Author's Notes: Well, here it is. I'm planning to expand on this beauty. It's my best work yet, and I'm very proud of it. Review, if you can--NO STEALING!! Several anime elements were snuck into, such as a few names or gags--i.e. "Okashira" is Japanese, and means "boss" or "leader"--but they shouldn't be obvious. Any other resemblances to any persons or things are purely coincidental. Thank you.

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Wolfsbane

By: Zhanael

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"Chosen Ones."

The voice echoed in the friends' minds as they dreamt, the voices of foxes of all ages, calling for their goddess as She spoke. She was the Lady, a golden-furred ten-tailed fox, the Mother of All.

"Saris, Devona, and Teon...your times have come. Wolves close in from the northern mountains. You must be the ones to stop them. But beware, My children, for these wolves are strong. I shall do all I can to help..." The image of a ruined snow-covered temple, an ancient, crumbling structure nestled in a thick evergreen forest, faded into view. "This is your destination. If you can find My sword, Wolfsbane, you shall overcome the threat to our people. If you should fail, it could spell doom for us all."

The vision faded. "Go now, My children, and make haste. Time is of the essence..."

***

The red female vixen grumbled as she rolled over, resuming her snoring as she lay against a tree root. The elder of her two male companions, a golden-haired swordsman by the name of Teon Burace, began poking a small twig into her long ear, sniggering a bit. His gray fox partner-in-crime, Saris Mountainwood, plugged her nose, though that only served to increase the din.

"By the Lady, just _look_ at her!" Teon smirked, poking the twig back into her ear as it flicked. He heightened his voice to imitate hers. "'I, Devona Starchild, the Greatest Sorceress in the World!' Ha! She snores like a bear."

Her hand shot out, grabbing hold of his muzzle, and pulled him down to glare at him. Her claws dug deep into his fur, and he yelped. Saris removed his hand quickly, lest she bite it off.

"Snore like a bear, do I?" she growled, sitting up. She was a lovely thing, though a bit on the small side, with long russet hair and amber eyes, retaining the normal slit-pupils of a typical fox. Now they were burning brightly, golden flames blazing in auburn fur. Attractive physically though she was, her un-vixen-like tendencies--like her temper, and her appetite--rendered her a loner among fox-kind.

"Is that what I said? I didn't think I said that," Teon stammered, his voice muffled as he spoke through sealed lips. "I thought I said...uh..." He fumbled for words. "I thought I said 'roars like a bear'!" She glared at him, knowing otherwise, but released him, and he stumbled back, away from her. Saris, meanwhile, was holding his sides, tears rolling down his cheeks, he was laughing so hard. That quickly stopped, however, when her glare turned on him.

~They should learn not to deal with me in the morning,~ she thought grumpily as she shook out the dirt from her fur. ~Stupid males. This is why I never want a mate.~

Such a situation was normal for them, however. The three had been friends and comrades for ten years, after a small incident brought them together in the capital of Vulpinia, Russeton. The assassination of Crowned Prince Woodmount left them as wanted criminals--for a crime they never committed. Though at first they blamed each other, they eventually developed a bond as they travelled that would prove to be quite an advantage, especially when fighting off the rogues and even monsters they encountered. Both were common in their world.

"Did either of you have a dream last night?" Saris asked as Devona prepared their pre-dawn meal. Teon shrugged a bit, polishing his thin blade, but Devona rolled her eyes.

"You idiot, everyone dreams," she snapped, tossing a handful of her myriad herbs she carried with her. The water, gotten from the nearby river, sizzled a bit around the coney Saris had caught the day before. A pleasant scent rose from the pot, making all their mouths water.

"Yeah, well, mine was far different than what I usually get," the younger male countered. "I think it was the Lady, telling me about these wolves in the northern mountains."

"The Spires?" Devona blinked, memories of her slumber returning to her. "Hey, come to think of it, so did I..." Teon looked up from his sword.

"Me too. Think She was actually trying to tell us something?" He ducked a flying ladle aimed for his head.

"Fur-for-brains! Of course She was!" Devona sighed exasperatedly, raising her eyes to the break in the leafy canopy above them. "Lady, forgive them. They're idiots, anyway." She caught the ladle that was returned to her and stirred the stew a bit.

"We're not idiots," Saris yipped at her indignantly.

"Yes you are," she replied, pulling out three bowls from a small pack and spooning a bit of stew into each. Two she handed off to the two men. "You two don't even know a Lady's Calling when you hear one."

When the peaceful realm of Vulpinia, the home of foxes, is threatened, the goddess, the Lady Herself, chooses a being to save his or her people from whatever endangers them. She reaches into their dreams to explain their mission, though only hinting at how to perform it. Such was a Lady's Calling--but the last one hadn't occurred since a thousand years before, preceding the Lupine-Vulpine Wars, the wars that had created Vulpinia and separated the foxes from the neighboring wolves.

"You mean _we_ were called by the Lady?!" Teon looked up, stunned, from his sword. "But why us? Why not anyone else?"

Devona glowered at him. "Do you think _I'm_ the Lady or something? I don't know why us, and frankly, I don't care to know why us. All I know is we're supposed to get to the Kares Ruins before the wolves attack Vulpinia, and then obliterate the pack with the Wolfsbane."

Teon smiled at that thought over his stew. The Wolfsbane was the most powerful artifact in the land, said to contain the power of the goddess Herself. Only those who hear Her call were able to wield it--and _he_ was the only one able to wield a sword out of the three of them. It was doubtless who would have it once they found it.

"Maybe, but do we even know where the Kares Ruins is?" Saris asked, sipping at the broth. "I mean, how're we supposed to find it, if it's hidden?" Devona smirked.

"Oh, no worries. I know where it is. You just have to follow me!" She cackled, balled fists on her hips. The two males weren't convinced at all.

***

"Okashira!"

Korin Wolfwood, the alpha male of the Bloodfang pack of Southern Lupinia, turned from the bay window view of the rosy sunrise over the crags of the Spires to his alpha female. Beornia Darkspawn was a sexy she-wolf, with smooth curves and sleek black fur, her long black tresses flowing down her back and her ice-blue eyes were stunning, like sapphires in the night. She paled in comparison to him, of course, but she was the best he could want without surpassing him--not that _anyone_ could, anyway.

"Yes, Beornia?"

"It seems that the Lady has Called. Three young whelps, all outcasts, and wanted for treason." She grinned, her ivory fangs bared. "They're no trouble."

"Then why bother telling me this?" His blood red eyes narrowed. He was different than the majority of wolves; his fur and hair, which reached beyond his buttocks, were silvery-white and he was skinny--but that didn't hinder him any. In fact, it was quite the opposite; he was quick on his paws, and had quite an advantage against the hulking monstrosities that made up most of the population of his kindred. He knew this, too, and took every opportunity to show it off.

It was for this reason he was the Chieftain of the Armies, second only to the Alpha-Omega, the "king" of Lupinia. He and the Alpha-Omega, Taisho, were best friends since they were cubs, but things had changed. As he grew stronger, Korin desired more power. His blood-colored eyes were set on the ultimate seat of power--and he would get it by gaining Vulpinia, then by turning on Taisho.

"Well, Okashira, I'd also come to tell you it's time for your rose bath. I've prepared it especially for you." She smiled, and he smirked in return. He demanded only the finest, even if he couldn't afford it; in that case, he killed whoever could. Korin Wolfwood would settle for no less than perfect.

"Ah, good.where is Acwellan?"

"I am not sure, Okashira. I believe he could be sniffing out the Lady's whelps. I am not concerned, and I doubt you should be, either, but you know him. He takes no chances."

Acwellan Scarclaw was a lone wolf by nature. Scarred all over his body, ebony otherwise, he was a fierce fighter--perfect for Korin's pack. It took some persuasion to convince him to join. He was paid handsomely, and allowed to do as he wished. In return, he did whatever job Korin gave him. He was the best assassin the albino wolf could find. Korin Wolfwood would settle for no less than perfect.

"Hm. Very well, then, let him do as he wishes. Inform me when he returns."

"Yes, Okashira," Beornia agreed, bowing herself out, and Korin left his elegant bedroom to soak himself in his personal hot springs. There was nothing to worry about, so he would relax and make himself fit for overtaking Vulpinia. After all, Korin Wolfwood would settle for no less than perfect.

***

It was a fortnight's journey from the Zharas Forest, only a league from Russeton, to the Praetomn Forest, made longer by many hindrances. Monsters hounded the trio of bounty hunters, growing in numbers as they neared their destination. Injuries had to be tended to, natural obstacles such as gorges had to be overcome, and the wintry conditions of the north were hardly tolerable, to say the least. Teon, Saris and Devona suffered, but their travails were rewarded when they finally laid eyes on the ruins of what was once the greatest temple ever built.

"We made it!" Devona cried joyously. "Soon we'll get those damn dogs and maybe even be able to return to civilization!"

"Don't count on that," growled a monotonous voice from behind a boulder ahead of them. The owner of the voice stepped out from his hiding place, a slender wolf with scars riddling his body from snout to tail. Acwellan Scarclaw glared at them cold-bloodedly under ebony bangs, his eyes, icier than those of Beornia, even, seeming to pierce through their flesh. His gaze caused shivers to run down the spines of all three foxes, but all three stood their ground.

"Move, wolf, before I make you," Teon snarled, holding his right paw over his sword hilt while lowering himself into a half-crouching position with his right hindleg forward. Acwellan said nothing, but made no movement, silently defying him.

Teon charged at him, whipping out his sword at the last moment in a horizontal slash, intending to take the wolf off guard. But Acwellan merely stepped back, out of the way, and leaned in, clawing at his gut. However, he was taken aback by a blow to the right side of his neck from Teon's sheath. The fox had dodged his claws and followed up the first attack with another, an unusual move, but a clever one. Acwellan tried to recover by slashing upwards, but Teon had already leapt rather high into the air, coming down quick with his sword poised to slash down. The last thing Acwellan saw was the triumphant smirks of the three foxes Called by the Vulpine Lady.

~Beware, Korin. These whelps are true warriors...~

"Great move, Teon!" Devona cheered her companion as they hurried through the maze-like passageways inside the Kares ruins. "Where'd you learn it? You've never used it before, that I've seen."

"I have no idea, but at the moment, I don't really care," he replied, cutting through a large cobweb that spanned the black space before them. "Let's just get rid of these wolves, and then we'll worry about my techniques."

"Good idea. Look what's up ahead!" Saris pointed to the glowing red eyes of a Shiseir, a nasty spider-like creature with a stench that'd overpower the scent of a mountain of dung. Being too close would take out its prey instantly, allowing it to feast readily.

"Oh, great. How do we take _this_ thing out?" Devona whined, stepping back a bit. Saris smirked, whipping out his pistol, which he'd named Miriam.

"No worries. I've got it covered." He fired a few shots into the darkness, and the glowing eyes of the Shiseir went dim, fading until there was nothing. Fortunately, the stench of the creatures dissipates quickly, and they were soon on their way again.

***

"Okashira...I have some bad news," Beornia muttered as she knelt just outside the open door of the alpha male's bathhouse.

"What is it?" he growled in reply, hating to be interrupted from his pleasant daze.

"It seems the whelps I had told you of have killed Acwellan." She folded back her ears. "I had underestimated them, Okashira. I wish to take care of them myself."

"Go, then." He turned to glare at her. "Bring me back their heads on a silver platter. If you do not, and if you're not already dead, I will kill you myself." She gulped, but nodded and left.

~Damn those foxes,~ he thought grumpily. ~Taking out my best assassin.but, they won't kill Beornia. She is my best, better than even Acwellan. She will make sure they're no more of a nuisance. He closed his eyes, sinking further into the fragrant water. Strange, though, that foxes can kill a wolf. But they won't kill me. I am the best. I cannot be defeated.~

***

The locked door would not open, not with anything the Called tried. It was the last chamber they'd tried, and it was no use. Devona began to wonder if it wasn't some wizard playing a cruel joke on them, but thought better of it; no fox was stupid enough to impersonate the Lady, not even children. Benevolent though She was, She would always remind Her people that there was to be only one of Her.

"I don't know what to do," Saris sighed, reloading his pistol. "We've shot it, cut it, tried every spell in the book, and nadda. We've even tried all three together. What're we gonna do?"

"Perhaps you should give up, whelps," a female voice echoed through the halls. "You're not going in, but you're certainly not leaving, either." Beornia was visible only by her eyes glaring from the darkness behind them.

"Oh yeah? Well, I'd love to see you try and stop us!" Devona growled. Beornia grinned.

"Very well, then..." A black wolf-shaped shadow suddenly leapt at the vixen, barely missing her by a furlength. Devona chanted softly under her breath, dodging the wolf's blows until she held a large ball of blue flame in her hand, smirking. This she flung at Beornia, and the she-wolf was too slow to dodge. She was consumed quickly, howling in agony as she went.

"That was easy." Devona blinked, poking at the ashes with a hindclaw. "Must've been how you felt killing that other wolf, right, Teon?" The older male nodded a bit.

"Indeed. A bit too easy, if you ask me." Devona shrugged.

"Whatever. At least we're getting rid--" She was cut off by the sound of the lock on the door unlatching, and the door itself swinging wide. The light spilling out from the room was near blinding, and all three foxes yelped in short pain from the sudden brightness.

"Welcome, Chosen Ones," echoed the voice of the Lady Herself. They blinked away the spots and stepped inside, though hesitantly. It was bare, save for an altar at the opposite end with a long sword, nearly six feet long in bladelength, was embedded in it. "This is the Wolfsbane. Only the Called may wield it.

"The threat is almost gone. Only one of the pack remains: Korin Wolfwood. However, he is clever, and will use any means to achieve his goal; he also wields the Wolfsbane's rival, the Foxslayer. Beware, My Chosen. Use My sword well."

Teon stepped forward, taking hold of the hilt of the long sword. The power coursed through his veins as he tugged it free of its trappings. Finally, the ultimate power was his...and his friends'. He looked to them, holding up the sword. Saris and Devona grinned to him, and he grinned in return. Their grins were that of victory, and their cries echoed through the ages.

"Let's get 'im!"

***

Korin Wolfwood was very unhappy.

His best assassin was dead, killed by a fox's sword. The foolish lone wolf had to go and face the "whelps", had to go and get himself killed.

Korin Wolfwood was angry.

His mate, his alpha female, was now dead. Even through his egotistical superiority, he was attracted to her. He had indeed loved her; she was the only one to keep him anchored to the earth lest he get carried away by his own conceit, and he didn't mind in the least.

Korin Wolfwood was furious.

He strapped the Foxslayer, a rapier of deadly potential, to his waist, and stalked out of his lavish den, now empty without his mate and his best assassin. He turned south, unable to care less about the harsh climate on the Spires during winter. He would make those whelps pay for killing his pack.

Korin Wolfwood had a taste for blood.

***

The battle that ensued once the two forces met was recorded as the most epic in the history of either species. The clash of the two legendary swords were heard for thousands of miles all around, but no one would dare to approach. The Spires were destroyed, reduced to mere rubble after the final blow was given. Such an event later served to unite Lupinia and Vulpinia for the first time in a thousand years; Taisho was far more benevolent than any of his predecessors, and Aiko, the Queen of Vulpinia, had no quarks about him, so an understanding was reached.

None of the Three returned to Vulpinia. No one knows what had happened to them. Some say they live on in secret, not wanting to return home after living so long as rogue bounty hunters. Others would say the Lady took them from their bodies after the battle, their flesh being too bruised and battered to live on. But to this day, travellers say they see a trio of foxes, a gray and two reds, a gunslinger, a swordsman and a sorceress, perched atop a blackened crag, with a broken sword embedded in the ground between them.