Preceding: Jaggedclaw's takeover of ShadowClan, many moons ago, has finally taken its toll on the forest. Runt kits are being given away to ThunderClan, where they develop into strong warriors. Jaggedclaw's loyal apprentice, Marshpaw, is beginning to slowly take over with the skills that he has been taught.
When a kittypet comes along with a strange lesson, Jaggedclaw begins to see the Clans in a different way.
And it might be too late.
Table of ContentsEdit
00 - PrologueEdit
A she-cat pads through the gardens of Twolegplace, her collar jingling loudly as she leaps from one dry place to another, avoiding the rain puddles.
Her destination is a certain garden, owned by an old yellowish-looking Twoleg with hair on his face. He always feeds the she-cat, so she trusts him.
He will not be out tonight, she knows it, because he has not gardened since the light went of his eyes for the last time. She was the witness.
She stays away from the forest, which holds horror beyond her wildest imagination, and keeps close to the fence. At one point, she sees desperate eyes peering from the depths of the deep darkness, and she stares back.
The she-cat nears the garden, which still has the wonderful smells being emitted from it.
She climbs the fence with her claws easily and stands on the top for a heartbeat before leaping into the garden.
As she pads along the various pots scattered across the garden, the moonlight falls on one that held a plant that she favored.
She looks at the pot again and is suprised to find something strange.
The bamboo is growing again.
A tom is alarmed. His eyes are wide with fear as he watches his mate give birth, her body convulsing over and over as the kits are squeezed out.
"Please hurry up," he mutters, staring into the forest towards the ThunderClan camp. If they don't find the kits first, they can still be saved.
He looks back to his mate, who has stopped convulsing, and the kits are suckling.
One is much too small.
01 - IntroductionsEdit
Life is beautiful.
It always has been, of course, I'm a very positive cat.
Things have changed, of course. When I was a kit I could only scratch, and now I can kill. As an apprentice, I could only demand to be heard, but now I can expect to.
For whatever reasons, I am now at the top of my Clan, the highest position of power in the forest. It meant assassinating the old leader and putting the deputy out of power by getting to the Moonpool before him. That night was marked with the death of that deputy, too.
I have not chosen a deputy, but I do have a cat that sticks by my side, and that is my apprentice, Marshpaw.
"Jaggedclaw," he says to me now, "what are you going to do with her?"
My name is Jaggedclaw. I am the leader of ShadowClan, the most powerful Clan in the forest and the current housers of six prisoners. It used to be seven, but an older one died. I never knew her name.
The other prisoners look on with tired, sad eyes. I can see their bones through their fur, which is sagging, and they are shivering.
"Is there a problem?" I spit at the youngest, a mere apprentice from the look of it.
"No," the prisoner squeaks. He scurries away from me, back into the den, which smells of dirt.
"Leave it here," I correct Marshpaw. "It was a prisoner. It doesn't matter if it was male or female. Remember that from when you are leader."
Marshpaw nodded. "It can be a reminder for those who try and escape," he suggests.
"Yes," I agree, and for a heartbeat I feel a surge of pride that my own apprentice has thought of that. "Get another guard," I tell him, "and meet me outside my den."
With another look at the prisoners, I spit at the guard, "And don't feed them. They're too plump."
The guard nods to me with an alarmed look and settles into a sitting position. He knows that, with the prisoner's current strengths, they could never escape.
I pad back to my den, where Marshpaw is already waiting. "Did you do what I told you?" I ask him.
"I was going to ask you if you thought Stoneclaw was better suited for the job than Weedtail."
I struggle. Who are Stoneclaw and Weedtail?
With a patronizing look, I ask, "Who has always been the extra guard?"
"Well, Weedtail has," Marshpaw stutters, "but Stoneclaw just killed that ThunderClan cat in a battle, remember? He's getting stronger-"
"If Weedtail always has been, then he is the guard," I tell Marshpaw.
Marshpaw nods obediently and rushes away.
I don't mind. I need time to think.
My dream is just as scary as usual.
I dream of the prisoners, whose bones I can see. I dream of the many cats I have killed. I dream of the slave cats I have made work for me for moons.
As I wake up, gasping, I come to a scarier conclusion: I cannot live without the prisoners, the killing of cats, and the slaves. I depend on them to keep me in power, and they depend on me to keep them well-fed.
It's a one-sided promise, however, I have never promised them food.
However, if I don't keep them, I will be killed.
And that is very much the truth.
The next morning, I say nothing about my dream to Marshpaw, but tell him to start giving cats directions. He knows what needs to be done- as long as I am fed, it is a productive day.
As a cat approaches me with a mouse, I snarl at him. He drops the mouse quickly and scampers away.
Marshpaw approaches with a reddish tom beside him, who smells of ShadowClan. Marshpaw picks up the mouse and moves it closer to me.
"This cat has a little problem," Marshpaw tells me.
The reddish tom squeaks and clears his throat. "M-my kit is a runt," he whispers.
I glare at Marshpaw. "Get whoever is in charge of runts to me, now."
"Robintail," Marshpaw tells me, staying in place.
"Don't defy me!" I snarl.
"This is Robintail," Marshpaw tells me calmly.
"Good," I say, retaining my good nature once more. "Robintail, bring your runt to ThunderClan and see to it that they take him in."
Robintail sighs. "I'll do that, Jaggedclaw."
I continue, "And, Robintail?"
He starts. "Yes?"
"Give them a little message for me." I recite it.
"Yes, Jaggedclaw." Robintail scampers away.
"Good job, Marshpaw," I praise my apprentice. "Now get going, that pile of fresh-kill for the Clan looks a little too large, doesn't it?"
02 - MessengerEdit
When I arrive back in the nursery, my kits- Sparrowkit, Falconkit, and Nightkit- are asleep. Their bodies are rising and falling.
"What did Jaggedclaw say?" my mate, Blackpelt, asks anxiously.
I look away. "I have to take Sparrowkit to ThunderClan."
"Robintail," Blackpelt pleads, "no! Sparrowkit will grow!"
"I have to go anyway," I snap. "And besides, if Jaggedclaw discovers-"
"You mean Marshpaw," Blackpelt interrupts. "Jaggedclaw just gets the report."
"Alright, if Marshpaw discovers Sparrowkit again he'll tell Jaggedclaw and he'll kill me."
This is true; Jaggedclaw has publicly excuted cats for no good reason before, and there's no saying why he wouldn't do it again.
Blackpelt is silent. "Fine," she sighs. "Go, then. I don't want to see Sparrowkit again." With that, she turns away.
I shiver. I have taken kits before, but never my own. I gently pick up Sparrowkit and leave quickly, something I have become accustomed to.
ShadowClan's territory is dark, and, truthfully, disturbing. Plants are dead, so prey picks upon bits of food or unlucky animals that have strayed here just for a moment.
The trees are very close together. As I weave through them, I am almost hoping to come across another cat hunting or patroling or attempting to escape Jaggedclaw.
I come across no cat, and as I cross into ThunderClan, the trees become much further apart and sun seems to shine through the trees more.
ShadowClan has been slowly taking over ThunderClan territory. The line is almost right next to the camp itself.
I stand at the top of the rocky hollow that is their camp and, setting down a still-sleeping Sparrowkit, call for attention.
"It's Robintail!" cats call from below happily.
Despite their happiness, I can see their bones through their fur, their fresh-kill pile - which consists of a bird, a thrush, and a thin vole- and their lack of kits. There is a queen that suckles all our kits, Lilyheart, but she seems to have disappeared.
The ThunderClan leader, Rushstar, climbs out of the hollow to meet me at the top.
"I come here with another kit," I explain, gesturing to Sparrowkit, who is beginning to wake up. "Sparrowkit, son of Blackpelt and... Robintail."
"Your kit?" Rushstar asks quietly. "I'm sorry..."
"It's fine," I say briskly. "Can I see Lilyheart?"
Rushstar stares at me for a moment. "Lilyheart?" he asks. "She's one of your prisoners."
My jaw drops. Never in my life have I bothered to look at the prisoners in the fear that I would know one. "No," I whisper. "Who will feed Sparrowkit?"
A yowl came from the camp, from just inside the nursery.
"That'll be Ryetail," Rushstar muttered to himself. His ears perked and he looked at me. "Ryetail can!"
"Thank StarClan," I breathe.
"Anything else?" Rushstar asks, bending to pick up Sparrowkit.
"Yes," I mew, remembering Jaggedclaw's message. "Jaggedclaw told me to tell you that he will be taking another strip of land in a moon and he is being generous."
"Generous?" Rushstar spits, straightening up without Sparrowkit.
"Yes," I sigh. "He was telling me how he could have taken it this moon."
"StarClan help me," Rushstar hissed.
"Attack him!" I suggest loudly. "I'd help kill him."
"If it weren't for that grayish tom hanging around him all the time-"
"Marshpaw would be glad to take over. At least he knows our names," I tell Rushstar bitterly.
Rushstar hisses to himself. "Well, don't be surprised if we attack at one point in time."
"If you did, I'd join in."
But what am I saying? Jaggedclaw has too many cats defending him. He has a way with battles.
"I've better go see to Ryetail," Rushstar sighs. "Sparrowkit is a welcome addition to ThunderClan."
"Don't tell him," I plead. "Make it as if he is ThunderClan. I'll tell him myself one day."
Rushstar nods. "Alright." Picking up Sparrowkit, he nods to me and retreats.
I stand, watching ThunderClan, and realize that half the cats in the clearing I brought here as kits. All were tiny, and now they are small, lithe, thin, and strong. Good additions to Jaggedclaw's warriors.
I retreat back to ShadowClan.
03 - TourEdit
I watch Robin- what was his name?- return to camp with a very controlled look on his face. I ignore it. This is something for Marshpaw to deal with.
Marshpaw hasn't shown himself for a while, now, and I'm getting impatient. He was supposed to go hunting for me.
I wonder if he's eating before I do.
I stand up quickly. If he is eating before I do, he knows the consequences.
"You," I direct to a random cat who I barely recognize, "make sure the prisoners don't escape."
The cat nods and races off towards the prison.
Night is falling, I notice as I pad out. The moon shines brightly above my head, and I stare at it for a moment. Would I find it so beautiful if I weren't leader today?
I realize that my thoughts are twisting and pad quickly onwards. Where is Marshpaw?
I see bright green eyes peering from the trees, and I insantly think of Marshpaw, although this cat seems to be taller than Marshpaw is.
One word flashes through my mind, over and over. Intruder! I leap into the air, my paws propelling me across the ground. I skid across the ground to a stop in front of...
Her collar glints in the sunlight, as does her sleek, shiny fur. I can't help but stare at the moonlight glinting off her fur.
"Hello," she says pleasantly. "You're a Clan cat, I imagine?"
I nod. "My name is Jaggedclaw."
Her eyes open in alarm. "You're Jaggedclaw?" she asks. "I thought you'd be much... older."
I know she is saying this to please me so I don't attack her, but I nod. "A lot of cats say that."
She takes a step back. "I was just looking around," she explains. "I'll leave if you want me to. I've seen quite enough."
"No, stay," I hear myself say. "There's more to see!"
She looks at me quizically. "Well, then, show me."
I stare for a moment. "It's late at night."
"Which means the moon lights our way," the kittypet says softly. She has the ability to make her whisper be heard, like me.
I grunt. "Fine." Turning around, I stalk off, wondering if she will follow.
"Wait up!" she calls. "I can't keep up with a strong Clan cat like you." I hear her collar jingling loudly as she runs to catch up with me.
Annoyance surges through me, but I don't raise my voice. "You'll scare prey away to the ThunderClan cats," I grumble.
"Aren't they having trouble finding prey?" the kittypet asks.
"They're good hunters," I mumble. "They get by."
"Not with Sparrowkit," the kittypet says abruptly. A tiny gasp escapes her throat.
I turn on her. "ThunderClan sent you!" I snarl.
"No!" she cries. "I spy on them!" Wistfully, she adds, "I'd always wanted to join a Clan."
My teeth slowly unclench themselves from the position they were in: bared. "I see."
"I want to see your Clan!" the kittypet mews again, realizing she is safe. "What's life like?"
I turn away. "Easy for me," I whisper. "And Marshpaw."
As we continue through the forest, she is silent for a heartbeat before asking, "Who's Marshpaw?"
"My apprentice," I explain. "I'm training him."
"To do what?" she asks, pricking her ears.
"To hunt," I say gruffly. "Stuff like that."
By now, we have arrived at the camp, which has brambles weaved through the wall to give it a scarier effect to newcomers. "We're here!" I tell the kittypet brightly.
"Woah," the kittypet breathes. "You built this?"
"My Clan did before I was born," I mew modestly, feeling my fur grow hot at her appreciation. "I did the whole bramble thing."
She creeps closer. "I could slip through this hole," she notices, pointing to a hole that seems to be torn through the brambles. "It looks as if your cats have been using it regularly, from the look of it."
I rush over to her and throw myself to the ground. Sure enough, it is much too big for my liking, but I can see into it.
Kits. They obviously haven't made the hole. They are all soundly asleep, curled up next to their mothers, who are, for the most part, all asleep.
I hear voices talking quietly. I prick my ears, and what I see is shocking.
A white she-cat is talking to a tom with foreign scent.
"Jaggedclaw won't find out," the white she-cat promises to the tom. "I can promise ThunderClan that."
I growl, but decide I will deal with it the next day. "Hurry up," I grumble to the she-cat, who is standing behind me with a confused look.
I lead her into the camp slowly, taking each step carefully and slowly. "Quiet," I hiss as her collar jingles.
"Sorry," she whispers back. "It's so big!"
"You have no idea," I grumble. My den is mostly a cave below the ground, dug by my Clan at the beginning of my leadership.
I lead her over to a den, which, at the last heartbeat, I realize is the prisoners. There is no guard.
"What is Marshpaw doing?" I hiss to myself. To the the kittypet, I mew, "These are the prisoners. Come here... look."
She walks to stand next to me and peers into the den, where all the prisoners are. All seven peer back at me, whispering my name and how sorry they are.
"They're starved!" the kittypet exclaims in alarm, her eyes widening. "What have you been doing to them?"
"I feed them," I growl. "Not as much as the average cat, but they get the scraps..."
She hisses, her fur rippling. Suddenly, she turns and races out of camp.
I stare after her.
What is so wrong?
Only after I have returned to my den do I realize I never knew her name.
04 - ReunitedEdit
Jaggedclaw seems extremely annoyed when I see him next. It is merely two days after I gave up my kit to ThunderClan and Ryetail's care. I am desperate to see him, but I stay calm.
Yesterday, Marshpaw put me to work filling in a hole by the nursery. Today, I am going to see a prisoner.
Outside the prisoner's den, I tell the guard, Tanglefur, that I would like to see a prisoner.
Tanglefur is a black tom with a deep, hoarse voice. In normal Clan life, he would be an elder.
"You a traitor?" Tanglefur growls in response to my request. "Robintail, the prisoner-lover! What would Jaggedclaw think?"
"Tanglefur," I snap. "Let me in."
"Oh yes, and risk the loss of our seventh prisoner?" he asks me. "No, I think you can stand out here."
"Let him in," a voice says commandingly.
Next to me stands Marshpaw, who is glaring at Tanglefur.
Tanglefur looks shocked.
"Let him in," Marshpaw commands again, "or I'll have you killed."
I look at Marshpaw in alarm, but he only glares at me. "Don't let them escape. Don't feed them." With that, he pads away.
Tanglefur steps aside. "I hope you know that this is because I don't want to die," he reminds me.
I nod curtly and push my way past him.
"Robintail," a voice sighs in relief as my eyes adjust to the light. "I hoped you'd come."
"Lilyheart," I purr in reply.
I recognize some of the other prisoners. One is a gray tom named Boulderpelt.
I tell Boulderpelt, "I brought you away from here as a kit." He had been a runt in the first litter under Jaggedclaw's leadership. Jaggedclaw had unknowingly been the father.
Boulderpelt sighs. "I'm not going to dare ask that you do it again."
"You're too big now," I joke halfheartedly. The pain in his eyes is too much to bear, so I turn away to get a better look at the other prisoners.
One looks apprentice-aged. His leg is twisted backwards.
"Don't look," he whispers, ashamed. "Jaggedclaw did it."
Lilyheart pads over to me. "That's Coalkit."
"They took him as a kit?" I exclaim, alarmed.
"Yes," Lilyheart whispered. "He was one of the ones you brought, too."
"Do they take a prisoner every time they take territory?" I ask.
"Yes." Lilyheart's voice becomes more angry.
"I never knew," I whisper.
I see a cat over in the corner and start towards it.
"Don't," Lilyheart warns. "He'll try and kill you. He doesn't eat or sleep or drink. He just wants to die, but Tanglefur keeps making him eat."
I sigh. I feel so helpless. Right in my own camp, there are cats being treated like this.
To Lilyheart, I murmur. "I'll help you, I swear to StarClan."
She looks me steadily in the eye.
"This will end," I swear.
05 - ReleaseEdit
"Marshpaw," I say. "I want you to sit outside the back of the nursery tonight." I had a cat close up the hole the day before, and Marshpaw is going to catch him in the act.
Marshpaw nods and obeys, running outside.
The moon is floating in the sky.
The Clan seems sparse, but I assume that they are all sleeping in their dens.
This is good. A quiet night.
I pad over to the prisoner's den, where a black tom is sitting outside.
"Who's the night guard?" I snap at him.
"Weedtail," the black tom mews pathetically. "He's out hunting."
I sigh. "I was going to give you rest, but in this case, you can just guard the prisoners until Weedtail returns," I say curtly. "Now, I would like to talk to our most recently captured prisoner. Now."
He looks alarmed. "Are you going to kill her? She's nursed all the kits so fa-"
"Get her!" I snarl, baring my teeth.
The black tom turns and runs into the den.
I hear collective gasps, but one prisoner is pushed out after a while.
"Thank you," I say kindly to the black tom.
To the prisoner, I ask, "What is your name?"
It stammers out, "Lilyheart."
"Come with me, Lily..." I have already forgotten her name.
She grumbles to herself but follows me out into the forest. "What are you going to do?"
I don't reply, padding towards a clearing that I have reserved just for this. It is so important, I haven't even told Marshpaw.
We arrive. The clearing is moonlight, and on every other night, it would be beautiful.
"You're a ThunderClan queen?" I ask the prisoner.
"Y-yes," it stammers. "Which is why you shouldn't kill me, all the kits I've ever nursed have been ShadowClan kits, and half of them yours-"
"I am no father," I snap at her. "Not a father of an ugly, disgusting runt."
"But you are!" the prisoner cries. "All of them look like you."
I growl. "You dare convict me of this?"
The prisoner falls silent, drawing her tail closer to her. After a while, she mumbles, "I just wanted to let you know."
"Enough!" I screech. I leap, and with skill beyond my many moons, pin her to the ground by the neck.
Her breathing becomes ragged. "Please," she gasps. "Please, Jaggedclaw, please..."
"I don't ever want to see you again," I growl. "Get out of my territory." I lift up my paw.
She leaps up and runs.
I scratch her back as she runs, enough to coat my claws with her blood. She will be easy to hunt tomorrow, when I have a surprise raid.
I turn back to the ShadowClan camp.
When I arrive, the prisoner guard looks away from me.
"I took care of the body," I tell him. "No need to worry."
06 - RuntEdit
Just take a tiny step forward, and it's yours, I tell myself.
For some reason, I am afraid. Afraid to stretch out my claws and jab them into my makeshift target, a leaf, and supposedly kill it.
For days now, strange smells have infiltrated my nose. Ones that I know I should recognize, but I don't.
"Just jump!" a voice snaps next to me.
I am shocked into falling on top of the leaf.
"Sparrowkit, shape up," another kit, my brother, Talonkit, tells me. His golden brown fur bristles in annoyance.
"I'm sorry," I squeak.
Talonkit pads away, muttering. I happily watch him go before resuming my position next to the leaf, about to kill it and be a hero to my Clan.
My mother, Ryetail, has told me to never play with the fresh-kill in the fresh-kill pile, because food is too scarce for tiny kits to be fooling around with it.
I obey, although I don't trust her. Her scent seems to be different than that of my actual birth mother. When I ask, however, she falls silent and whispers a single name: Jaggedclaw.
I grit my teeth at the thought of this and drive my claws into the leaf with satisfaction. Is Jaggedclaw the tom that caused my confusion? I have heard mutterings of tales, ones about a horrible leader that gives away runt kits and takes prisoners for his own occasional feasts.
Talonkit doesn't seem to care. When I have asked him what he thinks, he only replies, "It's not my problem yet."
I stare at my own reddish gray fur. I look nothing like any cat old enough to have kits of their own.
I am nobody's kit, I know that.
I look around the camp. I can see our leader, Rushstar, talking to the deputy, the lithe Sticktail. Both of them seem to be deeply worried, although I couldn't guess why.
But before I can begin to wonder, I hear a strangled yowl from outside the camp. It is desperate and sad.
I rush out of camp before any cat can stop me, and there I find a she-cat, almost starved, breathing heavily.
"A new kit," she breathes, despite the fear in her eyes. "Ryetail's, I'd guess..." Suddenly, she stops talking as a new light comes to her eyes. "Robintail," she murmurs. "StarClan help him."
Rushstar arrives. "Sparrowkit!" he snaps. "Get to camp, now."
"No!" I say before I can stop myself. "I want to know what's going on!"
The she-cat picks me up- something I hate. "Let's get into camp," she says around me. "Then, Sparrowkit, I'll tell you myself."
I struggle. "No you won't! You're lying!"
"Quiet," snaps Rushstar. "Lilyheart, come to my den after you put Sparrowkit in the nursery."
I squirm as she carries me into the camp and to the nursery. She sets me down and says, "You'll figure it out eventually." With a wink, she pads back to Rushstar's den, staggering a bit due to weakness.
I look around. I see nobody looking at me, so I follow her.
She knows I'm behind her, so she goes out of her way to take the most difficult way up the cliff, and I haven't been up even once.
I have trouble with the big rocks, and by the time I get to the top, Lilyheart has disappeared.
Creeping towards Rushstar's den, I am careful to not make a sound as I creep towards the den. Pricking my ears, I find that I can sit just outside the den and hear perfectly fine.
I hear Lilyheart say, "Robintail visited me one day. He told me that he'd find a way to throw Jaggedclaw out of power."
"There's no way in the Dark Forest that he can do that," I hear Rushstar snap in reply. "He's a mouse-brain."
"What else happened?" Rushstar demands, changing the subject. "How did you escape?"
My ears perk. I would like to know how Lilyheart got out of the clutches of this horrifying-sounding cat.
"He let me go." Lilyheart begins to breathe heavily. "He attacked me and told me he never wanted to see me again, so I ran here..."
Suddenly, I hear a yowl from outside the camp. "ShadowClan are coming!"
"The blood trail," Lilyheart gasps. "I'm so stupid, StarClan help us."
I race down the cliff, forgetting that I can't climb it, and pelt outside the camp.
I stand in rank with all the ThunderClan warriors and watch as a wave of foreign ShadowClan warriors begins to break.