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Song two of Night Visions.


In the morning light let my roots take flight

Watch me fall above like a vicious dove

With Berryheart as his new mentor, Mosspaw quickly caught up with the other Featherclan apprentices. Before, Bramblefoot taught him one fighting move a moon.

Rookpaw made a clumsy leap over him, but Mosspaw dragged him down. The black apprentice rolled to the side and signalled for his brother, Finchpaw to attack. Finchpaw leapt from tree to tree, and Mosspaw desperately tried to keep him in his view. When he was dizzy, Finchpaw leapt at him and pinned him down.

“A good attempt, Mosspaw,” nodded Berryheart. “But you could have given up looking for Finchpaw and prepared for his attack.”

“I was prepared,” Mosspaw grumbled crossly.

Berryheart dismissed his reply with a flick of her paw. “That wasn’t how I saw it.”

Mosspaw turned away from the group and flopped down. He wasn’t used to criticism. If he did something wrong, Bramblefoot just sighed and walked away. He had to admit though, at least he had advice so he could improve.

Berryheart’s sweet scent drifted over him. “Mosspaw, honey? Are you okay?” Mosspaw shook his head. “Still dealing with your loss?” He nodded. Berryheart nudged him to his paws. “Come on, forget about training. Lets go for a walk.”

Mosspaw breathed in the sharp winter air. Over the past few days, the overall harshness of winter had become milder, and hunting became easier due to the decrease of ice and snow. “It’s hard losing a cat you love,” she began, “whether it’s a family member, a mate, or a close friend, their deaths always sadden us. Like remember when I lost Russetwing?”

Mosspaw nodded. He remembered stopping the bickering about who caused the avalanche, and the frantic search for Russetwing. And Berryheart comforting him when her body was found.

“She wasn’t the closest cat I knew, but she was my sister. A pretty bad one.” Mosspaw laughed. Berryheart was always there for him, like a big sister.

He only wished Flamegaze was there for him, too.

They don't see me come, who can blame them?

They never seem to catch my eye but I never wondered why

Flamegaze sniffed the Featherclan border carefully, checking for any signs of current or approaching clan cats.

Good. No signs of any of them. 

She made her way along the border and out of clan territory. She picked up her pace, and streaked through the undergrowth like a blazing fire. Soon she sighted the camp on the horizon, on top of a steep hill. Layla never told me that they moved the camp! Mustering up all of her speed and strength, Flamegaze charged up the hill. The thistles of the outer camp defences raked her belly and she came into the rogue camp in a tumbling, blood-covered mess.

“You might wanna get some cobwebs on that,” Layla drawled. As always, the rogue leader had the tips of her claws tinted with fresh blood. Cat blood. She would be pretty, if it wasn’t for the scars scattered across her crimson body. She had heard some cats say that her pelt was actually grey, and she bathed in her enemies’ blood. Layla’s eyes were once lilac-coloured, but over the years they had turned dull with the darkness of her heart.

In short, Layla was one cat not to be messed with. Unless a cat wanted to be trampled by some large four-legged animal and die a horrible death.

Flamegaze shuddered at the thought. Back in Featherclan, she may be a well-respected warrior, despite her age, but in this camp of bloodthirsty rogues, she was nothing more than a kit: annoying and getting under everyone’s paws. A nuisance.

I won't fall asleep

I won't fall asleep

For the fifth time that evening, a piece of fresh-kill was dropped by the apprentices’ den.

Great Starclan, thought Mosspaw. How am I supposed to eat all of this? Then a certain cat sprang to mind. “Berryheart?” he yelled. “Come dine with me!”

Berryheart trotted over. “Wow!” she beamed, admiring Mosspaw’s pile of prey. “When I was mourning for Russetwing, I got a prey pile a quarter of the size of yours!” She daintily picked a mouse from the top of the pile and settled down beside Mosspaw.

“Have you seen Flamegaze anywhere?” he asked her. “She’s been gone all day.”

Berryheart watched the sun sink below the treetops. “She could be anywhere.”

“She could be dead!” Mosspaw retorted. And he added quickly, “I don’t want you to lose another sister.”

Beryrheart licked his ears. “Oh Mosspaw, you’re so sweet. And there’s no need to worry; Flamegaze is often gone for days at a time. The clan just never seems to notice it. She’s always been hiding in the shadows. It’s been a trait of her ever since she was a kit.”

“Are you sure?” Mosspaw asked her tentatively.

Berryheart stretched and shook out her fur. “Why wouldn’t I be Mosspaw?” she yawned.

As she padded away, Mosspaw started to doubt the sweet pale ginger she-cat.

~

Mosspaw usually fell asleep moments after settling down into his nest. But tonight he lay staring at the ceiling. He rolled over and scratched another line in the piece of wood next to his nest.

Five scratches. Five nights since his father’s death.

Mosspaw had one sister, but she had been stillborn. His mother, Larknose, had wondered out of camp the night after his father’s vigil and was never seen again. So Mosspaw was alone. Even Flamegaze had left.

But he still had Berryheart.

And he still had the hope that one day, Flamegaze and Larknose would come back.

Hey yeah, don't let 'em know we're coming

Hey yeah, tiptoe higher

Take some time to simmer down, keep your head down low

Hey yeah, tiptoe higher

“So when do we attack?” asked Flamegaze hopefully, poking her head over the shoulders of larger cats for a better view of the battle plan.

Layla drew a circle in the ground. “This is Meadowclan territory. As they are pacifists, they have no fighting experience. They are a weak target. Perfect for attack.” She scratched a cross somewhere in the circle. “The camp is here. Patrol One will attack here.” She pointed to another place in the circle. “Patrol Two will attack here, and Patrol Three will attack here,” she said, making a cross each time she mentioned a patrol.

“Layla,” Flamegaze mewed.

Layla whipped round, eyes full of hatred. “What?” she spat.

“I know Meadowclan territory. I am a clan cat from the neighbouring clan.”

Layla snickered. “Okay then. I thought you were just a clan cat wannabe.” the cats sitting around her echoed her laughter. “So, wannabe, where are the best places to attack?”

Flamegaze shouldered aside two cats so she could see the map. “A cliff is on one side of the camp,” she started. “If we stand on that cliff, we can be unseen. Then we leap down into the camp. Some cats will be on patrol, so cats will be spread out along the territory borders, and they walk towards the centre of the camp, killing everything in their path. Herbs, cats, prey, whatever. Meadowclan must die.”

“What happens if the cats reach the camp?” piped up a cat.

Flamegaze purred. “Good question. The border cats reach the camp and add to the massacre.” She turned to Layla. “Good plan, or what?”

A flicker of a smile flashed across Layla’s face. It was probably the best she’d ever come to smiling. “And what’s your name?”

Flamegaze gasped. Layla asking for a cat’s name was a sign of respect. “Flamegaze,” she said confidently. “I hope to become an official member of this group and earn a rogue name.”

“Very well, Flamegaze,” Layla nodded, “you’re not as useless as I thought you were.”

From your slanted view see the morning dew

Sink into the soil, watch the water boil

“Good morning, Mosspaw!” trilled Berryheart as Mosspaw approached her for a hunting patrol. They trundled off into the wet forest. “I hate getting my paws wet,” moaned Berryheart.

“But it’s disappearing now,” Mosspaw pointed out. “And aren’t we supposed to be hunting?”

“Yes, yes,” Berryheart mewed hurriedly. “Can you scent anything?”

Mosspaw quickly located  a thrush before confronting Berryheart. “You look distracted,” he said. “Is something wrong?”

Berryheart shook her head. “Nothing’s wrong,” she said a bit too quickly. “Now how about that thrush?”

A few seconds after stalking the thrush, a twig snapped and the thrush flew away, alarmed.

“What did you do that for?” he raged at Berryheart. “It was going to be a perfect kill!”

Berryheart bowed her head, and Mosspaw saw silvery tears plop to the ground. He took a tentative step towards her. “Berryheart, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—” but Berryheart snapped at him.

“Just go away and leave me in peace!” she snarled. “I should had never have chosen to be your mentor.”

Jaws clenched in regret, Mosspaw ran blindly back to the camp.

And then he heard Berryheart’s scream.

They won't see me run, who can blame them?

They never look to see me fly, so I never have to lie

“Layla, stop!” screamed Flamegaze. “You’re in the wrong territory!” She shoved Layla off Berryheart. “And that’s my sister!”

“She is?” Layla blinked innocently. “What about my golden rule?”

Flamegaze gritted her teeth. “Ashes before blood.”

Recently, she had learnt the name of the rogue group: White Ashes. ‘Ashes before blood’ meant that to be honourable and loyal to the group, a cat must serve the group first, even if it meant killing their kin, kits, or mate.

Layla’s mouth twisted into a vicious grin. “I’ll let you off this once, wannabe. Only because you are vital to this operation.”

“Thank you, Layla. Can I take my sister to the camp now? I’ll meet you here, at dawn tomorrow.”

“Agreed. But don’t tell anyone anything about this.”

“Good.” Flamegaze lifted Berryheart’s body onto her back and without a second glance at Layla, ran back to the camp. To home.

I won't fall asleep

I won't fall asleep

“Flamegaze and Berryheart! You’re back!” exclaimed Mosspaw. His face partly fell at Berryheart’s condition. It looked like someone had dug their claws deep into her flank.

With a panicked look on her face, Flamegaze approached Dapplestar, the clan leader. “I don’t know how it happened. I was walking back to camp after one of my long trips away, and I found her there. By the Grassclan border.” Her voice trembled. “I don’t know how it happened. I just don’t!”

When Flamegaze carried Berryheart into the medicine den, Mosspaw went to his nest. Finchpaw flicked a bone at him, but he ignored it.

“Hunted anything?” Finchpaw asked him.

“Almost. It’s Berryheart's fault that I failed to catch that thrush.”

Finchpaw sat up. “Hey,” he said. “Berryheart could die from blood loss.Get some happy memories or something. Not blames.”

Mosspaw stopped picking at the moss and slowly raised his head at Finchpaw. “You know,” he meowed. “That actually seems like a good idea. Now what should I do to get those happy memories?”

“Whatever it is,” said Finchpaw in a bored tone, “could you do it somewhere else?”

Mosspaw snorted at Finchpaw’s attitude. He poked his nose through the screen of vines that divided the medicine den and the rest of the camp. “Petalface?” he hissed. “Can I come in?”

“Sure!” chirped Petalface. “Berryheart is awake now, and Flamegaze just left. Had to patrol the Grassclan border for any signs of trespassing.” She peered at Mosspaw’s face. “You look tired. You should sleep.”

“But it’s the afternoon!” argued Mosspaw. “And I’m hungry!”

“I’m the medicine cat. Not you! Now eat something and sleep!” Petalface snapped.

Mosspaw slunk out of the den.

“Don’t worry Mosspaw,” called Berryheart weakly. “Hopefully I’ll be able to join you tonight.”

“But that’s not what I want,” pleaded Mosspaw quietly, partly to himself. “I only wanted your company because Flamegaze wasn’t here.”

Then a question struck him like a falling branch: What did he really want?

Hey yeah, don't let 'em know we're coming

Hey yeah, tiptoe higher

Take some time to simmer down, keep your head down low

Hey yeah, tiptoe higher

Layla led her group White Ashes to the Meadowclan border. “Milo, Kai, Derek, Branden, Elyssa, Erika, Amaya, Zoe, Tabitha, Kristen, and Dillon, you are the border cats. Juliana, Abril, Celeste, Drew, Aspen, Flamegaze and I will attack from the cliff. Got it?” Layla swept her gaze over her group, making eye contact with each cat in turn. “You’d better,” she growled. Layla turned to Flamegaze. “Ready, Flamegaze? I’m trusting you on this. If we fail, I’m holding you responsible.”

Flamegaze gulped. She had lied to her patrol about feeling ill and going back to camp. She wondered if they had become suspicious now.

Suddenly her paws shot forwards and she was carried along with the cliff group.

She couldn’t control her paws. It was like she was being guided.

“Keep up!” yelled Layla. “Are all clan cats lazy?”

Flamegaze growled at herself and pushed herself forwards. The group sped uphill, eager to reach the top of the cliff.

“We’re here,” breathed the cat next to her. Flamegaze looked below. A happy community of cats, all frolicking in the winter sunshine. If felt wrong to attack such a peaceful place.

But no. She was here to kill. Killing was her destiny, chosen many moons ago.

Should she really do this? After all the deaths she had caused?

Nobody else, nobody else

Nobody else can take me higher

Nobody else can take me higher

Nobody else can take me higher

Nobody else

The next few minutes happened like a whirlwind. Flamegaze mowed down cats, using teeth, claws, and sometimes her opponent’s wits.

She had never felt so happy in her life.

“Peachkit!” screamed a queen as Flamegaze snapped a pale cream-coloured kit’s neck. The satisfaction of making a kill blocked out the desperate wail.

Time froze around her as she remembered watching her mother bleed to death on the Sunrocks.

“Mother! Thundernose! I can’t leave you!” Flamegaze saw herself as an apprentice lying beside her mother.

Thundernose lifter her head. “They’re coming, my sweet. You mustn’t let them enter you. They’ll devour your soul. Just please…” But it was too late. Thundernose’s eyes rolled back in her head and she suddenly went cold. Deathly cold.

That only meant one thing.

The demons were close. And they were going to destroy her soul.

Flamepaw writhed around, and black foam bubbled up from her mouth. A voice whispered in her ear: “As the sky turns dark, I will be unleashed. When thoughts turn dark, I will creep out and control you. Blood will stain your paws as you uncontrollably destroy everything in your path. Just like I’ve destroyed you.” It was Orfeo, Demon of darkness.

Flamegaze snapped back into reality.

Orfeo was the one who possessed her all those moons ago.

The demon who ruined her life. 

Hey yeah, don't let 'em know we're coming

Hey yeah, tiptoe higher

Take some time to simmer down, keep your head down low

Hey yeah, tiptoe higher

Mothstar narrowly escaped out of the battle. Rogues had come pouring in from nowhere, and cats had been dead within seconds.

She had to get help.

Mothstar sped through Featherclan territory, not caring if a cat saw her or not. The scars and blood on her pelt would definitely tell others what was going on.

“Meadowclan’s being attacked!” she screeched as she burst into the camp.

Dapplestar raced over to her. “What happened?” he said.

“Just see for yourself! Half of my cats are probably dead by now.”

Dapplestar gave an amused purr. “I’m sure it’s not that bad.” And he started to gather up a tiny patrol.

Oh well, thought Mothstar, trying not to be a pessimist. At least I got his attention.

~

“I hate it when Mothstar exaggerates,” groaned Rookpaw.

Finchpaw butted him with his head. “But it could be really bad though,” he mewed. “Come on, you saw how panicked she was!”

Rookpaw went into a state of ponder for a moment. “Yeah,” he agreed. “She might not be exaggerating after all.”

“Told you I was right,” said Finchpaw smugly.

Mosspaw turned his head to look at them. Rookpaw and Finchpaw were behind him, with their speed decreasing every second. “I never knew you retired to the elders’ den,” he teased. “Keep up!”

And not even a joke could cheer up the cats who saw what had happened to the camp.

Hey yeah, don't let 'em know we're coming

Hey yeah, tiptoe higher

Take some time to simmer down, keep your head down low

Hey yeah, tiptoe higher

“The camp,” whispered Mothstar. “It’s gone.” She fell to the floor in slow, heaving sobs.

The other cats gasped. “Hello?” called out Dapplestar. No-one answered.

“Your clanmates are dead,” he said to Mothstar. “Elders, kits, warriors. All of them.”

Mosspaw gasped. “What kind of monsters would do this?”

But somehow, he already knew. And a promise was the only thing that was keeping him silent.

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