SIX//RAVENFLIGHT

I'm a warrior

I’m so shocked that when Artic rolls over and pins me down instead, I don’t have the strength to fight him. “Gwyn,” he calls over his shoulder, “I got her.”

I let out a wretched scream and try to break free of his grasp but the white tom presses down his paw harder, making me gasp in pain. Gwyn, the pale gray she-cat I’ve seen with him so many times smirks. “I knew we’d get you sometime.”

Cursing myself under my breath for being so stupid, I let them haul me up. Artic uses thick vines to restrict my movement and they use one end of the vine to tug me along. I spit curses and try to scream for my fly warriors.

Gwyn groans and ends up tying my mouth shut instead.

We travel for some distance before we arrive at a stronghold that is fortified by mud and brambles to make the walls look terrifying. Artic pulls me in and stops in front of a mud mound. He stabs his claws into the front and drags out a portion and shoves me inside. I hiss and he tugs off my mouth bind. I bare my teeth but he just calmly mews. “Just so you know, if you don’t want to suffocate under all that mud, you’ll be nice to your guards.”

I try to lunge for him but he slams his paw down on top of the mound. Mud showers down and I choke. Artic’s eyes are cold and unfeeling. I glance up and notice that there’s a way the mud was stuck together so that the Raiders could control what came down.

With one hit, Artic could bury me alive.

My breath catches in my throat and Artic places a screen of brambles over the entrance and leaves. The vines binding my paws are tight and I squeeze my eyes shut as I let the first tears fall.

I’ve been so, so stupid.

~

Gwyn comes back later with a bramble strip in her jaw. She jerks her head and a light brown tom hauls me out of my prison and drags me to a section of the stronghold where a shrub is. He ties the vine to the shrub and uses another vine to secure me there so I can’t move.

“We can do this two ways,” Gwyn snaps, “you can either be cooperative and we can avoid all the bloody mess or you can try to see if you can take these strikes.” She raises the bramble threatening and by her eyes, I can tell she’s done this with so many other prisoners.

I take a moment to glance around and realize similar tortures are going on. This must be a prison stronghold.

The bramble whip snaps down next to me, making my heart race. “Well?” Gwyn says lowly, her stormy hazel eyes pinning me down. “Let’s start with the first question. What is your name?”

“Ravenflight.”

She doesn’t look surprised. She probably already knows a few things about me. “What position do you hold in IceClan?”

“Fly warrior.”

“What are the other positions?”

I pause at this one. What did they want with this information? Most of the cats thrown against the Raiders from the other divisions easily get slaughtered. The Raiders already know how they work.

At my hesitation, the whip comes cracking down and I let out a gasp of pain. Gwyn’s hard eyes find mine and lock me there. “What are the other positions?” she repeats calmly, lifting the bramble whip again in her jaws. Blood trickles from the shallow wound across my back onto the ground. I swallow through the pain and grunt. “Ground warriors and river warriors.”

“And what do they do?”

“Ground warriors excel at fighting on the ground and river warriors use the water to their advantage.”

Someone shrieks next to me and when I glance over, their eyes are pinned on mine and the hatred is clear in their eyes. I’m paralyzed and I can’t glance away. Gwyn uses a paw to slap me back. “He was a fellow river warrior we captured a few moons ago. He still won’t tell us anything.”

My heart feels sick. I’ve never seen the torture sessions that go on in IceClan, as the main camp isn’t the prison stronghold. But the ring fighting is only one way to kill them. There must be other ways to bribe information out of them.

The pale gray she-cat gives me a malevolent smile. “I never knew fly warriors were so gullible.”

I grit my teeth and spit on her instead. Her eyes glow with fury and I feel pain erupt along my flank as I let out a scream.

The bramble comes down over and over and my eyes sting from the tears pouring from my eyes. “Gwyn,” someone says quietly. I can barely hear it from my fog of pain. “What are you doing?”

“Interrogating a prisoner, Artic,” she replies sharply.

Artic?

“Gwyn, you’re not even asking questions,” he snaps, “you’re whipping her for no reason. Place her back in her den and let’s go. We have a mission to complete.”

Gwyn growls and I feel the vine securing me to the tree being ripped off and Gwyn tugs me viciously back to my mud den. I stumble inside and she closes the bramble screen. Blood pools around me and I lay down, my eyes closing from exhaustion.

I don’t know how long it takes, but when I fade into sleep, my dreams are nothing close to being comforting.

~

There’s a little tom struggling in the snow. His brilliant blue eyes shine in the fading sunlight and he mewls in terror as another gust of wind knocks him over. Words fly out of his mouth but I can’t hear them. He hauls himself back up and tries to move forward once more, only to be knocked down once more.

He lay there, in a pitiful mess. His eyes flutter open and shut. His legs churn against the snow but he’s too weak to move.

Suddenly, a group passes by. They cry out in alarm when they see the feeble kit struggling to survive. I narrow my eyes at the group of cats and I realize they’re Raiders. I stiffen but they just pick up the little tom and one of them carries him off.

I can see the gleam of eyes sparking from within the forest and with a jolt, I realize that the Raiders found the tom on IceClan territory.

The eyes follow the cats and ignore the kit. He is seated in a comfortable position, almost as if he had been watching the kit’s struggles. With a shiver, I watch as he turns and disappears, his black pelt melting into the shadows.

He almost looked as if he had been the younger version of Blackthorn.

The kit lets out a feeble mew and this time I can hear clearly what he’s trying to say. “Mother,” he wails, “I want my mother.”

One of the Raiders just silently shakes his head. “I’m sorry kit,” he murmurs, “they killed her.”

The words echo in my head and I know exactly who they meant. A pale she-cat with gray speckled dots appears before me, blood staining the snow red around her. I feel sick and I can pick up the IceClan scents coming from her. I realize with a sickening heart what had happened.

IceClan had killed her.

~

“I’ll take care of her.”

“As if,” a feminine voice growls, “I’ve seen the way you look at her, Artic, I’m not letting you deal with her.”

“Gwyn,” Artic’s voice is calm, “I caught her, didn’t I?”

I blink and try to focus on the two cats arguing in front of my prison den. Gwyn is bristling. “We’ve been friends since we were born,” she growls, “I know you like the back of my paw. You know what Scree would do if we lost her.”

“I won’t let her go if that’s what you’re worried about,” Artic shakes his head, “I’m smarter than that.”

Gwyn purses her lips. “Let me come with you,” she begs.

Artic looks grim but he finally nods. He leans in and tugs me - almost gently - out of my den. “Let’s go to somewhere private,” he grunts.

Gwyn ruffles out her fur. “I know the perfect place.” She says meaningfully. She spins on her heel and leads us through a maze and we stop in a quiet clearing. Artic throws my vine around a stump and leaves me there. I’m starting to feel cramped from a day of not being able to move my own paws.

Artic’s eyes land on my wounds and I wince slightly. The blood that had been oozing from the wounds had crusted and dried all over my black fur. Gwyn looks on without remorse. Artic grimaces and he sighs. “Gwyn, you shouldn’t be here for this.”

The pale she-cat gives him a roll of her eyes. “I won’t rat you out if you start sprouting a few nonsense words.”

The white tom gives her a hard look and mutters a curse before turning to me.

“I’m sorry, Ravenflight.”

I choke on my breath. “Excuse me?” I laugh harshly, “What exactly are you apologizing for?”

“Everything,” Artic admits. He glances at Gwyn, who looks on as if nothing was happening. “I’ve been...an idiot.”

Gwyn mutters, “You got that one right.”

The white tom ignores her. “You probably hate me. But I guess I had my reasons. The Raiders are my home and the only home I’ve known. My mother…” A look of pain enters his face, so deep that I can see the anguish slashed across his face. I recall the image of the she-cat laying in the snow. “...she died when I was pretty young.”

I breathe in slowly. “I had to leave my mother to join the IceClan’s fly warriors.”

StarClan, why did I just tell him that? The look on Artic’s face is so genuine, I feel myself opening up to him. “What are you doing?” I whisper, “Why are you apologizing to me? We’re enemies.”

Artic gives me a long look. I can tell there’s more to this than I realize.

“You need to go back to your fly warriors and well...prepare I suppose.”

Gwyn lets out a gusty sigh but doesn’t move a muscle. I suppose she’s completely loyal to Artic. “I-”

Artic grabs my vine and rips it off. I stretch my paws tenderly and marvel how good it feels. “What are you doing?” I ask quietly as I watch him bundle away the vines. He turns to Gwyn and nods.

I watch in shock as she narrows her eyes but slashes her claws along Artic’s flank. He closes his eyes and lets her. I gasp in horror but Gwyn relaxes. “Don’t fret, recruit, he’s just making our story a little more viable.”

Realization dawns me. “You’re letting me go?”

“He is,” Gwyn rolls her eyes, “I’m only letting him do this because he’s my best friend. He must have reasons.”

Artic looks like he can barely balance on his paws. “I had to take you in when we first found you. But now that we’ve gotten the chance, you can go free once more. You don’t belong with us.”

“You should come too,” I say hesitantly.

Artic shakes his head, “I’ll find my way there, don’t you worry.”

Taking a deep breath, I just give him a nod and disappear into the darkness.

I'm stronger than I've ever been

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

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