I sat down and gazed up dreamily into the cloudless blue sky, the mouse forgotten as it scampers away. A cool spring breeze wafts through my fur, and I close my eyes, letting the warm sunlight fall on my face. The air tastes like new grass and budding flowers on my tongue. I feel like at moments like this, I can sprout wings and just-
"Lilypaw!" I turn, the reverie broken, and see my mentor Featherpool emerging over the top of a hill. Her gaze is disapproving, but not angry. "What happened to that mouse you were stalking?"
I feel my ears go red. "It got away," I admit. "Sorry. It won't happen again."
She smiles reassuringly. "It's okay. But let's get back to camp now. We can try again tomorrow. You don't want to be late for your first Gathering, and you'll need to rest well before evening."
I nod excitedly. "Okay."
PetalClan's leader, Silverstar, makes her way out of her lichen-draped den towards us. "Ready to go?" she asks.
Our deputy, Sealfish, nods, the moonlight glinting off her sleek black fur. "All of us are here."
"Good. Let's go." Silverstar leads the way out of our camp. Featherpool, who is on guard duty, waves her tail at me in farewell, smiling. I wave back nervously. This is my first Gathering; I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. My brother, Sparkpaw, is back at the camp. He'll go next time. Part of me wishes he were coming, but the other half is too excited.
The Gathering takes place by Red Rock, a large sandstone formation jutting out of the ground near the border between the FlameClan and PetalClan border. The other clan is nowhere in sight, so we spread out across the clearing, which is muddy from the new-leaf rain. There is an air of surpassed excitement in the air, and everyone can detect it. Silverstar climbs Red Rock and looks down on us peacefully, as if preparing herself mentally for this Gathering. I remember Sealfish and some of the other warriors talking about accusations going back and forth between the clans. PetalClan thought FlameClan was stealing prey. I was quite sure they thought the same of us, though to say so to one of my clanmates would be like throwing kindling on a forest fire.
Tucking my tail around my paws, I wait for FlameClan, having no idea what this first Gathering will lead to.
As FlameClan calmly walks to the Red Rock, I skip, adding an excited bounce to every step I take. I can't help it, I am so excited for my first gathering.
Ashflight, my mentor, purrs behind me, "Don't waste all of your energy now, Thunderpaw or you won't have anything left for the gathering when you will actually need us."
I smiled at my mentor, and tried to calm down. Ever since I had been mentored to the amazing senior warrior, all of my efforts had been to please him, and make him proud. We had our fun and games, but every catch was another opportunity to prove what I was worth.
He can't conceal his smile, as he notices me trying to conceal all of my energy. I can't help feeling so excited about this gathering, it might be the only one I go to as an apprentice and I feel so honored to be chosen over Bravepaw, Honeypaw and Hailpaw who were all so much older than me.
I had yet to realize that this gathering would be much bigger than I had anticipated.
The PetalClan cats are waiting for us with hostile glares and I easily return them, not willing to let a group of liars ruin my first gathering. They would pay for stealing our prey, and then accusing us of stealing theirs. But the gathering wasn't the time for such matters. They would have to happen later, when the truce was no longer in place.
I notice that one Clan, BirdClan, has yet to arrive. Another feeling of excitment takes over my body as I am reminded by myself of what an important thing this is.
"Remember not to give any secrets, but to try hard to learn whatever you can," Ashflight warns me, "These cats will be your enemies before you know it, and it is more important to know your foes that your friends. But, whatever you do, don't give away any FlameClan secets."
I nodded smiling broadly, hardly able to wait for my discussions. He smiles, pleased, before flicking his tail in dismissal.
I wander around glancing at these foreign cats. Most are hostile, but some seem to be waiting for a cat to come and speak with them.
After a quick glance I chose a young and quiet apprentice who is sitting before the rock.
"Hello," I pur approaching her, "Nice to meet you, my name is Thunderpaw."
"Oh," she seems genuinly surprised that I bothered to talk to her, as her pelt shimmers gloriously under the moonlight, "I'm glad to meet you, Thunderpaw. My name is Lilypaw."
It is a pretty name, just like the pelt of the cat that wields it. I am about to ask her a question, to begin a discussion when I hear cats quickly murmuring and my nostrils are hit by another scent.
"Since BirdClan is finally here," Silverstar announced, "I guess we can begin the gathering."
Darkstar nods, as does the leader of BirdClan, before they jump on top of the rock. I slowly leave Lilypaw's side and join my Clan, excited for whatever my first gathering will bring me.
Thunderpaw. I sneak another glance at him as Spottedstar begins the Gathering, probably wanting to get her own words in before Silverstar and Darkstar rip each other to shreds. His muscular outline is encased in a sleek tabby pelt that is a rich gold in color, almost matching the color of Red Rock itself. As soon as Spottedstar finishes, Silverstar elbows the tortoiseshell she-cat out of the way and takes her place at the edge of the rock.
"Cats of all Clans," she says, her clear voice ringing out over the still clearing. I can feel some FlameClan cats tense, including Thunderpaw. A dark gray tom whom I assume to be either his father or mentor rests a tail on his shoulder to calm him. "FlameClan has been stealing our prey. They obviously have no respect for anyone else's rights or the warrior code." Instantly the clearing is filled with shouts of protest. I wince inwardly. Silverstar really has no evidence, only a few killed bodies of prey she found. They could've been killed by anything, one of our own cats even.
"What evidence do you have?" Darkstar says, voicing my thoughts. "In fact, FlameClan has realized that PetalClan is stealing our prey, and we will do anything to make sure this does not continue. He arches his eyebrows menacingly. I gulp, saying nothing as my clanmates began howling in anger, exchanging insults with FlameClan cats.
Spottedstar intervenes before things go too far. "Darkstar, Silverstar, this is not the time or way to resolve that issue. The Gathering is over. You may socialize till it is time to leave." She hops nimbly off Red Rock. Silverstar shot Darkstar a glare and then scrambled down after her. I sigh with relief. We had avoided a clash, for now.
Most FlameClan cats merge into angry huddles, muttering and casting dark glances over their shoulders. However, one particular young tom cautiously makes his way over. "Hi Lilypaw," he says softly.
"Hi," I say. Why is he talking to me again? It's not that I mind his company, but he seems good-looking and popular; not my type of friend. Already I spot his clanmates looking over at him as if wondering if they should call him back.
"Mind if I sit next to you?" he says politely. I shake my head.
"Of course not." There is a pause, then I add, "I was kind of relieved that our Clans didn't fight." I hope he doesn't think that's cowardly or not like a warrior.
He nods, his blue eyes earnest. "Me too. There's no need to spill blood over such little things. I mean, I like fighting and all, but..." he trailed off, and I suspected he was almost as eager as the next cat for a fight. But it was sweet of him to say that.
"FlameClan, we're leaving!" Darkstar sounds impatient. Thunderpaw sighs.
"Well, see you around Lilypaw," he says, stretching out my name like music rolling off his tongue. I nod.
"Bye!" I watch him disappear into the crowd, then turn and join my Clan, the only happy face among them. As they mutter and curse FlameClan, I gaze towards the pine trees of Thunderpaw's territory with the slightest trace of wistfulness. Shaking it off, I follow my Clan back home, not noticing the black beady eyes in the undergrowth.
Ashflight tried to control me, as I splutter with rage.
"How dare they accuse us of taking their prey?" I blurted out angrily, "They are the ones who have been sneaking on our territory and taking out prey, leaving so many of us hungry and now they accuse us for stealing their precious prey!"
"Calm down, Thunderpaw," Ashflight tried to calm me, "A gathering is not the place for battles. We will fight them later, when it is their time to be fought."
I sighed, realizing that I would get in big trouble if I touched a hair on Silverstar's pelt, as much as she deserved to lose it.
I can feel a gaze boring into my pelt, and I turn around to see Lilypaw, with her sweet eyes, looking straight at me. I turn around, pretending not to notice, as I feel my face going red. I turn my head away from Ashflight so he doesn't see.
What is wrong with me?
When we reach camp that night I feel like I could sleep for a moon, all of my energy is gone from the long walk and staying up so late.
Her pretty face flashes in my mind, but I shake it away, and paddled over to the apprentice's den, where every apprentice who hasn't went pesters us with questions before we can even breathe. I try to answer all of them with patience but I am still tired and I end up snapping at them, asking them if they couldn't nother to wait for one night to bother me.
I walk up to my nest, and play around with it for a while before I finally lie down, tired and I fall into a quick and easy sleep.
"Watch out Thunderpaw!" I look up to see a massive beast pulling its claws back to swipe at me. I flinch, as it lets out a loud battle cry.
The claws come flying down and I close my eyes, prepared for my end.
"NOOOO!!!" The impact never comes, althought I hear the sound of claws scraping against bones.
I open my eyes to find a small body, stained with blood lying on the ground below me.
My eyes widen with anger and I jump at the beast, biting it hard in the shoulder. It screeches in pain as blood starts to well around its shoulders.
It runs away in fear, obviously realizing that it has angered me. But it is too late. The young cats body lies on the floor beneath me, it is far to late to save her life. My throat dries up at the sight of her limp body.
I look up to see my friend, Hailpaw looking at me with concern, "Who's Lilypaw? You kept calling her name."
I pulled myself out of my nest, realizing that it was just a dream. I felt my face flush, "Nobody, I don't think."
He doesn't seem convinced be he shrugged and let me go. I left the den in search of Ashflight, to begin that day's training. But I couldn't shake off the dream I had seen. It felt so real, almost like a vision.
It's just a dream. It's just a dream.
But it wasn't. I knew that deep in my heart. And I was prepared to do anything to stop it from happening.
"Is that all the bedding you need Softwhisker?" I asked the light gray elder. She nodded with a smile.
"Thank you for all your help Lilypaw."
"No problem." I padded out of the den and looked around, blinking in the sunlight. I'll go for a quick walk now. I head out of PetalClan's camp and out into the grassy woods. Sunlight splays across the forest floor; the trees are not very dense at all. I can hear the rustlings of prey in the bushes, but I'm not in the mood to catch them right now. I just want to enjoy the nice day, something I can't normally do with the others breathing down my neck. My sisters, Lightpaw, Wolfpaw, and Fierypaw are great, but I like being along too.
The forest is quiet, yet so full of life, from the sparrows flitting in the trees to the junebells nodding their pretty heads in the grass. It's so peaceful that when I first catch the trace of scent, my mind doesn't register what it is. Finally, I realize. I freeze and glance around, my body stiffening. I'm over by the FlameClan border now, far from camp.
Just as I turn to run, I hear a grunting and heavy pawsteps. A dark shape becomes visible between the trunks. A pair of beady eyes emerge, gleaming from a broad black-and-white head. Even if I wanted to escape, I wouldn't have been able to. I was paralyzed with fear, my heart thudding in my chest. The badger opens it's large red mouth in a snarl. "StarClan, please help."
The massive creature rushes forward. I dart out of the way and its jaws miss my throat but lock onto my leg. Letting out a cry of pain, I go down hard onto the ground. My fighting instincts kick in. I give a frantic howl in the hopes that someone will hear me and come help, then unsheathe my claws and tear into the badger's flank. It swings it's flat muzzle around so that it is pressed against my nose and opens its jaws once more.
I kick hard against the ground and rocket out from underneath it. It starts to lumber toward me, but I dart in and slice open a cut on its nose before it can attack. I begin to back away, but it's coming toward me faster and faster. When it crashes into me, I go flying into a bush. "No!" I scream as it's jaws head for my throat to end my life forever.
"Concentrate Thunderpaw!" I heard Ashflight scolding me, "What has gotten into you lately? You can't seem to pay attention at all."
"Sorry, Ashflight," I murmured, "I'm just a little tired after the gathering from yesterday, that is all." I let out a long yawn for an extra effect.
He sighed, "Well, we might as well keep on trying until you actually decide you want to learn this move," he declared, "The faster you cooperate the faster I will send you off to go hang out with your other friends and eat. You are stuck with me until then."
I tried to smile, but I barely could muster one after the dream I had seen the previous night. I felt paralyzed after seeing Lilypaw killed by the badger and I couldn't shake off how real it felt.
Again, Ashflight seems to sence my distress because he sighs, "I don't know what happened Thunderpaw, but you seem to be having a bad day," he gives a sympathetic smile, "Maybe all you really need is a break," he offers, "I'll let you off today but I expect you to do extremely well tomorrow. Don't start thinking I will let off on your training when you seem a bit down."
I was surprised, but Ashflight was a kind mentor so I could understand why he has chosen to do it. I nodded, "Yes, Ashflight. I promise I will be better tomorrow," I claimed before running off.
But I didn't head towards camp. Instead I found my feet leading me towards the PetalClan border where trees iluminated their landscape. I breathed in the scent of the leaves, and taking a few more steps towards the border, I felt the soft grass found only in PetalClan rub against my pads.
At that moment I could feel the stress I had been carrying about my dream all day vanish. Standing there, with the breeze ruffling through my fur made me feel so free, nothing could pull me down.
Until I heard her screech.
It shattered the peace that the view had given me and snapped me back to my sences. I turned around wildly trying to detect the direction her yowl came from. Another cry of pain, helped me locate which direction she was in.
I felt myself racing with the wind as I ran in the direction I heard Lilypaw calling from. Soon I found myself facing an injured Lilypaw and a deadly badger.
The badger pulled its hindleg back before leaping on the young apprentice. At that moment, nothing else seemed to matter but Lilypaw's well being. Letting out a shout of rage I jumped on the badger.
He came out of nowhere, a golden blur that caught the sun for a thrilling moment. Then everything was happening at once. He smashed into the badger, and both of us were screaming our heads off. I didn't think twice. I leaped to my feet and attacked, only knowing I had to help him.
Like some other cat was possesing my body, I lit into the huge creature, digging my claws through the thin pelt and into the sinewy muscle. Blood spurts out of the gash, and the badger wheels to face me, letting out a grunt of rage. "Lilypaw," Thunderpaw manages. "Run!"
"I'm not leaving you to face this-" I stop short for two reasons. One, the shock that he remembered my name. Two, it's not the badger I have to run from. I can here FlameClan cats pounding towards us, getting closer, their howls of rage filling the air. Panic courses through my veins. I dive into a bush on the PetalClan border just in time. A gray tom bursts into the clearing and leaps onto the badger with such intense fury that the beast has no choice but to turn tail and run.
Thunderpaw glances at his mentor, his sides heaving, eyes wild. They scan the bushes, trying to find me. I shrink further into my hiding place, my heart pounding in my chest. "It's headed towards BirdClan's territory," he says. "We should send a scout to warn them soon." Turning to Thunderpaw, he adds, "Are you hurt?"
The young apprentice looks more shaken than anything. I long to stand by his side, to lick away the flecks of blood darkening his coat, to let him lean against me. Now where did that come from? "No," he grunts. "I'm fine."
"Okay," the tom says haltingly. Then he looks around. "Is it still here? I feel like I'm being watched."
Thunderpaw doesn't bat an eyelid. "Ashflight, you have such a crazy imagination. Now let's go. Skymist and the kits are probably worried." His mentor doesn't move. "Come on," he says, with a little more force this time. Ashflight sighs.
"I'm going crazy."
"I knew that a long time ago." They pad off into FlameClan's territory.
For several minutes after they've left, I continue to sit in the bush like an idiot. Then I crawl out, but I don't go back right away. Instead, I gaze into the woods, my heart still hammering loudly, my breath coming fast and shallow. He saved my life.
"Lilypaw, what happened?" Brookwhisper hurries out of the medicine cat's den and nuzzles me gently.
"A badger," I say. Now that the magic of Thunderaw is gone, every muscle in my body aches from being slammed to the ground and tossed about like a ragdoll. "It headed towards BirdClan's territory."
Her eyes look worried. "Blightpaw," she calls to her apprentice. "Go tell Silverstar we may have trouble." The she-cat nods and heads off. I let out a groan and sink into the darkness of sleep.
He's there in my dreams the whole night. His golden tabby pelt flashes, and just before I wake up, my eyes lock with his cobalt ones, and a thrill of electricity runs from my nose to my tail. Then a badger crashes into me, and I'm wide awake, pelt drenched in sweat, looking out into the sun of a brand new day.
"Are you sure that you are okay?" Redsong, the medicine cat asked me with anxiety.
"Yes!" I snap, pulling me paw away, "I am fine! Now can I go and do some training with Ashflight? Please, or I'll fall behind and I never will become a warrior in time."
"No," she was stern, "You will go to the apprentice den and rest there until I see you fit to leave. Your warrior ceremony still has a long way to come, and I think it can wait another day."
"What were you even thinking?" she demanded, "Taking a badger on your own?"
"There was no warriors around," I mumble, "It's not my fault that no warriors were hunting in that area."
"But why did you attack it then? It's not even a FlameClan cat."
"She is still a cat. I couldn't leave her there to die. I would never forgive myself if I was responsible for her death." I explain.
Redsong nodded, "It was the right thing to do. Ashflight will be proud of you."
I smiled at that last statement before remembering that I was supposed to be angry and marching off into apprentice den.
I ran into Ashflight on my way there, "Hello Thunderpaw," he greeted me with a light smile, "Are you feeling okay?"
"Just fine," I claimed, "But Redsong won't listen to me."
He laughed, "She's the medicine cat. You are supposed to listen to her. She is not going to listen to you. Now do as she says, Thunderpaw."
With a loud huff I began to continue marching towards the apprentice den. But he stopped me again with his words, which I felt the need to listen to.
"By the way, Thunderpaw, I am really proud of you. Most apprentices don't tackle a badger and get away with it. I am proud to be your mentor."
I put on a sheepish and proud grin, the grin that only Ashflight could bring out of me, "Thanks."
"Wait," he holds onto me, "There is more. I am also proud that you jumped to help a cat from a different Clan. Most warriors would have left her there to die. But you have proven to have a heart of gold, Thunderpaw. Not that I am surprised. I knew you had it in you from the start."
I felt my grin growing even wider, "Thanks," was all that I could manage to say, before disappearing back into the apprentice den.
There I try to go asleep but it is hard to put yourself to sleep right after oh have wrestled with a badger. I turned and rolled and all I could see was Lilypaw's eyes, beautiful and shining, waiting for me to pick them up.
I finally gave up.
Pulling myself up, and making sure that no one was around I quickly snuck out of the apprentice den and dashed out of camp, before anyone could see me.
I felt the need to see her right now, in a way I couldn't explain.
I could only hope that she felt the same need.
I slip out of camp quietly. I'm supposed to be resting, but I'm not that badly hurt, and the feeling eating me on the inside is far more important then my wounds. I need to see Thunderpaw. Now.
The woods are silent, but the trees, which I usually think of as welcoming, seem to glare down on me. I feel like a stranger in my own territory, and my wounds start to sting like fire, but I keep going. I can't explain why, only that I felt sure I would see him, and everything would be okay. At the very least, I needed to say thank you. Yeah, that was it. Gratitude. I wasn't an ungrateful cat; I owed him that much.
I reach the FlameClan border and blink into the brush, straining to catch a glimpse of... Who was I kidding? He wasn't here. He was at home, in his loving Clan, where he belonged. That was his real life. Not me.
That's when I see a flash of gold in between the limbs of a bush, and suddenly a cat bursts out of the shadows and stands, staring at me with an electrifying blue gaze. "Lilypaw?"
For a few seconds I have to focus on breathing properly. Then I stammer, "T-Thunderpaw? Are you okay?"
"Yeah," he says, his eyes still locked on me. I gaze down at my scratched pelt self-consciously. I must be a mess. Without warning, he steps over the border till we're standing face to face. "You're hurt."
"Not really. I'll be fine." I look at my paws. "What are you doing out here?"
He blushes. "I could ask you the same question."
"I just wanted some fresh air, after being cooped up in the medicine cat's den for so long," I say. Is it just me, or does his face fall?
"Oh," he says with disappointment. I feel the intense need to correct myself, though I don't know why it should matter in the first place.
"I mean, I also wanted to see you. To make sure you were all right," I add hastily.
"Me too. I just needed to see... you... I thought maybe... You were..." He trails off helplessly. We stand in silence for a few minutes. I'm incredibly aware of his intense gaze on me, and it feels like my fur is burning off.
"What?" I say.
"You're fur... It's-"
"Messed up, I know. I just fought off a-"
I stare at him, then, in the softest of voices I whisper, "Thank you."
The tension almost kills me as I gaze at her pretty pelt.
"Thank you," I look up to hear her whispering, "You saved my life. I don't think I would be here right now if you hadn't been so brave."
I look down at my feet blushing, "Thanks," I whisper, "You were brave too."
"It was nothing compared to what you did. PetalClan is grateful to FlameClan now, and maybe it will even help to sort out their feud."
I caught myself before blaming PetalClan for being liars, remembering that she was one of them, and wouldn't appriciate a comment like that.
My heart skips a beat at her smile, and I am left not at all knowing what I should say. I stand there, dumbfounded feeling like the world was spinning around the two of us.
"Well," she turns around, her face flushed, "It was nice to meet you."
As she turns around I can't allow myself to just let her go, walk off into a world I won't and can't be a part of. I refuse to let her forget me.
"Wait!" I call, not sure what to say.
She turns around, smiling, "What is it?" she asks. I notice another emotion on her face. Reief? Joy? Anxiety? Or something else.
"Let's meet here again tomorrow," I can't control the words before they are spit out of my mouth.
For a moment I fear she will refuse as she glances at me, her pelt shimmering beautifully like the plant that she was named after.
"Okay," she touches noses with me before turning around and running, leaving me to watch after her, in a trance I can't explain.
"Sorry Featherpool!" I say hastily, blinking at my mentor. Another daydream about Thunderpaw. I've got to stop it. "What was that again?"
Her clear green eyes widen in exasperation. "Honestly Lilypaw. You're usually spacy, but today you've been even worse then usual."
I feel my face fall. "Sorry," I say to my paws. I feel terrible for letting her down, but nothing can dampen my joy. Thunderpaw asked me to meet him tonight!
Her face softens. "It's okay. I can see you're not focused today, so why don't we call it quits for today and try again tomorrow."
"Thanks." I press my cheek against hers and scamper off, hoping she'll think I'm going hunting for PetalClan instead of what I'm actually doing.
Upon reaching the spot, I look around. No sign of Thunderpaw. I began grooming my pelt, getting all the leaves and dirt out of my silver fur. Normally, I didn't really care about how I look, but now... I can't explain it, except this is special.
"Lilypaw?" My heart leaps at the sight of his ginger pelt as he emerges. "There you are." He breaks into a smile, then a worried frown replaces it. "I'm not late, am I?"
"No," I smile. Does he honestly not know how cute he is? "I just got here too."
"Oh, good." He comes a few steps closer and sits down beside me. I can almost feel his fur brushing mine, and electricity seems to crackle between us. "How are you?"
"Good," I say. "I had training today, but I didn't do so well." I don't bother to tell him why.
His eyes are warm. "Don't worry. If you mess up once, it's no big deal. Besides, I'm sure you're a great hunter."
I roll my eyes. "Yeah right."
"No really." He moves closer, till I can feel his breath on my cheek. I turn to face him, and our noses are just a hair apart. His voice is a whisper now, and I'm sure he can hear my heart pounding against my chest. "Any cat as fascinating and amazing as you can do anything if they put their mind to it. Don't ever forget that Lilypaw. You can do anything."
Only if you're by my side, I say. Instead, I cleverly paraphrase it to: "Uh..."
Thunderpaw smiles. "My thoughts exactly." Suddenly, he blushes and turns away. "I'm sorry. I just can't think straight when I'm around you."
"Same," I say softly, pressing against him. Just then, I prick my ears. "Do you hear that?"
He stands up, pulling away. "Yeah. It sounds like cats in pain."
Our eyes meet. "And fighting." Please let it be BirdClan and one of our Clans. Please. But I know better. The sounds are too close to this border. It's PetalClan versus FlameClan. And here we are, supposed to be fighting each other, together. Not good.
Thunderpaw looks like this is his worst nightmare come true, and I'm sure my face mirrors it. Without another word, we get to our paws and race towards the sounds.
I arrive first, and gasp. Thunderpaw peers over my shoulder. FlameClan cats and PetalClan cats. Blood everywhere. Just then, Sealfish, my deputy, looks up.
"Lilypaw! Wait! What are you doing with him?"
I leap on top of Lilypaw, my claws sheathed, and my fangs by her throat. Her eyes widen and reveal her betrayal, as my heart beats quickly; I can almost feel the gaze of both Clans on me.
Lowering my fangs right beside her ear I whisper, "Play along."
She nods slowly before squirming and Sealfish looks away, suspicion still glittering in his eyes, but without enough evidence to prove anything.
Lilypaw bats at me with sheathed claws, and I give way as she rolls on top of me before turning over and bowling her to the side. Once I am sure no cats are watching I pull myself off her and help her get back up to her paws, before we both turn around and run, terror pounding through our bodies.
"Why can't they have peace?" Lilypaw whispered, her eyes sad when we were far away enough from the two battling clans, their noises still audible, making my heart sink, and I give her a fierce and knowing lick; understanding how torn she is.
"It will be fine," I assure her, smiling lightly, "I'll protect you."
"I know," she sighed and we stood in silence for several moments while the raging sounds of battle continued to grow, and I could make out the cry of my clanmates.
She turned to face me, "Thunderpaw?" she whispered.
"Yes?" I cocked my head to the side, my blood rushing even faster at the sight of her deep violet eyes, placing me in a deep trance, "What is it?"
"I..." she stammered, "I-"
She was cut off by a loud cry coming from PetalClan.
"Retreat!" the voice yowled, "We will settle this another day!"
Lilypaw and I exchanged a quick glance and I have her an assuring nod, before she flicked her tail and turned around, running off with her Clan.
I walked back to mine, where Ashflight was standing, a victorious expression on his face as he watched the PetalClan cats running.
"We won!" he exclaimed.
I nodded, trying to look bright, even though I felt like a sour loser on the inside.
The sour looks on the faces of my clanmates squashes any elation left over from Thunderpaw's confession. Sealfish is talking to Silverstar, both of them looking like they just swallowed crow-food dipped in bile. With a sigh, I echo the same thing I asked before. Why can't we just have peace?
"Hey, Lilypaw!" Sealfish calls me over. I pad towards her, my heart pounding in my chest.
"Yes Sealfish?" I try to look respectful, and not desperately guilty. It doesn't work. The deputy's eyes are cold and calculating.
"What were you doing with that FlameClan tom?"
"Er... fighting?" I say, pasting a confused expression on my face. Silverstar sighs and pads away, which is a relief; at least she's not suspicious of me.
"Right. But why weren't you in the battle then? You could've joined and helped us."
"I was chasing him away," I explain untruthfully. "He put up a really good fight." Oops. Bad idea. Never compliment a FlameClan cat in front of Sealfish. She absolutely despises them. "But I beat him, and I was rather saddened by the quality of their apprentices. They're terrible fighters."
The wariness leaves her eyes slowly. "Yes, much lower then us," she agrees. Then why did we lose? I want to say, but keep my mouth shut.
"We'll get them next time. Those cowards can't run forever."
"That we will. Go help yourself to some fresh-kill Lilypaw. You've earned it."
Dipping my head, I head towards the fresh-kill pile, but I don't take anything. I certainly don't deserve it, and I feel guilt-ridden enough as it is. Instead, I wander into the apprentice's den and flop down heavily. Sparkpaw raises his head, a sullen look on his face.
"You got to fight too?" my brother pouts. "No fair. I was stuck leaf-gathering back at camp, and I missed the entire thing. We wouldn't have had to surrender if I was there, that's for sure. I would've beat those slimeball FlameClan cats to a pulp, and then thrown their guts across the forest."
I gulp and say nothing, staring at my paws. Finally I sigh. "Violence isn't always the answer Sparkpaw."
He guffaws. "Yeah right. What are we, BirdClan? The others think we're so soft, just because we're PetalClan. Boy are they wrong."
"Right. Well, don't get too carried away. Battles aren't the only way to figure things out." If only I could figure myself out, then I'd be one to give advice, I think silently.
"She-cats," he snorts. "I'm going to go ask Toadpaw how it went." With that, he exits the den, leaving me alone. I curl up in my den, tucking my tail around me.
"Oh StarClan, I'm so confused. How can FlameClan be all that bad, with cats like Thunderpaw? And is it disloyal to my Clan if I think... If he-" I break off, shaking my head. I don't know what to make of this at all. But I know one thing. I'm meeting Thunderpaw again tonight. Somehow, some way, everything will fall into place when we're together. It always does.
"Lilypaw," I gently call into the shadows of the night, my pelt cold against the fierce winds, and several scratches on my arm which I had to create to convince the Clan that I had been a part of the battle.
I purr at the sweet sound of her voice as her silver pelt appears, only further enhanced by the moonlight. I feel like I could live these moments forever and not get bored.
But I can't.
I have to return to my Clan soon and leave her beautiful eyes and gorgeous pelt. Sometimes I wonder if we could just run off and... be left to ourselves.
I shake my head, reminding myself that I am loyal to my Clan and could never leave them. Not for a she-cat anyways as perfect and kind, and...
"Are you okay?" she asks me, giving me a curious glance.
I shuffle my paws, and take a deep breath, "The Clans are growing really hostile," I claim, forcing myself to continue "I think that..."
"If you want to stop meeting that's fine," her voice is hurt when I look at them, signaling that it was the opposite of okay.
"I didn't mean that..." I trail off, "What I wanted to say was..."
"In case something happens between the clans and I am never able to see you again. If one of us dies or are caught meeting the other, I want you to know that..." I take in a deep breath, "I love you."
"Oh," she responds her eyes sparkling in a way I have never seen them shine before, and I just wish I could somehow permanently capture the moment.
We are silent for a moment before she whispers, "I love you too."
More silence. I try to smile or purr but I feel too numb to do either, as we stand for a moment, gazing at each other. It almost feels like we are in a different dimension free from all the struggles of our clans and their inability to have peace.
I take a soft step towards her and she takes one small step towards me. Our noses are touching and I can feel warmth radiating from her pelt. I want to curl up beside her and stay there for the rest of my life.
Suddenly our heads shoot up at the sound of a twig snapping.
"I better get back to my Clan," I whisper, "Before it the sun begins to rise."
She nods, "See you tomorrow," she whispers and I give her a fierce lick before turning around and bounding off into the darkness.
The trance she has put of my fades with the smile on my face as I reach camp, realizing that she and I, no matter how much we love each other, will always be in different clans.
Two Clans that can never have peace.
And two Clans that could be about to head into a disastrous war. And not just disastrous for the state and health of the Clan but also my relationship with the cat I love most in the world.
I listen to the angry murmurings of my Clanmates. Another border skirmish. It's getting worse by the day. Every time Silverstar sends out a border patrol, which is more and more frequently, they return with hateful things to say about their experiences with FlameClan patrols, and even BirdClan patrols. Each time I strain to listen to their conversation, waiting for any mention of a ginger tom with stunning blue eyes, and a kind smile, a gentle spirit... Okay, so maybe they wouldn't describe him as that, but still. What would I do if I knew my Clanmates had hurt Thunderpaw, or vice versa? What could I do?
A small voice in my head pipes up, You could stop meeting him. I push it down immediately. I could never do that. No matter what happened, no matter what we were pushed to, we would overcome it. Our love was too real to-
"Lilypaw! Come on! We're going on a border patrol." Featherpool stands waiting, Gentlewing and Roaringburn on either side of her. They all look expectant, as if I'm supposed to jump for joy or something. Instead, claws of horror clutch at my heart, as I reluctantly take my place at the back of the patrol, preparing myself for the worst. If only I knew that was exactly what I would get.
Roaringburn mutters terrible things about FlameClan the entire way, making me feel more like dirt then ever. I pad silently at the back of the group, keeping a low profile. If Featherpool notices, she doesn't say anything. Her leaf-green eyes are focused straight ahead, and everyone tenses a little as the border comes into view. Then they tense a whole lot.
Standing in the shadows of a few bushes is a FlameClan patrol. And one of the cats is Thunderpaw.
Our eyes lock, and his face mirrors the fear and confusion that jolts through me. Though I try to keep calm on the outside, panic sets my insides ablaze My stomach twists itself into knots, my heart pounds like the feet of a running rabbit, my mouth becomes dry as sand, and my head reels with worry. I trail even further back, every fiber in my body screaming at me to stop, turn in the other direction, and run. Will I be forced to make an impossible choice today?
"Greetings," my mentor greets the FlameClan patrol in a cold voice, while Roaringburn and Gentlewing start marking the trees, daring our rivals to stop them with their eyes. I wince as Ashflight, Thunderpaw's mentor I recall, steps forward, his green eyes blazing.
"What are you doing so close to our territory?" he spits, ears flat against his head.
Roaringburn scowls darkly, his dark ginger brow furrowing. "We might be close to your territory, but we're not on it. This is our territory, and we could ask you the same question. Plus, you obviously don't understand the meaning of borders. They're not a mile wide; of course our territories are close."
Gentlewing flashes a falsely sweet smile. "Unless, of course, you guys want to move yours. No problem there. How does the moon sound?"
Another FlameClan cat, whom I know to be Flashdust from Gatherings, steps forward. "We beat you once," he hisses. "We can beat you again."
"That's it!" roars Roaringburn, in the loud voice he was named for. Featherpool puts out a paw to hold him back, but even my normally calm mentor's face is filled with wrath.
"Rest assured that we will take our revenge," she snarls, locking gazes with Ashflight. The dark gray tom smirks insolently.
"Tsk, tsk. Revenge? I thought you peaceful petals were better then that. Come on FlameClan. Let's be off." Turning on his heel, he leads the patrol away. As Thunderpaw turns to go, I catch a glimpse on his face. Relief, but also fear. Because we can't keep this up forever.
Chaos greets us when we enter the camp. Brookwhisper is bent over a crumpled silver form. My heart catches in my throat. "Wolfpaw!"
Sparkpaw, Fierypaw, and Lightpaw are standing over her, eyes ablaze with anger. "A FlameClan cat attacked her while she was out hunting."
"Are you sure?" I ask, staring down at my sister with tears welling in my eyes.
"Of course we are!" snaps Fierypaw. Her anger is tangible, and her amber eyes are like a pair of hot coals. "Who else could it be? I saw them run off when we found her. I wanted to catch them and rip them to shreds, but obviously I had to bring Wolfpaw back first."
"You made the right choice," Blightpaw, the medicine cat apprentice, assures her. She's bandaging Wolfpaw's leg carefully.
"Will she be all right?" I ask, anxious to cover up for my blunder. How could I be so stupid as to try to defend FlameClan when Wolfpaw was hurt?
An authoratative voice sounds beside me. "She will. But FlameClan won't." I turn. It's Silverstar. My siblings nod with grim satisfaction, but dread creeps up my throat. What is she planning?
Silverstar leaps onto her rock and calls for the Clan. Within seconds, the few cats that weren't already outside gossping or yelling things about FlameClan arrive. Our leader begins without any hesitation. "PetalClan, we have suffered too many injustices at the paws of our rivals. FlameClan will pay for this, and it will cost them dearly. They have attacked an innocent apprentice. This will not stand. I declare war!"
I stand numbly, an island in the midst of a celebrating Clan. War? She couldn't... we don't even know for sure that it was a FlameClan cat. What is wrong with me? I should be eager to avenge my sister. Instead, all I feel is horror. And all I can think is, This can't be happening. Not now.
But it is. Soon, I'll be fighting against the cat who means more to me then anything else. "Oh Thunderpaw," I whisper softly. "What will we do?"
"Come on, Thunderpaw!" Ashflight called, "We have to have you ready for the battle!"
Ashflight sighed, "Have you been living the past few moons? Under a rock? Or do you forget everything when you wake up in the mornings."
I blinked slowly.
"The war with PetalClan!"
"Ohhhhh," I trailed off, my heart wincing at the thought of hurting one of Lilypaw's friends or family members. I can't let a battle come between us. I pause, "When was this battle declared?"
"It wasn't," he briskly responded, "But I can assure you it won't be long."
A rock appears to drop onto my stomach and I wince again, trying to change my fear with enthusiasm. I'm not scared to fight. I'm just scared to fight Lilypaw.
I sighed, the thought of her filling my head.
"Concentrate!" Ashflight snaps, "Where are you today? You've been so out of it since the gathering. The only time you acted normal was during the brief skirmish."
"I'm sorry," I whisper, hiding tears.
What happened to the days when I would do anything to impress Ashflight? Now he seems like nothing but a cruel and strict mentor to me.
Love really changes your view of things.
I was pulled out of my thoughts when I was bowled over by a large black cat and smelled Ashflight's familiar scent. He is purring.
"Now will you pay attention?"
I smile, "I guess..."
I just wish we could find a peaceful way out of this...
"Did you hear the news?" Redpaw was murmuring with her gang of pretty she-cat apprentices, "PetalClan declared war."
"No," Driftpaw hissed back, "It was FlameClan that declared war. They were at a patrol and they finally claimed that they would take it to battle."
"I wonder if it will be the perfect chance for me to impress Northpaw," Redpaw coyly murmured earning her a mischievous smile from Driftpaw.
"Maybe he can save you. That would be so romantic."
"Wait!" I yelped walking up to them, my hunt with Ashflight completly forgotten, "Is there really a battle? And when is it?"
"Yes there is," Redpaw snapped, You can trust my news."
"When?" I repeated.
Tension as thick as jelly hangs in the air of the PetalClan camp. I glance around at the determined, hard faces of my clanmates. Nothing will change their minds today. It scares me, how eager they are to shed blood. That blood could be Thunderpaw's blood, or the blood of someone he loves. Don't they know that? I have to resist the wild urge to yell it out, as if that knowledge would stop them from attacking. I wish.
"Lilypaw?" Lightpaw's voice comes from behind me, making me jump. She smiles sympathetically. "Don't worry. We'll win, and we'll get our revenge for Wolfpaw. She might not be able to fight in this battle, but we'll fight double hard for her."
She's going to be fine! Let it go! I want to scream, but instead I just give my head a jerky nod. "Yeah. We will."
"At least all the rest of us are going," she comments lightly. My head shoots up.
"All of us? Won't they want more warriors?"
"Well, they have a lot of warriors going too. See?" She gestures with her tail, and my stomach plummets into my paws as I see the battle patrol. It's huge! Surely we don't need this many cats to fight. I had only been expecting one notch up from a border skirmish. Bile rises in my throat as the truth dawns on me. This is going to be a huge battle. Not only will blood be shed, cats will be seriously injured. Die.
Just when I'm trying to come up with an excuse, to find a way out of this, Silverstar calls from the camp exit. "Come on PetalClan! Let's bring the war to FlameClan."
Stifling a sigh, I pad at the back of my Clan once again. My heart just isn't in this. It's somewhere else. Wherever a certain tom named after thunder is. Not here. Not right now.
As we come closer to the border, I scent the air. FlameClan. They're already here. They knew we were coming. For a brief moment, the old urge to fight comes back. Then I spot Thunderpaw's face in the crowd. He looks like he hasn't gotten a wink of sleep, and I imagine I look the same, but he's still adorable somehow, with a shock of ginger fur sticking straight up on top of his head. My heart melts, and I know I can't do this. I start to back away, and run into Sealfish. Her green eyes bore into mine.
"Ready for this?" She's practically daring me to say no.
Not trusting myself to speak, I give a quick nod, then turn back to the front. Before I can think of another way out, Silverstar and Darkstar simultaneously cry, "Attack!"
Taking a deep breath, I plunge into the battle, running alongside my clanmates. It's now or never. I'll just avoid him. How hard can that be? Ignoring the pile of doubts that come in at that, I tackle a FlameClan cat, and we go rolling.
She claws at my fur and I bite down hard on her shoulder, murmuring a silent apology to Thunderpaw if this is someone he knows. Or cares about. The idea of him caring for another she-cat makes me wince, though I've always known that I could never be a part of his Clan; never cross the invisible boundary that divides us. But now's not the time to think about that.
The she-cat scratches me above the eye, and I yowl, lashing out blindly as blood fills my vision. My claws connnect with fur, and I dig in, then freeze as I hear a cry of astonishment. Blinking red out of my eyes, I stare in shock at... Thunderpaw.
"No..." I whisper, stepping back. He seems relatively unhurt, but shock and something else flicker in his eyes. I had almost- I shake my head and flee, running headfirst into the battle. Claws rip at my pelt, but I don't care. It doesn't matter. How could this happen?
I force myself to stay steady as the battle continues to rage. Blood streaks my pelt but it is nothing compared to the scar of betrayal.
Not towards Lilypaw for attacking me, there was nothing else she could have done.
Towards my Clan. My forest.
What was so wrong with the idea of peace? Maybe I hadn't been all for it before I met Lilypaw, but the grown warriors should know better than to fight at every turn. Especially a wise leader like Darkstar.
Cats are going to die today, there is no point in denying it, and the cats will remain hostile. Maybe have a few more battles and a few more battles until we are all wiped out.
I force back horrified tears, and jump around the battle field, trying to avoid cats but get as many scratched as I can. In order for it to look like I fought hard I must be battered and scarred.
Exactly how I feel on the inside.
The battle seems to go on for ages, loud cries sounding through the border and I want to just block it all out. To snatch Lilypaw and run off with her to a world without these troubles.
But I have to face this.
The battle continues, the loud screams and cries only growing further. I can tell several cats are dead but I have no clue who. I know Lilypaw is safe because I can see her pelt jumping up and down between the cats every now and then, and I lock eyes with her several times for a split moment before turning back to the battle.
And cats continue to fall. I wait for one of them to call a retreat. To give up and let more cats live. But none of them do and the fighting only drags further on.
Sometime in the middle of the fighting, though I was far too tired to remember when, Ashflight approached me.
"Thunderpaw, you have to go!" he claimed loudly, "This battle is getting to fierce. It is not safe for an apprentice."
I tilt my head slightly upward to see that Lilypaw is being ushered out as well. We lock eyes one last time before I nod and turn around, heading back to camp, feeling extremely defeated.
"Darkstar is back!" Redpaw quickly yelped and I rushed out of the apprentice den, ignoring my stinging wounds; eager to know how the battle ended.
I wasn't the only one though, the whole Clan was crowding the returning warriors and Darkstar let out a low sigh.
"Before any of you ask!" he called, "We have lost. Both sides have lost, and we agreed to just stop the battle. There was no point in contining the bloodshed."
There were moans among the Clans and anger flashed in his eyes.
"Do you know how many cats died out there in that battle?"
They shook their heads, fear entering their gazes at the harsh tone of their leader.
"Well neither do I!" he snapped, "And I wan't to get my rest until I do, because I can assure you none of us will be doing anything but crying when we find out who is missing, their bodies still splattered over the battleground.
He turned around, and began to wearily paddle back towards his den, swaying gently from side to side, while I felt a combination of relief but also anger that it had taken them this long to realize that.
Because after this point it didn't really matter.
The battle had been fought.
And the dead cats couldn't be brought back through regret.
Gray clouds mirror my mood overhead as I stare out at the blood-stained camp. My tears have finally dried, but my heart is still breaking. Lightpaw is dead. And nothing, nothing in this whole world, can bring her back.
Wolfpaw has come out of the medicine cat's den to mourn her. There is no strength left in me to think, I told you so. What does it matter? They wouldn't have listened anyway, if I had tried to stop them. The saddest part is, I don't think they even learned their lesson. Someday, far in the future, or maybe not so far if we remain as dumb as we are, this will happen again. More cats will die. Needlessly. I understand that pain is part of a warrior's life, but mindless killing over petty things is not.
Then my thoughts travel to Thunderpaw. My heart aches even more when I realize what I have to do. Slowly, I get to my paws. Better get it over with now.
Without bothering to stop and answer the questioning glances I get, hoping my Clanmates will understand, or think I just need to get away from it all, I head out of the PetalClan camp. Out on the worst journey I'll ever have to make, to make the worst choice I'll ever have to choose.
He's waiting for me. Now how did he do that? It's like we have a connection, something that's always going to be there. No matter what.
No! We can't do this. It just won't work anymore.
"Thunderpaw," I say softly. "We need to talk." Then, unable to conceal my worry, I hurry over, inspecting him carefully. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." His blue eyes are sad. He knows what's coming. We both do. Still, he stalls for time. "Are you?" I feel his gaze warm on my pelt, and then he licks a small cut under my jaw. A shiver runs through me, and I have to fight back tears just being near to him. Knowing that I won't be able to do this anymore is nearly unbearable.
"I'm fine," I whisper, gazing into his face, as if I could capture this moment forever. Just the two of us, before we're ripped apart by a cruel claw. The claw that claims to be the warrior code, but just separates us. The claw that claims to protect but only hurts. The claw that will rip out my heart tonight.
Thunderpaw leans against me and twines his tail with mine. "Lilypaw, we can find some way-"
I shake my head slowly. "Please don't say it."
"What?" he recoils as if I slapped him, and I feel like a dagger just pierced my heart. The last thing I want is to see him hurt, but that's exactly what's fixing to happen.
"We can't Thunderpaw," I say miserably. "Can't you see what's happening? The whole world is trying to send us a message, at the cost of cat's lives."
His eyes widen. "This isn't a message. This is absurdity. There's no reason why we shouldn't love each other Lilypaw. None at all."
"No," I stare at my paws. "There isn't. But that's not the way it works. Things aren't always fair."
Anger colors his voice now. "It isn't fair! We need each other." His voice is husky as he presses his nose to mine. "I need you."
A tear rolls down my cheek, and he licks it away. "Thunderpaw," I stammer in a choked voice. "Lightpaw, my sister, died today."
Instantly his face is a mirror of my grief. I try not to feel touched by how much he cares for my family, but I can't help it. Look! Can't they see how much we have in common? How we're all cats? How we share each other's pain? Thunderpaw touches his nose to my ear. "I'm so sorry," he says in a gentle voice. I sigh.
"It's not your fault." I glance up at the moon, which is rising in the sky now. "It's time."
He stares at me intensely, and our gazes lock together like held by a magnetic force. "Let's just spend a little more time together." There's pleading in his tone, pleading which my own heart echos.
"Okay," I mew, ignoring my concience. Somethings are more important then being a goody two-paws.
And yet, something's not the same. Because I know at the end of tonight, each of us will have to return to our bloodied, bruised Clans, and try to be strong for our Clanmates. When our hearts are broken because of them.
I swallowed hard tears.
It isn't fair.
But that was the way things went.
"Are you sure?" I ask again, my heart feels like it is being torn in two as I look at her pelt in that way for the last time in my life.
How can a code make me forget about the way I feel for her? The was I have to impress her. The way I must do everything I can to make her happy.
She sighs again, "I'm sorry, Thunderpaw. I hate this too. But it's the way it will have to be."
The sun is already beginning to rise far too quickly. I wince trying to block away everything but what was going on at that moment.
At least she was alive.
"Promise you won't fall for any PetalClan toms?" I ask her. The thought practically tears my heart in half to just think about.
"If you can do the same," a faint trace of a smile appears on her lips.
"I could never fall for anyone but you," I whisper gently, "It wouldn't possibly feel right."
Her eyes seem to fill with pain but she gives her shake a fierce shake and they are gone, "I promise, Thunderpaw," she whispered, "No matter what."
I give her a lick as the sun continues to rise. Time is moving too quickly for me now, and I can hrdly stand it. I just want to stop everything and freeze like this. Cry into her fur and spend the rest of my life like that.
But the sun continues to rise anyways and we soon have to part.
"I guess I have to go," she sniffs as she turns around, "I'll miss you Thunderpaw."
"I love you," I gently whisper gently.
"I do too," she replied gently in her sweet voice as she slowly began to paddle back towards PetalClan, "But we will have to forget that."
And how I wish such a thing were even possible.
Despite the sun struggling to shed some light over the woods, the gray clouds push it back down. There's no light. No hope. Just like I feel. Hollow. The pain has faded to a dull throb, and I've cried myself hoarse without telling anyone why. Everyone thinks it's because of Lightpaw. The thought of my sister, gone, brings new moisture to my eyes, though I thought I'd cried myself out. Why must I keep losing everything?
"Lilypaw? Are you okay? Feeling better?" Sparkpaw enters, his golden eyes sympathetic. He lies down next to me. "Look Lilypaw, I know how you feel. We're all grieving. But... sometimes you just can't hold onto those you love. That doesn't make it wrong if you try. In fact, you should try. Cling to and treasure those you still have on earth, because you don't know how long you have them."
"When did you get so deep?" I joke, and he blushes. But his words ring true. I stand up hastily. "There's something I have to do."
He nods. "Okay. I understand."
I think you do, though not exactly the whole situation. I beam at my brother. "Thanks Sparkpaw."
"You're welcome!" he calls. ButI'm already racing out into the brewing storm, one sole thought in myhead. How could I have let you go?
"Thunderpaw? Thunderpaw!" I ran to the border and called his name hoarsely into the wind. By now, the first few drops of rain had fallen, and the buffeting wind was blowing my fur and stinging my cheeks. I didn't care. Nothing mattered more than finding him.
Straining to peer into the wildly waving woods, I make out a small shape hunched over by a tree. "Thunderpaw!" Ignoring the border, I race to his side.
Blinking blinding rain out of his eyes, he peers down at me. "Lilypaw?"
"Yes! I was wrong, and I'm so sorry-" He cuts me off by pressing his tail against my mouth, his face warm.
"Come on. Follow me." He pads over to a tree and latches on. I stare at him.
"Are you crazy? PetalClan cats don't climb trees."
Thunderpaw cocks his head. "Would you rather stay out here in this storm?"
Grumbling, I follow him, though I can't keep the relief out of my voice. All is forgiven. But we still have a lot more to discuss before we sort out the mess we're in.
"Thunderpaw-" I begin again, but he shakes his head. "What?"
A sheepish look appears on his face. "I don't know exactly. I just know we need to wait till after the storm passes over."
We sit side by side, watching as the winds and rain, normally seeming to be destructive, wash away the scars and blood of the battle, preparing for new growth. I can hear the thunder rolling in the distance, and I smile. This, this is happiness.
The rain ragged above our heads, and the leaves of the trees were the only protection we had under the large tree. It felt strange sitting their, my pelt closely glued to hers.
She had her head turned away and was obviously trying to avoid eye contact. I felt a small lurch in my stomach when I remember that we weren't mates anymore.
At least we once were... I should be grateful for what I have, not what I lost, right?
But with her standing their, her violet eyes shimmering gorgeously it was impossible to believe that I could be happy any other way.
"Lilypaw?" I whisper. I have to tell her how I feel.
"Shhh," her voice is soft and beautiful, and my heart gently begins to soothe itself at the sound of her voice, "Just let me enjoy these precious moments, Thunderpaw. I won't have many more of them anymore."
My heart swells and I try not to blush, as our pelts continue to brush.
I just wish that it could last.
The rain continues to heave heavily, many drops of rain scatter into our pelt, and I feel almost a light electricity zapping between us. I know I was meant to be with her.
It just feels so right.
The rain continues to grow and it doesn't seem like we will ever be able to get down the tree.
Which, of course, is perfectly fine by me.
Until, our pelts continue to grow wetter and wetter, as the tree can't offer us unlimited protection from the water. Our pelts continue to grow damper and damper, my eyes soggier and soggier, the noise louder and louder the skies darker and darker until there is a loud rumble.
"Eek!" Lilypaw shrieks jumping in one direction while I quickly jump towards a branch in the other, barely avoiding the zap of lighting as it strikes the tree and rattles all the branches.
For a moment I expect the large plant to collapse, but it doesn't. It stays in place, rattling slightly back and forth before simply standing still.
Lilypaw and I exchange quick glances before gently paddling back towards the branch which had been struck by lightning. There is a black scar on the branch of the tree, marking the spot where it was burnt and right beside it a gorgeous and pretty...
The rain begins to slow and both of our eyes widen. A loud call from the PetalClan side of the border makes Lilypaw sigh.
"I'll talk to you later," she promises before turning around and jumping down the branches before bounding back towards her territory.
I glance at the lily for a moment, standing right beside where the lighting has struck it. For a moment I consider taking it with me as a memory to help me get over my grief of losing Lilypaw.
But then I decide to leave it. Lilypaw promised to meet me later that night and it looks to me like an omen from StarClan. And a good one.
And so I decide to let time and nature continue to play the way it always has without interfering.
Maybe it can bring back the one she-cat I love to my life.
I slip like quicksilver through the quiet forest, my ears atune to all the sounds of the night. However, all my senses are really only waiting for one thing. Finally, I catch a drift of his scent, and my heartbeat accelerates furiously. Longing to be with him overtakes me, and I break into a run. We slam headfirst into each other as he comes out of the thicket, and collapse on the grass, laughing like a pair of idiots.
When I catch my breath, I gaze at his face, lost in his sky-blue eyes, like pools in the golden wheat field of his coat. I'm not sure how long we stay like that, entranced with each other's presence, but finally, he gets to his paws and helps me up.
"Lilypaw, I've been thinking, about what we decided," he begins. Sorrow fills his eyes. "I-I don't think I can do this. But if it makes you happy... I think I'll try. As long as you're happy, I'll go the rest of my life without you." He winces, and I long to comfort him with the news, but decide to wait till the end. "It'll be awful. But... If you're strong, I can be strong. I don't want you to underestimate how much you mean to me Lilypaw. You've taught me things I never knew. I know I'll regret letting you go-"
I can't stand it anymore. "Thunderpaw! Listen to yourself. You're not the only one here you know."
"Huh?" he blinks.
Purring, I touch my nose to his. "You act like you expect me to be able to live without you. I'd do almost anything for you. You know that. But the one thing you can't ask of me is to separate myself from you. I need you more than I need anything else."
An incredulous look comes onto his face, as if he can't dare to even hope to believe it. "You mean...?"
"Yeah," I smile, brushing our cheeks against each other's. "We're mates again."
For several minutes, both of us let it sink in. I make a silent promise to myself, to never let him go again. I've seen what that does to me, and it isn't pretty. We'll just have to find a way around it. Thunderpaw's face darkens as he thinks the same question I do. But how?
"I could join PetalClan," he sighs. I stare at him, surprised and touched that he'd even suggest such a thing. Then I shake my head.
"It would never work, especially with the tensions between our Clans. No one would trust you. It's no life for anyone."
"I don't care!" There's desperation in his voice, and it makes my heart tear. "I'd rather go through that then live without you."
I stare at my paws and say softly, "Me too. But we can't Thunderpaw. It wouldn't work." For a minute we remain silent. Then I suggest in a quiet voice, "What if... what if no one ever knew?"
Confusion shows on his face. "What do you mean? Do you really think we could keep it a secret?"
"I don't know. But it may be our only chance. Our only shot at having a life together."
Thunderpaw's tone is suddenly fierce, blazing with determination. "Then we'll do it."
I nod, matching his fiery spirit. "If there's any way we can be mates, we'll take it." As an afterthought I add, "And we'll succeed. Because love is stronger then anything else."
It's really sappy, but he doesn't comment, only licks me tenderly on the cheek and nods. Right then, I feel like we can do anything. No matter what the challenges may be.
"Are you sure you don't want me to join PetalClan?" I ask her one last time, as the sun sets, giving our pelts a nice color and the perfect view.
"I'm sure," she responds giving me a fierce lick, "It's fine, Thunderpaw. No one will ever find out. The reason forbidden romance usually doesn't work is because the cats don't love each other enough to stick together. Or to stick together without breaking any rules."
"I'd do anything for you," I whispered.
"Same," she replied and I felt my heart warming at the tone of her voice.
As I always did when I was by her, I felt like I could live the moment for several moons and not mind it at all. Because I could never grow tired of staring fondly into her deep violet eyes while she stared back at me, smiling so sweetly.
"What will happen if you get kits?" I asked her.
She snorted, "Don't start thinking too far ahead," she teased me with a light prod and I purred, "I have no intention have having kits anytime soon. I need to finish my training first."
"But later on, if' we do."
"Then we do," she shrugged, "I won't tell anyone the father but I will bring them to visit you, so they can see what a wonderful father they have."
I felt my pelt growing warm and I blushed.
"Not as pretty as their mother."
She rolled her eyes, "We haven't had kits yet!" But I could feel her blushing and gave her an affectionate lick, purring.
We continue to sit in silence until the sun has finally faded, and been replaced by the moon when she lets out a low sigh, and picks herself up.
Our pelts brush again and I force my face not to turn red.
"See you tomorrow night?"
"Of course," she purrs as she gently brushes her muzzle against mine, for a small moment, which I wish could have lasted longer, before paddling away.
"I love you," I whisper after her.
Moon or sun, storm or wind, battle or peace I knew that no matter what, those last words would always be true. And no matter what the clans thought, I would never be able to stop looking at my precious lily.
I purr, unable to express my happiness when she replies, her response floating through the air, forming a wonderful melody as I gaze after her.
"I love you too."
If you journeyed to the forest of PetalClan, FlameClan and BirdClan, and tried to see beyond borders, you would find a strong link, a mark, and a deep amount of affection between several cats.
But among all of these, pairs one in particular would catch your eye.
Two cats, from different Clans with completely polar personalities. They only share one thing, which is they most powerful of them all: Love.
And this love will bind them together for the rest of their lives. No matter where they go, what they see and what they live through, the thunder and the lily will always be together.
Because if you travel beyond your home, and the lake ocean across it, past wide valleys and forests and mountains to the heart of this forest you will see something worth a lifetime of of travel.
A tree, barely standing, but standing none the less, and one that will always stand as long as the world continues to spin and love continues to play into the lives of cats and all other creatures.
On the tree, if you climb up several branches and using the light edging between the cracks of the leaves peer at one of the branches you will come across something odd.
A dark burn, a strike of lightning, resting onto the tree, a scar it will never be able to shed. But that is not what you will gape at.
Because beside that mark of lighting, causing by the rolling thunder lies a small flower, delicate but strong and resistant, still not rotting away after several seasons have past since it fatefully landed on the branch.
Because the roaring thunder, filled with energy and excitement, alongside the soft, tender and delicate lily will always be together.
After The Storm
Lilies grow in the valley, sweet and mild
Thunder crackles in treetops, wrathful and wild
Ne're are either supposed to meet
Yet if you watch the shadows, on paws so fleet
In the dead of night they come to life
Abandoning all work and strife
Some may say that secrets cause hearts to stray
But without the other, they'll fade away
The roaring thunder and the lily fair
A strange but true and faithful pair
Stars like silent eyes look down
They know the code yet still don't frown
Some things are far too precious and sweet
Like fire erupts when lovers do meet
And when it fades, the watchful night
The two slip away, both meek and might
Rainbows light the sky like flags
And all the cares of life, its clings and drags
Will fade away with the dewy morn
T'will all be perfection
After the storm