Chapter 25 || Blood River
When he jerked awake from the dream, Batchaser knew he needed to continue on and finish the last two tasks of this stupid mission.
⠀⠀The black tom hooked his claws into the bark, clawing down the trunk and hopping lightly on the dead grass beneath him. Batchaser trampled over weeds, ducking under swaths of leaves and shifting in and out between brambles. He twitched an ear, blue eyes narrowing slightly. The ShadowClanner had become accustomed to the lighter and darker shades of red in the sky, indicating whether it was day or night. Right now, the crimson was its lightest tint; it must’ve been early.
⠀⠀At least I can predict something in this horrible place.
⠀⠀Huffing, Batchaser continued on for a while, silently confined to the thoughts of his own mind as he wandered around aimlessly. His paws often lead him in circles, making Batchaser angry and annoyed, but he felt a flutter of hope when the trees began to spread out and the grass grew taller below his feet.
⠀⠀Does this mean I’m almost out? I wonder if Cypressfall and Rushingpaw are out of the forest already as well. The black tom then scowled and shook his head. What does it matter though? Not like they care about me.... and I don’t care about them!
⠀⠀Gaze darkening, he pressed on and examined his surroundings carefully. The crack of a twig halted him in his tracks, his head swiveling to the side from reflex. Nothing.
⠀⠀Okay...not creepy at all...
⠀⠀Huffing, Batchaser turned to continue but stopped when the gurgling of a river filled his ears. Eyes widening, excitement prickling trough his pelt, the ShadowClanner began to sprint toward the noise.
⠀⠀A river! Is this the next task?
⠀⠀When Batchaser threw himself through entangled traps of thickets and stuck his head out the other side, every single bone in his body seemed to freeze. Horror trickled into his deep blue gaze and he let out a startled gasp, staggering forward on his paws, darkness surrounding his vision.
⠀⠀A blood river. The disgusting, thick, crimson liquid rapidly flew by, bubbles emerging at the surface, deepened streaks of red coursing through like glimpses of fish. Batchaser was horrified. He couldn’t move; his paws were rooted in place, his muscles were stiff, and the horrible feeling creeping into his mind didn’t calm the storm.
⠀⠀Is this how much bloodshed I’ve cause based on that prophecy?
⠀⠀Batchaser didn’t have time to dwell on grief. A dark mass tangled itself in the black tom’s grip and he screeched in shock, fur on end. What was even more terrifying was to claw at a rotting gray body, glassy white eyes glaring back at him with the ferocity of a venomous snake. Long, pointed fangs snapped at his face and Batchaser pulled back just in time, yelping when a whisker was ripped off of his muzzle. No! Another dead-dead-dead cat! Are you kidding me?? I don’t have time for this right now!
⠀⠀The ShadowClanner was thrown off his paws and shook with terror when the two cats (neither truly living) tumbled into the red abyss below. Batchaser screamed with fear when the creature bit into his shoulder, metal flooding into his jaws and seeping into his lungs. The black tom gagged and outstretched his claws toward the surface, his body flying with the rapids. He attempted to swim but the disgust crawling up his throat was more than he could handle. He threw up slightly, eyes stinging madly from the blood. The dead-dead-dead cat was swept away from Batchaser, but that was about the only good thing right now.
⠀⠀He wasn’t sure he could make it right now. Shadows pressed at the edges of his mind and threatened to tear apart any sanity left inside his soul. ...no! I can’t become one of those zombified cats! I have to prove everyone wrong... I’m not a bad cat... I swear..! I’M NOT!
⠀⠀Determination caused adrenaline to filter through his veins. Despite the grossness of this whole ordeal, Batchaser managed to grip the bottom of the shallow river and propelled himself upwards, flying out of the blood and gripping onto a nearby rock. Gasping for air, Batchaser scrabbled onto land and immediately hunched over, heaving out what seemed to be buckets of crimson liquid. He threw up more, coughing and choking on the horrible taste. This was absolutely terrible!
⠀⠀“Agh...” he spluttered out, his lip shaking as he flattened himself to the ground. Overwhelmed by the shock, Batchaser let the trembling through his limbs subside and curled into a ball, his tail wrapping tightly around his body for much-needed warmth.
⠀⠀“StarClan. You look absolutely pathetic.”
⠀⠀Batchaser jumped to his paws, claws flashing out before he even had time to think. He stopped, eyes widening to see the cats before him. A familiar white-and-brown pelt sloshed around through his mind and he smiled widely. “Jackalstar!”
⠀⠀Wow! They’re all here! Jackalstar and Galewhisker....! And who is that? Oh, yes, that’s...
⠀⠀Oh, stars no, this can’t be happening.
⠀⠀Dear StarClan please don’t do this to me.
⠀⠀Jackalstar and Galewhisker exchanged a nervous glance and stepped out of the way, revealing a bulky white tom with black stripes crossing down his flanks. His eyes glinted against his odd fur coloring and Batchaser couldn’t help but completely freezing up, anger and hurt and despair flickering a switch in his mind.