“I spy with my little eye … something that is green.”
“The leaves, Lillystorm.”
“Oohoo! Right again! You’re a smart one!”
The two cats sit in the medicine cat den, pressed close to each other and focusing as hard as they can to pray to The Fourteen for a swift recovery. Their bones ached and flesh felt pulled, but they were here, and they were alive. That’s all that matters.
Weavermoth rises to his feet slowly, ignoring the stabs of pain rushing up his body. He turns to face Lillystorm, and then glances around the rest of his den. Mostly kits and apprentices, those who weren’t holding vigil for the dead or simply were barely able to survive their wounds. On top of the ten deaths, most kits had also died, their wounds simply too immense for cats of their size and age. He’d seen enough in the week or so of recovery, and prayed into every leaf and berry and cobweb for help.
He was never religious, never one to turn to The Fourteen in peril. He relied enough on himself. But after the sights and terrors he was forced to behold however many days ago, and the countless deaths as the result he felt he was left with little choice.
“...How are you feeling?” he asks Endingflight. The black tom glances up, sighs quietly, and offers up only a shrug.
“As best as I can. Thank you.” He says.
“Do you need anything? Anything at all. Really.” Weavermoth replies hurriedly.
“No. Please, don’t overwork yourself.”
Weavermoth’s tail sways back and forth, but he backs off, going to sit back down next to Lillystorm. Most of the others were sleeping or tended to, anyways. He was tired, and Endingflight was right. He should stop overworking himself. He flops down and puts his head in his paws, glancing up and spotting Lillystorm staring right down at him.
“What?” Weavermoth spits, straightening up a little bit.
“Oh! Nothing, nothing. I’m just… worried.” Lillystorm huffs. “You know… this whole situation has left me itching for more.”
He laughs, but Weavermoth shoots him a dark glare. Lillystorm blinks a few times, before immediately going into protest.
“Oh- no, no, you don’t need to worry at all, I’m not actually itching- not beyond the normal amount at least- Weavermoooootth-”
But Weavermoth is already standing, marching over to Lillystorm and routinely checking every wound, every crevice a worm could be hiding. Ears, tongue, nose, eyes, mouth. All while Lillystorm grumbles and complains, but reluctantly works with the medicine cat while he checks. When he’s satisfied, Weavermoth sits back down, offering Lillystorm a haughty smile.
“What was that, Lillystorm?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeeeeah.”
“You know, I want to hear it from your mouth. What was it like? While I was still sleeping, at least. And… how are you feeling?”
“Me? Feeling great! Dandy. Aside from the holes , and the pain, and the blood , and the nightmares . Could have been worse though!” Lillystorm laughs, though it’s not whole. “Me and Sugarbees were talking, just a normal chat. I think it was about border patrol. The sun was barely visible and it was still cold, most cats were asleep. We were all prepped and ready for the attack. But I think the thing we least expected was to see her, Wormwrithe, just… in our camp like any other cat. Wandering around, looking like a gross zombie thing. Eeu-uuhh-uuuggghh. Sugarbees immediately ran off to point her out to Owlstar, and I started quietly evacuating cats.”
Lillystorm shuffles his paws, closing in on himself like he somehow indirectly caused this entire debacle.
“That’s when the leaves above us just started shaking. And we realized that, uh, it wasn’t nighttime. It was actually morning, and the canopy above our camp was just… all worms. Like it started raining worms, all over all of us and we just started running. Searching for safety. Me and Sagepaw- or Sageleaf now? Whatever. Me and Sageleaf got the brunt of it, and we got cut off from the rest of the group. That’s when you woke up.”
Weavermoth blinks slowly after Lillystorm is done, and nudges a bit closer so their flanks are flush.
“I’m sorry. It’s not your fault, Lillystorm.” Weavermoth tries, looking up at Lillystorm.
“I know, I know, I know. It’s just… aarrrgggh. You know?” Lillystorm says, chuckling a bit.
“Oh, I know. I know.”
The two take a moment to sit in calm silence, enjoying the company and peace after almost endless stress. It’s easy enough to doze off, too. It’s warm next to Lillystorm, almost too warm, but Weavermoth finds himself falling asleep in no time. Finally, some good fucking rest.
He’s standing in a forest, the grass below him soft and the trees dark.
“Lillystorm!” A voice calls distantly. “Lillystorm, where are you?”
The trees arc around him like a cage, enclosing him in shadow. He knows these trees, the evergreen that grew in his territory and has grown to recognize. How could he ever get lost here? But these trees are unfamiliar, a strange mockery of pine. The needles are too bright, bark too smooth. A face pokes through the trees, a little ginger and gray cat covered in white spots. He turns to face Weavermoth, and sighs in relief.
“Oh thank god, some life!” He exclaims, and runs forward. The first thing Weavermoth notices for sure, the thing that stands out in all of this?
Pupils. They’re blown wider than the colour in his eyes, making his eyes seem almost black. His body seems to be melting, too. He runs forward, and runs right into Weavermoth. The moment they make contact, he’s spinning and the ground beneath him dissolves, grass folding over into smooth stone and vanishing entirely. He stands in what appears to be a void, black stretching out on all edges. It's cold and his paws are wet. Water? Weavermoth steps forward slowly, step by step he presses forward in this oppressive darkness towards absolutely nothing. Something glints, the faintest of lights, and he pauses.
Stretching all around him in massive nets are webs, pulled taut against something unknown, tied to each other. A great amalgamation of webbing. Spiders hurry quickly over them, scattering here and there. He can’t make heads or tails; there is only the darkness and this faint light and the webs and nothing else. It’s only him. He looks up, to find the point of light, the point of where this glow is coming from. The point is nothing but more void, and he sees nothing here. It’s hard to breathe, and the light fades as he focuses on nothing.
Unsure, he spends an eternity standing there. Frozen. It takes a ton of courage to press forward, and the web catches. It tightens around his throat, his ankles, and his flank. It unspools, and it doesn’t take long for him to realize he’s being pulled apart like thread. Silvery strands that made up who he is vanishing into the void. He screams, but his vocal cords only seem to come out in thin wire.
He is nothing, and yet he feels every inch, pulled and stretched and turned into a web. Tiny legs scuttling across his infinite form, catching invisible flies. He is everything.
Lillystorm is next to him when he wakes up with a start, settling back into his body. These are his paws, yes. Scarred and bloody, but his nonetheless. The ground below him is soft and padded, and he remembers he’s in a nest. Next to Lillystorm. It’s warm here, is his first thought on the situation.
But why is that his first thought? The cat sighs quietly, and he stands. Whatever the hell that meant, he wasn't enjoying it. The sleeping cats around him fill the den with peace, moonlight breaking through the vines of the door. He slinks out, careful not to disturb or bother the others. He treads down the edge of the camp, and up towards the leader's den.
"And what do you think you're doing?" a rumbling voice asks, and Weavermoth comes face to face with the gray fur of Driftweed. Finally getting a good look at him for the first time in many moons, he seems grayer than usual, towering over him, small flecks of wiry gray giving his muzzle a small halo. He's gigantic and fluffy, and smells of salt and fish.
"Oh, I need to see Owlstar. I keep having these… strange dreams. I don't know. I feel like it meant something." He doesn't straighten up, spine still flat and head hung low. This only makes Driftweed even taller.
"Are you sure you simply did not have a nightmare?" Driftweed leans back on his haunches and sits, gently batting at Weavermoths nose and allowing his claws to show for a moment. They're gigantic, just like him. Weavermoth is convinced he has some wildcat blood. "You have always gotten many of those."
"No! No. This one felt real. Very… very real. I need to see Owlstar- let me past." He shoves past Driftweed, who watches. Almost knowingly. His tired eyes track Weavermoth as he ascends.
"...M'okay." Weavermoth hears from Driftweed, and glances back to look. He's gone. Again. For one gigantic cat, he's quiet as a mouse.
He shakes it off and slips inside, looking at the tiny cat. His leader watches him with squinting golden eyes, and smiles as he enters.
"Weavermoth! It's lovely to see you. I hope things are well? Cats recovering?" He crosses his paws and straightens up, large ears pointed forward. Weavermoth feels miniscule.
"Yes- Owlstar. Uh… I've been having these strange dreams-" he can't even get that out before Owlstar juts in.
"Are you sure that's not a byproduct of your touch mark?" Owlstar speaks like a warrior to a kit. "Often having such a direct connection to the Great Fourteen leads to this. Though that's never always good."
Weavermoths ears flatten against his head, and he can't formulate a response. No, he's just overreacting. There's nothing to be worried about. Why would there be? He's silly.
"Cats with touch marks are born with bad blood, and it's up to you to let it drain," he points at himself with one claw, "or fester." He points at Weavermoth. "You will be nothing if you do the latter, and probably end up the same monster as Wormwrithe."
Weavermoth breathes out slowly, and nods.
"What do I need to do?"
Owlstar seems pleased, standing and striding over. He sizes Weavermoth up, looking him up and down carefully as if measuring him for some sort of plan. He’s not entirely sure, just watching his leader cycle around him, before plopping right down.
“We worship the Fourteen, devote our lives to them. But that touch mark… it means you’re using their powers. Use it too much, or incorrectly, and they will see you as greedy, as vile. Other cats will see you the same, only the greedy are blessed to show the innocent how to behave. But us? You? You can learn to be an outlier, to learn to protect and serve your clan.” Owlstar speaks carefully, slowly, each word setting in Weavermoths brain, engraving into it. He points at his forehead. “These touch marks are the end and the beginning of our lives. When you die once more, will you lean towards greed or heroism? If you wish to get the latter, I’d suggest listening to me in the future.”
Weavermoth sits and listens, exhaling quietly. This made sense, yes. The dream was probably something he’s just made up in his muddled mind. He needs to be better, do better. He nods in agreement, tilting his head just a bit.
“You are dismissed. And that dream of yours? Do not worry. That was probably that Lillystorm friend of yours. He’s touched, too. Or maybe Sugarbee?” Owlstar antagonizes.
“Sugarbees.” Weavermoth corrects, not allowing it to get to him.
“Yes, yes. Yes.” Owlstar rolls his eyes and flops back into his bed, turning away from Weavermoth. He had to go.
He can’t help but feel the anxious prickle of every word running across his pelt, was he really that bad of a person? It hurt him, to some extent. The Fourteen were kind, generous, they weren’t supposed to hurt anyone.
Every gift comes with a price, something in his head says.
He swallows down his grief and tentatively agrees.
Paperflight is clearing some herbs, when two kits walk in. A fluffy orange poof ball and a scrawny tom. Weaverkit hops after a mossball that Lillystorm bats in, grappling it and tumbling to the ground. Lillykit mewls, bouncing after the other and tackling him to the ground. They fight for a bit, before Paperflight’s voice breaks the battle up.
“You know, fighting like that draws the eyes of some ghosts who want to play too.” Paperflight nudges the kits gently, smiling and allowing the features of her face to soften for once. “They say that ragged old cat who ran off not too long ago, Hollyfur, died out in the woods without her clan. Now she haunts these woods.” Paperflight crouches beside them, watching them gasp and return to respectful positions. Their little paws scramble so they can look professional, holding their heads high like warriors.
“Well, I don’t believe that tale. I think there's something much, much worse out there. A cat black as night itself, with hollow eyes. Something Hollyfur left behind after leaving Seerclan. It’s told that kits who roughhouse too much will meet that creature at night, and it will steal your fur!”
She hops forward a bit, laughing and watching the two of the kits scramble off with promises to be better and tiny mewls of fear.
“Why tease them like that?”
“Ah, well, they were annoying me. Get back to it, Yellowcurls.”
Weavermoth thinks to himself as he cleans up the den, trying to gently get the healing kits to lay down and relax as he limps on injured paws himself. He’s trying to coax Foxkit to bed, though it isn’t going too well. The kit is struggling and whining about wanting to go play with the others, disregarding their own wounds and blood and scars.
“Please, just rest, Foxkit. Please.” Weavermoth tries to coax.
“I wanna go out! Meet friends! Momma!” They mewl, earning the annoyed groans of the other cats in the den.
“Please just lay down.”
“No! No no no no no!”
“That’s enough now,” Lillystorm interjects, “If you don’t lay down, the Skull Spirit will get you and take your fur. You don’t want that, do you?”
“Nooo- no no, I like my fur! Mmmm- fine!” Foxkit finally resigns, stomping back to their nest and plopping back down. Weavermoth turns around to see the fluffy body of Lillystorm, mostly healed up.
He stands in the entrance, smiling softly at Weavermoth and nuzzling him gently.
“We gotta go to share tongues, Weavermoth. Are you joining the others?” Lillystorm takes one look at the disaster of a cat; thin, wounded, underfed, exhausted, and sore. He shakes his head and ushers Weavermoth outside. “Nah, you need a break. Come outside for once, please. I am begging you, Weaverkit.”
“I am not a kit, I can handle myself-”
“Clearly not. Look at yourself. You’re a mess!”
Weavermoth looks Lillystorm up and down, eyes flicking and constricting. His ears flip back, body growing tenser than before. He’s touched by Desolation, why would he ever want to help you if he didn’t want to hurt you?
“I can handle myself just fine, and I was doing just fine before you showed up.” Weavermoth spits, watching the warrior bristle. He’s dangerous.
“Ex- cuse me?” Lillystorm spits back.
“Yes. I was doing just fine. I don’t need you. I bet- I-I-I bet you’re working for Lostclan, aren’t you? You’re just another one of their spies!”
“What has gotten into you, Weavermoth? You were nice and happy earlier, not spouting this bullshit-”
“Look at you, saying kittypet words, just like a Lostclan warrior!”
“Stop avoiding the q-”
“Maybe because I realized that you foreign touched avatars have bad blood! ” Weavermoth finalizes, hissing and spitting each word. “I bet Desolation speaks to you, too.”
“You-you are maniacal, Weavermoth! Listen to yourself! Seriously!”
Weavermoth snarls, right in the face of a relatively cool Lillystorm. He scoffs and storms off, past Glassbark and Daisyscar and deeper into the woods. He thinks about how they were before, close friends, and he’s just begun tearing that down.
Good, a voice in his head says, let him die.
“He’s been such a freak recently, I don’t know what’s gotten into him!”
Lillystorm is sitting on the maw by Silverpaw Lake, watching the time pass by and wasting it by speaking with Sageleaf. The fresh warrior kicks around some rocks, quietly listening and occasionally providing some less than helpful input. It’s still nice to vent.
“He seems so accusatory, that I’m touched by Desolation. Firstly, it’s not like I chose it. Secondly, he’s also touched! What the hell!” Lillystorm feels his claws dig into the stone below.
“It’s a bit of a sudden change to be natural, he might just be stressed about Wormwrithe. I am too. Just… a bit less so, I guess?” Sageleaf looks up, wide blue doe eyes boring into Lillystorm. “I mean, I’ve changed a lot suddenly too. I’m just hoping my idea works out.”
“Idea?” Lillystorm interrupts, but is quickly overrun. Right, don’t comment on that.
“Just give him time, okay? In the meanwhile, we can start rebuilding.”
Lillystorm bristles a bit, but eventually gives up. He wants some time to breathe and cry and scream. He wants to drown himself in the ice cold water and he wants to run away. Sageleaf does have a point, though, he’s not going to get anywhere with anger. Yet he cannot ignore the heat in his paws.
He hops down from the maw, approaching Sageleaf carefully. Those bright blue eyes seem a little less bright up close.
“I’m just tired of losing cats,” Lillystorm confesses.
“Soon, you’ll never lose anyone again.” Sageleaf responds, chipper as ever. Ominous.
“Hah. Thanks, little dude.” Lillystorm licks Sageleaf on the forehead, drawing a little purr from the fluffy gray tom. “It’s… all going to be okay, I hope. I’ll just focus on rebuilding, and distract myself from all of this.”
Lillystorm sets off back into the pine forest, feeling the needles soft against his pawpads and watching Sageleaf vanish over his shoulder. The world around him is tall as he zones out, moving only forward.
Maybe this would all be better if Sorrowpaw wasn’t so gullible, or if he was more gullible. Maybe they wouldn’t have taken him. The thought burns in his mind and in his gut, especially with the scent of paint that swirls around him. It’s followed by a strange, unknown smell, and a yowl.
He runs ahead, tail lashing back and forth as he presses beyond the trees and comes out to a strange sight.
Sugarbees, tackling a strange brown she-cat. There are claws, only stopped as Sugarbees pins the rogue to the ground and looks up.
“I caught her in our territory, catching our prey. What shall we do with her?” Sugarbees demands, bristling and bleeding. Lillystorm scoffs, stepping back.
“Backpedal, please, what’s going on?” He responds, shaking his head.
“I was just- please it’s been a half-moon- I’m so hungry-” The rogue cries out as sharp claws dig into her back.
Lillystorm, tired of this shit, pushes between them, hefting Sugarbees off. He stands over the rogue, looking no more than mildly annoyed.
“Listen, you, I still have the upper hand here. Just tell me who you are, and why you’re hunting here.”
The rogue shifts to a more comfortable position, and allows her head to rise.
“My name is… Helen. I was a kittypet… before all this. Hah. I met a strange cat, I couldn’t look at it, not very well at least. It was like a whirlwind. Then- then it asked me if I wanted to go somewhere cool. I agreed, and…”
They’re caught in tense silence for a moment, before Sugarbees breaks it with a small “a-hem” .
“Ah. I was trapped in a forest with no prey. Only strange, colourful trees. Solid grass, all of it like a kittypet den trying to look like a forest. I was there for half a moon, but I found a turn and… ended up here. Please, just one morsel. I don’t- I don’t want to die.”
Lillystorm thinks for a long moment, watching Sugarbees rear up and circle around Helen. She’s bristling, she’s pissed as all hell. He’s never seen her this pissed before.
“We need that food for the clan-” Helen offers Lillystorm a pitiful look, “-but, we will give you one mouse, and then you must leave.”
“Oh please, anything. Please. Thank you so much. Thank you.” Helen crawls to her feet, shaking and weak.
Sugarbees storms over, snarling and shooting Helen death glares.
She pulls Lillystorm aside, pressing up against him. It almost reminds him of before all this, when she was softer and sweeter.
“You can’t just let a rogue eat our food! We need that!” Sugarbees argues.
“She needs it more. I can starve for a day. I’ll be fine.” Lillystorm says back.
“You’re going directly against code. She will be okay! You don’t need to worry about her!”
“I just want to help another cat, is that too much to ask?”
“Yes! If it’s a foreign cat! I don’t want to be-”
“Go get a mouse. Now. Or else.” Lillystorm shoves Sugarbees away roughly, trudging over to where Helen stood awkwardly. She looked so… meek. She didn’t even have her collar. He glances once behind him, finding Sugarbees gone from her post. Most likely ran off. Good , he thinks.
“Thank you, I- really. It was… scary, In there. In that place. Nice to see a friendly face.” Helen shuffles her paws, tucking her tail in close. As Lillystorm gets a better look at her, he can see her a little clearer up close. She’s a brown tabby with curled fur, plump and soft despite her clear starvation. She’s covered in little white spots and speckles, her muzzle white as if she dipped it into snow. Lillystorm estimates around 100 moons. Her eyes are a brilliant yellow, but seem to have a pink swirl through them. On her forehead, which is most odd, is a Spiral touch mark.
“I don’t like to leave cats for dead. May I ask, how are you touched by Spiral if you are not from the clans?” Lillystorm inquires, leaning forward to sniff her. She smells like sweet milk and comfort.
“A what? I’m not sure.. what you’re talking about. I know about the clans, I’ve heard neighbor cats speak of you. I didn’t have anywhere else to turn, I’m afraid.”
“A touch mark, a symbol on your forehead.”
“Oh! That old thing. I didn’t have it before, no. But when I entered that place, that terrible terrible place, a cat called Micheal came to me. Told me its name, and I felt cold from head to toe. It lunged at me, claws out, and drove them into my forehead. Yet… there was no blood, only a sense of true connection. As if I needed it all my life. Every time I close my eyes, now, I can see that place.”
“As if you have a paw in both worlds.”
“Indeed. I’m not sure why it did that, but I can’t help but thank it. I’ve never felt like this before. So utterly whole and complete. Regardless, I never, ever want to return.”
“Aaaand why not, Helen?” A voice rings out from all around them. She bristles, and fear overtakes her expression. “It’s a lovely place.”
“Please- please please, don’t hurt me-” She begs, and Lillystorm jumps to his feet.
“Who are you?! Where are you?!” He demands, whipping around frantically.
Lillystorm makes the stupid mistake of turning his back to the she-cat. The moment he does, he can hear a scream echo out from behind him. Turning back around, he sees… nothing. Nothing but a strange slab in the ground, pressed into the soft dirt. He doesn’t recognize it, but standing atop it is what he can only describe as a headache.
It’s a normal cat at first glance, but it rips and tears as it moves. Turns into a thousand more. It smiles at Lillystorm from all around him, laughing.
“I’m glad I could have a meal! It’s been quite a while! Ah, well! I’m sure this is some sort of punishment for you, too. You broke clan code!”
“To save a cat!”
“You still broke your precious rules. The Fourteen must be so mad with you right now…”
“ FUCK THE FOURTEEN! What the hell are you?! Give her BACK !” Lillystorm swipes at the amalgam, and feels his claws move through the air like hot putty.
“Quite cruel words, Lillystorm! Or, perhaps shall I say-”
“ Don’t . Don’t you DARE ! How-” he swallows, his fur spiked up and rippling. He takes a few steps back. “Sugarbees! SUGARBEES!”
The thing laughs, and leans inwards. For the first time, it seems whole, its head one thing instead of a thousand. It’s smiling.
“She doesn’t care. Have you already forgotten? A shame… Stranger must have done a number on you.”
Lillystorm looks around at the plastic trees.