A Time for War: My Entry for the Fest

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A Time for War: My Entry for the Fest

Post by Silentshadow on Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:22 pm

Prologue

Spoiler:
The moon shed its milky light across the snowy mountains, making everything seem to shine with its own brilliance. Shadowy clouds crept across the sky, covering the light source at intervals, casting eerie shadows dancing across the white expanse. The pine trees remained still and silent like statues, yet the bare, deciduous trees creaked and groaned under the weight of the soft, powdery snow. Delicate, glistening frost covered all of the rocks protruding from the snow, and a half-frozen river cut though the hills and mountainous rocks. Somewhere, the soft songs of a bird began and stopped, as it opened its wings and flew away. Underneath the branch, two she-cats trotted along, keeping a quick, steady pace. The bigger she-cat ran slightly in the lead, her blue-gray fur barely visible under the shadow of the pine trees, yet her wary pale blue eyes flicked back and forth, making it easy to track her progress, even at night. The smaller golden tabby she-cat loped at the bigger she-cat’s shoulder, her narrow, delicate frame a sharp contrast from her companion’s.
After a while, the bigger she-cat glanced over her shoulder at her acquaintance. “Are you tired?”
Amber eyes glittering, the small cat shook her head.
“We’ll rest anyways,” she replied as her pale blue eyes flicked away from the accusing golden gaze. “Don’t worry, we’ll get back in time.”
The golden she-cat’s eyes flared in anger. “Thorn is going to kill me! Why do you think Althea is going to spare you in any way, Azure?” Her soft pawsteps made the snow crunch and squeak, sending a small squirrel scampering across the snow. It leaped up on a bare tree and chattered crossly at them, but they ignored it.
“I never said she was going to spare me. I just don’t care! This is going to be fun! Can you just stop worrying about making yourself look bad in front of Xanon?” Azure retorted impatiently, her tail twitching half in impatience, and half in amusement.
The smaller she-cat scowled and gave Azure a hefty shove in the shoulder. “Shut up!”
Hardly stumbling, Azure continued, “Anyways, we’re near the abandoned fortress now at any rate.”
“Oh sure! I don’t see any big stone castle; you think it’s going to be easy to miss that big, dark mass of human-craft on this bright white, snowy mountain?”
Azure rolled her eyes. “Of course not! Kapu said it was concealed cleverly, remember? It was just past a big rock, he said” She padded forward confidently, and meowed over her shoulder, “Just you see, we’ll come up the fortress before you can say ‘mouse’!”
The small golden tabby rolled her eyes and raced ahead, glancing back at Azure in exasperation.
The golden she-cat was still glancing over her shoulder at Azure as they loped along when they had rounded a bend, and the massive boulder had loomed out of no where. The golden she-cat slammed into the rock head-first, as she tried to turn to look around. Azure screamed and raced over to the limp body of the she-cat. “Wake up! Please!” But the other she-cat wouldn’t stir. Already, a pool of blood had surrounded her narrow head, soaking into the snow, staining it red. The warrior’s breathing came shallow and quick, barely audible, and her golden pelt was matted with blood. Silence enveloped them; it seemed that the whole mountain was holding their breath, waiting for nature to take its course.
“No! That won’t happen!” Azure hissed under her breath. But it was too late, she knew. It was at least a two mile walk back to camp, and they would never make it! She dug her claws into the tightly packed snow, refusing to call out. If I do, the Outsiders would sooner eat us then help us! But… but what if the rumors aren’t true? Suppose the wolves don’t eat cats? Part of her mind scolded Azure that she’d even think of such a silly notion, but the other part of her mind said, they go to the Gatherings in peace, but would they keep that peace here? No one has tried it this generation, at least.
Desperation, however, overcame Azure’s long-held fear of wolves. Her best friend’s blood was seeping out into the snow, and she was here dithering about wolves! Even though her best friend grew up in a different Clan, they had become fast friends at their first Gathering. From then on, neither had ever thought they had found such a good friend in either of their Clans. So their friendship had stuck, no matter how Althea and Thorn alike had warned, threatened, and pleaded.
Making up her mind, Azure lifted her head, and yowled, “Help! Help us! Help! Help!’
She yowled and cried non-stop for two minutes, before giving up, panting, her voice hoarse. So the wolves really are cruel as they say.
But just as Azure had those thoughts, three slender shapes detached themselves from the shadows and padded gracefully forward, their paws leaving no sound on the fresh snow.
The leader, a broad-shouldered, thick-furred black wolf stepped forward and gazed at the two she-cats with narrowed yellow eyes. Then he barked something in the wolf language, and the other two wolves, a she-wolf and a male wolf, slipped the golden she-cat onto the she-wolf’s back. The other wolf immediately left afterward, running fleet-footed back to the fortress.
The leader turned back to Azure, his thick black tail twitching. “Walk,” he ordered, in the cat-tongue, and turned away.

Chapter 1
Spoiler:
The path was cold and empty, the forest looming liek a dark spirit, crushing out everything else with its mass. A large owl hooted mournfully and swooped across the quarter-moon. An eerie wolf howl soared over the trees, but it was torn apart by the whistling wind that howled furiously like a wounded beast.
"Spirit-forsaken wind!" spat a voice. A dark, shadowy figure stalker out of the undergrowth, ears flat to her head as she resisted the pull of the wind.
A bigger, stockier shape ventured out after the first and replied, carefully avoiding the subject of the weather, "Amber's very late. At least we're rather close to the Spiritpool."
The smaller she-cat snapped her head around and glared furiously at Royce. "Why do we have to wait here? The Spirit Cave will shelter us from the wind. We can wait there!"
Royce shook his head at Yan adamantly. "I don't know why you're so impatient all the time. The Spirits will be angry if we leave Amber behind," he reasoned, trying to calm the black she-cat down.
Yan sniffed. "Pssh! They'll be angry only with the Pack of Coming Night, at most. Amber is the one that's late!" She sat down, nursing her bad temper as she struggled to find what meager shelter Royce's body provided. If this wind keeps up, she thought sourly. I'll have to--
A primitive wolf-cry interrupted Yan's throughts, sending her fur prickling. "I hate the Outsiders!" she spat, unsheathing her claws.
"You hate everything," Royce answered lightly, but she noticed that he looked distinctly uncomfortable. Even though Royce had trained as a warrior before he became apprentice Healer in the Pack of Setting Sun, it had been seasons since he had last used his faded fighting skills to fight the savage wolves.
The rushing wind brought faint traces of the scent of the Pack of Coming Night, and at the top of the kill, a small figure appeared.
"About time!"
The cat scrambled down the slope, rushing over to her fellow Healers, eyes wild with fear. "Michaela's gone!" Amber panted, skidding to a stop.
Yan cocked her head. "Azure's gone too!" she mewed, surprise suppressing her initial irritation.
"Gone!" Amber wailed. "That's why I was late. I was helping my Pack search for my sister!"
Royce got to his paws, his dark blue eyes sympathetic, yet curious at the same time. "You didn't have to come."
"She wants to ask the Spirits," Yan interrupted, searching Amber's devastated air. "And Amber had to come anyways," she added, now addressing Royce. "You heard of what happened the last tiem a Healer refused to attend the Quarter-Moon meeting."
The last time that a Healer had been absent from several meetings, the Spirits punished them all, even the Outsiders, with a severe famine. Cats starved and died, and so did wolves. The wolves rent the air with their hunger-cries, and eventually, they had even taken to raiding the Packs' camps and using the cats as a source of prey out of desperation, violating the Pact of Peace. But that had been seasons ago, when the wolves had been banished and named the Outsiders.
Yan suddenly realized that everything was quiet. Silent. Way too quiet to be normal. "What--?" Royce slapped his tail over her mouth as Yan hissed. Blinking, she noticed that his eyes were fixed on the line of trees nearby. Amber was practically whimpering in fear; she was the youngest of the three Healers, since she had still been an apprentice when Starr, the former Pack of Coming Night Healer had died of pneumonia.
The odor of wolf swamped Yan's senses, strange and wild, and old instincts made her tail bush out like a bottlebrush, her teeth bared in defiance. It was growing stronger, stronger...
"Who goes there?" Yan yowled angrily, unable to contain herself, her voice hard and brittle. She hated fealing fear such as this, as she despised wolves since they're betrayal.
Royce glanced at her. "Are you mad?" he demanded. "Do you want to make them--"
"No!"
Amber screeched when a Spirit cat blinked into existence before her. Yan grimaced as she made out its features.
It was a particularly foul Spirit; a Spirit who had died trying to commit some bad deed. "No," the ghost repeated forcefully, his voice hoare and creaky from disuse. His fur was ragged, one ear torn to ribbons. Several scars laced his scrawny body and an eye was missing. "Kill the wolf! Do not reason with it! Kill it!" The Spirit howled as two wolves detached themselves from the trees. Immediately, the larger wolf of the two lunged at the Spirit, who's essence was already streaming away into the sky as it faced the creatures that had caused his downfall.
Royce snarled and pushed Amber up the path toward the Spiritpool, and reached for Yan, but she ducked out of his way. Contempt in her eyes, she faced the wolves. Yan knew Spirit's weren't solid.
Just as the thought reached her mind, the wolf slammed her paw into the Spirit's chest, and the old cat dissolved into millions of specks of star dust. "We mean no harm!" she barked quickly.
Amber blinked in surprise. "You speak in cat-tongue!"
The second she-wolf stepped forward. "Of course we can. And before you ask, we can destroy Spirits if we wish. I'm Anja, the Shaman, equivalent of your Healer, and that's Silver, the Beta Female."
"Why are you here?" Royce growled, bristling warily. "The Outsiders have never attended Quarter-Moon meetings."
Yan silently nodded in agreement.
Silver sighed heavily. "I am the Beta, so I carried this message to you, from Zero, our Alpha."
Yan eyed the wolves suspiciously. If they had anything to do with either Azure or Michaela, then--
"We found two cats close to our camp a few days ago," Silver growled. "One, golden-furred, was injured and near death. The other was blue-gray, and she's lost. Gone."

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Silentshadow
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