A/N: Feedback on this would be much appreciated. It's a semi-recent writing, and while I like how this turned out, I'm not sure if I should continue on to write more chapters or simply leave this as a one-shot. Tell me your thoughts.


Prologue:

~ The Separation ~

The roar of the wind blew past with merciless force, drying eyes to the point of stinging and watering, and creating pseudo tears for the ones who would die that day. The sun burned and beat down upon the masses even harder, especially on the moments that the wind settled to allow a moment of eerie and jaded silence. At the same time, suspended in the air was thick tension that bore down on any heart aware of the events to come. While it was impossible to say at the time what exactly would happen, all understood the gist of it. It didn't take a seer to know.

Walls of bodies faced each other, grim and silent, hostile and malicious. Some had snarls twitching ever so lightly at their lips, feeling it too early to launch forward for the bite yet itching to release the suspense which kept their body coiled, ready for the spring. Those thousands of eyes facing off were examining for weak points or proper challengers, spirits strong or weak depending upon who feared the blood to come or who thirsted for it. It was a hard ordeal, even for those not resisting a tempting kill.

My own body was tense, my heart thudding heavily in my chest, eyes keen and ears perked for even the slightest disturbance in this invisible deadlock, but most of all, I found it difficult to breathe. The pressure held my body with an iron grip that I could not shake unless I moved, yet if I moved, the opposing line would, under this stress, see it as hostile and use it as an excuse to make the first move. I was frightened, not only for my life, but for what would happen to everyone. Who would make it? Who would turn into blood-feud enemies from this point on if they happened to be on the other side? This wasn't easy for me. Even the so-called "enemy" leader was someone I had called a good friend. More of those friends were scattered between the ranks of both sides.

Perhaps I was the only one to tear my eyes away from the masses to the woman beside me, then the other leader whom stood directly across from her. Hair flaming red and dancing in the wind, her yellow eyes kept closely on the one she called her enemy, wearing nothing but the bare minimum; no armor decorated her form, though she held herself like a warrior anyway. Not even a dagger made itself present. And then next to me, the one I had chosen to side with for this fight, was similar in her confidence, but holding no malice toward the opponent. An edge in her black eyes hinted at unpreparedness, perhaps not having foreseen this event when starting anew with those whom had agreed to her plan.

When it started, an explosion of outraged cries violently echoed out from every last throat to tremble the earth we trod upon, and then the wall of enemies launched forward in a bombardment of flesh and fangs. Even those who had mere human blood seemed disturbingly dangerous with their steel weapons to substitute their lack of claws. My allies also lunged into the assault with battle-cries that chilled me to my bone, and together with the approaching mass of flesh, which could very easily crush my strong bones with their sheer weight, an intense instinct to flee overcame me.

But I was already running, dashing across the soil with devil-quick feet and fangs drawn for the assault. Claws extended, muscles coiling with each movement to prepare for the moment of impact, we finally met, flesh to flesh, the brunt of the contact knocking me breathless and jostling me in a disorienting blow, yet I still won the airborne tackle and landed atop the hapless victim whom no sooner felt my fangs sinking deep into their jugular.

Then as the blood gushed out to give me a taste of that salty delicious blood, my mind jumped back from the current events.

I was wandering into a land, happening across a group of oddly diverse beasts, all lounging in their own personal peace. Greeted and welcomed by the leader, the woman of fire-red hair, I found my body resting beside her and many others I soon came to know as friends.

Not much later, I had adjusted to the system in which they lived under, having accomplished my training to specialize in herbs, then finding myself promoted to Captain of the Herb-users. And for a while, despite the occasional or sometimes frequent scuttles between the members of the clan, things were going well, showing a promising future for more than just me; for everyone.

I wonder when things started to go bad. Were they going bad? Had anything changed? Or maybe after her arrival, they started to get tired of the needless drama that seemed to repeat itself over and over again. Maybe it wasn't even them; perhaps it was the leader, whom grew tired of those fighting over their ranks. For a moment, I couldn't recall what had brought this violence on, since it seemed—to me at least—that one day people were simply having their usual disagreement, then the next moment the once unified clan had divided itself over that simple argument.

Then I came to recall the one day where the leader had, without warning, stripped every last person of their rank and power. Disappointed, yes, I was, but not devastated. I had understood her intentions—to get rid of the silly rank disputes that plagued us—so I was willing to wait and let her decide for herself that we were ready to regain our privilege to be granted a title. I had thought it unnecessary; that's why I could wait.

But I suppose not all could. Some missed the power. Some misinterpreted this as an insult. Some saw it as an abuse of her own privileges. And some saw it as a good way to settle the ranking squabbles. Hell, I'm sure there were those who even understood that it was just a silly name and nothing more, and that it wasn't necessary to live.

Still, it happened that a newcomer had seen the flaws beforehand and had previously discussed with another captain the idea of breaking away and forming their own separate clan with a different but similar system. While many others had attempted something to this affect, the change would have been too drastic for comfortable adjustment, and it just so happened that she had unintentionally timed it to coincide with the stripping of the ranks. News of her plan spread like wildfire, once just an idle murmur amongst everyone but suddenly exploding to life as if it were a startling and life-changing revelation. The issue the newcomer and captain had faced was getting enough people to join them, but now they had at least half of the existing clan flocking to them to escape what they now envisioned a hellhole. Their dramatic reactions reminded me of a revolt or anarchy.

It hadn't been an attempt to usurp power, but that's how it seemed to the leader and her followers. I had helped the other captain come up with a system that might work better than the current one, so she and the newcomer had offered a high rank for me to assume in order to help them keep peace, yet at the same time, the original leader had given me and a few others the one and only promotion available; Second Council. I just wanted to be neutral. I did not want to fight over this. I wanted to say "let them go and let us continue our own way." Unfortunately, all were incensed beyond simple rage at each other.

One of the few still calm enough to think clearly was the black-eyed woman, whom I met at a nearby spring soon after. She was bothered by all the hate and shunning she had started to receive, not having expected things to escalate to a riot. What she had wanted was to gather around five or so people she trusted and go off quietly to begin anew. I agreed at that point to help her set things up and get away from the current clan. Personally, I planned to stay with the original, but a helping hand would be all right.

No one objected to this, yet things did not subside. Once she and her followers attempted to leave, the remnants of the original and their leader tried to banish her and re-absorb the ones trying to escape. I could still understand the angle the original's leader was coming from, but at this point I sided with the black-eyed woman.

My eyes refocused on reality, my blind instincts and rushing adrenaline still in full control of my body. Allies and enemies alike were on a blood-thirsty frenzy, slaying each other like heartless crooks with no value for life. Even I had been caught in it. While my mind registered this bloody scene as wrong, my heart was too saturated with the desperate fury of mindless battle to register this sin in my soul. My white fur had been washed in that red water, the same liquid that my claws and teeth continued to draw from anyone who came too close.

My feet flew across the ground, kicking my weight up into the air and allowing my wings to spread and soar over them all, only to dive back down to tackle and rake my nails through more flesh. Jumping in the air and slamming my tail into several opponents, grimacing at a were-fox biting down into my shoulder, I stood on my hinds to rip her off, not registering the way the she-fox's fangs ripped through the skin to stay latched on. That only allowed for a wolf to latch onto my back, and feeling more claws and teeth ripping at my body, I let mana pulse from my boiling blood, once more using all of my power to break free into the air.

Ignoring the creature tearing at my back, I inhaled deeply, warmth filling deep in my chest, before I exhaled just as sharply, flames leaping from my throat in a stream of scorching white. While the screams of pain echoed up, I clamped my mouth shut to still the fire, only to freefall backwards into the very flames that I had created. The wolf howled when his flesh and fur caught fire, then gagged as my body weight sandwiched him against the ground, which caused an unnatural crunch upon impact.

My eyes fluttered open in a startled rush to dispel the dream, ears shot forward, claws extended, teeth just beginning to sheath, and my breath coming in short gasps as if I really had just finished fighting a cold-hearted massacre. The scars that hid under or marred the flow of my fur and scales ached like fresh wounds, yet I knew that they were bloodless and long-healed.

While my ears and eyes detected the peaceful sounds of a flowing river and chirping birds, and while my body felt the soft grass of the riverside, all I could notice were the phantom screeches and cries of battle, echoing in my skull like a schizophrenic first hearing the voices. Below me my body still thought something else was happening; claws sprinting full-speed and the feel of someone's ribcage collapsing under my immense weight.

Weakly I got up from my spot, limbs trembling and ears finally drawing back, and took a long drink from the river. Perhaps the worst of the ghost-like haunting was the rusty, salty taste of freshly ripped open flesh.