Book 1: Warriors: The Shadow Outcast

I am human, or I was. I was fine, and now I'm cursed with insanity. They say I can do great things, but all I've done so far is kill. Sacrifice can only get me so far, and the feeling of exile and outcast isn't new to me. Is this what you wanted StarClan?


13. Chapter 11

Chapter Eleven

Rainpaw’s legs were aching as he ran, noticing the moon getting lower and lower in the sky. Dawn was coming, and they still hadn’t found the kits. He could tell Sweetpaw was getting tired, for she slowed down a lot as they were getting closer.

Robinpaw sped up, then, and picked up Sweetpaw by the scruff. Rainpaw ran up beside her and smiled, knowing that Robinpaw would want to know that they were all with her. Sweetpaw then began calling out instructions on where to go, and everything seemed to going quite well.

“Stop!” Sweetpaw suddenly yelled, making the three cats skid to a halt as Robinpaw put her down. Sweetpaw sniffed the area and looked back to Rainpaw.

“This was where we found the body,” Sweetpaw explained pride showing in her eyes. Rainpaw smiled.

“Good job,” he said. “But we’re still not done. Do you think you could help us scent the kits out?” Sweetpaw nodded, and then the four of them got to work. Rainpaw was now relying on his friends, because he honestly wasn’t a good tracker.

Rainpaw sniffed and sniffed, but nothing had Bluekit or Lionkit’s scent on it. There were plenty of rogue trails, but they were all stale. Jayflight’s scent was strong as well, and the smell of blood made him wrinkle his nose when he got too close.

He found something interesting then. There was a large stone den, small enough only for a few cats to fit through. It had the rogue scent all over it, but that was stale as well. However, it looked as if someone had tried to get rid of the scent.

“I found the kits scent!” Shadowpaw called then, bringing him back to reality. “Come on! Let’s follow it!” Rainpaw looked up from what he was doing and forgot all about the rogue scent. He followed his friends, leaving the stone den behind.

Rainpaw ran to catch up with his friends, exhausted yet happy that they’d found the kits scent. It didn’t take them long to find the two kits, and when they did Robinpaw seemed really, really happy.

“Bluekit! Lionkit!” Robinpaw called. “Over here!” The two kits looked over to them, and then their smiles turned into frowns. They then began running, making Rainpaw dart forward.

They chased the kits, but not for long. The two found another stone den and crawled in, making Rainpaw narrow his eyes. Robinpaw was much taller than him, Shadowpaw too. Sweetpaw was too inexperienced to go, and so he would have to go through the tunnel first, even if they wanted to.

Rainpaw leaped in front of Robinpaw and crawled under the opening, looking for the kits as he did so. He caught a glimpse of Lionkit’s ginger tail before it disappeared, and then he followed it. Their scent wasn’t hard to follow, but it was being blended in with the awful rogue stench that was definitely not stale. There were some near, but he couldn’t just leave the kits behind.

Rainpaw could hear Robinpaw, Shadowpaw, and Sweetpaw crawling in as he crawled on his belly toward the kits. It was dark and damp, and he was going down. Rainpaw knew he must be going underground inside the tunnel, but he just didn’t understand it.

So many things were going through Rainpaw’s head as he crawled toward the kits. The rogues were definitely close, and not to mention how dangerous it was to be crawling around in such damp tunnels. It was definitely nerve racking.

Then, just as Rainpaw was about to catch up with the kits, he realised that there was a tunnel right beneath them that literally went down without a slop to catch them.

“Bluekit! Lionkit! Stop!” Rainpaw yelled, but it was too late. They had already fallen. Rainpaw growled to himself and then jumped down as well, noticing Robinpaw and Shadowpaw yell after him.

Rainpaw landed smoothly on his feet, and he was surprised. Usually he wasn’t the one to make clean landings, but apparently he’d timed everything right. Rainpaw then ran to find Bluekit and Lionkit, who were still visible in the cloudy darkness.

As Rainpaw began running, he realised they weren’t in a tunnel anymore. They were in a cave, and from the darkness around him, he could tell that it was a large one. Rainpaw skidded to a halt as he realised how strong the rogue’s stench was, and then he heard the loud hostile hisses coming from the darkness.

They were inside Shadow’s hideout.

Rainpaw hissed with frustration before turning around to warn his friends, but unfortunately he found them already fighting two very strong toms. Rainpaw growled again before turning around and running back toward Bluekit and Lionkit, who were no doubt meeting rogues.

When Rainpaw caught up, however, he found Lionkit and Bluekit’s scruffs already in the mouths of a very scary looking dark brown tom. Rainpaw narrowed his eyes with anger as his ears shot back against his head, showing his fury.

“Let them go!” Rainpaw demanded. “We didn’t come here to intrude!” The tom just shook his head and took two steps back, making Rainpaw let out a loud screech. He couldn’t really tell what was happening behind him, he just wanted to get out of the death trap.

“Leave them and fight me!” Rainpaw yowled. “I know you want to! Or are you too scared?” The tom narrowed his eyes then, but still did not let the kits go.

“He’s not scared of you,” a sudden voice replied, one that was familiar enough to make Rainpaw growl. “He’s scared of me. Disobeying direct orders could get ya killed down here. I thought you knew all that, since you’ve experienced something. . .well, sort of like that anyway.”

“So this is your hide-out?” asked Rainpaw, turning to face the yellow-eyed tom. “Pretty easily found, if you ask me. Not at all like your usual attacks are, Shadow. Should I be worried that you’re no longer a worthy opponent?”

“Worthy opponent?” asked Shadow, tilting his head a little. “That’s not like you, Rainpaw. Has your scar been scratched lately?” Rainpaw growled in frustration, his claws automatically unsheathing as his anger rose.

“Well, if you don’t want to tell me, I’ll just have to find out myself,” Shadow hissed before lunging toward Rainpaw. Rainpaw leapt to the left to evade the attack before lunging toward Shadow himself. He bit into the dark cat’s neck, clawing at his side as he did so.

Shadow didn’t hesitate to grab Rainpaw’s scruff and throw him off, his teeth sinking into the small apprentice’s skin. Rainpaw screeched as he slid into the cold stone wall, then fell with his right shoulder throbbing. Rainpaw got up slowly, though quick enough to see Shadow’s attack. Rainpaw jumped aside as Shadow reached for him, evading the attack with difficulty.

Shadow then screeched with fury as he turned around to face Rainpaw, his yellow eyes looking as if they were orange as the anger boiled within the evil cat.

“The strongest win the fight, Shadow,” Rainpaw taunted, narrowing his eyes tighter. “I thought you knew that. You know, since you came from a pretty evil place. Maybe that’s why you were exiled: you were just too weak.” Shadow growled before lunging at him. Rainpaw dodged, but suddenly he felt a large amount of weight on his back.

Rainpaw collapsed under the weight and yowled in agony as the cat on top of him raked its claws down his back. Shadow’s laughing echoed against the cave walls, making Rainpaw try to cover his ears. He tried to struggle free, but more and more cats pinned him down. It was useless, the fight was over.

Rainpaw growled lowly as he looked to see where Robinpaw, Sweetpaw and Shadowpaw were. Just like him, they were pinned down and unable to move much. They only had two or three cats keeping them down, unlike him who had several cats.

Sweetpaw looked as if she were going to pass out with fright while Robinpaw just looked worried, yet annoyed. Shadowpaw looked scared, though she seemed determined to get the toms off of her. Lionkit and Bluekit, who were being held by the scruffs next to the apprentice’s, looked as if they thoroughly regretted even setting a paw out of camp.

“You see it don’t you?” asked Shadow then, stepping in front of him. “The fear in their eyes, the very emotion you’ve made so many feel. I enjoy it, but you. . .not so much. Why is that? I’ve never understood it. I mean, after all, before you came to the Clans you were feared beyond all else. With that scar of yours, the kittypets hardly dared to go near you. The only one that loved you was your precious little brother, the one you died for.”

“Shut up!” Rainpaw hissed, lunging forward. The cats kept him there, one of them even biting into his skin. He pushed aside the pain and calmed down, though he was still angry. Shadow’s sick grin turned into a face innocent frown then, showing his fake concern.

“Oops, I should stop talking now shouldn’t I?” asked Shadow, a fake look still on his face. “However, I find it fun, and since you can’t stop me, I’ll be continuing.” Rainpaw growled again.

“Your story is much more interesting,” growled Rainpaw then, “Why don’t you tell them yours?” Shadow hissed, and then Rainpaw felt claws raking down his back again, opening the old wounds further. He forced himself to stay quiet, though he still whimpered a bit.

“Crying now, are you?” asked Shadow, a smirk on his face. “I thought you were used to this. The beatings, the scars, and the murder. If I remember correctly, that’s how your brother died, wasn’t it?” Rainpaw growled again, thought this time it was louder, and now it was Shadow’s second warning.

“Oh yes, you remember,” Shadow growled, a scowl in his face. “The day you got the glorious star-shaped scar that everyone seems to love. You stood there, unable to move just like you are now, watching your precious twin brother die in front your eyes. That death was the first that ended up being your fault, and now you do it all the time. That’s why I’m confused. Shouldn’t someone like you love killing? Shouldn’t someone like you love seeing your brother die in front of you? I know I would, my brother is weakling, even if he does have nine lives.”

“Just because he was brave enough to leave that place you used to call home doesn’t mean he’s weak!” Rainpaw hissed, baring his teeth the cruel cat. “Your brother was braver than I will ever be! You are a Shadow. You are the shadow of your brother, and shall always be looked down upon. You have no friends, no one to lick you when your cold, which is actually all the time! You’re heart lays forgotten, and even though mine was too, I’ve found it! I may have been just like you when I was younger, but I’ve found what friendship means, and I shall forever cherish those around me, even if they hate me after tonight!” Shadow narrowed his eyes as Rainpaw finished his speech. It was quiet then, but only for a few moments.

“You have grown weak, Rainpaw, and therefore you have no reason to live.” Shadow turned around with a grin on his face. “Kill him.” Rainpaw’s heart raced then, hoping that he could get out of this mess. Pain overwhelmed him then, this time forcing him to yowl out in pain.

“Wait,” Shadow ordered then, making the pain ease up a bit. “I think. . .oh yes, I definitely think we should let him suffer pain, but not only physically, but mentally as well. Seeing his friends die in front of him would definitely be the best way to go, don’t you think? Though, just in case he gets any ideas, we might want to have Venom scratch him up a bit.”

“Master?” a cat called from the shadows. A large white cat then stepped into the dim light that went around the cave, his fur blood stained. “You called for me?”

“Ah yes, thank you Venom, for listening,” said Shadow, turning to face the large white tom. “We have a nuisance that I’d like you to get rid of. You know, with those painful claws of yours.” Venom, the white cat, then tilting his head.

“Really?” he asked, walking over to Rainpaw, seeming to examine him. “He must be really special for you to want to kill him so painfully.”

“Ah yes, this one has gotten on my nerves.” Shadow replied. “Such a weakling he is.”

“Oh really?” asked Venom, a sick grin forming on his face. “Then this should be easier that I had originally thought.”

Venom then lunged forward, slashing his green claws across Rainpaw’s neck. It was painful, but he didn’t die. The gash was high enough to bleed heavily, but low enough not to kill him instantly. Rainpaw forced back a loud screech by biting his tongue, making blood fill in his mouth.

“Painful, isn’t it?” asked Shadow, sitting as he continued talking. “and that is just the beginning. Now, ready to watch your friends die?” Rainpaw hissed with fury, lunging forward again, trying to get free of the cat’s grip. He failed, getting pinned down even harder.

Shadow laughed before standing and turning around. He then walked up to Robinpaw, making Rainpaw yowl. Shadow smiled at this.

“So, you like this one, eh?” asked Shadow. “Then she shall be first.” Shadow then turned to face Robinpaw again, and lunged toward her. Rainpaw lunged forward, struggling harder this time. The cats holding him pulled harder, but he still struggled.

“No!” Rainpaw yelled, watching as Shadow bite into Robinpaw’s neck. Robinpaw yelled, shock showing in her jade green eyes. Then, just as it had done with Thorntail, memories to last a lifetime hit him all at the same time. He fell limp as he remembered, watching the glimpses of his past life pass through him.

Robinpaw continued screaming, Rainpaw heard it, and he was trying to gather up his strength to save her. Then the memories eased, and he lunged forward with all of his strength—plus a little extra—and broke free of the cats holding him down. After being limp for some time, the cats who’d been holding him were surprised and therefore let him escape easily.

Rainpaw then ran over to Robinpaw quickly and tore Shadow away from her, raking his claws down the dark tom’s back. Shadow screeched, making Rainpaw smile. Shadow’s paw came toward him, but Rainpaw’s sudden quick reflexes let him evade the attack easily. Every cat in the cave then dropped what they were doing and tried to catch Rainpaw, which was harder than it looked to most.

Rainpaw’s body had the speed and strength of that when his scar was scratched, though he actually wasn’t crazy. He was perfectly sane. Well, aside from the fact that his anger was fuelling his power.

Robinpaw and Shadowpaw joined in on the fight while Sweetpaw watched the kits. Rainpaw then made his way over to his friends, getting their attention then.

“Get the kits and get out!” Rainpaw ordered. “I can handle myself here!”

“You’ll get yourself killed, Rainpaw!” Robinpaw yelled back, her jade green eyes narrowing. “Let us stay and help you!”

“This is my fault, and if you died I’d kill myself!” Rainpaw yelled. “Get the Clan if it’ll make you feel better, just get out of here while you still can!” Robinpaw hesitated, but then nodded and called Sweetpaw and Shadowpaw over. Soon, the three of them and the kits were gone. Rainpaw sighed with relief.

A bunch of cats suddenly jumped onto Rainpaw, making him fall to the ground. He was pinned once again to the ground, but he had a plan this time. Shadow walked up to Rainpaw then, his eyes narrowed.

“What a wonderful little stunt you pulled,” Shadow growled, a scowl on his face. “Too bad it’ll end soon.” Rainpaw hissed before lunging forward, only that just brought him more pain. The pain was a burning sort, and it was as if he were bit by a snake.

Rainpaw took a few steps back, realising his vision getting a bit blurry. His body was getting numb, and his hearing wasn’t as good as usual. He then saw Shadow smirk.

“W-what’s happening?” Rainpaw asked.

“You noticed, didn’t you?” asked Shadow, walking a few steps closer. “Venom didn’t just nearly kill you, Rainpaw. He injected the juice of the death berry through his claws. It won’t kill you, not for a few days anyway, but it’ll be extremely painful. The best part? There is nothing you can do about it.” Rainpaw wanted to hurt Shadow so bad, he wanted to kill him. But he couldn’t. His body was giving out, and it was just too soon.

A paw suddenly landed on Rainpaw left shoulder, just barely hanging on. With no plan whatsoever, Rainpaw moved quickly to the right and made the paw unsheathe its claws and scratch his scar. It was the only thing he could do, the only thing that could help him at the moment.

Ready for me again? Asked the demon-like voice in his mind. You sure look like it!

Do what you must, Rainpaw thought to whatever was going to take over. I need to get out of here before the poison reaches my heart.

Now that I can do, said the voice. Now let’s get ready for some fun! Rainpaw then stood up, the demon within him controlling his body completely.

“Wait, what happened?” asked Shadow, a look of worry on his face as he saw Rainpaw’s dark blue eyes and glowing scar.

I think this one should die, said the demon.

“M-master!” a dark grey tom yelled with worry. “His scar—it was scratched!”

Yeah, I agree, thought Rainpaw.

“You idiot!” Shadow yelled, his voice booming throughout the cave. “This is what I told you exactly not to do! You’ve doomed us all!”

“Finally,” said Rainpaw with the demon-like voice. “The idiot’s finally given me free rein to do whatever I want! So, let’s play a game.”

“P-play a game?” asked Shadow, a worried look in his eye.

“Why yes,” said Rainpaw, smiling as the cats trying to hold him let go backed away slowly. “Have any of you heard of the game of ‘tag, your dead!’?” Shadow then backed away.

“It’s an easy game to play, really,” Rainpaw insisted, his voice still rough. “All you have to do is run and scream like little kits while I try to kill you. So, ready to play?” Shadow and the other cats ran away, making Rainpaw eager for some more.

Rainpaw lunged forward toward the cats, killing a black tom easily by slitting his throat. Blood once again stained Rainpaw’s coat, but at the moment he didn’t care. He was living, and he was weakening the rogues before he died. He felt like it his last duty.

Rainpaw killed three more within a minute’s time, but it was okay. It was going just as the real Rainpaw had planned. The rogues were scattering into the tunnels that led out into Clan territory, leading the demon inside of him to follow them. Soon, he was going to be out of the rogue home and hopefully die out there. After all, with the wounds he had, there was little way for him to live much longer without a medicine cat.

Rainpaw then began crawling into a tunnel, making his way up as he followed none other than Venom. The white tom was breathing heavily, trying to get away from the insane killer below him. Rainpaw, however, was much faster with his new and improved strength.

“It’s you who’s made me this slow, isn’t it?” yelled Rainpaw up to the white tom. “Well, just because of that, I think you should die. I was going to do it earlier, but a few weaklings got in my way.” The white tom looked back but only for a second before climbing up higher.

This slow? Does that mean he can be faster, stronger, and have better reflexes? W-what on earth is he? Thought Rainpaw as the demon laughed a laugh he never liked to hear.

“Oh look! Land!” Rainpaw screeched as he climbed out of the tunnel and onto ThunderClan territory. “Now I can kill you faster!” Venom lunged forward into an all-out run while Rainpaw just followed, panting heavily.

The trees and bushes were all passed quickly, it was just a blur to the real Rainpaw. The rain didn’t help matters, as it splattered onto his already soaked fur. The pain may have gone away for the demon, but for Rainpaw it was still haunting him. Rainpaw was now close enough to kill Venom, but a loud scream made Rainpaw stop.

“Rainpaw!” screamed the familiar voice of Robinpaw. “Stop!” For some reason, this made the demon stop as well. Rainpaw knew he wasn’t in control, but it seemed like it.

Stupid poison! the demon then thought in his mind. It’s making me weaker!

Sweetpaw then ran up to him, as did Robinpaw, Shadowpaw and the kits. They all seemed relieved when they should be worried. Robinpaw’s eyes were filled with worry and concern, but the most powerful emotion was relief that he was okay. Sweetpaw seemed happy, though still fearful. Shadowpaw was happy, though still worried.

They came closer and closer while Rainpaw just stood still, a look of surprise on his face. Venom was nowhere to be seen, but he was still there. Rainpaw’s senses were dull but they were still good enough to know that the enemy was near.

“Rainpaw! Thank StarClan you’re okay!” Robinpaw yelled happily toward him as she ran closer. “We were so —”

Suddenly Robinpaw realised what was wrong with him and came to a complete stop, her eyes wide with fear. Shadowpaw seemed to notice as well and held the two kits back. However Sweetpaw had gotten past the two apprentices and was unable to know what was wrong. Sweetpaw continued running toward him.

Right at that moment Rainpaw realised Venom sneaking up on the apprentices. His heart raced, thinking of a million different things at once. All the while, the demon within him was trying to take over.

Venom is near, I must kill him!

But I might accidentally go toward Robinpaw and the others!

He’ll kill them if you don’t!

But I might kill Sweetpaw as well!

Just concentrate!

But I can’t!

Kill. . .

Finally Rainpaw jumped, using all of his power to go the furthest he could. Robinpaw and Shadowpaw ducked, their eyes not even daring to look what was happening. Rainpaw then landed on the other side of them and slit Venom’s throat within seconds, blood spraying everywhere as the large tom fell.

Rainpaw could tell he was in control now, and though he didn’t know why, he was happy. He stood there, his eyes wide and his claws sheathed, listening to Robinpaw and Shadowpaw realise that there death wasn’t near.

“R-Rainpaw?” asked Sweetpaw, her voice shaky with fear. “W-what’s going on?”

“Sorry, Sweetpaw,” said Rainpaw. “I-I don’t know why, but I’m fine now. I not going to hurt you, though I couldn’t even I wanted to. My body isn’t going to last much longer.” Robinpaw then ran over to him and supported him on his left while Shadowpaw supported him on his right. Sweetpaw picked up Lionkit while Shadowpaw carried Bluekit.

“Your wounds are bad,” said Robinpaw, examining him. “We need to get some cobwebs!”

“N-no,” Rainpaw objected. “We ne-ed. . .Snowdrift.” His voice was raspy and choppy with all the pain that he felt, making Robinpaw feel more worried.

“You won’t that last that long!” Robinpaw objected. Rainpaw shook his head.

“I-it’s not the wounds,” Rainpaw told her. “Death berry juice. . .injected. . .Venom’s claws. . .” Robinpaw nodded then, but didn’t say anything.

“Okay then,” said Robinpaw in defeat. “I don’t really know what you said but if you really want to see Snowdrift. . .” Rainpaw nodded and stood up, helped by both Shadowpaw and Robinpaw. Sweetpaw followed behind as they walked forward slowly.

Rainpaw’s vision was getting blurry as the painful juice went through his blood stream, and his paws were getting very numb. His hearing was still there, but his sense of smell wasn’t very good at all.

“Why is Rainpaw so loopy lookin’?” asked Lionkit curiously as they walked.

“He’s not feeling too good right now, Lionkit,” Robinpaw replied, her voice wavering a bit. She was trying to put on a brave face but anyone could tell that she was sad and worried for Rainpaw.

“Oh,” Lionkit murmured then. “Well, he still looks funny!” Rainpaw smiled, happy that the kits weren’t being brought down by his dying state.

Suddenly Robinpaw stopped and gasped, a sort of happiness in her eyes as far as Rainpaw could see. She carefully set Rainpaw down with Shadowpaw helping of course. Rainpaw lay there, motionless except for the occasional breathing that wasn’t at all even.

“Robinpaw!” called the familiar voice of Grassfur. “Robinpaw, what’s going — “Grassfur stopped, gasping loudly.

“Grassfur?” asked the familiar voice of Thorntail. “What’s the matter? Robinpaw’s fine and — “Thorntail must have caught a glimpse of Rainpaw, making her gasp that loudly.

“Rainpaw!” Thorntail screamed, seeming to run over to him. All he could do was hear now, he was numb in all places and his sight had totally disappeared.

“What happened?” Thorntail demanded. “Why is he like that? Did the rogues attack again?”

“Thorntail,” soothed Yelloweye’s voice. “He’s stable right now, though I don’t think that will last much longer. Robinpaw and Shadowpaw can give us the full story when he’s recovering.”

“But what if he doesn’t?” asked Thorntail with a worried look. “He’s my apprentice! He can’t just die!”

“I won’t. . .die. . .” said Rainpaw painfully, determination in his voice. “It’s just. . .death berry juice. . . in my body. . .” It was quiet for a few seconds before Rainpaw was picked up again, this time by Yelloweye.

“Let’s get them back to camp,” Yelloweye ordered. “Snowdrift needs to see him, it’s the only way he’ll live. Ivyclaw will be wanting to see her kits soon anyway.” Thorntail and Yelloweye then drug him forward quickly, probably toward camp. Robinpaw and the others followed behind.

The journey from the clearing to camp was a rather short one, probably because he kept slipping in and out of consciousness, and when they got there the Clan all seemed to be gathered. Many cats gasped when they saw him, and others began whispering. Snowdrift, however, immediately began demanding what was wrong with him.

“It’s poison,” Robinpaw replied. “Death berry juice, if what Rainpaw was saying was true. It wasn’t swallowed, though, it was just injected. A cat scratched him I think, and the claws that he scratched him with had been coated with death berry juice.” Snowdrift sighed in frustration, not even caring that Rainpaw wasn’t put in the medicine den.

“That’s new,” Snowdrift explained. “I’ve never had to deal with it, but I know one thing. He shouldn’t die soon, but he will within the next three days if I don’t do anything. He also shouldn’t have had too much in him, since it was only injected due to infected claws. There’s only a fifty-fifty chance he’ll live though.”

“Should we move him into your den?” asked Yelloweye then.

“No,” Snowdrift replied. “It’ll take too long, and I’ve only got so much time. If you want to do something, please keep these cats back and give him some air. Even Ravenstar shouldn’t be near him right now.” Yelloweye muttered an “okay” and then walked back toward the gathering Clan cats.

“Frostpaw, get some yarrow and some cobwebs,” Snowdrift ordered, watching the white apprentice sprint off. “Thorntail, if you could follow him and get some marigold for Robinpaw’s wounds.” Rainpaw coughed a bit then, groaning as he realised how painful it was.

Soon Snowdrift told him to eat something, which he did subconsciously. Only then did he realize that it was the yarrow, and that it would make him throw up the poison. He did throw up, but it was only blood that came out of his mouth.

“Did it work?” asked Frostpaw with a worried tone. It was quiet for a few moments before Snowdrift sighed.

“No, it didn’t,” Snowdrift growled, irritation in his voice. “And I think the poison is actually faster than I thought.”

“That or the demon sped it up,” Rainpaw rasped. “What a tricky little mouse-brain.”

“He can’t die!” Robinpaw screamed suddenly, her voice sounding as if she were crying. “He means too much. . .”

“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do,” Snowdrift whispered softly. “There’s no way he could live against the poisoning of a death berry.” It was quiet then, and nothing was heard except the heavy rain against the ground and the crying of some cats.

Robinpaw’s warm fur brushed up against his suddenly, making him flinch in surprise. Then, Rainpaw smiled with happiness. His eyes closed, though he still couldn’t see, and he now felt like he was ready to die.

“Our f-friendship wasn’t supposed to end like this,” said Robinpaw, sniffling back the tears.

“Could you tell me. . .exactly how. . .it was supposed to end?” asked Rainpaw with a raspy voice. Robinpaw was silent for a few moments before replying.

“You were supposed to fall in love with me, and then ask me to be your mate,” Robinpaw explained. “You and I were supposed to become Warriors and get our apprentice’s together. We were supposed to have kits together, and then raise a family. You and I were supposed to become elders together, and then die of old age together. We were supposed to live.” Rainpaw laughed a bit at this.

“There’s one step. . .that you didn’t get right,” Rainpaw rasped. “The first one is wrong, ‘cause I’ve already fallen in love with you.” Robinpaw seemed to cry harder as she lay on him, the rain seeming to fall harder.

“Oh, Rainpaw!” she cried. “If I asked you if we could become mates, what would your answer be?” Rainpaw laughed a bit again.

“That’s an easy question,” Rainpaw said with a smile. “That answer would most definitely be ‘yes’.” Robinpaw cried harder, and it was now becoming louder than the rain. And even though he was scared for what might happen next, he was ready for his second death. After all, he’d learned all that he needed to, and knew and that he wanted to. It was his time.

Rainpaw! What are you doing? The voice of Cheetahfur demanded. You’re giving in! You can’t!

Why not? asked Rainpaw in his head. It’s my time, and since I’ve done all I really need to, I don’t have to stay.

Cheetahfur was quiet then, but Rainpaw just had this feeling that she was trying to reach him. There was something in the way, like a soundless wall. He still lay in peace, waiting for darkness to overtake him. It never did. Then, suddenly, in the back of his mind, the demon stirred.

As if I’d let you die!

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