|The Soaring Wren Series: Return to the Clans|
|Preceded by: |
|Falling Willows||Succeded by: |
NOTE: If you want to see where this whole series began, read Wren's Flight.
Blurb: Newleaf has returned to the forest. WillowClan is thriving. And two kits are about to become apprentices of WillowClan - and these two sisters have more to do than they have ever dreamed.
Hollypaw and Soarpaw, kits of Soaringstar and Wrenstar, are honing their chosen paths - but peace is about to vanish.
Soon, Twolegs come, and start to chop down the willows. Hollypaw and Soarpaw have to help Wrenstar - their Clan leader, and their mother - to help WillowClan to survive.
Where the other four Clans reside, Leafpaw, the medicine cat apprentice of CloudClan, has received an omen. Cats yowling, fleeing, and a group of cats at the Gathering. What should she do, to prepare for the upcoming arrival?
This is the first book in The Soaring Wren Series: Return to the Clans.
A dark brown tabby she-cat lay in her den, two kits at her belly. One was black, one was pale ginger.
"What are you going to name them?"
A dark gray she-cat with darker flecks watched the fellow she-cat, her green eyes resting on the kits.
"I don't know, Meadowcloud..." The tabby she-cat's voice sounded strained. "I think, though, I'll name this one Hollykit."
Her tail rested on the black kit, naming it as she spoke.
"Hollykit..." Meadowcloud whispered under her breath. "That's a good name, Wrenstar. What are you going to name the other one?"
Wrenstar looked at the pale ginger kit, for a while. Sorrow showed in her dark blue gaze.
"She looks so much like her father..." she whispered, voice thick with grief. "What about Soarkit?"
"Hollykit and Soarkit," Meadowcloud meowed. "Good names. I wonder about what Soaringstar's thinking right now, in StarClan."
"He'll be happy," Wrenstar sniffed. "I wish he could see them."
"I can see them."
A voice echoed around the leader's den, neither Wrenstar's, nor Meadowcloud's.
Meadowcloud twitched an ear. "Is that - Soaringstar, by any chance?"
"It is." A pale ginger tom, stars in his fur, stepped into the den.
Wrenstar's gaze lit up. "Soaringstar..."
"Wrenstar." Soaringstar addressed the mother of his kits. "I'm so, sorry I couldn't meet them."
"I know," Wrenstar whispered back. "I'm sorry as well. I named Soarkit after you - she looks like you."
Soaringstar purred. "She does. Anyway, I come here with a message from StarClan."
"StarClan?" Meadowcloud sat up straighter as the tom mentioned the word. "What does StarClan wish to say now."
Soaringstar fidgeted uncomfortably. "A great doom is coming. Something that no cat can stop. The holly's thorn and the wing that soars must save the Clan of the willows from themselves falling. Follow the clouds, and you will find an oak, with clouds, currents, hollows, and leaves. Find the leaf's sedge in the clouds, and there will be five once more."
"That doesn't make any sense," Meadowcloud mewed.
"All will be revealed to you," Soaringstar whispered. "Farewell, Wrenstar, Meadowcloud. Farewell Hollykit, Soarkit." He bent down to lick his daughter's heads. Both of them did nothing: they couldn't feel Soaringstar's ghostly presence.
Wrenstar nodded as Soaringstar disappeared out of the den.
"I'll leave you in peace now, Wrenstar," Meadowcloud meowed. "I'm pretty sure Dewfrost will cover well for the next few days." With that, the dark gray she-cat left the den.
Wrenstar curled her body around her kits. What was this doom that WillowClan was going to face?
Chapter 1 - Hollypaw
"Hollykit and Soarkit, you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to become apprentices of WillowClan. From this day, until you receive your warrior manes, you shall be known as Hollypaw and Soarpaw."
Hollypaw puffed out her chest as Wrenstar spoke. The Clan cheered for her and Soarpaw with their new names:
"Hollypaw! Soarpaw! Hollypaw! Soarpaw!"
Who will my mentor be? Hollypaw thought.
Soarpaw, Hollypaw knew, had her heart set on becoming a medicine cat. Hollypaw, on the other hand, wanted to fight to defend her Clan, and maybe, just maybe, could become leader, like both her parents had.
Wrenstar's mew snapped Hollypaw back to attention. Her mother was smiling down at her on Bramblethorns, her blue gaze burning into her. Hollypaw squirmed uncomfortably.
"Your mentor will be Rockshine."
Rockshine? Are you serious?
The silver tabby had been a rogue before he had joined WillowClan with his mate, Bramblefern. He was also Wrenstar's father.
Rockshine jumped up from his place next to Bramblefern, and their three kits in their second litter, Littlekit, Wolfkit, and Branchkit. The kits tried to go after their father, but Bramblefern held them back, scolding them.
"Rockshine," Wrenstar meowed, "you have earned your place within the Clan, and it is time for you to take on an apprentice. You will be mentor to Hollypaw. Share your spirit and intelligence with her."
Rockshine nodded at Wrenstar as he approached Bramblethorns, and Hollypaw. The Clan deputy, Dewfrost, watched nearby with approving eyes.
They trust him more than I do.
She stepped forward nervously, twitching her black tail. Rockshine approached her.
"You'll be fine," he meowed quietly. "We'll both be fine."
What do you mean? Hollypaw dared to speak out loud, but managed to keep her mouth shut. Stretching up to meet the tabby, she touched his gray nose with her black one.
Rockshine purred. Hollypaw stepped back and said nothing.
"Now," Wrenstar meowed, when Rockshine and Hollypaw had backed away, "we have a very important ceremony to do." Her gaze was rested on Soarpaw.
Soarpaw's blue eyes lit up in delight. Hollypaw knew what was going to happen.
She's going to become a medicine cat apprentice, Hollypaw thought. She didn't want Soarpaw to be a medicine cat. She wanted her to be a warrior apprentice with her - learning to hunt, fight, and defend WillowClan.
"Soarpaw," Wrenstar mewed. "has asked us that she wants to become our medicine cat apprentice."
Hollypaw stared in shock. This couldn't happen. Why now?
No! You can't, Soarpaw! You can't!
Chapter 2 - Soarpaw
Soarpaw knew that Hollypaw didn't want her to become a medicine cat.
She didn't care what she thought.
She had her heart set on it.
Meadowcloud came forward. "Soarpaw shows dedication and cleverness," she mewed. "For that, I am happy for her to become my apprentice."
Soarpaw looked behind her, then away again. Hollypaw was staring at her, her green eyes wide with disbelief, saying: Please don't...
I'm not changing my opinion, Soarpaw thought.
"Soarpaw, do you promise to uphold the medicine cat code, and to heal this Clan?" Wrenstar meowed.
"I do," Soarpaw breathed.
"Then, at the half-moon, you must come with me to the Moonfall to share tongues with StarClan," Meadowcloud mewed.
Soarpaw knew that she was Meadowcloud's apprentice now. Padding forward to meet the dark gray she-cat, she stretched up to touch noses with her new mentor. Meadowcloud nodded as they broke apart.
The Clan started cheering their names again, led by Tanglepaw, the noisiest cat in the Clan. "Hollypaw! Soarpaw! Hollypaw! Soarpaw!"
The Clan followed the gray-and-brown apprentice's lead: "Hollypaw! Soarpaw! Hollypaw! Soarpaw!"
Wrenstar looked on with pride in her eyes, but sadness lingered in them as well. Soarpaw guessed that she was remembering her and Hollypaw's father, Soaringstar - the former WillowClan leader that died before she was born.
Wrenstar says I look like him.
Wrenstar dismissed the meeting. Dewfrost got swarmed by a group of warriors waiting to go on patrol.
"Okay, okay!" he gasped, as the majority went over to him, except for Rockshine and Hollypaw, who were heading out of the camp. "Splashstrike will lead the sunhigh patrol, with Aspendusk, Lightningsky, Tanglepaw, and Tangleleap! Stop crowding me!" he added, as a few warriors went a bit too close to his side. "Only Aspendusk and Pineleaf are allowed to get that close to me."
Aspendusk was heading out of the camp with Splashstrike's patrol, so he ignored his father's words. Pineleaf, however, got close to Dewfrost, as he indicated she was allowed to.
"Pineleaf!" Dewfrost growled. "You're not a kit anymore."
"But you said I was allowed close to you," Pineleaf mewed cheekily.
Dewfrost sighed. "You will go on a hunting patrol, with Ripplepaw and Nightfleck! Burninggaze will lead the patrol."
Pineleaf looked crestfallen as she padded out of the camp behind the patrol. Soarpaw purred under her breath.
"Soarpaw!" Meadowcloud mewed. "Come over here!"
"Okay!" she replied, and bounded over. She wanted to start her training to be the next medicine cat of WillowClan.
Chapter 3 - Leafpaw
A cat was calling her name. Leafpaw turned towards the noise.
"Have you done yet?" Streamreed hovered at the edge of the den. "I promised Bramblefire and Shinestrike that you would go and check on them at sunhigh."
"Whose idea was that?" Leafpaw sighed. She could guess who it could be. The orange she-cat, with her icy blue eyes, and scars on her face and legs... she knew it was likely Bramblefire's idea.
"Who do you think?" Streamreed flicked her tail playfully. "Even though Shinestrike isn't near kitting yet, she needs company apart from Bramblefire. And I want you to give Bramblefire some borage. She's going to be kitting soon."
Hope flared in her at the mention of Bramblefire's kitting. The kits would be the first since Leafpaw, and her littermates, Duskpaw and Dawnpaw, were born.
"Okay," Leafpaw agreed, as her paws skittered across the floor. "Should I do it now?"
"Are you done?"
"Okay, then." Streamreed went into the herb store: Leafpaw moved out of the way so the dark gray she-cat could get in. Streamreed came out with a mouthful of borage, and laid the bundle carefully on the ground.
"Tell Bramblefire to chew up the leaves, and swallow them," she muttered, when she had got all the leaves out her mouth.
Leafpaw nodded, and picked up the pile of leaves. The newleaf breeze warmed her pelt.
She had been the CloudClan medicine cat apprentice for three moons, since she received her apprentice name. Her siblings, Duskpaw and Dawnpaw, had chosen the path of a warrior, like her parents, Frostfire and Bramblefire.
But Bramblefire seems to keep on becoming an expecting queen, she thought. No cat had expected the news a moon ago that Bramblefire was expecting kits again.
Leafpaw directed her pawsteps towards the nursery, where Bramblefire and Shinestrike, the other expecting queen, slept. Straining her ears, she could hear their conversation:
"How many kits do you'll think you'll have, Bramblefire?"
"I'm hoping there's three, like last time," Bramblefire purred. "Those three were darlings..."
Leafpaw scraped her claws on the ground to let the ginger she-cats know that she was there.
"What - Oh, it's only Leafpaw." Shinestrike raised her pale ginger head. "How's it going?"
"Fine, thanks," Leafpaw replied. She turned her gaze to Bramblefire. "Streamreed wants you to eat these herbs." She dropped the herbs at Bramblefire's paws.
'Thank you..." Bramblefire muttered, as she lapped up the herbs.
"Streamreed wants you to make sure you have lots of milk for your kits," Leafpaw added.
"Okay.." Bramblefire mewed.
"She's been feeling a bit uncomfortable," Shinestrike mewed from her nest.
"Maybe it's her kitting..." Leafpaw muttered.
A deafening yowl split the air. Leafpaw turned to see Bramblefire, breathing heavily, her face strained.
Shinestrike looked panicked. "Get Streamreed," she mewed. "Now. Bramblefire is kitting."
Leafpaw ran out of the nursery, and went to the medicine den. When Streamreed saw the look on Leafpaw's face, she panicked.
"What's going on?" she mewed.
"Come quick! Bramblefire's kitting!"
Chapter 4 - Wrenstar
The pre-dawn light filtered lightly into the den. Wrenstar opened her eyes, seeing the faint light. She looked down, expecting to see her kits there - but no, they were apprentices now.
Wrenstar sighed. Oh, Soaringstar, she thought, how will our kits become strong warriors?
It had been seven moons since the day that rogues had attacked the WillowClan camp, killing Soaringstar, making her leader. She remembered the journey with Meadowcloud - a hard struggle. She was expecting kits - Hollypaw and Soarpaw - and each pawstep had become harder than the one before.
Stretching, Wrenstar slithered out of the den. No cat was there - not yet, anyway.
The early newleaf breeze ruffled Wrenstar's short fur, making it stir in the light wind. Straining, she could see the shape of Dewfrost - the Clan deputy.
"Morning, Wrenstar!" Dewfrost mewed cheerily, as he approached. "Ready for the big day?"
Wrenstar didn't reply. She twitched her tail in annoyance.
Dewfrost just nodded, as a few warriors - Burninggaze, Nightfleck, and Hareswift came out of the warrior's den. Meanwhile, over at the apprentice's den, Wrenstar saw the sleek gray shape of Ripplepaw come out of it, and he joined the warriors, tail high.
"Dawn patrol," Dewfrost mewed, as the four cats approached. "Take the long border. We have been smelling strange scents around there. Nightfleck, you will lead."
The black tom dipped his head to Dewfrost, while Ripplepaw muttered: "A cat that has almost no smell could smell those yucky scents."
Burninggaze silenced his apprentice as Nightfleck led the dawn patrol out. Dawn light filtered into the camp. Wrenstar shook herself.
Could these scents mean danger?
She'd had experience with rogues. Snarl's rogues, for one. That second group, which killed Soaringstar. And... her. And Dewfrost, Addertalon, Bramblefern, and Rockshine, but they were Clan cats now.
Her vision changed. The camp was no longer in front of her. She could see nothing, but broken, falling willows lying on the forest floor.
She saw a group of cats, scuttling away, fleeing...
It changed again. Many cats, below a big oak. Some cats appeared, and the cats in the hollow all turned. Outrage broke out...
And then, she saw more willows, but growing strong. Then, se saw a camp. And a cat was standing on something - a tree stump. A dark brown tabby...
Could that be me?
But there was other dark brown tabbies in the Clan. Addertalon. Bramblefern. The young kit Fernkit, Addertalon and Silverfern's daughter, was also a dark brown tabby. Could it be her? One of them? Or just a different cat altogether?
The WillowClan camp came across Wrenstar's vision again. The vision she had just seen had gone.
Wrenstar blinked. The cat in front of her was Ripplepaw.
"Wrenstar," Ripplepaw puffed. "Burninggaze wants you to see him now."
"The willows are falling!"
Chapter 5 - Hollypaw
Hollypaw stiffened as she heard the deafening noise. What was going on?
The other cats nearby - Burninggaze, Hareswift, Nightfleck, Rockshine, Addertalon, and Sunpaw - all stared. Obviously Hollypaw wasn't alone in her way of thinking.
"Something's wrong!" Sunpaw gasped. "Where's Wrenstar?" The ginger tabby's fur bristled nervously.
"Be quiet," Addertalon muttered, shouldering in front of his apprentice. "You are not allowed to take risks."
"At least Ripplepaw's going to fetch Wrenstar," Burninggaze mewed sharply. "Unlike you."
CRASH, the voice echoed, as another willow hit the ground. A big pink shape moved around, sweeping away the fallen logs.
"Are those Twolegs?" Sunpaw asked curiously, tipping his head.
Hollypaw had heard about Twolegs in nursery tales, but she didn't actually know that the stories were true.
"Yes," Rockshine replied, from where he was standing in front of her. "They wander around and chop down things, scare off the prey, and make terrible yowling noises. No cat understands them. They -"
"This is going to scare off all the prey!" Nightfleck yowled over the deafening noises, interrupting Rockshine.
"Your yowling will scare off the prey!" Hareswift retorted.
Hollypaw watched them argue.
Stop! This isn't helping! she wanted to say, but no cat would listen to her.
"What's going on?"
Two cats emerged from the willow branches nearby, one gray, one brown. Ripplepaw had returned, with Wrenstar.
"What's going on?" Wrenstar repeated, only to be silenced with the noises, and the Twolegs.
"Great StarClan!" Wrenstar breathed. "What is this?"
"Twolegs chopping trees," Addertalon mewed skeptically.
"Oh no..." Wrenstar whispered, her dark blue eyes narrowing.
"This isn't good," Burninggaze agreed.
"It's going to scare off all the prey!" Nightfleck complained.
"Who cares about the prey, Nightfleck?" Rockshine meowed. "To get rid of this problem is more important!"
Hollypaw felt worry arise in her. What was going to happen now?
Chapter 6 - Wrenstar
Wrenstar thought that Ripplepaw must have been joking. The willows, falling?
"They actually are!" Ripplepaw's yellow eyes were wide. "Come on. Burninggaze wants to see you."
Wrenstar shook her head. "Come on, then," she sighed. Beckoning Ripplepaw, she raced out of the camp, slowing so that the gray apprentice could lead the way.
"This way," Ripplepaw puffed, as he passed Wrenstar.
Wrenstar followed Ripplepaw slowly. What was this threat, about the willows falling?
"Here," Ripplepaw whispered, as they reached the Great Willow, the biggest tree in WillowClan territory.
Wrenstar pricked her ears. She could hear loud noises - it sounded like crashing, yet she wasn't sure. She probably hadn't even heard it before, as she didn't recognize it.
She followed Ripplepaw into the clearing. "What's going on?"
No cat replied. But now Wrenstar could see what all the fuss was about.
Large pink things, that walked on their hind legs, were doing something to one of the trees. They pulled away, and CRASH!
Wrenstar flicked her ears back in shock as the tree hit the ground.
"Great StarClan!" she breathed, her eyes wide. "What is this?"
"Twolegs chopping trees," Addertalon replied skeptically.
So that's what the pink thing are. In shock, she muttered: "Oh no..."
"This isn't good," Burninggaze agreed, narrowing his amber eyes.
"It's going to scare off all the prey!" Nightfleck complained, blue eyes wide.
"Who cares about the prey, Nightfleck?" Rockshine meowed. "To get rid of this problem is more important!"
"Rockshine is right!" Wrenstar interrupted, beckoning her tail for all the cats nearby to come closer. "To get rid of this problem is more important than anything else. However," she added, turning to Nightfleck, "there will be less prey, because these noises will scare it off."
"Told you I did have a point," Nightfleck pointed out.
"Everyone, come back to camp! I will be notifying Dewfrost to tell the patrols to take care in this area, and if possible, avoid it."
The cats murmured in agreement, and turned their backs on Wrenstar, turning in the direction of the camp.
She turned to see Hollypaw behind her. The small black apprentice's green gaze was fixed on her.
"Are you sure that this is going to go away?" Hollypaw mewed. "What if we have to leave the willows?"
Wrenstar sighed wistfully. "I just don't know," she told her daughter. "I just don't know."
Chapter 7 - Leafpaw
Leafpaw fluffed up her pelt against the cold breeze. Streamreed was beside her as they waited at the Great Oak, for the other medicine cats. The half-moon shone bright and high in the sky.
She wondered what was going on back in the CloudClan camp. There would probably be silence, she guessed. Most, if not all the cats would be sleeping.
Leafpaw jumped as a deep voice mewed her name. Turning her head, she relaxed to see the HollowClan medicine cat, Darkpool, and his apprentice, Otterfur.
"How's the prey running?" Darkpool asked, turning his head towards Streamreed. His black-and-brown pelt had turned to dark shades of silver in the moonlight.
"Fine, thanks," Streamreed mewed. "We've had a queen give birth to kits in the last half-moon. You?"
Leafpaw's thoughts went back towards Bramblefire. She had kitted three she-kits - Goldkit, Silverkit, and Bronzekit.
Both Darkpool and Otterfur lowered their heads in reply to Streamreed. Eventually, Darkpool spoke: "Cavestar has died. Sharpstar is the new leader of HollowClan."
"Cavestar, dead?" a voice echoed. A sleek black she-cat with blue eyes padded into the clearing.
"Yes, he is, Pansypetal." Darkpool turned his head towards the CurrentClan medicine cat.
"Sunleg's the new deputy," Otterfur added, as she flicked her light brown tail.
Pansypetal opened her mouth in reply, but shut it quickly. There was a rustling in the bush. Leafpaw knew that another cat was coming.
A dappled brown-and-white she-cat appeared, her green eyes wide.
"Hawktail?" Otterfur mewed. "Where's Mousepelt?"
Hawktail lowered her head. "Mousepelt is dead. He got slain by a rogue while collecting herbs."
"StarClan will honor him," Streamreed whispered. "Come on - let's get to the Moonrock - we're wasting moonlight, and what will the other Clan say?"
"Yes, what will they say?" Hawktail replied, as the six cats set off for a hole nearby. They all went in it - starting with Darkpool, then Otterfur, Hawktail, and Pansypetal. Streamreed went next, leaving Leafpaw to take up the rear. Squeezing into the tunnel, she knew that she was going to share tongues with StarClan.
They got to the end of the hole - a cavern with a rock in the middle. Darkpool stepped up to the Moonrock, Otterfur behind him.
"In the tradition of our ancestors," Darkpool meowed, "we call to the fifth Clan. StarClan, show yourself to them - and to us."
Leafpaw's vision clouded over. She knew what was happening.
It cleared up again. All the six cats stared as a vision opened up in front of their eyes.
"She's not here yet," Pansypetal muttered.
"I can see her, though," Hawktail meowed. "But I sense that there's another cat with her..."
Leafpaw saw the dark gray she-cat emerge, her green eyes widen. She turned her head. "Hide!" she hissed.
"Why?" a voice replied. Another cat poked her head in. "I was - oh..." The cat silenced as she saw the vision.
The dark gray she-cat beckoned the other cat to come closer. "We have a new medicine cat here tonight," she mewed. "Soarpaw.' She indicated her tail for the ginger cat beside her.
Mews of approval rippled through the other cats.
I'm not the youngest medicine cat anymore! Leafpaw thought with glee. But that ginger cat reminded her of someone - a cat she had only heard by name.
The former WillowClan leader.
Leafpaw knew that the leader of WillowClan - the fifth Clan - was currently Wrenstar. But what about this cat?
Could she have something to do with the former WillowClan leader?
Could she? a voice echoed in Leafpaw's head. Could she?
Chapter 8 - Soarpaw
Soarpaw stared at the vision in front of her. Who were those cats? Why were they here?
"Soarpaw." Meadowcloud was whispering in her ear. "These are the medicine cats of the other four Clans. They are - and us - are the only cats who know. You are forbidden to tell anyone."
Soarpaw nodded in understanding. No cat needed to know this - not even Wrenstar.
But did she know anyway?
"Now we will welcome Soarpaw to the community of the medicine cats," Meadowcloud announced. She beckoned with her tail for Soarpaw to come closer. Stepping forward, she obeyed, staring right at the Moonfall - the jagged rock that loomed dangerously above her head.
As she moved forward, Meadowcloud meowed: "Soarpaw, is it your wish to enter the mysteries of StarClan as a medicine cat?"
"It is," Soarpaw replied confidently, aware that seven cats were watching her every move.
"Warriors of StarClan," Meadowcloud announced, after Soarpaw had replied, "I present you with this apprentice. She has chosen the path of a medicine cat. Grant her your wisdom and insight so that she may understand your ways and heal her Clan in accordance with your will." Meadowcloud paused, then meowed: "Lie down, and lick the Moonfall. StarClan will speak to you in your dreams."
Soarpaw obeyed her mentor's instructions. As she licked the Moonfall, she closed her eyes, and willed for StarClan to speak with her.
When Soarpaw woke up, she was in a clearing, willows to every side of her. Standing up shakily, she stared around. She couldn't see any cat.
A rustling in the leaves alerted her. She turned her head.
And there stood two StarClan warriors.
One was black-and-white, one pale ginger, like her. Both had amber eyes. Stars were speckled in their fur, their eyes... everywhere.
"Greetings," the black-and-white tom mewed. "My name is Toadleap. I was the medicine cat of WillowClan before Meadowcloud - and the medicine cat when your mother came to the Clan."
Soarpaw nodded. She had heard the story of Wrenstar's past all too many times now. She didn't know anything about her father.
But could that tom be him? Soarpaw remembered that Wrenstar had told her that Soaringstar looked just like her - except that he had amber eyes, not blue.
The ginger tom stayed silent, but something was in his eyes. Pride, for how much she had achieved? Or grief, because he died before she was born?
Either way, Soarpaw was sure that the ginger tom was Soaringstar. She didn't need to ask.
"Follow us," Toadleap mewed. He and the ginger cat padded in another direction. Soarpaw followed them.
They stopped beside a small pool of water. Soarpaw looked in it, and as she did so, the ginger tom did the same. The similarities between them made Soarpaw want to burst with pride.
"Look," the ginger tom whispered, breathing into her air.
The reflections were gone. She saw destroyed willows, lying on the ground, then a group of cats travelling through a hilly terrain. It changed again, and Soarpaw saw cats below an oak tree. Then, she saw willows again - but growing strong.
"This is the destiny of WillowClan," Toadleap whispered. "Be prepared to follow it."
"A great doom is coming.," the ginger cat meowed. "Something that no cat can stop. The holly's thorn and the wing that soars must save the Clan of the willows from themselves falling. Follow the clouds, and you will find an oak, with clouds, currents, hollows, and leaves. Find the leaf's sedge in the clouds, and there will be five once more."
Five once more. Did that mean that the five Clans would be united again?
"We can't tell you now," the ginger tom whispered. "All will come in due time." Soarpaw's vision started to black out as the tom spoke.
It fully blacked out, and before she let it claim her, she heard the ginger cat say one more thing:
"I am proud of you, Soarpaw. I am Soaringstar. Your father."
Chapter 9 - Hollypaw
The moon had risen high in the sky as the Gathering patrol reached the shining stone. Hollypaw's eyes rounded as she saw it.
"That's the Moonfall."
Hollypaw turned, to see Rockshine. The silver tabby's blue gaze was fixed on his apprentice, half-amused, half-knowledgeable. "It's where Gatherings are held every full moon, and where the medicine cats share dreams with StarClan at the half moon."
Hollypaw nodded, and glanced to one side. Soarpaw was obviously unfazed at the sight of the Moonfall. Her belly grumbled with hunger - the willows on the larger part of WillowClan's territory had all fallen down. The WillowClan cats were forced to hunt in the place with lesser territory - and yet, it had only been a half-moon since the willows had started to fall. No cat had died yet - but Meadowcloud had been busy sorting out Silverfern, Aspendusk, and Splashstrike, who had been badly affected by the lack of food.
At least the Moonfall's not likely to get damaged, Hollypaw thought. It was on the closer part of WillowClan territory. Due to its sacredness, the Moonfall itself was just outside of WillowClan territory.
She sat down with a few of the fellow Clan apprentices - Ripplepaw, Tanglepaw, and Yellowpaw. Hareswift and Stormstrike were nearby, occasionally glancing over at the apprentices.
"They're obsessive," Tanglepaw complained, after Stormstrike had shot a glance at them. "My mother is -"
"Sshhhh!" Yellowpaw hissed, her amber eyes round. "Don't let her hear!"
Tanglepaw shot a sheepish glance at his sister. "Oops."
Meanwhile, Ripplepaw hadn't said anything. His blue gaze was fixed on Hollypaw.
"Stop staring at me," Hollypaw hissed softly, as she noticed his icy gaze burning into her sleek fur.
"Sorry!" Ripplepaw mewed cheekily, looking away. "You're just so pretty - that's all."
At his words, Pineleaf peered over, and then turned to Lightningsky. "I think Ripplepaw likes Hollypaw."
Oh, StarClan. Hollypaw hoped that Ripplepaw didn't like her.
"Cats of WillowClan!"
Wrenstar's yowl split the air, and Hollypaw fell silent. The Gathering was about to start.
She examined what was going on at the Moonfall. Wrenstar sat directly in front of the Moonfall: Dewfrost on her right, Meadowcloud and Soarpaw on her left. Green met blue: Soarpaw smiled at Hollypaw as their gazes met.
"Welcome to this Gathering," Wrenstar meowed, pacing slowly in front of some of her cats. "We hope that StarClan are watching us, as we meet below Silverpelt tonight."
"We'd better hope that they're here," growled Smallspeck, a Clan elder. The flecked gray tom's face was full of anger. "They haven't been doing us good lately. Look at the fallen willows! If they were merciful, they would've stopped it by now."
After Smallspeck had finished speaking, there was murmuring from the rest of the WillowClan cats.
"Silence!" Wrenstar yowled, and the cats fell silent at once. "Smallspeck, don't be so respectful. I am sure that StarClan is watching over us - no matter what happens." Despite the confidence in Wrenstar's voice, Hollypaw could detect a twinge of anxiety in her mother's voice. "Now, let us begin the Gathering."
As the Gathering began, Hollypaw sensed tension rising from the cats around her. Was StarClan still watching from above, despite the falling willows?
Chapter 10 - Leafpaw
Under the Great Oak, the cats stood in a cluster. Unfazed, at its roots, Leafpaw looked around. The cats of the four Clans had gathered for the full moon Gathering.
I wonder what's going on in WillowClan territory, the white she-cat thought. Did they have their Gatherings at the same time as them?
"Should the Gathering start?"
A voice was whispering from above. Leafpaw looked up, but she couldn't detect who was talking.
"I think so." That was the CloudClan leader, Thornstar. The brown tabby trotted on the Leader's Branch, stood up, and yowled: "Cats of all the Clans!"
The murmuring from the cats below stopped at Thornstar's yowl. As they silenced, the leader spoke again:
"Cats of the four Clans, welcome to this Gathering. Tonight, I ask Sharpstar to speak first."
Thornstar retraced his steps, letting the black-and-white HollowClan leader take his place. His eyes flashed as he started to speak: "As you all should know, Cavestar died from an unknown disease in the past moon. I am now Sharpstar, and Sunleg is the new deputy."
Heads turned towards where the deputies were sitting, on the other side of the Great Oak to where the medicine cats were sitting. A tortoiseshell she-cat with ginger legs was proudly lifting her head as the Clans called her name.
"Apart from this," Sharpstar continued, "we have no other news." The new leader stepped away, and a dark-furred she-cat took his place.
"LeafClan has four new warriors: Ashfeather, Willowbird, Elmheart, and Yewfur. We also have a new apprentice, Hatchpaw, who has been apprenticed to Obsidianfur." Fernstar spoke for the LeafClan cats. After she had done, there was more cheering before she too stepped back.
Leafpaw was silent. She didn't want to cheer. She could only think of WillowClan - Wrenstar, Meadowcloud, Soarpaw...
"CurrentClan has thrived this moon."
Leafpaw jumped, as a deep mew rang around the hollow. CurrentClan's leader, Rockstar, was speaking.
"... and Petalheart has retired to the elders den. Newleaf has supplied us with much fish, and the Clan is thriving."
Murmurs rippled through the four Clans. Leafpaw knew who was going to speak last.
As Rockstar stepped back, the heavy rustling of the branch indicated Thornstar's presence. As is stopped moving, Thornstar started speaking:
"CloudClan is doing well - a new apprentice, Oakpaw, and three new kits. With a good supply of food, we are sure that we will thrive for seasons to come!"
A few cats from rival Clans hissed softly at Thornstar's comment, but they were soon drowned out by cheers. Leafpaw's thoughts went back to Oakpaw's apprentice ceremony - he had been a rogue who was interested in Clan life, and came to join them. She turned her head to see the dark brown tom ducking his head, his mentor, Vineleaf, watching him from nearby."
"Is there any more news?" called Eaglewing, the CurrentClan deputy, from his position with the deputies.
"No!" replied Fernstar. "This Gathering is over!"
The group of cats split up, into four distinctive groups. But Leafpaw was still, and as she listened, she thought she heard a whisper:
A great doom is coming. Something that no cat can stop. The holly's thorn and the wing that soars must save the Clan of the willows from themselves falling. Follow the clouds, and you will find an oak, with clouds, currents, hollows, and leaves. Find the leaf's sedge in the clouds, and there will be five once more.
Chapter 11 - Soarpaw
Soarpaw shivered as another gust of icy wind buffeted her. It was two sunrises after the Gathering, and everything now seemed to be a whole lot colder.
The WillowClan camp was going about business as usual. Bramblefern and Silverfern were watching their kits play. Smallspeck and Cinderdust were gossiping outside the elder's den. Wrenstar was sitting on Bramblethorns, trying to get a bit of early morning sun.
A whole group of warriors were crowding around Dewfrost, who was refusing to give orders.
"Aren't you meant to be the deputy?" Soarpaw heard Nightfleck yowl. The silver-flecked black tom looked unimpressed. "I thought some more patrols would've been sent out by now."
"We need to get more food," Newtfoot added.
"I want to wait until the dawn patrol gets back," Dewfrost mewed loudly. "I told them to make sure the coast was clear for any patrols before going out into the territory."
Soarpaw snorted irritably. Since the willows had started to fall, Dewfrost had been rather obsessive with keeping the cats safe.
"They can go out on patrol, Dewfrost," Wrenstar called from on top of Bramblethorns.
"He's getting obsessive again, isn't he?"
Soarpaw turned to see that Meadowcloud had appeared at her shoulder. The dark gray she-cat's green eyes were narrowed in annoyance.
"I hope Wrenstar has a talk about that with him," the medicine cat went on.
I agree, Soarpaw thought silently.
There was a rustling at the entrance of the camp. Rockshine was at the head of the patrol. Hollypaw, Ripplepaw, Burninggaze, and Aspendusk were behind him.
"Anything to report?" Dewfrost yowled across the camp.
"Monsters are getting close to the camp," Rockshine growled. "We might have to evacuate."
Soarpaw swore that she heard a whisper in her ear. She turned to see if anyone was speaking to her, but there was no reply.
My name is Darkshade, the voice whispered again. I was a WillowClan apprentice when your mother arrived.
So why have to come to see me? Soarpaw thought.
I'm giving you a warning, Darkshade whispered. The willows are about to fall here, but will find themselves again with four.
What does that mean?
I can't tell you, Soarpaw. But you have a great destiny...
Soarpaw blinked. The WillowClan camp came back into focus. But there was panic from the cats. At that moment, Soarpaw realized that there was the deafening roar - and putrid smell - of the monsters nearby.
"Evacuate the camp!" Wrenstar was yowling. "The monsters are attacking!"
Fur bristling in panic, Soarpaw was scared. What was happening to their home?
Chapter 12 - Wrenstar
"Run!" screeched a cat in the camp, as the deafening roar of the monsters got louder. "Do you want to die?"
Cats hurtled out of the camp entrance. Wrenstar stayed near the edge, counting off names of cats that had been passing through. She didn't want any of her cats to die - but something told her that a few cats wouldn't make it.
A group involving Bramblefern, Rockshine, Splashstrike, and Bramblefern's three kits sprinted out of the camp. The smallest kit in the litter - Littlekit, named after Littlestep, Bramblefern's mother - was complaining.
"Why are we going out of the camp?" she puffed, as the brown tabby kit reached the camp entrance.
"Do you want to die?" asked Splashstrike, her eyes round with worry. "Come on - let's get moving, before we get crushed by these falling willows."
The six cats went out of the camp, and moved away from Wrenstar, to where she had told them to go - the Gathering place. Most of the cats had fled. The only cats Wrenstar hadn't seen come out of the camp were Burninggaze, Pineleaf, and Cinderdust.
The dark brown leader decided to edge closer. Apprehensively, Wrenstar moved away from the edge of the camp. Among the deafening noise around her, she just managed to hear a yowl.
Wrenstar turned. She saw Cinderdust. The gray she-cat was caught under a branch, and she was gasping for breath. Crouching, Wrenstar edged closer, hoping that Cinderdust wasn't going to die.
"Cinderdust," Wrenstar mewed, as she approached. "I'll get you out of there. You're going to live -"
"No," the elder rasped, cutting her off. "It's my time. I'm going to see your mother's parents again."
Littlestep and Wolffoot. The names rang in Wrenstar's mind. Wolffoot had died before he could've seen his daughter - but Littlestep had stayed alive long enough to see her. She had died of food poisoning a few moons later, and the whole Clan had grieved.
"And Pineleaf and Burninggaze?" Wrenstar whispered. "Do you know where they are?"
Cinderdust's flank was now gasping for breath. "They're dead..." she managed to choke out. "I was... trying to get their bodies... before I got trapped." The elder's dark gray eyes were pits of sorrow.
Wrenstar bent down, and touched Cinderdust's nose. The two she-cat's eyes met - blue against gray - but after a few moments, Wrenstar noticed she couldn't hear Cinderdust's breathing anymore.
"Cinderdust..." Wrenstar meowed, but there was no reply. The elderly cat was dead.
She's going to be safe with us, a voice whispered in Wrenstar's ear.
A familiar scent wreathed around Wrenstar, and at that moment, she felt a tear trickle down her face. There was so much pain... it was unbearable.
I'll see you again one day, Wrenstar, whispered Cinderdust's voice.
The scents vanished. Wrenstar was alone - in the now ravaged WillowClan camp. She saw an opening amongst the rubble. It was no use trying to get the bodies of Cinderdust, Burninggaze, and Pineleaf out of the camp. She jumped over, ducking and leaping, and the entrance was in sight -
As Wrenstar reached the entrance, a huge tree branch fell right in front of her. Unprepared, Wrenstar smacked into it. Bowling over it, she landed on the other side, pelt rumpled, her body laid in a huge heap.
The last thing Wrenstar managed to see was blackness.
Oh wow, that actually took longer to complete than I thought. XD
Anyway, I have (finally) finished this book. Guess what's happened to Wrenstar. (No, she isn't dead.)
The sequel to this is The Departure.
If this is a boot confusing, start reading from the first arc. The first book is here.
Until next time,