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DP / FOTC - History Short Story

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It was the simple crack that broke the crows back in the dead of night. Alone in the woods, a giant cat stood over its prey. The bird thrashed, causing its wings to flap violently as it struggled to survive the critical damage. After a moment of waiting, the creature went limp and the cat grinned. The shadowy entity leaned down to pick up its catch and observed their surroundings. Stars shone overhead through the cracks in the dense forestry, creating an illuminated path for the gore covered killer to walk home.

A single turquoise eye gleamed through the darkness and the black cat stepped out onto the dirt trail. This lead them forward to a moonlit clearing in the woods, where a large rock erupted from mud, accompanied by dozens and dozens of cats. They increased pace to their destination and strolled past two guarding felines that protected the bush entrance. The confident predator ignored their presence and carried on inside with an edged expression.

Their queen didn't owe them a greeting.

Battered cats paused to cower as the leader strutted by with her head held high and the crow pitifully dangling from her scarlet soaked maw. Her bone covered, red collar jingled as she walked. Everyone she passed respectfully bowed to her, for this action was involuntarily. The prideful hunter loved their submission and demanded loyalty be shown at her every move. The scrawny and matted creatures had no choice but to obey, for violent examples of their faulted peers had been demonstrated upon in the past.

Joyously taking numerous leaps, the beast scaled her way up the intimidating rock fall in the corner of camp. The intelligent feline dropped the bird and perched herself on the smooth ledge to glare downwards. Very little movement stirred on the ground level, save for a spare few members who felt unsafe around the others during slumber. The watcher liked this specific set the most, for they would be the ones to break under pressure.

She scoffed in pity. Such a shame that not everyone could be as perfect as she was.

 

She loved her personality and image, and adored how slices of white dappled her pelt like moons. In her mind, the only other creature to rival her glory was her own daughter, SwiftSong. The silent night allowed the mother to hear the yawn of her pride and joy in the moss covered, rocky cave behind her.

A tiny little kitten hobbled out from the den behind the gigantic cat. She bounded forward to sit next to her mother and frowned with exhaustion.

The baby was fragile and malnourished, her teeny ribs visible against her tan, swirled flank- despite her mother's efforts to supply. Giving an encouraging nudge, the crow was pushed in front of her.

“Please eat.” The large cat spoke, her heavy voice weary. “just because those below us are hungry, doesn't mean you have to be. You're special, just like Talon, Dermot and I.” she smiled, crooked to those who feared her, but lovingly to the impressionable kit at her side.

SwiftSong looked up at her mother to study her half mangled face. Before a pack of dogs ravaged her body, she was quite marvelous. A crescent moon marking decorated the center of her forehead and her cheek. Her blue eye complimented her dull fur, but her right eye was missing and a uniquely scarred X replaced it. The imprint revealed no interception in the middle, making it difficult to decipher its occurrence. The beholder was indecisive on how she felt regarding it. She both loathed and loved the mark, yet brandished it with pride. She caught her kit staring and SwiftSong looked back down.

“I'm not hungry,” the child mewed defiantly.

“I caught it just for you.” She pushed the bird closer and resisted the urge to correct her backtalk.

Swiftsong scowled at the twisted prey. It looked disgusting with its feathers loose and wings splayed out. The clear signs of a struggle made her uncomfortable, but she disregarded her observations to lean down and tear into its torso. With her head so low to the ground, she noticed how blood soaked her mom’s paws were. The graphic scarlet spread across her vision and she dared to inquire. Swiftsong wasn't afraid of her mother -she would never hurt her- but she knew and understood why everyone else was. She chewed the meat sloppily and followed the dry blood trail up the queens white legs, chest, and muzzle.

Blood was the base of everything that their group, Shattered Remains, was founded on. It meant more than just a victim or a failure, it showed who was in control. The amount of injuries a cat had sustained displayed their worth and devotion. With this logic, the leader was covered in red gashes and scars. She preferred the term queen more and the title caught on.

“Did you win?” The kitten knowledgeably asked. She reached down and nuzzled feathers aside to bite into the bird again.

“As always, and I won in every way that I could.” The victor licked her canines.

“What did you do?” SwiftSong angled her head. Her short, darkly tipped ears bobbed as she moved.

The queen looked up to the stars and sighed. “I killed your father.” she confessed without secrecy, for she valued their open relationship. Her kits reaction was unenthusiastic.

“You told me he left us before I was born?” The youthful voice was muffled.

“Which is exactly why I did. Knowing Hawk was still out there to hurt others kept me awake at night.. I tracked him down to guarantee no one else would have to suffer by his true self. You understand that right? It was for the greater good.” the murderer explained. Her daughter nodded apologetically.

“The greater good,” she echoed. Silence followed her words. The family admired their impressive camp in the night, but remained silent to each other.

“I’m going to clean up.” The queen spoke and nuzzled her kits head with her nose. Flaked blood brushed on SwiftSong’s fur without her noticing. Her mother frowned at the crude sight she had caused and instantly licked it off.

“Can I come?” SwiftSong piped up and smiled. She jumped as a familiar cats voice intercepted hers in the distance.

Shade ,” a hefty voice hissed from below the rock, causing the addressed queen to lean over the edge.

What, ” Shade snarled in response, her large, white tail quickly fluffing up.

“Now that you're back from your escapade, i’m done watching Talon for you,” the mighty, maned tom mewed.  From behind his dark gray form, a lanky, brown tabby kit poked his head around his guardian.

The child was young, a little older than SwiftSong, and still held a twinkle of youthful ambition in his teal. eyes. He looked like the average Shattered Remains kit, but his strange, front robotic arm differentiated him from the bunch. The piece of machinery was crafted into his amputated arm. At the front of the black metal, red claws jutted from the toes.

Shade shooed SwiftSong back into their den so she could handle the confrontation. “you know I'm busy,” she shuddered, “he’s not my kit- I know hes not yours either- but he needs someone and that someone isn't me. I respect you, Dermot, and I want you to raise him with the rest of the camp.” she bowed her head to her scarred, lifelong friend.

She couldn't be mad at him, not after all the older Maine Coon had done for her. Shade was a young leader who spun herself into a chaotic whirlwind of motherhood and leadership. She was hated and adored, and Dermot and the two kittens were the exceptions to her well known cruelty.

“You suggest he be raised parentless?” Dermot asked, his green eyes flashed in the moonlight

“Didn’t we all turn out okay?” Shade hissed. The other fell quiet and saw the question as rhetorical. The queen snorted through her nostrils, “I say he should be raised collectively, that way, everyone can teach him what they know and SwiftSong will have a friend.”

Dermot stopped arguing; Shade made up her mind and her word was law. He corralled Talon back into the large, molded den that emerged from the dirt. Shade watched them retreat to rest, then entered her own rocky cave. She pushed through the ferns that hid the opening and settled down in their nest around SwiftSong.

The tabby was already fast asleep by the time she laid down. Her appearance made Shade feel guilty. From her tan fur, to her blue swirled stripes, and even her hereditary blue eyes.. she looked so much like her father.

The black, Norwegian forest cat rested her head down beside the sleeping cat. SwiftSong pressed fearlessly into Shades mauled face for warmth and purred. Shade brokenly returned the noise and let her eye close. She dreamed of one day teaching the young cat the ways of her world, and she swore that she would never let anything bad happen to her daughter.

Then Talon grew up.

 

X

 

Over the years, Talon steadily matured into a charming gentleman of a cat. Shattered Remains communally raised and loved the rambunctious tabby. The various backgrounds and personalities molded him into his best self, and he learned that there was more to life than just sparring and hunting.

Although humble about praise, he was admired for a reason. He knew how to swiftly catch prey, ration out food, and keep himself informed on ways to hold their surrounding populations in check. Talon was a statistical genius, and his work had spilled past the Shattered Remains borders. He brought hope and mercy to wherever he traveled.

The sleek, skinny feline appreciated a neater appearance compared to his group mates, but he couldn't avoid receiving a nasty gash on his lower back. Talon wore a crimson collar just like Shade, with a growing collection of his own trophies dug into the fabric. He was tall and intimidating with oak colored diamonds jutting from under his eyes and striping his back and tail. His under belly, chest and muzzle were tan, and he walked with a swagger.

He opened up about his struggles, was extroverted and passionate in his drive to support and better his peers, and he fell in love with SwiftSong. She, as well, had grown to form her own views that coincidentally happened to align with his. The duo became known for their controversial thoughts, but because of their rankings among the group, it had to be accepted.

SwiftSong was Shades dearly beloved daughter, and Talon was the queens second in command. He provided a differing opinion than hers and she appreciated the advice. Most of it.

Shade disregarded his efforts for betterment if she had already convinced herself on a plan. For example, she had taken up the habit of claiming neighborhoods by breaking into homes with house cats and giving them one of two choices; accept her rule and contribute to spreading her name, or die where they stood. The former occurred most often, but in some defiant cases, she would grant them their choice of immediate death through the cats she raided with. Talon wasn't in these packs, he would be forced to stay back and oversee the camp in the queens absence. But in the off chance that he was invited, he would be used for intimidation with his robotic arm.

One tenant in particular put up more of a fight than any other house cat had. Her name was Shark, she was a dull purple molly, and Talon had been instructed to kill her. She was sentenced to death on the spot for spitting at Shades paws. Shade lunged at her, split her ears into a fold, and gave Talon the opportunity to finish the rebel off. He stepped up, but Shark struck first. She tumbled him over and notched his ear for vengeance on her own. He swung back with his prosthetic, and cracked a gash from her lip down to her chest. She fought valiantly for a house cat, and everyone in the home saw potential in her- even as her blood drenched the carpet.

The party prepared to leave Shark for her owners to find, but Talon convinced her to join Shattered Remains. He promised her that there would soon be an uprising, and he wanted her involved. She was skeptical at first, but Talon begged that she could be an essential role in a plan he's had brewing for moons. Shark joined their hoard and waited in the wings for what he would do next.

From then on, Talon created a rift between him and Shade. She began to hate how he saw SwiftSong, and only allowed them to see each other briefly per day. This planted an idea that the young couple would soon blossom into a full fledged elopement and revolution.

Talons resentment towards the queen exploded as they aged, and he vented out his frustrations to her early one morning. He cornered her in her den and screamed till his throat went dry. The second in command released every opposing viewpoint he held against her; he elaborated on how her conquest was selfish, how she was impulsive and cruel, and how her treatment towards her daughter was unfair. He admitted that he would be a better leader than her, and that his group would thrive, rather than crumple from the top like Shattered Remains was doomed to do. Shade reacted by lashing her claws across his face. She punished him so viciously, his blood sprayed the mossy wall. She promised death to any traitor who ran with him, and kicked him from his noble position.

He didn't fight back. He knew she couldn’t kill him because he brought SwiftSong so much joy. The two leaders heaved their breaths in painful silence, and Talon let his blood stain the smooth stone under him. He left the cave and informed his closest friends and companions of his plan to flee.

Occasionally, Talon would create an excuse or diversion to get a select few members out of camp and plan. He'd take them deep into the woods and settle down at a clearing. Here, they would map out diagrams in the dirt using small debris and claw scratches. Everything meant something, and everyone had a say. It would be complicated to plot- since Shades army spanned farther than the forest- but she had yet to conquer Grinstead city.

Grinstead was known to be a hub of life, it was full of resources and connections, so Talon wanted it first. Although, other factions of cats had already occupied it. His goal was to help unite them under his guidance, and kill Shade before she could spread her hate any further. Without a trusted cat to replace their leader, Shattered Remains would eat itself alive and that would be the end. It was so easy.

They all knew that their grand escape to the allianced city would have a mass amount of casualties, but it was a sacrifice they would need to make for the greater good, SwiftSong said. And so, with nothing but faith and wit, Talon and his gang of traitors launched their revolt against the queen.

 

X

 

The attack took place from all angles in the Shattered Remains camp. Blood and gore doused the clearing and corpses laid scattered. Talon and SwiftSong wanted to make a statement with their dual elopement and revolution, but they hadn't expected to lose the massive amount of followers that they did. Despite the brutal loss on their side, they didn't make a dent in Shades uncared for army of numbers. The queen had ordered her members to capture the rebels if they could, but if not, then imminent death was accepted. She didn't care, but she highly preferred to make a statement of her own to battle theirs. Shade personally executed any cat who fought against her.

Talon, SwiftSong and Sharks greatest loss was dealt when Dermot was captured and executed by Shades mob. Talon witnessed his main father figures death first hand while Shark escorted SwiftSong out of the camp. The grueling look of Dermot accepting his demise haunted him, but he had to leave. The magnificent, stout tom nodded to him before they parted. He believed in Talon and loved him. After his death, Talon realized it was now for the greater few. They couldn't all thrive. He left Shattered Remains with his new family to start a new, for it was what Dermot would have wanted.

The three living cats traveled through day and night to reach Grinstead. Shade would come for them soon enough, but they were lucky enough to still be walking now. They were gifted a chance to succeed- a slim, daunting chance- and they planned to use it well. Talon led them into the city and they drove right into meeting with smaller groups. They were scrappy, desperate and hurt, but they split up to cover more ground.

The trio used their own unique skills of communication to earn trust from the city cats and unite them. Talon spoke wisely and of experience, SwiftSong pleaded through mercy and equality, and Shark informed using community and belonging. Talons cats were soon connected under the title, The Volatile Insurrection- or as Shade came to call them, city scum.

The members loved their new name. It was created by some of the house cats that ran with them due to their expanded vocabulary. Talon felt prideful of what he had helped create, and their group was quite easy going. All they wanted was to live peacefully and freely away from Shade. Although, Talon had warned that a full war would come out of this. But the cats joined anyway for thrill of being important. He didn't think they understood what they were getting into, but he had supporters and that was what mattered.

When it came down to the gritty features of managing an entire population of cats, the choices were left to Talon, SwiftSong and Shark. It was SwiftSongs decision that something drastic would have to happen to force Shade to stop. If the death they would surround her in wasn't enough, then they'd need to take drastic measures to break her. She volunteered her life to hold back her mother. There was no guarantee this would snap the queen into a healthy mind, but they were running out of ideas. They knew it was all or nothing, so when Shade finally came, they held their heads high and gathered their forces into position.

Shattered Remains entered the city with more cats than Talon had ever seen in his life. Shade pulled at the front and her army followed blindly. From his spot on a building next to SwiftSong, he noticed the range of cats varied from her most vicious henchmen, to nervous house cats from neighborhoods she had claimed. But their goal was Shade, and if she stopped this before it started, then no one would have to get hurt. They banked their luck on SwiftSong, so she stepped on the roofs ledge with her husband at her side. Shattered Remains gathered under them to watch what the leaders had to say.

SwiftSong described what she would do if Shade didn't retreat. She explained what The Volatile Insurrection meant to her and all the rest of the city cats, and that she would rather die than be her daughter. She was disgusted with Shade, and her mother ached with disappointment and sadness. Shade regretted to inform her that there was no way she would back down. The queen never retreated and she wouldn't be starting now. She said that there had to be another way than this, but there was no compromise in sight. Shade was too stubborn to even try.

So then that was that, and SwiftSong turned to touch her nose to Talons. He willfully accepted the parting and she let her choice drag her off the building. She fell and twisted til the only thing that stopped her was her head cracking on the curb of the sidewalk below. SwiftSong was dead on impact, and Shade wailed so loudly, it punctured the witnesses ears. Talon had never seen the queen more broken in her life. He reciprocated the sorrow, but with SwiftSong dead, he realigned his views to her greater good ideals. That's what this was always for, he told himself, no matter how selfish their original elopement seemed. He took a deep breath, collected himself, and headed to the roof hatch to work his way down the building. If SwiftSongs sacrifice wasn't enough to force Shade to retreat, then he would be burying everyone in this city with himself to top it off. As he marched down the stairs, he felt the martyrs presence alongside him.

Grinstead was quiet. All that could be heard in the mournful silence was Shades bone chilling sobs into her daughters fur. She cradled her split head and cursed every choice that led them to now. The queen wasn't one to cry in front of others, but she couldn't stop. Her heart ached with guilt, and by the time she was sniffling up tears, Talon had appeared in the doorway in front of her. She was resentful and angry. Her blue eye was fuming with hatred, and Talon stepped in her cross fire. He waited for her declaration.

But none was to follow, he caught sight of Shark breaking from the crowd to sneak up on Shade. Shade caught onto his quick blink, and turned just in time to see the purple bobtail lunging at her grieving. She growled and swatted the molly in the neck. Shark yelped and went flying into a lamppost with enough force, it dented the pole and she thudded on the concrete. This gave Shade an idea.

The queen recognized the strength she possessed, and noticed a blue surge of heat radiating from the pad of her paw. Talon saw it too, but he also glimpsed at Shark struggling to stand as a mob of Shades goons surrounded her. The Volatile Insurrection cats didn't hesitate to attack them in defense of Shark. He watched Shark raise up, albeit shaky and in pain, and she smiled to her friend. Similar to Dermot- but true to herself- Shark went out in the name of something Talon gave her hope in. She would die fighting and he planned to do the same. Shark dove into the fray and Talon never saw her again.

By now, the battle engulfed the block of the city. It was endless and everywhere, cats swamped the abandoned area. Everyone was hurt somewhere- all except for Shade and Talon. Due to Shades anger and sorrow over SwiftSong, she noticed herself changing. She was stronger, and she and Talon knew why. They came from the same hell hole of a place, and she had told Talon everything.

Absolutely everything.

Especially what she had done to survive a mauling of dogs and become a savior to many. He didn't know the details of her decision, but he knew it was strong enough to wipe electricity and brand her eye.

Shade quickly spoke something to him, but it was inaudible as her paw warped with blue fire and she screamed in pain as a flash overtook the block. Tops of buildings began to crumble, the ground shattered, and lamp posts bent til they fell. The lights smashed the ground and trapped cats under them, but the fire they created quickly engulfed the area.

Talons fur fluffed, and Shade charged at him. He ran to the sidewalk and was tackled, but hurriedly kicked her away from him. The fire on her paw had worn off by now, for the energy it drained from her was too intense to hold. Smoke choked them, and Talon thought that he could use it to his advantage. He scrambled away from her and jumped into a burning building. Shade followed, despite the roof caving in on them. He made her round the room til he blocked the only exit. Shade coughed and hacked, yet leapt through the black clouds and clamped her mouth on his thin neck. Talon howled as Shade held onto him and circled herself, then she let go at such an angle, it flung him through a side window. Glass exploded as his body was launched at it, and he glided til his back smacked the wall of an alley. He spit and wheezed, but forced himself to get back up.

Talon looked up to see Shades massive, fiery form silhouetted in the window. Her paws managed to perch where the glass shards weren't, and she jumped at him. He yelled as she sprung and latched onto his face. Shade tore down and back up, then ripped his eye out- the same one she was missing. The organ rolled on the concrete, and Talon screeched at the emptiness and blood that seared his face.

He drug himself from the alleyway and into the main fight where all out hell was waiting for him. SwiftSong laid untouched, Shark was nowhere to be seen, and cats whose names he would never know were fighting to the death for a creed he had created.

He had to make it worth it. His lungs burned from ash and his vision fell short, but his effort would be enough. Shade heckled him from behind and he turned to listen to her words. She shouted at him to stop running away and face what he had wanted, so he crouched, spun, and charged directly at her. He leapt with his arms outstretched, but she timed his jump and caught his prosthetic in her mouth. The force of his pounce kept him propelling forward, but her grip on his arm tugged the tom back. She reeled up and placed her paw on it as well, then threw her entire weight into smashing him down against the ground. Talon was sent cracking into the concrete with his prosthetic yanked off of his body. Shade pulled at the excess wires to disconnect it, and blood started to pool out from the gap. She dropped it and the hefty metal clinked on the ground.

He laid shaking in his own blood from the missing arm and eye, but he didn't feel himself dying. Talon could still fight. And so he did. The leader got up once again, pelt hot from the embers around him, and he balanced himself on his remaining legs. He hobbled around and shouted back at his rival with tears in his eye.

"Is Grinstead worth SwiftSongs death?"

That got Shades attention. She rushed at him again, this time headbutting his jaw and knocking him over. He groaned as she pinned him down with her paw against his cheek. He silently stared at her. She had no response for him, except for labored breathing and deep growls. But he knew her answer when she tipped his chin up, and the last thing he saw were her cruel fangs lunging for his throat.

 

X

 

Shade conquered Grinstead by killing Talon, and for once in her life, she was satisfied. She enjoyed freely passing between the city and the woods, but she preferred lounging on the edge of her rock in camp. Early one morning, the queen was sunbathing on her throne when a scuffle directed her attention to the entrance of camp. One of her prized members limped into the clearing while leading a victorious stranger at their side. The beaten cat explained that they had been ambushed, and the perpetrator demanded to speak with Shade. Shade was perplexed, but too curious to deny the request.

A gorgeous, golden molly named Dawn had just entered Shades life. Her lithe form, gleaming indigo eyes, and strange crow feather earring immediately caught Shades fancy. Dawn was sly and demanding when she addressed the queen, and Shade felt something she hadn't since her prime with Hawk. Shade fell in love with Dawn at first sight. But little did she know, Dawn was a hurricane on four paws and she certainly brought a storm with her.

The two girls hit it off immediately. Dawn told Shade all the right things with her own charm and moxie, and Shade was eager to teach the newcomer the ways of her world. The pair would leave the camp for days just to explore. Their favorite spot was up on a hill, where a vast blue flower field laid still. Shade was vulnerable in this meadow, so she allowed herself to disclose SwiftSongs burial site.

After the war against Talon, Shade personally carried her daughter's body through the woods and to this specific spot. She buried her among the roots of a tree where the sun always shone. The location was deliberate, for this was SwiftSong and Shades precious place to spend time together. Dawn listened to her describe what the field of myosotis and baby blue eyes meant to her and her family. She watched Shade cry with grief and remembrance, and leaned in to comfort the- shockingly humane- queen. The two left at nightfall, but their conversations continued all the way home.

 Dawn became Shades best friend, and the tabby teasingly tried to push further. Dawn left Shade absolutely stunned when she appeared at the entrance to the queens cave one night. Shade allowed her to enter and share her nest. They occupied the same bed consistently, but as time went on, Shade noticed Dawn would be missing at strange times of day. Shade tried to justify her absence with excuse after excuse, but as their relationship started to crumble, Dawn would be gone more and more.

Shade questioned her about this behavior, but Dawn took it with great offense. She valued her privacy and Shade allowed it with suspicion. Dawn stopped sharing Shades nest, and their trips together fell short. In an attempt to mend what was breaking, Shade coaxed Dawn to join her on one last roam. She took her back to the meadow, where they watched the sun rise from behind the mountains. This time, their company felt unnerved. They sat in front of each other, rather than at their sides, and Shade noticed Dawn was twitching with anxiety. She asked her what was on her mind, to which Dawn couldn't formulate a response. Shade let the behavior sit until she couldn't handle the tension anymore. She mewed comfort, love and support to her, then decided to lean in and touch their noses together. Dawn always appreciated the gentle nuzzle, but this time, she jolted up with alarm and impulsively struck her paw down on Shades eye. Her claws raked against Shades half face, and blood splashed the flowers under them. The two pulled away and paused. Dawn rambled out apology after apology, but her words couldn't mend the claw slashes she had torn over Shades eye.

This didn't affect the queens vision, Dawn attacked while her eye was closed, but it was malicious enough that Shade needed to defend herself. She tackled the tabby over in the flora and trapped her. Dawn laid flat with blue flowers springing up around her form, and Shade held her paw up in preparation to exact revenge. Her blood dripped onto Dawn's golden fur, and Dawn continued to beg for her life. Shade became lost in her violet eyes, her earring, her shocked expression, and the touch of her small paws forcing her off by the shoulders. Then she stepped off of her and walked away.

The queen left Dawn stunned in the field. Unharmed, Dawn sat up and watched her leave without looking back. Despite her surprise, she realized something. Shade couldn't kill her. She didn't want to kill her, and Dawn smiled. Just to push her luck, she caught up to the black cat and brushed their flanks together. Shade scoffed and looked away. She didn't want to engage with her- in any way- so she chose to storm off and heal.

Dawn and Shade went their separate ways. Shade returned to the Shattered Remains base, but Dawn walked in the direction of the city. She had other matters to attend to.

Things propelled into distance between the two mollies. In the rare chance that Dawn was in the base, she would avoid Shades eye and sleep in one of the dirt made dens with the other members. Shade knew that their time together was done. She took the loss harshly, but she had dealt with worse. The queen isolated herself to her cave, until she got word that Dawn hadn't been seen in days.

Fearful that she had been hurt, Shade took it upon herself to venture out in hopes to find her. Her wandering led her to the blue meadow. To her surprise and disgust, she spotted Dawn through the trees with a red tom and a child. She looked happy and content with them, but Shade was so startled, she ran all the way back to camp.

She was afraid. She had never seen them before, they certainly were not Shattered Remains, and she stressed that Dawn would throw her into the same cycle Talon spun her in. Her fear turned defensive, and she began plotting how to handle this discovery.

If Dawn was a spy and she had ulterior motives, then Shade would have no choice but to handle her the same way she dealt with The Volatile Insurrection. She schemed until the concept of Dawn being the second coming of the abolished rebellion hit her hard. Now, she absolutely had to stop this before it started. Shade was older with nothing to lose but herself, so she didn't see that as a problem. She would handle this alone and without notifying others. The force of Shattered Remains left with Shade as she journeyed to track down the family.

She left at a time when Dawn was in camp, but the golden tabby realized her intentions too late. By the time Dawn caught up to Shade, Shade had found her family first. She located them in the woods next to a creek. After some rough interrogating, Shade learned that the Tom's name was Asher and their kit was Flare. The father and daughter were apart of The Volatile Insurrection, but Dawn was the most knowledgeable about it. Shade got everything she wanted out of Asher and frustratingly killed him. To her, a dead city cat was a good one. All she had left was Flare and Dawn. Flare was easy, she rushed out from the bushes when she heard her father shriek in agony. Shade finished gouging into his neck then trapped the older kit. She now had a tool to lure Dawn to her, and she impatiently waited for the spy to appear. In the time she held the warmly colored child, she reflected on what Asher had told her.

Dawn was one of the few surviving members of the rebellion group. Her neighborhood was taken over by Shade, so she felt responsible to finish Talons work. Her plans were thwarted when she returned to her house, and her owner noticed that she had blood and black fur clogged in her claws. She was taken to be fully declawed, and she now walked with a limp. Her senses were thrown into a loop after she attacked Shade, and she considered her lack of defense to be worse than anything Shade could have done to her.

Her revised goal was to meet up with her family and flee. She gave up on Talons legacy and sought out to continue her own. When she reached the arranged meeting spot, she screamed at Ashers mangled neck and her daughter being held under Shades paw. Shade confronted her and Dawn confessed to everything. It hurt her to say, but she did feel a connection towards the queen at a point. Shade called her out on her trickery, but when Dawn asked about the events to follow, Shade told her they were up to her.

Dawn told her to let Flare go, and Shade could have her. Shade growled and scoffed at the implication of leaving the kit all on her own. Dawn defended her choice by saying that Flare would have a chance to succeed where Swiftsong didn't- parents or not. Her words tugged closely to Shades heart. Dawn had brought on this feud herself, and if Asher was already dead for this cause, then Flare didn't need to join him. She was too young to remember The Volatile Insurrection, anyway. She begged for mercy for her kit- in the same way Shade did for hers. Shade begrudgingly lifted her paw up, and Flare charged towards her mother.

Dawn met her halfway and picked her up by her scruff. The mother was tall enough to carry her with minimal dragging, but with how fast she ran past Shade, Flare bumped against her front legs and chest. She splashed through the creek, and away from Ashers blood drifting into the water. She gracelessly fumbled to cross while slipping on the submerged rocks. Shade lunged at her but crashed into the water, she screamed in anger, and the two mollies began a goalless race.

Dawn sped a safe distance ahead of Shade through the woods, but the queens teeth nipped her tail tip once or twice. The light bites motivated her to speed up, as if the ground behind her was on fire. She blindly sprinted around trees, over roots and through bushes. The spy ran until she regained her sense of direction. She recognized certain rock and tree formations, so she headed in the directions that she knew. The path she followed unfortunately led them directly to the busiest road in the area.

The road was countless rows on each side, with a tall, concrete barricade dividing them in half. There were no merging points, except for a winding exit much further down from where they currently were. Crossing was unavoidable in any direction, and the idea had Dawn from skidding to a halt where the grass met the asphalt. Her jaw ached from carrying the kit, but now more than ever, she had to hold the kit tight. Both the cats had crossed this road before, for it was the only way to get to Grinstead. The only thing different from now was that it was night. It was a fools game to run at headlight level in the dark. Even the tall lamps couldn't provide enough lighting for their venture, but Dawn had to decide her fate when Shade came stalking out of the bushes. The queen approached the family with a dangerous glint to her eye. Their pelts flashed up in yellow and red as cars sped behind them. Shade threatened the traitor with her choices, but Dawn already had a plan.

She was declawed and certainly couldn't fight with her teeth, so she had to get creative. It was daring, but she chose the road. At least a tire wouldn't make her beg for her life. Dawn tightened her grip on her daughter and turned around without checking for cars. Within heartbeats, she was surrounded on all sides by the late night, fast paced, traffic. She rapidly skidded forward, sideways, ducked and jumped. She kept moving and didn't look back, but the screech of tires breaking behind her told her that Shade was close. Dawn made a break for the last stretch and dove to the shoulder barrier of the road. Her hind and flank thudded against the wall and she reflexively dropped Flare as she grunted. The duo paused to catch their breaths in the safety of the small row. Then, the ground stopped trembling, and Dawn looked up to see Shade walking in a beeline towards her. The traffic was at a slow with minimal cars, so Shade wearily took her time to dodge the few that remained.

Dawn prepared herself to pick up Flare and book it, but a flash of white, a screech, and a horn blasted the senses out of her head.

She thought the gritty noise she heard was another car breaking for Shade, but this one- this monstrous supply truck- barreled directly into the queen and sent her flying. She soared above Dawn's head then smacked into the tall barricade. Blood splattered in her place, and Dawn heard her skull crack. The impact bounced her off the wall and she dropped head first into the roads shoulder. Her body bent and bled, and she spasmed in shock. Her spine wrenched in numerous places, her legs twisted, and her ribs stabbed out from her side. Crimson spilled from her face to form a puddle.

Dawn gagged in disgust and pushed Flare behind her. She ordered the kit to look away, but it was far too late for that. Dawn cautiously edged forward. That hit and the damage it had dealt was more than enough to force Shade under, but something told her that the queen- and all her deceptions- would rise again. She continued slowly and noticed that her collar was turned inside out. The teeth and claws jammed into it had locked themselves into her neck. They must have stabbed so deep to break her voice, for the queen was silent at last. Well, except for the gurgling, and gasps of gore. Her neck bent and she laid still. She looked up to Dawn, and Dawn admired her from above.

The queen was dying and this was the end.

But she wasn't dead, she was still in agony and suffering. As Dawn quietly watched, she came to a sharp realization that Shattered Remains was over since the queen had never chosen a replacement. Shade didn't believe that she could die, yet, here she was with her bone punctured organs and her own greed choking her.

She kept fighting for her life to no avail. Her kicking got weaker and Dawn felt pity for the dying cat. Then, all at once, a spark of anger overcame her. She would be the one who killed Shade. She wanted the duty and the chance was lying right in front of her. No one would ever know of her crime, but she would have it in her heart. Shade saw her expression drop and she coughed blood at the other molly.

Dawn proceeded to reel back onto her hind legs and mash her paws into the back of Shades neck. She had never killed someone before, but she thought of her actions as speeding up the process and putting her out of her misery. Shade deserved to suffer til the end, but Dawn couldn't resist the opportunity. She selfishly pushed down harder. Dawn forced the teeth and bones into Shades fur and flattened her down against the concrete. She winched and realized the deed would be easier if she had claws, but this was plenty. A pop cracked in their ears, and Shades squealing and squirming gave way to nothing. Her fighting ceased, her crooked breathing stilled, and she fell limp under Dawn's paws.

Dawn backed up to wipe her paws clean of the splattered blood. In her frenzy, she had forgotten to redirect Flares attention away. From behind, her bright eyed daughter stared at her. Dawn shushed her quiet and licked her forehead. She spoke softly to her about what was to come next, and Flare tiredly agreed.

Her new plan was to take Shade and Flare far, far away. Flare was to move in with Dawn's house folk permanently, and Shade would be transported to a walled off place. Dawn had heard Shades visions of her ideal afterlife in their time together, so she delved into sabotaging it. She, a small figured tabby, leaned down to Shades tight collar and began to haul her body. Dawn instructed Flare to walk ahead on the inner wall while she tugged the Norwegian forest cats corpse away. She left a blood path in her wake until it finally dried up, or Shade ran out.

They traveled all night without stopping. They crossed big roads, small trails, forests and creeks, till Dawn found a proper secluded building. This was an abandoned church, and she weaseled her way through the doors and marched up a set of spiraling stairs. She broke into the bell room and tossed Shades body into it. The sack of bones, a collar, and nothing more, rattled on the wood. Dawn spit on her and abandoned her in the darkness she desired.

She returned to Flare and promised her that they weren't much farther. The family kept pushing through into the early morning at the start of sunrise. Dawn guided Flare up a driveway and onto a porch. Her method of clawing the door was gone, so she had Flare do it. Her small claws made little noise, but it was enough to alert their owner. A man opened the door, saw Dawn walking away from Flare, and took the hint. He picked up the kitten and held her lovingly as he closed the door.

Dawn heard it shut and broke into a run. She was free of her past life of regrets and promised herself to start a new. She chased the flickering stars through backyards and fields, up meadows and across yards, til they led her home. She followed the falling moon to her final resting place. Her mind was clouded and a lingering whisper and nudge rippled through her fur. She ignored it, for the temptation of the promised land beckoned her to fall for it instead. And at last, up on a hill with a breeze welcoming her, she thanked the sky for being there for her. She took a step and cried.

Dawn had arrived at Grinstead.