Post by Autumnstorm on Oct 16, 2007 16:07:43 GMT -5
I've only read three chapters so far, but I will continue later. And already, it is awesome!
All I can say is...WOW!!!!! Sunsetfur, you are REALLY talented, and this is one of my favorite fan-fics ever! You really should consider being an author.
PLEASE read and review! Thanks![br][br]Finished: Does He Really Love Me? (One-shots), Humor, one scene (Warriors humor)[br][br]In the works: The Silver Bird (New Prophecy rewrites), Across the Great River (Sagas)
Tigerfur: Lol, nope, this doesn't include Ravenpaw at all! Heres the next chapter, enjoy! ;D
Sunsetfur: Well, I've surprised myself. I managed to get this finished much sooner than possible ( was aiming to post it Saturday!), but now my fingers and wrists are sore. You people better be grateful! I worked my arms off (almost literally) to give you this, and I'm quite pleased with it. Sadly, this story's almost over, and I really don't have any ideas at present for a third installment. Perhaps I'll get some inspiration, though...but I need a loooooooong break. I have five more chapters planned after this one - Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, and the epilogue. *falls asleep*
Ah - here's chapter 10! *falls back asleep*
Chapter 10 Raven[/u]
I couldn’t believe it. I had heard Cinderpelt's name mentioned once or twice, usually by Mothwing or Leafpool of ThunderClan. But she had been killed in the badger attack on ThunderClan! Now she was before me, alive, breathing, in the body of a young and strong apprentice. How could that be possible? Was she lying? Yet there was age, wisdom, and perhaps a trace of starlight behind her eyes. Perhaps StarClan had sent her back. For whatever reason, that was unknown.
I felt my heart beat wildly inside me, like some mad trapped animal fighting for escape. “What? How…how is that possible?” I stammered, staring at the ThunderClan apprentice.
“Not even I am certain,” Cinderpaw, or Cinderpelt, meowed simply. I saw the starlit woods of our ancestors, Tigerflame, and beheld their pool of prophecy and seeing. I met with the spirits of the dead and spoke to them, and I learned of Hawkwing’s affair with your mother when he joined us. But then…I saw Bluestar, a ThunderClan leader of old, in a dream, and I awoke at Sorreltail’s side, the kit of my own brother.”
She smiled. “Do you doubt me?”
“Well, I spluttered, “well, I mean, how could I? I…I think…”
“I will ease your uncertainties, she meowed, and spoke with the voice of a warrior, a full-grown cat. “I am, and I was, Cinderpelt, medicine cat of ThunderClan in the days of Tigerstar, who set the trap that crippled me for my first life. I was present at the battle of BloodClan, where Scourge fell and peace was restored. I saw my Clan through the starvation and terror of the old forest’s destruction, and interpreted the prophecy of fire and tiger. I came across these Mountains on the Great Journey and was killed delivering Sorreltail and Brackenfur’s kits, one of which I am returned as.”
I could not find the words to say anything. I felt very young, and foolish, as I did when I looked back on my memories of kithood.
Cinderpaw’s face softened, and the apprentice came back. “Please don’t tell anyone,” she asked timidly. “No one else knows, not even Sorreltail or my…siblings. Second siblings, that is.”
“I won’t,” I promised at once. “But why won t you tell anyone?”
She sighed. “I don’t know. It’s complicated. I wanted a new chance at life, I suppose. Think about it, Tigerflame. If Firestar discovered that I was Cinderpelt, I would be Leafpool’s apprentice right now—imagine that! Being mentored by my own apprentice! Would they give me a choice? I think not. I could never live a warrior’s life, as I once desired more than anything else. A normal life. I loved the work of a medicine cat, but Clan tradition would never allow me to do both. So I had to choose. And I chose the path of a warrior, so I may have a chance at battle, fighting, and perhaps even…” Cinderpaw swallowed, embarrassed. “Perhaps even a chance at love.” And I understood.
“I will tell no one,” I told her firmly. Relief spread over her face. “But why did you tell me?”
“Because,” the gray she-cat answered, “your destiny is laid out before you. I saw it in StarClan, and learned about it from Hawkwing. Did Silverpool ever tell you about Willowleaf’s prophecy?”
“No.” I was affronted. Silverpool had withheld something from me?
“Ah. Well, I can understand why. Hawkwing’s own fate was linked to it, and she likely tore it from her mind with his death. Hear it now:
“Peace will be shattered as the emerald hunter falls. Two will fall with the hunter, and the last is the only one who can penetrate the darkness that is to come.”
“The emerald hunter?” I echoed. “Why was he called that?”
“His eyes,” she replied. “They were green.”
“And the two? Are they Darkkit and Glowkit, my brother and sister?”
Cinderpaw nodded. “And the last is you. The darkness is the sickness, Tigerflame, don’t you see? You were the one who found and took the leaves of the Sun and Moon, the cure. You have penetrated the darkness, and you will defeat it!”
Defeat it! My insides seemed to become alight with wild happiness. It was a strange feeling, impossible to describe, but I felt the weight of my mother s fate fly off my shoulders. I was Tigerflame, she-cat of RiverClan, with the blood of Silverpool the Gentle and Hawkwing the Bright, and I would not fall to sorrow.
The sun was bright the next day, and even the dreadful heat could not sicken my renewed confidence and happiness. The Tribe traveled well, much better than the Clans would have, and even the six kits were no trouble. Dawnsinger’s kits were older than Moon’s, and they often walked on their own when the land was flat and safe. We walked now in the foothills of the mountains, and there was great excitement when our position shifted and we caught a glimpse of the lake, sapphire in the sunlight.
Silver led them, with Brackenfur and Crowfeather at her sides. Robinwing was sent with Sorreltail to scout ahead. Dawninglight walked beside Moon, carrying a drowsy Rain. Evening and Icicle leaped ahead of their mother, Dawnsinger, grappling with a butterfly that fluttered away frantically from the kits’ tiny claws. Gorsethorn padded with Amberleaf the medicine cat, each carrying a bundle of the leaves of the Sun and Moon. A Tribe she-cat, Gray Sky Before Dawn, carried the rest with her to-be Skyrunner.
It was all so strangely tranquil. The stories of the Clans’ migration were sorrowful, filled with death and hunger and uncertainty and arguments. Perhaps it was because the Tribe cats knew more about the Mountains, or maybe it was the fact that it was greenleaf, while they had battled through leaf-bare. Eventually I came to realize that it was because there was only one united group working—no individual leaders squabbling for control.
We walked farther today, and reached the lowlands close to the moors by WindClan’s territory, settling in a ravine filled with white birches. Excitement stirred in the cats, and the apprentices and kits showed their exhilaration by competing with each other, usually Clan versus Tribe, with hunting and fighting. Cinderpaw’s swift, deft combat skills were unmatched amongst the three Tribe to-be’s, and Blazepaw was narrowly beaten by Jasper in the hunting mountain-style competition. I watched Cinderpaw fight against the biggest to-be, Shadow, and found that her litheness and small size were on her side in her technique. Her face was filled with pleasure and certainty as she fought, and there was no doubt in my mind that she would have been a formidable warrior in her previous life if she hadn’t been crippled.
I sat up on top of a lone boulder and looked across the moors to the lake. WindClan would probably see us coming from a distance away. I hope they don’t mistake us for enemies and attack. That would be a terrible welcome to Silver. I swiveled my head around and felt my stomach clench as I looked at the jagged Mountains, now a bit far away. But not too far. Smoke still steamed up from the ground, but not the black fumes of the previous days. The Mountains would heal, but the gray skies were dark and ominous.
A shrill, harsh cry screeched from overhead, and I looked up to see a raven wheeling through the air, flying from the direction of the lake. I caught my breath. Ravens were birds of death. I followed it fearfully with my eyes and a strange feeling overcame me as it swooped in the sky, the smoky skies its background.
The Clans are in danger.
How I knew it, I wasn’t sure, but I knew. We had to get back.
I jumped down from the rock and nearly collided with a golden-brown warrior standing at the boulder’s base. I flinched back, startled, and opened my mouth to hiss a sharp phrase when I saw the golden eyes. They gleamed, deep and warm and sorrowful, before I blinked and the cat was gone.
“What?” I mewed out loud, looking around. “Wait where did you…?”
My heart beat quickly. Unnerved, I swam through the crowd of cats to find Crowfeather. My name sounded from somewhere on my left, and I saw a young she-cat amidst the Tribe cats whom I did not recognize. Her fur was brown and glimmered as if with frost. A spirit!
Her mouth didn’t move, but a clear voice rang in my ears. Sunrise follows the black dawn.
And then she was gone, just like Hawkwing. I cried out softly, feeling my voice catch in my throat, uncertain of what to say. Then I spotted Crowfeather—he was sitting beside a Tribe tom, Thunder. “Crowfeather!” I called out, and found that my voice was cracked and desperate. He looked up instantly, a flicker of fear crossing his face as I stumbled forward.
“What is it?” He shot at me, concerned. Thunder looked on with anticipation and interest. “Is something wrong?”
“Well—yes, no—wait, oh, I don’t know!” I burst out. I saw Cinderpaw and Blazepaw look up, startled, and Songbird jumped to her paws, abandoning her half-eaten sparrow to bound closer. “I just saw Larkpaw, Crowfeather.”
“Larkpaw?” Blazepaw drew nearer, his eyes wide and interested. “I knew her, but she was a victim of the disease, Tigerflame, she’s—”
“Dead, yes!” I cut across him. “But I saw her spirit! She spoke to me just now: Sunrise follows the black dawn. And there’s more. Just before that, I saw a raven fly over me. It came from the direction of the lake.”
Crowfeather’s fur bristled, and the lean WindClan warrior looked formidable. “We have to go,” he meowed. Songbird looked excited.
“So you’ll be leaving?” She asked. “And I’ll have to look after these cats? Lead ’em on, and such?”
“Yes,” I told the rogue she-cat. “You and Jasper will have to guide Silver to the lake. Hopefully, we’ll arrange for WindClan to meet you at their borders and help you out.”
“No problem,” Songbird replied enthusiastically, ruffling her brown pelt. “Where’s Jasper? I saw him playing with you two a heartbeat ago.” She pointed her tail at Cinderpaw and Blazepaw.
“Over there,” Cinderpaw answered, flicking her own tail over at the tallest birch in the clearing. “With Skyrunner, Flame, and Shadow.”
“I’ll get him.” Songbird trotted over to where her son basked in the blazing sunlight, and he tripped over his paws as he scrambled up. Cinderpaw laughed.
“Where’s Silver?” Crowfeather meowed testily, mostly to himself, turning his head to carefully scan the makeshift camp. “We need to talk.”
“She’s there, by that burned tree,” Thunder meowed to him, indicating a blackened, leafless birch that miraculously still stood beside its living companions. It had probably been struck by lightning of some sort. Crowfeather mewed a quick word of thanks to the Tribe tom and crossed the ravine to where the Healer sat with her senior warriors. Brackenfur, Dawninglight, and Amberleaf were with her as well.
“Silver?” Crowfeather approached the gray she-cat and dipped his head formally. “We feel that it is time for the Twelve Companions of the Light to depart. We need to go ahead quickly to our Clans and deliver the herbs as soon as possible.”
Silver’s eyes were troubled. “Songbird is staying to guide us?”
“Yes. And her son, Jasper.”
“And they know the way well?”
“They say that they do. And it’s not hard to get to from here: all you have to do is go in the direction of the lake. You can see it clearly now.”
“I don’t doubt them,” I piped up. Silver’s blue gaze turned on me. “Jasper led me to the herbs, and they said that they’ve been abroad often.”
Silver paused, then nodded slowly. “All right,” she meowed. “I give you my consent. But you will meet us in…WindClan, is it?”
“We’ll do the best we can,” Crowfeather replied smoothly.
The she-cat nodded. “I know you will.”
“Thank you, Silver.” The gray-black tom bowed his head deeply, gratitude spreading across his face. Amberleaf, Brackenfur, and Dawninglight drew closer, away from their Tribe friends, to listen.
“Gather the rest,” Crowfeather instructed quietly. “We leave at once. Our Clans are waiting.”
My eyes shone. We’re almost there.
Like it? You'd better. ;D Well...I'm too lazy to open my table of contents, but if I remember correctly, next up is Chapter 11: Dawn. Yes, that's right. Don't expect it until around October. The Saturday after next, not 9/30 but the next one. You can tell that it's 12:18 PM and my brain is FRIED from an overdose of the left and right arrow keys and backspace and delete, in addition to an entire school day spent in 5 muggy, 100-degree classrooms, and only two have bubblers.
Tigerfur: Thanks! ;D Heres the next chapter, i'm afraid you won't enjoy this one very much.
Sunsetfur: I'll keep them in mind... ;D Anyway, here's chap 11! I'm a little afraid of your reactions...but you'll see...
Chapter 11 Dawn[/u]
The urgency of our mission had risen to a new level once more. We now had a new prophecy to push us onward yet faster. There was a bit of sadness and regret at leaving, yes, but we would see them very soon. Images of attacking eagles swooping to destroy the Tribe plagued my thoughts…but I mustn’t think that way. Our Clans came first, and always would. And we would never forgive ourselves once we returned and discovered how high the death toll may be…and if any of our loved ones had perished.
Night fell swiftly as we ran. It blanketed the entire moor, and the sudden drop in temperature birthed a thin, eerie mist, malevolent in the moonlight. It was not difficult to see, but Robinwing, Crowfeather, and Goldenlight still led the way. A storm was massing in the east, and we could all see its dark clouds, covering the stars, billowing closer to the lake. Cheers escaped us. Rain!
“Keep going!” Tawnypelt called when Cinderpaw stumbled. “We must get back!”
I panted heavily. It was not easy running in this dark and the ever-present heat. I caught my paw on a stone and tripped over myself, snarling as I regained my composure. The blissful moon sleepily watched us, half-interested, curiously spreading its pale light across the ground.
We ran on and on and on. Moonset was pale and wan as the sky gained an edge of white-gray before the sunrise. The mist crept back, heavier than ever. When the first breeze brought the scent of WindClan to us, we were wildly excited. The wind was cool and refreshing, blowing westward with the oncoming storm.
“WindClan!” Cried Robinwing jubilantly. The three Clanmates sped up, even with Goldenlight carrying her share of the herbs. My own jaws were cramped from gripping the leaves for hours. They had withered slightly, and many precious leaves had fallen away. Silver had suggested to wrap them in oak leaves, but they still slipped through the cracks.
And suddenly there was a brown flash beside me, though I had been running on the right flank of our formation and there were no cats on my right side. Hawkwing was leaping there.
Hold fast, his voice whispered. And do not despair.
I blinked, and he was gone again. His dark words stood out in my thoughts. Was something terrible about to happen…? I pushed it from my mind. The lake was tantalizingly close now, and the WindClan border wasn’t far. I ran onward.
And then, quite suddenly, it seemed, we were over it, and the scent of rabbit and cats was overwhelming.
“Yes!” Yowled Sorreltail and Gorsethorn at once, followed by a chorus of mewing cries of triumph from the apprentices.
“Keep going!” Crowfeather instructed. “We’ll make for our camp; it’s closest. Then we can go around to each Clan and deliver the herbs. We must stay together! Come on!”
I felt a new, wild burst of energy explode and expand throughout me as a thousand thoughts flashed through my head. Gorsethorn was at my left, his bright eyes shining in the half-light before dawn, and I knew at that moment that I had found the other part of my heart. Emotion swam into my head, clogging other senses, making me dazed. But I couldn’t think about that now, just like Hawkwing’s warning and Larkpaw’s message. Oh, it was difficult! But all would be well soon.
“Where is the WindClan camp?” Blazepaw panted loudly.
“In a shallow ravine, with thorn bushes around it!” Came Robinwing’s reply. “It’s near!”
I trained my gaze ahead, where I knew the camp lay. From these hilly moors I could see the dark lake, rippling and deep as always, though the grass we passed was parched and crumbling. Winds from the approaching storm were heavier now, and the clouds were threatening to blot out the sun’s fast-coming light. I could see where the moorland suddenly dropped ahead into a little valley of land, as if some great spirit of StarClan had torn up a pawful of earth.
“On! On!” Amberleaf’s voice rang, and there were the bushes, there was the WindClan camp. We slowed abruptly, skidding down the slope in our haste.
“Wha—?” From around the bushes burst an unfamilier cat, obviously a night guard of the camp. His eyes flew wide with recognition as Crowfeather sprang forward to meet him. “You’re back!”
“Come, Thistlefur, let us through! We’ve got the herbs! Is Onestar here? How are the sick cats?”
“They’re—they’re terrible, Crowfeather, four of our Clanmates have already gone and four more are on their way—” Thistlefur spluttered. “Are you letting these cats into the camp?”
“Of course I am, mouse-brain, unless you can drag the sick ones out here, seeing as ‘these cats’ have got the herbs!” Crowfeather’s wiry anger came out as he shouldered the gray cat aside and ducked down through the entrance to the camp, a tunnel through the thorns. Goldenlight followed next, with a curt nod to Thistlefur, and Robinwing ushered Tawnypelt and Amberleaf to follow. I went after the ShadowClan she-cats into the camp, Gorsethorn staying close.
I emerged with a gasp.
I hadn’t noticed the coughing from outside as we encountered Thistlefur, but now it sounded full, clear, and terrible. The rasping gasps, which I had nearly forgotten, came from five crumpled cats shivering at one end of the camp, their flanks heaving as they fought with Death.
Crowfeather wheeled around and began dealing out orders. “Goldenlight, Cinderpaw, and Dawninglight,” he meowed quickly, indicating the cats who carried the leaves of the Sun and Moon. “Attend to the sick cats with Amberleaf. I daresay Brightfire will be here in a moment. The rest of you do whatever you can. Once we’ve finished here, we’ll move on to RiverClan, then ShadowClan, then ThunderClan.”
“Can’t we just—?” Dawninglight began, dropping her leaves.
“No, we started this together and we will finish it together,” Crowfeather stated firmly. “Now go!”
Cinderpaw dashed over to where the smallest sick cat lay, who was smaller than the other cats, who were all warriors. With all the authority of a much older cat, she dipped her head and examined the cat. Delicately she drew out three glossy leaves from the bundle and gently pawed her patient’s neck. “Open your mouth,” she meowed. “These herbs will cure you.”
Obediently, she opened her mouth. Cinderpaw dropped the leaves in, commanded, “Eat,” and then turned to Robinwing. “What’s her name?” She asked, flicking her tail at the apprentice.
“Shadepaw. She’s nearly a warrior, and I’d hate to see her go before she could become one.”
“She will see her warrior ceremony,” Cinderpaw told the brown she-cat confidently, watching as Shadepaw swallowed the herbs painfully before gasping for breath.
“What is going on?”
The brown tabby shape of Onestar appeared at the highest point of the camp. I looked around for the deputy, Whiterain, but she was nowhere in sight. Instead, a younger silver tabby stood beside Onestar, her fur fluffed out in astonishment. Pairs of eyes and heads of astonished and curious cats appeared from the thorny gorse, and several of the boldest emerged entirely from their dens. A silver she-cat ran out to greet Goldenlight, and Robinwing twined her tail with a mottled brown-gray tom, presumably her mate.
“Onestar!” Crowfeather cried, harassed. He rushed up to his leader and the she-cat. “Tearsong?” The black warrior meowed, looking at the gray she-cat. “Is Whiterain…? I’m so sorry.” Onestar looked at the ground. Crowfeather took the opportunity to explain quickly about the herbs and the Tribe. After a few minutes, Onestar looked around at the camp, the Twelve, and the sick.
“You can’t waste any time here,” the WindClan leader told us. “Leave instructions with a warrior and go to the other Clans. ShadowClan has been hit the hardest. I’ll send a few cats to find the Tribe.”
“A warrior?” Repeated Brackenfur, padding closer. “What about your medicine cat? Where’s Brightfire?”
Onestar bowed his head. “She’s gone.”
“Brightfire?” Crowfeather whispered. “Not her too! How have you been fighting the disease?”
Onestar flicked his tail, sadness on his weary face. “Featherpaw of ThunderClan came sometimes, and she taught some of our warriors some herb-lore. But you have to hurry. There will be time for grief later. You can save many more cats if you go.”
“Thank you, Onestar,” Crowfeather meowed to his leader. Turning to us, he meowed, “We cross the border by the horseplace! Head for the marshes, and let the RiverClan cats lead.”
I felt my heart thrill. Blazepaw and Tawnypelt split the herbs between them, and we left the confused and hopeful camp.
I took the lead with Dawninglight beside me. The silver and black she-cat ran easily and comfortably, but she seemed tense, as if she wasn’t sure how I would react. I sent her a swift grin before speeding up, running parallel to the shore in the direction of my home. Gorsethorn came up on my other side, and the three of us bounded on as dawn came closer. The stormclouds were gathering thickly, and a shadow spread over half the land while the light challenged it feebly in the pale skies.
The RiverClan border was close; I could see the dried-up marshes. Heat and sweat seemed to fill my entire pelt, but the cool storm winds leveled it somewhat. We passed like lightning through the marshes, which were hardly marshes at all anymore, and crossed the familiar meadows and woodlands of RiverClan territory. I felt exhilarated: this was the land I had grown up in, and I was returning to save it.
I could hear the river. Faint as it was, but the merest trickle was enough.
With a great burst of speed, I flew past beeches and birches to see the camp. The coughing was there too, and it cackled at us as it defied our return. Hardly registering my friends behind me, I shouldered my way through the tunnel and entered the camp for the first time in many sunsets.
“Tigerflame!” Screeched a voice. Ashenrain was struggling to her paws by Willowleaf’s den, her eyes filled with wonder. “What—you’re back! Great StarClan! Come, quickly! Willowleaf will need you, and Tigerflame, you need to know this—”
“No time, Ashenrain! We’ve brought the herbs! We found the cure in the Mountains, and it works! Where are the sick?”
Ashenrain’s voice was lost, and she stared, open mouthed, as the other eleven cats entered the camp. I pushed past her and dived into the quaking reeds, brown and bent, to where I knew the cats would be.
There were six cats—six cats—huddled in nests close together, with a half-asleep Willowleaf nearby. She lay on her belly, her head between her paws, but she struggled up at my coming, blinking sleepily. “What…Tigerflame?”
“Bring the leaves!” I shouted, whirling around to see Gorsethorn, who dropped them at once. I snatched up some and jumped to the first cat’s side. It was Barkpelt, Morninglight’s brother. “Eat it!” I ordered the brown tom, and he obliged, painfully licking up the leaf or two I offered him.
Gorsethorn and Cinderpaw helped me quickly while the others stood back warily. Ashenrain pushed through them, trying to reach me. “Tigerflame, wait! You need to hear—”
“Not now!” I snarled. Besides Barkpelt, I saw Lionpelt, Shadowflicker, Icepaw, Shadeleaf, and Morninglight’s kit Thymekit. Cinderpaw had attended to the last at once.
I picked up another herb and gestured to Willowleaf. “These are the leaves of the Sun and Moon,” I told the gray medicine cat quickly. “We don’t have much time. Give a couple to each cat—they must chew and swallow to release the juices that will heal them—and they should be well by sunhigh, I’ll say. We have to get to ShadowClan and ThunderClan before we can stay and explain everything.”
Willowleaf nodded. “I understand. We’ve had four cats pass on while you were gone, five including Mothwing…” She trailed off, looking distant and sad. “And you should know something, Tigerflame.”
“It can wait. Can you handle on your own?”
“Yes, of course. But—”
“No time! We’re heading off to ShadowClan; Onestar told us that they were worst affected.”
“Indeed, he was right. Aren’t you going to report to Mistystar, or someone else?”
“Give her the message that we’ve returned, Willowleaf, and we’ll explain once we’re finished delivering the herbs,” I told her. “We have to go—thank you, Willowleaf!”
Looking flustered, she looked as if she wanted to say something more, but restrained it, merely waving her tail as she turned to look at the leaves we had brought. I found Tawnypelt and called, “We’re all set here! On to ShadowClan it is.”
She nodded and began to gather the group together. They filed out of the tunnel without a second glance. I took a long, sweeping glance around the camp, relishing the sights before ducking to crawl beneath the barrier.
“No—wait, Tigerflame!” Ashenrain’s paws batted my hind leg, and I turned in annoyance.
“What, Ashenrain? I have to go! Can’t it wait a few hours?”
The silver she-cat’s face was set, and sorrow battled upon her face. “It cannot,” she whispered. “You need to know. Tigerflame…Silverpool’s dead.”
And above, the dawn broke, but it held no brilliance for me.
All I can say is...
I'M SO SORRY!
But...it's all part of the story...it was as hard to write as Hawkwing's death...
Tigerfur: I know the last chapter was sad , but in this one you don't have anything to worry about, so once again I can say: heres the next chapter, enjoy! ;D
Sunsetfur: Arg, I'm too lazy to do a pre-chapter comment this time. Just read it.
Chapter 12 Rainfall[/u]
There was nothing. Nothing but echoing darkness, a world where there were no feelings but yet pain still endured. A vast, chaotic vault of screaming silence in which the fabric of the world was riven into shattered shards. I ceased to exist for a heartbeat, and another, and another heartbeat after painful heartbeat. Why was it still beating at all? I should have been here to save her, and it was my fault that she was gone. But cruelly, it seemed, it endured, forcing me to live my pain in this world.
My head swam. It was strange, feeling so calm and impassive for a moment as my brain processed the words. But then the horror swept in, clutching with writhing fingers at every inch of my physical being. Sick, I saw the world distort before my eyes and the ground defied the natural order and rose up to meet me, softly, it seemed. Ashenrain’s voice, a thousand lifetimes away, rang dully in my head, but I closed my eyes, letting the sorrow seep through me.
And then, perhaps a minute or a hundred dawns later, the RiverClan camp was back again, with Ashenrain my half-sister peering anxiously into my face, her dark eyes filled with sadness.
“Tigerflame?” Gorsethorn’s voice whispered urgently in my ear, and I wanted to swipe at him.
“No,” I moaned, hardly speaking at all.
“Tigerflame,” Cinderpaw’s blue eyes flashed through my blurred vision. “You have to keep going. More cats could be dying at this moment, cats who could have been saved. Be brave for us—if not for us, for Silverpool.”
Her words ripped into my heart, but I knew they were true. Holding back my fierce urges to yowl and scream at them, I pulled myself to my paws, trembling. Gorsethorn supported me with his shoulder, and I swayed. Was it possible to feel love and sorrow at once?
The others and Ashenrain were watching me. I drew deep breaths, then stepped forward, leading the way out of the camp, my eyes set and my mind determined. Grief sent powerful pangs through my entire body, and I gasped. I hadn’t been able to save her. Silverpool, the Moon, my mother, who sacrificed everything to give me life, who now was dead while I was off in the Mountains, who had known little but tragedy, was gone.
This was a thousand times worse than Mothwing’s death.
I felt so terrible that I almost stopped in my tracks. Gorsethorn’s tail rested gently on my shoulder, and I padded on. The fields and trees passed in a blur as I walked faster and faster, tracing the familiar old route to the greenleaf Twolegplace and the ShadowClan border. Before I knew it, I was running again, trying to ignore the horror in my heart.
I crossed the Thunderpath, which was thankfully free of monsters. I could see a female Twoleg fiddling with the objects strewn around her nest, glancing up at the darkening and lightening sky. Amberleaf, Blazepaw, and Tawnypelt came up to the front of the group beside me, leading the way as we reached the pine woods of ShadowClan.
I fell back, letting the ShadowClan cats lead. This was their home territory, after all, and the short-tempered ShadowClan cats would be much less likely to ambush us if they recognized their own Clanmates first. The trees were tall, and there was little undergrowth among the uncountable pine needles littering the ground, parched from the heat. I became emersed in my grief again, trying to remember every detail of my mother, every memory in which Silverpool played some part…
“There’s the camp!” Cried Blazepaw. I looked ahead and saw that the woods had become mixed, with some deciduous trees and bracken here and there. A short ways away was a thick clump of spindly birches and towering pines, which edged a small hollow that concealed the ShadowClan camp. The hollow was almost completely covered with wild brambles, and the Clan’s scent was strong, mingled with that of fresh-kill and the tang of evergreen.
Blazepaw dived down towards his home, Cinderpaw beside him, excited at their arrival. The gray apprentice still carried the leaves of the Sun and Moon. Blazepaw wriggled frantically through a hidden passage under the brambles, dug by the warriors, ignoring the thorns. Cinderpaw went after him, and Tawnypelt, and Amberleaf. I plunged after the medicine cat apprentice and entered the ShadowClan camp for the first time.
“Attend to the sick!” Tawnypelt shouted, pointing with her tail at where Littlecloud stood, dumbstruck, nearby. Amberleaf immediately ran over to the group of sick cats lying out in the open, but Cinderpaw’s herbs fell to her paws as her jaw dropped. “Littlecloud!”
The small ShadowClan medicine cat stared at her. “What?”
She struggled for words, but shook her head and turned to help Amberleaf, who was already giving the leaves to a twitching apprentice. I took Cinderpaw’s place before the amazed Littlecloud and explained, “We’re back from the Mountains, and we’ve brought the leaves of the Sun and Moon.”
“The cure!” He meowed, light and hope leaping into his eyes. “Excellent—will Amberleaf be staying?”
“We have to get to ThunderClan first. Tell Blackstar that we—the Twelve Companions of the Light—will be at the Island once we’ve given the last of the herbs to ThunderClan. There, we can tell you about everything.”
“All right,” Littlecloud replied thankfully. “What do I do with the leaves?”
“Just give each sick cat two or three. Make sure they chew it, so the juices will be released. They’ll be stronger by sunset.”
“Excellent. Thank you…Tigerflame, right?”
“Yes.” I dipped my head to the ShadowClan tom before prodding Crowfeather’s flank with my paw. “We can go,” I told the black tom when he turned around. “Littlecloud knows what to do, and ThunderClan needs us.”
“Move out!” Yowled Crowfeather at once, “You too, Amberleaf, you’ll be back before long. Come on, Blazepaw, this is no time for chatting!” The WindClan warrior spun around and vanished into the thorns, Dawninglight and Sorreltail at his sides. Blazepaw broke away from a cluster of wide-eyed apprentices to follow, and before long we were running again, splashing across the incredibly shallow stream and into ThunderClan’s territory.
As we approached the location of the camp, Brackenfur called, “Slowly now! We can’t afford to have anyone tumbling into the gorge.” The entire group’s pace slackened at once as the thorns deceivingly hiding the treacherous gorge appeared. The ThunderClan cats led us to a slope that was fairly level with the bottom of the Twoleg-cut gorge. Faces appeared from the dens at once, accompanied with cries of recognition and surprise.
Dazed with the speed at which things were happening, and at the ever-present grief, I flopped down to lie by the wall while Leafpool bustled into view, examining the herbs Goldenlight presented to her. The tabby medicine cat led Goldenlight, Cinderpaw, and Amberleaf into her den, a small cave cut into the wall, where the telltale coughing was coming from. I closed my eyes, weary, longing to return to RiverClan and sleep.
I closed my eyes, and instantly I felt Gorsethorn beside me, his tail probing my own. I twined it with his sluggishly.
“Gorsethorn,” I murmured, drinking in his scent.
“I’m so sorry, Tigerflame,” he whispered back, his voice close to my right ear. “She was like a mother to me, too.” I swallowed, nodding, remembering when Silverpool had rescued Gorsethorn as a kit and adopting him as her own.
“I can’t believe she’s gone,” I choked quietly, feeling the pain clog my throat. “All that time…we shouldn’t have stayed with the Tribe so long, we should have come back to save her…”
“It’s not your fault,” Gorsethorn meowed at once.
“But I feel like it is.”
“Don’t blame yourself. Besides, she’s in StarClan now, with Hawkwing.”
A strange feeling lurched. I hadn’t thought of that.
“Yes,” I whispered. “She is.”
We were silent for a few moments, content to simply be close to each other. My eyes were drooping, and I longed for the saving sleep that would drop me into a forgetful world of strange bliss. Gorsethorn’s warm presence was beside me, and we were back, with leaves beneath my paws and the scent of air and trees all around…
A face flashed in and out of my eyesight, with livid amber eyes and unfathomable features. I swiveled around, and saw the night sky, black and cloud-strewn, with the stars lining the patches of darkness, but there were flashing lights as well, as if the stars were burning and flying across the sky…and then a single, piercing scream, and I looked down to see a struggle of cats against cats, and the bloody grass on the ground…
Light broke through my eyelids, and the face of an unfamiliar cat was there. It was a she-cat of ThunderClan, her blue eyes wide and uncertain. She approached us as she would a bad-tempered elder. Her fur was striking: golden-ginger tabby striped with pure black. White crept up her paws and under her belly.
“Firestar asked me to get you,” she meowed. “He wants a quick word before you set off. He means to travel with you to the Island.”
“All right,” Gorsethorn replied, dipping his head slightly to her, then rising to his paws with me beside him. “You’re okay, Tigerflame?”
“Yes,” I told him wearily, though I still ached with sadness. I followed the gold-and-black she-cat across the gorge to where the great flame-colored tom, Firestar, sat with his deputy Graystripe. Blazepaw, Tawnypelt, Crowfeather, Goldenlight, Amberleaf, Dawninglight, and Robinwing were there too.
“Thank you, Tigerfur,” Firestar meowed to the she-cat, and I took a closer look at the she-cat. It was always interesting to meet a cat who shared the first part of your name. She nodded and sat down beside Graystripe.
“Really, Firestar,” Amberleaf stated boldly, “we need to get going. The other leaders may have arrived already.”
“We’ll set off at once.”
“Don’t think we’re depending on you or anything,” growled Crowfeather. “We made this journey quite alone, without any leader or anything, and we don’t want you leading us into to the Island like you did all the work.”
I expected Amberleaf or Tawnypelt to flick their tails at him or hiss, but every cat of the Twelve’s face was pleased. I suddenly felt pleased, too. Firestar looked resentful.
“I was merely suggesting—well, I thought that—”
“We know what you thought,” Robinwing meowed knowingly. “You think we’re tired and defenseless after our long journey, just like you were when the Clans made the Great Journey.”
“What if I was?” Firestar shot back.
“Stop it,” Dawninglight put in. “He’s just being considerate. Don’t we have more important things to worry about?”
“She’s right,” I conferred, earning me a delighted glance from the silver and black she-cat. “Can we just go?”
Crowfeather turned briskly, brushing past Firestar and leading us up the gorge’s slope. I looked back to see Firestar swiftly following with Graystripe, Tigerfur, and a young silver apprentice who I guessed was Featherpaw.
Brackenfur and Amberleaf fell into step with Crowfeather, while Tawnypelt and Sorreltail brought up the rear. We moved quickly, almost at a run, with the ThunderClan warriors behind us. A growl of thunder loosed over the trees, and I saw that the clouds had moved over almost all of the sky. The horizon was clear, spreading strange, slanting bars of rich golden light across the shadowed earth, giving everything an otherworldly black-gold-green look.
We followed the shoreline, running hard, crossing the stream into WindClan territory once again and flying past the moors. The fog had vanished, and I could neither see nor scent the Tribe. I hoped they were all right, and wouldn’t panic in the storm. Of course they won’t, I scolded myself. They’re as hardened as Clan cats, if not more.
And at last, when I felt as if my legs would break beneath me, the dry marsh was in sight, as well as the fallen tree that led to the Island. Amberleaf and Dawninglight sprang up onto it, digging their claws into the dead wood. I followed them up next with Blazepaw, who quivered with anticipation. Below the log, the lake had dropped until there was barely a brook beneath us, still and clouded with loose dirt. The Island lay before us, its normally submerged edges bare and dry. The trees were still there, and the Great Oak stretched skyward as always.
We gathered together on the Island’s shore, not bothering to wait for Firestar. The silhouettes of several cats were clustered on the small clearing of short grass, and I was delighted to recognize Reedwhisker’s.
“The victorious return!” The black tom stepped forward, smiling, looking me up and down.
Onestar, Blackstar, Firestar, and Mistystar were there, and the deputies Tearsong, Russetfur, and Graystripe. I looked around for Lionpelt, RiverClan’s deputy, but he was nowhere. Another loss…
“Lionpelt’s gone?” I whispered to Reedwhisker. His eyes darkened, and he nodded.
“Do you know about…?”
He hung his head. Dawninglight moved forward, sweeping her tail across his flank and pressing herself close to him. Unexpected pricks of envy filled me: Dawninglight’s father was still alive, and she still had blood kin in RiverClan. Reedwhisker was as dear as any father to me, but still…I wished Hawkwing had lived, more than anything, and Silverpool too.
Onestar’s voice broke my thoughts. “I would have you tell us all the story of your journey, but the thunderstorm is on its way and I must get back to my Clan. I think you all deserve great honor for your deeds, but it can wait.”
“Onestar,” Gorsethorn spoke up, dipping his head to the WindClan leader when he turned to look at him. “Have you seen to the Tribe of Rushing Water?”
“The Tribe?” Blackstar interrupted sharply.
“The Tribe is here?” Graystripe meowed incredulously.
“Why?” Reedwhisker asked.
“There was a wildfire in their territory,” explained Goldenlight. “It destroyed all the fields, all the trees, right up to the shores of their waterfall pool and river. They have no prey, and the soot poisons their water. We took them out to the moorland beyond WindClan’s territory.”
“Is that wise?” Growled Blackstar. “They could invade us and try to steal territory.”
“And why in StarClan’s name would they do that?” Countered Tearsong of WindClan. “Even if they wanted to, they’d be mouse-brains to think they could take on all four Clans when they are less than half our numbers.”
“And they’re bred for the Mountains,” defended Brackenfur. “Why would they choose to come here?”
“Enough,” Onestar cut in. “I’ve sent scouts to seek out the Tribe cats, but they haven’t reported back yet. I will alert you, I promise.”
“We should go back,” I meowed quickly. “What if something’s happened to them?”
“No,” Mistystar asserted. “You’re all exhausted. The Tribe can manage. They are hardy, and strong. Come back to your Clans and rest. The rain will bring cool air, and the prey might return.”
“Yes,” Cinderpaw agreed quietly. “I should like to hunt once more beneath the trees.”
“Then this meeting is over,” Firestar declared. “Each must go their own way now. The Twelve Companions are no more. You have fulfilled your mission and the prophecies.”
Relief swept through me as each leader went to greet their individual warriors. Mistystar approached me, Dawninglight, and Gorsethorn, smiling. “You have done very well,” she told us gently. It was good to hear her voice again. “Already most of our sick have been breathing easier. We’ve had your nests maintained, or if you’d like, a secluded den has been set up by the river if you wish to be alone.”
We began to head back to the camp. I glanced over my shoulder, watching the shapes of our friends blending into the storm’s shadows. Louder thunder rolled through the air, and the first few raindrops pattered to the earth. Sparks of jubilation flared inside me, but for only a moment, as fatigue began to overwhelm my senses. I hardly felt my paws land heavily on the dry grass, hardly scented the air, drowning in thoughts of sleep and comfort…with Gorsethorn…but no Silverpool to welcome me home, to fuss over me and ask for tales of adventure, to talk about Hawkwing and how proud he would have been.
But maybe I would dream of her, maybe she would come to me from StarClan. That would be nice.
The rain fell harder, and my heart felt joy and grief become one.
...It's not over yet! WOOHOO! But I'm gonna take a little break for the long weekend - we get Monday off, AND Tuesday for some sort of teacher's meeting. Expect Chapter 13: Shadows by next weekend. Thanks so much to all my reviewers, and I hope you won't be disappointed by your character representations.
Tigerfur: No, Reedwhisker is not Deputy, but I don't know why he was at the island. Maybe it was to see Tigerflame, Dawninglight, and Gorsethorn, because don't forget, the whole Clan thanks that Tigerflame is his daughter, Dawninglight is his daughter, and he probaly sees Gorsethorn as a son, so maybe he was just playing the role of a father, I hope that answered your question, Heres the next chapter, enjoy! ;D
Sunsetfur: Thanks again! Your characters will all emerge shortly; see if you can guess how. Seriously.
Chapter 12 Shadows[/u]
Could the trouble finally be over? We had braved so much, accomplished so much, and lost so much…I could hardly conceive that there might be more to come. My dream of the golden-eyed, dark-furred cat probed my sleepy mind, seeming to hiss “It’s not over yet.” Feelings of premonition and trepidation gnawed at my aching heart. It was ironic, anticlimactic, and I didn’t like it.
I had never slept longer or more soundly in my entire life. I dreamed little, except for the occasional flash of rainbow or glint of amber eyes. They weren’t the warm gold of Gorsethorn or Hawkwing, but cold, filled with malice and arrogance. And once I was padding along the Starpath again in the underground cave, but all the flowers were no longer blossoms, but each bore Silverpool’s face, all speaking in discord. I looked up, where the leaves of the Sun and Moon should have been, but saw only Gorsethorn’s sleeping body. It took me a heartbeat to realize that I was awake.
I rose to my paws, shaking off loose rainwater that had trickled down the reeds and into my fur. The thunderstorm was long past, and now sunset colored the sky. I felt refreshed, and savored the cool breeze that swept around the camp.
Squeezing out of the tiny makeshift den hacked into the outer edge of the camp wall, I followed the thorns until I reached the entrance. The earth was damp, and puddles littered much of the ground. The air was filled with choruses of dripping water from leaves and branches. The coughing had vanished. I was briefly elated.
I crawled into the camp and looked around before padding to the medicine cat’s den, ignoring the curious glances of the warriors. Willowleaf was attending to the sick, but there was less urgency and fear in her movements now. Most of them were asleep, but Shadowflicker was sitting up, his eyes bright, Morninglight at his side. The two mates were pressed together with Thymekit curled at their paws. Graykit and Galekit were there too, and a pang struck me as I realized Wingkit must have died.
“Hey,” I meowed softly, and the two cats looked up.
“Tigerflame!” Morninglight’s eyes widened. “Come on over, we don’t mind. Tell us what’s happened!”
“I can’t, sorry. I have to wait for the Gathering tonight.” I grinned wolfishly at my old friend. “It’s a great story, and we’ve all agreed to let each other take turns at the telling. But I want to know what happened while we were gone. I know about…Silverpool.”
“I’m so sorry, Tigerflame,” the gray and white queen murmured, beckoning me to come closer. “Don’t worry, they’re all quite well now. Those herbs worked perfectly, didn’t they?”
“Yes,” Shadowflicker agreed. “I can’t thank you enough, Tigerflame. You’ve saved many lives today.”
I ducked my head, abashed, as I settled down nearby. “Who has left us for StarClan?”
“Well, we lost Wingkit,” Morninglight mewed sadly. “She was the first to die after Mothwing. Cloudfeather’s gone too, and Larchfur. Voletooth passed soon after, and Flowerpelt. Thymekit and Lionpelt were nearly gone when you came, and I reckon they’d be dead by now if you hadn’t come.”
“Other than that,” Shadowflicker added, “not much has happened. Messengers constantly cycled through territories to spread word of infection and possible cure, but nothing we did ever helped. Except for the leaves you brought back, of course.”
“What’s all this business with the Tribe?” Inquired Morninglight. “Everyone’s been talking about it. Some say they’ve come to join the Clans—is that true?”
“No,” I told her at once. “Their territory was destroyed in a fire while we were there and we offered to take them to the moors. Those hills beyond WindClan’s territory are uninhabited, and we thought they could stay there until spring comes again.”
“That’s an excellent idea,” the queen agreed, smiling.
“Not every cat will see it that way,” warned Shadowflicker.
“Huh. You’ve seen Blackstar?” I teased.
“No, but he was number one on my list.”
I purred with amusement.
I spent the remaining hours until moonrise walking around the camp, visiting friends. I met Smokepelt when he returned from a border patrol with Ashenrain and Streamflower. We were happy to talk together again, sitting beside the river, which had regained much of its flow and spirit, until the sunset faded into dusk and dusk into evening.
“There’s Mistystar’s call,” my half-brother meowed as her summons rang out from the camp. “Let’s get going. You, of all cats, can’t afford to miss this Gathering! Everyone wants to be at this Gathering tonight! You will tell the story again to those who miss it?”
“Of course we will,” I told him as we bounded to the camp.
Mistystar was sitting upon the Blackstone, with Lionpelt lying at its side, looked tired but well. Most of the Clan was already gathered there.
“The Gathering is tonight,” she began quickly. “And I know that all of you will want to be there, and I’m sorry if you haven’t been chosen. I’m sure that Dawninglight, Tigerflame, and Gorsethorn will be happy to recount their tale to those who weren’t there.”
“Of course,” Dawninglight called, her tail waving.
“Excellent. Tonight, I’m taking Reedwhisker, Tumblepelt, Flamingfur, Shadowflicker, Smokepelt, Darkpaw, and Scarletfire, along with the three who went on the journey. We leave immediately.”
Sound broke out at once as cats cried out in pleasure or disappointment. I saw Smokepelt touch Ashenrain’s flank with his nose as her face fell before padding across the clearing to where everyone attending the Gathering had clustered together. Mistystar sought out me, Gorsethorn, and Dawninglight before leading us out of the camp and away to the Island, where the Clans would hear our story for the first time.
The usual chattering din of the Gathering was greatly lessened tonight. All the assembled warriors of ShadowClan, RiverClan, and ThunderClan sat close together, whispering about us. The leaders were sitting among the roots, and the deputies Graystripe and Russetfur (Lionpelt was still too weak to attend) with them, but we were bunched to the side, murmuring amongst ourselves as well.
“All right,” Crowfeather mewed quietly as we huddled in a circle. “Tawnypelt will speak first about our journey, from the point we left until we reach the river. Goldenlight and Sorreltail will tell about the Tribe, and Gorsethorn about falling ill and leaving the Tribe’s cave. I will tell about the fire with Robinwing, as we were out when it happened, and Tigerflame will recount her meeting with Songbird and, of course, the Starpath. Gorsethorn can elaborate on the effects of the illness. Dawninglight will tell about the evacuation and Amberleaf and Brackenfur the journey home. Cinderpaw will explain the herbs and how they work. Did I forget anyone? You all know your parts? Good. Feel free to add any details while another is telling, but don’t interrupt often.”
“Where is the rest of WindClan?” Hissed Robinwing, her russet-brown fur bristling. She, Crowfeather, and Goldenlight had stayed on the Island for most of the day rather than return to their own Clan. They'd come to RiverClan with us to escort us back, then were too tired to make the journey to their camp.
“I’m sure they’re coming,” Cinderpaw assured her, but looking a bit worried all the same. “If the Tribe has arrived, they’ll have a lot to worry about.”
Robinwing gave a little hum of reluctant agreement.
But her worry was soon quelled. Onestar’s voice called in announcement as WindClan scent rolled onto the Island and lithe bodies began leaping down from the fallen tree-bridge. The brown tabby leader came forward to stand with Firestar, Mistystar, and Blackstar, three cats trailing him. I recognized the lucid silver pelt of Tearsong, painfully similar to Silverpool’s.
But then the other two came closer, and with an inward leap I scented the Tribe of Rushing Water. Song was there, as well as a black cave-guard called Horizon.
“They’re here!” I meowed, prodding Tawnypelt’s side with my tail. “Look! Thunder and Song!”
Mews of recognition and excitement sprang up from us Twelve, but before we could greet them, Mistystar yowled for silence, which came at once. The Tribe warriors padded off to the side, slightly apart from us.
Mistystar began the Gathering. “Cats of all Clans!” she cried, hushing the few whispers still floating around the crowd. “I know you are all anxious for the Twelve Companions of the Light to begin their tale, and I will not keep you waiting. Please do not press them with questions until they are finished with their tale and you have returned to your own camps.”
She bowed her head in our direction, and the four leaders moved aside to make room for us, though they still watched us as intently as any other cat in the crowd. We all looked at Tawnypelt, who began in a high-pitched yet confident voice.
“We left Clan territory several sunrises ago, as you all know,” the ginger-tortoiseshell she-cat meowed clearly. “And set out on a mission that would determine the entire fate of Clan life.”
She spoke fluently, never faltering, and when her voice halted alongside the mountain river, she was breathless. Sorreltail took over, telling the cats all about the beauty of the Tribe’s hollow and the precarious climb down the slippery wall. Goldenlight assisted her, talking about Silver, Stoneteller’s daughter, and how they had learned the ways of the Tribe up until the day of the fire. Her Clanmates Robinwing and Crowfeather detailed the flames that ravaged the territory, and Robinwing in particular described the blaze with breathtaking eloquence.
Gorsethorn took his turn, detailing the effects of the disease: its agonizing fever, the constriction of his lungs, the coughing. He told about how he had wandered from the Tribe’s cave, slightly delusional, seeking out a patrol to hunt with.
“I don’t quite remember everything that happened,” he confessed. “But I remember the flames, tall and leaping and evil. I was certain that they would find me and kill me quickly in my weakness. But when I collapsed in the boulder field, I did not die. I was found by a strange rogue, with dark brown fur, who took me to a shallow underground cave she sheltered in with her son. Her name was Songbird. I stayed there, sick and sleeping, until Tigerflame came.”
The light brown tabby flicked his tail at me, and, shivering, I stepped forward.
“I came in with a patrol when the fire started,” I meowed. “And was alerted to Gorsethorn’s absence. I decided to go out searching for him. Foolish, yes, but I couldn’t abandon hi—a Clanmate, and a member of the Twelve. I went out seeking him. And I found the place where he had fallen, and encountered the she-cat Songbird, who took me to her cave as well. It was well-hidden, and she said that none of the Tribe cats knew of it. I met Gorsethorn, who was well passed out, and inquired about the landmark mentioned in Mothwing’s prophecy, the Starpath of the Mountains.
“It was Jasper, Songbird’s son, who knew where and what it was. He took me to hidden alcove off their cave. The roof was thin, with many little holes that let in thin bars of brilliant light to illuminate the wonders in the earth. For in that hidden cave was the Starpath, made up of a myriad of little white flowers covering the cave’s floor. At the other end was the cure, the leaves of the Sun and Moon, untouched for who-knows-how-long. I crossed the Starpath and took some, and it cured Gorsethorn.”
I went on to summarize my journey back to the Tribe and my suggestion to bring them out of their ruined territory, then stepped back to let Gorsethorn and Dawninglight speak. Reedwhisker’s eyes were on me, filled with pride, before moving to his daughter by blood as she spoke of the departure of the Tribe.
When the tale was completed and the last speaker, Cinderpaw, fell silent, no one in the crowd spoke. Then a group of apprentices began a quiet cheer, and it was taken up by the cats until it resounded around us, a song of amazement and grandeur that took my breath away. My head was blank with happy bliss for a moment before I noticed the Tribe cats, who were not cheering. Neither was Onestar, who looked worried.
Song and Thunder came forward, standing just behind us politely. Thunder spoke up, his deep voice rumbling through the Island clearing.
“I am sorry to intrude upon your great victory,” he meowed sincerely. “But it is with a heavy heart that I bring more bad news.”
No. This wasn’t happening. How could there be more bad after we had won? I felt the fur on my shoulders bristle, and my legs were tense.
“As they stated, the Twelve brought us from the Mountains to the moors beyond your territory. They had to leave part of the way through, and it was after they left when it happened.”
“We were attacked,” Song picked up simply.
Gasps of shock. A wave of anger and confusion. Attack?
“By who?” Called Tigerfur of ThunderClan.
“Cats,” the Tribe she-cat answered, waving her tail for quiet when whispers broke out. “Strange warriors came upon us, cats we didn’t know the like of. They weren’t Clan, as their scent proved, but they smelled of pine forest. Bright-furred, and small, smaller than us, about the size of a to-be, the equivalent of your apprentice. But deadly.”
“They came upon us during the storm, while we were looking for shelter in the hills,” Thunder continued. “And they were led by two cats, a tom and a she-cat. The tom had golden fur, the she-cat white. I think they were mates. Contrary to their colors, they called themselves the Shadows.”
“And then they attacked us,” Song meowed, distress evident in her strained voice, “their leaders came up to Silver and told them to leave the hills and never return. They called themselves Strike—the tom—and Luna, his mate. We had no fatalities, but a great number of injuries. They retreated after a spell and followed us from a distance, menacing and light-colored in the storm’s gloom.
“They are coming.”
There, an ancient shadow will wake, and only the Light can break it when they have become truly one.
Was Cinderpaw wrong? What if this shadow in the prophecy wasn’t the disease, but these violent cats who called themselves the Shadows?
“They’re coming?” A WindClan queen meowed, her voice trembling and high-pitched.
Song dipped her head. “They swore to follow us and chase us away forever. They want the territory in the hills, and who knows what will happen if they discover the forest?”
“It will be BloodClan all over again,” murmured Firestar, his gaze lingering on Graystripe.
“Then we’ll fight them!” Cinderpaw leaped forward, her gray fur bristling, ferocity in her eyes.
“All of us!” Put in Blazepaw, jumping up beside his friend. A ripple of forced amusement passed through the crowd, and the ginger cat fluffed himself out.
“What else can we do?” Called a black ShadowClan she-cat.
“And what of the sick cats?” Amberleaf put in worriedly. “They’re still too weak to do any fighting!”
“We must plan for an invasion at once,” Onestar stated. “We can’t afford not to.”
“I agree,” Blackstar meowed. “We have to defend our territories against the Shadows.”
“We must unite!” Cried a cat from a knot of ThunderClan warriors. “Then we can drive away the Shadows more easily!”
“I won’t be commanded by others,” Blackstar shot back sharply.
“Don’t be difficult,” growled Firestar. “What else are we going to do? Try and face them alone? Separate? Scattered?”
“The Twelve should lead us!” Meowed a young she-cat from the assembly. “They made it back from the Mountains and gave us the cure to the illness!”
“Yeah!” Several apprentice voices yowled their agreement, and I saw a pair of white apprentices watching us with deepest admiration.
“We should do exactly as we did in the battle with BloodClan,” Blackstar insisted.
Many eyes were turned upon the normally irritatingly independent ShadowClan leader. “You’re agreeable tonight,” commented Mistystar.
The white tom’s gaze fell to his dark paws. “My mate died from the sickness,” he mewed quietly. “Roseflower. I will do anything to protect the rest of my sick—or healing—from death.”
An uncomfortable pause followed these words, before Onestar spoke up again. “We may need to evacuate our camp, and the Tribe. Tearsong has suggested the Island for our sanctuary. Is this acceptable to you, RiverClan in particular? We will hunt as much as we can on the moors if it comes to that.”
“Of course,” Mistystar agreed instantly.
“So,” Firestar summed up, his green eyes sweeping the crowd of murmuring warriors, all excited and perhaps a bit worried too. “If the Shadows arrive, we will join together here to face them as one. Once we’ve estimated the numbers of these cats, we’ll determine how large our fighting force needs to be. The weak must be protected as well, don’t forget.”
“Shall the Twelve lead us?” Reedwhisker meowed loudly.
“I think they should,” Onestar agreed matter-of-factly. “They’ve earned it.”
“I have an idea,” Tawnypelt spoke up. “We could prepare an ambush party. We could take a few cats with us to hide out somewhere behind the Shadows, and attack them by surprise. It’s a very useful Mountain technique that I learned from the Tribe.” She flicked her tail toward Thunder and Song, who smiled appreciatively.
“That’s a good idea,” Firestar supported. “We could set up several of these raiding units.”
“The moon grows faint,” Russetfur observed loudly. “And we need to get back to our cats who were ill.”
“Yes,” Mistystar agreed. “This Gathering is over. Leave with the courage of StarClan, who are still watching us.”
Woohoo...I missed my deadline...again. *virtual whack on self* I got the Return of the King video game...and spent a lot of time on it...a lot more than I intended to...anyway, I beat it, so now I can work more. Hm...Chapter 13: Strength will be up in a week, I estimate. If you haven't glimpsed your character yet, please let me know. I think I've put in Shadepaw, Tigerfur, and Tearsong so far...Beautypelt's coming...dot dot dot...use them way too much...ah well. Night all!
Tigerfur: Hi guys! ;D Sorry that I haven't posted in a while, but I had to wait until Sunsetfur updated, so heres the next chapter, enjoy! ;D
Sunsetfur: Thanks for all your splendid support and comments! Tiger, post this as soon as you like. I'm quite beside myself with the amazing reviews the WW people have given me, and you TSF fans as well.
Chapter 13 Strength[/u]
So here it was, and this was how it would end. We had all expected peace to return when we had cured all the sick, but now there was a new force to deal with. Whoever these Shadows were, we would find out soon. The preparations would begin tonight. No Clan wanted to risk more death, and they had learned well from the battle against BloodClan moons ago. We wouldn’t wait long. Scouts were already reporting sightings of them.
I shivered. Not because of the cold, but because of the warmth, which had returned in lesser degrees after the stormclouds had moved on. It was strange after a day of cold wind and rain. The sun was peering through the clouds, and strands of blue were visible between clumps of swirling cloud. The birds were singing.
It was morning, and I sat between Dawninglight and Smokepelt, with Gorsethorn and Ashenrain nearby. Many cats milled about, and the jumbled scents were muddling my senses. Mistystar, Nightshadow, and Streamflower were gathered together with Onestar and a ginger WindClan tom I didn’t recognize, engaged in earnest conversation. The ThunderClan force was arriving over the crest of a hill, moving quickly and silently. A powerful wind swept through the land, rattling the dead reeds in the marsh a short ways away. The loud neighing of a horse sounded from the horseplace, twice the distance away from us.
“What do you think they’re doing?” Breathed Smokepelt, his gray and black fur bristling. “The Shadows, I mean?”
“Sneaking around in WindClan’s territory, no doubt,” I hissed back. “I hope ShadowClan comes by the RiverClan route. If these Shadows are as bad as they sounded, they might ambush them.”
“Blackstar’s not stupid,” Ashenrain put in sensibly. “He’s older than Firestar, Mistystar, and Onestar.”
“Do you think the Tribe will be okay?” Dawninglight asked, her bright eyes looking in Moon and her kits’ direction. Silver was oddly independent, courteously refusing all aid offered by the Clan leaders, keeping to herself with her senior cats.The cave-guards were busy practicing their combat technique, while the lithe prey-hunters nervously joined in, unused to the activity.
“Well,” Gorsethorn mewed slowly, “the prey-hunters may be a bit worse off. They weren’t as thoroughly trained for battle. Their cave-guards are excellent, though.”
“What about their apprentices?” Ashenrain inquired, her eyes scanning the Tribe for young cats. Gorsethorn launched into a description of the customs of the Mountain cats. He never finished.
A yowl tore through the air as he told her about the to-be’s, and every cat’s voice died in their throats as they turned, in unison, to where the sound had come from.
Two pairs of gleaming dark blue eyes peered down upon the assembled fighting force from a hilltop nearby. The two cats walked forward several paces, looking around the WindClan-RiverClan clearing with cool surprise on their faces. They carried with them the scent of pine. One was white, the other bright gold.
“It’s them!” The voices flew around, whispering the same thing, over and over and over. The two Shadow cats looked pleased.
“And who might you be?” The she-cat spoke, her sleek, feminine voice laced with icy contempt. This must be Luna. Her moon-white fur brushed the flank of her companion. “These must be the fabled Clans.”
“Greetings.” Firestar rose to his paws, and the other two with him. The flame-furred tom was barely containing his battle lust. “You must be the Shadows.”
“We are,” crowed the tom, Strike. Unlike his mate, he showed outright rudeness and blunt, slightly freakish sneers. “Those wretched Mountain-rats came crawling to you now, did they? We showed them how to fight.”
Silver restrained herself, but a few burly cave-guards jumped forward, bristling.
“Mountain-rats?” Repeated one, a black tom called Horizon. “If I remember correctly, it was you who retreated!”
“Our attack was merely a warning to you,” stated Luna.
“Warning? Against what?” Snarled Silver.
“Us, of course,” Strike sneered. “A great flood destroyed our homeland. It brought down trees and either scared away or drowned most of the prey. We’ve traveled far from our home by the Great Water.”
“Great Water?” Echoed Crowfeather in a hoarse whisper. “Is that the sun-drown place?”
“Doubtless,” Sorreltail hissed back.
“We have come to find new territory,” Luna continued, her voice rising to a shrill crescendo. “And what better than a lake, with moor, river, marsh, and forest?”
“There is no room for you,” snapped Onestar testily. “We won’t allow it.”
Strike laughed raucously, a mad, quivering cackle that seemed to hang in the air like fog on a humid day. “Do you think we expected you to coexist with us? We’ll drive you out if we must.”
“If we must?” Luna meowed back. “We will drive them out, my dear Strike.” She lifted her head to the blue sky, and her voice was filled with terrible passion as she cried, “We meet again at sunset! We will be watching.”
And with that, the two bright warriors, beautiful and cold, swept around and vanished down the hillside.
Silence followed for a few uncertain moments. And then the sound, a sudden and chaotic din that rampaged across the clearing. Fear was there, and comfort, hate bellowed after Strike and Luna, and the battle-ready cries of the warriors longing to fight.
"We’ll fight!” Yowled Smokepelt, rising with the rest of the cats. Ashenrain was beside her brother, calling along with him.
“Everyone!” The three present leaders had quickly clambered up on a rock, jostling for space on the small stone. Mistystar asserted her authority, and everyone eventually quieted down.
“Everyone,” the gray leader repeated, her blue eyes sweeping the gathered Clan warriors. “Please stay calm, for the sake of every cat who walks and has walked these lands. This will be the first time, for most of you, that you will have to fight a strange and hostile force of cats. They seem intimidating—they are intimidating—but do not waver! We have been strong enough in the past, and you all have strength enough for this! Even to the last breath, we can fight against the Shadows, and die knowing that we fell for what we believed in.”
The sun dropped slowly over the quiet moors. A thick wind buffeted the trees, still brittle from the heated summer, and tore apart the lake’s surface. It was cool in the sheltering shade of ash trees where I crouched, with Gorsethorn close to me and Blazepaw on my other side. The thorn bushes where Hawkwing had been buried were not far away, and a fresh grave was there also, a white stone marking its place.
Down by the dried-up marsh stood the gathered forces of ShadowClan, WindClan, ThunderClan, RiverClan, and the Tribe of Rushing Water. The four leaders and three deputies (Lionpelt was still recovering) sat before the warriors, with Silver heading the Tribe fighters nearby. Every eye was trained upon the hilltops from over which the Shadows would appear. As had been suggested, the Twelve Companions of the Light were concealed in the tree copse apart from the rest, ready to ambush the Shadow forces as they rushed at the Clan cats. Two other parties were hidden somewhere opposite us.
Brackenfur and Tawnypelt would lead us. Every cat who had gone to the Mountains was here, also with Songbird and Jasper, as well as a few Clan warriors: Tigerfur of ThunderClan, a black she-cat named Beautypelt of ShadowClan, the silver apprentice Shadepaw, who had recovered quickly, of WindClan, and Ashenrain my half-sister.
“Where are they?” Songbird hissed from behind me. “You’d think they’d’ve come out already ’n’ get their job done.”
Even as she spoke, there was a flash of sun as Strike and Luna appeared over the hill. They were almost nose-to-nose with the other leaders in an instant, watching them with calm disdain.
“Well?” Luna mewed in her horribly mocking tone. “They want to fight us, Strike.”
“Indeed,” the golden tom cackled.
“Then so it shall be,” she continued, turning to stare each leader in the eyes. “They will be taken care of quickly.”
“It is you who will be driven off!” Spat Onestar. The brown tom was just about shaking with anger.
“We shall see,” Luna meowed, and I caught the gleam of cruel pleasure in her dark eyes as she turned around. “Isn’t the landscape simply spectacular for a battle, Strike? I cannot wait to yowl our victory under these skies.”
I barely restrained myself from jumping out of our hiding place to claw Luna as the Shadow leaders passed up the hill swiftly. They vanished over the edge again, and screams broke out from the assembled force behind them. Every cat was bristling, screeching with rage, hate, and mocking—but there was fear also, and comfort. The volume was incredible.
“Stop—stop!” That was Mistystar’s voice. The four leaders stood side by side, shoulder to shoulder, and Silver came up with them, standing close to Onestar. “Get ready—brace yourselves against them!”
“We fight!” Yowled Blackstar, his voice raw with pain and determination, probably thinking of his lost mate Roseflower. I had met the ShadowClan queen a few times—spunky, fearless, and proud. I wondered if they’d had any kits.
A ripple of movement swept the lines of many-colored warriors, the Clans of the Forest and the Cats of the Mountains. They all faced forward, their eyes defiant, waiting to meet their challengers, the Shadows.
A heart-beating, blood-chilling, earth-shattering moment of silence.
And then they came. Moving like a great wave, they flowed down the hill, seeming to hover above the ground and skim through the air like birds. They all had light pelts of gold or white, occasionally tinted with silver or pale brown. Every Shadow cat had dark eyes like Luna’s. They sang out the music of war, wailing cries of blood and fighting. Strike charged at their head, not at all as graceful as his warriors, bouncing madly, his eyes gleeful and insane.
The two forces met. There went up a great cry of fierceness, every cat yelling at once. Claws sparkled in the orange and golden light, teeth flashed and the first blood fell. The Clan and Tribe warriors leaped, having a slight size advantage over the Shadows. But the strangers fought with speed and grace, even more quick than the WindClan cats.
And still the Shadows came down the hill. I searched the crowd from my viewpoint for Luna, who was obviously the true power of the Shadows. If she was killed, the battle would be finished. Her lunatic mate Strike could never command them.
Brackenfur’s tail raised from my right, and my shoulder fur bristled. Tawnypelt’s legs bunched under her, and every whisker twitched. Beside me, Gorsethorn drew a deep breath and quickly swept his tail across my flank. The skin tingled and his touch made my heart jump.
“Now!” Roared Brackenfur, just as another ambush party of Clan cats opposite us burst out of their hiding place. The ThunderClan tom flashed out, Tawnypelt and Tigerfur his Clanmate flanking him. I sprang out, crying my battle call, and dove at a stunned white tom. I slashed upward at his head, but he dodged nimbly, spinning around and jumping behind me. I whipped around also, and we were nose to nose. Hardly thinking I jumped again, landing on his left, and I struck his foreleg and gashed it. His thick blood leaked out in tiny, sluggish streams, and he yowled, full of bristling fury. He dove at me, managing to grip my tail in his teeth. Kicking at him strongly, he was shaken off balance and I took the chance to aim another blow at his left side. It knocked the breath out of his lungs and I scratched him again on his shoulder. He staggered up, and fled.
I wove through the crowd, heading downhill, shooting blows at any Shadow cat who came too close. I grappled with a pale yellow she-cat and a tom of the lightest gray hue, all the while searching for Luna. She was no where to be found, but I was certain that she’d target the leaders.
Spotting the ShadowClan warrior Beautypelt, a member of my ambush party, trip under the paws of an enormous white she-cat, I sprinted to help her as the Shadow cat bit down, hard, on her shoulder. Beautypelt shrieked with pain and anger and sprang back up, battering her enemy with her forepaws. I jumped up to help her, rearing onto my hind legs to aim blows at the she-cat’s unprotected back. I gave her a wild blow that left her bleeding. She stumbled forward into Beautypelt’s waiting paws, and the black she-cat swiped at the top of her head and sent her crawling into the bushes.
“Thanks!” Beautypelt called as she dove back into the fray. I watched her for a second before turning once more. I had neared the lake’s shore now, where the bottom of the battle was being held. Firestar was fighting back-to-back with Sandstorm, his mate, against three Shadows. Mistystar ferociously spun and sprang, lashing out at any enemy she could find. Onestar and Tearsong fought together with another WindClan warrior—upon closer inspection, I saw that it was Goldenlight. She threw me a wild grin before delivering a staggering blow to a white tom’s head. I looked around for Blackstar, and saw him hauling a light gray she-cat off of Blazepaw.
Where was Luna?
“Tigerflame!” Cried a new voice, and I saw Gorsethorn thrusting himself through the fighting cats, his face stricken and his voice tight with fear. “Tigerflame—Tigerflame, there was another cat, she looked so like you, and she was bleeding on the ground, totally motionless, and I thought she was you—and I was afraid, so afraid that you might be…”
“I’m fine!” I called back, my attention focused on a sneering brown- and gray-tinged Shadow she-cat. I darted around her in a swift circle and flashed out at her legs, tripping her easily. Gorsethorn ran forward to pin down her neck as I aimed a swipe at her back. She wriggled away and ran, screeching, up the hill, droplets of scarlet flying behind her.
“Tigerflame,” he mewed again, quietly. I hardly heard his oh-so-familiar voice in the roaring din of the battle.
“What?” I yowled, dodging the claws of another Shadow warrior. And suddenly he was right up beside me, enveloping me with his scent, closer than ever before, or so I thought. But was I thinking? Or was this a dream…?
“Tigerflame—I love you.”
I forgot how to move. I forgot how to breathe. I forgot the feel of any other cat in the world, or any other scent, just standing there with his sun-colored eyes on mine and his face into a lopsided grin.
“I know,” I managed to choke out, whispering. “You know I’ve always loved you.”
“Of course,” he murmured back, and touched his nose to mine. I sighed, a tiny part of my mind astonished that we weren’t being attacked, before I saw the flash of brilliantly white fur dance through the crowd and stop before us.
“Gorsethorn—look, stop! Luna! It’s Luna! It’s her!” I shrieked, staggering sideways as the Shadow leader’s smiling face filled my eyes.
“What do we have here?” She meowed, her voice once again filled with luscious contempt. “In the midst of chaos, two lovers find a moment for their romance? How heart-wrenching.” Her words were not sarcastic, or even cruel, but her expression was more than enough.
She dodged extremely nimbly, her speed unearthly. Her bone-white fur flickered and flashed around her like a colorless flame, never pausing. She was an incredible fighter, and I was certain that I would have been dead in seconds if Gorsethorn had not leaped onto her from behind, driving his claws into her shoulders. With a snarl she shook herself violently and threw him off her, backing for a moment before springing at me again. I was ready this time, and pulled out of her way, throwing up my paws for defense. I threaded my foreleg through her shield of claws and whacked the side of her head. Gorsethorn came up beside me, his cheek bleeding, and parried her attacks calmly.
The white she-cat staggered back, regaining her balance. I tried to circle around to her back but she moved with me, keeping both of us before her. Gorsethorn snarled and ran forward, and she reared onto her hind legs and threw her whole weight against him, landing another blow to his neck. My heart clenched as he teetered before her, then fell to his side.
“No!” I screamed, but his head lifted as Luna shifted her position to face me. Like a snake he struck, tripping her from behind before jumping to his paws. The Shadow leader stumbled, but defiance was on her face, and untamed, alien happiness. She attacked both of us at once, her skill superb. Her dark blue eyes darted back and forth faster than I could see.
But suddenly Gorsethorn was thrown backwards, toppling down to his side, twitching, all the breath knocked out of him. In my heartbeat of horror and disbelief Luna drove me down as well, and the ground rushed up to meet me and banged against my head painfully. Dazed, I looked up into the serenely smiling face of Luna, who would have been beautiful save for her terrible aura.
“Well,” she meowed softly against the torrent of noise. I heard Gorsethorn moan. “This is incredible. There is only one choice left for me: who shall I dispose of first?” The malice and sweet love of agony was in her voice, and I knew I could never hope to save myself or Gorsethorn. I blinked rapidly, trembling, knowing that this was the end.
Silverpool would be here…
Emotion choked me, and I barely noticed as Luna raised her white paw, sharp claws extended, to destroy me. The bloody light of the sunset gleamed fiercely overhead.
A glint of something in those indigo orbs, and then the paw was whistling down. A rush of air, and a silver shape burst into my vision, obscuring Luna. It was surely a StarClan cat, come to lead me into the sky.
I waited for death, but it didn’t come.
Then I saw the black.
Dawninglight bore down on Luna, her beautiful tabby fur torn, one ear scarlet. Many little claw-wounds riddled her side, and Lune beneath her was shocked.
She breathed heavily, and a single word escaped her lips. “Never.”
And then, with a graceful swoop of her paw, she elegantly flicked her claws over the white throat.
Luna’s ragged breath cut off at once. The Shadow she-cat twitched and shook violently, trying to throw Dawninglight off feebly. Dawninglight stretched out her neck, her head tilted upwards, shivering as Luna choked beneath her. A few quaking moments, and then the final shudder, a settling of white fur, and Luna’s flank fell.
With great effort, I pulled myself into a sitting position as Dawninglight stumbled away from the motionless she-cat, her face twisted with revulsion and torment. Several Shadows looked wildly around, spotting Luna, and shrieking with astonishment and terrible fear. They struggled through the ranks of Clan and Tribe, away up the hill, their grace and swiftness and power diminished. Like the tide returning to the depths they flowed back, their pale fur fiery in the light of the falling sun.
And the cheers! The screams and cries of victory and sunrise, the stars and the light of StarClan who watched over us always. And perhaps up above the spirits were singing also, leaping about in their starlight and making the night sky shimmer. But two would be off to the side, sitting close together, moon and sun, watching as the daughter of Reedwhisker threw herself before the daughter of Hawkwing, and this time was not swept aside.
I really tried to put some of my best writing into this, and I feel it's my best so far. Did you see the parallel between what Dawninglight did for Tigerflame and what Reedwhisker tried to do for Hawkwing? That was really what I was aiming for at the end. Sorry...but the final chapters are approaching. Keep watch for The Fire Within Us, which will be coming...as soon as I get the plot worked out. Heehee. I'll start with *ahem* a new generation...
Post by .Swiftclaw. on Oct 26, 2007 13:55:59 GMT -5
WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D That was amazing! The descriptions were brilliant and it finished perfectly!! And Tigerflame and Gorsethorn...so cute. Go Sunny!!!!!! But I am sad it's finished... I can't wait for The Fire Within Us!!!!!!!!!!! ;D ;D ;D
Tigerfur: Thanks for the comments and support guys, heres the next chapter, enjoy! ;D
Sunsetfur: Chapter 14 Life[/u]
Those days following the battle with the Shadows were some of the best I could remember in my life. Gorsethorn loved me, and Dawninglight had saved probably every cat there—the very existence of the Clans and the Tribe. The Mountain cats settled in the empty moors, and they spent their first days there hunting down any stray Shadow cats with the WindClan warriors and apprentices. They even attended Gatherings. Life fell back into its usual balance, yet with the heart-aching absence of Silverpool.
The rising sun spread pearly ribbons of rose and yellow across the light gray sky, scattered with a few wispy black clouds. I had taken the dawn patrol with Smokepelt along the WindClan border, and together we talked, catching up with each other. He told me about Silverpool’s passing in detail.
“She showed all the signs of the Burning,” he told me, ducking beneath a low branch. The Burning. That was the first time I’d remembered the name of the sickness since the Mountains. “And she was sick for seven days before…you know. She was quite peaceful when it happened, and Reedwhisker and I were with her. I think she knew in her heart that you’d return.”
“Yes,” I murmured. “Perhaps she did.”
A call came from somewhere, and I looked around, spotting a patrol of warriors from the WindClan side heading our way. Goldenlight was among them, and I greeted her enthusiastically.
“How goes it?” I asked her.
“Well,” she replied, “we think we’ve seen the last of the Shadows. We found Strike’s body in the bushes. Actually, a Tribe to-be found it, I think it was Skyrunner. He might have been turned on by his cats after they lost the battle. Didn’t he seem a bit insane to you?”
“Definitely,” I agreed. I glanced around at the other WindClan cats, recognizing Shadepaw, the apprentice I had helped to heal. “I see you’ve recovered, Shadepaw.”
“She’s not Shadepaw anymore,” Goldenlight corrected me. “She became a warrior after the battle.”
“Shadeheart now,” the gray she-cat told me shyly. She surveyed me with the same respectful awe I had grown used to.
We exchanged a few more words before padding away in opposite directions. I glanced back at the little group, thinking…what was I thinking about? Goldenlight’s light ginger fur swayed as she chatted happily with her friends, completely settled into her Clan again. I had lost so much, and felt as if I didn’t really belong anymore.
No, I wouldn’t think that. Of course I belonged in RiverClan.
It’s Silverpool’s death that’s weighing you down, I told myself, following Smokepelt past the dried marsh. I wish I could see her.
Do you remember me, Tigerflame? Was that her voice?
I could never forget you.
Violets were blooming in the meadows. Bright, bold purple, yet tiny, nestled among dark leaves. There were white ones, too: the flowers of new-leaf.
Winter had been shorter, less cold than others in my life. Snow had fallen, and the Tribe cats were stunned at how low the banks were. They were used to mounds of snow higher than their heads. As the Mountain-snow melted, we could see the dark streams of soot tumbling down with the icy runoff. The Tribe cats watched it forlornly from their hilltops in the moors for days.
The best part about new-leaf now was the river. It was full of life and laughter again, singing in the sunlight, splashing with renewal. New-leaf was the season of life and birth. Kits were born in the spring.
Dawninglight’s two beautiful kits were as perfect as anyone could have imagined. They were both she-cats, different as greenleaf and leaf-bare. One had inherited her mother’s colors, while the other had Barkpelt’s golden-brown fur. They were Brightkit, the silver and black one, and Birdkit, the brown one.
My own happiness was coming.
It was all a blur of pain and squealing and Willowleaf’s gentle voice and Gorsethorn’s quiet scent and was that Silverpool’s shadow there? Or maybe Reedwhisker’s black pelt or Smokepelt’s anxious eyes or Dawninglight watching, watching, the sister who had saved my life.
“Small, aren’t they?” Smokepelt meowed thoughtfully, earning him a reproachful swipe from Ashenrain.
“Of course they’re small, you utter and absolute mouse-brain, they’re newborn kits!” She sounded exasperated, but affectionately so.
I purred, half-asleep and utterly exhausted. It was amazing how the three tiny scraps beside me could have made me so tired. There was a bright golden one, a light brown one, and a silver one, proving that the old trait still lived in my blood.
“What are you gonna name them?” Rowanpaw, Morninglight’s newly apprenticed daughter, poked her head around her mentor Ashenrain’s shoulder.
“It’s too early for that, Rowanpaw,” Willowleaf pointed out. “They’ve been in this world for a few minutes and they’re the most popular cats in RiverClan!”
“That’s how it always is with kits,” purred Reedwhisker, watching me fondly. “You four were that way.”
“And so were these two!” Dawninglight added, stroking Birdkit and Brightkit with her tail.
I sighed blissfully, looking up at the canopy of budding leaves that made the nursery’s roof. “What should we call them, Gorsethorn?”
“First off,” Willowleaf put in, swishing her gray tail in front of Gorsethorn. “You have a she-cat, the silver one, and the other two are toms.”
“Thanks, Willowleaf,” Gorsethorn mewed.
“Well, everyone out!” The medicine cat snapped good-naturedly. “Give them some privacy, for StarClan’s sake. You’ll know everything soon enough. And you, Dawninglight, don’t you dare annoy them.”
“She won’t,” I told her. “Don’t worry, but thanks again.”
Reedwhisker led Smokepelt, Ashenrain, Rowanpaw, and Willowleaf from the nursery. Dawninglight turned her back on us and tucked her head beside her kits. She was asleep in a minute. Gorsethorn settled down beside me, his head beside mine. “What shall we call them all, Tigerflame?”
“Names worthy of warriors,” I murmured.
“Not only of warriors, but of adventure, too.”
“And remembrance.” I looked down at them again, three squirming kits, barely alive, just beginning to feel the sun on their fur, the breath on their paws, the life in their veins.
“How about the brown kit to start?” He suggested, his amber eyes resting on his look-alike.
I didn’t respond for a moment. My mind was whirling with a sudden, heartbreaking idea.
“Gorsethorn,” I whispered, the names hanging on the tip of my tongue. “I have their names.”
“What?” It was a question. His eyes were bright with intrigue and concern at my choked expression. Slowly, I lifted my tail and rested it on the golden kit’s flank.
My tail traveled to the gray she-kit.
And last, the brown one.
“Eaglekit.” The name was barely a sound from my mouth. His eyes widened, but they were knowing and accepting.
“Perfect,” he told me gently. “I couldn’t have chosen better. StarClan themselves couldn’t have chosen better.” He turned his head, looking me straight in the eyes. “You changed, Tigerflame, from the cat I knew as an apprentice. Even before the journey, you were different. More carefree.”
“Loss changes everything.”
“You haven’t seen her in your dreams?”
“Not once.” My throat tightened.
“I’m sorry,” Gorsethorn whispered, drawing closer and guiding my head down to rest on the leaves of my nest. “Sleep now. You’re tired.”
I didn’t argue. I closed my eyes and felt the empty darkness of my dreams.
Awaking to the sunset, I discovered that Gorsethorn had left. A sheltered window in the nursery’s side allowed the queens to observe the camp from their confined nests, as well as the spacious double entrances recently carved out by Rowanpaw and her sister Robinpaw. I could see him gnawing a rabbit’s leg with Smokepelt beside him, talking animatedly. Dawninglight was awake as well, watching her daughters suckle.
“Dawninglight?” She looked up. “Could you take these three for a few minutes? I need to go down to the river for a moment.”
“Sure,” she agreed. I tenderly lifted Eaglekit and placed him between Birdkit and Brightkit, then settled Moonkit and Sunkit side-by-side to Birdkit’s left. They squirmed and began to suckle from Dawninglight instead. She shivered.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes,” she giggled, “just not used to so many! Hurry back before they leave me as dry as the marshes were last greenleaf.”
I slid out of the nursery and ducked, out of sight, through the RiverClan camp’s tunnel. The river was close by, and I splashed into it at once, relishing the cool water on my matted and sweaty fur. It streamed around me, brown and gold, in the flowing waters, cleansing it for the first time in days. Quickly dipping my head under as well, I hauled back out onto the shore and began to groom the water from my pelt, untangling it as well.
I whipped around. No one.
And then she was there, her whisper of a self beside me, a shimmer of silver in the golden air.
“You’re—you’re here! You’ve come!” I was beside myself, watching her emerald eyes take shape and blink at me.
“Congratulations. Your kits are beautiful and healthy.”
“They’re with Dawninglight. She’ll take care of them well,” I assured her. I knew she was thinking of what had happened with Glowkit and Darkkit, moons ago now.
“Yes, she will.” Silverpool simply watched me, her eyes unmoving and filled with emotion.
“I’m sorry,” I mewed hesitantly.
She blinked. “For what?”
“You died. We found the cure, but we couldn’t save you.”
To my astonishment, she smiled. “I knew it would happen.”
“What?” I spluttered. “You knew? But—why? How come you didn’t tell us? We could have come back in time—we could have saved you!” My voice rose to a hysterical note. “If you knew, why did you leave everyone behind when you could have lived? You abandoned me.”
My voice broke.
She watched me calmly. “I did it because I had to, Tigerflame, my daughter. Didn’t you realize what Mothwing’s prophecy meant? The leaves of the Sun and Moon.”
A resentful, awful speck of realization sparked in my chest. “No.”
“I did,” she continued. “I knew that my time had ended. You were about to embark on your own mission, and I couldn’t let my tragedy affect you.”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “I thought you said that you knew you were going to die.”
“Well, some StarClan cat didn’t waltz down from the skies to inform me, if that’s what you thought. I guessed. I felt it in my blood and in my heart and dreams.”
“That’s terrible,” I whispered.
“Not in the least,” she corrected. I looked up in surprise, and Silverpool looked back at me softly. “I was on my way to Hawkwing.”
I hummed in response, beyond any words. “Have you always been watching me? Ever since you…?” I trailed off.
“Yes,” she told me. “I’ve never forgotten to watch over you.”
“Then why come to me now, after so long?”
“You needed to become independent. I didn’t want you to always live in the shadow of my death.”
I sighed. “Will you visit me more often?”
“I can’t say, Tigerflame. Perhaps I will.” A smile stole across her shimmering face. And then she vanished, like mist in a bout of sunlight.
I blinked rapidly, taking it all in. A breeze stirred the grass and the river’s surface and my gossamer, drying fur. The kits, I told myself. Can’t leave them alone for too long. I rose and trotted back to the camp, where I knew Dawninglight would be waiting for me.
The daughter of the Sun and Moon was returning.
Life was beginning again.
Nope - wait! There's an epilogue! Keep watch for Epilogue: Infinite Stars and River Song. Should be coming no later than Sunday. Thanks again, everyone, and have a great Halloween!
P.S. - A sneak preview of The Fire Within Us!! It will be told in Eaglepaw's (Eaglekit) point of view.
“The Moonpool is failing,” Featherwing whispered, her eyes blank and unfocused. “And if we do nothing, it will vanish entirely before the moon is full again.”
Last Edit: Nov 2, 2007 14:58:48 GMT -5 by Tigerfur