"Get off me!" the grey she-cat spat, her green eyes burning into Sablepaw's. She couldn't move, couldn't breathe, could only stare into the furious pale pits.
Mother, Sablepaw thought numbly- but this she-cat was clearly not Embertooth. They had the same thin, wiry build and slightly tufted, angular ears, but this cat's pelt was a sleek, light grey. Small streaks of duller black threaded through her fur. But her eyes, luminously green, were the same.
"Embertooth?" she asked suddenly, fervently hopeful. The she-cat didn't answer, only writhed harder under Sablepaw's frozen grip. Shock turned her muscles to ice; she feared if she moved, she'd shatter into a thousand brittle pieces.
"Wait. Stop. I won't hurt you," Sablepaw stuttered, forcing her stiff limbs backwards until she had climbed off the street cat. The grey feline wheezed and rolled to her paws, her tail trembling. She didn't flee, but gave Sablepaw a long, hard look. The fear in her pale emerald eyes had dissipated, to be replaced with curiosity. There were clear similarities between the two, and she could see them. Their build, their long, slim legs, thick fur, and startlingly green eyes. It seemed their only difference between them was the colour of their pelts- one a sleek grey, the other a deep black.
"Who are you?" the grey she-cat asked. Her voice was young- she could not be any older than Sablepaw.
"I'm Sablepaw," she said. She could see her reflection in a stagnant puddle lit by the harnessed artificial light. Beside her, her look-alike crouched. They were eerily similar.
"I'm Arrah," she mumbled, casting her eyes down to the still water, the lurking reflections. Sablepaw forgot entirely her purpose here; maim, maim, maim, kill. Her interest was snared otherwise.
She knew she'd be punished if she caught no Tainted, but there were sure to be plenty more roaming the city, hiding in the shadows.
"You look like me," Sablepaw blurted, unable to contain her thoughts any longer. Her mind was reeling. She couldn't possibly be related to her- mating with Tainted was forbidden, an abhorrent crime. There was some reasonable explanation, she was sure. Arrah would reveal it all.
"I don't know my parents. I was raised by an alley cat," Arrah whispered, raising her eyes to stare at Sablepaw. There was hope in her eyes, a question, but only horror in the black apprentice's. Sudden realization had dawned on her.
"You can't be," Sablepaw breathed, the tip of her lashing tail hitting the water. The reflection shattered into fragments of colour.
"Can't be what?" Arrah asked sharply.
"My sister. It's not allowed. Morningstar would kill you."
"Morning-who? I don't really know what's going on, or what you're talking about, but it's evident that we share blood. You cannot deny it."
Sablepaw couldn't- she had no validity to claim anything else.
"Morningstar is the leader, of my Clan. It's a big group of cats, I guess. We have rules…and we're not allowed to talk to the Tainted-" she broke off, guiltily scuffing her paws against the dark wet pavement.
"Me? I'm not Tainted, I'm healthy," Arrah muttered, glancing down at the rippling puddle, where she could faintly see her trembling shape.
Sablepaw didn't answer, didn't bother; she was too busy wondering how – how- Arrah could be her sister. She did not remember her own birth. She'd been far too young, more of a lump of flesh and fur that mewled and demanded milk and warmth more than a conscious, living creature. She did not remember the sister that had been cruelly torn from Embertooth, to be dumped in the raging river. But she did remember Rainkit, and how she had suddenly disappeared, without warning or rational thought right after Strongpaw had been born.
She remembered Sorrelstorm, his hollow eyes, his relief when Morningstar told him her kit would live.
"Do you…remember our camp? The forest?" she asked tentatively.
"No…I told you, a street cat- Mia- raised me. She told me she wasn't my mother, and how she found me in the creek beside the city. She said I was half-drowned, almost dead…was it your Morningstar that did this?" Arrah asked.
Her heart sinking, burdened with a new fear of the tyrannical golden she-cat, Sablepaw nodded mutely.
Arrah frowned. "Why would she do that? I didn't hurt her. She didn't even know me."
"It's just...what we do," Sablepaw replied, her ears flattened. "What PureClan does. I can't help it."
"She wouldn't take me back, would she?' Arrah asked, twitching her whiskers broodingly.
"No. It would mess up her pretty little system. Besides, you don't want to live with us. It's awful. She's awful. All she wants to do is kill and kill and kill some more."
Sablepaw stopped speaking abruptly- a little too late, her secretive instincts were kicking in. Arrah's head was quirked; she watched her sister through narrowed, gleaming green eyes.
"Why don't you run away?" Arrah asked, an open invitation in her eyes. Why don't you run away and live with me?
"I can't," Sablepaw murmured. The mere prospect terrified her. "My father, my brother, friends, S-" Again, she broke off. There was no logical need to finish that sentence, and she hadn't even been sure what she was going to say.
"I don't understand," Arrah growled, expression lost and plaintive. She ignored her sister's incomplete sentence and looked as if she was going to say more. As her mouth opened, a questioning yowl split the cold night air.
"Sablepaw, where are you?"
" In the name of StarClan!" Sablepaw hissed, flicking a furtive glance over her shoulder. Could she see smoldering amber eyes in the darkness?
"Who is it?" Arrah whispered, slowly rising to her paws, backing cautiously into the shadows.
"It's PureClan. You have to go- run, as far as you can, as fast as you can. Don't stop until you've reached the other side of the Twolegplace. If my Clan catches you... they will hunt you down and tear you to shreds. It's not personal, it's just what we came here for."
She hated to be blunt, but Arrah's life was on the line. Her only sister could be destroyed in front of her- all that would save her was fleeing.
"Sablepaw-" she whimpered, but the black she-cat cut her off.
"I'm sorry, Arrah, but you have to go. Go," she commanded. The grey cat shot her one last, fleeting look, full of all sorts of Tainted emotions, before racing out of the alley, fake light dappling her fur. A heartbeat later, Smokepaw leapt from the brick wall and landed beside Sablepaw. He stared at her, not speaking, his round dark eyes knowing.
"She was my sister, Smokepaw. My sister," she whispered, staring after her retreating grey pelt. Only then did she remember Smokepaw had been Rainkit's brother. He understood- felt her pain.
"I know, Sablepaw," he replied quietly, resting his head over hers, saying nothing more.
Yikes, what a bad chapter for such a long wait! XD Sorry. Swyfte promises to to better next time. She's been busy with forums, and her own forum has moved up to page 4 despite having only 5ish members!
So...who guessed it was Sablepaw's sister, hmm? Kudos to you!
Next chapter will have a little more action, I promise.
And...we're only 18 reviews away from 100!