Chapter 15 || Hound Territory
Before even thinking of what he was doing, Batchaser quickly pushed Rushingpaw out of the way. The gray creature tore into his flank, a gasp wrenching from the black tom’s throat as blood splattered on the ground. He pummeled the creature with unsheathed claws, looking up at it and realizing what he was really dealing with here.
⠀⠀The huge gray dog ripped out Batchaser’s fur, snarling viciously as it clamped its jaws around his body. He gritted his teeth in pain and attempted to twist around, trying to bat at the wolf’s eyes.
⠀⠀Luckily, however, Cypressfall was there. The calico she-cat flung herself on its back, hissing and spitting words Batchaser couldn’t even hear. The wolf turned its head, dropping the black warrior in a cloud of dust to try and snap at Cypressfall.
⠀⠀Staggering to his paws, Batchaser reared up while the dog was distracted and attempted to slice open it’s underbelly. A large cut was made along its chest, though not nearly deep enough to cause fatal damage. Turning back to him, the wolf growled and leapt forward with sharp teeth.
⠀⠀“Hey! Leave my friends alone!”
⠀⠀Rushingpaw was there. The apprentice hooked his claws into the creature’s skin, tearing away at anything he could and swiping for one of its eyes. A booming shriek sounded from the wolf as it scampered away, a large scar now evident across its left eye.
⠀⠀“Good job, Rushingpaw!” Cypressfall praised, but didn’t have much more time until the wolf was going after her. The fur along her back spiked up but it didn’t scare the huge dog at all.
⠀⠀Narrowing his blue eyes, Batchaser sprinted after and sliced his claws down the wolf’s underbelly again. Another pained howl came from its large jaws, blood splattering on the ground. It turned its one good eye to the ShadowClanner, snapping its head forward and trapping Batchaser in its jaws.
⠀⠀The wolf was bleeding out, but it was far from dead. It clamped down harder on the black tom, shaking him around as if he were a piece of prey. His body felt light as dizziness took over his vision, causing the world to spin around him. Batchaser felt like he might throw up, and along with the immense amount of agony from the wolf’s sharp canines, he wasn’t sure if he was even going to live.
⠀⠀He could see Cypressfall and Rushingpaw trying to attack and distract the creature, but it seemed intent on killing Batchaser first. Its teeth continued to sink in deeper and deeper, more blood running down the wolf’s chin and staining the ground.
⠀⠀Darkness swarmed his vision. Batchaser wondered if he should just let himself die like this. He was aware that no one would miss him, so what was the point of fighting anymore? Letting his limbs and body go limp, the black tom sucked in what he guessed would be his last breath of air.
⠀⠀Batchaser did wonder where he’d go after this. If he died in The Forgotten Eternity, he guessed he wouldn’t be given any more chances at life. After all, that’s why they had these wolves here and the five marks of the wolf’s claw. It was to kill cats that tried to escape.
⠀⠀Batchaser thought about his life. He wasn’t sure why he had been allowed into StarClan anyway—he was a terrible cat, bringing others down just to make himself feel a little bit better. Rushingpaw and Cypressfall had been right. He was a horrible excuse for a feline. He was hated. So why even continue to live?
⠀⠀Suddenly, Batchaser could breathe again. He let out ragged coughs as his body dropped on the ground, blood spilling from his jaws. He closed his eyes and saw that darkness ebbing away at his vision, begging to take him.
⠀⠀But he was alive.
⠀⠀So he stumbled to his paws, pushed those selfish thoughts out of his mind, and staggered toward a nearby tree.
⠀⠀“Batchaser!” Rushingpaw gasped, running over to the injured tom. “I–I thought you were dead!”
⠀⠀The black tom shook his head, his heart thumping against his ribcage. “I–I’m fine,” the ShadowClanner croaked.
⠀⠀“No, you aren’t fine,” Rushingpaw fretted. “Cypressfall, please come help him!”
⠀⠀“I said I’m fine.” Batchaser’s eyes narrowed and he turned his back on the apprentice, truly believing he was okay. However... that didn’t go over so well when he staggered to the ground and fell on his side.
⠀⠀From this angle, Batchaser could actually see the wolf. Just like him, it was rolled on its side, eyes clouded as it emotionlessly stared at the sky. Like him. Maybe this was some... omen or something. That Batchaser had to stop listening to his mask. Maybe being injured to near-death was karma for his own treatment to others.
⠀⠀No, that was stupid. Omens were messages from StarClan used only for selfish reasons. And Batchaser wasn’t even sure if StarClan could contact him through The Forgotten Eternity. It seemed no one knew about it, not even the oh-so-wise Jackalstar. The wolf had been nothing but an average animal attacking them.
⠀⠀Then came that dream-like state again. As if nothing was real. As if he were dead. Well, he was dead. He’d died twice. But this was like he wasn’t even alive in The Forgotten Eternity. It was hard to listen to what Cypressfall was saying and the gaze in his vision was getting stronger, but he was finally able to make out her words.
⠀⠀“Batchaser. Batchaser, listen to me. Eat these herbs. They’ll help you.” The black tom’s eyes flicked down and he inclined his head forward, lapping up the herbs and letting his head rest back on the soft, grassy ground, the dark trees towering above him.
⠀⠀The ShadowClan warrior didn’t even feel Cypressfall wrap his wounds up with cobweb. His mind was a fuzz. He couldn’t even comprehend what pain was.
⠀⠀“Come on, Batchaser. Come back to us.”
⠀⠀Those words. They sounded... they sounded so much like her.
⠀⠀“Lynxbite?” he whispered hoarsely, a smile spreading across his jaws. “Is that you?”
⠀⠀There were quiet whispers before there was an answer. “No.”
⠀⠀“Oh.” Batchaser was able to crack open his eyes, his ears flicking back at the sight of Cypressfall and Rushingpaw again. It wasn’t her after all.
⠀⠀“Come on, we need to get out of here,” the calico she-cat meowed slowly. “Let’s help you up.”
⠀⠀“I’m hurt, not deaf,” he snapped. Being talked to like a kit made the ShadowClanner angry.
⠀⠀“Looks like he’s okay,” Rushingpaw sighed.
⠀⠀Cypressfall nodded. “That’s a relief.”
⠀⠀Batchaser looked down, letting out a heavy breath before rising to his paws. “Let’s go, then.”
⠀⠀“Here, lean on me,” Rushingpaw ordered.
⠀⠀“I can walk,” the black tom spat. He lowered his head as he limped forward, pain shooting all the way up his body. Batchaser didn’t complain, though. This was life. He would get through it.
⠀⠀“How much more of this stupid forest do we have?” Batchaser grumbled.
⠀⠀“A lot more,” Cypressfall murmured.
⠀⠀And with those last words, the three cats disappeared into the darkness of the trees, waiting to see what they would come across next.