I had black fur. All the fur down my back and at the base of my tail was black. Black fur was the symbol of great change, and people feared the change, for we were prosperous at the time.
I was born to a smaller pack. There were about three wolves in the pack when I could first see, my parents and the Alpha, and there were usually about eight wolves at a time for the first few seasons. It was still bigger than most packs.
Pack sizes were based almost entirely on skill. If you were good at what you did, you would most likely belong to a pack, and if you weren't, you didn't. This meant that wolves that weren't very good at hunting or fighting stayed in a small pack of weak wolves.
Luckily for us, prey was reasonably abundant in our area, meaning we didn't have to be good at hunting, and since such a small number of wolves were permanent in the pack, fighting was not important.
That didn't stop me from fighting anyway.
I quickly took to fighting the foxes that lived near the den, and they began to expect me, some fearing my presence. Most of the younger foxes, however, took a liking to the challenge that came from fighting an animal built for strength instead of cunning. The parents didn't appreciate it much, but I had many friends in what I had learned, from one of the foxes, to be called a skulk.
They were apparently fairly rare, with most foxes living with only their immediate family. I never understood why they wouldn't want to live in a pack, and asked on many occasions, but they never had a very good answer. I dropped it after a couple seasons, mostly because they had started asking me why I would want to live in a pack. I didn't really have an answer for them.
For an entire cycle, I didn't see another pack of wolves. There were about seven wolves in the pack this time, three being females. Two of the Omegas were sparring over the last female, and I watched the scuffle, fascinated by the speed at which they performed their attacks. I had never been able to fight very well against the foxes, fearing I would hurt them.
So when a pack came by trying to claim our territory, I was the first to stand up to them.
"This territory is ours! You can't have it." I had shouted, earning the gaze of every living thing in the area. I was but one, hardly old enough to have a formal battle, and I had just challenged a rival Alpha. If he had any honor, he would have refused, but he decided to accept it anyway, earning just as many stares as I had.
The other wolves quickly spread out to make room for the fight, knowing it most likely was going to end horribly. I should have been dying of anxiety, but I was quietly confident instead. Probably the dumbest thing I had ever felt.
He wiped the floor with me. He all but took off my head. The rest of the pack was banished from the area for my actions, and they hated me for it, despite the fact that none of them left anyway. We all stayed out of the opposing Alpha's way, but we never left the territory.
Other wolves who were banished joined our pack, and I challenged all of them, losing almost every fight, but getting better fast.
Because of the Alpha and his pack taking our food, we had harder hunting. I, luckily, showed some promise. I was able to catch small prey consistently, and was able to feed myself and at least one other. When I look back, I realize I probably kept the pack alive during our exile.
By the time I was two, I had a winning streak of somewhere around forty fights, and was confident enough to call for a rematch.
He was infuriated that we had stayed in "his" territory, and wasn't afraid to show it. Neither was his Beta. I offered to fight the Beta as well. He agreed.
I was to fight both of them in order. It was easy enough to be the Beta, eager as he was to claw my throat out. A simple counter swipe when he dove took him out.
The Alpha was a tough fight. He clawed, he bit, and he took every opening as it was, an opportunity to kill me. He never succeeded. I only hit him once, but it counted. I bit his leg and threw him into a tree, breaking his leg. He limped away, whining like a pup.
I was Alpha. His pack had been fairly strong, and had twenty wolves in it, adding to ours, which, because of the constant banishment of wolves, had grown to sixteen wolves. I controlled a pack of thirty-six, and an area of about thirty-six square kilometers. All at the age of two.
It was because of this that I became ever better at fighting. Because I was so young, I was challenged by many wolves, each one beaten more handily than the next. When the start of the cycle came, I did not pick a mate. Rather, a mate picked me. Lyra, a snow white wolf, chose me as her male for the cycle. I did not argue.
All five of our pups grew to a cycle of age, and only one left the pack. It was a great success as an Alpha, and solidified my position as the leader of the pack. I finally had respect.
I chose the previous Alpha of my pack as my Beta. He was grateful, and given my record, no one challenged him.
The pack grew quickly, due to my inclusive nature, and reached sixty members by the next cycle, including the pups. I was wanted.
I was happy.
But I did not feel complete.
Not all of these wolves were accepting of my power, challenging me on everything. I wanted that to stop, but not because I wanted absolute power. I didn't know what I wanted. But it wasn't here for me.
Much to the chagrin of the other pack members, I appointed my Beta as Alpha, and left the pack and my pups of one cycle, Lyra following closely behind.