Episode 6, Season 1 of War.
As a WaterClan kit, your parents will tell you all the usual stories and tall tales- how WaterClan came to be, why every leader is called Waterstar (although that one takes much less time then you thought it would), the story of the Great War...and ultimately those stories would lead to other stories. Darker stories about fire-pelted cats with thorns for claws and blood on their paws. FireClan cats.
Your parents will tell you about their sister's best friend's kithood sweetheart who once looked over the FireClan border. And something terrible happened to him. And you will vow never to sleep again, least a FireClan cat creep into your dreams and steal your soul.
So it would be easy to imagine how absolutely terrifying it would be for a WaterClan cat who had never even been to Main Camp to be standing a few fox-lengths away from the FireClan border. The only thing that made it bearable was the tom standing next to her, his warm flank pressed against hers.
"So...this is the least protected border?" I ask, my voice slightly higher then I mean it to be, "What do the other ones have guarding them, Two-legs?"
"You'd be surprised," Gorsefur says, trying to maintain an easy tone. But I can see how tense he is and, not for the first time, wonder about what his service to the army was like before he became Badgerstrike's second. Only new recruits get sent to the front lines and that's where most of them fall. I shudder. If Badgerstrike's squad hadn't taken me in, I could have been there.
"You ready?" Gorsefur asks.
I blink at him, "We're just going to waltz in there? Really."
He peers over at the small patrol who has finished marking their border and is now heading back through the bushes.
"Gorsefur," I meow softly, "Why exactly is this the least guarded part of FireClan territory?"
"Would you believe me if I said it was because they were lazy?" He dodges the paw I aimed to hit him with and sighs, "There's a big river here."
I snort, "They do know we can swim, right?"
"Well, that's what every WaterClan cat has tried to swim across it thought. No one has ever come back from this place." The patrol vanishes from sight and he quickly sprints across the barren land, leaving me to scramble after.
I swear I can tell when my paws touch FireClan territory. It's worse then every bad thing I've ever done in my life combined. The scent of FireClan cat wreaths around me and I feel a sudden burst of fear.
We crest the rise and Gorsefur has to pull out a paw to keep me from tumbling into the writhing river in front of me.
The river seems to go on for ages. Blue-green water thrashes, waves crashing into the shore and sliding back into it. The current roars and I know that there is no way I can swim across it.
"How are we getting across that?" I ask, feeling very, very small.
Gorsefur purrs, "Well, that's where having FireClan spies helps out. There's a Twoleg bridge a little ways up that way," he nods to our left. "We can cross on that."
"And no other WaterClan cat has found it," I meow in disbelief.
"Well, not necessarily." he starts padding towards the bridge.
I stare after him in confusion, "But you said-"
"I just said no one ever came back," he meows darkly. "That doesn't mean they didn't make it. Now are you coming or not?"
With a shiver, I hurry to catch up with him.
"We're killing Firestar." Shadowsong meowed, her dark gold eyes sparkling in disbelief. "Us." Badgerstrike nodded and Shadowsong smirked, "So we're the best WaterClan has to offer? Excellent."
Badgerstrike looked furious that she wasn't taking this seriously, although, Shadowsong thought, he ought to know her better then this. Dropping a huge bit of news, like that their top secret mission was to kill the mighty leader of FireClan, and to not expect her to make a sarcastic remark?
Adderscar rolled his eyes, "We were all picked for this squad you know. Badgerstrike and Gorsefur have experience and leadership, I have the brains, Oakclaw has the brawn, Shadowsong keeps Oakclaw in line, we have to have a pretty she-cat which explains Silverflower, and Brookfall is someone we can afford to lose."
"Watch it," Shadowsong growled at the same time Silverflower perked, "Thanks!"
Adderscar raised his eyes to the heavens, "I'm surrounded by idiots," he muttered.
Badgerstrike resisted the urge to smack all of them. So am I... We're waiting for Gorsefur and Brookfall." he meowed. "At least for a few days."
Shadowsong and Oakclaw muttered and padded a little bit away, heads bent together. Sivlerflower flounced her tail, "I'm going hunting."
Adderscar blinked, "Um...I'll go too. You shouldn't go alone."
Silverflower sniffed. "Like you could help me." But she didn't argue as Adderscar trotted with her towards Silver Forest.
Badgerstrike rolled his eyes and curled up, ready for a nap.
"This is not what I believed you meant when you said 'bridge'." I growl, my fur puffed out.
"Well, it connects both sides, doesn't it?" Gorsefur doesn't look too happy himself.
I shiver, the water seeping into my bones from the waves tossed onto the 'bridge'. "Gorsefur, it's two ropes and a few planks here and there. It's not a bridge, it's a death trap!"
"We're cats, we can do this," Gorsefur meows, no uncertainty in his meow. He continues half-inching/half-leaping his way across and I follow, muttering.
The other side is in sight. I've pulled ahead of Gorsefur, my lighter weight helping me. Maybe my rope's stronger too, who knows? I finally reach the land and I collapse, wanting to nap forever and never swim again. How sad is that?
"You okay?" Gorsefur calls softly.
"Yeah," I lift my head up, then get to my feet, feeling slightly groggy. Gorsefur is close, maybe a couple fox-lengths from the shore. There's a snapping noise and I blink, "Do you hear that?" It gets louder and I finally trace the sound back to the rope Gorsefur is edging on, "Gorsefur, run!"
It's too late. The rope snaps and Gorsefur's wide golden eyes are the last thing I see before he plunges into the river.
"Haha, you won't catch me!" the ginger tom purred, dashing through the meadow, sending dandelion seeds swirling into the sky.
"We'll see about that!" Badgerpaw yowled back, putting on a burst of speed. But Rowanpaw had always been faster then him and soon the shorter-legged tom was exhausted. He flopped onto the cool spring grass and closed his eyes.
"Giving up so soon?" Rowanpaw purred. "I guess it's true what they say about WaterClan cats then- lazy as fishes!"
"You wish!" Badgerpaw retorted hotly. "And I eat fish for breakfast!"
Rowanpaw smirked, then blinked. "I hear Firestar," he meowed, "I'd better go- see you next time I can get away!"
Badgerpaw purred, "Say hello to your darling mentor for me!" Rowanpaw made a face at him, then disappeared back over the FireClan border.
Badgerpaw sat up, stretching. He should probably head back to camp too- not that anyone would notice him missing. Which was one advantage of living in a tiny WaterClan camp when your best friend was FireClan. Not that that was a bad thing...but lately all the warriors had been worked up over FireClan.
I wonder why, Badgerpaw thought, It's not like they declared war or something.
And with that cheery thought, he stretched one last time and darted out of the meadow, back to camp.
I searched for him fruitlessly, the waves hiding him. The rope trailed in the water and I hoped Gorsefur had been strong enough to hold on- although the drumming of the strong waves on the shore made that seem unlikely.
I skidded down the slippery, mud-laden bank until the water touched my paws. I looked around for any helpful indication about where Gorsefur might be drowning, but there was nothing but waves and water.
Taking a deep breath, I plunged into the current.
Almost instantly, the waves tried to sweep me off my paws. I hunkered close to the bottom, silt and mud blinding me. There was no way I could find Gorsefur like this, not unless-
Something brushed my leg and I immediately clamped down on it and shot to the surface.
I'd always been a strong swimmer, but dragging Gorsefur through a FireClan river was probably the hardest swim I'd ever done. Somehow, I made it to the shore where I promptly collapsed. Gorsefur coughed next to me. "You are the luckiest tom alive," I rasped.
"In more ways then one," he wheezed.
I blink, but before I can ask, he stands shakily, "We should keep moving. Don't want to get caught."
He nods and I reluctantly get up.
At first, we creep through the territory, cautiously. But obviously no FireClan cat is concerned about an invasion from this way because we don't run into a patrol the entire time. Soon, Gorsefur lowers his guard enough that we can have a whispered conversation. Which is totally romantic, what she-cat doesn't want to be crawling through an unfamiliar territory with the tom of her dreams?
After almost a day of walking, Gorsefur stops talking and motions for me to stay low. I do so and we creep forward. The scent of FireClan is overwhelming here, but also, strangely enough...WaterClan. I shoot him a puzzled glance.
"This is a prisoner camp," he murmurs back. My heart wrenches slightly. "My spy said the kit's parents were here."
"How did your spy know to look so soon after we met the kits?" I ask.
His whiskers twitch, "I know you. Obviously we were going to go looking for them."
He turns back, but I keep my eyes on him for a moment longer, touched. Great StarClan, I like this tom.
Gorsefur narrowed golden eyes and turned back to me, "We can rest here for a while. And then tomorrow we're getting those WaterClan warriors."
I purr, adrenaline pumping, "Great."