What's that? The sun's shining? There's birds in the trees? Everything has leaves and its hot af? You heard it here first! Green-leaf has smashed face-first into the island and things are heating up! Except for all of the flood water. Womp womp. Everyone's gonna be wearing little pool floaties forever ;) This month, we got a fun new Gathering format, Cultural Crafting Contest Voting, and brand new Announcements chalk full of some cool site updates! So go check it out and soak it up!
The Apostles is a warrior cats roleplay based in northern Wisconsin. On Lake Superior, the wild cats have made the Apostle Islands their home. It is on these islands - Rocky Island and South Twin Island - that the clan and tribe cats have lived in a peace and harmony that ebbs and flows with the tide.
But as the tides turn, so does the truce that binds them to one another; and as the water raises, a darkness follows, an evil that will end in bloodshed and violence.
His ears turned absently toward the distant waves, his body leaning against an old, cratered stone. Time worn, it chafed against his furs, and yet he did not care; in that instant, his body still tender from what felt a ceaseless night of fighting, it was a gentle comfort to his ailing body, and so he welcomed it, even as it abraded the cuts nestled there in his tattered furs. And so slowly did his eyes give way, did the tired lids slip down and his body sag in the acceptance of its fatigue, did the tension in him loosen, and his mind shed from it the tiring thoughts. He did not wonder after his mother, who surely lay bleeding in the field, nor his sister, who would surely find him. He did not wonder after Ajax, his distant lover whose face he may never again lay eyes upon. Nor did he wonder for his people, which he had fought so long to protect. He wondered only at how tired he was, how hungry, and how small he had gotten. He wondered at when he had lost the stockiness and sinew of which he had always boasted, the veritably strength and fearsomeness that came from harsh living, now all withered away.
He wondered when the world had lost so much of its luster that even the lake reflecting that feeble moon did not impress any feelings on him. He wondered on those things as his body slipped into that fitful sleep and nearly surrendered himself until the sound of pebbles being tossed underfoot beckoned him, and he turned his tired head. Eyes of dull green appraised a face marred with newfound scars; that appeared somehow older despite the youth that clung stubbornly to so small a frame and so keen and eager of eyes.
He watched her as she watched him, and he said nothing, only turned his head aside. His mind wandered to the water, and he watched the moon as it cast its pale light on those impotent waves, and he did not turn to her, even as he heard the ground rattle with the insistent shifting of her feet.
It was only as he felt her nearness that he spoke. “So you found her, then?” and he felt her still behind him. He did not deign to look at her, for to do so was to rear the twisting in his heart he knew he would surely feel to gaze upon that face so defaced with hatred for him. And so he held onto his silence and let the question hang.
It did not take long to find him - the battered rogue did not attempt to hide his scent nor his presence along the shores. She spotted him in her running, and slowed, wanting not to be winded when he caught sight of her in turn. There was a weariness to him that even tree lengths she could feel pulling at his flank and grounding him into the sand. Her breath left her blackened lips in deep puffs of mist. She steeled herself.
This time, I'll do it. Never had she taken a life. She had gotten close, she had tried to stripe another from existence, but never had she been capable of completing such a dire task. But tonight, she would not be persuaded by stray morals or sudden bouts of weakness. This time will be different.
She padded forward, small paws gently shifting through the pebbled ground with each step. Her eyes were lit not by the moon above but by the moon below, the vast silver sheen that glistened across the lake. Their subtle greens were dulled with vitriol.
She stared at him as he did her, though eye contact did not last long as he shifted to glance out at the lake beyond. He knows that I am here to kill him. He wore his last moments with an attempt at dignity - though such a ragged, pathetic creature as he could never be accused of honor nor grandeur in appearance. His lips parted in a murmur.
"I did." She muttered, not even offering a hiss of anger to her brother. And yet, she boiled where she stood, a cold sort of rage so unfamiliar across her fiery temperament. For perhaps the first time, she seemed like her mother's daughter.
"You know why I am here." She spoke then after a long pause. "You know that I am here to take your life. Either stand and face me head-on, or I will slit your throat where you lie." She took a purposeful step forward, claws sliding from their sheathes. This is your last chance to get a strike in, brother. Either fight for which breath is your last or die quietly. She couldn't decide which she preferred. But she knew, with the state he was in, there was no contest. She would surpass him, as she was always meant to.
The whisper of lake waves was, for a time, the only response bidden to her. He watched them froth against the stones, their subtle stirring as they inched ever closer to his resting place, daring to wet his paws. Even in the wake of her threat, he felt no compulsion to respond; only to gaze out at the world whose beauty he had for so long ignored. To think this here the whole time… To think of the many days in which he woke upon that shore and turned hungry, embittered eyes from its majesty, thinking only of his stomach and Clan cats whose transgressions he scarcely knew but from the honeyed whispers coaxed in his ear.
To think… how much time we’ve wasted. Hawthorn breathed. He looked down at his paws. Still, he did not satisfy her with his gaze; he only spoke, his word oddly calm and deaf to her threats. “She left Oleander to die,” he murmured softly. “All that talk of family, and she left him there.” He paused, then continued, slowly, deliberately. “For so long, I tried to convince myself she loved us, but you didn’t see her then, Poppy. She would have left you, too, if it meant sparing her own life. She would have left us all to die if it meant ThistleClan might still suffer.” His tail bound itself tightly over his paws. His voice only then stirred up some trembling.
He glanced over his shoulder toward her. Only then did he truly look at her. “…I did what I had to do for our family. Never doubt that.” His words were almost pleading. “To protect you and Cedarkit—so you might live normal lives. I did it for us.” He breathed quietly. He saw the anger there, the grief in those eyes which once held only affection and adoration for him. Now they only looked upon him with hatred, as though he were something unclean—a tick she had rooted in her furs.
He knew not when her expression had turned so sour toward him, but then, he had missed worse things. Fool that I am…
“…I will not fight you,” he said, watching as she moved closer, as her claws shifted out from their sheaths. Her threat rang in his ears; he drank it in and felt the smallest niggling of fear stir inside him. His eyes softened as they shifted between her own. In them, there was only tenderness. “I love you, Poppy.”
Poppy's expression did not shift with threat of a grimace as her brother finally spoke. Both seemed equally solumn. Both seemed equally elsewhere.
She tried to find meaning within his last minute ramblings. After all, she knew that he was not evil or hateful, nor even vying for power. But a traitor he still was, nonetheless. He saw his turn, slowly but surely. She watched as he defiled the being which Lily had breathed life into all those moons ago. He had come so far as to lead by her side, if only he had stayed true... Poppy could not believe it. She had known it inevitable to take her brother's place - she had known that this was the only outcome for some time - it had to be done. There's no way back.
So she let him have his last words and be done with it. If he wanted to use these heartbeats to lament, so be it. She watched and waited with that blank, cold stare. She did not want to respond, though his words dug at her. "I could never live a normal life." She responded cooly. "From my first breaths, this was what I was made to do." She blinked, slowly, meaningfully. Her eyes remained closed for some time. The thought that Hawthorn might lash out or run in her blindness did not occur to her - it seemed not to occur to him either. "This is what I was made to be - what you made me to be." Her eyes opened. She took a careful step forward.
That coldness began to fade, and, for the first time since their reunion across these shores, perhaps there was a spark of something behind those eyes. A flickering bit of warmth, a strange sorrow, a distant hope. "I thought I had fond memories of you when I was young, but it has been many moons since you've shown me any kindness to my face." She took a step forward. She was before him now, so close she could reach out and touch him.
"If only you had said those words earlier... perhaps I'd still have any love left for you."
Her claws lashed forward, slow at first, and then all at once, like the falling of a tree in a field. They caught at one end of his jaw, and, in a swift motion, they cut through flesh and blood and deep into the throat, just below the chin. The blood weighed at her, dragging her foot back to the ground when the deed was done.
She stared, wide eyed, as though she had never seen a cat bleed before. It was not the bleeding that frightened her, though never had she seen one bleed like this, life spilling across the sand in thick rivulets. Right before the bleeding, when the wound was cut and red had yet to seep to the outside, that split second, when the flesh was raw and the tear was neat enough to see inside to the organs of the throat. That was what frightened her, that and the look upon her brother's face. That look... she was certain she would see it often in her dreams.
“…live a normal life,” she meowed, the words uttered cooly. “…made me to be.” She drew closer to him, his eyes watching her, filled with a veritable sadness.
“…no, Poppy,” he murmured. His eyes shifted between her own, but already they had steeled themselves. They did not see him. “It is not. You can go on living. You have killed no one. The blood is not on your paws… you could join the Clans, find a new life for yourself.” The words spilled from his, desperate. “You don’t have to die a rogue. You could be something—something more than what Lily was and what I am. You were not made to be a killer.”
He saw something in her weaken as she kept speaking, feigning as though she had not heard him. “…kindness to my face.” She stood before him now. His somber eyes held hers and did not look away. If she were to kill him, he thought, it was better she faced him. And better he face her too, in death. If this is truly the last thing I see. Better it be her. “…words earlier… left for you.”
He said nothing as her claws shot forward, striking him in the throat and forcing from him a guttural cough, a heave, and the sound of choking. Something warm trickled up and wet his furs. He felt it seep down to the very flesh, warm and trundling, a fitful stream. He staggered and set a paw out to brace his body, never letting his eyes shift from her. Then the faintness came over him, and the spluttering of blood in his pooling jaws was the only sound where words fought for leverage. Then his limbs gave out from under him, and the sand rose to catch him. He felt the grit faintly against his cheek. He felt the blood seep from his throat, but even that only vaguely. Already his eyes were glazing, and the world around his was fading though his body jerked, spasming there in the sand, kicking up drifts of it while the blood seeped from mouth and throat.
How strange, thought he as his vision blurred and his sister faded from view. I thought I’d feel more.
* * *
When he came around again, it was not on the shore. There were no waves to whisper in his ears, nor was there chill or dampness to wet feet or fur. He was at the campground by that old and rotted cabin, and a dense fog writhed all about him. The door hung open, and in it, a shadow loomed, black and sinister, yet he did not fear it. He rose to his paws, came toward it, and would have passed through, had a voice not beckoned him. Then he was turning, and he saw Oleander. He saw the wound, unbleeding at his throat. The missing eye and the other watching him somberly. His brother said nothing to him and, as he opened his mouth, found that no words came from him either. She cut deep. The way he’d taught her to do.
He smiled as he stepped down from that rotted porch, down the creaking steps, though no sound was uttered from them, to stand alongside his brother. His eyes shifted over his shoulder, back toward their old home when things had been simpler. And he saw her for the first time. Sophie sat alone there, gazing after them, with sadness in her eyes. Starlight brushed her fur—sadness polluted her eyes.
He yearned for her, yet upon taking a step, Oleander’s tail halted him. His brother shook his head. He nodded toward that distant fog, beckoning him, and then, glancing once more, Hawthorn seceded and fell into step beside him, the two striding side by side, unspeaking, to be swallowed by the fog.
His eyes bore into her in his death. She swore that they would never leave hers - that his eyes would be trained towards her for every last moment of his dwindling. She felt the weight of them and refused to look away. Perhaps, her brother was stubbornly punishing her for this. He looked her in the eye as each struggled sigh left his lips - each choked gasp for air sent coughs through his frame. He looked at her even as he dropped to his stomach, head craned up towards her, blood spilling down his chest and seeping deep into the sand.
Even when his head drooped and sagged and fell to the ground did he stare at her, lids unblinking. His eyes turned glassy, his body went still. Even his fur was frozen despite the wind that had puddled in her ears and tugged at her furs.
And yet, even in death, he watched her with that look.
She only found herself pulled from that dreadful stasis when the wind picked up and blew shivers down her thin body. If she had the weight of many meals upon her, perhaps, she could have stayed and stared into the darkest parts of the night. But the cold was enough to wake her, to draw her eyes elsewhere. A thought crossed her mind. If anyone finds me here with him, they could kill me. She had many friends among the rogues, but so did her brother. Hawthorn had many enemies, but so did she.
Her eyes scanned the beach beyond, desperate to find somewhere else to go. And yet, nothing called to her. She had no home beyond Lily and her brothers. She was completely and utterly alone.
So she went nowhere, scouring the land for places to curl up and hide for eternity. Somewhere, she knew, she could scrounge together a nest to rest within. There, she could allow herself to cry and mourn, but not here - never out in the open. So she hid away, a question lingering on her mind.