Chapter 1

Stormy gray clouds gathered high in the night sky, dark and ominous. Rajet, the king wolf, sat on the Night Stone as the winds began to swirl around him. His thick black pelt blended with the shining surface beneath him until he looked like an oddly-shaped formation atop the polished black stone. The sound of the rushing wind rose to a howl, piercing his ear fur. Above the howling of the wind rose a loud, terrifyingly familiar sound: fighting animals. Rajet's eyes flew open in alarm. A bolt of lightning brightened night into near day and his blue eyes flashed in its white light. He leaped down from the Night Stone and tore away towards the eerie screaming of a blood battle. Shadows closed around him and he could tell he was alone. However, he felt alive with the pack spirit. Rajet's lips curled into a smile. The pack spirit was said to travel every wolf's blood, no matter if it was in a pack or not. Rajet became more attune to the forest around him as the pack spirit soared inside him. His paws swept ever faster over the soft forest floor. As he neared the fight, Rajet bunched his powerful muscles and leaped, crashing into the clearing. Two wolves were locked in battle, snarling and spitting. Rajet instantly recognized the dark gray pelt of his mate, Juliet, and the russet-brown fur of Jardice, a rival female from a neighboring pack. With a snarl, Rajet sprang and sank his teeth into Jardice's shoulder and dragged her off his mate. The russet wolf turned on him, snarling. "Why are you here, Jardice?" he growled, his hackles rising. "Our pack needs prey," was Jardice's reply. Juliet bared her teeth. "Get. Out." She growled each word separately through clenched teeth. Her hackles were raised and her tail was stiff. Jardice flattened her ears. "Our pups are dying," she whimpered, "You must let us hunt here." Rajet narrowed his ice blue eyes. "It is summer, Jardice," he pointed out. "So?" Jardice took a step toward him, threatening. "Leave," he growled, puffing out his chest. The russet female's eyes burned for a moment, then narrowed in a warning. She lifted her chin. "Very well, Rajet. But you haven't seen the last of us!" With that, she whirled around and raced away, howling to her leader. Rajet sighed. "Are you alright, Juliet?" he asked, turning to his mate. "I'm fine, Rajet," she barked. The only wound visible was a long cut that stretched from her shoulder to her flank, but it didn't appear to be very deep. "Let's go back to the Pack Circle, then. You are expecting pups, after all." He stepped closer to his mate. Tipping back his head, the great black wolf howled to the storm-shrouded moon. It was a song of triumph, yet also one of warning. It was a Challenge Song. Over the sound of the moon rang an eerie call. Lemit, the king wolf of Jardice's pack, howled an answering challenge. Juliet's lips curled back from her teeth in a snarl of anticipation. The two kings' songs mingled and became a cold, eerie melody: a Song of War.

Rajet and Juliet arrived back at the Pack Circle. It was a circular formation of small dens that encircled the Night Stone. Song, a silver female wolf, padded over, eyes glittering. "We heard the War Song, Rajet." she barked. Rajet nodded. "Lemit's pack has crossed our borderlines too many times. We must fight and show them that our territory is not theirs for the taking." His voice was a deep growl that he knew would penetrate every wolf in the Pack Circle and that they would share his feeling of anger and battle lust. The pack spirit, because it ran through every wolf, carried the feelings of other wolves, if they spoke in the right tones. The black Alpha paced slowly over to the Night Stone and leaped up onto its rain-slicked, black surface. Tipping his head again to the sky, he let out a Gathering song. This song would be recognized by his pack members and they would gather around the base of the Night Stone. This was an ancient wolf tradition created when the pack spirit was first discovered. The pack responded to only its current leader's call and any other call from another Alpha was ignored. Just as he knew they would, the pack's members began to slide from their dens, merely shapeless shadows in the storm-darkened night. As they came closer, he began to recognize each individual wolf. There was the enormous figure of Bane, who's russet-brown pelt gleamed in the light cast from the partially covered moon. There was Snow, who's pelt was a soft, snowy white that was illuminated in any and all forms of light. At the base was the faint, shadowy form of Juliet, who's dark gray pelt blended in with the shadows of the night. Rajet smiled as his pack assembled around him. "My pack!" His voice echoed over the silent Circle. "Rajet!" The wolves below let out a simultaneous bark. This was the traditional greeting, meant to show the Alpha's respect for his pack and the pack's respect for their Alpha. "My pack, we stand on the brink of war. Lemit's pack has crossed our lines one to many times. We attack at dawn. For tonight, as we don't know what to expect from now until dawn, we will have two Warners." He paused. Warners were the pack's guards. There was usually only one during times of peace, but if enemies were found or there was a war approaching, there would be two or more. They were held in utmost respect, as they sacrificed themselves for the safety of the pack. "Our Warners tonight will be Bane and Luna." Bane let out a growl of satisfaction and Luna's teeth gleamed in the dim light as she revealed them in an approving snarl. "Luna, Bane, we rest our protection in your paws. Wake us just before dawn." The two wolves nodded to him. "All the rest of you, get some rest." Rajet leaped down from the Night Stone and padded over to his den. Juliet followed, her slightly enlarged belly poking our from her sides. He stepped aside to allow her to pass through first. As she walked by him, Rajet pushed his nose into her pelt. "Tomorrow is the first battle since the Wolf War." he murmured quietly. She turned her head to look at him, her green eyes gentle and affectionate. "We will come out on top, especially with you leading us, Rajet. The pack couldn't ask for a better Alpha." she woofed to him. Her voice was both comforting, and encouraging. "I love you, Juliet." He licked her nose, then the two wolves entered their shadowy den. In the back was a soft pile of sand, their bed. They lay down and almost immediately, Juliet's breathing slowed. Rajet looked at her in the faint light, fear and anticipation roiling in his belly. He knew in his heart that tomorrow would be dangerous. How could he handle it if he lost her? Sighing, the Alpha lay his broad, black head on his paws and closed his eyes.

In his dreams, Rajet was standing on a blood-stained field. The bodies of wolves lay scattered around him. With a gasp of horror, the black wolf paced up and down the rows and rows of bodies, his terror and grief growing with every body he recognized. When he reached the end of the bloody mass, a low moan escaped his lips. A bloody, ripped mound of dark gray fur lay barely recognizable on the dusty earth. "Juliet... Oh Juliet...." he moaned, shaking with grief as he crouched down next to his mate's body. "No!" He threw back his head and howled to the sky. "No! Juliet! No!" His howls grew fainter as they melted into tearless sobs of pain that racked his whole body with spasms. He shoved his nose into his mate's blood-stained pelt, still sobbing dryly. "Juliet... Juliet...." he muttered, shaking violently. Numbness crept through his limbs and he lay helpless beside Juliet, wishing only for death.

Rajet woke with a startled gasp. He lay panting in his cool den, lying next to his mate. His paws were trembling from his horrible nightmare and he felt weak and hot. With a stab of fear, the Alpha turned his ice-blue gaze slowly to the wolf beside him. Her flanks rose and fell in time with the gentle rhythm of sleep. He breathed a trembling sigh of relief. With a yawn, Rajet got to his paws and nudged his mate's flank with his nose. The Warners were barking the wake-up call. "Juliet, it's nearly time," he woofed gently to her as she opened her eyes. A sigh ruffled her short whiskers. "Alright, I'm coming," she murmured, yawning. Rajet smiled affectionately and padded from the den. His muscles hardened as he stepped into the pale, pre-dawn light. Battle lust burned in his soul. This was the pack spirit, guiding him to protect his pack. Tipping back his head, the Alpha wolf howled to the brightening sky a song of anticipation. It had no meaning to the other packs, but he knew that he was ready.