Episode Five, Season Two, of Solitary.
Against Their Will
There was a moment’s silence after this, when every cat turned to where I was facing, now looking in Scorch’s direction. A skittering of paws also indicated to me that Pouncestep had – once again – jumped backwards, and I flicked my ears in annoyance before turning back to Scorch.
For a moment, the ginger tabby had looked at Pouncestep with a look on her face that told me that she considered the black tom – like me – to be a little but jumpy, and eccentric. Then she turned back to me, and asked: “Wisp, what are you doing with a whole lot of Clan cats?”
I opened my mouth to reply to Scorch, not surprised that she had asked the question. However, before I could speak, Cinderfire had cut in front of me, and was now eyeing up Scorch with her burning amber gaze. “You were in Flame’s group,” she growled softly under her breath. “I saw you over where they hunted sometimes.”
There was a stiff pause after this, where I started to back away from Scorch and Cinderfire slowly, leaving the she-cats to talk.
Scorch raised her head, and stared at Cinderfire defiantly. “Yes, I was with them,” she mewed calmly. “But I left them before the first battle.”
Cinderfire, meanwhile, still looked extremely unconvinced by Scorch. “I don’t believe you, and you are not thinking of –” she hissed, before I finally realized that I had to step in. This was when I stared at Cinderfire sharply, and the gray she-cat quickly fell silent.
“Back off, Cinderfire, I know she’s not going to do anything bad to our group,” I mewed quietly, stepping forward. “I know Scorch.”
Cinderfire grunted softly. ‘You’d better prove it,” she spat, before stalking off to join Waterfall at the back of the small crowd. One look at the back to see Waterfall’s round blue eyes told me that she didn’t know what to think of all of this.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group all had their different opinions. Molefrost and Gorsetuft were standing off to one side, their brows furrowed: Tawnydapple looked curious: while Pouncestep’s attitude didn’t seem to change, as he still looked jumpy as he usually was.
I then turned back to Scorch, turning back to the conversation I had intended to start all along with her. “I struck a deal with the Clans,” I told her quietly, shooting a look at Cinderfire in the process, who looked abashed. “I said I’d help them to find a new Gathering place.”
Scorch, at this, looked extremely confused. “Gathering place?” she echoed.
“A place where the Clans meet together every full moon and talk about stuff,” I hissed softly under my breath to Scorch, that only she could hear, before turning back to the rest of the group, deciding to formally introduce Scorch to them.
“Guys, this is Scorch,” I told them, flicking my tail at Scorch as I paused, causing her to dip her head in embarrassment. “She’s my sister, and littermate.”
After this, there was a very long silence, before there was a soft scuffling on the ground, as Cinderfire rose to her paws, and glared at me with her amber gaze. “What? Wisp, you’re lying! You told me that you didn’t have any littermates!”
She then sat down again, and there was yet another long silence following Cinderfire’s words.
The entire group – except Cinderfire, obviously – now turned their gazes back on me, their eyes narrowed. Pouncestep, on the other paw, jumped as I set my gaze on him, before he scuttled back to join Gorsetuft, who – growling – shoved the black tom back as he stalked off and sat beside Waterfall.
Then, Molefrost rose to his paws. “So you’ve been lying to my Clanmate, eh?” he hissed, shooting a look at Cinderfire. “Maybe we should leave this journey right now, if you’re going to lie to me! It makes you sound untrustworthy.”
I opened my mouth to speak. “Guys, I –”
“No, Wisp. Let me explain, not you. I was the cat that got you into this mess.”
I paused, surprised, and turned around to see Scorch brushing past me before stopping right at my side. The six Clan cats all moved their gazes off me, and I sighed softly in relief.
That was humiliating! Let’s hope that Scorch doesn’t make this worse…
Scorch proceeded to shake out her fur before she started to speak: “Wisp only found out that we were littermates after the first battle between the two Clans and the rogues. Before then, he thought that he was the only kit, and that his father had died before he was born. Wisp told me all this. But really, our mother, Stream, lied to him.”
I heard Cinderfire grunt furiously at this, but Scorch didn’t seem to notice what had happened as she took a deep breath before continuing again:
“They had an argument one day, and our father, Streak, took me away, and eventually told me the truth. Meanwhile, Stream continued to care for Wisp, and covered everything up. He never knew of any of this… until that fateful day.” Scorch finished her speech with a flick of her tail before stepping back.
There was yet another moment of silence, before Cinderfire rose to her paws. “Is this true, Wisp?” she mewed sharply, turning to me.
I took a deep breath, before I answered: “Yes, it is.”
Cinderfire sat back down again with a thud, still glaring at me as if she was still unconvinced. I ignored her, and tuned back to Scorch, who had nudged me sharply.
“Wisp, can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” I shrugged, before turning in Scorch’s direction. “What is it?”
Scorch took a deep breath, before mewing: “Through all of this… I was thinking… could I join you guys? I want to know a little more about the Clans, and this seems like the best way to do it. Besides, I have nothing else to do with my life, anyway.”
I stared for a moment, at Scorch surprised, before turning back to the rest of the group. They too looked a little bit miffed, but I saw them nod slowly, as if they were in agreement.
I knew what I wanted now, and I nodded at Scorch. “Yeah, you can join.” I saw Scorch’s green eyes light up in happiness, as I added: “Welcome to the club, Scorch.”
“So what do you have for me tonight, my loyal follower?”
The dark tabby tom turned as soon as heard the pawsteps touching the ground, to see the cat that had entered. His pelt had been stained silver by the half-moon as he padded in, and he immediately heeded to his master as he came, nodding as he spoke.
“The plan has worked. The journey has started.” The tom gave a stiff nod. “Whitestar was an easy cat to push over – you made a wise decision, master. I don’t think, from what I know, that Hawkstar would’ve bended over so quickly.”
The second cat purred. “Good, good…” His purr was silky as he spoke, as he started to pace around the smaller cat. “Where are they searching?”
“By the TreeClan border, sir,” the tom replied, craning to look into his master’s eye. “They still don’t know the territory well – even though Wisp, and his littermate, this cat called Scorch joined them. She seems like a –”
“Scorch?” The master interrupted. “Scorch? Traitor! She used to be part of Flame’s allegiance, until Flame decided to align with us! What a fool she is, a dithering fool, if she thinks she’s going to help the Clans!” He then paused to spit on the ground, signalling the end of his rant.
The other cat shivered. “She was – part of Flame’s group?” he stammered. “I never knew that… that should be very useful… thank you for telling me this, master, I am extremely thankful…”
“Whatever, I have no time for your antics.” The cat’s mew was cold as he turned to stare icily at his follower. “There is nothing else to report?”
The other cat shook his head.
The master nodded once more, and then he flicked at his follower with his tail. “Go now. Tomorrow, I will be doing something. Then… those Clan cats will know what we know all their secrets.”
Hastily, the follower nodded, before shooting out of the clearing. The cat that remained started after him for a while, before he too looked away, and padded off.
Oh, my follower is very trustworthy… and what is to come will be great… really great…
The following day saw the sun dawn brightly on the horizon, and it had shone through the treetops over the day as my group got back into action. We’d continued to search around yet another part of the TreeClan borders – but still with no luck. This fact, indeed, was starting to get onto the warriors, and now seemed to drag their tails.
Even Pouncestep – who was usually jumpy – looked bored, his eyes dull as he searched in between every nook and cranny in the forest. The rest of the warriors were not even bothered with searching, and had half-given up.
Scorch, however, didn’t seem put off, and she was the only cat whose eyes were alight with interest as the ginger she-cat darted through the forest, her green eyes alight as she searched. It seemed to me that I had made a wise choice when I decided to let her into the group – and slowly, it looked like the rest of the group was getting convinced, too.
“She’s helpful,” Cinderfire had yawned as he padded through the forest, looking off to one side. I tasted the air, and realized that this was near where the group of neutral rogues was situated – the group that didn’t bother the Clans. Cinderfire had lived with them before she’d joined TreeClan.
Eventually, sunhigh arrived, and the sun was directly overhead when I called the group to stop. Everyone looked pleased – all except Scorch, who looked extremely disappointed, and Pouncestep, who had all of a sudden become extremely jumpy again.
“Let’s eat,” I called. “Waterfall, Tawnydapple, and Molefrost, go fetch something.”
The three warriors nodded, and raced off, eager to do something that was not obviously searching for a clearing that the Clans could use as a Gathering place.
Meanwhile, the rest of us gathered into a circle, and were now starting to talk about the journey so far. Cinderfire looked a little shifty at the mention of this, Gorsetuft had furrowed his brow. Scorch did nothing, while Pouncestep – as usual – jumped.
“No luck, basically,” Cinderfire grunted irritably. “I wish that finding a suitable clearing would be easier than this.” The dark gray she-cat licked her front right paw, and brought it over her ear deftly as she finished speaking.
“We’ll find something,” Gorsetuft mewed hopefully. “StarClan wouldn’t have abandoned us. They kept to us when we travelled from our original home – and this isn’t nearly as bad. I’m not losing hope.”
Cinderfire grunted again, still unconvinced. However, in Gorsetuft’s voice I heard a twinge that indicated that he wasn’t overly sure with his prediction.
I turned my gaze to Pouncestep. “Now, what about you?”
As my gaze turned to Pouncestep, the black tom jumped, and he shot a blue gaze at me. “I… don’t know,” he mewed quietly. “I just hope that we can find a new Gathering place for us, that’s all…”
I nodded. “Okay Pouncestep, that seems reasonable.” I felt a little awkward instructing Clan cats, but I guessed that I was doing a fair job, so I let it slide.
Gorsetuft, meanwhile, had sniffed at Pouncestep’s response. “I still don’t believe you…” he hissed softly under his breath, probably aimed only for Pouncestep’s ears, but I heard anyway.
Just then, there was a pattering of paws, and I saw Molefrost, Waterfall, and Tawnydapple all return – but with no fresh-kill in their jaws. All of them had a terrified look on their faces, and I immediately guessed that something was wrong.
I rose to my paws. “What’s happened, you three?”
Waterfall gasped, before looking behind her. “The rogues…” I heard her whisper. “They’ve found out… We saw them, and they said they knew what we were doing… look…”
And at that very moment, five cats stepped into the clearing. They all had dark pelts, and they stared at each of us with fire in their eyes. One was gray, one was brown, a third was black and white. The fourth was a dark tortoiseshell, and the fifth cat – the one that was leading the patrol – was a tabby.
I recognized this cat immediately.
They padded up to me, and stared me in the eye, before Oak took a deep breath, and snarled in my face:
“You’ve been at it again, Wisp?”