I'd never seen it coming. Of course, after it happened, I'd never see again. And it was so humiliating! To be forced into retirement that way... I shudder, just thinking about it.
It had happened on a sunny greenleaf day, the sun shining through the leaves and scattering a dappled pattern of light and darkness that I'd always appreciated. That fateful day, I'd been called to a hunting patrol with Cloudtail, Brackenfur, and my apprentice, Sootpaw. We padded under the forest canopy, the warm, humid air wreathing its way around us. Cloudtail had already caught a large squirrel, and Sootpaw was carrying a mouse, looking quite proud of himself. We were traveling up the RiverClan border, and I was actually feeling quite contented. The whole trouble with BloodClan was far behind me, and my heart was open, full of optimism. (A rather rare occurence for me...)
Sootpaw was chattering on about all the prey he'd managed to catch on an assessment recently with his siblings, Rainpaw and Sorrelpaw, when there was a sudden dart of bright ginger. I whipped around, startled, to see a small brown apprentice, body criss-crossed with stripes, darting across our border. A rabbit sped on past him, its small, quick-working paws brown blurs. "Vole[aw!" came an agitated yowl; a RiverClan patrol stood, fur ruffled, at our border. It consisted of Blackclaw, a smoky black tom, and Swallowtail, a dark brown she-cat.
"Hey, what do you think you're doing on our territory?" Cloudtail hissed, darting in front of the small intruder. The tom - Volepaw, I supposed - skidded to a surprised stop, narrowly missing crashing into the long-furred white warrior. The rabbit sped around a bush and disappeared deep into our territory.
"You let my rabbit get away!" Volepaw cried, sounding quite offended.
"It wasn't your rabbit anymore," I pointed out, an edge to my voice. "It was on our territory."
"Yes, and we'd probably ought to punish you for it," Sootpaw growled, claws working in and out.
"You'd better not!" Blackclaw growled, stepping forward, and putting a single paw over the border. Sootpaw yowled with outrage, and was about to fling himself at the RiverClan tom before I grabbed his tail in my jaws.
"Let's not turn this into a battle." Brackenfur spoke up for the first time, voice mild and calming. Blackclaw shot him a glare, probably thinking the ThunderClan warrior was being condescending, before flicking his tail at his apprentice.
"Come on, Volepaw, let's leave. We have better things to deal with than ThunderClan scum," he sighed.
"ThunderClan what?" screeched Sootpaw, while Cloudtail and I bristled, tails lashing. Even Brackenfur looked ruffled.
Volepaw hung his head, stepping lightly over the border and into his own territory. The RiverClan patrol shot last glares at us before hurrying down to the riverbank, hopping lightly across the steppingstones. We exchanged annoyed glances, before continuing on our hunting patrol.
It took quite a while before our spirits rose, after that extremely aggravating experience. But by an hour later, we had all but forgotten it as we traipsed through the warm greenleaf forest in search of prey. Birds were twittering in the trees, and my muscles were relaxed under my tabby-striped pelt. That's when I caught a whiff of maliciously familiar cat-scent.
"RiverClan!" I hissed, crouching in the crackly bracken. Instantly, Cloudtail, Brackenfur, and Sootpaw went down too. Has that patrol come back? I wondered, anger boiling in my stomach. The scent drew nearer, until...
I thrust my muzzle through the undergrowth, and instantly felt foolish, a flush rising under my pale silver fur. A rabbit, whom had been peacefully hopping about in the undergrowth, dashed at full speed away from me. The very same rabbit that had been chased over the border by the RiverClan patrol.
"So? Are they there?" A tense, whispered mew reached my ears, dragging me back to the present. I turned to see Sootpaw's worried, but excited face.
"Oh... erm... it was just that rabbit," I mewed, and mrrow s of amusement echoed from my patrol. My ears burned with shame.
"Betcha I can catch it!" Sootpaw challenged, and charged ahead in front of the rest of us, streaking through the bracken.
I raced after him, casting him a competitive smirk as I pulled on ahead, paws thrumming on the soft forest floor. There! I spotted the terrified animal, darting around the side of a juniper bush. I swerved after it, paws sending up puffs of dirt from the drying ground, and barely avoided losing my balance. I heard Sootpaw behind me, a steady thump-thump that grew softer as I forged on ahead of him.
I began to tire, the rabbit pulling on ahead of me. Another few seconds, I'd have to stop, and it would get away. It's now or never. I paused for a split second, coiling the muscles in my hind legs, and sprang powerfully, rising above the dusty light-dappled earth. For a moment, it was as if everything went slowly; I sailed towards the rabbit, paws outstretched, claws unsheathed; I saw it cast back a quick look of terror, before everything was normal on it again and I landed triumphantly, my paws placed squarely on its furry brown back.
It struggled beneath me, paws still churning; I chuckled and picked it up in my jaws by the scruff, about to break its neck, when - pain. Painpainpainpainpain. I felt it fall out of my mouth, heard rustling as it sped away. Some animal let out a thin, drawn-out, agonized wail. It took me several moments to realize it was me. My face was on fire. My eyes were on fire, the worst pain I had ever felt. Something sticky seeped out beneath my eyelids. The drumming pawsteps of my concerned Clanmates met my ears as I sank to the ground with a groan.
"Hey! Hey, are you alright?" Sootpaw. His warm breath reached my ear. Cloudtail and Brackenfur pounded up behind him - "Hey, what happened?" and "Oh my StarClan, are you okay?"
"M-My eyes," I managed to moan. "The r-rabbit..." I struggled to open an eye, but the pain doubled, blood dripping into my wounded eyes, and I screwed it shut with a startled yelp. "I can't see!"
"Don't worry," Brackenfur meowed finally. "We'll get you back to camp, Cinderpelt will fix you up. Come on."
I staggered to my paws and leaned on the golden tom's shoulder, stumbling blindly after him into the forest.
As he and Cloudtail guided me around trees and bushes, Sootpaw trailing us nervously, it didn't get any better. It only got worse. Pain seared red-hot in my eyes, making me want to wail to StarClan above. I had to bite my tongue to keep myself from doing so. "Almost there," Brackenfur soothed me, and we went down a steep descent. I panicked as I lost my footing, lurching forward into nothingness, but Cloudtail's strong jaws caught me by the scruff of my neck. I picked my way down the rocks to where our camp lay excruciatingly slowly, feeling out each pawhold.
Without my sight, the familiar, easy descent to my home felt like a dangerous journey down a mouselength-thin rocky path. I was as helpless as a newborn kit. Oh, StarClan, please don't make me be like this forever, I prayed, as a particularly agonizing burst of pain made me stagger.
After what seemed like forever, the ground leveled out and we made it into camp. Gasps of shock burst out around us as we emerged from the gorse tunnel. By this point, I was so exhausted by weariness and pain I could barely reply as Firestar's voice rang out nearby. "What's happened?" he demanded, sounding shocked.
Brackenfur answered for me. The golden warrior, whom was normally never ruffled by anything, sounded anxious. "He caught a rabbit, but it turned and scratched him with its claws," he meowed.
"M-My eyes," I managed to breathe, my voice tight with pain. "I can't see..."
"Get him to Cinderpelt," Firestar commanded, sounding worried. This surprised me a bit, as he'd seemed to mistrust me a bit, me having been one of Tigerstar's closest followers, but he sounded genuinely concerned. I didn't have much time to ponder on this as Brackenfur nudged me gently with his muzzle, guiding me to Cinderpelt's den.
Once we reached it, Brackenfur showed me to a nest of moss, which I sank wearily in to. As the golden warrior filled our medicine cat in on the situation, fear constricted my heart. What if I was really never going to see again? I certainly couldn't carry on being a warrior. I'd have to retire early...
As soon as Brackenfur had left, I burst out, "Will I ever be able to see again?"
"I don't know," Cinderpelt replied shortly. "We'll have to wait and see." I whimpered slightly, resting my head on my paws.
I heard her pawsteps, coming up to me. "Eat these," she demanded. I sniffed the air and managed to find the herbs she was speaking of, a few small seeds which I lapped up quickly.
"What are these?" I murmured drowsily.
"Poppy seeds," she explained. "You seemed like you needed the rest."
"Thank you..." I muttered, and drifted away as sleep fell on me, finally dulling the horrible pain.
When I woke again, I could tell it was night. The slight breeze blowing towards my face was cooler, and all was quiet. When I listened hard, I could hear Cinderpelt's soft breathing behind me. I lifted my head, sniffing the calm air.
The pain in my eyes was dulled now, but it still pulsed malevolently beneath my lids. Something cool and moist was layered onto them.
A wave of panic gripped me. What if I really was never going to see again? How could I do anything useful, anything fun, anything anything , ever again? How could I go on living?
"Don't be afraid," came a soft whisper. Startled, my head whipped up, but of course my eyes stayed close. That was a voice I knew well. Brindleface. My mate, my beloved mate whom Tigerstar had killed for the dogs...
All of a sudden, her sweet scent wreathed around me, her warm breath reaching my face, her nose a whisker's width from mine. "How can't I?" I whispered, shaking. "I might never see again... I'll never hunt, or fight, or train Sootpaw, or see our kits again... My life will be over!"
"Don't say that!" Brindleface mewed sharply, a rarity for the gentle gray queen. "It is not your time to join me yet. You have many seasons left to live. Even - even if you must join the elders, you still have a place in ThunderClan, a destiny to fulfill."
"Brindleface..." I murmured. Suddenly, I was overcome with a desire to see my mate, to see her pretty tabby form just once more. I struggled to open my eyes, excruciating pain searing them as the lids slowly slid up. Hazy vision greeted me, blurred and distorted. But there she was. Struggling against the pain, I focused in on the cat I loved.
She stood before me, her face a mouselength from mine. Her slim, mottled pale gray form, delicate darker gray stripes tracing her pelt like spiderwebs. Her kind, round, gleaming pale green eyes gazed into my ruined blue ones without flinching. Stars glimmered in her pelt, hanging in her fur to make her seem doubly unearthly and surreal, doubly beautiful.
I sighed softly as my eyes slid shut once more. Brindleface leaned forward, her nose touching mine, sending a pulse through my body. "Don't be afraid," she repeated. "I will always be watching you."
She stepped away, and I could feel her scent disappearing, feel her leaving, feel the room emptying. I was alone once more. With a shuddery breath, I rested my head on my paws, giving in to sleep once more.
When I woke again, it was morning. Brindleface was gone, and I could hear Cinderpelt busying herself with herbs in the front of the den. The pain was still there, dim and throbbing. I raised my head, grunting, and forced my eyes open again.
I gave a sharp cry, blinking furiously even though agonizing pain erupted each time my eyes fluttered open and closed.
Only blackness met my vision, horrible, ominous blackness.
I was blind. I couldn't see anything. And I never would again.
A/N: So, yeah. The cat's name was never stated, but by the end of the oneshot you could tell it was Longtail. And I know they never said Brindleface was his mate, but in my mind they weeere. And Brindleface popped out Ashfur and Ferncloud from 'im. I thought about it when working on Into the Shadows (which is on hiatus, sadly... I'm just too busy). Redtail and Brindleface had Sandstorm, but then Redtail died and Brindle pops out another litter like 4 moons later. A cat's pregnancy is only, like, 2 moons. So clearly she took another mate. And I was like "hmmm..." Longtail was one of the few unmated toms, and the genetics somewhat make sense, since they're both basically gray. So.
Anyways, I'm a bit excited to be trying Prin Pardus's 100 Oneshot Challenge. One warning: this WILL be updated sporadically, as I am very busy at the moment. :3