closing out pain

sequel to opening locked doors

by brams


Prologue

One - Birth

It was night. A claw-moon hung in the sky, making the whole clearing seem dark, shadowy. What little light given off showed a white, frosty ground: the first snow of leaf-bare had arrived, and the flakes were slowly drifting down to earth.

It would’ve seemed quiet, tranquil – if only she wasn’t kitting.

It had been two moons of waiting, and the day had finally come. Hissing and yowling escaped the cat’s mouth as she tried to give life to her offspring. Beside her, a calico she-cat was pressing a paw gently onto the kitting female’s swollen belly.

“Specklesky, relax. Your first kit is about to come. Breathe in, breathe out, and soon they will be here.”

It didn’t appear that Specklesky had heard the response. If she had, she’d made no sign of it. There was a pause, then a loud hiss as a dark shape slid out onto the moss.

The calico turned. Carefully, she nipped the kitting sac, letting the first kit tumble out. She gently pawed it to the new mother, who started to lick her firstborn with long, rhythmic strokes, occasionally breaking out of them as more spasms hit her stomach.

After a while, the first kitten took his first breaths. Specklesky gently nudged him to her belly to suckle, before turning back to the calico. “Sorrelbreeze…” she rasped, her voice hoarse. “Is he a…?”

Sorrelbreeze – the calico – knew what she meant. “It’s a nice, strong tom-kit. He’ll be fine.”

Specklesky nodded weakly, and then she shuddered. The second kit was coming. A moment later, after another loud hiss, another shape slid out onto the moss.

This time, however, Sorrelbreeze took it on herself to sort out this kit. Nipping the kitting sac gently, she then proceeded to lick the kit’s fur dry. Soon, it too had started to breathe, and had joined its older brother at Specklesky’s belly. “That’s a she-kit,” the medicine cat mewed softly, before leaning back over the queen’s belly to check if there was any more coming.

After a while, Sorrelbreeze moved back. “There’s one left. You can do it! Think about your mate – how happy he’ll be to see your children.” Her voice had a hint of doubtfulness to it, as if she wasn’t sure that Specklesky’s mate was completely trustworthy.

Specklesky, meanwhile, was too tired to notice. Letting out a yowl, the final kit was born: smaller and darker than the others. Like its older sister, it was tended to by Sorrelbreeze. Soon enough, it too had joined its siblings at their mother’s belly. Meanwhile, their mother rested tiredly in her nest: not asleep, but exhausted from her ordeal.

“Great, Specklesky,” Sorrelbreeze mewed. “You have two she-cats and a tom. I’m going to let your mate know that you’re done, okay?”

“Thanks, Sorrelbreeze,” Specklesky mewed, shooting a gaze at her new kits. They were beautiful, in her eyes. The eldest, the tom, was easily the strongest of the siblings. His younger, brown-furred sister, however, was still trying to compete with him, while the silver-and-black tabby – the youngest – had kept her distance. Even though they were only just born, she could see some of their future personalities already.

“…Specklesky?” There was a soft voice as a cat entered the den. His thick fur was bushed up from the cold, and some snow lingered on it from the short journey he’d travelled from the warriors’ den to the nursery. His gaze did not go to his mate’s: instead, it rested on his kits. “Oh, they’re beautiful…”

Specklesky nodded. “They are nothing else but that. Now, my love, it’s time to name them.” She turned to the tom-kit first, and lightly touched him with her tail. “He’s the eldest. I think we should name him first.”

“You can name them,” he mumbled, still looking down at his offspring.

Specklesky gave her mate a sharp look. “I want you to name at least one please, Shadespirit,” she mewed. “But I will name this one, if you so wish.” She then proceeded to brush her tail once, twice over her son’s fluffy gray pelt. A breath was taken in, and then taken out.

“I feel as though Arrow’s a suitable name for him. I have no idea why.”

From a couple of mouse-lengths away, Shadespirit huffed as a response. It was unclear as to what he actually thought, but had agreed with the decision. “…Okay,” he finally mewed, after a pause. “Arrow will be his name.” Another pause. “Which one was next?”

Specklesky’s tail lingered over the brown kit. She mewled weakly as her mother’s tail came over her: she seemed to know the attention was now on her. Specklesky purred softly, before pointing out: “Look! There’s a little black mark on her forehead.”

Shadespirit nodded: he had obviously seen it. The dark tom had to dip his head to look at it properly. After a good time looking at it, he rested back on his haunches, still looking at his older daughter in interest. “I… I think it looks like a flame, that mark. I think… that should be her name,” he mewed finally, his voice soft.

“Flame?” his mate queried, to which Shadespirit responded with a firm nod. “Okay then. That will be her name, then.” A sigh slowly escaped from Specklesky’s mouth at this, before she slowly turned to her youngest kit, who was still staying away from her older siblings. “And her?” Yet another pause followed this: it was obvious that she wanted her mate to name their other daughter as well.

There was a soft rustling nearby as Shadespirit’s tail brushed the ground, the tom’s head slightly angled to one side. It was noticeable that he didn’t have any idea what to call her.

“…Okay, I’ll name her…” Specklesky’s voice was unsure as she looked at her silver-and-black daughter. “I like the name Shine for her. Do you like it?”

The only reply from Shadespirit was a mute nod. His tail flicked in agreement. “Arrow, Flame, and shine it is,” he declared. “They will have a great time in MossClan, I will assure that.”

Specklesky nodded. Her kits had their names now – that was one step down. However, now her children had their own lives ahead of them to live.

She willed them courage, she willed them strength. Despite what would come for them, their most difficult journey – their birth – was over.


Two - Enthusiasm

“Specklesky!” The small gray kit calls his mother’s name as he scampers across camp in her direction, his littermates following in behind him. “I have a question.” He’s so busy running that he nearly crashes right into her as he skids to a halt.

Their mother looks up. Her amber eyes are round as she looks at her approaching kits, before she turns to the one who spoke. “What is it, Arrow?”

Arrow jumps a little bit before he speaks. Behind him, his siblings are looking up at Specklesky in interest: and Arrow is following suit. “Why do we have different names to the warriors? They have two names, and we only have one!”

Arrow doesn’t notice it, but his mother is slightly uneasy at the asking of that particular question. Looking away, Specklesky takes a deep breath, the pale she-cat’s fur now fluffed up in worry. Exhaling, she lets out a long sigh before gazing back at them.

“…It’s complicated, Arrow. I don’t know if you and your littermates are ready for this yet.”

The kits look disappointed, but Arrow isn’t one to give up. He nudges his mother with his head. “Oh, c’mon! We’re four moons old – surely we’re old enough?” Beside their brother, his siblings nod in agreement, their eyes bright as they shoot a pleading look at their mother.

Specklesky sighs slowly again. She shakes her head – she’s nervous. However, she then looks at her offspring, and says slowly: “…Fine then. If you so insist, I’ll tell you – but you’re not going to like it.”

“Yay!” Arrow mews, when he hears his mother’s answer. He then turns to one of his siblings – whose fur is a pale brown colour – and leaps on her. “I told you, Flame, I told you so!”

“Break it up, you two,” their mother scolds gently, as she sees the two kits tussling. “You need to take this seriously.”

At this, they break apart, and join their other littermate, who’s already looking up at her mother with interest, pale green eyes round. Once they’re all settled, Specklesky begins her speech:

“As you kits know, there are five Clans in this pine forest: MossClan – the Clan that we’re in – BarkClan, MarshClan, NeedleClan, and ShrubClan.” At this, the kits nod at their mother’s words: she is right in the fact that they already know this. “…Well, for each of these Clans, you need to be accepted into their ranks.”

“…Accepted?” Flame says in disbelief, the brown kit looking down at the ground. “Specklesky… what do you mean by this ‘accepted’ thing?”

Specklesky sighs again. “This is the part I feared you knowing…” she whispered very softly under her breath, so soft that her children couldn’t hear her words. Her ears flatten for a moment against her skull, and she opens her mouth, pausing to say something. It takes a while before it comes out:

“Every cat – and I mean every cat – has to be accepted through the Season’s End. At the end of every season, Clanless cats gather at the Gathering place. Clan leaders with spots in their Clans come there and select new Clan members.” Specklesky takes another deep breath. “Remember those new cats that came about a moon ago? Darkfeather and Wingsong?”

“Oh yeah… them.” Shine – the quietest of the three – speaks, her pale eyes looking off to the side before flicking back up to meet her mother’s. “So you’re saying… that’s where they came from? This…”

“Season’s End, yes.” In affirmation, Specklesky nods, finishing off her daughter’s sentence. “This is how every cat in the Clans comes to be here. Even Birdstar,” she added, as Arrow opened his mouth to speak, but halted by his mother’s words.

A pause. “…Including you?” Flame pipes up, her amber eyes round.

There was no immediate reply from the she-cat: instead, there was a rather doubtful wince. Should she really tell the truth to her kits…? She didn’t want to, however Specklesky knew one thing: there was no point in lying. Slowly, she gives a small nod, not willing to speak.

For a while, her three kits sit silently after this, taking it in. One long moment of silence dragged on, until Arrow speaks up again:

“…But what about us? Do we have to go through the Season’s End too?”

A soft, silent gasp catches in Specklesky’s throat. What she next had to say would be a blow to them. She knew that. Closing her eyes, the pale queen takes a breath slowly, shakily.

Her kits sense her concern… and one figured out what she would say. Shine, blinking her pale eyes, looks up at her mother. “…We’re going to have to do the Season’s End, don’t we…?”

Specklesky shakes her head. “…Only if you choose to join a Clan for good when you’re older… because MossClan’s not going to let you stay here forever. When you’re twelve moons old, and fully grown… you won’t be able to stay here any longer unless you get accepted by a Clan at the Season’s End. You’ll have to become rogues.”

Now, a look of shock and surprise sets onto her kits’ faces. It was clear that their enthusiasm for this idea in the beginning was gone. Curling her son and daughters closer to her, Specklesky whispers softly to them: “I am so, so sorry, my children… but this is our way of life.”

Chapter One

Three - Love

“Cendre!”

A silver she-cat jabs her paw into the gray tom’s side, who sighs sleepily and rolls over. “Let me sleep,” he complains softly, placing his paw over his face.

The silver cat doesn’t relent. She just thrusts her paw into Cendre’s side again. “Brother…” she whispers, her voice soft, nervous. “I kinda want to say something…”

“What is it, Esprit…?” Realizing that his sister needs to talk to him, Cendre blinks open his eyes, revealing bright, piercing amber orbs. “What is it…?” His voice is laced with worry: reflecting his concern.

Esprit sighs. Blinking her pale eyes, she stutters as she first begins to speak. “W-Well…” She gulps, paws shuffling nervously against the ground. “…You know, how our mother said that there were places beyond here…?”

Cendre nods. “Of course…” His voice trails off, as he turns to his smaller sister. “…But why are you bringing this up?”

Esprit shakes her head. “…You don’t understand, Cendre,” she whispers. “I want to find these places. I want to see them for myself… I want to leave this place, Cendre, and see the world.”

In surprise, Cendre stares at her sister. “…Y-You can’t!” he gasps, eyes wide and mouth open. “Mother will never let you leave! And to add to that, I thought you would –“

“Stay? No.” Harshly, the silver she-cat shuts down her brother’s words. “For one, we’re old enough to look after ourselves. We can look after ourselves. We know how to hunt, and a little about fighting. Two, we’re not going to have our parents forever. We’re both going to need to move on at some point… and I feel it’s time for me to do that.” After finishing her speech, Esprit lowers her head, ears flattened. “I’m sorry if I upset you, brother…”

Cendre shakes his dark head. “No, no, it’s fine…” He lets in a shaky breath. “I just never thought you’d do that.”

“Do what?” Esprit sounds confused, the delicate-looking cat straightening up as she hears the second sentence of Cendre’s words.

“…Leave our parents.” A pause. “And me.”

Immediately, the she-cat’s pale eyes narrow. “Cendre, I never said that I was going to leave you behind.” A shaky breath in is taken by Esprit. “I’ve been thinking… and if you want, you can come with me. We can explore these places together. I don’t think that I’ll be able to do this all on my own.”

At first, Cendre looks pleased. “…So you’re not going to leave me…” Then, his expression changes: he now looks serious. “I don’t know if I can do it, though. What will our mother say if you leave, let alone both of us…?”

“Don’t be so negative, she’ll be fine with it.” Esprit sounds more confident than Cendre is.

Cendre still seems doubtful. “I’ll think about it, but I make no promises. If I say no, you’ll have to ask someone else, okay?”

Esprit nods. “Okay, brother. That’s all I have to say.”

He nods in response. “Cool, I’ll just go and do some hunting.” Without hesitating, the gray cat squeezes out of the den, leaving Esprit alone.

The silver she-cat watches her brother leave n silence. After le is gone, she turns to the back wall, and looks at it quietly.

Please don’t say no, Cendre. I care about you… I love you. We’re family, and that will be something that never breaks.


Four - Hate

Well, this is great.

That sarcastic thought runs through my head as I look around the pine forest. It’s just the same as MossClan territory... the Clan which used to be our home.

Stupid twelve-moon rule.

Now, because of it, my sisters and I are stuck out here – stuck out here, in this vast, wild world outside of the five Clans. We’ve got to make our own living now, until the day we choose – and get accepted into – one of the Clans.

I hear a paw scratch against the pine-needled ground. “So…” My sister, Flame, speaks: she seems unsure of herself. “What in the name of StarClan are we meant to do now?”

I grunt. “Find somewhere to live, obviously. There’s got to be a place out here.”

Tonight will be our first night away from the Clan, the first night that begins our so-called ‘adult lives’. My sisters and I have decided to stick together to start with, and see where life takes us, and where we choose to go.

“I don’t want to get near any borders right now,” Flame moans softly. I turn towards my sister: her brown fur is fluffed up, probably due to how cold it is. Leaf-bare, as we know, are not an easy season to deal with. “Let’s just wander and find a place for the night, shall we?”

I nod. “Sounds like a plan. Let’s go.”

I flick my tail, and start to pad forward. Flame pads slightly behind, while my other sister – Shine – is at the back. We stick with this order – the one that’s been reflected through our lives. It fits us too, apparently – that’s what our parents said.

First, it’s me, Arrow – the ‘leader’. Then there’s Flame, who’s in the middle, the one who keeps everyone in line. Finally, Shine is the youngest – the more reserved, sensitive one.

It feels weird, padding around in this place which I know barely anything about. Sure, it looks like MossClan territory, but it smells… different. The trees here, compared to MossClan, also have lower branches, which makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel… trapped.

“I want to go home,” Shine complains from the back, her eyes round as Flame and I turn to her. “I don’t like being here. I just… want to go home.” The silver-and-black she-cat shivers, and I feel her pain. I know that deep down, I want to be in MossClan, too.

Flame, meanwhile, is harsher than I am, and she shows Shine this. “This is our home now,” the pale brown cat hisses, causing Shine to flinch and step back. “We’ve got to stay out here. We’ve got to forge our own lives, away from our parents. We have no choice, we can’t go back.”

“I know,” Shine mews quietly, her voice soft. “It’s just… I’m just not used to this. At all.” Halting in her pawsteps, she sits down and curls her tail over her paws, looking down at the ground.

I go back to Shine, keeping an eye on her. She doesn’t seem to mind my presence nearby – but she doesn’t respond to me coming near, either. Flame huffs, and joins us: she’d rather wander off without us.

It’s obvious to me that Shine hates this. She never wanted to leave. I feel the same way, and I shoot a sad look at my youngest sister as she sits there in silence, off in thought.

This is going to be a tough thing for Shine to cope with… and all of us.


Five - Triumph

Two cats stand out on the moorland, alone. They look unsure about the place: it is as if they have never been to this particular area in their lives. One of the cats – a she-cat – bends her head down for a moment, and tastes the air, seeing what is around her.

“Is this it…?” The silver she-cat’s voice sounds confused for a moment as she sniffs at a seemingly-ordinary mark on the moor. Her tail twitches in curiosity.

“Well, they did say that there was a group out here somewhere,” her companion – a gray tom – replied as he looks out onto the moorland. He is still, unlike her, who seems a little nervous. “But then again… I’m not sure. I’ve never been part of a group in my life, let alone seen one – you know that.”

“Mmhmm.” The she-cat gives a mumbled response, before looking behind her. “It could be, it smells of cat. But I’m not –”

“That is a group,” another voice mewed, interrupting.

The two cats turned. From behind them, two cats appeared from the opposite direction of the scent marker: these two cats were obviously not part of that group. The speaker, a pale cream tom, speaks again: “That is a group, strangers, a very vicious group that you don’t want to cross. I highly suggest you don’t cross that scent marker, otherwise they’ll hunt you down.”

The silver she-cat backs cautiously off. “Dangerous?”

The cream tom and his companion – a pale tabby she-cat – nodded. “Unfortunately, yes. They weren’t so previously… but a moon or two before I was born, they gained a vicious leader – a vicious leader, by the name of Slate. He was okay for the first little bit, but then a new cat to the Community – that’s what it’s called – fled, and his companion, a Community member who had rejoined after leaving once, ditched as well. Now, Slate won’t let cats leave, and he’s super strict about who he lets in. Thus, he guards his borders tightly… and you don’t want to come against a group over there.”

The silver she-cat seems nervous while the cream tom says his little speech. Her companion looks much calmer. “What happens if you’re caught there?” he asks, eyes narrowing at the cream tom.

This time, his companion replies. “They… they’ve either got to surrender to him, or be killed. It’s not the nicest place there. Not like how it used to be, apparently.” Her head shakes. “It used to be nicer than this. This chaos… it’s been like this for a while – just over six seasons.”

The two cats nod. “Okay, thanks,” the silver she-cat meows, although her voice quivers slightly. “We won’t go in there.”

The cream cat nods. “Good.” He then paused as he thinks of what next to say. “You two are new here, right?”

“Yes, we’ve only just arrived now.” In curiosity, the gray tom dips his head to the side. “Why?”

“So you’re new here.” The pale tabby speaks now, her green eyes wide. “Welcome, okay? If you need anything… just let Durei –” the tabby’s tail flicks to her cream companion – “or myself, Lesiel. We’d be happy to help you both…?”

“Cendre and Esprit.” The gray tom gives a hurried reply. “I’m Cendre, she’s Esprit.”

Lesiel nods. “Okay, Cendre and Esprit, find us if you need anything.” And before the two cats can say anything, she and Durei slink away without another word.

Cendre and Esprit then sit in silence together, looking out to the Community. They now feel a mix of thoughts – triumph for getting there, but disappointment in the group.

They didn’t expect it to be this bad.


Chapter Two

Six - Feel

The first night away from MossClan, I quickly was realizing, was going to be a struggle for all three of us. In fact, it already was – it had taken a while for Arrow to encourage Shine to get up and find a place to stay.

To my annoyance, I was forced to wait up. Then again, I guess it was for the best, considering none of us know anything about this territory yet. Either way, it was still annoying, having to wait up for my sister.

Now, dusk was falling: I could see the pink, yellow, and orange colours through the pine needles above us. Arrow, Shine and I had managed to find some small shelter that some cat had made a while back, but had abandoned for whatever reason – there was a faint, unfamiliar cat scent, but nothing more than that. It would do for the meantime, but it’s a little bit small for the three of us. I know that we will need to find a bigger place later – or to build one.

“I think we should hunt.” Arrow speaks as he pokes his gray head inside the small den. “We also need some moss – there’s some in here, but it’s all mouldy.” He then pauses, tail raising slightly, before continuing: “I think Shine should go get some moss, it’ll give her something to do.”

I nod, agreeing with my brother. Shine is the type of cat which needs a distraction to take her mind off things: this would be a good thing for her. “Yeah, I think she should do that.”

Shine is also somewhat paying attention to the conversation – her head is lowered towards the ground, but her ear pricked in our direction. As the conversation turns to her, her silver-and-black head raises, and she looks at Arrow. “S-sure,” she mews unsteadily. “By myself?”

Arrow nods in affirmation. “Yeah. You’ll be fine: it’ll distract you, hey? Flame and I are going to see if we can get some food.” He pauses slightly. “If you get back before us, you can start sorting out the nests – that’d be great.”

Shine looks more confident now at this. “Okay.” Slowly, she brings herself into a standing position, and then takes a few steps away from us. She then looks back at Arrow, giving him a look which clearly asked for certainty. “Don’t worry, Shine, you’ll be fine.” Arrow nods again, amber eyes bright.

With this, Shine dips her head, before slowly padding off. Arrow and I are now left together, and I turn my gaze more towards him. He looks at me back.

“Well, let’s get going on our task, shall we?”

I stretch as I get up from my sitting position, and rise onto my paws. “Yeah, let’s go,” I meow, ears pricking. I end up padding forward first, taking the lead: Arrow lets me do this, and he falls behind me as a result.

As we pad through the forest, we start to talk. “This is so… different to MossClan, and we’ve only been out here since this morning,” Arrow says from behind me. “I don’t know how we’re going to cope with this… stupid twelve-moon rule.”

“We’ll be fine,” I reply breezily, sure of the words. “We’ve just got to get used to it. Our parents would’ve done this, and the generations before them. We’ll survive; we’ve just got to find a way.” After I finish speaking, I halt in my pawsteps, and start tasting the air.

“You’re optimistic today, Flame,” Arrow mumbles, as he too stops walking and tastes the air. “Right, I smell a vole, I’m going this way.” Turning around, the long-furred gray tom pads off, crouching as to not scare off his prey.

I, meanwhile, detect another vole and I set off in a different direction. As I hunt for it, my thoughts drift to life outside the Clan. Arrow and Shine seem less sure about it, but I’m sure that we can do something with it, if we can find a way.

There is no denying, for sure, that I feel confident.


Seven - Wrecked

“Let all MossClan cats gather below the Ivyledge for a Clan meeting!”

At the time that Birdstar let out that call, Shadespirit moaned softly from his nest in the warriors’ den. If it was any day apart from today, he would’ve gotten up – but all he wanted to do was to huddle in his nest, and just forget about what was about to happen.

He’d been dreading this day for moons.

Reluctantly, the dark-furred tom got out of his nest, and stretched. A couple of other warriors had just left the den, and now Shadespirit was the only one left inside. He hurriedly followed them out into the clearing.

Dawn light was filtering through the pine needles as Shadespirit stepped out. The cats of MossClan were gathered around the Ivyledge, which Birdstar – MossClan’s leader – was sitting on. To one side of the main group of cats was a smaller one: of four cats.

That was the group Shadespirit went to.

As he approached, he could see his Clanmate, a speckled pale brown she-cat, moving between the other three cats in the group. She was speaking stuff to them, but as he neared she looked up.

“Oh, Shadespirit, you’re finally here,” she whispered, glancing to the side at the other three cats. “Are you going to say your goodbyes…?”

…And this is the part I’ve been dreading. Of course, he knew that he’d have to let go of his kits – that was the price of living with the Clans – but he didn’t want them to leave. Sure, he wasn’t the best father in the world, but they meant a lot to him, no matter how little he demonstrated it.

“…Yeah, Specklesky, I’m getting to that,” Shadespirit mumbled unsteadily in reply, looking at the speckled she-cat’s forehead as he spoke. After he finished, his gaze then turned towards his kits, which were all now glaring at him, gazes unblinking. Secretly, he wanted to pull away, but he knew that this was no time to hide.

He first turned to his only son – the gray tom, the firstborn. To him, he simply nodded. “You’ll be fine, Arrow,” he mewed.

Arrow looked uncertain at his father’s words, but he nodded anyway. “I… I’ll try, Shadespirit,” he mewed softly, as the gray cat leant forward, nose pointed in his direction.

Shadespirit stretched out his muzzle in return, and they touched noses for a brief moment, before he pulled away again. Gulping, he turned away from Arrow, feelings of dread and sadness churning around inside of him. He’d just said a farewell to one of his kits: now, he had to do the same to the other two.

Next, Shadespirit turned to his elder daughter. His gaze turned to hers for a moment, and for a split second, their gazes met. Shadespirit had to turn away after that – he couldn’t stand looking in some cat’s eyes for very long. They too touched noses, although this was also brief.

“You’ll be fine, Flame,” he whispered, to which he received a brisk nod from his brown-furred daughter in reply.

“I will be, Shadespirit, don’t worry,” she replied, confidence in her tone.

The dark-furred tom nodded back in reply, before turning to his third and final kit – his younger daughter. Admittedly, this was the one of the three Shadespirit was the most worried about – Shine seemed, at times, that she was a little nervous of life beyond MossClan. However, he knew that she would be fine after a while: she would just have to get used to her new surroundings.

“Good luck, Shine,” he mewed to his daughter, whose head lifted as her name was called. “You’ll be fine – take it slowly, and you can do it.”

“Okay, Shadespirit,” Shine whispered, as she too leant forward to touch noses with her father. “I… I guess I’ll be okay.” After she finished speaking, Shadespirit leant forward as well, and they touched noses for a short moment well. Finally, she too pulled away.

As soon as Shine pulled away, Shadespirit felt bad. Now, he was seeing his children off: letting them become adult cats. Sure, they had to find their own path in life, but it didn’t stop all the negative emotions. Helplessly, he watched as Birdstar called his three kits forward, and at that, he couldn’t watch any longer.

Turning away from the crowd, Shadespirit’s head lowered and his ears flattened against his skull. Guilt swarmed inside him, and his ears flattened. There was no denying that inside he felt wrecked – wrecked from seeing his kits leave.

He never wanted to say goodbye, but he had to.


Eight - Soft

Dawn light filters in through the makeshift den, and I feel my littermates around me start to arouse. I grumble slightly as I hear them rise to their paws, getting ready for the day ahead.

“So.” Arrow is the first to speak. I assume he’s talking to Flame: who else would he be talking to? “We’ve spent a quarter-moon away from home. We can’t stay here. This was only meant to be temporary.”

Oh, right. Sadness flows over me. I can’t deny the fact that I miss MossClan – a lot. How could they be so… heartless? Why could they just leave young cats born there out to fend for themselves? I whimper slightly as I open my eyes. The quarter-moon just been… it’s been difficult.

“Oh, Shine, you’re awake.” Flame’s speaking now, and she turns to me. Her voice has a note of annoyance to it, which bothers me. Does she have a grudge against me for something? “We’re going to move on today. We must find a more permanent home.”

I knew this was coming. Flame's been complaining about it for the past few days. “Okay,” I mew, feeling just a little bit calmer – I’ve never been the one for surprises. “To where?”

I watch as Arrow shoots a look at Flame. Noting it was unusual for Arrow to dictate onto Flame, being the so-called ‘leader’, it was obvious that she had a lead. My ears prick up in surprise.

“Did Flame find something?”

My gaze turns towards my brown sister, who frowns. “Not exactly,” she mews. “I… was just talking to someone yesterday. His name was Moineau, and well… he was a bit interesting, to say the least. Anyway, he says that beyond these forests, there’s a moor, and I want to see if those rumors really are true.”

A moor? I tilt my head. That was something I’d vaguely heard of, from the few stories our parents had told us of the outside. They’d described it as a wide, open place with very little foliage, and full of long grass. It had sounded very different to the forest that we’d grown up in. Of course, a place like that would definitely take the interest of Flame.

“…Well, that could be an idea. Even if just for a look,” Arrow replies. He shoots a glance at me before turning back to Flame. “Providing it’s true, of course.”

Flame looks annoyed at Arrow’s comments, and gives an irritated snort. “Of course it will be true. Do you really think our parents would lie about what a moor is?”

While my siblings continue to argue, I find myself drifting off slightly into thought. Was it really worth looking out into the world, seeing what was beyond? MossClan had been a good place, but now they’d thrown me out into an unfamiliar place, a place I barely even knew. I still wasn’t used to having to fend for myself in the forest, let alone go somewhere completely new which I had never seen. Feeling a little anxious, I unsheathe my claws and let them sink into the moss used for bedding.

“Okay, that’s that, then,” Arrow’s voice jolts me out from my thoughts, his voice conceding. “We’ll go see the moor and chance it from there.” He then turns to me. “Okay, Shine, we’ll go see the moor and then decide what happens next.”

I feel my fur rise slightly in worry, but before I can start thinking about it, Arrow gives me a look. “I’ll make sure you’re okay, Shine. I promise. There’s no need for you to worry.”

Arrow’s words helped, but I still feel a sense of doubt. What if…? “But –” I start to protest, but Flame cuts me off.

“You need to get some spice in your life, Shine,” she mews, before bounding out of the den. “Let’s go, and get this over with.”

Arrow shakes his head. I can see that he knows there’s no point in him arguing with Flame. We both know that once Flame’s decided something, she’s dead-set on it, and there’s no backing down. I watch Flame for a moment – she is now pacing outside – before turning back to Arrow.

“We might as well go,” my gray tabby brother mews. “I know you don’t like this that much, but… you’re not going to win. Not with Flame being Flame.” He looks at me. “Just say something if you’ve had enough, yeah?”

I nod. “…Okay,” I mew softly, so only Arrow can hear me speak.

“Good.” Arrow gives a confirming nod. “Then let’s go.” He stretches before padding out of the den entrance, and gives me a look that tells me he’s ready when I am.

I sheathe my claws as I get up from my nest, stretching too before leaving the den. I glance behind me for a moment, silently reminding myself that I need to groom, before padding out to join Arrow and Flame. With a nod, I tell them that I’m ready, and as they set off, I follow.

As we begin out journey to the moor, a soft sigh escapes me. Whether this is a good or a bad thing… I can’t tell, and it worries me just a little.

What if everything goes wrong?


Chapter Three

Nine - Cold

“May all our members gather!” The shaded-furred tom summoned his group together, eyes with an ever-present menacing glare. Cats followed his instructions without heed: they did not wish to ignore the Alpha’s instructions. There were consequences for falling out of place, and no cat dared to question it: the rules were to follow, or risk trouble.

The three young cats stood near the back of the crowd, the large crowd. They were not afraid of the crowd, but they certainly did not like their Alpha. They’d never known anything different, but the tales of the elder cats told them a different story, a story of a peaceful group.

A group that wasn’t so hostile of trespassers. A group that let new cats inside their borders, even welcomed them, without being killed. A very different group to now.

One of the cats flicked her ears as they watched the other main cats come forward. Their fearsome Beta, the second-in-command, who wasn’t to be questioned. The Gamma, intelligent and always working to better the group. Finally, the Delta, who would protect them from the inside.

Most of the other cats fell silent as their Alpha began to speak. If they were caught speaking, there would be consequences if the Alpha heard. But being so far back, and being the cats they were, they ignored it, the she-cat whispering to her brown companion:

“I wish the Community was like it was before.”

The brown cat rolled his eyes. “How do you know it was better? We were all born after Slate started these rules! I realize, yes, that this reign is stupid, but –”

The brown cat was shouldered by the third, a black tom. “Shut it, Plymouth, anything’s better than what this is at the moment,” he hissed quietly. “Under Slate’s reign, we have no freedom. Security, perhaps – if you follow his rules – but no freedom.” The black cat snorted. “Community cats used to be able to come and go as they pleased, remember? But then Slate changed the rules.”

Plymouth looked annoyed, but he didn’t protest: instead, he fell silent. He knew that his black companion was right. “Thanks for pointing out what I already know,” he mewed sourly, rolling his eyes at the young tom.”

“Hey, you two, shut it.” The silver she-cat broke them off with a hiss, causing them to fall silent again. “You can’t argue, remember? You can’t win against Slate if you argue.”

“Well, sorry, North,” Plymouth whispered sourly at the she-cat, as they turned back to what Slate had to say.

“…As I’ve been saying,” the shaded tom, mewed, his dark tail flicking, “we must protect our borders. There have been a multitude of foreign scents near our borders recently, and although none have come into our territory, I remind you to watch out for them. Keep them out, and punish them if necessary. But remember… the price of trespass is death.” Slate paused to glare at a few cats in the crowd – obviously ones that had disobeyed his orders previously.

“I’d love to rebel against this,” the black tom whispered to himself, but unfortunately for him, North and Plymouth overheard him. North immediately turned to him, eyes wide.

“Palmerston, you are a genius,” she mewed softly, pausing to think for a moment, before adding: “But it’s too hard just by ourselves. Not in this Community. Slate’s too much of a dictator, and everyone just hangs onto his every word. We can’t just break into him from within.”

Palmerston looked pleased: his eyes lit up for a moment with the praise, but then darkened as he realized the impossibility of their task. He shook his head slowly, and it was obvious that he thought it would never happen.

“We’d have to break from the outside, geniuses,” Plymouth pointed out brusquely, his voice indicating that he thought both North and Palmerston were stupid. “Cats used to join the Community all the time, remember? Cats out beyond probably hate us.”

North and Palmerston both nodded slowly, realizing that Plymouth was probably correct in his thinking. But then, North felt cold inside of her. Talking with cats from the outside was punishable by death in the Community. If they ever tried… it would be a huge risk.

“It’s an option, Plymouth,” North whispered, “but dangerous. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens…”

Ten - Without

tbc

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