» ‖ Allegiances ‖ «
» ‖ Prologue ‖ «
The loud shriek ripped through the air. Ear-piercing caterwauls tore through the field of battle, striking the hearts of all around. The gold fur of the lions shone silver in the pale moonlight. The rust-colored coat of the tigers were drenched in blood, soaking into their pelt. Claws and fangs gouged into flesh as adrenaline coursed through the big cats’ veins.
“Enough!” A blood-curdling yowl froze the scene. A lioness stepped out from the battle-worn felines. “This has gone too far!” She snarled. “You should all be ashamed in yourselves.”
A majestic lion raised his head, droplets of blood dripping from his maw. “Quailsong, you dare speak like this to your Clanmates?” His amber eyes burned with fury.
“Goldenstar, let me ask, why are we fighting?” Quailsong rose her voice so everyone could hear her. “Why have we let the rage between LionClan and TigerClan run so deep?”
Quiet murmurs rippled over the crowd. The plain, orange-furred tigers nodded slowly, but the fury of battle still sparked in their eyes.
A large tiger spoke, “Lions have always acted superior over the other three Clans.” She snarled harshly. “You boast about your manes and your golden pelts while we tigers have nothing special about our orange coats!”
Growls of agreement rose from those of TigerClan, igniting the hatred between the two Clans. The big cats bared their teeth, ready to shed more blood.
“Stop!” Quailsong screeched. “What would StarClan think of this?!” She paused to glance at the moon. Stormy, gray clouds rolled over the silver moon.
Goldenstar narrowed his eyes. “StarClan has spoken. LionClan, back to camp!” He ordered, trudging out of the blood-stained clearing. TigerClan disappeared into the darkness of the forest.
« ‖ Chapter I ‖ »
Rain pattered against the leaves, drumming onto the clearing. Pale shapes trudged into the camp slowly, their gaunt shapes drenched in blood and rain.
“They’re back!” Thornkit gasped. His body buzzed with an excited energy. “Sorrelheart, look!”
Petalkit peered out of the nursery, her whiskers twitching against the drizzle. “Goldenstar is back from the battle!”
The queen heaved her frame up from her comfortable position to pad out of the enclosure. She let out a breath of relief as she rushed up to her returning Clanmates. “Oh, Goldenstar, you’re safe!” Sorrelheart pressed against her mate’s flank.
The leader let out a low, rumbling purr. “Yes, but others need to be tended to.” He gestured towards the injured lions and lionesses.
Thornkit slipped out of the nursery and tumbled towards his father’s paws. Petalkit was more hesitant, scowling at the drops of rain. “Goldenstar, Goldenstar! Look!” He chimed and puffed out his chest. “See, I’m a big lion now! I can fight with you, right? When am I going to be a warrior?”
Goldenstar’s amber eyes twinkled with amusement. “Calm down, young one. Just you wait, and you’ll be the strongest warrior in a blink of an eye.” He purred as he twined his tail with Sorrelheart’s. “Well then, I have to discuss some things with Sunpelt.” Goldenstar nodded and beckoned his deputy and senior warriors to his den.
Sorrelheart swept her tail around her kits and led them into the nursery.
“Sorrelheart, how are you feeling?” Quailsong cocked her head, her eyes filled with concern.
“Oh, um–fine...” She mewed quietly. Sorrelheart glanced nervously at Thornkit and Petalkit.
“What’s wrong?” Petalkit asked innocently. “Is Sorrelheart sick?”
The queen averted her yellow gaze to stare at the ground. “I am perfectly fine, my darlings.” She said smoothly, but Thornkit caught her shooting a warning glare at Quailsong.
Something was not alright…
» ‖ Chapter II ‖ «
Oak-brown eyes narrowed into slits. “Come out! I know you’re in there!” She growled, gazing into the fronds of heather. Larkkit’s fur bristled along her spine as uncertainty crept through her.
The thicket rustled in response.
“H-hello..?” Larkkit mewed. A tickle of fear coursed through her frame. “This isn’t funny!”
Suddenly, something slammed into her, knocking the breath out of Larkkit. She pummeled blindly at her attacker, catching a tuft of gold fur between her claws. Abruptly, the weight on top of her lifted, and Larkkit’s sight returned.
“Kestralkit!” She yowled in shock.
Her brother let out a mischievous chuckle as his speckled fur shined in the sunlight. “I got you this time, Larkkit,”Kestralkit snickered. “You should have seen your face!”
“You didn’t scare me,” Larkkit mumbled. “I was just…surprised.”
Kestralkit snorted. “Yeah, right.” He rolled his eyes.
The cheetahs batted playfully at one another until a quiver in the undergrowth stopped them in their tracks.
“What was that?” Larkkit’s spotted pelt stood on end as she waited for an answer.
Her littermate shrugged. “It was nothing. You’re such a scaredy-cat Larkkit, it was just the wind.”
The hedge trembled, scattering heather tendrils about.
“Just the wind?” whispered Larkkit.
Larkkit whipped around. Where’d he go? He was here just a second ago!
“Kestralkit! Where are you?!” The kit glanced around franticly, her mahogany-hued eyes searching for her missing brother. “Kestralkit?! Are you trying to be funny?”
Larkkit breathlessly rushed into camp, desperately trying to catch the eye of her mother. “Dawnshine, come quick!” She cried, spotting the queen in the nursery.
The limber frame of the cheetah trotted towards her. “Larkkit, where were you? Kits must stay within the protection of the camp.” Dawnshine’s voice was warm, but a steely sternness glinted in her eyes.
“K-Kestralkit and I were just playing by the old rabbit’s hole…” The cheetah mumbled. “Anyways, I can’t find him anywhere! W-we were fooling around and then we h-heard something in the bushes a-and then he disappeared!”
Dawnshine stiffened for a heartbeat, then she relaxed. “Calm down, young one, we’ll find him.” But a sliver of fear and doubt flickered in her brown gaze.
The howl of a wolf shattered the silence.
» ‖ Chapter IV ‖ «
O C E A N K I T
“I swiped at him from behind, clawing his flea-ridden fur off. He tried going for my neck, but I lashed at his unprotected underbelly and threw him into the river.” Mudfoot purred as he retold the story.
“Wow!” Oceankit mewed, her tail flicking with excitement.
“Someday, I’m going to be like you, Mudfoot!” Fleetkit whispered in admiration. “Those lions would never step in LeopardClan territory ever again!”
The wiry elder chuckled in amusement. “You think you’ve got what it takes?”
“Of course!” Lilykit chimed. “We’ll be just like you!” Oceankit cocked her head. “I though you wanted to be a medicine cat, Lilykit?”
Her sister shrugged. “I’m still thinking about it.”
“Oh, Mudfoot,” Vinestripe shook her head in exasperation. “Don’t let your fables get into their head.” Her raspy voice pooled with warmth.
Mudfoot looked offended. “It’s all true, Vinestripe, unless your memory is fading away?” He let out a mrrow of laughter. Without warning, he convulsed into a bout of coughing. Blood spewed from his throat, staining his spotted pelt.
“Mudfoot!” Vinestripe gasped. “Maplebreeze! Maplebreeze, help!” The elderly she-cat yowled, calling the medicine cat.
The young leopard rushed to her side. “What’s wron—Mudfoot!” Maplebreeze scanned the hacking elder quickly, then yelled, “Patchtail, Shellspot, help carry Mudfoot to the medicine den!”
Oceankit watched in worry as the two warriors hauled Mudfoot onto their shoulders and trudged into the cave. The leopard kit scampered after them alongside Vinestripe.“Is M-Mudfoot going to be okay?” Oceankit gazed up at her with wide eyes.
Vinestripe’s eyes clouded with doubt. “He’s going to be fine, young one. Why don’t you go to your mother?”
Oceankit dipped her head and quickly scuttled to the nursery. She spotted Creeksplash sharing tongues with Swiftheart in the afternoon sun.
“Creeksplash, guess what?” She squealed.
Her mother shifted her gaze to look at the kit. “Yes, little one? What happened?”
“Mudfoot is really sick and I’m scared.” Oceankit’s deep, blue eyes grew. “What if he doesn’t get better?”
The queen hesitated for a heartbeat before replying, “Maplebreeze will take care of him and StarClan will be watching,” She meowed.
“Don’t worry.” Swiftheart nodded in agreement. “Mudfoot is a strong ol’ cat; he’ll be fine.” The tom let a warm smile cross his face. “You know what?” His amber eyes twinkled. “I was appointed deputy last night while you were asleep.” Swiftheart purred.
Oceankit gasped. “Really? Wow! My father is a deputy!”
Creeksplash pressed against her mate. “Where are your littermates?”
“Probably in the elders’ den with Vinestripe and Troutscale,” Oceankit mewed.
Cats melted into the clearing like liquid shadows, forming a crowd around the River Stone. Maplebreeze launched her frame onto the boulder, and shrieked:
“Mudfoot is dead!”