IDENTITY: by Forestpaw13.
Plot: You thought you had a great life in ForestClan, but one morning turns everything around.
You open your eyes. You blink once, twice, three times.
A voice above you says, "Hello, Rio!"
You look up into the face of a creature so large that you yelp, but find that it is the thing you have been suckling from.
"It's okay, Rio," the creature mews. "I'm your mother, Creek."
You attempt to repeat the word but find that you can't.
Another creature identical to the one above you stirs beside you. You yelp again.
"Rio, this is Aryo," Creek tells you. "He is your brother and you love him."
You look at Aryo. He looks like you- but you can't explain why. Aryo looks at you and recognition flashes in his eyes.
There is something beside you. It doesn't move. You blink at it, push at it with a paw.
"Kuri." Creek speaks the word with sadness.
You look at her sadly.
Creek nudges you. "Go to sleep, little one."
Your eyes close sleepily. Now that you think of it, sleep is a good idea...
You wake up. The first thing you notice is that Creek and Kuri are gone. You look around wildly, but they are not to be seen.
Nudging Aryo, you struggle to stand.
Aryo grunts. He is not going to wake. This mission is yours. Your goal: find Creek and Kuri.
You struggle to pad out of the den like you've seen Creek do, but putting one paw in front of the other is hard enough when you have no idea where you are.
Emerging from the den, you look around at the huge towers around you. A wind blows your fur a little bit, you shiver not from cold but from fear of the hugeness of this new world.
For the first time, you catch your mother's scent: Creek has gone behind the den.
You follow her scent, pausing to sniff again. Scents of Creek's breath catch your nose. You remember they have names, like mouse and vole and fish.
You take careful steps, eventually coming to a stop behind a green bushy thing with little things growing off of it. You peer around it, and to your surprise, see Creek and Kuri talking to another creature.
"She died, Joji!" Creek was spitting. "Kuri died during birth."
"You couldn't save her?" the other creature shot back. "You stupid she-cat!" He raised his paw to Creek's face and Creek's face began to drip with red.
"I'm sorry," Creek pleaded. "There's still Rio and Aryo!"
Joji paused. "Toms?"
"Yes. Both of them are strong and healthy."
Joji looked nervous all of a sudden. "I promised somebody I'd give them one of my kits-"
"No you didn't," Creek gasped. "Give away your kit? Give away my kit? No, Joji, I refuse!"
Creek's face dripped more red. She whimpered.
"Give me Rio," Joji snapped. "Or I'll kill you and give them both away."
You can't help but whimper. Rio is your name, why would you be given away?
Creek's ears perk and she stands as still as one of the towers.
"What?" Joji snaps.
"Give me a moment," Creek mews, and she runs towards you.
You start and fall, and by then she is standing above you. "Rio!" she hisses. "Get back to the den!"
"I don't know how!" you say, surprising yourself.
Joji is slowly padding towards Creek. You whimper, "Why are you giving me and Aryo away?"
"Trust me. I don't want to, Rio," Creek sighs.
Joji has seen you. "This is Rio!" he says, feigning kindness. "Well, hello, little one, I'm Joji, your father!"
You bare your teeth. You don't trust this particular creature, not at all.
"Rio, be nice to your father," Creek says sternly. Turning to Joji, she draws in a breath. "Take him. He won't remember anything by the time he's grown up. The Clan will do good to him."
You let out a cry, but Joji's paw covers your mouth.
"Come with me," he growls.
Everything is black.
You wake up, looking around at your now-familiar surroundings. You have been a warrior for a moon, now called Riverclaw. You live in ForestClan, a group of cats that live deep inside a forest.
You are in love, too. Your back is pressed against Flowertail's, and you can feel her every breath. She was made a warrior only two days ago.
The snow has been on the ground for two moons now. The lake is frozen. You consider taking Flowertail down there, asking her to be your mate, but the possibility is shut out of your head instantly as the deputy, Stoneheart, pokes his head into the warrior's den.
"You awake?" Stoneheart asks you quietly. "Come on out, I want to ask you something."
You stand, looking at Flowertail one more time before retreating from the den. You sit in front of the deputy.
"Flowertail," Stoneheart says. "You're in love with her, right?"
You nod happily. "Of course!"
"Right." Stoneheart pauses. "Well, as her father..."
You remember insantly that Flowertail is Stoneheart's daughter. You prepare to fight. She loves you, too, you know it!
Stoneheart looks you over. "You'll be a strong mate for my daughter, Riverclaw."
Elation swells through your heart. You are allowed to love his daughter! You resist the urge to wake the rest of the Clan.
"You, by the way, are on the morning hunting patrol. And go ahead, lead it. Treetooth and Emberpelt can come with you."
With that, the deputy walks away, leaving you to lead the Clan's latest hunt for food.
You are in the forest with Treetooth and Emberpelt, padding quietly through the forest. You smell the various familiar scents of rogues, but three are always alarming to you: the scents of two toms and the one of a she-cat.
They are all very near, prowling their den, just off of ForestClan territory.
"Let's try and find something around here," you decide, speaking to your patrol. "Meet back here when you catch something."
You watch them go. Then you turn, scenting the air, opening your mouth slightly like your mother, Petalfoot, taught you.
You smell a mouse, but you also scent the hauntingly familiar scents of the three rogues.
"I'll sacrafice my mouse," you decide out loud, whispering it to yourself. You take a step forward, and another, and find yourself padding towards rogues.
"Hello?" you call hesitatingly into the trees. You push through a bush, and a memory as strong as the strongest enemy cat seems to hit you in the face.
You were watching two cats argue, a dominant, scared tom, and a fierce but willing she-cat. You remember your fear and your astonishment, when... what?
Something had happened, you know that.
You absentmindedly pad forward across the soft, well-treaded soil, and find yourself face-to-face with a tom that looks just like you.
"Hello," you say quietly. "I'm sorry for trespassing, I was only looking for a mouse-"
"You're a Clan cat, right?" the tom snaps. "You have most of the forest to yourself, leave us alone!" His fur bristles, but you can't blame him.
Another voice, a she-cat's, sounds from inside a den. "Aryo! What's going on out there?"
"It's a Clan cat, Creek," the tom calls back.
"Aryo?" you repeat quizically. The name is strange. Not a Clan name at all.
"Yes, my name is Aryo," the tom snaps irritably, whirling to face you. "And you're trespassing on my territory."
A she-cat emerges from the den.
You realize she is the exact same she-cat from your strange memory.
"Hello," you say.
She stops short and stares at you. "Rio," she whispers. "You're home."
"What?" you ask, staring back at her.
Aryo protests, "Creek, this can't be Rio-"
"It is, I'm sure of it," Creek interrupts, "he looks just like you."
Aryo looks at you, too, and by now you have found the words to ask, "What is going on?"
"Of course, Juji wiped his memory," Creek whispers. Louder, she adds, "Rio is the name of a son that was taken from me a long time ago."
The pieces slide together in your head. Why you have those dreams about a soft, unfamiliar den with unfamiliar cats around you. Why those memories keep coming up in your head.
"He wasn't taken from you-" Aryo protests again, but he is interrupted once more by Creek.
"Yes he was," she says forcefully.
You say, "Actually, no, I was taken. By Juji, you say his name was?"
Creek's eyes fill with sadness. "I'm sorry, R-"
"Riverclaw," you tell her. You wince at the coldness in your voice. "My name has been Riverclaw for as long as I can remember."
You have just lied.
Aryo stares at you. "Why did you decide to come here?" he asks.
A pang of feriocity emerges inside you, but you force yourself not to fight. "Patrol," you say shortly. "You know, to go hunting."
"It's a lot easier to hunt alone," Aryo points out mildly.
"I know," you say. "My two Clanmates are off somewhere else."
Creek just looks at you. "Do you know who your father is?" she asks.
You insantly say, "Stormclaw." It is a natural answer to the question you thought you knew the answer to for the past thirteen moons of your life.
And you expect Creek's soft "No."
"Who is he, then?" A horrible idea begins to bloom in your head, one that you never thought before. The dominant tom, your father?
"He gave me away," you snap. "What kind of father is that?"
Aryo answers loudly, "One fighting for his own life."
Anger sweeps over you. Here is the simple life you could have had, growing up with a brother and a mother, but your name is Riverclaw and you live in ForestClan.
"I had no choice," Creek tells you. "You see, if I hadn't, he would have died. I love him. I always will."
Aryo's eyes cloud. "He really did love you."
You look at your brother and shake your head. "I don't believe you," you say.
"He had the option to kill you, but gave you away." Aryo says this with sad assurance and you know he speaks the truth.
And then he turns away. "Come hunting with me, Rio."
In the Clans, this is asking for time to be alone with a cat you love and care about. To Aryo, this is asking permission to speak to you quietly. His tone says everything.
You correct him, "Riverclaw."
He nods. "Riverclaw, please."
Creek looks on with sadness. You look over your mother, thinking, I look nothing like her.
And then you follow your brother into the forest.
Aryo is in an untrained hunting crouch. You sit back patiently and watch. He has not caught anything.
Your brother jumps at a sparrow and misses. You watch the sparrow in flight and for some reason this image sticks in your mind.
"Aryo," you say abrubtly. "Let me try next time. You can keep the prey."
Your brother steps back and allows you to take a couple paces forward. You worry that Aryo's loud steps will ruin your chances, but you are not rude.
A mouse is underneath a tree, chewing on a nut. You see it at the same time as Aryo. You take a step forward, claiming the prey as yours to catch.
You crouch down in your best hunting crouch and creep slowly forward. You must not miss this mouse, your life depends on it.
And as you leap, the thrill of a hunt surges through your blood and your brain. You can see the fear of the mouse.
Your claws sink in deep. Satisfaction flows through you.
Aryo looks on, surprised. "That's how you do it," you tell him.
Aryo only purrs. "I never thought my brother would be better than me at hunting."
You purr, too. He is accepting you.
He suddenly stiffens. "Go!" he commands, "Hide!"
"You forget I'm a warrior again," you growl. "I'm standing my gr-"
A tom emerges from behind a bush. He notices Aryo first. "Hello," he mews formally. "Aryo, I thought you'd be with your mother! I was coming to visit you."
Aryo looks angry. "I can hunt."
The tom replies, "You know I provide all of that."
Then he sees you. "Who's your companion?" he asks Aryo.
Aryo looks at you, warning you to remain quiet.
"This is... Kuri. A friend of mine."
A name flickers back to you. But it can't be...
"Kuri? You mean, this is your dead sister." The tom looks confused.
"No, not that Kuri," Aryo replies. "This is... a different Kuri."
"Looks oddly like somebody I know," the tom says, padding up to sniff you.
You instinctively draw back.
"Strong for a rogue," the tom tells Aryo. "And he smells like a Clan cat."
Then his gaze is directed at you. "Kuri, demonstrate a hunting crouch."
Your apprentice instincts kick in without you realizing it and suddenly, you are crouching in the proper form to catch a mouse.
"Kuri..." Aryo sighs.
"It's Riverclaw," you snap. "Not Kuri, not Rio. My name is Riverclaw and I am from ForestClan."
The tom's eyes widen.
"No, Rio," Aryo whispers. "What have you done?"
The tom flings himself at you, his claws outstretched.
You instantly dodge the attack, throwing one in of your own. You never expected your first fight as a warrior to be one like this.
The tom stands instantly, his flank breathing heavily.
You recognize the heavy breath as the one from anther memory, just as foreign as the one of Kuri.
And his name comes to you.
"Juji," you say. You are forced to step aside as he jumps at you once more. The shock of his name makes him trip and skid across the forest floor.
"Juji," you repeat, "why are you attacking me? You've already given me away."
This seems to strike Juji as rather annoying.
"Riverclaw," Aryo begins awkwardly, "meet your father, Juji."
You resist another urge to claw Juji across the face.
"You gave me away," you snarl. "This is the life I could have had, and with one motion you ripped it away!"
Aryo retreats quietly.
"You don't understand," Juji whispers. He almost seems afraid. "Rio-"
"Riverclaw. It's Riverclaw now," you snap. "Wouldn't you care to know that?"
Juji takes a deep breath and lets it out. "Riverclaw, when I gave you away, I had a choice- kill both my kits or give away one. I had gotten into a lot of trouble with ForestClan and they wanted payment or they would kill me."
"Either kill or be killed," you say slowly. "So, you'd rather give me a fake life than one at all?"
"You never thought it was fake," Juji protests. "You've always thought it was legitimate. Real. Yours to enjoy."
You think of Flowertail, so beautiful. You look up at the sun. It shines hazily, as it always does in leaf-bare.
This brings you back to reality.
You don't belong here. You were exiled, moons ago.
You nod politely to Juji. You turn to Aryo. "I have to go," you say quickly. "Thank you. For everything."
Aryo looks surprised. "Wait," he says quickly.
Aryo says, "One more thing."
You and Juji follow Aryo through the forest. Juji never stops talking; he has another mate to get to and his kits.
You don't care. He was never your father, and from the way Aryo is acting, Juji was never his father, either. Juji was just another way both of you came into this world.
Finally, Juji stops talking. You were never listening, but the silence jars you. You open your eyes a little bit more.
The snow is thinner here. It is still very thick, but now it is only to your knees.
For the first time, Aryo speaks. "Stop," he commands. "We're here."
You have stopped in a clearing with sunlight filtering through the trees. The sun is high in the sky. You squint as you look up at it.
"It's perfect here," you murmur.
Juji makes an attempt to leave, but Aryo grabs him by the scruff and pulls him back. "You need to see this too," he grunts.
Juji scrabbles weakly in the snow. You shove him down with all the strength you have. You are a Clan cat, he is weak and scared. It is easy.
"Get off of me," Juji growls.
You look at Aryo. He tells you to remove your weight from Juji. You do.
Aryo looks at a place in the snow, underneath a tree.
"Kuri," he says simply. "This is where Creek buried her."
"Kuri is the one thing we have in common," Aryo tells you. "It's the one thing both of us don't have."
Those are the words that will ring in your mind forever.
"I'm going to return to my Clan now," you sigh. "I was supposed to lead a hunting patrol."
You pad back through the snowy forest alone. You are cold. You would like nothing more than to curl up in your nest and sleep.
You nod at Creek as you pass by. You ignore her words of protest, ignore the look of fear in her eyes. All you do is acknowledge her cry to come back.
You never will.
Treetooth and Emberpelt are waiting for you. Emberpelt has managed to catch a thrush. How, you don't know how.
"Got sidetracked," you mutter. "Next time, go back with what you have."
"Not even a mouse?" Treetooth asks.
You look at him.
Emberpelt nudges your shoulder. "It's all right," he says. "It's tough leading your first patrol."
"Yes," you say, "it is."
You look back, through the forest and the snow and the leaves.
"Yes," you reply, "it is."
They didn't know it, but your Clanmates have just welcomed you back to your life.
The life you thought you knew.