Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A blistering wind howled its mournful song along the barren place that was the flatlands. Dreary grey clouds denied the sun entry to banish the cold. A gnarled old oak quivered in the gale. The last of its and all the leaves in the region surrendered itself to the shrieking air. Winter would soon be upon this land.

In a small dip of the earth, somewhat sheltered from the weather, was the clan of Dajay Bloodfang. They were a roving band; and at the moment were resting from traveling southward. All were very warlike, and would kill their own mothers for a bite to eat or some weaponry. Every one of them was in their prime, but only because when a member grew simply too old to fight, they would slay him or her. It didn't matter who: it was tradition. This clan recruited others, and if the others refused, they would be automatically killed. They were made up of completely vermin: rats, ferrets, stoats, weasels, and foxes, two hundred and fifty-three in total, if you bothered to count them. They all had a tattoo somewhere on them that signified them as part of the Bloodfang horde. All were under the command of Dajay, savage and ruthless as they were. They all feared him, every last one of them. It would be hard to not fear him.

He was a younger stoat, but nonetheless experienced in the art of war. Abnormally large, he was equally as powerful. Each square inch of his body was covered in battle scars, but his strange, black coat covered almost all of them. All of them, but one. An incredibly deep scar starting at his forehead, traveling diagonally between his eyes, across his long snout, finally ending at his upper neck refused the fur permission to grow over it. This hideous mark was from a saber blade at point blank range. Dajay was the winner of that fight. Once he was done with his opponent, what used to be a ferret was then a mess that even a buzzard wouldn't dare to touch. It was only pure luck that Bloodfang still had his eyesight. Of course, anyone would wish he had lost it; his eyes glowed with a fire of rage that never faded or burnt out. They seemed to see right through the depths of your mind; they could sense your thoughts and feelings; they penetrated your very soul. But, there were better reasons to fear Dajay. For example, his skills with a sword were unmatched all across the country. His sword was strangely beautiful for a tool used by such an evil beast. It was double edged; both so finely sharpened and honed that they could split a hair perfectly in half with ease. The handle was a pitch black, with a white, clear, and crimson pommel stone set into the base. He had stolen it from an ancient badger, after murdering him, of course. Bloodfang was unrivaled in battle with any weapon, although he didn't actually need one. The giant stoat sharpened his teeth and claws into tools of destruction, also. His attire was made up of a clean, red tunic, and a cloak. But, this cloak was different. It was made up of the hides of animals he had conquered. The very picture of barbaric, it was dappled with different hues of fur: sandy yellow, white and black striped, grey, brown, red; almost every shade. However, it was still a bit too short, but not for too long though. There were always more enemies and innocent beings to skin and add to it. It was no wonder why all the creatures in the country feared him: there was nothing not to fear.

Nestled in the dip of land, Dajay's clan sat, cooking, singing, and fighting somewhat amongst themselves. They lived in easily collapsible tents which did not sustain heat, so every group of them had a fire. Around one of these many fires sat the rat Graden, and his mate, Browneye. He had spent the last hour working himself into an angry lather.

His whiskers trembling with rage, he growled, "Why aren't we allowed a babe, huh? Because stoat-face over there said so? It would become a valuable member to the tribe! If I was the leader, I would allow it!" He spat bad temperedly into the fire and watched it sizzle.

Browneye shook her head despairingly. "Graden, please don't go startin' things with 'im! He'd have your 'ead on a platter if'n he 'eard you right now! Jus' let it go!"

Graden bared his fangs savagely. "Never! There is too much that needs to be changed here! I'm going to challenge him for his title."

Tears filled Browneye's beautiful but wicked eyes. "That means death! He's a better fighter 'n you. Please! I'm beggin' you! Don't do it!"

But Graden's mind was set. Silently, he picked up a dagger and a long, sharp javelin. Hiding the dagger in his tunic, he shouldered the javelin.

He turned to face his mate. "Browneye, I'm sorry. This is just something I have to do." Turning on his heel, the rat started to the large stoat's dwelling. His walk to the chief's tent was cut short when Browneye spun him around, and, shaking with grief, embraced him tightly. She let go after about a minute, and followed sullenly behind him. When they arrived, Browneye kissed him on the cheek, a tear streaming down her own, and retreated to a safe distance.

He took a deep breath.

Thump! Graden struck his javelin upon the ground, raising a cloud of dust and an audible noise.

"Dajay Bloodfang! I have come to challenge you!" he roared. A deathly silence fell over all the creatures in the camp. The birds stopped twittering. The grasshoppers stopped chirping. Even the crackle of the fire seemed to subside. Every beast in the camp turned its eyes on the rat. Glancing around nervously, he swallowed hard. "Bloodfang! Come and face me!" The tent flap of hide quivered, then was thrown open. The huge, black stoat stepped out, smiling almost pleasantly.

He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes."Yes, Graden?"

Graden's courage almost left him, but he held onto it with his sweaty grasp. He was a fairly large rat, but was dwarfed by Dajay.

He tightened his grip on the javelin. "I have come to challenge your position in this clan."

Bloodfang grinned widely. "Oh, is that all? Okay, I'll be right there." Before residing back into the tent, he signaled to a ferret, who then organized all the creatures in the tribe into a great circle, and pushed Graden into the centre. On entering his dwelling, the stoat shook his head in disappointment. Graden was a good addition to the clan. He was educated and excellent in battle; it would be a pity to lose him. The rat in question stood on shaking legs as he waited anxiously in the circle of creatures. After what seemed like ages, Dajay returned from the tent and shoved his way into the middle of the ring, a small distance away from Graden. Bloodfang had donned a pair of clean white gauntlets and grabbed his fabled sword. He twirled it around almost carelessly in one paw until it was a shining, silver orb, smiling.

Raising his voice to be heard over the whirling of the weapon, he stated calmly; lightly, "Match to the death. Whoever wins is the new chief. Anything goes." Stopping the sword, he crouched into a fighter's stance. The grin faded from his face. "Start."

Both circled the other. Graden drew his dagger and held it in his left paw. He jabbed at Dajay with his right, holding the javelin. Bloodfang dodged it expertly, but didn't bother to attack. Graden hop skipped the right, and gave a sideways slash at the stoat's throat with the dagger. Expecting to see the leader dead on his feet, he was surprised to see Dajay standing to his left side, untouched. Instinct propelled the rat into motion, jumping backwards and holding his javelin horizontally in front of him. He stood some distance away, panting. Dajay didn't move, holding the sword in loosely in one paw. Mockingly, he gave an enormous yawn. Graden snarled with abhorrence. He dropped his dagger. With a loud yell, he ran towards his foe, grasping the javelin in both paws. His eyes half closed, Bloodfang sidestepped, neatly avoiding the weapon. The rat was carried forwards by the momentum. The next thing he knew, Graden was lying face down in dirt. He closed his eyes, waiting for the painful end. Instead, he felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning over, he was puzzled to see his enemy holding out a paw. The rat eyed him doubtfully, warily taking his help up. Bloodfang murmured to him, "Come on. No use slaying a beast that isn't moving anyway." Graden picked up his javelin, and took the dagger that was being offered to him by the blade. He seized his advantage swiftly, solidly striking the stoat in the middle of the forehead with the bone knife hilt. Dajay stumbled groggily, stunned. With a soft thud he crumpled to the ground. The rat smiled grimly, as Dajay was unmoving. Chuckling darkly, he turned and gave a confident smile to Browneye. Her relieved look turned to pure horror when she caught the sight of Dajay leaping up. Graden wondered why momentarily, and then his own grin dissolved into shock. Before he had the time to do a half turn, he felt a searing pain at his gut. He gaped down at his midsection, where a gleaming, crimson blade seemed to be growing out. Both javelin and dagger fell out of his nerveless paws. A confused look over took the surprise as he slowly sunk to his knees. Bloodfang was standing behind him, smirking. Graden was propped upright, still alive, by the sword held by Dajay. Drawing in breath raggedly, he was now staring at the ever growing puddle of blood in front of him. He didn't understand. Dajay lowered his snout to Graden's ear, whispering the last thing the rat ever heard in his life.

"Nice try, but you forgot one important thing. Never, ever, turn your back on the enemy." Using his footpaw, he freed his sword blade and sent Graden toppling to the ground face first, dead, in one fluid movement. Bloodfang pumped both paws into the air in victory. Wild cheers rose from the ranks of vermin. The ferret who had made the circle of beasts obtained the sword noiselessly from Dajay, and took it away to clean off the gore.

"Let that be a lesson to you!" Dajay screamed out, "Be with my clan and live prosperously! Oppose me, and you will find yourself at the gates of Hell before you know what is happening! Long live Bloodfang!"

The creatures standing in the circle started to chant, quietly at first, then the noise grew louder and louder, until the very flatlands reverberated with their calls.

"Bloodfang! Bloodfang! Bloodfang!" They yelled themselves almost hoarse with these words, until the stoat went back into his tent. They left in groups after, only leaving Browneye standing rooted to the ground in disbelief. She broke her trance and rushed to the dead rat's side. Kneeling next to him, she cradled his head in her paws, and rocked back and forth slowly. She stroked his coarse grayish-brown head fur, smoothing it out. Almost delirious, she stared at those half-closed, glassy eyes. The same eyes that used to be filled with such life; such rebellion. Weeping brokenly, Browneye tried not to think of what was to happen to his body. But she couldn't help it. His corpse would be gone within the next hour, to be added to Dajay's grisly cloak. Suddenly, she stopped crying with a shaky breath. Tightening her paws into fists, she glared at Dajay's tent, her eyes colder than ice, harder than diamond. They seemed to radiate her very hatred. Something changed in Browneye that day. She no longer harbored the desire to slay anybeast. Anybeast, that is, except the giant black stoat that had murdered her mate. She took a silent oath that day to kill Dajay Bloodfang.