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Clouds from Beyond

Book one of Solitude <3

Prologue ~ Firey

"Get Fernflight." Cloudstar snapped. "I need her to do something for me."

Mothflight quickly dipped her head. "Of course, Cloudstar." She mewed hurriedly and turned to look for the wiry brown she-cat.

Cloudstar then called Mothflight back in. "Get Miststorm too." He yowled.

The pale she-cat waved her tail to indicate that she heard him and stuck her head in the warriors den where Fernflight was curled up. She gulped and went over to wake her. "What do you want?" Fernflight snapped, lashing out.

Mothflight scurried back. "Cloudstar wants you in his den, that's all." She muttered, trying not to get her pelt ripped off by the snappy runt.

Fernflight grumbled and pushed herselves up. "Tell him I'll be there soon." She growled, licking her chest fur and grooming her pelt. "He shouldn't have to wake me up for some stupid news."

The pale she-cat muttered someting in audible and padded towards the the clearing area where Miststorm was. "Cloudstar wants you." She mewed to her.

Miststorm stared loftily at her. "For what reason? To entertain me? It's been awfully boring in this Clan for the past few moons. No battles, no real excitement going on anywhere. I ought to go complain to Cloudstar about this."

Mothflight turned away. "You go do that." She sighed.

Fernflight stretched and started up the rock pile when she saw Miststorm going the same way. "You? Whatever Cloudstar wants, I hope I don't have to do it with you." She muttered.

Miststorm snorted and flicked her tail in her face. "Well too bad we're probably going to be best buddies after Cloudstar's done with us. Plus, you can entertain me if necessary."

"Yeah." Fernflight hissed. "Entertaining." She gave Miststorm a whack and bounded ahead.

Miststorm shrugged and sauntered after the grumpy she-cat. "This only gets better and better." She purred. Fernflight had already disappeared into the leader's den.

"So why are we here?" Fernflight sighed, eyeing Cloudstar with respect and annoyance.

Cloudstar narrowed his eyes at the brown she-cat. "You're here because I need two cats from ShadowClan to join up with two cats from ThunderClan, one cat from RiverClan, and one cat from WindClan and save the Clans from these vicious rogues."

"Wonderful." Fernflight mewed sarcastically. "I get to run around and save the four Clans with her."

The black she-cat laughed. "You sound as if I'm the worst thing in the world to be with." She mewed, flicking her black tail.

"You are."

Cloudstar shushed them both. "You'll head out now, go ahead a grab a mouse or something before you go. Try not to rip each other's head off." He added drily and Fernflight let out a loud groan.

"You're the obnoxious one here." Miststorm only called to Fernflight, who stomped angrily towards the camp entrance.

~

Whisperstar sighed as she stared at the moon. Dear StarClan, why must we face those rogues at a time like this? We're dying, and you know I can barely send out a few warriors to save the Clans.

Silverstrike nudged the leader. "You must send two warriors from ThunderClan. That's what the prophecy wants."

Whisperstar curled her tail. "I know. Please call Archer and Softstep in. I must speak with them about their journey."

Silverstrike dipped her head. "Of course, Whisperstar."

When the two warriors were brought in, Whisperstar told them of the situation. "You must meet with the chosen ones from ShadowClan, RiverClan, and WindClan, and work with them to stop those rogues. I've chosen you two for your intelligence and your readiness to fight, and I trust that you'll get it done."

They nodded and padded out into the night, towards the island where the other cats would be gathered.

~

"Lightningstar, are you sure about this?" Berryfur murmured. "You know that Rainstep has been a bit off lately, but surely StarClan would want you to choose differently?"

The WindClan leader sighed. "I know she's very harsh on herself, but she is the best WindClan can offer. Half of our Clanmates are down with illness or injuries, and she's one of the fittest of us all."

The medicine cat furrowed her brow. "You must think hard, Lightningstar, I do not want WindClan to fall at the hands of those rogues."

"Nor do I."

Berryfur hunched over. "If you must, I will fetch Rainstep. I just hope you know what you are doing." She whispered softly.

"She may be unrealiable, but she's smart. I know nobody cares about her ideas, and nobody pays attention to them, but I have. She is trustworthy, and hopefully the other chosen cats can bond with her to bring out her true self."

Berryfur only nodded. "Of course."

Rainstep was escorted in, and the gray she-cat stared silently at Lightningstar, who found that unnerving. "I'm sending you to be apart of the chosen cats to save the Clans from the rogues." He explained. "I know you have good ideas, and I know you can fight well when you need to. I trust that you'll help this group, and you will stay loyal to them."

The gray she-cat flicked her tail. "If they are any better than this Clan itself, then I do not think I will mind." She mewed.

Lightningstar purred. "Then it is settled."

~

Stonestar gathered his tail in. "Fetch Feathershade for me, Mosspelt."

The black tom nodded. "Of course, Stonestar."

Feathershade walked in slowly, her eyes a bit mad and glazed like usual. "Feathershade, I want you to join the other chosen cats on their journey to defeat the rogues. Can I count on you?"

The gray she-cat focused on Stonestar. "Me?" She gasped. "What if I lose it while I'm there. You never know what might happen to me on the way." She mewed softly.

Stonestar smiled grimly. "I trust you, Feathershade. You're the only cat I know that can do this right. Please, Feathershade."

The she-cat bowed her head. "If that's what you want, I will try."

"Thank you."

Chapter One ~ Cutekaboo

Softstep was padding towards the exit of camp when she noticed Archer wasn't alongisde her anymore. She turned to see him walking back towards the canter of camp. "Aren't you going to say goodbye?" Archer asked.

Softstep rolled her eyes. "They'll know where I went. And I don't care if this is the last time I see them."

"What about Shadeleaf and Fogpelt?" Archer asked, stopping and turning back to her.

"Fogpelt's out hunting, it could take forever to find her." Softstep continued walking towards the exit. "And I couldn't give a mousetail about Shadeleaf."

Archer frowned, wondering how someone could hate their own sibling so much. "Fine, I'll catch up with you!" He called, then continued to walk back to his clanmates. After being wished good luck and being given some traveling herbs (with some extra for Softstep, since she'd already left), he set out after Softstep.

~

Rainstep waved goodbye as she skipped out of camp. She looked out in the direction of the island and gulped before running onwards.  Right before she reached the lake, she heard voices. Softstep and Archer were walking along the shore of the river Rainstep ran to join them. "U-um-"

Softstep interupted before Rainstep could speak any further. "Whisperstar sent us to meet at the island, and we're keeping by the lake."

"I guessed, Lightningstar sent me too..." Rainstep meowed.

"Fine, let's go." Softstep padded on. "Let's not waste any more time." While she spoke, Softstep took a moment to dig up everything she knew about Rainstep from her near photographic memory. It wasn't much. Rainstep. She's a warrior, it was announced at one of the Gatherings I attended. I don't know anything about her other than that, and I don't like not knowing.

~

Just as Softstep was about to cross to the island, she heard pawsteps. Turning, she saw two more cats step out, deep in an arguement. "And just what is that supposed to mean?" a black she-cat hissed.

"I'm just saying, you're not particularly strong, you're just bloodthirsty." a brown tabby she-cat stood beside her.

Softstep dug in her memories. Miststorm and Fernflight, both ShadowClan warriors. If they're this far out, they must have been sent to join us. She cleared her throat, and the ShadowClan warriors looked up. "We've been sent by our leaders to stop the rogues. Are you here to join us, or is this a very lousy attempt to invade RiverClan territory?"

"We're here to stop the rogues." Miststorm said, her voice friendly.

"Obviously." Fernflight added.

"What are your names, then?" Miststorm asked.

Softstep raised an eyebrow. "I've met you at Gatherings before, don't you at least know my name?"

"Well, sorry we don't have an extensive knowledge of every cat we've talked to." Fernflight said.

Softstep rolled her eyes. "I'm Softstep, he's Archer, and that's a WindClan cat called Rainstep."

Fernflight narrowed her eyes. "Oh right, I've heard of him. Weren't you the kittypet ThunderClan took in?"

Softstep saw Archer stiffen at the way Fernflight said 'kittypet'. She was about to say something when she saw movement on the island. A white she-cat with brown patches was in the water, swimming towards them. Feathershade. she thought. RiverClan warrior.

"Friend or foe?" Feathershade asked when she neared the shore.

"Neither." Fernflight said. "We're sent from each clan to stop rogues."

Feathershade narrowed her eyes for a second, as if she didn't believe them. Then she finished the swim to shore and shook the water off her pelt. "I am too, I guess you're who I'm supposed to meet."

"If we're all here, then let's get going." Fernflight meowed, and waved her tail.  

"Wait, did we all get traveling herbs?" Rainstep asked. "And do we know where we're going? And what dangers lie there?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let's go already." Fernflight turned and walked in one direction. Miststorm ran up and walked beside her while the others trailed behind. Softstep zoned out and took a minute to think, the hisses of Fernflight continuing to insult Miststorm dulling as she focused on her thoughts.

Am I even okay with this?  I don't think I am. I can't fight, especially not rogues, and Whisperstar knows that. Why was I picked? I know I saved the camp from the rogues with that fox, but doing battle with them directly... I could never fight physically. I'm smart, of course, but there are much stronger cats who are smart too. She kept wondering as the group walked on.

Chapter Two ~ Brighty

Are they friend, or are they foe? Will they aide me, or destroy me? StarClan, why did Stonestar think this was a good idea?

Feathershade looked at her companions, a nervous look in her eyes. Already, they were sniping at each other, and fear was abundant. Could she really trust these cats?

Archer stared at Feathershade, his eyes twitching slightly, “How are you doing?” He mewed, with a wink of his right eye. Feathershade stared at him blankly.

“I’m… fine, I guess.” Feathershade muttered, ruffling out her fur, “Is there any reason I shouldn’t be okay?”

Archer shrugged, “You seem nice.” He purred, “Just thought I would make sure you were okay. You’re staring at the others weirdly.”

The silver and white she-cat blinked and said, “I’m just not used to socializing that’s all.” She didn’t talk about her fear of almost everything. Who could she trust if nobody could work together? Already, night was creeping in, and Feathershade shuddered.

Archer gave her a strange look and just nodded, “Well, talk to you later then.”

Fernflight was arguing with Miststorm. “Look, we have to keep moving, that’s why we were chosen by our leaders!”

Miststorm snorted, “Well I was chosen, I think you were just thrown into this mess because Cloudstar wanted to get rid of you. Must have been a shame to be ‘chosen’ like that.” Fernflight stared at the gray she-cat with a hatred glance.

Feathershade shuddered, “Why don’t we go… hunting to cool off?”

Both Miststorm and Fernflight turned to look at the shy she-cat. Feathershade ducked her head, feeling stupid for even suggesting it.

Fernflight sighed, “Sure, whatever. I’ll go with you.”

Cats split up in multiple directions, with Feathershade and Fernflight taking the land near the lake. The two walked in silence, until Fernflight mewed, “Okay, what’s with you?” The light brown tabby’s piercing green eyes bore into her blue ones and Feathershade found herself backing up.

“What do you mean?”

Fernflight’s ear flicked slightly, “Why are you so quiet around everyone? I mean, sure, you were making conversation, but you were doing it… awkwardly. What’s with you? Are you even helping us?” Fernflight creeped closer, “Are you a spy?”

Feathershade gulped as she skittered backwards. “No!” Her exclaim came out as a small squeak, “Who would I spy for? I’m RiverClan through and through.”

Fernflight’s eye twitched, but she didn’t pause to ponder over her response, “You’re too quiet for some slippery fish-cats like you.”

Letting that slide, Feathershade mewed, “Can we just hunt? I promise I won’t kill you.” She squeaked, fear trickling in her voice.

Fernflight just growled, “Like you could kill me.” She muttered. “Fine, go hunt.” She snarled briskly, heading towards the lake, “Show me some of your fishy hunting moves.”

Gulping, Feathershade leaned over the lake, hoping for a shadow to appear. One flickered into view, and Feathershade quickly swept her claws down, catching the fish in one go.

She looked back at Fernflight nervously, hoping for the latter’s approval.

Fernflight stared blankly at the fish in Feathershade’s paws and sighed, “How in the name of StarClan did you do that?”

Feathershade was unsure of whether or not it was a compliment, and mewed, “That’s what they teach us in RiverClan. I’m assuming they teach you to catch lizards in ShadowClan.” Then she froze, hoping it didn’t sound too offensive.

“Lizards are icky little things.” Fernflight muttered. “But yes, they do. Perhaps you would like to try catching one?”

Feathershade shuddered, “I’ll stick to fish, thanks.” Bits of fear began to come away from her voice. Then a thought struck her. What if this is all just a ploy to catch me off-guard? Fernflight hates everyone. She’s messing with me. I have to get away from them, before it comes to killing them.

The gray she-cat began to shake, and her head span. They’re out to get me, just like my Clanmates. Oh StarClan, why did Stonestar chose me?

Fernflight was starting to pad towards the forest, knowing she would be more useful hunting there. But she heard Feathershade mutter something, and glanced back, “Are you alright back there?” Feathershade’s eyes went wide, and quickly mewed, “Nothing. Fine. Perfectly fine.” Blatant lies.

Fernflight watched the other she-cat scornfully. “You don’t lie very well. I’m not going to kill you, you know? Sure I hate everyone in existence, but I’m not a cold-blooded murderer. Would I still be here if I was?”

Does she read minds now?

Feathershade’s expression was hard to depict, and Fernflight sighed, “Look, I’m not some freak okay? I’m just easily annoyed and I’m always harsh. It’s how you survive in ShadowClan.”

Do my Clanmates take lessons from ShadowClan on how to torture me?

Fernflight was obviously waiting for Feathershade to answer her, and Feathershade finally mewed, “I’m fine. Maybe we should hunt alone. It might be better for the both of us.”

“Yeah,” Fernflight agreed, “Let’s hunt alone.” With that she padded off into the forest.

The instant Fernflight was gone, Feathershade buckled. The world began swimming around her, and the cruel taunts came back towards her, like a bolt of lightning.

“It’s the half-Clan freak!”

“How did she even get into RiverClan?”

“She’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Did you see how much she eats? It’s no wonder she’s fat.”

“Don’t feel…” she murmured to herself, “Don’t feel!”

Desperate to escape the cruel voices, Feathershade shut her eyes, but it only became worse. Joined with these jeers were ones from Fernflight, Archer, Miststorm, and all the others.

“No…”

Then she fell, and everything went dark.

~


Feathershade awoke later, the prey still by her paws. Quickly, she picked it up, and hurried back to where the group had made camp for the night. No cat noticed her slip in silently. Everyone sat in silence, eating alone. Feathershade noted that not even Archer had attempted to say anything.

As they fell asleep, with Softstep on guard, Feathershade felt a flash of remorse for Gorsepaw, the tom she had killed in cold blood.

And perhaps I would not feel so bad, she thought, if you had not been my brother, Gorsepaw.

Chapter Three ~ Jet

...Maybe we’re actually going to do something where we’re going. Although… Hmm, we’re not really putting up that much of a united front, are we? Not that I'm actually doing anything to help, admittedly...

Miststorm had always found solace in sorting out her thoughts while walking; She’d take any free time she managed to find doing so, even at the cost of her social standing with her Clanmates. As of such, having already been labeled as a somewhat distant cat at times, it was no wonder why, despite all her efforts to prove otherwise, that most cats thought that she could care less for anyone but herself.

...Ugh, I’m such a mousebrained idiot. Why did I let moons of building a vaguely positive relationship with Fermflight go to waste, just because I was feeling off-colour?!

And there she was again, regretting something that had happened a few days ago.

It’s just a mistake!

...But then again, you’ve always made mistakes. Everything you say, everything you do just ends up being yet another mistake, yet another accident, just one more reason to—

“Miststorm! Get yourself back here!” Fernflight snapped, destroying Miststorm’s train of thought. “You’re lagging behind, mousebrain!”

“—Uhh? Oh, right…” Miststorm mewed distractedly, glancing towards the other cats anxiously as she hurried to catch up to her Clanmate.

...You know, you can always just tell her now…

...Guess I should, huh.

Miststorm took a deep breath, then, turning to Fernflight, mewed a tinge hurriedly,

“Hey, Fernflight? Um, you know about a while ago? Well I’m sorry about it, I’m not sure why I was acting that way, I know shouldn’t’ve acted that way, even if I think—”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Fernflight interrupted, giving Miststorm a peculiar look. “You’re apologising for being an idiot a while ago?”

“Um, well, yeah—”

StarClan, I can’t believe you. I honestly can’t bring myself to truly believe you.” Fernflight sighed, giving Miststorm a measuring look, green eyes glinting with a part-irritated, part-amused expression. “This happened days ago. Stop worrying about it, you douche. There’s no point apologising about something that’s probably going to happen again.”

Miststorm stared at her, a surprised expression highlighting her face. Fernflight held her gaze a while longer, then let out a sigh, picking up her pace.

“Just go do whatever you want, I don’t care. If you’re really so bored doing nothing but mope all day, then talk to the others, zone out, whatever, just leave me alone! It’s not like anything important’s going to happen anytime soon, is it?! We’re just travelling, in the middle of pretty much nowhere, through a mountain range that's probably going to do its best to kill us, to who knows where?"

“O-Oh… Um, okay, then…?”

Miststorm watched the brown tabby she-cat stalk off, before slowing her pace, and turning to watch the others curiously. 

Well… I guess it’d be beneficial to try and make nice with the others but…

...Oh, why not? It’s not like this journey can get any worse. Who knows, maybe one of these cats can contribute to an interesting conversation, actually be a friend…

...Or they’d let my guard drop and the past will repeat itself.

Miststorm frowned to herself, then, taking a deep breath, headed towards the WindClan warrior, padding next to the she-cat in a cheerful manner when she had caught up.

“Hiya, Rainstep! What’s up? Isn’t it simply exhilarating, being chosen to save the Clans?”

“—Huh? Miststorm? Why are you acting so— Oh, nevermind. I’m fine, and nothing much is up, I guess. As for saving the Clans… I’m not so sure. What are we really doing to help the upcoming strife?

“Hm, hm, I’m not really sure myself, to be honest! We’re probably just journeying right now to find reinforcements or to try to deal with the rogues early on, or something like that! Seems like the sort of thing the Clan leaders would task cats like us with, right?”

“...Oh, that makes sense… But if we really are doing that, then that leads me to wonder, wouldn’t it be better if we managed to form some sort of feasible bond as a group working together, rather than arguing and presenting a divided front?” Rainstep suggested, her blue eyes sparkling with an odd light.

Miststorm frowned slightly, and mused, “Well, that would be a good idea, I guess. Except, how would we manage that? It’s not like we’ve formed much of a bond, even after all this time we’ve spent walking and talking and stuff. Y’know? It’s kind of hard to just suddenly change your personality to fit with the others'...”

“Isn’t that what you did, though?”

“Huh?” Miststorm stared at her, puzzled.

“Well… You just seemed really harsh earlier, arguing with Fernflight so heatedly. And suddenly, now you’re kind of… overly friendly and cheerful. To be honest, it’s kind of weirding me out, you know? It's like you're trying to get me to feel some sort of affinity, and just use me for your own purposes. Funny, isn't it?”

...Ha ha ha. Very funny indeed.

Miststorm blinked at Rainstep, an icy hostility flaring in her pale grey eyes before she mewed slightly edgily, “Oh, is that so? Well, in any case, you have my apologies, it’s yours to stare at and wonder where that came from. I was just… being plagued by a dark cloud. It happens every so often, it’s not really anything to worry about. It's not directly hurting you, now, is it?”

“...Um. Well... no?” Rainstep mewed slowly, giving her a slightly confused stare.

“Yep, nothing to worry too much about.”

“Er, so, what did you really come here to talk to me about?”

“...I was just feeling bored, I guess, and you seemed like an interesting cat to chat to! Guess not anymore, huh.”

“Oh. Well, thanks for the conversation, too. If I could go now…?”

“Ah, of course, of course! Go ahead…”

Rainstep hesitated, then mewed, “Well, it was… interesting... to chat to you, too, Miststorm...? See you later!”

“...Yeah. I’ll see you later, too...”

“Bye, then!” Rainstep mewed a little too happily, and hurried away.

Miststorm watched her leave, and sighed.

“Ugh, why do these cats keep getting on my nerves? Why must they make it so hard to even want to bother?”

...Sea, if you’re really in StarClan, why haven’t you helped me with this facade? I’m just trying to help fill in the hole you left behind, to make sure no one forgets you, but it’s not really...

She hesitated, then shook her head at herself angrily, before running forward, passing the others quickly.

...It’s almost like StarClan’s telling me to stop trying.

She nearly tripped over her own paws, before shaking that thought from her head, too, picking up her pace irritatedly.

Well, if that’s true, then I’m definitely not going to give in to them! Screw them, I’m not playing their petty games just because we're all bored!

—Huh?

Miststorm froze abruptly, ears pricked, at the sudden movement of a shadow up ahead, flitting up the mountain slowly, if not surely.

What was that?

Almost a few heartbeats later, more shadows followed the original, and she stepped back falteringly, a thorny strand of concern wrapping around her heart irrationally. Not a moment later, Fernflight’s voice pierced the air from behind.

“Hey, Miststorm! Why’d you run off so suddenly, huh? Want to get away from us like you did back— What are those things?”

Miststorm followed her gaze to the shadows, and frowned thoughtfully.

“I say we confront them! The mountains are only just ahead, anyways! Shouldn't take too long to catch up, right?” Archer declared boldly, padding up to the cats, before adding teasngly, “Unless we’re all okay with just standing here doing nothing?”

“...Um, that actually sounds like a pretty good idea, you know? The staying here one, that is,” Miststorm answered uneasily, “It seems to be that there’s more of them than us, and there’s no telling of where they might stand in terms of alliances...”

“Are you for real? Why?"

“Yes, I am indeed here, in the flesh. That, and it's only logical."

“Huh. Well, then, Great and Dishonoured Inpromptu Leader, guess there’s not much else to do but settle for the night, seeing as we’re not very inclined to bump into those things, right?” Fernflight meowed scathingly, then sighed. “At this rate, we’re never going to get anywhere.”

“...You know, you didn't have to resort to sarcasm, Fernflight—"

"She has a point, Miststorm," Feathershade interrupted, "If we don't keep moving, then maybe whatever those shadows actuall are'll become some future obstacle, you know."

"Of course I know," Miststorm replied irritatedly, "but are you sure we're not all at top health, with an endless supply of energy, after walking the whole day? There's no way we'd be able to even stand against them in any way if we just jump into danger the way we are! We seem to like to fight and argue among ourselves for no rational reason, and even when we aren't fighting, we're not exactly in this together, are we? It's like we're only travelling together just because our Clan leaders forced us to! Sheesh, at this rate, I'm sure the rogues would be better company to be with than we are to each other right now!"

...Oh, I just said that out loud, didn't I...?

"...Not that I'm going to desert you guys or anything, hahaha... In any case, even if we aren't such a compatible bunch, we're still on the same side. Sorta."

"...Fine, we get your point! Sheesh, you don't have to get so angry all of a sudden! We'll settle for tonight, and keep going tomorrow. Happy?" Fernflight snapped, and turned away swiftly, stalking away into the night. 

"Oh. Okay, then? ...Well, then— Huh. So we’re just going to hunt alone this time? Okay, then, that’s fine by me."  Miststorm mewed quietly at the already separating cats, her fur flattening slowly as she watched them.

…Eck… if this is really how the whole journey’s going to go, then what’s the point? We’re not going to be doing anything very beneficial to anyone at this rate…

…Well, no, that’s probably not true. We’ll more likely be more helpful than I was back then. Than I was just then.

Ugh, I'm such an idiot. I should really get rid of the idea of just going to the other side, huh...? It'll probably just prove to be a distraction later on, and destroy the trust of everyone else.

Well...

Maybe.

Chapter Four ~ Eevee

"So what you're saying is that we should avoid the shadows?"

"No, feather-brain! ...ugh, why do I even bother..."

Archer flicked his ears, a bit annoyed by the arguing. It sounded like Rainstep and Softstep. The six cats could never get along with each other, and were always arguing. The dark-furred tom looked at the two she-cats and meowed, "Arguing won't help us progress in our journey. So either seperate and keep quiet or go talk to someone else."

Softstep narrowed her eyes at him before stepping away from the WindClan cat. Rainstep widened her eyes, then looked away.

Archer blinked, then continued walking. How did this group even survive half the day? he wondered absently. The group had been quarreling with each other nearly all day, and it was getting old. Eventually their arguments would attract enemies or something and they'd pay the price. Then his black fur brislted in alarm as a screech sounded from ahead.

Large rogue cats leapt at the six from ahead, more than Archer could count. The rogues looked furious as they swiped and clawed at the Clan cats, ears pinned flat to their heads. A smaller cat tackled Archer, snarling as it dragged its claws through his pelt.

He yowled in anger and kicked the rogue away, then leapt to his paws. He unsheathed his claws and slashed at the cat's face. It recoiled as blood trailed down its face, then it bounded away toward a small group of the rogues.

Archer glanced around, his amber eyes wide. He noticed Rainstep pinned to the ground by a huge rogue, and he streaked over to the cat, barreling into its flank. He tore at its pelt, yowling at Rainstep, "Run!"

The fluffy-furred grey she-cat nodded and dashed toward Feathershade, who was swiping her claws at a cowering rogue.

Archer looked back to the rogue he was pinning, and bit into its shoulder. It yowled in anger and sunk its teeth into his right front leg. Pain stung his leg, but the black-furred tom ignored it. He slashed his claws over its throat, and the other cat went limp.

A smaller rogue, smaller than the one that had first attacked Archer, bounded up to the ThunderClan cat, its still-fluffy kitten fur bristling in fear. It looked up at him, eyes wide in terror, and it was like its paws were frozen to the ground. Archer blinked, then icily growled, "This isn't your battle to fight." He pushed it to the side, leaving it dazed as he swiftly went to see if his 'friends' needed any help.

Miststorm was clawing a rogue's face, her eyes shining. Wait, is she... joyful about hurting that cat!? Archer thought, startled. She didn't seem to need any help, so he turned his attention toward another rogue.

A few, almost half, of the rogues were either dead or had run away, but the Clan cats were still outnumbered. Archer couldn't see the rogue kit anymore, so that was either good or bad. He yowled in surprise as he was thrown over by one of the attackers. He batted at the rogue's belly with his hind paws, scoring marks into the rogue's fur. The other cat didn't seem to be affected as it placed its claws at the ThunderClan cat's throat. I'm done for. Archer thought, clawing at the rogue's face.

The rogue let out a screech of anger as something threw itself at it. "Rainstep!?" Archer gasped, seeing the grey she-cat clawing the rogue's underbelly and throat.

She whipped around to look at him, and Archer got to his paws and leapt to help Rainstep. He bit into the rogue's throat, and didn't let go until the rogue stopped flailing. He looked up, surprised to see the remaining rogues retreating, seeming panicked.

Archer let out a sigh of relief before glanced around at the other Clan cats. "Is everyone all right?" he asked. Miststorm had a couple of bleeding clawmarks along her flank, but otherwise looked unhurt. One of Feathershade's ears were torn, and she had a couple of bitemarks on her left front leg. Fernflight had a few scratches here and there, and Rainstep had bitemarks on her front legs and some of her fur was torn and caked with blood. Softstep had none.

Archer narrowed his eyes at her, but was snapped out of his thoughts by a voice.

"I'm fine." Miststorm meowed. "What about you?"

The dark-pelted ThunderClan tom had deep scratches over his shoulders, and a clawmark on his flank. "Yeah, I'm okay." He looked around. "Aren't there any herbs here?"

"Yes, there are," came the reply. Softstep looked up from the pile of herbs and plants in front of her.

~*~*~*~

After the six had healed their wounds, they had set up a small camp near a small pond.

Archer, who couldn't stand sitting still, stood up and called, "I'm going for a walk." When an unclear reply came, he shrugged and headed out. He padded over to the spot where the battle had taken place. Only a few puddles of blood remained, and torn fur was scattered about. The black tom sighed. "Why did this have to happen?" Having wounds would probably slow them down.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a dark flicker of movement from further up the mountain. He whipped around to see what they were, and gasped as he realized that they were shadows. Or were they ghosts? Archer shuddered at the thought of a haunted mountain.

He took a few paces back, then turned tail and ran back to camp.

The ThunderClan tom skidded to a halt before stepping into camp. He shook the dust out of his pelt and stepped into camp casually. Rainstep looked up from her fresh-kill and mewed, "You look like you saw a ghost. Is something wrong?" Her eyes were questioning.

Archer tried not to fluff out his fur as he replied, "No." Swiftly, to avoid any questions, he padded toward the cats' nests, where Feathershade, Miststorm, and Fernflight sat, all of them looking annoyed with each other. Fernflight growled, "No, we should head out at sunrise. Not sunhigh."

"Sunrise would be too early, considering the time it is right now." Feathershade retorted, flicking her tail toward the sky. The moon was rising. "Just because you used to hunt late at night and early in the morning doesn't mean the rest of us do."

As if to change the conversation, Fernflight glanced at Archer and jeered, "There's the kittypet."

Archer glared at her, eyes narrowed. But he stepped past her and curled up in his nest, careful not to reopen a wound.

Miststorm's voice sounded. "He looks like he's seen a ghost."

I have. Archer thought seethingly. But he only meowed, "I didn't."

Fernflight blinked, then growled, "Maybe he saw a kittypet friend of his."

"Shut up, Fernflight." Archer snapped, fur bristling. All three cats looked at him, eyes wide. Snapping at them was the last thing Archer wanted to do, but he was too tired to care.

After a short silence, Feathershade flicked her tail and meowed, "Anyway, back to the plans to leave."

Fernflight glared at her and growled, "We're leaving at sunrise."

"Sunhigh." Feathershade hissed, narrowing her eyes to slits.

Fernflight sighed heavily, then huffed, "Can't you just be agreeable for once?"

"I'd say the same for you." Miststorm mumbled, flicking her ear.

Archer yowled, "We're going to leave when the sun is halfway between sunrise and sunhigh." He glared at the two she-cats, as if daring them to challenge him. But they only growled something at him and lay down in their nests, not bothering to speak to each other again.

After a while of shifting positions in his nest, Archer finally drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Five ~ Holly

Rainstep fluffed up her fur, cold. She had woken up a lot earlier than sunhigh, probably since she was stressed, and wanted to attempt to catch some prey before the others woke up, to surprise them or something, but she had decided not to, a they could wake up and leave without her, they probably wouldn't even notice if she was missing.

She sighed, and closed her eyes, "E-Emberclaw?" she meowed. "I mean father... Well, anyways, are you up there?" she asked, quietly. "I-I know I'm probably a huge disappointment to you, to everyone, but please watch over me, please let me become friends with these cats..." she paused, "Please don't let me run away." she opened her eyes and stared at the sky, at the stars that were slowly fading, "Please watch over me, or something." she finished.

Rainstep had always figured that her father must have been much better than her mother had been, and, when she was really stressed, imagined that she was talking to him, that he was there, supporting her through it all.

"I'm so stupid." she muttered to herself, "To actually believe he is there listening to me." she stared at her leg, where a few scars lingered from the day before's battle.

She could hear the noise of somecat stirring, and she turned to look behind her. Archer padded over to her groggily.

I'm not the only cat awake.

"Good morning." Rainstep meowed, staring at the ground in front of her.

The tom stretched, "Same to you. You're up a bit early." he turned his gaze to look at her.

"So are you." she replied. She licked her shoulder, smoothing down her fur. She quickly glanced at him, not wanting to make eye contact. 

I'm so good at making friends.

Archer shrugged, "I'm just ready to continue, we shouldn't waste any time."

Rainstep nodded, "Well, I should go find something for all of us to eat, we can't journey on an empty stomach, right?" 

Great, I just volunteered to go do something I'm terrible at.

"We still have some food left from yesterday." Archer pointed out, gesturing towards the bits of food littered around the makeshift camp.

Thank StarClan!

"Oh yeah, well, I'm going to get something to drink, I'll be back in a bit." 

I'm such an idiot.

"Ok." the tom meowed before turning to the others, who were still sleeping. He padded away.

-----

By the time Rainstep had returned, everyone was awake.

Fernflight, Feathershade, and Miststorm were talking. Fernflight didn't seem to be quite as harsh to the others today, although she still seemed to be rather snippy.

Softstep and Archer, the two ThunderClan cats, seemed to be having a polite conversation.

The sun was beginning to rise, and Rainstep decided that she shouldn't interrupt any of them as they spoke, and she went to lay by herself a bit away from everyone else.

When she was sure that they should leave, she stood up, and turned to look at the others, "Guys, we should continue onward."

Fernflight whispered something to the two she-cats she had been talk to, and rolled her eyes, but still joined Rainstep at the exit of their camp, followed by the others.

They headed out, and she noticed that her one foreleg was still sore. Wincing, she continued onward.

A few small conversations occurred, but none were directed at her.

After almost a whole day of walking, they neared the base of the mountain. Rainstep smiled, they were definitely making progress. She turned to look at the others.

Fernflight wore a frown, as usual, but the others, like Rainstep, seemed relieved.

"I'll go find a place for us to stay." Rainstep meowed before padding into the undergrowth, struggling a bit.

After a bit of searching, she found a clearing where they could stay. Sun dappled the ground on her way back to the others, but she didn't pay attention to the area's beauty, she just pelted back to her companions.

"No, we can not go up the mountain!" she could hear a voice growl. Archer's, by the sound of it.

"It'd take way to long to go around the mountain, though!" Softstep, likely.

Before any cat could say another word, she emerged and beckoned to them with her tail, "Come on, guys! I found a place to stay!"

A few of the others cast angry looks at each other, but no one said anything.

"Well then, let's go!" she set off in the direction of the clearing.

-----

A bit after they arrived at the new camp, they had uncomfortable makeshift nests created, and Rainstep laid down.

"What are you doing?" Fernflight asked, eyes narrowed, "We have to go hunting!"

Rainstep sat up, and muttered, "Sorry..." 

Fernflight rolled her eyes, "Ugh, just come on, we'll go this way."

The others were heading out, I realized, and were going to catch prey.

Why did I have to be stuck with the grumpy one to hunt with?

-----

Rainstep and Fernflight returned to the camp after everyone else, with a mouse (Rainstep's catch), along with two birds (Fernflight's catch).

Rainstep lay down to eat her catch, hoping that the others hadn't noticed that she had failed to catch very much. A few of them cast her some looks, but no one said anything.

She had been thinking about what the others had been quarreling about earlier, how to get to the other side of the mountain.

They're right, going around the mountain will take to long, but going over the mountain would be dangerous. There's no way to get to the other side.

Unless...

"That's it!" she leaped to her paws, eyes shining in excitement, "Tomorrow we will go through the mountain!"

"Through the mountain?" Miststorm asked, a questioning look on her face.

"Yep! We can find a tunnel, and go right through the center of the mountain, simple as that." Rainstep explained.

The others stared at her for a second, before Feathershade meowed, "It's worth a try. If we find a tunnel, we can go through it to the other side of the mountain. If we don't, we could go over the mountain."

Everyone nodded in agreement besides Fernflight, "How can you all agree with her, that's one of the worst ideas I've ever heard!"

Softstep turned to look at her, "You are outnumbered, you know."

Miststorm nodded, "Yep!" she looked at everyone, "We should get some rest, we will be traveling more tomorrow."

Rainstep nodded, and curled up in her nest, tired, not wanting to continue arguing, not wanting to continue thinking.

She fell asleep.

-----

Rainstep awoke to a choking feeling, her throat burning. She opened her eyes to see the entire camp, one fire. Flames were everywhere, and smoke blurred her vision. She could only stay there, eyes wide in horror.

StarClan, no...

Chapter Six ~ Firey

Fernflight was floating. As she drifted, she felt content, and much happier than she had been of late, stuck with the oddball rag-tag group ever. From the snotty, to the pushover, this quest had every personality she’d ever seen.

But now, as she fell through time, it felt relaxing. Like it wasn’t happening at all.

And then it began to get very hot.

“Wake up! Wake up!”

Fernflight jolted awake, her eyes blurring with pain. As she came to her senses, Fernflight quickly took in the surrounding mess.

Fire. Oh dirt.

She began to run, her eyes still focusing on the smoky terrain. Rainstep and Archer were nowhere in sight, while Softstep was pulling Feathershade out from hiding.

Suddenly, Fernflight jumped back, as a wall of flames quickly descended upon her. With no way out, she backed up, only to meet with a boulder.

You’re kidding me. This, of all things, is how I die?

Her eyes flickered around, looking for an escape route. The only possible way was to dive quickly to her left, and hope all her fur didn’t get burned off in the process.

She screwed her eyes shut and lunged forward, feeling the searing heat of the fire as she tumbled through. Miststorm was at her side now, guiding her through. "Oh all the cats to save me, it has to be you doesn't it?" Fernflight growled.

"We're about to die together." Miststorm agreed. "Oh joy."

Fernflight muttered something inaudible and staggered forward, leaning heavily on Miststorm's shoulder. "It's hard to look dignified on three legs, you frog-brain."

Miststorm rolled her eyes and started to walk faster. "You litte..." Fernflight snarled, limping after her, "When I catch up to you, I'll flay you alive..."

"Have fun trying, Fernflight."

Screw that she-cat.

"Dirt, oh dirt!" Fernflight groaned as the fire flickered all around her, "Miststorm, if you don't get back here right now, I'll return and haunt you as a ghost!"

"Charming." Miststorm reappeared, "I'd love to have you in my dreams."

Fernflight growled softly, and leaned against her companion once more, trying not to breath in the smoke from the pluming fire, "Get us out of here, frog-brain."

"Why don't you?"

"I'm crippled!"

Miststorm let out a snort of amusement and continued to go slowly, "You're as slow as a turtle!" Fernflight growled, "Hurry up before we all die."

"You're 'crippled', I can't hurry."

Fernflight groaned and limped forward, and the greedy flames of the fire licked their heels. "Okay, I know we hate each other and as much fun as it is to tease you, we should really hurry up before the fire kills us both." Miststorm urged.

Fighting the urge to smack Miststorm, Fernflight growled, "That's what I've been trying to tell you idiot." She sighed. "I'd hate to die with you at my side."

"Let's hope I land on you first."

"Not if I can help it."

The two continued to limp on, and Fernflight collapsed as they reached a river. "If you can get me across, I'll never call you idiot or frog-brain again."

Miststorm's eyes twinkled, "Alright." She dragged Fernflight into the water and dumped her on the other side.

"You frog-brain!" Fernflight spluttered, "Don't ever try to drown me again!"

"You promised not to call me frog-brain if I get you across the river." Miststorm pointed out as she crossed. Fernflight glowered at her.

"You idiot! ShadowClan cats don't keep their word."

Miststorm rolled her eyes and helped Fernflight back up, and they set off at a slower pace to the makeshift camp. Of course I got stuck with Miststorm, of course.

Chapter Seven ~ Cute

Softstep growled, looking around at the burning forest. "Get up or you die!" she hissed at Feathershade. The RiverClan she-cat stayed put.

"Why don't you just run? I know you will anyway! You're going to leave me to die!" Feathershade hissed.

"Maybe I will." Softstep turned to leave as a burning twig fell from above and flecked her with embers. The only exit was now blocked off the tall flames.

"We're not getting out of here!" Feathershade meowed in panic.

"No, there's a river on the other side. We just have to get past this fire." Softstep swallowed her panic. No where to run, I just have to stay level-headed. No way I'm falling apart in front of these guys. She looked around the area, and found that they were surrounded by flames. She saw one tree that had some flames on one side, but if she was quick enough she could climb over it and jump to the other side. "It looks like I'm taking you after all. How good are you at climbing?"

"Not particularly great..." Feathershade glanced at the tree.

"Then let's go!" Softstep pushed the silvery she-cat towards the tree. Feathershade gripped the bark of the tree and climbed painfully slowly up to the shortest branch.

"You're going to push me into the flames, aren't you?" Feathershade backed away as Softstep climbed up onto the branch next to her. Up here, the smoke was worse and Softstep couldn't waste air on responding. She reached forward and shoved the RiverClan cat off the branch. She jumped after her.

They both landed in the water on the other side of the fire. Softstep struggled to swim until she reached the other side. The others were already there, some a bit burned. Fernflight's leg was burned badly. Softstep opened her mouth to speak but instead coughed.

"I was wondering if you would ever get out here." Miststorm ran over to her. "Are you alright?"

"I was wondering if you'd ditched us again." Fernflight muttered.

"Ditched you? What do you mean by that?" Softstep glared.

"Last time there was any danger, you just took off! You were no where to be seen in that fight, and you didn't have a scratch on you. I thought they taught bravery in ThunderClan."

"She was going to run off without me." Feathershade coughed a little as she said it.

"I saved your life!" Softstep hissed.

"Only because you had to." Feathershade said. "One day we'll need your help and you're never going to be there."

"Why would I? I'm always helping you all live and you all acuse me of cowardice!" Softstep pointed at Fernflight. "I got Feathershade out of trouble unhurt out of the kindness of my heart, while Fernflight was somehow dumb enough to cripple herself."

"I wasn't being stupid, it was unavoidable." Fernflight hissed.

"The others are right, Softstep." Archer chimed in. "We need bravery, not someone who cowers at the slightest sign of danger."

"Then what about miss scaredy-cat? Why is she still here?" Softstep got up and padded over to Rainstep.

"Don't you start attacking her! She's not who we're talking about here." Archer stepped between them.

"I'm smarter, I have a photographic memory, I'm a fast thinker, and I've trained a bit as a medicine cat. What's she got? She's the real useless coward!"

"Shut up! All of you!" Miststorm barked over the aruging. They all fell silent. "We need to recover."

"Fine." Softstep flicked her tail. "Rainstep, you and I will look for herbs and a place to stay. Archer and Miststorm will hunt, and since Fernflight is injured she will have to stay put. Feathershade can keep an eye on her, since she can hunt in the river at the same time."

"Who put you in charge?" Fernflight protested.

"My intelligence put me in charge. If you would like to hunt, go right ahead, but when you die from that burn getting infected don't expect me to give a good eulogy." Softstep shoved Archer aside and pushed Rainstep forward. "Let's go, WindClan."

Softstep and Rainstep kept walking up the side of the mountain, not straying too far from the river. "Honey would be best, since we all might have bad coughs after this." Softstep thought aloud. "If we can find some part of the forest which hasn't been burned down..." She surveyed the area. What wasn't burning was black as coal. "Okay, new plan. Juniper berries should help, if we can find them. Some marigold, too. And poppy seeds for the pain, as much as I'd like to see Fernflight suffer."

"Hey!" Rainstep called, and Softstep realized she had walked on and not noticed her companion leaving. The WindClan cat was a little bit further up the mountain, on a small ledge. Softstep climbed up to see. There was some shelter from bushes and a small hole in the wall. "Could we stay here? It's far enough from the trees."

"This place is fine. Do you know what Juniper berries, marigold, and poppy seeds look like?"

"Yeah."

"Go find some. I'll get Fernflight up here and tell the others. That hole might be tunnel, to." Softstep turned and hopped down the side of the mountain, heading back to Fernflight.

Chapter Eight ~ Brighty

Feathershade sat silently, hovering over the river. She was scared that Fernflight would be angry, if she even spoke.

She was already angry with herself, for not remaining in the fire. If Softstep hadn't stayed for her, Feathershade knew she would have let herself burn.

It's not like they need me anyway. I'm just a burden.

She captured one fish, and put it down in front of Fernflight, "You need to eat." She whispered, "I can catch more."

Fernflight growled, but she didn't make a point of arguing with the gray she-cat. Instead, she began to eat, muttering about how she should be helping.

Feathershade kept fishing, but not catching much. Most of the fish swam away, due to Feathershade's shaking paws.

"You know, I can still help, even if I'm crippled."

Feathershade whipped around, and then mewed, "No, stay put. I was told to watch you. Plus, you can't catch fish." Then she paled, and mewed quickly, "I mean, I don't think ShadowClan is trained to catch fish."

Fernflight rasped, "We're not. But I can still help."

The feathery she-cat ducked her head, "Softstep told me to watch you. Please rest. I don't want you getting hurt."

"Why are you even listening to her? She doesn't control you." Fernflight replied.

Feathershade sighed, and returned to fishing, "To be honest, I'm afraid of her. Actually, I'm afraid of almost everyone here."

Fernflight snorted, "So why haven't you run away from me?"

"Well... you're less scary when you're like this." Feathershade.

Fernflight mewed, "I don't know whether to take that as a compliment, or an insult."

Feathershade blushed, and responded by heaving out another fish.

The brown tabby sighed, "What did you even do to Softstep? I thought she was going to kill you, or that you were going to run back to the fire."

Feathershade muttered, "I almost did."

Fernflight choked on the fish she was eating, "What?"

"I nearly went back, and burned to death. I spent the whole time thinking Softstep was going to kill me." Feathershade mewed, "So, I nearly went back. Might as well. It's not like you need me. I'm useless."

Fernflight heaved herself to her paws, and Feathershade rushed over, "No! You need to stay lying down. At least until Rainstep and Softstep return with the herbs."

Fernflight grumbled, but lay back down. Then she mewed, "You're not useless, you know. You're just... different."

"Different is just another word for useless."

"Nonsense." Fernflight mewed, "And you shouldn't be afraid. If Softstep, or anyone annoys you, put them in their place."

Feathershade looked at the tabby, "Are you okay, Fernflight? You're acting really weird."

"Just shut up and hunt. If you're going to be depressing, shut up. I'm tired." Fernflight shot back.

There we go.

Just then, Rainstep entered, herbs in her mouth. Softstep was with her too, and Feathershade drew back a bit. 

"We found a good place to sleep. Just come with us." Softstep mewed. She seemed to be slightly less angry than before.

"Wait, what about Miststorm, and Archer?" Feathershade mewed, "They'll wonder where we went."

Rainstep nodded, "We can't just leave them behind."

"Someone will have to wait for them, then." Softstep mewed, "Who?"

"I'll do it." Feathershade mewed.

Softstep narrowed her eyes, "How do we know that you won't just run off, the instant we leave you alone?"

Feathershade gulped, but was saved by the mew of, "Well, it's a good thing we're here then."

Archer and Miststorm had returned, carrying much prey with them.

Everyone else felt no need to continue arguing, and they headed up to the hole in the mountain, where they rested their heads for the night.

But Feathershade felt that something had changed. Even though Fernflight was still sharp, she had become softer, almost gentle around her.

Maybe we aren't that different after all.

Chapter Nine ~ Jet

“Psst! Hey! Hey, Misty!”

“-Mmmph? Seakit, what have I asked you to try and stop doing?”

“Um… Giving friends nicknames?”

“Yesssss, Seakit. Oh, well. So, now that you’ve got my attention, what’s wrong?”

“Ahahahahahahaha, you haven’t forgotten the dare, have you? Come on! I can’t wait to see Ferny’s face when she sees you actually turn up!”

“...Ugh, was that today?” The black-and-brown kit asked tiredly.

“Yup! Why d’you ask? You didn’t forget, did you?” Seakit asked cheerily, before adding a little more seriously, “But, yeah. Hurry up, slowpoke! We’re going to be late!”

“...Late? Really? At this time of night?”

“Yup! C’moooooooon, Misty, you promised!” The small tom called enthusiastically, giving the she-kit a glance before diving into the dark shadows fringing the boundaries of the ShadowClan camp. His friend watched him go, pelt prickled in worry, before slinking after him cautiously.

And the two were never seen a—


“Psst! Hey, hey, hey, wake up!”

Miststorm abruptly awoke to the quiet hiss, and scrambled to her paws.

"Who’s there?” She whispered back, scanning her surroundings for a hint of where the speaker had been. “S— What are you doing here?”

She was greeted by the slightly unsettling sound of silence, marred only by what she guessed was the rhythm of her heartbeat.

…I’m probably just tired, I should—

Suddenly, a cheerful voice called from outside their temporary camp,

“Hey, are you awake yet or what? D- ah, our leaders want to have a… talk with your group’s leaders or something! It’d be great if you could come as soon as possible, they’re not very patient cats, not at all! So, just give us the word, come on out of your hidey hole and we’ll be your escorts and take you to y—”

“We’re coming, we’re coming! Just give us a moment,” Fernflight interrupted, staggering to her paws.

Oh, she’s awake…?

“Oh, thank you! It’s completely safe, by the way, we just want to talk!” Another stranger replied, sounding almost as if a huge burden had been lifted off their shoulders. “...Well, not us, per se, more like o… our leaders. Who want to talk. To you, that is. Um…”

Fernflight stood there for a moment, eyes narrowed towards the entrance, then, turning back to the others, rug.

“…Hey, you still there?” One of the strangers called tentatively. “Do you need any help or anything?”

“Yes, no, thanks for asking!” Miststorm replied quickly.

“Are you going to come out now, then?” The stranger asked in return.

“Yeah, yeah, we’re coming,” Fernflight snapped impatiently, cautiously making her way to the entrance and then limping away, to where the owners of the voices were waiting.

Why…?

Miststorm hesitated, then bounded after her, taking care not to wake the others. Catching up to her Clanmate, she hissed out of the corner of her mouth,

“What was your deal, just agreeing to go with them? What if it’s an ambush?”

“Shut up, Miststorm, we can’t all afford to be as weird as you, you know,” Fernflight hissed back.

“Oh, hey, you’re out! What took you so long, hmmm?”

“Hi, sorry for waking you up without warning!”

Two cats, one black, one white, greeted them upon their exit. The black tom watched them curiously as his companion gave them a cheerful grin and asked,

“So, is this all of you?”

“...No. Do you have a problem with that?” Fernflight replied edgily, and the white she-cat shook her head quickly.

“Oh, no, no problem at all; I was simply wondering,” she mewed cordially. “Well, then, let’s not waste the day away just talking, let’s go!”

“…Right. Say, do you two have names that we can call you or something, or are you just going to remain nameless for now?” Miststorm asked her nonchalantly as they began making their way to the two cats’ leaders.

“—Uhhh? Me? Us? Um, I don’t know, he has this complex with his name since he hasn’t gotten to changing it from his old housecat name so—”

“You’re just stalling, aren’t you?” Miststorm interrupted flatly, frowning at her, before sighing and trying again:

“Why don’t we just introduce ourselves? Just you and me, no need to pull anyone else into the exchange?”

“...No thanks?”

“Oh, cool, I’ll start, then.”

No way am I giving away my real name.

“Hello, I’m… Misty. How about you?”

The she-cat hesitated, then mewed slowly,

“Hi, I’m Stardust...”

“That’s a… pretty name. Nice to meet you, Stardust!”

“Uh, thanks? Nice to meet you too,” Stardust answered in a confused tone.


Their essentially one-sided conversation continued for the duration of the rest of the short journey, and the group were greeted by silence as soon as they reached a small clearing where three cats were waiting a tinge impatiently.

“What took you so long?” One of them asked Stardust’s companion.

“They were still asleep, but some of them are here now. Are we done?”

“…No, not quite yet,” another mewed, then turned to the Clan cats, and queried detachedly, “So. Why are you travelling through this place?”

They shared a glance, but before Miststorm could react, Fernflight mewed sketchily, “What’s it to you?”

“Well, it’d be pretty terrible if something bad happened to you and we couldn’t’ve been your backup just because we didn’t agree to be allies!” Another of the cats answered cheerfully. “You know, since that’s mostly what we’re proposing. That we want to know where you’re going, how long you’ll take to get there, whether you want to work with us or not, if there’s any ulterior purpose to your journeying that’s not just going for a leisurely trip!”

Miststorm flattened her ears at their words, and growled, “Why do you want to know so much about us when we know next to nothing about you?”

“...Well, it’s mostly assurance, really!” The tortoiseshell she-cat insisted, “Just something to make sure no one betrays anyone else in what I hope will be our advantageous alliance!”

“...Well, then. No matter how ‘advantageous’ you may think this alliance will be, I think I’ll vote no,” Miststorm muttered.

“Yeah, that sounds fine to me,” Fernflight added icily. “Thanks for your offer, but no thanks, we’ll be fine without your help.”

The she-cat frowned, then swiftly shook it off with a wavering purr: “Well, that’s your choice. Just remember that you were the ones to turn down our offer!”

“Yeah, yeah, we’ll keep that in mind,” Fernflight replied in a low voice, then turned and padded out of the clearing. Miststorm hesitated, then hurried after her clanmate, cautiously trying to avoid meeting anyone’s eyes as she did so.


“Hey, where were you?” Archer called as they neared their camp. “You were gone an awful long time!”

“Oh, sorry about that,” Fernflight called back, coming to a halt in front of their companions. “There were these strangers who seemed to want to form an alliance with us?”

“But they looked kinda suspicious so we said no and left,” Miststorm finished.

“But why?” Rainstep asked, frowning at them. “They could’ve proven to be of aid, couldn’t they’ve been?”

“...Hm. Well, maybe, but—”

“'FOUND YOU! A ragged voice pierced the air, and the Clan cats froze, turning to the source of the shriek.

What was that for?!” Fernflight hissed at the cat. The tom snorted, and growled,

“What do you think? I–We’re not going to let you off after last time!”

“Oh, didn’t you learn your lesson last time, then?” the she-cat replied scathingly. “I notice that this time you don’t seem to have as many cats on you! Maybe it’s because they’ve noticed how utterly st—”

Shut up!” the tom snarled, and leapt for the ShadowClan cat. “Last time was an accident!”

There was a loud roar of assent from the other rogues, before they all swooped in for the kill.

As Miststorm faced the rogues, there a glint in her narrowed eyes. Annoyance? Determination? Fear? Maybe a mix of all three.

She crouched down in to a battle position, snarling, fur bushed out to maximum length, trying to make herself look as intimidating as possible. Her heart had begun to race; the blood was already pounding in her ears; but still, she leapt with no doubts as to her next move. As she made the first contact with the enemy, her eyes gleamed with success. She felt a strange, warm feeling as her claws met enemy pelt. The tom was not so easy to handle, though. He threw her off like a piece of dead prey and made an advancement towards her, eyes gleaming. A sick purr escaped him.

"Hahaha... You think you're any match for me, you piece of crowfood? You must be delusional! Let me show you how real cats fight!"

And with that, he leapt on her and sent her crashing to the ground.

“Oh, really? I’d love to learn from you, but I really have better things to do today!” Miststorm replied as she flung him off of her and raked his face with her foreclaws as he stumbled back before hopping back into a defensive stance.

“Like what?” he demanded, leaping towards her, claws outstretched.

The she-cat replied with a furious grin and dove beneath the tom’s underbelly, slashing at the back of their forepaws before backing quickly back out and dragging him to the ground, pinning him down as she sank her claws as deep into his nape as she could before ripping them out roughly.

The tom screeched and surged back to his paws, whirling around and raking her across her chest. The she-cat staggered back, trying to catch another breath before responded by mirroring his forepaw slash, aiming at his upper chest and feeling a rewarding glow in her chest as she heard his strangled gulp and the unusually loud splatter of blood on the ground as her strike hit and prevailed. The two stood there for a second, facing each other, panting heavily, waiting for the other’s next move. Miststorm offered him a weary grin, and the tom scowled at her.

“Urrrgh—Why don’ you check on your com-co—?”

“The others? N-nah, I’m sure they’re— I’m sure they’re just fiiiiiiiine,” she replied a little breathlessly, edging towards him while he was distracted before suddenly leaping onto him and gripping onto his back with her still-unsheathed claws as she leaned forward to bite—

“HEY, STOP, YOU GUYS!” A loud, clear voice yowled over the fray. “STOP FIGHTING!”

Miststorm froze, and stood up straight, claws still embedded in the tom, but by then she wasn’t really paying attention to the fight anymore; all she could bring herself to do was stare at the she-cat, astonishment clear on her face as the rest of the cats began to notice the newcomer.

Stardust?!

Chapter Ten ~ Eevee

It wasn't long before everyone stared at the newcomer, their eyes either wide with surprise or confusion, or narrowed in fury. What the... who is she? Archer thought, his black fur still bristling. The rogue he'd been fighting against had abandoned him, obviously afraid of the she-cat.

"This is pointless, everyone." the she-cat yowled. "And, to you rogues," she added, her eyes sweeping over the deminished number of attackers, "I have reinforcements-"

"Yeah, so?" one of the older rogues called out.

The newcomer glared at him, her eyes narrowed. "I have forty reinforcements. Which, from what I can see, is far more than how many rogues there are here right now. And these reinforcements are sitting by, surrounding you. If you get out of here, I'll call them off. If not, well, let's just say things are going to get even worse."

Some of the rogues bolt away, their tails straightened out behind them as they leap through the trees. Some hesitate, then turn, their angry cries gradually forming into a faint din as they followed their comrades. Archer stared after them, watching as their differently-colored pelts disappeared into the forest.

The she-cat steps down from her post, a grin on her face. "They fell for it."

Rainstep tips her head to the side. "Fell for what?"

"I don't have any reinforcements!" the newcomer purred, waving her tail.

"Stardust?" Miststorm mewed questioningly. She stepped past Feathershade, who mumbed something incoherently. "How did you...?"

"Oh, hi Misty." Stardust greeted, nodding. "I just heard battle yowls, ran toward them, and saw you and your friends fighting outnumbered."

Misty? Archer blinked. "Er, her name's Miststo-"

"Anyway," Miststorm interrupted, but she didn't say anything else.

"Er... yes, anyway." Rainstep cleared her throat, then looked at Stardust. "Thank you for driving the rogues away."

Stardust nodded. "Really, no problem. If you need me any other time, just find me." She turned and started to pad away.

"Wait!" Fernflight called out. She looked angry with herself as Stardust turned back around. "Why don't you st... st..." She shook her head.

Softstep sighed. "I think she means why don't you stay."

Stardust blinked, her ears swiveling. "Hm. Sure, why not?

Archer's fur bristled, and he meowed, "Hey, can we just discuss this first?" To Stardust, he added, "Wait here." Normally he probably would've called her beautiful or something, but he was suspicious of the loner.

The other Clan cats looked confused as they grouped up about two tail-lengths away from Stardust, who sat down and drew her paw over her ear.

Before Archer could say anything, Softstep growled, "I don't trust her."

Rainstep nodded slowly. "I want to trust her, but I just..." She trailed off, seemingly finding a better word, but she merely finished, "Can't."

Feathershade flicked her tail. "Why would she just arrive like that? Why would a rogue help us Clan cats?"

"Listen, I know you're suspicious," Miststorm mewed evenly, "but we have to trust her. What would happen if she hadn't come?"

"Hmm... good point, but I still don't trust her." Fernflight decided.

"Then act like you do!" Miststorm hissed.

"Okay, but if she kills one of us, I'm blaming you!" Fernflight retorted scathingly.

Archer blinked. "Er... calm down?"

After a short, hushed argument, the Clan cats turned back to Stardust, who was now gazing around. Fernflight mumbled, "You can stay."

Stardust's ears perked. "Thanks." The she-cat stood and turned away. "I'll find some prey." She padded off into the bushes, leaving the Clan cats staring after her.

After a short silence, Rainstep mewed, "Okay, so... we should tend to our wounds, right?"

The Clan cats agreed, and they scattered to find a few herbs.

Archer sniffed at a bush, but it was only a bush with dark berries on it. He flicked his ears, and turned away. Maybe I'll just hunt. he thought.

The black tom tasted the air, but the only scents lingering the air were the rogues', the Clan cats', and a squirrel that had long deserted the place. The prey must have run away during the fight, retreating into their burrows and scurrying up their trees.

The ThunderClan tom sighed. Okay, it's clear that I have no idea what healing herbs look like, and that there's no prey at all here. He decided to just head back to camp with nothing.

Chapter Eleven ~ Holly

Rainstep sat, her gaze on the newcomer. She was suspicious of Stardust, and didn't understand Miststorm's friendliness towards her. 

At least she wasn't the only suspicious cat. Miststorm was, in fact, the only one who showed any kind feelings toward Stardust, whatsoever. 

Miststorm and Stardust were chatting, which didn't surprise Rainstep. She felt her fur bristle. Something wasn't right with that cat, and, though she couldn't lay her paw on it yet, she knew she would, eventually.

Stardust stood up from where she was sitting with Miststorm, and padded to the center of their 'camp'. She smiled, looking around as if making sure that they were all present. When she was sure that they were all there, she let out a meow.

"I have an idea that you all should like." she meowed, flicking her tail back and forth excitedly.

Fernflight rolled her eyes before she hissed, "And what exactly makes you think that we'd like any ideas that you have?"

Stardust ignored her, continuing, "I suggest that, this afternoon, we storm the rogue camp!" she grinned, "Though a few of them may be out hunting, we may be able to get those there to surrender!"

Softstep snorted, "And what if they don't surrender? I have no idea as to why they would." 

"If they don't surrender," Stardust meowed, smile unwavering, "We will kill as many of them as needed before they do surrender."

Rainstep shuddered, the rogues didn't seem like the kind of cats who'd surrender, period. "How will we go about storming the camp? Will we just stroll on in and start attacking?"

"No, we be diplomatic, at first. We will ask them to surrender, and will only unsheath our claws when, and if, neccessary." 

Fernflight and some of the others shook their heads, causing Stardust to grin. 

"Or, we could simply storm their camp!" Stardust meowed. 

This remark extracted a much better reaction from the others, though it caused Rainstep to cringe. 

"What if we picked them off one by one before leading them away from their camp and attack then with stealth?" Rainstep suggested. 

"No way!" one of the others meowed, followed by everyone else, save Rainstep. 

"We'd might as well prep ourselves!" Stardust meowed, lesding the others away, adn leaving Rainstep behind. 

A voice sounding in the back of her head: 

This will not end well...

Epilogue ~ Firey

Fernflight had no intention of enjoying Stardust's plan. Why they all agreed to go with this suicidal plan, she didn't know.

"Alright," Stardust piped up, "We're going to charge straight in, and everything else will sort itself out. Everyone agree?"

All the Clan cats, except for Miststorm, exchanged uneasy glances. Sure, they had agreed to this terrible and crazy plan, but they only wanted to get rid of the rogues, not charge into the camp and die afterwards because they believed some random rogue would save them.

"We should have a chnage of plans." Fernflight bit her lip, "We definitely shouldn't charge right into the camp."

"Why not?" Stardust asked, tipping her head, "You won't get hurt."

This time Miststorm was the one to interrupt, "Won't get hurt?" she exclaimed loudly, "Of course we'll get hurt!" She glared at the rogue.

Stardust's gaze remained unwavering, "It's not big deal," she waved her tail, "I'm sure you Clan cats are talented fighters."

Feathershade blinked, "I'm sure we're 'okay' at fighting, but Fernflight is right, we need a better plan."

Softstep nodded briskly, her eyes narrowing, "I agree, we may have agreed to 'charge the camp', but we need to elaborate that plan."

"For the better," Rainstep added softly, "We should pick off the outsiders one by one." Her eyes pricked with obvious annoyance, and Fernflight guessed that she made the suggestion earlier and was ignored.

Stardust flicked her tail and growled, "Foolish Clan cats, there's no need for a 'plan'. Your job is simple, charge the camp and destroy them all."

Her eyes were no longer friendly. Stardust wasn't the cat Fernflight thought she was. "Who are you?" Fernflight hissed.

Miststorm took a step back, "And what are you doing here?" She added.

Archer didn't speak, but his eyes narrowed too.

Stardust's smile turned into a smirk, "I want the rogues dead, and if you don't help me kill them all, we're going to have a problem here."

"And what can you do to the six of us?" Feathershade challenged quietly, her blue eyes troubled and her voice was tinged with fear.

Stardust's smirk didn't waver, and she purred, "Oh but it's not just me." Behind her, ranks of rogues stepped out.

"Now, where were we?"

The End. Stay tuned for the second book of Solitude, Flashes of Fire! <3

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