The plans for battle advance with a speed that I would not have thought capable of the formerly weak and frightened animals I first met. Every creature, down to the tiny grasshopper, has found a job they can do to protect us. All animals capable of fighting, anything with teeth or claws, have begun to sharpen them in preparation for the confrontation.
When I first asked people to fight with me, I was afraid no one would say yes. What I didn’t account for was the anger of the animals who had lost their friends or family to Wolf- either by force or willingly.
There’s no doubt that Wolf knows about our plans now, and he’s most likely amassing a force of his own. We each have our advantages: I have more in numbers, and my brother has the stronger creatures. Many of the hawks, rabbits, and deer who feel like they deserve power have gone to get it from him. The forest cats are sticking with us, but the bears are split half and half. There’s no clear winner in this fight.
“Fox!” Crow’s caw pulls me from my strategizing. “You know this is crazy, right?”
“What do you mean?” I ask. I know what he’s going to say, but I don’t want to hear it. Crow’s been the only one so far not pitching himself into the planning.
“These animals, our friends, are going to get hurt. Even if we win, and Wolf is banished forever, there will be those who will not survive the fight. Are you willing to give up the lives of our brothers and sisters so easily?” His feathered head tilts in what I assume to be judgment. If he weren’t so fast I’d grab one of his black wings in my mouth and shake him.
“They know the risks, and besides, what else can we do? You were the one who brought me back here to fight Wolf. You can’t fault me for doing it.”
“I didn’t bring you back here to fight!” He growls. “I brought you back to reason with Wolf, to reason with your brother.”
“Don’t remind who he is!” I hiss. “Wolf is beyond reason now. All he understands is blood. His followers are bought and sold with blood, our blood. I will not let him take all of us.”
“Look at you,” He spits, “When I came to find you, you were all about moving on and leaving us behind. And you know what? I think that was better for you! Now that you’re back, you’re becoming everything your brother was before he turned on us. Are you next, Fox?” I meet his stare with cold eyes.
“Get out, Crow,” I tell him, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”
“I’m not with anybody.” He shakes his head in disgust. “And I’m not going to stick around and watch you turn a peaceful community into your vendetta army.”
With a flap of his long, dark wings, Crow disappears into the night. We don’t need him. We have enough fighters of our own. Crow, with his pacifist cowardice and his inability to wage war will be no use in our battle. I remember how he told me he was the only one who escaped the battle with Wolf unharmed, and now I know why. Crow is a coward, and nothing more.
I cross the clearing to where Mouse lies in her nest, almost finished healing.
“How close are we to being ready?” I ask.
“A week, two at most,” she replies.
“Good.” I grin. “Tell the other animals, and let them make their final preparations. Wolf’s reign of terror is coming to an end.”