Post by 🍁Searipple101🍁 on Sept 13, 2016 13:04:12 GMT -5
"Everyone has their own story of how they came to be in that place, but that doesn't matter anymore, because now, we all share the same story."
This story is of my own mind, so please do not copy it without my permission, thank you!
Warning! This story contains blood and violence much like the Warrior books. Death will happen, as will battles. You have been warned.
Summary: What happens when the place you've known for however long comes crashing down in smoke and flames, leaving you out in an unfamiliar place with many strangers? When the cat shelter burns to the ground, several cats - some friends and family, some complete strangers - from all backgrounds are forced to flee into the near by forest. Now, with only the other survivors to aid them, they must create their own society, their own clan, and survive the dangers of the outside world, if they can survive each other first.
Post by 🍁Searipple101🍁 on Sept 13, 2016 13:10:17 GMT -5
Prologue: Fire's Gift
Warmth began to fill the chilly air as the sun crept up into the sky. A gentle breeze in the leaves of trees and the quiet , waking birds was the only sound outside, until a car, known to some as rumble-makers, pulled into the little gravel path and came to a stop at the end. A furless stepped out of the red rumble-maker and produced a shiny stick, one that could easily fit in the palm of its naked paw. The furless stuck the silver stick in the door and opened it, the meowing of dozens of cats immediately sounding loudly from inside.
The furless smiled and walked in, shutting the door behind him. He got right to work, pulling out bedding from the cages, each cage containing one or two cats, maybe even three. After bedding came the bowls for dry, crunchy food and metallic tasting water. He whistled while he worked.
Some cats greeted the furless they knew so well with purrs and cheek rubs, but some, who were newer to the Shelter, gave hisses and growls, or backed up against their confined spaces, pressing their bodies to the walls as much as they could for fear of being touched.
Almost every day this furless came in; sometimes another one took his place, but it was usually this one, the one with blonde fur atop his head. Soon, other regulars began to join him, coming in from their own rumble-makers and getting to work on taking things from the metal-barred cages.
All was going normally when the bedding was thrown into the cleaner, but a while after the furless left the room, the cleaner began to shake and rumble more than usual. It grew and grew in intensity until it finally stopped all together. Then, suddenly, orange and yellow flames burst around it. The stinging smell of burning bedding and wooden wall started to fill the small room, while dark gray smoke billowed out the entryway.
Cats in their cages instantly began to freak out, wailing and slamming into the walls, fearing for their lives as the flames grew, violently dancing in the air and producing more deathly smoke. Heat burned their pelts, the fire only growing stronger.
After what seemed like forever, a deafening ringing sounded int he air, and the blonde furless rushed into the room. He paused dead in his tracks at the sight of the bright flames, then started coughing and sputtering uncontrollably. He waved his arms to do away with the smoke at his face while he went to the nearest cages and opened them.
At the first sign of freedom, the cats poured from their cages, skidding on the slick floors before exiting the burning room. Afraid of the furless or not, the fire was much worse. None hesitated to fly passed his pink paws.
"We're all gonna die!" a long-furred light gray she-cat wailed in dismay in the hall, her fluffy tabby fur fluffed up to twice its size.
"Where do we go?" a calmer she-cat asked, her pelt as dark as the smoke which surrounded them. Thankfully, the cats had room to breathe where they stood so low to the smooth, white floors, but it wouldn't last very long.
A small, cream orange tabby tom glanced around quickly with determined, amber eyes. "This way!" he called to the others in the hall with him once he spotted an open window just about completely obscured by the dark fog. "We can get out through there."
A lithe, white tom with black patches nodded and raced over to the window, but it was high up and nothing was around it to give them a boost. "I don't know if everyone is going to make it through, Cedar," he reported back. "But I bet I can make it." With long legs, the black and white tom crouched down and gave a powerful leap up the ledge. Blackness enveloped him, and he coughed in response, lungs burning and heaving for fresh air as heat grew more intense at his side. "The fire is coming this way. We can't use this place for long," he called.
"Then let's hurry. You go on ahead, Smoke," the dark gray she-cat meowed and nudged the frantic gray and white she-cat beside her as the black and white patched tom jumped out. "You have to go or you will die," she hissed quickly, not wanting to waste any time.
The long-furred she-cat looked at the darker, short-haired one with blue eyes as big as moons. Her chest heaved with horrified breaths, paws frozen to the ground.
"You can do it," the smaller cat encouraged, her yellow eyes cold with determination and steely calmness. She nudged her again, harder this time.
Reluctantly, the patched she-cat looked at the smoke, swearing she saw death awaiting her just inside it, but she knew deep down this other she-cat was right. If she didn't try to make it, she would die for certain. Drawing in a deep breath, she plunged herself into the thick smoke, heat singing her fluffy pelt as she drew nearer to the window, but she didn't stop until her eyes caught the faint light of dawn filtering in through the opening, and just barely penetrating the dark veil. Bunching up her muscles, she jumped, scrabbling onto the ledge but making it and then leaping out, onto the other side, with the black and white patched tom.
Other cats raced down the hall and met up with Cedar and the dark gray she-cat. At instruction, they took a huge breath and ran into the hot smoke, and then leaped through the open window.
Finally, a jet black kit came running down the slick floor on clumsy paws, her tiny tail waving in the air each time her paw slipped and her body almost fell to the ground. She could be no more than two moons old, if even that.
"Pepper, you're going to have to carry this one out with you," Cedar yowled over the crackling fire which closed in on them.
"I can't leave you in here, Cedar," the dark gray she-cat called back, but she knew he was right. Soon, the window would be over taken by flames, and they would no longer have an escape. The smoke was already starting to graze the floor, and the cats had to crouch just to get any breath of half-sickly air.
Pepper gritted her teeth but ran down the hall to meet up with the clumsy kit and roughly grab her by the scruff of her neck. Instinctively, despite the immense fear she was feeling, the little kit went limp in the older she-cat's jaws.
Quickly but carefully, the dark gray cat raced to the window and jumped up, using all the strength she had to reach the high ledge with the added extra weight. She scrabbled for a moment, paws not quiet getting a hold until her claws sunk into the darkening wood. Flames lapped at her tail tip, singing off some of the already nearly black fur for a moment before she dropped onto the other side with the kit safely in her mouth.
The cream orange tom followed not even a heart beat later, and all the cats that had gathered outside to wait ran off across the field, heading for the near by woods. As they ran, leaving behind the place some had known for so long - a few maybe even called it home - the putrid smell of burning friends followed them with the cries of pain and terror.
"Are we safe?" a white she-cat with gray patches panted, her lithe sides heaving from running so far, so quickly. She looked around with olive green eyes at the cats with whom she fled the fire. Her body shook from terror still.
Cedar looked back over his shoulder, not quite out of breath as much as most of the others; he, along with his family Pepper and Smoke, had not been in the Shelter long, so he was still quite used to running and being outside. Still, he was tired and spoke in a breathy tone. "Yeah, I think so. I can't see the fire, or even smoke, anymore." All that surrounded them were tall trees looming overhead and thick brush and brambles naturally tangled.
Pepper finally set the tiny, black kit down and panted, looking around at everyone else. She didn't know many of these cats, including the kit she'd saved. Really, she only knew her adopted brothers, or kits. She wasn't sure what Cedar and Smoke were to her besides simply family.
"What now?" Smoke asked, sitting down and trying to regain control of his breathing. He was a lithe tom with long legs, but he never did too much running, only hunted on occasion, back when he had furlesses taking care of him and his little family.
"We can't stay out here. We will die!" the same long-furred, gray she-cat wailed, just like before in the building. She collapsed and moaned a helpless kind of moan, awaiting death to claim her body.
A large, orange tabby tom with mangled ears rolled his eyes. "We're not going to die, not that easily," he said with a deep mew and flicked his kinked tail. Amusement almost hinted in his voice at the she-cat's motivationless reaction.
"Right, we will be fine," agreed a young calico she-cat, her blue eyes sparkling with anticipation. "This will be just like an adventure! We can survive out here, can't we?" She looked around at the small group of cats around her, pelt prickling with excitement.
"Sure," Pepper answered with an added curt nod. "Cedar, Smoke, and I," she nodded to the two other toms as she spoke their names, "have been Outside a lot. We used to have furlesses taking care of us, but we still slept outside and hunted and kept hold of our territory. We all can do the same now."
"Together," Cedar added, his cream orange tabby coat blowing in the light breeze, but it already had burrs clinging to it.
The fluffy, gray she-cat stared at them for a moment then continued her groaning. "It's hopeless!"
"Alright, that's enough whining. What are you, a kit? Pathetic," a black she-cat snapped, white paws kneading the ground, but no claws showed. Her green eyes glowed with irritation. "The actual kit isn't even bellyaching like you are!" She flicked her tail, or more lashed it, in the direction of the tiny, black she-kit that pepper had carried out. She simply sat there, quietly observing everything happen with silent, amber eyes.
"Hey, don't fight," a skinnier, orange tabby tom mewed, walking over on very long legs. "We will work this all out," he assured the gray she-cat then looked at the angry, black one. "No need to be upset right now."
"No need to be upset? Our Shelter burned down! Our friends died!We could have died!" the black she-cat hissed, tail cutting the air behind her as it lashed furiously. She stood and raised a paw to smack some sense into the orange tom, but a much older tom intervened.
"Alright, that's 'nough! Yer both kits if ya think this'll help anythin'," he said sternly. His frail body shook a tad when he walked over, but his green eyes gave off a vibe that said not to mess with him. He lashed his gray, half tail once then nodded approval when the black cat lowered her white paw then turned her head to grumble something under her breath.
"We clearly can't go back to the Shelter, so we gotta make do with what we got, and that's each other," the old, blue-gray tom said, his voice raspy with age. He gazed around at all the cats who'd escaped with him, silently assessing each one. "Like it or not, we are all a family now. We have to stick together to survive out here."
"Why? Maybe I don't want to stay with all of you. Maybe I'll go out on my own," the black she-cat growled, eyes daring anyone to object.
"I don't think you realize how dangerous that will be," Cedar spoke up rather softly. "I know some of the dangers out here in the Outside. I might only be two seasons old, but I've had more experience out here than I bet you have."
Pepper nodded agreement, as did Smoke. "We all lived together. I lived practically my whole life, nine seasons, Outside. I know how to make it out here, better than you do. If you want to survive, then we all have to stick together," she told the younger cat sternly, her amber eyes giving off an almost cold stare.
The white tom with black patches stood and nodded. "I've only been around for two seasons, too, but I've stayed with them for half that, but even so, I've been Outside all my life. We have no other real choice. We have to stay together, or we'll surely die." He kept his head high, but his speech was slightly impaired in some words from the underbite he had. Teeth did not show, but it was quite noticeable to break some of his words. However, this did not slow him down. "First, we should introduce ourselves. I'm Smoke. It's a pleasure."
"I'm Pepper," the dark gray she-cat meowed next then turned her head to her cream orange companion.
"Everyone calls me Snickers," a long-legged, tuxedo tom, who wasn't quite a tom anymore, with yellow eyes spoke up next, his expression very friendly. "It's very nice to meet you all."
"I'm Lilly!" the young calico pipped up excitedly. "I'm so pumped to go on this adventure with all of you!" She bounced a little in place, green eyes shining brightly.
"The ones at the Shelter called me Colby," the skinny, orange tabby tom said next calmly but gave a friendly glance at everyone as he sat down and curled his long tail around his paws.
"And I'm Charlie," the much bigger, orange tabby tom said next, flicking, or trying to flick, one of his mangled ears. They folded oddly on themselves, but it was clear it had happened from some sort of accident. He did not seem to care, though, and flicked his kinked tail to the gray and white patched she-cat.
"Olive," she answered, looking around with olive colored eyes. "They gave me that name at the Shelter." She was sure at least one cat would have made a comment about her perfectly matching name and eyes if she didn't mention that.
"It's a very nice name," Cedar commented with a friendly, feline grin. He nodded over to the previously, and still rather, distraught long-furred, gray she-cat.
"September," she answered quietly, still visibly against being out where they were.
A tortoiseshell she-cat sat beside her, some fear residing in her green eyes as well. "Molly," she answered.
"What about you?" Cedar asked a pure white tom with a fluffy coat. He stared back with brilliant blue eyes but said nothing. It kind of made the cream orange tom a bit uneasy.
"Oh, that's Ashton," a tiger tabby tom meowed and came to sit by the fluffy, white tom. "He's deaf, but we shared a cage, so I can do some speaking for him. I'm Felix, by the way."
"Ever'one calls me Paps at the Shelter, so we'll go with that fer now," the old tom spoke up next, hunched over slightly where he sat.
Everyone turned their attention to the cranky, young, black she-cat with the white paws. She glared at them all with irritated green eyes, then finally rolled them and sighed. "Ritz," she muttered and turned her head away.
"And what about you, dear?" Pepper inquired sweetly, crouching in front of the jet-black she-kit whom she had saved.
The kit stared at her with pale amber eyes, silent for a moment before shyly squeaking, "Kayla."
"Kayla, what a pretty name," Pepper purred, hoping to make the poor kit feel better. She must have been traumatized from that horrible experience. The kit simply pressed herself against Pepper's soft fur for comfort, and the older she-cat gladly obliged and began to lick the kit's head with long, gentle rasps.
"That's everyone, right?" Cedar asked, eyes shifting to every cats in the crowd. "Good, now, we should decide where to make a temporary place to sleep. We can't stay right here forever, so we should venture out and see if there is a good place that could accommodate all of us," he suggested.
"Wait who made you leader?" Ritz growled, but she wasn't alone this time.
"Yeah, I should probably be leader," Charlie butted in. "No offense, pal, but you're really little. The leader should be big and strong, to protect the group."
"But do you have experience in the Outside like he does?" Olive countered. "How long have you been Outside, and what have you dealt with?"
"Lots of things over a long time," Charlie answered immediately. "I didn't get these ears and tail for nothing!"
"But are you actually qualified to lead us?" Snickers asked. He was almost as big as Charlie was muscle wise, but taller for sure. Charlie had a nice, stocky build, but the black and white tom was built evenly with long legs to tower over the other cats in the group, besides the very tall Colby. "With our logic, I could be leader, too. I'm just not a good fighter at all."
"You're not even a proper tom anymore," Charlie meowed back, seeming ashamed of Snickers for that, like it was his fault.
"Enough. Look, why don't we just have a vote?" Cedar suggested, hoping to bring the tensions down. "Whoever wants to lead can present why they think they are qualified to lead, and then after everyone goes, we will vote."
Charlie thought a moment then nodded agreement, as did Ritz and everyone else. "I'll go first," Charlie said quickly then padded to a small stone which added only a whisker-length of height when he stood on it. He turned and stood before the group then cleared his throat and spoke. "I believe I should be leader because I-"
"Cedar," interrupted a quiet squeak. Everyone turned to look at Kayla as she huddled against Pepper's pelt.
"What?" Charlie asked, confused why the kit had interrupted him like that.
"Cedar should lead," the little kit answered back shyly, but one could tell she really was trying to make a point.
"Yeah, he does know more about Outside than most of us, and he's young, too," Olive meowed.
"Plus, he did show some leadership skills just now bringing up the idea of voting and getting us under control. We were about to tear each other's ears off," Molly meowed, looking at everyone.
"Pepper knows a lot, too," September added. "If he was leader and she was second in command, then we might actually be able to survive!"
Felix nodded at the other comments. "I like that idea. Cedar should lead, and Pepper can be, I don't know, deputy."
Other cats began to murmur agreement. Cedar glanced at the all, really rather shocked that they wanted him to lead the group. He looked over at Pepper. "Are you okay with being my deputy?" he asked, joy starting to rise in his chest.
"Of course," the dark gray she-cat answered.
"And I'll help, too," Smoke added, coming to be beside his family. "Together, we will be the best leaders and make it out here. We will thrive!"
Charlie stepped down from the stone, seeming crest fallen, but he nodded for Cedar to take the rock anyway. Maybe, he thought, it really was for the best? He didn't know much about Outside anyway.
The cream orange tom thanked the larger tom with a nod and jumped up onto the rock, fluffy pelt blowing in the breeze. The burrs continued to stick, but he ignored the and looked down at his group. "A great tragedy has befallen us this day. We have lost many friends and even family, but that does not mean that we cannot continue. As of this moment, we are all family. Everyone has their own story of how they came to be in that place, but that doesn't matter anymore, because now, we all share the same story." His voice rang out proud and strong as all cats looked and listened. "It is a new day, and with it, we are new cats with a big adventure ahead of us."
At the word 'adventure' Lilly let out a small, excited squeak and shifted in place. Amusement crept into Cedar's eyes, but he continued like before. "I, Cedar, will do my best to lead you all with Pepper and Smoke by my side. With our guidance, I hope to bring you all to a life of happiness and peace."
The crowd cheered as Cedar stepped off of the rock. Even Charlie gave a cheer of approval. It seemed that only Ritz remained silent.
Cedar glowed at them all with pride-filled amber eyes. "It's a new dawn. Let's find our new home."
As dawn light penetrated the canopy of thick leaves, dawn's warm light streamed to the life below, blessing what it touched in golden rays. Bird song began up in the tree tops, casting beautiful and natural music and adding to the calm, morning atmosphere. Below, the group of newly freed cats marched, weaving between trees and around snagging brambles. Cedar headed the group with Pepper and Smoke at his sides.
"Do we have any idea where we're going?" Charlie asked from amidst the middle of the following group. "Or are we just blindly wandering the trees?"
"Well, none of us have ever been here in these woods, have we?" Cedar asked back, pausing to glance over hsi shoulder. Other cats in the group shook their heads response. "Then we're just seeing where we end up pretty much. There isn't much else we can do but walk to try and find a place to live."
"But why don't we just stay here?" inquired the giant,orange tabby with an added tilt of his broad head.
"I don't think it's a very good idea," Pepper chimed in. "Something just feels wrong about staying in this place. I can't explain it well, but trust me, when I had this feeling Outside before, it wasn't wrong that something was amiss." With that, she started to move again.
Cedar and Smoke glanced at each other and nodded then turned back to Charlie and the group. "Just trust her," Cedar meowed. He turned and trotted to catch up to his companion, Smoke be his side.
"You've got a point," Snickers meowed to Charlie once they begun moving again. "It all seems pretty peaceful here. Birds are chirping, the sun streams are warm, prey scent is in the air; it all seems so perfect."
"Yeah, it does," Charlie agreed then paused. His eyes searched the ground a moment. "Listen, I'm sorry for saying you weren't a real tom earlier." His eyes stayed to the forest floor, slight guilt rippling through his striped pelt.
The taller tom shook his head. "It's fine. I know I'm not... It's not the best thing to hear or be reminded of, but it's the truth either way."
"Yeah, but I shouldn't have said it like I did. Sorry." His voice dropped to a mutter as embarrassment lurked within it. Suddenly, he perked up again. "I have an idea."
Snickers titled his head to the side inquisitively. "Yeah, what?"
"We should go and scout out the area around us, maybe do some hunting. Everyone is hungry, and if we can prove that this forest is the perfect place to live then we won't have to travel to who knows where." He turned his head to face the black and white tom, his yellow eyes shining.
Snickers' ear twitched. "I'll go and tell Cedar then."
"No!" Charlie said quickly but in a hushed mew. "If they know, they will just say we can't. I know we made him and his friends leaders, but I really think this is a good plan. We can just follow our scent trails back to where the group was walking then catch up with them after we get prey and see the place."
Snickers didn't look too into the idea, but Charlie already started slowly melding into the ferns and bracken, gradually disappearing from the group as they walked. The long-legged tom sighed and flicked his tail in slight annoyance. He couldn't let Charlie go off on his own. He started to do the same when a familiar voice stopped him.
"What are you doing?" He turned to see Lilly watching curiously from behind. No one else had really seemed to notice, lost in their own thoughts or talking to each other, but the calico she-cat's blue eyes were fixed on the tuxedo tom.
He tried to quickly come with a reasonable excuse, but nothing came to mind in his time of crisis. "Charlie wants to go off and hunt and explore. I can't let him go alone," he said honestly after exhaling a defeated sigh.
"Oh, I'm coming, too, then," Lilly meowed - the idea of adventure or exploring always peaked her interest - and turned to Felix who walked beside her. "Charlie, Snickers, and I have to go make dirt somewhere. We will catch up with you guys later." The brown, tiger tabby tom nodded, and with that, Lilly and Snickers were off into the bushes, following Charlie.
"That was quick thinking," Snickers commented to the smaller she-cat. "I didn't have any excuse at all."
Lilly shrugged her gold and white shoulders. "It was no big deal," she mewed. "Let's just catch up to Charlie." The two trotted together, following his scent trail, until they caught sight of their new friend's, kinked tail.
"Glad to see you made it," Charlie said, turning to face them when he heard approaching pawsteps crackling the fallen leaves. He was greeted by a low, rumbling growl and eyes peering from the bushes. Slowly, a russet orange muzzle appeared with yellowing fangs adorning it, soon followed by the broad head and muscular body.
Charlie stepped back, fur bristling and bushing up, ears flattening in preparation of a fight. His eyes fixed on the large, male fox slowly emerging from the holly before him.
Just then, Snickers and Lilly came into sight a couple fox-lengths away, chatting to each other and totally unaware of the danger only moments from them.
Charlie glanced from the beast to his new friends. "Run!" he yowled to which the two looked up just in time to see the fox turn and bound for them.
Fear and primal instinct took over in less than a heartbeat, griping their hearts and minds with unimaginable terror of the moment. They split and both quickly ascended up separate trees.
Charlie sprang into action to give them time and lunged for the fox, unsheathing his claws and sinking them into the beast's hind quarters. It let out a loud yelp of pain and surprise while the large cat, barely half the fox's size, furiously ripped out chunks of red fur and drew blood.
The fox rolled to get its attacker off successfully then spun around and snapped its jaws. Charlie dodged but only just, retaliating with a quick swipe to the muzzle. Fear and adrenaline pumped through his veins, blood pounding in his ears as he fought not only for his life, but for Snickers and Lilly's as well.
"We have to help him!" Lilly said urgently from the safety of her tree branch. "If we don't, he could die!" She looked down, watching as the fox's jaws narrowly missed the tom's face, then as it recoiled from his claws to its nose. She looked over at Snickers. "We have to help!"
"But I can't fight!" Snickers retorted hopelessly and gritted his teeth. "I don't know how at all!"
"Then I'll do it myself," the small she-cat decided. Though, admittedly, she didn't know much about fighting either. She began to descend the tree, jumping the last few tail-lengths. As the fox snapped at Charlie, she took the opportunity of its attention being focused on him to launch herself at its side.
The fox yelped and spun to snap at her once she landed a direct hit, sinking her claws into its pelt. She tore at its side until it grabbed hold of her forepaw in its fangs. Lilly yowled, and the fox threw her across the small open clearing only to have Charlie get back into the fight.
He bunched his muscles and launched himself with all his power at the fox's chest, actually knocking it back and making it fall to the ground where he threw furious blows at its side. The fox struggled and snapped and batted at him, landing a few good hits with its paws, but Charlie wouldn't let up so easily.
Soon, a swarm of cats came from the holly and ferns and mobbed the poor fox, claws and fangs coming from all sides. Finally, the fox had had enough and managed to break away. Yelping in agony and fear, it fled into the near by holly bush it had come from, a small trail of blood following behind it.
"Are you okay?" Smoke asked Charlie immediately after, the tabby's shoulder leaking droplets of blood from a scratch. Thankfully, that was the only injury he had.
"It doesn't matter. Check on Lilly!" His urgent meow sent everyone's gaze to the little she-cat who lie at the edge of the small clearing, her foreleg drenched in her own blood and puncture wound from the fox's teeth.
Everyone crowded around her, but no one knew what to do. If she lost much more blood, she may not make it.
Cedar looked horrified, his mouth open but no words coming out, terror of losing a cat he was no responsible for showing clearly in his eyes. "Does anyone have any ideas?" Eyes traveling to everyone by him for a solution, he hoped at least one cat would know what to do, but no one came forward.
Still watching from his tree, Snickers got a clear view of Lilly. She had fought so bravely to help Charlie. He wouldn't let her die! He looked around quickly, judging and analyzing everything different his eyes landed on. Ferns wouldn't do it, blood could easily leak from under the fronds. Brambles definitely wouldn't do, either. Then, his yellow eyes caught sight of some thick cobwebs woven together in the small hole of a hollow tree. A bunch of the silvery strands shone in glimmering, golden light from above, as if it were a sign from some unknown entity that they were the solution.
He quickly left his tree to bound for the other one. Standing on his hind legs to reach the hole, he stretched a forepaw into the hollowed out trunk. Swishing his white paw around, the strands sticking easily to his fur. Upon retracting his paw, a whole slough of cobwebs clung to it. He hobbled over to Lilly, careful not to let the precious web touch the ground or anything else.
"This might work," he said as cats parted to let him through. He sat next to Lilly and began carefully and quickly wrapping the webbing around her wounds. The web soon began to change crimson, but he would not give up so easily. "I need more cobweb!"
The throng of cats instantly fanned out and checked every place where there may have been a web. Soon, cats lined up before Snickers, their forepaws covered in silky strands.
He worked hard to wrap her leg just right until no more web remained immediately available and Lilly's leg was thick with them. The bleeding stopped.
Lilly laid there, exhausted and in pain, but alive. She opened her eyes, vision a tad blurry, and looked at Snickers. "Thank you," she breathed then passed out.
He sighed with relief, knowing she was still alive and would most likely stay that way now that the bleeding was under control.
The small group of cats began to cheer Snickers' name and nudge him happily. "You saved her life!" "How did you know that would work?" "You're a hero!"
"Alright, quiet down," Pepper interrupted the celebration. "She's not perfect yet. There's still a chance she may not make it." The crowd grew silent and watched her. "She needs rest. If she makes it until the next dawn, then she will live. For now, we need to hunt and eat, and some need to remain here to keep her safe."
"I'll stay," Snickers responded instantly, still sitting next to the multi-colored she-cat. No way was he leaving her side now until she was better.
"I will, too," Charlie added. His shoulder fur around his scratch was stained red with dried blood, but he said nothing about it. "I will fight anything that tries to harm her."
"And I'll stay, so will Ashton," Felix added in.
"I guess I'll stay, too," Ritz mumbled, turning her black head away from everyone else.
Before anyone else could say anything, Pepper nodded and spoke again. "Alright, Kayla and Paps clearly need to stay here, too, while the rest of us need to hunt. We all know how to do that, right?" Her yellow eyes scanned the crowd.
"I don't," September pipped up. "I was always inside with my housefolk." Her fluffy, gray fur and rounded belly reflected what she said; she probably wasn't even in the Shelter long.
"I don't either, and I'm kind of really scared to go out there..." Molly, the tiny torti with no tail mewed quietly.
"Then I'll teach you," Pepper responded. Her eyes reflected determination, helping to give a bit of confidence to the younger she-cats.
"I'll help," Smoke chimed in. "I'll teach Molly, you can teach September." He was always one to be ready to help others, so this was the perfect opportunity for him. Plus, it would benefit the group greatly.
Pepper nodded agreement and soon the cats split into two groups and went off into different directions with their hunting patrols, while the rest remained with Lilly.
Snickers crouched down beside her, watching her flank gently rise and fall with each breath she took. "I swear to you, I will do whatever it takes to keep you alive and make sure you heal," he whispered to her sleeping form.
"It's a nice night, isn't it?" Snickers asked quietly, gazing around at the trees which surrounded them, and the shrouding blackness beyond. The warm air lie still around them, but it was warmer where they touched pelts.
"Yes, it is," Lilly agreed in an equally quiet mew. She laid with her foreleag outstretched, the swath of webs protecting it from outside threats. Her calico fur mixed with his black side as she leaned against him.
"You really should get some sleep like the others. You need rest," he told her, turning his yellow gaze to meet with her blue. Worry swam within his.
"I'm alright," she replied. "You should be asleep, too, anyway. We only need one cat awake at a time to watch out for danger, and Smoke already has that covered," She flicked her tail in gesture at a nearby tree where the black and white tom sat perched on a branch, above the group.
"I can't sleep anyway," Snickers replied. He glanced at all the cats around them, curled up together, making the leaves they rested in one big nest.
Pepper curled around Kayla, the kit. Cedar laid with her, while September and Olive stayed close. Everyone touched someone else's pelt, except for Ritz, who decided to sleep a tail-length away from the group. It was nice, though, to see everyone together like this.
The night fell silent once again, the only sound being that of breathing cats. It was peaceful.
After a few moments, Lilly spoke up again, breaking the silence. "Where do you think we're going to go?" she asked, staring off into the distance in front of her with an intense, blue stare of thought.
"What do you mean?"
"We're moving when the sun comes up, aren't we? We can't stay here. There's nowhere to make an acceptable home here. Cedar, Pepper, and Smoke know that. But, I don't think they know where they're going. I don't think any of us really know what's out there."
Snickers listened quietly, mauling over her words as she spoke them. She was right. For all they knew, it was nothing but forest, or danger around every tree trunk. Where would they go?
"We were all forced into this, living together and wandering the land. I just hope karma gives us a good place to stay, to call home...somewhere out there."
"Me too," Snickers sighed and laid his head down on his paws. "We should both try to get some sleep for when the sun rises. It's only been a couple suns since your injury happened, so it's still healing. Sleep will do it some good, and you'll need the energy," he told her.
Lilly nodded. "I know, you're right." She let out a small sigh of her own and rested her head on his midnight shoulder then closed her eyes. Mentally, she prayed, though she didn't know to who, that they would find a good home soon.
"At least let me be your support. I'm worried your wound will reopen."
"Alright." With a sigh, Lilly leaned against the bigger, black and white tuxedo tom, her injured foreleg dangling in the air. His fur was warm against hers, like when they had curled up together in the group that night. Now that it was dawn, the group was moving.
"Are you sure you're going to be alright for this move?" Cedar asked one final time, padding over to the two. "If you need us to slow down, we will. Just say so."
"I promise I'm okay," Lilly insisted, not at all yet frustrated with the group's constant worrying questions. It was nice to know they cared so much.
Cedar nodded and turned away. "Alright everyone, let's get going." With that, he began to lead the way through thick brush and undergrowth. It being the height of spring, or as they called it, season of new leaves, everything plant was thriving.
Pepper picked up Kayla in her mouth as the trek started. It would be much easier and more convenient to carry the kit rather then wait for her to keep up. She was still so small and weak. Also, the kit didn't seem to socialize with anyone else but Pepper.
The rest of the group followed, staying close. Smoke stayed at the back with Charlie, more or less guarding the very vulnerable Snickers and Lilly. Ritz actually stayed in the middle of the group, to other cats' surprise; so far, she hadn't been the friendliest or most social of the bunch.
"Where do you think we're going to go?" Molly asked nervously. Her torti pelt prickled at the thought of all the unknown dangers ahead.
"I don't know. I don't understand why we can't stay here. There's plenty of prey. We saw a lot when we went with Smoke to hunt, remember?" September meowed, fluffy tail swishing with anxiety.
"It's not safe here, that's why." Charlie's deep mew came from behind the two females. "Anything could attack us here at any time. We don't know the land, and any one of us could end up like Lilly." He cast a glance over his shoulder at the calico and Snickers. Of course, he felt guilty for what had happened. It was his fault. If he could have defeated that fox on his own, then Lilly wouldn't have come to help him like that, and she wouldn't have gotten hurt. If only he had been stronger...
"It's not your fault, you know?" Colby's voice said from ahead of them, his head turned and looking back at the three, mostly Charlie. The long-legged tom slowed his pace and fell back to walk beside the bigger tabby. "One cat can't take on a fox by themselves, no matter how big or strong or experienced they are." It wasn't hard to see what Charlie was thinking. One look in his eyes said it all.
"But I should have been abl-" he cut off as he bumped into September. "Hey, why'd you stop?" Sudden irritation flared in his voice. When she didn't answer, he looked over her head and others. His eyes grew wide with shock and slight disgust.
"Where do you think you lot are going?" a she-cat inquired, her voice smooth like honey but riddled with attitude. She sat in front of the group, perched perfectly on a large boulder which was covered in lichen.
None of the cats in the group spoke for a moment, shocked by her appearance. Finally, Smoke stepped forward and uttered, "Are you okay?"
The she-cat scoffed at his question. "Of course I am! What, do you have the brain of a mouse? Mouse-brain?" She glared down confidently at them all.
Smoke's tail tip twitched only once. "No, just caring. In case you haven't noticed, you're kind of...burnt. A lot. You look like you need help."
The she-cat atop the rock let out a hiss but flattened her pelt before it could really rise. She sighed. "I'm well aware of my current state, but it doesn't mean anything. However, I will admit you are right in one aspect. I could use some help, but I bet you lot could use it more."
"What do you mean by that?" Ritz snapped from the middle of the cats. "We're perfectly fine here, unlike you." Her green eyes glared furiously at the rude she-cat.
Before Ritz could unleash a barrage of insults, cedar stepped forward to the base of the boulder and looked up at the mangled cat, flicking his plumy tail up for silence from his group. "What help could you offer us?" he asked, keeping his voice calm.
"Navigation," she answered confidently. "I've been watching you all for a while now, and it seems you have no idea where you're going. So, I will take it upon myself to help you find a safe place. I know the land's reaches further and better than any of you could ever hope to comprehend. I've been all over."
"And in exchange?" Cedar asked, clearly interested in the proposal. She was right in saying they had no diea where they were going, so having someone to guide them through this forest would be a huge asset. However, if what she wanted in return was too great, then they would all have to take their chances.
"In exchange, I want your protection. Safety is always in numbers, simple as that," she answered, her gaze sweeping through the throng of cats below her. "And food would be nice, too. You see, it's a little hard to hunt in my state. Still, a safe place for everyone seems well worth it to me."
Cedar looked down, mauling it over in his head. He turned to Pepper and Smoke. "What do you guys think?"
"It would be nice to know where we're headed," Smoke meowed then added in a lower mew, "and I feel bad for her. I mean, it's a wonder she cat even walk anymore."
Pepper simply nodded agreement, her mouth full of kit fur still. Kayla herself simply tried not to look at the yellow she-cat on the boulder out of fear.
With a quick glance back at the others, he made his decision. "Alright, if you can lead us to somewhere safe, you can stay with us and we will hunt for you," he told the stranger. Looking at her half-burnt, black and pink face, he knew Smoke had a good point. He felt bad for her, too. "However, it has already been voted upon that I make the choices, with the help of my friends. You will guide us, but I will stay leader. Is that fair?"
"Plenty fair," she agreed then leapt down from the boulder by Cedar's side. Her remaining, golden eye shone with smug satisfaction.
Cedar's first reaction was to take a step back, but he held his ground. She looked rather grotesque, yeah, but he wouldn't let loos intimidate him, especially if she was to be a part of the their group now. "My name is Cedar, by the way. And those are my friends and kin, Pepper and Smoke. he nodded to each of them respectively. "And your name?"
"Waffles," the she-cat replied. "Now, let's get going, shall we?" With that, she turned and headed off to the left of the boulder. As she rounded it, her left side was visible to the group. Almost the entire portion of her skin was exposed and burnt. The whole of the group cringed.
"So, you were, uh, from the Shelter, too?" Colby asked, trying to be friendly and social with the new cat in the group. He walked by her side, her unharmed side, while she led the group through winding forest paths deer had made.
"Yes," Waffles answered with an added nod. "I was the last one to make it out, but barely. You all left before I could catch up."
"Oh, I'm sorry. We didn't realize there was anyone else coming. We thought we were the only ones..." The long-legged tabby felt bad inside now, knowing they had almost left another cat behind to die when they could have done something. They probably could have saved her from getting so badly burnt. The thought haunted him.
She shrugged it off like it was no big deal. "You're all making it up to me now by giving me your numbers and prey, in exchange for my guidance of the area, of course. It's all a fair trade, if you ask me."
"Where are we going anyway?" Cedar asked from behind. "You said you'd take us to somewhere safe, but where? How far is it?"
"Rather far, but the journey is well worth it once you see the area. It's magnificent. No predators, plenty of prey, and so much land to explore without threat. You'll love it." She seemed very sure of it all, maybe even too confident.
"Does a place like that even exist?" Ritz inquired from further back in her typical, snarky fashion.
Waffles rolled her eye and glanced back. "Of course it does. You're all so skeptical, it's really rather amusing. Trust me, you'll thank me so much once we're there."
Murmurs rose from the garrison while they continued to walk, exchanging doubts and hopes alike amoungst each other. It went on lie this until the sun was at its peak in the sky, and the cats came to a sudden, steep slope upwards. They stopped.
"No what?" Ritz piped up, agitated. Her tail lashed in the air, smacking Charlie in the face.
"Watch it, will ya?" the big tom growled in response.
"Or what?" She flattened her black ears and unsheathed her claws, ready for a fight.
"Stop it, the both of ya," Paps snapped. He had no patience for grown cats who squabble like kits.
Both cats glared at each other through narrowed slits but stood down. Simultaneously, they turned their heads away, tails twitching.
"Lovely group you have here," Waffles commented quite sarcastically to Cedar then turned her attention to speak to everyone at once. "Alright, we're going to have go over the mountain here."
"Over it? Look how high and steep it is! Why can't we just go around it?" September called out.
"Yeah, I'd rather not climb such a high mountain if I don't have to," Felix agreed. "And I don't think Ashton does either." He looked to the deaf tom beside him, who simply stared up through the trees at the obstacle ahead.
"I'm scared to climb so high like that. The rocks look unstable." The small torti known as Molly trembled at the very thought of tumbling down from such heights.
"You will all be fine," Waffles assured them. "We would go around, but take a look both ways, it stretches on forever. Our only choice is to climb. If we go carefully, we will make it no problem."
Snickers piped up then. "But Lilly's leg is still hurt. I don't think she should be straining it like that." His eyes and voice showed clear concern.
Waffles shook her head. "So we will go slow. Look, if we keep arguing, we will never make it anywhere, and the longer we stay here, the more at risk we are. Now, let's start getting our cat butts up these rocks." With that, she began climbing. Dirt and small pebbles slid out of place from her paws and rolled down the side in her wake. Still, she used larger, more anchored stones as pawholds, along with some clinging shrubbery. Progress was made.
The others looked at one and other but soon formed a single file line and started climbing, following the exact trail their guide had taken for maximum safety. However, Snickers risked it and climbed beside Lilly, instead, letting her have Waffles's path. He kept his eyes on her more than the trail ahead. In turn of his care, Smoke and Charlie climbed side by side behind them, ready to catch Lilly or Snickers should one of them happen to slip.
Gradually, everyone made it to a more stable part of the mountain, with much struggle. Their paws now walked on a narrow tail made of stone, one side of the ledge occupied by more mountain stone, while the other was nothing but air and gravity.
"Just don't look down, focus on what's ahead," Snickers assured Lilly but was worried now that he would have no choice but to walk behind her as the trail was much too narrow. He grasped his jaws around her tail gently and pressed himself against the wall. Should her limp make her fall, he would be there to catch her. It would hurt, yes, but she would have a much better chance at staying alive.
The forest below them was much large looking now. They'd all climbed the slope very high, high enough so that their view was above the canopies, and the forest stretched out almost endlessly, only broken up by rivers and a few dotting furless camps.
"I don't like it up here," Molly complained, her voice trembling as much as her legs. She pressed herself as close to the rock wall as absolutely possible, heart about to burst from its cage of bone.
"You'll be okay," Felix said from behind her, Ashton in the middle of them. "Just keep walking forward and focus on the cat in front of you," he told her softly to sooth the terrified torti. "I'm more worried about Lilly. With her paw, she's more at risk than any of us. pepper, too, actually, carrying that kit in her jaws still. She must be so tired by now..."
An eagle sounded in the distance. Molly jumped, spinning around at the strange noise. The next thing anyone knew, she was gone, leaving only a haunting, echoed screech of pure fear behind, then the distant crashing of tree limbs and sliding rocks.
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