FIFTEEN//ARTIC

And my armor, is made of steel, you can't get in

I'm a warrior

We enter the den and Mintsplash, who seemed to be composing herself in there hurries out without another word. Ravenflight watches her go with sad, yellow eyes. “What happened earlier?” I wrap my tail around the black she-cat.

“She told me about her feelings,” the black she-cat admits. “I mean, you’ve told me before, but coming from her, it’s quite a shock. I didn’t know how to tell her that I just didn’t have the same feelings towards her.”

She looks at her paws. “It doesn’t help that I can’t - and I couldn’t then - stop looking at you.”

I nudge her to cheer her up, “You’re not doing it now,” I purr.

She purrs a bit too but leans against me. “When did things start to get difficult?” She whispers, her voice seemingly broken and confused. I wrap my tail tighter around her. I don’t want to lose her to despair now.

“Let’s not talk about the difficulties we’ve been having,” I advise, “let’s focus on the fact that light will always shine through even the darkest night, that even when there’s no moon, no sun we can still see. So even in these darkest moments, we can still see our future, and it’s going to be without the Raiders. We’re going to win.”

Ravenflight guffaws slightly. I pull away a bit, hurt by her disbelief. “A life without the Raiders…” the black she-cat mused, “is it all that great?”

“What do you mean?” If the Raiders never tried to take over IceClan, Ravenflight wouldn’t be in this war mess. She would have her mother. She wouldn’t have lost Aspenpelt in a soul-twisting way. Mintsplash wouldn’t have ever tried to make advances on Ravenflight when the black she-cat obviously didn’t love her in that way. They wouldn’t be hurting each other.

“I wouldn’t have my friends,” Ravenflight closes her eyes, “I wouldn’t have you.”

“Me?” I ask, genuinely surprised, “This isn’t about me, Ravenflight.”

Her eyes open in a flash. She steps away from me and turns to face me. “But it is,” she shakes her head, “without the Raiders, where would you be? Your mother and Blackthorn would never have met. You wouldn’t be half Raider, half IceClan, and you most certainly wouldn’t be here right now.”

I ponder over her words. She’s right of course, none of the fly warrior would have met. “No one said the Raiders couldn’t just be quiet neighbors. My parents still would have met.”

Ravenflight frowns. “Would your mother find any reason to come to IceClan?” She sighs, “There’s so many questions to this theory. We don’t know the answers but I do know this wouldn’t be the same.”

“What wouldn’t?”

The black she-cat draws in closer. Her eyes are bright once more and full of heat and fire. “Our love, idiot.”

My heart accelerated. “Are we in love?”

Ravenflight touches her nose to mine. “Of course we are,” she purrs, “I think we’ve been since we first met.”

I fall into her touch with desperate urgency. “The final battle is coming soon,” I whisper, “casualties will be high-”

“Shut up and work with me,” she orders and I brush my cheek against hers, breathing in her scent. She’s so soft, so pure, I don’t ever want to be without her.

“I love you,” I whisper.

Ravenflight purrs and her body shakes against mine. “I know,” I can almost see her smirk, “I know you too.”

She nestles into me and I close my eyes, thanking the stars that I’m so lucky to have someone like her.

~

“As you know, yesterday was a test,” Blackthorn informs us, his eyes sweep over us, battered and bruised. “and the result I got from the test was outstanding.”

“Outstanding?” Ravenflight bursts out, “That wasn’t outstanding. We were nearly killed under the claws of those rogues.”

“I’ll tell you the truth,” Blackthorn says grimly, “I expected the guards to be used to save your lives yesterday. Yet you all escaped that tragedy and defeated them all.” I tense. He expected us to use the guards?

“General,” I say quietly, interrupting his next words, “Why did you send us in there if you had no intention of seeing us defeat them by ourselves?”

The black tom stares at me for a few solid seconds before mewing. “I wanted to see if you would adapt to the challenge.”

I note that he only said “you”. “Only I was tested?” My tongue feels a lot thicker and I have trouble swallowing.

“In a sense, yes.”

I can feel the other fly warriors’ gazes. Ashshadow is missing. Ravenflight wraps her tail around me and in a flash I remember the heat of yesterday’s confession. “Why?” I manage to choke out, “Why me?”

Blackthorn shakes his head in disapproval. “You know the answer, Artic.”

Of course I do. It’s just like when I had to quell my panic and fear of killing those Raider prisoners in the ring. Only I had been fast enough to escape the Ring with only mere scrapes. Yesterday, it showed that I had to try to help five others escape the Raiders instead of just myself.

I was a Raider. I had to prove I wasn’t still one.

“What are we going to do now, General?” Mintsplash asks quietly, when realization dawned me.

“While you recover, I think it would be a good experience for you to try to find someone who could dutifully replace Ashshadow as she is expecting kits.” Blackthorn’s gaze darts to me and I feel a shiver go down my spine.

“And who is that?” I venture, unsure if I want to know the answer.

Blackthorn only smiles in a sad sort of way. “Oh, you know, Artic, you know.”

“We don’t know,” Sootflight says irritably, “someone please elaborate.”

I almost don’t hear Blackthorn’s reply, because the blood has drained from my face. I feel coldness wash over me and for a second I can’t breathe. It can’t be true. We shouldn’t chase after the ghost of a cat who had been here for me.

“You are to find Gwyn.”

Gwyn.

And you can never hurt me

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