click here for allegiances
“Bluepaw, you passed your assessment. Meet Palestar in his den.”
The guard, Bloompetal, steps aside to let me pass. Proud of myself, I walk down the stone path. I emerge in the cave where Palestar sleeps.
“You passed, I heard.”
“Yes. Featherflight verified me and sent me here.”
“Well done, Bluepaw. Featherflight left shortly before you arrived. You will receive your full name soon. They may not be alive, but I'm sure they would be proud.”
Soon after I had started training, both of my parents had died in battle. I was their only kit, so no one truly felt how I felt. However, I trained harder than before, and I am standing here when most trainees would still be training.
The army has gathered around the Spire. It's our meeting place, and our leader calls us here for important announcements. Ceremonies included.
“Bluepaw, do you promise to stay loyal to the army and fight for us, even if it costs you your life?”
“I give you your soldier name. From this moment forward, you will be known as Bluefire. As tradition, you will guard the entrance tonight.”
The moon is high in the sky, and every other cat is asleep. If anyone were to attack, I would be the first one to fight them.
That's when I notice something's off.
Shining in the moonlight is a trail of blood.
Rainstar hasn't come out of her den in two days, unless she absolutely had to. She entered the camp one night, severely injured, not willing to tell anyone what happened.
When my mate, Blackwater, spoke to her, she reportedly screeched at him to “get out of her sight” and told him to “take your mate and unborn kits with you, or else they'll all be dead.”
This isn't at all how she normally acts. She's usually a fair and diplomatic leader, and treats kits extremely well. She must've really been shaken for this to happen.
Firfeather treated her wounds, but said that it would take a long time for her mind to clear. I believe that that is true. Sometimes the deepest scars are not the ones we can see.
Of course, I'm not going to ask her what happened. Rainstar will reveal it when she is ready, and pressuring her will only push her confession further into the future.
“I am ready to tell you who did this.”
Silence falls around the cats.
“It was Blackwater. Leave now. Take Flamestripe if you wish.”
Of course I will go with him.
“I didn't do it,” he whispers. In that moment, I know that he is right. I don't tell Rainstar, as I know that she'll banish me too.
Taking one last look at the cats in the army, I sprint away.
Blackwater and his mate Flamestripe have been exiled by Rainstar. After hearing their story, Palestar decided to let them into the army, along with their kits.
Darkkit, their only son, wants to become my trainee. I do need one, after all, and a medic is as important, if not more, than a soldier.
Something also tells me that Palestar doesn't trust the newcomers. He only offered to let them in because he hates Rainstar so much. If I have Darkkit under my control, I can keep him safe. As for Ravenkit and Riverkit, well... I can at least try to protect them.
“Palestar?” I ask, once I have entered his den.
“Petalbreeze? What is it that you need?”
“I would like to request a trainee. Darkkit told me that he wants to become mine, so if you could arrange that...”
“Yes, of course. Their ceremony is right now, after all. Go join the cats outside the Spire.”
Within a short time, Palestar is standing by the large rock. The three kits and their parents are sitting closest to him.
“Ravenkit, your trainer will be Featherflight. She has trained Bluefire well, and I trust that she will pass on her skills to you. I hail you by your trainee name, Ravenpaw.”
The black she-cat, almost identical to her brother, crosses the clearing and sits with the tortoiseshell.
“Riverkit, your trainer will be Cloudwind. Cloudwind, this is your first trainee, and I know that you will do a good job. I hail you by your trainee name, Riverpaw.”
The calico she-cat nervously walks over to the light gray-and-white cat. Cloudwind assures her that she's going to be okay.
“Finally, Darkkit. I hail you by your trainee name, Darkpaw. Your trainee will be...”
Petalbreeze. Petalbreeze. Petalbreeze.
“Okay, Riverpaw. We're going on a tour of the territory.”
Cloudwind takes me through the rocky area. Hunting takes place in a small oak forest, and a rushing river is the main water source. Medicinal herbs grow in a small field near the forest.
“That,” Cloudwind tells me, sounding quite strict, “is the border between the two armies. You must never cross that, unless you have special permission from your leader. Even then, you should be in a patrol of at least three cats. The other soldiers will not hesitate to kill you on sight.”
“Yes, but we've practically seen it already. The evaluation center is behind the camp, and the training area is on the other side of the river.”
“Let's head back to camp and see what Palestar wants from us. Darkpaw and Ravenpaw should be there.”
When the two of us get back, I see that Cloudwind is right. My two siblings and their trainers are talking with Palestar.
“Cloudwind, I see that you have brought your trainee back. The fresh-kill pile is getting low, so could you bring back some prey? Featherflight, please do the same. I will be there shortly.”
The six of us retrace our steps to the oak forest. According to Featherflight, there are many mouse nests. Birds also fly here to raise their young.
“I'll go to the farthest part of the forest. Featherflight, you can train Ravenpaw in the middle area, and Cloudwind can stay here.”
“Let's start. When hunting mice, keep your steps light and balance your weight evenly. If you aren't careful, the mouse will feel your steps through the ground and run away. If you see a bird, stay as quiet as possible. Remember that birds have an extra defense that they can use at any time.”
I turn my head, for I have spotted a flash of grayish-brown fur. A mouse, maybe twenty tail-lengths away. Cloudwind nods, and I start silently creeping up on it.
When I think that I'm close enough, I push off of my back legs. The mouse darts into a hole in a tree.
“That was a good attempt for your first catch. Right before you pounce, however, you want to push down more with your forelegs so that when you push off the ground, your weight is evenly distributed.”
“Because when you do pounce, you push down with your back legs?”
“Very good! I think I can smell another one, if you want to—”
A muffled scream echoes around the forest. Ravenpaw!
A second scream, quieter than the first, comes. That's Darkpaw! It's quieter because Palestar is training him in the farthest part of the forest!
“One of them must've fallen from a tree while chasing a bird. The other one would've heard it and screamed in fear for them.”
When we search the two areas, I nearly collapse. Their bodies lay on the forest floor, still as stone. When I prod each of them, nothing happens. They're gone. This isn't an accident. Someone, whether it be Featherflight or Palestar, has murdered them.
I see a large black-and-cream shape above me. The paw raises above me, and I can only form one thought:
Palestar. He did this.
“How long... have I been out?”
“A half moon,” Petalbreeze informs me. “A lot has changed. Flamestripe has been with you a lot, and Swiftblaze and Skyflower are expecting kits. Rowanpaw and Hawkpaw are now Rowanfeather and Hawkstrike. Breezepaw is the new trainee of Flightstorm, and Firepaw is Bloompetal's. Mostly good news.”
Skyflower... Swiftblaze... Hawkstrike... Rowanfeather...Flightstorm...Bloompetal...Firepaw...Breezepaw. I recall those names. One night, I heard Palestar announcing the new soldiers. The new queen. The trainees. It's all flooding back to me.
“Petalbreeze? I think that I was awake for those events. I remember the soldier ceremony, although it was quite vague.”
“That's normal. Your body woke itself up for those important events, and kept you unconscious the rest of the time.”
“Palestar. Did he get punished at all for his actions? What did Cloudwind say?”
“To your first question, no. He is the leader, and no one can punish him. If he were a soldier, or even the commander, he would be killed. To your second question, absolutely nothing. She knew that Palestar would kill her if she revealed the truth.”
Cloudwind is a coward. She is a selfish fool who only cares about her own life. Two lives were ended that day. If it were me, whether the victims were my kin or not, I'd confess in a heartbeat.
“I believe that her actions should be justified. See Palestar, but don't kill him.”
The tom stares at me with his dark brown eyes.
“What do you want?”
“Why did you do it? Kill my brother and sister? They did nothing to you. Absolutely nothing!”
“Well... you know where they came from. Their parents have told us their story. But the kits.... They could become dangerous if they realize where they were meant to be. Flamestripe and Blackwater knew what they were getting into when they came here.”
“Why didn't you just kill me, too?”
“I tried, but Featherflight took you away too quickly.”
“I have the name of a disloyal cat who must be killed!”
Palestar glares at me. I think he thinks I'm crazy. Barely seven moons old, driven mad by grief, filled with rage at her leader's actions.
“Cloudwind! She didn't attempt to save me, and she's supposed to be helping me train! I know that you think your actions were right, but consider that!”
“That makes Cloudwind,” Palestar growls, “one of my most loyal soldiers yet.”
(another Riverpaw POV)
That dawn, Cloudwind takes me out for a border check. Without hesitation, I plunge my claws into her. Her blue eyes stare at me with confusion and anger.
“You didn't save me when Palestar murdered my family. I trusted you, but I've realized that you're just a selfish, bratty coward.”
“In what way? All I've done is tried to help you learn!”
“When you heard the screams, did you know whose they were?”
“Yes. I was stupid and I made a cowardly mistake. I was siding with Palestar all this time. If you're wondering, I made plans to kill you. I know that I have made a grave error in not turning myself in.”
She's right about that.
“My last words to you, however, are a tip: Once I am dead, bring my body back to camp covered in our enemies' scent, so that the blame won't be placed on you. If it is, this'll at least have bought you some time to come up with a good alibi. I know that I told you to never stray across the border, but this is different. You have my full permission to end me now.”
I at least make her death quick, because I genuinely thought that she was helping me. Once she's gone, I rub her fur on a large rock. Perfectly disguised.
I burst into the camp, screaming.
“Cloudwind... dead! We got ambushed by a border patrol and they killed her! I knew that I couldn't fight them off, so I just grabbed her and ran!”
“One of my finest soldiers. She would've become the new commander once Waterwillow died. Speaking of Waterwillow, she will take over your training.”
The white she-cat nods.
“I'll take her out for battle practice right now.”
Across the river, Waterwillow has just demonstrated a battle tactic to me.
“Repeat that,” she orders. I obey her command, flying through the air and catching her back leg. Once I have her pinned, she looks shocked.
“What?” I ask.
“What's that caught in your claws? A feather?”
When I look down at my right forepaw, I see something truly horrifying. Gray-and-white fur is snagged in my claws.
“When Cloudwind and I were fighting the patrol, I attacked a cat whose pelt looked like this. I think her name was Willowstorm.”
“Willowstorm. I recognize her name from somewhere. Wait, what's that noise in the distance?”
A large patrol is crossing the border. After some time, they reach us.
“We are here to speak about the deaths of one of your soldiers. We did not kill her, but found tufts of her fur on a tree. We will give you one more chance.”
They turn away and run back to their territory.
I think I've just started a war.
Riverpaw and Cloudwind headed out, alone, to check the border. A patrol comes along at the exact same time that they're there, and Cloudwind just happens to get killed. It's too perfect of a setup. Riverpaw had to have killed her.
However, I won't just go ahead and tell her that I know. I will wait many moons, until I'm sure that she's let her guard down. Then, I will strike and remind her of her past.
I am sure that this will work. In the meantime, I will devise a plan.
(one and a half moons later)
“Palestar! I have an important message for you! Meet me in my cave!”
It's Petalbreeze. I know I can trust him to give me a message that is truly worth listening to. But if it's a problem, I will immediately take action.
“Swiftblaze has something important to tell you. She has a single kit, but that kit bears a striking resemblance to...you'll see.”
The kit is a tom, a small ginger-and-white tabby. I can't see why he would have any significance to any other cat. However, when I look at his pelt, I nearly collapse. He has a distinctive swirled tabby pattern. In my entire life, I've only seen one cat who looks like that. Blazecloud, the commander of the other army.
“Who is the true father of this kit?” I demand.
“You know? How did you find out? Does Skyflower know that my son isn't his?”
“Of course I know! It's obvious once you look closely at him! Did you think that I would let my guard down for even an instant?”
“What are you saying, Swiftblaze? He's definitely mine. How did no one find out?”
“I don't know. I guess that I had good luck and no cat decided to question this.”
“In case you're wondering, I'm not going to kill you. I'm going to destroy the whole other army. You have brought war upon us,” I say.
War. I can kill Riverpaw in the process. Of course, Blazecloud will be killed. Every cat who has wronged me will die.
Only the border separates me from our enemies. Nothing's stopping us from charging into battle, except our leader's signal.
Finally, Palestar gives the command. Almost instantly, the fighting starts.
A white cat springs out at me, and I start to attack him. Several other cats have taken flight and are running into the forest. They will survive, but will not fight. Cowardice, in my opinion.
Already, Palestar has Rainstar pinned. Of course he has. The two leaders will always fight for dominance over the land.
Several soldiers lay dead already, but now isn't the time to worry about them. I wonder which side Swiftblaze will fight for. Her mate, or her leader? Or did she simply run off and ignore the battle?
Palestar seems to be winning his battle, as Rainstar is rapidly losing strength. Our side is doing extremely well, and it seems that only Skyflower and Flightstorm have died.
All of Palestar's remaining warriors have gathered around the two cats, to prevent any thought of Rainstar escaping.
This is the end. We have won.
Or have we? It appears that some of the cowards are returning. Perhaps they've been waiting for the fight to end, and they're returning to mourn their dead.
No. One of the cats seems bent on fighting. They are sprinting back at an insane speed. Only when the cat has reached the border do I realize who it is. Bluefire.
“You thought you won, you stupid excuse for a leader! I know what you did to Rainstar that one night, after you named me a soldier! Rivercloud was right all along to not trust you, and you gave her good reason not to. Come out from this pit of evil, Rivercloud, and join the good soldiers.”
“Yes... he snuck over to the border and... injured me...severely,” spoke Rainstar. “Firfeather saved me...she has always been a good medic. Kill...Palestar...and I will make you my commander. Blazecloud... unfortunately lost his life in the battle.”
I turn, and I can see Swiftblaze grieving for him. Did he ever know about his son?
“Do it. I don't want the honor.”
Bluefire sighs, and cuts the ropes bonding Palestar to life. Cheers arise from the opposing side.
“Before you go back to your camp, I have a secret that I must reveal,” Swiftblaze confesses. “I had a kit with Blazecloud. The army only recognized him because of the swirls on his fur. Please accept this...”
“No! She's a horrible traitor and we can't take her in! Send her back to the oak forest,” a golden tabby spits. Several others join him, but the others nod.
We are split again. War is coming again. Swiftblaze has made a critical mistake.