Episode 1, Season 2 of War
A lot can change in half a moon.
Leaves fall. Flowers wilt. Summer changes to fall.
You grow up. You realize that life is going to suck, but you're going to be okay. One day. And then you realize that's a load of dirt, curl into a ball, and cry some more.
Tall grass brushes my fur and I sigh. Of course, I haven't grown at all in half a moon. It seems like I'll always be the smallest cat on the squad. Lucky me, little Brookfall.
At least I don't look older, like my mother always seemed to worry about. 17 and a half moons old. My fur is still brown with no spots of gray, and the white parts on my belly, chest, muzzle, and tip of my tail are unaltered as well. My eyes are still a bright green, although I like to think now that they have a certain poison to them. Oakclaw just tells me I look tired.
It does feel strange though, without the rest of my squad in front of me. Without Badgerstrike staring over the horizon like he's taken to doing, Oakclaw trudging alone beside me, Silverflower watching Adderscar nervously. We've all become wrecks. With good reason too.
But the Powers That Be have decided to grant me a solo mission today. Oh boy.
I'm going to a party. Some big shot general in FireClan is having a banquet to celebrate some quasi-essential battle that he won. I get to go...well. I don't want to think about it.
I'm lucky- the party is being held near the WaterClan border. I won't have to go near FireClan Main or the prison camp Gorsefur and I-
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I can hear the talking now, FireClan voices raised in cheer. Purrs and happy tones. My heart aches in jealousy and I hurry.
The clearing is doused in moonlight, bright pelted cats weaving about each other. Toms sidle up to well groomed she-cats and whisper sweet nothings, the she-cats purr shyly. A few pampered looking apprentices dart about the grown cats, playing tag and hide and other apprentice games. A few kits huddled by their mothers who showed them off proudly. Soldiers marched to and fro and guards circled the clearing. I slip past them, my fur shiny and groomed. I look like a guest. I look FireClan.
Bile rises in my throat and I ignore the instinct to shriek. I mingle for a while, slipping among the guests without really doing anything. Just soaking in the information.
"-ever so brave, he just went after those fishfurs like-"
"...my son's out by the border, I pray for him every day, but I just don't know..."
"Did you hear about the WaterClan attack on Main? Some fools they were. I heard they got a couple though..."
I wince and continue through the crowd, trying to find the target.
The largest circle of cats is in the center of the clearing, so I head there. I fight my way through to the center and watch as a massive brown tabby talks, holding the entire crowd breathless. Two she-cats sit by him, a golden she-cat and a pure white one. They both look like airheads.
"And the tom tried to claw for my ear, but I pinned him. Then his second was on me, but she wasn't too difficult to manage," he stage whispers, "Sure was pretty though!"
The surrounding cats purr like it's the funniest thing anyone has said ever. I roll my eyes and turn to go before he says, "Ah, excuse me for a moment. I need to go get something to eat."
The crowd disperses and I turn to see the tom hurrying towards me. His she-cats narrow their eyes and flounce off.
"Hello," the tom meows, his tone a bit deeper then it was before. His eyes are a deep brown, big and kit-like. I instantly hate them.
"Oh, StarClan, are you Tigerheart?" I ask, my voice breathy.
His chests puffs out, "I am. Have we met?"
I make my eyes big, hoping they don't look tired like Oakclaw said. "I-I don't think you'd remember me. My name is Squirrelpad."
"You don't look like a squirrel," he observes.
I look to my paws shyly, "Was the a compliment?"
He purrs, "I think so. Care to come get some prey with me?"
This is the trickiest part. I blink up at him, "Can we go somewhere? We can hunt if you like. I just..." I trail off.
I apologize profusely to Gorsefur in my head while Tigerheart ponders. He turns and looks over to the party, then back to me.
He leads me out into the FireClan woods, watching me. I continue to shoot him shy little glances.
The noises of the party drift away until we are alone. The babbling of a brook begins up, soft and sweet. Tigerheart leads me to it, then sits by it. The moonlight splashes the cool water and I close my eyes, breathing deeply. I smell flowers. He could have a worse place to die.
"I don't remember meeting you," he meows again.
"You wouldn't." I murmur. "I'm a nobody...nothing. Just someone who really likes-" my voice chokes off and I can't tell him I like him, because I will betray Gorsefur in so many ways today, but this will not be one of them.
Badgerstrike yowls at me in my head to finish it, that this is more important then my petty little love life.
Tigerheart looks up at me, "A lot of she-cats like me."
"You're strong, handsome, a great warrior, a leader..." I pause, "It's no wonder."
"Then why don't I believe you?" he turns and looks at me. I remind myself that he is a general, he was chosen for his strength and intelligence. Even though he seems a bit lacking in the latter.
I try to will myself to cry. tears come so easily for me these days. But somehow, I can't do it.
Now or never.
I leap onto him, claws out. Blood wells from his fur and he just looks up at me with wide brown eyes.
"WaterClan," he whispers.
I say nothing.
"You're here to kill me," he goes on. "I should have known."
I remain silent.
"You won't do it though," he meows, unsure. Then, gaining confidence, he continues. "You're barely a warrior. You have no idea what you're getting into. Never killed before? Just joined this war? They needed a pretty she-cat so they sent you even though chances are you can't finish the job."
I tremble slightly, my claws prickling his fur. He's right. I never have killed. I never wanted to kill. I shouldn't have to kill him. This war...
But I have my orders.
Tigerheart stands, pushing me away. I don't fight it. He sighs, "I won't tell. I have a weakness for pretty she-cats. So just scurry back to WaterClan and stay away from me."
He turns and I meow, "Wait."
Tigerheart stops. Turns to face me. I don't know why. I'll never know I guess.
"You're right," I tell him, "I've never killed a cat before, I never wanted to." I take a deep breath and exhale, "So sorry."
I fly at him before he can react, thorn sharp claws slicing through delicate tendons. Blood pools from his neck and paints the forest floor.
I bury my noise in my paws, my eyes strangely dry.
I didn't want to.
I hear voices calling for Tigerheart and I stand, wobbly. I wish I could feel good about this, wish I could laugh at the dead FireClan tom. Wish I could feel justified. But I don't. Can't.
I tear through the trees, not looking back. Shrieks split the air when the FireClan cats find the dead general and I am across the WaterClan border. I run, not stopping until I reach where the rest of my squad is camped out.
Adderscar looks up, a recently healed scar decorating his neck, a match to the bite that gave him his name. Silverflower sits beside him, looking pretty as ever. Badgerstrike starts towards me, "Did you-"
But I hurtle towards where Oakclaw sits. Arrogant, annoying, brash Oakclaw who has been my best friend since Shadowsong and Gorsefur were left behind. I collapse next to him, my muscles burning with exhaustion and shock.
"It's okay," he comforts, pressing against me comfortingly. "It's okay."
"I told you we should've sent someone else," Adderscar says to Badgerstrike.
"She had to go at some point," Badgerstrike says, sorrow lacing his voice. Like a father who sends his first kit into battle.
Silverflower comes and sits by me and whispers to me about her first mission, which was almost the exact same as mine. Pretty she-cat crashes a FireClan party, kills the general.
"It'll stop hurting eventually," she promises, "And then you'll be a killer just like the rest of us,"
"I take great offence to that," Oakclaw growls, a shadow of his usual joking self. He's missing the other half, a Shadowsong who would roll her eyes and say You would.
I look up, feeling broken. We are all broken, all of us. Waiting for Gorsefur and Shadowsong to come home.
"What a way to celebrate your half moon, huh?" Oakclaw meows.
I bury my nose in my paws.