The moon was high overhead, and the forest was buried in shadows. Crimsonjag was surrounded by lithe, furry bodies.
“Russetclaw,” Crimsonjag meowed, his words barely a whisper, “Are you still here?”
Russetclaw nodded to him calmly. “I’m here, stop worrying so much.” She licked her brother’s ear and returned her gaze to the moonlit clearing.
Crimsonjag was stiffly crouched in the bushes with his sister, Russetclaw. They were waiting for the signal. He gazed across the clearing, watching many pairs of glowing, enemy eyes glare at them.
Wait for the signal , Crimsonjag thought. He was fighting the urge to leap out and start caterwauling and fighting the enemies.
“They know they’re supposed to be on their territory, the filthy pig-cats.” Crimsonjag snarled. “PiggyClan needs to learn how to go on their territory and stay on it.” Crimsonjag’s tail lashed back and forth angrily, causing leaves to rustle.
“Quiet! They’ll hear us!”
“They know we’re here. They’re not that stupid.”
Leopardclaw seemed to have the same thoughts as Crimsonjag. He was flicking his tail in agitation, and clacking his jaws together.
As our deputy, he shouldn’t think that. Crimsonjag thought to himself.
PiggyClan’s cats were climbing off their ledge and into the moonlit clearing. Crimsonjag easily spotted their deputy and one of their fiercest warriors. Blackmask, and Lionpig. As for the rest of the cats, Crimsonjag didn’t know their names, and didn’t care to know.
Lionpig’s glossy golden fur shone in the moonlight. Blackmask’s red eyes glinted angrily.
Crimsonjag managed to pick out bits of Blackmask and Lionpig’s conversation.
“Ha, they’ll never come down. We should just charge up there scare them off. I bet they’ll-”
A white and red tabby she-cat slapped her tail over Lionpig’s mouth. “Quiet, will you?” Her tone was firm, but she seemed to say in a slightly affectionate manner.
Lionpig nodded to her. “Sorry, Candy Cane. Sometimes my mouth runs faster than my head…”
Leopardclaw gave the signal. StormClan leaped into the clearing. The quiet clearing suddenly became filled angry yowls and caterwauls.
Crimsonjag leaped into the battle, and pounced on Candy Cane. Candy Cane staggered backward in surprise, but quickly regained her footing and lunged at him.
Crimsonjag dived underneath Candy Cane, rolled on his side, and slashed her belly. She growled hatefully shredded his ears to bits, and pinned him down.
He rolled out from underneath the white and red tabby and swung a paw at her cheek in retaliation. He then scrambled away and sprinted away to the edge of the clearing. He licked his paw and wiped his ears. Blood covered his russet-furred paw. He shook his head, causing droplets of blood to fly.
He raced back into the fray of blood and flying fur. He pounced on a big, dark gray tom. The tom rolled on his back, knocking Crimsonjag’s breath out of him. The tom threw Crimsonjag over a group of two brawling warriors. Crimsonjag slammed into the ground. Pain stabbed his side where he hit the hard, stony ground. He shakily stood up, wincing.
“Jaggedmoth,” an angry yowl called, “We’re not here to kill them!”
Jaggedmoth grunted, and stampeded away from Crimsonjag.
A silver she-cat with blue-black spots and fierce blue eyes raced into the battle, with more StormClan cats behind her. The she-cat was Rainstar. The StormClan leader.
This battle is turning around. And in our favor. Crimsonjag thought. He fought back a purr, and lashed at a nearby dark gray-and-ginger she-cat.
Cindermane. Crimsonjag recognized the she-cat. Cindermane whipped and gave him a fierce clawing on the shoulder. He sneaked a glance at his shoulder. The scratches the young PiggyClan warrior gave him were deep, and bleeding heavily.
Cindermane sprinted away to help Blackmask, who was being cornered by Rainstar.
Lionpig appeared out of nowhere. He reared up on his hind-legs, and attempted to maul Crimsonjag. Crimsonjag barely escaped what would’ve been a horrible clawing.
A loud screech! Startled both Crimsonjag and Lionpig. The golden tabby raced off to help Cindermane, who was now facing Rainstar with Blackmask’s assistance.
Crimsonjag was angry. “Rainstar! Are you alright?!” He yowled at the blue-black spotted silver she-cat. She was hissing and snarling at the three PiggyClan cats.
“Oh, just dandy!” She yowled back. “Are you just going to stand there gawking ?! Fight someone!” She snarled. She thrust Cindermane off her back and into the nearby river.
Crimsonjag yowled fierce battle cries and lunged at Lionpig’s leg. The golden tabby was forced to the ground, and was knocked unconscious.
Crimsonjag charged toward Rainstar, nearly tripping over Lionpig, and snapped Blackmask’s tail.
Blackmask yowled in pain, lost balance, and was about to totter off the edge before a dark gray and ginger blur leaped out of the river and knocked Blackmask away from the river.
Crimsonjag skidded to a halt and glanced back and forth between Blackmask and Rainstar.
Crimsonjag chose Blackmask. He charged at Blackmask, ripped a deep gash in his hind-leg, and shoved him into the river.
Rainstar fell to the ground, bleeding heavily, and her chest still.
“You killed her!” Crimsonjag yowled furiously, and slammed onto Cindermane, about to deliver a killed blow, but Cindermane ripped his side. It was harsh enough to knock him off.
The battling cats paused, shocked by the sight of Rainstar’s lifeless body. Blackmask jumped out of the river, half coughing up, half spitting, water. He stared at Rainstar, in a state of numb shock.
What seemed like an eternity passed. No one moved. No one made a sound.
Rainstar slowly lifted her head. Both StormClan and PiggyClan cats sighed with relief.
Blackmask stepped forward. “Rainstar… we didn’t wish for this battle to go so far. We’re.. sorry.”
Lionpig looked outraged. “Sorry?!” Candy Cane slapped her tail over his mouth. Again.
Littlecreek, a small, jet-black StormClan warrior, sprinted over to Rainstar.
“Rainstar! Rainstar,” he panted, speaking in between panicked breathes, “There’s something wrong Russetclaw! She won’t…” Littlecreek fainted, and any cat could see why. There was many bad cuts and scratches and claw marks that marred him, and blood was flowing heavily from them.
Rainstar looked concerned but not overly. “Marshheart!” Rainstar called.
A brown she-cat with a mouth full of cobwebs, marigold, and other herbs padded out of the bush. She pressed cobwebs down on Littlecreek’s injuries.
“Hey! You!” Marshheart meowed urgently to a nearby PiggyClan apprentice. “Go get moss, and soak it with water.”
The apprentice looked nervous, his paws rooted to the ground.
“What are you waiting for? Go!” She snapped.
The apprentice dashed off swiftly, and returned moments later with soaked moss.
Rainstar turned her gaze over to a PiggyClan warrior.
The PiggyClan warrior lied a russet-furred she-cat in front of the wounded leader.
“I’m… so, sorry… Crimsonjag…” Crimsonjag turned to see Cindermane watching him, sympathy filled her gaze.
“I don’t want your sympathy! I want my sister back! You stole my sister’s life! You!” Crimsonjag yowled. The words just seemed to come out. He gave no thought to them.
Cindermane looked thoroughly hurt. “I didn’t ki-,”
“You did! Don’t lie to me, you fox-hearted PiggyClan warrior!”
Cindermane stepped back.
Blackmask glanced at the bickering cats, then back to Rainstar. “I… I think it would be best if I took our warriors back to camp,” he meowed, with glance at his cats. “We’ll send you herbs if you need them.”
The PiggyClan cats left the clearing.
Cindermane gave him one last look.
No amount of sorries will bring back my sister! Crimsonjag thought.
It was over. It was done.
Russetclaw was dead.
“Cats of StormClan,” Rainstar called. “Let’s return to camp. Anyone who’s injuries are especially bad, speak up.”
Littlecreek, obviously, was staying behind, as was Scorchberry and Frogpad. Frogpad could barely put weight on his leg, and Scorchberry’s scratches were deep and bleeding badly.
Those cat’s injuries will never hurt as much as losing someone , Crimsonjag thought bitterly.
Rainstar was gathering up the cats that would return to camp, and Leopardclaw ordered Hawkgaze and Rippleblossom to stay behind and guard the injured and Marshheart.
Crimsonjag picked up Russetclaw’s limp body by the scruff, and hauled her over to Rainstar. He lowered her body to speak with the StormClan leader.
“Should I carry her back to camp?” Crimsonjag meowed quietly.
“If you want. If you don’t, Goatpaw and Rabbitpaw can bring her back.” Rainstar replied, slightly distracted.
“Are you okay?” Crimsonjag meowed curiously.
“Fine, just tired.”
“I’ll bring my sister back to camp…”
Crimsonjag carefully grabbed Russetclaw by the scruff, and lifted her up. He followed the StormClan cats back to camp, with a hollow pit in his stomach.
The cats stepped into camp, and most set off to the medicine cat’s den to see Ashpaw.
Blackfang and Hazeleye, two elders, padded over to Crimsonjag.
“We can take her from here.” Blackfang meowed solemnly.
Crimsonjag nodded numbly, and forced his paws over to the warriors den. He collapsed into his nest, and began to sob, and later fell asleep.
Crimsonjag woke to paw prodding him in the side. He opened his ruby-colored eyes to see a blue-eyed black she-cat standing over him.
Crimsonjag sighed sadly. “Hello Rippleblossom.”
“I’m so, so sorry about your sister, Crimsonjag…” Rippleblossom meowed, sadness and uncertainty filled her voice.
“It wasn’t your fault… it was PiggyClan’s.” Crimsonjag meowed
At least my best friend is still alive, Crimsonjag thought to himself. I won’t let Rippleblossom die the way the Russetclaw did.
“It’s time for Russetclaw’s vigil.” Rippleblossom meowed, shifting her paws slightly. “Chickenstripe is already there.”
“I mean, assuming you want to go, I mean you might still want to sleep, you have all-”
“It’s fine, Rippleblossom.” Crimsonjag interrupted. He heaved himself to his paws, and walked numbly to the ledge where StormClan vigils usually were.
A ginger tabby was sitting Russetclaw’s body. The tabby glanced behind him when he heard Crimsonjag coming.
“Hello, son.” the tabby meowed.
Crimsonjag dipped his head to him respectfully. “Hi, Chickenstripe.” He meowed back.
Crimsonjag began to share tounges with his fallen sister. Chickenstripe left to return to the elder’s den around moon-high. Crimsonjag stayed all night.
The sun began to peak out behind the forest-covered hill in the distance. Pawsteps began to come up behind Crimsonjag. He ignored them, until one of them began to speak.
“Crimsonjag,” Hazeleye’s voice meowed, “It’s time to bury her.”
Crimsonjag nodded, and watched the elders take Russetclaw away, with a pang.
Crimsonjag kept his paws rooted to the ground. The over-powering stench of mint was finally beginning to give him a headache.
Rippleblossom approached him, her gaze filled with sympathy.
“Sorry I couldn’t sit with you. I was ordered to watch the PiggyClan border where the battle was. You know, to make sure they don’t come back?” She meowed.
“It’s fine, Rippleblossom.” He meowed half-heartedly.
“Are you okay?”
“I lost my sister. Would you be okay, if you were in my place?
“No, I’m sorry.”
Crimsonjag sighed, again. He stood, up and stretched his long legs. He began to groom himself, licking away dust, knots of fur, twigs, and leaves.
“Let’s get you something to eat.” Rippleblossom meowed. “We could share a rabbit. I saw a nice, fat one in the pile.
“I don’t feel very hungry.” Crimsonjag meowed.
Rippleblossom twitched her tail in annoyance. “You haven’t eaten since yesterday’s sun-high. You’re eating whether you like it or not.”
Crimsonjag growled at her, and his ears twitched in agitation. “Fine. We’ll share it then.”
“Very well.” Rippleblossom meowed with sigh.
They walked down, off the ledge, and over to the fresh-kill pile. Rippleblossom grabbed the fattest (and only) rabbit on the pile.
“Here. Eat this, you’ll feel better.” Rippleblossom meowed, and shoved the rabbit in front of Crimsonjag. She took a bite of the rabbit then, gestured that he should take a bite.
A slightly fluffy white she-cat approached them. “Hey Crimsonjag, Rippleblossom.”
Crimsonjag glanced up from the rabbit. “Hello, Snowcloud.”
Rippleblossom dipped her head to Snowcloud. “How was hunting?”
“Pretty good. We caught a couple of mice and voles.” Snowcloud replied cheerfully.
Good to know my mate is doing good. Crimsonjag thought, with a purr.
“Alright, well, I’m not here to badger you both. I just needed to speak with Crimsonjag.” She continued.
“What do you need?” Crimsonjag meowed curiously. “Did something happen?”
“Something amazing. But this is more of a private thing.” Snowcloud meowed, gesturing at Rippleblossom.
Rippleblossom looked slightly hurt. “I’ll go, if you want.” She sighed.
“No, I’ll bring Crimsonjag outside the camp. More prying ears around in the camp than outside.” She meowed, flicking her tail in the direction of Lilyshine’s litter of four, who were watching them speak behind a rock.
Crimsonjag flicked his tail. “Let’s go.”
Snowcloud led Crimsonjag outside of the camp, when they were stopped by Goatpaw.
“Have you seen Darkmist? I can’t find her anywhere.” Goatpaw meowed to them, fear in his young voice.
“She was in the battle. Did you check the medicine den?” Crimsonjag meowed irritably.
“Of course I did! I’m not a mouse-brain!” The black and white apprentice meowed indignantly. “She’s not in there. I don’t think she’s in the camp at all.”
“Calm down, Crimsonjag. There’s no need to snap at him.” She whispered to Crimsonjag. “We’ll help you find her, Goatpaw.” She meowed certainly.
Goatpaw looked relieved. “Thank you! Thank you so much!”
The three cats walked outside the camp, when the caught a whiff of Darkmist’s scent. But with badger. They rounded a tree, and saw Darkmist, Sparkmask, and Moonblaze defending Scorchberry, Frogpad, Littlecreek, and Marshheart from a huge, angry badger.
Crimsonjag raced into the battle and tore the badger’s hind-leg, causing a howl of pain to come from the badger. Darkmist was shredding the badger’s ears, causing Crimsonjag to remember his newly scarred ears.
Exactly the way Candy Cane clawed away the tops of mine. Crimsonjag thought, with a new rush of fury. He leaped on the badger’s back, tearing away at fur and skin. The badger rolled over, knocking his breath away. He staggered away, and leaped back at the badger. He sliced it’s cheek, and reeled backwards.
The badger tore off toward the PiggyClan border, and disappeared into the forest.
Darkmist leaped onto a nearby rock, the way a leader would.
“Is everyone okay?!” She yowled from her perch.
The StormClan cats nodded shakily, and the injured cats limped back to the camp.
“Darkmist!” Goatpaw yowled joyfully and slammed into her side. “Are you okay?” He meowed nervously.
“I’m fine, calm down, you crazy furball.” She meowed, with a roll of her eyes.
A few moments later, the clearing was bare, other than Snowcloud and Crimsonjag.
He turned to Snowcloud.
“So, what is it you wanted to talk about?” He asked.
“Snowcloud!” Darkmist called, poking her head out of a bush. “Rainstar wants you back at camp!”
Snowcloud stared at the direction Darkmist called dismally.
“I’ll tell you later.” She said with a sigh.
He watched them disappear, into the forest, and later followed.
When he arrived at camp, he went straight to the warriors den, plopped down into his nest, and went to sleep.
Sunlight streamed into the warrior’s den, a light breeze caused the den to sway slightly. Things looked very happy. Not for Crimsonjag, however.
Crimsonjag woke up to stinging pain in his cuts.
“Fox-dung!” He yowled in pain.
Snowcloud, who was sleeping next to him, woke up suddenly. She scrambled to her paws, glancing everywhere.
“What is it? DogClan? Badgers? Speak!” Snowcloud meowed worriedly, while unsheathing her claws.
Crimsonjag looked incredibly sheepish. “Nothing… just my injuries, they’re acting up, that’s all.”
Snowcloud growled with annoyance, but her eyes were soft with sympathy.
Crimsonjag glanced down at his cuts, slices, and gashes. They were now a fierce, angry red rather than the normal blood-red color they were last night. Fox-dung, Crimsonjag thought with frustration, that seriously hurts.
Snowcloud flicked her tail on his head. “You’re feverish… you need to go the medicine den.”
“I’m fine. It’s just now getting to me, that’s all.” Crimsonjag snapped grumpily.
“I doubt it.” Snowcloud meowed, with a roll of her eyes. She squeezed herself out of the warrior’s den, and toward the fresh-kill pile.
Crimsonjag got to his paws, and stomped out of the warrior’s den.
“Ooh, looks like someone has an attitude!” Cypresskit taunted.
Crimsonjag shot Lilyshine’s kit an angry, silencing look.
“Aww, someone angry?” The black and brown she-kit meowed.
“Shut up!” Crimsonjag snapped.
Lilyshine stepped out of the den, muttering apologizes while scolding Cypresskit. She lifted the tiny kit, and returned to the shadowy nursery.
Crimsonjag’s whipped around angrily and stomped out of the camp.
I’ll go for a hunt and a run. That should lighten my mood. Crimsonjag thought, and, although he didn’t like admitting it, Cypresskit was right. He padded out of the camp, and breathed in the fresh, new-leaf air. Bright green leaves were beginning to grow on the trees, and the bushes were beginning to grow their odd blue, and sometimes red, berries. The faint scent of a mouse was carried through a light breeze, which ruffled Crimsonjag’s fur slightly.
He followed the scent of the mouse, and after a while, began to see the tiny tracks of little mouse feet. With his eyes glued to the tracks, he followed them until he spotted a tiny white creature, which was scuffling about with a seed in it’s mouth.
He went into the hunting crouch, and began to walk forward. His pawsteps were very small, quiet, and careful. He unsheathed his claws as he drew closer to the mouse.
Slowly, steadily, and shifted his weight into his hind-legs, leaped, and slammed onto the mouse. He killed a swiftly with a sharp bite to the neck, before the creature could squeal and alert the forest of Crimsonjag’s presence.
His head shot around the clearing, and realized that this was the clearing where his sister was killed. The spot he stood in that very moment was where Russetclaw died. Her blood was underneath him, but dried on the grass. Tufts of her russet-colored fur stilled lied on the ground.
Tears began to sting Crimsonjag’s eyes. Why did it have to be her? Crimsonjag thought miserably.
He scuffed the ground as re-gained control of himself. With a sigh, meowed to himself, “I wish I could see you. I wish you were here. With me and Rippleblossom and Snowcloud…”
The leaves rustled nearby, on the border. Crimsonjag snapped out of his trance, and shot his head toward the noise.
An unmistable black and ginger pelt was in the bush, with leaf-green eyes.
Cindermane. Crimsonjag fought back his fury, and pushed it away. That cat that stole my sister’s life.
Cindermane stepped out of the bush. Her claws were sheathed, her hackles weren’t up, and, in fact, she looked quite calm.
“I didn’t mean for it to go down that way.” She meowed at last.
“Well, it did, and I hope you’re not looking for forgiveness!” He snarled at Cindermane, rage thickly coated his voice.
Crimsonjag unsheathed his claws, arched his back, and let out a horrible, furious yowl. He slammed into the black and ginger she-cat’s side, and tore her side.
“Get back on your side! And stay there!” He spat, while swiping at Cindermane blindly.
She tore away from Crimsonjag, ran to the border, and turned. She gazed across the border, then began to lick the swipe in her side.
“You mouse-brained, fox-hearted, coward!” He screeched at her.
She jumped back, startled, and slunk back into the forest.
Something soft gently touched his shoulder, causing Crimsonjag jump about a fox-length into the air. Rippleblossom was the something.
“Calm down, Crimsonjag, it’s only me.” She meowed softly.
“You scared me!” He snapped at her.
“I didn’t mean to, I thought you knew I was here.” Rippleblossom’s voice was calm, and warm.
Crimsonjag closed his eyes, took deep breathes, and calmed himself. He opened one of his eyes in a squint, and looked at her.
“Are you sure about that,” He meowed sarcastically. “You sure have a knack for showing up and scaring me.”
Rippleblossom breathed in and out, continuously, without speaking.
“Stop with the sarcasm, will you?” She meowed at last.
Crimsonjag sighed. “I’m sorry I snapped at you… my temper just seems to run away from me these days…”
“It’s because of your sister, isn’t it? I was like this when my mother died.” Rippleblossom replied.
Crimsonjag gazed at her, and remembered his kit days with Rippleblossom, her littermates, and mother, with a pang. Darkshadow was Rippleblossom’s mother. Every cat in the Clan missed her still, even though it’s been a few seasons since her death.
“I remember that. That fox shouldn’t have been there. The den was abandoned.” Crimsonjag meowed, slight anger rose in his voice.
Rippleblossom gave him a calming look. “Don’t get angry.” She meowed to him quietly. “My border patrol caught scent of that same fox,” She meowed with a shudder, “I remember that fox-dung ridden scent. Those horrible, cold, dead, scarred eyes. That dirt-covered tail.”
Crimsonjag pressed her side. “If it comes back, we’ll drive it away, again, and again, if we have to.” He meowed comfortingly.
The two stood there in silence for a little while, then were disturbed by a low, harsh, rage-filled growl.
Rippleblossom pushed Crimsonjag away, and her gaze darted around.
“Fox!” She yowled.
Shock flooded Crimsonjag, whilst fear and adrenaline drowned him.
“Get back to camp! Get help! I’ll lure the fox away!”
Rippleblossom nodded and skidded away, light as feather, fast as LeopardClan.
Crimsonjag and turned toward the fox. With a horrible jolt, he realized it was the fox that killed Rippleblossom’s mother.
He stared at the fox, as if challenging it. The fox lunged at Crimsonjag, biting down on his hind-leg.
Crimsonjag yowled angrily, and felt blood trickle down his leg. He tore away from the fox, albeit tearing his leg open more.
He charged through the clearing and into the forest, and sped in the direction of the BrambleClan border.
The fox was on his heals, and Crimsonjag could feel the fox’s stinky, horrible, hot breath. He leaped onto his front legs, and kicked back his hind-legs. He could feel the fox’s face get hit by the blow.
There was only one problem: The timing was off, causing him to fall, face-first, into the dirt. The fox was moaning in pain, and kicking at the thorn bush it threw self in. It was stuck.
Crimsonjag got to his paws, and was beginning to get dizzy. He was feeling hot, and his scratches were stinging more than ever. He was fighting the sick feeling that was beginning to rise in his chest.
With a startling jolt, he realized the fox kicked free, and charging straight at him.
He turned tail, ignoring the horrible feeling, and ran toward a shadow-filled, lichen draped cave. He dashed inside of it. The cave was beginning to spin around, and Crimsonjag was beginning to feel light-headed.
Then, fear began to fill his belly, and he realized one horrible thing as he fainted, hitting the ground hard.
This was the fox’s den.
And it’s cubs were coming up behind him.