FIVE//RAVENFLIGHT

Now I'm a warrior

My paws are rooted to the ground. I’m shaking so hard, the horror of my dream still lingering in my mind. Artic pads out behind me and surveys the battlefield. “We have to go help them,” I breathe out, “We have to-”

Artic shakes his head.

I stare at his in shock. “What do you mean?” I gasp out, “These cats are your campmates. They’re dying.”

The white tom has a grim expression on his face. “You don’t understand, Ravenflight. You have to call off your fly warriors. We have to go.”

“No!” I snarl, spinning around in frustration and bunching my muscles to launch myself into the frenzy. “If you’re not going to save them then I will. I won’t leave them to die if I can help it. I’d sooner die then let innocent cats lose their lives because I’m a coward.”

“They’re here for you.” Artic hisses, bowling me over. He pins me down and my dream flares up like fire. I scream and kick him off, terror coursing through me.

“What do you mean?” I breath out, aware that cats are still dying. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN?”

Artic opens his mouth to say something but then the she-cat I saw the other day rams into him. “Artic you fool!” She spits out, “Get into the fight and help us secure the fly warriors.” She spots me and bares her teeth, “Or even better help me get this one.”

I gape at Artic. He won’t meet my gaze. “You lied to me, didn’t you? You were trying to draw me in so we’d get captured. That’s why you told us to stay overnight so the Raiders could attack.”

The white tom turns and says something softly to the she-cat before disappearing into the shadows. I let out a furious yowl and leap high over the Raider she-cat’s head and land in front of Artic. I spin around and slam into him. He stumbles back in surprise and he tries to push past me. “Ravenflight, I’m serious. Get out of here. Your other companions are probably already contained but you can flee. Go back to headquarters and do something about this.”

“I’m not letting them captured,” I snap, “They know how to take care of themselves. For now my problem is you.”

He grimaces. “Ravenflight, please-”

Someone screams and out of the corner of my vision, I see one of the camp members fall. Tears sting my eyes and I lunge for Artic, who easily dodges. “I hate you,” I whisper, “I hate you.”

There’s a solemn look on his gaze and it takes me a long moment to realize the she-cat is right behind me. I duck and roll to the side so she tackles Artic instead. He was stalling. I get up and while they curse and try to untangle themselves, I race back to the camp and find Aspenpelt cursing and fighting three Raiders at the same time.

I tuck and sail down from my perch and land on one of them, knocking him to the ground. I grit my teeth and rake my claws through his throat, tearing it out. He slumps and I flex, hopping down next to Aspenpelt.

“Where’s Blizzardstorm?” he hisses as we spar with the other two Raiders.

I flinch involuntarily and the Raider I am fighting takes his moment to seize me. I gasp as pain laces through me and I lurch forward, my claws finding his flank. He jerks away from me, blood spurting from the wound. I grimace and mutter. “There is no Blizzardstorm. He’s a fraud and he betrayed us to the Raiders.”

“We have to retreat!” Ashshadow shrieks, “If we stay here, we’ll all get captured.”

I know she’s right. All of my fly warriors look exhausted. Mintsplash is the worst, she had been fending them off without the help of her partner. I kick away the Raider who lunges for me and I realize that the camp is far from being able to be saved.

“Retreat!” I call out and leap over their heads and race out of the camp. My fly warriors race after me and I can hear the Raiders giving chase. “Climb trees!” I bark out, “We’ll have to lose them in the vastness of this forest.”

Together, we scramble up trees and spread out, leaping at lightning speed through the trees. The Raiders scatter below us but they can’t see us through the trees. Soon, we lose them.

I head back to main camp, my heart hurting more than I thought it would. All I can remember are Artic’s bright blue eyes telling me to trust him.

I shake my head fiercely and touch down at the bottom of the Pit where my fly warriors are waiting.

“Come on,” I say tersely, “Time to tell General Blackthorn a change of plans.”

~

His face tenses when I talk about Artic’s obvious betrayal. “They’ve made their move…” Blackthorn murmurs quietly so that only I can hear. In a louder voice, he mews, “We must prepare. Our original plan to hone your skills by sending you out into the war zone has backfired.”

Sootflight raises his tail nervously. “General? If we want to hone our skills...we could fight the prisoners.”

I whip my head around so fast that I think I’m going to break my neck. Sootflight grimaces at our expressions but Blackthorn ponders over this. “I’m reluctant to say yes,” the general grunts.

“How about,” Mintsplash says quietly, “we could go to each of the camps out in our territory and try to root out Raider spies.”

“That’s a great idea,” I find myself blurting out.

The light gray she-cat beams and Blackthorn nods. “It would be a good exercise for you five and of course it would cleanse our territory of those vermin.” He presses his lips together into a thin line. “Though how you’ll find them I’m not sure.”

I tilt my head. I remember how overly confident Artic had been even when I had recognized him. He obviously knew who we were too and made an effort to sidle up to us. How a cold look slid over his face when the other Raiders showed up.

“It’s a risk, but I think I know how to get them.” I narrow my eyes, “They’re quick to react to our perspective of Raiders. They’ll hide everything they are and try to convince you that they’re fine. But they’ll side up to us only because they want to capture us.”

Ashshadow swallows. “This will help us realize the Raiders’ strengths and weaknesses too.”

Sootflight concludes, “And it’ll make sure we don’t make the same mistake ever again.”

Blackthorn doesn’t even have to think about it. The pride in the way he gazes at us is unmistakable. His eyes are merrier and he waves his tail in dismissal and starts to walk away.

“Get to it, warriors.”

~

I take a peek at Whiteflame before we set out. He manages to look paler than he already is and he isn’t moving. My breath catches in my throat at the sight of this and I quietly promise myself: We have to get stronger for his sake.

I turn swiftly and mutter a quick prayer before meeting the other fly warriors at the Pit. We exchange tense glances and then I head up the rock wall and out into the territory.

Surveying the area, I catch wind of a nearby camp and head for it. It’s close to the border, which provides an excellent place for spies to cross the border to and from.

Without another word, we race for the camp. We pretend we are just checking in and then if we don’t find any suspicious cats, we head off.

But even good plans have flaws in them.

~

“Ashshadow, you cannot be serious right now.”

The dark she-cat grimaces and just sighs. I groan in frustration and close my eyes. “We don’t have replacements and after this, Blackthorn just might as well scratch our project and tell us to just be ground warriors.”

Sootflight stands protectively behind Ashshadow. “You can’t blame her,” he argues, “it’s not her fault.”

“Oh right,” I roll my eyes, “it’s your fault too.”

Sootflight bares his teeth angrily. “I don’t see why you’re so bitter about it!” He hisses, “Shouldn’t you be happy for us?”

I grit my teeth and Mintsplash nudges Aspenpelt nervously. My partner has narrowed eyes while the gray she-cat just looks sympathetic. “Look, I don’t want to make a huge fuss, but this is ridiculous. We need you guys!”

Ashshadow curls in tighter around herself. “I know, Ravenflight,” she says quietly, “you’re not the only one who cares about the future of IceClan.”

My eyes widen at her statement and I bite my lip before spinning around and stalking outside. Mintsplash’s quiet paws patter after me. “You’re not really upset about that, are you?” She asks quietly.

“They’re having kits,” I groan, burying my head in my paws, “in the midst of a war, they want to have kits.”

Mintsplash is quiet for a moment and I glance up to see her curiously looking at me. I blink, confused, but she looks away hastily. “But no,” I add, “I’m not mad at them because they’re having kits. StarClan, I’m not even mad at them. I just…”

“We’re all feeling it too, Ravenflight,” Mintsplash draws closer tentatively, “You don’t have to shoulder this burden alone. Aspenpelt has been wanting to do this for you for so long but you always put him aside.” She blushes slightly, looking more nervous than I’ve ever seen the timid she-cat be, “He cares for you, you know?”

I smile fondly at the way my partner makes sure I’m doing the right thing. “I know,” I sigh, “but he tries too hard.”

Mintsplash shrugs. “I- We care for you too,” she tells me, smiling shyly, “you’re never alone, Ravenflight.”

“Thanks,” I smile sadly and she returns it.

But when she leaves and I hear the happy laughters coming from the dens from the camp, I’ve never felt more lonely.

~

I pad back into the den and give Ashshadow a reluctant half-smile. “Sorry about earlier,” I mutter, “you know I’m happy for you and Sootflight. I just don’t want to lose any of you. If you’re expecting, it’ll be so easy for you or Sootflight to get distracted by protecting each other. Plus, in a few moons, you won’t even be able to get into action, nevertheless be a fly warrior.”

The dark gray she-cat looks determined. “I realize that, Ravenflight, Sootflight and I have known this for several days and we’ve come to a conclusion that soon, I’ll have to step out. Hopefully by then Whiteflame will have recovered.”

“We’ll make it work,” she continues strongly when I look crestfallen, “Someday...this war will be over.”

Her gaze darkens.

“In our favor or in theirs.”

Before I can respond to this, Aspenpelt peeks his head in. “Ravenflight, can I talk to you for a moment?”

“Sure,” I stand, casting Ashshadow a final glance, “Coming.”

She just gives me a silent but firm nod and I pad outside to where Aspenpelt is waiting for me.

“Are you alright?” He asks seriously, “You’ve been on edge since Blizzardstorm’s betrayal.” I flinch at the way he says Artic’s fake name. Aspenpelt scowls, “You did it again. Each time we try to talk about the white tom, you wince or you look like someone has just taken your heart out.”

I contemplate over this for a moment. Have I really been that transparent? Are my feelings and what I am inside really that obvious?

“I can be your confidant,” Aspenpelt offers, “I can tell that this is eating you up inside out. You can’t lead us if you’re crumbling inside. If you tell me, I promise I’ll help you hold yourself up.”

I think about letting him do this. I could drain myself dry of feelings and let him be my vessel while I be the cold, unfeeling one.

The Reckless Raven.

“You were like that before,” Aspenpelt continues, his eyes pressing and searching, “Before we met Blizzardstorm.”

“I met him for one day,” I say coldly, my eyes turning hard like flint. “This has nothing to do with him.”

The brown tom scowls at my sudden coldness towards him. “You need to stop pushing us away,” he lashes his tail in frustration, “it’s not doing you any good.”

I just bare my teeth. “I’m fine,” I turn swiftly, nearly knocking into Mintsplash, “I just need some time to shake off all this stress.”

With that, I pelt off into the forest, letting my paws take me to wherever they want to go. Aspenpelt wants me to be like myself?

Fine.

I prowl towards the border, flattening myself against the ground, cursing myself for not trying to find a better cover.

I consider climbing a tree but shrug that off. This will be more of a challenge if I stay on the ground and surprise a patrol this way.

Sniffing the air, I continue along the border until I pick up a whiff of Raider scent. It’s faint but definitely close. I rub my scent over a tree and then slip off a few tail-lengths away and wait. The chattering of the patrol draws closer and I try to relax my body so I can react quickly in case my plan fails.

They draw closer and I hear one of them hiss for the patrol to shut up when she catches my scent. I barely see the gleam in her eyes as she waves her tail.

She was close by. Fan out and find her.”

I wait for a few more moments before lunging for the nearest Raider, tackling him. I pin him down and I find brilliant blue eyes staring back up at me.

“Well,” Artic drawls when he sees my shock, “isn’t this awkward.”

Now I've got thicker skin

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