Chapter 41 || Red Snow
By the time Batchaser had calmed down, the sun was already dipping below the skyline, splattering orange and pink streaks across the vast empty space above. The snow had stopped hours ago, but there was still a thin blanket underneath them. The surrounding pine trees rustled with the wind, last remaining leaves fluttering to the ground.
⠀⠀Spiderstar was quiet. Her paws were rooted to the ground, thick black fur bristling with the breeze. Batchaser had propped himself up beside a rock, chest heaving back and forth. His gaze was unfocused, thoughts rolling all over the place. There were so many things he’d forgotten about his death - Paleheart, mainly.
⠀⠀A shadow moved in his peripheral vision and Batchaser flinched, immediately tensing. It was just Spiderstar. She dropped down next to him on her belly, yellow gaze flickering. “So...you remember everything?”
⠀⠀He nodded slowly, unsure of whether his voice would be able to come out or not. Batchaser looked at her, but he felt dissociated, like he could hardly control his body. “Yes. Paleheart.”
⠀⠀She smiled sadly. “I had to help you remember. I’m sorry.”
⠀⠀Batchaser shook his head, thin tail flicking. “It... it’s fine.” His voice came out low and broken. “I always wondered why...why he killed me.”
⠀⠀Spiderstar’s lips thinned into a neutral line. “We were furious, you know.”
⠀⠀The black tom looked up at her, confused. “About what?”
⠀⠀“Paleheart killing you,” she replied. “ShadowClan was. Especially me. When... when I told my father about my suspicions, and that night in the forest, he was so angry he drove ThunderClan out. The prophecy was just an excuse- he wanted them dead, especially Paleheart, and certainly didn’t want them near me. I... I only learned later what could’ve happened to me that night had you not been around.”
⠀⠀Batchaser shivered, fur along his spine tingling. He didn’t want to think about that night. “What happened after ThunderClan was driven out?” he murmured.
⠀⠀The large black she-cat shifted her paws. “Things were tense. My father....he believed Doestar was going to come back and kill him, and I suppose that paranoia was well-earned.”
⠀⠀Batchaser frowned. Doestar was a mystery he hadn’t yet been able to solve - what were her motives? Uniting the Clans? That seemed like the twisting of words in her own favor. Batchaser also wanted to know what was up with those creepy powers of hers. Seriously. It was weird. “And she killed him.”
⠀⠀Spiderstar bristled uncomfortably. “Yes,” she said slowly. “I only became deputy before he....” The huge black she-cat shook her head, chest heaving. “ThunderClan destroyed us, Batchaser. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to lead my Clan.”
⠀⠀He could see the vulnerabilities cracking, the mask crumbling. Batchaser knew something about that. “You do know,” the black tom countered. “Fallenstar was your father. He was a smart cat - perhaps infamous, but still smart. I don’t doubt your judgement, and I think you know exactly what to do. You’re just scared you’ll be wrong.”
⠀⠀Spiderstar blinked at him. She shook her head slowly. “You’re different than I remember.”
⠀⠀He frowned. “I guess...I’ve learned a lot. I’ve seen a lot. Met new cats, experienced new things. I’m bound to change.”
⠀⠀The black she-cat flicked her bushy tail. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right-”
⠀⠀The world became a blur of colors and sounds. Batchaser hissed as pain thrummed in his skull, pressing harshly against his head. His claws unsheathed, tail lashed back and forth. His eyes opened but he couldn’t see anything except Silverpelt glimmering against an indigo sky, where stars began to pulse and explode, balls of light showering the earth.
⠀⠀The stars turned into droplets of snow and the dark sky turned white. Batchaser saw a flash of calico fur, red staining the pale ground below. He shivered when a set of fiery blue eyes - one clear, one paled over - matched his own, and by then the headache was becoming unbearable, it felt like his head might explode. Batchaser screamed in pain and tried to pull himself out of the vision, but the forest faded into a meadow, where Jackalstar cried, “He’s dead. He’s dead!”
⠀⠀No! Batchaser tried to yell, but nothing came out of his jaws. He saw corpses scattered across the fields and the blood began to seep into the earth, staining it red. The sky crackled and opened to reveal a crimson sky falling to the world, crashing into the water. The sky was crumbling. It was falling.
⠀⠀He gasped deeply, eyes snapping open. Spiderstar was staring at him, a look of horror on her face. Batchaser tried to speak, but his mouth was dry, like he’d licked a pile of sand.
⠀⠀“Something terrible is going to happen,” he breathed, eyes flashing.
⠀⠀The black she-cat flinched. “What did you see?”
⠀⠀“I-” Batchaser’s voice died in the small of his throat and he shook his head, staggering to his paws. “We must go back to camp, warn the Clan, we must gather everyone-”
⠀⠀”Batchaser.” Spiderstar placed a paw on the tom’s shoulder, looking serious. “What did you see?”
⠀⠀Batchaser paused, letting the fear bubble in his chest. “Death,” he finally breathed.
⠀⠀Spiderstar stilled momentarily but shook out of her thoughts. “We must get back to camp.”
⠀⠀Before either ShadowClan cat could begin to take their first step, however, the snapping of twigs pulled them back toward ThunderClan territory. A dark shape quickly moved through the undergrowth before tumbling out of the bushes, a set of brown and blue eyes gazing back at Batchaser. “They’re coming! Run!”
⠀⠀The tom stared at Cypressfall, unable to comprehend her words for a moment. “Wait- what?” His voice became panicked. ”Who’s coming?”
⠀⠀Spiderstar anxiously looked between the two then turned her gaze toward the treeline.
⠀⠀“It doesn’t matter!” Cypressfall shrieked. It was then that Batchaser saw her matted fur, torn paws, shivering gaze. She was hurt.
⠀⠀We don’t have time, Batchaser reminded himself. “Okay, let’s go.” He turned to run back toward ShadowClan camp, but a shape moved on the edge of the clearing. He whirled around, and there was another group of cats, slowly inching forward.
⠀⠀Horror. We’re surrounded.
⠀⠀Cypressfall began to shake. “No,” she whispered. “No. No. No...”
⠀⠀Spiderstar lashed her tail. “What is the meaning of this?” she demanded.
⠀⠀The ThunderClan cats didn’t respond.
⠀⠀“Answer me!” Spiderstar snarled. “You’re in ShadowClan territory, so I suggest you leave before things get ugly.”
⠀⠀Still no response except dead silence. Then, Batchaser saw a larger shape brush through the foliage, stepping out into the light, horizon splattered against her back. He saw the blue eyes, soft brown fur, a bushy tail.
⠀⠀“Doestar,” he whispered.
⠀⠀The ThunderClan leader scrutinized him with a deep frown, silent.
⠀⠀Batchaser recognized Raveneye and Bumbletongue somewhere amongst the crowd of cats - there were at least seven surrounding them, and no matter how much he wanted to escape, Batchaser knew it was futile. “What do you want?” he asked shakily when no one spoke. Looking into Doestar’s eyes filled him with dread and pulsing nostalgia.
⠀⠀Snow began to flutter to the ground once more as light splayed across the land, shielded by a stark-white sky. Doestar’s gaze flickered from Batchaser to Spiderstar. She eventually pointed toward Cypressfall. “That one.”
⠀⠀The tortoiseshell pressed herself into Batchaser’s side. “No,” she whispered. “Don’t let them take me.”
⠀⠀Doestar’s eyes lit up with interest. “Oh. So you know each other?” A sinister smile spread across her muzzle, eyes sparkling with something malicious. “How....disappointing.”
⠀⠀Spiderstar shook her head and stepped forward. “I don’t know who you think I am, but I will not allow you to disrespect my cats on my territory.”
⠀⠀The pale brown leader tipped her head. “The spy is yours?”
⠀⠀Spiderstar’s eyes widened. She looked at Cypressfall, then Batchaser, clearly considering her options. “Yes,” the black she-cat eventually said, turning back toward Doestar. “So I suggest you leave.”
⠀⠀Doestar laughed, claws scoring against the ground. “You’re so much like your father. At least, before I killed him.”
⠀⠀Spiderstar flinched, but Batchaser could see the hatred writhing beneath her gaze. “Don’t talk about Fallenstar.”
⠀⠀“Okay,” Batchaser cut in, “can we do this peacefully? Doestar, you’re not taking her.” He wrapped his tail around Cypressfall. “Now leave.”
⠀⠀The pale brown she-cat laughed again, but it was more of a cackle than anything. “Batchaser,” she purred. “Since when did I start taking orders from you? Certainly not when we knew each other so long ago....”
⠀⠀What? Batchaser stared at the leader, terribly confused. “I....are you okay? I think your mother dropped you on the head as a kit, because we definitely do not know each other.”
⠀⠀Doestar smiled. “But don’t we?”
⠀⠀Batchaser frowned, desperately trying to wrack his mind for any semblance of connection. He hadn’t met Doestar before he returned to the real world. Right? “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
⠀⠀The leader waved a paw dismissively, then paused. “Hmm...” She looked between Spiderstar and Batchaser. “You know, I think we could have a real partnership here.”
⠀⠀”What?” Spiderstar spat, glaring at the other leader. “There will be no partnership between us.”
⠀⠀“Why not?” she said innocently, placing a paw on her chest. “Just give over the spy and I’ll let you go with no hard feelings. ThunderClan could certainly use your...” Doestar made a face. ”Assets.”
⠀⠀“What are you saying?” Spiderstar growled. “An alliance? You must be out of your mind. That will never happen!”
⠀⠀“Oh, come now.” She fixed a look on Batchaser. “I’m sure you know of my plans, right?”
⠀⠀Spiderstar’s head swiveled to Batchaser. ”What plans?” she said suspiciously.
⠀⠀The black tom didn’t look at her, gaze fixated on Doestar. Why is there something so familiar about her? He eventually nodded. “Yes.”
⠀⠀“Then you must know that ShadowClan will hardly be of importance.” Doestar waved a paw. “I might as well slaughter the lot of you-”
⠀⠀Spiderstar let out a roar of anger and leapt forward, fangs outstretched as she dove for Doestar. The pale brown she-cat quickly sidestepped and flashed out a paw, cuffing Spiderstar’s throat with her claws. Batchaser heard the black she-cat’s skin tear and staggered back when blood began to pour from her body. Doestar huffed and dropped Spiderstar’s lifeless body to the ground, sharpened gaze returning to Batchaser.
⠀⠀Dear StarClan, he thought, and the terror began to sink in. Batchaser curled his tail tighter around Cypressfall. “Don’t come any closer,” he tried to snarl, but his voice wobbled with fear.
⠀⠀Doestar rolled her eyes. “As I was saying,” She shot a glare toward Spiderstar’s dead body, “it would further benefit me to kill all of you instead of recruit you into my new Clan. However, if you help me with WindClan and RiverClan, I’ll be sure to spare all of your lives.”
⠀⠀“You just killed Spiderstar!” Batchaser cried.
⠀⠀Doestar grunted. “Yes, and she has more than one life, doesn’t she? Please don’t blame me for Spiderstar’s selfishness. She’s just like her father.”
⠀⠀Batchaser couldn’t believe this. He made sure not to look at Spiderstar, not intent on traumatizing himself for the rest of time. “I don’t care,” he finally spat. “ShadowClan will not be joining your Clan, psychopath. Go find someone else to bend to your rule!”
⠀⠀The soft brown she-cat stared at him and sighed, shaking her head, tutting. “How disappointing indeed,” she said. Doestar turned her head toward Bramblevine, the annoying tom that had kidnapped Batchaser to ThunderClan camp for the first time. “You want to prove yourself? Show you can follow my orders.”
⠀⠀The young tom smirked, teeth showing. “Gladly.” Batchaser turned toward him, claws unsheathing. Bramblevine snorted. “Just give her up, rogue. I can’t imagine you’ll be living much longer, anyway.”
⠀⠀“I’m not a rogue,” Batchaser spat.
⠀⠀Bramblevine groaned. “This again? Seriously, I thought-”
⠀⠀Something hard knocked into the back of Batchaser’s skull, toppling him to the ground. He groaned painfully, suddenly unable to move his body. Hivestripe was standing over him, glare cold and icy, before he ripped Cypressfall away. He saw a thick piece of wood scattered to the ground.
⠀⠀“No,” Batchaser groaned deliriously. “Don’t.... take her...”
⠀⠀Doestar sighed heavily. “Bramblevine, you must learn to shut your mouth. Hivestripe took her before you could even begin to prove yourself.”
⠀⠀The brown tom shrunk in on himself. “O-okay, sorry, Doestar...”
⠀⠀She looked at Bramblevine, eyes narrowing. “Hmm...” The pale brown she-cat eyed Cypressfall. “All right. I’ll give you another chance.”
⠀⠀Bramblevine perked up. “Really?” he breathed. “Thank you, Doestar. I won’t fail you this time-”
⠀⠀Batchaser’s eyes widened. “NO!” he tried to yell, but his voice was too hoarse to hear.
⠀⠀Bramblevine stilled. He looked at Cypressfall, eyes widening. “U-uhm,” he stammered. “Kill....kill the spy?”
⠀⠀“Of course,” Doestar said, like it was obvious. “Kill her and I’ll make sure you become head fighter in LakeClan.”
⠀⠀The brown tom bristled slightly, but Batchaser couldn’t tell if it was from nerves or excitement. “I...” Bramblevine shuffled his paws anxiously. “I don’t know...maybe she has valuable information..?”
⠀⠀Doestar glared at the warrior. “Do you think I’m stupid?” she spat, voice changing. “Of course she has valuable information. That’s why she must be killed.”
⠀⠀“Wait-” Cypressfall wriggled in Hivestripe’s grasp, eyes flashing with some sort of recognition. “Wait, k-kill me? No! No! I can’t- I can’t go back!”
⠀⠀Batchaser forced himself to shift slightly, muscles burning with the movement. “No,” he groaned, shakily placing his paws into the ground and trying to stand. A shape flashed in his vision and a paw slammed his head into the ground, body immobilized by a heavier weight.
⠀⠀“This is for attacking me in the forest,” Bumbletongue growled, craning his head toward Doestar.
⠀⠀Thymeclaw frowned at his son but stayed silent.
⠀⠀“No!” Batchaser said, trying to move once more. Bumbletongue grunted and lifted his weight slightly, then a painful smack came to the back of his head. Batchaser screamed angrily, pain lacing his entire being. It felt like he was going to die. His vision flashed in and out, stars swirling in his gaze. The world became a blur once more, ears ringing, before everything faded back into reality.
⠀⠀“I don’t...” Bramblevine was backing away from Cypressfall, who was desperately clawing for freedom from Hivestripe. She was too weak. “I....please... don’t make me do this!”
⠀⠀Doestar scowled. “You want to prove yourself yet you can’t even follow my orders?” The snow began to build up around the clearing, grass covered by the white substance. “You’re not proving yourself here, Bramblevine.”
⠀⠀The brown tom flinched, ears flicking back. “I-” His jaw clenched and he narrowed his eyes. “You know what?” Bramblevine stomped up to Doestar, stopping before her. “I don’t want to be a part of your stupid Clan anyway! LakeClan? More like LameClan! Who do you think you are, taking over all the territories? Killing cats? You’re just a stupid she-cat who can’t even-”
⠀⠀Doestar flicked her head forward and sunk her jaws into Bramblevine’s skin, ripping his throat out. The air left Batchaser’s chest as he watched with horror. Doestar stepped back and smiled when Bramblevine wheezed out several labored breaths and limply fell into the snow, fur coated in a thick sheet of blood.
⠀⠀Doestar looked down at the dying warrior, turning her gaze to Hivestripe. She nodded.
⠀⠀Hivestripe swiped his claws across Cypressfall’s throat.
⠀⠀“NO!” Batchaser screamed.
⠀⠀The calico she-cat’s eyes wavered and she gasped in for air, claws trying to hold on to something. Cypressfall fell into the snow, harshly convulsing with each inhale. “R-Ru-shi-shing-” Her voice faded out of existence and she stopped shaking, going completely limp.
⠀⠀“NO!” Batchaser yelled again, heart hammering against his chest. He tried to force the tears out of his eyes but they burned behind his eyelids, forcing themselves down his cheeks. He was trembling, terrified, cold, and traumatized. Batchaser’s head was filled with blood, bubbling up against his will. “No,” he cried brokenly, unable to fight any longer.
⠀⠀Hivestripe retreated into the crowd and Doestar sidestepped the two dead cats. “Awww,” she said silkily. “Is someone sad?” She shoved her muzzle in Batchaser’s face, smirking. “I can’t imagine why....”
⠀⠀Something horrible burned in Batchaser’s soul. Something he thought he’d known before, but now it was real. Hatred. He hated Doestar. He wanted to kill her. Batchaser stayed silent for a moment, unmoving, but when Doestar was close enough, snapped his paw forward unexpectedly. His claws split her skin open as he raked them over her face, feeling her eye squelch under his weight.
⠀⠀“AGGHH!” Doestar screamed, staggering back. She waved her head around wildly, lifting her shaking paws to her eye. “IT BURNS!” Blood dripped down her face, staining the snow red. Batchaser watched, satisfied, puffing out a breath when Bumbletongue hopped off of him, rushing to his leader.
⠀⠀Thymeclaw ran forward as well, absolutely petrified. “D-Doestar!” he stammered, shrinking back when she tried to strike him. “I- it’s me! Thymeclaw!”
⠀⠀“KILL HIM!” she shrieked, body shaking. “KILL THAT ROGUE!” Before anyone could move, Doestar stumbled to her paws and found her way toward Batchaser. Under the crimson fur, he could make out three clawmarks marring her skin. She struck forward in a blind rage, teeth sinking into his ear.
⠀⠀Batchaser felt white, hot pain and began to sob. His vision darkened, flashing in and out of consciousness, and when he was able to see slightly clearly, Doestar was gripping his right ear between her teeth. Batchaser screamed, terror clenching him in its jaws, and grew hysterical when he felt the blood dripping down his fur. “NO! NO, NO-” It hurt so badly, so, so badly, and Batchaser suddenly wasn’t sure he was going to make it, wasn’t going to live to save the Clans, to see Jackalstar ever again....
⠀⠀Doestar was glaring at him in disgust. “You can die here,” she spat. “You’ll die alone, in the cold, just like you’ve always deserved.”
⠀⠀Batchaser couldn’t respond. He wasn’t sure he was alive anymore, or even conscious, all he knew was that everything was muffled and laced with the most horrid pain of his entire life.
⠀⠀In the blurriness, he saw Hivestripe grab Spiderstar by the scruff and drag her into the undergrowth, the snow flattening under her weight. Batchaser saw the rest of the cats disappear into the foliage, but hardly cared. His vision was overrun by white, and when he closed his eyes, Batchaser saw the vision. Calico fur stained with red. Fiery blue eyes - one clear, one pale - staring back at him.
⠀⠀It had come true. Everything was true.
⠀⠀Batchaser sobbed, heart cracking in his chest. He saw Cypressfall lying limp in the snow, a pool of red surrounding her body. He squeezed his eyes shut, reopened them, and dragged himself over to her. They’d been through so much together, and now she was dead, limp and completely lifeless. It hurt. It truly did.
⠀⠀I’ve never witnessed a murder, Batchaser thought, and he wondered if he’d ever be the same after this. Somehow, he doubted it. Yes, because I’ll be dead. Batchaser began to cry once more, pulling his body next to hers, brushing her fur. He curled by Cypressfall, letting her last bit of warmth seep into his pelt. Maybe dying wouldn’t be so bad. He’d be free of the pain, the guilt, the heartbreak. The deaths of his loved ones, his friends.
⠀⠀It’s me. I’m the problem.
⠀⠀The snow built more and more and the cold oddly began to warm his body. He shifted slightly but cried out when there was more pain. Batchaser didn’t dare touch his head, terrified of what he’d feel, but wiped blood from his forehead. He saw the crimson smear against his pawpad. His vision began to fade away, an inky darkness taking over, and before Batchaser knew it, the world was gone forever.
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