Kits Can't Sing
This was what she knew.
Close your eyes. Don't sleep. Feel the hunger that's not yours, but of the two tiny lives at your belly. Don't move. Retreat. Feel the pain that already, that those two tiny lives have forgotten. Don't move when they tell you to. Don't listen. Don't fall asleep knowing you'd rather not wake up. Don't listen to him, don't listen to her, don't stare at her golden pelt too bright for your squinting eyes.
She also knew that Morningstar was cross; she knew that soon, she would have to get up and go home, lesser than she had been. Her kits would see their home for the first time- the forests and fields that would become their pretty green prison.
The quiet, tiny alley they'd found was filled, now; crushed between walls were the Tainted, captured, hobbled and beaten. PureClan ringed around them, despite their own injuries. They talked, and the laughed, and they shot her glances of reproach and curiosity. Sablefrost, feeling more hollow than tired, ignored them.
Worse was Strongclaw. If she didn't know the precise shade of sky blue his eyes were before, she'd certainly memorized it now. When he wasn't staring at her, he was stoically making an effort to keep his eyes anywhere else. He'd recovered a little, by now. The calico had decided he was well enough to poke his nose into every corner of the alley, gathering patches of dirt on his muzzle along the way.
Morningstar, back again. There was a dead rat at her dainty paws. Its neck looked a little bloodier than it ought to.
"We're leaving today," she announced. "And we'll leave with you, or leave you, if you'd rather keep your 'nest' and your disgusting alley. And regardless, we will be taking the kits."
The queen leveled a measured stare at her leader. Her bright gaze was acidically sharp, lucid. She hadn't bothered to clean the rat blood from her muzzle; it had slowly turned from a garish red to something a little darker, more the colour of rust after a rainstorm.
She looked away and pawed the rat towards her. Prey never ran well in the city, and it was probable that most of the raiders hadn't eaten since yesterday. Their hunger was evident on their scarred faces. Naturally, Sablefrost took a large bite and tried to pretend that the dead rodent tasted even slightly appealing.
Strongclaw was staring again. He hadn't eaten either, and he'd almost died. She ripped off another few bites before pulling a face of disgust that was not entirely faked. She swiped it in his direction.
"It's awful," she intoned. "Finish it for me."
"So what'll it be, dear?" Morningstar asked, flicking a pebble into the brick wall above her son's head. "Going to trouble yourself with moving?"
It felt odd to stand again. Though her weight was considerably less, her paws felt unsteady; her tail trembled, her balance sorely lacking. Oakkit wailed at her, irritated and confused by the abrupt loss of his mother's warmth. Emberkit was still too dignified to utter anything more than a tiny squeak.
Sablefrost muttered a sarcastic, "Well, look at that. My legs do work." For such a poor joke, Morningstar smirked a little wider than was strictly necessary. Had she really wondered if she'd stay here in this dismal city, where a hundred cats with a thousand vendettas could kill her in days? Yet, Sablefrost felt as though she'd missed some kind of opportunity, sidestepped an escapade- and still, passed a test set by the fickle golden leader.
The dawn, saturated with golden light, was punctuated with shrill, incessant cries, ridiculously noisy where there had once been unrivalled quiet. Smokefang groaned and pressed one large grey paw against his ear. Yes, the arrival of new life was a much needed miracle, but honestly, did they need to be so noisy?
Apparently the six pairs of new lungs refused to be quiet. Morningstar's lot sometimes added to the medley, but they were old enough to understand what a nuisance they were becoming.
At the very least, it was disconcerting to know that his son was the loudest of all. Volekit, they'd called him, but surely no vole had ever cried as loudly as the little grey tom.
"For the love of StarClan, shut your spawn up," Waterstripe grumbled. The older warrior had pushed his nest against the warrior den's wall; currently, he'd hidden his head inelegantly beneath his forelegs. His striped tail twitched as another chorus of wails began, irate.
"Tell that to Peppermask too," he retorted, but climbed to his feet anyway. That in itself was a lost cause. The tabby, slumped in an untidy heap in the middle of the den, was very obviously oblivious to the racket in the nursery.
"It's all your fault," Waterstripe moaned. "You've induced a plague."
Seemingly exiled by his former mentor, Smokefang pushed his way outside. It was the kind of day he rather liked; already warm and lulling, hazy blue skies stretching from horizon to horizon, a minute breeze skittering over the edges of camp. With the absence of six certain kits, it could have been perfect. Letting out a languorous sigh, because there was no one to hear him, he shambled on over to the fresh-kill pile that was distinctly meagre and a little lacklustre.
Jayflight would like something nice, undoubtedly. There was a vole, nice and plump, but he guessed that kind of irony would not amuse his pair. The blackbird had too many feathers; the scrawny rabbit someone had caught was barely an adolescent. There was even a frog, unattractively green and mangled.
Smokefang finally decided on a sparrow who seemed to have lost a great deal of its feathers and down in a brawl with a Clan cat. Jayflight might appreciate the rest of the feathers in her nest- not that she'd been making a habit of appreciating anything, lately.
The nursery was exactly as he'd left it, last night- Redsong's kits, nearly old enough to be apprenticed, lay huddled in their nest. Their mother had moved back into the warriors' den, unashamedly relieved to the the chaos behind. Their wide and blinking eyes were testament to the fact that although the dim light was pleasant and the milky scents in the air were relaxing, there was no sleep to be had. Jayflight drew his gaze next, her fur pale against her sun-soaked moss nest. Fernkit was napping lightly, curled around her mother's tail, while Volepaw kneaded her stomach with thick little paws. His pink mouth was stretched wide as he once again protested...what? Against the cruel world?
Smokefang had no clue why kits did what they did; why they felt the need to vocalise their every desire and emotion.
Hungry? Cry. Cold? Cry. Lonely, upset or annoyed? Cry, perhaps with a hint of desperate wailing on the side.
Jayflight didn't look up as he approached. This was probably due to one of Nettlecloud's kits tugging fervently on her ear. The big tom deposited the prey at the foot of the grey queen's nest and swatted his nephew away. He had an odd name, something obscure like Burrkit. Or maybe he was Mallowkit. Smokefang's sister, nearly dozing, sent him an aggravated, sleepy glare. She pawed her little miniature back to her nest. They all bore startling resemblance to her. Though three of them were brown, not her pale fawn, three of them shared her pretty rosary spots. The other was a plain tabby, as dull-pelted as her father. She had an equally boring, earthen name that he hadn't bothered to remember.
"I'll go hunting soon," Smokefang murmured to Jayflight. "Promise." StarClan knew there were more cats than fresh-kill in camp right now. She hummed in assent, already picking at the near-decapitated bird. One of Meadowmist's terrors, emerging out of the tunnel Morningstar had dubbed 'her expansion', snared a discarded brown feather and swaggered off with it.
Smokefang made his escape. He barely remembered his time in the nursery- before he was very old, there had been a collective decision among the warriors to raise the tom-kits separately. No one had bothered with the same kind of hassle since.
Since it was such a nice day, he supposed he'd go to the meadow. Maybe he could actually catch something that decently resembled a rabbit. Yet there was no prey to be found, he noted, traversing the worn and familiar path dappled with shadows from the tree canopy. Bids were no longer singing. The cause of this made their sudden appearance several metres in front of him; a ragged band of cats- Clanners and Tainted, both groups so bloodied and torn it was hard to pick out the faces he knew and the faces he didn't. The exception, of course, was Morningstar herself. Her golden fur was sleek, and dotted with clumps of meagre poultices. They were probably the remains of the only herbs Sorrelstorm had bothered to take with them.
"That Smoke one, aren't you?" Morningstar asked pretentiously. "Let poor Fleetstorm have a break, and take this, would you?" She nudged a haggard grey tom to the front of the group. Something swung from his bloodied mouth, something distinctly not prey...A dark sleek brown shape, criss-crossed with heavy stripes, crumpled ears and blind eyes. Smokefang searched the crowd for Sablefrost. She stood beside Strongclaw, nearly skeletal, a tiny black kit clamped in her muzzle. Determinedly, she avoided his gaze.
There was the fact that neither kit looked like him; there was the fact that neither kit looked like Strongclaw. Maybe, after all, he was safe.
Smokefang felt a little relieved.
It was just when he began to feel safe that his world took a sudden, alarming tilt. He'd stopped to reach for the kit, but something knocked him back. Someone? They landed with a thump that he didn't yet feel. Black fur cut across his vision. Dimly, as his head cracked against the ground, he wondered if it was Sablefrost, if the idea of him holding her kit was too repulsive to bear. But no, this was a choking weight, and the paws at his throat were too hefty to belong to her. Claws, worn and blunted, dug into his skin.
The amassed Tainted were shrieking, Smokefang heard. Panicking, blundering, shoving aside their captors. The black pelt pinning him down was knocked into the turmoil, but this was not a respite. Paws tore at his fur, trampled him, crushed the air from his chest till he could bleed but not breathe.
Perhaps Thornstreak's legacy belonged to Smokefang, because now in this chaos he'd earned it.
Well, hi. I'm suspecting if anyone wants to kill me, it's been because of the wait, not the whole did-she-just-kill-Smokefang thing. I wasn't going to do that at first, but then I looked at this chapter and it was just a boring filler and nothing happened so I thought 'let's have some fun with our favourite tom'.
Firstly, sorry it's been so long. I'm very slack and I know it. School however is horrible and busy and it's my holidays now. Should be studying. Oops. Good news is I've nearly got enough credits to pass this year. Looks like I'm not dropping out of school yet ;3
Second, thanks for all of your lovely reviews. There's now just over 700 of them, which frankly is amazing. Always love more, getting them makes my day. Also, I do know this is short, but I wrote most of it today and I'm just not really into it. Maybe now I can move onto something a little more exciting? Maybe there'll be a time skip too, we'll be needing one of those soon. And kits, yay!
And yes, there may be people who can smash out chapters with thousands of words every update, but I am not one of those people. It might be 'easy' for some people. I however find it more difficult as I really don't have a lot of time to sit down and just write. I try to make my chapters 'long' (Swyfte-long, at least) and I put effort into them but that doesn't mean I, or other people, find it easy. So sorry if I can't assault your eyes with pages and pages of words :)
Um, anyway, yeah. Spoiler alert: rant above. Next time? Maybe fluff. I want fluff.