. I will not kill you, Nami,” he narrowed his eyes sternly, “I am not like you.”
Nami stared at him, showing no change of emotion. For a moment everything was silent between them, and they shared gazes for the last time; not literally for the final time, because they would surely see each other again one day, but it was the last time that they’d share a moment together where their loyalties would not demand that they kill each other. The pale-and-red descendant of Benitsuki would allow his brother and Viper to live so long as they left his family alone. No more words were spoken between them.
A sorrowful howl rang out into the night, causing all to look toward the direction in which it had come from; the Akatani camp. Viper shook his head from the water, still bleeding badly, and shot a concerned look at Nami. “That’s Shadowfang’s retreat cry!” he grunted.
Nami erected his ears at the words and was very shocked, giving Ruko a slightly self-conscious glance. “We lost the battle?”
Viper charged across the stepping stones, and halted himself on the bank opposite the Akatani family. Nami roughly brushed past Ruko and went to stand by Viper, his loyalty to the Blackspirit Pack so evidently shown that to behold it made the dark blue eyed wolf sick to his stomach.
“Don’t think that this is over,” the white-and-gray wolf spat cruelly. “I personally will make you pay for what you’ve done to my face. The Blackspirit Pack will slaughter all of you. You will all end up just like your precious Korax!”
Then the awful battle was over. Their lives were no longer endangered and the Akatani Pack had saved their home... for now at least. The two enemy soldiers disappeared into the undergrowth and Ruko was left alone with his mate and puppies that he had fought so hard for. “Hanging in there?” he licked the ears of Amaranth comfortingly, hoping that she was not harmed.
“Yes, and so are our children,” she said quietly, extending caring licks to them. “They’ve been through so much tonight. It’s a wonder if they ever truly recover from it.”
Ruko grasped the scruff of his dark gray son. “They’ll be alright, sweetheart,” he promised lovingly. “They are fighters of the highest class. Their hearts are courageous, and will grow to be some of the best defenders out there. Now let’s hurry, we must get back to camp and check if the others are okay!”
Amaranth nodded and picked up the other two pups and followed Ruko as he led them back to camp.