The Hardest Goodbyes, are the Ones You Don't Get a Chance to Say
The land seemed to be holding its breath. The air was still - quiet and undisturbed; nothing stirred in the early morning mist. Even the sun seemed reluctant to begin its routine journey across the sky. No wind rolled through the open plains, stirring the grass, and not a creature dared move. Everything seemed suspended in time - all but one lone figure.
Silver as the mist, she moved with precision and grace. Her paw steps were delicate, yet somehow firm, as if they had a confidence in their actions like none other. She went by unnoticed, blending in with the grey of dawn and keeping as silent as the still air. Only her blazing amber eyes gave her away, burning their way through the fog as they stared directly ahead, a determination not to look around glinting fiercely within their golden depths. Her heart ached, but her mind knew better - there was no going back. Her decision was rash, she knew, but even so, she couldn't bring herself to doubt it.
You'll regret it, a voice promptly sneered from the back of her thoughts. You don't know what you're doing - you're just following blindly!
You don't know that... her own voice would reply, trembling with fear and uncertainty despite her words. You don't know...you just don't know. There's nothing I could regret now.
The dappled she-cat paused, her mind suddenly going blank as the voice vanished. All she could see was the camp in front of her. Home. The sun began to twinge the sky with soft pinks and oranges, slowly lifting the fog to reveal the Water Tribe camp. Still, no one stirred. Her fellow warriors lay fast asleep in their den, as were the rest of her tribe mates. Sooka stood stock still, yet her amber eyes suddenly seemed to dart restlessly from left to right, unable to stare forward any longer. Somehow, it all seemed unfair to her. Like her last home in the old lands, she had grown attached to the new campsite, and even more attached to the land of Nandryx and all those residing in it. Even so, things had changed - changed in ways she could never have imagined. Immediately, her thoughts went into overdrive once again, blurring her vision with flashes of those she had met along the way.
"Tuari..." she breathed to herself, unable to hold back the tears as they crept over her eyes and down her pale cheeks, staining them grey. Regret flooded through her, making her paws tingle uncomfortably. "What a poor friend...I've been..." The Orange-Water dipped her head in remorse, an odd smile on her lips. "But what an amazing warrior you've become – my Deputy." The smile faded, replaced with a solemnness that throbbed in her heart relentlessly. Not now...I can't regret it now. Gritting her teeth, she padded back to the dens, coming to a rigid halt outside the gaping entrance. She stared at it briefly before dragging a white tipped paw through her mane of silver fur.
"I hope you'll forgive me someday," the feline whispered quietly, placing a pure white feather at the door. She had stumbled across it in Pheasant Woods some days before, and instantly its innocence and simple beauty reminded her of the pretty snowshoe she now called family. "I never meant to leave you behind. Live my share of life. Live it – and fight on." Her eyes shown with pride at the thought, burning with a passion she never knew she could feel for another, almost as if the young she-cat were a proper sister. ”Outrun me…Tuari.”
Sooka turned away, hoping the young beauty Tuari would find her gift, although it was truly nothing much. Her golden eyes seemed to blur their vision as a painful twinge spread from her chest all the way through her body. The soft sounds of sleeping felines seemed to be exhaled from the den's entrance behind her as she padded away, their familiar scents wafting around her as she slowed her pace. Yet, she forced herself to ignore it, refusing to stop until she reached the edge of Water Tribe's camp. Reaching the grassy threshold, a sudden spark caught her eye as the sun crept higher into the pale sky, coloring the grey dawn with even brighter hues. In the grass not far from where she stood lay a smooth and rounded pink gem, glittering faintly in the morning light.
Just like the ones from back then, she mused, a miserable smile on her maw as she bent to pick it up. Laughter filled her mind as she recalled her first meeting with her tribe mate Cadence. It had been she who showed Sooka around the old land, taking her to the sparkling beaches the gem collectors used to traverse. Within seconds, the colorful beaches turned brown and sandy, swirling beneath shallow waters and darting silver fish. Cadence's tabby coat seemed to brighten, becoming cream and ginger as Shenzi took her place, the water reflecting her pink tattoo as it glowed brilliantly, droplets of water beginning to rise before Sooka’s eyes.
”Hot day, huh?” the petite Siamese’s voice echoed through her thoughts. ”…I’m Shenzi!”
And then the scene became grey once more as the first morning of her life in the tribes flashed by. Gold eyes broke through the dullness, revealing an equally grey tom with a grin on his face. Mikah...my first friend... The pain in her heart seemed to worsen, searing through her and burning her insides as if they were on fire, yet still her mind seemed to press onward, determined to make her change her decision.
”Race ‘ya!” Mikah yowled, leaping forward. The pounding of their paws against the grass resounded in her ears, until suddenly she was in front of the grey tom. She turned back, but the scene was different now. The then Blue-Green-Water was surrounded by white, his dark coat contrasting against the purity, making him appear like a shadow.
And then, Mikah washed away, replaced by the mottled Light Triber with an affinity for mushrooms...she could just hear Jay's last words to her before they parted ways…
"Thanks again, River. Hopefully we'll see each other again."
Sooka clenched her jaw as his voice echoed, knowing that day would never come, and what could have been a wonderful friendship would never exist. But before she could even begin to properly dwell on it and allow her sadness to consume her, Jay faded into a pretty auburn she-cat with the mark of Earth Tribe on her shoulder. They had met only briefly between their territories, but still Sooka had yet to shake Mirth from her mind. Her crystal blue eyes pierced through the darkness in her thoughts, but it was short lived as her pelt became redder and thicker, her body growing large and bulky. Ross seemed to leer at her ever so slightly before he drifted away as well, leaving none other than his own tribe mate in his place. Bold stripes and copper eyes swam in front of her, the pounding pain in her chest becoming so intense, Sooka was sure her heart would burst.
"I…I'll miss you most of all," Sooka whispered hoarsely to herself, holding back a gasp of tears. His figure stood there in her mind, as tall and handsome as he always was, the silver ball that had once been pierced above her own eyebrow glinting in his tattered ear. Out of habit, she flicked her left ear, the feather dangling from it brushing gently against her cheek as it always did, this time being dampened with salty tears that had found their way over her eyelids and down her silver cheeks. "Seraphiel... She hung her head down low, closing her eyes with nothing more or less than feelings of utmost regret and shame, knowing she’d never again feel the warmth of his body pressed against her own, or the sweet sound of his voice as he said her name. ”I-I’m so sorry…so sorry…”
The copper eyed tom seemed to frown, his presence fading from her mind. Yet somehow, his image sharpened. Four small figures swirled into view at his paws, each one bearing a mark of the tribes. Sooka’s heart seemed to skip a beat as she stared, unable to breath. The smallest of the four, pale and white like someone she was sure she knew quite well. Another was similar, yet darker in his coat…and still there were two more, even darker and more familiar with each passing moment. A heart wrenching sob finally escaped the dappled she-cat, her golden eyes no longer able to look away from the tom in front of her, four kits pressed against him, all staring at their mother with betrayal in their eyes – the family Sooka knew would never be the same.
”I never told you, Seraph – I didn’t tell you. I’m so sorry...” she mourned, tears blurring her vision until the strange little family was nothing but a memory. ”I never told you that I…”
The slender she cat gritted her teeth, cursing herself silently as she tensed her body. Tears continued to spill over onto her pale face, hiding the secret held behind her golden eyes.
”I’ll do anything for you. Please…don’t cry,” the tom whispered, their rainy encounter flashing in front of her. But soon, it too, vanished, leaving nothing but the emptiness that had invaded her heart and settled within it since she had awoken. The tears slowed until eventually they ceased to fall from her eyes, her head dipped low and her mind quiet again.
There's no turning back, the silver feline reminded herself firmly, slowly raising her head. She narrowed her eyes, an unknown fire burning in the depths of their golden-orange hue, fueling her to move forward. The Spirits made their choice…
”And I’ve made mine.”
A sudden and swift flash of steely grey broke through the morning stillness. Flecks of deep red splattered through the pale dawn, staining the grass tinged yellow by the rising sunlight. What once had been a mark of jarring orange against her beautiful silver pelt was no more, and her once white paw was clenched against her shoulder, claws unsheathed and deadly. As the sun climbed steadily into the sky, its blinding light illuminated the scene - yet the damage was already done. With her claws stained red with her own blood, there was nothing left of her tribe's tattoo. She had once bore it with pride and dignity, but no longer felt anything towards the Spirits' marking but shame and rage.
Betrayal was all Sooka could think about. The beautiful pale grey she-cat with her poised figure and stunning jade eyes flashed momentarily in front of her own narrowed eyes before she shook her head, forcing herself back into the present.
Sooka released her claws from her shoulder, leaving the three long gashes to drip on their own accord, not once flinching from pain. Mere shreds of orange lingered here and there on her shoulder amongst the deep and bleeding wounds. With time, they would heal, and the remainder of her tattoo would turn grey and become hidden against her silver pelt once more. At one point in time, just thought of being without her tattoo would have frighten her, yet now it only brought a sense of liberation.
The morning grew on, calling the land's creatures from their slumbers and out into the early sunlight. The absence of two would not go unnoticed for long, but by that time, the pair would be long gone from that place - nor would they ever return. In the distance, two grey silhouettes slunk away, moving like the morning mist with a silence so graceful, even the stealthy shadows of this world envied them for a moment.
"I'll leave as I came," the dappled feline mewed to her green-eyed companion. "With nothing more or less to lose, than what I’ve chosen to leave behind." The silver feline padded onward, turning her back on the tribes and Spirits as she went, a smile of pure confidence finally upon her lips.
“I need to say my own goodbyes,” her companion whispered solemnly as a reminder. Sooka knew the she-cat beside her had no real intentions of leaving him behind, but all the same, she nodded, smiling faintly at the thought of sneaking into Air Tribe.
”Perhaps I’ll see him – my own…perhaps I’ll see him before I disappear from this world…one last time…” she whispered to herself, vaguely aware of the pale she-cat beside her giving her a knowing look.
”Perhaps you will,” was all she mewled in reply, her own thoughts on another as well.
The pair lapsed into silence, slipping through the insipid morning fog as they continued on their way. Grey and silver meshed together, until all that could be seen were the dark figures of two slender felines in the distance. Soon that, too, faded into the dull haze, leaving nothing behind but a memory – a memory of two who would not so soon be forgotten by that land for generations to come.
And so it was that the young leader and the eldest warrior of Water Tribe vanished from the world. Their part in Nandryx was over now, and what would become of their tribe remains yet to be seen.