My body has withered away and
Hawks have pecked my bones
But my legacy remains, my soul is still alive
Yet they have kicked me out of my home
Prologue, Part One -- Loki
River raced through the forest with Thunder and Shadow behind him.
"Where's Wind?" He asked, panting hard. Even though the founders of the Clans had the 'Star' suffix, they preferred not to use it.
"She's meeting us at the clearing," replied Shadow. "And she better have a plan."
The large, orange leader turned. "I have part of a plan; little pieces. But I don't know how to fit them together."
River sighed as the group slowed to a quick trot. "Then lets hope Wind has one, because I've got nothing." The bushes parted and they leaped into the clearing, where they found Wind pacing.
"To guys take forever! We've got a world to save," she told them.
"Yes, yes, we know," Shadow meowed. "But do you have any idea how?"
"You do, right? Right?"
Wind frowned. "No."
"Well, that's great. We may as well have nothing to do."
"Wait, why? Why can't we just go down there and fight with the Clans?"
"Don't you remember?" River returned angrily. "We've been around so long that the Clans don't even really remember who we are, or our history, or anything. They just know that we started the Clans, and even that is considered a myth."
"The point is, so much of us has been forgotten that we no longer have to ability to go from here to there the way the rest of StarClan can."
For a moment, no one spoke, and a heavy silence lay upon the clearing.
"Welllll, there is one way." River was looking at the ground, thinking hard.
"What is it?" The other three chorused.
"It's quite dangerous, and it may not even work anymore, but if you draw enough energy, you can use the Moonstone to go from here to the Clans."
"But the Clans aren't at the Forest anymore," Thunder told him in confusion. "So how will that help us?"
"We can send the energy pulse to the Moonpool, but only one of us will be able to go."
"Because the others will have stay back and make sure there's enough energy to complete the pulse."
"This is insane," Wind grumbled. "Where are we going to get the energy from? StarClan is basically powerless now that the Dark Forest has risen."
"Well, if the Dark Forest is so powerful, why don't we just take it from them?" Shadow suggested, breaking her silence. "Would that work?"
"Maybe... Yes, it would," River meowed, surprised. "But it would mean that those of us who stay behind would have to go there and take it personally."
"How? Does the Dark Forest keep a supply of magic crystals or something?"
River smiled. "Actually, they do."
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"I can't believe we're actually doing this," Thunder meowed. "But if it works..."
"Trust me, it'll work."
The four founders stood in the marshy swampland of the Dark Forest. They had trekked through the bogs until they found what River had been looking for: a circle of mushrooms.
"These," He told them, "Tell you that there are energy crystals nearby."
"Well. Where are the crystals?" Thunder asked.
"Seriously, are you guys blind?" Shadow nodded her head toward a glowing mass in the trees.
Up in the branches lay a large, jagged lump, glowing so brightly that River couldn't make out any detail.
"This," he commented, "Is really good. It means that it has more power."
"So what do we do?"
"Break them and hope things go well."
"What do you mean, 'hope things go well?'"
"The blast of energy will send us halfway to their world, but only one of us can go. Whoever stays will have to direct it."
Thunder glanced at Shadow. "And how will we do that?"
"Guys! Come on! We don't have much time."
"Okay, okay. Who's going to go?"
The group thought for a bit, but then Wind broke the silence.
"I should go. I'm the fastest and I'll be able to get down from the Moonpool the quickest."
River nodded. "I agree."
So did Thunder. So did Shadow.
"Alright," River meowed. "I'll push the crystal off the tree. Wind, stand directly under the branch."
"Three..." River wrapped his tail around the branch, bracing.
"Two..." He placed one paw on the crystal, and prepared to push.
"One..." Below, he saw Wind sink her claws into the marshy ground.
Prologue, Part Two -- Loki
River pushed with the paw he had on the crystal, and then slammed his other paw down right next to it. The crystal suddenly broke free, but sent River backwards. He dug his claws into the bark, but it was rotten and weak, so they ripped straight through. He fell backwards off the tree, landing face-first on the ground. The crystal had bounced of another branch, slowing it's decent. Then River realized he was right next to Wind.
The crystal hit the ground, exploded, and white light filled River's vision. It began to merge with other colors, and then he hit the ground. Hard.
Blinking his eyes open, River managed to make out a small sapling in front of his face, but he couldn't make out any detail. He lifted his head, found it hard to breath, and then collapsed as dizziness took over. A few moments later, he tried again. Breathing was easier. His thoughts were less clouded, and he could actually see.
But then, he heard the shrieks, and realized he had dropped down in the middle of the battle.
"What took you so long?"
River looked up to see Crookedstar staring down at him. "Things."
He laughed. "Come on, then, join the battle! you'd be of use, I'd suspect."
As he regained strength, River pushed himself up and followed Crookedstar into the thick of battle.
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The next day, River found himself gathered before all of StarClan, the reason unknown. It turned out that when he accidentally slipped from the tree, he was sent instead of Wind due to timing and location. And yet, after fighting through some of the most ferocious battles he had seen since the Clans began, he had sustained few wounds. The real mystery, however, was the disappearance of a young StarClan warrior. She had fought along side River, but disappeared into the undergrowth after the battle.
No cat had seen her since.
And that was surely what this StarClan-wide gathering was about. What he didn't understand was why he was sitting in front of them. They were waiting for the other Leaders to appear. But they didn't have to wait long.
Wind, Thunder, Shadow, Bluestar, Crookedstar, Redstar, Sparklestar, and Firestar - the newest of the leaders - padded out from the bushed behind him. As he spun around, River saw them glaring at him menacingly.
"River!" Firestar called out.
"What is this?" He replied, hoping his voice didn't sound too aggressive.
"You know that a member of StarClan disappeared during the battle. What do you know about this?"
An uneasy feeling began to settle within River's stomach. "I was fighting next to her, and then she took off. I haven't seen her since."
"The Leaders of StarClan have made a joint decision. We accuse you of the intentional murder of Brownclaw, which is punishable by permanent exile."
Gasps rose from the crowd.
"What?!? I did no such thing!"
"We now know otherwise. And so..."
A great feeling of nausea exploded in River
"We banish you, River..."
He collapsed to the ground.
"Founder of RiverClan,"
He began to get dizzy, and Firestar's words were blurred.
"To the furthest reaches of the stars."
Another white light exploded from within, just like at the Dark Forest battle, and when River opened his eyes, he was smaller. Much, much smaller.
A kit. He was a kit again.
Something told him that many, many moons had passed since the Dark Forest had invaded. He didn't know why, but he just knew.
It was Leaf-bare. And he was at the Gathering Island.
Chapter One -- Dogwood
"What're you doing here, kit?" River spun around to face a tall black tom.
"I am no kit," River retorted firmly. To his dismay, his voice came out high and squeaky. The tom chuckled. "Besides, I could ask you the same thing. It isn't the full moon, and there's most certainly no Gathering tonight."
The tom paused. "Shut up, kit. I'm the one asking questions here."
River jutted out his chin. "I'm River, the founder of RiverClan. I have every right to be asking questions."
The tom stared at him like he was insane. "You sure your head's on right, kit?"
"Yes, it is," River said firmly. "Tell me how to get to the Moonpool from here. I need to get back to StarClan."
The tom opened his mouth to say something, but there was a slight rustle in the bushes. His ears flicked up, and he quickly said to the kit, "Stay," before disappearing. River let out a frustrated growl. Of course, he didn't stay. He followed.
When the tom stopped, so did River. He quickly ducked behind a rock and peered over curiously.
The tom was talking with a beautiful black she-cat. Their tails were twined together and they were chatting animatedly. River guessed they were from different Clans.
Usually, he would be perfectly fine with this, but he'd been kicked out of his home, turned into a kit, and was feeling majorly ticked off.
"Hey!" River shouted angrily. "You two're from different Clans! This isn't allowed!"
The two turned. The tom growled. "Get out of here, kit!"
River narrowed his eyes. "Stop calling me a kit! I'm River!"
The she-cat sighed. "Blueclaw, let's just take him home. Maybe he's from RiverClan."
"I founded RiverClan!" River argued.
"You go back to WindClan, I'll drop this kit off at RiverClan on my way home," the she-cat said. She gave the tom- Blueclaw- a peck on the cheek. "Good night." Her eyes were glowing warmly. So were his.
"Love you, Willowwing," he murmured softly.
She closed her eyes for a moment, leaning against him. "Love you too."
River growled under his breath. He remembered his own mate- Night- and how she'd faded away.
It hurt a little too much to watch these two.
River was silent as he and Willowwing walked to RiverClan. When they reached the edge of the territory, Willowwing nudged him across gingerly, careful not to cross the border. "Go home," she whispered. "You know the way, right?"
"Of course I do," River scoffed.
As Willowwing left, it suddenly hit him what was going on. After season-cycles- dozens upon dozens of season-cycles- he was finally returning to the Clan he once led. The Clan that he had once nurtured, shielded, and, nine times, died for.
And then, taking a deep breath, he headed towards the RiverClan camp.
Chapter Two -- Loki
As River neared the RiverClan border, he realized that there were problems with just walking into the RiverClan Camp. No one knew him, no one recognized him, and StarClan sure wasn't going to send a sign. No, he needed to take a different approach. From his size, River estimated that he was around five moons old, give or take a bit. He began to walk and think up a plan, but nothing came to mind.
And that's when he noticed how cold he was.
It made sense that he would be cold considering that he was a kit and traveled slowly. But soon, that cold turned began to penetrate deep into his fur, reaching to his core. And as he trudged on, River looked up and realized that he was completely lost. There was a small blanket if snow on the ground, but because of his size, it seemed huge.
As time wore on, it became clear that River wasn't getting any closer to the RiverClan camp, but instead, River began to lose strength. He became colder and colder, and without warning, his legs collapsed beneath him, and his head lay on the ground.
Cold, He thought.
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Light streamed through the reed den and River blinked open his eyes. He was pressed up against a warm body, laying on a bed of soft earth. He poked his head up, and as his eyes adjusted to the light, he looked around. He was in a large, reed den, the air heavy with the scent of herbs.
I must be in the Medicine Cat's Den, He realized.
He stood up, and, being careful not to disturb anyone, he slowly made his way over to the den entrance. But when he got there, he saw the RiverClan camp. But there were dozens of StarClan members in the camp, staring at him. River jumped back with a shriek, and when he looked up, they were gone. But his yell had attracted attention, and before he could do anything, a cat stood above him.
"My name is Silverstar. Welcome to RiverClan.
Chapter 3 -- Dogwood
So much had changed. River's eyes wandered far away from Silverstar to take in the camp.
Yes, they had moved far away, and yes, River had watched them from the stars, but it still shocked him how different everything was. And how much bigger.
Oh yeah. He was a kit again, of course it would be bigger.
"Well?" Silverstar's voice snapped his attention back on her. "We don't recognize you. Who are you, kit? Where are your parents?"
"I'm Riverstar," River responded. He lifted his chin and puffed out his chest. "The founder of RiverClan."
Maybe those years and years ago, River would have looked powerful and imposing doing so. Now, he instantly regretted it and knew he looked puny.
"Very funny, kit," Silverstar meowed. She seemed caught between amusement and annoyance. "Again, where are your parents?"