STIGMATA — dream

The sunlight that beams down through the outreaching willow branches is soft, basking the territory in it's gentle glow. A buck traverses the land, it's ethereal white fur glowing and it's antlers curling towards the blue skies above. Beneath it's hooves, flowers bloom. With each step, it gifts the earth with abundance. Life is thriving, from the flora that decorates the wetlands to the fauna that seems to be attracted to the ghostly stag like honeybees to flowers. Butterflies nestle within the curves of it's antlers, squirrels skitter about beneath it, birds chirp and trill as it passes their nests.

The glow of the sun fades away. Dark clouds gather in the sky, stripping the land of light. There is a moment of deafening silence which settles over them.

A flash of lightning illuminates the buck in sickly blue. A peal of thunder- or is it gunshots?- shatters the eerie quiet. The buck startles, it's pink-hued eyes reflecting the fear of the wetlands around it. And it takes off. No longer does life grow beneath it's hooves; there is only decay. The flowers and grass wilt and shrivel. The corpses of the birds and squirrels fall from the trees, withering away until they're skeletons.

The buck leaves nothing behind.

Beesong awakens with a gasp, his heart threatening to beat out of his heaving chest. Onto shaking legs, the medicine cat staggers, up and out of the den. There is a pounding behind his skull, and Beesong sucks in shuddering breaths through his gritted teeth. It was a dream, yet it feels different from the nightmares he is accustomed to. It feels otherworldly, like the visions of cicadas he'd seen before coming to the river.

Steeling themselves, they straighten. They must tell Cicadastar at once.