ELEVEN//ARTIC

Cause all the pain and the truth

We stay in the clearing for a moment longer until Ravenflight nudges me. “We have to go back. I have a round soon.” My heart aches and pulls and I want to just escape the reality of the world we lived in.

“I should help,” I breathe in, “I know most of your moves anyways. I’m faster than you and I know the Raiders’ techniques. I could really help you win the war.”

Ravenflight gives me a sad sort of smile. “You’ll have to first convince Blackthorn of that first.”

We pad out together and it’s not until we’ve reached the entrance back into the camp when I’ve realized how hard it might be to convince Blackthorn of my loyalty. The front of the camp is fortified with brambles and guards are scattered everywhere. The moment we come into view, Ravenflight is swept away by guards and I am surrounded.

Blackthorn’s throaty growl sounds nearby. “Ravenflight, what is the meaning of this?”

She gives him a full on stare. “I was showing Artic something, General,” she says stoutly, “You weren’t around so I decided to show him out.”

It’s a white lie and she doesn’t get away with it. “Go organize your round, fly warrior,” he snaps, turning away from her. His cold eyes burn right through me. “You, come with me.”

I shiver at his tone but I bottle up the feeling. There’s been plenty of times where Enero would have his murderous look on his face and he would hit me over and over. Blackthorn is different.

Ravenflight casts me a concerned glance but at Blackthorn’s growl, she scurries into the camp and disappears. The general deliberately looks me over before following Ravenflight. Guards prod me forward until we reach Blackthorn’s den, where I’m given the privacy with the exception of one guard.

“Last time we talked,” the general began, “you and I came to the agreement that you were on our side.”

I nod.

“I’m not under the impression that you are spying for the Raiders, as you and Ravenflight are a little too close for comfort, but I don’t believe that you have the true intentions of helping us.”

I furrow my brow. “I do want to help,” I protest, “I have the skills required to be one of your ‘fly warriors’, and so does Gwyn.”

“Just because you have the skills doesn’t mean you will put them into good use.”

I frown. “Is this because Ravenflight and I went out of camp? She wanted to show me something and well...she’s Ravenflight.” I shrug and fight off the urge to purr.

Blackthorn looks exasperated. “What is the meaning of you and Ravenflight? You two have been inseparable since you arrived.”

My ears grow hot. Blackthorn notices and he raises an eyebrow. “She’s very beautiful, General,” I decide to just spit out the truth, “she keeps me calm.”

“How ironic since she loves to create chaos,” Blackthorn sighs.

I lean forward. “General, I know you don’t trust Raiders very easily, but I suspect that I’m part IceClan anyways.” The huge black tom gives me a questioning glance and I sit back once more. “I’ve long suspected it since I grew older and I never ever found my father.”

A distant sort of look enters Blackthorn’s gaze. “Tell me about your family,” he orders.

I don’t find the calmness and easiness I felt when Ravenflight asked me. Blackthorn makes me on edge, as I feel like I’m on enemy ground. “M-my family?” I feel taken aback, “Why do you want to know about my family?”

“You don’t question my orders,” he shakes his head, “I’d like to get to know you better anyways.”

I swallow. The tension in the air is practically tangible. “I don’t know anything about my family except my mother was killed when I was very young in IceClan territory. She must have been carrying me across the border or something - which I assume is where my father is - and was killed by Raiders disguised as IceClan cats. I don’t know if I have any littermates or other relatives. Shiver was-”

“Shiver?”

Blackthorn’s interruption makes me cough in surprise. He looks astonished, his eyes wider than usual and his gaze losing a bit of its fire. “Did you say Shiver?” he rasps.

“She’s my mother.”

Blackthorn inhales sharply. “Shiver…” he looks almost lost, “I knew your mother then, Artic, she was more than just a friend.”

I stand a little too fast, not wanting to hear it, not wanting this to be the way I find out. “She and I were engaged before she told me she had kits,” Blackthorn continues, “I highly suspect that I am your father.”

~

I wander around camp, avoiding Blackthorn, and avoiding the fly warriors. Gwyn is still recovering from Enero’s blow and Ravenflight is out with the rather hostile fly warrior team that I’d rather not interact with.

Ever since the general revealed to me that he was possibility my father, I’ve been in shock. I haven’t had time to tell Gwyn or Ravenflight this.

I had left his den in a hurry, mumbling excuses. He must of understood the uncomfortable feeling I had and allowed me to leave.

It didn’t feel right.

“Artic,” Ravenflight pads over, her pelt messy and dusty, a few new scratches on her pelt, “are you busy later?”

I snort slightly, but I don’t really focus on her words. “No,” I flick my tail, glancing around, “are you?”

Before she replies, someone roughly bustles past me and I jerk my head up to see the brown pelt of Aspenpelt disappearing into the fly warriors’ den. Ravenflight sighs at his obvious hatred. “He didn’t know his family either, though it’s highly possibly that they were murdered by Raiders.”

“Highly possible,” I repeat, “so he hates me?”

Ravenflight shrugs, “It’s like how Gwyn hates all of us. She obviously is - or was - some sort of patriot for her group, and well, Aspenpelt is extremely loyal to IceClan.”

I frown in his general direction but Ravenflight distracts me by brushing her tail against mine. When I glance back over, she has a half smirk on her face. “Mintsplash tells me you’ve been out of it lately.”

I eye the gray she-cat where she is blatantly talking with Ashshadow and Sootflight. Even though I can tell there’s some sort of easiness between the three of them, Mintsplash is left out.

She also glances at Ravenflight every five seconds.

Ravenflight watches with me and when Mintsplash glances over again, she freezes when she sees us. Even from the distance, she seems to turn red but Ravenflight just smiles. I roll my eyes and tug Ravenflight towards my den. “Why don’t we spend the rest of the day together?”

The black she-cat is hesitant. “I’m not supposed to be with you,” she admits.

“Yet we’re standing here in the middle of the camp talking?”

Ravenflight only shrugs. “I’m reckless and I wanted to talk to you.”

“Well fine,” I say, seating myself comfortably in the middle of the camp, “I have something to tell you anyways.”

She cocks her head and waits. I take a deep breath. “Blackthorn says he’s possibly my father.” I say in a rush.

Ravenflight chokes in surprise. “You’re kidding,” her eyes bug out, “he’s your father?” She shakes her head, “That can’t be right.”

“He knew my mother by name, and they were...in theory, together and then she had kits,” I lick my paw, “the clues add up, Ravenflight.”

The black she-cat paces around me, “Are you...happy?” The concern written on her face makes her so vulnerable. I give her a shrug, not so sure myself. Ravenflight stops in front of me, her eyes serious. “I know you don’t know Blackthorn the way I do and I know he doesn’t seem like a great choice of a father for you, but he’s an amazing general. And over time...I bet he’d be a great father.”

When I glance down at the dirt, rubbing my paw in, Ravenflight laughs. I glance up sharply but she just waves her tail. “It’s so surreal,” she giggles, “the fact that he’s your father.” Some of the playfulness fades from her eyes and she looks solemn and regretful. “I never knew my father.”

“In the midst of a war,” I tell her, “so many young cats don’t know their family.”

The black she-cat meets my gaze with watery eyes.

“We have to stop it.”

~

I’m not surprised when Mintsplash pads over to talk to me. “Ravenflight likes you,” she tells me the moment I look up. I can’t help but hear the slight jealousy in her voice. “You’re the first tom she’s ever, ever, tried to get close to, other than Aspenpelt.”

I blink. The gray she-cat is usually calm and collected, and of course rather shy. She’s been uncomfortably quiet since I’ve arrived, probably remembering when Whiteflame had gotten injured.

“You’re jealous.” I reply.

Mintsplash’s eyes flash with a mixture of hurt and sadness. “I am,” she agrees, “because before you, Ravenflight never flirted so blatantly before.”

I lift a paw to groom it but Mintsplash surprises me by striking it back down. Her eyes bear into mine. “Why are you telling me this?” I cock my head, “Is it because you think I don’t see it?” I’ll be honest, I didn’t really see it before. Ravenflight and I only seemed to be becoming friends. Yes, I had spent a night with her but it had been a trap. No hard feelings for that one.

She liked me?

“She loves you,” Mintsplash murmurs.

“Why are you telling me this?” I repeat.

“I love her!” Mintsplash spits out, “I love her and you’re taking her away. I don’t trust you and I can tell you that no one trusts you. You’re leading Ravenflight blindly into another trap and I hate you for it!” She spins around and stalks away, leaving me standing there, stunned.

“Is that what you think?” I call out softly after her. Mintsplash pauses but she doesn’t reply as she picks up her pace again and storms off.

I stand there for a moment, watching her gray pelt disappear into the tunnels.

“I never thought I’d see that happen,” a snide voice sounds behind me. I spin around and find myself face to face with Aspenpelt. His yellow eyes practically glow with hatred and I can feel his anger. “Mintsplash saying she hates someone.”

“She probably hates all Raiders,” I square my shoulders. Aspenpelt doesn’t scare me, he just makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong when I’m not. “I get it a lot from IceClan warriors.”

Aspenpelt sneers. “I can’t wait until Mintsplash is right. When you attempt to lead Ravenflight into your net of lies and she bests you.”

I tip my head and meet his gaze. I hold it, trying not to look away as I would with Enero or any of the Upper Raiders. “You know, I’m not here to harm your partner. Gwyn and I came because-”

“Because you’re rotten spies,” the brown tom interrupts me, “you’ve done it before and I know you’ll do it again. I don’t believe your sob story about your mother or how your little pet she-cat got hurt. You’re just here to ruin our lives.”

“Why don’t you go tell the general that?” I challenge, “Go on, tell him what you think. Maybe then you’ll get your wish and I’ll be imprisoned.”

“I sure hope so,” Aspenpelt bares his teeth before stalking away.

I frown and lick my pelt, suddenly exhausted. I never knew coming into IceClan would mean facing this much discrimination. At least it seemed that Blackthorn trusted me.

Life will go on, I tell myself, they’ll understand that you don’t mean any harm. You just want to help.

I almost convince myself before I realize that fire is spreading from the tunnels’ entrance to the main part of camp.

Raiders. I think.

“ICECLAN WE’RE UNDER ATTACK! I REPEAT, WE’RE UNDER ATTACK!”

I don’t hesitate and run for the medicine den. Ravenflight intercepts me halfway and she yowls over the noise. “Where are you going?”

“Gwyn is in there!” I push her away when she tries to tug me towards the Pit. “I have to make sure she’s okay.”

Ravenflight suddenly disappears from my side. I don’t glance back to try to figure out where she’s gone. I dart out through the fighting cats and my blood runs cold when I see a pure white tom standing at the entrance of the medicine cat den.

“Artic,” Enero purrs mirthlessly, “I’m glad to find you here.”

My breath hitches. “Leave her alone,” I hiss, “your quarrel is with me.”

Enero only smiles coldly and he turns deliberately to pad into the den. I take this moment to leap onto his back, trying to shove him aside. He bucks and throws me off. I crash into the wall and groan. When I lift my head in a daze, I realize that Enero is surrounded by IceClan warriors. Thank the stars Gwyn will be alright.

I fight to stand on my paws and while the IceClan warriors deal with Enero, I stumble into the medicine cat den and collapse in relief when I see that Gwyn is alright.

“I thought he killed you,” I whisper as I start to lose myself to the black spots, “I thought he killed you.”

Gwyn say something but I can’t hear it. I try to hold onto the string that is hanging but I can’t. I miss and I slip, falling into the abyss.

~

I wake with a pounding headache. “Artic,” I blink blearily when I hear Gwyn’s voice, “Artic, are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” I mumble, trying to shift my paws. Something sharp digs into my paws and I hiss in pain. When my vision clears, I realize that Gwyn and I are in a tiny den with bramble bindings connecting us and linking our paws together. There’s also a bramble screen in front of the only entrance and exit of the den.

“Prison,” I conclude.

“Prison,” Gwyn agrees weakly.

“...Raiders?” I ask.

“No, IceClan.”

Confusion clouds my mind. “IceClan?” I repeat, feeling slow and stupid, “Why are we in IceClan prison?” This certainly doesn’t seem like a Raider designed prison (I’ve worked at several strongholds to know what they’re like.), but I can’t imagine being in an IceClan prison.

“They suspect that we were involved with the attack,” Gwyn explains. She sways on her paws and unsteadily sits. Her wound must still be acting up. “The fly warriors weren’t much help in explaining why you were brain dead on the floor.”

I swallow. “So after all the possibly respect I’ve gleaned from helping them, we’re still being held as prisoners?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Gwyn’s gaze is dark, “this is why we should never have come.”

“You didn’t have to,” I tell her, turning away so I don’t see her hurt expression, “It was my choice.”

“We’re best friends,” I hear her say as she settles down - or tries to with her cuffs. I feel the pull of the brambles as she shifts away from me. “Plus, without my tragic wounds, you wouldn’t have ever been able to be accepted into IceClan.”

I don’t reply. After a couple of heartbeats, I murmur, “Thanks.”

“For what?” Came her reply.

“For being here,” I admit, “for coming to IceClan with me when you obviously hate them. For giving up all you’ve known just to be with me.”

Gwyn only sighs.

“We’re best friends, Artic, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.”

“We’re best friends alright,” I agree.

I wear like a battle wound

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