" Generations have past. Seven Clans- Wind, Thunder, River, Shadow, Blizzard, Sky, and Star. Eighteen contestants, seventeen chances to die, one chance to survive."
I wake up.
I rapidly blink to adjust my eyes to the daylight.
I try to convince myself today's not the day.
I fail miserably.
Twelve hours left.
A loud chime rang twelve times, signaling that it was only twelve hours until it happens.
Twelve hours until we gather in the clearing.
Twelve hours until three of our own are condemned to certain death.
Certain death, the Black Sun Games.
The games "celebrating" the day the rogues of StarClan won the Great War, condemning the other clans to this treachery.
I sigh and look to my side.
Petalstorm must have left to sleep with Thornstep during the night.
I turn to see her curled into a tight ball, her skinny frame rising and falling in sync with Thornstep's.
I see my mother, Thrushwind, gently stroking her pale ginger fur with her tongue.
She must have seen me get up because she lifted her head to stare at me, her eyebrows slightly furrowed in accusation.
"Are you going hunting again, Briarfrost?" she whispered.
My mother knows me to well.
I give her a silent nod and I see her gaze darken.
"This will be the eighth time this moon," she growled.
I know my mother to well.
Her gaze bores into me, her eyes more worried than angered.
"Mother, I've never been caught and probably won't ever be caught!" I hissed angrily.
She steps up out of the shadows and tilts her head slightly.
Her eyes are dark as she glared at me.
She never passes up an oppurtunity to shame me.
"It is forbidden to leave SkyClan grounds, You know that. If they catch you again, Sylas will have the Shadow Stalkers after you!"
Sylas is the ruler of my clan. In addition to being ruler, he is also my uncle, but you could never imagine it. He's been out to get me ever since I had first opened my eyes. He hated my father, so it was fitting that he hate me, a striking image of Swiftstalker, with a twisted passion.
He is horrid, sending his pack of dogs after any cat that defys him. Only one cat has ever been known to survive the pursuit of the hounds, but he mysteriously died only a moon later.
"The Shadow Stalkers are about as smart as squirrel with a caved in skull. We both know I'm the fastest cat in our territory, I could outlast them easily!"
My mother just wouldn't give up on this, would she?
"That may be, but we live in the sickly part of the territory! I bet there are cats from The Chrome who could outrun you without breaking a sweat!" Thrushwind scolded.
"Those cats are too busy gorging themselves with mice to worry about running!" I snarled, my temper about to give way.
Instead of waiting for an answer from her, I pelted out of the den.
She shouted something after me, but her words were inaudible over the blood pounding in my ears.
I don't know why I had taken my anger out on my poor mother, but I was already too close to the forest to go back now.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.
The chimes echoed farther inland.
Trying not to let it worry me, I continued to run towards the south border.
My blood is on fire. My blood is on fire.
After agonizing endless moments, I could finally see the ashen oak marking the border. Behind the tree, a stone wall loomed at least ten feet overhead, blocking the clan from the rest of the world.
Immediatly, all my senses went alert.
Cautiously, I slid into the high brush, my belly sweeping the ground as I inched closer to the forest, to my freedom.
Almost there. Just a little bit closer.
Stalking oh so stealthily, I finally managed to reach the oak without being detected.
Scaling the tree and then clawing onto a strong branch that dipped over the stone wall separating me from the outside world, I leapt, gracefully landing on four paws as I came colliding with the earth.
Well, gracefully isn't exactly the way I would put it.
I did land on four paws, but I landed with a sickening crunch as well.
Staggering, I struggled to regain balance.
Ten chimes. I'm way behind schedule today.
I forced myself to stand, wincing terribly as pain riveted through my shoulder.
My blood has been chilled. My blood has been chilled.
Desperately I ran, trying to run from the pain. Running with no hope of winning this race.
I worry about things like this. My mind must have been broken long ago, shattered and scattered across the forest floor, glinting, shimmering, waiting. Sometimes I try to convince myself it is my destiny to find those pieces, maybe finishing a puzzle that could save the clans as well as save myself.
Though sometimes, I think I listen to too many of the elders' stories.
Without warning, I felt a sudden impact in my chest and I was flung into the air.
Seconds go by and I finally come back down, inceremoniously landing on my back paws first and then falling forward onto my forepaws.
The pain, so intense, so hard.
I began to wretch, slimy bile dripping from my lips as I convulsed.
After a few minutes, I licked my lips and lifted my head to observe my attacker.
A broad shouldered tom with massive paws and an ugly scar across the bridge of his nose, dark gray in color, glowering down at me with sharp amber eyes.
The fire that danced in his eyes disappeared after realizing it was me.
"Briarfrost! I thought you were one of Sylas' Skykeepers! I had two of those so called 'peacebringers' on my tail all afternoon yesterday!" he explained.
"Stormchaser! Number one, you should have been able to know my scent by now, and two, you should be able to outrun Sylas' stupid guards by now." I hissed and licked my shoulder.
Stormchaser twitched his ear and leaned down to sniff my wound.
"Did I do that?"
"No, I probably sprained it back when I jumped the boundary wall-"
I was cut of by the nine rings, the chimes replaced with the senseless clatter of a tin drum.
"Ugh, I remember when they didn't have that horrible tin drum, I remember when it was just the one yowl and then they just picked. None of this tension building over each ring." I laughed.
Stormchaser just grinned and nudged me to my paws.
"Have you visited Sunstrike lately?" he asked eagerly.
Sunstrike, the only living cat that belonged to one of the original clans that settled by the lake, if you're wondering.
"Yes." I answered brusquely and playfully swatted his nose with my tail.
He growled impatiently.
"Well, what did she say? Did she tell you any new stories? Anything about the old clans?" Stormchaser pleaded.
"I'll tell you when we get to your den."
We were silent the whole walk there.
Finally, we arrived at a small, abandoned Twoleg reservoir. Most of the water had dried up, but there was still a considerable amount left.
I ran forward to lap up some of the crystal clear water . It was much tastier than the mud puddles available in our section of the territory.
Close to the river, a small den constructed of logs and stone sat at the foot of the riverbank.
Stormchaser disappeared inside the small opening and I soon followed.
Once inside, he led me to a patch of springy, soft moss. He had lined my patch with quail feathers, just the way I favored it.
After we had settled, he looked at me eagerly.
"Now, can you tell me what Sunstrike told you?" he begged.
"I just have one question, why are you so desperate to hear these stories?" I questioned.
In my heart, I knew I knew the answer, I just didn't want to admit it.
"Stories are one of my only sources of joy in these dark days. They are the spark of hope that maybe someday, things may be different. Maybe the clans will be restored to their former glory."
Yes, exactly, en punto.
"Okay, I'll start with the story of how Sunstrike earned her warrior name." I started.
"Wait, she had to earn a warrior name? Kit Bearers just give you your name at birth." Stormchaser mewed.
"Well, the old clans used to make you prove yourself able to be granted a warrior name. And apparently, -chaser wasn't a very common suffix for a warrior name."
"Well, a lot of the names mothers give now are for show, they don't make sense nor have to for that matter. They just have to sound pretty or tough." Stormchaser purred jokingly and pressed me to go on.
"I know! I've heard of cats from WindClan with names like Wishingmoon, Joydove, and Dreamlily!" I laughed.
"Can you please get on with the story?" Stormchaser mewed.
"Okay, so when she was an apprentice, she would always go exploring near the ThunderClan border..."
5 hours passed,
Stormchaser and I sat through 25 loud rings, the most recent replaced with the loud pound of a stone gong.
We sat, telling stories of great warriors living by the ways of the legendary Warrior Code, heroes that demonstrated acts of chivalry, and prophecies sent by real StarClan cats, the cats who had disappeared from these skies long ago.
The best story, though, was the story of the hero Firestar and how his legacy lived on in in cats from all of the modern clans today.
But, soon enough, the moment we were both dreading was drawing nearer and we both knew.
I stood up and shook flecks of moss off my pelt.
Also, I realized I forgot to hunt, I'll be going hungry tonight.
"We best be going, the persecution will be starting soon." I growled hotly while nudging a sleepy Stormchaser to his paws. Let me tell you, that is quite a task if you ask me.
My blood feels heavy. My blood feels heavy.
I slapped his face with claws unsheathed, careful not to draw too much blood from him.
He roared in pain and pulled his head away.
When he swung his head back at me, his eyes were narrowed angrily, the gash I had gave him on his cheek already foaming, and a vein bulged out of his broad neck.
He snarled, "Why did you just do that to me?"
"You said that the Skykeepers were after you this morning. I'm just making sure they don't get any further suspicions."
"Oh," he rubbed his head against mine, "Thanks, Briarfrost."
I pulled away and grinned a little.
Remaining silent, I slipped out of the den's entrance and began sprinting towards the border despite the pain in my shoulder.
Two loud clangs.
I sprinted harder, desperately trying to reach our territory before the Skykeepers noticed my absense.
Finally, I could see the faint outline of the border wall in the distance.
"Come on Stormchaser! We're almost there! Just a few more fox lengths!" I yowled behing me.
He yowled back, but it was inaudible over the roar of the wind sweeping over the plains.
I had finally reached the wall and scrambled up the bridging over the top.
I paused at the top, surveying the land on the other side.
Barren, the story of my life.
In the distance, the small camp where I lived.
I leapt down without waiting for Stormchaser to catch up.
Wind buffeted my fur and sent sand into my eyes, temporarily blinding me occasionally.
Soon enough, I reached my camp.
Petalstorm must have seen me, because she cane running up right as I had slipped through the gorse tunnel.
"Briarfrost! You're back!" she cried and buried her head into my chest purring and smiling.
I bent my head down an rubbed my cheek against hers.
"Yep kiddo, I'm back." I cooed.
My little sister stepped back and surveyed me.
"Why are you limping?"
I sighed and looked into her eyes.
"Look, let's not worry about that right now. Let's just get ready for the Persecution now."
Petalstorm stared at me for a few moments before turning to leave.
The last ring, the gong replaced with a chorus of yowls.
In a shocking instant, swarms of Skykeepers filtered through the gorse tunnel and began driving cats together.
Petalstorm squeaked and ran to me.
She was only a kit, so she wasn't used to the regular procedure for the Persecution.
I could feel her frail frame shake as she pressed against me.
She's lucky, though. They usually pick cats from 8 moons to 26. Most of the cats picked are either very beautiful or very well-built.
Hey, I guess I'm safe too.
My thoughts were cut short by the demands of the Skykeepers.
I realized a Skykeeper had approached me and Petalstorm and was now glowering down reproachfully at us.
He was huge, brown tabby with a broad white chest, almost a mirror image of my father.
Sylas probably had him come get us just to freak me out.
"Get in line," he snarled and slapped my face lightly with his tail.
Petalstorm squeaked and ran behind me.
I growled, "How dare you talk to us like this!"
The Skykeeper just shot me a deathly stare before thrusting his face forward until it was only inches from my face.
"Look, just get in line and we can avoid the extra pain, okay buttercup?" he hissed.
I hissed and lashed out, my paw slashing his forehead.
Yowling and spitting, he through his head back in pain.
He thrashed around like a rabid dog jeered by an angry crowd.
I silently laughed.
"Enjoying the show?" a voice sneered behind me.
In seconds, I was pinned on the ground by my belly.
I squealed as I lost my breath, a gesture that didn't go unnoticed.
"Don't hold your breath, we have to get to the Persecution." the cat laughed.
I realized that the cat on top of me was none other than Sylas.
He clasped his jaws around my neck scruff and dragged me onto my paws.
He then proceded to drag me to the gorse tunnel while relentlessly kicking sand into my eyes.
My mother, big surprise.
I turned to see her streaking towards us, her eyes stretched wide and her mouth gaped into a silent yowl.
When she had reached us, she fell into a graceless bow and before rising to address Sylas.
"Stop it! Stop this now!" Thrushwind begged.
"Thrushwind, I was only disciplining her. You better teach her to respect authority figures," Sylas said.
Thrushwind ran to me and cradled me with her fluffy tail. Oh, how I loathed when she did this.
"Come on honey, let's get into line."
I pulled angrily away and snorted at her.
I padded off in search of Sunstrike. I finally found her at the flank of the crowd, chatting dully with a group of other elder she-cats.
The Skykeepers harmonious yowls drowned out my call.
Oh no, I realized.
My blood has stopped. My blood has stopped.
It was time.
Tons of rows,
Rows of cats waiting for death.
Rows of cats powerless to the impending torture that may be forced upon either one of them.
I was going to join them.
My group seemed to simultaniously flinch as we reached our section.
15 to 28 moons.
Next to me, a red shaded tabby began to panic.
He threw his head up and howled, his yowl high and piercing.
He dashed back towards our camp, but before he could disappear, the Skykeepers intervened.
A large Skykeeper turned and chased the tom, three more in hot pursuit.
The tom was so stricken with fright that he mis-stepped, a fatal mistake.
His ankle rolled and soon the Skykeepers were upon him.
His shrieks were muffled and soon he disappeared under the mass of writhering bodies.
Only seconds after, the Skykeepers surfaced.
The crowd of cats gasped at the bloody mangled corpse before them.
The tabby tom was dead.
I knew this would happen at least once, but that didn't lessen the shock I felt as I stared down at his torn torso.
The Skykeepers turned away, not a twinge of remorse visible as they turned, blood lust still prominent in their eyes.
I felt my skin crawl just stealing a glance at them.
They didn't pay mind to the hushed hisses and angry glares that jeered them,
They just kept walking.
I could tell Sylas was amused by the display of violence that had taken place, for he wore a sinister sneer on his pointed face.
He was mounted on a stony pedastal overlooking the rest of the crowd. Around him, several cats chatted, eagerly waiting for the event to begin.
Next to Sylas, a pinkish-gray she-cat stepped up to address the crowd.
That was Valeriana, one of the seven Cats of The Black Sun, or one of the head game makers for the Black Sun Games.
Gee, she was in light pink this year? At least it's better than last year when her fur was dyed dark green.
"Hello all SkyClan cats! If you don't already know, I am Valeriana, one of the Cats of the Black Sun!"
Yeah, we already went over that.
Valeriana continued to go on and on about the legacy of The Black Sun Games, her squeaking continuing to annoy me to the point where I almost leapt at her and clawed her ears off.
Not a good idea, but it made me happy.
Boredom was consuming me like the frost on a leaf.
I swear I almost dozed off a couple of times.
I looked at Stormchaser a few rows behind me.
He crossed his eyes and mouthed Valeriana's words.
I can't help but smile at him.
I was amused, I was, but that wasn't what was so warming about him.
He wasn't required to come to the Persecution, he didn't live inside SkyClan borders.
He only attended it to comfort me.
Sweet and utterly foolish.
"-So without further adieu, let us begin the drawing for the participants of The Black Sun Games!" Valeriana announced.
She swept her tail in the direction of a big pile.
This pile was stacked with items each symbolizing each cat of the Clan.
I could spot the broken briar branch among the items.
"Now, let's begin. May I ask the daughter of the leader to come and choose the first contestant!"
Birdfire, Sylas' daughter, stepped from her place and nervously padded up to the mound.
I actually felt sorry for my cousin. She wasn't half bad.
She certainly didn't deserve the dark glares from the cats in the crowd.
She stretched a shaky paw forward, eyes closed, and sank her claw into one of the mound's contents.
She withdrew her paw to hand the item to Valeriana.
The crowd gasped as they saw the spiked brown plant: a sedge.
"Well, it looks like we have our first contestant. Can Sedgestripe please come up here?" Valeriana yowled.
Sedgestripe: Handsome, muscular, 24 moons old. The usual participant for the Games.
They probably put more sedges in there on purpose.
I trained with him. We weren't good friends, we weren't enemies, we were just, denmates. He moved to the Chrome only days after completing his comat training. I now only saw him at the Persecution.
The crowd parted, giving Sedgestripe a straight pathway to the stone stage, to his death.
Valeriana became impatient.
"Let us get on with the next contestant!" she howled and pushed Birdfire to get another item.
Birdfire was as hesitant as she was the first time.
She reached forward and snatched up another item.
Valeriana, eager to please Sylas, took the item from Birdfire and held it up high.
It was the leaf of a Snowbowl Aspen.
"Oh goody," Valeriana mumbled and then continued, "May Aspenwhisker please come up here"
Aspenwhisker: A sickly tom-kit. Barely old enough to come to a Persecution.
Poor kit, he was surely going to die.
The crowd parted once more, revealing the frail tom.
He began walking up very slowly. He looked so miserable.
In a heartbeat, a speckled brown she-cat was in front of him, guarding him protectively.
She narrowed her green eyes menacingly, shooting a glare straight at Valeriana.
She growled, "My brother will not go! I volunteer to take his place!"
Fernflight was pretty, smart, and well-built.
No doubt they will accept her offer.
Valeriana drew a breath, ready to announce Fernflight's fate, but Sylas instead jumped off the stone himself and padded up to the pair.
He was silent as he examined her.
Seconds went by.
A smile, not a sneer or scowl.
I could see the through the veneer, he wasn't smiling with glee.
He was smiling with ambition.
Oh right! I forgot.
Fernflight was betrothed to Sylas' son, Sulan.
He resented her because she didn't support StarClan's way of ruling.
This was a golden oppurtunity to get rid of her.
"Yes indeed," he mumbled.
He ran back up and whispered into Valeriana's ear.
I saw her eyebrows furrow at first, but gradually her eyes widened to the point where they were as wide as an owl's.
She pulled away hurriedly to address the crowd.
"Well, this is certainly unexpected, but Sylas is supportive of your choice. Fernflight and Aspenwhsker will both compete in the games!"
I felt my jaw clench angrily in disbelief.
Not only had he allowed sickly Aspenwhisker to be picked as a contestant,
But now he has tricked Fernflight into competing as well.
This was just undescribably horrible.
The crowd must have been thinking the same thing as me, for I suddenly felt an air of frustration ripple over the others.
How upsetting this must be for Valeriana, for a thick blush had settled uneasily on her cheeks.
I turned my gaze back to Fernflight.
She held a tight lid over her emotions, not hissing or sobbing, just staring blankly up at Sylas.
She was truly a trooper.
I respect her for that.
The suttle growls quickly grew into hot-tempered yowls and roars.
I could see a few brave souls start to scale the boulder towards Sylas and Valeriana.
Valeriana hissed and clawed at her attackers while Sylas stood still as stone, not even flinching as the cats began tearing at his fur.
I knew that move, he was baiting them.
I did that on hunts all the time.
With a twist and a hiss, Sylas threw his paws at the cats.
Each individual claw managed to latch onto a cat and score an ugly scratch onto each of them.
All remnants of civility vanished from his appearance as Sylas rammed into the cats and knocked them off of the boulder and effectively to their deaths.
The remaining cats retreated back into the crowd, hoping to hide from the wrath of Sylas in the sea of others.
Only minutes after the attack, all of the mobbing cats were either dead or hiding.
Sylas coughed and straightened up, his icy calm returning to his posture.
"I hope you all liked the show," Sylas growled, "Because now it's back to buisness."
He nudged Valeriana forward, pressing her to go on.
"Q-quite," Valeriana mewed unevenly as if she still hadn't recovered from the attack, "As you all know, the last competitor is chosen in a special way. They are chosen by their own Clanmates to compete!"
One cat betrayed by their own campmates, it couldn't get much harsher than that.
"This year, the elders were to decide on the tribute. May the representing elder please come up here please?"
The crowd parted to reveal a frail Sunstrike.
For such a sickly cat, Sunstrike sure was fast.
She leapt up to Valeriana and whispered into her ear, but not berfore shooting me a look.
A look of... sorrow?
Why would she be sad, why would she look at me?
"I have the results. The cat chosen is... Briarfrost!"
What would you do if you were in my position?
I'll tell you what not to do, do what I did,
Babble like an idiot.
"B-bu-but, what?" I gurgled.
I looked to my sides,
Each cat was staring at me.
They looked with sympathy, but that didn't settle the butterflies in my stomach.
Up on the rock, there was a total absense of pity.
While Sylas grinned,
And Valeriana twitched,
And Birdfire ducked,
Sunstrike just looked.
Her eyes were cold, but I could see under the mask.
Behind her glare was an apologetic look that said,
I'm sorry, I had to.
I glared straight at her, but my gaze didn't hold long.
I couldn't bring myself to glare any longer.
She was my friend, my idol, and she had betrayed me.
Stormchaser leapt up to speak, but I shot him a glare, it was too dangerous.
Valeriana straightened, "Uh, would anyone object to this decision?"
I looked around.
No one dared move, not even my own mother, she just turned away from me, her body raking with sobs.
Petalstorm sat next to her, her eyes blank and confused. Her mind must not be registering the fact that her sister would probably be dead by next week.
"Well then," a deep yowl broke through my thoughts.
"It is settled," Sylas yowled. "Bring the th- I mean, four," he said with a sneer, "Participants up here please."
I was thrown forward suddenly, a rough snarl sounding behind me. I glared at the Skykeeper who shoved me towards the pedestal and continued to walk forward.
Time seemed to slow as I trotted, slow enough to survey my surroundings. Cats were still shocked, their faces frozen in disbelief. I was surprised, I didn't know I was so popular, but I still figured it was because of Aspenwhisker's unfortunate fate.
Through the crowd, I could see one stare, one lone stare, sparkling with triumph. I could recognize that golden gaze anywhere, that was Sulan. He smiled as I was herded to the stage and the whole time, I couldn't help thinking, Why did this have to happen to me?
I mean, I've been a good girl. I always watched over my sister, I always wash in the pond before going to sleep, I always eat last, why did I deserve this?
This was Horse-crap, big time.
Before I realized it, we had already reached a small cave in the side of the large stone. The lichen that hung over the opening caught in my fur as I was forced inside.
To my surprise, the path inclined sharply and I realized it, we were being held underground!
"Don't you dare run, I don't have a problem sending the Shadow Stalkers after you if you try anything" A gruff voice hissed in my ear.
I looked at Sylas, my glare furious, and I felt my long surpressed anger bubbling to the surface.
Sylas just smirked before throwing me forward once more. Oh, how I wish I could just rake his face right now!
The path twisted and curved sharply as we descended farther and farther. I also noticed that the paths became gradually thinner, as well the walls began closing in tighter.
I felt my breath come in shallow bursts as I felt the space close in. The bodies pressed against me didn't do much to settle me, either.
I felt as if I was being crushed as we padded farther, so hard that I almost couldn't take it. I fought the urge to vomit.
Luckily, the tunnel opened out to a massive cavern. I was sure I would have gone mad, or madder, if the tunnel had continued.
The cavern was magnificent.
Luminescent crystals adorned the cavern walls, the light catching off them producing a lovely glimmer.
The inside was almost overgrown. Light green vines climbed the walls and swirled into intricute, spiraling designs.
From the vines sprouted dozens of baby blue flowers that glowed in the dim cave light.
Finally, a large reflective pool in the middle completed the scene.
Funny, you never would have expected this from the StarClan officials.
"Get in," Sylas growled and shoved me inside. I yowled as he pressed on my wretched shoulder.
Sedgewhisker, Aspenkit and Fernflight joined me on the floor shortly after.
"Enjoy your stay," Sylas snarled and with a sweep of his tail exited the cavern with two Skykeepers in tow.
Three stayed behind, great.
Luckily the muscular guards kept to themselves, taking their places near the entrance of the cavern to prevent escape.
I sniffed and climbed to my paws.
Sedgewhisker followed in suit and eyed me with interest. I glared at him.
"What are you lookng at?" I growled softly.
The tom smirked, "You look familiar, that's all."
I stiffled a "huff" and turned my back to the group of fellow captives.