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Chapter One - Lyric

I am alone in the dark, shadowy woods. There is a malicious, almost but not quite psycotic smile on my face.

The wind ruffles my fur and stirs the water at my paws.

I hear screams.

I am serene on the outside.

On the inside, I am hollow. An empty shell of what I was.

"Swiftgale?" I turn my head, preparing to unleash hell on the cat who interrupted my daydreaming, until I see who it is.

I lower my gaze, face burning as the sneering ThunderClan cat approaches me.

"Zoning out again, were you?" ThunderClan cats have such a high-pitched, nasal voice. 

I keep my face straight, my eyes glassy, trained on my paws.

"I apologize, Hightail." My voice is a toneless murmur.

He snorts. "Dawn patrol and duty, just for that."

I blink, fighting to keep my face blank. "Yes, Hightail." 

He rolls his eyes, not in the mood for my prattling or my empty-headedness. 

That's just fine for me.

I sit down, trying to recollect my dream, but it's gone.

I lash my tail in frustration, but it's no use.

Growling, I storm into the warriors den and curl up in my nest. Well, the nest that was given to me.

When ThunderClan attacked the Clans, wiping out ShadowClan enslaving us, and forcing us to become ThunderClan cats, they forced us into their camp.

It was a harsh lifestyle, but it wasn't as bad as what the RiverClan cats endured.

They aren't allowed to fish anymore. Anyone caught fishing or hunting WindClan food will be killed.

It's stupid. This all is. I hate true ThunderClan, but there's nothing I can do.

I look around, but he isn't here.

The one cat who can placate me, keep me on earth for more than two minutes.

My spirits soar as I look around, and then fall. I imagine a thud.

He isn't here.

I sigh, curling up tighter.

WindClan cats used to have longer winter pelts, but ThunderClan managed to steal that from us, too, by assigning us mates.

We interbred with RiverClan, and adopted their sleek, shiny pelts, or with ThunderClan, and got their scruffy, medium-length fur.

Almost no one in camp is pure WindClan or pure RiverClan, we all have some percentage of ThunderClan in our blood. 

I divert my thoughts from that, never staying on one subject for long. It makes it less painful.

Finally, he enters the den. My head shoots up. "Rainshower?" I say in a relieved whisper.

He sits next to me, smiling. He smells like pine and wood smoke. "Piperleaf agreed to be my mate!" 

I feel a twinge of jealousy, then a surge of surprise. Jealousy? Where did that come from? I find myself forcing a smile. "Congratulations!"

He purrs, curling up next to me. I shiver, but not from the cold.

Why did that annoy me so much?

Chapter Two - Lyric

Rainshower has abandoned me. Not literally, but figuratively. He doesn't have time for me anymore, now that Piperleaf is expecting his kits.

When I heard that, I ran out of the den, trying so much not to cry that my stomach hurt. It's odd, really, he's only a friend!

At least, I tell myself that.

I'm alone.

Hightail picks on me constantly. Dawn patrol is my life, now, I never get a break.

Do I deserve one?

No.

The answer is no.

I eat alone. I sleep alone. I drink alone. I do my duties in silence.

But I'm hurting inside.

Rainshower has practically forgotten me. I approached him with a vole yesterday, and his face went blank for two seconds before he remembered me.

He forgot me. That hurts more.

I blink back tears, stretch, and walk out of the warriors den. I'm lonely, why deny it? It's not like anyone will ever pay enough attention to me to figure it out.

"Hey, Swiftgale!" A nasal voice calls. I wince, turning reluctantly towards Hightail. "You have enough yet?" He jeers.

I don't reply, tears have welled up in my eyes. "Yeah!" He crows. "Why don't you get those bees out of your brain?"

My head snaps up. That insult I will not tolerate.

The ThunderClan leader made my mother a mockery, making her warrior name 'Beebrain' instead of 'Beestribe' or 'Beesting' or something.

He laughs. "What are you gonna do about it?" I flinch. Good question. One of his lackeys throws something at me; a stick.

I bite down on it, trying to suppress my anger and revulsion toward these ThunderClan cats.

"Let's go." He says in a loud voice. "She isn't worth our time." They stride away, leaving me a huddled, frightened ball in the middle of camp.

The tears slide down my face and I stare at my paws. My odd paws. My whole body is odd.

I'm a sandy tabby, very noticeable in contrast with the other's darker pelts. There are black patches all over my fur, and my nose is black also. My eyes are odd, lime green, a color shared by no other cat.

My mother would tell me I was special. But I'm a freak.

Chapter Three - Obscure

The moon shines down on me, lifting me. It reflects off the water with a shimmer that can only be described as magical. I often come out her, just for a break. I've been caught once. It was two moons in prison, not like I cared. My whole life was prison anyway. I wish that I could disappear... I even contemplated killing myself, but what would They do to my mother then? My father? Little Streampaw?

"What is going on here?" A low voice snarled. I look up, scared and guilty. It was Darkpelt, one of my captors. She smiled at me in triumph.

"I..." My words failed me, and I gave her a look injected with as much hatred as possible. She sighed.

"Oh, Lakeglow," she murmered, "It would be such a shame if Streampaw met her unfortunate end so young..." Darkpelt crooned.

I froze. Blackmail was common in my world, but this? Intolerable. Threatening my sister was not something a wise cat would do. And Darkpelt is not a wise cat.

"Do not blackmail me," I hiss, my hackles rising.

She glared at me coldly, "You are in no position to make threats."

I glare right back. I have been told me gaze is intimidating. Hot and blue.

"Come with me, Lakeglow, and no cat will be harmed," Darkpelt meowed smoothly.

"Fine," my voice comes out as a growl. She is right, there is nothing I can do. If Streampaw is to stay alive, that is. I follow Darkpelt from the lake, up into the ThunderClan camp. Most of the RiverClan cats were allowed to stay in our old home, with ThunderClan warriors to supervise them, but I was among the cats forced to leave. Along with my mother and sister. And, luckily, my best friend Palefeather.

We arrive, and I slink off to my den. I feel Darkpelt's harsh yellow gaze burning my pelt as I leave. I know that is not the end of it.

My tail drifts over my nose as I settle into my nest. Palefeather nudges me.

"Up by the lake again?" She asks.

"Yes," I sigh, "I was caught."

"No!' She hisses in horror, "Darkpelt?"

"Yeah," my voice is tiny, "I'm worried about my family."

"You should be," Palefeather growls, "That was a stupid mistake."

"Don't remind me," I groan, "They know they can't get to me by hurting me."

"Just... lay low for a while, 'kay?" she murmurs.

"I'll try," I sigh.

And sleep takes me.

The dreaming forest is my home. RiverClan. Oh how I've missed it, with the beautiful streams and amazing views. I'm in our camp, with Streampaw beside me. It's empty but for us.

"Why is it so dark?" Streampaw whimpers.

"I don't know," I tell her.

"Something's wrong," Streampaw hisses, "Something's not right."

"Shh, Streampaw," I soothe, "Let's investigate."

And the world falls.

Streampaw is dragged away screaming by unseen paws, and I screech as claws pierce my pelt. What have we done? I gasp, pain shooting through me. And it went dark.

Chapter Four - Obscure

I woke up with a gasp. Darkpelt was prodding me with a wicked grin on her face. I got up slowly.

"We have a surprise for you," my rival hissed.

I rolled my eyes, "Punishment, no doubt."

"I think this one will convince you that we don't tolerate insolence," she told me.

My family.

I followed Darkpelt, my face steely and cold. Inside I was dying. My mother rushed to me, her seal point fur against mine. We looked so alike, the only difference being our eyes. Mine were bright blue and her's were faded green.

"What are they doing?" My voice was tight with pain.

"It's not your fault," My mother, Reedfur, hissed. Before I could ask, she ran away and took her place beside Streampaw. She immediately began fussing over my sister, her eyes so full of pain.

Darkpelt escorts me to the centre of the circle of cats. They all stare and gasp. The ThunderClan leader struts out into the clearing.

"Cats," he began, "It is time to witness a terrible event. Yet it is necessary."

Duststar looks out on us, his face betraying no emotion.

"Darkpelt, my deputy, please step up and do the honors."

Darkpelt took her place beside the leader. She calls out, "Streampaw!"

My sister looks at me, her face shocked and eyes watering.

"Say your goodbyes..." Darkpelt hisses.

"What?" I gasp, "No, please!"

I think quickly. I can save Streampaw if I just...

"Live brightly, sister," Streampaw breathes. Her voice is soft and sad.

"No, no, no!" I yelp, "This is all wrong, Streampaw!"

"Get on with it," Duststar growls, "Lakeglow, watch. Now."

The world is ending, I can't do this anymore...

Darkpelt takes a menacing step towards Streampaw. Reedfur lets out a whimper.

"I'm sorry," I gasp, "Take me. Kill me."

The last thing Streampaw ever saw was the broken look on my face as I offered myself to them.

Her body thumps to the ground, her grey pelt matted with blood. I want to scream, to yell. Reedfur yowls her anguish.

Blood roars in my ears as Darkpelt's face split in a smile.

Chapter Five - Lyric

I stare at the dead apprentice, then at the cat who must be her sister.

I wish I could console her, but what can I do?

Nothing.

Grim panic nestles itself in me.

Then I remember what Hightail did to my family the first time.

I shudder, but at least there's no way he can hurt me.

I want to see the she-cat. She, among all the cats of 'ThunderClan', knows what it feels like to suffer.

But I can't.

Why not? I ask myself fiercely.

I don't even know her name, for starters, and we aren't supposed to socialize with cats from a different clan.

When I heard this, I retorted with, "We're all ThunderClan, though, aren't we?"

They killed my mother for that.

Then my brother, and my sister, and my father, who I never loved, and then, finally, my apprentice.

Because I got too attached.

I wouldn't let her suffer at the paws of the ThunderClan leader. So instead of a quick death, they killed her slowly.

It was all my fault.

I want to wail, scream, growl, attack, but that would do me no good.

I would be murdered most likely, unless I was spared, my tongue cut off, and forced into exile.

Where are the ThunderClan cats from the past?

The ones who were brave and kind?

I look around, my oddly pigmented eyes shrewd and guarded.

Then I realize that they are right here. And it is not the cats of ThunderClan who are the problem, but the ones in positions of power.

Padding over to her, I introduce myself, conscious of the RiverClan overseer watching me with narrowed eyes.

"Hi," I say. "I'm Swiftgale." She manages a nod, there are tears running down her face and pooling in her eyes. "L-Lakeglow," She mumbles, and her sorrow makes me seethe with anger, and I have to flatten my hackles with tremendous effort.

"I think we should talk." I say to her, openly defying the rules.

Chapter Six - Lyric

Again, in the shadowy woods. I am somewhere else, however, and I am watching something, I'm not sure what yet, from a clump of bushes.

"Coriander," One cat growls to the other, "What news is there?"

The cat named Coriander lifts her chin, I can tell it's a she-cat. "Another killing."

The cat on the right, a tom, most likely, sighs. "Only one?"

Coriander nods.

"Bah. Duststar is getting lazy," He growls, lashing his tail.

"Again, Swiftgale?" Hightail's tone is dripping with false despair. "I guess I'll have to teach you a lesson."

I don't know who he's referring to, but I don't want to see another cat die. "No," I breathe, panicked, as two of the WindClan guards drag a cat out of our den in the ThudnerClan camp.

"Swiftgale, stop!" Someone shrieks. I whirl around, seeing Rainshower is the cat being dragged by the guards.

"What are you doing to him?" I demand to no-one in particular, horror engulfing me.

"We noticed you had no family left," Duststar hisses. "So we went with your best friend."

I shake my head. "He isn't."

"Good. Then you won't have a problem slitting his throat for me?" He asks.

There are gasps and shouts of outrage as I step towards him, his wide blue eyes alight with terror.

"Swiftgale, no!" He croaks, before I slash my claws on his throat.

He gives a horrible gurgle and falls limp.

I stare down at him, and I realize Duststar's words are true.

I don't have a problem with it.

His blood is sticky on my paws as I sheathe my claws.

I turn and glare at Duststar. The clan is silent. I blink once, as if in shock, my jaws slightly parted.

Someone comes forward. It is Coriander, from my dream, and I'm about to protest when her eye color shifts and it turns from an icy blue to a familiar brown, although I can't place it.

My head is spinning, the smell of the blood making me gag.

"Come on," she murmurs, "Let's get you to Petalwing."

Petalwing is True ThunderClan's medicine cat. The smell of blood is making me so sick I can't protest.

Chapter Seven- Obscure

I gag on the stench, my claws piercing the earth. I watch Swiftgale being led away, and feel a little anger towards her. I could never kill a cat like that. Not in cold blood. My own paws are sticky with blood, but from Streampaw's pelt. My muzzle is buried in my sister's fur, and Reedfur is slowly approaching.

What will she think of me? I wailed inside my head.

"I didn't think they'd kill her," My mother says her words slowly, as if she's forgotten how to speak. I catch my breath. She'd said it wasn't my fault, earlier...

But it was.

And Reedfur came to the same conclusion.

Her claws raked my back, "How could you do this?!" she screeched, teeth meeting my scruff and dragging me around. Blood spurts from a wound on my shoulder. Reedfur let out an enraged yowl, full of pain and sorrow, and anger. I don't fight back. I can't. It's my mother!

"Lakeglow!" Duststar barks, "Don't just stand there. Kill her. Prove your worth!"

"No," my voice is final, and I struggle to my paws, "No."

Darkpelt hisses with anger, darting forward and nipping my tail. I close my mind to the pain. Reedfur has paused in her wild frenzy and seems to have woken up. She shook her head and lifted her gaze to me, cloudy and pained.

"Lakeglow," she mumbles, "My head hurts..."

And I'm falling, shrieking, crumbling, fading... I'm there again. My gaze focuses, but I can't keep the terror out of my meow as I voice my worries, "Are you... Burned?"

Reedfur staggered, "I'm sorry, Lakeglow, I didn't mean too..."

"No, no, Reedfur!" I shrieked, blood making my paws slip. My mother collapsed.

"My head... hurts... there are things inside and they want to come out!" Reedfur screamed the last word.

Duststar let out a yowl, "Everyone outside the camp! We have an Infected!"

Cats began to stream out of the camp, faces livid with terror. I stayed, staring at my mother.

She's infected, she's got the Blaze! My mind sang, far too cheerfully. My world broke, and I sagged beside Reedfur.

Chapter Eight - Obscure

I sat down heavily beside my mother. She was tearing at the grass at her paws, a happy expression on her face.

"The spiders are in my head," she smiled at me, "They keep digging and digging and wanting to lay eggs in my head..."

I shudder, shrinking away. Reedfur was reduced to nothing, just like everyone else who was Burned. I was immune, I knew that. So I had no fears of catching The Blaze. The camp was empty, except for the Medicine cat and Swiftgale. And us.

"Stay calm," I pleaded Reedfur, "Don't worry."

"N-no no," my mother grinned, "Yes! Spiders... in my... head!"

Her voice rose to a scream, and she lashed out with sharp claws. Blood sprayed my pelt.

"Stop it!" I yelled, darting away.

She was Gone. Past the Gone, slashing and ripping and barely having a moment to breathe. I needed to dash to the other side of camp to get away. I was breathing heavily by the time she had calmed down. It hurt to see my mother like this, so broken. I could barely bare to watch as she folded in on herself, smiling all the while.

She looked up at me, "Don't sleep, Lakeglow..." her breathing slowed, "Don't sleep..."

What was happening? I couldn't lose so much kin in one day! Surely, StarClan would take pity on me...

"Hold on," I begged her, "Please. You raised me."

"Don't cry for me," she grinned creepily and slumped down, her legs crumpling under herself. My eyes widened, and my heart raced.

"Reedfur!" I gasped.

Her body stilled, and I let out a scream of rage.

I would never look to the stars again. They failed me.

I was just about ready to claw my own pelt, but a rustle from the dens opposite me stopped my venting.

Chapter Nine - Lyric

I stare at my claws numbly. The blood isn't there anymore, but I remember when it was.

I think of Lakeglow, the horrified expression on her face when I killed him, and Piperleaf, who's sobs keep me up at night.

And Lakeglow - why do I keep thinking about Lakeglow?

Why do I care?

Still, I can't help but remember the few second when we talked, when she smiled at me slightly, when her tears made me angry, how pretty her blue eyes looked when they were swimming with tears, and how her seal-point fur shone in the sunlight. Completely irrelevant, of course but still.

I sigh and stare at the empty den, covered in claw marks from the Burned.

How can Petalwing stand it?

Then again, maybe the reason she can stand it is because she's one of them.

One of the Burned.

I shudder, then want to scream.

Before, when I wouldn't black out, one of the elders told me a story.

When Petalwing was a kit, she would have sudden seizures. Then she'd stare off into space for the longest time. People whispered and talked and sometimes hid.

Then some other cat got the Blaze, and Petalwing was able to treat it. But she's never been quite right in the head.

She was the first cat with the Blaze. Only, she was healed.

Once, I asked Petalwing what she saw when she went out.

She told me, with a strange smile, that she would see something different every time she blacked out.

Petalwing was like me.

I stare at my paws. My vision is shaky.

Someone screams.

I think it was me.

Chapter Ten - Lyric

I see them. Massive squirrels with large foamy mouths. They zero in on me, one laughing it's head off.

"Hey," Petalwing says softly, jolting me out.

I squint in her direction, confused. "Huh?"

"Eat these, please." She pushes a handful of leaves towards me, and I eat them hesitantly.

Then the rabbits come, and the jays. So many jays. And they turn into maggots and try to crawl into me through my ears and my eyes and my mouth, and I'm screaming and thrashing...

The next time I wake up, Lakeglow is sitting in front of me.

She isn't looking at me, but at around.

I huff quietly, confused.

Seeing her gave me something I haven't had in... I don't know how long.

Clarity.

I sit up dizzily, stomach rumbling in protest.

She turns to face me. "Oh!" She murmurs.

"I'm hungry," I mutter, sitting back down.

"I'll, uh, bring you something," She mumbles, running out.

I wince as my stomach gurgles again.

Clarity? Really?

She comes back with a rabbit which I devour hungrily.

She settles back down, but I get the feeling she's watching me.

I change my mind. No, not clarity.

Then what?

It suddenly hits me. I cry out from the shock, nothing more.

It isn't clarity that Lakeglow has given me.

It's sanity.

Chapter Eleven - Obscure

I hum quietly, trying to put my paws in the right place. I was slightly dazed from everything that had happened, and even getting Swiftgale prey is a challenge. Luckily, now I have some down-time. I know by now that Swiftgale has the Blaze, but I'm immune. I'm also one of the only cats left in camp. It's just Swiftgale, Petalwing, me and the rest of the infected. I felt sick, but not in a Burned way.

Swiftgale is sitting up and eating, just finishing off her rabbit, "You can go, you know."

"Yeah," I pause, unsure of my choice, "But I'll stay..."

"You sure?" Swiftgale muttered, "No-one wants to be alone with the Infected."

I shake my head, and I don't know what compels my next words, "I do."

Swiftgale gazes at me for a moment, and I'm scared she'll attack me, but her head just bobs slowly. I sigh in relief and sit by her side. She's okay, really. Not the best company, I'll admit, but... Sitting alone with Reedfur feels worse. Her body is cold and Petalwing hasn't bothered to cover her in lavender yet. Like the normal. Reedfur deserves so much more, but I can't bring myself to speak to Petalwing. My heart is a bloody stone in my chest, weighing me down.

I wonder if I should let go.

Tear it out.

The thought sends a shudder down my body. That sounds like something an Infected would say... Am I burned? Is that it? But no, I was told I was immune... Petalwing said so... But am I? How would she know? Fear grips my heart and I want to scream.

But I'm still sane enough, so I don't.

For how long I don't know.

My words tumble out, gushing like a waterfall, "Swiftgale, what if I have the Blaze? What if I'm not immune? I don't feel sane! Help me..."

She blinks.

A raspy laugh comes from her chest, "You can't escape the Blaze..."

I scream quietly, I don't want to be here anymore. If I'm even Immune, I'll go insane soon enough. There's so many cats driven to the point of insanity by this time. By this life.

My heart is thumping. Hard. Please let me leave! My paws won't move, I can't move! Another scream. And then dead calm.

Chapter Twelve - Obscure

It's been two sunrises. The chill in my bones hasn't left. I'm curled up in my nest after a long day. Most cats have moved back after an Immune moved Reedfur. They dumped her in the stream. Little do they know that it probably poisoned our water supply. I can't control myself these days, but I'm not insane. Yet. I might have the Blaze, yeah, but it's not coming into full effect. Yet.

I stretch, needing movement. I pad outside and come face to face with Darkpelt.

Anger blasts like a furnace inside me, "What, Darkepelt?" I hiss.

"Duststar has a treat for you," she says, her voice sickly sweet, "And that cat, Swiftgale."

They don't know she's infected.

The realization is a drumbeat in my heart, buoying me up. A tingle spreads through me. This could be it- the turning point. We are soon in our leader's den, sitting by his entrance wall.

"Lakeglow, Swiftgale," Duststar says pleasantly, "I have a task for you."

Screw him.

"Yes?" Swiftgale asks. I think this is one of her 'moments of sanity'.

"Pray tell," I agree, using a polite manner to aggravate him.

His glare is hard, "You are lucky to be chosen. Go to Highstones. Enter Mothermouth..."

I gasp.

"And speak with StarClan," his voice is a spear, barbed and ready, ready to impale me. He scorns StarClan, I can tell. Just like me.

My face is a mask, "Why?"

Swiftgale tips her head, "And why us?"

"Oh, don't you worry," Duststar smiles, but there's nothing happy about him, "I'll be watching."

How?

"Tell the spirits the time for The Purge has come," he adds.

"The Purge?"

Chapter Thirteen - Lyric

I blink. "What is the Purge?"

I have to grit my teeth to stop from raking my claws down his face.

"The Purge... is a ceremony." He smiles wickedly, teeth glinting.

I exchange a look with Lakeglow.

"I see." I finally say. 

"When do we go?" Lakeglow asks.

"You go tomorrow. Rest up," He says, cackling.

I groan quietly and pad out before he can say anything.

I can hear his cackling, even once he's stopped. 

It's a ringing in my ears.

I glance at Lakeglow.

Please give me sanity.

Please.

I beg of you.

It's too late.

My sanity -- clarity -- has slipped away.

Just like Lakeglow.

I crawl into the medicine den, even though it's only early morning.

I squeeze my eyes shut and try to let sleep claim me.

It doesn't.

It takes time, and I finally give up.

I blink and stretch, and finally walk over to the dwindling fresh-kill pile that no one has replenished and take a vole from it. 

I gnaw on it, not swallowing, not thinking about a specific subject. 

My mind is whirling with the hallucinations of the Blaze, but I have to stay normal.

Duskstar cannot find out. 

He can't.

I will protect my secret. 

At any cost.

Chapter Fourteen - Lyric

Hightail prods me with a paw. "Get up," He growls.

I sigh, getting to my paws. He shoots me a deadly glare which I return with a scowl.

Rolling his eyes, he leads me out of the den. "You're lucky Duskstar's here," He hisses.

I laugh dryly. "Am I?"

With a snarl, he shoves me into Duststar's den.

Lakeglow and Duststar are glaring at each other, no words crossing between them.

I pierce the silence.

I take a sharp breath, trying to keep myself intact.

Lakeglow stares at me, urgency in her gaze.

We both agree.

We cannot let Duststar find out.

I give her a small nod and a flick of my ear.

I understand.

Duststar smirks. "What, nervous?"

I lower my gaze as he says, "You'd better be."

It snaps back up.

"What?" Lakeglow asks.

He chuckles. "You'll find out."

I shiver.

Lakeglow paws the ground.

"Is it time?" She asks.

He nods. "Go."

Lakeglow turns, and I follow.

Since we're going, and I'll most likely be killed, I do something entirely crazy.

I claw Duststar in the face.

And I laugh.

And then I storm out.

Chapter Fifteen - Obscure

I gape. Swiftgale just- she just-

What?

Duststar's eyes flare and he gives a low growl.

"She didn't mean it!" I yelp.

His eyes flicker to me, "I have a job for you," his voice is dangerously low.

"What?" I ask, fear gathered in the pit of my stomach.

"Once you are done," Duststar's eyes flicker, "Kill her ."

The words ring in my ears, loud and unforgiving. Kill... Swiftgale?

"What?"

"Kill her," Duststar's voice is calm but deadly. A warning. "If you don't... well, let's say that Reedfur and Streampaw are not the only cats you will lose."

My father.

I've never lived with him, except as a kit. I remember his kind eyes, smiling face. No. Not him, please! But I couldn't kill Swiftgale, could I?

I could. I can. I will.

I will save my father.

"Now, go," Duststar smiled.

I hiss a curse under my breath and pad outside, my throat raw with thirst. I quickly lap up some rain-water and gobble a mouse, before gazing across camp for Swiftgale. She's sitting by the entrance to camp, her figure strangely still. I hesitantly come up beside her.

"We have to go," I say. My ears are still pounding with the words.

I have to kill this cat, I have to kill her. Once our quest is complete, I must end her life.

She nods and stands stiffly, as if she's been sitting there for days. I follow the footprints of many cats as we begin the trek to our destination.

Chapter Sixteen - Obscure

My mind is sleepy. We have not walked very far at all, and rest is not an option. I keep feeling eyes on my pelt, burning into my skin. But there's no-one there. I stare at the pawprints at my feet, and sigh loudly.

"I think it's time to settle down for the night," I tell my companion. It's past moon-high, and I'm dead tired. I think I'm swaying on my paws. Just shows that I don't sleep well.

"Okay," Swiftgale's mew is hard. I flinch, and something changes in her eyes. I can't tell what it is.

I sink down to my paws, a big yawn stretching my jaws. Swiftgale laughs, "Not here, mouse-brain."

Oops.

I follow her sleepily to a hollow tree and curl up inside it. She curls beside me. A shiver runs through my body, and I don't think it's the cold.

I'm sleeping. Dreaming. I know it. I'm back at the RiverClan camp, but Streampaw isn't here. My father is. His sandy, pale grey fur shimmers beside me. He turns, smiling.

"Hello, Lakeglow," his voice is warm. Familiar. And suddenly, I remember him. I'm plunged into a memory.

Father. Father. His name is so distant... Ah, now I remember. Flowshade. That's what it is. In this memory, I'm a two moon old kit...

"Lakekit, stop daydreaming!" That was Nightkit, another I left behind when taken away.

I snap up my head, curious, "Sorry! What were we playing again?"

"Ugh, you're such a dreamer!" The black kit who I considered my friend, rolled her eyes, "Get the Leaf, remember?"

"Oh, yeah," I tilt my head, thinking, "Yep. And you found it?"

"I got it, yeah! It wasn't so hard. Your turn!" Nightkit squealed gleefully.

"Okay!" I announce, scampering across the leaf-strewn ground. I reckon she hid it in those bushes!

I scouted around for a bit, not noticing the hulking shape of my father approaching. The tabby grey tom smiled, "Having fun?"

"Yeah!" I squeak, turning.

"Well, sorry, but you have to come inside," he apologised.

"Aww, no fair!" I complained.

And I'm back in the dream.

Oh, StarClan, please help us.

Chapter Seventeen- Lyric

I shiver in the cold, the sun having set hours ago.

And yet... there's a small warmth in my chest that's slowly engulfing my body.

It isn't, of course, a good warmth.

It's fear.

I'm not stupid.

I know Duststar wants me dead.

That's just fine with me.

There's no one left I care about.

But then I see Lakeglow approach me, carrying a rabbit in her jaws, and I'm not so sure.

She offers me a bit of her rabbit, but I look away.

Better to not get too attached.

Instead I pad away, choosing to lie down so I face the moon, stomach hollow and empty.

After a few minutes, Lakeglow joins me, but isn't as close as I'd like.

Then again, maybe I shouldn't want her to be close.

I realize tears are tracing the sides of my face and I do my best to cover them up, burying my face in my paws.

"S-swiftgale?" Lakeglow asks.

I look at her, praying my tears aren't obvious. "Yeah?" I ask.

"Are you okay?" She asks quietly.

I smile slightly, a last expression of emotion before I die. "Yes." I mew. "I'm fine."

She nods. "Oh. Okay."

I turn away and look back at the night's sun, the white orb hanging in the sky.

I manage to doze off.

Before I'm completely unconsious, I hear a voice. Lakeglow's voice.

"I'm sorry," She whispers thickly.

And it sounds like she's crying too.

Chapter Eighteen - Lyric

I am surprised to open my eyes in the morning, to feel the weak sunlight warm my pelt.

I glance at Lakeglow, or rather, where Lakeglow had fallen asleep last night, but it wasn't there.

It's odd, really. I haven't had a Blaze attack since we left the camp, haven't felt a prickle warm my spine.

But I'm sure it's nothing.

At that moment, Lakeglow pads into the small grassy clearing where we're staying, a squirrel in her jaws. My face warms as my stomach rumbles loudly, and Lakeglow smiles.

"Here," She mews warmly, passing me the squirrel. "I know you're hungry."

I look at her hesitantly for a moment, tucking my paws under my chest, and nod once, digging into the squirrel.

I see her surveying me almost eagerly, and I feel a touch of suspicion.

My stomach erupts in pain and dizzying black patches cloud my vision.

I stand, horrified, as my stomach churns and I cry out in agony.

Lakeglow's eyes are wide but she doesn't help.

I crumple to the floor, screaming, throat raw.

I bite hard on my tongue and taste the salty tang of blood.

Lakeglow flinches and looks away, and I know it would be nearly impossible for me to survive this.

I catch a blurry glimpse of the squirrel, the berries haphazardly stuffed inside of them.

She's poisoned me.

The black is closing in on me.

Quickly.

I have to hurry.

"Thank... you..." I choke out.

My head lolls back and I'm smothered by the black.

Chapter Nineteen - Obscure

My mind blanks.

Pain.

Pure pain, choking pain, smothering pain.

I just killed a cat.

I just killed Swiftgale.

I cried out, my eyes burning. I screamed again. And screamed.

She said...

"Thank you."

My pain is probably nothing compared to what Swiftgale's was. Was. She's gone.

I shriek at the top of my lungs, just because I can. I killed a cat. Murderer. My thoughts say. That's what I am. My eyes fall to the death berries, half-eaten, stuffed inside the squirrel. Almost immediately, my eyes glow with anticipation.

Eat them, I tell myself.

So I do.

I stuff them in my mouth, crunch down.

And then realise what I'm doing.

Spit them out.

I'm relieved.

And then I feel the juice trickle down my throat.

I choke, spitting, and gag as I try and force the juice out of me. It's no use- I can already feel my stomach stirring. Pain splits my side, faint at first. Then it grows, and I scream. Not as loud as Swiftgale. She swallowed the berries, I didn't. My eyes sting as I fold into the ground, my mouth open in a groan.

I whispered, "StarClan, take me."

I fall, my paws hanging limply by my side. And I'm blacked out.

Gone.

Chapter Twenty - Obscure

I'm dead.

So this is what happens when you die...

You swim in blackness forever.

Revisiting memories.

Walking paths never walked before.

I thought StarClan was real.

Maybe when the Clans fell, it fell too.

Or maybe this is the Dark Forest.

The thing of kit tales.

I'm a murderer, that's where I'd be.

I thought it'd be more... forest-y.

My paws swim in front of me, and the blackness around me makes it like I'm going to fall any second. I stride forward, paws finding solid black path. I pad along, strange weightlessness surrounding me. A weird force guides me as I spot a light towards the end of the sturdy path. I emerge into it, but unlike usual assumption, I'm not back into the world. I'm in a sun filled clearing- plants fringing the edges.

I whimper, my blue eyes shadowed, and step into the memory.

A cat steps forward, eyes glittering, "Lakeglow! C'mon!" It's Palefeather, no, Palepaw. My best friend...

But this memory isn't how I remembered it. We were supposed to walk back to camp, laughing, and have a blackbird and tease Darkpelt. We were supposed to! She wasn't supposed to scream and be dragged away by unseen claws, no, this wasn't right! I launch myself after her, chasing and chasing and-

Blackness.

Chapter Twenty One - Lyric

I cough weakly, looking around. "I-I'm alive..." I mutter faintly.

My head throbs and I groan quietly, attracting the attention of Lakeglow, who had been watching her paws mutely.

Her eyes flash as she looks at me. "You're okay!" She mews happily.

I nod weakly. "Apparently."

Lakeglow's eyes fill with tears. "Oh, Swiftgale, I'm so sorry!" She murmurs.

I stare at her for a moment, and I relax my tense shoulders.

I can't be mad.

She was doing it to protect her family.

"It's... Don't worry." I mutter. It isn't fine, and it isn't okay, even if I'm not mad.

She tried to kill me.

Lakeglow winces, and I drag myself to my paws.

"Urghh," I groan. "So sore..."

Lakeglow pushes a small bundle of herbs towards me, and I recoil, unsure and wary.

She shakes her head. "They aren't poison. I'll eat them with you," She offers.

I nod. "O-Okay." My mew is dry and cracked.

Slowly, we each eat one of the herbs, and my stomach gives a lurch as I swallow one.

She smiles faintly. "Don't worry. It's harmless," Lakeglow mews, and she's right.

I'm so tired...

I lurch forward, stumble over my paws, and crash into darkness.

Chapter Twenty-Two - Lyric

"You ate them too?" I ask her.

She cocks her head. "What do you mean?"

"The berries."

"How did you know?" She asks, her eyebrows raised.

"I just did." I fix her with a look. "So. Did you?"

She nods. "I - I survived... I'm not sure how."

I smile softly. "I'm glad you did."

Her eyes widen, and she smiles back.

"I have to confess something." I say, with a sigh.

She raises her eyebrows. "What?"

"I... kinda like you." I mutter, flushing.

She's silent for a moment, and I wince, but then there's a noise that startles me so much I start to bristle:

Lakeglow is purring.

I smile shyly at her, and she returns it.

A crushing weight has just been lifted off my chest.

I feel like I'm flying.

I smile.

But then the blackness crashes down on me and I sink into unconsciousness.

I let out a weak cough and then I'm gone.

Chapter Twenty-Three - Obscure

Panic.

It sets in like moths to a flame, a flare inside me, burning out my insides.

Inside it all, is three things.

One, the desire to run.

Two, fear.

Three, happiness.

She accepted me, she loves me.

Like I did her.

Except now, she's gone.

What can I do?

My paws are frozen, my eyes wide.

Fear livid.

I start to run, start forward, to her side. I inspect her. She's got the Flare, I know this.

That's how she survived.

That means I have it too.

Because I survived.

A chill runs down my bones, but it doesn't bother me as much as I thought.

It's okay.

I figure Swiftgale'll wake up soon, like we both did. I hope she does... I hope.

The sunrise comes and goes, and she hasn't stirred.

And then she does.

"Lakeglow...?" I hear her murmur weakly.

"Shhh," I hush her, "You're okay."

She sits up, wincing. She has the determined look of someone who's on a mission. And she speaks, "You like me back?"

Silence.

I laugh, a rasping cough, "Of course."

And then we're two laughing, delusional, infected crazies.

Chapter Twenty-Four - Obscure

That night, we sit closer than before. There's a tense silence, but it's cozy. I smile at her, my flare-ridden mind eating away at my sanity.

Swiftgale's eyes are bright, but somehow defeated. We're tired, dirty, hungry. And beaten.

But alive.

"We could run away, you know."

She breaks the silence.

I respond with caution, picking my words, "We could. It's not like they'll know... right?"

"Probably," she agrees, "Probably."

"So..." I hesitate, "Maybe let's sleep."

So we do. Curled up together, flanks touching. There's something you get from a failed murder attempt that just brings you closer, you know?

"G'night," I murmur.

Sleep's cold fingers drape over me, and I'm gone.

It's another memory.

"Hey, Bella."

That's not someone I know, yet the words are from my mouth. I'm a very young kit, so young.

"I'm Dawnkit now," the tortoiseshell meows.

"I know," I sigh, "But d'you have to go?"

"D'awww," Bella, no, Dawnkit, meows, "You'll miss me?"

"Yes!" I say forcibly, "Of course. I just... ThunderClan's so mean. Why d'you have to go to them, sis?"

"Because," she takes on the voice of my father, mimicking him, "It's good for me and it'll protect me." "You believe that?" I ask, scowling.

"Of course not," she says.

Chapter Twenty-Five - Lyric

The sun is hurting my closed eyes, and I force them open. Lakeglow is curled up beside me, asleep. I let out a cracked purr, my throat aching from thirst.

I stand, I have to hunt. We would starve, and that wasn't good.

With a sigh, I stand, stretching my lanky limbs, and survey the area for any signs of prey, but there is nothing. I gaze at Lakeglow, and then pad away, hoping to be back before she wakes up.

Around us, there is dry grass, stretching out in every direction.

I choose north, and hunker into a crouch, eyes slits of concentration. I hear a mouse scrabbling in the grass, and I pounce blindly, sinking my claws into gray fur.

I stare at it, pleased with my efforts, but I realize we need water if we want to survive.

I bring the mouse over to Lakeglow, who is just about to wake up.

"Here," I purr, once she's concious.

She smiles at me, grins, really, and takes a bite. I settle down next to her and we slowly eat the mouse.

"Nice catch," Lakeglow purrs, nudging me. "Was it hard?"

I shake my head. "Stupid thing practically crawled into my claws."

She chuckles. "Find any water?"

I sigh. "No, but the mouse would know where to find water. Maybe we follow its scent?"

Lakeglow nods. "Great idea. Let's go." She rises, stretching, and I follow her into the dry strands of grass.

As I watch her scan the terrain, my heart swells with affection, and a grin splits my face. Lakeglow is mine, and I am hers.

We are a match.

A perfect match.

Chapter Tweny-Six - Lyric

"What if we kill Duststar?" I ask halfheartedly, as we lap by a stream she found.

Lakeglow shakes her head. "They'd kill us too, throw the whole clan into upheaval."

I almost shoot to my paws. "That's it!"

"Upheaval?" She asks quizzically.

"We start a revolution!" I exclaim.

Her eyes glow with pride, but then they dim. "How?"

"We let the other cats know, but we keep it a secret. I think I know how we can pull it off."

"What's your plan?" She asks me.

"It's simple. Duststar is old, right?" I begin.

She nods, unsure of where I'm going with this.

"And he eats herbs every night, from the medicine cat." I continue.

Her eyes light up. "Poison?"

"No, not poison. A hallucinogen. Enough for cats to think that he..."

"Has the Blaze!" She finishes eagerly.

"Yes, and then we can sieze power. His deputy, Condorstrike, is easy to manipulate."

"We get him on our side, and then we get someone to kill Duststar, 'putting him out of his misery', if you please." Lakeglow mews.

"Condorstrike forgets to wake his deputies one morning..."

"And then we escape." She finishes.

I nod. "Exactly."

"Have I ever told you you're a genious?" She purrs.

I twine my tail with hers. "I could stand to hear it again."

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