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nightfall


written by Night

first in the new Cycle series

preface

The wind brushed against him, sending shivers down his spine. It wasn't that the wind was cold, for it was actually quite a pleasant breeze, but the cold fear in his chest made this warm draft of air chilling. It shouldn't take this long. But is was taking this long. That was quite apparent.

"Sir!"

Night Fog turned eagerly, hoping against hopes that this call was one of joy, one of jubilation. Are they alive? Is she alive? He could not bear to ask. However, the look on the Healer's face told him all he needed to know. "No... please, no. Please tell me, please, that she's alive." He sounded more like a frog then a feline, but he did not care in that moment.

The white furred Healer blinked apologetically. "She's not dead... well, not yet. Would you like to see her?"

The black tom nodded, but the Healer, Cloudstrike he'd said his name was, seemed to be a long way away. Night Fog shivered, the breeze even colder then it had seemed a few heartbeats ago. "A-and the kits?" he choked out. "What of them?"

Cloudstrike's face twisted into an expression of pity, and Night Fog resisted the temptation to slice his claws over the Healer's face. The white tom had, after all, decided to shelter two emaciated strangers, one of them a queen due any moment. Cloudstrike deserved to be treated with respect. "Three of them..." he paused, then continued. "Two toms and a she-cat."

Night Fog gave him a wary look. "How are they?"

"You'll see." The tom responded quickly. "You must come before she..." he trailed off, but Night Fog knew what he had been about to say. So she's that close to death?

He nodded, and pushed his way through the ferns that grew at the entrance of the den. There was Bat Whiskers, lying in the center of the den, eyes closed. Beside her mouth lay a stick, and for some reason, this drew Night Fog's gaze. What's a stick doing here? He quickly dismissed the thought, rushing to the dark brown tabby she-cat's side.

"Bat Whisker? Are you alright?"

Her eyes flickered open, her beautiful amber eyes. It had been these very eyes that have enraptured Night Fog when they were young, it was because of these very eyes that he had fallen in love. It was because of her eyes that she had borne his kits, that she had condemned herself to an early death. "Night Fog?" Her voice was raspy, yet still somewhat song like.

The black tom nodded. "Yes, Bat Whisker. I am here." The words came out sounding wrong; almost joking. Her last memory of him could not be of him... mocking her. However she seemed to understand, and quickly said, "Night Fog. I am dying. We both know that."

Blunt as always... Night Fog loved her for that. Other cats would of babbled on, perhaps talking about the first time they'd met each other, or perhaps confess feelings of deep attraction for each other. But no, Bat Whisker was not like that. Nor had he ever wished her to be.

"Yes," he agreed, eyes downcast. "I am sorry. You wouldn't be in this state if it weren't for I."

She snorted, and reached out, placing her paw on his. "Night Fog, there is no time for us to exchange 'no it's my fault's. And please, look at me. I want to see your eyes."

He did as was requested.

"Now, Night Fog. My kitting was hard. Two toms and a she-cat. Both of the toms were stillborn, and the she-cat is tiny. Cloudstrike tells me that it is extremely unlikely that she will survive the night."

She won't last the night? Was all Night Fog could think. Bat Whisker is dying because of two already dead kits and one that's going the same way?

"But he's wrong," Bat Whisker continued. "She will survive, I am sure of it. Night Fog," she paused, staring into his eyes with an alarming intensity. "I want you to name her Raven, after my mother. Raise her here; she cannot go back to where you and I are from. She will save us all, Night Fog. I know this."

Night Fog frowned. You just said that a trained Healer doesn't think she'll survive. What could you know? She's going to die.

"Promise me it," the dark brown tabby she-cat pressed, and Night Fog nodded. "I swear that she will be named Raven... if she survives."

Bat Whisker didn't seem to hear the last part and relaxed, lying her head upon the ground once more. "Thank you, Night Fog," she murmured, the strength her voice had previously been infused with now gone, replaced by weakness. "Now, leave me. I do not want you to see me die."

I

My mother towered over me, staring down at me with her horrible green eyes. I'd always hated those eyes; they reminded me of rotting leaves. Sadly, I'd inherited those eyes, although mine were a lighter shade of green, much to my relief. "Badgerkit," she growled, voice deep.

Another thing I'd always hated about my mother was how she made me feel like a tiny kit. Which I was not. Not at all. I wasn't some titchy kit with only one moon to my name. No, not at all. I'd lived for four moons, which, in my opinion, meant that I wasn't a kit at all. In fact, in my four moons of life, I had experienced all that it had to offer. I'd felt blind devotion towards my mother when she had nursed me in my youth. I'd seen death when I'd accidentally crushed an ant beneath my paw (of course, that ended with me holding a solemn vigil for it). I'd felt sorrow while I buried the ant behind the nursery, and I'd felt pain when Snakekit had said that she didn't want to play with me. In short, I was a complete cat. I'd seen it all. So mother had no right to make me feel like I hadn't.

"Yes, Silverspot?" I whispered, timid. Despite the fact that I was annoyed at her, I still could not help but feel a great love for her. She had, after all, carried me as a kit, had me, nursed me... she deserved to be treated with respect, with kindness. Even though she should be clawed across the face.

Her face softened as it always did when I showed such fear. She was evidently a hard she-cat, and not a brilliant mother, but she cared for me and Lynxkit. I was half certain of that. "Badgerkit, I heard you were playing with Cloudstrike and Yellowtooth's kit."

I stuck out my head defiantly. "He has a name!"

Silverspot shrugged, muscles rippling beneath her short yet sleek pelt. "I know many cats. Be glad that I at least knew his parent's names. Now, you cannot play with him in the center of the camp! I will allow you to do so in a more sheltered, out of the way spot, but the center of the camp! What were you thinking?"

"Lionkit wanted to climb one of the Council's Rocks..." I muttered, staring at my paws.

The silver she-cat let out a long sigh. "Yes, Badgerkit, and that's quite alright, but you can't do it with him. You know he's not your match; you will one day bear Robinpaw's kits, not Lionkit's."

I looked up, indignant. "I'm not in love with Lionkit! We're just friends. I'm far too young to go around loving anyone." I paused for a heartbeat, then added, "Apart from you, mother. I love you like any daughter should." It was true; I did love her, but saying it would most likely distract her from the topic of love. Love was a far too disgusting subject to be discussing.

She let out another sigh, although this one was not as dramatic. "And I love you, Badgerkit, like any mother should, but please do not dance around other cat's noses with Lionkit at your side."

A retort sprung to my lips, but I decided not to say it, for I sensed that it would only create bitter feelings. "Yes Silverspot," I whispered meekly, then pressed myself against her. "I promise I won't go to the center of the camp with Lionkit again."

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