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Raven's heart pounded in her ears, drowning out the rustle of branches as they tore against her flesh. Overhead shone thin shafts of moonlight that pierced the black canopy of her nightmare. Each breath reopened the cuts of cold in her throat as she ran through thick uncertainty.
Faint lines of blood crossed the graceful designs on her skin, leaving spots on her white dress. She couldn't stop for long, the breath of fear was already warm on her neck. Through the heavy shadows the girl sensed the wolves prowling silently across the undergrowth.
Another burst of energy launched her deeper into the forest. The scream of a cougar froze her blood and Raven stopped amid the towering trees. Before her stood a stranger, waiting in the darkness with an expression of dangerous delight. There was nowhere to run.
With unmistakable aggression he advanced, but halted at the rising of a howl that echoed through the woods at Raven's back. Before she could turn, three figures stalked around her, facing down the stranger with diligent resolve. He hesitated for a moment.
Again the air rung with a scowling growl and three more appeared, their hungry eyes roving over the trio before Raven. Like stone they held their ground, not a fidget or shift to mirror the trepidation betrayed by their adversaries' pacing.
Just the slightest hint warned Raven and she cried out as one of the strangers attacked. The tension was shattered in an explosion of snarling roars.
What relief Raven felt behind the three hulking figures was driven from her heart as she watched their savagery. Muscle was torn from bone, blood splashed onto the forest floor, and in their viciousness they tore the surrounding brush to mulch.
Unnoticed figures leaped into view and ran from the scene, several were ripped apart as they were caught in the carnage. With most of their friends dead, the two remaining strangers tried to limp away but were caught and slaughtered by the bloodied three.
They then turned on Raven, marching with a grim but triumphant air. Blood and entrails shone on their bodies as they approached walked over the devastation towards her. Fear and disgust filled her mind, but through the gore she recognized their faces.
Hound, Shepherd, and Pit gathered around. For a moment she thought they'd be furious with her recklessness, but with shocking tenderness they scooped her up and carried her back through the forest towards the village.

The warrior culture loves its analogies. Powerfully motivational mythos dominate the ancient art of violence, giving those vital protectors of society an image to aspire to. Unfortunately for the realist, most of them are just that; myth. The crusader was just as much a religious terrorist as today's radical Jihadists. The Spartans were brainwashed child soldiers reliant on slaves. But one that's gained quite a lot of appeal is the sheepdog.

As it goes, there are three kinds of people in the world: the sheep, who live in peace and wouldn't know what to do if evil darkened their doorstep, the wolf, who preys upon the sheep for their own gain, and the sheepdog, who stands ready to protect the sheep against the wolf, matching violence with violence. But when you look into the real behaviors of the animals, the wolf becomes a more accurate role model for a professional warrior.

Wolves coexist with their ecosystem; contrary to popular belief, they don't waste much food. They care for the members of their pack; while a popular image of the weak leading the group is false, wolves ensure all their members get enough to eat because they recognize their reliance upon one another for survival. They also see each other as equals, meaning the concept of an "alpha" wolf is inaccurate; the strongest take point, sure, but packs are family unitsWhile the father or mother most often fills the role of "leader", that role can be taken oby any other member and all wolves reserve their own reproductive rights by setting off to start their own packs.

Dogs, on the other hand, have had their instincts so heavily influenced by domestication that they're much more aggressive towards one another. They're blindly loyal to their masters, us humans, upon whom they rely for survival. Because they don't need to cooperate with each other for foodthey form strict hierarchies as they compete for it, meaning the strongest eat their fill while leaving nothing for the runts. In short, wolves in the wild act like communists in Darwin's harsh environment, while dogs are comfortable enough to become capitalists in our artificial world.

This is not to say that wolves are better than dogs. After all, domestication has provided mankind a companion unmatched in loyalty and versatility. But beyond that, there's more for the warrior to admire in the social structure of wolves than there is in that of dogs. Their efficiency, camaraderie, independent discretion, and merit-based social ladder are all traits a protector should aspire to as they undertake the profession of righteous violence.

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October 7, 2017
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