A near-silent beast glided across the snow. It darted in and out and between the huge pines that crossed its path. So quiet and smooth were the strides of the four powerful legs that its dark red body was the only true indication that the animal was running through the trees at all. The coloring did not blend into the snow that had fallen earlier that morning, ensuring that hunting would have been a useless expenditure. The frigid cold hardly bothered the beast as he raced headlong into the blasting wind.

Even though the wolf is a hardy creature, this particular one was exceptional. He was large and brawny, yet sleek and graceful. His speed was almost unmatched, yet his strength was nearly unsurpassed. He could easily leap atop the back of a swift fleeing deer and crunch into the soft flesh of the neck. His senses were powerful and honed. Tracking a week-old moose trail was hardly an arduous task, and hearing a twig snap across a wide meadow was an everyday occurrence. His fangs were long, his claws were sharp, his fur was thick, his legs were long, his muscles were sinuous. He was an effective predator. As well-suited for his habitat as Centaurus was, it couldn't help him maintain his original pack of six.

Cepheus, the red wolf's father, had been the alpha male of one of the largest packs ever heard of in the region. Over twenty wolves had once looked to the black wolf for guidance and leadership. He had been a powerful, yet caring dominant. The large pack had split over five years ago, forming many smaller numerous packs throughout the wood. Only the gray female Silverback had remained by her male's side. The two became permanent mates and produced many viable pups. From his fifth litter of offspring, Centaurus was born. The only other cub in this particular litter was one called Longtail. He bore the same rust coat that Centaurus did, but unlike the other, Longtail left the pack to journey alone through the land. That would be Cepheus and Silverback's last litter. The next spring, a hunter shot the gray female in the back of the skull for sport, leaving her carcass upon the crimson grass. Cepheus, wrought with grief, never took another alpha female after that. His son was the only remaining member of his pack.

In the autumn of his third year, Centaurus took dominance from his father. It was a bloodless exchange; Cepheus simply didn't have the heart to lead anymore. His graying muzzle now longer looked as powerful and authoritative as it once had. His once hard piercing gold eyes were now becoming clouded and filmy with age. As Centaurus now led the small pack, he was able to travel the land any way he pleased. In the first two weeks of his dominance, the pair had traveled more than 100 miles. In search off what: perhaps freedom, perhaps territory, perhaps a pack, perhaps nothing.

The traveling finally ceased when father and son encountered two sisters out beside a dried up river-bed. One was a light silver while the other was a lustrous black. The silver, Rumour, had already made it clear to Shadow that she was the dominant female even though they were without males. Now that they was a male with an open position for alpha female right in front of her, Rumour obviously took it. The four joined together, happily falling into a routine that could only befit a family that had been together much longer than they had. They easily hunted prey large and small, somehow knowing exactly what the other was thinking.

The good fortune did not end there for Centaurus. Right near the end of fall, just as the air took on a biting frost, two more wolves appeared from one morning mist. The alpha met this intrusion with raised fur and lips. A young healthy male led this duo. His old mother followed behind him. Stalker was a strong, arrogant black male while Cloudsong was a quiet, but resilient dusty brown female. She was a full ten years old, a ripe age that many healthy wolves were not lucky to achieve.

It had taken much bravado and a little bit of a fight to finally push Stalker into settling into the role as Beta. Centaurus was all too aware that one slip up and Stalker would probably kill him. All is fair in love and war, right? And there was as much love as there was war in the now complete pack. While entering the first frigid weeks of winter, Centaurus and Rumour became closer and closer. It was only natural, they were only doing what biology told them and seeking out potential mates.

Nothing could have been better for the male wolf; everything was perfect. He had a pack of six, a healthy female, and prey was plentiful. Until winter set in...