WHEN SLATEHEART was tasked with finding the lost kit of Shadowstar and Willowlight, the tabby gray tom didn’t really know what he would find. She was the princess of SwiftClan, the lost jewel and pride. Maybe, he thought, he would find a sweet, innocent, little she-cat.
What Slateheart didn’t expect to find was a screaming and writhing she-cat who had hideous and strange claw marks marring her back. They were a strange purple-ish color, the only indication that they weren’t cat-inflicted.
He also didn’t expect her to recover quickly from her shock and start spitting curses at him and the Elites around them. She was still having a bad reaction from the cresimen, but that she-cat spat fire.
The tabby gray tom cast out his strange, newfound ability and trapped all the Elites in his web. In the shock that their power had disappeared, the Elites fell completely silent.
So did the dark gray she-cat, who seemed to have finally gotten over the pain. She gaped at him in question and Slateheart noticed that her eyes—dark amber and noticeably beautiful—had a slight glow to them. Not as unnatural as the silver glow of Slateheart’s eyes, but perhaps she was similar to him.
In prison, he hadn’t only been drugged twice, like he assumed with this Mistake. He had too many doses to count but each time his body rejected it until…it had changed him. His eyes, which had once been a vibrant green, turned murky gray, then glowed silver as Slateheart felt power thrum through his veins.
That was when Slateheart had escaped.
“Let’s go,” he told the dark gray she-cat roughly, hauling her to her paws and shoving her out the entrance. The stunned Elites did nothing to stop them—they relied on their abilities too much to even think about fighting. Slateheart snorted slightly but took the opportunity to sprint out.
The pounding footsteps behind him told him that the she-cat had followed.
He wove his way towards the burned grounds in the north, where a recent group of Elites had scorched it to torture some poor Mistake who had tried to rat her friends out. North: that was where SwiftClan had been hiding.
“Where,” panted the she-cat behind him, “are we going?”
“Home,” Slateheart said simply, “or what is home now.”
He heard her skid to a halt. Slateheart slowed and glanced back in confusion and slight worry. He didn’t know how far behind the Elites were. He sent out a tendril of his power and sensed no one; it was too easy.
“Home?” The dark gray she-cat repeated. “Where in the name of the stars is that?”
“StarClan,” Slateheart corrected. “What in the name of StarClan you mean.”
“I don’t mean that,” she narrowed her eyes, “I’m not SwiftClan. I’m a Mistake and my home is here. So is SwiftClan’s actually.”
“I’m taking you to where SwiftClan is now,” Slateheart explained, “You are to meet your parents, Princess.”
The dark she-cat spluttered at the title. “My name is Nyssa.”
Slateheart wondered where she had gotten that name. Perhaps she had named herself after the Serpentine had cast her out with the intention of wanting her to die out in the wilderness. Slateheart never knew why they didn’t just kill the Mistakes if they thought of them as a threat.
“Actually…” Nyssa smirked. “I do want you to take me to the Forgotten. But I want all of you to bring your sorry tails back here and fight against the Serpentine yourself. My cats are done dying for you guys.”
Slateheart wanted to bark that she shouldn’t give him orders, but he supposed with her status, she outranked him.
“Why did you call me Princess?” Nyssa asked as they trotted along again. “I knew I was SwiftClan…but I didn’t know Clan had a monarchy. Aren’t there just leaders and deputies?”
“I didn’t have a name for you,” Slateheart shrugged. “And you are Shadowstar’s daughter. You are practically royalty when it comes to the Clan. Expect all the warriors to want to defend your life with their own.”
“Good,” Nyssa said haughtily. “I’ve spent too many moons fighting a battle that isn’t mine to fight.”
Oh, but it is. Slateheart shook his head silently. She was definitely SwiftClan. She looked just like Shadowstar, except marred by the cresimen she had taken when she was a kit. “Do you not want to meet your parents and stay in SwiftClan?” Slateheart inquired. He was curious to know what she’s been doing and what she meant by “her cats”.
“No,” Nyssa said curtly, “I’ll meet them; I certainly want to, but I’m not staying. I have a spot among my Mistakes and after the Serpentine are gone, we’re going to leave and find a better place to stay.”
“Your Marks will stay with you forever.”
Nyssa shrugged. “I’ve lived with them for nineteen moons, I can do it for the rest of my life. And I don’t care; I just want to get out of there. This isn’t home for Mistakes and it never will be, even after SwiftClan is restored.”
Slateheart felt elation in his heart at the thought of returning to the fertile lands of SwiftClan. He had technically been there for the past few moons, but even when he emerged from prison, it hadn’t felt right. It won’t until SwiftClan came home.
He was still excited to see his old friends. He was also pleased that even after failing for so many moons, he had finally found Shadowstar’s daughter. The Clan’s faith in their leader would be restored and they would find the courage to fight alongside these Mistakes.
“Do you really lead the rebel forces?” Slateheart tipped his head. “I heard the others talking about it.”
“Others?” Nyssa perked. “Wait—did you see Skye and Reese? Did they rescue the others?” She cursed under her breath. “I’m such an idiot; I didn’t even check to see if they’re all safe.”
“I helped get them out first,” Slateheart reassured her.
Nyssa relaxed visibly. She cut a glance at the Clan cat. “I want some answers. Why were you captured? The Forgotten have been gone for ten moons so why were you here?”
Slateheart gazed at the dark gray she-cat for a very long time. “I was sent by Shadowstar to find you.”
“What a lousy retriever you are.” Nyssa snorted.
He felt a sting in his heart at her disgust. He didn’t understand why she hated him so much. Where was her gratitude? Slateheart had saved her life.
Before he could try to save his own pride and dignity, Nyssa continued. “Why do your eyes glow?”
“You ask a lot of questions,” Slateheart mused. “You are used to getting your way, aren’t you?”
“I asked you a question first,” Nyssa snapped. “Answer it.”
She definitely is Shadowstar’s daughter. Slateheart was slightly amused by this revelation. Nyssa was far more like her father than she realized, but Slateheart could also see Willowlight’s kindness in her. It was a good clash that Slateheart realized he felt drawn to. “My eyes glow because I have a touch of unnatural power.”
“Is that the name for the drug?”
“Then yes, from cresimen.”
Nyssa blinked. “You are an Elite.”
Slateheart bristled. He hated the term “Forgotten”, but he felt that defined him more than any of the terms thrown around here. “I am SwiftClan,” he said stiffly, “and if that is not enough for you, I suppose I am one of the Forgotten.”
“I never forgot SwiftClan.” Nyssa said calmly.
Slateheart blinked. Was she patriotic to her own past and Clan? “I don’t get it,” Nyssa said bluntly, interrupting his thoughts once again. “Why did my father send you? You barely look older than me. Why did he wait so long to look for me?”
“He didn’t know you were alive until now.” Slateheart shrugged. “Rumors spread, Princess. We learned of your rebel antics and Shadowstar suspected you were his lost daughter.”
“Don’t call me that,” Nyssa growled. “I’m not SwiftClan.”
They began to walk again. Slateheart made sure to keep his power cast out, in case any of the Elites tried to sneak up on them. “How many doses of cresimen did you get?” Nyssa pressed. “Why are your abilities different from the other Elites? Skye never mentioned Elites could cancel other powers.”
“They can’t,” Slateheart kept his eyes pinned to the ground. He didn’t want to trigger any of his buried memories of prison. “I got too many doses to count.”
“You’re a Mistake then,” Nyssa cocked her head. “Your eyes glow because they are your Mistake mark.”
“Your eyes glow too,” Slateheart said quietly.
Nyssa froze slightly but she kept walking alongside him. “That was only my second dose of cresimen. My eyes never glowed before. My Mistake marks are my scars.” She gestured to the strange purple markings.
“Do you feel any different?” He inquired.
Slateheart shrugged. “My powers didn’t manifest until very recently. That’s how I escaped; I found that I could cancel out their powers and it gave me an opportunity to flee.”
Nyssa stared out into the horizon, her expression unreadable. Slateheart didn’t bother trying to pry into her business; he was nothing to her. He was simply delivering her back to SwiftClan like he had been told to do moons ago. If Nyssa didn’t stay…it wasn’t Slateheart’s problem.
They walked in silence for a long time and Slateheart focused on finding the hidden tracks of his Clanmates. He knew where he was going, but the scorched ground made it hard for him to pinpoint the markers they used to keep their cats from getting lost. Nyssa made no comment as they picked their way through the ashes of the ground and Slateheart didn’t bother talking to her anymore.
He was curious about her, he had to admit, but Slateheart knew he shouldn’t pry. He only wanted to know about her because he wanted to see how much he symbolized her parents and how much she learned from living out here by herself. Living out here was tough, Slateheart knew, as the Clan often had to resort to hunting out here as well.
The Clan now lived underground, where rabbits were often their form of prey. When those became scarce, however, the Clan had to emerge and find prey further out from the ruined lands. Slateheart heard stories about how all of these lands had once been fertile but a great fire had swept by, wiping out the forests and preserving only one circle of land which had been SwiftClan’s. They were blessed and saved by StarClan and that had been their territory since.
At least until the Serpentine came.
Slateheart hadn’t realized that they had finally made it to one of the entrances to SwiftClan’s new hideout when he paused and scented the air. He frowned and felt a bit of panic flutter in his heart.
“What is it?” Nyssa asked, catching on immediately that something was wrong. Slateheart had to give it to her—she was very observant.
“Nothing,” he tried to cover it up.
“It’s not nothing. Tell me what it is.” Nyssa’s tone sharpened. She seemed like she wasn’t used to not getting information. Shadowstar would beat obedience into her. She was too haughty for her own good.
Slateheart shook his head and dipped his nose towards the hole and took another breath. His senses had heightened since the cresimen, but Slateheart couldn’t smell any whiff of SwiftClan. Sure, they were good at being hidden, but there was one thing Clan cats rubbed into their fur to make sure other Clan cats knew where they were. It was a berry found on the other side of these tunnels, grown in a slightly recovering land that nobody else knew about. It left a strong scent wherever they went and it was how they knew which tunnels to use to access whichever part of the underground camp that SwiftClan was using.
This was the most common tunnel, Slateheart knew. This one led to all the parts of the camp. Yet there was no scent of the berry and Slateheart could feel a stone of worry form in his stomach.
“Tell me.” Nyssa demanded.
Slateheart didn’t want to say it, but he knew it was true. Despair overwhelmed him. “SwiftClan is gone.”