Light in the Dark
"Get out of my way Darkpelt!" I was shoved from behind as I headed out of camp. Tripping over my paws I landed face first in a muddy puddle. Most cats wouldn't put up with that but it was something I dealt with every day.
Shaking myself free of mud I sighed as I realized the hunting patrol had left without me. Again. The cat who had shoved me and the leader of the hunting patrol was my mate Lightstorm. He was the Shadowclan deputy and could be a little short tempered, just a bit.
As I padded slowly after the hunting patrol I thought about how lucky I was to be Lightstorm's mate. He was strong, and brave, and the handsomest tom in the clan. Every she-cat wanted him to choose her as his mate. He could be a bit rough with me but I knew I was lucky so I didn't complain.
It was my own fault if he had to be rough with me anyway, I knew the rules about talking to other toms, and about walking to slow, and about being quiet when I was around him.
"She-cats should be seen and not heard! Or preferably not even seen!" he would growl as he stomped out of the Warrior's den every morning. Lightstorm is a good deputy and so I know I must follow his rules so that he will love me.
Finally, out of breath, I manage to catch up with the hunting patrol. Silverfoot blinks warmly at me, we used to be friends before Lightstorm decided I spent to much time chatting with her.
My mates amber eyes darken at the sight of me and his cream colored fur puffs up just the slightest bit.
"Where have you been? Mouse brain! The patrol has more important things to do besides waiting for cats who take two moons to walk across the territory!" he snarls before whipping around and stalking off into the bushes without bothering to see if Silverfoot and I are following.
Silverfoot's pretty blue eyes soften with pity as she blinks at me obviously wanting to say something but I cut her off.
"Don't Silverfoot, it was my fault for walking to slow, he's right to be angry with me" I don't want to hear her response so I head in the opposite direction to Lightstorm.
I know what the cats who don't love Lightstorm say about him and I definitely don't want to hear it again. Especially not from my old friend, who might make me think they are right.
I'm so distracted I don't catch anything and when the day ends and I am forced to head back to camp empty pawed I know Lightstorm will have to punish me tonight.
I shake inside at the memory of stinging claws slashing across my muzzle and the ache of half healed scratches stretching under my pelt but a good mate takes her punishments in silence. I deserve this I try to remind myself every time I feel his claws.
Silverfoot catches me as I'm lingering outside camp trying to delay the inevitable. Her gray fur is neatly groomed whereas mine is matted because I don't have time to groom between patrols and receiving punishments. I lead her into a shadowy corner where Lightstorm is less likely to find us.
"Darkpelt, listen to me, I know you can't possibly be happy with him! Why won't you accept that the way he treats you is wrong?" she meows after a silent moment. I cringe away from her words as though they are razor sharp.
"You don't understand Silverfoot, I deserve it, he's only helping me see what I'm doing wrong" but even as I tell her I can feel the doubt creeping in. The doubt I have pushed back ever since Lightstorm asked me to be his mate.
"Deserve it? No cat deserves to be shredded because they had a bad day hunting! No cat deserves to be shoved into muddy puddles every day! I know you Darkpelt and trust me, you have done nothing to deserve the life your living" Silverfoot hisses at me. I can feel the tears streaming through my fur.
"That's not true! I wouldn't be punished if I didn't deserve it! Lightstorm chose me! He loves me!" I yowl even though I know deep down, I know, that none of it is really true.
"You know what Darkpelt? you can deny it all you want but he will never change!" Silverfoot hisses as she pads past me and into camp. I feel my heart sink as I realize that I will have to go in and face Lightstorm sooner rather then later.
I try to walk in quietly, because my black pelt will blend into the shadows at the edge of camp if I am quiet, but my fear scent and the fact that my green eyes are wide open means that Lightstorm spots me straight away. I know he is really angry when his claws come out before he has even spoken.
"The twisted oak, now!" he whispers threateningly as he slips past. He's probably only just gotten back but he is the clan deputy and nobody will bother to wonder why he's going out again.
I'm in for a painful night but I head straight for the twisted oak hoping to get it over with quickly. Our Medicine Cat Smalldrop waits up for me every night, he understands that I can't talk about my punishments but he treats my wounds without asking any questions.
Lightstorm is there when I eventually arrive at the twisted oak, perched on a spindly branch and looking for all the world like a puffed up and very angry owl. I can feel my confidence fleeing the closer I get to him, I want to run and hide in the darkest part of the forest.
"You took your time!" Lightstorm hisses at me from his perch as he seems to realize that I am here. I cower on the ground below the tree and desperately try to stop my legs from shaking.
Please Starclan I pray as I hear the bark tearing under Lightstorm's unsheathed claws that tells me he is climbing down the trunk. I don't want to die...
The morning sun is shining when I wake sprawled over the roots of the twisted oak. I feel like Lightstorm has ripped off all my fur but when I slowly lift my head I can see that my paws still have all their fur even if it is sticky with blood.
I'm not dead, he let me live. I can't believe it but my heart sinks as I realize I'll probably be punished again tonight for passing out. A good warrior shows no pain was the first rule I learnt when I became Lightstorm's mate.
I unsteadily try to stand and white hot pain shoots through one of my hind legs. I must have damaged it when I fell, no cat will come this way on patrol. Lightstorm always keeps them away from the twisted oak the day after in case any of my blood stains the dirt.
I don't know why he bothers, every cat knows what he does and most of them choose to ignore it.
Smalldrop will be the only cat who knows I didn't come back last night and Starclan knows he doesn't have the courage to go out and look for me when it might anger Lightstorm. I'll have to get myself back to camp somehow.
Gritting my teeth against the pain I attempt to stand again, this time keeping the weight off my hind leg. Slowly I'm able to straighten on my three good legs and paw step by paw step walk back towards camp.
Unfortunately luck doesn't seem to be on my side today and I don't make it far before the sounds of a patrol heading my way reach my ears. I duck behind a pine tree to hide before they see me. Lightstorm won't be happy if my clan mates see me like this, whether they know about his roughness or not.
"I'll check for intruders, the rest of you continue to patrol" my pelt prickles with fear at Lightstorm's gruff meow to his patrol. He must have scented me and now he's coming to teach me what happens to cats who don't follow his rules.
Sure enough the marsh water beside my pine tree is suddenly flung into my eyes and I'm shoved into the trunk by my mate.
"What have I told you Darkpelt? You don't show your unworthy muzzle to the clan until your punishment is no longer visible!" he growls in my face as his claws dig into my side. My injured leg is twisted beneath me and my pelt stings where old scratches are being torn open.
That really hurts! Instinct makes me lash out with my front paw that isn't wedged against the pine tree and I hear Lightstorm's howl as I scrape my claws down his face.
I know he'll hurt me worse, possibly kill me, for hurting him but I've been treated like fox dung for so long now that I don't care.
"Stay away from me Lightstorm!" I hiss as I scramble to get to my paws before he can retaliate. Blood roars in my ears as I stand in front of the tom who has tortured me every day since I became a Warrior.
"You have done nothing but hurt me and belittle me since the day you asked me to be your mate! You went on and on about what an honor it was that you had chosen me and I actually believed you!" I've had enough of being pushed around. He might be the deputy but Lightstorm can't treat me this way any more.
"I was only a new warrior, I didn't know any better, I did whatever you said and I followed your stupid rules! I pushed away every cat who wanted to help me because I thought that I deserved to be treated like crow-food, well that's over and so are we!" I hiss as I turn and hobble away leaving a stunned Lightstorm sitting with his face bleeding from my claws.
Smalldrop welcomes me into camp where he treats my wounds before our clan leader Brightstar can find out what has happened.
I worked very hard to hide my injuries from the clan and although I have my confidence back I still would prefer they don't know the true extent of my pain.
Lightstorm never touched another hair on my pelt after that day and he had another mate before long, a young warrior called Cloudwisp who I keep a close eye on.
Lightstorm is my deputy but he does not control my life and I don't want him to treat another she-cat the way he treated me.
My pelt will always be scarred and so will my heart by Lightstorm's claws but now I am free from behind his shadow and I can finally see the light.