Okay, I have written two short stories recently. Critiques are appreciated! If you like it, great, but I don't want a bunch of posts saying 'it's great,' or, 'I love it'. I get enough of that from my mum. I want actual critique. Nele Speculative Fiction 3,081 Words My name is Nele. Nele Anawt, son of Ingrid and Artemis Anawt. I lived with my parents and eleven other siblings in Merchant Seaman’s Orphan Asylum in London. I spent most of my time observing the children and nuns at the asylum. I sat and watched one of the newer arrivals. She looked rather peculiar. If you had only seen the back of her, she would seem like an average seventeen-year-old. She was tall with pale skin and fair blonde hair. The only thing that set her apart was her dark red eyes. She wore her long hair in two braids and was wearing a white dress and grey apron. She sat on her bed intently reading a book. “Victoria! It’s time for breakfast!” a nun called. “Coming ma’am,” the girl replied. She got up and left. Victoria returned half an hour later and picked up her book again. I scurried out from under her cupboard and stood at her feet. “Excuse me,” I call. She looked down and cocked her head, but otherwise she didn’t seem surprised or scared. Victoria put down her book, shrunk down into a pale grey mouse and stood before me. “Yes?” she asked. “You’re a shape-shifter!” I gasped in awe. I had only heard of them in stories. “Yes, but my power isn’t very strong. I am always a lighter colour, I can’t get rid of these red eyes, I can’t shift into anything bigger than a human and it’s exhausting to shift.” She half-smiled. “You can talk.” “Yes. But it doesn’t do me much good. I am still a mouse, humans don’t like mice.” I shrugged. “I’m Victoria, by the way.” “I am Nele Anawt, at your service, milady.” I bowed. Victoria laughed. “Someone’s coming.” She turned back into a girl just in time. A nun opened the door. An old man stood behind her. I watched from under Victoria’s bed. “Your grandfather has come to take you home!” the nun said happily. “Pack your things.” “It’s so nice to see you!” the old man exclaimed with a slight tone of annoyance. The nun ushered him out of the room. After stuffing her few belongings in a dull grey bag, Victoria turned to me. “Do you want to come?” she asked. “It’d be an honour, milady.” I smiled. I had always planned to leave the asylum eventually, but I had been scared, and I hadn’t known anyone outside the asylum before. It would be wonderful to go out and see the world! Victoria lifted me into her bag and picked it up. After she had descended many stairs, the old man greeted her again. I watched through one of the several moth holes in the bag as we left the asylum and stepped out onto the street. I had never been out of the asylum before. We walked for a bit and stopped in an alleyway. “Thanks, Beircheart,” Victoria said. “You owe me,” the old man replied. “I know.” Victoria smiled. “Well, I gotta get home. Tell Foalan that next time I’m not helping.” Beircheart started walking away. “There won’t be a next time,” Victoria called. “Good,” Beircheart called back. Victoria laughed. Victoria ran until we reached a grand mansion with countless magnolia trees and rose-bushes growing in its garden. She walked on a brick path, up white marble steps and through wooden white doors with the words engraved: Magnolia Manor. In the parlour sat four children in front of a fireplace. Victoria put her bag down and lifted me onto her shoulder before joining her friends. “Hello,” she said, evidently happy to be back. “This is Nele.” She pointed to me. “I’m Noelle,” an Asian-looking girl introduced herself. She was a little younger than Victoria, and rather small. “Foalan,” a young man of medium build and rusty brown hair said. “Rosaline,” a very pretty girl said. She had long auburn hair and a fringe that half-covered her green eyes. She was the same age as Noelle. “And that’s Bodevere.” Noelle nodded at a young, freckled, curly blond haired boy. “We just call him Bo. He’s mute.” “Nice to meet you all,” I said. “Victoria, please don’t sell too much gold and such at a time, or we’ll look suspicious. If you had been followed home the last time, then we’d all be sent to the workhouse! You were lucky that you only got sent to the asylum,” Foalan said. The mood in the room instantly darkened. “I was fine,” Victoria said in an annoyed tone. “You were lucky. Don’t do it again.” Noelle shook her head. “Whatever,” Victoria sneered. “You should be grateful. We got a lot of money.” “That you spent on books!” Foalan snapped. Victoria walked out, taking me with her. She sat in the library and read while I explored the bookshelves. When the sun started setting we headed out to the grand dining hall. Dinner was a meagre meal of bread. Each child received one half-stale slice each. The small amount of food looked strange in the grandiosity of the dining room. Victoria shared her slice with me. I was still hungry, but I didn’t expect that they had more food to give. “I’m going to bed,” Rosaline announced suddenly. “Ditto.” Noelle rose from her seat. “’Night,” Foalan and Victoria called in unison. “Come on, Nele.” Victoria held out her hand. I clambered onto it. “’Night Foalan.” She waved with her free hand. “Goodnight, sir.” I bowed. Victoria and Foalan giggled. Victoria got up and took me to her room, leaving Foalan behind. When we got to Victoria’s room she quickly changed into an emerald silk nightgown. I sat on one of her pillows and admired the large pile of books by the side of Victoria’s bed. The furnishings of the room were very elegant and the colour scheme of the room was emerald, cream and gold. At the centre of the room was a large, four poster bed with an emerald green quilt that had little gold birds and flowers embroidered on it. Victoria slid under her quilt, lay down and looked at me. “Welcome to Magnolia Manor,” she smiled. “Thank you, milady. May I ask; how did you acquire the manor?” I asked, a little curious as to why a group of orphans that could barely afford a proper meal owned a mansion. “The previous owners passed away, so we moved in while their family decides who inherits the house. They didn’t write a will,” Victoria explained. “Why did you move in? Did you know the previous owners?” I asked. “N-no, we didn’t know them,” she stammered. “Out of curiosity, how did Magnolia Manor’s previous owners die?” I asked. Victoria’s eyes widened and she appeared scared. “I don’t know,” she said quickly. “Are you sure that’s the truth?” I asked. I was shocked that my question had rattled her so much, and wondering how much I should trust my new friend. “No.” She blinked. “How did they die, Victoria?” I spoke softly. She began to cry. “I did it,” she blurted. “Bo had a terrible fever, and we needed to get off the streets. So, one night, while the others were sleeping, I broke in and killed everyone while they slept; Maids, servants, dogs, Roberto and Carolyn Symes.” She was speaking so fast, and through her tears she was almost indiscernible. I was terrified, but I felt that I needed to comfort her. I walked over to her and stroked her hair until she fell asleep. Victoria woke me at dawn. She had changed out of her nightgown and wore a long green and yellow dress with fabric roses on it. She had her hair in a bun. She looked like a rich young lady, not a murdering orphan. “Come on then!” She reached out her hand. “Good morning, milady.” I yawned before leaping onto her hand. “Let’s go find Foalan.” Victoria lifted me onto her shoulder. Foalan was waiting for us in the front garden, wearing a brown suit with a yellow tie and holding a tattered brown suitcase. “Good morning.” Foalan smiled. The sun was still rising behind him. The three of us walked to an almost deserted alley. Foalan walked up to a door and knocked. Beircheart opened it. “Ah,” The old man sighed. “Foalan.” “Good morning, sir.” Foalan shook Beircheart’s hand. Beircheart then limped off, followed by Foalan, while I stayed with Victoria at the doorway. Foalan returned with three boxes. “Three boxes of loaves, fresh from Jemimah’s kitchen. That’d be two shillings.” Beircheart held out a hand. Foalan handed him two silver coins. We walked a bit until we found a busy street. We found a place on the side of the street that wasn’t already occupied and Foalan put down the boxes of bread. “So what do we do now?” I asked. “Sit and wait for customers,” Foalan said as he pulled a blanket out of his suitcase, spread it out, and sat on it. Victoria sat beside him. Our first customer was a mother, she held her young daughter by the hand. “Crystine would like a penny loaf, wouldn’t you sweetie?” The mum bent down. Her daughter nodded. “There ya go.” The lady handed Foalan a penny. Foalan gave her a loaf of bread and they left, her daughter giggling joyously. It was amazing how happy a mere loaf of bread could make someone. As the day wore on, we received a total of two shillings and three pennies. We walked home with half a box of bread. We got home and Victoria sat in the couch of the parlour. Noelle was embroidering and Rosaline was repairing a very fancy ball gown. “How’d you go?” Rosaline asked, not looking up from her work. “We earned two shillings and three pennies. We also have half a box left over,” Victoria replied. “Mm. More bread,” Noelle said sarcastically. “At least these won’t be stale.” Rosaline smiled. After Victoria had finished her dinner, which was, once again, bread, she hurried off to her room and left the others behind. After a while I went to sleep in the parlour. The next morning Victoria didn’t wake me at dawn. Instead, I awoke around midday. I was still lying on a cushion be the fire. “Good morning,” Foalan said. He was sitting nearby, repairing shoes. “Good morning, sir.” I ran over to him. “Where’s Victoria?” “She left. Business in town, apparently.” Foalan frowned. “Does she usually do that?” I asked. “No. She seemed worried about something.” He set the pair of shoes aside. “Shouldn’t we be at work?” “Nope.” He pointed out the window. “Snow.” “Why do you talk funny?” “I’m from Ireland.” He laughed. “Where’s that?” “It’s west of England.” “Hmm.” “Nele, you’re going to have to come with me to my night job tonight,” Foalan announced. “What’s your night job?” I asked. “Before I tell you, you must understand this, I don’t enjoy my night job, I hate it, but it’s the best way to earn money. We need the money to buy better food.” “Okay.” I nodded. “So what is it?” “You’re not going to like it.” “I can tell.” “Assassination.” The word was hard, cold, and utterly terrifying. We sat around for the rest of the day and chatted about Ireland, Queen Victoria, Beircheart, Rosaline, bread and other strange things. We didn’t talk about Foalan’s night job. I discovered that Foalan fancied Rosaline, but he was too shy to do anything about it. “Let’s go.” He grabbed his coat and was almost out the door. “Foalan, wait!” I called after him. “Oh, of course.” He bent down and picked me up. On the way out he picked up a knife that had been hidden under a stone in the front garden. “Tonight we will be attending to.” He checked the writing on his hand. “Johannes and Bellmaine Frederickson.” “By attending to, do you mean murdering?” I asked, wondering how to get out of it. “Err, yeah.” He bit his lip. “Johannes is forty-three and Bellmaine is seventeen. The request was from Mary, Johannes’ wife and Bellmaine’s mother.” “Why would anyone kill their own child?” I exclaimed angrily. “She suspects Bellmaine to be a witch. The Fredricksons are a well-known witch-crafting family, so her suspicions are quite likely. The pay will be quite good too. Mary owns a funeral service.” “But didn’t Mary notice that Johannes came from a family of witches?” “I guess not.” Foalan shrugged. “So, where are they?” “In an apartment building. I have a key.” He patted his pocket. A few minutes of silent walking passed and Foalan stood at a door. “We’re here,” he said under his breath. “Almost.” He opened the door and entered a hallway with many doors and a spiralling stairwell at its end. We walked all of the way up to the fifth floor. “Room forty-seven.” Foalan unlocked the door. The small room contained two beds and two chests overflowing with belongings. In one of the beds was a snoring man, Johannes. Foalan walked over to Johannes and slit his throat. “Where’s Bellmaine?” I whispered. “Here,” a girl’s voice quivered. She came out of the shadows in the far corner of the room. Her hair was long, fair and straight. Her lips were blood-red and her eyes an icy blue. She was tall, pale, and ghost-like. Her ripped grey dress added to the effect. The curtains swayed as though a breeze was coming through the closed window. Foalan looked ready to attack. Bellmaine rushed to her father’s side. “You’ve killed him!” she cried. Foalan put me down and ran at her, but his knife slipped through his fingers and into hers. “Do you really want to kill me?” “Of course not!” Foalan fell to the ground, but I was pretty sure it was Bellmaine making him do it. “Then why?” Bellmaine yelled, making a small cut in Foalan’s arm. All that I could do was stand there, feeling completely helpless. “Because my family needs the money!” Foalan yelled back. “So you go and murder other families?” Bellmaine cut deeper into Foalan’s arm. He yelped in pain. “You don’t understand!” Foalan cried. “No, I don’t.” Bellmaine released Foalan. “I will let you live, if you let me live. Tell my mother I am dead. This is the last time you will see me,” she said before sweeping out the door. That night we hurried home in the snow. Victoria still wasn’t home yet. I waited in the parlour while Foalan bandaged his arm. We stayed awake for a bit, and then Foalan fell asleep. I fell asleep shortly after. I awoke when I heard someone in the front yard. “Foalan, someone’s there,” I whispered, trying to wake him up. My attempts didn’t work, but he woke up when Victoria stumbled through the front doors, obviously drunk. “Where have you been?” Foalan yelled. Victoria stumbled over to the couch and fell asleep. “What’s going on?” Rosaline called from her room. “Don’t worry!” Foalan called back. It was dawn when Victoria woke again. “My head hurts,” she groaned. Rosaline, Noelle and Bodevere came down the stairs. “Where were you?” Foalan questioned. Victoria looked scared, just like she did a few nights before. “Um.” She bit her lip. “Victoria, tell us,” Noelle ordered. “I sold some furnishings and some dresses. The man I sold them to said that there were still some places where cockfighting was done, and that he reckoned that I’d double my money if I betted it on a certain cock, I don’t remember its name. The man was wrong; I halved my money. A charming young man asked me to accompany him to the tavern, and so my money was halved again. I left the tavern at midnight. I could’ve sworn I saw the man that I sold the furnishings to talking to some policemen,” Victoria explained. “I’m so sorry!” She burst into tears. “What’s the one rule we made for living here?” Noelle yelled. “To not sell too much or we’ll seem suspicious!” “And what do you do? Sell some furnishings! Where is a child like you going to get some furnishings to sell, of course people will get suspicious!” Foalan shook his head. “I am not a child!” Victoria retaliated. “How could you?” Rosaline said softly. “We trusted you. You have betrayed us.” “Guys…” Noelle pointed out of a window. Three men were walking up the path. “Hide!” Rosaline squeaked. Victoria grabbed Bodevere and I and took us to hide under the dining room table. A few minutes of silence passed and the three men barged into the room. I held my breath. Bodevere closed his eyes tightly. The men were searching the room. Then it happened. Victoria must’ve been holding her breath too, as she then gasped for air. I saw the men’s feet turn to face us. Just before one of the men knelt down and looked underneath the tablecloth Victoria shifted into a moth, leaving Bodevere and I behind. “Got one!” The man shouted as he grabbed Bodevere and dragged him out from under the table. I wanted to yell and run after him, but I couldn’t. After the men left the room I scurried out the front of the manor. Out the front stood Rosaline and Foalan, looking anxious and out of breath. “Where’s Bo?” Rosaline asked. “They got him and Victoria turned into a moth and fled,” I replied. “Oh. They got Noelle too,” Foalan said. “You can’t live like this anymore, you are shaming the memory of your parents, you are getting sick from our poor diet and the horrible work is killing your souls! It’s time we had a fresh start, I say we leave here, and go to a small village, and be the people we have always dreamed we could be. Who’s with me?” I announced. “I am,” Rosaline said. “All the way.” Foalan picked me up and put me on his shoulder before starting to walk away from Magnolia Manor. We travelled until we reached a seaside village. Eventually, Foalan and Rosaline got jobs at a nearby inn and saved up to buy a seaside cottage. Foalan and Rosaline got married and had a child, Agrabella. We didn’t see or hear anything about Victoria, although her memory will always be with us. I lived in a crate-turned-house in Rosaline’s garden. We all lived there in a cottage on a hill for five years, until the circus came, but that’s another story. BloodThirst BYC RP Fanfic 4.082 Words I have never liked my name. BloodThirst. It sounds so evil. Like mother. Like Commander SunWhisper. Like whom I am supposed to be. Supposed to. But not. I vowed not to be 4 moons ago. Not to be one of them. Never. I stand on a large boulder, watching the "orphans" being taken to "asylum". We all know what that really means. They are stolen chicks, taken for the army. It started off as Commander SunWhisper's idea. Large hens peck at the chicks whose little legs couldn't carry them the three-mile walk from Broyde's to Asmalp, which is all of them. Shrieks of surprise and fear echo through the otherwise silent forest. I close my eyes, feeling bad that I can't help them. It used to be against the code to train chicks under 6 moons, but we stopped abiding to the code many moons ago. "BloodThirst! Come here!" my mother calls. She is leader of the flock. Top of the pecking order. Her name is MidnightJade. All of the hen's names in her family start with Midnight. Her mate is SilverSpur. He is also known as the first mate, and to me, father. I hurry over to the dustbaths, where my mother waits. "BloodThirst, I have decided that Commander SunWhisper's training is not effective enough. In fact, you seem softer than you did when you began training,” she seems angry, as usual. "Then who will train me?" I ask, afraid of the answer. "Me, of course," mother replies. My fears are confirmed. Great. Mother gets up and shakes herself off, “Come along,” she starts walking over to the chicks are now assembled. "This will show me how well SunWhisper taught you. Some of the chicks cannot cope with the joy of being adopted,” she begins. I have to try hard not to laugh. Can she hear herself? “Find one of them and kill it,” she instructs. I freeze. "No," I reply defiantly. “I won’t do it.” "Yes, you will,” she pecks me and I run towards the group of chicks. I go around them, and run into the forest. She sees me. What was I thinking? I don't have much of a chance of running away, but maybe, just maybe, I can be free. I run as fast as I can. One quick glance behind my shoulder and I see that some guards and-oh dear- Commander SunWhisper. Mother shouts something to the tree-scouts and they gracefully come down from a large tree beside me. I hear their shouts, but not what they're saying. They grab me and hold me down. Mother looks down at me and shakes her head sadly. "BloodThirst, you have failed me. Take him to the dungeon,” she orders the guards and tree-scouts. It takes a while to get to the entrance to the dungeons. Apparently they used to not be used for dungeons, but to save others from the many wars. It belonged to the flock that lived here before us. That was many moons ago. Now we're in the mid-section. This is where they keep the prisoners for long amounts of time. This is bad, this is very bad. Before I can argue, the guards shove me into a dimly lit room and lock the metal door. The only light source is a small crack in the roof. I stand under it. Water drips down from the roof and onto my head. The icy water flows down my neck. Drip. Drip. Drip. I move away, into the darkness. "They say it can drive ye mad. Wet, but in the sun? Or, dry, but in the dark?" A voice speaks from the darkness. "Who are you?" I ask, surprised and scared. A rooster steps into the light. He is white with many scars and bald patches. His neck feathers are covered in blood, both dry and fresh. Whip marks cover his back. His tail and wing feathers are mostly broken. His massive comb flops over one eye. "SwiftTalon, although I'm not so swift any more,” he laughs. I don't, I just want to get out, “Ye look an awful lot like ForgottenScar,” "He's my grandfather," I reply. "Really? I've been in here since he was leader. Who's the leader now? Which one's yer parent?" "MidightJade is leader, and my mother. My father is SilverSpur.” "Jadey? Really? She always liked Silver. I used to be the commander, so I was pretty close to the leading family. Why were you sent here?" "I don't like to kill," I reply. "Fair enough. Ye get used to it, but,” he pauses and frowns, "nah, I didn't. Well, that's why I'm here. I expect they've forgotten about me,” “Have you ever thought about escaping?” "If I wanted to, I could. I have a key,” "Then why not?" "What good am I going to do? They will never really let me be free. A prisoner in this cell, or a prisoner out there, forced to work for them till I die. I’m so tired, and I'm going to pass pretty soon anyway. I've been waiting for another prisoner to come here for many moons. You're perfect!" “But-“ "You need to go find the HFO. They'll help ya.” "Who are they?" "The Honorable Feathered Organization. It was started when the flock before was still thriving. They all help each other out. Ye'll find them not too far nightwards from here. I'll just grab ye the key,” he hurries off into the darkness and returns with a rusted, old key, "here ya go,” "SwiftTalon?" "Yes?" "What if I don't want to do this?" "I will die in vain,” "That's a lot of pressure,” "I believe ye can do it,” "Should I go now?" "Yes. Don't look back, just run. Good luck,” "Thanks. I'll need it,” I grab the key, unlock the door and run. Half because that's what I was told to do, half because the guards probably saw me, and I'd have a better chance at living if I just ran. It is night. The moon lights up the clearing. I continue running nightwards, to the HFO. I really don't know why I'm doing this. It makes me feel uncomfortable that I will be fighting against my mother. Yeah, sure, she’s really evil, but she's still my mother. I'm just so confused. "Don't look back, just run," I whisper SwiftTalon's words to myself. I reach the river. Good, I'm at the GraceFlock border. The peafowl there aren't exactly nice to me, but they're better than my own flock. I swim across the river, a skill I learnt from my only friend, Ginger. She's a pekin duck. I go around GraceFlock, but they still have guards on patrol. A peahen I don't recognize is flying towards me. No use running now. "Aren't you a little far from your flock?" she asks. "I s'pose," I answer casually, "do you know the way to the HFO?" "Yes, come with me,” she starts walking briskly, "the name's Athena, by the way,” "BloodThirst," I mumble. I run after her. "Pardon?" "BloodThirst. It's my name,” I struggle to keep up with Athena's long stride. "That's a horrid name,” "I didn't choose it,” "I know,” We don't talk for the rest of the walk, which I am thankful for, I don't really feel like explaining it all. We come to a place where the ground is rock. The rock is hot and burns my feet, so I move quickly. "Where-" I start. "Sun rocks,” she cuts me off. Athena pecks the ground three times. Lots of birds flew down from the trees. Pigeons, peafowl, falcons, snowy owls and barn owls surround me. "Who-" I begin. "The HFO," a white peacock cuts me off again, "I am Eugrace, leader of the HFO. I am first in command. Second is Athena, who is my mate, and the deputy. Then there's the council and the other members,” "The council?" I ask. "Representatives from the flocks that are the HFO. Zeus, Sonbré, Fira, Summer, Alexander and Joslyn,” Athena replies. "Why are you here?" A brown falcon with a yellow face asks. "I seek help," I reply. "Where are you from?" A snowy owl asks. "MidnightFlock," I answer. "Hmm,” The snowy says thoughtfully. "He cannot be trusted!" A pigeon argues. "Now, Zeus, he seeks help. We can't turn down someone just because of their flock," Eugrace replies. "What is your name?" The snowy asks, ignoring Zeus. "BloodThirst,” I reply softly. "Who are your parents?" The yellow-faced falcon asks. "My mother is MidnightJade, my father, SilverSpur,” I reply. Everyone gasps. "No. I refuse to help,” And with that Zeus leaves. "I wish to form a rebellion,” I explain. "Haho! We have waited too long for this!" An overenthusiastic large Rhode Island Red hen says. "Yes, this could be an excellent opportunity,” Eugrace says, “We accept your offer. Your training starts tomorrow. Meet me at dawn,” “Wait, what? Training?” I ask, confused about everything. "Yes, training,” Athena says, which still doesn’t answer my question. All of the birds fly away, except the large Rhode Island Red hen, which is walking instead of flying. "Excuse me, miss?" I say, running after her. "Yes dear?" She turns around and looks at me. "Where do I sleep?" I ask. "In the trees, if you can fly,” The hen answers. “Can you fly?” I ask. “No,” she replies sadly. “Then where do you sleep?” “In the bushes,” “All alone?” “Yes,” she replies. My flock may be brutes, but at least they have each other. “I’ll sleep near you,” I run after her. “You don’t have to,” she keeps walking. “But I want to,” “Thank you. It does get awfully lonely,” she says, ducking into the bush. I follow her, “I’m Joslyn,” she says, squatting down and fluffing up her feathers to keep her warm during the night. “Have you always been alone?” I ask. “No. I had a mate and chicks once. Six of them,” she replies sadly. “What happened to them?” I ask, feeling sorry for Joslyn. “How long did your mother tell you that they had been stealing chicks?” Joslyn asks. “It was a bit before I hatched. 6 moons, maybe?” I say, trying to remember when exactly, “It was SunWhisper’s idea, it was what made SunWhisper captain,” “She lied. They had been stealing chicks long before SunWhisper hatched,” Joslyn says. “How do you know?” I ask, trying to make sense of this situation. “Well,” Joslyn sighs, “it was many leaf-falls ago. I had a mate, Demuro. We had 6 chicks, Seyochi, Denner, Kaia, Romae, Kilroy and Samon. One day some warriors from Midnight flock stole my chicks, and Demuro. From HFO spies I heard about my chicks over the years. Samon’s name was changed to IceHeart, he tried to start a rebellion. Kilroy became ForgottenSands, a loyal warrior. Kaia became ThunderSong, she starved herself. Denner became DesertFlower, a med-hen. Romae became InkStain, she was murdered for treason. And Seyochi, well,” Joslyn pauses. “Yes?” I urge her to continue. “She became Captain SunWhisper,” Joslyn whispers sadly. “Really?” I am in disbelief. “Yep. I am the mother of a murderer. Not just any murderer, but one of them MidnightClan brutes. No offense.” “None taken,” I pause and think, “Are you okay with the rebellion?” “Yes, this will be my chance for revenge against those who not only stole my chicks, but made them murderers and brutes,” Joslyn scratches the ground angrily, “Anyway, you should get to sleep. You have a big day tomorrow!” Joslyn says cheerfully, and I am not sure if her cheerfulness is feigned. I fall asleep quickly. Joslyn wakes me just before dawn. “Come on, time for breakfast,” she says, gently nudging me. “Okay,” I say, getting up. I am used to getting up early from my training with SunWhisper, or, Seyochi. “Follow me,” Joslyn says, leaving the bush and heading towards the forest nearby. She stops near a bush with deep purple berries growing on it, “Eat these. They are sweet and contain all kinds of good stuff,” she says, leaning in and pecking off some berries. I do the same. Joslyn was right, they were very sweet and delicious. “What is your job in the HFO, other than being part of the council?” I ask when I am full. “I’m a healer,” Joslyn replies, “You should go, Athena doesn’t like to be kept waiting,” “Okay, bye!” I call as I start walking away. I meet Athena at the centre of the stone ground. Her iridescent feathers are beautiful in the sunlight. “BloodThirst,” she begins, “Over the next six days you will be in intense training to ready you for the battle. It takes most chicks a season to learn these skills. We do not have that much time. During today’s lesson I will be your sensei,” Athena explains. “Sensei?” I repeat, unsure of the word’s meaning. “Teacher,” she answers, “Are you ready?” “Yes, co- sensei,” I reply. I have to stop myself from saying commander instead of sensei. “Then let us begin,” she says, and takes a step towards me, “I will be teaching you how to run properly. The most important parts of running are aerodynamics and stamina. Understand?” “So far, yes,” I Answer. “Aerodynamics is the study of the motion of air. For running, flying and swimming, it is the way you cut through air that can make a big difference. Follow me,” she explains, then starts walking to where the ground is dry dirt. She then draws what looks like a sideways raindrop, “Imagine this is you. You moving forward is the thrust,” she points to the curved side of the raindrop, “Behind you is drag,” she points to the pointy end of the raindrop, “Your goal is to become streamlined, so that you can pass through air without disturbing it too much. This enables you to run faster without using as much energy,” Athena spends the rest of the day teaching me all about the science behind aerodynamics and running. “You have done well today,” she says. “Thank you, sensei,” I reply. “The second part of running is stamina. I want you to run a mile a day, practicing the techniques I have taught you today,” Athena instructs me. “Yes, sensei,” I say. Athena flies gracefully away and I start my mile run. The next day I find Eugrace at the centre of the stony area. His feathers are not iridescent like Athena’s, they are an impossible white. “Welcome to the second day of your training. Today I will teach you about strategy,” Eugrace says. His tail is held high and he is bobbing around, full of excitement and energy. “Okay,” I say. Commander SunWhisper had tried teaching me about strategy before, but I soon grew bored. “To me, strategy is the most important part of a battle. It is also something enemies often neglect, which gives us the upper hand. One of the greatest strategies is the Forrlander strategy…” Eugrace continues throughout the day to explain what seems like every strategy ever invented, with its good points and flaws. I quickly grow bored. After the lesson I run a mile again. The next day Joslyn joyfully announces that she will be my mentor for the day. “Today I will be teaching you healing!” She says, sounding even more excited than Eugrace. She walks out of our bush and into another bush. I follow, “This is the med den. This is where I keep all of my healing supplies.” She has an air of proud enthusiasm. “Wow,” I say, looking around at the various herbs hanging from the bush’s branches, and the small holes in the ground full of seeds. “Pretty impressive, eh?” Joslyn chuckles, “One of the most basic plants used in healing is the poppy. It’s seeds act as a painkiller. Although, poppies can be highly addictive and when taken in large amounts can affect the brain,” she explains. I find the plants and their healing properties much more interesting than Eugrace’s lesson on strategies. The next day I find the snowy owl waiting for me at sun rocks. It is unusual for a snowy owl to be this far south, and I wonder which flock he is from. “Hello, BloodThirst, I am Alexander. Today I will teach you about flight,” The snowy explains. “Hi,” I say, “I’m a chicken, though, flying isn’t my thing,” “You may think so, but I have seen chickens fly better than barn owls,” Alexander says. I doubt that what he says is true, but I don’t bother arguing. “I want you to take off, fly in a circle overhead, and come back down,” he says. Without saying anything, I beat my wings. It takes a lot of work, but finally I become airborne. I have to beat my wings hard and fast to stay in the air. It seems to take forever to complete my circle and come back down. “That was pretty good. There is definitely room for improvement, but I’ve seen worse,” Alexander says. “What could I have done differently?” I ask. Alexander improves my technique and by the end of the day I feel as though I can fly as well as a magpie, but not quite a barn owl. On the fifth day an osprey meets me at sun rocks. She is massive. I am a bit scared of her. “I am Fira. I will be teaching you how to fight,” she says. “H-hello Fira,” I say nervously. “Do not be afraid,” she says, lowering her head so it is even with mine. “Okay,” I say, and straighten up. “Good,” she raises her head again, “One of the first things you should do before a battle is get to know some things about your opponent, and try to determine their style. MidnightFlock warriors are excellent attackers, but their defense skills are limited. The best way to defeat an enemy whose defense is lacking is to be defensive yourself. Another thing I have noticed about MidnightFlock warriors is that they can be cocky, and gullible, which makes them easy to trick. I don’t really enjoy talking too much, so let’s just start working on some fighting skills,” Fira teaches me as much as possible in the confined time of a day. “You have done well today,” Fira says. “Thanks,” I reply, before heading off to run a mile and fly twice as much. When I get home Joslyn is already asleep. It is my sixth and final day of training. I am met at sun rocks by the brown falcon with a yellow face. “Greetings, BloodThirst, I am Sonbré. Today I will teach you a bit about flying with the wind. Around here, there are lots of rocky areas, which create updrafts. Updrafts are the hot air that is reflected off the rocks. The hot air is less dense than the air above it, so the hot air rises and is replaced by the cooler air. Make sense?” He explains. “Yes,” I reply. “Good. Another thing about around here is the wind. Wind always blows north, which is good for navigation. The thing about wind is that it’s easy to fly with or across, but it takes skill to fly into. The best way to fly into the wind is to either fly in a zig-zag or a curvy line. Then you aren’t flying straight into a headwind, “ Sonbré explains. To my surprise, I find the rest of the lesson quite interesting. “Thanks, Sonbré,” I say. “You’re welcome,” he replies. I decide not to practice running or flying today. “You’re back early,” Joslyn says. “Yeah, I finished class early today,” I lie. “Hmmm. Big day tomorrow!” Joslyn says. “What’s happening tomorrow?” I ask. “We attack!” She exclaims excitedly. “I don’t know much about war, but isn’t it a little early?” I ask. From what I had heard, battles can take a whole season to plan. “I guess Eugrace must’ve been eager to start,” Joslyn shrugs, “Now, get some sleep,” “Goodnight,” I say. “’Night,” Joslyn replies. The next morning an army of birds are assembled at sun rocks. “Wow,” Joslyn gasps in amazement. “They’ll be nothing compared to MidnightFlock warriors,” I say pessimistically. “Then we’d better hope the gods are on our side!” Joslyn says, joining the others. I follow her. “Today will make history. It is a day many of us have been waiting for. No one has fought MidnightFlock and survived, but today things will change. No more stolen chicks! No more burnt forests! No more murder!” Eugrace announces loud enough for everyone to hear. The crowd cheers. “Are you with me?” Eugrace calls to the crowd. “Yes, sir!” The crowd calls back. Eugrace rises into the air, followed by thousands of warriors. I rise with them, but Joslyn stays behind. It is amazing, unlike the MidnightFlock warriors, these warriors have an air of happiness and hope. While I am flying with them, I feel that this may actually work. When we are almost above MidnightFlock territory, everyone dives down in almost unison. “Yaaaaaar!” Athena yells. Suddenly it all turns from a leisurely flight to an all-out attack on the unsuspecting MidnightFlock. Blood and screams surround me. More MidnightFlock guards and tree scouts are coming to help the others. Somewhere in the fray I am sure I see Commander SunWhisper. I stand at the centre of the battle, unnoticed. Oh, no. They have called for reinforcements. Thousands of MidnightWarriors emerge from the cave system that was once my home. Suddenly another cockerel attacks me. He is FireStrike, my younger brother. “Hello, brother,” he says rather evilly. I don’t reply and continue fighting the way Fira taught me. Soon I am winning. FireStrike seems tired. I hold his neck to the ground and am about to slit his throat with my other foot, “You wouldn’t dare kill me. You’re too much of a coward,” FireStrike taunts. Before I can reply, Summer comes up behind me and kills FireStrike. I don’t know whether I should be grateful or revolted. Soon another opponent faces us. Summer and I work together wordlessly. I am tired, but we are winning. Suddenly, I see my mother join the battle. Eugrace immediately takes her on. I worry for Eugrace, but I must keep fighting. There are dead bodies everywhere, mostly chicken. Already vultures circle overhead. The number of MidnightClan warriors is slowly decreasing, but they don’t surrender. I realize that a fairly large group of MidnightClan warriors are fleeing. SilverSpur leads them. Smaller groups are also fleeing towards the same general direction. There are very few MidnightClan warriors now, not much more than fifty. Most of our warriors have stopped fighting to bury our dead, or tend to our wounded. Mother and Eugrace are still fighting, and it looks like no one is winning. Both are missing feathers and have open wounds. The only remaining MidnightClan warrior now that didn't flee with my father is mother. Both mother and Eugrace are growing tired and slow. With what seems to be the last of her energy, mother sinks her talons deep into Eugrace's neck. Athena and I run over to him. "Hello, son,” Mother speaks to me in the same way that FireStrike did. Her voice is hoarse and her chest is heaving, “Please come back,” she cries. "No,” I reply. Mother falls to the ground in either sadness or exhaustion. More likely the latter. Athena stands up from her mourning, and with a quick slash she kills my mother in anger and flies away. I am the only living bird left at the battleground. I kneel at my mother’s side, trying to decide whether I am sad or happy. The battle was won, but my mother is lost, it is like a battle I cannot win. I decide to leave, and fly back to sun rocks. Back at sun rocks, everyone is celebrating. I sit alone. Joslyn walks over to me. "Welcome back,” she says. "Thanks,” I reply. "Your mother was killed,” she sighs. "SunWhisper was killed,” I say sadly. "That's okay. I can be your mother, if you want,” Joslyn offers. "I'd like that,” I reply. “If I’m going to be your new mother, we must change your name,” Joslyn stops to think. “How about Nai?” I ask, remembering Ginger. “I like it,” she replies, “Well, Nai, son of Joslyn, we should go join the celebrations,” Joslyn suggests. We join the celebrations, although I still feel remorse. But I know things will be better now.