Susan thought that she would never get used to the forest, but the cool ground beneath her paws was welcome after the scorching grass. The lofty trees shaded her from the boiling sun, twiggy pale green plants curling around them.
I had better enjoy this while I can. Cold weather is coming soon.
"Why don't we find a place to stay?" Jacques mewed.
Susan, for once, agreed with her scattered littermate.
To her surprise, after hiking to the edge of the forest, there was a huge lake that expanded a long distance. She could just see the other side of the territories from there. There were more woodland, than the moor towards the right of them, some of it surreal pines and other parts being leafier maples and oaks.
"Let's head around this way," Susan mewed, not liking the windy, open moor.
Reaching the pine forest, they were able to stumble upon a ramshackle old Twoleg nest. Had to be the most abandoned-looking nest that she had ever seen.
Like two trout leaping over a rock in a stream, they slipped over the rickety fence and into the "garden".
"This looks like a nice place to stay," Jacques murmured.
The Clans showed up not much later. Susan could smell their reek from far across the lake, the lake wind blowing it all over towards them. As long as they weren't bothering them... although Susan wouldn't mind giving ShadowClan a problem or two.
She shivered in the brisk post leaf-bare chills.
Deciding not to just sit there and turn into an icycle, she figured that she should go inside. Hey, exploring could be fun.
The door was shut tight, but one of the windows was shattered, missing most of the glass. Susan was careful not to cut herself on the shards, and slipped inside. It was in surprsisingly good shape, for a Twoleg nest that was abandoned in the midst of a forest.
Only a small amount of dust clung to her pads as she strolled over the old carpet. Looking over her shoulder, she checked to see if Jacques was coming. No. Just me. Good.
She slipped around the corner, sniffing at the chipped paint on the flimsy wood. A Twoleg lighting device lay leaned against the wall. She gave that a sniff as well, circling around it, rubbing her fur on the hard material.
But suddenly, it slipped off of the wall. Shoot! I unsettled it!
With a huge crash, it slammed onto the ground. Jumping back, she just avoided the long bar, saving herself from injury.
Deciding to creep further into the lowly house, she tentatively stepped a little farther.
But soon, she heard a few clomps from the other room, and muttering. In a language she didn't understand.
There was still a Twoleg in this nest.
Fear shot through her, after remembering the time she and Jacques tried to get food from the Twoleg nest. Squealing (which wasn't herself), she scampered out of the rooms.
She could hear the Twoleg clomping behind her, and reseting the strange device.
A round object whizzed right by her whiskers. Another one smacked into her hind leg, surely leaving an unforgettable sore.
In one swift movement, she leaped through the window, ignoring the indignant shouts of the Twoleg.
"Well what happened to you?" her brother mumbled, chattering.
The breeze no longer bothered her.
"Apparently there's still a Twoleg living there."
"Good to know."
But it couldn't be a problem, right? If they just left it alone, then maybe it wouldn't bother them. Or even come to like them.
Next day, the Clans finally made an appearance, with some unlikely representatives. Susan spied them from far away, squinting her green eyes as to see their exact looks. There were five of them, although only three looked like they could be a threat. The three being a huge brown tabby tom, a muscular silver she-cat, and a clever looking tortoiseshell. The other two were small, not too scary.
"Jacques. Clan cats, just up ahead."
His ears pricked, eyes widened. He uttered a low hiss, and leaped up beside her.
"Come on, let's get them," he mewed, "They hurt Scourge. And our mother." Susan winced. The picture of her mother suffering her untimely death still hadn't evaded her mind.
These weren't the exact cats... but it still worked to teach them a lesson.
Both of them leaped down from the fence, growling, flexing. The Clan cats came to a dead stop, eyes open in horror. Susan studied the moves of the brown tabby tom. He looked the most dangerous of them all. Although the only emotion he seemed to be expressing was surprise.
But to her shock, it was not the tom or even the silver she-cat who attacked, it was one of the small, fluffy cats, hardly looking like a threat. She knocked right into her, without much hesitation. Looking into her striking green eyes and ginger pelt, Susan could make a pretty educated guess that she was somehow related to that bright orange tom, the one that killed Scourge. If Jacques wants revenge for Scourge, then he had better battle this cat.
Susan's fighting skills were a pretty good match for this she-cat, but she was quick and vicious. She was slipping around her at a lightning speed.
And now her tomcat friend was coming to her aid. How can I fend off both of them at once? Jacques seemed busy with the remaining rest.
It didn't take long for her to realize that she was being overpowered. Knowing that she was beat, by the most unlikely opponent, she gave up and scurred around the side of the house. Jacques was already there.
"Filthy Clan rats," she spat. He nodded, although he seemed distant.
Gradually, she could smell the scent of Clan even closer, stronger than ever. It was a disgusting reek, almost as bad as the worst places in Twolegplace. The Clans had moved in. Susan was somewhat sure that it was ShadowClan, but couldn't be quite sure.
Now was the time to find out.
And possibly, just get the revenge she had been seeking.
It appeared to be a young cat, all by himself, ears pricked for some prey that had fluttered away.
Without hesitation, she leaped down right in front of him, elongating herself to be much taller. Like the sidekick he was, Jacques followed her.
"Who are you?" Susan hissed.
His eyes widened in surprise. "I-I'm a ShadowClan warrior, and my Clanmates will be coming soon."
She gave a disdainful sniff. "I seriously doubt that this little scrap is a warrior yet. Clanmates coming soon? Ha."
ShadowClan is here. Now I can get what I want. She lashed out with one paw, striking a painful blow across his face.
He stepped back, terrified. "What do you want from me?"
"We want to get revenge, for what your Clan has done to us, those many moons ago," she growled.
Without warning, Jacques slammed into the apprentice. She was shocked. All she was planning to do was scare him, maybe send him off with a few bruises, but he seemed to be aiming farther. Not that she minded.
Susan joined in, slashing her claws down his flank as her brother pummeled him.Tufts of ginger fur stuck between her claws.
But as the tom looked up, Susan began to break. All of a sudden, she was in that position, the place of the killer. The cat who towered above her mother, and every BloodClan cat ever threatening and looking down on her. Pure terror and despair laced the young tom's yellow eyes.
"Jacques, let him go for now. We've wounded him enough."
He gave her a questioning look at the change of intentions, and released him. But Susan doubted that he would really make it, his wounds mortal. But there was nothing they could do about that. Plus, being in a Clan of killers, he had it coming.
As if nothing just occured, she licked the sticky blood off of her paw, sympathy for the poor tom slowly evaporating.
"Let's see if ShadowClan look down on us now."
The Twoleg inside of the house remained docile for most of the time, and Susan was actually able to get used to him. At first, he tried to throw more things at them, but got used to them and sometimes even fed them. She had always thought of kittypets as lazy and stupid, but her position at the moment proved her wrong.
Even that ramshackle house started to feel like home.
But sometimes she had to pace around, into the forest around the area just to burn off energy, to get the jitters away.
Life became boring, although in a very leisurely way. Jacques seemed to miss the journey and Twolegplace, but she didn't. Not at all.
Okay, she was homesick.
Milling around on the edge of the fence, something caught her eye really fast. A tortoiseshell pelt. There was a she-cat, slowly dragging her way past, straining with effort. Her back leg seemed to be damaged somehow.
Jacques noticed it too. His pupils grew wide, and he shimmied down to the bottom of a tree and watched the she-cat. Susan followed. The tortoiseshell was in their territory, no doubt about it. If those Clan cats were going to be all fussy about their territory, then they could do the same.
With one swift movement, Susan charged at her, aiming to knock her over. But as soon as she came close, a burning intensity of battle lit into her eyes, as she tensed up. And she launched up to her paws, uttering an intimidating hiss.
Suddenly, she became aware of the Clan cats that darted out of the shadows, surrounding them. Some of them came from the back even, growling. How did they manage to station themselves there without us noticing?
Blood boiling, itching for a fight, Susan yowled and began to attack. First, she charged the tawny she-cat that dared pretend to be a cripple, just to launch them into the situation. Her claws raked at her, but she was fast, and was able to flip her over.
Frustrated, she bounced back up for the next attack. But more cats were glomming onto her, smothering her, their sharp claws pricking into her skin. Holding back a yelp, she did her best to find Jacques. He seemed to be in a similar situation.
A tom held her throat, claws gleaming. "We could end it all right now," he growled. Susan was once plunged into the familiar sense of her very life being at risk. Wondering how she could get out of it. I am really hated by many cats, despite me thinking that I'm a good cat... but ShadowClan can't take my life like how they took my mother's.
Prepared to fight, she hissed, "Release me."
The tom spoke again. "Not until you swear to never harm the Clans again."
Plunged into a nearly impossible decision, she closed her eyes, attempting to think. She could never get her revenge if she swore this oath, but if she didn't swear it, then she would be killed and there would be no revenge anyways.
Susan decided that she wasn't ready to sacrifice herself, no matter how heroic it sounded.
"Fine. I swear," she snarled.
"Good." The intruding claws let her up. Instantly, she peered over to where Jacques was. Panting, he had just been let go, mini blood marks on his splotched pelt.
"They made me swear," he blubbered, "There was nothing I could do--I would die--and..."
Dismissively, Susan cut him off. "I had to as well. Or they would kill me. But we'll find a way to get around it, I promise."
Many moons later, she still remembered that dreadful addition to her life story.
Her dreams that night seemed haunted. Like they were anticipating something big to happen, possibly even something dreadful.
At first, she was padding through Twolegplace, although the silence was so pressing that was almost stifling. No Twoleg cars rushed by. No cats were strolling through the streets, squabbling. Not even a lonely bark of a dog was heard.
Slowly, the hard street under her paws turned long, lush meadow grass. Although the buildings still remained in their original places, shadowing her.
Although, there was another shape in the shadows, one harder to identify. It came closer. Slinking from the earth, was Shade.
Gorgeous tail curling up, she was purring, like she couldn't be happier in her entire life. She spoke vigorously as she smiled, although Susan couldn't even hear her voice. Like she needed to to realize the cheer emanating from her mother.
Flickering into view, Scorch was by her side, smiling as well, his ginger pelt in its prime. Their fur brushed gently together, like a butterfly's wing against a leaf.
But Scorch's smile soon turned twisted, as a collar shimmered onto him, the studded teeth dripping with the freshly spilled blood of cats. Susan swore that she could see Jacques in a similar form, reflected as Scorch's shadow.
And just as he came, Scorch faded away, only darkness swimming around him instead of golden light.
Tears spurted out of Shade's green eyes, tail drooping, her fur suddenly becoming ragged and unkempt.
Suddenly, an unseen force struck her from behind. Her mother dropped to the ground instantly, her face contorting with pain. She couldn't even hear the snap of her neck, as it lolled to the side. Pupils rolling upwards, blood trickling from her.
Susan tried to scream, but the whole place seemed to be completely bound by silence. The spongy grass shriveled up beneath her paws, into a crackly brown weed. Terrified, she ran into one of the still-remaining Twoleg buildings to find that it was a pound. Cats squalled inside of it, begging for their lives, even though she couldn't hear.
Spike was among them, but instead of trying to make noise, he just stared at her with sad, misty eyes before he slowly faded as well.
She began to cry, unable to bear it.
Looking up, she realized that Scourge was before her. Unwavering, his icy eyes pierced her. To her shock, he was able to speak, the only sound that she could ever take in.
"You are doomed, Susan. Always have been, always will be." Instead of disappearing, he watched with contempt as the building began to melt as well, turning flaky and brown. Blood oozed from beneath her own claws. Strange hissing and a few screams echoed.
Unable to take any more, she slipped, landing belly-up in blood.
Scourge leaned over her and--
"Wha-?" She woke up to the unfortunate sound of her voice wavering and cracking from the night.
Jacques' round eyes hovered above her. "You need to get up. It's urgent."
She groaned. Haven't we had enough of urgency? Shaking bits of grass off of her pelt, from where she had fallen asleep, she moved after him.
Standing there, was the last cat that she would ever want to see right then. It was Scorch.
"What do you want?" she snapped.
"Can't you show a bit more respect for your father every now and then?" he mewed, bored. Susan let out an aggravated hiss. It seemed as if he was rubbing that unfortunate fact in their faces on purpose.
"He was waiting here to talk to us since dawn, I think," Jacques said.
He nodded. "You have become quite famous among the Clans, especially ShadowClan."
She growled. "Yes. They deserve payback for what they have done."
Scorch looked slightly confused for a moment, but seemed to decide to not risk appearing as ignorant. Giving a nervous flick of the ear, he continued speaking.
"As you know, I have joined ShadowClan. It keeps me safe, gives me a home. But there's something that has been nagging at me, something that I was meaning to tell you."
"Skip the long introductions," Susan scoffed, "And tell us what you mean." Some part of her deep down was secretly afraid of the answer, but she had to put on a brave face.
"When you were born, something was kept from you. You see, there was a third kit."
It felt as if her legs were plunged into hot water. "What?" she demanded.
"There was a third kit," he repeated simply, "You were too young to remember him. After your mother and I broke up, I decided that I would take something to remember her, something that I could love. So I took him."
"Without her knowing?" Susan gasped.
"Oh, I wasn't too inconspicious. But she didn't notice, as she was wallowing in grief and self-pity."
Jacques shot in, with an unusual barrage of questions. "But what happened to him? Where is he now? Is he with you?"
Scorch sighed. "As soon as he was old enough, he ran away to join the Clans. I let him. But as you can see, I finally joined myself."
Images flashed through her mind. What could he really be like, or look like? She had a niggling suspicion that he was a part of ShadowClan.
"But unfortunately, he was just killed. By you."
What does he mean? Susan screeched inwardly. What were the odds that he was that dopey little cat that they wounded? He looked much younger. It couldn't be possible.
"You two matured rather fast," he said, "Simply because you've been through a rougher life. No matter how insane it seems, it's the truth. You two killed Talonpaw, your own brother." He spat the last words with a surprising contempt, as he had been calm through the whole conversation.
I really am a killer. A horrible cat. 'But it never would've happened, if it weren't for him. He's haunted me my whole life, as a father that was never truly there for me.
"It's all your fault!" she snarled, "You were the one who never told us, who never really cared for us even enough to say that we have an unknown brother!"
Scorch stood up, hostility clouding his angry gaze. "But Shade didn't choose to tell you either," he mused.
Refusing to believe his lies, she spat back all of her fury at him. "I bet you were the one who threatened her, telling her that she could never tell us!"
"So what if I did?" Scorch replied, "All that matters is that she lied too. You think that I'm a horrible father, take a look at your mother. Shivering. Weak. Cowardly. She could never work up the courage to allow you to become friends of Scourge. Therefore, your life has been doomed to misery. And it's all her fault."
Susan was normally temperamental, and she was coping well so far. But at that moment, something exploded inside of her. It was pure fury, possibly shadowing some inner feelings of sadness.
In one colossal leap, she landed on top of him, tearing at him. It was what he deserved, for the countless moons of not being there for them. For deserting them, hurting her mother, not honoring her, and breaking her heart along with the other things in life that shattered it to pieces. Fast as lightning, he retaliated, slashing his claws across her flank, taking out hunks of her fur.
This wasn't a tamed fight that they were once forced to have, as Susan was just a tiny kit.
With expertise, Scorch flipped her over using his hind legs as well as his front. As soon as she smacked into the ground, his claws were pummeling against her stomach. His weight was crushing her, even as Jacques futilely tried to haul Scorch off of her.
Jacques gave one more tug, not able to remove Scorch, but distracting him. Susan took advantage of this moment, and slipped out from under him. With a sharp jab, she knocked him over onto his side. Viciously, she ripped at his ear. Blood spurted out of it, splashing onto her nose. Slowly, the skin began to tear as Scorch screeched in agony.
And just like that, his ear ripped right off.
Anxiously, he cuffed his paw over his ear. With an angry screech, burning with newfound fury, he leaped at Susan.
He instantly was able to pin her, even as she sidestepped. No hesitation, he sunk his teeth into her throat.
This had become into far more than a friendly visit. It was a nightmare.
But Scorch deserved it, for all that he had done to them during their life. And more importantly, their mother.
Susan began to see dots, as bile slowly rised into her throat. Feebly, she kicked him with her back paws. But Scorch would not let go.
She was dying.
"How could you--kill your own daughter?" she choked.
"How could you attack me? You're the most worthless thing I've ever lay eyes on."
The words stung her surprisingly, considering she had never really known her father. But it felt like there was just another scar added to her heart. Worthless? Maybe... She wanted to cry, but had more pressing matters.
There was a crushing sensation on top of her. But it wasn't the feeling of being strangle, bitten to death. It was the feeling of Scorch's body collapsing on top of her. His teeth released her neck.
Weakly, she wriggled from underneath him, to realize that he was dead. His neck was cracked to one side, bleeding.
The exact position she had seen Shade in, in her dream, although it was him instead of her.
Jacques stood above him, his mouth covered in a thin red stain. His claws were still unsheathed, and he was still panting.
"I had to kill him."
Susan was shocked, but wasn't exactly ready to complain. But after all of it, she had the oddest feeling... grief. Grief for the dead father that neglected her. His limp shape seemed out of place in the weak daylight.
Once again, she collapsed on the ground. "Go," she stated simply, voice flat.
Jacques ears flicked back, and he took a step away.
"I said go," she repeated, a bit stronger than before.
Scrambling away, he heeded her request.
She needed to be alone for awhile, to contemplate all that had happened. She had unknowingly killed her own brother. But her father finally got what he deserved.
But was she selfish? Was she worthless? The thoughts raced through her mind for the moment.
No, she finally decided. She may be tough and sometimes cold, but she had loved and lost, made others happy. Pictures of Spike and Flick were dominant in her mind. She had always supported her brother. And most of all, her mother.
No, she was not worthless.
Even though it was still morning, the temperature seemed to drop to a bit chillier. Her fur stood on end.
There was a low hissing in her ears. Confused, she looked around, wondering if it was Jacques. But the hissing noise elevated into a whisper.
Susan, my daughter, it whispered.
Instantly, Susan shot right up. "Mom?" At that moment, she would be accepting to anything. A warm scent wreathed around her.
It may have been her imagination, but she heard a soft, delighted purr. It's me, dear. 'Your life has always been doomed to be hard from the start, but you have braved it through it all. No matter what fault you may have, I am truly proud of you.
A cool breeze blew across her ginger fur. "Mom? Don't go!" Susan sputtered.
I must, my daughter, Shade whispered into her ear, But know that I am always there for you. There will always be more hardship coming for you, but no matter what, I will be there.
Her misty, evanescent form disappeared in a soft puff, only leaving her with bittersweet memories.
The cold rain spattered on the pavement, splashing into a dirty stream running along the curb. The night sky flickered with lightning.
Shade had known that the storm was going to break. Yet she had lost track of the time....
Her footsteps pattered through the puddles, spraying her with muck. A rat dangled from her jaws. I'm almost there.... she began to run faster, the raindrops like needles on her face. Yet she wasn't being careful enough; she slipped on the hard, wet ground and went sprawling. The rat landed with a thunk in a puddle.
Quickly, she scrambled up, ignoring the searing pain in her left side. She scurried forward to pick up her rat, but she halted, as she found herself staring into a pair of lime green eyes....