This is a one-shot for Cinder's contest.
A pale silver she-cat, her fur striking against the dark muddy ground, lay on her side under the boughs of a pine tree. Her golden eyes were large and pleading as she stared desperately up at the elderly she-cat standing over her.
"Please," she whispered. "See that they get to the clans." She nuzzled the three tiny bundles at her side. Only one of them, the smallest tom, stirred, his little pink mouth opening wide as he breathed in his mother's scent. It was his last glimpse of her, for her neck fell back and her breathing ceased then.
The old she-cat set her jaw, her eyes grim and determined. "I will, my dear Dove. If it kills me, I promise you I will get them to the clans."
Shadepaw stared in dismay at the empty place where he had buried his fresh-kill. Dropping the mouse he'd just caught, he looked around, and as he did, caught a trace of familiar scent. Of course. It's them.
"You can give it back now," he called. "I'm on to your tricks." Only silence met his calls. He scowled slightly. "Seriously. I can't go back to Sedgemoth empty-handed."
This time muffled laughter came from a nearby bush, and a tom and a she-cat stepped out, their eyes shining with cruel amusement. "Don't you mean you can't to back to Icepaw empty-handed?" taunted Spiderpaw. He staggered around the clearing dramatically. "Oh Icepaw. I'll hunt through the whole forest if it'll make you happy. Come my love. Let's glide into the arms of the sunset."
Shadepaw felt himself growing hot, but he merely walked over and took the prey from his sister's mouth. "Not so fast," she snapped. "If we give you the prey, what will you give us?"
"I caught it," he said meekly, but he knew it would do no good. Shadowpaw smirked.
"Oh really?" She took a step closer, menacingly.
He sighed. "What do you want?"
Spiderpaw and Shadowpaw exchanged looks. Then Spiderpaw took a step forward, his whiskers curling in anticipation. "Hm... What do we want Shadowpaw? Oh yeah. Come with us. We're taking a little trip."
Shadepaw scowled. "Where?"
Shadowpaw grinned slyly. "To The Peaks silly. Where else?" Shadepaw felt his belly clench. The Peaks was a large crow-food dump between BlackClan's territory and Twolegplace. It was a dangerous place, inhabited by hoardes of rats and rogues, not to mention the Twolegs that arrived with their giant green monsters daily. Shadepaw shook his head slowly, though he knew deep down that resistance was futile.
"No. You can have the prey, it's fine. I'm going back to camp." He turned to leave, but they darted in front of him. Two identical pairs of yellow eyes flashed against their dark gray pelts as they towered over him like a pair of twin cobras.
"I don't think so. You see Shadepaw, you don't really have a choice," Spiderpaw said. Shadepaw sighed. I know.
They finally reached the edge of the woods and stood staring out at The Peaks. Shadepaw fought the urge to gag at the rotten stench. Spiderpaw smirked. "Too much for your sensitive little nose? Or is little Shadekit just scared?"
Gritting his teeth, he followed them across the rough ground towards the rundown heap of junk. Already he could spot beady black eyes watching them from afar as they approached. "What exactly are we doing here?"
Shadowpaw and Spiderpaw just grinned at each other and padded forward. He had no choice but to follow.
"Shadowpaw? Spiderpaw?" a voice called from the top of the garbage heap. Shadepaw turned and spotted the most beautiful she-cat he'd ever seen making her way towards him. Her eyes were large and the color of the sun, her fur, though dirty and dusty, was a soft gray that seemed to caress his eyesight, and her paws were white, like she'd dipped them in snow.
"Cressa," Spiderpaw said, a cruel smile appearing on his lips as he watched Shadepaw intently. Fighting to keep his emotions under control, Shadepaw just stared at the ground, his fur prickling self-conciously as Cressa reached them and stood in front of him.
"We have a guest for you," Shadowpaw said, throwing a meaningful glance at Shadepaw. He gulped.
"What do you mean?" Cressa said. Her innocent appearance did nothing to stop the cutting briskness of her tone, yet Shadepaw detected something else in it. Something feminine, something beautiful... and something hurting. The pain was well covered, that was for sure. But he was equally certain it was there.
"We want him to stay with you till we figure out what to do with him," Spiderpaw said. "The clan will go ballistic, which will give us the opportunity to do what needs to be done. After that, we get rid of him and hightail it out of here."
Shadepaw listened to this with a growing sense of sickness. At last he broke. "What?" His voice came out panicked and squeaky, like a kit's. Ignoring his sibling's smirks, he took a deep breath and controlled himself. "What are you talking about Spiderpaw? You can't keep me here."
"Yes, we can," hissed Shadowpaw. Her yellow eyes blazed. Spiderpaw's stomach twisted.
"Call one of the rogues that agreed to help us if he tries to leave," Shadowpaw instructed. "And don't worry, if he does, he'll just go back to BlackClan, and we'll catch him there."
"Okay," Cressa agreed. He couldn't believe such a pretty cat was listening to his siblings.
"Have fun Shadepaw!" called Shadowpaw. "We'll be coming up with ways to convince the clan of how much we miss you. How sad we are about your untimely 'disappearance'. Meanwhile, they won't realize what we're doing to them. And by the time they do, it'll be too late. For you as well."
And then they had disappeared back into clan territory, leaving Shadepaw alone. He turned to face Cressa, a wave of courage stirring within him. He would find a way out of this. All it really was was loneliness. And he could face that.
This wasn't his first time.
Cressa was silent, and so was he. He wasn't sure how long they spent surveying each other before she finally yawned and stretched. "Shadepaw, is it?"
He didn't reply, focusing all his energy on looking like he despised her and trying to ignore her pretty smile. She's practically kidnapping me, he reminded himself.
"Fine," she shrugged. "Don't talk. I can deal." He remained silent, but sat down now, still staring at her. She could be his way out of this, if he played his cards right, but for now he needed to find out what her motives were in this dangerous game. Guessing wrong could cost him everything.
When she fell silent as well though, the suspense got to him. He cracked. "Why are you doing this to me?"
She studied him skeptically. "We've all got to live. Of course, you wouldn't know anything about that rule, if you're half the pampered tom that Shadowpaw and Spiderpaw told me you were."
"What? Me? Pampered?" Shadepaw said in disbelief. He had never complained too much about his life; it could've been worse, and he was grateful for what he had and what cats had done for him. But "pampered" was not a word he would ever use to describe it. He had been raised by an elderly she-cat named Birdpelt, and his adopted clan mother, a queen called Sorrelflower. Both had done their best for him, but then Birdpelt had died, and Sorrelflower, busy with her own kits, couldn't provide a real sense of family for Shadepaw and his siblings. Still, he had never understood why Shadowpaw and Spiderpaw had suddenly decided to be so mean. It didn't make sense to him. To him, having something bad happen to you was a chance to make sure the same thing didn't happen to another cat, to better everyone's lives. Obviously, not everyone else felt that way.
"That's what they said," she shrugged. He tried to ignore the way her soft pelt rippled gently, reminding himself of Icepaw's snowy coat and blue eyes. But somehow her image seemed faded and washed-out when compared with Cressa's burning yellow eyes and dusky fur.
"Cressa..." he began, enjoying the feel of her name on his tongue. "What they said to you wasn't true. I may have had an okay life, but I wasn't pampered. Please," he pleaded, desperation surfacing in his voice now, "Won't you at least tell me what Shadowpaw and Spiderpaw are planning to do?"
At first she remained silent, and his heart sank. But then her eyes softened as she took him in. "Okay. But don't get any funny ideas about trying to stop it." Taking a deep breath, she plunged in. "They're not planning anything to seriously hurt anyone, but cats will get hurt if they get in the way of it." She shot him a meaningful glance. "After they cause a commotion about you being gone, they'll steal some prey and just cause some trouble."
"What kind of trouble?" he asked suspiciously. She looked at her paws. "Cressa," he meowed, his tone gentle. "You need to tell me everything."
"Okay," she sighed. "They're going to kill you."
"Oh. Thanks for hiding that from me." For a few minutes they sat in silence, then he tilted her head gently so they were facing each other. Her eyes were brimming with tears. "Would you have let that happen?"
She turned away. "Like I could stop it. But no, I don't want you to die. When Spiderpaw said you were coming, I never dreamed you were like this. I thought you were like-"
"Them?" he guessed. "Or worse? That's the part I don't get. Why are you 'working' for them?"
"That's the thing Shadepaw," she said, shaking her head. "You don't get it. Your one of those cats who naturally do the right thing. I'm not. I have no one else in this world. No one. Spiderpaw and Shadowpaw offered me protection, and the closest to family I'm ever going to get. I had to take it."
He paused, thinking. "If I said I was going to break free and head back to BlackClan, what would you do?"
For a second she tensed, her face hardening. Then she relaxed with a weary sigh. "Look the other way."
"Really?" he said, touched. He turned to go. Upon looking back, he saw that she had turned away, but a lone tear was sliding down her cheek. That tear sealed everything. He stopped and bounded up to her once more. "Come with me."
She whirled so suddenly that he had no time to pull back, and their noses pressed together. A tingle shot down his backbone, and he stepped back hastily in embarrassment. Their eyes locked for a second, then Cressa mewed shyly, "You really want me to?"
"Of course." He knew he meant it.
She did too; he could see the joy she tried to mask plainly on her face. "Okay," she said. Then she faltered. "They'll never accept me."
He laid his tail across her back, feeling brave and in charge for the first time in his life. "They will. But for now, our main problem is my lovely sister and brother."
He felt her straighten under his touch, but she didn't move out from under it. "We'll take care of them. But... Shadepaw? We might have other problems."
He followed her gaze and his heart stopped when he saw the dozens of eyes watching them. "Great."
Shadepaw bushed his tail and bared his teeth in a snarl, ready to go down fighting, but Cressa shoved him towards the woods. "Are you crazy?" she screamed. "Run!"
He stumbled, then broke into a gallop. Behind them, they could hear the scrabble of tiny paws against the trash as the hoarde came after them. When he glanced over his shoulder, he saw to his utter horror that the crow-food pile had become a living black mountain, its sides cascading with rat bodies.
The first scaly claws touched his tail. Letting out a mangled cry, he thrust out with his back paws and sent the rat flying, only to have two more latch onto his legs. Beside him, Cressa went down hard, and was instantly covered in the creatures. He tried to fight his way to her, but he could barely move.
There was no hope. No possible way they could be saved. They were going to die.
"Shadepaw!" A cry echoed through the clearing. Prying a rat off his face and sending it flying, he saw a sight that almost made him cry with relief. Sedgemoth, Icepaw, Ivytalon, and Duckfoot, running towards them.
Sedgemoth reached him and rats went flying everywhere, their skinny bones splintering under her jaws. Ignoring the stomach-turning sound, he joined her, hope lending him a burst of energy and determination. "Help her!" he screeched, gesturing to Cressa.
Icepaw nudged him towards the border and they started running. Seconds later, the others were on their heels, Ivytalon and Sedgemoth supporting Cressa between them. Finally, when the sting of his wounds and ache of his muscles was too much to bear, Shadepaw slowed, then stopped. He turned to face his clanmates, a grateful smile on his face, but then stopped cold.
The four cats stood clustered around Cressa's limp body, which they had laid on the ground. Blood from a dozen different scratches stained her coat, but the most horrifying one was the large gash near her throat. "No..." he whispered, kneeling beside her.
"Shadepaw," she managed, locking her sun-colored eyes on his. "Thank you..." she struggled to get her breath. "For teaching me that there's more to life then being alive. You showed me what living is, if only for a short time. And now... good bye."
Her blood-soaked head fell back and she was eerily still. He stared at her in shock, only aware of a terrible screaming echoing around him. It took him a minute to realize it was him who was screaming.
Shadepaw wasn't sure how long he lay crumpled beside Cressa's body, but when a small pink nose finally nudged him, it was Icepaw's blue eyes he looked up into. The others had gone. He hurt inside more than any of his outer wounds could ever hurt, and right now he just wanted to be alone. But Cressa wouldn't have wanted that. She would've wanted him to go on, to rejoin BlackClan, to stand up to Spiderpaw and Shadowpaw. And he knew what he had to do.
"Are you okay?" Icepaw said softly. Something akin to hurt flickered in her face, and at first he was puzzled. Then it hit him. He took a step closer and gave her forehead a tenative lick.
"Yeah, I'm fine." He took a deep breath and smiled at her. She smiled back. He had definitely felt something for Cressa. But now she was gone, and Icepaw was still here. He had to make the choice to let go. There would be time to grieve later. Now, it was time for action.
"Let's go," Icepaw said. Then, more softly, "What were you doing there Shadepaw?"
As they headed back to camp, he told her the whole story. When he finished, she looked shocked. "Your own brother and sister did that to you?" she gasped. "How could they?"
Before he could reply, they entered the camp, and a dozen different stares, some full of shock, others happiness, and two particular ones of dismay, fixed on them.
Spiderpaw stepped forward. "Well well well. Shadepaw. Welcome back home."
"Spiderpaw," he hissed. The welcoming cats halted, glancing from one brother to another, sensing something deeper than it appeared was going on.
It happened almost before Shadepaw had time to think. Spiderpaw launched himself into the air, claws outstrethced, nothing other than pure hatred blazing in his yellow gaze. Shadepaw only had time to raise his frong legs, claws unsheathed, in self-defense, before his brother was on him. He closed his eyes on impact, feeling his claws sink past fur and into flesh. A dense weight collapsed on top of him, but Spiderpaw wasn't struggling.
Terror seized him, and he wriggled out from underneath his opponent. The stillness was broken by Shadowpaw's cry of panic. "You killed him!"
Shadepaw felt sick. He hadn't meant to! Yet Spiderpaw's crumpled body and his bloodstained paws told the tale. He looked up, panick-stricken. Yet Shadowpaw wasn't doing anything. Her yellow eyes were wide with shock, staring at her brother. She didn't seem to register what had happened completely, or who had caused it.
However, the other cats did know what had happened. "Shadepaw!" Swoopstar finally exclaimed in shock. "Why in StarClan did you do that?"
"Shadepaw?" Sorrelflower stared at him in disbelief, backing away. He could plainly see she didn't trust him. And she was supposed to be my mother, he thought bitterly.
The obvious choice was to stay, to redeem himself, to explain everything to everyone. He hadn't really done anything wrong, and in time the whole clan would see that. But at that moment, everything closed in on him. His parents, gone. Birdpelt, gone. Cressa, gone. Spiderpaw, gone, because of him. And he broke. He couldn't take it.
With an inhuman wail, he turned and fled the camp, charging into the woods with no destination, no purpose. Just like his life was.
"Shadepaw!" a voice called after him. It took a while for the message to go from his brain to his legs, but eventually he slowed and turned to face the cat. He had expected Icepaw, but it wasn't her. It was Shadowpaw.
"What are you doing here?" he hissed, flattening his ears against his head. She was breathing hard, but she didn't look angry.
"Coming with you," she said. Before he could interrupt, she went on, "We don't belong in BlackClan anymore Shadepaw. Can't you see that? Birdpelt tried to make us fit in, but it just didn't work. I don't know what this is. I don't know why this is happening to us. But we have to leave. We can't let anymore cats get hurt because of us. I know I've been evil in the past too. Maybe a part of me always will be. But we can't just stick around. We can start new, the two of us. Shadepaw and Shadowpaw. Together."
Shadepaw stared at her, speechless. He had never dreamed he'd see the day when Shadowpaw would want to work with him. Then his thoughts travelled back to all he'd be leaving behind. Icepaw, his shot at becoming a warrior, his old life. But then again, Icepaw probably hated him now that he was a murderer, Swoopstar would never make him a warrior, and his what remained of his old "life" had been crushed to pieces under the weight of what he had done.
Taking a deep breath, he met her eyes. "Okay." Side by side, they turned and headed away together. A pair of blue eyes emerged from the woods.
"Go," whispered the StarClan cat, her kind, elderly face set with determination. "I promised to get them to the clans. I'm not letting them go."
Icepaw nodded and broke into a run. Running for loyalty, trust, and the love of her life.
We thought we had it figured out
Shade and Shadow
So lost in our own thoughts, you had to give a shout
Shade and Shadow
We never dreamed there was a third
Shade and Shadow
It took a while for us to learn
Shade and Shadow
That it took more than hearts of stone
Shade and Shadow
To break a mother's love
Shade and Shadow
To stop help from above
Shade and Shadow
Never underestimate the power of a dove
No, it was never about escape
You can't outrun
the voices inside
All you can do is learn to abide
Shade, you cast your darkness
and Shadow you cast your fear
In the end it took Ice
To make both disappear
The kits stared breathlessly at the old tom, waiting to hear the end. "Did she bring him back Grandfather? Did Shadowpaw listen?" squeaked Emeraldkit, jumping up and down.
Even little Shykit was excited. "What happened next?"
"Welll," the elder continued. "Shadepaw realized what was most important in his life. His clan. And he and Shadowpaw made the right decision."
"That was a nice story," yawned Sleepykit, his green eyes drooping. He snuggled against his grandfather's belly, eyes closing blissfully. Soon, all three kits were fast asleep. The tom was about to fall asleep himself when a snowy white she-cat entered and sat down. The three of them, a dark gray she-cat, her, and him, stared at each other, recalling a windy day when they had made the decision that impacted the rest of their lives.
Icewing buried her head in Shadeclaw's shoulder and smiled softly at Shadowrise. "You told them."
He nodded, glancing down at them affectionately. "Someday, they'll know the whole story and understand it. But for now-"
"It's fine," Shadowrise smiled.
Shadeclaw took a deep breath, remembering his childhood. All of it, the joy and the pain, would cling to him till he died. And he had come to realize that wasn't so bad after all. Cressa. Spiderpaw. They might not have been perfect, but they deserved to be remembered.
And two still remained in BlackClan. Dove's legacy wasn't over, and Birdpelt's promise had been fullfilled. It only took a little darkness to bring out the light in everyone.
Shade and Shadow.