Episode 2, Season 2 of War.
"Brookfall, wake up."
When one spends from dawn til moonhigh patrolling, one tends to get rather protective of one's sleep. I lash out with a paw, not bothering to check whether my claws are in or out. The cool whoosh of air breezes over me as my leg slashes through the air.
There's a purr, "Come on Brookfall." Silverflower. No one else could sound so cheerful at this hour. I ignore her.
"Brookfall, up, now," Badgerstrike's crisp order makes me groan on the inside, but I promptly roll to my paws, standing at attention.
"You awake? Finally," Badgerstrike meows bitingly, "Come with me, we're going to Main."
He says it so nonchalantly I almost want to ask if we'll be flying there as well. "M-Main is nearly four sunrises journey away!"
"Then we'd better go,"
Silverflower meows a good bye as I stumble after my commander into the woods. Oakclaw and Adderscar are both still snoring easily, but form the way Silverflower is heading towards them I wonder how long that will last.
Once we are in the woods, I realize Badgerstrike is striding far ahead of me. I sprint to catch up and slow when I get next to him, trotting to keep place, "So why are we going to Main?"
"We need to get permission to go into FireClan territory and rescue Shadowsong and Gorsefur."
My heart lifts and I feel a slight stab of hate. When Badgerstrike first appealed to get them back, he was told it was their own fault and maybe if we'd finished the job it wouldn't have happened.
"But why now?" I ask cautiously.
He stops, glaring at me with watery gray eyes. "You think I'd leave them in FireClan for more then a half moon?"
"N-No! It's just, I thought we already appealed..."
"We're trying again,"
"FireClan isn't going to hurt them, you know," I meow, even though all of my nightmares center on the fact they could, "It goes against all the treaties."
Badgerstrike snorts, "Treaties. We are at war Brookfall. Do you think FireClan gives two mouse tails about any treaties?" I shiver, but he keeps going, eyes blazing, "Gorsefur and Shadowsong could be dead by now, or worse, and it's all my fault. No one is going to do anything for them except for us and we might not even be able to."
Bile rises in my throat and my fur puffs out in anger, "Don't give me that. You know I want them back as much as you do, so just stop it, okay?!"
Badgerstrike meets my eyes for a moment, then drops his gaze, tired. "You're right, I'm sorry."
"You should be," I growl, not really meaning it. We pad along for a while, then I finally build up the courage to ask, "Why would you think it's your fault?"
Badgerstrike looks up to the heavens, debating whether or not to be honest. I don't say anything.
"The tribunal will probably bring it up, so it's probably best you know," he says, mostly to himself. Then, turning more to me, he continues, "You know Rowanfur?"
"The FireClan deputy?" Gorsefur and I had a run in with him. He almost killed us before we knocked him unconscious. He attacked Badgerstrike, with a ferocity that was practically tangible, in the battle.
Badgerstrike nodded. "Well, we have a history. You see, a long time ago...I was...I was the deputy's apprentice."
I stare at him in shock. The old system of deputies and leaders was abolished when the territories were expanded and it became clear that no one could just pick any cat to be the next leader. The leader's apprentice became leader, the deputy's apprentice became deputy. But there's no way...I mean, he's capable and all but...Badgerstrike?!
"Wh-What happened?" I ask, trying to appear casual. Not succeeding.
"The leader's apprentice was Darkpaw. She's Waterstar now." he trails off, lost in thought. "Rowanpaw was the FireClan leader's apprentice. Darkpaw always hated me and it became worse because..." he swallows, "Rowanpaw and I were best friends."
"How?" I ask, bemused.
"It was before the war. The borders weren't as tight, it wasn't as taboo. There was this meadow just inside WaterClan border, near Main, but hidden, barely visited. We'd meet there and just play and talk. Since we were both apprentices of the Clan leaders and deputies we didn't have much chance to become friends with anyone else. I could have been friends with Darkpaw, I suppose, but she always made it clear I was a rival, someone she hated.
"But then her mentor died and she became leader. Very young, actually. My mentor was still deputy, otherwise she would have started there first, like Rowanfur has. Anyways, she told me to stop hanging around with him. I think she wanted me to befriend her. She needed help, that was for sure." he sighed, "But I told her you can't just do that to best friends. And so she had my mentor take on another apprentice and told me I would never be deputy."
"That's awful," I breathe.
"I blamed Rowanpaw. We had a huge argument and..." Badgerstrike half smirked, half looked sad, "He hates me now. Probably more then he hates anyone."
"Just because you couldn't be friends anymore?"
"Well, I killed his mentor too," Badgerstrike starts walking again and I sit there in shock. Finally, I leap to my paws and chase after him.
"You can't just say things like that and walk away," I mutter.
"I was trying to redeem myself," he sighs. "Waterstar made me commander, but she didn't make me deputy. And Rowanfur became deputy and has had a vendetta towards me ever since."
"Huh," I continue walking, silent. "And you think that-"
"I don't know what to think."
I close my eyes, trying to picture Gorsefur. Gray fur, gold eyes. But Rowanfur's sneering face keeps finding it's way in. And what's worse is that I can feel something fro him now, something more then blind hate.
Badgerstrike and I walk on, silent.
Main Camp appears darker and threatening today. Badgerstrike leads me to the Capitol, then to a clearing.
Three cats sit on the tree. A dark furred she-cat, a gray tom, and a dark brown she-cat. Immediately, Badgerstrike stiffens. "Where's Riverclaw?"
The black she-cat sniffed, "We didn't think it would be proper to have him here, given his bias."
"And it's fair for you to be here?" Badgerstrike snarled.
"Is that any way to address your leader?" Waterstar's eyes slide to me, "Who's your little soldier?"
"I'm Brookfall," I meow. Or, perhaps squeak is more of an appropriate term.
Waterstar flicks her tail, first to the tom, then the she-cat, "This is Sageheart, the head medicine cat, and Scorchclaw, Riverclaw's new apprentice," Vindictive eyes linger for a second too long on Badgerstrike who stands his ground.
"We're here to ask if we can go after Gorsefur and Shadowsong," I meow in a hurry, after the tension has become unbearable. The cats in the clearing all turn to look at me and I shrink, "Sorry."
"She's right," Badgerstrike narrows his eyes, "We lost two warriors on that mission and we would like permission to go get them back."
Waterstar blinks, "And why should it be given? You failed in your mission, and those cats would have been fine had they not fatalistically returned to the fray. Why should I waste valuable soldiers on retrieving them?"
Scorchclaw looks at her leader, "That's not necessarily fair. They were following orders- orders that most everyone thought were too controversial to be carried out."
Waterstar turns that withering glare onto the deputy's apprentice who drops her gaze. Badgerstrike's glare softens slightly though.
"Scorchclaw has a point," Sageheart meows thoughtfully. "It's worth consideration," He doesn't elaborate, but Waterstar backs down a little. Sageheart nods at Badgerstrike.
"Gorsefur is my second, and he has fantastic leadership potential." Badgerstrike meows. I keep my eyes on my paws lest I start bawling in front of the most important officials of the Clan. "He's young and has huge talent-"
"I remember," Waterstar meows, "Riverclaw was thinking about making him his apprentice. But Scorchclaw here beat him out."
Badgerstrike freezes and I feel Gorsefur's chance at freedom slipping away.
"And Shadowsong, she's really, erm, great too!" I meow cheerily, "She's really smart and um...good at clawing stuff and...."
"I've heard enough," Waterstar sighs. Her eyes still glint with hatred and I feel a bubble of rage boiling inside me.
"You can't do that!" I explode. "These are cats whose lives are in danger because of your stupid mission! You can't just decide that you've 'heard enough' you pretentious-" I take a steadying breath, "You have to respect Shadowsong and Gorsefur's rights. Because otherwise they don't have a chance."
"I think I've heard enough as well," Scorchclaw meows. Sageheart nods and I feel my blood freeze. What kind of a stupid small camp she-cat am I to go up against the leader of WaterClan? I just killed Gorsefur and Shadowsong.
"I vote that they be allowed to rescue their friends," Scorchclaw meows boldly, narrowing her eyes at her leader. Waterstar's not the only one who can play the game, I suppose.
"Agreed." Sageheart meows shortly.
Waterstar's eyes narrow the tiniest bit but she nods, "However, I have a single condition."
Badgerstrike looks up, his eyes lit by a wild hope, "Yes?"
"If you should fail on this mission, you will be stripped of all recognition you have received for your actions during the war. You will be exiled. You will be branded as failures and sent away from your home."
"Alright," Badgerstrike nods, determined.
"That goes for your squad too."
Scorchclaw looks up, shocked. Badgerstrike shakes his head, "That's not fai-"
"Badgerstrike," I meow before he says something stupid. I look at Waterstar, "We agree. To all the terms."
She nods coldly, "Then you'd best get out of here."
I nod my head in respect then turn and leave, Badgerstrike trailing after in a turn of the tables.
"Brookfall..." Badgerstrike starts.
I ignore him. I really don't want to be lectured on how stupid that was, the only thing that matters is that we can get Shadowsong and Gorsefur back. "We need to run, like, all the way back. And we should plan on the way. Adderscar's gonna kill us, but it's worth it."
"Brookfall, I just wanted to say thanks," he meows.
"Oh," I stop short, not used to Badgerstrike expressing emotion beside the occasional fit of rage when Oakclaw eats all the food, "Your welcome."
"Don't tell the others about Rowanfur,"
"I won't." I promise.
He sighs, then looks to the stars, "Then let's go rescue Shadowsong and Gorsefur."