PROLOUGE

Thunder crashed overhead, and growls echoed through the clearing. Bright eyes shone, through the darkness, surrounding a very scared black-and-white wolf. But he stood with his head held high, determination setting his unseeing eyes. Even without seeing, he could feel the hatred pulsing from the pelts of his pelt. An albino wolf stepped forward, breaking the circle.

"Xi!" He barked. "Do you admit to your crimes?" Xi back up a step, flattening his ears.

"Alpha! You know me better than any wolf! Can't you see I didn't kill Rho?" Xi growled, baring his teeth but still shaking under his pelt. He tried to look strong, but failed miserably. Alpha took a step forward, now nose-to-nose with the accused.

"Admit it!" He roared with fury. "Admit you killed her!"

"I would never admit to something I didn't do!" Xi barked. With a throaty growl, Alpha lunged at Xi, bowling him over and pinning him to the ground. The old spotted wolf did not fight back, but let his leader sit on top of him, growling in his face. He would never harm one of his own pack. Alpha's teeth were inches from his throat when a clear voice rang out through the torrential rain.

"Alpha!" It was a she-wolf voice, and it carried a warning growl. With a whine, he backed off.

"Beta," he said calmly. "What is it now?" Green eyes gleaming, the she-wolf stalked over to stand in front of Xi.

"I do not believe he killed Rho," she stated defiantly. Alpha's eyes flashed with hurt and disbelief, with a hint of uncertainty. But he could not back down now. He would look like a fool.

"We all believe what we want," he said calmly, hoping she would move so he could finish the job.

She didn't budge. "I will not let you kill him," she growled. "He's a member of our pack. If you want to kill him, you'll have to kill me first." Alpha dropped his head, ears back, tail between his legs.

"I could never kill you," he growled softly, and retreated back to his place in the circle, to stand on a rock higher than his packmates. "You have seen the disloyalty within this pack! How they stand before you, liars and murderers! If anyone else wishes to stand up for the accused, you will leave this pack!" His eyes blazed with fury and grief. Beta dipped her head.

"If that is what you wish, my love, I will stand for what I believe in." Pain choked her voice as she helped Xi to his feet. With a last desperate, pleading stare at her mate, they limped towards the wall of the circle, which broke to let them pass through the rain.

The pack's howls of grief carried over the wind, even after Beta and Xi were long gone.