This is the twelfth episode of Season 2 of The Hidden, also the final part of the finale. Dedicated to absolutely anyone who's bothered to read this far. I love you guys <3
I could hear the pitter-patter of the courier's feet before he even entered the thick curtain of vines that framed the door to the Lair, my own private den. There was a pause at the door, and an audible gulp, before a scared-sounding voice squeaked, "Viperstar? May I enter?"
"Come on in," I droned, stretching out to full length on my large, cushiony bed of moss.
The heavy vines rustled and swung like pendulums as the courier struggled to make it inside. I watched with lazy amusement, till he finally popped out of the mass of green. He was a scrawny young thing, with the telltale blue eyes and white fur that marked him out as IceClan descent. Of course, he was too young to know about IceClan and all that. All he had known was imprisonment and... service, shall we say.
Raising my head from my pillowed nest, I mewed, "Come on then. What is the message? And don't waste my time. I have no patience for that."
"Y-yes, Viperstar, sir. I have a message from Aquatail."
Instantly, I sat up. Aquatail was one of my top agents. She wouldn't message me unless it was absolutely urgent. "Tell me. Now."
Apparently trying to stop his stupid trembling, the courier recited, "You need to come. Now, Viperstar. I think we can take the rebellion by storm. There is war coming. War, do you understand me? We need to strike early and see if we can destroy them. Don't get too cocky. You have no idea what you're dealing with."
For a few minutes, a deathly quiet blanketed the room. I was silent, allowing the rage to build inside me, allowing the blood to pound in my head till I was ready to explode.
"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!" I hollered, so loudly that the vines shook. The courier stumbled backwards, but it was too late. I fixed my claws around his throat, slamming him against the wall. "Did she say anything else?! Does she honestly expect me to wage WAR with a bunch of puny wannabes? What is she thinking? Has she gone mad?"
"Mreep!" he choked, his eyes bugging out of his head.
I dealt him a blow that slammed him again into the wall; he crumpled into a still heap on the floor.
Not bothering to check if he was alive or not, I raced out of the Lair and stood in the hallway, sweat collecting on my skin. Calm down. You can't let anyone see you like this.
When I had cooled down considerably, I reminded myself one last time that I was in control, and strode forward. "Robinfall!" I yelled. "Get three squadrons ready. NOW!"
My bird-brained, bird-named secretary rushed to do as I commanded.
"Three squadrons ready, Viperstar. The top-ranked ones-"
Ignoring her, I stalked out of the nearest tunnel and out onto the canyon ridge. The sun was setting, casting an eerie red-bronze glow over everything. Aquatail had set her attack for two hours before midnight. I had plenty of time. And that was good. Because I needed it.
I wasn't going to underestimate the Hidden again. They had successfully destroyed my wood-pile headquarters, and I knew they were even stronger now.
This time, I would be prepared. I had some planning to do.
Holding a planning meeting is extremely hard when everyone there is afraid you're going to kill them. Have I mentioned that? Oh, the woes of being a tyrant.
Of course, their fears weren't entirely unfounded, but...
"I haven't brought you here to stare at each other like dead rabbits. Ideas. I need ideas. Now. What is the most effective way to crush the Hidden?"
A speckled gray tom cleared his throat. "If I may speak, Viperstar?"
Waving my paw generously, I mewed, "By all means."
He nodded, and I detected the slightest air of pompousness about him. Too bad. He would have to be brought down a notch, but first I would hear his idea. It was the most fun to promote cats till they thought they were going to be second-in-command... and then kill them for their pride and over-ambitious attitude. "May I suggest a two-pronged attack? Step one, win the public over. Set up more demonstrations, speeches, whatever it takes. Weed out the traitors and the upstarts, and make an example out of them. Show cats why enlisting in the GreenClan army is the best way to go. Get their loyalty. Step two, use your new reach of power to absolutely crush this rebellion, and all associated with it. I'm serious. We need to completely rid ourselves of the plague of rebellion. Destroy them so there's no hope left in their hearts."
It was the perfect plan, and one that appealed to me immensely. I gave him a short nod. "Very good. I like it. The rest of you had better have something good to add to that, or you'll be evicted from the Council. You, er, what's your name?"
"Spottedfur," the speckled tom mewed.
"Good. I'll have Robinfall make a note of that. Now, I'm going to storm the rebellion, an aftershock to Aquatail's attack. Spottedfur, go tell the Head Keepers that you're in charge for the night."
The tom puffed out to about twice his size and trotted out, with the others glowering enviously after him. I wasn't worried about Spottedfur though. My Head Keepers, two cruel thugs named Redclaw and Honeybee(who wasn't nearly as sweet as her name suggested) would definitely keep him in line.
Now I was off. I had work to do.
Though we had been marching for a good two hours, there were no complaints. There were never complaints in the GreenClan army. I had seen to that personally in our set of rules.
"Viperstar, are we going to ambush, storm in there, destroy, instill fear...?"
That was Risingheart, one of the squadron captains.
"I'll need to meet with Aquatail first, but right now I'd say a combination of a storm-in and a destruction attack," I told him without even glancing at him.
Taking the cue, he fell back behind me.
That left me with some time to think by myself. I mulled over this new case that had come up. I had dealt with many little uprisings, silly families of cats who "wanted a better future for their kits" or "were true to the warrior code". And I had squashed countless rebellions who thought they stood a chance against me. But I had never met with anything as organized and steadily-striking as this so-called the Hidden group. They would disappear for a while, but they always came back. They'd destroyed the wood-pile, drowned Aristo, taken Tornadoheart's(the traitor) prisoners, and now they were back again.
But this time would be different. Because Aquatail knew their hiding place. The Hidden were no longer hidden. Cheesy, but true.
Just the thought of finally meeting those cheeky brats of leaders face-to-face... and ripping their faces off, filled me with a malicious delight.
This encounter was one I looked forward to.
When we finally stepped out onto the prairie, a soft, twilit dusk had fallen. The sky was in that hazy zone between purple-blue and dark navy. A few early stars glimmered at the corners of the evening, and the sun was just a tiny smudge of orange that was fast disappearing.
We were still going at a steady, swift pace. I was determined to make it on time- if not early, so Aquatail and I could brief each other and plan.
Behind me, the three captains of my squadrons - Risingheart, Treetail, and Doveslash - were murmuring in quiet tones. I strained to pick up threads of their conversations.
"... death trap. Why are we..."
"... shut your mouth... Viperstar..."
"Wimps. He can't hear us..."
I smirked to myself. They had no idea.
But I'd deal with them later. I had bigger fish to eat now.
You know, when I was younger, my whole family had always "wondered" about me. My idiotic dad, who only cared about my two brothers, Stone and Cold. My brothers themselves, who had been bigger and stronger than me, besting me at every turn. They were best friends, and I was the odd one out. But I had shown them, hadn't I?
My mother had died when I was just a kit. Sometimes, rarely, I would remember her fur and her soft voice. But more often, I remembered my brothers screaming. Screaming as I pushed them over a cliff. My dad yelling at me to get away from him. Staring at me, calling me a monster.
Hey, I couldn't help what I was.
And I didn't care one bit about them, nor what they thought of me.
Not one bit at all.
Now I was Viperstar. Cold and Stone hadn't even gotten to be warrior-age, not that it would've mattered. They were rogues. Uneducated idiots. They had never appreciated me. But where was I now? Ruler of GreenClan. Where were they? Dead.
Okay, not all of them. My dad had just run away from me, like the coward he was. Still, I thought it was safe to say that I had made a much better name for myself than he ever would. If he was even still alive.
And this would usually be the part where bleeding-heart sympathetic idiots would attribute my evilness to my "poor kithood" and "unloved family life". As if. That had nothing to do with who I was. The simple truth was, I had an eye for strength, a hatred for weakness, and a passion for power. That was all there was to it. All this made me who I was. Viperstar, ruler of GreenClan.
No one could forget the name.
"We're almost here," I whispered. Then I froze. Something was wrong. My sixth sense was telling me so.
Where was Aquatail? Surely she sensed the need for a quick planning session? In order to properly scare these rebels out of their hides, we would need to plan out our attack. But there was no sign of my ebony-furred associate. I couldn't even hear the sounds of battle, come to think of it.
Dread was beginning to form a swirling knot in my stomach. "Risingheart. Send two scouts ahead and have them tell me what they see. Tell them to note everything."
"Got it." He nodded and turned back to his squadron.
A few minutes later, two highly-trained GreenClan scouts had just vanished behind a hill.
Now there was nothing left to do but wait.
I hated waiting.
The news wasn't what I had hoped for. There was no sign of Aquatail's patrol. Just blood. And if the scouts were correct, the Hidden cats were in hiding. How fitting. But Aquatail had said something about tunnels. We knew where to look.
"Should we look for Aquatail, Viperstar?" asked Risingheart.
I paused. "Yes. Send Doveslash's squadron to do so. Risingheart, Treetail, bring your squadrons with me."
Without looking back - I knew they wouldn't dare defy my orders - I marched up the hill. The moonlight's glow shone on a pair of identical boulders, framed by ivy and vines and thick grass. The field around them was littered with blood and tufts of fur... and bodies. Only GreenClan bodies.
A snarl worked its way up my throat. I cared nothing for the GreenClan cats, but this was an insult to my pride. The Hidden were going down.
Fixating my gaze on the boulders - for somehow I knew what I was looking for lay around them, or behind them - I whispered, "You have no idea what you've taken on, little kitties."
"Ready for war?"