"With this life, I give you understanding." Blackivy touched noses with her son, her green eyes twinkling.
Shadestar trembled as it felt like lightning had just struck him. He panted, his legs shaking as he tried to keep his balance.
"Understanding?" Shadestar echoed.
Blackivy blinked, her expression blank. "A cat will leave your clan in order to find their destiny."
Shadestar gaped. "Leave?" he repeated icily. "Any cat that leaves their clan is a traitor!"
Blackivy narrowed her eyes. "Not this cat. They will not betray their clan to hurt their clanmates, but because their destiny is far beyond the forest. This cat, along with three others, hold power bestowed onto them by the stars. Your cat shall leave in order to find their path."
"Will they ever return?" Shadestar asked, still in disbelief.
Blackivy's eyes flashed and she shrugged. "That is unknown to Starclan. It is up to the four cats to save the clans one last time."
A sudden squall of wind came, beating and ruffling Shadestar's fur as he watched his mother's pelt vanish behind the wind. It got closer and louder until the wind surrounded Shadestar and swallowed him whole.
* * *
Shadestar - Jet black tom with unusual blue eyes (Leader)
Fallenfeather - Brown tabby tom with white paws (Deputy)
Willowstalk - Thick-furred brown tabby she-cat (Medicine cats)
(Apprentice - Applepaw - White tom with ginger stripes on his tail and ears)
Sleetclaw - Lighter gray tom
Berrymask - White tom with black splotches (Warriors)
Heronflight - Brown-and-white tabby she-cat
Brindlepool - Dark brown she-cat
(Apprentice - Mottlepaw - Brown she-cat with lighter stripes)
Longcloud - Lean white tom
(Apprentice - Cragpaw - Gray tom with a white belly with green eyes)
Cedarjaw - Short-furred gray tom with green eyes
Beachstripe - Gold she-cat with creamy stripes
(Apprentice - Owlpaw - Large calico she-cat with brown eyes)
Graythroat - Black tom with a gray and white chest and throat
Leopardstep - Unusually spotted golden she-cat
Petalfall - Very pale ginger she-cat
Marshpelt - Dark gray tom
(Apprentice - Nimblepaw - Small black tom)
Pearlfeather - Delicate white and gray she-cat (Queens)
(Mother to - Tigerkit - Tabby tom-kit/ Milkkit - Brown she-cat with white patches)
Sandflower - Light-colored she-cat
(Mother to - Birdkit - Pale tabby she-kit/ Duskkit - Gray tom-kit/ Snowkit - White she-kit)
Violetclaw - Calico she-cat (Elders)
Birchfang - Brown spotted tom with white hind paws
Hailfoot - Very old gray tom with darker tufts and unusual yellow eyes
A brilliant burst of color flooded the sky at dawn.
Owlpaw gazed up at it in awe. She wished that the tattered clouds would be swept away by the wind so she could see the rest of sky and all of its beauty.
"Hurry up, Owlpaw!" Beachstripe, her mentor called.
Indulged in her own daydream, Owlpaw ignored the sounds outside of it.
Suddenly, she felt a rough tug and then she was flipped on her side, being dragged like a piece of prey, collecting all the dirt and dust off the ground.
"Mottlepaw! " Owlpaw hissed as she caught a glimpse of the apprentice hauling her.
Mottlepaw dropped her and Owlpaw scrambled onto her paws, hissing.
"Honestly, Owlpaw," Beachstripe growled, "you act like a kit who just saw a butterfly for the first time."
Owlpaw stared at her paws. She could feel the other apprentices and mentors staring at her. Stop it! She wanted to yell.
"Get your head out of the clouds and focus on today's lesson." Beachstripe spat.
Owlpaw didn't respond.
"Are you even listening to me?"
"Yes!" Owlpaw exclaimed out of annoyance.
She lifted her head and watched as Beachstripe whirled around, groaning, "Then please hurry up and stop sulking."
I was not sulking! Owlpaw held her tongue, knowing that arguing wasn't going to make it any better.
"You really need to work on not being distracted," Mottlepaw, who was at her side, said.
"Do you think I haven't tried?" Owlpaw hissed.
"Just trying to help," Mottlepaw responded coolly.
Owlpaw watched the mentors in front of the apprentices speak in low voices. She heard her own name and her ears perked, trying to listen better. Their probably talking about how dumb I am, Owlpaw sighed at the thought.
The hunting patrol went towards Thornclan's border and stopped.
"Okay," Brindlepool began,"remember we are hunting. There are a lot of voles and shrews around here, oh - and Nimblepaw, please try not to get lost this time."
The black apprentice shrank in his fur, hot with embarrassment as Mottlepaw and Owlpaw gazed at him.
"Try not to cross the border either - Cragpaw." Brindlepool eyed the gray apprentice.
"It was an accident!" Cragpaw blurted.
Brindlepool rolled her eyes and she continued shortly after. "We are trying to catch prey together with our mentors." She told the apprentices.
"Aw - come on!" Owlpaw muttered, a bit louder than she planned.
Beachstripe shot her a dangerous glare that made Owlpaw cringe. I'm so stupid! Why did I say that out loud?
Brindlepool's whiskers twitched. "I hope most of our mentors and apprentices work together."
Longcloud and Cragpaw went near the thunderpath, north of Thornclan and Polarclan."Come on, Nimblepaw." Marshpelt said, gesturing towards down the hill, near the lake.
Beachstripe snorted. "How come Marshpelt gets such a calm and nice apprentice? He's younger than me by four moons!"
"Just be lucky you have an apprentice," Brindlepool said, padding away with Mottlepaw.
"Yeah, but Owlpaw is as smart as a mouse." Beachstripe grunted.
Beachstripe's insensitive comment made Owlpaw flinch.
"Come on," Beachstripe growled, "we will head down the hill near the lake with Marshpelt and Nimblepaw."
Owlpaw followed her mentor silently. I'm not as stupid as a mouse! Owlpaw wanted to retort, but her guilt was out-weighing her anger. She did get distracted a lot, and she knew it too.
When the two she-cats were at the lakefront, they headed in the opposite direction from Marshpelt and Nimblepaw.
As the two walked, Beachstripe sniffed the air. "Smell that?" She questioned her apprentice.
Owlpaw tasted the air. "Rabbit?" she guessed.
Owlpaw followed Beachstripe closely as she stalked through deep fern fronds. She halted, looked over her shoulder and dipped her head to the left. When Owlpaw peered through the fronds, she saw a plump rabbit, feasting on the tasteless grass.
"You go left. Wait for me to drive it towards you." Beachstripe whispered. Owlpaw nodded and she stalked left of the ferns, into more intense shrubs, at least four fox lengths away from the rabbit's haunches.
Beachstripe crept along the ferns, her eyes never leaving the rabbit.
The rabbit's ears twitched a couple times before it stopped and blinked at the golden she-cat.
Beachstripe stayed perfectly still, not a single muscle or whisker twitching. Her paws were placed neatly in front of each other, her hind-quarters tucked beneath her for a longer spring. Owlpaw admired her mentor's skill as she watched carefully at each of her movements.
Beachstripe's tail flicked as a signal and at that moment, she was off her feet, pouncing at the rabbit.
The rabbit kicked its hind legs and it spun around, scraping up dust. It ran blindly towards Owlpaw, its heart set on only escaping the she-cat behind him.
Owlpaw readied herself for the moment.
Owlpaw jumped forward, hooking her claws on the rabbit's haunches as it tried to backtrack when it saw her. Her paws skidded across the ground as she pulled the rabbit closer to her, ignoring the rabbit fidgeting beneath her. She gave the final blow to its neck, not letting go until it fell limp.
"Good job, Owlpaw," Beachstripe said from behind, "however, you could have landed that jump a bit better."
Owlpaw's throat tightened as she tried to swallow her retort. You can never just praise me, can you? "Will we be doing anymore hunting?" Owlpaw asked instead, through gritted teeth.
Beachstripe, seeming oblivious to her anger, looked away and said, "We will still hunt."
The two later on caught two mice and after that they went back to Thornclan's border to meet up with their hunting patrol.
"Find anything near the thunderpath?" Beachstripe asked Longcloud as he appeared through the trees.
Longcloud flicked his tail towards his apprentice, Cragpaw, who was hauling a massive hawk between his jaws.
"Whoa!" Mottlepaw exclaimed as she and Brindlepool got back from hunting. She dropped her two voles at Brindlepool's feet and inquired, "How did you catch that?"
"He stayed completely focused," Longcloud answered.
"He is the best apprentice at focusing on hunting," Beachstripe commented, her eyes narrowing towards Owlpaw.
Owlpaw frowned. Oh, just say it all ready. I'm a failure when it comes to focusing on things.
Marshpelt and Nimblepaw arrived shortly after, one water shrew and two mice dangling from Nimblepaw's jaw.
Brindlepool smiled. "I think we are ready to head back."
Owlpaw dragged her rabbit while Beachstripe took the mice. By the time they got back to camp, the sun was already hovering above their heads, crowning the clouds as it floated above.
"Owlpaw, go take your rabbit to the queens." Beachstripe ordered.
Owlpaw obeyed briskly, dragging her rabbit down into the den underneath the fallen logs.
When she brought the rabbit, she saw her mother, Pearlfeather, licking the heads of her half brother and half sister.
"I brought a rabbit." Owlpaw announced. She pushed it between the two queens as their eyes sparked with delight.
Sandflower dipped her head. "Thank you, Owlpaw."
"Can I eat it too?" Tigerkit asked. Pearlfeather shook her head. "You and Milkkit are too young."
"But Sandflower's kits are eating it!"
"That's because they were born a moon before you two." Pearlfeather replied gently. Tigerkit muttered something underneath his breath that Milkkit snickered at.
Pearlfeather and Sandflower took small bites at the rabbit, leaving some for Duskkit, Birdkit and Snowkit.
Owlpaw's whiskers twitched, waiting for her mother to ask about her training like she always did. But no word came from her mother's mouth that was spoken to her.
"I did well at hunting today," Owlpaw suddenly said, trying to get Pearlfeather's attention.
Without even batting an eye, Pearlfeather said simply, "That's good."
Owlpaw waited a few seconds before saying, "Beachstripe thinks I'm amazing at hunting, even better than Leopardstep." Even though Owlpaw lied, she just wanted to see her mother's reaction. A few silent moments. Nothing. Pearlfeather didn't even grunt as a response.
Owlpaw's whiskers twitched in frustration. Why won't she notice me as someone who is still her kit?
Sandflower, noticing her frustration, mewed, "You should probably get back to Beachstripe."
Owlpaw trotted out of the den, dragging her tail and her ears drawn back.
"Is something wrong?" Beachstripe asked, when she caught sight of her.
Owlpaw hesitated before answering. "Pearlfeather doesn't even look at me anymore. Does she even care about me?"
"Of course she does," Beachstripe meowed, sounding a bit shocked. "Why would you say that?"
"Because after she had Tigerkit and Milkkit, she's been treating them like leaders, giving them everything they want. When I was still a kit, she hardly ever spoke to me and she still is not responding to me." Owlpaw explained, looking at her paws.
Beachstripe blinked. "She's been through a lot."
"Are you saying leaving my father for another tom broke her heart?" Owlpaw hissed.
"Owlpaw, your father, Doveheart, never got along with Pearlfeather," Beachstripe told her softly. "They were always getting into arguments. Doveheart stopped seeing her and it really hurt her. When Doveheart died in the battle with Thornclan, she was so torn, she barely ate. She had a choice, live a sorrowful life, or find another mate and be happy. When she and Berrymask became mates, her whole world became so bright. Owlpaw, she hasn't been this happy in moons."
Owlpaw's tail twitched. "So, just because she's happy means she can block me out of her world whenever she feels like it?" Owlpaw asked coldly.
Beachstripe frowned. "She can't always have time for you. She has Tigerkit and Milkkit to take care of."
"Yeah, but Tigerkit and Milkkit don't seem to like me," Owlpaw complained. "Berrymask doesn't even call me his daughter."
"Technically, you aren't his daughter," Beachstripe said, "you're his step daughter. And be nice to Tigerkit and Milkkit, like their name states, they are only kits."
Owlpaw shuffled her paw, not knowing how she should continue.
Beachstripe threw a vole at her paws. "Eat up," she meowed. "It will distract you from your thoughts."
Owlpaw reluctantly swallowed a morsel of her mouse. When she did, Nimblepaw, Cragpaw, and Mottlepaw joined her, the three sharing Cragpaw's hawk.
"Having a hard time training with Beachstripe again?" Nimblepaw asked.
"All the time." Owlpaw growled.
The apprentices were silent for a few moments.
Owlpaw played with her mouse before looking up. She gasped seeing a beautiful golden she-cat sitting next to Beachstripe.
"What is it?" Cragpaw asked.
"Who is that golden she-cat sitting next to Beachstripe?" Owlpaw asked. The golden she-cat didn't open her mouth to speak, she only watched Beachstripe and Heronflight.
"Er- Owlpaw," Mottlepaw began, "there is no golden she-cat next to her. Unless you count her littermate, Leopardstep, but Leopardstep is on border patrol."
Owlpaw growled. "I'm not talking about Leopardstep! There is a golden she-cat sitting right next to Beachstripe! She isn't talking, or even moving. She is just silently watching her speak."
The other three apprentices exchanged nervous glances.
"She's crazy," Cragpaw whispered to Nimblepaw.
"I'm not crazy!" Owlpaw shouted.
Not only did Beachstripe and Heronflight look at Owlpaw, but so did the golden she-cat.
"What's going on?" Heronflight asked.
Owlpaw narrowed her eyes. "Beachstripe, who is that golden she-cat sitting next to you? You can see her right? I'm not the only one?"
Hope flared in Owlpaw's heart, but both Heronflight and Beachstripe were puzzled. They looked right through the she-cat even though Owlpaw could clearly see her!
"Owlpaw, there is no other golden she-cat besides Beachstripe and Leopardstep." Heronflight said.
Owlpaw gaped at the golden she-cat, who smiled at her warmly, dipped her head, and her pelt faded slowly as she proceeded to stand up and pad away.
"But -" Owlpaw started, but she speechless. How come they couldn't see her?
"Owlpaw, quit messing with the other apprentices and eat your mouse," Beachstripe growled before she and Heronflight went back to chatting.
Nimblepaw plucked a feather from the hawk. "Could you explain more of what the she-cat looked like?" he asked, his eyes glinting with curiosity.
"She was a pure golden she-cat, she had short fur like Leopardstep, but had creamy stripes like Beachstripe." Owlpaw explained.
Nimblepaw pondered for a moment. "It sounds as if your describing their mother."
"Their mother?" Owlpaw echoed. I never met their mother before.
Nimblepaw nodded. "Their mother's name is Briarfrond. She was from Oakclan. She became mates with Birchfang - our elder - who brought Briarfrond here so she could have her kits. She died from too much blood loss - at least, that is what my mother told me."
"So, she's a traitor to Oakclan?" Mottlepaw wondered out loud. "That means Leopardstep and Beachstripe have Oakclan blood."
"But wait!" Cragpaw meowed, his eyes widening in fright. "How did Owlpaw see her if she is dead?"
Each apprentice stared at Owlpaw, as if waiting for an answer. Owlpaw only shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe I was imagining - Hey who's that?" Owlpaw suddenly interrupted herself, her eyes darting to a sparkling white tom who sat next to Heronflight.
"Owlpaw," Mottlepaw groaned, sounding annoyed. "There is no one next to her!"
"Yes - there - is!" Owlpaw hissed in anger. How come they can't see the tom? "He's right there! He is a white tom sitting next to Heronflight. He looks like her former mate, Heavywind."
The others exchanged nervous glances.
Applepaw, the medicine cat apprentice, padded behind the four. "Owlpaw," he said, after overhearing them, "are you sure you actually see him?"
"Yes! There's Heavywind and-" Owlpaw stopped as she started to shake. Wait, who's that gray tom and calico she-cat near the nursery? Their pelts are sparkling like the stars! It looks like the two elders, Podfur and Halfdust that died when I was a kit! "But, why are Podfur and Halfdust still here?" Owlpaw asked, staring at the two felines.
"Huh?" Applepaw grunted, puzzled.
"Podfur and Halfdust!" Owlpaw shouted. "I see Podfur and Halfdust sharing tongues near the nursery and Heavywind sitting next to Heronflight and almost a minute ago, I saw Briarfrond!"
All the warriors and apprentices, including Beachstripe, her mentor, stared back her. Their eyes were wide with either confusion or fear.
"Owlpaw," Applepaw gaped. "Follow me."
Owlpaw got up and followed Applepaw, ignoring all the cats who gazed at her. Can no one really see them?
Applepaw brought her to the medicine cat, where Willowstalk and Sleetclaw were arguing about what herb went where.
"No!" Willowstalk hissed. "The marigold goes next to the blackberries and their leaves!"
"No they don't," Sleetclaw growled. "Marigold goes next to thyme, remember?"
"Er- hello," Applepaw cut in.
Sleetclaw glanced at the apprentice but Willowstalk calmly asked, "What is it?"
Applepaw nodded towards Owlpaw. "Explain what you saw."
Willowstalk and Sleetclaw blinked at Owlpaw, both eager to hear what was wrong.
"I saw Briarfrond, Podfur, Halfdust and Heavywind." Owlpaw said shortly.
Sleetclaw growled. "They're all dead."
"I know that!" Owlpaw suddenly yelled. "Why do I see them then? It makes no sense and I'm scared."
Owlpaw stared at the medicine cats, hoping for an answer. But Sleetclaw only rolled his eyes and both Willowstalk and Applepaw were silent.
Owlpaw's ears drooped.
"Have you been having any strange dreams lately?" Willowstalk asked.
Owlpaw paused for a moment, recalling her dream she had two sunrises ago. "I was chasing this butterfly," Owlpaw began. "It flew over the thunderpath but when it did, it got hit by a monster. I was absolutely shocked when the butterfly started to yell to me, 'Don't come this way! Your path is far beyond the borders, but not this way!' "
When Willowstalk tilted her head, that is when Sleetclaw seemed interested in Owlpaw's dream.
"Have you had any other dreams?" Applepaw inquired curiously.
"Well, there was one last night," Owlpaw gulped. She didn't want to talk about the dream she had the night before. It had scared her.
"Go on," Sleetclaw mewed.
Owlpaw narrowed her eyes. "Well, I was a warrior. A fully grown warrior. I saw this cat walk out of the fern and gorse tunnel. I was suspicious of the cat so I followed it. But the cat knew I was following him, so he turned around and lashed out on me. He attacked me but no one came to help me even when I called for help. My clanmates watched me die under his claws -" Owlpaw was cut off by her own gasp for breath. She suddenly couldn't breathe, her heart stopped. She swayed, the room spinning, her head aching with terrible pain as if she had hit a stone. It felt like she was falling yet, she could not tell what was going on. Owlpaw collapsed on her side, all her limbs shaking before blacking out. The last sounds she heard were from Willowstalk, who was shouting orders to Sleetclaw and Applepaw.
*<p style="text-align:center;"> Owlpaw's eyelids slowly lifted. She was on the floor in the medicine cat den with Willowstalk, Applepaw, Sleetclaw, Berrymask, Beachstripe, and Shadestar all staring down at her. Owlpaw's head twinged with pain and she felt exhausted, her legs weak and heavy as if she had just ran a mile. But what happened?
"Oh, you're awake!" Berrymask sighed in relief.
Owlpaw blinked. "What happened?" she asked, entirely clueless.
"You had a seizure." Shadestar answered for the medicine cats.
Owlpaw gazed into Shadestar's blue eyes. "Why did I have one?"
"We are not sure," Willowstalk responded this time when Shadestar glanced over at her. "But we will keep you here until we figure out why."
"How long will that be?"
"We do not know."
Owlpaw sniffed. "Where is Pearlfeather?" Isn't she worried about me?
Berrymask's whiskers twitched. "She hasn't heard the news about you yet."
Shadestar stood up, turning his eyes to Willowstalk. "If anything more happens, report back to me."
Willowstalk dipped her head. "Of course."
Berrymask licked Owlpaw's ear. "Get better soon," he purred before turning his tail on the four, following Shadestar.
Beachstripe looked worried, her whiskers twitching. "Is there anyway I can help?"
"No. You can leave," Willowstalk told the warrior.
"Leave?" Beachstripe repeated. "I can't leave! She's my apprentice. What if she has another seizure? I should be here to help."
Owlpaw's heart sank. She always complained about how rude and stubborn Beachstripe was towards her but the golden she-cat was clearly worried for her.
"There is no need to stay," Sleetclaw said softly. "There are three medicine cats here. We can handle it."
Beachstripe's eyes flashed with doubt but she stood up. She gave Owlpaw a nervous glance before walking out of the den.
Willowstalk sat next to Owlpaw, her gaze no longer soft, but solemn. "Finish telling me your dream."
Owlpaw thought hard, trying to remember where she left off. "When every cat watched me struggling, they didn't make a sound. All their expressions were either blank or angry. But they looked mad at me. Right before I died, Shadestar told me it was okay if I left . . . I can't remember much more -" Owlpaw gasped, a sharp pang struck her like lightning. Pain was throbbing harshly at one side of her head. Her vision became a blur. Owlpaw gave a sharp yelp before all the pain vanished.
"My head hurts," Owlpaw complained. The throbbing started again, making her head ache.
"What just happened?" Applepaw asked, looking scared.
"She just had a migraine." Willowstalk answered.
"How am I supposed to know?" Willowstalk hissed. "I still don't know why she had a seizure or why she's seeing Starclan cats!"
~Chapter Two's Notes~
Minnowstar - Long-silvered tom with amber eyes (Leader)
Leafshine - Brown she-cat with pale stripes (Deputy)
Pebblestorm - White tom with a glossy pelt (Medicine cat)
Mistypuddle - Short-furred gray she-cat with a smudged face (Warriors)
Snaketail - Lithe brown-and-red tom
(Apprentice - Stonepaw - Solid gray tom with one blind, blue eye and a deaf ear)
Ryeseed - Pale brown tom with yellow eyes
Eggblotch - Brown tom with darker flecks around his muzzle and back
Blackfox - Tortoiseshell she-cat
(Apprentice - Mulchpaw - Dark brown she-cat)
Gullsong - Long-legged white she-cat
Clawpelt - Light brown tabby with scars running down his shoulders
Brightlight - Beautiful dappled she-cat
Tornsage - White she-cat with gray stripes and two scars on each ear (Queens)
(Mother to - Spottedkit - Gray she-kit with black speckles)
Leapingbreeze - Golden she-cat (Elders)
Barkfur - Dark brown tom
Stonepaw licked his paw and ran it over his ears. He watched Mulchpaw gnaw at her mouse.
Mulchpaw blinked at him and swallowed. "You want some?"
Stonepaw shook his head. "No. I already had a water vole."
"What are you waiting for?" Mulchpaw asked.
Stonepaw stared past her, his eyes lowering at the camp entrance. He didn't respond to his clanmate. He was too distracted by something at the entrance and his deaf ear was turned to her.
"Stonepaw!" Mulchpaw shouted.
Stonepaw jumped, surprised. "What?"
"What's wrong? What are you waiting for?"
Stonepaw looked at her. "I - I was waiting for my mother to appear at the entrance again."
Mulchpaw lowered her gaze. "Oh," she meowed. "I'm so sorry."
Stonepaw's throat tightened at the thought of her. His mother, named Rainfrost, used to surprise him by jumping into camp and by rewarding him with a sparrow, his favorite piece of prey. "He deserves a reward for his hard training," Rainfrost used to say to his father, Ryeseed. But Rainfrost stopped appearing through the entrance, gone without a trace for two sunrises.
Then, when Mistypuddle was on a border patrol, she came back dragging the body of Rainfrost. Mistypuddle reported that she found her body lying upon rocks with Rainfrost's head smashed into one. The right side of Rainfrost's face was bruised and with dried blood that sprayed the rock and her face. Her fur was still wet, even though it had not rained.
The clan recently came to a conclusion that after swimming in the stream, Rainfrost slipped on the rocks and she was killed by the jutting stone underneath her head. When she died, her eyes were opened, shock and fear clouding them.
Ryeseed became very protective of Stonepaw, his only kit. Everyday he would check up on him and make sure he was doing well.
Stonepaw's gaze drifted away from entrance and his attention was caught by Snaketail, his mentor.
"We are going out for a border patrol," Snaketail told him.
"Can I come along?" Mulchpaw asked, jumping up to her feet.
"You were already going to go," Blackfox said behind her.
Mulchpaw's eyes lit up.
"Leafshine and Clawpelt will be joining us." Snaketail said.
The mentors took their apprentices towards the entrance where Leafshine and Clawpelt were already waiting.
"At dawn, near Thornclan's border, there were scattered rabbit bones." Leafshine informed the four cats. "The Thornclan hunting patrol claimed it was not them who had hunted on our territory and stole prey. There was a strange scent covering the bones but it was hard to tell what it was, due to the fact that Thornclan's scent was washing over them."
There was a moment of silence.
"What do you think?" Blackfox asked the deputy.
"I'm not making any accusations," Leafshine growled. "But I will rip the fur off those mangy Thornclan cats if they have lied." She flicked her tail as gesture to move forward and the cats headed out camp, through the reed and fern entrance.
The patrol padded through the shallow stream that wrapped itself around the island where their camp was. They headed up and down the hill that had a steep slope.
As the cats neared the Thornclan border, a strange scent washed over them. Stonepaw had never smelled it before.
When they reached the border, Leafshine stopped, parting her jaws to taste the air. "It's fresh," she breathed. She pointed to a half eaten rabbit on their side of the border. She padded to it and nudged it with her paw. "Thornclan didn't do this." She confirmed after examining it.
"How can you be so sure?" Clawpelt growled. "Thornclan is always stealing prey, either from us or from Polarclan."
Leafshine did not respond. Her eyes were trailing in a different direction, her gaze landing on something in the pine forest ahead of them.
"What is it?" Clawpelt asked, alarmed.
"Shh," Leafshine hissed quietly. Her ears began to lay flat on her skull and she crouched down in a pouncing stance.
Stonepaw looked over Mulchpaw and gasped. A long white dog was bolting at them, its teeth bared and paws pounding. A smaller black dog ran at its side, hunger raging in its eyes.
"Dogs!" Mulchpaw yelped.
"Everybody - run!" Leafshine shouted.
At that second, Stonepaw was turning his tail and running. He wanted to fight, but thought better of not looking back. Stonepaw could hear Mulchpaw panting, running at his heels. The two apprentices were pelting across a wide meadow that veered away from the Creekclan camp.
"Stonepaw!" Mulchpaw called. "The warriors left us!"
Stonepaw looked over his shoulder, trying to see if any cat was following them. But instead, his gaze met with the black dog's dark brown eyes.
Stonepaw gulped when he looked forward. We weren't suppose to split up! I should have waited until Snaketail ran.
Mulchpaw must have followed him, assuming that her clanmate would know where he was going. But I don't, Stonepaw thought.
"The dog is getting closer!" Mulchpaw's frightened yell scared Stonepaw.
Stonepaw looked around the territory as they ran through, ignoring the dog's loud barking that drummed in his ears. Is there even a place to hide?
Luckily, Stonepaw spotted with his one good eye, a thick tree near them. "Mulchpaw!" He called, "follow me."
Stonepaw dove into the tussocks, slithering between the stalks until he saw the trunk of the tree. He leaped onto the tree, digging his short claws into the bark. Mulchpaw did too, climbing up faster than him. Creekclan cats were known for their climbing skills, and Mulchpaw definitely proved that she was skilled.
As the two clambered up the tree and onto the branches, the dog jumped at the tree, snarling. Stonepaw shuffled down a lower branch than Mulchpaw, who hugged the branch with her life.
"Go away!" Stonepaw called down.
The dog's eyes widened and it tilted its head.
What is it doing? Stonepaw asked himself. "Go away!" He repeated.
"It can't understand you." Mulchpaw mewed, relief in her tone. "Dogs are too dumb to know how to speak."
The dog stared at Stonepaw, locking gazes with him. Are you sure? Stonepaw wanted to ask Mulchpaw, but instead he asked the dog down below, "Can you understand me?"
The dog glared up at him. The dog's mouth drew back in a snarl. "How are you talking to me?"
Stonepaw gasped. The dog spoke to him!
"Er - Stonepaw, your talking to a dog," Mulchpaw meowed, sounding concerned.
"It understands me!" Stonepaw told her. Mulchpaw's eyes glinted in disbelief. "Then tell it to leave," she snickered. Stonepaw looked back at the dog. "Please leave us alone. We don't want to fight."
The dog blinked. "I thought you cats liked fighting," the dog growled. "Isn't that why the tabby challenged me?"
So I really can understand and I'm not crazy, Stonepaw thought happily. "We don't like to get in fights unless we have to," Stonepaw informed the dog. "And what makes you think Leafsh- I mean, the tabby was challenging you?"
"I know a challenge when I see one," the dog growled with a smirk. "Now get down and face me, cowards!" The dog slammed its paws on the tree, shaking the slim branches.
"Great job telling the dog to leave," Mulchpaw said, rolling her eyes.
"Don't you hear the dog talking?" Stonepaw asked.
"Of course not!" Mulchpaw hissed. "All I hear is the dog barking."
How come I can only hear it speak? The black dog interrupted Stonepaw's thoughts when it jumped up at the trunk again.
You got us up here, Stonepaw told himself. Now think of a plan to get us back down!
Before the dog jumped again, Stonepaw shouted, "Wait!"
The dog halted, glaring at him.
"I can make you an offer," Stonepaw said.
The dog's ears perked and its eyes shone in interest. "I'm listening." It said, licking its chops and sitting down.
Stonepaw closed his eyes and sighed before continuing. "I will offer you and your friend access to our territory whenever you need prey - ONLY IF - and only if you don't attack any cats from Creekclan."
The dog looked away in deep consideration.
Come on, accept my offer! Stonepaw pleaded silently, ignoring Mulchpaw's protests of, "That's a horrible offer!"
"Do you and your group of cats promise not to attack us?" the dog asked.
"I will have to speak with my leader," Stonepaw told it. "Let us down and we will take you to our clan leader."
The dog's ear twitched. "You are risking a lot, kitten." It sneered. "Are you willing to risk your life for peace?"
"Cats risk their lives for peace all the time. It rarely differs when you are trying to negotiate with a dog." Stonepaw replied softly. He wondered if his words even phased the dogs.
There was an uncanny silence that scared Stonepaw.
"Fine," the dog finally said with a smile. It backed away two cat lengths from the tree.
"Its surrendering!" Mulchpaw exclaimed.
Stonepaw shook his head. "No its not," he whispered. Stonepaw shuffled to the right, more towards the trunk. He climbed down about a kitstep, before launching himself off the tree and near the dog. The black dog looked him, its eyes also smiling.
Stonepaw half expected the dog to attack but it didn't react.
Mulchpaw gasped, appalled by Stonepaw's decision.
"The dog won't harm us," Stonepaw called up to her. "He promised."
The dog glanced at Stonepaw, also unsure if Mulchpaw would ever come down.
"I won't hurt you," the dog said to her.
Mulchpaw's bemused stare made it clear that she didn't understand the dog.
"It said it won't hurt you. Now please come down Mulchpaw." Stonepaw begged.
Mulchpaw hesitantly jumped down, her eyes flaring up with fear. Her fur bristled when she landed near Stonepaw. "He could be lying," she growled.
"I'm not lying if that's what you think," the dog replied calmly. "The gray kit offered me and my friends a great deal."
"Friends?" Stonepaw echoed, ignoring the dog calling him a kit.
The dog nodded. "There are five of us, including me and my friend, Mitzi, who were hunting."
Stonepaw sighed. "Alright, let's go." He stood up and led the dog and Mulchpaw around the tree.
They padded in silence for a few heartbeats until the dog suddenly inquired, "What's your name?" Stonepaw tentatively opened his mouth to respond. "My name is Stonepaw and this is my clanmate, Mulchpaw."
"Weird names," the dog commented. "My name is Nightfall."
"Do you live in a pack?" Stonepaw asked.
"Oh no," Nightfall chuckled uneasily. "A lot of packs don't accept dogs that used to be leashed."
Stonepaw and Mulchpaw exchanged puzzled glances but they decided not to question. The three raced over the hill with the steep slope and back down it. When they started to reach camp, Nightfall ran more hesitantly.
As they reached the reed and fern entrance, Nightfall stopped in his tracks. "I - I'm no longer sure," he stammered.
"Don't worry," Stonepaw meowed. "I will explain everything."
Mulchpaw blinked at them, wondering what Nightfall had said.
"Okay," Nightfall finally agreed to walk into camp.
The moment the black dog stepped into camp, Gullsong looked up from her mouse and shouted, "Behind you!"
Mistypuddle and Eggblotch were already on their feet, hissing at the apprentices to back away from the dog.
"No! Don't hurt him," Stonepaw begged.
"He'll kill you!" Mistypuddle snarled, leaping towards them.
Nightfall crouched down, ready to defend himself but before any cat could fight, Mulchpaw stopped in front of Mistypuddle. "Don't hurt him! We brought him here for a reason."
Stonepaw watched Minnowstar, suddenly appear from his den, his expression blank. Leafshine was at his side, the look of relief in her eyes when she saw the two apprentices.
"You made it back alive," Blackfox sighed with reassurance but her eyes wide with worry at the sight Nightfall.
"Stonepaw, Mulchpaw, why did you bring a dog here?" Minnowstar growled, his eyes narrowing.
Mulchpaw glanced at Stonepaw. "It wasn't my idea; he claims he can talk to the dog!"
Thanks for sticking at my side when I needed you the most, Stonepaw wanted to retort but he slowly locked gazes with his leader and said, "I can speak to him. His name is Nightfall, a rogue dog who lives with four others, one who he was hunting with named Mitzi. This Mitzi, ran after Leafshine, Snaketail, Blackfox, and Clawpelt."
"And we drove her away using only our claws!" Blackfox said triumphantly.
Stonepaw tensed, glad Nightfall didn't hear what Blackfox had said.
Minnowstar said nothing, interest swimming in his amber eyes.
Stonepaw continued with a deep exhale. "Nightfall chased us two until we found a tree to climb up. When I told him to go away, he asked me how he could understand me. I didn't even know I could understand him until he spoke. Mulchpaw only saw his mouth open or only heard him bark and she thinks I'm crazy. I asked why Nightfall and Mitzi started chasing us and he says that Leafshine challenged them."
"Excuse me?" Leafshine hissed through gritted teeth.
"You glared across the territory at Mitzi and Nightfall while they were hunting and . ." Stonepaw looked back at Nightfall for an answer.
"When a dog glares or eyes another dog's prey, it is considered as a challenge," Nightfall spoke lowly.
When every cat stared at Nightfall with puzzled and scared expressions, Stonepaw repeated what Nightfall said so that way they could understand. Why am I the only one who can talk to and hear him speak?
"I wanted to make a deal with Nightfall and his four other friends," Stonepaw meowed. "I said that Nightfall could hunt on our territory, as long as he never touched a cat from Creekclan and Thornclan."
"How dare you make deals without the leader's permission!" Mistypuddle cried, baring her teeth at the gray apprentice. Stonepaw cringed against Nightfall's leg and Nightfall straightened his back, a low growl rumbling in his throat, as if warning Mistypuddle to back off.
Leafshine flicked Mistypuddle with her tail. "You have no right as a warrior to object to this," she mewed. "Stonepaw only wanted to do what was right."
Mistypuddle's tail tip twitched with frustration. She looked ready to claw Leafshine's ears off. Stonepaw had never liked Mistypuddle. She was rude and jealous of Leafshine who became the deputy instead of her.
"There is no need to get flustered," Minnowstar said calmly. "Stonepaw, I would like to speak with Nightfall and you as his translator."
Stonepaw nodded and beckoned the black dog with his tail. Minnowstar had Leafshine also follow him into his den.
When the four sat down, Minnowstar asked, "What does Nightfall think of this deal?"
Nightfall blinked, glancing at Stonepaw.
"What do you think about my deal?" Stonepaw asked him for Minnowstar.
"Oh, er- I appreciate t - the offer," Nightfall stuttered, "but if it is bad for you cats, I won't accept it. Me and friends don't like trouble."
Stonepaw repeated Nightfall's words.
"You wanted trouble when you attacked us," Leafshine growled, a smile starting at the corner of her mouth, happy that Nightfall could not understand her.
"You gave him a challenging stare." Stonepaw reminded the deputy firmly.
Minnowstar pondered for several heartbeats. "There is plenty of prey now that is it Newleaf, but when it is Leaf-fall and Leaf-bare, prey will be scarce." Stonepaw had not thought about that. Prey would be meager in Leaf-fall, especially in Leaf-bare. Stonepaw repeated Minnowstar's words to Nightfall and explained what Leaf-bare and what Newleaf were.
The dog was quick to respond. "We will only hunt during Long Light and Tree Flower. During Ice Wind and Red Leaf my small group goes to an abandon farm."
When Stonepaw told Minnowstar, he said, "I have made up my mind." He stood up and exited the den. The three followed him out, Stonepaw's fur prickling with nervousness.
The other cats waited patiently for their leader's answer.
Minnowstar gathered his cats and announced, "I have made my decision; Nightfall and his friends will be able to hunt on Creekclan's territory ONLY in Newleaf and Greenleaf. In Leaf-fall and in Leaf-bare, the dogs will leave for someplace else. We will not attack the dogs as long as the dogs don't attack us. Peace will be made with them."
Murmurs of disapproval outweighed the murmurs of approval but Minnowstar ignored it. The leader waited for Stonepaw to finish translating his announcement to Nightfall.
"I want to meet the other dogs," Minnowstar said.
"He wants to meet your friends." Stonepaw said happily. Nightfall glanced at Stonepaw then at Minnowstar. "Alright," he said slowly.
Stonepaw turned to the silver tom and nodded.
Minnowstar turned to the crowd. "I will be taking Brightlight, Gullsong, Eggblotch and Stonepaw with me to meet the dogs." He looked at Leafshine apologetically. "I don't want any cat from the border patrol to come just in case." Leafshine dipped her head, understanding.
Ryeseed steadily approached Stonepaw. "Promise me you will be safe?"
Stonepaw smiled up at his father. "I promise."
Ryeseed smiled and backed away, letting the five cats and the dog get on with their walk.
Minnowstar had Nightfall lead the way.
"Where to?" Stonepaw asked.
Nightfall scanned the area. "Over the hill we came across and to the left near the Long Paws den. Our home is in a hollow in the side of a mountain."
Stonepaw looked over his shoulder at Minnowstar. "Over the hill and near the Two-leg nest that separates our territory with Thornclan's. A little farther away from the Twoleg nest rests a mountain and a cave that he lives in."
Nightfall led the group over the hill and farther out. When they reached Thornclan's territory, they veered off to the left and near the Two-leg's house. The cats and dog stalked through the grass quietly, trying not to wake the monster that slept outside its nest.
"Over there, inside that cave," Nightfall whispered, pointing his nose towards the mountain behind the Two-leg nest.
The cats and dog padded quickly towards it, the mountain getting taller and taller each time they took a step. Soon they were at the cave's entrance, where Stonepaw stared into nothingness.
"Wait here," Nightfall told Stonepaw. The gray apprentice held up his paw as a signal for the other cats to wait.
Nightfall stood at the entrance and called, "Mitzi, Ary, Suki, Jarrow, it's me, Nightfall."
Stonepaw felt Brightlight and Gullsong tense when a large brown-and-white dog appeared from the darkness. Two others followed, the long white dog named Mitzi, and another one who was white-and- red dog. A tall wiry gray one followed shortly after.
"You're alive!" The white-and-red dog exclaimed. "Why, there isn't a single scratch on you."
Mitzi's eyes narrowed. "How did you escape Nightfall? Suki was going crazy. She thought you had been killed!" Mitzi pointed her muzzle at the white-and-red dog.
"I-I had a talk with the cat I chased," Nightfall said.
Jarrow, the brown-and-white dog echoed, "Talked? Cats understand us?"
"No, only one cat understands. For some reason, only I can understand him and he can only understand me." Nightfall explained.
Ary eyed Nightfall suspiciously. "What did you and the cat talk about?" he asked.
"Well," Nightfall stared off, looking at his paws. "The cat made me a deal. The cats will allow us to hunt if we don't attack them. The cats said they would not attack us if they see us hunting. But, we can only hunt during Long Light and Tree Flower."
"Cats? There are more of them?"
Stonepaw stepped away from the she-cats's sides and out in front of the dogs.
Ary, Suki, and Jarrow bared their teeth at Stonepaw.
Mitzi's eyes widened. "You brought a cat here?"
Stonepaw's tail swayed as a signal. The warriors and leader slowly approached his sides, protecting him, their claws unsheathed and hissing.
Stonepaw and Mitzi held each other's gazes.
"We're not here to fight." Stonepaw reminded his clanmates. "We're here to make a deal."
~Chapter Three's Notes~
Gorsestar- Dark yellow she-cat (Leader)
(Apprentice - Butterflypaw - Light brown speckled she-cat)
Weaselwhisker - Thin brown tom (Deputy)
Poppystem - Long-haired, dark red she-cat with amber eyes (Medicine cat)
Eelstrike - Brown tabby tom with white and green eyes (Warriors)
Creekeyes - White tom with watery blue eyes
(Apprentice - Brokenpaw - Brown she-cat)
Finsplash - Long-furred silver tom
(Apprentice - Honeypaw - Scrawny, thick-furred sandy-gray she-cat)
Lichenfur - Black tom with white paws
Echoslip - Tabby-and-white she-cat with yellow eyes
Sparktail - Small gray she-cat
Mudspots - Mottled brown tom
(Apprentice - Russetpaw - Dark ginger tom)
Gravelfur - Gray tom
(Apprentide - Seedpaw - Cream-colored tom)
Iceshine - Pale blue-gray she-cat
Heatherspring - Pinkish-gray she-cat, spotted with tiny scars all around her body and muzzle (Elders)
Honeypaw watched Gorsestar pace her den in vexation.
Honeypaw's fur pricked with anxiousness.
"I just don't know how I'm going to train your sister!" Gorsestar snarled, not at her, but at the thought. "Butterflypaw's persistent disobediance and aggression is getting her nowhere."
Honeypaw hesitated before replying. "What does Poppystem think about Butterflypaw's strange behavior?"
"Poppystem thinks Butterflypaw might have a mental illness," Gorsestar snorted.
"And do you believe her?" Honeypaw inquired.
Gorsestar was silent for a few moments. "I don't want to believe her."
Honeypaw shuffled her paws. There wasn't much she could do about Butterflypaw's sudden change of behavior. Butterflypaw kept having nightmares, she was disobedient, aggressive, she refused to rest or train because she was always worried but worst of all, if something did not go her way, she would throw a temper tantrum.
"Did she ever show any signs of this as a kit?" Gorsestar asked.
Honeypaw thought for a moment. "She was always anxious and threw tantrums but nothing too serious."
"You can leave now, Honeypaw," Gorsestar sighed as she sat down.
Honeypaw gladly padded out of Gorsestar's den, not wanting to hear anymore complaints from her leader.
As Honeypaw reached for a mouse from the fresh-kill pile, Russetpaw and Seedpaw approached her, both toms also taking mice.
"Come on, Honeypaw," Russetpaw meowed. "Let's eat this prey together."
Honeypaw happily followed her clanmates to a nice, sunny spot in the camp. When they began to eat, Seedpaw looked up with a frown. "Butterflypaw got in trouble again," he mewed. "I assume you already knew that?"
Honeypaw nodded and sighed. "I do. Gorsestar already talked to me about it."
"But do you know what she did?"
Honeypaw shook her head. All Gorsestar told me was that Butterflypaw and Brokenpaw got into an argument.
"Butterflypaw pushed our sister into the river." Russetpaw explained.
Honeypaw's eyes widened. "Is Brokenpaw okay?" Oh! I wish I was on that hunting patrol! I could have probably stopped the argument. Instead, I had to stay behind and clean out the dens.
"Oh she's fine," Seedpaw said with a grin. "When we got back, she was still in shock. Poppystem gave her a poppy seed and told our mother, Iceshine, that she needed to rest."
Honeypaw's tail twitched. "Has Butterflypaw apologized?"
Russetpaw nodded. "Of course! Butterflypaw felt terrible after doing it. Brokenpaw still hasn't forgiven her though."
Will she ever forgive her? Honeypaw wondered. Brokenpaw was never the nicest to Honeypaw and Butterflypaw, not even to her own brothers. She was too much of a Cleanpaw, too desperate to show her skills and tactics.
"Here comes Butterflypaw now," Seedpaw warned the other two, snapping Honeypaw out of her thoughts.
Butterflypaw was dragging her feet as she padded to the fresh-kill pile. She hung her head and her ears drooped forward. She picked out a shrew and slowly made her way to Honeypaw's side.
"What's wrong?" Honeypaw asked, even though she already knew the answer.
Butterflypaw was slow to respond. "I made another mistake and now Gorsestar is angry with me."
Honeypaw looked at Seedpaw and Russetpaw. Seedpaw was staring at his paws, but Russetpaw's gaze was gentle.
"It will be okay," Honeypaw purred.
"It will never be okay!" Butterflypaw wailed. "Gorsestar thinks I can't be trained by anyone. I'll never be a warrior!"
"Just take training slowly, don't rush." Honeypaw meowed softly. "You are trying too hard to showoff."
Butterflypaw's ear twitched. "Do you think I'm capable of being a warrior?"
Honeypaw blinked. "Of course!"
Butterflypaw's eyes were full of warmth now. Her muscles relaxed and she nibbled at her shrew. "I always knew I could count on you to believe in me," Butterflypaw laughed. Honeypaw smiled. It's so nice to have Butterflypaw around when she isn't angry or upset.
But Butterflypaw's joy quickly faded. "Will Brokenpaw forgive me?"
"Don't worry, Butterflypaw. Brokenpaw will understand and forgive you," Seedpaw said briskly.
The apprentices finished their meals in silence. It was good to know that Seedpaw and Russetpaw forgave her sister. She wished she knew Brokenpaw's thoughts, though.
Brokenpaw had just emerged from the apprentice's den after her nap, when Butterflypaw spotted her. Honeypaw's littermate quickly got up and darted out of sight, sneakily going behind Brokenpaw so she would not see her.
Honeypaw rolled her eyes and she turned back to Seedpaw and Russetpaw. Before she could speak, her mentor Finsplash, came up behind her and nudged her ear.
"Come on, Honeypaw, " Finsplash said. "The dawn patrol spotted a den that the Two-legs abandoned not to long ago near the marsh."
Honeypaw nodded and got onto her paws. "Who will be investigating it with us?"
"Gorsestar, along with Butterflypaw, Lichenfur, Echoslip, Mudspots and Russetpaw." Finsplash meowed. "Oh yeah, and us too, of course." He quickly added.
"Should I go and tell Butterflypaw?" Honeypaw asked.
"There is no need," Finsplash replied. "Lichenfur has already informed her that Gorsestar wants her on this patrol."
I bet Gorsestar wants her on this patrol so she can talk to her, Honeypaw concluded. Usually if any cat gets into any sort of trouble they stay behind.
Honeypaw turned her head to see her mother and father, Echoslip and Lichenfur emerge from their dens. Mudspots beckoned Russetpaw to come at his side. Echoslip padded to Honeypaw and licked her head. "Our whole family out on a patrol," she purred.
Before Honeypaw stopped to think, she inquired, "Are you mad at Butterflypaw?"
Echoslip stared forward, her whiskers twitching. "I was. But I have forgiven her since she is truly sorry."
Honeypaw sighed in relief. Her mother was always so forgiving and it really helped with Butterflypaw's issues. Her father, not so much, but he seemed perfectly happy.
Gorsestar stalked out from her den with a spark of haughtiness in her eyes when she saw Butterflypaw running to her side with her gaze lowered, avoiding any eye contact.
Honeypaw's tail twitched. Gorsestar held so much pride when it came to others she could look done upon. Don't get too cocky, Honeypaw thought as her leader passed. You will see; Butterflypaw will turn out better than all of us! Maybe Honeypaw held too much confidence in her littermate, but at least it kept her pushing her sister forward to do the right thing.
"We will be checking out the abandoned Two-leg den," Gorsestar confirmed. "Be vigilant. We do not know what will be near or inside it. When Weaselwhisker was on the dawn patrol, he spotted a well growing bush of catmint at the front of the nest. We will be retrieving that for Poppystem."
Gorsestar twirled around and headed out of the wide entrance. The others followed their leader closely, ready to face the unknown dangers of the Two-leg den.
The cats weaved around the heather and gorse that scattered across their territory. The scents of prey made Honeypaw's mouth water but Finsplash urged her to move on.
Honeypaw was focused on a beautiful heather patch until she heard Gorsestar's voice. Her ears perked and watched her leader's mouth open and close. But she could not understand what she said. She was speaking in a low tone to Butterflypaw.
Honeypaw watched as whatever Gorsestar said, made Butterflypaw look away and growl. Gorsestar looked rather calm; but Honeypaw was not. Whatever Gorsestar had said made Butterflypaw angry.
The long grass that swept over the marsh was soon appearing.
Honeypaw's heart fluttered with joy when she saw the beautiful marsh. Honeypaw hurried forward. She glanced at Russetpaw who running beside her. The wind felt great on fur as they both darted into the long stalks of grass. But before the apprentices could reach the water, Honeypaw was pulled back by someone yanking on her scruff. She saw Russetpaw being dragged too by his mentor, Mudspots.
"We're not here to play in the marsh!" Mudspots hissed.
"Only Creekclan cats play in the water," Butterflypaw meowed.
Honeypaw jumped to her paws when Finsplash had let go of her. She shook her fur and mumbled, "Sorry."
"Don't feel ashamed," Finsplash said warmly. "I did the same thing as an apprentice. Except, I accidentally fell in."
"Oh," Honeypaw breathed. "How did you make it out?"
"Eelstrike pulled me out." Finsplash said. But he quickly added, "You don't want to play in the marsh anyway. It is too muddy and gross."
A low growl rumbled in Gorsestar's throat. "Come on," she said with a flick of her tail.
The cats stalked near the marsh but not a single cat took a step into the grass or water. The cats came to a sudden halt when Gorsestar stopped.
"The Two-leg nest!" Russetpaw whispered to Honeypaw.
Honeypaw looked up at the tall and wide nest. It was slightly tilted and the walls looked like they were rotting. There was Silverthorn along the right side of house that was piled up.
"Stay away from that," Finsplash told her. "Silverthorn is very dangerous."
Honeypaw had heard of Silverthorn before. Heatherspring, the elder, has many tiny scars all over her body from the Silverthorn. She fell into some when she a newly made warrior. Even after the fact that she could have died, Heatherspring was still her old cheery self.
Gorsestar looked over her shoulder. "The patch of catmint is near the Silverthorn. I want Finsplash and Honeypaw to go retrieve it. They have the thickest pelts so the Silverthorn will most likely only snag at their fur. The rest of will first circle the den to make sure nothing lives around it. Then we will go inside and leave our mark."
Gorsestar had Butterflypaw bite her tail as they trailed through the marsh to reach the den. Mudspots and Finsplash had Russetpaw and Honeypaw do the same.
When they reached the soft grass, Honeypaw shook the mud from her paws that clung to her thick pelt. "Bleh," she spat as the mud dripped between her toes. At first, there was no unusual scent nearby, but after a few heartbeats, a strange one lightly filled her nostrils.
Gorsestar halted, pointing her nose at the patch of catmint and flicked her tail.
Finsplash laid his tail on Honeypaw's shoulder for only a moment as a if saying, "Move forward."
Honeypaw followed Finsplash from behind, glancing at the others as they disappeared around the corner of the nest.
As they approached the catmint, Honeypaw gulped at the sight of Silverthorn, piled on top of each other. The light made each thorn glisten sharply. Finsplash paid no heed to the thorns, though. Instead, he carefully dug around the catmint and gently yanked some stems out of the ground.
Honeypaw watched him before slowly joining in. She grasped the stems discreetly, trying not to bend or brake them with her teeth. She placed them onto a pile of catmint that Finsplash had started.
Gorsestar told the two that they were entering the den.
"Be careful," Finsplash warned.
Gorsestar nodded. "We will be." She turned around and the others followed her inside the door that was cracked opened.
"They will be okay," Finsplash assured Honeypaw, after noticing that she was tense.
"To be honest, I'm not worried for any cat except for Butterflypaw." Honeypaw meowed.
Finsplash blinked. He started plucking more catmint from the ground after a few heartbeats.
"Aren't you going to ask why?" Honeypaw inquired.
Finsplash shook his head. "I don't need too. I already know why you're worried." He stared at Honeypaw and she looked down at her paws. "There is no reason to feel ashamed for being worried about your littermate," he told her softly. "I personally think Butterflypaw won't panic or freak out. She is very bold when it comes to these things."
Finsplash's faith in Butterflypaw made Honeypaw happy.
Finsplash and Honeypaw tore out as many stems as they could from the ground. A couple stems were broken in half, due to rough tugging or accidentally biting them.
Suddenly, a shrill cry pierced the air.
Both Honeypaw and Finsplash jumped. They peered around the corner, stiff from fear at what happened. A few moments of silents. Then there was panic and screams.
Mudspots was seen hurriedly dragging someone from the entrance.
Honeypaw leaped forward to get a closer look at the cat. It was Russetpaw. Honeypaw gasped at the apprentice, his dark ginger pelt was smothered in pale dust and dirt. He had blood trickling down the side of his head.
"What happened?" Finsplash gasped.
"The floor," Mudspots grunted through a mouthful of fur, "split open beneath our paws and broke. Russetpaw and Echoslip had no time to escape. The floor fell beneath them and they are both seriously injured."
"Where are the others?"
This time, Mudspots did not answer. Honeypaw looked away from Russetpaw and at the door. Seriously injured? she repeated in her head.
Lichenfur and Gorsestar came pelting out of the door, dragging Echoslip. Honeypaw could only see her mother's black-and-white fur, matted with dust. Butterflypaw hurried out the door with her mentor and father.
"We have to get them back to camp now!" Gorsestar shrieked in a muffled tone.
Finsplash turned his apprenticed and breathed, "Honeypaw, you and Mudspots need to carry Russetpaw back. I will gather the catmint."
Honeypaw, without hesitation, nodded and flew to Mudspots' side. Honeypaw yanked Russetpaw's scruff away from Mudspots when his grip became weak. Though Russetpaw was heavier, Honeypaw didn't mind. She started to run as fast as she could, leaving Mudspots trailing after her.
As Honeypaw dragged Russetpaw and pelted away, she felt as if lightning had surged through her. She suddenly felt faster, swiftly dodging gorse and heather, while she still hauled Russetpaw, who felt as light as feather between her jaws. The wind burned Honeypaw's eyes as she raced through the moor. When did the wind become so strong?
Honeypaw gasped, skidded to halt, and almost toppled over Russetpaw's body as she somehow reached the gorse entrance to Oakclan camp.
How . . how did I run all the way here? Honeypaw began to wonder. She dismissed the thought quickly and dragged Russetpaw's limp body into camp.
"Help!" she roared through Russetpaw's fur. "He's injured!"
Iceshine and Eelstrike appeared from the heather clumps they slept in, still dazed from sleep.
"Help!" Honeypaw called again. "Russetpaw is injured!"
Iceshine jumped onto her feet along with Weaselwhisker, her mate and deputy, who was feasting on a mouse. Poppystem's head popped out of den, the look of worry sparking her amber eyes.
Iceshine gasped, "What happened?"
"At the Two-leg nest," Honeypaw explained, "the floor fell beneath Russetpaw's and Echoslip's paws. They require help now."
Poppystem was already on here paws, ordering Weaselwhisker to drag his son gently into her den.
Honeypaw whipped around as a cat came bolting through the entrance of the camp. It was Mudspots, speeding up to Honeypaw's side. "How," he panted, "did you run here so fast? You were gone without a trace!"
Honeypaw shrugged; she didn't give much thought since she was worried for Russetpaw.
Sparktail bounced away from the smooth boulders she was resting on. "Is my sister okay? Is Echoslip here?"
Before Honeypaw could mouth a word, Gorsestar, Lichenfur and Butterflypaw were pulling Echoslip across the clearing. Poppystem ran out to meet them. Sparktail and Lichenfur helped Poppystem bring her into the medicine cat den.
Honeypaw ran up to Butterflypaw and quickly asked, "Is she okay?"
Butterflypaw didn't even glance at Honeypaw when she replied. "She's barely breathing. She has a twisted paw and she has a cut above her eyelid."
Honeypaw sat back on haunches. Its better than being dead, she wanted to say. The two waited silently, too worried and alarmed to even speak another word.
Finsplash appeared shortly after with not only the catmint, but with dock leaves too. He slipped into the medicine cat den, only to reappear again just after a few moments. Finsplash sat next to Honeypaw.
"Is Lichenfur okay?" Honeypaw asked him.
Finsplash blinked. "Why would Lichenfur be hurt? He was not the one that fell."
"I know," Honeypaw mewed. "But he looked so shocked and traumatized, almost liked a scared kit." Honeypaw had never seen such a fearful expression cross her father's face.
"Well, his mate is barely breathing."
"Thanks for the reminder," Honeypaw growled. You could have worded that a bit better.
Finsplash looked at his paws, making it hard to tell what he was feeling.
"Go get yourself something from the fresh-kill pile," Finsplash suggested. "It will take your mind off things."
Honeypaw obeyed her mentor, slowly making her way to the prey. She wasn't hungry, but she still took a plump shrew from the pile. But even though she took it, she could not eat it. It made her nauseous just thinking about her mother.
Even though Honeypaw hadn't even nibbled on the shrew, Butterflypaw hissed in her face saying, "How can you eat when our mother is dying?" She swatted the shrew back into the prey-pile, mumbling.
"It wasn't my idea!" Honeypaw exclaimed. She looked around Butterflypaw to see if Finsplash was watching, but his back was turned on them.
Before Butterflypaw could argue anymore, Gorsestar emerged from the medicine cat den, her face as hard as stone, her eyes darting from each cat. When Butterflypaw looked at her, Gorsestar made her back down with just one sharp glare. Butterflypaw slowly backed up, moving out of Gorsestar's way as she stalked towards Honeypaw.
Er - what is going on?
Finsplash trailed Gorsestar, his gaze curious and confused.
Gorsestar stopped in front of Honeypaw, only a whisker away from her face. Gorsestar only blinked at Honeypaw. No emotion flickered in her eyes or face. Though, she kept looking up and down at Honeypaw's frame, as if studying her.
Honeypaw was speechless. What is she doing?
"Er- Gorsestar," Finsplash stammered, "is everything alright with my apprentice?"
Honeypaw glanced at her mentor when Gorsestar did not answer right away.
"Finsplash," Gorsestar called, still not taking her eyes off of Honeypaw. She began circling Honeypaw as she asked Finsplash, "Are you aware of the great speed your apprentice possesses?"
Finsplash blinked; he had no idea what Gorsestar was talking about, and neither did Honeypaw.
I guess I did run her all by myself when I was dragging Russetpaw, Honeypaw thought. But was I really that fast?
Gorsestar finally looked up at Finsplash. "Honeypaw, who is scrawny and who has weak battle skills, ran all the way here while hauling Russetpaw, a tom who is two times her size and weight."
Her tone was matter-of-fact; she didn't mean to insult Honeypaw, but the young she-cat flinched at her words. I am weaker than the other apprentices when it comes to fighting, Honeypaw thought and sighed. Was she really that scrawny too? Maybe that's why Gorsestar was studying her.
Finsplash stammered. "I- I did not realize-"
Mudspots interrupted Finsplash with a growl. "I saw how fast she ran," he said. "She ran as if she had lightning through her veins. She reached the entrance in under a minute. Honeypaw wasn't even panting when she came back."
All eyes were on Honeypaw now.
Mudspots is right. I ran all the way. . . but HOW?
As if Gorsestar read her mind, she meowed, "She doesn't even know how she ran here . . ." she trailed off and she leaned in, pressing her whiskers against her cheek. Honeypaw flinched, but she didn't back away.
"How long have you had this power?" Gorsestar asked.
Honeypaw blinked. Power? "I - I don't know," she confessed.
Weaselwhisker appeared next to Gorsestar, his whiskers twitching. "Remember what Poppystem had said?" He spoke quietly, but he was close enough for Honeypaw to ear.
"Small like a hare, but as nimble as one.There will be kin, swifter than a snake and quick like a cheetah."
Weaselwhisker finished reciting Poppystem's words and he blinked at Honeypaw. Gorsestar backed away from Honeypaw. "I want you to run to the lake and back."
"What?!" Honeypaw and Finsplash exclaimed simultaneously.
The other cats did not react loudly. Instead, they spoke in low tones and in whispers.
"You heard me," Gorsestar growled. "If she really possesses the speed of a cheetah, she would show me."
Finsplash stifled a growl.
"Now, go Honeypaw." Gorsestar ordered. "We will count how long it takes to come back."
Honeypaw padded slowly to the entrance. She readied herself, placing her paws neatly in front of her. She looked over her shoulder, receiving a sympathetic glance from Finsplash.
I will be okay, Honeypaw wanted to tell him. She looked forward and exhaled. I'll show Gorsestar how fast I am.
A few silent moments. "RUN!"
The second Honeypaw heard her leader's orders, she sped off, leaping over heather and gorse. The wind whipped past her as she suddenly started to quicken her pace. Her legs were faster then her beating heart, quick like adders lunging at their prey. She looked like a flash of light as she ran down the moor, leaving no trace behind as she pelted.She was not tired, she had the strength and the speed of a lion now, dodging shrubs and tangles of plants as she whisked by. Than after a moment, she felt her paws hit wet sand.
Honeypaw had reached the lake shore.
Immediately, Honeypaw turned back around, her paws sending sand and pebbles and dirt flying as she scrambled back onto the grass. Now lightning coursed through her, the spirit of cheetah suddenly in her legs. She was much more brisk than ever, no longer a flash as she ran, but a flicker of light.
Then, Honeypaw tried to stop herself from crashing into the entrance. She stumbled forward into camp, the pads on her paws aching as she tripped over them. But she jumped onto her feet as soon as she recovered.
Every cat gaped in awe.
Gorsestar looked at Weaselwhisker. He looked up with a smile, "Thirty-seconds."
"No way!" Brokenpaw gasped.
"She really is as fast as a cheetah?" Lichenfur shouted, gaping at his daughter.
"Was her speed granted by the powers of Starclan?"
"Quiet!" Gorsestar roared, shushing every cat around them. Warmth returned to her gaze.
"Honeypaw," she meowed. "You are the daughter of my sister Echoslip. My kin. Starclan had told me and our medicine cat about this, but we were unsure of what it meant. Now we can confirm the meaning of Poppeystem's vision. Honeypaw, you are the fastest cat alive."
~Chapter Four's Notes~
Doestar - Lithe tabby brown she-cat with white flecks around her muzzle (Leader)
Blazeheart - Wiry orange tom (Deputy)
(Apprentice - Webpaw - Black tom with a white dash on his chest)
Wrenflight - Very pale ginger she-cat (Medicine cat)
Lizardtoe - Pale tabby she-cat (Warriors)
(Apprentice - Squirrelpaw - Reddish-brown she-cat)
Ashstride - Gray tabby tom
(Apprentice - Quietpaw - Thickest white she-cat)
Softwind - Spotted silver she-cat
Almondfur - Dusky-brown she-cat
Nettlepatch - Gray tom with green eyes
(Apprentice - Velvetpaw - Sleek white tom with a gray tail tip)
Nosewhisker - Light-colored tom with white paws
Quailfeather - Pale orange tom with knotted fur
Chestnutleaf - Light dappled she-cat with golden eyes (Queens)
(Mother to - Lakekit - Black-and-white she-kit/ Hickorykit - Sandy colored she-kit/ Smokekit - Small dark gray she-kit)
Eveningdream - Delicate brown golden she-cat
(Mother to - Nightkit - Black tom-kit with two white paws)
Yellowflower - Cream colored she-cat, the oldest queen
Thistlefrost - Very old black-and white tom, former leader (Elders)
Whiteears - Gray tabby she-cat with white ears, former medicine cat
The sun dipped over the pine trees, falling into its dark grave behind the hills.
It is dusk, Webpaw told himself.
He followed his mentor, Blazeheart, into the ravine entrance. They was greeted warmly by Doestar.
"How is training coming along?" the she-cat asked.
"Great!" Blazeheart purred. "Webpaw is getting better at using his forepaws to slash with."
Doestar's smile widened as she looked down at the apprentice. "His warrior ceremony will be soon," she reminded her deputy without looking up. Blazeheart nodded.
Pride swelled in Webpaw's chest. A warrior! The thought echoed in his mind.
When Doestar returned to her den, Blazeheart looked at Webpaw. "Go tell your mother," he said. "She will happy to see you."
Webpaw nodded and he darted for the nursery. Eveningdream will be so proud!
When he entered the nursery, Webpaw stepped over Yellowflower's tail, trying not to wake the eldest queen. He sat next to Eveningdream whose head was down. She lifted her head with a thin smile running across.
"I'm going to be a warrior soon," Webpaw whispered.
Eveningdream's eyes widened. "Oh, that's great!" She looked down at Webpaw's brother, Nightkit. Her eyes clouded.
Webpaw glanced at both of them. "What is wrong?"
A loud snort from Chestnutleaf was heard from the corner she curled up in. Eveningdream and Webpaw looked at the dappled queen glaring at them.
"Haven't you realized by now what is wrong?" Chestnutleaf growled. Her tail curled around her kits, twitched.
Webpaw glanced at his mother. "N-no."
"You're half-clan." Chestnutleaf spat.
Webpaw frowned when his mother looked at her paws. "So?" he growled. "I already knew that." My mother told me I had a father in another clan the moment I was apprenticed.
Chestnutleaf threw back her head to laugh. "You don't get it. Being half-clan is a disgrace." She shot a wry glance at Eveningdream. "As a punishment for your mother's mistake, you get teased and mocked, especially by your clanmates." She flicked her tail before continuing, "Doestar would have driven you, your mother, and your brother away if Wrenflight didn't beg her to let you all stay."
When Webpaw glanced at his mother, Eveningdream was still looking at her paws.
"At least Doestar trusts that I will be a loyal warrior!" he retorted.
Chestnutleaf gave a small shrug as she examined her claws. "She'll have more loyal warriors once my kits are apprenticed. And these loyal warrior won't and aren't half-clan."
"OH, SHUT UP!" Yellowflower suddenly roared.
Both Chestnutleaf and Webpaw jumped and Eveningdream finally looked up.
"Clan-born that and half-clan this," Yellowflower spat in a mocking tone. "Just give it up already! Nobody wants to hear you pout and complain."
Chestnutleaf mumbled something but looked away.
Eveningdream's whiskers twitched. "Thanks, Yellowflower."
"No need to mention it," Yellowflower said with a smile. She laid her head back down and closed her eyes.
"You should leave now," Eveningdream said.
Webpaw didn't protest. He scampered out the nursery, praising Starclan he could leave.
"Hey, Webpaw! Hey, Webpaw!"
Webpaw turned around to see Squirrelpaw, running at him. "I heard your training went well," she meowed. Before Webpaw could utter a word, she hastily said, "Cool, now, can you please help me and Quietpaw move Velvetpaw. He's sleeping in our nests again."
Webpaw nodded and Squirrelpaw shouted, "Great!" The two hurried into the apprentice den where Velvetpaw was sprawled out on both nests and with Quietpaw watching him, continuously poking his back and yelling, "Get up, flea-brain!"
The white tom didn't budge, but he opened his eyes. "Oh, great! A third worm is going to try and wake me up," Velvetpaw teased when he saw Webpaw.
Quietpaw looked at the two. "I say we drag him."
"Wait - what?" Velvetpaw meowed, suddenly alarmed.
Too late. Both Webpaw and Squirrelpaw already bit into his hind legs, roughly tugging Velvetpaw. Quietpaw joined in, taking his scruff between her teeth. Velvetpaw yowled and tried to dig his claws into the ground but it was no use. The three yanked him out of place and threw him halfway out the entrance.
Squirrelpaw and Quietpaw immediately rushed to their nests, quickly fixing them before Velvetpaw stirred.
When he did, he blinked at Webpaw. "You're always on my side! Why did you help them?"
Webpaw smiled. "Sorry, but I like to switch sides sometimes." He spun around and curled up into his nest, across from Squirrelpaw. Velvetpaw slowly joined them and he stretched out in his nest.
"Thanks for helping," Quietpaw said with a mrrow of laughter.
"Anytime," Webpaw replied. He closed his eyes and after a few minutes, he was asleep. Dreaming. . .
. . .
Webpaw was running, far, far away from something . . from someone. This mysterious black-and-white she-cat kept appearing in his dreams, telling him such strange things.
The voice kept ringing in his ears. It was a she-cat who crooned,"Before dawn, before the sun rises, you shall wake up and head for Fourtrees. Three others shall be waiting for your arrival. I have already told the three others about this meeting. If you don't go, I'll make you you go."
Flashes of images danced before Webpaw. He stopped to stare at them.
The she-cat showed him an image of a solid gray tom sleeping. "His name is Stonepaw."
Then his image was swept away by a new one. A sandy-gray she-cat was stirring in her nest. "Her name is Honeypaw."
Then her image drifted away and a new one replaced it. A calico she-cat was thrashing in her sleep, opening her mouth as if she was screaming. Webpaw shuddered. What was wrong with the calico she-cat? "And Owlpaw," the mysterious she-cat finished.
"Why . . Why was she kicking and screaming?" Webpaw asked. It looked like she was being tortured, he thought.
The she-cat was silent for a moment, he saw her shake her black-and-white pelt. "You will know why when she tells you." The she-cat closed her eyes as if something had hurt her.
"Webpaw," the she-cat breathed. "By tomorrow, you will have a power. Starclan is has given you a power. Powers to see into the future."
Webpaw gasped but the she-cat silenced him with a flick of her tail. "These visions will help you in battle and when you are hunting so that you can possibly change the future. However, don't change it every time you get a chance. Somethings need to stay the same. The three others have been gifted with powers, so when you meet them at Fourtrees, be aware of this."
The she-cat's pelt started to dissolve as a gust of wind came, scooping up leaves into the air. . .
. . .
Webpaw's eyes flickered open and he gasped. It was still dark. He gingerly weaved around his clanmates. He peered out the den, looking to see if anyone was up. Not a single cat is awake . .
Webpaw darted for the entrance. He did not care if a cat saw him. He had to make it Fourtrees. Something in Webpaw's heart and head told him it was good idea.
Webpaw slipped out of the narrow entrance. He sniffed the air before turning right. He headed down to the lake, walking down on its shore. Webpaw ran as fast as he could, flinging sand and dirt up into the air. Suddenly, a thought came. Was the black-and-white she-cat a Starclan cat? He recalled seeing her pelt shimmering in the moonlight, reflecting the stars. And why else would she me visit my dreams?
Webpaw came to an abrupt halt, paused, and veered to the left. He crawled and leaped over thorn bushes until finally, he reached Fourtrees.
It was weird going to Fourtrees without a Gathering or without his mentor, Blazeheart. It was weirder going alone.
Webpaw slowly made his way near the Fourtrees and the boulder that the leaders climbed up on. He was staying attentive when a sudden thump! was heard from his left. Webpaw spun around to see, his claws unsheathed.
The solid gray tom, the apprentice that the Starclan she-cat showed him was here. Stonepaw, Webpaw thought.
The gray tom stared at him, his eyes round. "A-are you We- Webpaw?" he stuttered, clearly afraid. Webpaw nodded. "And you are Stonepaw?"
Stonepaw straightened himself. "I am from Creekclan."
Stonepaw opened his mouth to reply but he stopped, and gazed at something to his right. A shadow was nearing them, quietly and slowly. It looked bigger than both Stonepaw and Webpaw combined. This can't be an apprentice-!
But it was. It was Owlpaw, her calico coat shimmering in the darkness as she emerged from the shadows. "Polarclan," she announced. Another cat bounced from behind. "Oakclan!" The cat meowed proudly. It was Honeypaw.
There was an awkward silence among the apprentices.
Owlpaw let out a low hiss. "I assume a black-and-white Starclan she-cat by the name of Blackivy appeared in all our dreams, correct?"
The others nodded.
Owlpaw grunted. "Good to know." She paused before she gave each of them a thin smile. "I'm interested to hear what you all can do."
Each apprentice exchanged worried glances.
How do I know I can trust them?
"You can trust each other," a voice said from behind.
Each apprentice jumped, hissing. A light brown tom with darker spots and Blackivy, the Starclan she-cat, appeared from the thorn bushes. It seemed like the two cats had the stars in their pelts, each sparkling.
"Starclan cats!" Honeypaw exclaimed.
The tom nodded. "You four have already met Blackivy." He gestured towards the older she-cat. "I can introduce myself," she hissed. The tom ignored her and continued, "I am -"
"-Junglestep." Owlpaw finished for him. The tom stared at her, his mouth still open. "Sorry," she apologized. "I only knew it was you since I saw you hunting a mouse. I though you were an enemy hunting on Polarclan territory until Briarfrond told me it was just another Starclan cat I was seeing."
'Just another Starclan cat I was seeing?' Webpaw echoed in his head. How can she see Starclan cats? And who is Briarfrond? Last time I checked, there was no Briarfrond in Polarclan.
Blackivy nudged Junglestep, prompting him to continue. "Yes, I am Junglestep," he finally said. "Anyway, you four are here tonight because, all of you each have a special power. A power us Starclan cats gave to you."
Webpaw couldn't believe his ears. Starclan actually gave us these!
"Why?" Honeypaw suddenly asked. "What makes us worthy of these powers?"
Junglestep smiled. "You four are each related to the very first leaders of the clan."
The apprentices gasped. Stonepaw almost fell over as if he was hit by something. "Related?" Webpaw repeated. Related?
"In very small ways, you four are related," Blackivy said. "But anyway, you each have a power that will save the clans one more time." She looked away before any of the apprentices could look at her with perplexed gazes.
"Stonepaw," Junglestep called. The Creekclan apprentice looked up, his whiskers twitching. To Webpaw, he looked more nervous than excited. "Stonepaw has been given the ability to talk birds, dogs, badgers - any animal."
He can speak to other creatures!
"Honeypaw has been given the ability to run as fast as a cheetah." Junglestep said.
Owlpaw and Webpaw gaped at the scrawny Oakclan she-cat.
"Webpaw," Junglestep said. Webpaw stood still, his heart bursting in excitement. He already knew what he could do. Blackivy told him. But he had never done it before. "He has the ability to see the future and change it if he has to."
Webpaw's heart swelled with pride when the three others gasped. Stonepaw quietly said, "Whoa."
Junglestep looked at Owlpaw. Now Blackivy turned back, her gaze darkening as she watched Owlpaw.
"Owlpaw," Junglestep began with a sigh that sounded more like a growl. "She has been given the power to see Starclan cats, whom she can talk to and interact with."
Though the apprentices were surprised by her power, the two Starclan cats didn't seem too happy with it. Blackivy said nothing, but she didn't have to. She looked almost mad at Owlpaw. The brown tom looked a bit sad. "But each of these powers come with a price that Starclan can't prevent."
Blackivy finally turned her gaze to Stonepaw. "Stonepaw was born blind and deaf in both his right eye and ear. Honeypaw is scrawny and terribly weak in battle -" Webpaw felt a stab of sympathy for the Oakclan she-cat, who flinched at her words "-Webpaw might have a headache, migraine or he might even faint, depending on how many times he looks into the future. . ." She gazed down at him as if to warn him.
"And Owlpaw," Blackivy spat. Webpaw watched Owlpaw's expression to see if she even flinched, but there was nothing. Her face was blank and her eyes were dull. "Owlpaw will have seizures or headaches and nightmares that will haunt her, each time she closes her eyes to sleep."
Blackivy and Owlpaw stared at each for a few moments. "It's not my fault," Owlpaw said flatly, still not showing even a hint of an emotion. "I did not choose to have seizures randomly that may cost me my life."
"That's horrible!" Honeypaw exclaimed. Every cat turned to her. "Why would Starclan give a cat such a power that she would have seizures and nightmares?"
Blackivy and Junglestep exchanged glances. "We did not know this would happen," Junglestep told her calmly.
"Owlpaw is having nightmares because she's letting these nightmares come through," Blackivy hissed. "These nightmares are coming from the Dark Forest. The cats there are trying to turn her mad and she's letting them, letting them torment her in her sleep."
Now Owlpaw was enraged. "I wouldn't have the Dark Forest perched on my shoulders each time I slept if it wasn't for this stupid power!" She snarled, baring her teeth at Blackivy. "And what is the use of seeing dead cats? Is it so I can appear crazy in front of my clanmates? Be humiliated and teased by my friends?"
A queer hush fell upon them, frightening Webpaw. Owlpaw and Blackivy gave each other deadly glares. The two she-cats would have probably ripped each other's throats out if Junglestep was not there.
The tom stepped between them. "Enough," he growled at Blackivy. He swung his head to Owlpaw and said, "You were given the power, not only to see Starclan cats, but so you could also see Dark Forest cats." He flicked his tail before continuing, "The Dark Forest cats are planning something, maybe an attack . . again." He glanced at Blackivy.
Again? Webpaw wondered. Our former leader, Thistlefrost, has spoke of a great battle against the Dark Forest cats but he always brushed it off as a story for another time if we asked about it.
"You four have these abilities so that we can stop the Dark Forest cats. However," Junglestep paused, glancing at each cat, "you four have a strange path that leads somewhere beyond the clans."
The apprentices stared back in silence.
"Beyond the clans?" Stonepaw echoed out loud. If Junglestep and Blackivy heard Stonepaw, they ignored him.
"We will continue having these meetings once a moon until it is time for your journey," Junglestep said. "You four are dismissed." Junglestep and Blackivy stepped back, their pelts slowly fading into the darkness.
The apprentices were alone again.
"So, Webpaw," Owlpaw growled. Webpaw jumped, surprised. "If you can see into the future, tell me, what will happen when I get back to my camp?"
Owlpaw looked down at him after a few moments of silence, a smirk slowly appearing.
She doesn't believe me, Webpaw thought.
Webpaw did not know exactly how to see the future. He had never done it before, but he thought he'd at least try and attempt it. Webpaw inhaled slowly, closing his eyes.What would Owlpaw do when she got back home? he thought. He tried to think of her crawling through a hole or going in the front entrance. Webpaw could feel Owlpaw staring at him, her gaze doubtful.
Think, Webpaw! Think! Webpaw kept telling himself. Nothing.
Owlpaw let out a soft laugh. "You can't do it, can you?"
Suddenly, when Webpaw opened his eyes, he saw it.
Owlpaw looked over her shoulder, making sure no one followed or saw. She squeezed through a tight gap in a bramble wall from behind a boulder. She quietly curled up in a nest, closing her eyes quickly, pretending she was sleeping.
Webpaw gasped as his eyes flew open again. He looked at Owlpaw, who had her head tilted. "What happened?" she asked, still wearing a smirk. "You were shaking as if there was an earthquake."
Webpaw grinned. "Owlpaw, when you reached camp, you crawled through a tight gap in a bramble wall, behind a boulder that was your den. You quickly curled up and pretended to be asleep."
Owlpaw blinked, keeping her head tilted. "How did you know I clawed a hole behind the den?"
"Because you squeezed through it."
"Could you see me tear the hole in the wall?"
"No; that was in the past. I was looking into the future."
Owlpaw flexed her claws, thinking. She quit tilting her head and sighed, "I still have one more test for you."
Test? And then again, Webpaw pushed his thoughts to the future. Owlpaw swings her forepaw, claws sheathed, knocking Webpaw on his side.
At that moment, Webpaw ducked, two seconds before Owlpaw lashed out with her forepaw. As fast as a snake, Webpaw darted underneath her, twisting, and pushing Owlpaw off her feet. Owlpaw fell on her side with an, "Oof!" and she scrambled back onto her paws.
Owlpaw's smirk returned. "Even though I did not imply on what the test was, you still knew I was going to swing my forepaw at you." She blinked twice. "You saw the future."
Webpaw nodded. "Now can I return to my camp? It'll be dawn in a few minutes."
Owlpaw dipped her head. "I believe you now."
Before Webpaw turned away, Honeypaw shouted, "Nice meeting you!" Stonepaw added, "Your awesome!"
Each apprentice slipped into the shadows, racing back to their camps.
Owlpaw gasped, thrashing wildly as the massive black she-cat circled her.
The black she-cat had visited Owlpaw the other night and told her, "Starclan isn't capable of one thing. One power they do not possess is the ability to take over another's body."
A brown tom with long black stripes visited Owlpaw with the she-cat today. Owlpaw could not move; they spoke in low tones, making it impossible to hear.
But suddenly, Owlpaw's head began to swirl. She could feel someone else's thoughts creep into her own mind. The tom was trying to get into her head. The tom had somehow gotten inside of her body and he demanded control over it.
Owlpaw screamed as she fought for control over her body and mind.
"Get. Out. Of. ME!" Owlpaw shrieked in agony.
It felt like the tom was clawing her from the inside. Owlpaw felt sick and she exhausted from struggling.
But if I give in, Owlpaw thought, he will control my movements, my speech, and thoughts.
"Submit already!" The tom used Owlpaw's own mouth to hiss.
Owlpaw hated hearing the tom's voice. His voice was surprisingly higher than most toms and soft like rain. It was soaked in innocence, but his thoughts were morbid. If Owlpaw did not know who he really was, she would have thought he would be kind and sweet.
Then, there was the black she-cat. Her tone scared Owlpaw more than it disturbed her like the tom's. The she-cat's voice was low. It sounded like claws scraping against stone after each word. There was always ice in her tone, colder than the lake in Leaf-bare and deadlier than an adder's venom.
Owlpaw fell still for a moment. It felt like fur was being ripped off her skin as the tom pushed his way out of her body.
"It's no use," the tom croaked. "She is resisting."
The she-cat's ear twitched. "Be patient, my dear, Wildfire. She'll break soon enough." The she-cat stepped forward and nudged Owlpaw's head with her paw. "You can't resist forever," she hissed.
A spasm of coughing woke Owlpaw up. Blood sprayed her nest and as she hacked.
Owlpaw blinked at the crimson drops. She tore ferns from the ground and soaked up the blood with them. No one must know if they can't help. A shiver ran down her spine. How long would she have to deal with this?
Owlpaw hurried out of her nest and stretched in the morning sun.
A flash of black fur darted across Owlpaw's view. It was Nimblepaw. "Good morning, Owlpaw! You woke up just in time. Beachstripe was getting ready to wake you."
"Where is she at right now?"
"She's waiting at the entrance."
Owlpaw dipped her head in thanks and raced to her mentor. Beachstripe was speaking with Cedarjaw, Petalfall, and Longcloud and his apprentice, Cragpaw. She approached slowly and scooted close to her mentor.
Beachstripe glanced at her but she didn't stop talking.
"- I find it hard to believe that the Oakclan patrol attacked Applepaw and Willowstalk."
"You should have seen the Oakclan apprentice, Butterflypaw," Petalfall hissed through gritted teeth. "She grabbed Applepaw by his neck!"
"How dumb are the Oakclan cats to think three cats were invading?" Longcloud growled.
Petalfall flicked her tail. "Fortunately, Gorsestar was the mentor of Butterflypaw and she was on the patrol. The leader was furious! Gorsestar grabbed Butterflypaw by the scruff and yanked her off of Applepaw. Gorsestar is not a very forgiving type and she scowled and hissed until that apprentice was on the verge of tears."
Owlpaw blinked at Cragpaw, as if asking, What happened?
Cragpaw leaned towards her and whispered, "Petalfall was leading Willowstalk and Applepaw to some herbs she discovered on Oakclan territory. Petalfall asked Poppystem, the Oakclan medicine cat, if it was all right to collect them. Poppystem said she perfectly fine with it and that she would tell Gorsestar. But the apprentice Butterflypaw and the warrior Sparktail, did not know, so they attacked the three."
"Ooh," Owlpaw mewed and listened quietly.
"You see this?" Petalfall growled, pointing to a long cut that went down her shoulder and down her leg. "That stupid warrior, Sparktail, grabbed me by my shoulder and sliced it along with my leg!" She lashed her tail. "I clawed a chunk of her ear off. I would have done much more if Willowstalk didn't stop me."
"Is Applepaw alright?" Cedarjaw asked.
Petalfall nodded. "He got lucky," she sighed. "Butterflypaw scratched his neck pretty badly. It bled the whole time we ran back to camp."
Cedarjaw growled. "Applepaw was defenseless since he doesn't know any battle moves."
"Alright, enough talking." Beachstripe said. She stood up and glanced at Owlpaw and then at Longcloud. "We have some more training to do."
Longcloud nodded. "Marshpelt, Nimblepaw!"
The two toms hurried towards the two other mentors and apprentices. "Are we all ready?" Beachstripe asked. Everyone nodded. Beachstripe led the cats out of the entrance.
"Psst, Nimblepaw," Owlpaw said. "Where is Mottlepaw?"
"Mottlepaw is already at the training hollow with Brindlepool," he replied.
When the cats reached the training hollow, Brindlepool was impatient and she hurried towards them and said, "Finally!" She looked at the other apprentices and announced, "Today we will fight against each other."
"You didn't tell me that!" Mottlepaw exclaimed excitedly.
Brindlepool ignored her. "Mentors, talk to your apprentices and encourage them. Talk them over the moves they have learned."
Beachstripe beckoned Owlpaw towards a tree, far away from the others.
"Okay, Owlpaw," she started slowly. "You will fight against one of the others. I don't know who, since that is for Brindlepool to decide but remember, Nimblepaw is only quick. He is not the strongest since is mentor is pretty soft. Lashing out with your fore-paws will be better against him. If it is Cragpaw or Mottlepaw, do the somersault move I taught you. The other mentors don't know about it. You have the strongest build among the cats, Owlpaw. Don't fail me on this."
Owlpaw and Beachstripe stared at each other for a while. I'll make you proud, Owlpaw thought. She marched around Beachstripe and back towards the other mentors.
"Alright, is everyone ready?" Brindlepool asked.
They all nodded.
"Good." Brindlepool studied each apprentice for a moment. "Mottlepaw will fight Owlpaw."
Mottlepaw and Owlpaw gazed at each other. Owlpaw felt a bit worried as Mottlepaw gave her a thin smile. The tabby she-cat was the best fighter among them. But I am stronger and swifter than her, Owlpaw reminded herself.
The cats backed away from the two apprentices. Owlpaw and Mottlepaw jumped to their feet, standing two fox lengths away from each other.
"When I say fight, you may fight." Brindlepool told them. "Remember, fight with sheathed claws and remember that this is your clanmate, not an enemy. Don't kill each other." A few moments passed until Brindlepool said, "Fight."
Owlpaw crouched and tucked her forepaws beneath her as Mottlepaw pounced.
Owlpaw leaped into the air, colliding with Mottlepaw. Owlpaw wrapped her paws around Mottlepaw's neck. Mottlepaw roared with fury and rolled in the dirt, attempting to crush Owlpaw with her weight. Owlpaw let go but before she was able to stand up, Mottlepaw yanked her hind-leg and shook her violently. Owlpaw kicked her left hind-leg, slamming her paw into Mottlepaw's muzzle. The brown she-cat let go with a hiss.
Owlpaw leaped to her paws and she and Mottlepaw immediately went back to batting each other with their forepaws. Owlpaw ducked under a blow, slipped under Mottlepaw like and snake and threw the she-cat onto her back. Mottlepaw was back on her paws in two seconds and she charged at Owlpaw. She jumped - but not fast enough. Mottlepaw barreled into her with full force. Owlpaw gasped as the wind was knocked out of her and she landed on her side.
Nimblepaw gasped and Cragpaw frowned. Brindlepool's eyes lit up and a smug smile appeared. Beachstripe would have torn out Brindlepool's eyes if she had noticed the smugness. Owlpaw's mentor flashed her a desperate, yet, cold smile.
She wants me to do the somersault move, she realized.
Owlpaw scrambled to her paws as soon as Mottlepaw began to charge again. Perfect.
Owlpaw pounced at Mottlepaw. She grabbed her shoulders, turning head over heels, still holding Mottlepaw as she rolled. Owlpaw flung Mottlepaw as she finished her roll and landed on her paws. Mottlepaw landed on her stomach, eyes wide with both awe and fear.
She never expected it.
Owlpaw pounced on Mottlepaw before she could recover from the shock. She placed her paws firmly on Mottlepaw's shoulders. Mottlepaw tried to wriggle free but it was no use. She let out a long sigh before closing her eyes.
"You win," she growled.
Brindlepool's jaw dropped as if she saw Owlpaw just sprouted rabbit ears.
"You did it!" Beachstripe exclaimed. "You won! You did the move perfectly!" She swung her head to Brindlepool, laughing. Now Beachstripe was smug.
Owlpaw's heart thumped loudly as she slowly stepped off of Mottlepaw. Beachstripe was really proud of her!
"Good job," Mottlepaw said. Owlpaw smiled, "You did really good too."
Owlpaw ran up to Beachstripe. The cream-colored tabby looked down at her, her eyes shining. "You did amazing," she said. Owlpaw gaped. "I learned from the best," she replied. Even though Brindlepool was disappointed by the defeat of her apprentice, she still congratulated Owlpaw on winning and she didn't scowl at Mottlepaw for losing.
Owlpaw looked at Nimblepaw, who was staring at her. "It's your fight next," she told him as Cragpaw was already in the clearing.
Nimblepaw nodded. "I know," he said. He bounced towards the clearing, standing one fox-length away from Cragpaw.
Longcloud glanced at Marshpelt. "Get ready . . . and . . fight!"
Before any cat moved, before Nimblepaw could even jump, Cragpaw started to shake, his whole body twitching like an earthquake. He dropped to his stomach, writhing on the ground as if somebody was holding him down.
"GAAHH!" Cragpaw yowled. "GET. OUT. OF. ME!"
Owlpaw flinched as if someone threw a stone at her. "Get. Out. Of. Me!" The words echoed in head. But - He - this can't be happening! Owlpaw remembered when the Dark Forest tom tried to control her. Someone was trying to control Cragpaw.
Longcloud ran to his apprentice's side. The white warrior looked like a scared, lost kitten. "What's going on?" he demanded, his voice quivering as he spoke.
Cragpaw screamed. He started to convulse, putting his paws to his head as if he had a headache. Then, he abruptly stopped. Cragpaw went limp with his eyes rolled back.
"Cragpaw," Longcloud breathed. He shook his apprentice gently. "Cragpaw please, wake up. Don't die, please."
Mottlepaw tensed. She leaned forward, holding her breath. Owlpaw also held her breath. Her head spun around like a sandstorm. How? HOW? How could this be happening?
Then, Cragpaw's eyes rolled back into place. He stood up and glared at everyone.
Marshpelt gasped and shouted, "The real Cragpaw's eyes are green! His eyes now, are blue."
An odd, familiar smile reaching Cragpaw's lips.
His eyes - blue. That wicked smile-!
It was Wildfire, the Dark Forest tom, somehow inside of Cragpaw's body and mind.
Cragpaw/Wildfire suddenly lunged at Nimblepaw, viciously attacking the small tom. He grabbed Nimblepaw by the neck, dragging him like a dead piece of prey. Blood steadily dripped from Nimblepaw neck. The black tom shrieked in pain.
Cragpaw/Wildfire let go of him as soon as Longcloud pounced at him. "Stop!" he ordered.
"Come and catch me, Longcloud," Cragpaw/Wildfire taunted with an icy hiss. He broke out into a run, quicker than any cat.
"Follow him!" Brindlepool snarled. She turned to Marshpelt and said, "Take Nimblepaw back to camp. NOW!"
Without hesitation, Marshpelt ran to his apprentice. He carefully lifted him by the scruff and started for camp.
Longcloud, Brindlepool, Mottlepaw, Beachstripe, and Owlpaw all pelted after Cragpaw/Wildfire. The blood roared in Owlpaw's ears and her pads stung from running so fast. Oh, Starclan!
The cats chased the apprentice for a while until he came to halt at the Thunderpath. He looked over his shoulder before bouncing like rabbit onto the Thunderpath.
"CRAGPAW!" Longcloud roared.
"Oops. I "accidentally" jumped onto the Thunderpath," Cragpaw/Wildfire laughed.
Every cat froze, staring into Wildfire's cold blue eyes.
"Who are you?" Beachstripe snarled, taking a step forward. She placed one paw on the Thunderpath, but she didn't dare to go any further.
The voice of Wildfire came out loud and clear as he hissed, "I'm a living nightmare. And I'll kill this apprentice if you take anymore steps."
Owlpaw wondered if Beachstripe would take another step. It was in her mentor's eyes. She wanted to rip Wildfire to shreds but she couldn't if he was in Cragpaw's body. If anyone tried attacking Wildfire, they'd be attacking Cragpaw too.
"A monster will hit you if you stay on the Thunderpath!" Mottlepaw wailed.
Cragpaw/Wildfire tilted his head. "Oh dear, that would be a shame, wouldn't it? If a monster came and hit us."
Tears swept down Mottlepaw's face. Wildfire's voice was clear again as he said, "We could make a deal here if you want your brother to live." He pointed to Mottlepaw.
Mottlepaw gaped at him, but it was Brindlepool who inquired, "How do you know Mottlepaw is his sister?"
Again, Cragpaw/Wildfire tilted his head but Wildfire's voice was still there. "I've been told a lot about Mottlepaw," he said with a menacing smile. Mottlepaw flinched as if she had been clawed. "I've heard she's strong, fearless, and that she wants to be leader someday."
"Every apprentice wants to be leader someday," Longcloud protested.
Cragpaw/Wildfire shook his head. "But Mottlepaw's dream is to be leader. She'll do anything she can to become leader." His eyes narrowed to slits as he stared at Mottlepaw. "We can help you with that. You future is unclear, but it is dark."
Brindlepool stepped in front of Mottlepaw, blocking her from his view.
Cragpaw/Wildfire shrugged. "All right, suit yourself," he growled. "I wanted to hear Mottlepaw's thoughts on my offer but it seems that you won't let that happened. So I'll make it happen."
Cragpaw/Wildfire stood dead-center on the Thunderpath. A monster started to roll near, roaring in the distance.
"GET OFF THE THUNDERPATH!" Longcloud bellowed.
"Afraid I can't," Cragpaw/Wildfire laughed. "His blood will be on your paws, Brindlepool! I didn't want this but your holding your apprentice back! Mottlepaw needs us! She'll be a true leader before you know it. I'm giving one more chance."
Brindlepool opened her mouth, but hesitated.
"WAIT! NO! I'LL MAKE-" Brindlepool cried, but it was too late.
Wildfire's dark shape crawled out of Cragpaw's mouth, as if the apprentice was throwing him up. Wildfire looked at Owlpaw, smiling. "See you tonight, Owlpaw. Sweet dreams, everyone!" he yelled and darted off the Thunderpath just as the monster raced by.
Cragpaw only had a second to recover and in that second - he was struck by the monster.
Mottlepaw screamed at the top of her lungs, yelling Cragpaw's name. Longcloud and Brindlepool raced onto the Thunderpath.
Cragpaw's jaw was completely broken. It tilted at an unusual angle and blood flowed from his mouth. His nose was bleeding and his fore-paw was almost severed all the way through.
Longcloud and Brindlepool shrieked with despair, but Mottlepaw's cries still drowned out theirs. She hid her face in her paws as she wailed.
Owlpaw glanced at Beachstripe. Her mentor's jaw was dropped and her eyes reflected the whole scene on the Thunderpath.
Owlpaw had to look away before she cried.
Wildfire had only one chance to get down to earth. Dark Forest cats can't came down here unless someone lets them down here. Which this can mean only one thing . . Somebody is plotting with the Dark Forest cats, and they are living in Polarclan camp, where everyone sleeps. Whoever is a traitor to our clan is hiding in plain sight. One of my clanmates is a traitor.
Stonepaw shivered in fear. It was his first Gathering in a while. And Polarclan still hadn't arrive yet.
"They aren't usually late," Eggblotch meowed. "They're usually the first ones here."
"Probably just being delayed by a small problem," Brightlight said.
But soon enough, Polarclan did arrive. But to Stonepaw's surprise, only six cats came, excluding the leader and the deputy.
"What? Shadestar always brings at least eight warriors and two apprentices." A Thornclan warrior, Nosewhisker exclaimed.
Stonepaw shifted uncomfortably. None of the Polarclan warriors were looking up. They all stared down at their paws or whispered in low tones among themselves. Shadestar's expression was clear, though; he was upset; frustrated.
"What took so long?" Doestar asked.
Shadestar didn't answer.
A spark of concern flared in Doestar's eyes but she quickly hid it when she turned away.
Gorsestar grunted. "Let's stop wasting time now." She stepped up to the edge of the rock and announced, "Prey is running well in Oakclan. No sicknesses, no foxes or dogs. We are peaceful at last." She sat back and let Doestar come forward.
"We have four new warriors," the Thornclan leader said proudly. "Quietbrook, Squirreltail, Velvetwing and Webwhisker."
Cats among the clans chanted the new names of the new warriors.
Webwhisker . . Stonepaw repeated to himself, spotting the black-and-white tom puffing out is chest next to the embarrassed she-cat, Quietbrook. I remember him. He was Webpaw just a day ago!
"And four new apprentices," Doestar continued after the chants died down. "Lakepaw, Hickorypaw, Smokepaw, and Nightpaw." She gestured towards a sandy-colored she-cat sitting next to her deputy, Blazeheart. "This is Hickorypaw. Her siblings and Nightpaw didn't make it to this Gathering. Anyway, Thornclan is doing well."
Minnowstar lifted his head and smiled. "We have a new apprentice, Spottedpaw." He nodded towards the gray she-cat that sat between Stonepaw and Mulchpaw. Her mentor, Mistypuddle sat behind her. Spottedpaw smiled, but she tensed as the cats congratulated her.
"Don't worry," Mistypuddle whispered to her. "You'll be the greatest in Creekclan."
Stonepaw and Mulchpaw exchanged glances but said nothing.
Mistypuddle is too aggressive and competitive for a soft and sweet apprentice like Spottedpaw.
Minnowstar reported a Two-leg kit running near their border and Thornclan's before stepping away. He turned his gaze to Shadestar, who didn't meet his. Shadestar still gazed down at his paws. Now Doestar and Gorsestar turned to him.
What is wrong with him? He doesn't look sick to me . . .
"Cragpaw," Shadestar rasped loudly. When there was a long silence, her repeated, "Cragpaw. Cragpaw is dead."
There were loud gasps and Stonepaw felt Gullsong shake. Stonepaw gaped as he remembered who Cragpaw was. He was the nicest and bravest Polarclan apprentice.
"Cragpaw? Your son is dead?" Doestar gasped.
"How?" Gorsestar asked, her expression blank but a wave of sadness flowed into her eyes.
Stonepaw had heard that Gorsestar had two tom-kits. One was carried off by a hawk and the other died from green cough. Gorsestar's mate died right after her kits died.
Minnowstar only gaped at Shadestar.
"Cragpaw was struck by a monster early today," Shadestar answered. "That is why I only brought six warriors and an apprentice. Everyone else is still mourning."
"Will Sandflower be okay? Are her other kits okay?" Tornsage, the mother of Spottedpaw asked. She had been friends with Shadestar's mate since she was a newly made apprentice.
Shadestar turned his unusual blue eyes to her. "Sandflower and the kits took it the hardest," he replied shortly before scanning the other cats in the crowd.
And you didn't? Stonepaw wanted to say but he thought better of it. He is already suffering enough. He doesn't need a Creekclan apprentice to bother him.
"Three new warriors from Polarclan," Shadestar continued with a sigh. He ignored all the sympathetic looks the leaders and the warriors gave him. "Mottlefur, Nimblefeet, and Owlsong. Five new apprentices: Birdpaw, Duskpaw, Snowpaw, Milkpaw and Tigerpaw." No cats chanted their names. They respectfully stayed silent, still remembering news about Cragpaw's death.
Owlsong too! She's also a warrior now, Stonepaw realized.
"Cragpaw-" Shadestar started but quickly shut his mouth. He shot Mottlefur and Owlsong a glance that Stonepaw couldn't understand but Owlsong only shook her head. Mottlefur looked down. Shadestar stepped away from the edge of the rock. "I'm done with my report." He said, looking down at his paws again.
The deputy Fallenfeather, stared at his leader for a while, as if asking why he stopped speaking so abruptly. But he only questioned it mentally. Fallenfeather stood up and announced, "Polarclan is going back home."
"You're not the leader!" Weaselwhisker hissed.
"Yeah!" Leafshine joined in. "You don't decide."
"It's okay," Shadestar told the two other deputies before his could argue. With a flick of his tail, he jumped off the boulder. "We are leaving."
Fallenfeather shot Weaselwhisker and Leafshine a "told you so" glare before following his leader.
"Wait-!" Stonepaw suddenly called without thinking. He pushed past Snaketail and Ryeseed and watched as Owlsong turned her brown eyes towards him. Owlsong stared at him for a few heartbeats before dipping her head, as if saying "Sorry, we can't speak right now," and she continued forward.
"Did you really want to talk to them?" Mulchpaw asked, curiously.
"I did, but it was nothing important." Stonepaw answered quickly. I wanted to talk to her more, since I didn't talk to her two nights ago when we met.
Mulchpaw snorted. "Why talk to a Polarclan cat? What, do you have a crush on one or something?"
"No!" Stonepaw exclaimed. "Er-no. That would be against the warrior code."
Mulchpaw shrugged. "Just asking. I wouldn't have told anyone if you had a crush on the warrior Owlsong." She leaned close to his face, as if waiting for a reaction.
"If I did have a crush on her, which I don't, how come you wouldn't tell?"
"Because she's pretty," Mulchpaw laughed. She flicked Stonepaw's side with her tail and said, "Come on, we're leaving."
As the Creekclan cats started for camp, Stonepaw glanced over his shoulder and saw Honeypaw, the Oakclan apprentice watch him leave. He could see that in her eyes, she wanted to talk. I'm sorry, but we are leaving. Hopefully we can see each other soon!
Stonepaw hurriedly rushed after his mentor when he realized he had slowed down.
"Did you talk to anyone when we were here?" Snaketail asked.
"Er-yes, kind of," Stonepaw replied. "I said 'Hello,' to the Thornclan warrior, Squirreltail, before the Gathering started and she replied with, 'I didn't know Creekclan started training kits.' "
Snaketail narrowed his eyes. "Were you offended by that?"
Stonepaw thought for a moment. "No." He replied shortly.
Was I supposed to be offended?
The clan reached camp shortly after. Stonepaw and Mulchpaw led Spottedpaw to her nest under a large sedge bush. They made her nest out of ferns and sedge leaves.
"Oh wow," Spottedpaw said. "Thank you. I-I wasn't expecting this."
"It's okay," Mulchpaw told her warmly. They watched Spottedpaw curl up in her new nest. Stonepaw and Mulchpaw joined her, both of them lying next to her. Snaketail, Blackfox and Mistypuddle came by to tell them good-night.
The moment Stonepaw closed his eyes, he was dreaming of standing in a grassy meadow.
Stonepaw's eyes slowly adjusted to the milky light. To his left, Honeypaw was stirring in the grass. To his right, Owlsong was lying outstretched, blinking with curiosity. Webwhisker was across from him, sitting. He looked confused and scared.
Blackivy and Junglestep appeared from the long grass too.
"Why are we meeting here and not at Four Trees?" Stonepaw asked.
Honeypaw and Owlsong were sitting now. They were still dazed from sleep.
"Our cover has been blown," Blackivy growled. "Besides, it's much safer to meet in your dreams."
"Who found out about our meetings?" Honeypaw asked.
Blackivy stared coldly at the four; her gaze wasn't directed towards them, but to someone else. "I'm afraid a Dark Forest cat knows about our meetings."
"Who?" Owlsong growled, sliding out her claws.
"Him and his name doesn't matter," Junglestep said. He cleared his throat before saying, "As you all know, since you all attended the Gathering, Cragpaw from Polarclan is dead."
Every cat avoided each other's gazes. Owlsong was the only one who looked down at her paws.
Was that guilt in her eyes? Stonepaw wondered.
Junglestep continued. "You have been told that Cragpaw was hit by a car. And yes, that is true, but that is not the whole story." He paused and glanced at each cat. Stonepaw found himself leaning closer, straining his ears to listen. "A Dark Forest cat by the name of Wildfire, took control over Cragpaw's body and jumped onto the Thunderpath. Wildfire escaped from Cragpaw's body just as the monster came by."
Everyone fell silent.
"How . . how is that possible?" Honeypaw asked, sounding distressed.
Blackivy lashed her tail. "A cat a long time ago had this power. I can't even believe that Starclan gave it to him! His controlling power was dangerous and manipulative.That is why he's in the Dark Forest. But he later passed the power down to Darkthorn."
"D-Darkthorn?" Stonepaw echoed. He had heard of the dangerous Dark Forest she-cat before. She used to live in Polarclan and waned revenge for something.
"Darkthorn was a Polarclan warrior," Webwhisker told him. "She wanted power, so she killed every cat that got in her way." He played with his tail for a few moments. "Darkthorn killed a Thornclan cat too. She killed one of our most skilled warriors, Lilybloom." He stared at Stonepaw. "Our former leader, Thistlefrost, has met her before."
Owlsong gasped. "Thistlefrost knows her!" she exclaimed. "He might know how to stop her!"
"I'm not so sure that's a great idea," Webwhisker said, shuffling his paws.
"Why not?" Junglestep asked. "After all, he was part of a prophecy to stop her."
Webwhisker made a face of "you won't understand" but spoke anyway. "Thistlefrost hasn't been the same since Darkthorn was killed. He's kind of . . oh, I don't know, crazy? He sees her in all of his dreams and won't allow any cat to be named Dark."
"Your hiding something else," Owlsong suddenly growled. Stonepaw looked at her, sending a sideways glance at Webwhisker, who looked terrified. "I see Darkthorn in my dreams and you know that," Owlsong spat. "Thistlefrost and I could talk and discuss why they're in our dreams, why they-"
"No!" Webwhisker shouted. Junglestep and Blackivy had round eyes of curiosity and worry.
Owlsong tipped her head to one side.
"No." Webwhisker repeated. "I-I had a vision for the future. Three, actually. Your discussion could end up three ways with Thistlefrost in the future. The first way is that Darkthorn controls Thistlefrost, he attacks you, and kills you in the middle of the conversation. The second way is that you'll win the fight but Thornclan will hate you for killing a clanmate. The third way is that you and him will have a peaceful conversation.
"The chances of him killing you is fifty percent. The chances of you killing him is forty percent. And the chances of having a peaceful conversation is only ten percent."
"But we could get some really useful information!" Honeypaw cried.
Blackivy and Junglestep turned to Owlsong. "Your future, Owlsong," said Blackivy. "Choose wisely."
Owlsong was quiet for a few moments. "I'm sorry," she said finally with a sigh. "But we need more information about what they are planning." She looked up at Webwhisker and Stonepaw held his breath. "I'm taking my chances. Tomorrow, I'm meeting up with Thistlefrost. Tell him of my coming."
"Oh, but you can't go alone!" Honeypaw said.
"I'll be in Thornclan with Webwhisker," Owlsong said.
"You must be careful," Blackivy told her. "If we lose a prophecy cat, we may lose all that we have."
"Please try not to kill Thistlefrost either," Webwhisker winced.
"I'll try not to," Owlsong growled. "But if he attacks first . ."
"We'll still go with you anyway," Stonepaw told Owlsong. After all, we are supposed to save the clans together.
"Fine," Owlsong sighed. "Honeypaw, I'll meet you at my border, Stonepaw will meet Webwhisker at his border at sun-high. We will all see each other at the camp."
The three nodded.
The scene vanished from Stonepaw as Mulchpaw shook him awake.
"Get up!" she yelled.
"Okay! I'm awake," Stonepaw said. How long was I asleep?
"Today is our final assessment," Mulchpaw whispered excitedly, trying not to wake Spottedpaw.
"Er- it's only dawn."
"Snaketail and Blackfox wanted us to wake up early for our warrior ceremony."
Stonepaw stood up and shook his pelt as he followed Mulchpaw out of den. He was more nervous than excited for the ceremony. For the past quarter-moon they've been training for it and today was their last day as apprentices.
Snaketail and Blackfox were sitting outside, patiently waiting for them. Stonepaw notice that Minnowstar and Leafshine were also waiting.
"If you two complete your assessments," Leafshine began as they approached, "you will become warriors today." She looked both apprentices in the eyes before saying, "Your first task is to hunt. Bring back at least two pieces of prey in eight minutes. After that, you two will fight each other."
"Will our mentors be with us?" Mulchpaw asked.
Leafshine shook her head. "You must hunt alone. And you two will fight in the clearing after you bring back your prey," she added when Mulchpaw opened her mouth to speak. She paused then said, "Your time starts . . . Now."
Both Stonepaw and Mulchpaw bolted out of the entrance. They followed the same trail for a few moment until Mulchpaw broke off the path and into the forest. Stonepaw was left alone pelting to the lake.
I'm better at catching fish, he thought as he neared the lake.
When he finally reached the lake, he could see small ripples from where the fish were swimming.
Stonepaw stared at the water for a while. He couldn't make a sound or move even a whisker if he were to hunt fish. One fish swam away but the others stayed. He waited, waited and waited some more. Half of Stonepaw screamed, "HURRY! YOU'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!" while the other half just calmly said, "Take your time."
Wait, can't I talk to fish?
"Excuse, mister trout?" Stonepaw said aloud.
The fish peeked its head of the water. It couldn't talk back, of course, but it understood what he said.
Foolish trout, Stonepaw thought. Isn't he scared of a cat?
As fast as the breeze, Stonepaw swung his claws and caught the trout by its head.
Was that cheating? Stonepaw asked himself as he carried the fish. Nah. Mulchpaw would have done the same if she could talk to other creatures.
Stonepaw hurried off into the forest. It was strange not having a patrol with him, but he loved the silence. Suddenly, he heard the scratches of mice. Stonepaw dropped his fish in a clump of ferns, hiding it from any bird.
Stonepaw glanced at a lanky tree, that had four mice scrambling at its roots.
Stonepaw soundlessly approached the mice, freezing with each step as the mice looked at him. He had to make this quick. Stonepaw fell completely still. The mice were no longer worried about him after a few heartbeats. They were collecting beech nuts at the roots of the tree.
One . . two . . three . .!
Stonepaw leaped forward. He heard two of the mice squeal in horror and dash away. But his claws hooked the nearest mouse. The blow was enough for the mouse to fall limp moments after. He wistfully watched the three other mice run away. I can't go after them though, he thought. I have no time.
Stonepaw collected his mouse and fish and started off for camp. It didn't take a while to return and marched into camp.
Mulchpaw had just returned too, already dropping her prey at Leafshine's feet. Stonepaw did the same.
Leafshine stared down at the prey, her expression blank. "I'm impressed," she meowed.
Stonepaw glanced at Mulchpaw's mouse and starling.
Suddenly, Snaketail and Blackfox came up from behind.
"How'd they do?" asked Minnowstar.
"Mulchpaw hunted very well," Blackfox reported. "She climbed up a tree to catch that bird."
"Stonepaw had no problems hunting. Like always," Snaketail said.
"How did you know I climbed up a tree?" Mulchpaw asked, her eyes wide. Stonepaw wanted to ask the same.
"I had your mentors follow you, to monitor your skills." Leafshine answered. "Are they ready to fight?" she asked the mentors.
"Indeed," Snaketail said. Blackfox agreed with a nod.
Mulchpaw and Stonepaw were set to fight almost instantly. The fight lasted for what felt like hours to Stonepaw, but was actually only ten minutes. Mulchpaw had won the fight at the last moment, but Stonepaw was still congratulated for his dodges and quick thinking. His pads and ear ached from the many times Mulchpaw had batted them, but other than that, he was fine and even happy Mulchpaw had won.
Minnowstar called for all cats old enough to catch their own prey to join the clan meeting.
"I, Minnowstar of Creekclan, call upon my warrior ancestors look down on these apprentices. They have trained hard to learn the ways of your noble code and I commend them as warriors in your turn.
"Mulchpaw and Stonepaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect your clan, even at the cost of your lives?"
"I do!" Stonepaw and Mulchpaw said simultaneously.
"Then by the powers of Starclan I give you you warrior names," Minnowstar looked at Stonepaw. "Stonepaw, from now on you will be known as Stonefish. Starclan honors your loyalty and skill." He narrowed his eyes toward Mulchpaw. "Mulchpaw, from know on you will be known as Mulchshell. Starclan honors your warmth and dedication. We honor you as full warriors of Creekclan." Minnowstar rested his muzzle on their heads before back away.
Ryeseed nudged Stonefish. "Congratulations!" his father said. "I look forward to patrolling with you."
"To be honest, you were the best apprentice I ever had," Snaketail told him. "No offense, Clawpelt." He added hastily.
"None taken," Clawpelt said with a shrug. "Congratulations, Stonefish."
"T-thank you," he stammered. Wow! This day felt soooo far away.
"Great job!" Blackfox told Mulchshell and Stonefish.
Brightlight and Eggblotch, Mulchshell's parents were bragging about how well their daughter fought and how she was going to be the best warrior in Creekclan. Mulchshell shied away, embarrassed.
Pebblestorm, the medicine cat, wove in between cats, finally reaching the new warriors.
"Congratulations," he said warmly.
The two smiled back.
"Anyway," he said and flicked his tail. He lowered his head to Stonefish and spoke barely louder than a whisper. "It's almost sun-high. You should be at Thornclan's border."
Stonefish froze. "W-what? How - you knew-"
"Shh," Pebblestorm said, glancing over his shoulder. "Don't worry, I received a message from Starclan. They told me I had to get you to the border since it'll be suspicious if you go alone." He gave a small shrug and added, "I don't know what's going on between you and Starclan, but I have to obey them. I know it has to do something with your power, but. . ." he trailed off, shrugging again.
Stonefish nodded. "Alright. Take me to Thornclan's border."
"Starclan honors your kindness and swiftness. You are now official warriors of Oakclan."
"Brokenear! Russetheart! Seedtooth! Butterflywing! Honeybreeze!"
Honeybreeze trembled from all the attention and excitement. She was a warrior at last! Ever since the Oakclan cats figured out she was gifted a special running power, they never stopped adoring her. She hated the attention and she felt like her clanmates would take advantage of her speed.
"I'm so proud of you two," Echoslip said, limping over to her daughters.
Echoslip's left hind-paw broke after she fell with Russetheart at the two-leg den. Poppystem wrapped her paw in bindweed, trying to put the bone back in place.
"Ooh! I'm so excited." Butterflywing giggled. "Are you happy?"
"Of course!" Honeybreeze said. "It's just . . er- " It's almost sun-high, she thought, looking up at the sky.
No cat in Oakclan knew about her visiting Thornclan except for Gorsestar. Honeybreeze had no way to escape or make an excuse for leaving, so she told Gorsestar. The Oakclan leader didn't like the idea of sending her "cheetah" to a different clan for a day, but she knew it was best and eventually gave in ("Cheetah" is Honeybreeze's nickname).
"I just want to hunt alone." Honeybreeze said.
"Alone?" Butterflywing echoed, her eyes widening.
"Sounds suspicious to me." Brokenear growled at her side.
"Get your big nose out of this," Butterflywing hissed.
Brokenear responded with a hiss but she left them alone. Butterflywing turned back to Honeybreeze. "Why go alone?"
"I haven't had alone time for a while ever since everyone figured out I had a power."
"Understandable." Butterflywing said shortly. "Well, bring a mouse back for me!" she darted away from her sister's side, and towards Lichenfur. Echoslip did the same.
Honeybreeze inched closer to the entrance. Gorsestar caught her eye and nodded.
Time to go. Honeybreeze slipped out of camp. I must meet Owlsong at Polarclan's border.
Honeybreeze focused on running and in a few heartbeats, she had already reached Polarclan's border. She felt exhausted but still searched the border for any sign of the calico she-cat.
After a minute, Honeybreeze finally spotted Owlsong padding quickly towards her.
"Oh good, you're here." The Polarclan she-cat said. "We must hurry to Thornclan, Honeypaw."
"Er- Actually, it's Honeybreeze now."
"Oh. Congratulations. Now let's go."
Owlsong led Honeybreeze through Polarclan territory. Honeybreeze nearly tripped over every rock in the forest. How could anyone live with this many rocks and brambles? How could they live in such a dark place? No sun is warming their fur through the trees!
She decided not to comment about this to Owlsong. The calico she-cat looked like a frightened kitten. Her large, wary eyes kept darting back and forth, as if watching out for someone. She kept shaking her head and mumbling, "No, you're not really here. . . Stop following me! . . ."
Oh my . . Starclan really messed her up by giving her that power.
They reached Thornclan's border, which was lined with massive sedge bushes.
Owlsong and Honeybreeze slipped past in between the bushes and onto the muddy grass. Stones and moss were scattered throughout the pine forest. Since Oakclan doesn't share a border with Thornclan, she had never seen a pine forest before.
I bet they've never seen a moor before.
Owlsong suggested they run to the camp as fast as possible, so that no patrol caught them without Webwhisker and Stonepaw. So they ran, which was no problem for Honeybreeze, of course. She accidentally ran faster and was already at Thornclan's entrance, panting.
Oops, she thought. I was supposed to run with her, not ahead of her.
Honeybreeze waited patiently, but she was uncomfortable. She could hear voices from inside the camp and worried that a cat might see her. But in less than a minute, Owlsong ran to her side.
"You - could - have - waited." She said through breaths.
Honeybreeze smiled. "Sorry."
After a minute, the two she-cats spotted Webwhisker and Stonepaw heading straight towards them.
"Hello!" Honeybreeze called to them.
"Glad we're all here," Webwhisker said when he and Stonepaw approached them.
"I'm a warrior now," Honeybreeze announced proudly. "So am I!" the Creekclan tom exclaimed. "My name is Stonefish. What's yours?"
"Enough talking," Owlsong growled at them. She turned to Webwhisker. "Does your clan know we are here? Or do you still need to tell Doestar?"
Webwhisker flicked his tail towards the entrance of the ravine. "My clan knows full well what's going on," he said. "And yes, they all know we have special powers. I assume every clan leader would know we are the prophecy cats." He narrowed his eyes, as if waiting for an answer. When it was silent, Webwhisker flicked his tail again. "Come on; they're waiting."
Webwhisker led the three inside of Thornclan's camp. All around, warriors and apprentices stopped talking or playing, all eyes now narrowing towards the four.
Honeybreeze could hear some whisper, "Are they the prophecy cats?" "Huh. They look weaker than Webwhisker." "I've met Owlsong before! I had no idea she was part of the four." "Owlsong? Er- she looks kind of insane." "Look at the Oakclan cat! She's so scrawny and weak looking! How is she part of the four?" "The Creekclan tom looks scared."
Honeybreeze wanted to slap each cat. She especially wanted to claw the ears off of the tom who called her weak and she wanted to do the same to the she-cat who started making fun of Stonefish.
Doestar and her deputy Blazeheart sat in the center of the camp with an unfamiliar she-cat.
A thin smile crossed the leader's face as they approached. "Welcome," she said. "My name is Doestar, as you four know. This is my deputy Blazeheart, and my medicine cat, Wrenflight."
Wrenflight dipped her head. "It's an honor to meet the rest of you. What are your names?"
"Webwhisker has told me about the mission today," Doestar said. Her eyes landed on Owlsong. The Polarclan she-cat held her gaze with a blank expression. "The former leader Thistlefrost is in the elders den," she continued and pointed to a cave inside the ravine wall.
"You - you can really see Starclan cats?" Wrenflight asked Owlsong.
Owlsong blinked. "Yes."
"Whoa," the medicine cat said dreamily. "Is it fun?"
Honeybreeze and Webwhisker noticed Owlsong flinch at the question. They glanced at each other but stayed silent.
"Some-sometimes," Owlsong choked out. Doestar frowned at the answer but Wrenflight was still interested. "Can you see cats with us now?" she asked.
Owlsong nodded. "Hmm . . there's two she-cats and a tom at Doestar's side. One she-cat looks very, very young-"
"What does she look like?" Doestar interrupted quickly.
Owlsong was quiet for a moment. "She has dark brown stripes and green eyes. By the way of how she acts around you, I'm guessing she's your sister. The other she-cat and tom are your parents. The affection in their eyes tells me so."
Doestar gaped at her. "Do - do you know their names too?"
Owlsong shook her head. "No. But I-" she suddenly stopped and started to tremble. She backed away from Doestar, her eyes wide and wary again.
"What's wrong?" Honeybreeze asked. When Owlsong opened her mouth but didn't respond, Webwhisker repeated her question.
"I-I-" she stammered, shaking her head. "No . . no. . " she mumbled. "DOESTAR!" she shouted and stared directly at the Thornclan leader. Doestar stared back, baffled. "You, Doestar . ." Owlsong breathed. "You had a brother . . I can see him."
"What about my brother?"
"He's not in Starclan . ." Owlsong rasped coldly. "He's in the Dark Forest. He's gone now, but he was . . . he was fighting with your father. . ."
"How do you know it was my brother?" Doestar growled.
"You looked exactly like you."
Doestar and Owlsong stared at each other, their gazes ice cold. "Thistlefrost is in his den," Doestar repeated with a hiss. "Go."
What is she not saying about her brother?
Owlsong dipped her head. She was back to normal again. She trotted somewhat gracefully to the elders den, with Webwhisker, Stonefish and Honeybreeze, all following her. But when they reached the den, Owlsong told them to wait outside. She said she could only go in.
"But why?" Stonefish asked. "Why make us wait?"
"If we come with her, it could end in disaster," Webwhisker answered, putting a paw to his forehead.
Stonefish sat back on his haunches, grumbling. Honeybreeze shuffled her paws awkwardly. What do WE do now?
"Do you feel like other cats are using you?" Stonefish suddenly asked.
Honeybreeze and Webwhisker looked up at the tom.
"Never," Webwhisker breathed.
Honeybreeze couldn't say the same. "Sometimes. . ." she said hesitantly.
The toms stared at her, with Webwhisker leaning forward. "Really?"
She nodded. "I'm constantly hunting, finding the herbs for Poppystem. It's nice to help out the clan, but they're being lazy. They think I'll just do everything for them." Which I have been, because I'm an idiot and I don't know how to say no.
"Huh," Stonefish grunted. "I'm always hunting too." He drew a bird in the dirt with his claw for a while. "I'm used as a distraction. While I talk to the prey, the others sneak up behind them and kill them."
"That sounds boring," Webwhisker commented.
"It is," Stonefish said, still dragging his claw along the dirt's surface.
The three were silent for a while. The waiting was quite awkward for Honeybreeze and Stonefish, but Webwhisker didn't seem to mind the silence. They could hear the low voices of Owlsong and Thistlefrost, but they couldn't make out what they were saying. A few more moments passed by.
A loud, piercing scream gripped Honeybreeze's heart. It was Owlsong.
Every cat in Thornclan rushed towards the elders den but by the time they reached it, Honeybreeze, Webwhisker and Stonefish were already inside.
"What happened?" Webwhisker asked as they jumped in.
In the corner of the den, the Thornclan elder Whiteears, was pressed against the wall, her hackles raised and teeth bared. She looked horrified and mad at the time.
Honeybreeze could barely make out Owlsong's frame in the dark cave.
There was a gash in Owlsong's neck, but not deep in enough to kill her. She was standing over the body of Thistlefrost. His throat was slit, blood running like a river. Owlsong's paws were drenched in blood from the red pool she stood in. Her breaths were shallow, as if there was barely any breathing space and her eyes were wild.
"Owlsong!" Webwhisker shouted. He turned towards Whiteears. "What happened?"
"That idiot brother of mine tried attacking her!" Whiteears hissed. "I-I don't know why, but he suddenly turned into a monster. He wanted blood. H-he attacked her and she k-killed him."
Honeybreeze could scarcely believe her ears. No! This was a terrible ending! Thornclan will loathe Owlsong!
Suddenly, fur brushed up against Honeybreeze's side. Doestar was standing next to her, her eyes fixed directly on Thistlefrost's body.
"My den," she growled dangerously. "NOW."
Even as Owlsong passed Doestar, the leader didn't take her eyes off Thistlefrost's corpse.
"It was a mistake-" Whiteears began but was silenced by Doestar's icy gaze. "We'll talk later," she hissed. She flicked Honeybreeze's flank with her tail and nodded towards the entrance. Honeybreeze nodded and quickly followed Stonefish and Webwhisker out of the den.
"This has gone terrible!" Stonefish groaned.
Honeybreeze stared at her paws. What do we do now?
Webwhisker led the three others (including Owlsong) into Doestar's den, which was inside a large, hollow pine tree.
Doestar and Blazeheart came shortly after. They both looked murderous. Owlsong sat between Webwhisker and Honeybreeze and Stonefish sat next to Honeybreeze. Doestar and Blazeheart stood across from them.
"Did you kill Thistlefrost?" Doestar inquired with a growl.
Honeybreeze was half expecting Owlsong to deny, but the Polarclan she-cat only dipped her head and answered, "Yes."
"Because he wanted to kill me."
Blazeheart almost laughed. "Kill you?" he repeated with a sneer. "Thistlefrost was fourteen seasons old, mouse-brain. He could barely lift his paw off the ground."
"This time he could."
Honeybreeze was shocked at how calm Owlsong was.
Doestar turned to Webwhisker. "How come you did not foresee this?" she inquired.
It took a few moments for the tom to respond. "I foresaw it," he confessed, "but I saw three ways the discussion could have gone." He shuffled his paws. "I was hoping it would go well . . ."
"YOU HOPED?" Doestar thundered. "HOPE NEVER GOT THE CLANS ANYWHERE, HAS IT?"
Honeybreeze gaped at the Thornclan leader. Webwhisker stared down at his paws, unable to meet the leader's gaze.
Doestar turned back to Owlsong. "If Thistlefrost attacked you like you say he did, why did he attack you?"
Owlsong blinked. "Doestar, what you heard about Cragpaw wasn't the hole truth."
Doestar's eyes widened. "What does Cragpaw have to do with this-?"
"Cragpaw was possessed by a Dark Forest cat named Wildfire," Owlsong continued. "Dark Forest cats can only reach earth if somebody lets them through. There is a traitor in my clan. A traitor who led Wildfire down to our camp, so he could kill Cragpaw. Right now, Mottlefur is being targeted by the Dark Forest cats. It is unknown why she is, but Wildfire has stated that her mind is closely guarded somehow.
"Today, when I was with Thistlefrost, he told me about his dreams. He and I have been seen a she-cat named Darkthorn in our dreams. She tries to torture us, turn us insane, which I'm afraid, is slowly working on me. Somehow Wildfire and Darkthorn and possibly others, have the ability to possess another cat's body. Darkthorn gained control of Thistlefrost's body and she attempted to kill me, but I was ready.
"I'm sorry I killed him, but there was no other way. If Darkthorn killed me in his body, she would have killed Whiteears too because she was a witness. If Thistlefrost did live, Darkthorn would have taken control of him again and force him to commit suicide by drowning himself." Owlsong dipped her head. "He asked me to kill him before she took control because he didn't want to hurt anyone. I'm sorry. If you wish to kill me, I will allow it."
Every cat stared at her, their eyes round. Honeybreeze found herself gaping along with Doestar and Webwhisker.
"Darkthorn can control another cat's actions . ." Blazeheart repeated, sounding scared and fascinated
"And their thoughts," Owlsong added.
"Who is the traitor in you clan?" Doestar asked, flexing her claws.
Owlsong let out a long sigh. "I do not know for sure, but I can confirm it is a tom-" she paused - "the Dark Forest cats really need to learn how to keep information to themselves. A Dark Forest tom by the name of Gooseice, the brother of Wildfire, was discussing things with Darkthorn. He kept saying, 'he'll let us through again," and "his clanmates will cheer his name once they realize the good he's been doing.' "
"Gooseice?" Honeybreeze echoed. "I've heard of him before."
Owlsong's eye lit up. "You have?"
"Yeah! His mother Magpiesight and his father Mosspelt were Oakclan cats. Magpiesight left them to die in the river because she decided that they were 'useless' to her."
"Has she ever been punished for that?" Doestar asked.
"Her short life was the punishment."
Doestar sighed. "Owlsong, this a hard decision for me, I hope you realize."
"I understand completely." Owlsong dipped her head again.
A few minutes of silence. "I'll send all of you back to camp," Doestar said after a while. She led them out of her den and Thornclan cats came streaming towards her.
"What happen to Thistlefrost?" "He's dead!" "Who killed him?" "Is Whiteears okay?" "He was old anyway. . "
"Quiet!" Blazeheart ordered.
Doestar cleared her throat. "I'm sending the cats back to their clans. I will discuss Thistlefrost's death after they leave."
The Thornclan cats raised their eyes in suspicion, even mumbled and grunted a few words but they didn't argue.
"Come one," Webwhisker said to the three, leading them through the crowd of cats. Honeybreeze felt two she-cats swipe at her sides as she walked by and she threatened them with a low growl.
When they reached the entrance and were a good distance away from everyone, Owlsong said, "I need you three to listen to me."
When they all sat down, she continued, "The Dark Forest is planning an attack on the clans. Right now, I'm the only spy. Well, not really. More of just a prisoner that they like to torture but anyway, they are looking for cats to recruit. Can you three please join the Dark Forest?"
"WHAT?" Stonefish exclaimed, his eyes wide with horror.
"Are you insane?" Honeybreeze asked lowly. "We could be killed!"
"Not if you guys act like you want to train under them," Owlsong said, an edge of desperation to her voice. "Please. For the clans. They are planning to recruit some warriors tonight."
"What if our minds are guarded and they can't get into our dreams?" Webwhisker inquired.
"Then I guess you don't have to play along."
"Are you sure we'll be safe?" Honeybreeze gulped. We could be ripped to shreds!
Owlsong sighed. "Yes. If you guys stay by my side, you'll be safe. Act as if you guys REALLY want to be trained though, seriously."
"Alright," Stonefish sighed, "I'll join in."
"I'll do it," Webwhisker said slowly.
Honeybreeze hesitated. "Fine. I'll join you."
"Good-night, Webwhisker." Lizardtoe said as she curled in her nest. The tabby she-cat was finally at rest after continuous accusations of, "Owlsong killed Thistlefrost!"
Doestar had lied to the clan, saying that when Owlsong went into the den, Thistlefrost was already dead. Whiteears surprisingly played along saying that she left to eat and when she returned, he was found dead.
"Good-night," Webwhisker replied, his eyelids falling heavy.
Remember, go to the Dark Forest. Go to the Dark Forest.
It took the tom a few minutes to fall asleep. But when he did, he found himself in a dark forest. Rows and rows of lanky, dead trees, loomed over him like shadows. The sky was dark and the breeze was ice cold.The ground was muddy and sucked on his paws as he stepped forward.
This. Is. Disgusting.
Webwhisker kept tripping over roots from the trees as he continued to explore this new forest.
A loud purr rumbled up in the trees as he tripped again. "Very amusing, my dear. Can you close your eyes and walk around? It'll be hilarious to watch you fall again."
Webwhisker whipped around, his heart racing. He looked up at the trees, squinting. He could just barely make out the outline of an orange she-cat, laying lazily in trees.
"Who are you?"
The she-cat laughed. "I should be asking you that," she said. She swiftly climbed down the tree, leaping from branch to branch. She landed close to Webwhisker, making him jump. Her orange fur was sleek and Webwhisker noticed she had black paws and ears just like a fox.
The she-cat marched past him, but beckoned him to follow with her tail.
"Where are we?" Webwhisker asked. "And where are we going?"
"Questions, questions," the she-cat mused. She stopped, turned around and stared at Webwhisker. "You're name is Webwhisker and you are from Thornclan." Before he could ask how she knew, she continued, "You are in the Place of No Stars and we are going to meet up with some of my friends."
Webwhisker nodded. The Place of No Stars is another name for the Dark Forest.
"Also, my name is Alderleaf. Now hurry up." The orange she-cat started to pad away again. Webwhisker quickly caught up. The two were silent, but Webwhisker could not help but jump at every sound. He kept hearing crows scream and cats whispering.
This is not going to be fun.
Alderleaf led Webwhisker to a small clearing that was filled with cats.
Webwhisker recoiled in shock as he spotted Almondfur, Quailfeather and Lakepaw staring at him.
"Webwhisker!" Lakepaw called cheerfully.
Owlsong's words rang his ears They're recruiting cats tonight. Webwhisker shook himself. They don't know the danger they are in!
Alderleaf nudged his side. "Go to them. They are your clanmates. They'll be training with you."
"Oh, r-right." Webwhisker said, forcing a smile. This is bad, bad, bad, he thought as he padded towards his clanmates. Do they know about their plans?
Alderleaf padded to a tall tree across from the other cats. Webwhisker realized that Honeybreeze, Stonefish, and Owlsong were all here. Thank Starclan!
Five more cats suddenly appeared from the shadows. They hung by Alderleaf as if waiting for something. And then Webwhisker saw it.
A massive black she-cat, the tallest cat Webwhisker had ever seen stalked out of the shadows. Her eyes stayed slits, and a low growl rumbled from her throat. Her paws were as big as stones and her claws with stained red, but sharper than Silverthorn. She towered over her companies. Every cat was either shoulder length high, or smaller than that compared to her.
Webwhisker shrunk back. He heard an Oakclan tom with Honeybreeze gasp, "She-she's huge!"
"My name is Darkthorn." The she-cat announced.
Webwhisker caught Owlsong's afraid glance.
"You have all been brought here today for training in the Place of No Stars," Darkthorn said. "We can make you stronger and better than any of your clanmates. The clans are being ruled in the wrong way. The leaders don't understand how to lead. But I do. We can make the clans realize their wrongs."
"How do you know how to lead a clan?" an apprentice from Polarclan asked.
A thin smile spread across Darkthorn's face. "I used to lead Polarclan. But I unfortunately died before I could receive my nine lives."
"Oh," the apprentice murmured.
"What have the leaders done wrong?" Tornsage from Creekclan asked.
Darkthorn's eyes darkened. "The leaders are letting the clans fall apart. I have seen it before. In my time and your time, the leaders didn't and still don't understand what power is. Our duty now, is to make them bow down to the rightful rulers. But once they do, you cats will be honored and praised for saving them."
I'm so confused, Webwhisker thought. The other cats are blinded by their thirst for power, that they ignore all the holes in her story. Are they seriously that gullible?
Tornsage looked pleased with the plan and her muscles relaxed.
"These are my friends," Darkthorn said, gesturing to the six cats around her. "This is Alderleaf and her brother Thunderclaw, Dockheart, Silentstep, Gooseice and his brother, Wildfire."
Webwhisker cringed just looking at Silentstep. The left side of his face was covered in dark pink scars. His left ear was sliced in half and he looked very angry.
"Because these six are my most trusted friends," Darkthorn began, "I will assign a couple of you to each cat. I will also be taking two of my own 'apprentices.' " Darkthorn looked at each cat. She examined each of there body structures and claws from a distance.
"Gooseice, you shall have Snowpaw from Polarclan and Russetheart from Oakclan," Darkthorn said.
The gray tabby dipped his head and padded towards Russetheart. Snowpaw hesitated, but her mentor, Cedarjaw, encouraged her to move forward.
"Alderleaf, you will have Cedarjaw from Polarclan, Stonefish from Creekclan, and Quailfeather from Thornclan. . . Dockheart will take Lakepaw from Thornclan and Duskpaw from Polarclan. Thunderclaw will take Almondfur from Thornclan and Spottedpaw from Creekclan. Silentstep will take Clawpelt from Creekclan and Birdpaw from Polarclan. Wildfire will take Honeybreeze from Oakclan, Webwhisker from Thornclan and Tornsage from Creekclan. I'll take Owlsong and Leopardstep from Polarclan."
"Please watch Birdpaw for me," Leopardstep whispered to Clawpelt.
Clawpelt nodded. "Don't worry; I'll make sure he doesn't harm her."
Harm her? Webwhisker thought curiously. Would the Dark Forest cats really harm apprentices?
Stonefish reluctantly joined Cedarjaw and Quailfeather as Alderleaf began to greet them. He flashed Owlsong a look that said, "If I die, it's your fault."
Webwhisker watched as Lakepaw and Duskpaw awkwardly padded towards Dockheart.
Dockheart . . She doesn't look too mean. Hopefully she'll be good towards them.
Almondfur slowly left Webwhisker's side. She hesitantly approached Thunderclaw with Spottedpaw. Webwhisker noticed Stonefish gazing sadly at Spottedpaw. The apprentice noticed it too and flashed him a smile. She didn't understand Stonefish's concerns for her.
Before Webwhisker, Honeybreeze and Tornsage could move towards Wildfire, he came running over, examining them like Darkthorn had done.
When Wildfire reached Honeybreeze, he brushed his tail against her shoulder.
"Is such a pretty cat really willing to stain her delicate coat red?" he mused.
Both Webwhisker and Tornsage tensed. Stonefish and Owlsong sent Wildfire dangerous glares.
Honeybreeze flinched. "I-er- of course I'd be willing," she finally meowed. "Why else would I be here? After I'm done training here, I'll receive the true praise I deserve from my clan." She puffed out her chest proudly and attempted a haughty gaze.
Wildfire stared at her. A smile slowly lifted the corners of his mouth. "Very good. Just as I expected from she-cat like you," he purred and as he padded forward, he flicked Honeybreeze's ear with he tail.
"That's it-!" Stonefish snarled.
"No!" Webwhisker hissed lowly. He jumped in front of Stonefish, blocking his path. "Look, I hate the way Wildfire is acting around her too, but you can't draw attention to yourself."
No cat really noticed them talking except for Tornsage.
"He's creepy," Tornsage agreed.
Webwhisker glanced at the Creekclan she-cat. Is she really here to train or to spy?
"Alright," Darkthorn said, interrupting the cats. "Mentors, find a place for your apprentices to train." She turned her green eyes towards and Owlsong. A wicked smile appeared on her face. "I'll be keeping a very close eye on you, Owlsong."
Owlsong looked down.
Owlsong can't even look her in the eyes!
"Alright, kitties," Wildfire said cheerfully, "follow me!"
Tornsage followed right away but Webwhisker and Honeybreeze were a bit more reluctant.
"Make sure he doesn't harm her," Stonefish growled in Webwhisker's ear.
"I'm not stupid!" he growled back. I won't let anyone hurt her . . Oh, that sounded like I loved her. Glad I'm thinking this. WAIT- Does Stonefish have feelings for her?
Russetheart stared after Honeybreeze as she followed closely behind Tornsage.
Looks like Stonefish has a competition, Webwhisker thought. He began to pad after the two she-cats.
After a minute of walking aimlessly through the forest, Wildfire stopped. He turned around and looked at the three. "This should be far enough," he meowed. "Now, let's get to know each other. I already know your names, clans, and skills. I want to know how good you are at fighting."
"How do you know our best skills?" Tornsage asked.
Wildfire smiled. "You'd be surprised at what we see from up here," he laughed. "Tornsage, you're best skill is hunting birds. You have been praised multiple times by Minnowstar and your clanmates for that. Webwhisker is also great at hunting. His ears and eyesight are the best-"
I actually get flashes of where the prey is in my mind. That is really why I'm good at hunting. But he doesn't know that, thank Starclan!
"Honeybreeze is unusually fast," Wildfire said, tipping his head to one side.
Honeybreeze froze and her eyes widened. Webwhisker flicked her with his tail. "Don't let him know about your special ability from Starclan," he whispered in her ear.
"What's all this whispering about?"
"Er- nothing," Webwhisker said hastily. "I could tell that she was shocked by how you knew this. I was trying to comfort her."
"He is telling the truth," Tornsage added. "I heard him."
Honeybreeze smiled at Tornsage and Webwhisker just gaped at her.
Tornsage is backing us up! Why?
"Hmm," Wildfire grunted. "Such sweet friends. Anyway, Honeybreeze is a very fast runner and fighter. Definitely not the strongest, which is why I brought her here. The more you sharpen your skills, the more praise and power you will receive."
"That's nice to know," Honeybreeze sighed. "I'm always being called weak." She glanced at Webwhisker and quickly looked away before Wildfire could notice.
She's acting pretty nicely. .
A smile reached his lips. "The first thing to know when fighting, is to ALWAYS be ready-!" Wildfire launched himself into the air and crashed into Webwhisker. The Thornclan tom felt claws rip through his fur and heard Honeybreeze yelp in surprise. Pain shot through him as blood sprayed the grass beneath him. Webwhisker wriggled underneath him and clawed at his chest.
Wildfire jumped off as quick as a mouse, dodging Webwhisker's paw. Webwhisker stood up and both toms lunged at each other. Webwhisker hooked his claws on Wildfire's thick fur and flung him to the floor. Wildfire fought back with furious kicks and blows. Webwhisker eventually let go, tearing out clumps of fur as he did. Wildfire was like a snake, slithering low to ground and leaping as Webwhisker stood on his hind paws, aiming for his exposed belly.
Webwhisker gasped with pain at the impact and desperately tore his claws through Wildfire's pelt as the Dark Forest tom grasped his neck with his teeth. Webwhisker finally gripped Wildfire's shoulders and raked his claws down them, sending drops of blood soaring through the air.
But Wildfire only dug his teeth in deeper. Pain shot through Webwhisker and he shuddered, digging his claws deeper into Wildfire's shoulders. Wildfire shook him, forcing him to lose his grip on his shoulders.
After a heartbeat, Wildfire was suddenly yanked off Webwhisker. It took Webwhisker a few moments to stir and realize what had happened. He gasped in surprise.
Honeybreeze was dragging Wildfire by the scruff, violently shaking him. Tornsage was sending blows to Wildfire's flank and shoulder whenever she got the chance. Wildfire snarled and turned on Honeybreeze lashing out with his forepaws. Honeybreeze let go and staggered backwards, trying to avoid his paws. Tornsage leaped on his hindquarters and raked her claws down his flanks. Honeybreeze then jumped, knocking Wildfire down.
Just as the she-cats shared triumphant smiles, Wildfire snarled and scrambled onto his paws, lunging for Honeybreeze.
Webwhisker stood up with a grunt, ignoring the pain in his neck and shoulder. He stumbled forward. The pain-! Ow-er- I can't fight again!
Tornsage swiped at Wildfire's shoulder but was sent reeling back in pain as Wildfire clawed her muzzle. Honeybreeze struggled underneath the tom's weight. He had her pinned down, one paw on her shoulder and the other on her neck. His claws sunk into her shoulder and neck, making her shriek. She clawed out clumps of grass in pain.
"Never- get distracted," Wildfire growled into her ear.
He jumped off of her and spun around, staring at three with another smile as if nothing happened.
Tornsage ran To Webwhisker's side and helped him up. She let him lean on her as they padded forward.
"You all fought well," Wildfire said as Honeybreeze stood up. "However, like I said, you must always be ready to fight. Also, don't get distracted either," he added, tilting his head towards Honeybreeze.
"You never gave us a chance to prepare!" Honeybreeze protested.
"You could have killed Webwhisker," Tornsage growled at Wildfire as he approached. He shrugged, "It's not my fault his mentor was bad at battle training."
"Anyway," Wildfire meowed, flicking his tail, "We are running out of time. Tomorrow we will actually train. Let's head back to where we came from." He led the three cats through the trees once more and they reached the small clearing shortly after.
By the time they reached the clearing, Dockheart was sitting behind Lakepaw and Duskpaw. The two looked happy.
"What did you do with these two?" Wildfire asked the black she-cat as he approached the three.
"We went over their skills," Dockheart said. "They're surprisingly good at dodging," she finished with a smirk.
Lakepaw and Duskpaw glanced at each other. Lakepaw gave her chest a few embarrassed licks but Duskpaw puffed out his. "Dockheart said we'll be the strongest cats in our clans !"
Wildfire suddenly leaned forward, pressing his whiskers against the Duskpaw's cheek.
"Do you believe that?" he asked.
Both Duskpaw and Lakepaw cringed backwards.
"Leave them alone," Dockheart growled.
Webwhisker stepped forward, pushing his way in between Wildfire and the apprentices.
Wildfire backed away with a soft chuckle. "It was a simple question."
"Be careful around Wildfire," Dockheart whispered in Webwhisker's ear.
Webwhisker nodded. "I know." I won't let him do anything to harm the other cats.
Soon the other cats came back, including Darkthorn with Leopardstep and Owlsong, who both looked as if they just witnessed murder.
"How did everyone do?" Darkthorn asked as they all sat down.
"Lakepaw and Duskpaw and great at dodging," Dockheart purred.
"These three are an interesting bunch," Alderleaf meowed flatly, gesturing to Cedarjaw, Quailfeather, and Stonefish, who looked upset with whatever had happened.
"Almondfur is pretty decent," Thunderclaw said. "Spottedpaw is a brand new apprentice, so she did not do too well."
Webwhisker noticed Stonefish's eyes darken and narrow to a cut on Spottedpaw's cheek.
"I was surprised by Clawpelt's and Birdpaw's fighting skills," Silentstep said with a nod. "Very good at slashing with the fore paws."
Webwhisker noted a hint of relief in Leopardstep's eyes as she gazed down at her apprentice.
"My apprentices are very good," Wildfire said with a bright smile. "They are not always prepared though."
"They're okay. . ." Gooseice growled, flicking his tail towards Snowpaw and Russetheart. "Too soft."
"Good, good. . ." Darkthorn mewed shortly. "We will meet again tomorrow night."
"Yes, Darkthorn." All the Dark Forest cats said in unison.
Before any cat could move, the Dark Forest suddenly started spinning. Webwhisker's vision was blurred and images flashed in front of his eyes. His chest tightened and he started to hear screams of alarm.
The first image appeared before Webwhisker's eyes. Silentstep raced forward, and jumped on him, twisting round his neck and ripping out his throat.
NO! Webwhisker wanted to shout. I can't die!
Three more scenes flashed in front of him. One scene was Silentstep killing Honeybreeze then him. The second was Webwhisker killing Silentstep, but then being killed by Thunderclaw. The last scene was him having Silentstep rip his stomach open.
No . . NO!
Webwhisker kept searching for paths that would lead him to surviving the attack, but no path led him there. He was always killed no matter how many times he tried to change it.
I am going to die and there's no way to stop it.
~Chapter Nine's Notes~
(Dark Forest cats)
Darkthorn - Massive black she-cat with dark green eyes
Wildfire - Black tabby tom with brown and black stripes and blue eyes
Gooseice - Light gray tom
Alderleaf - Orange she-cat with black ears and paws and yellow eyes
Thunderclaw - Thick-furred tabby brown tom with amber eyes and white flecks
Dockheart - Black she-cat with a white dash on her chest
Silentstep - Silver-and-gray tom with one missing eye and scars running down his face
Owlsong's head throbbed with pain.
She could barely breathe when she woke up. Three days had passed and each night they visited the Dark Forest. And each night it kept getting worse.
But she could only think about one thing. I know who the traitor is. I must tell Leopardstep before he strikes again!
Owlsong shook herself as she trotted out of her nest. She looked around the warrior den, trying to find Leopardstep. But the only golden pelt she saw was Beachstripe's.
She must be on patrol . . . like she always is.
While at the Dark Forest, Leopardstep confessed to Owlsong that she did not trust the Dark Forest cats. She felt like everyone was in danger and she was extremely worried for her apprentice, Birdpaw. Owlsong told her she was spying on them and Leopardstep agreed to continue watching them along with her.
Last night I told her about the traitor in our clan, Owlsong thought darkly, and I finally figured it out. He was hiding in plain sight. The traitor is Cedarjaw.
Owlsong exited the den, and marched out into the clearing.
"Where is Leopardstep?" she asked Tigerpaw as he padded by.
Her half-brother thought for a moment. "She is on patrol," he mewed. "But she should be back soon."
Owlsong nodded. "Thanks, Tigerpaw."
Ah . . . my little step-brother is good apprentice. So is Milkpaw. I'm surprised Pearlfeather's attitude hasn't rubbed off on them.
Owlsong's steadily descended into a dark hole. Pearlfeather had not spoken to her since Cragpaw died. It was hard to tell what her mother was thinking all the time. She seemed scared of Owlsong. Would not be surprised . . I can see dead cats lumbering around the camp.
Owlsong waited patiently by the camp entrance for the patrol to return. I'm scared for Snowpaw. Her mentor is Cedarjaw! What if he teaches her how to kill? And Milkpaw is being mentored by his brother, Graythroat. Is he like Cedarjaw?
A shiver ran down Owlsong's spine. I have to get rid of him somehow.
The morning patrol returned after a minute. Leopardstep saw Owlsong and immediately turned to her with Birdpaw at her side.
"What are you waiting for?" The golden she-cat asked.
Leopardstep's gaze darkened and her eyes flickered downwards towards Birdpaw for a moment. "Why?"
"We need to talk."
Leopardstep and Birdpaw exchanged puzzled glances. Leopardstep dismissed Birdpaw, who slowly padded away to join Duskpaw and Snowpaw at the prey pile.
"What is it you want to talk about?"
"Cedarjaw," Owlsong growled.
Leopardstep blinked. "Why? Has he angered Marshpelt again?"
"No- no." Owlsong paused, then sighed. "I think Cedarjaw is the traitor."
Leopardstep nearly fell over from shock. "Are you kidding me?!"
"Shh!" Owlsong hissed and gave Longcloud a quick smile as he glanced over at them. "This needs to stay between you and me," she growled softly. "No one else knows about us spying on the Dark Forest."
A growl rumbled in Leopardstep's throat. "What makes you suddenly so sure that Cedarjaw brought Wildfire down to the clans?"
"Think about it," Owlsong told her, "the Dark Forest cats said it was a tom. Which eliminated most of our clanmates as the traitors. No way in Starclan would Shadestar or Fallenfeather be traitors. WWAAYY too loyal to Polarclan. The medicine cats are out of the question and so are all the apprentices and elders. It was not Longcloud since he was Cragpaw's mentor and it was not Marshpelt since he wouldn't harm a single hair on any cat. It isn't Berrymask either since he is truly loyal to Polarclan and let's be honest, he can't keep a secret."
"So now we only have two suspects," Leopardstep growled, "Cedarjaw and Graythroat."
"Ah, but we know that Cedarjaw is the traitor."
"Cedarjaw was at the Dark Forest with us," Owlsong began to explain, "he was so eager to start working for the Dark Forest cats. Three nights ago, Webwhisker had a seizure. He did not tell us why, but after that, Stonefish had approached us. He told us how Alderleaf acted like she knew Cedarjaw. He even uses a fighting technique she showed him!"
Leopardstep was silent, her eyes soft and thoughtful. "It could be him," she mewed at last.
"It is him."
Leopardstep's gaze hardened. "It is not enough proof," she growled.
"There is no other proof!" Owlsong hissed.
"Exactly why we can not tell Shadestar," Leopardstep snapped back. "We must keep spying on the forest, Owlsong. You're only picking up little details, not the whole thing. What if it's a cat from a different clan who let Wildfire through?"
"If that was so," growled Owlsong, "why did Wildfire kill Cragpaw and why does he want Mottlefur?"
Leopardstep shrugged. "Maybe he's trying to divide us."
Owlsong's tail lashed with rage. How can she be so blind? "Think about it at least."
"I will." Leopardstep promised. She and Owlsong decided to split up before any cat wondered what they were talking about.
Before Owlsong could get far, Graythroat quickly ran to her. "Owlsong, I want you to show the apprentices how to do the somersault move you did on Mottlefur when you two were apprentices."
"Why not ask Beachstripe to show you?"
Graythroat rolled his eyes. "She's getting ready to go on a hunting patrol."
Owlsong hesitated. "I can show them," she decided out loud.
"Thank you so much!" Graythroat said. He led Owlsong to the entrance where the apprentices and the other mentors were waiting. "She has agreed." (Only Leopardstep and Birdpaw were not there).
"Owlsong's joining us!" Milkpaw excitedly gasped to Tigerpaw, as they headed out of camp.
"Er- I don't mean to be rude or anything, but isn't too early for them to start battle training?" Owlsong suddenly asked. Shouldn't they still be cleaning out the dens and hunting?
Heronflight tilted her head. "Maybe, but Cedarjaw thought it was a good idea to start earlier. He talked to Shadestar about it and he approved."
Hmm. That figures.
Fallenfeather, who was leading the mentors with his apprentice, Duskpaw, came to a stop at the training hollow.
He turned to face the others. "Apprentices, remember, claws sheathed when your fighting your clanmate."
The apprentices nodded.
"Good. Now, Owlsong, she is not a mentor, but we brought her today to teach you guys how to do a somersault move on your opponent," Fallenfeather nodded to the calico she-cat.
"How come you only know the move?" Duskpaw inquired.
"I was taught by Beachstripe, who was taught by our elder, Hailfoot. Only us three know it," Owlsong explained. "However, today, you five apprentices will learn how to do it too." She looked at the mentors. "I will like somebody to fight me so you guys understand what to do in a real battle. Anyone volunteer for a fight?"
"I will," Fallenfeather said, almost right away.
Owlsong nodded and watched the deputy step away from Duskpaw's side and stand two rabbit lengths away.
Owlsong suppressed a shiver. She was Fallenfeather's exact height, but he had a lot more experience with training and fighting. After all, Fallenfeather had three apprentices already, including Duskpaw, and he had been in battle twice. He crouched down, his muscles bunching underneath his tabby pelt.
He might be too big to flip, Owlsong realized, panicking, but she readied herself anyway.
Fallenfeather launched himself forward. Owlsong met him in the air, colliding into his chest. Fallenfeather fell onto his back, but he swiftly dodged Owlsong's slash and leaped onto her shoulder, pulling her down. Owlsong hissed as he pushed all of his weight onto her as she fell on her back.
Owlsong fell limp. For a split second, Fallenfeather had thought she had given up. But she did not. Owlsong took the advantage and rolled out from under his paws, jumped up and lunged at him. Fallenfeather zigzagged past her but she doubled back and smacked his muzzle lightly. She jumped backwards as he swiped twice with his forepaws.
Owlsong raced towards him but instead, went around him. When Fallenfeather had to spin around, she surprised him with a pounce. Just like her fight with Mottlefur, she hooked her claws on his shoulders and, with all her strength, pulled him with her as she dove to the ground, turning head over heels. She listened to the tom grunt as he hit the ground. As Owlsong landed on her feet, she threw Fallenfeather to the side.
Fallenfeather slowly lifted himself to his paws with a smile.
"WHOA," The apprentices gasped simultaneously.
"That was amazing!" Graythroat exclaimed.
"Hmm," Cedarjaw mused. "That could work really well on enemies."
Owlsong and Cedarjaw locked eyes. He gave her a quick smile before he began speaking with his apprentice, Snowpaw.
Owlsong realized how much Snowpaw admired her mentor. She always looked up to him with bright eyes and always did as she was told. She could tell that Cedarjaw liked her. Snowpaw will be okay. He won't harm her. . . But he still might harm other cats.
Cedarjaw stood up. "I know we are supposed to be training, but may I hunt Fallenfeather? Shadestar won't send out another hunting patrol today and I feel like we might new a little bit more food."
Every cat was silent as Fallenfeather thought to himself. "Go ahead," he meowed at last. "But we'll keep Snowpaw here so that she can learn the move."
"Goodbye Cedarjaw!" Snowpaw called happily as Cedarjaw turned around and stalked through the brambles.
What is he up to this time? Owlsong wondered. "Er- may I hunt also?" Owlsong asked. "I will be back as soon as possible," she added quickly.
Fallenfeather let out a short sigh. "Alright."
Owlsong dipped her head and stalked off through the brambles that Cedarjaw went through.
Where did he go?
Owlsong sniffed the air. That way. She continued on forward. She followed his scent around more brambles and bracken, but his scent continued to go farther and farther out until it reached the lake shore. It took Owlsong a little longer than two minutes to reach the lake.
There was no sign of Cedarjaw. But his scent was terribly strong.
But where could he be if he's not- Owlsong's thoughts were cut off as something collided into her, knocking her off her feet.
Owlsong glanced up to see Cedarjaw, on top of her. He had one paw placed firmly on her neck and the other one on her shoulder. She writhed violently underneath, trying slip out from his powerful paws.
"I knew you'd follow me," he hissed.
Owlsong gasped as he dug his claws into her shoulder. "I only wondered where you were hunting!"
"Lies!" Cedarjaw hissed again. "After you woke up one sunrise ago, I stayed a bit longer in my sleep. Darkthorn knows you are not truly loyal to the Dark Forest. Did you think you could get away that easily?"
"Of course I'm not loyal!" Owlsong growled through gritted teeth, "She and Wildfire tried possessing me, just like Wildfire possessed Cragpaw!" Owlsong was finally able to rip herself free and rolled out from underneath his paws. She scrambled onto her paws and bared her teeth at him.
"I knew you would start to suspect me," Cedarjaw growled. "I don't know how you figured out."
Owlsong froze. "It is true," she breathed. "You let Wildfire kill Cragpaw."
"I didn't tell him he could kill Cragpaw!" Cedarjaw snarled. "I told him he could use him, not kill him. But he killed him anyway to scare Polarclan!" Cedarjaw paused, then added with a growl, "It was probably better that Cragpaw died though. He was too loyal to the clan."
"What about Mottlefur and Nimblefeet?" Owlsong inquired.
"Mottlefur wants to be leader someday," Cedarjaw meowed. "If we promise her power, she'll join us. Nimblefeet is heavily influenced by his best friends, Mottlefur and Applepaw. If Mottlefur joins, he'll join."
"What about Applepaw?"
Cedarjaw shrugged. "We could kill him too. After all, the medicine cats think too highly of Starclan."
"What about the apprentices?"
Cedarjaw smiled. "Duskpaw, Birdpaw, and Snowpaw already are training in the Dark Forest, remember? They will be on our side anytime. Tigerpaw will grow into a fine warrior, and I believe he will join his friends. Milkpaw . . I'm not sure about her. She might join the Dark Forest if Tigerpaw does."
"Stay out of their heads," Owlsong hissed dangerously.
"Their minds are blocked anyway," Cedarjaw growled. "I don't know how they keep their minds safely guarded, but that doesn't matter right now." He bared his teeth at Owlsong. "Either you do the smart thing and join us, or you die."
"I'll never join the Dark Forest!" Owlsong yowled and unsheathed her claws. "I will always protect my clan!"
Cedarjaw yowled with rage. "Then die!" He sprang from the lake's edge and launched himself at Owlsong, claws outstretched.
Owlsong met her attacker with claws and fangs. They crashed into each other, ripping out tufts of fur as they wrestled on the sandy shore of the lake. Cedarjaw grasped Owlsong's scruff between his teeth and attempted to shake her, but she twisted her body around and kicked him the jaw. He let go with a grunt but sprang back at her once they both recovered. Owlsong dodged to the right and latched on to his shoulder. Cedarjaw snapped at her ears, and nipped the tip of one but that was not enough to make her release his shoulder.
As blood drizzled down his leg, Cedarjaw paused, then fell on his side, crushing Owlsong beneath his weight. Owlsong thrashed widely underneath, hissing and spitting. Cedarjaw stood up and as fast as snake, he bit down on her hind leg and yanked her backwards. Owlsong yelped as she felt teeth hit bone. She kicked his jaw again, and when he let go, she jumped away from him, panting.
Owlsong's hind leg ached with pain as blood sprayed from the wound.
I can't let him win, she told herself. I have to hold off until the mentors and apprentices come looking for us.
With a howl, Cedarjaw charged at her. Owlsong slipped past him but he quickly doubled back and pushed her sideways into the lake.
Owlsong felt cold water brush her ankles as she staggered into the lake. It was shallow, but it terrified her every second that she stood in it. She gazed up at Cedarjaw and gulped.
I can't go around him! He's trapped me in the lake!
Cedarjaw lashed out with his forepaws, forcing Owlsong to stumble backwards. Cedarjaw was in the water too now, but he still had the upper hand. He leaped at Owlsong, catching both her shoulders in his claws and pulling her down. Water splashed around them as Owlsong fought through his grip, ignoring the pain in her shoulders. Cedarjaw let go and jumped back.
Owlsong made a feeble effort to stand up and pant.
He's trying to wear me out, she realized. The lake is making it harder to fight in and he knows it.
A cruel smile appeared on Cedarjaw's face and he pounced at her again. Owlsong had to backup to avoid his teeth. As she did, she felt the sand beneath her paws slip and she fell into the water. Owlsong scrambled away from Cedarjaw's pounce.
Owlsong pressed her stomach against the surface of the water. She shook from fear and from the chill of the lake.
Cedarjaw sprang at her once more. He was too quick and he barreled into her, forcing her to crash through the water. The lake kept getting deeper, each step back. The lake's water was now lapping at Owlsong's stomach.
I can't fight much longer, she thought.
Another spasm of pain shot through her as claws ripped at her sides. But this time, they never left her side. Cedarjaw kept his claws on her side and forced Owlsong underneath the water. Owlsong's eyes burned as her head dunked underwater. She thrashed desperately underneath Cedarjaw's huge paws.
I'M GOING TO DROWN!
Owlsong's head bobbed above the surface and she gasped for air. Cedarjaw forcefully pushed her head back down. His wicked laugh was muffled by Owlsong's splashing. She flailed violently underneath him, every muscle of her body screaming for her to stop.
STARCLAN SAVE ME!
Owlsong's lungs screamed for air and she was growing more tired. Cedarjaw could sense her moving less and let out a yowl of triumph.
I going to die drowning . . . Owlsong's thoughts grew fuzzy.
Suddenly, a huge wave formed behind Cedarjaw and crashed down on him, sending him and Owlsong flailing through the water. Cedarjaw was thrown aside and Owlsong was sent towards the lake shore.
Owlsong's heart quickened like snake as she breathed in air. "Thank Starclan!" she cried out. She wearily stood up and looked out to the lake. No one was there, but the waves of lake became calm again. She looked to her right and saw Cedarjaw lying in the shallow waters of the lake. His sides heaved, warning Owlsong that he was still alive.
As quickly and as quietly as she could, she stalked towards him. His back was turned to her so he could not see her. But he can still hear me.
Owlsong stood two rabbit lengths away and readied herself. Just as Cedarjaw lifted his head, Owlsong lunged forward, ignoring the burning pain in her muscles and in her side. She landed directly on Cedarjaw, cutting off his screech as she dug her fangs into his throat.
Now it was Cedarjaw's turn to thrash underneath her. He kicked her stomach multiple times and clawed at her ears, trying to get her off. But Owlsong did not let go. She sunk her teeth deeper and deeper until he could scream no longer. Owlsong backed away, blinking. She licked the warm blood from her jaws and watched blankly as Cedarjaw writhed violently in the shallow water. Blood poured from his throat and mouth like an endless river.
A soft voice brushed Owlsong's ears. "You killed him." It was Blackivy.
"NO!" Owlsong screeched. "NO! NO! I-I did not want to! No! It was a mistake!"
A black and white outline of Blackivy appeared in front of her. "It had to end this way," she told her quietly. "If you did not kill him, he would have killed you and many others."
Owlsong froze, her heart hammering. "Did- did you send that wave that came crashing down on him?"
Blackivy blinked. "It was not I who sent the wave," she meowed, "It was Ripplefeather, a Creekclan tom from long ago who heard your cry for help." When Owlsong opened her mouth to speak, Blackivy hastily added, "Ripplefeather was drowned in this lake. Sometimes he comes down from Starclan and visits it. Strange cat."
"W-will I be in trouble?" Owlsong inquired, her eyes slowly landing on Cedarjaw's body.
Blackivy's expression was blank. "Maybe." Her outline began to dissolve as the wind picked up. She had disappeared, leaving Owlsong alone.
A screech broke the silence. Owlsong gasped and whirled around.
Jaws dropped, Graythroat, Milkpaw and Snowpaw stared at her in horror.
Owlsong gaped back at the them, wanting to speak, but no word came out. She glanced down at her bloody paws and gasped. "No!" she screeched, "it's not what you think! Cedarjaw! He-he tried t-to attack me!"
Snowpaw wailed but Milkpaw just stared at her with round eyes of fear. Graythroat's gaze steadily drifted to his brother's body. His expression was mournful, but there was something else in his eyes that Owlsong could not understand.
Is he angry. .? Relieved . . ?
Suddenly, Heronflight, Tigerpaw, Fallenfeather and Duskpaw scrambled out of the ferns.
"Owlsong!" A shrill cry from Heronflight startled the calico she-cat. "You-you killed Cedarjaw!"
"NO!" Owlsong shook her head fiercely. "He attacked me! I was only defending myself!" She bounded towards Fallenfeather but as she did, he back up, his mouth slightly open and his eyes wide with horror and confusion. "Lead me back to camp! Please! I must speak with Shadestar." When Fallenfeather said nothing, Owlsong let out a hiss. "PLEASE. I will explain everything."
Fallenfeather's ear twitched. "We'll lead you back to camp." He spoke calmly, but Owlsong could sense his anger and fear rising.
"We can't lead that murderer back to camp!" Heronflight yelped.
"Don't accuse her of being a murderer!" Milkpaw hissed at the warrior.
Both Graythroat and Tigerpaw gasped.
"We don't know what happened," Milkpaw growled, her eyes narrowing, "but we can not be sure that Cedarjaw attacked her or if she is lying. Please, Fallenfeather, give her chance." Milkpaw's eyes were pleading as she held back tears.
She doesn't want to believe I killed him. Owlsong's throat tightened at the thought.
"We will lead you back to camp." Fallenfeather repeated flatly. "Graythroat and Milkpaw, carry Cedarjaw's body back to camp. Tigerpaw and Duskpaw, stay behind me and Heronflight - just in case." The Polarclan deputy shoved Owlsong forward. He and Heronflight stalked behind her as they padded to camp.
Half of Owlsong screamed, YOU'RE A MURDERER. But the other half whispered, It was the right thing. He could have killed many others. But then a lingering question crept into her head. Was it the right thing?
It did not take long to reach camp. And when they did, Marshpelt yelped at the sight of Owlsong, alarming every other cat. All the warriors spilled out of their dens, along with Birdpaw, the medicine cats peered around the entrance, the elders did too, and Shadestar came running out.
"What is i-" Shadestar began but cut himself off with a gasp as he gazed down at Owlsong. His eyes flickered to her and then to Cedarjaw's body, then back to her again.
"Shadestar," Heronflight rasped, "Owlsong killed Cedarjaw."
Gasps and protests roared through the crowd of cats:
"She would never kill him!" "How could she?!" "But Cedarjaw did nothing wrong. . ." "Are you sure they were not attacked?" "Did you watch them fight?" "How dare you accuse her of murder!"
"SILENCE!" Shadestar bellowed. The clan fell silent for a moment, but then murmurs arose from the crowd.
Owlsong looked Shadestar directly in the eyes as he turned his head back to her.
"Owlsong," he growled. "Explain yourself."
Owlsong's whole body became stiff as she and Shadestar never glanced away.
Tell him the truth. Tell him the truth.
Owlsong breathed in steadily. "I- I killed Cedarjaw."
While every cat gasped or screeched insults, both Berrymask and Pearlfeather flinched back as if they were struck by stones.
"Silence!" Shadestar hissed. His tail lashed behind him and turned to Fallenfeather, who was at Owlsong's side. "Explain what you saw."
"Er- I arrived when Cedarjaw was already dead and when Owlsong tried explaining her actions to Graythroat, Milkpaw and Snowpaw." Fallenfeather explained. He dipped his head towards Graythroat and Milkpaw. "They should have seen what happened."
Owlsong's breath caught in her throat as all eyes turned to the mentor and apprentice now. Milkpaw cringed against Graythroat's legs, but her mentor stood firm.
What did they witness?
Graythroat glanced down at Milkpaw. "I sent her to scout up ahead before Snowpaw and I proceeded forward. She has the best sense of direction." He smiled at her. "Tell them the truth."
Milkpaw slowly brought herself up. She stood up straight and cleared her throat. "I saw Owlsong and Cedarjaw fight," she confessed.
Owlsong's heart tightened as Tigerpaw exchanged fearful glances with Pearlfeather.
"However," Milkpaw continued, "before they fought, they got into an argument. I could not really hear correctly, but Cedarjaw seemed furious after Owlsong brought up Cragpaw's death."
Several gasps erupted from the crowd but Shadestar stared intently at Milkpaw, waiting for more.
Milkpaw glanced at Owlsong and gulped. "Owlsong did not initiate the attack. It was Cedarjaw who leaped at her first. After they began fight, I returned to Graythroat and Snowpaw and told them that they were fighting." She stared at Owlsong. "That was all I saw and heard."
Owlsong's head buzzed like a bee and she could not help but stare at her half-sister with her mouth partially open.
Shadestar dipped his head towards Owlsong. "Explain your side of the story."
Owlsong shuffled her paws uneasily. "Cedarjaw k-knew," she faltered, "I would follow him out to the lake's shore. He turned on me when I reached the lake-" she paused "-Cedarjaw was training in the Dark Forest." She ignored her clanmates protesting, "You're lying!" Shadestar gaped at her in disbelief but he did not speak.
"In my sleep, a tom named Wildfire led me to the Dark Forest too. He took me, Cedarjaw, Snowpaw, Duskpaw, Leopardstep and Birdpaw. They split us up and began to test our abilities. They trained us in their evil ways." Owlsong looked Shadestar directly in the eyes. "Darkthorn is coming again. She's planning an attack just like the one she planned when she was alive."
Shadestar was silent.
Owlsong pressed on with her story. "I killed Cedarjaw because he would have killed many others." She turned towards Sandflower, who was sitting close to Shadestar. "He had Wildfire kill Cragpaw."
Shadestar's eyes widened and Sandflower wailed softly for her lost son.
"I'm sorry Owlsong," Graythroat suddenly spoke. "But I believe you are lying."
Milkpaw's jaw opened but she quickly shut it. Owlsong turned on Graythroat. "Lying?"
Graythroat's eyes narrowed into slits. "My brother would never do anything like this!" he declared. "Why would he decide to kill Cragpaw or other cats? He knew the dangers of the Dark Forest so why would he join them? Are you accusing Leopardstep, Birdpaw, Duskpaw and Snowpaw of being traitors too? Shouldn't you be a traitor if you also trained in the forest?"
"Darkthorn is very manipulative," Owlsong growled. "She told us all about power and-"
"And you trusted her?" Graythroat interrupted.
Owlsong dug her claws into the ground. "I would never trust Darkthorn! I only killed Cedarjaw because he wanted to kill me. He tried to drown me, for Starclan's sake! Even though he tried killing me, I had no intention to kill him. I wanted him alive so that he could tell his side of the story to the clan but he would have lied and accused me of attacking him. So I killed him to protect myself and to protect my clan. Blackivy even appeared me to saying that he had to die!"
"That does not explain why you were in the Dark Forest," Graythroat growled.
Owlsong tried desperately to speak but the words caught in her throat. "What- I- Leopardstep!" she snapped and turned to the golden spotted she-cat. "Tell them! Tell them I was spying for the clan! Tell them I'm innocent!"
Leopardstep looked perplexed and fearful. She opened her jaws but no words came out.
"Enough, Owlsong." Shadestar ordered.
"No! NO!" Owlsong yowled back. "You don't understand! Darkthorn is coming to take over! I was spying and so was Leopardstep! Tell them- TELL THEM!"
Leopardstep shook her head. "I-I'm s-sorry Owlsong, but you killed Cedarjaw-"
"HOW DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?" Owlsong screeched, backing away towards the entrance, hackles raised, tail lashing. "HE WANTED TO KILL ME! HE HELPED KILL CRAGPAW!"
"Owlsong, I'm sorry," Shadestar said with a sigh. "But I can only exile you from Polarclan."
Owlsong could not help but tremble. Her thoughts became cloudy as she tried to grasp what her leader had just said.
"You- how- I- I was defending myself-" Owlsong could not speak properly. Her ears drew back against her skull and she let out a frustrated hiss. How- they can't! They can't exile me!
"You can't abandon her!" Applepaw suddenly shouted from the crowd. He squeezed past Longcloud and Beachstripe and stumbled between Shadestar and Owlsong. "If she leaves, I leave."
"Oh, Applepaw-" Owlsong began but she stopped when the medicine cat apprentice held up his paw.
Sleetclaw stormed towards Applepaw with Willowstalk stalking at his tail.
"You can not leave us," Sleetclaw growled. "You must fulfill your duty as a medicine cat and as Willowstalk's apprentice."
Applepaw glared up at him. "Owlsong has been my friends since we were kits," he said. "And I will fulfill my duty as Willowstalk's apprentice because I'm becoming a full medicine cat tonight." He looked at his mentor. The brown she-cat nodded. "That is right. I already told Shadestar about it."
Owlsong's fur prickled uneasily. "But Applepaw," she mewed, "what about Petalfall, you're mother? And what about Mottlefur and Nimblefeet? And won't you miss Willowstalk and Sleetclaw-"
"Stop it, Owlsong."
Owlsong gaped at the ginger-and-white tom.
"I know what I'm leaving behind." Applepaw turned towards his approaching mother. Petalfall's eyes shone brightly as she licked her kit behind the ears. "I will miss you," she said.
"I'll miss you too," Applepaw said. "But I can not just let Owlsong leave by herself." He directed his eyes towards Shadestar, whose expression stayed blank. "Keep her here until I receive my full medicine cat name. We will leave at dawn."
Shadestar blinked thoughtfully.
"You can't!" Sleetclaw hissed. "You have your duties as a medicine cat and you will-"
"Sleetclaw!" Willowstalk snapped. She and the gray tom glared at each other for an excessively long time. "I am his mentor," she reminded him. "I approve of his choice."
"You approve of him accompanying a killer?" Sleetclaw shot Owlsong a cold look that made her flinch.
"I approve of his choice." She repeated firmly.
"Shadestar," Petalfall meowed. "I approve of his choice."
Fallenfeather's eyes widened in surprise. "But Petalfall- he's your only kit!"
Petalfall blinked. "So? I do not think Owlsong's a murderer like my siblings do." She glared at Fallenfeather and Shadestar. "At least Willowstalk's on my side."
Shadestar still said nothing. Fallenfeather looked down at his paws. "It is not like we want to believe she's bad."
"But you do anyway."
Owlsong was shocked by Petalfall's stern manner towards her brothers.
Shadestar flicked his tail. "All right. Applepaw, tomorrow at dawn, you will no longer be a medicine cat to Polarclan. You will be an outsider with Owlsong. Are you sure you want to leave?"
Applepaw nodded. "My family approves of my choice," he said. "And it seems to me that I'm Owlsong's only friend." He added.
"Then it is settled," Shadestar said. "Owlsong will be exiled tomorrow and Applepaw shall join her as an outsider. Clan dismissed." He spun around and marched through the crowd and back into his den.
The whole crowd slowly split up, sending glances towards Applepaw and Owlsong. Mottlefur and Nimblefeet rushed towards them. Pearlfeather, Berrymask and Beachstripe slowly approached, standing a rabbit length away from them.
"We're going to miss you guys," Mottlefur sniffed, as if she was holding back tears.
"I just hope you guys have a safe and fun journey to-wherever you guys go." Nimblefeet said and smiled at Owlsong.
Owlsong blinked. "Do you two really care if I leave?"
Mottlefur opened her mouth to protest but Nimblefeet was the first to say," We would really miss you, Owlsong. We have known each other since our kit hood. Training with you as apprentices was amazing! I did feel a bit distant when we became warriors, but that never meant that I hated you."
"But what about now?" Owlsong inquired. "You should be scared of me." She looked down at her paws.
Mottlefur looked down at her paws. Nimblefeet smiled, though. "I believe your innocent."
Owlsong looked up and gaped but before she could say anymore to the black tom, he was called over by Longcloud. "Coming!" he shouted back. He gave Owlsong and Applepaw an apologetic look before bounding away. Mottlefur followed him.
Beachstripe steadily padded towards them.
Owlsong held up her head high and locked eyes with her former mentor.
Beachstripe sighed and glanced away. "I'm sorry, Owlsong. I'm trying to believe that you are not bad but- it- it's hard."
Owlsong stared at her. "Believe in what you like. I could never change your mind about me anyway." She looked away as Beachstripe opened her mouth to speak but instantly shut it and sadly looked away.
Owlsong was suddenly surprised by Pearlfeather licking her muzzle. "I'll miss you very much!" she cried. "Please, don't ever forget about your father and me! Or your siblings."
Owlsong stood speechless for a few moments. "I will never forget." She promised.
Berrymask ushered Pearlfeather and Beachstripe away.
Pearlfeather . . she loves me. Owlsong felt her heart drop as guilt washed over her like a flood. Was there something I didn't notice? I broke her heart a second time. The first time was avoiding her when I became a warrior.
"It is starting to get dark," Applepaw pointed out, stretching his forepaw to the sky. "I will have to get ready to leave with Willowstalk and Sleetclaw." He smiled at Owlsong. "See you at dawn!"
Owlsong slept outside the warriors den. She made a nest out of ferns and curled up in it. The medicine cats had left for the moonpool, after they cleaned up her wounds. She tried to sleep but her mind was filled with too many questions and thoughts. It was moonhigh when Owlsong heard a rustle of paws near her.
Owlsong lifted her head and saw Birdpaw and Milkpaw standing near her.
Owlsong tilted her head. "Um-shouldn't you guys be asleep?"
"We know we should be," Birdpaw meowed hurriedly. "But we just wanted to let you know that we believe you're innocent."
Owlsong stared at them, speechless. Are they being serious?
As if she read her mind, Milkpaw said, "We believe that you killed Cedarjaw because you had to. Call us stupid for believing or say that we're just desperate for you to be okay, but we truly believe in you."
"I'd never call you stupid," Owlsong purred. "It is kind of sad that you two and Applepaw and Nimblefeet are the only ones who believe in me."
"But- we're not the only four we believe your innocent," Birdpaw said.
Owlsong's heart stopped beating for a moment. "What?"
"Petalfall and Willowstalk believe you're innocent."
"So does Duskpaw and Leopardstep!" Milkpaw added. "We are still trying to convince Tigerpaw."
Owlsong smiled. "You guys are the best," she said warmly.
"We should probably go," Birdpaw told Milkpaw. "I know," the other apprentice mewed. She and Birdpaw padded away after they said their goodbyes to Owlsong.
"We are still trying to convince Tigerpaw." Milkpaw's words echoed in Owlsong's head as she rested it on her paws and closed her eyes. But soon after, Applepaw returned from the moonpool. He curled up beside her, casting Willowstalk and Sleetclaw sideways glances.
"Wanna hear my new name?" he asked.
Owlsong grunted. "Sure."
"My full name is Applewood." He said proudly and puffed his chest.
"See you at dawn." Owlsong replied.
"I've tried every way to contact her!" Darkthorn roared angrily, "but I can not enter Owlsong's mind. I couldn't even get into it last night!"
Since yesterday, no one had heard from Owlsong, so the Dark Forest cats didn't call anyone for training. They had hoped that tonight she would be available, but she wasn't.
Stonefish exchanged glances with Webwhisker and Honeybreeze.
Did something happen to her?
"I guess we'll just have to train without her," Thunderclaw said.
"In all honesty, I like it much better without her," Gooseice said and flexed his claws. "She did kill Cedarjaw. I reckon he'll end up here with us pretty soon."
"Owlsong killed her clanmate?" Honeybreeze gasped. If anyone heard, they ignored her.
I bet she killed Cedarjaw because she suspected him as a traitor, Stonefish thought. But was she correct?
Darkthorn whipped around to the Polarclan apprentices and Leopardstep. "Do you know what happened to Owlsong?" she demanded. "How is she guarding her mind?"
The three apprentices cowered behind Leopardstep, who stood up straight but still avoided her gaze. "Owlsong is being exiled at dawn for killing Cedarjaw," she answered.
A shadow flashed over Darkthorn's green eyes but she tried to hide her rage with a smile. She let out a short sigh and asked, "Who is Snowpaw's new mentor?"
When Leopardstep did not answer, Snowpaw stepped up from behind the golden she-cat. "Berrymask is my new mentor."
Darkthorn was silent for a few moments. "All right," she suddenly growled. "Anyway, let's just get back to training. Today we will be teaching you all the proper ways of climbing trees."
"What?!" Duskpaw exclaimed. "Only Creekclan cats learn how to climb."
"And we take full pride in our skills," Spottedpaw sniffed and shuffled closer to Tornsage.
"They're not the only ones who climb trees!" Lakepaw snapped. "Thornclan cats learn how to climb trees, too."
"Each clan has their own special skill," Darkthorn told them patiently. "Creekclan cats know how to swim and climb trees; Thornclan cats know how to climb trees and know how to hide and fight in the shadows; Oakclan cats are great at fighting in wide spaces and the clan has some of the swiftest cats imaginable; and Polarclan cats are excellent fighters, always ready to catch prey and protect their clan. They are also great at climbing up rocks too.
"But every cat should know how to climb trees. Say you are running away from a dog or fox and camp is too far away, what do you do? You run up a tree and stay there until help arrives or until the dog leaves, which is unlikely to happen. Not only will learn how to climb up a tree, but you will learn how to jump off and attack things that are down below."
"Wow," Honeybreeze whispered, "she sure knows a whole lot!"
"Which makes her dangerous," Webwhisker growled.
"But she still doesn't know about us," Stonefish reminded them.
Honeybreeze groaned. "I wish Owlsong was here."
I do too. What will happen to us if Owlsong dies or disappears?
Darkthorn pointed to a long row of trees behind her. "Each cat will climb up a tree," she said. "However, after we teach you how to climb and get down, we will put your skills to the test." She did not elaborate on what the test was.
Silentstep stepped up to one of the trees. He backed up before launching himself off the ground. He dug his claws deep into the bark and as quick as a snake, he slithered up the trunk.
The sound of his claws scraping the tree made Stonefish cringe. He watched the gray tom leap a branch and gaze down at the other cats. He readied himself before jumping off and landing square on his feet.
Darkthorn smiled. "This is what I expect from you cats," she said.
"But we have never climbed trees before . . " Russetheart trailed off as he gestured to him and Honeybreeze and the Polarclan cats.
"You'll learn to climb them now," Gooseice growled and ran behind Russetheart and shoved him forward. Honeybreeze gave Gooseice a warning growl before following her clanmate forward. Clawpelt gently nudged Stonefish and Spottedpaw forward. The other cats also padded forward.
Stonefish reluctantly followed the other cats.
Darkthorn let Dockheart and Silentstep teach the Polarclan and Oakclan cats how to climb trees. They were surprisingly kind and patient with them, especially since they were teaching three apprentices.
Stonefish was honestly fascinated by how the Polarclan apprentices caught on so quickly. They flung themselves at the tree, claws extended and when they landed, they ran up the tree like it was a hill. Duskpaw was afraid of jumping down and his landing was sloppy, but he still made it up and back down.
Honeybreeze and Russetheart were both disinclined to the idea. Russetheart could hardly dig his claws into the bark without slipping. Honeybreeze finally gripped the wood with her claws and let out a relieved sigh. She scrambled up the trunk with some difficulties but still was able to make it up all right. But when Dockheart told her to jump down, she leaped down and landed neatly on her paws.
She is so perfect, Stonefish thought.
"Now that everyone can climb trees," Darkthorn said, "I want every cat to follow me."
The massive she-cat led all the cats two tree-lengths away from the row of trees. She stopped, turned around and said, "I want to see how fast you guys can run and make it up the tree." A cruel smile appeared on her face. "However, to must you run real fast, because we'll be chasing you all the way there. After that, you must climb up the tree and the hunt will be over. Understood?"
"Understood," the clan cats said together. They readied themselves, getting into running positions.
"Good." The Dark forest cats took three kitten-steps backwards. "Now run."
All the cats scattered as they broke out into runs.
Stonefish bolted through the clearing, listening to all the screams and snarls of anger and pain. He glanced behind him and gasped as he saw Alderleaf pelting after him, her eyes and smile murderous. It seemed liked she got closer with every step.
Stonefish directed his gaze back to a tree that was slowly coming into view. Come on, come on. Hurry up!
Stonefish could suddenly feel Alderleaf's hot breath on his heels.
"Too easy to catch!" Alderleaf yowled with triumph. She pounced with claws extended.
Stonefish dove out of her way and rolled into longer grass. He crouched low in the grass, hiding himself from the orange she-cat. He crept slowly in it, trying to go around her.
"Where did you go, my little fishy-fishy?" she asked with a hint of sharpness to her voice, whirling around and tasting the air for his scent.
A sudden screech caught both of Stonefish's and Alderleaf's attention.
Stonefish turned his head around and spotted Lakepaw being thrown aside by Wildfire. A long gash just above her eye poured blood down her face and both of her flanks at claw marks rippling down them.
"Aren't you a warrior? Get up and fight me!" Wildfire taunted.
When Lakepaw only replied with a wince, he cackled. "I can't wait to paint this clearing with your blood!" he leaped at her.
Without thinking, Stonefish also jumped, colliding in the air with Wildfire, sending him crashing through the grass. Stonefish however, landed on his paws and ran towards Lakepaw. The poor apprentice was making a feeble effort to stand up and she flinched away when she saw Stonefish.
"I'm here to help," he told her.
"Behind you!" she shouted, her eyes round with fear.
He turned around just in time to meet Alderleaf's paws with his own. They batted each other for a few moments.
A sudden flash of black-and-white fur sprang by and lashed out on Alderleaf. It was Lakepaw, sending Alderleaf reeling backwards with the wounds she had just inflicted on her muzzle.
"Run!" Lakepaw yelled while Alderleaf was stunned.
Both Stonefish and Lakepaw sped off at each other's sides.
"You're not getting away that easily!" Alderleaf hissed. She sprang after them and soon after, Wildfire joined in on the hunt.
Stonefish looked over his shoulder and winced as he saw the blood thirst in their eyes.
The trees were very close now, only two tail lengths away.
"Lakepaw!" he shouted, "go to the tree in front of you!"
Lakepaw obeyed his order and launched herself forward. She landed squarely on the tree and slithered up the trunk.
If I jump now I can make it-!
Stonefish let out a yowl of shock and pain as claws dug into his flanks. He writhed violently in Alderleaf's grasps and eventually twisted out of her grip with a grunt. Wildfire dove at him, but he sprang to the other side of Alderleaf. When she swung her fore paws at him, he ducked and waited until she finished her blows and leaped over her.
Stonefish lunged at the tree and gracefully landed on it. He dug his claws into the barked and hauled himself up it. With a grunt of effort, he made it to the first tree branch and immediately collapsed on it. Blood was drizzling out from the wounds on his flanks.
"Stonefish!" Lakepaw's voice sang. "You-you saved me."
Stonefish lifted his head. The Thornclan apprentice was in the next tree over, her branch reached out to his.
Stonefish smiled. "I'm just happy you're safe." But are my clanmates okay? The thought struck him like lightning. Are Webwhisker and Honeybreeze still alive?
"I am very impressed with all your skills!" Darkthorn crooned loudly to all the cats in the trees. "You may all come down now."
Stonefish was very hesitant with Alderleaf at the bottom of the trunk, glaring up at him with a smile that said "I can't wait to rip out your insides for not letting me do it sooner!"
He slid half way down the trunk before jumping off of it and landing a good distance away from her. Lakepaw did the same with Wildfire and eventually ran up to Stonefish's side.
Stonefish sighed with relief when he spotted Webwhisker and Honeybreeze. The Thornclan tom had a cut on his lip but other than that, the two were perfectly fine. He looked around for a moment until he saw that Clawpelt and Tornsage and Spottedpaw were okay. Lakepaw left his side and dashed towards Almondfur and Quailfeather, who were heading towards Webwhisker.
"Lakepaw!" Almondfur gasped when she saw her. "You are bleeding!"
All the Thornclan cats shot Darkthorn dangerous glares
"You never said anything about almost killing the apprentices," Quailfeather growled to Darkthorn. He flicked his tail towards Lakepaw and Snowpaw, who also had several scratches that shone bright against her white pelt.
Darkthorn shrugged. "I never said they couldn't kill other cats; besides, they are safe. You should be happy they're still alive." Her last words ended with a hiss.
"You all escaped my cats," Darkthorn suddenly changed subjects with a much more cheerful tone. "I am happy to say that you guys will be the BEST warriors your clan has ever seen. I can not wait to show all your leaders how much better you all are."
She's acting very sweet suddenly, Stonefish realized.
"But remember," Darkthorn continued,"keep our meetings our little secret. If the other warriors find out, they might be jealous. And right now, I have a paw-full to train. In the end though, everyone will be trained in our ways."
They must have purposefully picked the stupidest cats. No offense to Clawpelt or Tornsage, but SERIOUSLY? This stuff is obliviously a trick! And you guys just eat it up like prey. I can't really blame the apprentices though. . . I think we were all gullible at that age.
"When will the time come for us to reveal our meetings?" Tornsage inquired.
A smile flickered upon Darkthorn's face. "Very soon, my dear." She paused for a moment. "Today's lesson is over. Tomorrow night we shall practice a few battle moves."
Almost instantly, the whole Dark Forest vanished and Stonefish was awake. Or he thought he was. He was no longer in the Dark Forest, but in a beautiful meadow.
Am I awake or. . .?
Two cats emerged suddenly from the meadow. One of them beckoned him with their tail.
Stonefish gingerly approached the two, but stood two tail lengths away just in case. He stared at the two cats carefully, trying to figure out if he knew them. But he had no idea who they were.
"There's no need to be afraid," one of the cats meowed. Her voice was soft and melodic; she had a kind and soft face with bushy fur.
The other one nodded. "We are Starclan cats," he said. His voice was also very pleasant to listen to; he sounded happy and his smile really reflected that thought.
Starclan cats? "But I was just in the-" Stonefish paused, not knowing if he should tell them where he was. "You were in the Dark Forest," the she-cat finished for him.
Stonefish gaped at her. "How did-" "-Blackivy and Junglestep told us about your idea to spy," the tom interrupted.
A lump caught in his throat. It wasn't my idea. It was Owlsong's.
"Anyway, we brought you here to tell you about an important mission you must go on," the tom continued. Stonefish's ears perked. Me? On a mission? "Owlsong has been exiled from Polarclan as you may know," the tom said. "She has already traveled far in just one day. It was right for her to be exiled, since her destiny is leads outside of the clans for some time. But she will be needed back very soon. Stonefish, we want you to bring her back."
Stonefish opened his mouth but he hesitated. "I . . I don't know . . ." he stammered uneasily. "Why not send Honeybreeze? She's the fastest out of us."
The she-cat's whiskers twitched. "Honeybreeze will be needed here." She let out a long-drawn sigh. "We could risk it, but bad things might happen without her here. And if you don't go, Owlsong will be in grave danger."
Stonefish winced. I can't leave my clan behind! But if I don't go . . . Owlsong might die. After a few uneasy moments, he sighed. "Fine. I'll go."
"Excellent!" the she-cat purred. She turned to the tom. "Go and tell Minnowstar about his journey." She padded up to Stonefish as the tom vanished behind a bright light. She flicked his shoulder with her tail. "You can't go alone, you know. Pick any warrior from Creekclan to accompany you on your journey."
Stonefish thought for a couple of moments. "Mulchshell!" he declared.
The she-cat smiled warmly. "Excellent choice. I shall send Rainfrost to visit her in her dreams."
Stonefish's ears perked. "Rainfrost?" he gasped. "My mother? Is she here?"
The she-cat nodded. "Yes, Stonefish, she is here. But she cannot talk to you right now, for I must go and talk to her about visiting Mulchshell." She flicked his shoulder again before marching forward towards a bright light. "I shall guide your paws on your trip."
"Er- what are your names?" he asked.
"The tom was Ripplefeather," she meowed. "I am Daisyburr, your mother's mother." And with that, she lashed her tail and continued forward, until her tail tip was last thing Stonefish saw vanish behind the light. Suddenly he was blinded, and the light swallowed him whole.
"Ow!" Honeybreeze hissed through gritted teeth. "Watch your step!"
"Oh, sorry!" Butterflywing apologized and leaped off her tail.
Hunting with her is harder than training in the Dark Forest! Honeybreeze thought grimly. At least she's not trying to kill me.
A day had passed since she had learned how to climb a tree. Last night at the Dark Forest, they tested their attacking abilities. Darkthorn forced Honeybreeze to fight Clawpelt, which neither of them wanted to do. She ended up losing and was scowled like a kit by Darkthorn for not landing her blows correctly or not being as quick as him. And that cut deep, since she was the fastest cat in the clans but couldn't show off her ability.
She woke up the next morning with her hind-legs aching from the fight. She tried not to show her pain either. Russetheart had fought up against Webwhisker. Honeybreeze's clanmate ended up winning, but his ear had a nasty wound on it. When he awoke, he blamed it on a thorn in his bedding. Before any cat could suspect him lying, Honeybreeze quickly went to a near by thorn bush and picked out the longest thorn and stuffed it in his bedding. Poppystem and Seedtooth were very suspicious of him, but they did not question.
And thank Starclan for that, Honeybreeze thought. She steadied herself, locking her eyes on a plump mouse. It was a tail length away and it took no notice of her. She licked her jaws and was about to pounce.
"Where do you think Seedtooth is hunting at?" Butterflywing suddenly asked.
The mouse heard her and bounded in the other direction with a squeak.
"Mouse-dung!" Honeybreeze hissed.
"You just alerted the mouse that I was stalking!" Honeybreeze snapped. "Pay attention and quit thinking about Seedtooth!"
"One little mouse doesn't matter much," Butterflywing shot back. "And so what if I think about Seedtooth? He's a great tom and he likes me!"
"It matters when Leaf-fall is hanging over our heads like an eagle's talon!" Honeybreeze retorted. "And no, Seedtooth doesn't like you the way you want him to. He likes you as friend and nothing else. I've seen it before. Also, he's too busy chasing Sparktail's tail to even notice you."
"He does love me!" Butterflywing sniffed. "Sorry I made your mouse scurry away! Maybe you should chase after it like you chase after that Creekclan tom."
Honeybreeze froze. "Excuse me?" she growled.
"That's right," Butterflywing said with a hint of grin. "Anytime we're on patrol or out hunting and we see Stonefish, you immediately stare after him and he even reflects your affection for him. You both have that certain gleam in your eyes that says "love" all over it! You even talk to each other as if you guys are friends!"
Honeybreeze almost raised her paw to claw Butterflywing's ears. "How dare you accuse me of liking a tom from another clan!" Honeybreeze roared with rage. "Besides, Russetheart is my mate, if you haven't noticed. And the warrior code doesn't forbid friendships!"
Butterflywing paused. "Oh," she mewed. "I actually didn't know you and Russetheart were . . together."
Honeybreeze turned away and started in a different direction.
"We have to hunt together!" Butterflywing shouted at her.
"Learn how to hunt by yourself!" Honeybreeze yelled over her shoulder and plunged into the gorse. Tears began to form at the corner of her eyes. Oh, what went wrong between us?
Honeybreeze had suspected that Butterflywing was jealous of her powers and they grew a little distant. She wouldn't talk about it and accused her of wanting all this attention. "But I don't want all this attention!" she had told her, but Butterflywing just ignored her. They started having problems. They began to argue a lot and they always tried to be better than each other. Hunting became harder because Butterflywing always became distracted or she didn't listen to any of Honeybreeze's plans.
Honeybreeze wandered around for a while until she stopped to think. I wasn't too happy about becoming Russetheart's mate at first, she thought. But I really started liking him. She paused. I need to apologize to Butterflywing.
Honeybreeze turned right back around to where she and Butterflywing had been hunting. But when she returned, she didn't find her littermate. As soon as she was about to search for her, Butterflywing returned with a mouse dangling from her jaws. She dropped it at Honeybreeze's paws.
"This is for you," she said quietly, "sorry I scared your mouse."
Honeybreeze smiled. "No, I should be sorry. I yelled at you and I shouldn't have."
"Nah, you had a reason to shout," Butterflywing said. "After thinking about, you are right; Seedtooth likes Sparktail."
Before the two could speak anymore, Iceshine and Seedtooth appeared from the gorse thickets. "Have you two seen Creekeyes anywhere?" Iceshine asked. Both she and Seedtooth looked worried.
"Er- no-" Honeybreeze said. "Wasn't he hunting with you?"
"He began to chase a hare down the hill and he never came back," Seedtooth replied. "We thought he was with you."
Honeybreeze looked towards Butterflywing with a questioning stare. Butterflywing shrugged. "I dunno where he is. When I hunted this mouse he wasn't anywhere near me."
"Maybe he got lost," Seedtooth suggested. Iceshine snorted. "Yeah right, and hedgehogs may fly. He's been living here for five seasons."
"I know where he is," someone said from behind.
Honeybreeze whipped around, only to be appalled by the cat standing in front of her.
Wildfire's smile grew wider. "My, my, you look almost scared of me."
Honeybreeze's heart skipped multiple beats, her legs began to tremble and she could hardly speak. "How-how a-are you here-" she stopped, still too shocked to finish.
"You know him?" Iceshine asked.
"I know her more than she knows me," Wildfire replied. He waved his tail dismissively, "There's no reason to go into details. Honeybreeze, take me and your patrol back to camp please. I have something I want to say and do there with everybody around."
"What makes you think we'll just let you go?" Seedtooth growled.
"I said please."
"No, Wildfire," Honeybreeze hissed, "I won't take you to camp because . . nobody knows w-what-" "Because nobody knows about our little meetings?" Wildfire finished for her, taking a step closer. He was only one tail-length away now.
"Little meetings-Honeybreeze! What's going on?" Iceshine shouted, her eyes wide with fury and confusion.
"I'll explain as soon as we reach camp." Wildfire said.
"We should run him off our territory," Seedtooth growled, unsheathing his claws. "Besides, he's all alone. He can't attack us."
Wildfire gave him a wicked smile. "You think I'm that mouse-brained to come alone? Because if you do, you are sadly mistaken." He lashed his tail twice, before calling out,"Stop hiding."
Thunderclaw, Silentstep, Alderleaf and an unknown white tabby she-cat stepped out of the thick clumps of heather behind him.
"Take me to your camp. Now."
"Where is Creekeyes?" Honeybreeze asked, ignoring his demand.
Wildfire blinked. "Oh! Yes, yes, we met up with him near the river. I asked him for directions to your camp and he tried to run away! Of course I was upset that after I asked so kindly, he tried to abandon us. So we hunted him down. Right now he's somewhere, probably dead, I would think . . Clovershade here-" he gestured to the white tabby she-cat-"gave him a nasty scratch on his throat and jaw. I may or may not have twisted his paw and watched him try to limp away like an injured deer. He tried to call for help but all the blood in his throat . . "
Honeybreeze was mortified by how calmly he spoke of someone's death.
"You monster!" Iceshine snarled, "You left him to die!"
Wildfire's ear twitched. "I don't want to have to ask again," he said, ignoring the she-cat.
Honeybreeze lowered herself into a fighting crouch. "We're not taking you to camp!" she snapped.
Honeybreeze felt claws rip at her side as Wildfire barreled into her. He pinned her down without giving her chance to realize what had happened. His claws sank into her neck and shoulder. She writhed underneath him, desperately trying to get out of his hold but couldn't. "Camp?" he asked. "N-never!" Honeybreeze grunted. His claws ripped through her side and she screeched.
"Stop! Stop!" Butterflywing suddenly pleaded.
Wildfire and Honeybreeze both stared at her.
Let him kill me! Run, while he's distracted- Butterflywing's voice cut through her thoughts. "We'll take you to camp."
Wildfire's grin returned. "Excellent decision!"
I have to keep-going! Honeybreeze told herself as she ran, running like the violent wind. In the middle of their way back to camp, Honeybreeze decided it was best to warn her clan. She got the speed of a cheetah and darted away, laughing at Wildfire's shocked expression
I couldn't hide my powers any longer.
She stumbled through the Oakclan entrance, skidding to an abrupt halt and almost falling.
"Gorsestar-!" her words caught in her throat as she looked at the scene in front of her.
Unknown cats were everywhere. Unfamiliar toms and she-cats swarmed the Oakclan cats. One she-cat was holding Echoslip down, as the black-and-white she-cat desperately squirmed. A tom had Weaselwhisker's scruff in his fangs. Every cat looked up at Honeybreeze. From Oakclan stares that said, "Run while you still can!" and from the other cats, dangerous growls and smiles that displayed vicious rows of teeth.
Honeybreeze felt like she was just dunked in freezing cold water. Shivers ran down her spine as she watched Gorsestar fighting off two toms, who were trying to hold her down.
"Get off of me, you fox-hearts!" the Oakclan leader screeched in anger, slashing her claws down one of the tom's muzzle.
"Mousetail, Volenose! Help Houndleap and Newtblaze!" a she-cat shouted.
Immediately, Honeybreeze recognized that voice. It was Dockheart's.
A she-cat and a tom leaped into the fight and attacked Gorsestar from behind. Gorsestar yowled in rage but was unable to defend herself as the two toms, already fighting her, tore at both of her shoulders. Gorsestar sagged slowly to the ground, and then finally, she stopped trying to defend herself. She gave in and went motionless underneath the four cats.
"Gorsestar!" Honeybreeze could not help but shout. Before she could lunge into action, more cats began spilling in from the entrance. She looked over her shoulder.
"Look at you, running all the way here by yourself!" Wildfire teased. "When did you possess such speed?"
Silentstep, Clovershade, and Thunderclaw shoved Iceshine, Butterflywing, and Seedtooth to one of the sides of the clearing, leaving Alderleaf and Wildfire to stand at both sides of Honeybreeze.
Gorsestar lifted her head and blinked.
"It is very nice to meet you, Gorsestar." Wildfire said in a friendly tone.
Gorsestar looked confused and angry. "You rogues won't get away with this," she hissed and snapped at Mousetail for getting too close to her face.
"Rogues?" Wildfire echoed. "No, we are not rogues. We are clan cats."
Gorsestar's expression was puzzled. "But I've never seen cats like you from the other clans . . ."
"We are from the Dark Forest," Wildfire told her and she flinched at the name. "Anyway, I would like to explain some things. This is Alderleaf and I am Wildfire."
"Wildfire?" Gorsestar repeated, half to herself. "Where have I heard that . . .?"
"My dear brother, Pinestar, was the father of your mother," Wildfire said with a smile. "Did your mother, Raggedwing, ever talk about me?" he asked, his tone genuinely curious.
Gorsestar shook her head. "She never said anything about you. But Pinestar did . . ." her quiet voice turned into a loud snarl, "he said you were evil! That you belonged in the Dark Forest!" She roared and reared up on her hind legs, knocking down Houndleap and Volenose in the process. She slammed her paws down on Newtblaze's back, and raked her claws down his shoulder. She whipped quickly around to meet Mousetail, scratching the tom's chest.
The four Dark Forest cats, leaped out of her way as she looked around for anyone else to attack.
"Impressive." Wildfire said with a twitch of his ear.
"Why have you come here?" Gorsestar inquired, ignoring his comment.
"Oh, we're tired of living in the Place of No Stars," Wildfire explained. "It's so . . bright down here and some of us are slowly fading away in the darkness. A long time ago, our dear leader Darkthorn tried to give us a new home down here, but sadly, she and I were cut down in battle and sent to the Dark Forest. We wanted to help the clans really, but no one agreed to our ways."
Gorsestar wrinkled in her nose. "I think you should leave," she growled.
"You're making it difficult," Wildfire said, frowning. "Because we are not leaving. We are staying here, and you will listen. You don't have as many cats as I do, so you've got no chance. Even if you fought, you would all end up dead. Oakclan is our new home and soon the other clans will be too." He took a step forward. "You still want us to leave?"
When Gorsestar didn't answer, Honeybreeze felt the wind being knocked out of her as Alderleaf smashed into her. Honeybreeze gasped for breath but stopped to scream as Alderleaf raked her claws down her shoulder.
"You still want us to leave?" Wildfire sneered.
"I-" Gorsestar began but was cut off as Honeybreeze screeched again. Alderleaf was know tearing at her neck with her fangs, ripping our tufts of her fur and bits of flesh. She had her pinned down.
There's nothing . . . you . . can do! Honeybreeze wanted to wail. Attack! Don't give in . . More pain shot through her as Alderleaf dug her claws deeper into her shoulder.
"Stop! Stop!" Gorsestar cried out desperately. "I will let you stay."
Wildfire gave Gorsestar the most sinister smile Honeybreeze had ever seen. "Very nice . ." he turned to Honeybreeze and leaned close to her face. "I'll be watching you," he hissed. "I know you're one of the cats prophesied to stop us, and you know I can't let this happen. You'll be closely guarded by our strongest warriors. One paw out of place, and I'll have you watch your clanmates fall, one by one."
Honeybreeze squirmed underneath Alderleaf, but she didn't budge.
"I'll keep you alive so that the deaths of your loved ones haunt you, until the day you die," Wildfire continued, his eyes wide and shining with pleasure at the disgust and fear on Honeybreeze's face. He looked up at Alderleaf. "Move the elder to the warriors. I want Honeybreeze moved there, now."
Alderleaf dipped her head.
"Have sweet dreams tonight, Cheetah," Wildfire mocked airily. "You're lucky I didn't give away our little meetings."
Webwhisker stumbled out of the den, his head a swirling storm of pain.
Stonefish and Owlsong are screaming, being attacked - Webwhisker gasped as visions showed him the future - cats jeering, laughing, screaming, crying, fighting - another gasp - Oakclan cats being torn to shreds - Webwhisker and Honeybreeze running for their lives-
Go! a voice roared in his ears. Go before it's too late. . .
Webwhisker bolted for the entrance of the camp, his head aching with pain he could hardly bear.
"Wait!" a voice called. "Where are you going?" It was Squirreltail.
Webwhisker slowly turned to her. "I need . . to help. . Honeybreeze. . ."
"You mean that Oakclan cat you always moon over at Gatherings?" Squirreltail teased. "Just kidding! Anyway, is something wrong in Oakclan? Did you see it in a vision?"
Webwhisker nodded. All his clanmates knew about his power, but Squirreltail seemed the most intrigued by it.
"We need to go now-" he began." "Without telling anyone?" she cut in, surprised. "Doestar will be upset if we don't tell her something's wrong with Oakclan. I think she should hear about this-" "No, please, let's just hurry."
Squirreltail hesitated. "Okay, but you're not going alone." She turned around and shouted after Velvetwing. The tom came running up to them. "What is it?" he asked.
"We are leaving to go save Oakclan. If we don't return by dusk, tell Doestar where we are. Come with only four warriors and Doestar just in case."
Velvetwing glanced at both of them, confused. "O-okay."
Webwhisker and Squirreltail looked at each other. "Let's go." The two raced out of the entrance and through the pines. Webwhisker explained everything to Squirreltail. And yes, EVERYTHING. To him and the others spying on the Dark Forest cats, to Cragpaw's death, and to what was happening at Oakclan.
"What happens if we don't get Honeybreeze and some others out?" Squirreltail asked.
Webwhisker shrugged. "I haven't seen it yet." And I might not. The terrifying image of Silentstep slicing his stomach flashed in his mind. He shivered at the thought. Dear Starclan, please don't let me die today!
"Wait a minute-!" Squirreltail suddenly gasped. "We don't share a border with Oakclan!"
"I know, I know," Webwhisker sighed. "We have to cut through Polarclan's territory to reach it."
Squirreltail shook her head. "What if we get caught?"
"It will be okay," Webwhisker reassured her. "We'll travel down at the lake's shore. Even if we're spotted, we can say that we were collecting herbs for Wrenflight. Besides, what are two lonely Thornclan cats going to hurt?"
Squirreltail thought for a few moments. "Okay, fine." She immediately strode straight through the sedge bushes that separated their territory with Polarclan's. Webwhisker followed right behind her. They headed down the narrow slope towards the lake. When they reached it, they started to run through the sand as fast as they could.
The strong scent of Polarclan engulfed the two as they ran ahead. At any sound they would stiffen and slow down but once everything was clear, they began running again.
"Won't the Polarclan cats smell us?" Squirreltail asked, keeping her voice low.
Webwhisker hesitated. "Probably, but we can explain everything. You know, as long as we don't get caught."
Squirreltail let out a sigh. "I'm starting to regret coming along," she muttered.
Webwhisker understood her worries. He felt the exact same way. But they couldn't turn back now, not when they were so close. The kept on going and finally, they reached a thin stream of water that separated Polarclan's territory from the moor.
Without hesitation, Webwhisker jumped over and Squirreltail did the same.
"Feels weird being on the moor," Squirreltail commented. "Er- do you even know where Oakclan camp is located?"
Webwhisker paused. I guess I never really stopped to think where it could be. Suddenly, images flashed in his mind. Squirreltail and him spotted a thorn barrier with gorse around it. They ran through it. A large oak tree was towering over the entrance.
But that ended kind of blurry.So a new image appeared, where they instead went around the camp and crawled through a small hole.
"Are you okay?" Squirreltail's voice came. "You stood stiffly for a moment."
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just saw two future paths. Follow me."
The two stalked low to the ground as Webwhisker led the way. He kept his eyes open for a large oak tree. They soon got farther and farther into Oakclan territory until. . .
Webwhisker was forcefully pulled back by Squirreltail and was dragged roughly away into a tussock. She held him flat on his stomach and hissed, "Oakclan patrol!"
Webwhisker slowly lifted his head above the grass and squinted at the shape of cats up ahead. He could only recognize one of them, which was Russetheart. But the others, it was hard to tell who they were. Suddenly he saw a large tabby tom with white flecks and . . the tom turned his bright amber eyes towards them.
Webwhisker couldn't help but gasp at the sight of Thunderclaw and ducked and inched backwards.
"Did you see something?" a voice asked.
Webwhisker held his breath at the few moments of silence.
"No." Thunderclaw rumbled, his eyes still directed to the tussock they were hiding in.
"Then let's continue with our patrol."
Thunderclaw stared at the tussock for a few more seconds before following his patrol.
"That was Thunderclaw, a Dark Forest cat," Webwhisker whispered.
"And he almost saw you," Squirreltail growled and cuffed Webwhisker's ears. "You should have kept your head low!"
Squirreltail had a point; it could have ended badly if Thunderclaw was sure he saw something. "Sorry," he muttered. He stood up and flicked his tail. "Let's go the opposite way." The two quickly stalked in the opposite direction, still heading towards the center of the moor.
After a few minutes, Webwhisker halted abruptly. "Look!" he pointed to a large thorn barrier with gorse around it and a small gaping hole through the thorns. A large oak tree towered over it. "The entrance to Oakclan camp," he told his clanmate.
Squirreltail took a step forward, ready to charge in, but Webwhisker held her back.
"We can't go straight in," he told her. "Dark Forest cats will be everywhere. We need to go around the camp and find a small hole that probably. . hopefully. . leads to Honeybreeze."
So instead, Webwhisker and Squirreltail crept around the right side of the camp and spotted a hole, just big enough for a cat, to crawl into.
"Okay, I'll go in first," Webwhisker said to Squirreltail. "If I get caught the second I go in, run as fast as you can back to Thornclan. If I think it's safe to come in then I will tell you to, okay?"
Squirreltail nodded, her tail tip twitching nervously.
Webwhisker hesitated before slowly and quietly lowering himself to the hole's height. He stretched his neck and peered into the hole. He realized immediately that this hole led to a den . . But what den exactly? He shoved his head into the hole and almost gasped when he saw only one cat huddled in a corner. The entrance of the den was blocked off by vines.
Before Webwhisker could get his head out of the hole, the cat in the corner opened its eyes and stared at him.
Webwhisker felt a shiver down his spine. Please don't scream, please don't scream-
"Webwhisker?" the cat whispered. It took one step forward and light from in between the vines lit up their face.
"Honeybreeze!" he said lowly, but excitedly. He pushed himself halfway in before Honeybreeze growled, "Stop."
Webwhisker blinked. "Why? I'm breaking you out."
Honeybreeze stared at him, her expression conflicted.
"What's wrong?" Doesn't she want to get out of this place?
"Its not that easy," she said, as if she had read his thoughts. "My family, my whole clan actually, is here. I can't just leave them behind."
"But if we leave, we can get help and save Oakclan!" Webwhisker pointed out. "Besides, you can run-" Honeybreeze held up a paw to silence him. Pain was twisted into her expression.
"I can't really run anymore," she sighed.
Webwhisker gasped. "What? How-"
Honeybreeze turned halfway around to show him her right hind leg, which was mangled in an unnatural way. "Wildfire broke my hind leg," she growled, her voice and eyes ice cold. "You know that hole you're crawling through? I dug it and tried to escape. I was caught, of course, and then as a punishment he broke my leg. He said he might let Poppystem treat me if I go along with him."
"Then go through with whatever plans he has."
Honeybreeze stared at him. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me," Webwhisker said calmly. "I don't want you to be alone anymore. Besides, I could help you escape. Scream as loud as you can. When cats come running in here, tell them that I tried to get you to escape. After that, say that you don't want to escape and that you think Wildfire's plan is the right thing to do."
Honeybreeze's eyes darkened. "But he'll torture you-"
"I don't care," Webwhisker said, interrupting. "I just want you to be safe."
Honeybreeze was silent, but after a long while, she mewed, "Okay."
"One moment," Webwhisker said. He drew himself out of the hole and turned to Squirreltail. "Run back to camp. Tell them I've gone to save Honeybreeze and not to attack."
Squirreltail stared at him with round eyes. "I'll try," she meowed hesitantly. "Should Velvetwing still send Doestar here at dusk?"
Webwhisker shook his head. "No. I have a different plan. "
Squirreltail nodded and she bounded away from him, sending one last worried glance over her shoulder.
Webwhisker sighed and crawled through the hole again, this time, pushing himself all the way through. He and Honeybreeze sat quietly in the den for a few moments.
"On the count of three, I'll scream," Honeybreeze told him. He prepared himself as she counted out loud. "One . . two . . . three - GET AWAY!" she then sent chills through Webwhisker with her scream. He quickly pounced at her, took hold of her scruff and slowly made his way to the hole.
Three cats ran in, an unfamiliar ginger tom and an unfamiliar brown and white tabby she-cat. The lead cat was Wildfire, his expression confused and angry as he bolted into the den.
Honeybreeze played it off very well, flailing her legs everywhere and yelling, "Get off me! Get off me!"
The ginger tom barreled into Webwhisker and pinned him down almost right away.
Honeybreeze scrambled onto her paws with a frightened expression.
Wildfire looked at Webwhisker, then at Honeybreeze. "What happened?"
"Webwhisker-" Honeybreeze faltered-"H-he told me I should leave and I told him I didn't want to. He tried to drag me out of here when I said to him that I thought about your plans and I realized you were right all along." She turned to Wildfire. "Please! I want to join you. If it's the only way to save my family and become the greatest warrior, I'll do whatever it takes."
Before Wildfire could speak, Webwhisker yowled, "Traitor!" and threw the ginger tom off of him. He glared at Honeybreeze. "We were supposed to stop him, not join him! How dare you use your power against Starclan and use it for evil!" He leaped forward but was immediately knocked down by Wildfire.
"Webwhisker," he said slowly with a smile. "I was always knew you couldn't be trusted." He dug his claws into his neck, making Webwhisker wince. "I hate Thornclan. They were the ones who ruined all our plans. I despise every one of you." He paused. "I even find it hard to trust Thornclan Dark Forest cats."
Honeybreeze looked actually shaken up by Webwhisker's performance. They glanced at each other for a second.
Wildfire looked at Honeybreeze, his eyes narrowed. "I still can't trust you completely."
Honeybreeze nodded. "I understand."
Outside of the den, an uproar had filled the clearing. Immediately, Wildfire got off of Webwhisker and stormed outside. The ginger tom quickly grasped Webwhisker's scruff and dragged him out, while Honeybreeze was shoved outside by the tabby she-cat.
Webwhisker had to crane his neck upward to see what was going on.
The Dark Forest cats were yelling and jeering at a cat in the center of the camp. Even some Oakclan cats made snide comments. But when Webwhisker finally got to see the cat, his whole body was filled with dread.
Squirreltail was in the center of the camp with Thunderclaw towering over her. She was cringing against the ground with her ears pinned back to her skull and her eyes were wide with terror.
No! She was caught!
Alderleaf yowled and silenced everyone when she saw Wildfire. The Dark Forest tom strutted into the clearing and looked up at Thunderclaw. "Who's this?"
"I found her on our territory when I was on patrol," Thunderclaw growled and glanced down at the cowering she-cat in front of him. "I tried to get her talk, but she refused to cooperate. I thought maybe you could get her talk."
~Chapter Fourteen~<p style="text-align:center;">Owlsong whisked around, hissing and spitting at her attackers.
"Get away! Get away!" she yowled as they all jumped at her. . .
"Owlsong . . Wake up! Wake up, Owlsong!"
Owlsong gasped as she woke up and Applewood placed his paw on her shoulder.
"Did you have another bad dream?" he asked.
Owlsong nodded. "It was the same cats, the same fight, same everything. I always see Cedarjaw somewhere among the crowd, but he never actually attacks me until I'm pinned to the ground." She looked up at Applewood. "Does this mean he has reached the Dark Forest?"
Applewood thought for a moment. "It could be." He quickly got distracted by subtle movement near the undergrowth. "Wanna get some food?" he asked.
Owlsong smiled. "Sure." At least it'll take my mind off things.
Owlsong missed Polarclan a lot more than she anticipated. She was sure she'd never want to go back, but the more she and Applewood were alone, the more she came to realize how wrong it felt outside of the clans. Applewood always made comments about how good of a mentor Willowstalk was and how much he missed Sleetclaw's orders. ("They were annoying in the moment, but I actually learned a lot from him too," he had said).
Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice.
What scared Owlsong a little bit, was that she hadn't seen a single Starclan cat since they left. Even though she was couldn't see them everywhere she walked, she didn't feel at peace. There was always something a little nice about seeing Starclan cats visiting. They even talked to me when I was alone.
Owlsong stood up and stalked towards the undergrowth. Applewood wandered close by, but stayed a little behind since he was still learning how to hunt.
Owlsong listened for the creature in the shrubs and tasted the air. Rabbit. She readied herself, very carefully placing her paws, not letting her tail sway, when suddenly, a flash of white fur dove for the rabbit in the bushes. Owlsong watched as Applewood struggled for a moment to kill the rabbit he pounced on.
He panted as he finished the kill. "Did I do a good job?" he asked hopefully.
"A slight bit too soon, but not bad. Also, a little sloppy on the landing."
Applewood shrugged. "Not the worse I could do," he laughed and dragged the rabbit proudly to their nests that they made along the tree roots. He and Owlsong began to happily eat their fresh kill.
"You know," Applewood began, "you sounded like Beachstripe when you were talking about my hunting."
The mention of Owlsong's former mentor stung her like a bee. "Was I being rude?" she asked.
"No, no, not at all," Applewood assured her. "It wasn't the tone of your voice, it was the words you chose. And even if you were being rude, that would have been fine. I would have tried harder to impress you. Honestly, Beachstripe taught you well."
Owlsong played with her claws for a few moments. "I was always a pain in the neck for her. . ." Will she ever forgive me for leaving? Is Leopardstep and the apprentices still training in the Dark Forest?
"Don't worry, I was too for Sleetclaw and I wasn't even his apprentice," Applewood said.
The two ate slowly in silence for a while.
Twigs snapped behind Owlsong and Applewood. They both whirled around ready for a fight but were surprised to see no one there.
Suddenly, the outline of a dazzling golden she-cat appeared, standing perfectly still, and staring at Owlsong. "Come," the she-cat meowed and turned to stalk away.
"Briarfrond," Owlsong breathed. "Huh?"Applewood grunted in confusion, but it was too late to answer since Owlsong was already running after the golden Starclan cat. "Wait!" she called.
But Briarfrond didn't listen; instead, she quickened her pace and leaped over fallen trees and other plants scattered around the forest. Owlsong rushed after, panting loudly as she led her on and on until Briarfrond suddenly halted in front of a Twoleg fence.
Owlsong skidded to a halt. "Why would you lead me here?" she asked.
Briarfrond blinked and her outline slowly faded as she walked straight through the wooden fence, leaving her.
"Why am I here?" Owlsong hissed.
Applewood came stopping by her side, his sides heaving. "You-could have- at least waited-for me to catch up." He panted.
Owlsong whirled around to face him. "I saw Briarfrond."
Applewood's face brightened. "Really? That's amazing!"
"Not really," Owlsong growled. "She just ditched us. She ran through the fence without saying anything."
"I didn't see any cat," said a voice.
Owlsong and Applewood looked up at a brown she-cat, lying on the fence. She blinked at them. "Was there an intruder? I could help you catch them."
"Er-no, we're good," Applewood said.
"Are you sure?" the she-cat asked. "You both seem pretty worried."
"He said we are fine," Owlsong hissed. "Now leave us alone. There's nothing here for us anyway." She began to pad back into the forest but looked over her shoulder when she noticed that Applewood wasn't following. "Well, come on," she said, "there's nothing here but twolegs and kittypets."
Applewood gave her a doubting stare.
Owlsong stormed over to him. "You think Briarfrond led us here on purpose?" she spat.
"Why else did you see her come here?" Applewood snapped back. "She could have led us back to the clans, or to a new home, but no. She choice that fence to walk through. She even choice to show herself to you! Owlsong, you haven't seen a Starclan cat in over a week. Please, give this place a try."
Owlsong pondered for a few moments. "I really, really, don't believe you."
"And that's alright," Applewood said, "just make your decision: stay or leave."
Owlsong shifted uncomfortably. "Fine, we can stay; BUT, we are ONLY staying because I like you and I really want to know why Briarfrond was here." She turned back to the she-cat on the fence. "Mind if we look around your territory?"
"Not at all," she said. "If you can't climb, just crawl through the small gap right under the fence."
Owlsong leaped at the fence and slithered on to the top. Applewood slowly and nervously slipped under the fence with a grunt.
"Are you newcomers?" the she-cat asked.
"Er-yeah," Owlsong said slowly.
The she-cat smiled. "That explains why we haven't met ye." She and Owlsong both jumped off the fence near Applewood.
"Not much room here," Applewood commented, analyzing each flower in the yard.
The she-cat laughed. "All backyards here are pretty small. I suppose some could are big, but most are small. Your friend is kind of funny looking with his ginger stripes only on his tail and ears-er-please tell him to stop ripping up my housefolk's garden."
"Applewood!" Owlsong groaned and tugged on his tail.
"What?" he asked with big round and innocent eyes. "She has loads of herbs here! Just look at all this catmint."
"I have never met a cat so interested in plants before," the she-cat meowed. "Can you tell me what those two plants are over there?"
Applewood examined the two plants for a few moments. "Chervil and peppermint."
"Amazing!" she exclaimed. "How do you know about them?"
"My mentor taught me all about them," Applewood said with a wide smile.
"Uh- he means friend," Owlsong said quickly. "He means a friend mentored him."
The she-cat tilted her head at them. "Where did you two come from?" she asked and sniffed. "You sure don't smell like you came from here-" she paused "-you don't look too clean either."
"We lived in the forest," Owlsong told her.
"So, you're feral cats then?"
Owlsong and Applewood exchanged confused glances. "Fffferal caaats?" Applewood repeated, emphasizing the f and a.
"Ya' know, like wild cats," she said, "cats that ran away from their owners . ."
Applewood shook his head. "I don't get it. Do you?"
Owlsong also shook her head. "Sorry, but we don't know what you're talking about."
The she-cat shrugged. "Whatever, it doesn't matter. Would you like to come inside? my housefolk could feed you two and clean ya' up."
"No, we only wanted to-" Owlsong began but Applewood shouted, "Yes! We would love that."
"Great! Follow me." The she-cat darted for the door of the nest and scratched at it.
"What are you doing?" Owlsong hissed. "I'm still searching for a sign of what Briarfrond might have wanted us to get," Applewood shot back and trotted towards the kittypet. Owlsong reluctantly followed.
The door opened and a tall female two-leg looked down at them.
Owlsong growled lowly but Applewood nudged her gently, as if to tell her to be calm.
The two-leg said things that Owlsong couldn't understand before picking the she-cat up. She waved her paw at Owlsong and Applewood, as if beckoning them to come in. The she-cat smiled at them. "She says, 'Come in!'"
Once Owlsong and Applewood were in, the two-leg closed the door and put the kittypet down on a weird soft, but bouncy log before returning to a different room.
"I'm surprised she let us in," Applewood said while him and Owlsong also jumped up on the bouncy log.
"She's use to strange cats showing up at our door," the she-cat said. "Anyway, I never got your names. My name is Ruby, and you are . .?"
"I'm Owlsong, and this is Applewood."
"Ooh! Very creative names," Ruby said. She laid down and said, "Rest on the couch for a little. You two must be tired from running and searching for whatever it is you're searching for." ("A couch. .?" Applewood echoed. "Weird.)
A sound of rushing water was suddenly heard from down the hall.
"Oh! Mom must have your baths ready," Ruby said and jumped off the couch. Owlsong and Applewood ran after her.
"Mom?" Owlsong repeated. "Mhm," Ruby said. "That's what I call my housefolk, since she's always been like a mother to me." ("Even weirder!" Applewood exclaimed).
They padded into a very small room, where the floor was cold like stone. They marched near a white long thing where the twoleg was standing at. She smiled warmly at them.
"Alright, Owlsong, get in."
Owlsong jumped onto the ledge of the white thing and peered down at the water below her."Er- we don't swim," Owlsong faltered.
"So? You won't drown," Ruby said and then pushed Owlsong off the ledge and into the cold water.
Applewood jumped up and hissed, "How could you just push her off like that?"
"Oh, it was easy," Ruby said with a laugh and knocked him in too.
"DEAR STARCLAN, IT'S COLDER THEN LEAF-BARE." Applewood shrieked when he landed in the water.
The water was shoulder high to Owlsong and Applewood. But each second in the water mortified Owlsong as memories came rushing back into her head . .. Cedarjaw, holding her under, trying to drown her; Owlsong thrashing desperately, trying to save every last breath in her lungs; killing Cedarjaw, ripping his throat-
"Owlsong!" Applewood yowled and snapped her out of her thoughts.
"W-what?" she asked.
"Are you okay?" he asked as his teeth chattered. She nodded, but still felt scared.
"You are the worst cat I have ever met," Applewood growled as Ruby's twoleg dried him off.
"I had to get you into the water somehow," Ruby snorted. "Anyway, thanks for being so calm for Mom; usually cats like you aren't so nice to her." She twirled around and once the twoleg got done drying them, Owlsong and Applewood trailed after Ruby.
Her twoleg walked around them and shuffled around in one of the rooms.
"I meant to ask you two something earlier," Ruby said to them as the sat near the back door. "Where are you actually from?"
Applewood opened his mouth to speak but no words came out; Owlsong hesitated.
"Oh come on," Ruby said with a grin. "I know you two aren't from here. Your scents were strange, you had no owners, and your names are really, really unusual."
When the two were silent, Ruby rolled her eyes and said, "Let me guess, you're from the clans."
Both Owlsong and Applewood gasped. "How did you know?" she asked.
"Oh, I wasn't expecting you to respond with that," Ruby said, surprised. "I've heard stories about groups of cats who lived far away in the forest and called their groups 'clans.' I also sort of guessed this too, because you called me a 'kittypet', and I have never heard of that term before."
Owlsong glanced at Applewood. "Y-yes, we are from the clans," she meowed, puffing out her chest proudly.
"Then why are you here?"
The question hit her like a claw. "Oh, I was-er- sort of . . . exiled . . ."
"Why would you be exiled?" Ruby inquired. "Doesn't your family miss you?"
Owlsong didn't know how to answer; she knew why she was exiled of course, but didn't know how to tell her and she had no way of knowing if her family did actually miss her.
"It's a sensitive topic," Applewood hurriedly said.
I don't need you to back me up! But Ruby had already shrugged it off.
Ruby's twoleg placed three bowls on the ground next to them.
Applewood sniffed the brown pebbles inside the bowl. "What is this? It certainly isn't any prey I have ever seen."
"It's kibble, silly!" Ruby laughed and nudged him hard in the side. "Try it."
Applewood ate one piece and looked up at Ruby. "It is okay, I guess . ."
Owlsong lapped up a few pieces of it and she surprisingly enjoyed it. Of course it wasn't as tasty as actual prey, but she didn't care.
"Ruby," Applewood said after swallowing, "I think Owlsong and I should return home after this."
Both Ruby and Owlsong stared at him. "Why?" they asked simultaneously
Applewood shrugged. "I don't know; I just have a gut feeling that we should and I felt like I-I saw something in the water as Ruby's twoleg was cleaning us."
"What did you see?" Owlsong inquired.
"I'm not exactly sure . ." he mewed, his whiskers twitching as he tried to remember. "But it looked like the soap formed a face, and that face looked like Pearlfeather, but she was sad looking."
Ruby started to cackle. "Soap can't fix it's self into a face!" she snorted.
But Owlsong wasn't too sure; Applewood was a medicine cat, and they saw signs all the time. He also seemed so serious and even gave Ruby a glare after she laughed him. "I'm not lying," Applewood growled solemnly. He looked up at Owlsong. "I'm not entirely sure on what I saw, but I know it was something. And now, I have a feeling that we should return home."
Owlsong looked down. But I can't go back. I can't. They won't want me back. I killed. I could have done things differently, but it's too late. I killed him and now I've been exiled. But more thoughts came to her head. But he let Wildfire kill Cragpaw, and I can never forgive him for doing that.
"Applewood . . I-I don't know," she said and shuffled uncomfortably.
"You actually believe he saw something?" Ruby exclaimed, surprised.
Owlsong ignored her and asked, "But what about Briarfrond? She led us here for a reason, right?"
Applewood shook his head. "I think she sent us here so that I could see the sign she sent."
Owlsong had to take it all in and think. It was all up to her to decide and HATED every moment of silence. Ruby wanted them to stay but Applewood was so sure of what he saw.
"I'm sorry Ruby," Owlsong said hesitantly. "But I think Applewood and I should leave."
Ruby gaped but then gave them a hard stare. "I'm going with you then."
"What?" Applewood exclaimed. "You can't be serious," Owlsong said.
"I am serious," Ruby said firmly. "My housefolk can get a new cat." When the two cats said nothing, she yelled, "Please! Let me go with you! I love my housefolk, but I want to go on an adventure! I want to do something. And even though I hardly know you, I want to be your friends."
Owlsong shrugged. "I guess you can come, but you must be aware of the danger. We will have to travel far and my clan might not like you at first. And you can't go back after this."
"I don't care," Ruby said. "Just please, let me stay with you."
Owlsong nodded. "Okay. But we should get going then." She and the two stood up and she stared at the twoleg. "Thanks for the food," she said, not even caring if she understood or not. Ruby ran up to the twoleg and purred up at her before darting back to Owlsong. "I said goodbye. I hope she isn't sad when I leave."
"You still have a chance to stay," Applewood said.
"No. My decision is final." She smiled at Owlsong. "Where to?"
Stonefish bolted underneath the undergrowth. He, Mulchshell and the dogs had caught a strange scent that was faintly similar to Polarclan.
And yes, Stonefish went and asked the dogs for help to track down Owlsong. Suki, Mitzi and Nightfall came with them; Jarrow and Ary had stayed behind. It took a lot to convince Mulchshell that the dogs were kind, but she eventually agreed.They had been traveling for a week and they just caught a scent. Daisyburr came to him in his dreams and told him that Briarfrond had found Owlsong and that she knew where she was.
Suki was ahead of them all, her white-and-red fur blowing as she sped faster than the wind.
Stonefish hopped over another log before skidding to halt and almost falling, trying not to hit the unmoving Suki.
"Why'd ya stop?" he asked, bouncing out of Mitzi's way as she tumbled passed him to also stop.
Suki sniffed around a tree for a few moments. Stonefish tasted the air and guessed why they stopped. The scent was vaguely wafting through the air. It wasn't stale, but it definitely wasn't fresh either.
"It was here," Suki announced. "She was here," Stonefish repeated to Mulchshell.
"Let's just hope it was Owlsong," Mulchshell sighed, "or this whole journey would have been a waste."
Oh Starclan, I sure hope not.
"Where does the scent lead?" Nightfall asked.
Suki sniffed the air, stalked around for a few moments before giving them a blank stare. "I don't know; there were two cats here who share the same scent."
"But wasn't Owlsong alone?" Stonefish wondered out loud.
"Maybe she was exiled with someone else," Mitzi suggested.
Stonefish shook his head. "Why would they exile someone else?" he shook his head and looked at Suki. "Find the strongest scent here."
Suki wandered around for a few more moments. "They went this way," she announced and sped off through the undergrowth. Stonefish beckoned Mulchshell to hurry and they darted off with the two other dogs behind them.
The scent became fresher and fresher as they went on. She was definitely here . . I know it! I can feel it!
They ran for a few more minutes before they stopped at two twin trees where Owlsong's scent was fresh. There were two spots where moss and ferns were smashed together, which Stonefish presumed to be nests. This place vaguely lingers of Polarclan, which is a definite sign that she was here.
"This scent is at least a day old," Suki said.
Stonefish was about to ask how she knew but Mulchshell distracted him with her call. "Stonefish! Come here, I think I found something."
Stonefish hurried over. "What is it?"
"Look at this," Mulchshell said and pointed at orange fur that was on a bush's branch. "It's orange fur; Owlsong has orange patches! And the scent continues down this path. There are plants that are trampled, so I almost feel like she was chasing something."
"Amazing, Mulchshell!" Stonefish said. Mulchshell flashed him a quick smile before he called to the dogs. "Come over here! We found the trail."
The dogs bounded over and agreed that it was the correct path. They proceeded forward, finding themselves at a twoleg nest before veering to the right where the scent continued. They passed rows and rows of twoleg nests until finally, they went around a corner and stalked away from them.
Dusk was falling fast and the group decided to stop for a while.
Mitzi and Suki both plopped on the ground, their sides heaving and panting heavily. Nightfall sat on his haunches near Mulchshell and Stonefish.
"Dear Starclan," Mulchshell breathed. "I feel like my paws are going to fall off!"
"Get as much rest as possible," Stonefish told her, "we will be leaving again soon."
"It doesn't seem right," Suki suddenly growled.
"What doesn't?" Nightfall asked.
"The scent we've been following," Suki said. "It was Polarclan scent, but there was another scent mixed with it." She screwed up her face and growled, "Smelled like leashed cat to me."
"A leashed cat?" Stonefish repeated. "You mean a cat that lives with twolegs?"
Stonefish turned to Mulchshell and Nightfall. "Do you think Owlsong decided to become a kittypet?" he asked worriedly.
"It's a possibility," Nightfall said but Mulchshell shouted over him. "No! Who would want to become a kittypet? Also, the scent doesn't lead to a twoleg house, it leads back into the forest."
"Which is weird," Stonefish mused. "The scent almost circles back to where we were before. . ."
"Let's just get rest now and start early tomorrow," Mitzi grunted. Stonefish agreed and he Mulchshell curled up next to each other and waited for the sun to rise at dawn.
Stonefish jolted upwards at the drawn out screech.
"What was that?" Mitzi asked, already on her paws.
Now Nightfall and Mulchshell were on their paws and Suki was sniffing the air. "I don't taste a scent but it sounds like the screams are over there," she said and pointed with her nose.
"Let's hurry and help!" Mulchshell said.
"But is it even a cat in trouble?" Stonefish inquired.
It was silent for only a few seconds. "Help!" someone screeched.
Stonefish looked up at Nightfall. "Did you understand that?"
Nightfall shook his head. "It sounded like another scream to me."
"I understood it!" Mulchshell said. "Now let's hurry up and go!" she bounded passed them and Stonefish and the dogs quickly caught up with her. As they ran they got closer and closer, hearing more shouts and . . barking?