Light filtered through the treetops, causing them to look blurred, in his vision.
He winced as another stab of pain went through him. He lay on a rock, pelt heaving, breathing heavily.
Memories of his Clan, of Firestar, danced through his head. But that was all over now. All gone.
His eyes steadily began to close. Futiley, he attempted to struggle upwards. But pain shot through him worse than before, and he was forced to drop down once again. Every breath brought a new lurch of discomfort.
All of his ribs were smashed from the fall, leaving his lungs unprotected. Blood trickled down his ragged flank.
This is it, he thought, as he blinked one last time at the almond-shaped eyes peering down at him from the tree branch in horror. He tried to feel betrayal, but all emotion was swept from him as his eyes drifted close for the last time.
His flank ceased to rise and fall with the steady rhythm of breath.
He was gone.
The stars twinkled and swirled in a beautiful pattern. Slowly, they began to descend on him, flit down to were he stood in the clearing next to a dense forest, a gorgeous meadow on the other side.
"Welcome, Tinystar," voices echoed.
"I can't be dead already," he protested, "After all I've promised! After the cats that I've met in my lifetime! They are all much too important."
"I'm sorry," a more prominent voice whispered. Appearing from simply the stars, it was snow-white she-cat. The unknown one, the one who had given him his last life, the life for acceptance. She was kind. Except there was something hard about her stormy gray eyes, almost like she knew too much.
"You were very young to die," she continued.
He gave no response, other than the panicked kneading of his paws into the earth.
"Please," he whispered, "Help me."
She murmured soothingly. "I'm afraid I can't."
"What do you mean?"
"It is impossible, at least in this case."
There was a pause. Tinystar could hear his anxious heart thudding in his chest.
"However, we aren't so different, you and I," she mewed, "Same... pasts, I suppose."
He narrowed his eyes. "How do you know so much?"
"I have always been there for you," she whispered, "So many of my qualities reflected in you..."
More starlight began to drift lazily across the rolling hills of swaying grass. Ever so slowly, the pinpricks of light formed into cats. They were in their prime, with glossy and shiny pelts, eyes glowing with kindness.
"I can see that you two have been getting acquainted. After all, StarClan can be hard to get used to." The tom spoke strongly. Just the sound of his words made him feel at ease.
"Yes. I was just speaking to him about our time alive," she mewed, as if it were just deciding a place to hunt prey.
Involuntarily, he began to pad beside her, as they weaved through the forest.
"So really, what do you want?" he mewed.
"I wanted to say that I'm proud."
He turned to her. "What?"
"You could've gone another way. I almost did. Those times I regretted so much," she mewed.
"Well... okay... but why are you telling me this?" he demanded.
She shrugged. "Let me show you."
She gave him a small shove. He went tumbling forward. His paw stuck on a bramble. Hurriedly, he yanked it away, as it bled lightly.
"What was that for?" he snarled. Then he turned to look at his surroundings.
Everything was completely gloomy. There were still trees, but they were laced with cobwebs, and so close together that they blocked the sky. Toadstools grew at their roots, glowing with some sort of strange liquid. Strange noises echoed.
And it was... dark.
"Why are you showing me this?"
But the StarClan she-cat had disappeared. Warily, he crept to his feet. Another odd noise sounded, louder than before. Slowly, he began to back away from the dark woods.
"Well what's this?" a voice rang out. Figures stepped from the shadows. Their eyes glinted sharply. Not too long ago, he would be scared out of his wits. But now... he was tougher. Yet he wasn't looking for a fight. Stumbling over his own paws, he ran. As fast as he could, as far away from those cats as possible.
He came across the she-cat again, as he arrived in the bright StarClan forest.
"What was that? Where was I?"
"You were in the Dark Forest. Where you would be if you followed every temptation." She paused. "Here. Let me tell you a story of when I was alive."
She beckoned him closer with her tail.
"I started out as young Icepaw. I was the most popular apprentice in the Clan. I was strong, skilled, fast, and quick-witted. The envy of every cat my age. But one day, I received the news that my mother was murdered. They couldn't exactly trace the culprit, but one of the more jealous apprentices decided to take advantage of this."
"Finding the white fur, she accused me of doing it, since my mother fought with me frequently about my choices. At this point, I am certain that it was my father. Knowingly fighting over me. I was furious with the accusation. However, this didn't look good. I was thrown out of the Clan. Until I met another cat, I felt dejected, and never wanted to return to the Clans."
"He talked to me, and befriended me. Soon enough I was back. But I changed Clans. Instead of living in ShadowClan, I decided to reside in ThunderClan."
Tinystar was unsure of what to say, so he just nodded in sympathy. She gave him a small nod back.
He opened his mouth to speak. He might as well take part in the conversation as well. "When I was a kit..."
Tiny snuggled closer to his mother's belly as he suckled his milk next to his littermates. He loved the sweet smell of the milk in her belly as mewed for warmth... "Tiny! Tiny! Wake up! Open your eyes!!" Tiny's littermate Ruby mewled in his ear. Slowly Tiny tryed to blink open his eyes till he finally completly opened them. He found Ruby staring at him wide-eyed. He looked at her light gray pelt and Socks's black pelt with his white muzzle, paws, and tail tip as he curiously sniffed their bed. "Come on Tiny! Let's go and explore!!" Ruby said eagerly.
"Yea! That'll be an adventure!!" Socks meowed as his eyes opened with curiousness.
"Alright I'm in!! Yay!!" Tiny got to his paws and shook his fur.
"Don't go far!" Their mother yelled after them as they ran off.
As the kits were out on their adventure they reached the window and they all stared at it wide-eyed. "Woah... What is that?!" Tiny exclaimed.
"Didn't mom say it was the for-something?" Ruby tried to remember her moms words.
"Yea!! It's the Forest. I remember mom told us! There are wild cats out there that eat bones and fight all they time!" Socks tried to imitate the cats in the forest with his fur up and hissing.
"Alright that's enough for today," Their mother's voice behind them frightened them all. "Lets go back to our beds, tommarrow we get to go outside but in the backyard only. No where else!"
"But mooomm-" Tiny started to whine.
"No buts, that's it!" She silenced him. He cuddled closer to his mother's belly, dreaming of being a wild cat..
Tiny woke up in a strange place he did not know of. He heard strange voices. "H-Hello..." It came out as a quiet squeak, surley no one has heard him... His ears pricked up as he heard sounds, as he walked closer to them he recognized them as voices, none that he knew of though. He began to listen..
"That little scrap can't be the one! Can he...?" A stern voice said.
Who's the one?? Tiny was trembling by now.
"Yes he is!" A bold tom's voice answered. "They told us he would come, we've waited and now he's here!"
"Wow I can't believe it's actually him!" A higher pitch voice squeeled in excitment.
"Yes," The tom's voice answered boldly, "But we arn't sure if he will accept the challenge of..."
The voices started to fade. Who was the one? And what was the challenge??
Tiny took a deep breath and inhaled the fresh air with scents of the flowers, listening to the birds chirp, and feeling the damp earth beneath his claw as he dug them into the dirt. Wow the backyard.... Tiny stared in awe.
"WOW THE BACKYARD!!" Socks blurted out, breaking the silence.
Ruby walked up to what was like a stale brown wall which seems somewhat fimiliar to the things inside their housefolks den. "What is this?!" Ruby sniffed curiously at the brown wall. "And whats on the other side..." Ruby tryed to start squeezing herslef through a tiny hole to the other side.
"Oh NO.YOU.WON'T!" Ruby's mom snapped carrying her back into the backyard.
"What's over there...?" Tiny asked trying to see for himself.
Tiny's mom sighed, "Oh that...That, is the forest," As she said that all 3 of her kits mouth's fell open and their eyes widened at the forest.
"I thought it would be farther, not just on the other side of this weird wall thing!" Socks exclaimed.
"But! You must never go there, do you guys promise me that?" The mother she-cat meowed sternly in all seriousness.
The kits nodded with what was almost like fear as they each kept their little white lie, to themselves...
"Shut up, Tiny," Socks snapped, and batted him over the head.
Quince peeked over her shoulder. "Stop getting in each others' fur!" she snapped, "You're going to give me a headache." As soon as she turned back to pad through the grass, Tiny bent towards Socks.
"Look, I know that you're planning to go into the forest. A blind mouse could see that much," he whispered to his brother.
"So Mom has always helped us when we were really small. We don't have any right to disobey her. And why would we go into the forest anyways? I bet it's really dangerous."
"Dangerous is the whole reason why it's fun!" Socks explained, exasperated. Well... that's true...
"If we stick together, then I bet we could have a good time," Ruby said logically.
Tiny gave them both a piercing blue gaze. "Fine. I give up." He leaned closer. "Tonight."
Chills seeped through his fur. The wind was howling that night, rustling the whole treetops. Tiny's teeth chattered. Well, at least the wind will hide any noise that we make. Because if they were caught... no, he wouldn't think about what would happen if that happened.
Socks stubbornly took the lead, while he struggled to keep up, and Ruby sensibly stuck to the back of the line, peering over her shoulder every couple seconds.
"She's asleep, don't worry," Tiny murmured back to her.
"You have to be sure!" Ruby hissed in return, her ginger pelt shimmering in the light of the moon.
"Will you shut up?" Socks snarled.
There was a rustle, louder than usual. It came from the far end of the deck where they slept; where their mother was.
Instantly, they flattened down to the earth in hope that she wouldn't notice them. Apparently she didn't have a clue, as she flopped back down into sleep.
"That was close," he breathed, "Thankful she didn't see us."
"She would've never seen you," Socks teased, "You're too small."
They reached the gap in the fence, and wriggled through with ease.
Tiny was not prepared for the shock about to meet him. As he stepped into the forest, it was like a huge gaping room, where you couldn't see the walls. Trees stretched up into the night sky, much farther than the ones growing in the garden. Crickets chirped loudly.
"This is amazing," Ruby mewed. She walked towards the roots of a tree, and bent down.
"What are you doing?" he mewed.
She came back, with a flower stalk between her teeth. On the end of it was a fuschia-colored flower blossom, half unfurled.
"I think it's a moonflower," she mewed from between her teeth, "it only blooms at moonlight." It glimmered beautifully. Tiny had never seen anything like it. Certainly a flower like that would never grow in the garden. He stood there, his gaze on the spotted petals.
"Come on. Let's explore more. This is only the beginning!" Socks purred. Tiny and Ruby nodded, although he noticed that she still kept the flower grasped firmly between her teeth.
The forest became darker as they went farther in. But after a while, Tiny began to notice something odd. The scent of other cats tainted the air. Could it be the legendary Clans? Or is that a nursery tale?
He yawned. "Hey, why don't we stop here for a moment?" he padded over the top of a smooth rock and flopped down.
"I'm right there with ya," Socks mewed in reply. He began to tiredly lick his paws. "We should probably head back soon."
Ruby didn't say a word, as she laid the striking flower stalk down on the shining stone.
"Still obsessed with that weed, are you?" Tiny teased. But she didn't appear to be listening. She gave it a sniff.
"Mmm... it smells like a field on a cool summer night," she murmured, "A bit like lavender."
Socks gave it a sniff as well. "You're right." He made eye contact with her. Slowly, Ruby began to lean down.
And she sunk her teeth into the smooth, round petal of the moonflower.
She instantly began to sputter. "It tastes... horrible!" she moaned, coughing.
Tiny dashed to her side. His paw brushed against the flower, causing it to spiral to the ground.
Ruby's breath was coming in gasps. "Why'd you do that?" Tiny exclaimed.
The next moments were chaotic screaming. Ruby vomited up the small bits of flower, when a voice rang out strongly.
"What's going on here? Who's this?"
Tiny stood up, spine arched with terror. His lips curled back in a defensive snarl.
This time, it was Socks who got the courage to say something.
"Our sister... she ate a bad flower and she's really hurt! Please help!" The cats revealed themselves from the brush further. Two burly toms and a she-cat.
"This is what happens when kittypets go sneaking around in the forest," one of them spat. Kittypets?
But Tiny knew it wasn't the time to make these cats mad. If they didn't get help, Ruby could die.
Faster than ever, they paced along behind the warriors, as they nudged Ruby to keep up.
When they burst through the "camp" wall, despite his sister's condition, it was hard not to forget everything and stare. Everything was so neatly organized. Dens dotted the outer edges of the clearing. The whole scene looked so beautiful in starlight.
Tiny's thought process was shattered as the cat holding his sister called out. "Runningnose!" he yowled.
A gray tom shot out of one of the dens. His nose was crusted with mucus.
"This kit needs help."
Pale light from the rising sun washed over Tiny's black pelt. He stood by his moaning sister's side, watching her chest rise and fall slowly. "Runningnose" stood by her side with his paw on her flank.
"Will she be okay?" Socks asked nervously.
"I think she'll be all right." He sighed with relief.
Everything would be fine. It would all go back to normal.
As the sun slowly sank below the horizon, the warriors guided Ruby outside of the camp, towards the house. He supposed that it was time to leave the Clans... strangely, he felt depressed. It was almost like an opening to a whole other world, and he was missing out on it by going back.
Socks' wide yellow eyes met with his. "Can we talk?" Tiny wasn't sure what to say. They barely interacted together because he was so small. They just stayed together as a little group, with Ruby.
Gingerly, Tiny followed him to the edge of the camp, and sat down to where the fern leaves would shade him. Curiously, he twiddled with a weed growing from the dirt.
Socks leaned in. "Ruby is now getting better... and she'll be completely happy at home with our mother. But do you think we'll be happy after seeing how Clan life is?"
"Well..." he began.
"It was a rhetorical question," Socks interrupted, "What do you about... what do you think about just about just staying here? It will be great. No one to boss us around. Ruby will be fine with it, after her experience."
Something seemed off about this, but at that point, Tiny didn't even care. He took a deep breath, and made the agreement that would shape his entire future.