Chapter 7

Sage padded toward Bristle and Thistle's den with two mice swinging by their tails. When she got to the den the two kits picked their heads up.

"I told you. Our mom is going to be back any day." Bristle meowed.

" I know. But I'm sure she wouldn't be angry if you ate these mice while you waited for her." Sage meowed calmly dropping the mice near the nest.

Bristle looked at Thistle a moment before reaching out and pulling the mice into the nest. The two kits devoured the mice in seconds.

"Thank you." Thistle mewed. It was the first time Sage had heard him speak.

She nodded.

"I'll be back tomorrow, with more." She promised.

A moon passed and Sage's daily visits with Thistle and Bristle were some of her favorite times of the day. The kits had filled out with Sage's hunting and Sage had started teaching them to hunt, in case she was found to be feeding cats outside of Bloodclan and was punished.

Sage lounged in the sun watching Thistle creep up on her tail. The almost 6 moon old kits were playful and curious and trusting. Compared to Fire and her littermates who were opposites to them in every way. Suddenly she heard paw steps behind her.

"What are you doing Sage?!" Fate meowed.

Sage jumped up and spun to face her friend.

"Fate! Why were you following me?"She meowed angrily. Bristle and Thistle had where huddled in corner.

"What you've done is treason! It's- It's my duty to turn you in. You've broken so many laws of the Camp. I'm sorry." Fate meowed. Tar and Osprey stalked out of the shadows and approached the cowering kits.

"Please, Fate. Let us go. They're just kits!" Sage meowed panicked.

Fate looked sorrowed for a moment before her eyes and Osprey had roughly herded the two kits toward the alley that lead closer to the Camp. Sage sighed and followed, her tail trailing on the ground. There was nothing she could do, except try to keep Thistle and Bristle alive. Thistle´s grey pelt was bristling with fear, and though Bristle´s mottled grey pelt was smooth, Sage could see her trembling.

As they entered the camp, the Camp cats instantly started murmuring, shooting fearful, questioning gazes at each other. Fate darted ahead to notify Reaper, and Tar and Osprey stayed back to guard them. As if they would run. Sage knew it would be an exercise in futility. Instead, she swept the two kits closer to her, silently comforting them.

From the edge of her vision, she saw Fox and Red staring at her in horror. Bones' gaze was guarded as always, calculating and revealing nothing. Shadow was looking at his sister as if he had suddenly realized that he didn't know her at all.

When Reaper appeared, the cats in the camp, became even more still if possible, ears pricked to hear the verdict.

"Sage. Let's see, you talked to these kits, though they might be spies for an enemy group, you feed them, and helped them, which could make them a threat to the group, and you didn't bring them back to the group to strengthen it. These crimes are all punishable by death, but Fate asked me to spare you harm, and this once I will acquiesce her wishes. This doesn't mean that you will not be punished, I must make an example of you so that others don't try to usurp the group. So, instead, I'll punish the kits that obviously mean so much to you. " Sage wished that she was dead, that Fate had decided not to ´spare´ her because Reapers punishment was worse. At least if she had died, she would be with Darkkit again. Instead, Reaper had called forward Fire and Blue to stand next to Bristle and Thistle. She had to choose which kits would be killed, and which would be a part of the Camp. Fire, who normally was so bubbly was subdued, and Blue was staring at nothing, dark tabby fur bristling.

And unlike when she had joined Bloodclan it wouldn't be a fight to the death between the two pairs of kits. No, Reaper was punishing her, she would have the blood of kits on her paws either way. She glanced around panicked, looking for help. Shadow had joined Red, Fox, and Bones who were all tense.

Suddenly she remembered a conversation that had happened moons ago when she had warned her friends that there would be an attack or there was a solid chance they could be harmed. After the battle, they had all meowed something about being in her debt. She had yet to call in a favor, and they might have forgotten but… A risky plan, that would most likely end with her dead started to form.

Hoping her friends would understand she turned her gaze back to Reaper. He looked smug.

"So. You want me to kill someone or two someones. And they have to be killed today, in front of all these cats, so whatever happens, is seen by the group. Am I correct?"

"Yes. Do you want me to choose for you?"

"No. I've already chosen." Sage meowed calmly. "I'll kill you."

She lunged claws unsheathed, aiming for Reapers throat. The tom leaped back, eyes widening in shock for one moment before he recovered.

"Kill her." He yowled. "And the kits."

Belladonna shrieked in horror and raced forward with Rat to try and defend their kits. Sage barely had time to notice that most of the cats gathered were hanging back, while only Fate, Tar, and Osprey were fighting for Reaper. She couldn't see her friends but hoped that they were on her side. Reaper and Osprey lunged at Sage, while Fate lunged for Thistle and Bristle. Tar had been engaged by Fox, Bones had come to stand in front of the two kits, while Red had come to fight by her. Though she knew they were only fighting by her side because of the debt, Sage still felt a warmth in her chest as she fought with the three cats she was closest to.

She dodged Reaper's lunge only to be tackled by Osprey. The dark tabby tom raked his paws savagely down her sides and stomach.

Sage knew his fighting style though and went limp. Confident that he had won the tom eased his weight up a little, giving Sage to break she needed. She dug her paws into Osprey and rolled, reversing their positions and raked her paws repeatedly across his stomach, until the tom stopped struggling and lay limp. If she were a clan cat she probably would let him go, but she was a rogue, she slit his throat.

Sage turned to look for another threat and saw Fate racing for the exit of the camp, multiple wounds trailing blood with Bear, Revenge, and Yew following her. Tar was lying on the ground with his throat slit like Osprey, and Red was still battling Reaper along with Bones, both toms bleeding from multiple gashes though Reaper looked worse than both.

Sage moved to help, as Bones struck a killing blow, and Reaper fell with a gasp. Reaper was dead. What would happen now? Sage thought.

Apparently, everyone else had the same thought as every cats gaze flitted around the camp. Until landing on Bones.

"You struck the killing blow, you lead." Savage meowed the tom looked shaken that his sister had left with the defeated cats.

Bones shook his head. "It was Sage who challenged Reaper, so she leads. I'll be Second though." He looked at Sage. "If that's okay?"

Sage nodded. Her, leader. She was only a year and 7 moons old! She couldn't lead. She needed to think. But these cats were hers now. She had to think of them first, be a good leader. What needed to be done? She looked at the cats remaining in the clearing. Belladonna and Rat were standing protectively by their trembling kits. Bristle and Thistle pressed together, crouching like they wanted to disappear. Her three friends who had fought with her were injured and bloody.

"If you're injured go to Daffodil or Shadow, she's reinstated as healer and he knows about herbs. If you feel up for patrol or hunting go for it. If not you can stay in camp or bury Reaper, Tar and Osprey." She meowed more confidently than she felt.

Instantly the cats were moving to follow her orders. The knowledge that they were hers to protect crashed into her again. She had failed to protect Thistle and Bristle. What hope did she have to protect a whole group?