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The night whispered through the dark branches of the trees. Towering oaks and elms stood like ebony guards in the night, protecting the inhabitants of the forest. Moonlight sliced through a chilly fog that was quickly inhaling the land, casting pools of light on the ground. The promise of an early winter was certain, since the cold was already moving in.
Leaves rustled from a nearby bush. A few torn brown ones laid on the ground, crushed by rain and carried by wind. A twig snapped, and the small sound echoed through the otherwise stagnant woods.
Amethyst shot up. Her necklace rattled, the gemstone falling against her thrumming chest. The quietest sound, even the occurring loud drop of rain, would put her senses on full alert. She had trained herself to do just that, so she could jump up and run whenever something was coming. Whenever someone was coming.
Her fur bristled as she was suddenly on all four paws. The den around her was damp from the morning showers, and she shivered. She knew she had heard something, and that someone was coming. It could be anything from a mouse passing by to her darkest nightmares coming alive. The Humans could be coming, she brooded silently. One moment under their gaze would send her crumbling into a pile of ash, dead and gone forever. The legend was true – she had seen it happen to others.
Carefully, she set her paw down to test the ground beneath her. It was the slightest bit wet, but firm enough to walk on easily. But the haze outside was a whole other story.
Amethyst shuddered and growled at herself for putting these stupid fears in her mind, but she steeled her nerves and padded outside as silent as a moth. Her wings made a rustling sound as she slid out from her den, and she flexed them into the wind so they weren’t stiff. She couldn’t see through the fog, but she bent her head and angled her ears toward where she had heard the rustle. Nothing was making any sound, except for the occasional breeze passing through. Her white fur blended with the silver murk, making it difficult to see her paws. Attentively she took small steps, finally able to see the outline of the dying bush in front of her. At last she could breathe. The bush was much too small to fit a human, even a young one.
Summing up her courage, she called boldly to the hedge. “Who are you?”
No answer came from the foliage.
Again, she gathered her wits, not wanting to frighten the creature away. After all, this was her territory. “I said, who is there, and why have you trespassed?”
A small cough from the other side told her someone was there. And that they were feline. Amethyst stepped back in respect for the creature but also in wariness. I know who I am. They know who I am.
“Please, just don’t attack me. I came to talk! Please!” The voice yearned from the other side. It was female, and assumingly a peaceful one at that.
Soon the branches creaked, and a flash of orange could be seen through the bush. A slender, full grown she-cat pushed her way through, finally yanking her tail out with a huff. She took a cautious step forward, so that Amethyst could see her better.
Her fur was striking. It was a fiery orange, so bright it could have been mistaken for a blaze. It was short and soft like the buds of a willow plant, one in full growth in the middle of summer. Her eyes shone round and yellow like two small suns. She was lithe and had a long tail, and looked graceful at a glance, her necklace hanging elegantly around her neck, no light shining from it’s glassy surface. Amethyst sucked in a breath. No scars, no evident anger, nothing. With a growl she unsheathed her claws, nonetheless wary of the newcomer.
The orange cat dipped her head sincerely in apology. “I’m sorry for the rude awakening,” she conceded, “but I was sent to come. So I have.” Her fur bristled in reluctance at the last statement, then she quickly raised her head to look at Amethyst.
Amethyst opened her mouth to reply, when something caught her eye. At a close inspection of the she-cat, Amethyst could see the outline of the forest behind her, and small stars glinting in her fur like shards of light. She widened her eyes. “Y-you’re-“
“A ghost? Yes,” chuckled the she-cat quietly. “I’m afraid I am. My name is Amber.” Suddenly her eyes took on a deep, longing look in them. Her gaze was melancholy as she spoke. “You don’t remember me, do you, Amethyst?”
Taken by surprise, Amethyst froze in shock for a second, her purple-tipped tail flicking. “How do you know my name?” She scrutinized the she-cat once more. Something seems familiar… But the familiarity was like a sun at horizon. It could disappear at any second, and slip back under the sky. “No, I don’t know you.” She admitted.
Amber nodded, shaking out her starlit fur. “Yes, I didn’t suppose you would.” Suddenly the spirit took a deep breath, seemingly remembering why she had come here in the first place. “Amethyst,” she started, trying to keep her voice straight. “I came to tell you something. Please, just listen.”
Slowly, the white she-cat nodded hesitantly. “Go on.”
Amber angled an ear toward the forest behind Amethyst, filled with darkness of the night and being watched under the somber sky. “What do you see here?” She inquired, as if there was something more to see.
Amethyst turned her head to look behind her, shuffling her paws a bit. Her whiskers fluttered in annoyance at the simple question. “I see a forest.”
“Okay.” Amber was now staring at Amethyst, and her voice took on a hard tone. She blinked for a second, her eyes staying closed for longer then Amethyst thought they should have. All of a sudden, Amber's eyes opened and shone more than they ever did. Amethyst realized in horror that the cat’s eyes were now free of pupils, and was just two pools of bright light. “Look again.”
Disturbed, Amethyst ignored the agitated retorts swirling in her mind and looked at the forest again. This time, she didn’t have to squint. The opacus clouds from the sky were gone, and the dense fog that shrouded the forest was gone, too.
And both were replaced with raging flames.
Fire ate away at the ground, its crimson and orange tendrils stretching up to the sky. It was destroying the forest, tree by tree. It was an endless flame, burning any impediment that got in its’ way. The inferno roared, tearing everything up and disintegrating everything into piles of ash. Soot swirled in the air, making a choking black mass worse than the haze had ever been.
Screeching, Amethyst leaped backwards, hissing at the fire. Her eyes were so wide that Amber see the whites. She lashed her tail, mortified. What had happened? “What’s going on?” she shrieked. She flattened her wings as tight against her back as they would go.
Amber looked at Amethyst, her eyes back to normal. Not quite calmed, she stated, “This is what will become of you.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. “This is what you will cause.”
“What?” gawked Amethyst, transfixed on the flames. Her heart felt as if it had stopped beating in her chest and her throat tightened in apprehension. “What do you mean?”
The specter had no interest in answering her question, but continued along with the dark omen. “You need to go to the Equinox,” she stated. “Peace Grove is not complete without all twelve of its’ members. You know that as well as anyone.
“You are not a rogue. You are a Protector. You have the February kingdom to protect. You cannot abandon the Protectors, or Peace Grove, and everything you have known all your life. The Protectors need you, Amethyst.”
Amethyst was silent for a moment, just turning her head to look at the other cat as the meaning of the prophecy sank in. Suddenly, her whiskers twitched, and she started trembling with fury. Amethyst curled her lip up in a snarl. Steadily the gem hanging around her neck started glowing, giving off faint light and reflecting the fire. It seemed to take energy from Amethyst, gathering light until it had a faint purple aura around it.
“So,” she snapped, realizing the fire melted away slowly as she talked. The mist began to move back into place, horrifyingly. “This was all a ploy from the Protectors to get me to go back, wasn’t it?” Amethyst dug her claws into the ground and stood straight, measuring herself to her full height, which was just a little more than Amber. Her stance was threatening. She unfurled her wings until they stretched taut and high. “You know what?”
Amber lowered her head, her bright eyes growing rounded with fear. Her tail curled in between her legs, not a fighting look, but not submittance either. She went to reply, but Amethyst didn’t wait for her answer.
“I am not going back!” Amethyst snarled. “I don’t care who you are, or what you’ve come here for. But I know one thing. You want to carry messages for the Protectors? Take this one to them – I am not going back. I will not abide by their sickening rule and I refuse to live under their hatred and their scowls and taunts. I, and I swear to you,” she lowered her head and bared her teeth, making them look lethal from the moonlight. “I do not, and will not, abide by the Ancient Law of Code anymore as long as I live!”
Her messenger took a few feeble but nimble steps back. She stumbled in horror, pressing backwards against the bush. Her voice stammered. “Amethyst, n-no you really don’t need-“
Amethyst shoved forward until muzzle was an inch away from Amber’s face. “Go,” she growled, her voice low and menacing. “Or I will make you.”
With a yelp, Amber turned and fled clumsily to the bushes. And in a flash of light, she was gone, and one single star twinkled in the sky. The wraith of the she-cat was missing, back up into the night where she would stay.
Amethyst snarled to the sky, hoping her oath had reached Peace Grove. The Equinox is going on right now, probably, she thought coldly. In that exact moment, she let herself completely ossify. In a flash her necklace glowed so bright it looked as if it would crack and splinter into a million shards. She leaped, flapping her feathered violet wings. She rose into the livid sky as the wind grew intense, flattening her fur and whistling in her ears. Amethyst’s necklace seemed to glow red in its’ purple core, but it disappeared in a flicker. Rising, the ground fell away as she soared, pushing herself against the current and gliding with dauntless energy. The night sky was like her; completely free. A weight, even if mental, had been lifted off of her shoulders like a burden she no longer must carry. This was the life she had always imagined – and this was the life she deserved. She looked down at her home one last time as she entered the foreboding depths of the sky, but felt no remorse. She snarled to the ground one last time, and then she flew on, far, far away from the place she had always knew.
Despite the newfound freedom, one dark question still throbbed in her mind. The strange orange spirit who had come to deliver the omen. Her voice had been so smooth, and with that, she had summoned a terrible blaze. Even with that, the flames simply melted away. Was it all a trick of the light? Had the ghost somehow manipulated her mind? She had felt no heat. But what she did know for certain was that the terror that had been pulsing through her veins was all too real.
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