This is the third episode of Season 2 of The Hidden. I hereby(lol, nice usage of big words, huh?) dedicate it to Hello. I adore her show, and look up to her writing a lot; plus, she's one of my best friends.
Reedfur nudged the others in his patrol gently. "Guys? I know we want to grieve, but you know we have a mission to do." He tried to make his voice as sympathetic as possible. "Come on. We have to make this right."
Brightsong and Cinderdapple gave him weary smiles as they got to their paws. Nearby, Ivyfleet was murmuring to Tornadoheart, preparing him for their journey and comforting him. Wetstream was talking with the family of cats that they had encountered, and whose kits they had saved. Reedfur joined her.
"... He almost killed our kits," the she-cat was saying. Her eyes were on Tornadoheart, and her tail was wrapped around Ribbonkit and Merlekit.
Wetstream gave Reedfur a look that said, Please help me before I claw her pelt off. Hiding a smile, he said, "Relax. I know he worked for GreenClan, but he took our side, and helped us drive them off. Plus, he didn't hurt your kits. Trust me. We can trust him."
The father tom, whose name was Spidertalon, laid his tail on his mate's back. "They're right, Flowerburst. We need their help."
Flowerburst relaxed a little, leaning against her mate and looking at the Hidden cats with weariness in her eyes. Reedfur felt a stab of sympathy for her; she was probably really shaken up. "What do we do now?" she asked in a tired voice. "The GreenClan cats will come back for Tornadoheart, since he's a traitor, and for us. We'll be killed anyway."
"No, you won't," he replied in a strong voice. "Not on our watch."
"We've decided where to take you. You'll be safe there," Wetstream said. "However, we have to get started right away."
Worry creased Spidertalon's brow. "Where are we going?"
Knowing that the tom might have a few objections considering the young age of his kits, Reedfur broke the news as gently as he could. "To a safe place... across the River of Stars."
Flowerburst sucked in her breath. "Blood Claw River?" she exclaimed. "You can't be serious!"
"It's the only place we can take you guys now. You'll be safe, I promise. All of us will help you get across the river. Are you in?"
The two cats exchanged a glance, communicating in a silent language. Flowerburst finally dropped her gaze, giving Ribbonkit and Merlekit each a protective lick.
Spidertalon looked up in triumph. "We're in."
Finchnose padded through the Hall, relishing the spicy-sweet scents of the plants she was carrying. After traveling so long with only the dried leaves in her herb-pouch to use, she was glad of the freshly-harvested plants she had replenished her stock with. It sure was good to be back in the Tunnels.
"Finchnose? Are you busy?"
Turning to see Cloverice standing there, Finchnose gave the she-cat a quick smile. "Not really, just heading back to the Chamber with these herbs. Why?"
The black-and-silver tabby looked anxious and worried. She sat down, her green eyes flitting around. "I... I think someone may have found us."
A jolt of shock caused Finchnose to drop her herbs; they fluttered down to her paws gently. "What? What do you mean?"
Shifting from paw to paw, Cloverice said, "We were out hunting yesterday, me and Bramblepath. When we came back through the boulders, I looked behind me, and just for a second I glimpsed a cat watching us. I swear it was a cat, but I didn't know who would believe me. When I got back into the Tunnels, I ran around making sure everyone was there. I didn't want to suspect any of us, but..."
"You did the right thing," Finchnose said gently. "And was anyone missing?" She didn't want to accuse her friends either, but after Tornadoheart and Aquatail... you just never knew who to trust.
"No," Cloverice said with considerable relief. "So that means that it's someone else." Her eyes filled with held-back fear. "What if it's a GreenClan cat? What if we get attacked or ambushed, and the Tunnels flooded?"
The she-cat's fear was contagious, but Finchnose forced herself not to panic. She scrambled to her paws. "Would you make sure these herbs don't get crushed? I'll come back for the later. I have to tell the others."
"Are you sure?" Strongheart repeated, looking from Finchnose to Cloverice and back again.
Both cats nodded their heads, and he knew he wasn't imagining the fear-scent wafting off of them. Silverbreeze's blue eyes were stretched wide with concern. "This is terrible," she said. "If we're discovered..."
She didn't have to finish the thought. All of them knew what it would spell for them.
Closing his eyes, Strongheart tried to fight back the wave of anger that was rising inside of him, threatening to explode. Why did this have to happen now, when they had just gotten the entire group settled in the Tunnels? Why did it have to happen at all?
"What do we do?" asked Birdsong, but not in a panicked way. More like she was calmly thinking up a solution.
He cleared his throat. "Well, I say for now that we post guards outside the entrance to the Tunnels, and keep a close eye out when we go out hunting."
"We should also make hunting patrols bigger, and have two guards at the Observation Post all the time," added Birdsong.
Bramblepath frowned. "We'll be stretched thin, especially with the secret patrol gone."
"We'll just have to work extra hard to make up for it," Strongheart decided. "Come on guys, we can do this. Together."
Fernheart nodded. "Shall I go tell the others?"
"I'll go with you," Silverbreeze offered. The two she-cats padded off towards the Hall, where most of the Hidden slept; only those who had joined before the excursion to the GreenClan woods slept in the Chamber.
Groaning softly, Strongheart turned away. He needed some time alone to think this over; he made a beeline for the exit to the Tunnels.
Once outside, the cool breezes began to clear his mind. It was cold, he noted, with a decided nip in the air. He hoped Reedfur and the rest of the mission patrol were doing okay.
Ice formed in Strongheart's veins. He looked up into a pair of cool green eyes, calculating and gleaming with spirit. "Wh- Who are you?" he stammered, unable to keep the uneasiness out of his voice. Willing himself not to look back at the Tunnel entrance, he kept his gaze focused on the tom in front of him.
As if reading his thoughts, the dappled gray cat smirked. "I already know your little secret, and that you live behind those boulders. Along with those other cats," he added.
Bile rose in Strongheart's throat. This was his worst nightmare come true.
Still, he kept his composure. Drawing himself to his full height in an effort to seem intimidating, he said, "Oh yeah? And what are you going to do about it?"
"I'm going to..." the tom began uncertainly. Suddenly he didn't look so in control. "Uh... What's your name?"
"Ducksplash," he said, quirking an eyebrow as if daring Strongheart to make fun of it. He didn't take the bait.
They stood facing each other down, neither knowing what to say, till finally Ducksplash broke the silence with, "Well, I know this'll sound crazy, but I haven't been spying for GreenClan."
"You're right; it does sound crazy," Strongheart growled.
Hiding a smile, Ducksplash answered, "No really. I was spying to make sure you guys were a real rebellion."
"What makes you think that?" he asked suspiciously. "That we're a rebellion, I mean." Ducksplash only arched his eyebrow. "Okay, it's pretty obvious," he admitted. "But as far as you joining..."
"Please?" asked Ducksplash. "I- I really think this is where I'm meant to be. I don't fit in with GreenClan at all, and Viperstar drives me nuts."
Finally, Strongheart cracked a smile. "Perfect answer. Come on. I have some cats I want you to meet."
"Pleased to meet you, Ducksplash. We're happy to have you joining us," Silverbreeze mewed. The scarred gray tom nodded pleasantly enough in response. He might not have been a social flower, but he seemed determined and spirited enough; in short, just the kind of cat they needed at a time like this.
As Jaywalker and Snowdrift took the newcomer to arrange his nest, Silverbreeze joined Strongheart on his way to the Chamber. "Nice work. Did you use your charming skills of persuasion to convince him to join us?"
He gave her a cocky smile. "As a matter of fact, my golden tongue wasn't needed. He already wanted to join; that was why he was spying on us."
"So... false alarm," she said.
A look of concern crossed his face, and he shook his head. "No, Silverbreeze. If one cat found us, others will. We need to be even more careful about hiding the Tunnels now. GreenClan has even more reason to suspect this location, as we attacked them here before. It's only a matter of time..."
Silverbreeze's stomach pitched dangerously. "Are you saying we can't stay here?"
Strongheart's face crumpled. "I don't know what I'm saying. But we do need some kind of plan."
She sighed. "I wish... I wish Reedfur was here."
For a second, he gave her an odd look, as if trying to decipher her words. She herself wasn't sure what she meant by that. Did she mean so they could all be here, or because Reedfur brought something else to her...? And what could that thing possibly be? Then Strongheart gave himself a shake. "Me too."
Aware that she had hurt him in some way, she gave him a lick on the shoulder. "But I'm glad you're here too. We'll figure this out."
His amber eyes found hers and kept them captivated. "Yes, we will."
The wind blew in a raging gale, stinging Reedfur's eyes and making them water. Waves three or four times his height roared up at him from the river. He shuddered as his eyes fell upon the log bridge, and he remembered his desperate struggle to save both his and Fallensky's lives.
"Are you okay, Reedfur?" asked Cinderdapple gently.
Giving himself a shake, he told himself to suck it up. The patrol needed him. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine." He turned to the others. "Okay. Flowerburst, I know it'll be hard, but I think someone else should carry your kits. Don't worry, they'll be perfectly safe."
"You can trust us," Tornadoheart said.
Reedfur flinched, expcting the queen to fly out at them. But she just gave the tom a weary smile. "I know."
"Thank you," Reedfur said, dipping his head. "Wetstream, you take Merlekit, and I'll take Ribbonkit. Cinderdapple, you walk out in front to steady us. The rest of you, follow Wetstream and I."
Placing one paw on the log, he waited till Cinderdapple had gotten on, then stepped on after her. He felt the log shake as the others got on, one by one, and hoped desperately that the shaky bridge would hold.
"Hey! You! Get them!"
Oh no. Reedfur recognized the shouts in the distance - though they were ever getting closer, along with the pounding sound of pawsteps. "GreenClan!" he yowled into the wind.
Ahead of him, Cinderdapple broke into a trot. Wetstream, however, couldn't go much faster with Merlekit in her mouth. Their progress was dangerously slow. Behind him, Reedfur heard Spidertalon's voice. "I'll hold them off. Hurry guys!"
Then he heard Flowerburst yell, "No! Spidertalon!"
A burst of lightning illuminated the sky, and as Reedfur chanced a glance behind him, he could clearly make out Aristo's leering face. The white tom pounced onto the log and shoved Ivyfleet off. She screamed as she fell, then hit the churning water with a splash. "No!" Tornadoheart screamed.
"I'll get her!" yelled Cinderdapple, diving in after Ivyfleet; the two she-cats were especially close.
"Bye bye, fox-hearts!" sneered Aristo, advancing on Reedfur and the others. Reedfur could feel his precarious hold on both the log and Ribbonkit's slippery neck-scruff weakening. He couldn't keep this up if Aristo tried anything. All it would result in would be his falling off the log, to what would most likely end up in his death.
"It's time to die, little rebellion leader!" screeched the white tom, springing towards Reedfur.
Scrambling backwards, Reedfur saw his life flash before his eyes, back to when he was just an apprentice chained in Viperstar's lair. And his only thought was, I can't let it end like this. I'll go down fighting.
Except he didn't need to. Tornadoheart had tackled Aristo, sending the GreenClan tom flying over the edge of the log. And the tom didn't stop there. Lunging off the log, Tornadoheart threw himself into the patrol of GreenClan warriors waiting for him. "Run!" he yelled to Spidertalon. Before the gray cat could protest, Flowerburst dragged her mate to safety.
"We can't leave him!" yelled Wetstream. She had reached the other side of the river with Merlekit and was watching with wide yellow eyes.
Reedfur met Tornadoheart's eyes, which were all that were visible of him among the GreenClan warriors tearing him to shreds. And he knew it was too late. This was one river crossing the tom would never return from. He had fullfilled his calling.
"We can't save him," Reedfur whispered. Though it tore him in two, he forced himself to turn away, to turn his back to his friend. "We have to leave him. Come on." And he walked away.
Ivyfleet, I hope you're proud of me.
I could hardly feel the pain anymore. I had seen the GreenClan warriors walk away. They had assumed I was dead, and were going to cross the river, but without Aristo, they didn't know what to do after that. So they'd gone back to headquarters for back up. I had bought my friends time.
And all it had cost me was my life.
I imagined her face, so beautiful and pure. I had seen the relief and hope in her eyes when I had chosen the rebellion and not killed Merlekit and Ribbonkit. And I had seen the fear when I had tackled Aristo. Fear for me. She cared for me. She loved me.
And that was enough. I could die in peace.
Laying my head back on the water-soaked grass, I closed my eyes, letting the sound of the rushing river lully me away. Lull me away to StarClan.
Fate, you got your wish. I fullfilled my calling.