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Pack Wars

By: Dale Uhlmann

Chapter 1

"Leon!" gasped Shelia breathlessly as her mate crouched before the cabin door while their three followers stood patiently in the snow-covered underbrush awaiting the signal to proceed. She decided she would make at least one last attempt to dissuade Leon from the bloodlust she was sure would lead that bleak December night to the beginning of the end of the Crusade.

"What you're going to do will bring hell on all our heads! Let's go back to camp, and we'll tell the Council we couldn't find them."

"Who made you pack leader?" growled Leon, in his thick French accent.

"I'm an Alpha, too, Shelia snapped back.

"Is that so, mon cherie? Well, I told you before, I'm an Alpha male, and I outrank you!"

"The hell you do!"

Leon had heard enough. His sharp, pointy ears stood erect and forward in anger. Barring his teeth, he rose off his fours, stood on his hind legs, and stared defiantly at Shelia. For a moment, she was reminded of what a magnificent werewolf he was: tall, about 6'7," with a lean, muscular body covered, except for his human-looking face, in thickly matted silver grey hair. She remembered how this southern French loup-garou's strikingly handsome, chiseled European features and old world charm had captured her heart from the day they had first met. For his part, he had been equally taken with this northern California she-werewolf's hauntingly lovely sapphire green eyes, soft apricot coat, full, firm breasts, and delicately sculpted human face. In addition, her lithe, muscular body made her a formidable fighting partner.

The two had first met about twelve years ago, when they had been recruited, along with other werewolves captured by a multi-national outfit working with the CIA, for Operation Lobo. This was a top secret unit whose mission was to conduct a covert war against terrorist groups in Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan. The CIA had requested the most fierce, bestial fighting unit possible, and the werewolves, captured from practically very section of the globe, had not disappointed them. The terrorists were no match for the ferocious wolf men and wolf women that stalked and horribly massacred their victims with animalistic fury. Operation Lobo had succeeded beyond the government's highest expectations. But what was their reward? To be rounded up and placed in forced internment camps in Michigan, followed by mass executions by marksmen armed with silver bullets. Now that they had won the war on terrorism, the government had decided there was no further need for Operation Lobo, and that these creatures now had to be terminated.

But the werewolves, flush with pride over their victories, refused to be imprisoned. When word spread about the government's plans, the thousands of packs revolted, escaped, and declared an all-out war of their own against their fellow masters that the promptly formed International Lupine Council called "The Crusade." All over the world, werewolves cruelly attacked and wiped out whole adult human populations in a united effort to make the world their own and become Earth's dominant species. Humans may have silver bullets, but it still takes expert marksmanship to land a fatal shot, and werewolves' extraordinary speed and evasive leaping ability had minimized their enemies' chief weapon. In the twelve years since the Crusade had started, human populations across the glove had been forced to evacuate towns and cities and seek refuge in isolated pockets, primarily in forests, deserts, and mountains. Many of the werewolves had joined the Crusade, including Leon and Shelia, were veterans of the Middle East anti-terrorist campaigns and sought out humans with the same tenacity and fierceness with which they had wiped out Hamas and al-Qaeda.

One of these new campaigns had put Leon's pack for miles on the scent of a vacationing family who had rented a cabin in the Alaskan woods, just outside of Juno. Leon wanted to kill the children, two boys, ages seven and nine, since he felt such an attack would strike true fear into the opponents' hearts and destroy their morale. Shelia was against killing the boys, not some much on moral grounds (although she couldn't help but compare the two children to their own pups), but for tactical reasons-to humans, the killing of children was especially reprehensible, and would surely lead to the most terrible of repercussions.

But Leon would not listen. Since what he called "The Great Betrayal," he hated all humans, and was determined to show them no mercy.

He had patiently born Shelia's objections and questioning of his judgment before. Now, she was questioning his authorit y, and before the eyes of the male Beta werewolves in the back-up group that night that were looking on. These werewolves, associates who, along with their mates and pups, Leon had recruited form other packs, would regard any backing down on his part as a sign of weakness, and give the more ambitious ones an excuse to challenge his position as the dominant male. That would never do. Although the pressure of the campaign had taken a toll on their relationship (resulting in Leon's recent affair with an Alpha female from a neighboring pack), he still had feelings for Shelia. Despite that fact, and all they had been through together, he couldn't let her insubordination pass. He lunged at Shelia, his great jaws snapping at her face. She jumped back, raised herself up on her hind legs, and barred her own sharp, white canines. Leon could barely believe what he was seeing. "That bitch!" he snarled to himself. "How dare she show me her teeth?" Leon prepared to charge again. The other werewolves looked on anxiously. Was Leon Alpha Male Werewolf or not? Would Shelia back down?

As Leon lunged again, Shelia suddenly saw, before her eyes, a vision of their newborn werewolf pups. What if she were killed, and they were left motherless? She felt she could not subject them to such a fate, so, in that split second remaining before Leon's second attack, she decided to back down. Instantly, she lowered her head. As she did so, her ears flattened, and she cringed submissively before her mate. Her body language signaled to him his victory. "That's more like it," he smugly remarked.

"This is the last time!" vowed Shelia silently. She knew there would have to be a change, and that a reckoning would come. But because of the pups, that time, she decided, could not be now.

Leon relished his temporary victory. He turned his attention to the other pack members, beckoning them with a twist of his head to advance. This threesome crept on all fours toward Leon, heads lowered in subjugation. Each one stood in line and, one after the other, showed their submissiveness by lightly brushing Leon's hide with their snouts.

"Ass kissers!" remarked Shelia to herself. Any love she'd once felt for Leon had now completely vanished from her heart.

"Follow me," commanded Leon, when the last one had finished paying his respects. "You stay here," he ordered Shelia. "I don't trust you." He then dropped down on all fours, and the others likewise followed him through the snow to the back of the cabin, where Leon had them stop just outside the two children's bedroom window.

The two sandy-haired boys slept peacefully in the bunk bed their father had constructed for them, Colin, the older child, in the upper bunk, and Alex, the younger, in the lower. Colin, a light sleeper, tossed about fitfully. Meanwhile, Leon got up on his hind legs to get a better view, and to measure the distance he would need to crash through the front window. He backed up, readying himself for the assault. The full moon's silver light created an eerie silhouette of the massive wolf-creature that caught Colin's eyes as he suddenly awoke, startled out of his uneasy slumber by Leon's movements.

"Alex!" Colin tried to warn his brother. But it was too late. Instantly, Leon crashed through the glass and leaped upon the bottom bunk, on tip of Alex. He wasted no time biting through his red and white striped wool pajamas and feasting on his soft, tender midsection. His intestines soon lay in a bloody, gooey heap on the white cotton bed sheets.

Meanwhile, the three Beta males had followed their leader through what remained of the window. While Leon was attending to Alex, the others pulled Colin from the top bunk with their massive claws and flung him to wood paneled floor. Fortunately, the boy hit his head on the hard wood and passed out, and was spared the conscious agony of being subsequently devoured alive by the ravenous bests. Little was left in the boy's sky blue wool pajamas except his virtually bare skeleton; wisps of flesh and marrow hung limply from the bones.

The boys' bedroom resembled a slaughterhouse. By the time their shocked parents, awakened by the crash, discovered the carnage, the savage perpetrators were long gone, on their way back, on all fours, to camp.

Leon bragged practically every step of the way about how he had struck a mortal blow at the enemy's morale, how the only way to deal with humans was to wipe them all out-even their children. To show their approval, the Beta males howled in unison. Shelia alone kept silent. She still had terrible misgivings about what Leon had done, and wasn't sure if the entire pack wouldn't yet suffer for this atrocity. She would have her answer sooner than she had expected.

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Chapter 2

Shelia sensed something was terribly wrong when the pack was about a mile-and-a-half away from camp. She, and the others, surely, could smell the scent of death. As they approached, they saw that the night sky was illuminated by billows of dense smoke and flames. Ear-piercing howls of agony and grief greeted them as they neared. What especially disturbed Shelia was that these howls were female, from the throats of her fellow sister-werewolves-all mothers.

As they cautiously entered the camp grounds, they could see that practically every structure-every makeshift wood hut and tent-had been burned to the ground. Still raging fires were everywhere. The returning pack members temporarily stood still, awestruck by the destruction, but the incessant howls soon drew them back to reality.

Quickly following their source, they headed around the corner of the members of what was once Leon and Shelia's hut. There, they discovered the five female werewolves, who had stayed behind, all huddled together on the snowy ground. Their eyes were filled with tears and their howls were thick with grief. Shelia broke loose from her partners to come to the aid of one of her sister-werewolves. All of them ceased their howling when they saw her approach Rebecca, the oldest she-werewolf of the pack, and the group's matriarch. "What happened here?" she asked the salt-and-pepper-haired female.

Rebecca slowly raised her venerable head and, in a voice heavy with sorrow, tried to explain. "Oh, Shelia, they came about forty-five minutes after you left."

"Who?" asked Shelia anxiously.

"Those who always walk on twos. They came with swords of silver . . . and they butchered them . . . just them . . . all of them. Look !"

Rebecca pointed with her right index claw to a spot about twenty feet ahead of her. Shelia saw a large, freshly dug pit. As she slowly approached the opening on all fours, her keen sense of smell automatically caught a familiar scent, that of her two-year-old pups, a boy and a girl. Her stomach sickened as she peered into its opening and discovered the pit's true purpose-it was a mass grave. In that hellhole were the decapitated bodies of all eight of the pack's slain pups-not one of them had been spared. Although covered elsewhere in hair, their faces-each boy's and each girl's-was smooth, human, and cherubic. The sight was truly heartrending.

When she saw the heads and bodies of her own pups, Shelia had to crawl a few feet away from the pit to retch. She then crouched, flung her neck violently back, raised her head toward the moon, and howled in torment.

"They'll pay for this, mon cherie -every last one of them! I promise you!"

Shelia's normally placid green eyes stared back at him blazing fury. She did not reply, but growled lowly, but audibly, her previously flattened ears now forward and erect, and canines barred, just as they had been at the cabin, Her reaction so surprised Leon that he was stunned into silence.

Shelia had pieced together what had happened-it was obvious. The boys' parents had instantly alerted the nearest human resistance camp of the savage attack. Its leader, acting on earlier tips of the presence of a werewolf pack in the area, had already sent out a patrol that was on the trail of the pack headquarters. He had then sent out new orders: every last werewolf cub was to be killed, in retaliation. The adults were to be left alive, so as to tell the tale to others. The patrol had struck so swiftly, so unexpectedly, that their mothers hadn't had time to react. Now, they instinctively gathered around Shelia. They knew a showdown was imminent.

"You FILTH!" shouted Shelia. "I warned you this would happen! You crazy fool! What did you think they were going to do after you killed those boys? What WE have done? If you'd just listened to me and controlled that side of yours that thinks of nothing else but killing for killing, blood for blood, our poor, innocent pups would still be alive!"

As she said this, she cast an eye toward her sister-werewolves, who were likewise growling in unison and support. She then faced Leon again. "ALL our pups would still be alive!"

"You'd better back down, mon cherie!" warned Leon. "I know it's the grief talking right now, but I won't tolerate your speaking to me in that way. Do you hear me? I WON'T HAVE IT!" You remember your place in this pack!"

"MY place, Leon?" Shelia asked sarcastically. "And what is that?"

"To be submissive to me. "I'M pack leader!"

"Yes, a leader who's gotten his pack's children-our life's blood-killed! I say it's time for a change. We're going to put this thing to a vote!"

"Vote?" Leon responded derisively. "Vote? Are you so much like those humans who can't make up their own minds without someone else deciding for them, through what they call 'majority rule?' I thought you left that foolishness behind when you became a werewolf, when you joined this pack. We rule by strength-by force-by MY strength and force!"

"And what have your precious strength and force done? But why should you care? You didn't bare them! You'll never-never -feel the loss we feel! Thanks to you, every mother here knows the grief you forced those boys' parents to feel tonight!"

"What I did was right! And I'd do it again, gladly! I don't care if it costs us every litter we have-every brat you bitches can conceive-as long as every last human is wiped off the face of this earth! You don't know how I hate the daylight hours, and the nights when the moon isn't full, when I have to wear that filthy human skin again! Don't tell me what I did was wrong!"

"You MONSTER! You're no better than the humans you claim to hate so much. No, you're WORSE! YOU'RE the enemy, not THEM.

Enraged, Leon leaped at Shelia, knocking her to the ground with one powerful swipe of his left paw to her snout. Blood flowed freely from the right corner of her maw. He then expected her to cower and submit again, as she had earlier that evening. She had done so then for their pups' sake. Now, there was nothing standing between her and Leon. She would be a passive, suffering doormat any longer for any werewolf, Alpha or Beta. Crusade or not, she would no longer tolerate this abuse. Leon's time had come, and the entire pack knew it.

Shelia rose to her hind legs and confronted her attacker.

"Learned your lesson now, bitch?" Leon scoffed. She stared at him silently.

"What? You're not going cry, are you, mon cherie?" Leon laughed cruelly. He turned his head to the other male werewolves, who took this as their cue to join him in the derisive laughter.

Taking advantage of this distraction, Shelia lunged at Leon. No sooner than Leon turned his face back toward her, he felt the full force of her body knocking him to the ground, and flat on his back. Before he knew it, she was at his throat, biting and clawing at the soft flesh of his jugular vein. It was all Leon could do to throw her off him and rise unsteadily to his paws. Blood began flowing freely from the open cuts inflicted by Shelia's teeth and claws. All the other pack members, male and female, looked on silently, in shock.

"You BITCH!" He snarled. "I'll KILL you!"

Instantly, the two were locked in bestial combat, clawing at each other's face and throat. Whatever the outcome would be, the result would be monumental. What was happening was more than a personal fight between Shelia vs. Leon; for the first time in the Crusade's history, werewolf was battling werewolf. Never before had there been this type of in-fighting. It had always been clear who the enemy was: the human race. Now, who could tell? And, too, status quo Alpha male werewolf dominance was being challenged. Either way it would end, pack relationships would never again be the same.

Leon and Shelia both fought ferociously, with the leverage and advantage swaying back and forth. Although Leon outweighed Shelia by about thirty pounds, what she lacked in equal size she more than made up for in determination, adrenal energy, and courage. Still, Leon's sheer size began to wear her down, and when she fell on her back a final time, she knew this could be the end. She looked up as Leon prepared to launch one more leap upon her throat. As she did, she spotted, out of the corners of her eyes, a possible advantage. About three feet in back of her was a silver sword left by one of the human patrol that night, and embedded handle-first in the soft snow. The blade, still bright with the blood of the werewolf children, had been left upright, as a symbolic warning to the other members of the pack. She knew what she had to do. As Leon charged and flung himself in mid-air, she raised her two front paws upward, catching him in the midriff as he leaped upon her. Summoning all the strength she could, Shelia kicked her legs upward, sending Leon into the air-and landing backward upon the silver blade.

The blade penetrated Leon's spine. Blood flowed from this back and turned the surrounding snow crimson red, as he howled in agony. It was all over in a few minutes.

Shelia slowly gathered her emotions together, and got off the ground, panting and sweating profusely. She walked on her hind legs to Leon. His eyes were wide open and death, his shout agape. She then lowered herself to all fours and, placing her front paws on his chest, threw her head back and howled at the moon in exaltation and victory. When she ceased, her sister-werewolves instantly gathered around her and began brushing her hide with their snouts, in allegiance to their new pack leader.

Looking on in shock and disbelief were the male werewolves, who could not bring themselves to show submissiveness to her, because she was female. This was not lost on Shelia, who walked over on her hind legs to confront them.

"Well?" she asked them directly. "Where do you stand? With m e, or still with . . . him?" She pointed her snout to the left, in the direction of Leon's bloody, lifeless body.

"I can't follow a female," said one of the males. The others nodded in agreement.

Instantly, the other females gathered around Shelia. Counting Shelia, they outnumbered the males six-to-three, who were in no position to challenge this change in leadership. A coup detat would have been suicidal, and they knew it.

"Is that your final answer?" Shelia asked. The others nodded. "Then get out!" she ordered. In submission, the males flattened their ears, bowed their heads, and crept away into the night, leaving Shelia in charge of the pack. "We'll see what the Council has to say about this," they vowed to each other when they were well away from the camp.

Shelia knew she had won a monumental victory, but that a greater war would now await her, and not just with the human race. How would the Council respond to this usurpation? Would she and her sister-pack members have to now regard their fellow werewolves as enemies? What changes had she now put into motion?

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Chapter 3

In the months that followed, Shelia's "renegade" pack proved the equal of any male-led werewolf pack-well-oiled, efficient-and lethal. It scored victory after victory over human enemy camps, wiping out one after the other, and taking more and more territory. The "she-demons" is what the fearful humans were now calling them, but their conquests won no accolades from the International Lupine Council, who still regarded them as outlaws. As a result, Shelia was ordered to testify before a special meeting of the Council. There, she stood before the five venerable "grey beards" of the werewolf world who headed the committee; the four seated behind the circular dais had been chosen from China, England, Brazil, and the former Soviet Union, respectively. The U.S. representative and its, and of African-American descent, leader was the legendary lycanthrope, General Morgan Jamison, who had first organized the veterans of Operation Lobo against their captors, and whom all the other werewolves respected as their liberator. Tall and majestic, his body completely covered by once jet black, now faded silver hair, he strode majestically into the chamber, took his center seat, and began the questioning.

"Alpha Shelia," he announced in his deep, booming voice, "the International Lupine Council has called you here to answer charges of insurrection and murder, having killed your pack leader, Alpha Leon, in an unlawful attempt to wrest control of his pack. How do you answer these charges?"

The phrase "his" pack alerted Shelia right away to the General's belief that an Alpha male was a pack's true leader, and that there was no such thing as equal sharing of authority, as was popularly believed, between Alpha male and Alpha female werewolves-at least not according to the Council. The hairs of her body bristled in indignation, but she did not think it wise, just yet, to betray her true feelings yet, and answered respectfully, her ears flattened, befitting the General's position, but in a firm, unwavering voice. "I was merely acting in self-defense," she insisted. Alpha Leon attacked me; he had threatened me before. I had no other choice."

"But you provoked the attack," General Jamison answered sternly. "According to the reports we've received from the Beta males you'd expelled, you had challenged his authority on numerous occasions. That's insurrection."

"I had reason to," responded Shelia. "His reckless disregard, his wanton killing of two human children, resulted in a retaliation that claimed the lives of all of the pack's offspring. It was time for a change."

"And who were you, an Alpha femal e, to decide that?"

"I did what was right, for the good of the whole pack. I think my pack's success against our human enemies more than vindicates my decision."

"A decision that was still not yours to make," he insisted. "Alpha Leon had already turned your pack into a formidable fighting unit. This Council finds your taking credit for his hard work and leadership absolutely presumptuous!"

"General, with all due respect, I disagree," Shelia responded courageously. She felt she had to speak up, if not for herself, but for the good of her sister-werewolves, both now and the future. "Alpha Leon was a great warrior werewolf, but lacked one gift that only I a sister-werewolf have brought to the Crusade."

"And what is that?" the General openly scoffed.

"The spirit of 'Wild Woman,'" she answered proudly.

"'Wild Woman?' "Oh, yes, that feminist gibberish you followed before you became one of us. That nonsense has no place in the werewolf world."

"You're wrong, General," retorted Shelia. "'Wild Woman' represents the spirit of the wolf that all we werewolves venerateength, dignity, loyalty, territorial power, and intuitiveness. She is ally, teacher, warrior-a leader who draws on the uniquely female power of intuition; it is that wisdom that will guide the Crusade to victory over its human enemies!"

"Enough!" shouted General Jamison, raising his great right paw to silence her. "This august body has heard enough of your foolishness, vanity, and heresy. Tomorrow evening, during the next full moon, you will receive an emissary from this Council who will take over your pack for the duration of the Crusade. You and your pack will cooperate with him fully and accept his authority. Anything less than full cooperation will be regarded as an act of treason against this Council, subjecting you and your followers to the harshest disciplinary measures possible. Do you understand?"

"Yes," replied Shelia, though she knew exactly what it was she had to do. But she would not tip her paw now.

"Then you may go," responded the General.

Shelia left, dropping to all fours and bowing her head, but in fake submission. Several hours after the dusk of the next full moon, she would reveal her true intentions. Later that night, Shelia sent the matriarch Rachel, who had become her chief lieutenant, with a grim package that she dropped off at the doors of the Council, addressed to General Jamison. The General was called from a security conference to open the package. Inside was a gruesome sight: the severed paws and ears of the werewolf the Council had sent to replace Shelia as pack leader.

The General's response was immediate: he sent out a directive to all werewolf packs that Shelia and her followers were traitors. They were to be regarded as enemies of the Crusade, and to be hunted down and slain as if they were humans.

The news sent the werewolf world into complete and utter chaos. Female werewolves, angered by what they saw as injustice against a fellow werewolf (and a sister at that), defected from their male-led packs by the score. Encouraged, each and every one, by Shelia to find her own inner "Wild Woman," joined their sister's side. To the Council's shock and dismay, Shelia's lone "renegade" pack was now quickly becoming an army, whose growing power threatened to divide their forces, weaken their efforts against the humans, and derail the entire Crusade. General Jamison, soon to his shock and dismay, learned that his decision had created the unthinkable-an all-out werewolf civil war.

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Chapter 4

The subsequent months of civil combat saw Shelia's "she-demons" become the terror of the werewolf world. Whether it was the "Wild Woman" spirit that made the difference or not, they were winning battle after battle against their brother-werewolves. General Jamison claimed these victories were due to the Crusade's forces being weakened by a two-front war against Shelia and her allies on one hand, and the humans on the other. Whatever the reason, the predicament was becoming a genuine cause of concern.

The civil strife was definitely crippling the Crusade's effort against the human enemies all werewolves, male and female, had original formed against. General Jamison was right on one count: humans were now winning back territories in the northern U.S. and Canada they had previously lost. These groups were under the command of a tenacious ex-Operation Lobo officer from Toronto named Anthony King. He had lived, trained, slept, and fought with these creatures on co-missions in the Middle East for so long that he seemed to attack their terrorist opponents with the same cunning and ferocity as his lupine allies. Some even thought he might have been part-werewolf himself. These same traits he was now directing against his former lupine partners.

If that was not alarming enough, the General was additionally concerned by reports that the few male werewolves Shelia and her forces had allowed to live were taken as prisoners, but for one reason only-to be submissive sex slaves of the victorious she-werewolves. Their ears were permanently flattened by excessive clubbing and pinned back, and their canines filed down; they were also de-clawed, forced to wear dog collars and march on all fours, with heads bowed submissively, and service their werewolf mistresses in sado-masochistic domination games involving whips, paddles, and chains, although these allegations could not be verified. Still, General Jamison felt he was seeing what seemed like the beginning of the end of the werewolf world he had loved and embraced since first becoming a shape-shifting lupine nearly a quarter of a century ago. That was unthinkable. The renegade she-werewolves had to be put down, so that united efforts could resume against the hated humans, especially Anthony King's forces.

Feverishly, he appointed werewolf general after werewolf general, but each one's pack was outwitted by Shelia and her sister-werewolves. Finally, he turned to a warrior whose ferocity had been legendary in Afghanistan during Operation Lobo, a werewolf from the snowy mountain of Tibet by the name of Tsereh Yogami.

As a young man, Yogami had been a trapper and, like all Tibetans, knew well the legend of the Yeti. One night, when trapping in the Himalayas, he came upon a snow leopard trail. The unusually bright full moon that night allowed him to see the trail perfectly and follow it to a hidden cave on a secluded plateau. The low, bestial growls from within signaled to him that he had found his quarry, but something just didn't seem right.

They sound strangely different from those of a snow leopard. Still, he approached. Then, before he could draw his rifle, a dark, hairy, humanoid form leaped from the cave. Its fangs still bloody from the snow leopard it had been feeding on. The creature's keen sense of smell had detected Yogami's presence, and it was now taking action against what it considered an intruder and a potential threat. Instantly, the beast knocked him to the ground and clawed at his throat. As he looked up, he found himself staring face-to-face with what he thought was a Yeti, judging from the strangely human face that peered out at him from the mass of coal black hair that covered the monster's body, a face that seemed vaguely familiar to him. In that instant, he thought he recognized the face of the local village priest. It was then that he realized this was not a Yeti, but a werewolf.

The creature's eyes burned with a hellish fire, while saliva dripped from its barred incisors. Yogami recoiled from the beast's oppressive hot breath in his face, as its jaws drew nearer and nearer to his jugular vein. He could feel the dent of the monster's teeth in the soft flesh of his throat, as the fangs ripped open his flesh. Realizing he had to act quickly before it was too late, he pulled a kukri knife, which just happened to be made of sterling silver, from his left hip pocket and plunged it in and out of the creature's right side. Instantly, the beast unleashed a fearsome scream and temporarily released Yogami, who now saw his opportunity. He took the knife, and, in one swift movement, severed the monster's right paw. The creature wailed again in agony, and sped off on all fours, leaving a trail of blood on the soft white snow.

Yogami rose unsteadily to his feet and looked in horror at the severed paw that lay in the snow. Carefully, he wrapped it in a cotton handkerchief and placed it in his fur-lined flack jacket's right-side pocket. As he started to trek down the mountain and back to his village, he instinctively touched his throat, which throbbed in pain; the skin felt raw. Sure enough, drops of blood stained his gloved fingers, for the beast had bitten him. Still, he counted himself lucky; a few inches closer, and the creature would have severed his jugular vein, and he would have bled to death immediately.

When he reached his small apartment in the village, he cleaned out the wound, and, exhausted form the harrowing ordeal, collapsed, still clothed, onto his bed, and fell into a deep sleep. He slept through the night, but his slumber was disturbed by a terrifying dream in which he was the beast he had encountered in the cave, and was devouring the young snow leopard he had just stalked and killed. He could taste the soft flesh and found the warm blood sweet and invigorating. The sensations were vivid, and seemed all too real. He awoke from the nightmare, bathed in a cold sweat.

Severely shaken by the dream, he arose unsteadily from bed, and noticed his throat now longer pained him. When he impulsively touched his fingers to where the wound had been, the skin now seemed smooth and undamaged. Indeed, a close inspection in the bathroom mirror miraculously revealed that the wound had healed overnight, leaving only a slight scar. He did not have time to ponder this mystery, though, because of a sharp knocking at his door. When he opened the door, to his horror, a gravely injured middle-aged man, the village priest, stumbled in, blood dripping from his right side. His left hand was missing, he wrist merely a grotesque stump. "My hand! You took my hand!" he gasped, showing him the empty limb. His grey eyes were bulging from his face, and his breath came, in low, tortured waves. It was evident he was dying. He fell to the floor with a thud, his life ebbing from his body.

A village police officer who had followed the priest to Yogami's apartment quickly arrived and inspected the body. The man raised his head for what would be the final time and gasped, "He took my hand . . . he took my hand . . . now he is cursed!" His eyes then closed and his head dropped back as life left his body.

The officer demanded to search Yogami, and found the severed paw-now, an inexplicably human hand-wrapped in the handkerchief. Yogami was immediately arrested and held in a village jail cell while the magistrate made preparations for a trial. There he would stay for at least that night-which would be another night of the full moon.

As dusk settled in, Yogami, who was eating his evening meal (a bland, unsavory gruel), suddenly felt a burning sensation in his feet. So startled was he by this sensation, he dropped the wooden bowl and spoon to the floor, causing the contents to splatter on the cold cement floor. Yogami tried to endure the discomfort as long as he could, but it soon proved impossible. He could barely take the time to untie his goatskin boots; he ripped apart the laces and tore off the footwear, flinging them to the floor with a loud thud.

"Hey, keep it down in there!" yelled the jail keeper from the next room. He was trying to take a nap.

To Yogami's amazement and horror, he discovered his feet had sprouted coarse, black hair.

Then, that same burning sensation that had started in his fee began to move to his upper body. He felt as if he had been plunged into an inferno. The only relief he could conceive of was tearing off his clothes. This he did, and he was soon naked. Then the truly unbelievable happened.

Yogami felt intense pain and screamed in agony as slowly, gradually, his nose began to extend into a sharp stout. "Shut the hell up in there!" demanded the jail keeper, who had been rudely awakened from his short catnap. Shifting groggily in his chair, he shut his eyes and tried to go back to sleep.

Meanwhile, Yogami's agony continued. His teeth started to sharpen, and soon fangs were jutting from his upper mouth. At the same time, hair sprouted forth from every orifice of his body; his now fury hands resembled paws, and his nails had lengthened into sharp claws that could rend flesh to pieces. Suddenly, he felt himself possessed of great strength. He took his two paws, grabbed the outer edges of the wrought iron cell bars, pushed heavily, and knocked the door off its hinges, shoving it to the floor. The jail keeper was awakened yet again. "What the hell's happening?" he wondered. "Has that bastard gone crazy?"

In the meantime, Yogami felt an overwhelming urge to drop to all fours as he stepped outside the cell's confines. Instantly, he felt natural, right . . . and free. Never before had he known such liberation. Overcome by what seemed like sheer, delightful animal instinct, he threw back his head and howled in ecstasy at the moon. That brought the jailer scrambling into the room, rifle in hand, and staring in horror at this man-sized, ferocious wolf-creature with the human face and Yogami's still extant long mustache.

When he sighted the man, Yogami was filled with instant hatred and bloodlust and started growling loudly, sharp ears raised and erect and incisors barred. The jailer fired into the monster's chest and point-blank range, but the ordinary bullet had no effect on the creature. Yogami charged, and leaped upon the man, knocking him to the floor, and tearing his throat open. The warm blood was sweet and delicious, and the tender flesh succulently raw. He wasted no time in devouring the jailer, leaving little else but his bones and clothing. This was Yogami's first "kill" as a werewolf, and he always savored his memory.

For Yogami, this new life gave him satisfaction he had never known before-cunning, power, domination. It was like a rebirth to him. How he, forever after, hated the morning hours, when he would have to return to his human form, a shape he now loathed. How he equally despised those times of the year when the moon wouldn't be full. To him, it was like climbing down Darwin's evolutionary tree, and reverting to a life form that was about as appealing to him as a slug. During those times, he would seclude himself in the forests, in the caves, and count the hours impatiently when he could be "free" again. During those moments when he was "free," he was determined to take full advantage of what this new life had to offer, go where it directed him, and use it as a means of domination. No longer would he be subservient to others. Now, he would be what he had always wanted to be-a leader. And if that meant being a leader of beasts-of werewolves-so be it.

Yogami's name became a byword for terror in Tibet. He made the mountains his own. No Yeti (if they ever existed, and Yogami seriously began to wonder if what the villagers had been seeing all those centuries were really werewolves) could strike more fear into the people's hearts than Yogami. Soon, his reputation began to spread across the Himalayas, and other werewolves in that area began to look to him for leadership. That was the beginning of Yogami's reputation as a fearless commander, and which drew him to the attention of Operation Lobo, and later, the Crusade.

"Never fear," Yogami assured General Jamison. "I know how to deal with renegades- the only way they can be dealt with. I promise you that, by the next full moon, Alpha Shelia will know the full force of our power."

News of Yogami's appointment soon reached Shelia's camp. Her pack's intelligence operations placed the presence of Yogami's approaching army about thirty-five miles west of their encampment. Rebecca, who had become Shelia's second-in-command, volunteered to lead a contingent to meet Yogami's invading pack and drive them back.

Shelia agreed, but urged her to be careful. "From what I've heard about Yogami, he's far more ruthless than any other werewolf we've fought, or any human. Don't take any chances, Rebecca. I don't want to lose you."

The matriarch smiled and answered, "Don't worry, Shelia. I'll be careful. But we've all come too far to turn back now. At the risk of sounding too human, remember, 'We've begun this dance together-we'll finish it together"-wolf-sisters forever!"

"May the spirit of 'Wild Woman' go with you," Shelia said, as the two embraced. Rebecca then raised her right paw to the female werewolves she had been delegated to lead, and the group took off on all fours. As they departed, Shelia felt a terrible premonition of dread. Humans would have called it "woman's intuition." Was this the spirit of "Wild Woman," warning her of impending doom?

By the night of the next full moon, Shelia's worst fears would be confirmed. Into camp, marching boldly on his hind legs, and surrounded by his followers, on all fours, heads bowed and ears flattened in submission to him, but ready to spring to defense of their leader at any time, was Yogami, clutching an small object hidden in his left paw. Only two of his Beta werewolves walked up on twos; they had to, for they were pulling up the rear by lugging a huge wooden crate whose contents smelled of death. Shelia, striding forward on twos, followed by her she-werewolves, on all fours, emerged from their huts upon first scent of the invaders; she and her pack members' ears were erect and teeth barred. Both sides stopped about thirty feet from each other. Each leader respectively stood in front and stared coldly and silently at each other.

Yogami cut an impressive figure, tall, about 6'5," and strongly built. His long mustache was plainly visible, even amid the mass of grayish-black facial hair, and curled slightly below his steely snout. His granite eyes were sharp and piercing. She was ashamed to admit she was more than slightly intimidated by his presence. For his part, he had never met so beautiful and striking a she-werewolf, and yet he knew full well what a magnificent warrior she was. For that, he admired her, too.

"Alpha Shelia, I presume?" asked Yogami in his Tibetan accent. His voice was cold and hollow.

Shelia nodded.

"I am General Tsereh Yogami," he announced.

"I know who you are," Shelia responded, in a firm, unwavering voice. "State your business."

"Very well, Madame," he replied. "I am here to present you with a gift."

"I want no gifts from you."

"Nevertheless, this is a gift you will not turn down." He then motioned for the two Beta werewolves to set the heavy trunk down.

"While you enjoy your gift, Madame, I suggest you take some time to reconsider the Council's order to disband your pack and accept our authority. You have forty-eight hours-two full moons-to decide. In the meantime, I suggest you open your present. With that he raised his left paw, opened it slightly, and flung to the ground the object he had been carrying. It was a smoke bomb. Soon, the whole campground was flooded with waves of dark, noxious smoke. Shelia and her followers had to shield their eyes and give way to convulsive coughing. When the smoke cleared, Yogami and his pack were gone.

Shelia and her followers stood there, silent and awestruck, contemplating General Yogami's words. Then, they suddenly remembered the trunk. Rushing to the box on all fours, they tore open the lid. The smell of death, earlier perceptible, was now overwhelming. It was all Shelia and the others could do to avoid retching. Shelia was the first to summon up enough courage to look into the box, as she had done at the mass grave months earlier. There, she was haunted by a sight that would haunt her for the rest of her life. There, were the bodies of all the group Rebecca had led against Yogami, including Rebecca herself-each one's hair had been skinned from her body, as the hated humans would have skinned a rabbit. At the sight of Rebecca's butchered body, Shelia cried, lifted her head, and unleashed howl after howl of agonized sorrow. Her sisters soon joined in. What kind of monster was this Yogami? What kind of werewolf would treat his fellow kind in this way? Were the humans really any worse?

Shelia knew drastic steps had to be taken. She and her sisters, despite their courage and strength, could not defeat this beast on their own. It was then that she decided to make a deal with the Devil himself: she resolved to bring into their fold the enemy. She would try to make a truce and join forces with Anthony King.

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Chapter 5

As much as Shelia hated to recruit her kind's most hated enemy, she felt she had no other choice. Of all the human resistance leaders, Anthony King was not only arguably the most tenacious, but the one most likely to accept such an unconventional offer. To say that he had always been a maverick was something of an understatement. It would have taken an unconventional personality to participate in Operation Lobo to begin with, let alone forge as extraordinary a record of service during such an operation as he.

Against his strict pacifist family's wishes, he had enlisted in the Marines, and was stationed in Kuwait during the Gulf War. After losing his left eye during shellfire, and shrapnel in his left leg, he was honorably discharged, with a medal for bravery. He then took his GI Bill and went back to college, having earned a Bachelor's and a Master's prior to his enlistment. By 1996, while teaching freshman level courses part time, he had earned a doctorate from the University of Toronto in his first love, zoology. Ever since he was a child, he had always had an abiding love, for, and interest in, animals. This interest took him on field expeditions to British Columbia, to observe the behavior of wild grey timber wolves. He had always been fascinated by this animal's majesty and strength, and had a grey wolf's head tattooed on his right forearm.

Anthony would camp right next to the pack locations and film and photograph the animals at a closer range than any other field researcher had ever dared do before. Some felt he was reckless, but he had faith in his methods. After about four months of this close quarter activity, King felt he had somehow won the animals' trust. One day, he decided to put that theory to the test by boldly advancing within ten feet of the pack. The Alpha male and Alpha female approached him, ears raised and teeth barred, and growling aggressively, stopping within a mere five feet of him. It was now a stand-off. He did not panic, but held his ground, convinced that his only hope of survival was to not show fear or weakness. After a tense three minutes or so, a remarkable thing happened. The beasts withdrew their fangs and stopped growling. Then, they flattened their ears, lowered their heads submissively, and turned away. It was then he knew he had won their respect, and was confident that that neither the pack's leaders nor the Beta wolves would harm him.

As a result of this incident, he became known as "The St. Francis of British Columbia," or, more popular, "The Wolf Man." He now was able to take footage of wolf behavior that no other researcher had ever been able to take before. Over the next few years, he would return to British Columbia, to observe this same pack, again and again.

Accompanying him on one of these trips was doctoral student he had met during the spring of 1997, Melina Tangos, a lovely young Greek American girl whose affection for and interest in animals almost equaled his own. They fell in love with each other, married during the fall of 1998, and had a son, Marcus. Their life together that season was idyllic, but all of that changed on one fateful day, September 11, 2001.

Anthony's wife and son had flown to New York that day to visit Melina's parents, and were sightseeing in Manhattan when the terrorist planes careened into the Twin Towers.

The two were struck by the rubble from the explosion, and instantly killed. King had stayed behind at his British Columbia campsite to finish his observations for the year. When he learned of the news, his life there was finished forever. So embittered was he by his loss, he now dedicated his life to a new mission, fighting terrorism. He re-enlisted in the military, and served in Afghanistan. His courageous record there earned him top field command in Operation Lobo, where "The Wolf Man" seemed to find new allies in the werewolves who reminded himself of his beloved timber wolves, and whom he now fought beside.

All that changed, though, with the werewolves' revolt against their former commanders. Privately, Anthony had been against the government's decision to exterminate the creatures after it felt their usefulness had ended, but could do nothing about that directive. Secretly, eh admired their determination to survive, showing the same qualities he had first admired as a child in the same animals he would later study.

Then, an attack led by none other than werewolf General Jamison himself resulted in the massacre of his parents, his two younger brothers and his sister. From that day forth, he regarded all werewolves as his mortal enemies, and became bent on their eradication. Thus, "The Wolf Man" became "The Werewolf Killer," as he now became known among the packs he terrorized.

Shelia knew she had to have him on her side if she were to vanquish Yogami. Shortly after Yogami's insidious ultimatum, she appeared on a closed access TV channel broadcast to King's camp, requesting a meeting between herself and Anthony. The meeting would take place at her camp during the next full moon, the following night, at 8PM. He was to arrive alone, and with no weapons; in return, she guaranteed his safety. Although suspicious, Anthony was intrigued, and agreed to at least hear what she had to say, telling his men that if he were not back by midnight, they were to storm the camp to rescue him.

Anthony left early that night, as it was about an hour's drive to Shelia's camp in his olive Grand Cherokee jeep. As he disembarked and cautiously entered the campgrounds, he took a floodlight with him to light the way. The she-werewolves instantly caught his scent and began howling. Then, they erupted into excited chants of "He's here! He's here!" The camp soon swarmed with female werewolves that were gathering around Anthony, sniffing his legs and clothing as he brusquely walked by them.

"Dr. King?" asked one werewolf, a tall, regal, buxom African-American female werewolf who approached him on her hind legs. Around her neck she wore a Ugandan tribal medallion.

He nodded.

"I'm Lieutenant Pamela Rearson," she told him. Her radiant blue eyes scanned his tall, muscular frame. He was only thirty-five, but his short hair was already prematurely gray. He had similarly gray stubble around his square chin, and wore a black patch over his right eye. All in all, he cut an impressive figure in his short sleeve military style fatigues (which displayed his timber wolf tattoo), black undershirt, and combat boots. His timber wolf tattoo, as always, was openly displayed on his barred forearm, whose musculature she admired. Her tongue lapped around the corners of her mouth as she broke into a smile. She was obviously taken with him. For his part, he couldn't tell if she was flirting with him or sizing him up for dinner.

"I'm here to see Shelia," he announced.

"Of course," she answered. "I'm to take you to her. Please follow me."

"You're damned right, I will," he thought to himself. "No way in hell am I gonna turn my back on you!"

As she led the way, he couldn't help but notice her graceful and sleek her gait was. "She carries herself like a queen," he thought, and, "She has a nice ass for a werewolf."

As they approached Shelia's canvas tent, Anthony saw several female werewolves walking their male prisoners, captured from other packs, on leashes. Their ears were indeed flattened and pinned back, their teeth filed down, and their paws de-clawed. The stories of female subjugation of their male prisoners were true after all. "Shit!" he remarked. Lieutenant Rearson laughed.

At the tent, she raised the flap up and peaked in. She nodded to whoever was within, and motioned with her right paw for Anthony to approach. He turned off the floodlight and entered, while Lieutenant Rearson held the flap up. She then lowered it, and waited outside.

There, on a plush, purple velvet recliner, lay Shelia, while a dark brown male werewolf with a studded collar around his neck knelt before her, busily filing her claws. When she saw Anthony, she told her servant, "That's enough, 'Nancy,' taking the file from him. "You may go, but be sure to have my lamb chops ready for my late night snack. You know how I like them-rare! And DON'T over-cook them, like last time, or I'll be VERY angry! You know what happens when I get angry, don't you?"

"Nancy" nodded meekly.

"We can't have that, now, can we?"

"No," he replied.

" 'No,' what? "

"No, MA'AM!"

"That's right, 'No, ma'am.' Now go." "Nancy" lowered his head submissively and darted out of the tent.

"I'd be damned if I'd let any bitch pussy-whip me like that," he remarked, sitting down a nearby beige leather chair without waiting for an invitation first, placing his floodlight at this feet.

"That's why I need you," she answered, coolly inspecting and filing down one stubborn claw on her left paw. "I like your attitude. . . your guts . . . your moxy'." She now placed the file down beside her and looked him directly in the eye. "I think we can help each other. Shall we talk terms?"

"Why do you think I'm here for?" he asked-pleasure?"

"There could be MUCH pleasure tonight for you, Dr. King. But that can come later."

"Oh, do you mean tonight's meeting isn't strictly business?"

"I don't mind mixing business with pleasure, if you don't," she replied. She was truly beautiful, even for a werewolf. He could only imagine what she looked like in her human form.

"Can't say I don't, either," he said.

"Shall we have a drink first?" she asked.

"Why not?" he answered.

"'NANCY!' she shouted. "Bring scotch!"

Within seconds, her lackey scampered in, carrying in both paws a silver tray with two full shot glasses and a bottle of genuine Canadian Scotch. He placed the tray on a nearby table and promptly left.

"I didn't know werewolves indulged," remarked King.

"Well," she answered, "a few traditions from our human past are still worth keeping. Cheers!" she gallantly announced, raising her glass with her right paw.

"Cheers," he responded flatly and somewhat sarcastically, with a mock imitation of her own glass-raising gesture.

"Now," he said after they had drowned and put down their drinks, "What's on your mind?"

"I need you to help me checkmate Yogami."

"That's very flattering, but why?"

"I've seen what you can do in battle. You seem to know our moves as well as we do ourselves, and you have this uncanny ability to anticipate in advance our formations-almost as if you had some type of sixth sense-as if you were a werewolf yourself. I need somebody like you on my side."

"Why should I help you?"

"Because you know if my packs fall to Yogami, there will be nothing to stop him from concentrating all of his forces against you, and you know what a monster he is. You've never faced a werewolf like Yogami before-and you know it. You'll have to deal with him sooner or later, but I'm giving you a chance to face him on your terms, not his.

"Look, I have no love lost for Yogami. He's the worst of your kin-I get that-and the sooner he's out of my craw the better. But what I want to know is what's in it for my side? We'll still have to deal with you.

"No, you wouldn't. My packs will agree to a binding truce whereby we would cease all attacks on your kind and allow you to keep your territories in peace, as long as you do not encroach on ours."

"And the others?-Jamison and the Council?"

"Our united victory over Yogami would convince the Council they can't win, and they will have no other choice but to accept the stalemate and agree to a truce themselves."

"You've got it all figured out, haven't you? What do you do, read Machiavelli in college before you became a werewolf?"

"You don't have to read The Prince to realize that Yogami, not each other, is our enemy, and that separately one neither one of us stands a chance against him, but together. We could."

"So, 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.' Is that it?"

"Yes," answered Shelia. "Look," she added, "I know you've long admired us, all the way back to Lobo. And I know why you hate us now, and I don't blame you. But my packs had nothing to do with the massacre of your family, and we are willing to live in peace with you if you will do the same. That is how 'Wild Woman' has commanded we sister-werewolves to live."

"Hey, I don't give a damn about this 'Wild Woman' bullshit. What I want to know is, can I trust you? Or are you just a wolf-or werewolf-in sheep's clothing?"

"I'll show you," she replied.

Shelia rose from the recliner and strode over on her hind legs to her visitor. She placed her forelimbs around his neck, gently drew his head forward, alternately nuzzling his bristly face with her snout and licking his ear lobes and neck. Anthony knew that in doing so she was acknowledging him as a member of her pack, just as real wolves do in the wild. Such actions were the result of the lupine nature that all werewolves shared with their animal cousins, and could be feigned. Shelia was genuinely accepting him as her brother.

But soon the nuzzling and licking became more intense, as Shelia's passionate human side began to take over. She had almost forgotten how wonderful it felt to make love to a man.

Anthony, too, started to experience feelings he hadn't known for years, certainly not since his wife's death. No other woman could replace her in his heart, but he couldn't help but be won over by Shelia's charms. Her tongue was warm and moist, her fur soft and tantalizing. It felt so soothing against his skin.

She paused for a moment, lifted her head, and looked him in the eyes. "Do we have a deal?" she asked.

"We do," he replied. "Now, was that the 'pleasure' part of the meeting you were talking about?"

"What do you think?" she responded, smiling.

"What big eyes you have, Grandma!"

Shelia laughed softly, and resumed nuzzling and licking him. Soon, King could control his emotions no longer. He began kissing her about her mouth while her strong, sharp claws dug passionately into the back of his fatigue jacket and sweatshirt, shredding them both severely. Soon, he had stripped off what remained of his clothes and had moved to the recliner, where he was mounting her. She howled in ecstasy.

About thirty minutes later, they were lying together, mutually exhausted, yet satisfied. Shelia was drowsing lazily on top of Anthony, her snout nestled in the soft hair of his bare chest, and her face nuzzling his. Their half-slumber was rudely interrupted by 'Nancy's' voice from outside the tent, informing Shelia that her lamb chops late night snack was ready.

"Go away!" ordered Shelia, her eyes still closed tightly. "I'll have them later!"

"Yes, ma'am," they heard him say as he obediently left, his tail literally between his legs. Anthony couldn't help but laugh.

About an hour later, they arose. Anthony put his badly shredded clothes back on (he would explain their appearance somehow to his men). They then confirmed their agreement and laid their plans to trap Yogami. Even as cunning and as experienced a werewolf field commander as he could possibly have any idea of what two-headed monster he now had to contend with.

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Chapter 6

Crucial to the success of this new coalition was the belief it did not exist. Members of Shelia's pack and Anthony's forces were sworn to secrecy about this unlikely of alliances. Somehow, Yogami's continued belief that, for the time being, Shelia was his sole enemy would allow them to put their next plan into operation.

Shelia and Anthony carefully studied a detailed record they had jointly compiled of Yogami's past campaign, in both The Crusade and his attacks on Rebecca's battalion. Hours of study eventually revealed one similarity: Yogami favored a quick, furious, frontal assault that would back his enemy up into a confined area from which there was no escape. This apparently had been Rebecca's fate; she had allowed herself to stumble into a cul de sac of a narrow valley that had her death trap. They concluded that they needed to find a way to turn Yogami's strength as a field commander-his aggressiveness-into a fatal weakness. They knew they could do this through only one way-deception. This where Shelia's new second-in-command, Lieutenant Rearson, would come in.

Under Shelia's and Anthony's direction, Rearson appeared on a closed circuit video broadcast requesting a private meeting between herself and General Yogami during the next full moon, at a mutual meeting place, a mountain pass about twenty miles from Anchorage. She said that she wished to defect. To prove this was no trick, she would come alone, and completely unarmed. When she finished her broadcast, all three were certain that Yogami's ego would persuade him to take the bait; they felt he couldn't resist the idea that he had struck such fear into the heart of such a high member of Shelia's forces to convince her to betray her leader. The trap, they were certain, had been laid.

Yogami did not disappoint them. It wasn't so much that he trusted Rearson, but he was intrigued by the idea of a break in the renegades' solidarity. Besides, he found Rearson's buxom, ebony beauty enticing and beguiling. If nothing, else, he felt, he would have some charming company for the evening.

No fool, Yogami took a silver rapier with him and three armed guards. Rearson met them at the mountain pass, just as she had promised. When Yogami's keen powers of scent satisfied him they were alone, he told the guards to wait in the forest nearby, so he and Rearson could conduct their conference in private.

"Now," he announced, pulling the sword from the buckled holster he wore, bandolier style, across his body and, in his left paw, pointing it directly at her throat, "this sword is made of pure silver. If I'm not convinced you're telling me the truth, I warn you, I'll run you through!"

"Oh, please, General Yogami," Rearson pleaded. "You must believe me! You must!"

"Why should I believe you?" he asked coldly. "How do I know this isn't a trick?"

"It isn't!" she insisted. "I have no loyalty to Alpha Shelia. None-not after this."

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"I'll show you," she said, and turned around, showing him her back. "Look."

Resembling tire marking were criss-crossing scars cutting a wide swath around the small of her back. "She took the whip to me a fortnight ago," Rearson explained.

"Why?" asked Yogami.

"Because I questioned her command," she answered, turning forward again to face him. "I said it was suicide to try to divide our forces and have the main contingent of the pack march here," pointing to the surrounding area, "just to establish an additional base farther north. I told her we would be diluting our strength and spreading ourselves too thin. She ordered me tied up, and wielded the lash herself, as a warning to the others. I risked my life for her countless times, and this is the way she rewarded me. Loyalty! Ain't it a bitch? I hate her!"

"Enough to turn traitor?" he asked.

"Hey, the way I feel about that bitch now, I should have thrown her under the bus a long time ago! If I can help you whoop her ass and more, hey, I'm yours for life." With that, she dropped to all fours, flattened her ears, and lowered her head submissively.

Yogami was taken with her, and in more ways than one. He relished the irony of Shelia, a renegade, being betrayed by another renegade, and a trusted ally at that, but he also found Rearson, as all male werewolves did, beguiling. Her dark beauty helped win him over, as she knew it would.

"Can you really help me?" he asked.

"Yes, General," she replied, looking up at him.

"You realize that you can never go back, and that, in my pack, my word is law. Do you accept those conditions?"

"Oh, with all my heart," she answered.

"Then tell me when Alpha Shelia is planning to advance."

"Tomorrow night," she replied," at 8PM, by the light of the next full moon."

"Then we will be waiting for her," he answered.

"We? " she asked.


"Then you accept me?"

"Of course. You're a prize. "

"What can I do to thank you?"

"Why, my lovely ebony confederate, I think you know."

She smiled and remarked, "You are magnificent, General." With that, she drew closer, wrapped her front legs tightly around his thighs, and lowered her snout to his groin, where she gave him the pleasure he knew he wanted. Yogami closed his eyes, smiled himself, and sighed deeply as Rearson went about her work expertly. "You're a prize!" he repeated.

The next night, around 8PM, Yogami and his pack, along with their new "recruit," Rearson, waited in force in the woods, at the mountain pass. There, just as Rearson had promised, they saw a large pack of what appeared, from the distance, to be werewolves of various colors, gray, dark brown, white, and sable. On all fours, they were on their way across the ridge. "Here they are!" Yogami triumphantly remarked to himself. He then let loose a fearsome, blood-curdling howl, the signal to advance. His pack, led by himself in front, brandished their silver swords and ran, on their hind legs, into the open. There, when they got within close range of their quarry, Yogami instantly spotted something strange about these "werewolves." They were not werewolves at all, but large German Shepherd dogs, disguised with prosthetic wolf ears, snouts, and tails. Immediately, Yogami halted, surveyed the situation and turned and faced Rearson, who was grinning with obvious satisfaction. "You black bitch!" he protested. "You deceived me!"

"No I didn't, General," she replied. "They're here!"

"With that, the night air was rent by howls of triumph, as Shelia and her she-werewolves emerged from the cliffs, heading on all twos toward their surprised prey. For once, Yogami did not have either the advantage or the element of surprise. Soon, Shelia and her followers, who were armed with their own silver swords, were engaged in fierce paw-to-paw combat with Yogami and his troops, and tearing at their snouts and bodies with their claws and fangs. Soon overwhelmed was Yogami that, for the first time, he found himself and his pack backing up farther and farther into the mountain pass, at heading for an enclosed, narrow ledge, a cul-de-sac similar to the one where he had caught Rebecca and her forces. Awaiting them was yet another surprise.

To their immediate right and left were plots of thick grass and foliage. Strangely, some seemed to be starting to move! Then, before Yogami's and his troops' shocked eyes, emerged, one by one, a flock of human commandos, each brandishing his own silver bullet-loaded rifle, and carrying silver swords. Out of the center came their leader, Anthony King, a pistol in one hand and a silver sword in the other. "King!" shouted an astonished Yogami.

"General Yogami, I presume?" he replied sarcastically, charging him with his sword. Yogami managed to sidestep and avoid a fatal thrust just in the knick of time. The two went at it, hand-to-claw. At one point, King managed to fire off a silver bullet at point blank range, which Yogami, with his extraordinary timing and werewolf speed, was just able to avoid by jumping over by the bullet and his assailant, and landing safely on his front paws a few feet in back of King. But his leap was still ill-timed. Just as he was about to deliver a the death blow to his opponent's back, he felt a sharp jab of pure silver between his shoulder blades, and a firm, hairy forelimb around his throat, claws drawn and ready to puncture his jugular vein. He then heard a familiar voice.

"I suggest you drop your sword, General," ordered Shelia, NOW!" Yogami had no other choice but to comply. "I've got him, Anthony," she said. "I'll handle him from here." Immediately, she forced him to the top of a mountain ledge and commanded him to order his remaining troops to surrender. As much as it pained him to do so, Yogami knew he had no other choice. The bulk of his pack, routed by the surprise two-front attack, was now dead. Clearly, the remaining werewolves were at the mercy of the renegade enemy and her human allies. "Drop your weapons!" he reluctantly commanded them, realizing the hopelessness of the situation. "Save yourselves."

As soon as they did so, Shelia's she-werewolves and Anthony's men shackled what remained of Yogami's pack. They would be turned over to Shelia, to join 'Nancy' and the others as slaves. For Yogami, she had a different fate in mind.

After the remainder had been subdued, Shelia forced Yogami down the ridge to a specially constructed wooden rack. There, she and Rearson shackled the once mighty werewolf general upright to the structure, crucifixion style. He could only guess what they were going to do next.

"You know," Shelia casually remarked, "in medieval times, it was believed that a werewolf wore its skin on the inside, so that if you cut off a limb, like this-she then hacked off Yogami's forefinger with her silver sword, in one deft gesture, evoking a howl of agony from the General-you could see hair underneath the skin. "Hhm," she said, studying the bloody, dismembered digit, "I see plenty of hair on the outside, but I'm not sure about the inside. Let's see." She then cut the finger open. "No, no extra hair," she remarked. "Well, let's see if there's any inside the rest of your body!"

"No!" he pleaded. "Please, no!"

"Oh, this is a twist, isn't it, Rearson?" Shelia, smiling sarcastically, asked her Lieutenant. "The great General Yogami pleading for his life-like a woman?-like a she-wolf? Are you a girly werewolf after all, General?" Then her expression became serious, hard, and cruel. "I wonder how much Rebecca pleaded for her life when you skinned her. You remember REBECCA, don't you, you BUTCHER?" With that, she jumped up on Yogami's chest and furiously began digging into his face with the sword, digging and scraping away the hair, then the flesh, then the muscle. Blood flew everywhere, as Yogami's agonized screams filled the night air. It wasn't long before the cries ceased, and Yogami was silent, having lapsed into unconsciousness. But Shelia would not be satisfied until every last speck of hair and every last bit of flesh was torn from his body, until he was skinned as neatly as a rabbit. The whole operation took a little over an hour, but finally, Shelia, herself covered with bits of Yogami's hair and skin, and drenched in blood, finished her gruesome business. "Wrap this piece of shit up, Rearson," she commanded, referring to the hideous, skinned skeletal remains. "Put it in a fucking box, and have Anthony drop it by chopper at Council headquarters. Tell him to enclose that note he and I wrote up that last night. They'll have two full moons to surrender, and accept our terms.

"Right away," replied Rearson. "What are you going to do now?"

"Me? asked Shelia, staring down at her soiled fur and inspecting the blood-drenched palms of her paws. "I need a shower. 'Nancy!' she shouted. "Get your lupine ass over here!"

In the meantime, while 'Nancy' was preparing his mistress' shower, Rearson was attending to her duties. It wasn't long until Yogami's remains, and the ultimatum note, had been flown to General Jamison's headquarters. Jamison now had to face the terrible truth, that Shelia and Anthony King had joined forces and killed his greatest battle leader, the one hope he had left of vanquishing the renegades. Who couldn't help but wonder would he be next? Would he end up like Yogami-humiliated, faceless, and butchered? Was that to be his ignominious destiny, too, and at the whim of a ruthless she-demon and her equally relentless human ally?

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Chapter 7

As he pondered this dilemma, General Jamison knew that the longer the civil war lasted, and the longer Shelia and her she-werewolves were allied with King and his men, the more likelihood of other divisions in the werewolf ranks, of other defectors, and of the possible collapse of the entire Crusade. Besides, the image of Yogami's ghastly remains haunted the General. He could only see himself in that box, skinned, defiled, and humiliated. That he could not accept. That was the real reason he decided the Council must come to immediate terms with their enemies.

So it was that Jamison, like Shelia before him, made his own bargain with the Devil. Dealing away what he considered as precious as his soul, the General agreed to waive the Council's right to any future expansion into human-held territory. In return, Anthony King and his allies consented to confine their settlements to the present territories they occupied, and not to appropriate currently werewolf-held land. In addition, they were to relinquish all their silver ammunition and weapons. Moreover, the Council had to recognize Shelia as an official pack leader, and grant her group the same operation rights as the male-led werewolf packs. This agreement Jamison found especially galling. Knowing the General's intense pride, it came as no surprise to the werewolf world when, about three months later, on one full moon-lit night, Jamison took a pistol and shot a silver through his right temple.

The Council then decided on a temporary replacement, Werewolf General Lawrence Creighton of Wales, who had been the English representative, and General Jamison's trusted second-in-command during Operation Lobo. No sooner had he been selected, the venerable old lycanthrope had to deal with what was surely a deliberate threat to his new leadership. A large coalition of human-led troops had crossed over from its Toronto camp to werewolf-held territory in upstate New York, driving out the area's packs with rifles loaded with silver bullets and building settlements on the appropriated land. These actions were definitely in violation of the terms of the trice. Creighton promptly contacted Shelia, and demanded she have an immediate conference with Anthony and order him to force the invaders to leave and return to their own settlements by two full moons, or risk attack on his own camp.

Shelia, accompanied by a contingent of bodyguards from her pack, traveled on paw to Anthony's camp near Anchorage, to have it out with him. She knew no human commando leader would dare to have made such a move without either his knowledge or consent. She wanted to know why. Striding boldly on their hind legs up to the camp's iron gates, the she-werewolves approached the guard, a heavy-set young man in fatigues, and brandishing a rifle.

"Where is Anthony?" Shelia demanded.

"He's in conference and can't be disturbed just now."

"Oh, he can't, can he? Well, at the risk of being rude, I'm going to have to disturb him. Open this gate and stand aside, or I'll make a pot roast out of you!"

While the renegades had obviously gotten their illegal silver bullets from a secret supplier, she knew that Anthony's unit, at least, had turned over their silver, because she herself had been present at the exchange. Therefore, she held no fear of the guard's rifle.

"Open up!" she snarled.

"Yes, ma'am," he said in compliance.

"Good boy," she replied sarcastically as she and her guards entered.

Within seconds, they had arrived at Anthony's tent. "Wait here," she told the others, as she barged in to the open tent.

"Anthony, it's Shelia. We've got to talk!"

Then, she saw, in shock and disbelief, Anthony, lying naked in bed, and with her trusted lieutenant Rearson in her arms. She hadn't been in camp for two days and nights. Now she knew why. Rearson had betrayed the trust Shelia had placed in her by ingratiating herself with Anthony and forming her own alliance with him. Their first move had been to order the upset New York sieges. What other personal power moves did these two have in mind? Was Shelia's pack next on their list?

But Shelia wasn't thinking about that just now. She was too enraged by this personal betrayal to concern herself with politics at this time. Enraged beyond all endurance, she growled ferociously and pounced on Anthony, who as still groggy and half-asleep. "Shelia, no!" he managed to gasp as he came to.

These were the last words he would ever speak, because she promptly and savagely tore open his jugular vein with her fangs. He bled to death within seconds.

While Shelia was attending to Anthony, Rearson had tried to flee. Unfortunately for her, Shelia's guards, who had put two and two together, were waiting for her outside the tent, and instantly overpowered her.

Shelia then emerged from the tent, her teeth and jaws dripping with Anthony's blood and specks of his flesh. "Take this little bitch back to camp!" she ordered.

There, Shelia had Rearson tied to a high wooden stake, where she would suffer the punishment that Shelia had decreed would meet all she-werewolves who would dare to betray a sister. She had her burned alive. As the roaring flames shot upwards and began burning Rearson's hair and body, Shelia took extra satisfaction in her victim's agonized howls that now filled the night air. When the fire had consumed everything else but her charred skeleton, Shelia ordered Rearson's bones divided up and hung at spots all over the camp, as a warning to any other would-be traitors.

This night of blood and death would prove merely a precursor to future, deeper strife. Rearson had many friends all over the she-werewolf world, and they were so enraged over her execution that many formed their own packs against Shelia. Then, when news spread of Shelia's savage killing of Anthony, humans all over the world broke the truce and launched attacks on their werewolf neighbors. The Council naturally was obligated to protect them, and a new, all-out war between werewolves and humans was the result. At the same time, General Creighton blamed Shelia for the way she had allowed Rearson to double-cross her, and subsequently ordered a male-led werewolf attack on her as well. This was a werewolf civil war of such epic proportions that utter chaos was the result.

The previous orderly balance of power was now in a state of flux, and pandemonium reigned all over the world. One group, though, who had been watching these developments patiently, relished this unraveling of the truce. They had been forced to lie in wait, but they now saw an opportunity to take advantage of this disruption and claim the planet for their own. While werewolf was pitted against werewolf and human against werewolf, this group was strong and united and was now ready to make its move. This was the nosferatu -the undead. Future historians would call this next era in Earth's history the Vampire Age.

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