This is to be Book One of the Blood Moon Chronicles, a series that I am writing. This is only the first chapter of the first book, but I'd love it if you would please review to tell me how I am doing, and for those of you who have reviewed the previous drafts, I would still like to hear from you as well.

-- & -- & -- & --

A rush of warm breezes tickled the silver jade grass in the pale moonlight, glittering with faint stardust as it passed. The jade foliage shook in waves as the breeze passed on its way towards a great rolling hill that was the home of the most massive Japanese apricot tree. It shook with the blooms of its last flowering, the already broken petals floating with the wind as it circled through them. The white flowers fell in delicate twirls to litter the ground below, but more so, the two beings that had found shelter beneath the tree's outstretched limbs. A few pallid blooms lightly tussled her charcoal hair with lovely decorations as the ebony strands were fanned out.

A satisfied sigh whispered from her pink lips gradually as she curled against the soft green foliage beneath her, pale skin gleaming with a softness in the shining moon. The hilltop was always the greatest place to relax during this time of year, and she took every spare moment to enjoy it. The long days would end soon and, with it, the heat of summer and the beauty of the apricot blooms…but these thoughts were only fleeting as her mind passed into a pleasant murmur that she barely noticed. Reflected in her emerald eyes, the stars glittered, delicate crystals spanning the length of the velvet midnight of the sky. She enjoyed watching the weaving dance of the night blooms for a moment more with awe before a delicate smile teased her lips.

A sudden cough brought attention to the male beside her, his own silver blonde hair swaying against the petal-littered grass as it fell across moonlit icy blue eyes. Lightly tanned skin covered his body, covering the finely tuned muscles and sinew. From what could be seen of his bare arms were thin white lines from long forgotten battles, wounds from protecting his love from others and earning his position within their ranks. Soft white cotton spanned his chest, emphasizing the amount of muscles and lack of anything else. The shirt was sleeveless, baring an amount of flesh, and a pitch dyed trench coat hung loosely around his shoulders, mostly hidden underneath his large body. He turned to her with a soft smile on his lips, a tenderness that didn't match his persona emanating from the depths of his scintillating blue pools.

She smiled more broadly, stifling a small, silver giggle from disturbing their peaceful air of comfort. An iron chain glittered with new life as a silver ray fell upon it. A polished stone lay nestled against her pale throat, held by a ringlet attached to the chain. It was the size of a small bird's egg and mimicked the color of his swirling blue eyes. The stone had been a gift to her from him, as was custom for any pair of lovers in their traditions for the male to bestow a gift that had been created by his own hands. He had always been good with his hands at metalworking and rounding out various objects.

She spread out her arms, rustling the deep, and richly textured fabric of her almost coal-emerald shirt. It was snug against her chest and tight against her muscled abdomen, but seemed to taper off at the elbows into fancifully wide sleeves, traditionally marking that she was "married" as the sleeves were not formally long enough to pronounce a single life. Ebony pants circled her smooth waist, held by a sash that imitated her shirt's dye. She curled her toes lavishly, as she playfully nudged the male with their tips. He almost laughed at her antics, his own feet covered in a corner of his coat, but the bronze skin that showed would have told you that he, too, was barefoot, their boots having been earlier discarded as they wanted to feel the cooled, soft grass between their toes.

He moved closer to her and wrapped one arm around her neck, pulling her closer to him as well. She curled against his powerful frame, small shivers lacing through her, none of which were coming from the light chill in the night air. His chest rumbled with a deep chuckle as his arms wrapped securely around her. His welcoming body kept away that light coolness of the breeze, but not the fallen petals, some of which, covered his back. She laughed as she placed a star-shaped bloom behind his ear, tucking it in tightly so that it wouldn't fall out.

"Kitsune..." He whispered against the ebony hair blanketing her shoulder. The words tickled her ear and she could feel love, warm and sweet, as the name slipped off his tongue. He tapped his crimson tongue against her ear in a deft stroke of tenderness against her frozen earlobe. She gasped with sudden shock at the gesture, her smile lifting to show a flash of pearly white teeth each tapering to a sharp point. The four main canines were slightly elongated and more sharply defined than the others, which showed something of their backgrounds.

"Karasu…" Kitsune said gently, letting the name roll off her tongue as she gazed up at him. He smiled a wolfish grin down at her, his own incisors showing, each larger and sharper than hers respectively. A simple brush of his lips against hers created a golden silence for a moment to huddle closer to him in the embrace. He pulled her closer to deepen his kiss as he sought to part her lips with his tongue. She pulled back lightly in an act of play, and nibbled softly against his lower lip. He laughed, but kissed her again as she parted her lips invitingly.

"Karasu-sama!" Came the howling call that rang out across the darkness of the night, causing a momentary jolt of surprise to run through the two lovers. Karasu allowed their kiss to linger a moment more before he regretfully let go. He had an apologetic look on his face, as he looked down at her, saddened that he had to pull away and return to his duties, as well as the fact that they had only been there for a brief period of time. Regretting that they had been interrupted, and angry with the one who did the interrupting, he almost stiffly released her and sat up, all the while pulling the flowers out of his hair and brushing them off of his back.

She sighed gently as she rolled away from his powerful form and pulled a small blade of grass from her braid, but let whatever flowers still remained stay there. She stretched languidly and grasped the rims of her thick, pitch leather boots and pulled the socks out of them, shoving her cold toes inside the white cotton before shoving her feet into the boots. He was mimicking her in lacing up his own boots with a slow deliberance; still wishing the moment had lasted longer. A second, smaller male ran up to them with a great burst of speed, his breathing short and random. The call of Karasu's name must have gone a long way ahead of the young male because he was still a distance away when Karasu and Kitsune stood up.

The boy appeared to be maybe fifteen years of age, from his face and build. When he finally cam close to them, he seemed slightly less in height than what he had appeared to be. With Karasu standing his full 6½ ft, the male looked more like a child than before, barely surpassing the taller male's elbow. The boy's eyes were wide amber pools dappled and sparking with both anger and fear. Words poured from the boy's mouth as though a great dam had burst forth, but not at all coherently.

"Karasu-sama…I was sent…tell…enemies…northern border…Urufu said." The boy gagged for air as he spoke, eventually doubling with pain in his chest. He gripped his stomach, crushing the black sweater he wore in his clenched fist. Karasu allowed his anger to fritter away as he was suddenly gripped by his concern and the actuality of his authority in the family that he possessed. He moved closer to the boy and smacked him on the back sharply with one swift, but light hit that would allow the boy to breathe better. The boy straightened smartly, his breathing starting to calm down.

"Slow down, Teiru. Breathe before you start speaking or I wont understand." Karasu stated, moving to grip the boy's shoulder lightly as Kitsune stepped closer to hear the message as well.

Teiru breathed deeply of the crisp night air before speaking much more slowly and more comprehensibly. "Urufu-sama sent me to report to you that enemies have broken through our northern border. Others have already been sent to contact other—Karasu-sama!" Teiru shouted to Karasu as he rushed past him, anger contorting his face.

They should have been warned sooner! Why hadn't the guards sent out a distress call? Why hadn't someone sent out even a single warning? He thought angrily as he ran. Kitsune gave an apologetic look to Teiru before running to catch up with Karasu, leaving the boy alone on the hilltop to catch his breath. The late flowers littered the ground in Kitsune's wake, as they pulled free from her braid. Karasu and Kitsune picked up their pace, adrenaline bursting through their veins and their minds racing wildly. Soon the two became blurs from the speed they ran towards the direction the boy had come from.

Their breathing was mist against the winds that lashed by as they ran, reflecting the cold burning in their lungs from the exertion after such a peaceful moment. Kitsune started to lag slightly behind Karasu, her breath rushing out of her as she frantically gulped it back down, swallowing shards of broken glass in the attempt, but forcing her sluggish limbs to obey nonetheless. It was quite ridiculous that they had not been forewarned, and even more so that none of the guards had even called a warning! She thought with a mental stab, as she scowled roughly.

The more the gap between start and finish closed, the louder the noise of fighting became. Howls, roars, growls, snarls, wordless cracks and moans of the give and take of fighting all mingled into one as Kitsune allowed her widening emerald eyes to swallow the scene that played before them. Tears started to gather at the fringes of Kitsune's eyelids as she quickly swallowed down the sudden build up of sour bile in her throat as her eyes lingered on a small collection of fragmented and dismembered wolves, blood staining their matted fur. The tears ran down rivulets in her cheeks as she tried to convince herself that one of the bodies wasn't a puppy, but the attempt failed horribly as she gripped Karasu's arm all the more tightly.

Even as her tears fell, she kept her eyes searching through the chaos, images flaring before her eyes before she looked on. Crimson eyes filled with rage, blood spilling from open wounds, flares of wild colors as wolves and humans alike fought each other in groups, allies locked in battle beside friends, or backed into to corners and forced to fight alone. The number of enemies was less than her own pack's but she could see the innocence of puppy's blood and their own bodies beneath dead and dying mother's and elder matrons who had tried to protect the new life. Fathers had fallen beside mothers, lovers dying in each other's arms, parents dying to protect their children, as all the sights and sounds of death filled both her ears and her eyes, the seemingly senseless fight still raged over a broad area.

Her gleaming eyes searched frantically through the pandemonium for Urufu, the one who had summoned them, but she could feel the beast's rage gather in full force beneath her skin, stinging pricks covering her arms and legs almost to the point of burning her inside out. How dare they…how dare they attack the nursery first! Her mind raged hollowly inside of her as she tried to remain in one spot, her body quivering with a gripping frenzy.

Karasu looked towards Kitsune and felt a mixture of intense sadness and regret that she had to see this, but he knew that she felt the wrath boiling inside just as he did. His wide electric eyes flared with a bloodbath of rage as well, but he, too, resisted joining the melee; instead forcing his own eyes to search frantically for only a glimmer of the elder wolf that had summoned them.

"Urufu!" Karasu bellowed, drawing attention to them as he kept searching. His attention so severely focused on the fray, he missed spotting a wolf that was charging straight for him. His eyes were a dull burgundy, blood staining his creamy tan muzzle as he bared his wet incisors in his charge. Karasu had enough time to look the smaller wolf in the eyes fully before he was smashed aside by Kitsune, her mouth clamped over his throat. A choked gurgle sprayed from the wolf's throat as Kitsune ripped her muzzle free, gore and flesh trapped between her fangs. She quickly discharged the crimson spattered tissue and fur, the taste staining her tongue. He shook his head as his reaction had been very slow but he smiled at Kitsune, ebony fur covering her lithe form as her tail twitched in anticipation. The change would overcome him soon as well, but for now, he had to find Urufu.

He gave a sudden yell as he spotted the grey wolf, his old muzzle covered in gore as he ripped the throat of another wolf out, it's body joining the other fallen encircling him. The old veteran still had a fire in his belly from war's past.

Karasu's body instantly leaped into the mix, the change contorting his features sharply. Little cracks of the spine and the gnashing grind of bone against calciferous bone and his own body now on all fours. He charged forward, shoving aside what tumbling fighters and locked enemies that happened to be in his way, Kitsune close on his heels.

First noticed by the swarmed enemies unfortunate enough to come within range of the two was Karasu, thickly covered in bulk and muscle, easily towering over all but a handful of the wolves gathered and with an enormously terrifying growl and a jaw built for crushing. Second, the eyes would locate the female snarling angrily by his side, though smaller, she had a bite worse than her alpha with a viper's deadly grace to match. Any enemy who stood before them fell to a bone crushing pounding from just one of Karasu's massive paws or a swift snap of the neck and wind pipe from Kitsune's blood-spattered incisors.

"Urufu!" Karasu howled again, having lost sight of the elder for a bare moment. His eyes immediately caught sight of one of his own friends being mutilated by four enemies at once. With a hellish cry, he hurtled after the closest one, claws sinking to the bone in its' spine as it screamed with a shrill banshee cry. Having lost himself in rage, Karasu literally skinned the wolf's back, shredding many of the soft, muscles tissue and part of it's internal organs, drowning it in its' own blood. Two of the others tried to run, having been panic-stricken by the sight of their tattered friend, but to no avail. Kitsune rammed one in the side, claws outstretched to rip one's belly as she clamped down across the other's throat. Karasu snarled deeply in his throat, every ebony hair on end as he stepped closer to the last one. Fear had rooted the animal to the spot, mouth slightly parted as blood dribbled down his muzzle. Karasu leaped at him before he'd had even a sliver of chance to run, gripping its muzzle and dragging it so far back it touched the spine, crushing in the skull of the deep russet brown wolf. As its' dying burble sounded, he released the torn strip of flesh and stood for a minute, trembling from so much adrenaline in his veins. Kitsune nudged his shoulder lightly, eliciting another wave of shivers as he slowly turned to search again for the elder.

Kitsune jerked, shoving his head to look in the direction she had, both of them now spotting the grey wolf. Karasu released a piercing howl as he sped towards the elder wolf, Kitsune rushing in step right beside him. The grizzled male turned to his name as Karasu slid to a halt next to him, Kitsune set against his back.

"What the hell is going on?!" Karasu yelled, his voice trembling and sour from the copper taste of so much blood in the previous violence. Such a sickly sweet taste, but severely toxic, he knew.

"Our scouts reported it, Karasu! There's a traitor among our guards! Were lucky to 'ave caught the bastards here! Teiru cornered the damn traitor before this started! It was-" Urufu cut off roughly as his words tore into a shattering howl tearing out his jaw. Karasu's eyes filled with a returned and sharply more vigorous rage as they saw the fangs of another wolf in his back.

Karasu bellowed, his body moving without any provocation and tackled the chocolate brown wolf, fear in the enemy's amber eyes as he saw Karasu coming with hellfire burning in his eyes. He was too late in letting go and met a suffocating crack of his windpipe when Karasu's jaw clamped shut over his neck. Karasu ripped free, the toxic taste of copper blood renewed on his crimson stained tongue.

His eyes flashed through the swarm of fur and snapping jaws for a glimpse of his beloved's ebony coat or the veteran's rustic grey, but both had been swallowed into the fray. Howling with frustration and rage, he withdrew his muscled flanks and leapt again into the battle, instilling fear into his enemies and renewing his allies.