Dreams Of Rain
Rain Of Late Spring stared out over the mountains, her soft green eyes blinking slowly in the pale morning sunlight. Mist drifted around her, ever so slightly dampening her plush blue fur. Watching the sunrise was probably the most enjoyable moment of every single day she had to live through. The world seemed so simple, peaceful and beautiful as the rising ball of flame made the distant, snow topped mountains glimmer like diamonds. The fluffy pink and orange clouds looked softer than the freshest moss, overwhelmingly inviting yet so painfully distant. Rain sighed as the sun began to warm her damp fur. She knew she'd have to return to the cave soon. Shard would be waking as soon as the sun hit the cave mouth and, if she wasn't there, who knew what he would do to her. The young she-cat was, regrettably, part of the Tribe of Shattered Ice. Or as she called it, the Tribe of Discord. If the Tribe of Endless Hunting was real, she knew their grace had left them long ago.
Shard had been the leader of the Tribe for far longer than Rain had been alive. She'd heard rumors that once, their Tribe had been peaceful, organized and took into account the care of every cat that was a part of it. She had heard from the few elders of the Tribe that that peace, however, ended when Shard murdered their previous leader, Glacier, and took over. She had no choice but to believe them. She had faced Shard's cruelty far too many times and in the two short years of her life had seen all of the horrors he was capable of. Shard didn't care for any cat but himself. It was a strict rule in their Tribe that every cat had to fend for his or her self and catch their own food. Elders, kits, the injured, the ill and even pregnant she-cats, like Rain herself, were not exempt from that rule. The fact that Rain was Shard's mate didn't even matter to him. Even though her belly was slightly swollen with his kits, practically every bone in her body stuck through her fur. Her face her gaunt and her limbs were weak from lack of food and lack of exercise. When she hunted, which was only once a day, she had to do so in a tiny meadow at the base of their cave, like everyone else. And every second she hunted, she was watched by Shard's personal guards, The Elites.
There was no freedom in the Tribe. No care for the sick, wounded or elderly. Food was scarce in their icy home anyway, so every meal was feared to be a cat's last. It was a constant fight for survival that far too many innocent kits, expecting mothers or aged elders had lost at. Rain had a slightly better chance that most cats, being one of Shard's favorite mates out of the many he had, though she still was not completely protected. If she lost her life to starvation, Shard would move on and find a new she-cat to have fun with. If she lost her kits due to her hunger, he would simply get her pregnant again, blaming her for the loss of the kits. She knew he would. He had done the same to far too many of his 'favorites'. One had even been killed for loosing her kits during their birth, "She betrayed me by not making the kits survive," was Shard's reasoning for killing her.
Rain was in constant fear that she would share the same fate. She wasn't that far along in her pregnancy and she knew that, at any moment, something could go terribly wrong...and she would be blames for it. There would be no remorse for her kits, whom she loved despite her hatred for their father. Their deaths would be shrugged off like a simple gust of wind that had knocked a few rocks down the cliff side. And before she could even recover from their loss, she would be forced to bear more. It was no kind of life and she knew that...but there was no escaping it. She would die if she even tried. Any cat that had ever tried to flee from the Tribe had been hunted down by the Elites and, after being returned to the cave, was killed to show all of the Tribe cats what would happen if they tried to leave.
Rain looked around calmly to see a large, pale gray tom cat leaping down from the rocks that led up to the cave where the Tribe lived. His muscles rippled beneath his neat pelt with every bound closer to her. He landed near the much smaller she-cat, straightening up and glaring down at her. "You are not permitted to be out of the cave at this hour," he growled out, making Rain duck her head submissively. "Get back to the cave now, before I report you to Shard."
She stood and, her body low to the ground and tail trailing behind her, worked her way back up the cave, feeling his eyes scorching her fur until she slipped into the darkness of the cave. She sighed and shook an uncomfortable chill off before quietly padding over to where Shard lay sleeping at the back of the large, hollowed out cavern. He was a large, long-haired dark gray tom, with many, many scars scored into his flesh. A thunderous, bone rattling snore shook his body with every breath he released. Several she-cats lay curled up around him, all as skinny as Rain, two others also pregnant with Shard's kits. Rain sighed as she reached the tom and laid down beside him, knowing she'd get in trouble if she slept anywhere else.
She had to endure his wretched snoring and the foul smell of his rank breath until the sun finally rose high enough to let its light fall into the cave. She felt Shard stir beside her and began to see life awaken in the cave. She watched as two rake thin toms walked wearily into the cave, a muscular Elite following them closely. She knew they must have been on night patrol. As they went to their dens to get some sleep, a boney she-cat came out of a small den in the cave wall, two tiny kits bumbling after her. She sat down outside of the den and began to groom them, a raspy purr coming from them as the kits mewled pathetically, begging her for milk that she clearly couldn't provide.
Rain couldn't hold back a grimace as she saw two she-cat's dragging the limp body of an elder out of a cave. An Elite escorted them as they gently pulled the gaunt, skeletal body out of the cave. In that moment, Rain felt Shard stirring beside her.
He sat up slowly, yawning and growling as he stretched out his large body, his needle sharp claws scrapping at the cold floor of the cave. A sleepy groan later, the tom placed a heavy paw on Rain's back. "Morning, Rain," he growled out. "I suspect you slept well?"
She huffed a bit under the weight of his large paw and gave a small nod. "V-very well, Shard," she responded quietly.
"Good..." Rain let out a small cry of surprise as his claws unsheathed and sunk into her flesh. "Tonight, however, let's behave and not sneak out to watch the sunset. Eye?" The tom snarled quietly, scratching her down her back slowly.
"Y-Yes Shard..." She hissed out, digging her own claws into the floor, gritting her teeth together to hold in a yowl of pain.
"Good girl," he grunted, pulling back. He stood and stretched once more before lumbering off to check on the morning patrols and to speak with his precious Elites.
Rain sighed shakily and sat up, twisting her head around to lick at the now bleeding scratches he had scored into her skin. She soon felt a thin body press against her and another tongue accompanying her own. Lifting her head, Rain relaxed at seeing the slender, cream colored coat of her closest friend, Dew. The brown-faced, blue-eyed she-cat was also one of Shard's mates. She and Rain had been born around the same time and had been close ever since they were kits. They relied on each other and protected each other...as much as they could without punishment. Ever since Rain had gotten pregnant, Dew would sneak her extra portions of prey.
"He's too rough with you," mewed Dew, lifting her pretty, narrow head and staring at her friend with sad eyes. "I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up being the cause of those kits deaths."
Rain's ears flattened some and she laid down, resting her head sadly on her paws.
"...Why didn't you tell him to stop?"
"You know what happens when any one talks back to Shard," mumbled Rain. "I'm...not going to risk that."
Dew sighed and began to groom her until an Elite came over to them. "You two, it's your turn to hunt. Hurry it up!" He shoved Rain to her feet and nudged them both forward until they walked to the cave entrance. They walked slowly and quietly down a small slope that led to the meadow that was coated in frozen dew drops. The Elite leaped onto an outcrop of stone that sat above the meadow, watching the two she-cat's as they went into the meadow to hunt. They remained silent as they searched for prey, occasionally glancing at one another and silently helping the other find some good food.
When their time was up, Rain had captured a thin, wiry rabbit and Dew a thick brown mouse. The two she-cats walked together back up to the cave, the Elite going to fetch the next cats for hunting. As they were going back into the cave, Rain spotted two young kits sitting sadly by the cave, staring longingly out at the meadow. She knew those kits. They had lost their mother to a wolf a few days ago and now had to fend for themselves, even though they were hardly five moons old. No one would take them in, since none of the mothers had the milk to spare.
Rain stared at the thin, weary kits, Dew giving her a cautious look and flicking her ears. Rain herself glanced around and, at seeing no eyes on her, approached the kits quietly and set the rabbit down. "Here," she breathed, nudging it closer to them as they shrunk back in fear. She stepped back, blinking at them gently as they stared up at her with round, frightened eyes.
When they saw she was making no movements towards them, they ever so hesitantly inched forward and began to ravenously devour the rabbit. Dew came up beside Rain, who was watching them gently. "Rain...you need to eat," Dew told her quietly. "I-if Shard finds out-"
"I don't think you need to worry about Shard finding out."
The two she-cat's looked around quickly, the kits scrambling away from the rabbit as a large tom approached them. His short, sleek pelt was the color of a late autumn sunset, marked with dark stripes of dying leaves. His golden eyes glimmered, a smirk on his lips as he approached them. "My, my, my," he chuckled, staring at them. "I can't believe two of Shard's dear mates are breaking the rules!"
The kits quickly ran away, their bodies low to the ground as the tom approached the partially eaten rabbit. He sat down beside it and hooked it with a rounded claw before tossing it at Rain's paw. "Eat," he said coolly.
Rain's ears flattened a bit. This tom was an Elite. She could tell. His large body and muscles were the only badge he needed to speak of his high rank and power. "...Those kits need to eat more than I do," she said quietly, lowering her eyes in submission.
"Oh?" He stood and began to slowly circle her, smiling coolly. "And what about your own kits? Don't they need to eat more than those kits do? Kits that aren't even related to you are more important than your own?"
"N-no..." she stammered quietly, shivering when his tail brushed her shoulder.
He stopped walking and moved closer to her until she could feel his breathing against her fur. "Then eat," he hissed into her ear.
Rain trembled and hesitated before bending down and sluggishly eating the remains of the rabbit. When she was finished, the Elite smacked the rabbit away, making her wince. "See?" He chuckled, pressing his side to hers, his face close to her own now. "Don't you feel better feeding your own kits?"
The tom quickly pulled away from Rain, whose shoulders fell limp with relief. Shard was coming towards them, his eyes narrowed on the Elite and his two mates. "What are you doing?" Shard demanded, stopping in front of the Elite, who straightened up and quickly licked the ruffled fur on his chest.
"I was just making sure these she-cats ate their catches," The tom called Fallen said calmly. "Prey is so scarce at the moment, Shard, that everyone needs to eat every bit of prey that they are permitted to catch."
Shard stared at him intently for a moment before closing his large orange eyes. "I see...so you were acting with the best interest of the Tribe..." Fallen seemed to relax and looked ready to take a compliment...but the compliment he believed he was going to get was replaced with a vicious lash of claws across his face. He howled in agony, making all of the cats in the cave look up in shock and terror.
Fallen dropped to the ground, his cheek bleeding heavily from three deep wounds. Shard bent down and growled dangerously into his ear; "Next time you try to give advice to my she-cats, it will be your eyes instead of your face!" He pulled back and glared threateningly at Rain and Dew, forcing them to lower their eyes in respect. He snorted before turning and walking off, leaving them with the trembling Elite at their paws.
It took Fallen a moment to compose himself but, when he did, he stood and quickly shook himself. He glared viciously around at any cats who were looking at him, making them quickly look away. He then glared hatefully at Rain before turning and storming off.
"...You need to be more careful, Rain," Dew meowed quietly, pressing her coat against the blue she-cat when she realized she was shivering. "It's bad to get on Fallen's bad side. I've heard nasty stories about him...you need to be careful with Shard, too. If he thinks you're seeing another tom-"
"I never would," Rain breathed shakily, her eyes full of fear. "I hate toms...I hate them." She shook her head and stood, walking over to a small stream of water that drizzled out into a pool at the side of the cave. She sat beside it and stared at her reflection for a moment before leaning down and lapping up the ice cold water. Dew came over and sat beside her, sighing.
"Rain...you know if there was a way out, I'd tell you about it. I'd get you out of here before I even bothered with myself-"
"Don't say things like that, Dew," Rain breathed against the surface of the water. "You'd get yourself out first," she closed her eyes. "If you tried to help me escape before you, I wouldn't let you." She sat up and stared at her friend sadly. "I'd want your life spared from this place more than my own."
"And what about your kits?" Dew looked at Rain's stomach before looking back at her. "Don't you care about them? Don't you want-"
"Of course I do!" Rain whispered, her voice cracking weakly. "I want the best of the world for them...but there is no best of the world...and there's no way out of here. I'm terrified of even trying to look for a way."
Dew was silent for a moment. "...If there was a way though, Rain, would you take it? If not for yourself, but for your kits?"
Rain sat there, staring into the water before closing her eyes and nodding. "Of course I would. If there was a way to save my kits from this life, I'd take that way without any regards for myself...but there isn't." She stood and turned, padding quietly away from her friend. She felt pathetic as she left the cave and walked up a small cliff above the cave, Elites glaring at her as she sat down on the cliff and stared across the mountains.
She wanted to do more for her kits. Not for herself, but for the innocent, helpless creatures inside of her. She wanted them to grow up happy and loved, not abandoned, starving and in fear of death every second of their lives. But she was terrified to leave. Leaving would mean being left alone in the vicious, violent world. Life was terrible in the Tribe, of course...but at least there was some slight form of protection, however faint it was. She heard a commotion somewhere below her and looked down to see two desperately skinny toms fighting one another viciously at the mouth of the cave.
A few Elites sat around her, jeering and laughing loudly as the toms snarled and shrieked, ripping one another open over a very thin rabbit on the ground to the side. Rain narrowed her eyes sadly when she saw an Elite grab the rabbit and quietly drag it away before eating it himself. The toms continued to fight desperately, not noticing the stolen rabbit until ones throat was slashed open by the other. The looser fell over, squirming on the grounds as blood gushed from his neck until he fell still. The winner looked around for his rabbit only to have an Elite spit something at him. The tom flattened his ears and tucked his tail, lowering his body to the ground before quickly slinking off.
An Elite looked at the bleeding body for only a moment before shoving it off the cliff. Rain winced at the sickening thud she heard when the body hit the canyon beneath their cave. In the distance, a loud howl stretched into the air, carried to her by the moaning wind. The wolves had clearly scented the blood and were most likely heading here now to feast.
"Hey, you!" Rain sat up and looked around, her heart dropping when she saw the sleek body of Fallen coming towards her. "Its past your time out," growled Fallen, glaring at her as he stopped a few paw steps away. "Get back in the cave!"
"I was just getting some fresh air-"
"GO!" Snarled Fallen, Rain instantly dropping to the ground. She looked up at the large tom timidly before slowly slinking away, going down the cliff side and returning to the cave. When she arrived, she found Shard waiting for her.
"Rain," he breathed huskily, coming to the she-cat and brushing her shoulder with his tail. He made her sit down before sitting down beside her, rubbing his cheek against hers. "You know..." he said quietly, looking at the submissive she-cat. "I was speaking with Crescent earlier...about those kits of yours."
Rain tensed a little. "I-...I-I'm doing my best to make sure they're born healthy, Shard," she told him quietly.
"Yes, that's the issue," he said with a heavy sigh, making her look at him in confusion. "See...I enjoy you a lot, Rain. You're my favorite she-cat and you know it...and with food as scarce as it is...the chance of you dying while giving birth to those kits is extremely likely...and I don't want to loose you," he smiled at her, despite the look of fear on her face. He stood and forced her to stand before shoving her to a private den that was guarded by two Elites. Once they were inside, he continued.
"I want to keep you with me for as long as I can, Rain," Shard told her solemnly, as if speaking these words was very hard for him. "So I think it'll be best for you, me and those kits...to get rid of them."
Rain's eyes widened, her tail covering her stomach as if that alone would protect it. "G...get...rid of them...?" She whispered, her voice barely audible.
"Yes, Crescent knows a way to get rid of those kits without harming you at all...I mean, you'll be in a bit of pain for a bit, but that's better than you dying," he smiled. "It's a good idea, isn't it? We'll do it tomorrow, then."
"NO!" Rain cried, springing to her paws and backing up some, panicked as she stared into his large orange eyes. "I-I don't want to get rid of them, Shard! Please! Please let them be born!"
He scoffed, his eyes narrowing some. "Rain, I would much rather loose some useless kits that will just die anyway than my favorite mate who I can preserve and keep by my side for as long as I like." He came closer, but she just scrambled away from him, her chest fluttering, her eyes dilating in terror.
"You can't!" She cried, shaking her head. "You can't kill my kits! You can't! I won't let you!"
"If it wasn't for me, Rain, you would have never even gotten those kits inside of you," She could tell he was growing frustrated, but she didn't care. She continued to back away from him until she was pressed against a wall. "Now, Rain, do as I say and calm down. If you panic too much tomorrow, you could be hurt in the process of destroying those wretched things."
"STAY AWAY FROM ME!" Rain shrieked, making Shard's fur stand on end in surprise. The normally quiet, docile she-cat was wild with terror and desperation. She tried to hide her stomach from him with her legs and tail, frantically trying to protect her unborn kits from their own father.
"Rain, calm down!" Shard snapped, advancing further.
"STAY AWAY!" The terrified mother screamed, pressing her entire body to the wall.
"KEEP AWAY FROM MY KITS!" Rain bolted forward and slammed into Shard, bowling him off of his paws, a startled scream escaping the large tom. Rain viciously clawed at the thick haired cat, her eyes full of tears, blood roaring in her ears and her whole body aflame with a strange, murderous rage that was alien to her. All of her instincts were screaming for her to slice the throat of this tom that was threatening the lives of the defenseless kits nestled deep inside of her. She screamed incoherently at Shard as she ripped out paw-fulls of his fur, unable to hear anything but her own mind wailing and begging for her to protect her kits.
She didn't know when several Elites burst into the cave and dragged her off of Shard. All she knew was that she attacked them too, hissing, spitting and slicing open anyone who came close to her. She was, however, just one small, starving she-cat against several large, muscular toms. It wasn't long before she was overpowered. Four huge paws held her down as she shrieked, hissed and spat threat after threat after threat at the stunned Shard, tears flying from her eyes, her heart about to burst from her overwhelming fury.
She could only watch through her streaming tears as Shard slowly stood, shaking stray clumps of fur and droplets of blood from his body. He took a deep breath, clearly collecting himself before he approached the sobbing, struggling she-cat. "Move off of her shoulder," he commanded in a cool, collected voice to one of the Elites. The tom slid his paws away from her shoulder without hesitation.
The next moment, an agonizing pain ripped through Rain, making her scream in dreadful agony. Shard had ferociously dug his sharp claws into the flesh of her shoulder and in a long, painfully slow motion, pulled his paw down, leaving three deep, bleeding welts in her shoulder.
Rain twisted and yowled beneath the paws of the Elites, screaming her pain to the entire caves. Shard just stared down at the she-cat with cold, heartless eyes. "I will not repeat myself, Rain," he growled quietly. "We are getting rid of those kits tomorrow. What you want doesn't matter. Understand that." He looked at the Elites calmly. "Remove her from my site and then call all Elites to my den."
They dipped their heads respectfully and grabbed Rain's scruff, dragging the weakening she-cat out of the den. They brought her out into the main cave, the rest of the Tribe gathering to see what all of the commotion had been about. Rain faintly heard Dew crying out her name and, the next moment, she felt the familiar silky fur pressed against her own. Dew was shouting something at the Elites and, after a moment of arguing, the toms snorted and walked off, leaving the trembling, bleeding Rain with her friend.
"Rain..." Dew whispered, curling around her tightly and licking the deep claw marks on her shoulder. "Rain, w-what did you do...? For Shard to be like this...t-towards you...!"
Rain just shook her head and shoved her friend off. She laid there for a moment, all of the cats in the cave staring at her. She finally took a deep breath and rolled onto her stomach, wincing and gritting her teeth together as she forced herself to her paws. She wavered for a moment, swaying where she stood before finally finding comfortably footing. She opened her eyes slowly, blinking and glancing around her. She looked at all of the gaunt, frightened faces and frowned.
Her kits could end up exactly like this. Exactly like every member of the Tribe. Exactly like her. "I don't want that...!" She hissed in a quivering voice, her body quaking as she took a few steps forward.
"R-Rain...?" She heard Dew breathe. "Rain...don't want...what...?"
"This!" Rain hissed, tears swelling her eyes once more as she looked around her. "Shard...Shard wants to kill my kits...before they're even born...!"
"What!" Gasped a thin tabby queen from within the crowd.
"He wants to kill them!" Rain chocked out, feeling nauseous. "He wants to kill them...before they have a chance to live...but if they're born here...living won't be worth it!" Her tail flicked and she sucked in a desperate breath of cold air, trying to calm herself but failing. "...My kits...!" She managed to choke out, her ears flat, her mind reeling with exhaustion. "My sweet kits...!"
She stood there in silence for what felt like an eternity as she gazed blankly down at the cold stone beneath her paws. Eventually, she lifted her head warily, all eyes following her as she slowly looked at the entrance to the cave. She could see the sun beginning to set and closed her eyes, breathing in a soft breath. "I promise..." she breathed before collapsing into darkness.