ƬΉΣ PӨIƧӨПΣD ΛПD ƬΉΣ PЦЯΣ

Is It There If You Can't See It?

"PureClan!" Morningstar shrieked. She stalked, with quick, sharp steps, over the Speaking Hill; her paws were stained green with grass blood. The tawny she-cat's gleaming eyes shone with an impassioned fever. PureClan would call it a righteous light- others, the so-called Tainted, would call it blood lust. The brown tom crouched before her. Sablekit couldn't see his face, but his plain fur was bristling and his thin frame trembled. He had some sense of his impending doom, at least. Two warriors stood stiffly beside him, watching, guarding, waiting. One was Thornstreak: ever Morningstar's faithful thug. The other was the new warrior Sleetclaw, determined to prove his mettle, again, no matter what it took. The Clan was gathered in front of the knoll. Sablekit had shoved her way to a good spot at the front with Nettlekit, but up front, where she could smell the stench of the Tainted's fear, she wasn't sure being so close was such a good thing.

"My Clan! Today, our dutiful warriors found a Tainted on our territory! Spreading the disease, trying to infiltrate our ranks with poison! Will we sit idly by and let that happen, PureClan?" Morningstar yowled. The warriors raised their heads to the sky and cried, as one:

"No!"

"Will we let love poison the minds of our children?"

"No!"

"Will we let this Tainted- one who carries the very poison in his veins- live? Does one who bows down to love's wishes deserve life?"

"No!"

"Exactly," the tawny she-cat hissed, and leapt, with a surprising agility for a pregnant queen, off the knoll. She landed on top of the Tainted and bowled him over. The sudden maneuver elicited a surprised squeak from the tom.

"Please," he whispered, staring up at Morningstar. Sablekit, mere inches away and certainly close enough to hear the Tainted's pleas, could not look away. Already his voice, as if in sympathetic foreshadowing, was broken. A shudder worked its way down her spine, but she was loath to blink in case she missed another swift movement. This was, perhaps, the most exciting event she'd ever experienced in her entire, short life.

"Don't hurt me!" the tom cried, as Morningstar's claws slid from their sheaths and cleaved through his fur. His begging only lead to hisses and catcalls from the Clan. They did not care for him, a simple rouge. His demise was their entertainment; proof that without love, they were strong, and with it, all they became were trembling mousehearts.

"StarClan accuses you of carrying the poison! Do you concede with the wise ones, the all-seers?" she snarled. Her tail lashed the air.

"I don't, I don't know-poison? I-" the tom's stammer cut off as Morningstar jammed her paw into his windpipe. He wheezed and struggled feebly under the queen's hefty weight.

"Does he concede?" Morningstar hissed at her Clan; by now, they were seething with excitement and jostling for good positions.

"Yes!"

"And what is the punishment for harboring the poison?" she roared, backing off her latest victim, tawny fur ruffled with anticipation. Sleetclaw took her place, crouched over the unfortunate Tainted, claws sinking imperceptibly through his thin pelt. He did not smile, but triumph was in his eyes, and his tense muscles belied his excitement. To find a Tainted was rare; to catch one and kill one meant great honor for the Clan. To even touch it would prove a warrior's bravery.

"Death!" came PureClan's ragged cry. "Death, death, death, death!"

Morningstar smiled radiantly.

"It is my great pleasure, under the watchful guiding eyes of StarClan, the eternal warriors set against love, to take the life of this Tainted and remove its blight from the world!" With those proud words, she turned her gaze on the cowering brown tom. Sleetclaw stepped away, but the petrified cat made no attempt to run- where could he go? There were crazed, bloodthirsty cats crowded all around him, and all would rather tear him to pieces than look at him.

"Your demise is an honor," the tawny she-cat intoned, gazing at him benevolently. It was an odd expression, the tom thought, just before her teeth found his throat.

Sablekit watched with impossibly large eyes as the Tainted died, choking on waves of his own blood. She saw the red, red blood pool around him, and stained the fresh grass with an unholy shade. She saw him flop, defeated and lifeless, from Morningstar's jaws. There was blood on her muzzle, on her chest. Sablekit wondered if she could see the disease, swimming through the blood- reaching out with malevolent claws, intent on tainting her- but she could detect nothing. In fact, there was nothing that set the stain of his blood apart, no visible anomaly. She didn't linger on that.

"My Clan!" Morningstar, in all her serene, blazing, glory cried. "We have culled the Taint of another un-pure from our world! One less minion of the poison runs amok before us!"

The Clan, incensed on the execution, elated over the split blood, cheered.

A Tainted is just a cat that's not from PureClan. One o' the 'poisoned'.

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