The wind danced lightly over the long stalks of grass growing on the softly rolling hills. A small creek wound its way in the hinted valleys. Grass gave way to rocks and sand on the banks, more so when the water entered the ancient forest. The gnarled and weathered branches offered a safe haven to the birds that called them home.

A family of rabbits sniffed at the flowers dotting the meadow, nibbling at the grass at their own want. The young ones preferred to play with their fellow siblings under the watchful eyes of their parents. Even on spring days as this, danger was ever present.

Over the sun rolled a cloud offering a glancing shade before passing on by in that distant fleet of fluff sailing in the sky. Hilael rested against the trunk of a lone tree, listening to the sounds of nature. Glad to be away from the city and his clan, he dozed in the shadows, his furred ears relaxed and drooping beside his sinuous neck.

One ear flicked up at the distant sound of bramble snapping deep in the forest. Not really being in the mood to get involved unintentionally with a fight, he climbed up into the tree he had been resting under, and perched on a limb.

The sounds of the fight grew closer. Hilael gripped the branch harder, his nails digging into the bark.

"So much for a quiet day," he growled under his breath.

Out from the bushes at the forest edge emerged the fight. A wild boar was defending its right to live against its hunter. The boar was tired but still indignant from being hunted and was therefore fighting with all of its might.

The hunter, however, was injured only from thorn scratches and not very tired in the least. His clan had demanded a ham shank for the upcoming festival celebrating the coming of spring.

Hilael often found it ironic that the clan demanded for death in the coming of a year's life. He watched boredly as the struggle proceeded on past deeper in the meadow, all wildlife having vanished. They didn't much care for the noise either.

Shaking his head with a sigh, he slid off the limb to the ground. Stretching his wings, he started back home. There would be much work to do when he arrived and he might as well get started on it. A final squeal rose hauntingly over the meadow as Hilael disappeared in the trees.

He picked his way carefully through the forest. Although his race was a formidable one, that didn't prevent them from becoming prey. Many had been caught up in the rivalries between the Feral Knights and the Imperial Knights. The Imperial Clan members were elitists and accused the Feral Clan of being unworthy of the Sylvan bloodline. The Feral Clan believed the Imperials were overly-refined and unrealistic.

Hilael was from the Feral half of the two but found them both delusional and foolish.

On the path home he had to pass by the opening of a deep cave. He crept by as silently as possible, the canopy too tightly woven for him to take flight around this. His ears detected the sound of air being briskly pulled into two flared nostrils and exhaled just as quickly.

Hilael swallowed nervously, ducking behind trees and brushes. A minocentaur wasn't something a Kurach his size could handle alone. He came to a stop, his ears standing fully alert as he crouched behind the shrubbery. There, standing a good nineteen hands tall was the minocentaur. Average for a young adult, but nonetheless more aggressive than was necessary, as all creatures coming into their own are.

As it scanned the area with its yellow eyes, Hilael remained very still. He could see the throbbing veins on its underbelly and limbs. A glob of drool hit the ground with a splat, the only other sound outside of the heavy breathing. He took a step forward, the muscles knotted and twitching visibly under his thick hide. He began to patrol the immediate territory outside his cave.

A heavy thud of a hoof came closer than Hilael was comfortable with and he rolled under the bush beside him to stay clear of the thing's sight. The minocentaur heard him anyway and loosed a primal roar. He began to thrash and break through the shrubbery, looking for the intruder. Hilael picked up a rock from his position and threw it beyond the monster. It fell for the diversion and chased after the new noise as Hilael took the opportunity to bolt.

He disappeared out of the minocentaur's sight in time. The hefty beast looked around to see what he had heard scamper away. Finding nothing, he tromped back into his cave.

Breathing heavily, Hilael hid in the leaves of an old rowan, waiting for his breath to steady. When he felt it was safe to continue on, he returned to the ground. Slipping his hands into his pockets, his bare feet treaded softly on the leaves and dirt of the forest floor.

Hilael was lost in thought and was not expecting the pair of arms that came from behind. He was tackled and dragged to the ground. Completely pinned on his stomach in a matter of seconds, he craned his neck around to see who his attacker was.

Shanku burst out laughing as she kneeled beside him, Hilael scowling as he got up.

"Damn you, Shanku," he snarled as he got the dirt off.

"You'll get over it," she stuck her tongue out at him and stood.

Still grumbling, Hilael rose. Shanku leaned against a tree, ears perked as she watched him curiously. He hated being watched and she knew it. His ears flattened and he walked by sulkily. She let him pass then followed after him. Her tail wagging as she knew he was trying to pretend she wasn't there. Oh, but she was very much there. Hilael wouldn't be given the chance to forget.

One small hike seemed longer than the winding river. Shanku loved to talk. Hilael preferred to keep silent. He was ready to pull his hair out by the time they returned to the clan.

Eyes dancing at the sight of a friend, Shanku bid her leave of the withdrawn Hilael by the way of an energetic hug before skipping away to go be with Katari. Hilael watched her quietly as the pair left. He shuddered and climbed up into a leafy burrow in the limbs of a nearby tree.

The thick foliage of trees made him feel safe. He never knew why he needed that feeling as much as he did. Despite the skirmishes of the clans, times were very peaceful. All were well fed and the weather didn't present a constant threat. He sighed and drew his knees to his chest. Perhaps such insecurities stemmed from his bullying elder classmates. Sure, there were no bruises, but he could just sense it. The look in their eyes and the slight change of stance when he passed by. Yes, they regarded him differently than the other cubs.

He tugged at a stray strand of his hair. His hair wasn't dual toned like the others. It wasn't uncommon for wings to be of one color, but the ears, tail, and locks always had two. Hilael, poor dog, had just one. Tail, wings, and all were a golden brown. Come to think of it, Shanku and Katari were the only ones who bothered to be friends with him. Were they actually not as shallow and petty as the others he knew, or did they just accept him to spite the others? There was much they did for sheer aggravation's sake.

Tired for now of worries and thoughts, Hilael turned his gaze and attention to the quieting evening life of their small town. Young cubs were being called in as the twilight settled in, peddlers and venders closing shop and going home at the end of the day. The past days were bustling and happy. This town loved holidays and festivals more than the other towns of the Feral Clan. Few could beat the energy and life they gave for social events.

Hilael didn't belong here.

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