So ashamed, so confused
For a few moments, my mouth opens and closes like I’m trying to eat air. Aspenpelt nudges me, hard, and I snap my mouth shut in embarrassment. Artic sticks out his paw. “I’m Blizzardstorm, nice to meet you all.”
“Ravenflight,” I manage.
The others introduce themselves and Aspenpelt leans in close. “Are you alright?” he hisses, “You froze when you saw him. What’s wrong?”
I feel as though I should tell him the truth. But all I can manage to force out is: “I just...he looks too much like Whiteflame for my own liking. It reminded me that Whiteflame was fighting for his life.”
The brown tom relaxes and gives me a relieved glance. “Just...stay focused, Ravenflight, the fly warriors need you.”
I nod and when I lift my gaze, I see Mintsplash staring at us. At my bewildered glance, she lowers her eyes in a hurried fashion and tries to make a conversation with Ashshadow. I frown at that but shrug it off and pad towards Artic. “Are you familiar with how a fly warrior works?”
He meets my gaze and I swallow hard. I can’t look away. He nods and the edges of his mouth twists upwards into a smirk. “I’m quite informed, thank you.”
Another reminder that he’s either a Raider in disguise or he’s a spy for IceClan. I don’t dare ask him here and now, but I know I’ll have to figure out before he digs us into a deeper hole.
“Let’s do a round then.” I mew. “We might want to switch up the partners a bit.” I notice that Aspenpelt scowls while Mintsplash perks up. I suppose she’s excited that she won’t have to deal with Whiteflame’s presence in Artic.
“Do you mind if I pair with you?” Artic - no, I suppose he’s Blizzardstorm now (although I don’t think I can call him that) - asks in his deep but soft voice. “You seem to have the most experience and I’m still quite new to this idea.”
Mintsplash looks relieved and torn at the same time. Aspenpelt doesn’t wait for my agreement and pads over the light gray she-cat’s side. I take a deep breath and flick my tail, ignoring Artic. “Okay, You know the drill,” I glance self-consciously at Artic, “You just spar in pairs. I’ll work with Artic and show him a few maneuvers before we start a round.” A fake round. I add silently.
Aspenpelt takes charge - he has the experience of having me as his partner after all - and leads them into a sparring match of two on two. Artic focuses on them for a moment before I smack his shoulder with a harsh blow. “Pay attention if you want to survive this.”
The white tom raises an eyebrow and looks fairly amused. “You wound me, Ravenflight.” He pretends to look nonchalant, “What do they call you… The Reckless Raven isn’t it?”
I stiffen and before I can move, he lunges forward with the speed of a Raider. I shriek in surprise and barely manage to roll to the side before he pins me down. “I don’t believe we’ll need to go any farther with this,” he says quietly.
“Who are you?” I hiss, baring my teeth, “Are you Artic or Blizzardstorm?” His expression turns sour at the mention of his Raider name.
“Blizzardstorm, but I suppose I’ll let you call me Artic.” He flashes me a grin.
I narrow my eyes. “Don’t flirt with me,” I snap, “I know you’re a Raider. Tell me what you’re doing here and how you got Blackthorn to place you as our replacement. Did you scheme this?”
Artic stops looking amused. He presses down a little harder, making me gasp. He leans in close and his breath makes me shiver. “Watch where you leap, sweetheart, because you might land in deep waters otherwise.”
He draws away and lets me up, his blue eyes sharp and hard. I feel unease stirring in my belly but then he purrs. “Why don’t we try another move?”
Before I can respond, he attacks one more and as I dodge and respond with my own tricks, I realize that I feel a thrill in my chest at the speed of our match. Raider or not, he’s my true match.
But despite the elated feeling I feel as I spar with the white tom, I can’t help but wonder if he’s an ally or an enemy.
“Would you like to stay for the night?” Artic offers us when we train until the sun has nearly set completely. “This camp is a good distance away from the headquarters and it’s not safe to travel in the dark so close to the border. I can ask a messenger to travel quickly and inform your General.”
I exchange concerned glances with the others. “I think we should,” Mintsplash’s voice wavers and I know she’s thinking about Whiteflame.
Ashshadow mews her agreement. “Like Blizzardstorm says, it’s too dangerous and we shouldn’t risk it. General Blackthorn will understand.” Sootflight nods while Aspenpelt continues to scowl. Perhaps my partner has sensed the tension in the air.
The uneasiness that I feel.
“We’ll stay,” I make a split decision.
Artic has a smirk on his face and I frown at that. He leads us into the camp and introduces us to the General there. The huge tom’s face is sort of stricken with awe when he realizes that he’s hosting the infamous fly warriors. He shows us a spacious den in which we plop down as soon our nests are made.
Before I can settle down, Artic plants himself in front of me. “Ravenflight,” he murmurs my name like it’s a curse, “I wanted a word with you in my den.”
I narrow my eyes at that and tell Aspenpelt where I’ll be. He understands immediately and tells me to be careful before watching Artic and I pad away. His den isn’t too far away when we enter, I feel a thrill at the thought of being alone with this mysterious white tom.
“What did you want?” I ask tensely, my muscles bunching slightly in case I needed to protect myself.
“I don’t know,” he admits, “I just really wanted to see you alone.”
His eyes are even more vibrant if that’s even possible. I lift my face slightly so that my eyes are aligned with his. They burn into mine just like Blackthorn’s does but his energy is softer and more cautious.
“I know you don’t trust me,” he murmurs, “but I don’t know how to make you trust me.”
“You can’ t make me,” I quirk up my lips into a smirk, “You earn it.”
He keeps his eyes solely focused on mine. “Fine, I don’t know how to earn your trust. I know it’s because you saw me with those Raiders…”
I tense slightly at the mention of this.
Artic draws closer, his eyes kind and soft. The warmth in them makes me want to crumple down and forget the rest of the world. I force myself to hold it together and look somewhere else. I fidget and stare down at my paws. “Well?” I say sharply when he doesn’t continue, “What were you doing with them? You certainly acted as if you were one of them. And you’re a warrior here. There’s no wayyou’re both.”
When he still doesn’t reply, I smack him, hard.
“Are you Artic or Blizzardstorm?”
“Both,” he lifts his gaze and draws me in with that tender look. “I’m Blizzardstorm when I’m here, and I’m Artic with the Raiders.”
“Who’s the real one?”
A playful smirk emerges on his lips. “Do you really think I’d be stupid enough to interact with you if I knew you thought I was a Raider and I was? I’m not dense, Ravenflight, I have brains. I’m spying on them for my General. I was the fastest cat in all of IceClan so they chose me.”
I tilt my head up again and then I realize he’s a lot closer to me than I wanted him to be. But for some reason, I don’t push him away. He curls his tail around me and the brightness of his eyes reflect my wide eyes.
“I just want you to believe me,” Artic breathes into my ear.
“Do you trust me?”
I close my eyes, not too sure how to reply.
Soon, we sway and he topples into me and I let him fall as we land in his nest. I just savor his weight and I can feel myself getting drowsier and sleep pulls at me.
Before I close my eyes and let go, I whisper.
“I think so.”
He’s so close. I find the sharpness in his gaze and when he teasingly draws a paw down my flank, making me shiver, I see all the playfulness that makes him enjoyable. This isn’t just a random tom I’m picking up to enjoy.
This is real.
“Do you think Blackthorn will mind?” I breathe out scarcely, “You know he’s never been a fan of us being together.”
Artic’s easy grin makes my heart take off. “Who cares what he thinks? This is our life after all.”
I bite my lip but he draws in closer and touches his nose gently to mine. Something flashes through me at his touch and I savor it. For a moment we stay silent and then I add. “We should focus on the war first.”
The white tom’s eyes flash in the darkness and for a moment I fear I see malevolence in his eyes. “The Raiders can wait…” he murmurs, “we don’t have to worry about that. After all, if we did, we wouldn’t be cuddled together now wouldn’t we?”
When I don’t have an answer to that, he lets out a low laugh. “Exactly.”
That brings out a small smile. The war has been raging on for so long that I feel as though only Artic can make me grin like a fool. “You think he would have wanted this?” I murmur, trying to shove away the pain I feel.
Before he can reply however, shouts ring from the outside. “RAIDERS! THE RAIDERS ARE ATTACKING!”
Fear rushes through me and together, Artic and I race outside...only to see our home completely obliterated.
Screams fill the air and as my mouth opens in shock as my Clanmates are torn apart. No mercy is being shown as the Raiders rip down the camp and sink their fangs into the cats I had known. Innocent kits and mothers are stomped down and quenched in a matter of seconds.
The death toll rises and I finally see my fly warriors fly into action. Ashshadow gets knocked down immediately but Sootflight lunges forward to take her spot.
The sickening sound of bones being crushed and the dark red of his blood makes me feel sick to the stomach. I glance at Artic and I let out a scream when I see that his eyes are dark and empty, his face frozen in a dead snarl.
My breath comes in gasps and I whip my head around at Ashshadow’s anguished cries. Mintsplash hurries to comfort her while Whiteflame fights off the Raider. He goes down in a few heartbeats.
Mintsplash and Ashshadow don’t stand a chance. Even with their grief and anger mounting, they are no match for the Raiders’ superior strength.
I try to throw myself forward, to save my friends but I can’t. My paws are rooted to the ground and I turn to Artic, pleading for him to help them, to save them with his speed and skill. But his empty eyes bear into my dull ones and terror courses through me, bolting me down.
When Artic does move, he lunges for me instead. My shriek splits the skies and he pins me down easily before I can escape. His paw crushes my throat and I’m trying to gasp for air as he cuts off my supply of oxygen.
Darkness creeps at the edge of my vision and I can’t breathe. I can’t-
Everything comes crashing down.
That’s when I jolt awake and realize that there are screams and shouts filling the night sky. I rush outside, just like I did in my dream and gape in horror as I see flames surrounding the camp.
I was broken and bruised