The length of time between the previous chapter and this one is probably the shortest ever...Anyway, I had a sudden burst of inspiration after finishing off the last chapter simply because Tinder is a darling character and Galesong was created by one of my close FFN friends.
Chapter 14: Shatter
Tinder pulled himself through the undergrowth, blood staining the ground behind him crimson. His legs felt weak and lifeless like they were going to collapse at any moment. A dull pain throbbed in his head above his eye, keeping him from falling over and sleeping the pain away. In the back of his mind he knew that his time was short and the blood dripping from his neck was a constant reminder of it. Every time a bush rustled or a bird called Tinder's heart would start racing expecting another contestant to leap out and slay him. Badgerstrike's bloodthirsty eyes remained a constant nightmare, leaping to life whenever Tinder closed his eyes.
It was driving the tom insane.
His legs suddenly gave way and he collapsed onto the ground, his chin smashing onto a rock sending more waves of pain rocketing up his spine. A moan filled with pain escaped his chest making him feel so much weaker than he already was.
What Tinder didn't know as that every cat within the six Clans was watching him with judging eyes. His Clan stared up at the dark screen with eyes filled with pain and sadness as they watched one of their Clan mates spill their blood onto the forest floor all for the sake of amusement.
Tinder tried to push himself to his paws, tried to walk just a little farther but there was not enough blood left in his body to power his muscles. As he sunk to the ground one last time he felt the muscles in his legs lock up. His eyes drifted to the horizon where he could see the sun sinking below the horizon through the trees. It gave the forest an eerie glow and sent shadows dancing across the ground.
He breathed in a large breath, feeling it spill down his throat and trickle into his parched lungs. He felt his heart give a weak beat. His vision began to fade into black as he realised that this was it. There would be no light at the end of this dark tunnel. All he had fought through to reach this point had just gone to waste. All the battles, training and long nights spent out hunting for his Clan had just been ripped from him by a single cat.
"Tinder, let it go," a sweet voice whispered in his ear, tickling the fur around it.
"M-mother?" he choked out. "H-how?"
"Ssh, it's time to join me in the heavens. Come now. Let go of your mortal body, it will not take another step in this lifetime."
Tinder smiled a small smile as he imagined his mother waiting for him in a starry forest. "I'm coming, Mother," he whispered. And then the tom's heart gave way, no longer able to pump enough blood through his body. No more air stirred his whiskers and the High Stars watched greedily as another life was torn away by the Games.
And the hopes of an entire Clan were shattered under the sinking sun as Tinder's body filled the black mass, his blood a red stain against his blue fur, amber eyes glazed by death.
Darkness greeted Galesong when her eyes opened. A dull pain throbbed in the back of her head and she hissed when the pain heightened as she rose to her paws. "What happened?" she groaned, blinking a few times to clear her foggy head. "And where am I?" She could not remember this part of the forest, nor how she had got here. All she could remember was watching Badgerstrike shake Tinder around as if he was a piece of prey and a sharp pain in the back of her head. Everything that happened after that was a black mass in her head.
She scrunched her nose up in irritation. Of course I had to be the one who was the first to be knocked out! Her paws carried her further into the forest whilst her eyes searched the area for the thing that had knocked her out and dragged her through the forest.
A dark shape watched the she-cat from the branches of a tree, eyes chipped with curiosity. Bringing the she-cat here had been a test to see how she would react. And the results pleased the dark stranger.
Galesong slunk through the shadows oblivious to the strange clad by shadows jumping from tree to tree above her. The forest around her was confusing to say the least and she had no idea where to go. A scent blew across her nose, one that set her stomach rumbling. The mouse was a tempting scent and Galesong could not resist it. She sunk into a hunters crouch and stalked forwards, paws light and steady. Her paws carried her silently across the debris that littered the forest floor until she sat a few tail lengths behind the mouse.
The mouse was still blissfully unaware of the danger that sat only a few metres away and it continued rustling through the leaves. Galesong wiped her tongue around her lips, already tasting the mouse's flesh between her teeth. With a small hiss she leapt, launching herself at the mouse with deadly precision. Her paws came crashing down on the mouse, holding it to the ground until Galesong crunched its neck between her teeth.
Her mouth watered as her tongue lapped up the few droplets of blood on her canines. Without wasting another heartbeat she leant down and tore a chunk of the mouse away, relishing in the sweet taste. Another bit later and the mouse was gone, only a few drops of blood left to show for attack that had happened a few moments ago.
Galesong let out a small sigh and sat back on her haunches before lapping at her shoulder. She paused when she realised how quiet the forest had suddenly grown. No birds chirped in the trees nearby. No breeze drifted through the trees and unsettled the leaves. It was silent. It can't have been from my kill, I didn't make enough noise to cause the whole forest to fall silent. Unless…
Her eyes shot up to the branches, aware that something or someone might be stalking her at this very moment. A dark shape caught her gaze and rooted her to the spot.
The stranger tensed as the she-cats eyes found its hiding spot. It let a small growl from its throat and moved on the branch, ready to jump down and slit the she-cat's throat if she tried anything.
"Who are you?" Galesong called.
The stranger unsheathed its claws and dug them into the branch, "No one of importance."
Galesong could tell from the voice that it was a female and not one of the contestants she had heard. "You shouldn't be here. This place is for-"
"The contestants only, I know," the stranger sneered, cutting Galesong off. "I won't be here long though for there are other things I must do before the Games draw to a close. You probably won't hear of them, but that all depends on if you make it out of the Games, which I doubt."
Galesong raised her hackles and spat at the she-cat, "What makes you think that!?"
"You're sitting down there talking to a strange cat that could have killed you in seconds if she wanted to. That does not make me think of you as a fighter. And it's always the fighters that win the Games." The stranger turned her back on Galesong and bunched her muscles up before turning her head to look at her. "I have things I must be doing. Cats I must destroy. Perhaps I will be seeing you around. But I hope, for your sake, that I do not."
"Wait!" Galesong called. "What do you mean by cats you must destroy!?"
The stranger blinked slowly, as if pondering her choice of words. "There is a leader who holds great power over his Clan. And I want to see that Clan crumble under the stress of not having a strong leader. It will be something that amuses me for a little while."
"What? Do you think the Clans are nothing but a play toy? Something for you to use when you are bored?" Galesong screeched. "We are more than that! We are strong and have fought to keep our Clans alive throughout the seasons!"
A high pitched laugh escaped from the stranger's jaws as she glared down at Galesong with amusement. "The Clans will be my play things and there is nothing you can do about it! My power is stronger than any of yours. And if I was you, I'd be running for your life in the other direction. You are trying my patience and I will not hesitate to tear your head off, right here, right now."
Galesong took a step back, fear and surprise flashing in her eyes. The stranger turned away and leapt off the branch without a second glance, her black fur disappearing into the darkness faster than lightning. Galesong remained where she stood; blinking at the branch where the stranger had threatened her life from. Her heart slowly returned to its normal pace and her breathing gradually slowed. She hurried away from the tree, casting glances over her shoulder every few moments to check that the strange she-cat wasn't stalking her.
As she left the forest and loped out onto a bright meadow Galesong suddenly recalled something strange about the she-cat. Her eyes had been the colour of blood.
A rough paw shook Tornpaw awake, dragging her from her sweet dream. She yawned loudly and opened her eyes to stare into a pair of blue eyes. "Good morning, Cloudingsky," Tornpaw greeted quietly. She looked down at her paws shyly, refusing to meet the handsome tom's eyes again.
"Fallenshadow has gathered the Clan to give you your new name," Cloudingsky informed her, oblivious to the she-cats shyness, "and to assign a mentor to you."
"Thank you for waking me," Tornpaw returned as she rose to her paws. Cloudingsky nodded and padded over to join Fallingfeather. Tornpaw followed him, eyes firmly fixed on the ground. She was about to sit beside him when Hiddenshade tapped her on the shoulder with his tail.
"Not there," he rumbled. "Follow me."
Tornpaw dipped her head in respect for the deputy and trailed after him, holding her head high when the rest of RisingClan turned their attention to her. Hiddenshade left her in the middle of the group as he sat beside Dancingwave, entwining his tail with hers. The two warriors shared a loving glance. "I called this meeting so that I could welcome a new cat into our ranks and grant that cat her new name," Fallenshadow started. His amber eyes came to rest on Tornpaw and he flexed his claws. "Tornpaw came to us from CedarClan, unhappy of the way she was treated. She came to us hoping that she would fit in and that we would train her hard to create a strong warrior. And we accepted her. So, today we will welcome her entirely into this Clan by giving her a new name."
"Tornpaw, do you promise to defend RisingClan with your life and to never mention cats that once walked among the stars?"
"I do," Tornpaw mewed strongly. Her eyes dashed to Cloudingsky and back but the tom was busy talking to Fallingfeather. She narrowed her eyes at the pretty she-cat.
Fallenshadow smiled at her answer. "Then I hereby change your name to Tornshadow. Leapingspider will be your mentor. Listen to him well and you will become the warrior you have always wanted. I see promise in you, Tornshadow. Do not waste that promise by wasting time. This meeting is over." The leader turned away from the Clan and padded over to Risingwhisper.
Tornshadow grinned. She liked her new name. She liked it a lot. "Tornshadow!" someone called. "Welcome to RisingClan!"
She turned her head to stare at Cloudingsky's brother, a big golden tom by the name of Huntinglion. "Thanks, Huntinglion," she replied.
"Your mentor's over there," Huntinglion purred, pointing at a huge brown tabby tom. The tom's tabby stripes seem to fade as they travelled further down his flank. It gave him a ghostly appearance. He turned to find Tornshadow staring and smiled at her before turning back to the she-cat he was talking to. "You're lucky," Huntinglion said again. "Leapingspider is a strong tom! One of the Clans strongest! After Fallenshadow's family of course. That reminds me! Fallenshadow must've seen something in you to give you a name similar to his and Hiddenshade's!"
Tornshadow blinked at the golden tom, "Really? I thought he just named me that because of my markings."
Huntinglion nodded. "Dancingwave's next litter will receive names that have 'shadow' or 'shade' in them as a reminder of their lineage. Fallenshadow must think of you as a daughter to him."
"Hold that thought," Tornshadow told him as she edged away, "I'll be right back." Huntinglion looked a bit crestfallen but Tornshadow ignored it as she bounded across the clearing and over to Fallenshadow. "Fallenshadow," she murmured, looking up at the tom. "Can I ask you something?"
The leader looked curious as he gazed down at the apprentice. "Of course, what is it, Tornshadow?"
"Did you name me Tornshadow because you think of me as a daughter?" she asked pointedly. Fallenshadow appeared to falter before answering. Clearly he wasn't expecting the she-cat to ask him a question like that.
"A bit," he admitted. "You remind me of myself when I was your age. Let's just say I have a small soft spot for you." His gaze hardened slightly, "But don't think that means you can get away with more! I tend to be harder on my kin than the rest of the Clan. Now run along, I think Leapingspider wants you."
Tornshadow blinked a few times, surprised by the leader's answer but padded away without saying another word. Her paws carried her over to where Leapingspider sat talking without her even thinking about it. "Fallenshadow said you wanted me."
"I did indeed," Leapingspider purred. His voice surprised Tornshadow a bit. She had been expecting a rough voice, a bit like Hiddenshade's. But Leapingspider's was charming and easy on the ears, something she could listen to all day. "I wanted to introduce you to my baby sister. Our father was Divingswallow."
Tornshadow looked over at the she-cat that sat in front of Leapingspider. She was a bit smaller than him with a slender red body. They had no visible resemblance which confused Tornshadow considerably. "But you look so different," she blurted.
"You are very observant, Tornshadow. I am impressed," Leapingspider congratulated. His congratulations made Tornshadow feel warm on the inside. "We had different mothers. Mine was Shiningfern whereas hers was Runningstream. Her name is Dashingfox, by the way."
Dashingfox blinked kindly at Tornshadow before rising to her paws. "I should go find Huntinglion. He's bound to be causing trouble somewhere. I'll see you later." Then the slim she-cat was gone, her paws bounding gracefully over the trodden ground in search of the gold tom.
"Is there anything else you wanted to speak to me about?" Tornshadow enquired, looking up at Leapingspider.
The huge tom stared back down at her, green eyes twinkling in the early morning sun. "No. Why? Is there something else you wish to be doing?" He looked slightly disheartened at the thought of the she-cat leaving.
"I wanted to go and talk to Cloudingsky," she replied.
"Why?" Leapingspider pressed.
Tornshadow was slightly alarmed by the hardness that had slipped into his tone. "That is none of your business. I shall see you later," she responded carefully. Without looking at the tom she began padding over to where Cloudingsky still sat with Fallingfeather but before she could get close enough to say anything a heart piercing shriek rang out across the island.
"Scar! Scar is dead!"
Hope you liked it!
: Thank you for your reviews! They give me so much inspiration for this story :')
WildheartTheWarrior: Thanks for sticking by me throughout most of this story! You always review the chapters I put up! And I love you for it! Don't you dare ever leave FFN, I don't know what I'd do without you :)