“I Killed Sora”
by Kailin Flowers
Sora stood before the gaping blackness that was now hers. She took one hesitant paw- step into the wide maw of the corrupted Palace, dust rising with every breath. She exhaled softly and ventured further. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dark, and she found that she was standing on a wide bridge over an impenetrable well of darkness, like a pool of ink. Flash, Lilt, and Lilt’s siblings followed Sora into the Palace of Joenja- Mol- Fayala. Flash was uneasily looking around, sensing a disturbance in the air. He didn’t like the feel of this place. Sora approached the center of the soaring hall they were in, where the bridge met with three others at an octagonal platform, where a pedestal loomed out of the darkness. As Sora walked, she saw that the hall was lined with rows of stone statues, each one carved in the likeness of a giant, battle- armed cat.
“The Guardians,” whispered Lilt, her voice echoing in the silence that blanketed the hall. Sora reached the pedestal. On top of it, something gleamed slightly in the gloom. Lilt’s yellow eyes widened with awe, and she and her siblings dropped into deep bows of respect.
“So this is where your destiny leads, you, Sora,” Lilt said breathlessly. “The Crown of the Forest,” Sora lifted it gently with one paw. Twined bands of gold and silver held three shining emeralds. Sora bowed her head, and the air filled with tension.
“Put it on,” whispered Soprano, one of the younger twins and Lilt’s smallest sister. Sora took a deep breath and placed it on her head. At once, a soft wind swirled around her, growing faster and faster until a whirling gale threatened to force the others off the bridge and into the abyss below. The wind died, and from the jewels on the crown a blinding light issued. Lilt gasped as the light played across the Guardian statues and pierced the blackness as it shot upwards. The light went through a hole in the ceiling and into the sky above.
“Sora, that’s a beacon light,” said Alto, Soprano’s level- headed twin sister. “I hope it summons help, because the Venom will have seen us by now.” Sure enough, as the light began to fade, a skittering sound could be heard. Dust was dislodged from the ceiling and fell lightly onto Sora and her companions. Sora’s small wings fluttered uneasily on her back. Flash peered into the gloom, trying to see. Even deeper darkness than the one that filled the hall started pouring out of the abyss. Eyes appeared gleaming in the dark. Flash bared his teeth at them, but Sora felt his fear.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered to him. “The beacon will have summoned others as well.”
The truth was, she wasn’t sure herself.
In Council City, a short ways away, Swift began to get a bad feeling. She knew something wasn’t right. She unfolded her wings and flew into the sky, just in time to see the light of the Fayalan Beacon. She gasped, knowing what it was. With the wind at her back and urgency in her heart, she sped towards New Atara.
As soon as she arrived, cats greeted her, the soft rustle of wings filling the air.
“Listen, we have to get ready for battle,” Swift said after a brief hello.
“Why?” someone asked.
“I saw the Beacon of Fayala go up. The Queen has returned!” Cats departed to the armory, and bells pealed in the soaring towers at each corner of the great white city. In a short while, cats began to return to the plaza in the center of New Atara, shining armor glinting on their wide wings, claws sharp and ready for a fight. Swift donned her own armor, feeling the slight weight of Tari steel on her back.
“Everyone here?” she called. A murmur of assent rippled through the ranks of the Tari cats. Swift turned and took off, wings flapping gently, the army of New Atara behind her. Hold on, Fayala- We’re coming!
Lux tackled Sprout to the ground, catching him unawares. He turned and purred, then stopped abruptly, eyes fixed on the sky.
“Luxie, look!.” Lux followed his gaze and saw a beam of light pierce the sky.
“A . . . beacon!” she said. “Warn the rest of the city!” Lux and Sprout dashed along the narrow streets of Verdant’s city, shouting a warning.
“Be ready for war! Armor on! Claws sharp!” cried Lux. Cats poured out of houses, battle- ready, joining the river of cats in the street as they rushed to the square in the center of Verdant’s city. Fern stood on a raised patch of earth in the middle, shouting encouragement and directions. The mismatched army of cats organized themselves according to strengths and weaknesses and family alliances. As the sound of the clank of armor filled the city, the Verdanti marched to war.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the Dragon’s Wastes, the bleak plain at the edge of the Catlands, a volcano stewed and trembled. The Chieftainess of Ungara and her son, Prince Siilune, stood on a ledge above the crater in the center of Ungara, the Land of Fire.
“Mother, what’s that?” asked the Prince, narrowing his eyes and gazing in the direction of the redwood trees marking the border of Fayala. The Chieftainess followed her son’s wing- tip to see the beacon.
“That, my son, is the signal for war,” she replied. She turned to the city.
“Muster my army!” she called. “March on Fayala with all speed!” she and the Prince buckled on the heavy armor of the Ungaran cats. Expertly navigating the plumes of lava that shot out of the crater, the Ungaran army headed for Fayala, fire flickering in their eyes.
Back in Council City, Phoenix Flamewing paced to and fro in the empty, cavernous Council Dome. She suddenly stopped pacing and went to look in the magic mirror that lay in the center of the arena- like space. When she looked, her fur blew back off her face. She squinted in the gale- force wind that was suddenly whipping around the chamber, and glanced in the mirror. A cat she recognized from her visit to Flash- Sora, her name was- was standing in the dark, wearing the Fayalan Crown. A moment later, the doors of the Council Dome burst open, and Phoenix came flying out, her tail streaming out behind her in her haste.
“Call for the army!” she cried, racing through the city. “The beacon is lit!” The armory of Council City shivered with cats as they put on helmets and war paint depending on their classification. Flamewing, Waterbreath, Fishtail. Phoenix spread her wings and let out a war cry heard from Atara to the Rift- Cliff.
“Council City- To Fayala!”
Back in Joenja- Mol- Fayala, Sora was standing with her fur bristling, shielding Alto and Soprano from the darkness. Flash glowed softly, attempting to light the hall so he, Sora, Lilt, Legato, Staccato, Alto, and Soprano could see what they were up against. Soft shuffling and skittering sounds still fell through the darkness to Sora, making her fur stand up with uneasy wariness. Flash turned the brightness of his fur higher, even though it drained his energy.
“Who’s there?” called Sora, addressing the glowing eyes on all sides of them.
“Who’s there… who’s there… who’s there… who’s there…?” Sora’s call was repeated even after he echoes had died away, taken up by hundreds of soft voices, a menacing whisper of a threat. Sora narrowed her eyes, trying to see.
“Oh, don’t even bother,” hissed a voice. Sora looked up, startled, but saw nothing. With a rain of dust and torn ivy, a dark shape flipped over and landed in front of her, bat-like wings fluttering slightly. Sora leaped back in horror when she saw what it was. It was just barely recognizable as a cat- mutant, disfigured beyond measure, twisted with hate. It stood taller than Sora, and four glaring red eyes stared out from its face, which was menaced with a cold, malice-filled smile. Sora bared her teeth at it and spat.
“No closer,” she hissed, fluffing her fur angrily to disguise her fear. The cat-creature tilted its head almost sideways.
“Oh, don’t you know that’s impolite?” it hissed with mock sweetness. “We haven’t even been introduced yet.” Sora growled threateningly.
“So what is your name?”
“Sora Inire-Atara, Milire-Verdanti.”
“Scorpius the Third, ruler of the Venom,” the cruel mouth, full of needle-sharp fangs, stretched wide in a gruesome grin. Sora realized it was female, so distorted it was hard to tell, but it came through a little in the voice. Flash cast his light onto the creature, the better to see it. As Scorpius spat angrily at the glow, Sora saw it- she- had six legs, four wings reminiscent of a demon’s, and… Sora almost leaped back again, horrified. It seemed that Scorpius had no claws, but had stuck some sort of large claws or teeth through her own paws, all six of them, so that they stuck out the other side. Partially dried blood oozed from under the black fur, staining the awful devices a dirty red. This is not going to be easy, thought Sora. In fact, it’s going to be very, very difficult.
Scorpius seemed to be growing impatient with Sora.
“Sooooo. What do you say?” she asked, baring her stained teeth.
“About what?” asked Sora, trying not to let her voice tremble.
“Will you have peace or war?”
“If I have peace, I will abandon what is rightfully mine.” said Sora, raising her voice to fill the hall. “So… I will have war.”
“So be it.” Scorpius smiled confidently, the raised her gaze to look behind Sora. The smile fell from her face, and dismay flickered in its place. The tramp of many feet could be heard, as well as the clank of armor and the rustle of hundreds of wings.
“What… is That?” Scorpius was furious. She turned to Sora, who couldn’t resist a smirk.
The first army to come was the first to leave their homeland- New Atara. New Atara was leaderless, but Swift, who was Inire-Atara but Milire-Council City, led them to Fayala. The newly risen Sun glinted on the Tari steel covering their backs in shining plates. Fins modeled on Dragon’s wings were attached to their tails and backs, making them able to turn and navigate in the air much more quickly and effectively. The Tari gently landed at the mouth of the hall with no sound but the soft, shining scrape of armor. Swift herself glittered white, and sun streamed from behind her into the hall. Scorpius hissed with displeasure. Meanwhile, the Ungarans, who had sped up to catch up with their New Ataran friends, landed beside the Tari army. Led by the Chieftainess and her son, the army of Ungara was clad in a metal that was a hybrid of Tari Steel and dark steel, heavier than the former, but stronger and darker in color. The Chieftainess nodded in greeting as her army filled in behind her. Sora felt hope bubble in her chest. This isn’t all. The sound of feet drew ever closer, and soon something came into view on the Fayalan Marshes. The army of Council City, and the much smaller militia of Verdant’s City. Something large marched with them- something midnight-blue and threatening. Ah, it’s Miasma. I forgot she’s now living in Verdant’s City. As they approached, the vibrant color of the Verdanti and the war paint of the Council City cats came into sight. The two armies were led by Chasm and Phoenix, and they came to fill in the rest of the gap between the hall and the forest. Sora turned back to Scorpius.
“So, what have you got?” she asked defiantly.
“I have this,” Shadows started to move, and took on the defining shape of mutated cats as the detached themselves from walls and the ceiling, landing behind Scorpius and clinging to the underside of the bridge. Flash was filled with revulsion at these awful creatures, the surely could not be related to cats, but still the evidence was that they were. Many malignant stares followed Sora as she walked forward, along with Flash and Lilt and her siblings, to join the forces of the Catlands. Sora stood before all the other armies, the Crown of Joenja- Mol- Fayala gleaming on her head, lighting her fur as if it was gold. Scorpius bared her teeth.
“Attack, my shadows!”
“Cats of all realms… CHARGE!”
Sora leaped forwards. She collided with Scorpius in midair, spinning and rolling to land on the bridge again. She unfurled herself to land on her feet, facing her adversary nose-to-nose. Scorpius snarled and lunged for Sora’s throat. Sora dodged, but felt herself hurtling into open air. Just in time, small wings flapping madly, Sora stopped herself from sailing into the endless abyss below her. She lifted herself back onto the bridge to face Scorpius again. Scorpius charged her, and Sora leaped over her head and hovered in the air. She turned and sped towards the opening to the forest outside, and raced towards it. Scorpius hissed angrily and lifted off into the air to follow Sora over the thrashing sea of cats below. Scorpius rapidly began to catch up to Sora, her larger wings beating the air. Sora began to panic. The sky and the ground were both too crowded, and Scorpius was gaining fast. Oh, please, I don’t want to die like this! Thought Sora desperately. Please, please, no! Suddenly, a tingle of panic turned to a tingle of… something else. Something Sora had never felt before- and she liked it. Her wings stretched wider… and wider… Sora looked back to see what felt so strange, and almost fell out of the sky with shock. Her wings were no longer small and pure white, but the tips of her wings had grown into huge flight feathers, each one violet mixed with cosmos blue, speckled with stars. Sora’s wing beats drove her away from Scorpius’s deadly claws, and Sora at last dared to slow down and look around. Below her, she saw the armies clashing at the mouth of the hall, a heaving tide of blood-stained cats. Wait… Where is Flash?
Flash was fighting for his life. As soon as the battle started, he lost sight of Sora, and as he looked for her, he was cornered by a deep violet cat with black eyes that had eerily glowing yellow pupils. She had the same claws as Scorpius, and blood- red marks streaked down her face.
“Prepare to DIE!” she hissed as she slashed at Flash’s throat. Flash dodged and rolled behind the cat. He sprang to his feet and charged up a bolt of electricity in his fur. Static electricity crackled around him and the cat gave a low growl at the unexpected light. Flash leaped at her, miniature lightning strikes hitting the ground around her feet so she couldn’t escape. He bowled her over, paws slamming into her shoulders and knocking her to the ground. She thrashed angrily and threw him off with surprising strength. Flash skidded across the ground, the dirt scraping at his fur. He picked himself up and mustered the last of his strength to finish her. He looked up to see if there was anything he could use; his strength was failing. A pile of rocks, too big to lift… but he could do something to them. Flash smiled inwardly and shot a bolt of lightning at the base of the rock heap. As the cat looked up in surprise, the tower toppled and crushed her. Flash breathed a sigh of relief and turned away. Good, now I can look for Sora. He hurried off through the battle.
Lilt was all alone. Her four siblings had run off somewhere to find who-knows-what, and Lilt was left in the middle of a battle, by herself- and she barely knew how to fight. Here goes… she thought, sighing and dodging a flying rock. She weaved her way through the battle, heart thumping in her throat. Lilt’s head spun from the stench of death, paws slipping on the dark, bloodstained dirt. She called out, trying to find her siblings, but her voice was lost in the clamor of battle. She stumbled and fell to the ground, and a shadow fell over her. Lilt looked up, her eyes barely open. A cat stood over her, substantially bigger than her, with wickedly sharp claws and fangs. Lilt tried to move, but was pinned immediately under blood-soaked paws, almost choking on the overwhelming scent of venom and rotten flesh. Lilt tried not to breathe in. She squeezed her eyes shut and waited for death to find her.
“No…” she choked out, but her voice hardly left her mouth. She braced for the final blow she was sure would come, but it never did. Lilt dared to open her eyes. As she looked, the cat was thrown backwards by a huge metal blade. Above Lilt stood… Sentinel? Lilt scrambled to her feet. Rescued from one evil by another!
“Hey, Lilt, it’s us!” said a muffled voice, speaking in Birdspeak. Lilt started to smile.
“It’s you!” she cried.
Sora flipped and dove to the ground. Scorpius chased her, face contorted with rage. Sora sidestepped her dive and whirled to face her. Scorpius lunged for Sora’s throat and caught her on the shoulder. Sora shrieked with pain, but the next moment, Scorpius stepped back and left her lying on the ground. Sora looked up, pain in every movement.
“Why… don’t you… finish me now?” she gasped.
“Because you’ll die anyway,” Scorpius grinned wickedly, leaning over Sora, who didn’t have the strength to swipe at her. “The poison is in your blood.” Sora lay for a few moments, feeling hopeless. But after those few moments, something started to happen… A red haze started to cloud Sora’s gaze. Ahh… RAGE! Sora launched herself off the ground, teeth bared.
“Well, if I’m going to die, might as well do it… NOW!” Scorpius was knocked backwards off her feet, caught by surprise.
“What… How?!” she hissed.
“Haven’t you ever hear of RAGE?” snarled Sora. She tackled Scorpius to the ground and aimed swipes at her head. Scorpius threw her off and leaped to her feet, bristling. A low growl built up in her throat, and she sprang forwards, catching Sora by the wings. Sora struggled to free herself, eyes watering with the pain of her wings being pulled. Sora was almost blind with pain and she could feel her wings tearing off when she heard a voice through the pounding in her ears.
“Sora!” It was Flash. When Sora felt she was about to explode from the agony, it was suddenly relieved. A piercing shriek cut through the air, and Sora collapsed. She raised herself from the ground to see Scorpius doing the same, a hole burnt through one bat-like wing. She snarled with pain, but charged Sora and Flash once again. They dodged her wild onrush, and ended up at the mouth of the hall staring into the abyss.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” asked Sora.
“You know we’ll both die.”
Scorpius wheeled to face them, teeth bared.
“You cannot kill me!” she hissed.
“Oh, I think we can!” Sora and Flash took off running down the bridge into the now-empty darkness. All the other cats had started fighting in the forest- they were alone.
“COWARDS!” Scorpius raced after them. Sora and Flash turned around in the middle of the bridge, far from any wide platform.
“This is it.” whispered Sora, watching Scorpius approach. Her rage had cooled, and she was herself, tired and hurt. Flash looked despairingly into Sora’s violet eyes.
“What if… What if it doesn’t work?” he whispered back. Scorpius had almost reached them.
“It will,” Sora whirled around and tensed up, ready to spring. Flash did the same.
“Sora…” he said out of the corner of his mouth.
“I love you too,” she replied, guessing his thoughts. Scorpius lunged. Sora and Flash leaped for her throat at the same time, throwing her backwards to the edge of the bridge. But try as they might, they couldn’t get her off. She landed a swipe on Sora’s face, and Sora couldn’t see for the blood in her eyes. Flash battered his paws at the bridge, trying to push them all off the bridge, but he couldn’t.
“Now you will–” Scorpius froze suddenly.
“Flash, what…” gasped Sora, unable to see what was going on.
“Guardians,” he replied, out of breath. The great stone guardians on the sides of the hall were glowing.
“NOW!” shouted Sora. She and Flash steeled themselves for one last fight. They concentrated the last of their strength into pushing against the bridge, so Scorpius- and themselves- fell to their doom. Just as they were teetering on the edge, Lilt appeared in the doorway with Alto, Soprano, Legato, and Staccato, who were still in the Sentinel suit.
“NO!” Lilt cried in Birdspeak. But she was too late. Before her horror-struck eyes, Sora, Flash, and Scorpius fell into the abyss- and with them fell the Crown of Joenja- Mol- Fayala. Without it, Scorpius might as well have won the battle. But Sora heard her cry as soon as she left the bridge and flicked her head suddenly upwards, dislodging the crown. Lilt ran to the edge of the bridge, distraught, and was greeted by the crown hitting her on the nose. Lilt reflexively caught the crown in her paws and rolled back onto the middle of the bridge, panting. Sora and Flash fell and fell, down through the dark. They had let go of Scorpius, who fell faster than them.
“Sora, can you fly?”
“No. My wings are useless, Scorpius almost severed them.”
“I guess this is it, then.” whispered Flash. He could feel the wind whipping through his thick white fur as he fell, faster and faster. He closed his eyes and felt Sora’s wingtip touch his side.
“Yeah. This is it,” she breathed. And neither ever said another word.