there was so much blood.
the burning in his chest grew stronger and more intense, until raventhorn remembered to breathe and sucked in a lungful of air. the breath bathed his tongue in the rank tang of coppery blood, and it was all he could do not to violently retch. raventhorn didn't know where to look first - he didn't want to look at all - but he knew he had to look and memorize every little detail because this was no coincidence.
there was no way goldenpaw lay sprawled, a mirror image to their father's brutal murder, and it still be a weird coincidence. the body looked nothing at all like his brother, but there was no mistaking the familiar scent or pale orange fur. goldenpaw was the only one who had been born looking like their mother, all soft curves and longer fur and round cheeks. it seemed impossible that this goldenpaw,
with his eyes plucked and ears shredded and teeth scattered around his body, was his little brother.
a low moan slipped past raventhorn's tight-lipped grimace. he was unable to stop himself from collapsing to the ground, weak in the knees from the nausea. this couldn't be happening. he'd put crowtalon's death behind him. he''d finally put his father's ghost to rest, had started to move on.
raventhorn had made friends. he had a family again. even if they weren't related by blood, burnbright and waspheart and lightpaw - and yes, even owlpaw - were his family. "this can't be happening..."
a breathy, ragged voice whispered in his ears, oh, it's happening.
despite the overwhelming humidity of the day, an icy chill crept up raventhorn's spine. he whirled on the voice, claws out and teeth bared, only to find empty space greeting him.
i'm over here, pipsqueak.
raventhorn spun again, and this time there was someone waiting for him. the cat stood over his brother's body, looking down at the lifeless corpse with an unreadable expression on their face.
when they lifted their head to look at raventhorn, a malicious grim spread across its face.. well hello, it's about time we finally met.
he gave no warning. anger and instinct sent raventhorn barreling toward the cat, but he simply dove straight through them with outstretched claws. too surprised to make a proper landing, raventhorn hit the ground with a faint oof. he had very little time to react when the cat lumbered over and stood above him. just enough to bare his teeth in a heavy snarl that ripped out of his throat with such fierce aggression that, for a single moment, the spirit looked almost afraid. but then the spirit descended on him, and raventhorn's face went curiously blank.
for a long moment the forest lapsed into silence. the only sound was raventhorn's ragged breathing,
the soft rustle of branches brushing together overhead. then, with a soft grunt, he rose to his paws and scrambled over to goldenpaw's body. he crouched down to touch his nose to goldenpaw's bloodied, patched flank - oh, it had done such good work on this one, much better than it had with the father.
the dark gleam in his yellow eyes flickered briefly before fading, and then the thing wearing raventhorn's face tilted its head back and loosed a mournful wail.