Prologue

A black cat walked through the nursery entrance, brambles scratching at her pelt, and surveyed the place with blazing orange eyes. Her eyes came to rest on the only cat in there, a mother with three kits at her belly, sleeping.

"I have come for what we bargained for" she spoke clearly and loudly. The three kits woke up at her voice and started to suckle at their mother's belly, kneading their tiny paws against their mother's belly. The mother looked up at the intruder horrified. She looked back down at her kits who were unobvious about what was happening.

"So soon" she asks feebly. The black cat doesn't reply but flashes the mother a cruel grin. She walks up to the kittens and scrutinises them, pushing her face so close to them that her hot breath ruffled their thin pelts.

"A runt" she said gruffly and pointed to the smallest kit with her tail, who was making an annoying noise at being shoved out of the nest by his bigger siblings.

"Yeah, but she's just as strong as the others" his mother argued, the light into the nursery was cut off and the black pelted she-cat turned to the source, it was a dark grey she-cat with brilliant white stripes and striking green eyes that held a mixture of hatred and anger, the she-cat and stared at the black cat, who glared levelly back, holding her head that bit higher and unsheathing her dangerously sharp claws, to make sure that this cat didn't attack.

"I didn't think you would be here so soon" the grey cat meowed coolly. The little kit mewed again and the grey she-cat picked her up gently by the scruff and placed her back by her mother.

"Tinystorm, do something" the mother wailed, looking down at her kits with such love the black cat felt repelled by it.

"I'm sorry Swallowshine, I cannot do anything. It is what we agreed on. If we do not surrender these kits, they will take them by force." Tinystorm replied.

"Do you have to take all of them?" Swallowshine whimpered. The black cat nodded slightly. The mother wailed harder.

"Don't take my kits, my precious kits" she cried and curled her long, silver tail protectively around her kits. Tinystorm stroked Swallowshine reassuringly with her tail.

"Shush" she whispered calmly "If you do not give up these kits you know what she will do" both the mother and Tinystorm shuddered at the thought but Swallowshine just curled her tail tighter around her kittens. Tinystorm sighed and gazed at the black she-cat with sadness in her eyes, but still the loathing blazed underneath.

"Couldn't you just wait a little longer?" she pleaded "just until they are apprentices then you can have them" the black cat shook her head.

"We must take them now, or we risk them coming back to find their birth mother" she growled, making sure to bristle her fur to look as frightening as possible, it worked, Tinystorm shrank back a little as did the mother.

Swallowshine released her tail around her kits. "Do you have to take all of them?" the mother repeated. The black cat thought for a moment, then felt her muzzle turn up in a grin.

"I will only take the two strongest, I will leave the weak one with you" the mother let out a sigh of relief, but the stranger wasn't finished yet. "In return, we will come back every time another cat gives birth and take the strongest kits, once they are one and a half-moons of course, and mark the weaker ones" the black she-cat finished. Tinystorm eyes grew distance as she thought the deal over. She looked at Swallowshine who was looking up at her with hope in her eyes.

"You realise what this could do to other queens Swallowshine, think about them too. We should really discuss this with the Clan" Tinystorm meowed gently.

Swallowshine nodded. "I can't give up all my kits Tinystorm, I can't" she said helplessly. Tinystorm sighed and turned to the black cat and slowly nodded. Swallowshine knew she had won and gazed at her runt with uncontained happiness and love and… hope. The black cat wasted no time and picked up the two stronger kits. Putting them down behind her she turned to the runt and placed her paw above its head, with claws unsheathed she brought it down upon the helpless kit's face. She pulled her paw away showing the scar that would mark generations to come. Three vertical lines, two above the eyes and one reaching the tip of the kit's nose. Delicately she licked the kit's blood off her claws

The kitten squealed in pain and her siblings whimpered as though they felt her pain, but the ruthless cat turned away. Tinystorm rushed to the kit's aid immediately and Swallowshine let out a threatening hiss. The black cat whispered comforting words to the two unmarked kits who quietened down.

"You're a monster" Tinystorm shrieked. The black she-cat whirled around quickly, knocking Tinystorm to the ground. She placed a paw on the she-cat's belly.

"Would you prefer it if I kill the runt?" The black cat spat. Tinystorm shook her head frantically, her eyes wide in fright. The black cat released her grip on the grey cat, who stood up on shaky legs and shook out her fur, revealing a scar along her shoulder.

"Nice scar" The black she-cat smirked. Tinystorm bristled.

"I've got her to thank for that" she growled. The black she-cat's grin got wider as she admired the scar.

"See you soon" The black she-cat meowed causally as if nothing had happened. She turned away from the two she-cats and picked up the two kits, one by its scruff and she placed one on her back, and walked proudly out of the nursery, tail erect.

"Wait" she heard Swallowshine growl. The black cat turned slightly curious.

"What is your name?" she asked, spitting out each word as if it tasted bad in her mouth, though she had no idea why it did.

"And why do you need to know my name?" she inquired. Swallowshine didn't seem fazed.

"So I can tell my kit whom to kill when he's older" she snarled. The black cat was faintly amused.

"My name is…" she hesitated as if she had forgotten her name. "…is Firewisp" she meowed; she dipped her head and walked out proudly.


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