This is a story that I have never told
I stare into the eyes of my opponent. He’s breathing hard and there’s a change in his stance. I see it immediately and loosen myself up. No point in tensing up when he can’t even tell that his form is off. He lunges for me and I hop onto his back before flipping over him gracefully. The crowd gasps in wonder and I allow myself a small smile. I spin around and dodge the next blow before tripping him.
I let him get up. A crazed look has entered his eyes and I stretch leisurely as I wait for him to make the next move. There’s no excitement in this match anymore. He’s lost it, I can tell by his expression. I sigh and when he barrels towards me again, I duck and slash my claws into his stomach, piercing them before tearing it out.
He doesn’t even scream. He’s dead before he falls to the ground. I take a deep breath and bathe in the praise as the onlookers cheer. Bring in the next one. I urge them silently, trying to even out my breathing.
But one’s enough. I stalk past the fans and push my way through the crowd before stopping in a quiet grove to groom myself.
“Ravenflight!” I look up and roll my eyes when I see Ashshadow and Sootflight. Like the couple they are, their tails are intertwined, but they look rather peeved. “What did I tell you about fighting?” Ashshadow scolds.
“Fighting,” I say slowly, “is my life.”
Ashshadow just gives me a harsh glare. “No it’s not, Ravenflight.”
“I’m a fly warrior,” I snap back, raising a paw nonchalantly to rub the blood off the side of my face. “I go out there and kick the tails of our enemies with our fluent moves. I would say fighting is my life.”
“Not in this fashion,” Sootflight cuts in gently, “we’re all fly warriors, but we’re not supposed to go to the ring and fight every day.”
“They’re prisoners,” I shrug, standing to walk away, “Who cares about them?”
I know from their silence that they have different views on the prisoners. I growl to myself and start to stomp away. “Wait,” Ashshadow calls after me, “the general wants all fly warriors to gather right now at the Pit.”
“I’ll be there in a moment,” I call over my shoulder.
I can hear Ashshadow’s worried mutters and Sootflight’s quiet reassurance as I head down the path. Our entire camp is spread out among the wilderness, with dens dotting the area. But the main stronghold, the one that is actually protected, is in the center with strict regulations.
As a fly warrior, I’m supposed to stay inside until I’m released to go train or go on a mission. The Pit is of course where we start and end. Most of the camp is below the rest of our territory, and the only way to get in and out of the clearing would be to use the tunnels.
Unless you’re a fly warrior and you like challenge.
The Pit is the next best choice. It’s rather safe after you’ve trained long enough, but I’ve found different paths near cliff faces that are located near the Pit.
Not that they’re you know, safe.
But I like a bit of challenge. Plus, nobody checks these areas because they’re so dangerous.
I choose a towering cliff edge with a few jutting rocks. It’s tough to get up, but even tougher to get back down. I’d probably break my neck coming down, but all the cliffs - other than the Pit - are impossible to get down.
I’ll deal with the general’s fury later when I get back.
I’ve done it before after all.
I survey the cliffside and run a quick route through my head in a few seconds before hopping up without another thought. I grip the first rock with my forepaws and my legs burn as I haul myself up. Without pausing, I leap for the next and continue on as I twist and jump until I’ve reached the top, breathing hard. I peer down into the camp and grin when none of the guards realize what I’ve done.
Turning and sniffing the air, I weave my way through the undergrowth and head for the border. I hope there’s a patrol there tonight so I can sneak in and give them quite a scare. Maybe even claim a few enemy lives while I’m at it.
I duck low and stay out of the guard’s line of sight and hurry towards the invisible line of a border. It’s right past the thicket of trees where it begins to thin out into a rocky landscape. We’ve been trying for moons to get the rocky territory back, as the Raiders took that from us a few moons back.
I loved that place.
After a few more steps, I reach the new “border”. It reeks of Raiders’ scent and I crouch low behind a thick trunk as I wait for a patrol to drop by.
Soon, a group of chattering cats sound in the distance. I bare my teeth and peer through the leaves and swiftly haul myself up to the first branch. I perch there, silent as the night, and wait for the patrol to drop by below.
They do, still talking, though softly now as they sweep their gazes across the border into the trees, staying watchful for IceClan cats. I narrow my eyes and wait for the last cat to go by before dropping down.
He doesn’t have time to scream because I knock the air out of him. I whirl my claws through the air and slice open his neck, the blood spurting out and nearly washing over me. I cough in surprise and barely stagger away before the rest of the patrol is on me. My eyes pass over the five of the Raiders and I swallow hard before jumping as high as I can - just as the first cat lunges with frightening speeds at me.
Raiders are known for their speeds. Their speed and skill is what makes them so hard to fight. IceClan only has special departments dedicated to one skill in hopes of matching the Raiders’ footwork.
I land a few tail-lengths behind them and run for my life. Their shouts sound behind me but I know they won’t follow me across the border. I barrel through the trees and huff as I nearly collide with the nearest guard. She yelps in surprise and opens her mouth to call for an invasion until she sees my pure black and all too messy pelt.
“Ravenflight,” she growls, “what are you doing out of the camp?”
“Nothing,” I mutter as I casually lick the tom’s pelt off of me, “Just...training.”
The guard eyes me almost pitifully and just shakes her head. “General Blackthorn has been looking for you; you seem to be late for a fly warrior meeting.”
I purse my lips and push my way roughly through the bracken tunnel before hurrying towards the Pit where I know is going to be my worst nightmare ever.
Maybe the little “adventure” wasn’t worth it after all.
“YOU DID WHAT?” General Blackthorn glares at me with two hot pits of fire. I straighten my shoulders and stare right back. “You disobey a direct call from your own general and do what? You decided to try to take on a Raiders patrol? Are you insane, Ravenflight?”
“Just the right amount,” I reply cheekily.
“That’s six demerits for you.”
I feel my shoulders sag and just mutter “Yes, sir” before finding my place next to Ashshadow and Sootflight, both who give me fairly concerned glances. I ignore them completely and hold my head high while the general sighs and continues with the meeting.
“As I was saying before Ravenflight interrupted, the assessments for the fly warrior project has been moved to next moon.”
My eyes grow wide with shock. “Next moon?” I burst out, “We’re not-”
“Ravenflight,” Blackthorn gives me a harsh stare. I grimace under the heat and sit back down. “We’ll have a talk in my den later.” He adds meaningfully before turning back to the rest of the fly warriors.
“Each team will be put on a tight training schedule for the next moon to prepare. We must make sure we can use our skills to fight the Raiders and win this war. We cannot afford to wait any longer.”
I can’t believe my ears. The fly warriors have been a project has only seriously been in effect for about three moons. The idea has been around for nineteen moons as when I was a kit we were taken to a separate training camp so they can perfect our fly warrior skills. They announced to the rest of the Clan that we would try to actually have an actual army of fly warriors three moons ago if we - the current fly warriors (there’s only six of us anyways) - can prove that it’s worth the long training. Other sections of the Clan don’t start their specific training until they are six moons old - which is when they test to see what they’re best at.
“General Blackthorn?” Ashshadow can sense my curiosity, “May I ask a question?”
He nods, “You may, Ashshadow.”
“Why are the assessments being moved up so early? We’ve never actually tried to fight the Raiders before, other than the prisoners that we face off in training sessions,” she sneaks me a meaningful glance and I roll my eyes.
“As you have noticed, the Raiders’ activity has moved up immensely. They must be preparing for an invasion that could destroy us if we are not ready. Our other sectors of the army are ready, but they are limited to their surroundings and abilities. River warriors can perform in water whereas the ground warriors can only perform on land. Neither of them use heights or even speed to their advantage.” His gaze sweeps over us and lands on me. “That’s why we chose to create the fly warriors.”
“General?” I ask meekly, “What will the assessments be like?”
Blackthorn only shakes his head. “I think most of you know the answer already.” I feel a shudder of horror when I realize that all my stunts aren’t just going to be a game anymore, something where I can flee from when the situation gets risky.
This is for real.
“The six of you will report here at sunrise sharp every morning where I will tell you your assignment for the day. There will be tight schedules so don’t expect a lot of free time.” Again, another meaningful glance in my direction. I dig my claws into the soft dirt and ignore the teasing gazes of my peers.
“Enjoy your last free days, warriors. You are dismissed.”
They leave the Pit in a flurry of excitement, whispering as they pad out of the Pit to the camp once more. Ashshadow and Sootflight brush by me and Ashshadow whispers, “Don’t say anything stupid, Ravenflight.”
I swallow and face Blackthorn alone as they shuffle away. “Ravenflight, let’s walk to my den,” he tells me, following my best friends out of the Pit. I stay quietly behind him, my cheeks burning. After this, I still have demerits to work off. I hope it’s something simple like helping the medicine cat rather than cleaning out all the dens.
We enter his spacious den and he sits down and motions for me to do the same. “Ravenflight, what drove you to be so reckless?” he sighs, “I’ve given you more privilege than others so you can push away all that adrenaline that I know you build up from fighting in the ring every day. But fighting the Raiders?”
I don’t reply for a few moments. “Well?” he demands in a quiet voice, “You must have had a good reason to want to do this.”
“I just wanted to get into the action for once,” I admit, “the other sectors always go and fight the Raiders daily. They bring in loads of prisoners that I end up fighting when I burn off fuel in the ring. But I want to be out there and proving that I can do it too.”
“You’ve done this multiple times now,” Blackthorn sighs, “Each time we’ve talked this over. The fly warriors go as a team, just as other sectors do. Your team isn’t ready for this, Ravenflight. You might be but you know just as well that Mintsplash, Whiteflame, and Aspenpelt aren’t exactly prepared to face the Raiders.”
I notice that he doesn’t mention my friends. “Is this why we’re speeding up the training?”
“Indeed,” Blackthorn nods, “It’s time to send your team out, Ravenflight, and the maximum amount of time we have is a moon. The Raiders are gathering their forces and so must we. We’ve already started training a new batch of fly warriors but your team needs to prove that all this time wasted in training the fly warriors is worth it. What makes a fly warrior so special? Why is it so important that we have you practice getting to difficult places at high speeds? Why must we - as warriors - escape the confinements of the grounds and fly? These are the questions you must help answer.”
He meets my gaze evenly. “It’s not a game anymore, Ravenflight, this is war.”
I gotta get this off my chest to let it go