[Author's Note: Yay, next chapter! Read on!]
Darkshadow knew, in the shadowed haze of his sleep, that he would be wakened at some point. With any luck, it would be by the dawn light, and he could wake up fast and make it look like he hadn't been sleeping on duty.
But more likely than not, it would be by the angry dawn patrol, who always went to release the night guard from duties. And he would have to sit there and be chewed out by whoever was leading the patrol that day, until he would be sent back with disgrace to do some awful task as punishment.
But of all the ways that Darkshadow thought he would be woken up, this wasn't one of them.
He felt the hot, unnatural breath on his neck and that snapped him awake in an instant, but the teeth latched into his throat with unbelievable speed. Darkshadow reared up, trying to screech in surprise but gagging instead. He raised one clawed paw and swiped, dislodging the creature from his windpipe.
Whatever it was, it hit the ground with a soft oof! of small lungs being emptied, and manged to stagger, dazed, to its feet, gurgling in pain.
For one strange, sleep-muddled second, Darkshadow thought it was a mouse. A mouse that had, for some crazed reason, gone for his throat. Then he blinked and, no, not a mouse. A rat.
Darkshadow didn't have time to think, but didn't need time. His instincts seized him, fire flooded his veins, and in one second his tail had shot out and swatted the rat on the shoulder. It wheeled around in surprise and made a snap for his flicking black tail, and in that instant his paws came down and crushed its neck. It squealed for a moment and then went still.
Darkshadow opened his mouth to yowl in triumph-
And then the rest of them were upon him.
They came out of every shadow, from behind every rock, from in every patch of grass. Like floodwater, they rolled across the plains, covering the distance with well-trained ease. They flew through the air like tiny rocket-propelled missiles, tiny claws extended from little pink paws, unnaturally long fangs bared, eyes like berries flashing.
Two more went for his neck, one latched onto an ear, and three more dove for his legs. Darkshadow screeched and flailed his paws, managing by luck to knock loose one of the ones on his neck. It hit the ground with a thwack!, blood splattering from claw marks on its flanks. Then it stood up, shook off, and dove past him.
Darkshadow managed to crane his neck around to see the rest of the huge wave pouring past him, heading for the camp. Teeth snapping, claws flashing, little rat battle cries ringing from tiny throats.
Darkshadow's sight was lost in a red mist of rage, and paws swung wildly, his teeth snapped, and he flung and rolled himself at the army in a desperate attempt to crush a few to death.
He felt his claws catch flesh, his teeth bit into bone, and he could hear the cracks of little bones breaking, and the dying cries of a few of the creatures. But he was hardly making a dent. The others just scrambled over the dead bodies and continued forward.
The red haze faded enough for him to see. He was standing in front of the entrance of the camp, trying and failing to body-block it. Rats poured past him, a couple turning their heads to nip at whatever part of his anatomy they could reach. Blood ran in scarlet lines down his legs, completely obscuring any white fur. He could feel hot wetness pouring down other parts of his body, and it didn't take him long to figure out what it was.
He finally registered pain and looked down to see a small brown rat clinging to his tail, slashing and biting until several inches of his lovely black tail was a mass of torn flesh and fur, splattered in blood. A bit of white bone showed through at one part.
With a snarl of rage, he swatted the rat, sending it flying with shriek that ended as it hit the ground with a sickening sound. He licked his tail in a feeble attempt to stop of flow of blood, only succeeding in making a flash of hot pain flare though the cut.
By now the rats were no secret. They had poured into every den, climbed up onto every rock, squeezed into every crevice. Cats came pouring out of the dens, screeching, rats clinging to them by their teeth, blood pumping from the wounds. He saw one small apprentice tear out of his nest, three rats hanging from his neck. Two more jumped on from a nearby rock, and the cat disappeared, wailing and sobbing for help, under the mass of fur and blood.
"What the hell is this?!" Screamed a voice in Darkshadow's ear. He whirled around to face the ginger tabby deputy, Frecklefoot, whose dusty orange fur was streaked in deep red blood.
"What do you think?' Darkshadow snarled.
"I think you didn't sound the alarm or anything!" The deputy spat back, causing a spurt of blood to stream from a slashing cut on his lip.
"Listen you foxface, I was a little busy trying to survive my way into camp! And if you-" A flash of movement behind him made his ears prick. "Behind you!"
"What do you mean-" Frecklefoot snarled, then his voice cut out into a gurgle of surprise. Red rivulets of blood poured down the sides of his neck and his shoulder, and the deputy plunged forward, loosing his footing and slumping to the ground, legs flailing in a half-hearted attempt to get up. A huge black rat with a scarred face had its teeth driven as far as they would go into the back of his neck.
Darkshadow yowled in surprise and swatted out a paw, knocking away the rat. It smacked the ground, rolled over with a groan, and took off like a shot, disappearing into the shrieking, bloody fray.
Something latched on with needle-sharp teeth into the back on Darkshadow's ear. He swung around, lost his balance, and hit the ground hard. The rat landed under him and let out a shriek cut off by a crack as Darkshadow's bulk crushed it.
The black and white warrior staggered to his feet, panting. The rat was still locked in a death-grip on his ear, and he had to use his claws to pry its teeth off and fling its body away.
Darkshadow shook the rivulets of blood from his face and stared around the camp. Everywhere, screams and shrieks and wails and hisses. Cats tore past him, grappling with a rat, usually multiple rats. The ground was littered with dead, unmoving rodent bodies, spattered in blood, but the huge army had barely had a dent made in it.
Everywhere, the rats swarmed. Pelts of muddy brown and soot grey and night black. Flecks of scarlet blood stained their ruffled, dirty fur. Their eyes were like small black berries, glittering and reflecting in the moonlight. (Some didn't even have two eyes anymore, and instead had a bloody mass of torn flesh where it should have been.)
Rats, in general, were a very different type of enemy. The clans had figured out almost every kind of danger that lurked in the shadows, and knew their weakness, knew their style. But rats were a bit of a puzzle. A deadly puzzle.
They moved in packs, almost clans. Usually with a leader, or a few leaders. Compared to foxes, badgers, and stupid slobbering dogs, they were massively intelligent. They actually plotted their attacks, judging their enemy, calculating.
They were small, smaller than even a young rabbit, but they moved with cat-like agility, bouncing, twisting, squeezing through the tiniest openings. Their claws were a joke and they didn't even have fangs, only two teeth. But the teeth were abnormally long, and sharpened to deadly points. One nick from a rat could draw blood, and an actual bite in the right spot could cause a deadly puncture wound.
They were hard to fight, too. Oh, being attacked by one or two wasn't a problem, of course. After all, they were still ten times smaller than the cats. One bite to the neck or a well-aimed blow to the spine would kill them instantly. But they didn't attack you one at a time, unless they were just being overly confident or you were weak enough to be taken on.
No, they attacked in twos, threes, fours. They overwhelmed you, scratched and bit at whatever they could reach, dragged you to the ground, soaked you in your own blood, and then sank their teeth into just the right spot, and it was all over. And then they would be on to their next victim.
That was why they were so deadly, that was why they were so feared. Anytime more one rat was spotted anywhere, a huge patrol was sent to dispatch them. If something that could even possibly be a rat hole was discovered, it was dug up, destroyed, smashed to pieces, and then filled back in with dirt.
Rats were the most terrifying menace the clans could ever deal with. They were stone-cold smart, calculating, manipulative, agile, strong, and always worked in numbers. In essence, they were almost exactly like the clans. Almost smarter and more powerful than the clans, even. And that terrified them.
And so now, watching his clan be torn apart in front of him by the only creatures ever able to match them, the black and white (and red) tom didn't know what to do.
[Author's Note: Alright, I lied, it's a three-shot. I wanted to update this, but didn't have time to finish the entire story because I really need to update my other fics, so I just uploaded what I have, and the next (and hopefully final!) chapter will be up in two or three days. Until next time!]