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   Chapter 30 The Sharper the Thorn, The Deadlier the Secret (Clace)

City of Ice and Fire By Grace Estellar Characters: 27123

Updated: 2020-01-03 23:50

***Arrowheart's POV***

Patchfur was a warm presence by his side, the black and ginger tom leading them with confident strides towards the FaerieClan border. Goldenclaw was on the bicolored tom's other side, his golden eyes fixated on the destination ahead. Behind them trailed Dawnmist, Sparkpaw, Nightrose and Simon. It had taken a lot of convincing on their part for Blossomstar to allow a group of this size to go on this trip.

Arrowheart had hoped that his words would be enough to sway the HunterClan leader, but in the end it was Dawnmist that convinced Blossomstar a group of this size would be necessary. They set off as soon as the sun started to set. If they were not home by moon high, a patrol would be sent out after them.

It was a reasonable stipulation, seeing as the faerie cats were known for being unpredictable, and for doing rather....unseemly things. Scandals flashed in his mind from the past, those stories of the fae bringing in mundane kittypets and other Downworlders and even the occasional Shadowhunter into their whispering woods a big reminder as to why their clan was both mysterious and worrisome.

Making a big group all the more reasonable. We have no idea just what we might find here.

Patchfur stopped once they reached the FaerieClan border, his paws rooted to the ground. Yellow green eyes bore into the stretch of overgrowth that lay before them, his expression unreadable. The warlockian tom had been pretty uneasy about coming to see Vinestar, something about the leader knowing things about him he'd decidedly not want Arrowheart to know about quite yet. What had won him over in the end was the need to help Violetpaw. Patchfur was likely one of the most experienced in HunterClan in these types of interactions with other Downworlders. It would be foolish not to bring him.

"Hey! Why did we stop?" Goldenclaw grunts.

Dawnmist brushes past his parabatai, annoyance in her clear blue eyes. "We must wait for a patrol to come get us."

"But what if that takes awhile?" Simon asks worriedly.

"Violetpaw really needs our help. Shouldn't we just go in now and apologize later." Sparkpaw mewed.

Arrowheart shakes his head at his apprentice. "No Sparkpaw. As much as I'd like to rush to their camp to, forgo all the niceties... FaerieClan is known for being very particular about guests. We have to be respectful. Otherwise...."

"Otherwise they might not help us at all." Dawnmist agrees.

Patchfur sniffs the air, his whiskers twitching. "Besides. I can smell them on their way here now."

A second after he said that, a patrol burst into view. Arrowheart takes in each of the cats with an air of caution. The patrol consists of four cats: Shynose, Springpaw, Harryfur and Beckonstep. Arrowheart felt a burst of relief at the sight of the two Wild Hunt toms. They had been apprentices at the same time Arrowheart, Goldenclaw and Nightrose. The two had been decent conversationalists with level heads on their shoulders.

Surely they will help us. I hope.

"What are HunterClan cats doing so close to our border?" Shynose asked. The cream colored she-cat's white belly fur could hardly be seen due to the thick swathes of grass growing out of the ground on FaerieClan territory. Unlike HunterClan's own forest, the land of the fey was an overgrown tangled wonder of fauna and mystery.

Who knows just what secrets this place might hold. It was because of the land's mysterious nature that many special herbs grew there and unique healing techniques were established. Featherflight had raved about the time he had visited the lands back when he was an apprentice. Doebelly took good care of what did grow there, that much was confirmed by the elder healer.

Dawnmist steps forward. Her pale tail flicks behind her in greeting. "Hello Shynose. We've come to see Vinestar. One of our apprentices, Violetpaw was hit by a monster. I was hoping that Doebelly might be able to give me some herbs to help her."

The FaerieClan cats were startled by the Medicine Cat's words. Beckonstep and Harryfur sent sympathetic glances their way that made Arrowheart's stomach feel sick. It flopped around with a writhing sort of pain. He usually was not impatient, but right now he, like Goldenclaw, wanted to be on their way. Dawnmist had told him before they left camp that the longer it took for them to get help, the less likely it would be that the apprentice would ever walk again. For such an energetic young cat to lose the use of one of her hind would be heartbreaking to say the least.

"Shynose, we have to help them. Violetpaw deserves help." Springpaw mews urgently to her mentor. Arrowheart knew the little she-cat had spoken to Violetpaw a few times at the past Gatherings, a sort of friendship kindling between them.

"Quiet Springpaw." Beckonstep spoke lowly. "Shynose must be allowed to make this decision without bias of any shape or form."

Shynose gives her clan mate an approving nod, shooting her own apprentice a withering look. Springpaw cowers away from that reprimanding look, her white paws digging into the moist earth. The chirping sounds of crickets filled the air, a surprising sound in the cool fall weather.

"Vinestar would find this meeting...interesting. But, I must warn you that she would not want to see all of you in our sacred home. Some of the warriors might get the wrong idea." The way Shynose said that last sentence, Arrowheart could tell she meant that all of the warriors would be suspicious.

"So, what you're saying is that you'll let us come, but only if it's a few of us?" Sparkpaw asks.

"Quite perceptive of you little flame." Shynose sneers slightly.

Goldenclaw growls at the expression, stepping in front of Sparkpaw protectively. Arrowheart watches Simon rush to do the same, effectively blocking his apprentice from view. He wants to smack them both upside the head, as does Sparkpaw by the looks of it. She doesn't need their protection. Sparkpaw could lay Shynose out flat with all the successful training sessions we've had lately.

"I don't think that's necessary Shynose. Being condescending won't speed anything along, so let's just cut to the chase." Patchfur mewed.

"Fair enough. Dawnmist, Goldenclaw, Sparkpaw, and Simon can come with us. The rest of you...well, you must wait at the border. One of us will stay with you to make sure you don't follow." Shynose begins.

"I'd be more than happy to do just that." An incoming voice spoke up.

Arrowheart swings his head to the right just in time to see Duskstep coming out of the undergrowth. The black tom was a sleek shadow in the background of green, his gray paws silent as he moves forward. Beside him, Nightrose seems to beam happily.

Why is she so happy to see him? Is something going on between the two of them?

Before he could ask, Shynose nods in agreement. "That would be great. Thanks Duskstep. The rest of you follow me." The she-cat turned to leave. The other cats in her patrol circled around Dawnmist, Sparkpaw, Goldenclaw and Simon. He felt startled by how quickly the group was leaving himself, Patchfur and Nightrose behind.

"Good luck parabatai. May the Angel be with you." Arrowheart calls out to Goldenclaw.

The golden tabby gives him a thankful nod. "I'll try my best brother. For Violetpaw's sake."

His brother disappears into the tree line along with the other cats. Arrowheart watches them go, hopeful that Vinestar doesn't try anything while they're there in her forest of mystery, and, on another note danger.

***Goldenclaw's POV***

Just like all the stories Dustcloud had told him back in the day, Goldenclaw found the faerie forest to be....well, weird. The trees glowed with an oddly pinkish light, the leaves hanging off them a somewhat brittle blue. He wonders if this is what the whole territory is like, or if this is the case only for the stretch of land proudly called Shimmering Tangle. Mushrooms dotted the spaces between each and every tree root, tiny spores dancing in the air like blown cotton riding the wind.

"Wow! This place is amazing!" Sparkpaw gazes at

lowed to leave.

"Yes, we accept." Sparkpaw says, a defiant tone to her mew that is purposefully emphasized for Vinestar to hear.

"Good. Now, let the vines surround the criminals."

Vinestar waved a paw in the air, stamping it on the ground fiercely. Sparkpaw stares at the leader confusedly, not sure what exactly she means. That is until she turns at the sound of a strangled cry coming from behind her. Sparkpaw turns just in time to see magical vines snake up from the ground to wrap around Goldenclaw and Simon. Sharp thorns prod into the toms' sides like hungry fangs, eliciting small splatters of blood and sharp cries of pain.

"Goldenclaw! Simon!" Sparkpaw cries out for them.

She tries to rush over to them, only to find her paws rooted to the ground by the same vines, though unlike her friends the vines that ensnare her are not covered in stabbing thorns. Vinestar chuckles darkly atop of her pile of fox skins. Sparkpaw snarls at her angrily, her claws unsheathing into the grassy terrain to rip the ground under paw to shreds.

"Let them go!" She yowls up at the leader.

"You cannot save them, not unless you participate in the game." Vinestar mews.

Sparkpaw can feel her body shaking with rage. She does her best to quell it when Goldenclaw does his best to send her a reassuring look despite the pain he's in. Simon catches the look the golden tabby sends her and tries to do the same. She gives them both a thankful smile before turning to face Vinestar.

"So what do I have have to do?" She asks.

"It's quite simple. One of those toms must be kissed." Vinestar begins.

She frowns at that. "If you want to kiss Goldenclaw or Simon then I don't understand what that has to do with me."

"Haha no silly Shadowhunter. The game is not for me. It is for you."

"How so?" Sparkpaw inquires.

"It is simple. You must kiss the tom that you love the most." Vinestar has a vengeful sort of smile on her face, as though she knows something that Sparkpaw does not.

"Okay, I'll do just that." Sparkpaw mews.

The apprentice strides over to Simon with purpose. The tom she must kiss just has to be Simon. There can't be any other possible option, seeing as she and Goldenclaw are apparently siblings now. Simon gives her a soft grin before the two of them touch noses before their muzzles are joined together. Kissing Simon is like smelling flowers. A sweet scent brushes her nose as they press close together, sharing in a warmth that spreads from her muzzle down to her toes.

When they pull away a few seconds later it is to her own startling that the vines have not receded away as promised. If anything, it would appear that the grip on the two toms has only grown stronger, drawing even more blood from Goldenclaw and Simon.

"No! I thought you said they'd be freed!" Sparkpaw yowls in protest at Vinestar.

The smirk on the leader's face only continues to grow. "I did say they would be freed, but only if you kiss the tom you most desire. And...there's one tom you have yet to kiss." Vinestar gestures to Goldenclaw knowingly. Simon and Goldenclaw catch the gesture, and their eyes widen.

"You can't be serious! He's her brother!" Simon said.

"Yes. And yet, the heart wants what it wants." Vinestar mews.

" must be lying!" Sparkpaw tries to make sense out of the situation.

Harryfur shakes his head. "The fae are many things Sparkpaw. Liars are not one of them. And our magic is infused in those vines, meaning they to can sense the truth. You're just too afraid to admit it aloud."

"Harryfur is correct. Now Sparkpaw, do what has to be done...or your suitors will meet their untimely doom."

Sparkpaw couldn't believe what she was hearing. After how hard she had struggled to put her feelings for Goldenclaw behind her, it was all for naught now. She knew what she had to do, the question was did she have the strength to do it.

Pushing down the terrible feeling of regret she knew this might cause, Sparkpaw moved over to Goldenclaw. Simon stared at them blankly, his expression unreadable.

"This means nothing." She warns Goldenclaw.

"Of course." Goldenclaw nods weakly.

She presses her muzzle to Goldenclaw's quickly, hoping to get this over with as quickly as possible. Kissing Goldenclaw feels like coming home. Warmth seizes her shaking frame, the scent of metallic blood filling the air. Goldenclaw tastes spicy, the heat of him like some sort of fiery volcano that bursts in time with the explosion of love inside her heart. Just for that small moment, everything falls away to leave nothing but love in its wake. Goldenclaw is all that matters to her then.

As this was the case, she does not notice the vines receding away from Goldenclaw and Simon. Nor does she notice the tears that water in Simon's eyes. A few drip to the ground, stained red with blood. Then Simon turns and runs away from the scene in front of him. Betrayal weighs heavy in the tabby's heart, as does the loss of love that he thought he had gained.

Sparkpaw remains oblivious to him fleeing until she breaks away from Goldenclaw. When she finds herself unable to find Simon, it is with a heavy heart that she goes with Goldenclaw to go find Dawnmist. The three cats are led back to the FaerieClan border by Shynose. Sparkpaw can only hope that Simon will be back at home waiting for them. She needs to apologize, that much is for certain.

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