NOTICE: I've been writing this book for a little over a year and a half, and I have grown a LOT as a writer since I started. The first chapters of this book are pretty amateur and crappy, but when I finish the book (which will be VERY soon) I plan to mass edit the entire thing. Fix awkward moments in the writing, get rid of inconsistencies, edit the grammar, and overall make the plot and character development flow easier and more enjoyable for you guys, my readers. So please cut me some slack The beginning of the story is a little slow and very "ugh" worthy, but I will get around to fixing it once I have finished the entire book.
A/N: This chapter is not edited. I got sick of staring at it so I just decided to post it. Please ignore awkwardness in it, I'll edit it later.
Snowdawn picked up a long stick in her mouth and rose up, sitting on her hind paws and sticking the stick in a small hole in the camp wall. She used her paws to weave it into the wall as she leaned back against Sootlife to keep her balance. Once it was in place, she let herself fall back to the ground, picking up another stick before rising back up to sit on her back paws.
“Sootlife!” Sunheart called as he padded over, addressing the deputy and Snowdawn with a nod of respect.
“Yes, Sunheart?” Sootlife asked. Snowdawn wove the stick into its place, making sure it was secured in snuggly before dropping and grabbing another stick.
“The back wall is finished. What would you like us to do now?” Sunheart asked.
“Take everybody who finished the wall and anybody else who isn’t doing anything and go hunting. We’ll need all our energy if a battle is to come,” Sootlife ordered. “Be very careful, and if you see anything, run back here immediately.”
Snowdawn saw Sunheart nod out of the corner of her eye, then pad away as she grabbed another stick.
Sootlife sighed, shifting against Snowdawn’s back. She turned her upper half to look at him, and sighed at the clearly distressed look across his face. She dropped down to the ground again, leaving the stick protruding out from the thick wall. She licked his cheek, purring as she nudged his neck.
“You need to take a deep breath. You’re not going to get anything done worrying like that,” she said.
“I’m sorry. I just...I can’t help it,” Sootlife mumbled, staring down at the ground. He shuffled his paws, something he did a lot when he was nervous. “What if I do something wrong? What if we’re in battle and I have to make a decision for the clan because Moonstar can’t or she doesn’t see something or-” He broke off, sighing. “I’m deputy. I’m expected to lead the clan into this battle and I don’t know if I can do it.”
Snowdawn stared at him for a few moments, scrutinizing him with narrowed eyes, wondering what she could say to somehow make him feel better. She finally settled on the obvious approach: reassurance. “You’re a great deputy, Sootlife. The clan really respects you, believe me. You’ll do fine.”
“I wake up every morning wondering if Moonstar made the right choice,” Sootlife meowed. “There are so many other cats in the clan that would be such a better choice. Sunheart and Thrushpelt, for example. They’d make good deputies!”
“But you make a great deputy,” Snowdawn repeated. “Sootlife, you’re doing fine. You can’t compare yourself to other cats in the clan!” Pausing, she looked him up and down and then licked his nose. “Moonstar knew what she was doing when she chose you.”
“But...how can I ever live up to Scorchfur? He was always such a great leader; it was impossible not to follow him. I feel like everybody expects me to be like him and I just can’t. I’m not as brave or as powerful as him.”
“You can’t compare yourself to your father, either,” Snowdawn hissed. “You’re not him, you’re yourself. Don’t compare to anybody.” She slid closer to him, rubbing her head against his cheek. “I love you, Sootlife, and the clan would be willing to do anything you say. They respect you, and they enjoy being led by you, okay? What happened to the cat who took charge when we were in trouble in the twolegplace, huh? Where is he?”
“I don't know.”
Snowdawn leaned back and looked him in the eyes, and he steadily stared back at her. Confliction was flashing across his face.
“He's in there somewhere,” Snowdawn meowed. “You just have to find him. You have the capacity to lead this clan, Sootlife, you're just too afraid that you might mess up to realize it. Nobody expects you to be perfect.”
He sighed, cocking his head, and she could see some of the anguish slowly slipping away. “Thank you, Snowdawn.” He licked her cheek, and she could hear a purr rising in his throat. “I'm glad StarClan blessed me so much to have you by my side.”
“Come on,” Snowdawn said, turning back to the bramble wall and brushed her tail against his cheek. “We need to finish this.”
She rose up again, leaning back against Sootlife as she weaved into the wall the stick she had left sticking out.
Lots of preparations and heavy precautions had been taken since Shimmermist's body had been found. The natural wall around the camp was being heavily fortified, and when cats went out of camp, they went out in very large groups. The apprentice training was sped up and was mostly focused on battle training. When Snowdawn wasn't pushing sticks into the wall, she was training Firepaw inside camp. As she glanced around, she saw her apprentice with Leafpaw. The brothers were busy patching the wall around the Nursery with a few warriors.
Snowdawn leaned down and picked up another stick, pushing it into the wall.
It was very late when they came. The sky was cloudy, the moon just barely peeking through every once in a while to bathe the forest in silvery light before disappearing again. Almost the entire camp was sleeping, save the three guards who stood at every possible entrance into camp. Nobody could hear them coming, they just heard the very loud, ear-piercing warning cry.
Snowdawn's eyes flew open, and she scrambled to her paws, along with every other cat in the den. They streamed out of the den instantly, right into camp. Flamepool was right behind her, and they stopped together right outside, scanning the camp. But there was no sign of enemy cats. The only thing in the large, open clearing was the three guards; Sunheart, Fleetwind and Foxwhisper.
As Snowdawn looked closer, she realized there was another figure, a fourth cat, standing right in the middle of them. The cat's pelt was blacker than night, and Snowdawn's heart sunk at the sight of it.
“Lilacslash...” she whispered.
“It...it can't be...” Flamepool mumbled, staring wide-eyed at the figure.
“It's not,” Sootlife hissed as he padded up in Snowdawn's side. “Look at the eyes.”
As the figure turned its head, Snowdawn saw the cat's bright amber eyes and relaxed, but only for a moment.
“So who is it then?”
“I don't know.”
As Moonstar appeared out of her den, obviously alarmed, Sootlife trotted away to go stand by her side. Snowdawn watched as they approached the black cat, muscles tensed.
“Moonstar!” The black cat looked obviously pleased as the leader approached.
“Midnight,” Moonstar hissed, venom lacing her voice. The crowd around Snowdawn instantly erupted in hushed whispers, hackles all around her rising and claws coming unsheathed.
“Tsk tsk tsk.” Midnight took a step towards Moonstar, but her guards growled and moved with her, refusing to let her pass.
Midnight shook her head. “This isn't a very warm welcome for such a good, old friend.” Her gaze drifted and fell on Sootlife, and her eyes sparked. “Who's that, and what makes him so special that he can walk by your side?”
“This is my deputy, Sootlife,” Moonstar answered calmly.
“Oh, that's not the one I remember. What was her name? The gray one.”
“Ah! Yes!” Midnight chuckled good-naturally. “She had fire in her veins, let me tell you. What happened to her?”
Moonstar stayed silent for a few moments, her expression positively murderous. Snowdawn pricked her ears at the mention of Silvertail. She'd never known who the deputy before Scorchfur was, and frankly she was quite curious.
“She died,” Moonstar finally answered.
“How so?” Midnight asked, looking as if she was having way too much fun antagonizing Moonstar with the past.
Moonstar lifted her chin just a bit, her eyes flashing briefly. “Injuries.”
Amusement flickered through Midnight's gaze as she lowered her head slightly. “How terrible. What injuries?”
“Cut to the chase, Midnight. Why are you here?” Moonstar snapped.
That was enough to give Midnight a straight answer. “So she died after our little...skirmish, huh?”
“Why are you here, Midnight?” Moonstar repeated with gritted teeth.
Midnight shrugged. “I don't know. Thought maybe I'd come back and see some old friends...” her gaze raked the crowd. “Lot's of new faces.” Snowdawn's blood ran cold as Midnight's eyes landed on her, her claws slowly unsheathing and her hackles rising.
“Now that one looks a bit like you, doesn't she?” Midnight said, turning back to Moonstar. “Started a little family, did we?”
Moonstar hissed, her ears laying flat against her head.
“I was going to have kits, Moonstar. But then, of course, you had to take the ones I loved away from me!”
“You asked for it when you attacked our camp, Midnight.”
“I was going to come back for revenge, of course, but then it sort of just...slipped my mind. I forgot, I forgave-”
“So why are you back now?” Moonstar broke in.
“Well...I was given a little reminder,” Midnight answered. She turned her head ever so slightly, and through the camp entrance came another black figure, this one much bigger, stockier, and Snowdawn almost instantly recognized the piercing blue eyes of Lilacslash. Behind her came the smaller, slender form of Lilyfur.
The reaction was instant. Cats hissed and growled all around Snowdawn, baring their teeth, claws flashing in the faint moonlight that escaped past the clouds overhead.
Lilacslash slowly padded forward, her head high, muscles rippling underneath her sleek pelt. She walked straight up to the edge of the crowd, glancing at Midnight for a moment before turning to Moonstar and Sootlife.
“Sootlife...so you're deputy now.” She gave a simple nod to her brother. “Congratulations. I'm pleased. Scorchfur would be proud.”
“Don't you dare talk about our father, you fox-hearted traitor!” Sootlife spit, taking a step towards her, but Moonstar stopped him with a flick of her tail.
“We told you to leave, Lilacslash,” Moonstar growled.
“I didn't listen.”
“You never did.”
Lilacslash’s eyes sparked with amusement. “I remembered the stories of the rogues that once attacked us, before I was even born. Lilyfur told me all she could remember. I didn't think about them much after I was exiled until we stumbled across signs of other cats. When I found them, I knew exactly how to exact my revenge. I managed to convince Midnight to help me.”
“She was quite persuasive,” Midnight interjected.
“But it's only the three of you,” Moonstar meowed, looking between Midnight, Lilacslash and Lilyfur.
A deep sound rose up from Midnight's throat, like a chuckle. She cocked her head, her eyes flashing with what looked like insanity. “You really think I would be dumb enough to come alone?”
There was a shift at the camp entrance, and countless pairs of eyes flashed from the darkness of the bushes that surrounded the camp. Even through the thick wall, they glowed in the faint moonlight. The bushes rustled menacingly, each little crack striking fear into ever cat's heart. By the sound of it, they were outnumbered two to one. Even Moonstar looked terrified for a moment as she whipped her head around.
“I told you I would come back, Moonstar,” Midnight hissed. “Well...surprise!”
It was by some unseen command that the rogues broke the barrier around camp and streamed in, battle cries echoing from all around. They were met with the same ferocity, all fears forgotten in the heat of battle. Snowdawn watched as Lilacslash and Midnight disappeared into the thick of the crowd, and she was forced to focus on the fight.
Her first challenger was a large silvery she-cat with a long scar across her nose. She hissed at Snowdawn, and suddenly leaped, slamming into her. Snowdawn struggled furiously, clawing at any part of her attacker that she could. She heard hisses of rage directly by her ear, and with a lunge, slammed her head into the she-cats.
Stunned, the she-cat fell slightly limp over Snowdawn, and she managed to heave her away. But the move had not come without consequences, and she, too, was left slightly dazed and with a sore head. The she-cat quickly recovered, whirling to face Snowdawn, who lashed out and added another long gash to the scar across her muzzle. Blood splattered across the ground, and the she-cat hissed furiously.
“You'll think twice about that!”
“Oh really?” Snowdawn sneered. “Come on, let's see what you've got!”
With an angry yowl that was drowned out by the battle sounds around them, the she-cat leaped at Snowdawn once again. Snowdawn reared up to meet her, and they collided, falling back and slamming to the ground with a loud thud. Snowdawn used her back paws to push against the she-cat’s stomach, sending her flailing. Snowdawn rolled to her paws and quickly slashed open her enemy's stomach. The silver cat yowled with pain, dragging herself up. Blood oozed out onto the ground, she turned once again to face Snowdawn. But she was quickly losing blood, and before she could attack, she stumbled and fell to the ground.
Snowdawn backed away. She didn't really know what to do. The warrior code said that a warrior must not kill to win their battles, but she couldn't just leave the she-cat there to die.
Snowdawn looked up to see Kindheart battling a rather large tom and a slender she-cat. They had her cornered near the warriors den, her eyes wild with fear.
With her mind made up, Snowdawn left the silvery she-cat and took off to help Kindheart, leaping onto the back of the tom and biting down on his scruff, pulling. She could instantly feel his muscles tense and then become loose under his pelt as he stumbled back, obviously disorientated. He shook his head, and then rolled before Snowdawn had any chance to react. She was slammed against the ground and crushed under the massive tom's weight, her lungs collapsing, all air knocked from her. She gasped frantically as the tom rolled to his paws, leaping at her and slashing at her stomach.
Crying out, Snowdawn fumbled for a grip on the ground and pulled herself up. Pain lanced through her body, but thankfully the cut wasn't very deep. She turned to face her opponent, staring at him with narrowed eyes.
He was large, she could see that, and would be slow in an attack. It became more apparent as they continued to face off that he knew, and refused to make the first move. So Snowdawn took it upon herself. She slid closer, keeping her eyes locked with his. But as she tried to get close enough to lash out, he realized her tactic and slipped back. This back and forth maneuvering continued, until Snowdawn grew tired of it. In one swift motion she leaned back on her hind legs and launched herself forward as fast as she could.
He didn't seem to be expecting such a quick attack, and Snowdawn managed to slice open his cheek. Blood splattered from the wound, and he cried out as it covered his eye. Seeing her chance, Snowdawn dove forward again, sinking her teeth into his front paw. Remembering all the way back to Sootlife's battle with Creed, she bit down as hard as she could. The tom cried out in pain, batting feebly at her head. The blood was still in his eye, and so it was closed tightly. Snowdawn could feel the bone start to give way as she clenched harder, and could feel the cracks resounding back through her teeth.
The tom gave a last scream and slammed his forepaw against her cheeks, sending her reeling. As soon as her gripped loosened, the tom slipped away, gasping in pain. It was as if time had slowed down as she watched the blood slipped down his leg, drip towards the ground, and splatter in the dirt. She could almost hear it, but of course, the cries around her drowned out something so quiet.
The tom had his leg suspended up above the ground. There was no way he could walk on it, much less fight, so with a hiss, he limped backwards, never taking his eyes off Snowdawn as he pushed through the now wrecked wall and disappeared out of sight.
Snowdawn slowly turned around, her eyes widening at the sight before her. The ground was soaked in blood and littered with tufts of fur. She even saw a tooth lying on the ground, bloody and broken. Her clanmates were simply overwhelmed; the rogues were too numerous, too strong. As she desperately took in the battlefield around her, she looked on in pure horror at the motionless bodies that dotted the clearing here and there. Whether they were cats she knew, she couldn’t tell. There was too much blood.
Snowdawn threw herself forward into the fray. “Flamepool!” she yowled, looking around for her sister. “Flamepool!” But no answer came. She slipped around fighting cats and dodged through the crowed, but the flame-pelted she-cat was nowhere to be seen.
StarClan, please help us! she screamed in her mind. Please! You said our path would always be aided, but by who?
Snowdawn jumped swiftly over the broken body of a cat that she hoped was a rogue and looked around for any sign of any cat she knew. As she turned her head, she was met a flash of black fur and the glint of claws. Thrown to the ground, Snowdawn gasped, her eyes flying open to look at her attacker.
“There you are,” the familiar voice drawled close to her hear. “I was looking for you.”
“Lilacslash,” Snowdawn hissed, rolling away and pulling herself up.
“How are you, Snowdawn? I’ve been good, great actually,” Lilacslash meowed.
“I’ve been doing pretty well,” Snowdawn spat, her eyes intent on her enemy, taking in every little muscle movement, every twitch of the skin.
“Great!” Lilacslash exclaimed, her lips curling back as she flashed her teeth. “That’s just perfect.”
Lilacslash threw herself forward, front legs outstretched and claws flashing in the moonlight. Snowdawn dodged to the side easily, Lilacslash’s black fur brushing past her as she landed where Snowdawn had been a moment before. Whirling around, Snowdawn swung her paw and nicked her ear, blood instantly welling up. Lilacslash hissed, but did not back away. Instead, she dove downward, and Snowdawn gasped as pain exploded in her front leg. Lilacslash had gripped on and didn’t look like she was about to let go.
Without any hesitance, Snowdawn clawed at the top of Lilacslash’s head, opening four deep, long slashes that started right behind her left ear and traveled to her forehead. Bright, crimson blood began to ooze from the wound, and Lilacslash closed her eyes as it dripped down into them. Snowdawn then sunk her teeth into Lilacslash’s ear. She remembered stories told to her by countless clan mates of the last time to rogues fought them, and she remembered distinctly in every story that Moonstar had shredded one of the enemy's ear. Lilacslash hissed angrily as Snowdawn held on to the thin skin of the ear, shaking her head to try and dislodge her. But that only made it worse, and Snowdawn could feel the skin ripping beneath her teeth.
They stayed like that for a few moments, each not really knowing what to do. Finally, Snowdawn swung her free paw, slicing open Lilacslash’s cheek. She stumbled backwards as she did it, taking Lilacslash down with her. The two fell in a tangle, and as they fell, Lilacslash let go of her leg, but Snowdawn’s jaws were still clenched, and her ear was ripped away from her teeth.
Lilacslash let out a short, high pitched cry and stumbled away. A growl echoed deep in her throat, and she stared at Showdown with ice in her eyes.
"You'll pay for that!" she hissed, her voice laced with venom. She pounced before Snowdawn could duck, and their bodies slammed together. They fell in a tangle of limbs. She heard Lilacslash's teeth clamp down right by her ear, and lashed out. She missed.
Lilacslash was going to fast, and Snowdawn couldn't keep up with her moves. She was out of good practice, while her enemy, no doubt, had been practicing relentlessly.
So when Snowdawn felt the jaws clamp down on her throat, she wasn't expecting it. She didn't see it coming.
Everything felt like it had stopped at Snowdawn's entire body seized up. She could feel the warm, sticky liquid begin to ooze through the fur at her neck. Her legs went weak, and she crumpled. The pressure on her throat disappeared, and her body hit the ground with a quiet thump.
"That was almost too easy, Snowdawn," Lilacslash whispered in her ear. "I told them, the rogues, 'You can have anybody, but the ones they call Snowdawn and Flamepool...leave them to me.'"
Snowdawn's blood ran cold as Lilacslash talked. She tried to move but her body was growing weaker with shock.
"Don't you see, Snowdawn?" Lilacslash continued. "I know about your precious prophecy. It was your destiny to end me, and it was my destiny to end you. That's the way StarClan's prophecies work."
Snowdawn felt claws on her neck, and looked up into Lilacslash's eyes, which glowed in the dark.
Lilacslash disappeared in a flash of black. There was a scream of rage, and Snowdawn tilted her head back to see who her savior was.
"Don't you dare touch her, again," Sootlife snarled.
"Brother!" Lilacslash exclaimed. "Oh, how I've missed you!"
Sootlife didn't answer.
"Fine, I see how it is. How tragic, that both of you have to die. At least you can die together!" Lilacslash ran at Sootlife, who ducked to the side.
Snowdawn let her eyes flutter shut. Her body was still in shock, trying desperately to close the wound at her neck. The blood continued to ooze slowly out of the puncture wounds. She didn't know how deep it was, and or silently to StarClan that it wasn't.
"Snowdawn? Snowdawn, please wake up!"
"Flamepool?" Snowdawn crooked, opening her eyes. She expected to hear the sounds of battle cries and see the night sky, but all she saw was the way of a den.
"Where am I?"
"The medicine den," Flamepool answered. "You were hurt pretty badly. I thought...I thought you wouldn't make it..."
Snowdawn looked around the den. There were multiple cats in nests, some sleeping, some being treated. They all looked beaten and battle worn, with wounds covering their bodies. One of Sunheart's eyes was closed shut, four slash marks over it.
"The battle?" Snowdawn suddenly whispered. She tried to drag herself up, managing to pull up the front half of her body. She had to get back to fighting! MoonClan couldn't lose.
"Won." Flamepool meowed.
"...what?" Snowdawn paused, looking at her sister.
Snowdawn turned her head to look at the den entrance. Faint morning light filtered through.
"The remaining ran after they saw Sootlife kill Lilacslash."
Flamepool nodded. Snowdawn studied her sister's expression. Flamepool was trying to look happy, but something was plaguing her.
"What happened?" Snowdawn demanded. Flamepool opened her mouth to answer, but it fell short. She visibly deflated and turned her head in the direction of a nest where a white, bloody cat lay.
"Mother..." Snowdawn whispered. She pulled herself to her all four paws and slowly picked her way to the nest.
"Mother?" she whispered. Moonstar's eyes flew open. They were dull, almost lifeless.
"Snowdawn..." she croaked. As Snowdawn inspected her mother's body, she saw a long gash across her stomach that went from the base of her neck to her back legs. It looked deep.
"Why does she not have cobwebs?" Snowdawn asked.
"She refused," Flamepool answered, her voice shaking.
"Don't," Moonster mumbled. "You should have seen how much Mallowfeather has already used on me. It was a waste of cobwebs. She needs to use the on cats that will benefit."
"But...you'll bleed out!" Snowdawn cried.
"But it's your last life..."
"Snowdawn, I know." Moonstar began to purr, a weak purr that gurgled in her throat.
"Mom..." Snowdawn buried her face in her mother's neck. "Please."
"I love you, Snowdawn. Now let me be. I want to sleep."
Snowdawn's throat seized up. If Moonstar went to sleep, she wouldn’t wake up. But she knew that, yet wanted to sleep anyway. It was a good way to die; peacefully in your dreams.
"I love you, too," Snowdawn whispered back. Moonstar's purr got a little louder, and she closed her eyes. The sisters stayed by her side until her breathing slowed, and she was asleep.
"Where is Daylight?" Snowdawn asked, breaking the silence.
"Not in here? With Moonstar?"
"Mallowfeather won't let anybody in. It gets too crowded."
"She left you in," Snowdawn pointed out.
"You were waking up. She only allowed one cat to come in." Flamepool motioned outside. "Sootlife is outside organizing things, so I came."
"I'll go see him."
"No, no, no!" Flamepool nudged her towards her nest. "Stay. We don't want you open in that wound again." She eyed Snowdawn's neck nervously.
Snowdawn sighed and pulled herself into her nest.
"He'll come later," Flamepool promised. She grabbed a mouse from a small pile in the corner and placed it next to Snowdawn. "Right now, your only job is to eat, rest, and get better."
Snowdawn watched Flamepool leave the den. She closed her eyes. Hungry as she was, she wasn’t too keen on finding out how how painful it would be to swallow. So she let herself succumb to sleep, trying to push away the worry that wormed in her gut over her mother.