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The Fallen River

(cover by Lyric)

This is a collab between Silvermoonlynx (Lyric) and Aggressive Rat (Ratty)!

This is part one in the River's Lineage series, and there are two sequels out. Clashing Metals and The River Rises.

Prologue (Ratty and Moon)

The cats stalked through the reeds in the riverbed. It was dark, the only light shone from the crescent moon, high in the clouds. Everything was silent, apart from the rustle of the leaves in the forest behind them.

The cats stared at the large, wide river roaring in front of them. They peered around, searching for any way they might get across. There. Stepping stones.

One by one, the large cluster of cats made their way onto the enemy land.

They stood triumphantly, gazing around at the territory that would soon be theirs.

Standing in the inky dark of the night, they perked their ears. They were about to start moving-

CRACK.

Synchronized, they whipped their heads in the direction of the noise. There, a coltish apprentice stood in an odd position, as if he was frozen. His eyes were wide, the stars twinkling in the reflection.

They smelled him at once. RiverClan. The cats bared their teeth, emitting a low, reverberating growl.

He stared at them, horrified, for a moment longer, before he turned tail and ran. He could sense and hear the cats chasing him.

He reached the marshy camp, panting. "THUNDERCLAN IS ATTACKING!" He screamed, before they charged into the camp, ready for battle.

RiverClan cats were not natural fighters. They grabbed their kits and elders before fleeing.

Only one cat remained, staring at the enemy warriors in disgust.

"You dare drive us out?" He snarled.

The ThunderClan cats jeered.

"You'd drive us out for territory? You'll regret this!" He turned, following his clan.

ThunderClan rejoiced. RiverClan was gone.

Or so they thought...

The RiverClan cats reached the moors, dead-tired. Queens, expecting, and elders, old and frail, were not supposed to make long treks, fueled by fear.

"Where will we go?" A cat wailed, licking her kits frantically.

"Where? Where?" Other cats chimed in.

"The old territories." An elder suggested.

"The Tribe!" Said another.

"We will not go there. We must adapt. We must go live in the forest territories, beyond the clans." Barkstar announced.

Cats gasped, murmuring among themselves, but no one protested.

"We must go now," Leafdapple announced, her mouth full of herbs.

The cats wearily dragged themselves to their paws.

"We will return one day. And we will get our vengeance." Barkstar swore, taking one last look at his beloved territory, before turning forward, leading his clan into the bleak future.

Chapter 1 (Moon)

Troutfin raked his claws into the mouse's flimsy skin, hearing the satisfying crack.

He growled. Land prey wasn't food.

His growl turned into a roar of rage, and he went into a frenzy, raking his claws on the bark of every tree, turning the wet soil into mud with his sudden jerks.

He finally came to his senses and stood there, panting, as he looked at the destruction he'd raged.

He smiled, not even close to being satisfied. This was how the forest felt to him. A wooden cage, keeping him from the water.

He missed the lake.

He had become an apprentice a mere week before it had been taken from him, and he regretted not staying to fight.

Well. Soon. Those mangy flea-pelts would pay for it. Every last apprentice that got to enjoy what should have been his would die at his claws. He swore it.

He flicked his tail angrily, simmering rage underneath a mask of cold sincerity.

He stared at the mouse blood on his claws. At the trees. In the direction of camp.

Ugh. He hated it.

The tom stared at the sky, wishing for rain. It never rained. At least, when it did rain, it was a small drizzle. Enough to sustain the plants, but not enough to sustain him.

He growled again, but managed to control himself before he ravaged another patch of land.

He picked up the scrawny creature in his jaws and padded back to camp, seething with anger.

He dropped it at the kill pile and padded over to his sister, Silverscale, who was sitting serenely by the warriors' den, washing herself.

She nudged him.

"I can't stand it!" He confessed, raking his claws along the grass, yet another thing he hated about the forest.

Silverscale nodded. "I miss the lake."

Troutfin remembered how Silverscale -- Silverpaw, then -- had fallen into the river as they battle-trained.

"Yeah. Me too." He muttered.

Her shimmering gray pelt seemed to glow in the sunlight, although it was caked in dryness that radiated from her, from all of them.

He stood, digging his claws into the dirt.

"I need water."

Silverscale sighed. "The only water you'll find here is the pond."

Troutfin growled. He hated the pond. Measly excuse for a puddle.

The pond was a small bowl in the land, filled with water. The water was always lukewarm, never cold, and wasn't big enough to host fish. The only thing they found in that pond was mud and reeds at the bottom.

He was done. He was over putting up with fur and bones. With leaves and grass, not marsh. With moss instead of rain. With a puddle instead of a lake.

"I'm leaving."

Chapter 2 (Ratty and Moon)

Silverscale stared at him.

"No!" She cried sharply. "You can't leave. We need a plan. If we want those ThunderClan dry pelts to give us back our territory, we need to prepare." She explained.

Troutfin sat back down, glaring at the floor. "What do you have in mind?"

Silverscale nodded, pleased. "We need to train on land. We need more apprentices. The senior warriors have to train on land."

Troutfin slowly nodded. "That way we can fight back for our territory!"

Silverscale smiled. "Yeah. We should tell Barkstar."

They stood, Troutfin weighed down by grief for his territory.

They walked into the Droplet's den, seeing their father immediately. His tabby brown coat shone as he washed it.

Silverscale dipped her head. "Barkstar."

Troutfin sat, twitching his tail in greeting.

Their father looked at them, puzzled. "Yes?"

Silverscale explained their plan. Barkstar nodded slowly, pondering it.

"Very well." He finally said, studying Silverscale.

"You will be a worthy leader one day," he praised her.

Turning to Troutfin, he said, " You will serve her well as Creek."

He smiled faintly. He had no plans for leadership, he was perfectly content to let Silverscale take the position.

Silverscale dipped her head once more, and padded out of the den.

Troutfin followed her. "We convinced him!"

Silverscale nodded. "Yeah."

He scowled at the area around him. "I hate the forest." He raked his claws through the limp grass.

"Careful. Don't let Barkstar hear you say that," Silverscale warned.

Troutfin bit back a retort: It's not as if he can take Droplet away from me.

Chapter 3 (Ratty)

The silhouettes of the two felines in the fading light were as still as statues, discussing in the near-dark of the sunset.

The silver she-cat was elegantly perched on the thick lower branch of an oak, looking at her brother with her eyes, a pool of blue shining in the half-visible sun.

"The training may be difficult, but we must remember to stay patient with our clan." Silverscale explained, her long tail wrapping neatly around her paws. "To teach, we must have skills to do it. Will you spar with me?" Troutfin nodded in silent agreement, standing up. The two faced each other after Silverscale slinked off of the wood.

Without speaking, Troutfin lashed out. His claws were sheathed as his leg whipped through the air, as if he was hooking a fish out of the water. Silverscale leaped backwards, crouching and eyeing her brother. She attempted to rush around to the other cat's hindquarters, but Troutfin intercepted her. Neither of them were the best at fighting out of the water, it seemed like they held their mentors' clumsiness.

At twilight, the stars seemed brighter than they usually were. Through the night to the early hours of the morning, they trained until they were almost about to pass out, and then trained some more.

At long last, their eyes met. A sea of blue met the depths of the ocean. "Are we done here?" The broad-shouldered tom asked her, she could see the questioning look it his eyes, awaiting her response. "Yes. For today. Or should I say yesterday?" She allowed herself to chuckle, and Troutfin saw the humor in her now-gentle gaze.

"Let's hunt something. Even if Barkstar is fine with the idea of us training to overthrow ThunderClan, he won't appreciate us not bringing back anything." Troutfin said, flicking his tail. "Of course." Silverscale responded, stretching her tired limbs. "Let's not walk too far."

As they walked, the forest began to come to life. The birds chattered in the trees, the wind blew in the canopies, and the flowers bloomed. Troutfin hated it.

They came across a path of destruction, bark torn off the oaks, long rakes in the muddy grass. Silverscale knew who did it, but she made no comment as she scented the air. "Do you smell that mouse? I can try my luck with that rabbit a little farther off." She hummed, shooting a glance at her brother. "Sure." He said, sniffing the overly-stuffed up smells of the forest. He much preferred the somewhat damp, open air of his old territory.

Eventually, he caught the scent of the mouse, and nodded at Silverscale, watching her leave. He began to walk, and then lowered into a hunkering crouch. A RiverClan cat barely ever needed to crouch back in his old home. Irritated, his eyes momentarily became slits, before his ears twitched at a faint rustling in the nearby grass.

It was the mouse. Or, well, the mice. There was more than one. Trying not to make a sound, he began to creep forward, agonizingly slowly. He took one look at the largest rodent, before leaping. Too early, beebrain. He chided himself with a gruff, short growl, as the mice took off in different directions, scattering through the grass.

He ran after a random one, catching up once he came across a clump of brambles that the mouse was stuck in. How anticlimactic. He picked it up in his powerful jaws before crushing it. If he was a true forest cat, the taste might have made his mouth water. To Troutfin, mouse was a mediocre choice of prey. He made his way back to where he last saw Silverscale, and saw her panting with blood on her jaws. At his questioning look, she answered his unasked question. "Yes, I caught it. Yes, I look awful. Let's get back to camp."

"I think Barkstar will be proud at our progress." Troutfin mused, his voice slightly muffled. His sister could only nod, they both doubted they could hear her speak if they tried.

"We'll show ThunderClan what they're really messing with." He purred, satisfied. No matter how minuscule, he could've sworn he saw Silverscale smile.

Chapter 4 (Ratty and Moon)

One and a half moons later

Troutfin glanced at the cats gathered around them. "Are they ready?"

Silverscale nodded. "They have to be."

The two's eyes met, hard-set. They nodded grimly.

It was time.

"We've gone over this every day for the past half-moon." Uttered Silverscale. "If they don't get this right, I'll skin them myself." Troutfin shook his head, before standing up. "Creekbreeze, Reedgale, you'll continue practicing with them, right?" The two warriors nodded.

The tension in Troutfin's shoulders eased, although Silverscale still seemed unconvinced. "Puddlestep, Icefang." The two near-identical cats stepped out of the crowd. "What are your loner names?" He asked, for the final time. "Blue." Said Puddlestep, her tail proudly arched behind her. The she-cat's brother didn't share her enthusiasm, muttering: "Fang."

"Excellent. We'll be off then."

The four cats marched off, retracing a nearly forgotten path.

Troutfin gave on last hard, cold look at the forest behind him. He would not come back here. Never again.

The four didn't speak along the way, except for Troutfin to urgently speak with Silverscale or for Puddlestep to joke around with Icefang.

They arrived at the territory weary, on their third day of travel. They were exhausted and dirty, and smelled just like loners.

They staggered into the territory, acting nervous and tired. A patrol of cats approached them. "Who are you?" The leader of the patrol asked.

"I'm Patch. This is Flake, Blue, and Fang." Troutfin/Patch said.

The cats whispered to one another.

"You're on our territory." The leader continued.

"Huh? Oh! You're a clan!" Silverscale/Flake exclaimed.

"Perfect! We've been wanting to join one." Puddlestep/Blue added.

Icefang/Fang just scowled.

They nodded. "We can take you."

"Thank you!" They clamored happily. Troutfin/Patch caught Silverscale/Flake's eye, and winked.

She winked back. Soon. Very soon.

Chapter 5 (Moon)

Troutfin stared at his paws. At the riverbank. At the water around him.

He closed his eyes, unsheathed his claws, and launched himself onto Strawbelly.

The small warrior writhed, but Troutfin, being larger and more muscular, pinned him down easily.

"This is for our territory," He snarled, before plunging his claws into Strawbelly's neck.

The tom gurgled horribly for a moment, before going limp.

Troutfin shoved the body into the river, and washed his paws.

The water would wash of his scent.

Everything was working out.

Except the scream that rang from behind him.

He whipped around to see Ravenwing, a ThunderClan warrior, gaping at him.

Without a word, he pinned her down, killing her as he had Strawbelly.

He did the same procedure, and trotted back to the ThunderClan camp.

That night...

A wail pierced the dusky air.

The bodies had been found.

The clan of ThunderClan gathered, round, preparing to mourn.

Puddlestep caught Troutfin's eye. He nodded. It had been him.

She beckoned him over. "That was reckless," She hissed in his ear.

"Of course. But I had to."

"That's why I like you." She whispered.

He licked her ear. "I like you because you're brave enough to do this."

Puddlestep purred. "Will you be my mate?"

He pressed himself to her. "Of course."

Moons later...

"Troutfin, I'm expecting kits." Puddlestep murmured.

He stared at her happily. "You need to go back."

She shook her head. "No. I - I'm staying in ThunderClan."

Troutfin stared at his paws. "Silverscale can't know."

Puddlestep nodded. "Of course not."

Chapter 6 (Ratty)

"Silverscale."

The graceful she-cat looked behind her, analyzing the tom that had come to find her. The RiverClan warrior glanced around, opening her jaws to scent the air. They couldn't risk a ThunderClan cat hearing the distinctly RiverClan name, or else there would be another casualty. She was about to turn around to chide the tom about using their real names before seeing the grim expression on his face. She let out a small, almost inaudible hum of acknowledgement, meeting Icefang's sky-blue eyes.

"Do you need something?" She didn't need to hear his answer as she sighed, lessening the tension between her shoulders and patting the ground beside her with her long, whip-thin tail. She and the tom had improved their relationship in the moons that they had stayed in ThunderClan. They were friends now, instead of simple acquaintances, or senior and junior.

The light-colored tom nodded, sitting beside her. They sat in silence for a moment.

"I noticed something."

Obviously, this peaked Silverscale's interest. Her whiskers twitched as she thought for a moment. What could it be? "You have my attention." She murmured.

"My sist- well, Puddlestep, she's been somewhat off lately." As if asking for him to elaborate, the silver-furred feline stared at him, her curiosity evident.

Letting out a deep sigh, Icefang looked at nothing in particular, seemingly avoiding his pseudo-leader's face. "Well," he began, searching for the correct words. "I started to notice her maybe a few sunrises ago. She hasn't been talking to me that much." Well, they weren't very close for a pair of littermates anyways, but Silverscale didn't interrupt.

"Whenever I come across her, it seems like she feels.. guilty, if you know what I mean. Like she's hiding something. Actually, I haven't seen her hunting or patrolling that much either." Silverscale didn't notice this. Of course, she was in charge of other things. But why hadn't Troutfin said anything?

Seeming to read her thoughts, Icefang continued on. "She socializes with Troutfin as normal. I feel like she's hiding something." He was obviously afraid of offending Silverscale by suggesting that her brother could have a part in it, but instead of getting upset, she thought for a moment.

"I'll have to check it out. Thank you for letting me know." She said quietly. "If you find any more information, tell me. This could be bad." The tomcat nodded in agreement. They sat in silence for a few heartbeats, before he started turning to leave.

"Wait."

As he paused, Silverscale padded over to him. "Why don't we pass the time hunting? I saw a family of rabbits, it can be an opportunity to stretch our legs a bit." Enunciating this by stretching, she got up, tail held high.

Apparently, she was eager to shake off the uneasiness. Would Troutfin really lie to her? Hide anything of importance?

She needed a distraction.

"Of course." Icefang scented the air. "Actually, I think I smell one. Want to catch the first?" Silverscale smiled, although it was forced. She could try to have fun, she supposed.

"Sure thing."

Chapter 7 (Moon)

Troutfin gazed at his sister. "You wanted to see me?" He asked stiffly.

"Yes."

"Why, may I ask?"

"What's going on between you and Puddlestep?" She demanded, cutting to the chase.

Troutfin sighed. He couldn't keep this from Silverscale. They were siblings, after all. He looked into his eyes, gaze filled with anguish. "She's expecting my kits."

Silverscale's jaw dropped. "WHAT?" She roared.

Troutfin just nodded.

"She needs to leave. A queen can't be expected to fight out battle," Silverscale said. She wasn't below dignity, and knew that this mother was carrying pure RiverClan kits.

Troutfin took in a breath. "I'msorrybutshedoesn'twantto," he mumbled.

"Speak up," she snapped, flicking her tail.

"Er..."

Silverscale glowered at her brother.

He took an involuntary step back, unsheathing his claws.

"Speak up." Silverscale repeated, narrowing her eyes.

He lifted his chin. "She doesn't want to."

"She wants to fight?" Silverscale scoffed.

"No. She wants to stay in ThunderClan."

Silverscale froze. "Why?"

"She's in love with ThunderClan culture."

"What about your kits?" She asked, fighting off the edge of panic in her voice.

"I go where she goes," He said, lifting his chin higher. He saw Puddlestep in his mind's eye, resting more than usual, growing plumper every day.

Silverscale hissed. She couldn't lose her brother. Not to ThunderClan.

Troutfin bared his teeth at her. "You will not hurt her." He growled, hackles raised.

"We'll see about that." Silverscale retorted.

Troutfin snarled and turned around, storming into ThunderClan camp.

He sat down next to Puddlestep. She looked up at him, worry in her deep blue eyes."Are you okay?" She murmured, twining her tail with his. To the cats observing them, it was a friendly gesture. But to them, it was a symbol of love.

"Silverscale knows," He huffed.

Puddlestep's eyes were wide with horror. "O-our kits!"

Troutfin nodded, troubled. "You aren't safe here."

"Yes, I am. You'll protect me, so will ThunderClan," Puddlestep scoffed.

Troutfin nodded, but worry still lapped at his paws like the waves of the lake.

Chapter 8 (Ratty)

"She's what?!" Icefang yowled, drawing the attention of the entirety of ThunderClan, seeing as they were in a popular sunning area. At Silverscale's unnerving, icy glare and a hissed "Be quiet!", he repeated it again. "She's what?"

"She's expecting my brother's kits. I didn't think that you'd have such bad hearing.." She sniffed. "I- hey! I was just shocked." Icefang grumbled.

The silver-coated she-cat was standing in front of him, radiating nothing but sheer confidence and absolute annoyance. Quite honestly, it intimidated the tom, although he was a bit taller than she was and undoubtedly had more body mass.

He stood up and stretched out, his off-white fur shining brightly in the sunlight. "We need to have a discussion, you know. Away from-" she flicked her long tail around herself, gesturing to the surrounding cats, sharing tongues, oblivious to the two RiverClan cat's conversation. "them." Who knows if one of them could tune in at any moment.

Siverscale turned around and began to walk away, obviously expecting to be followed. She was like that, really. It wasn't untrue that anybody who didn't have bees in their brains would follow her, blindly, even.

"She even wants to stay with these drooling dogs. For their 'culture'. She's in love with everything they do, reduced to nothing but a simple follower. She must've been dazzled by their brute strength." Silverscale raised her lips, revealing her sharp teeth in an angry snarl. This obviously wasn't part of the original plan.

"If I had known this would happen, I would've chosen another warrior to come on this mission."

Trotting after her, the other feline huffed, appearing to be deep in thought. "I never would've thought she'd do something like that.. She was always talking about independent strong warrior this, loyal future leader of RiverClan that. It's jarring, really. But it always did annoy me..." Silverscale had no time for reminiscing, but didn't interrupt him, thoughts running through her mind even faster than his.

"Well, we have to do something about it. She's a traitor now. I intend to treat her like I would any other ThunderClan scum."

Icefang hummed in agreement. He didn't hate his sister, but she wasn't very dear to him. He knew(and cared) more about the life of a ThunderClan queen. But how could someone of his own blood, raised by the same two parents, end up so much different than he was?

Seeming to read his thoughts, the sleek-furred cat turned to face him. "Don't worry, I won't take my anger out on you. I know you're not like her. But don't think you're off the hook."

The conversation came to a brief stop as she stretched, before hopping onto a log. One of their usual meeting places, although this time they were two members short. Waiting for Icefang to settle, she thought some more, choosing her words. She occupied her vision with a small butterfly, resting on a wildflower.

"I need you to help me.."

Her cold gaze met his eyes.

It was a look so intense, it made his fur stand on end, his whole body become frigid. Open hostility, raw power that her body didn't possess. He had never seen her like this before.

"Eliminate her."

Chapter 9 (Moon)

"You're joking, right?" Puddlestep growled.

Troutfin shook his head, sighing. "No."

"The kits will come any day now. How could you tell her?" She demanded, voice rising.

"She's my sister! She has a right to know," Troutfin snapped.

Puddlestep sighed. "Don't worry, it's fine. They'll protect us."

"Who's 'they'?" He asked.

"ThunderClan," Puddlestep replied.

"Right." Troutfin mewed.

He hesitated. "Puddlestep... Is there a chance you could come back to RiverClan?"

Puddlestep sighed, staring at him, eyes shining. "No, Troutfin. I'm sorry. But I belong here in ThunderClan."

Troutfin nodded slowly. "I understand."

"Thank you," She purred.

Troutfin's heart twinged. "I love you, Puddlestep."

"I love you too."

He twined his tail with Puddlestep, feeling like he was drowning in the stale pond.

He kept his mouth shut, but felt the tears brew.

He couldn't leave RiverClan.

But he also couldn't leave his mate.

Chapter 10 (Ratty)

"I am finally going to destroy ThunderClan, and I am going to start with you."

The words repeated in Puddlestep's mind, indefinitely echoing no matter what she thought of. It was lurking after her, like an eagle diving into the water, about to break the surface to catch an unsuspecting fish, frozen in time.

But when would it complete the hunt? It had to happen eventually, for life to resume just as everyone had planned.

She had said that ThunderClan would protect her. But would they really? Was she just saying that in the fruitless attempts to convince herself into believing that she could ever be safe after making the decision to stay?

Can I really stop the destruction of ThunderClan? was one of the many anxious thoughts that occupied- no, cluttered her mind. Puddlestep had never before felt so hopeless and unsure.

ThunderClan was so beautiful to her. They had just wanted the RiverClan territories for space for their growing clan. The cats were truly kind, accepting to strangers, presumably loners.

Puddlestep herself had doubts to pull through with the plan, but staying was a more recent development. Pondering like she was new to the concept of thinking. Was she really okay with abandoning Puddlestep, and becoming Bluestrike?

Well, there was no going back now.

Stress is not good for my kits. Stress is not good for my kits. She continued the silent chant in her head, staring at the wall of the nursery. She had already revealed that she was expecting kits, it wasn't like she could hide it once it became obvious. But nobody could know that Troutfin was the father.

She got to her paws, determination in her beautiful eyes, the ones that entranced Troutfin countless times. She wouldn't die, not yet. Her kits deserved a mother, for at least a little while. Puddlestep strode forward, into the camp clearing. She uttered a small greeting to a warrior passing by.

For as long as I can, I will provide my kits with a mother. She vowed inaudibly.

-

Puddlestep was going to have her kits today.

Mere hours after she had promised herself to give her kits a mother.

"I need fresh air, I'll be back." She hastily explained to a concerned medicine cat. "Do you need me to come with you?"

"No, no." The panic was evident in her voice. This was her first time kitting, obvious in her eyes and tone. The medicine cat nodded, but they both knew that the medicine cat would arrive as soon as possible to help her despite her wishes.

Puddlestep briskly walked out of camp. Well, as briskly as a heavily pregnant queen can walk. She began to instinctively walk down a path that she tended to go down when she needed to have a breath of air after a fine day in camp.

But it was becoming more and more exhausting to pick her paws up and put them down again. Her paws simply felt heavy. Were they coming now? So soon? Her breathing became more labored. Why? Why now? She screamed at herself in her head, dragging herself down into a bramble bush, appearing on the other side. It smelled earthy, not like ThunderClan, but like no cat at all. There was the smell of dirt, and an injured rabbit..

This was where the RiverClan cats sometimes held meetings. She felt herself sink into the grass, sheer pain crossing her face. "Troutfin!" She attempted to call, but her voice was strained, almost silent. Please, please. I want you to be here with me. She thought, begging to Troutfin in her head as if he'd come to her rescue. Little did she know, her beloved mate was at the other side of the territory, hunting and chatting with her brother, Icefang.

She felt her first kit. "Troutfin!"

Nothing.

How could she be so stupid?

"Troutfin isn't coming to save you."

She whipped her head around. The soft, although angry growl came from the trees. "No. Please, don't do this to me." She sobbed, reaching out a paw only for it to be calmly patted away. The cat smelled like moss, she had obviously masked her scent.

As the feline came closer, Puddlestep began to make out more details. Sleek, silver fur, shining in the small amounts of sunlight escaping from the canopies and into the small area. Little strands of discolored, otter-brown fur.

Silverscale's blue eyes were full of contempt.

She simply sat down and stared at Puddlestep as she had her two kits, and then stepped forward. "You will never see how these kittens grow up. You will never get to play with them, hunt with them, laugh with them, anything."

Shoving her face into Puddlestep's, she could feel her breath tickle her whiskers as their foreheads pressed against each other. "Because you'll be dead. And you can't see your happy little family from the dark forest, traitor."

The third kit was coming.

"Please, you can kill me when you kill the rest of ThunderClan- Please-" She broke off with a shrill wail. The RiverClan cat stepped forward. "I hope you regret every single decision you have ever made that leads up to this." Silverscale let out a small chuckle, before diving forward.

Puddlestep's throat was in her jaws. The queen gasped for air as Silverscale began to tighten her grip. Soon, she was drawing blood.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Her mouth was open, gaping like a fish drying in the sun. My beautiful kits. My beautiful mate. My beautiful life. Weakly struggling, she failed to scratch her attacker, much too weak to even take any clumps of fur with her. "No.. No-!"

Her final words were cut off with a sickening gargle, blood spurting out of her injury. Silverscale whipped her head back, effectively ripping out the other she-cat's throat. "Goodbye, ThunderClan scum." She whispered, small droplets of blood dripping off of her jaw. Puddlestep, hanging on to a thread of life, jerked at her feet, attempting to speak but not making any sound that could be understood as words.

"S-ilve- er.. sca a a-le..." She choked out, blood bubbling at the corners of her mouth as she reached out a paw, trying to find comfort in her final moments. Silverscale looked at the near-dead body, and turned away, noticing that the final kit had been born. With her bloodied teeth, she opened the sac that it was born in, and watched as the kit took its first breaths, as its mother took her last.

Her whiskers twitched in a feline smile as a droplet of its mother's blood dripped onto its forehead. She picked it up and placed it at the dead queen's belly. Use the final bit of warmth wisely. Silverscale thought to herself, before walking a few feet away to look at the half-buried, injured rabbit, its leg hanging off by almost a sliver of bone. She put it out of its misery, the blood adding to the amount around her maw.

Not bothering to look behind her, she made her way to the river, to unsuspiciously rinse her face, and to wash her fur.

The eagle had caught the fish.

She had won this battle.

Now it was time to win the war.

Chapter 11 (Moon)

Troutfin gazed at his mate, and at the tufts of silver fur that lay scattered on the ground. Silverscale’s fur. His three kits had suffered so much, and they would suffer more, if they weren't dead by dawn. Oh, Puddlestep... He thought, heart aching. His kits... his poor kits...

He let out a wail of remorse. His first kit was stillborn. The second and third were alive.

Troutfin pressed his nose to his mate’s flank and said his goodbyes. A breeze passed over the clearing, and it sounded to Troufin that like the swishing ferns were saying I’ll wait for you in StarClan. He let the tears come.

A small gurgle attracted his attention to the kits. The dead kit looked like him, he decided to name her. Thunderkit. He thought. After your mother.

The second kit, a tom, looked like Puddlestep. Easy. Puddlekit.

And finally, the third kit. There was a small droplet of blood on the kit’s forehead, and her fur glinted like silver. Not like silver. Like steel. Steelkit.

He dug a small hole, carefully placing the kit inside. With another caterwaul of pain, he covered it.

The small mound of dirt stung Troutfin’s eyes. He glanced around, spotting a flowerbush nearby.

He carefully picked them, placing them on Thunderkit’s grave. The same with Puddlestep. 

The graves were beautiful and horrible at the same time. His two kits, without their mother's warmth, would die before morning if he didn't get them back to camp.

He gritted his jaw, mind made up. He would not be returning to RiverClan.

He picked them up by their scruffs and began the trek back to ThunderClan camp. The kits’s breathing was shallow, their weakness spurring him on.

Now that he was at the river, he would destroy any and all ThunderClan cats that stood between them. But he wouldn’t be a RiverClan cat. ShadowClan appealed to him, and perhaps WindClan.

He’d make up his mind later, right now the only important descision would be which queen to give the kits to. 

He walked into the camp, grief shadowing his gaze. “Patchtail! What happened?” Yarrowstalk mewed, seeing the kits. He placed them at the medicine cat’s paws. “My kits.” He choked out. “Pud- Bluestrike’s kits.”

Yarrowstalk’s eyes widened. “You were the father?” He asked. Troutfin nodded. “Where is she?” Troutfin shook his head. “She’s… gone.” He finally said, mew cracking.

Yarrowstalk’s eyes widened even more, so they resembled a trout out of water. “I’m sorry” was all the medicine cat said, before he began inspecting the kits. “They’re healthy, but they need milk.” Yarrowstalk concluded.

Troutfin nodded at the nursery. “Who’ll take them?” Yarrowstalk shrugged. “There’s only one she-cat who can,” He mewed. Troutfin picked up the kits again, following the yellow tom towards the large den.

Yarrowstalk was already conversing rapidly with Snowfeather. “Can I see them?” Snowfeather mewed. Troutfin dropped the two kits at her paws, next to Heatherkit and Lavenderkit. “What are their names?” She inquired. “Puddlekit and Steelkit respectively,” Troutfin murmured.

Snowfeather nodded. “I’ll take them.” She shifted her hind legs, allowing the kits to snuggle closer. “There was a third,” Troutfin mumbled regretfully. “Thunderkit.”

Snowfeather nodded, she could clearly relate. “I know. I lost one too. Rosekit.” Troutfin didn’t reply, gazing at his kits with teary eyes. “Will they know who their father is?” Troutfin murmured. Snowfeather hesitated, then her head bobbed up and down slowly. “Yes.” “And their mother?” He asked. “Yes.”

Troutfin felt the grief smother him and he almost cried out with the pain. “Thank you,” He whispered, before turning and running out of the den, out of the camp, off the territory. He ran to her grave.

“Puddlestep,” He murmured, sitting next to it. “I’m so sorry. I never meant for you to leave like this. I shouldn’t have told Silverscale.” And then the flood of tears came.

He glanced at the flower-strewn grave that covered his lost mate. “Our kits,” He whispered thickly, “Are so beautiful. They outshine the morning sun.” The flowers were still on the grave, despite the warm breeze that floated around.

Troutfin inhaled and exhaled, emotions bubbling around inside of him. Patchtail, that was what they had re-named him to. He wasn’t sure he wanted to keep the name Troutfin anymore. RiverClan was a part of him, but of his past. The other clans were his future.

“Hello, brother,” Silverscale mewed, padding out of the dry foliage behind him. His muscles tensed and he unsheathed his claws, rage broiling over the sides.

“You monster!” He shouted, turning to face her. Her blue eyes glimmered with what looked like fear. Troutfin snarled, preparing to pounce on her.

And pounce on her he did.

She thrashed under him, but he was heavier, and a skilled fighter. He already had more body mass, and adrenaline and livid hate were giving him the energy he needed.

“What are you doing?” She screeched. “What you did to Puddlestep.” He snarled in reply, imagining the gory death he would bring. He would see the lights fade from her eyes.

“We were siblings!” Silverscale yowled angrily, writhing under his sharp claws. “You’re adopted.” He retorted, rubbing salt in the wound.

“I- You- Off-” Silverscale managed, his claws digging into her throat. “Why should I show you mercy?” He growled, “When you showed her none?”

Her eyes flashed. “Because I spared your kits.” He hesitated. “Their souls are worth ten of yours each.” He growled at her. “And Puddlestep’s soul forty.”

“That may be,” Silverscale said, “But your kits are alive.”

“I’ll spare you.” Troutfin said finally. “But stay away from me and my family.” He stepped off of her chest, and she stood, her sleek fur matted and dirty.

“We were siblings,” Silverscale murmured again, softer. Troutfin glared at her. The despicable act of killing Puddlestep had fractured their relationship, and they would never see each other in the same way again.

“Leave.” He growled. Silverscale stared at him for a moment, and he matched her gaze. She knew he was the more able-bodied of the two. She dipped her head and padded away. Troutfin watched her go with mixed feelings. Sorrow. Anger. Hatred. And nonchalance. He turned back towards Puddlestep’s grave. The flowers stirred slightly, and he watched them. A cool breeze swept in again, and carried the flowers away.

Grief seemed to crush him. It was difficult for him to breathe. This was how it ended. His relationship deteriorated between his sister before his very eyes, because he hadn’t been there to protect Puddlestep. All of this was ThunderClan’s fault. When they had conspired against RiverClan, Troutpaw and Puddlepaw had been colleagues, acquaintances.

Nothing more.

If ThunderClan hadn’t driven them out, Puddlestep would be alive. His kits wouldn’t exist. He would still have his sister.

“I love you, Puddlestep.” He whispered thickly. And suddenly, he was overcome with a feeling he’d never experienced before, never even dreamed about. He was suddenly overcome with a sensation of calm. But it was more that that. It wasn’t just calm. It was… His tense muscles relaxed and he sighed in relief. His shoulders ached, but he was alert, more awake than he had ever been. He could now identify the feeling. He smiled. It seemed so ridiculous, so ludicrous... But it was true. That emotion... He laughed. It was inner peace.

Chapter 12 (Ratty)

Silverscale padded away, her bristling coat eventually settling down. Of course Troutfin was upset, how could he not be? She had killed his mate, after all. It had been for the benefit of RiverClan. She was by far one of the loyalest warriors, and she thought that her brother- no, just Troutfin now, would be as well.

Had love really been the cause of his corruption?

If he truly loved Puddlestep, he would’ve chosen what was best for her. She dismissed in her mind, settling herself down on a low tree branch on one of the territory’s large oaks.

She gazed at the sky, taking in the distant rain clouds. What she’d do to get a bit of water in this forest, especially since the part of the territory that was once RiverClan was just out of her reach, almost untouched. If she really didn’t mind getting caught, she could just go for a swim.

Emerging from her thoughts, she shook her head. Silverscale stretched, her front paws resting on the ground while her hind legs remained on the wood. She got off with a small hop, and opened her jaws to scent the air. The river was just south from where she was currently, she could smell it.

It reeked of mouse and forest scents. She sighed, wishing the lake or creeks in their old territory weren't off-limits yet. It wasn’t common for a cat to like swimming, and she didn’t want to reveal her secret or have someone reveal it for her. 

She settled her mind with the simple promise of walking along the river. The bubbling sounds of it’s small waterfalls and little creeks never ceased to calm her.

There was a large, flat-topped rock that absorbed just the right amount of sunlight. She leaped onto it, feeling almost instantly relaxed. The silver feline yawned, sitting down and shutting her eyes. Soon, she was sprawled out, taking nearly the entire amount of space up.

She fell into a calming sleep, 

or so she thought.

Silverscale was surrounded by nothing. She was floating in the void, her vision occupied only by her grey paws, flailing aimlessly about. She shut her eyes, her whiskers contentedly twitching.

Opening her eyes once again, it appeared that the environment she was in was slowly materializing into RiverClan’s territory. She was by the water, in a place where she frequently tussled with Troutfin, Troutpaw, then.

She sniffed the air, but her senses were dulled. She couldn’t even smell the river that was just at her feet. Confused, she looked upwards. Silverscale padded along the bank, walking into the forest as a shortcut to one of the larger waterfalls in the territory.

Her paws took her to where she needed to go, but suddenly, she hunkered down in a graceful crouch, the kind that a cat used exclusively on land. She wasn’t an apprentice in this territory when she learned that, though..

Her head pushed through some ferns, and she saw a similarly sized feline, calmly lapping at the water just by the edge where the water crashed down into the river.

It was Puddlestep.

Well, Puddlepaw.

Lowering slightly, Silverscale felt herself smile.

Launching out of the ferns, she tackled the other apprentice. Her howl of fear sounded distant to her own ears, her own paws resting on Puddlepaw’s fur didn’t feel like hers, numbly pressing against her as her claws dug into the other cat’s dark blue-grey fur.

They fell over the edge of the waterfall, crashing into the river just below. But Puddlepaw didn’t hit the ground of the shallow water. She sank.

They were sinking in the endless void that was now the river, like an ocean swallowing them both up.

Lurching forward, Silverscale dug her teeth into Puddlepaw’s neck. She was shocked by the pure flavor that came from the bite, the blood flowing out of her injury until the water turned into a deep red. She continued to bite, the sweetness of Puddlepaw’s blood flooding her senses, stronger than it had been when she had been awake. 

It was so sweet, so delicious..

The horror in the other cat’s eyes began to fade as she died again, the only bubbles in the water now coming from Silverscale. 

She felt herself need to take a breath.

Opening her mouth to breathe, she realized she couldn’t. She began to paddle for the surface, paws reaching out, flailing. There was a blackness that seemed to creep onto her, and then a crippling pain in her lungs. Bubbles came out of her mouth, the last of her precious oxygen as she flailed.

There was no surface to get to.

Silverscale woke up with a shallow gasp, light blue eyes shooting open.

Her throat was dry, as if she had been exerting herself past what was healthy.

She shut her eyes again, allowing herself to breathe. In, out. In, out. 

Silverscale got to her feet, padding to a log nearby. Across the river, she saw a white she-cat.

The cat leapt into the river, swimming towards her with RiverClan grace.

“Silverscale, there you are.” She purred, although her eyes and tone were concerned. “I was getting worried and I came over. Are you okay?”

She nodded.

“Sorry about that, Sleetfall.” She hummed, sitting down. Sleetfall did the same. “So, what’s our update? Last time I came over you said that you were almost ready.”

“Oh, I was just about to say!” Silverscale smiled. “We’re finally ready to complete the mission. We’ll need our warriors! I hope that Creekblaze and Reedgale trained you well?” “They were brilliant!” Sleetfall’s blinding smile was contagious. “I’ll let them know. Is there anything we should know?”

Sleetfall and Silverscale discussed. What their plans were, where they should come from, and other important things.

Troutfin peered out from the top of the waterfall. The pounding of the water crashing down upon the rocks was covering up most of what the two she-cats were conversing about, but he heard multiple key words, and he got the idea: they were ready to attack.

Panic bubbled in his chest. He had to keep his kits safe. He stared down at the she-cats for another moment before turning and wading back to the shore, where he broke into a run. One thing was for certain: He would not let his kits be harmed.

“Great. I’ll come with the clan as soon as possible.”

The two she-cats butted their heads together affectionately. They were already friends before Silverscale went to ThunderClan, so they had jumped at the opportunity for her to become the check-in and messenger cat. 

The plan was running once again.

Silverscale decided to mentally say goodbye to ThunderClan,

seeing as they would all be dead soon.

Epilogue (Ratty and Moon)

The battle was harsh. 

Troutfin was adamant about protecting the kits, but it was hard to find a safe space in the ThunderClan camp. He resorted to a crude shelter by digging a hole under a briar bush and shoving the kits underneath. 

He exchanged a nod with Silverscale and they both understood; Troutfin would eliminate ThunderClan with the rest of them. 

It seemed like the RiverClan cats appeared out of nowhere, pooling into the ThunderClan camp, teeth bared and claws unsheathed. 

Troutfin saw not with his eyes but his instincts, slashing and jabbing, rolling and ducking, bringing vengeance. He wouldn’t be staying in RiverClan, but ThunderClan deserved to pay for driving out the clan. 

His clan. 

Someone, seeing not RiverClan but Troutfin as the real threat in the camp, launched themselves at Troutfin. Without a word, he snapped the cat’s neck. 

It was Snowfeather, his kits’ adoptive mother. 

His heart sank but he looked the other way, diving back into the fray of battle. 

It wasn’t until after that he would realize Snowfeather was the first ThunderClan casualty. 

Silverscale wasn’t fighting. Not much, anyway. All around her, cats were yowling and struggling in the throes of battle. But instead of completely destroying all ThunderClan cats, she was searching.

Striking a ginger tom across the face, leaving him howling blindly, she looked over her shoulder at the dug-up hole, nearly crumbling whenever cats charged past. There. That was where she needed to go.

She was approached by a she-cat, trembling with rage. “You-!” She snarled, although it didn’t faze Silverscale. “You traitor, I- we trusted you!” She cried, claws unsheathed. Silverscale lifted her lips, showing her teeth. “You have no idea how much you affected our clan. This is our revenge.” She raised her paw, and before the other she-cat could blink, she struck.

Like a cat scooping a fish out of the water.

And the other feline was on the ground in almost an instant. “Us RiverClan cats used to trust ThunderClan, too.”

And with a few angered swipes to the throat, the other she-cat was on the ground, reduced to a twitching dead body, one of the many that littered the camp.

She approached the makeshift burrow. Lowering her head, she sniffed at the entrance. Silverscale wrinkled her nose as the smell of kitten invaded her senses. 

Putting a paw inside, she felt the soft pelt of one of the two kits. Roughly, she unsheathed her claws to hook it into the nape of its neck, and pulled it out of the nest. It was the only way she could get it out, as the entrance was too small to bring her head through. 

Mewling in pain and indignance, the kit looked up at her with confused blue eyes. It was Puddlekit, Silverscale huffed. She put her paw down again, but couldn’t seem to grasp at Steelkit, which was pushed up in the corners. After a couple tries, Silverscale gave up and picked up Puddlekit in her jaws. She didn’t want to risk all three of them dying if a ThunderClan cat decided to come over and investigate what she was up to.

She tasted the blood of Puddlekit’s bleeding scruff as she carried her, walking outside of the camp. There Icefang was, bloodied. There was a patch of multicolored fur hanging out of his mouth, and multiple clumps of hair cluttered up the small clearing that they were in. “Are you satisfied with the amount of cats you got?” She asked, watching as the tom cleaned the blood off of his almost-white pelt, none of it his. “Yes, I killed many warriors. I’ll take the kit, then?” Silverscale nodded, and he took Puddlekit in his jaws.

The battle raged hours, the sun once barely risen in the sky almost sinking deep beneath the horizon.

At long last, the final ThunderClan warrior fell dead. All except for one.

The grim stares of the RiverClan warriors fell on the final living ThunderClan cat. He was an apprentice, frozen and petrified, in a stance of pure horror as he stared at the silent camp. Paws coated with grime, face contorted in a silent yowl. 

Troutfin remembered the vow he had made long ago. He would kill every last apprentice that had what should have been his.

RiverClan rejoiced.

ThunderClan was gone.

And there were no second guesses, as the bodies piled up in the camp.

Making their way out of the clearing, the limping group of cats reveled in the finality of what they had done. Silverscale padded over to Icefang, checking up on Puddlekit.

The blueish she-kit was flecked with blood, although upon closer inspection it wasn’t hers. Silverscale gave Icefang a flick of the ear and turned her head, gaze brushing the entrance of the ThunderClan camp, where movement stirred. 

She observed Troutfin making his way out of camp, warm, fresh blood trickling down his muzzle. He gathered up his daughter, Steelkit, and began to make his way over the rise of a hill. He raised his head, and their eyes met.

There was no hatred, only acceptance. 

The acceptance that they’d never see each other again, as long as one of them lived.

Troutfin gave her a small nod, which she returned, face blank of expression.

He turned his head and disappeared over the hill.

The she-cat’s eyes lingered on where he stood.

A crack of thunder split the gracious silence, causing the RiverClan warriors to gaze up at the darkening sky. A droplet of rain splashed onto Silverscale’s muzzle, her whiskers twitching. She allowed herself a bittersweet smile of victory as rain began to pour down.

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