This was it, the moment I had dreaded for two weeks, the moment when everything came together or fell apart. My training had been completed and now the battle would begin. Taking a deep breath, I tried to center myself. Soon, if I won the battle, I would lead my clan.

I entered the clearing in the middle of our grounds. My father stood there in all his savage glory. He had led the Sharpclaw for nearly 50 years, but to a saurian who could live hundreds that was nothing. His scarred body paid tribute to others who had battled and lost and his muscles proved that he was still a fit warrior. I gulped a little at the sight of him. For now, he was not the father who had picked me up as a hatchling when I fell; he was a warrior that I must prove my skill against in order for our clan to survive.

An old blue and yellow raptor stepped forward and began the chant that initiated the beginning of the battle.

They come

Swift and Brave,

They come

Strong and Fierce.

In the heat of battle

They come,

In the rage of war

They come,

Fear them not!

For they are you,

And we are them.

I knew without being told who “they” were. I had felt the spirits of my ancestors for many weeks now, urging me to battle, urging me to lead as was my right.

Slowly, the drums began their beating. I moved my feet to their beat, feeling the rhythm pulsing in my veins. Strongbow and I circled never breaking eye contact or flinching. The battle had begun.

The drums quickened and my blood quickened with them. Soon, the rage of battle filled me and gave me the strength that I needed. Rushing forward, I leapt at the larger raptor. He was fast, and dodged out of the way, but I had been expecting that. Instead of actually landing on him, I leapt over him and rolled a few feet away. Then, before he had a chance to turn around, I was on his back, his neck in my fanged mouth. He tensed and flung me off. I landed hard on the ground, the air rushing out of my lungs.

UP! voices within shouted. My guides had returned…

I was on my feet again in an instant. Soon, I felt that I was moving as if in a dream. Everything seemed to be going in slow motion and I was in complete control of everything. Best to end this battle quickly before either of injured the other too badly.

Rolling onto my feet, I lunged at Strongbow’s feet. He had expected a higher attack and was not prepared to jump. I grasped his foot in my teeth and my leg reached up, the lethal sickle claw on my second toe pressing against the soft flesh of his belly. I had won, his life was in my hands and I could do with it as I wished. I released him and got up. As I did, the world returned to normal.

Strongbow gazed at me for a moment, admiration in his eyes. Then, with a flourish, he bowed to me. All the clan bowed in respect for their new leader.

I had succeeded. Now, I lead the Sharpclaw in all matters.