Prelude: Ultimatum

I propelled myself into the wilderness, unafraid of anything in front of me. The woods were cold, not in temperature but in starkness. Unfeeling towers of dark gnarled shapes and textures coming up to interfere with the path before me. Still I made my way towards a new fate, furious with the seeming inevitability of things.

Then Alice screamed in the distance, and I knew that soon she would be alerting the rest of the family of my decision. Except I knew it was too late, they couldn't catch me now. Not that they could've done much to restrain me. He was the only one that could've really stopped me, and he was so far away. The reminder of him forced me again to realize that a piece of my heart was withering without his presence.

I hardly noticed as rain began to fall from the starless sky, which thankfully masked my trail. Not that my destination was all that secret. I knew that it wouldn't take Alice long to figure out where I was going. Then I crossed the imaginary line and a chorus of howls broke the silence of the rain swept night. I stopped in place, just a foot into their territory.

Within seconds the wolves descended, and their anger was obvious with their gnashing teeth and stamping paws. After another moment, the second largest of the pack, a black furred monstrosity stood into a man shrugging off fur and claws, as if they were nothing more than an unwelcome coat unabashedly naked.

"Explain!" He wasn't courteous, not that I expected him to be. His expression was more than hostile, it was bordering on deadly.

"I want peace, or I will force war. I will not live with threats from all sides anymore. This ends tonight, in blood or in something new. Either way it's over." It was an ultimatum that I expected him to reject. Yet I had to give him an option.

"Then war!" He said without hesitation, and leapt at me shifting effortlessly back into an impossibly large black wolf. An instant later the rest of his pack charged with him, outnumbering me ten to one.