Episode Four, Season Four, of Beauty.
I never knew the prisons of FireClan were in such conditions. We are now separated into individual chambers, to prevent us from plotting our escape. I haven’t seen the others in a few days. Food and water are given once a day, slowly starving us. Every day I’ve been forced out into the fields to hunt, with a guard following me at all times. Ten pieces of prey a day, and I get one back during meal time. If I don’t complete the task, I starve for the day.
It’s grueling work for sure, but I manage. From time to time, I catch of glimpse of Brownhare or the others in the fields, but it’s mostly just me. Other prisoners mill around, cringing away from their guards, blows falling hard and fast on their backs.
I don’t escape the blows myself. They rain down, beating me bloody, but I stand back up, determined not to die here, in Redstar’s clutches.
I can’t say this place is in limbo, because I’m sure Redstar wants the prison to be a horrific experience, a one way trip to death. And if you’re not dead by then, you’re executed instead.
The guards keep me somewhat healthy, as Redstar wants my squad and I to be alive by the time our execution date rolls around.
One week: that’s all we’ve got.
Scarlet almost forgot about Whiteflicker’s new mission for her. It wasn’t until the third day that she scrambled out of her nest in the dead of the night, determined to leave Koya behind before she had to betray him.
“Scarlet,” Koya’s soft voice made her freeze, “Where are you going?”
“I have a mission,” Scarlet blurted out, “I almost forgot about it. I must finish it up. Perhaps after that…I could come back.”
“Let me come with you,” Koya swiftly padded over to her. “I have nothing to do right now, especially with Redstar on my tail now. Does this mission perhaps involve saving Amberfrost’s squad?”
Scarlet opened her mouth to say no and then snapped it shut. With Koya’s aid, could she really save the squad? Perhaps they could convince the rebels together, and then Scarlet could flee from Whiteflicker’s clutches forever and ally herself with the squad once more.
She could be Cherrypaw again.
Gingerpaw would be so proud. The thought flashed through Scarlet’s mind before she could stop it.
“Yes,” she found herself saying, “I need to save them.”
“Then we must hurry,” Koya pushed his way out the entrance, “yesterday was the squad’s sentencing. They are to be executed in a week’s time.”
“What?” Scarlet squawked, “Why didn’t you mention this yesterday? We’ve already wasted a day.”
Koya glanced behind him at her, his green eyes unfathomable, “I had no idea who’s side you were on,” he said calmly, “I had to make sure I was making the right decision first.”
“Which side?” Scarlet echoed, “I’m on Shadowfang’s side.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Koya smiled wryly, “Shadowfang is a terrible leader. He will end up slaughtering all the rebels before we reach Redstar. Scarlet, Shadowfang won’t be the one leading us if we want to save Amberfrost.”
“Then who?” Scarlet interrupted, “Fire? He’s out on a diplomatic mission and hasn’t returned since. Who knows when he’ll get back to aid us?”
“Not him, us.”
The fire in Koya’s eyes sent a shiver down Scarlet’s spine. Scarlet wanted to back away from the amber tom, as she hated seeing this side of him. There was a darker secret around the tom that made him burn with desires to kill, but he was usually so kind…
“How do we gather enough rebels to do that?”
“Scarlet! Koya!” Scarlet turned to see Rainstorm pounding towards them, “There you two are. I was wondering why you both haven’t showed up for the urgent rebel meeting.” She lowered her voice, “Fire has returned.”
Scarlet inhaled sharply. Koya narrowed his eyes but nodded briskly, “We must attend immediately.” He turned to Scarlet, “This is our chance.”
“Chance for what?” Rainstorm frowned, “What are the two of you plotting?”
“Nothing,” Koya said stiffly, but Scarlet leaned forward.
“We’re going to rescue the squad.”
Rainstorm perked up instantly. “I’ve already told Fire about that,” Rainstorm said loftily, “of course your help is welcome also.” Scarlet rolled her eyes at Rainstorm’s obvious joy, and Koya remained emotionless about it.
The three of them hurried to the underground base and Koya immediately went for Fire’s den. “Wait,” Scarlet raced after the amber tom, “Let me come with you.”
Koya looked her up and down. “You’re Shadowfang’s favorite rebel.” He said briskly, “Fire won’t appreciate you. He appointed Shadowfang because he was the highest ranking rebel around. But that doesn’t mean Fire supports his cause or wants him around.”
Scarlet bristled. “Are you saying because Shadowfang trusts me the most, I can’t be trusted in Fire’s eyes?”
“Yes,” Koya pushed her back, “Stay with Rainstorm and I’ll find you later.”
Scarlet stared incredulously at the amber tom as he disappeared into the den, leaving her to stand alone outside.
Koya knew it was wrong to push Scarlet away like that, but he had to settle things with Fire himself before he even tried to smooth anything out between the leader and Scarlet. Plus, even though he found himself fond of the scarred she-cat, he didn’t exactly trust her.
“Sir,” Koya stepped inside, “may I come in?”
Fire drew himself up. He was a large cat; his broad shoulders making him tower over Koya, who was rather small himself. His pelt was crisscrossed with scars and there was a scar over his left eye, though sparing it. “Please sit, Koya.”
Koya graciously sat down. “The squad has been captured,” Koya said without preamble, “I believe we must save them before the execution date.”
Fire leaned forward. “I have more personal reasons to rescue the special operative squad, but I assume you want to head the investigation?”
“Not exactly,” Koya tipped his head, “Flareheart is on my case. I don’t want to confront her just yet, but I have a suggestion about who could be the head of this, aside from you of course.”
Fire waved his tail for Koya to continue.
“Rainstorm, of course,” everyone in the rebels knew the gray she-cat’s connection with the squad. “And this may sound strange, but I believe Scarlet could be of some use here.”
The leader of the rebellion curled his lip. “Shadowfang’s pet? There are rumors going around this place about that feisty she-cat. What good could she possibly be on this mission?”
“She was on the squad temporarily with Shadowfang’s permission. She may not know them that well, but it’s possible she’ll know them enough to know how to save them. Plus, she is a part-time spy in the Beauty.”
“I cannot trust her.”
“You can trust the squad, can’t you?” Koya asked softly, “Or is Amberfrost the only reason?”
Fire’s mouth thinned, “Koya, you have been a very trusted friend and advisor, and I understand your concerns, but I cannot trust Scarlet until she proves her worth to me, not to Shadowfang.”
Koya dipped his head, knowing this was as much as he would get out of the tough leader. “Wait,” Fire continued, “to start with, you can bring her with you on your current mission. I assume you haven’t finished it yet?”
“Not even close,” Koya shook his head wryly, “I’m trying to get information out of her by keeping my distance, but so far the only reaction I’ve gotten has put the squad in prison.”
“What do you think she even wants with you?” Fire cocked his head.
“Information,” Koya narrowed his eyes, “about her past. Because as far as she knows, I am the only one with the correct information who might be willing to hand it over. But I don’t know what will happen if I confront her; I’m still investigating.”
“Take Scarlet along,” Fire continued, “prove to me that she’s worth it.”
Koya indeed found Scarlet later, and the orange she-cat wasn’t too surprised. “How did your meeting with Fire go?” Rainstorm pressed, as the gray she-cat was still standing next to Scarlet.
“You are allowed to be in charge of the rescue along with Fire himself,” Koya told her. He turned to Scarlet, “You are not.”
Scarlet deflated. “Why not?”
“You’re coming with me,” Koya didn’t answer her question fully. He didn’t know how she would react if he told her about Fire not trusting her entirely due to her spy position in the Beauty.
“Where?” Scarlet followed Koya expectantly, leaving Rainstorm behind.
“Through the tunnels that are below the Beauty section,” Koya knew how dangerous it could be, revealing such things to Scarlet, but if he wanted to prove her loyalty, he had to trust her himself.
“Indeed. There are a series of tunnels that snake underneath the Beauty and the poor section. One half of it is used by us, and the other half is usually unoccupied. The two sets don’t connect, thankfully, or else we wouldn’t be utilizing those tunnels.” Koya didn’t stop walking.
Scarlet pondered over this. It would certainly be useful information for her to know, in case she really needed to use it as leverage, though she doubted she would have the guts to betray Koya like that.
He was too much like Gingerpaw.
They entered the underground tunnels. Scarlet found herself swallowed by darkness, guided by Koya’s soft voice. “We’re going to spy on Flareheart to see if she has any interesting information I need. You can try to see if anyone gives you any clues on the squad’s location and situation.”
“Flareheart?” Scarlet echoed, but Koya forged onwards, leaving her to scurry behind him.
For awhile, Koya didn’t talk to her. Finally, she heard his heavy breathing up ahead and she bumped into his hindlegs. She let out a grunt of surprise and she realized that he had stopped abruptly.
“Koya?” She whispered, “What’s wrong?”
“I took a wrong turn,” Koya’s breathing was labored, “I hate being underground.” He swore, “I haven’t gotten lost in awhile…”
“We’ll just trace our steps back,” Scarlet said calmly, although she could feel the panic coming off Koya in waves. She forced herself to be calm. “You remind me of Gingerpaw,” she said without thinking, “she hated being in tight places. She loved the open.”
Scarlet began to retrace their steps and Koya followed at her heels. “She was someone I knew,” Scarlet began tightly, and then found herself pouring out the story, “We were in the Academy together. I loved her.”
Koya didn’t say anything and so Scarlet took the opportunity to continue. “We were in love. I know how bad that sounds, but Gingerpaw and I were already bent on rebelling. Amberfrost and the others joined a moon after us, and together, we went on a mission. It was disastrous.”
“A mission?” Koya mused, “Pretty brave of you guys.”
“If I could go back,” Scarlet said quietly, “I wouldn’t have gone.”
Koya was silent for a heartbeat before he spoke up. “Gingerpaw died, didn’t she?”
Scarlet nodded before realizing he couldn’t see her. “Yeah,” she lowered her gaze but continued shuffling forward, “she did. I still remember the feeling I got in my chest when she died. It was the worst. I wanted to trip and fall and just die with her because I couldn’t imagine going on without her. That’s love, I guess.”
“That’s love,” Koya agreed.
They found themselves outside soon enough, and Scarlet was more than happy to see the sunlight. She felt refreshed after being cooped up in the tunnels for so long. “Do you want to try to find your way back in?” She turned to ask Koya, but the orange tom shook his head.
“I think I’ve had enough of the tunnels for today, don’t you?”
Scarlet agreed wholeheartedly, although she was surprised to find she wasn’t as relieved as she thought she would be to stop talking about Gingerpaw.