When I awake this morning Sawyer has disappeared. His scent in his makeshift nest is weak, and a pang in my heart tells me he has left me forever.
I have gone too far to turn back, I am sure, as all I did yesterday was walk and walk with no stop.
My mind is groggy; I decide to clear it with a bit of hunting. I have no idea what I can find in the thick shrubbery, but I am nearly positive that it will be close to home.
I have to sit as memories of home crash over me; they occur in waves. All of them involve her: our secret oaths as kits, training together as apprentices, and- at her request- becoming warriors together. Our newborn kits, squirming in the moss near her belly to drink her milk. Her shining eyes as she watches me interact with them.
"She really loved me," I whisper to myself. "What in the name of StarClan did I do?"
"Yes," a voice meows behind me, "what is it that you did?"
Sawyer is back. And he has fresh-kill.
After we eat Sawyer tells me it is time to go. I stare back from where I came. It is my last time to return to home, whatever is left of it for me.
Something within me tells me to follow Sawyer, or is that just him calling me to hurry up? I scramble after the older tom and we begin our trek over the mountains.
He tells me about himself as we walk; he has traveled all his life, he is looking to settle down. He never offers anything else. When he asks me to tell him more about myself, I hesitate to reply. He says that I can trust him, after all, who took me on this journey? Surely not me; without him I'd still be in the base of a tree. This nearly convinces me, so I reluctantly tell him about my Clan upbringing. He is intrigued more about our traditions than my life, so I am glad to tell him about the border patrols, sharing tongues, Gatherings each moon, and apprenticeship.
He tells me he has never heard of traditions like ours before, but does not offer more.
It seems that as we walk, however, that he has a lot to teach. He shows me small leaves that can heal a dying cat, give you strength for a journey, or just sweeten the taste of rotten fresh-kill. He makes us stop every little while to look at the scenery.
When we stop to hunt, I feel his small, beady eyes boring into me as I drop into a hunting crouch. Why he does not hunt himself, I have no idea. Maybe because he hunted for us this morning, I think. That is what I tell myself as I catch two small thrushes for each of us.
We eat in silence. Sawyer, however, has not run out of things to say. When he finishes he shows me how he knows that we are on the top of the mountain! What wonderful timing that is, we still have half of our day left and the walk down is much easier.
On that positive note we begin to walk further, but not before Sawyer bends down and takes a bite out of a leaf growing on a bush. "For the aging pains," he tells me. "I haven't seen as many of these as I'd like to," he tells me. He tells me, he tells me. It seems that everyone tells me.
We finish our trek down the mountain "right on time," according to Sawyer. He instructs me to hunt for myself if I'd like, but otherwise I should just get some sleep. We will keep walking tomorrow.
I catch myself a small sparrow and when I am done Sawyer turns up with a bounty of prey and says that I am not eating enough. So I obey him and eat a mouse, too, but I am not that hungry, and with that he finally lets sleep overcome me.
My dreams are murky and hard to understand. They mostly consist of my mate telling me what a horrible cat I am, oh yes I am, and how our kits hate us because of me, it's all my fault. My leader scorns me, and then I am left alone. A strange she-cat approaches me and tells me to strain my ears, cats will need help soon!
My dreams are interrupted with a loud yowl.