There was death in the air, a sense of heartbeats and eagerness. Ja'Kkar sniffed the air, his delicate nose searching for fear. The only anxiousness he smelled wafted from his troupe, their beady red eyes glinting back at him. *Wolves know no fear,* his father's voice drifted through his mind, lecturing. *The wolf is proud, the wolf is fierce, the wolf is cunning. To kill a wolf, you must bite and run. You can't hope that striking the leader will make them collapse, for their hierarchy is too established for that. Just bite and run.*

Ja'Kkar snarled silently and shook the voice from his head. His father was long dead now, his life stolen by years, not the blade of an enemy. Ja'Kkar was determined to prove his father wrong, to prove that wolves could be beaten without running. His teeth glinting yellow as he curled his lips, Ja'Kkar signaled his warriors to drift forward. Like a silent plague, the horde of rats slid through the forested night, deeper into the wolves' hunting grounds.

*

Panting slightly, Belyl waited for her scouts to return. The night was filled with anticipation and her soldiers stood ready behind her. Beasts would die this night; adrenaline levels ran high. Her ears cocked for sound, Belyl tilted her head and scanned the area with her one good eye. A rough fight with the Eagle Clan had left her blind. Eagles liked to blind their enemy before killing them. It was a well-known battle tactic and Belyl had been young and careless. Now she was the Wolf Clan's best battle leader, proving that one could learn from one's mistakes.

A slight ruffle in the air caused Belyl to stiffen, becoming even more alert before relaxing when she realized the scouts had returned. An eager yearling, not yet scarred from battle, lead the group of three. His green eyes shown bright and his fingers twitched with anxiety. *Bo'tat is his name,* Belyl remembered. She made it a point to know every warrior personally. *Bo'tat, son of Vyellan.* Parentage was important to the wolves.

"Report," Belyl murmered. The young pup saluted and smiled savagely.

"The Rat Clan has been surrounded, sir. They are unawares and proceeding directly to our position. They should arrive momentarily." His voice never rose above a murmer but the troupe behind Belyl shifted anxiously, eager to be off. Belyl raised one finger and the warriors settled again.

Belyl smiled confidantly. "Let the rats realize who rules the woods. Sound off, my warriors! Let us taste their fear when we chew on their bones." Howls resounded from behind her, wavering and drifting up to caress the Moon, to honor their Mother. Belyl raised her own voice and silently asked the Moon's blessing in their battle. *It is time to hunt,* she thought before she loped forward, anticipation erasing all other coherent thought.

Ja'Kkar froze as the chorus rose in front of him. His army halted behind him and began to chitter nervously. Farz, a young female, tugged on his elbow and asked nervously, "They know we're coming, do they not? They know we are here? They are coming to kill us!" Her voice rose into a squeal before Ja'Kkar backhanded her ferociously. She reeled back, blood dripping slowly from her small black nose.

"We shall flood the right!" He called savagely to his troops. "We shall come around them and tear into their backs. To the right!" He screamed and the rats began to truly run, fear zinging through their blood and lending them speed. Shadows that had concealed their approach before now hid obstacles, causing grunts of pain and flogging the mass-panic. The rats knew they would die that night, knew it as certainly as they knew that the wolves had known of their approach. Only Ja'Kkar seemed oblivious, and many a warrior bitterly wished they had not followed the impetuous battle leader.

Foam began to form at the corners of Ja'Kkar's mouth, his lipless grin bordering on insanity. As he ran in a frenzy, the howls continued, coming closer every second. With a sudden, abrupt hiss, he stopped his flight. Directly ahead of the rats, wolves began to sing their battle cry. As the rats turned once more, more songs erupted. With trembling limbs the beasts turned to their leader for guidance. Standing there with his hands clenched, the large rat began to snarl.

Foam flecked his muzzle and he threw his voice to the winds; "I will not die to a wolf!" His hoarse scream enlivened much of his army and they drew weapons. They crouched down in a circle, blades shining in the darkness. Ja'Kkar stood growling softly, his weapons forgotten at his side. His arms stretched out wide, claws gleaming, Ja'Kkar gave up his sanity and leapt forward, directly into a howling wolf.

Snarls and screams erupted from all sides and death stalked the woods.

Belyl tossed the mauled corpse of a rat aside and took a brief moment to survey the scene. Her troops' surprise attack had been complete and most of the opposing clan had fled to greet their Mother. From that single quick perusal, she could not see many wolves down. A death scream rent the air and a young wolf staggered out of the darkness, clutching at his stomach. Glistening slickly between his paws were dark coils of intestine. His attacker followed close behind and began to savage the youngling's neck.

With a growl Belyl exploded forward and the rat withdrew a short pace. The heavily bleeding soldier collapsed to the ground, but not before Belyl saw him as Bo'tat. *Vyellan, be proud your son has gone to hunt a new enemy.* With her hackles bristling Belyl spun her slender sword in a slow arc. "Come squeal in my arms, rat, let me taste your blood." she barked.

The tall beast's whiskers twitched and he slid blood-drenched hands over his silky black fur. "I shall bathe in your blood, dog-spawn. I shall rip you and shred you and feed you to the worms!" His words were distorted by something kin to insanity and, baring the most basic of weapons he lunged at the wolf-leader.

Belyl threw aside her sword and stepped into his deadly embrace, snapping her short muzzle and grappling for a good hold. The rat drove his twisted teeth deep into her shoulder and Belyl whined in pain, kicking up and raking into his sensitive belly with her hind claws. The pair ripped flesh and fur, nipping and scratching deeply. The wolf grabbed a hold of the rat's ear and ripped, which only served to enrage the young fighter more. Finally the rat tossed her off, blood flooding his vision.

"I shall take your other eye," he promised breathily. Around him, Ja'Kkar's soldiers screamed and died, but he paid them no heed.

The bloody grin he gave Belyl only made her laugh. She tilted her head back and howled, a long uluating cry of bloodlust. With a terrible leap, her golden eyes flashing death, Belyl spun in the air. The rat showed one last burst of surprise before her foot crashed into his head, snapping vertebrate and bone before his head ripped off most of his shoulders, left to hang by a few pieces of meat and skin. The wolf landed lightly and howled again, giving tribute to the Moon and all of Her children.

She lowered her muzzle and breathed deeply. In the brief moments it had taken to defeat the rat-leader, the rest of his army had been destroyed. No rat still breathed. As she glanced over the battlefield, her warriors began to gather around, their ranks swelling until all who were not dead faced their battle leader. With a rough bark and a swift pumping of her arms over her head, Belyl lead her victorious tribe in a praise of the Moon, giving thanks for Her blessing of the battle. Across the forest and into the plains the song drifted, bringing shudders to all who heard the call of victory.

A lone figure stood on a small hump of land in the middle of a plain field, staring across the miles to the Woods of Fynn, where the Wolf Clan ruled and all other clans died. His cloak whipping around his body by the suddenly strong breeze, determination shone on his triangular face. He smiled, revealing his fangs. *The Cat Clans will kill that song soon enough,* he mused to himself. Then, tail twitching lightly in thought, he slunk off into the high grass.