IT WASN’T HARD to figure out where their friends were being held.
The overseers planted guards in front what took place as their prison complex for the Mistakes and Arya. Skye itched to just rush forward and take out Elites as he good to get to Arya but he waited patiently for Reese to scout out the area on her silent feet before she tried to rack her brain for a plan. Skye listened to her debriefing but he didn’t have Nyssa’s crazy scheming brain.
“What do you think we should do?” Skye stared at the mass of Elites. There were six of the Elites and only two of them. Even if Skye had his Elite power he would stand no chance against the others.
But he didn’t have it anymore. He lost it after not taking cresimen for so long. Reese stayed completely still, even though they had been on their legs for quite a long time and Skye noticed that Reese tended to shift when her leg was aching.
He didn’t say anything about her leg. They didn’t have time to coddle anyone and Reese was strong, Skye knew, despite only knowing her for a day.
“I don’t know,” Reese admitted. “Should we go back for Nyssa?”
“She’s distracting them for us,” Skye reminded.
Reese frowned and pursed her lips. Before she could think of anything else, three of the six Elites peeled away and darted back towards the Elite camp. “What in the world?” Reese peered after them. “Where are they going?”
“To Nyssa’s distraction,” Skye suggests as they hear a piercing scream.
The blood drained from Reese’s face. “That was Nyssa.”
Skye felt panic at the thought of anything that could make the brave Mistake leader scream in fear. Nyssa was headstrong and reckless and Skye had never seen fear on her face, not even when she had stood alone when they had left her, ready to enter the Elite camp. She hadn’t been afraid of dying then, but what was happening there now?
The light gray tom could see his question reflected on Reese’s face. He was worried for Nyssa and he felt horrible for nudging Reese back towards the prison. “We have to get the others out while we have the chance.”
“There are still three Elites,” Reese said worriedly. “Nyssa—”
“Nyssa is doing this for our chance.” Skye scanned the three remaining Elites quickly. “They’re all Burners. Watch for their flames.” And then he darted and hurled himself at the first Elite, gouging his claws down the cat’s flank, digging in deep. He felt bad for the howl that ripped out of the Elite’s mouth as he was just following orders. Skye made sure not to mark any of their faces—he didn’t want to remember who he was killing. Chances are, he knew their names and was their friends.
Reese slammed into the second one just as Skye slashed his claws into the neck of the first. He moved towards the third one but he was too slow. He felt claws dig into his back and Skye tensed, bracing himself for the searing heat that was sure to follow from the Burner.
But the cat on his back let out a startled gasp and tumbled off him. Skye spun around and stared at the fallen Burner. His claws glowed with heat, yet there was no fire bursting off of him, as if restrained.
What happened? Skye thought, paws frozen to the ground. He couldn’t muster the strength to move forward and kill the fallen Elite.
He found his answer standing only a few tail-lengths away, storm-filled eyes glowing with unnatural light. “Who—?” Skye blinked in surprise at the newcomer.
“Call me Slateheart.” The tom said quietly. “Kill him before he breaks free of my control.” It was a strange name, Skye reflected.
Your control? But Skye lurched forward, his claws burying themselves into the Elite’s neck. The cat convulsed before stilling under his paws and Skye felt his stomach hurl at the thought of the murder of his own friends. He avoided glancing at the face.
Reese had already dispatched her own Elite and was sprinting for the prison entrance. “Wait!” Skye called. “There might be more Elites!”
“There aren’t any more,” Slateheart tipped his head. “I can’t sense any, that is. Here,” he passes some herbs to Skye. “These will be useful to any cats with injuries. I have other matters to attend to.”
Then the stranger was gone.
Skye picked up the herbs and went after Reese. He found her crouched over Rowan’s still form, crying slightly. “Skye!” She looked up. “Are those herbs? Thank the stars! Hand them over now; Rowan’s in a bad condition.”
The gray tom passed over the herbs dumbly as Reese began to apply a poultice on Rowan’s wound. “Where did you get these?” Reese asked as she worked. “I didn’t see herbs around here.”
“That tom who helped us gave them to me.” Skye shrugged. “He said we would need them.”
“Did you get his name?”
“Yeah, it’s—” Skye stumbled to a halting stop. He blinked in surprise, realizing why that name had seemed so strange. Slateheart.
“What is it?” Reese asked, a bit impatiently now. “I need to thank him for helping us.”
“It’s Slateheart.” Skye said dumbly.
Reese froze from what she was doing and slowly looked up from Rowan. “Slateheart?” She repeated, her voice quiet and small. “That’s a SwiftClan name.”
“And he’s a SwiftClan tom,” Skye shook his head. “He’s the Forgotten prisoner Nyssa was looking for.”
“How do you know he’s not just some SwiftClan warrior who finally came out of hiding?” Reese reasoned as she went back to focusing on healing Rowan’s wound. “I don’t see how the Forgotten prisoner could have escaped; the Serpentine had him on lockdown.”
“He had unusual abilities.” Skye explained. “Remember the battle? He stopped the Burner from using his ability and said he scanned the area for any more Elites and found none. I don’t know how he got those abilities but I would guess that the Serpentine experimented on him.”
“So is he an Elite now?” Reese finished applying the poultice to Rowan and began treating any of the other Mistakes who were wounded. “I mean, they fed him cresimen, didn’t they?”
“Probably,” Skye bobbed his head up and down. “But…there are only three types of Elites: Burners, Freezers, and Shakers. He wasn’t any of those. He blocked the Elite’s ability.”
“Which type were you?”
Skye shifted on his paws a bit uncomfortably. “Freezer, like Arya.”
“Do you still have your power?” Reese looked more curious than disgusted at the unnatural abilities Elites gain after cresimen. Skye always felt that the drug ruined his life more than it helped him. He still wasn’t sure how long he had to live, considering he still spent much of his kithood surviving off cresimen.
“No,” Skye felt the familiar twinge of loss in his gut, “and I don’t miss it.” He added, more to reassure himself that he would never go back to the drug just to get his ability back. Normal cats could survive without these strange abilities so he didn’t need it either.
Reese gave him a strange look, but she turned to Arya’s still form, jerking Skye out of his thoughts. He felt horrible for forgetting about his best friend. “Do you think we should move her back?” Reese frowned. “She looks really weak. Rowan’s wound is pretty bad too…”
Skye racked his brain for ideas. “We need to get them all out,” he decided, “then we can come back for Nyssa and hopefully be in time to save her.”
“It’s already too late.” Reese said quietly as she roused the Mistakes and began to give them instructions without further ado.
Skye didn’t believe that. Sure, Nyssa had her faults and she certainly lacked skill in spying, she was headstrong and Skye didn’t believe that the dark gray she-cat would put herself in a situation where she wouldn’t come out victorious. He wasn’t sure if Reese believed her words either, though the pale she-cat just gritted her teeth and tried to pick Rowan up.
“Here, let me,” Skye offered. “You can carry Arya.”
“I’ll carry Arya,” a Mistake tom shouldered his way to the front. “We can help with Rowan too. The two of you should go see to Nyssa.”
The light gray tom hadn’t realized that the Mistakes had been listening to them this entire time. There was no genuine affection for their Leader, but Skye could see worry in their eyes. Nyssa was their rock, their savior, and they couldn’t bear the thought of their leadership crumbling.
Reese nudged Skye out of the way, even though her eyes were pinned to Rowan’s still form. “Take them into the ruins and hide out there. There will be cresimen there. Feed Arya only a little bit so she can regain her strength. See to it that Adel treats Rowan’s wound and keeps it from getting infected. We’ll be back as soon as we can.”
With those orders given out, Reese stalked out of the prison complex and set her paws towards the Elite camp. “Wait,” Skye panted, chasing after her, “what’s the plan?”
“Get her out.” Reese said firmly. “Nyssa’s my best friend; I won’t let her die.”
What if it’s too late?
He didn’t say what he was thinking. Because even though he believed Nyssa had a secondary plan to everything, he wasn’t sure how much Nyssa could handle. What if she had underestimated the Elites and didn’t plan accordingly? What was her surprise and distraction anyway?”
“Do you think she sacrificed herself for us?” Reese asked quietly.
Skye glanced at her curiously as they brisk walked towards the camp. “You tell me. You know her a lot better than I do. I’ve only known her for a day, remember?”
“You’re perspective,” Reese explained, “I want to know if you can see through Nyssa. I never know if she actually cares about us. Sure, she freaked about our cats when she realized they were taken prisoner, but…Nyssa has always shut us out. I don’t know what she’s hiding.”
“You all have your secrets,” Skye reminded the pale she-cat. “You haven’t told the others about how much your leg bothers you.”
“They know it though,” Reese looked angry. “And Rowan acts like I’m the weakest in the group.”
“Rowan—” Skye broke off suddenly.
“What is it?” Reese perked her ears and Skye knew she wasn’t asking about the russet brown tom anymore.
“Something’s wrong.” Skye whispered, dropping his voice even though there was no one around them. “I can’t hear anything from the camp. It’s never silent. The Elites aren’t afraid of rebels who might pick up the camp’s noise or scent. They have abilities and Mistakes or Forgotten don’t. So why is it so silent now?”
There was a buzz in the air, Skye realized, a feeling familiar to the battle he had just fought against the Burners.
“It’s Slateheart,” Reese said appreciatively. “That’s what his power feels like, right?”
Skye just nodded before quickening the pace. “We should hurry; I don’t know if he’s here to help us or not. Just because he’s Forgotten doesn’t mean he’ll want to help a bunch of Mistakes.”
“Just one,” Reese reminded. “Nyssa is in there.”
A thought occurred to Skye that made him halt in his steps. Reese skidded to a halt next to him, shooting him a worried look. She didn’t ask anything as Skye thought about all the things he had heard and learned in the past two days.
Nyssa was hiding something, Reese had said. She had also accused Nyssa of leading the Mistakes on a nonexistent mission. It was a personal battle for the dark gray she-cat, Skye reflected, and she was doing all of this for herself.
Including the Forgotten prisoner. Why had he been so important to Nyssa?
“What are you thinking?” Reese pressed. There was slight panic in her voice.
Why, why, why?
Nyssa had claimed she had a plan but she never told Skye or Reese anything before she entered the camp. She had laid everything else bare to let them pick apart but kept her side a secret. What was the dark gray she-cat hiding?
“Skye,” Reese growled, using a tone Skye had never heard before. “This is my Leader we’re talking about. My best friend. Tell me.”
Then it hit Skye. It hit him so hard that he stumbled a step back and shook his head wildly at Reese’s attempt to catch him. No way. But all the facts added up. It made sense when the pieces of the puzzles fell into place.
“Nyssa is SwiftClan,” Skye whispered.
Reese paled. “What?”
“Think about it,” Skye said in a hushed tone. “You said the Mistakes were fighting for a lost cause in finding the Forgotten prisoner. Why did Nyssa want to find SwiftClan?”
“She wanted them to fight their own battles,” Reese said dubiously.
Skye shook his head. “Nyssa cares more than we think about this place. She wants the Serpentine gone for sure because she never wants to see another kit fall into the pits of despair cresimen brings. And she said she had a way of distracting the Elites. Why did the overseer want her? What do the Serpentine want more than anything?”
“To find SwiftClan,” Reese whispered.
Skye glanced briefly at the looming camp. He hesitated. They had two choices: they could either continue on their mission to save Nyssa, or…
Reese met his gaze calmly. “We can’t go in there.”
No, Nyssa was already safe. Skye had no doubt that Slateheart would save her because of her connection to SwiftClan. The question was whether or not they could stop Slateheart from whisking Nyssa away and hiding her forever with the Forgotten.
“We have to make sure he doesn’t take her away,” Reese continued.
“There’s one way to ensure that,” Skye said grimly. “We bring them all out.”
“We find the Forgotten.”