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PLAGUED

A story by Dogwood

Prologue

The medicine cats' den. Full. Always full. The Clans may have pooled together their medicine cats, but it still is not enough to combat the disease. It will never be enough.

Shivering with dread, you enter. The thick, heavy scent of sickness assaults your senses. You tremble, but move on. Again, you check the living. Vomit, bile, and untouched scraps of fresh-kill litter the ground. You search for her, but she isn't there. Panic rises in your chest. You look left and right. Where is she?

You know where she is, but you deny it. She can't be there. She wouldn't leave you like that. She wouldn't die without saying goodbye. She's still alive, you tell yourself. The plague hasn't taken her yet.

You fill your head with these delusions, these hopes. That she lives, that she breathes, that she's a medical miracle. But all is in vain. She is not in any of the nests lining the den. Quickly, you turn to the nearest medicine cat.

"Brambleheart?" you ask quickly. "Is she here?"

The medicine cat frowns. Pity and sorrow twinkles in her gaze, but it's dull. She has done this so many times that there is no heart. "Come...come here."

Dread trickles into your stomach. The medicine cat takes you to the pit in the middle of the den. Your eyes scan the bodies, both hopeful and doubtful. Are you hopeful, or are you doubtful? You force yourself to hope. You shove away the doubts, the truths, creeping up in your mind, screaming to be heard. She isn't here, she was mixed up with the other ones, she's alive, she's alive, she's alive. Hope- hope begins to flutter in your chest, flying upwards and soaring into the air. The lies themselves begin to dance, using the veil of this hope as their guise for truth.

Only to be crushed by reality as your eyes lock onto the limp ginger body.

She's there. Lying in the pit with the other corpses, her eyes wide open and slitted like a snake's. Slimy green ooze trickles from her jaws.

You cry out, anguished. A yawning chasm of loss opens up in your chest, and you plummet into it. Hissing, you whip around. Your mouth froths, and your gaze is frenzied and wild.The medicine cat backs away slowly, but there is no concern for her safety. She knows she is safe. They will keep you away from her. "Why didn't you tell me?"

But you know why. It is the custom. Long ago, it became that there were too many deaths to inform the living. A season-cycle later, that still has not changed. The deputies come to drag you away, foaming and raving. They lock you in the prison with the others who take out their pain on the medicine cats.

Her dead face haunts you every night as you sleep in the cold stone prison. Memories of the golden old days float through your dreams, when you two were free and happy. When the plague didn't exist, when you had no idea of the darkness ahead. These visions of the past...will they ever become the future?

Little do you know that you too will lie in the pit in nothing short of a few moons.

Just another victim of the plague.

One - Mallowfoot

I was having a really bad day. Why, you wonder?

I couldn't get how pretty Redleaf's face was out of my mind.

She was a diamond, a sparkling ray of light who made our hopeless, plague-bound world look like StarClan's fields. Her tinkling laugh still rang in my ears. The deep shades of red in her pelt that turned a bright ginger in the sunlight washed through my thoughts, cut through only by the vision of her piercing green eyes. She was truly exquisite, an angel sent from above.

I knew it was probably just my lovestruck brain talking, but I let myself continue bumbling through the camp dreamy-eyed.

Suddenly, a yowl bounced in the clearing. "All cats old enough to hunt their own prey gather beneath the Rockpile!"

It was Sparrowstar of WindClan. The other three leaders- Council members, I reminded myself, clustered around him.

"Two moons have passed since we last assigned duties, so the time has come again," Daisystar meowed. "As always, half of you will rotate, and the other half will stay where you are. Our assigned hunters are Greentail, Oakfall, Mintwing, Cherryleaf, Breezesky, Hollowflower, Yellowfoot, and Fernflight."

Now Littlestar stepped forward. "This rotation's medicine cats will be Sunbreeze, Applepelt, Gingerheart, Fruitfur, Clawsky, Grasscloud, Nightstep, Lilyjaw, and Redleaf."

"Clans dismissed."

With the meeting over, both sighs of relief and uncomfortable murmurs rippled through the camp. No one wanted to be a medicine cat- the close proximity to the sick always made the medicine cats catch the plague faster. I was glad to stay a hunter. There was one cat, though, who had switched from a warrior to a medicine before the rotations were mandatory; as soon as the plague struck, actually, and the Council had never changed his role. His name was Icefang.

Icefang creeped out me out. His eyes were so empty, like there was nothing beneath them. Every time I looked at him, I shivered.

I was probably overreacting and letting my mind run too wild, like with Redleaf. Redleaf. Dang, she was hot-

I let out a soft growl and shook my head. Redleaf was way too prominent on my mind. Though I was yelling at myself internally not to, I toddled over in her direction.

"Hey Redleaf," I said, praying my voice wasn't as squeaky as I thought it was.

"Hi!" Redleaf bubbled. "Man, I'm so happy- I'm a medicine cat!"

Her words hit me like a monster on the Thunderpath. "Huh?"

"Yeah. Taking care of the sick." She lowered her head, thick tufts of fur now covering her distractingly beautiful green eyes. "I've wanted to be chosen as a medicine cat for so long. To repay my mother, since she died from the plague."

"I- I'm sorry," I spluttered. "But...that's a good reason to want to be a medicine cat. Your mom would be proud."

"Thanks," she said.

Icefang began yelling. "All medicine cats, come to the medicine den!" Redleaf whirled in his direction, her face suddenly lighting up.

"See you!" I called. But Redleaf didn't seem to hear me, and bounded off to the medicine den.

"Good talk...I guess," I mumbled to myself, then turned back to the rest of the hunters, who were grouping up to go on a hunt.

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