Episode Nine, Season One, of Solitary.
Forests and Trees
In a small clearing, two cats stood side by side, looking down below them. Cats swarmed around in the real world, doing what they did best. However, both cats knew that there was not peace over these lands.
“Do you think uniting for this battle is wise?” whispered the first, a gray-and-white cat from where they were standing. The trees behind them were dotted with stars, and the cats’ pelt seemed to contain them as well. “Will they survive?”
“Of course they will,” answered the second, a brown-and-white she-cat with a wiry look to her. “ForestClan and TreeClan are destined to survive forever.”
“Or is it?” The gray-and-white cat turned back to the brown-and-white one. “Paleflight, as you well know, the Clans were almost wiped out by their previous threat. It cost you your life.”
For one moment, Paleflight bowed her head, and then she looked up again. “I know it did. But this isn’t as bad, surely?”
The gray-and-white cat said nothing, only turning to look up at the starry sky. When he turned back, he mewed: “All there is now is hope outside the Clan. We know about Wisp – yes, the cat who announced to TreeClan about the rogues, and we are thankful. But more help outside the Clans is still needed for what is to come.”
“We’ll just have to wait and see, Runningclaw,” whispered Paleflight, her tone soft. “Wisp won’t be so alone soon…”
My fur bristled as I reached the border, and ForestClan scent washed over my tongue. Previous experiences were rushing through my mind. I wasn’t sure whether to trust ForestClan or not – but nevertheless, there was a job to do.
TreeClan will be here soon, I thought confidently. Then they – along with me – have to tell them about this threat. TreeClan may not survive without them.
The memories of yesterday’s encounter in the TreeClan camp whirled in my mind: Kestrelfeather arguing with Cinderfire, talking with Hawkstar, pressing my allegiance to the Clans. It was still surreal, in a way – me, Wisp, known to all the cats as being the one who stayed alone – choosing to align with a group of cats?
There is one good thing about this, I realized with a jolt. Those other rogues – Oak, Raven, and Flame – would never guess that I told them. They still think I like to walk alone.
Well, I don’t, really.
Now that I had pressed allegiance to a side, it was impossible to escape. To tell the truth, I didn’t want to change my mind, now that I had done so. Oak and Raven would be unwelcome on my side – they had always treated me horribly. I could make them pay for what they had done to me, for all those moons of torture.
“Wisp? Is that you?”
I turned, my fur lifting. As I recognized them, I let my fur lie flat. Hawkstar was there, with a group of four TreeClan warriors that I didn’t know the names of. They eyed me warily, but they didn’t react.
“Yes, it’s me, Hawkstar,” I meowed to the brown tabby at the front of the patrol.
Hawkstar breathed a sigh of relief. “Shall we head to ForestClan, then?” she meowed, her tail twitching slightly.
For a moment, I paused, as I let myself stare into the depths of ForestClan’s territory. Finally, I turned back to Hawkstar, and meowed: “Yes. I’m ready.”
To my relief, the TreeClan patrol and I were able to go through ForestClan territory – and get all the way to their camp – without being disturbed. As soon as I spotted their camp – recognizing it from the time when I had seen Smallstripe telling Whitestar about the patrol that had been past my den – my fur bristled. Would Smallstripe be there? Would any cat recognize me?
Nervously, I looked desperately at a blue-gray TreeClan she-cat. She nodded at me, and let me file in with them. It was as if I was part of them.
“I didn’t see you yesterday in the camp,” the TreeClan cat whispered in my ear. “But I know you’re Wisp – Hawkstar told me. I’m Waterfall, by the way,” she added, as I turned to stare at her.
I nodded at Waterfall, and stayed close to her side. We had just entered the ForestClan camp – and Smallstripe was looking at the TreeClan cats with narrowed eyes.
“There’s a rogue here,” the brown tom hissed, moving up to Hawkstar. “I can smell his scent. Is TreeClan recruiting rogues now, eh?” In indignation, Smallstripe bared his teeth at the six cats.
Without thinking, I felt my fur bristle. Smallstripe was definitely not friendly to any cat outside ForestClan.
“Smallstripe, no.” A black cat with a twisted white leg limped out from behind a tree stump that was shaded by willow trees. His bright eyes narrowed as he spotted the TreeClan cats. “Hawkstar?” he asked. “Why have you gone into our camp?”
“We’re under threat, Whitestar” Hawkstar hissed. The brown tabby’s amber eyes were blazing like fire. “Haven’t you heard what the rogues outside your territory have been planning?”
“No,” Whitestar replied, evidently confused. “What is it?”
Hawkstar gave a weary sigh. “The rogues outside your territory have teamed up with some other rogues that live around the shared border, and they are planning to attack the Clan.”
“Planning to -” Whitestar gasped, but his words were cut short by Smallstripe. The brown tom moved forward to be by his leader, and challenged:
“How do you even know that these TreeClan cats are telling the truth? There’s a rogue with them, if you haven’t noticed.”
Whitestar’s gaze immediately switched towards Hawkstar’s, his gaze now full of fury. “Why is a rogue among your cats?” he hissed.
Frightened, I took a step back, almost crashing into a mottled gray tom behind me. The cat hissed at me, and I stepped forward again, back into my place. Unfortunately, all the ForestClan cats that were in the camp were now staring at me.
That wasn’t wise, I thought, cursing myself. Now all the ForestClan cats know I’m a rogue!
“Hawkstar, bring yourself and that rogue into my den right now,” Whitestar meowed, straining to keep his voice calm. “I must discuss this with you and that rogue. I must know why he is here.”
At once, the TreeClan cats – excluding Hawkstar, who had moved towards Whitestar – moved away so I could move towards them. It felt like forever I was walking towards them, yet it was only a few pawsteps. When I finally got there, Whitestar narrowed his eyes, and surveyed me with interest.
“You must tell me what you seek,” Whitestar meowed, before he turned towards the tree stump. I followed him, and Hawkstar – doing what I was forced to do.
Please let this be all right…
Whitestar’s den was on the other side of the tree trunk, which was hollow in the middle. I watched as Whitestar limped in first, then Hawkstar, and I followed at the rear.
As I went in, Whitestar and Hawkstar bother were looking at me. Quickly, before I could do anything else, I sat down. I lifted my head to that my gaze met Whitestar’s: I saw the black tom growl and look away.
“What is your name, rogue?” Whitestar asked, not caring to look at me. For some reason, I thought that he looked distracted.
“It’s Wisp, Whitestar,” I replied, scuffling my paws along the ground in embarrassment.
Whitestar nodded at me, his green gaze interested. “So what do you have to say about these rogues?”
Memories flooded back to me, and it was hard to look up and speak. Slowly, I raised my head, and mewed: “My history with them goes back to before I was born. My father died, and even after I was born, my sister got killed because of them.”
The truth was, I never really thought about my sister. Stream had only mentioned that I had a dead sister, nothing else. She wouldn’t mention the colour of her pelt, never mentioned her name. At that moment, I had a desire to find out more about her.
Hawkstar nodded. “You never told me this, but carry on.”
“Eventually, when I was seven moons old, my mother got killed as well,” I continued. “Since then, I was by myself, and no cat trusted me – especially the cats that were living around what is now ForestClan territory. And even before the Clan cats arrived, everything changed. We knew you were coming.”
“Wait,” Whitestar meowed, interrupting me. “You said that you knew we were coming?”
I nodded. “One of the cats in the group by ForestClan travels beyond this forest. He did that, and saw you. So all of us rogues knew you were coming. Then you came, and claimed territory, which really sparked the rogues off.”
“That’s why they’re so bent on revenge,” Hawkstar gasped. The brown tabby’s eyes were wide as she gazed around the den in amazement. “We took their territory.”
“We’ve got it now – we can’t change it,” Whitestar mewed gruffly. “It’s their problem now. When are they going to attack?”
“New moon,” I interrupted, before Hawkstar could speak. “Is that okay?”
At once, Hawkstar shot a defiant amber gaze at me, but I refused to give it back. I was too busy staring at Whitestar, whose was looking thoughtful.
Finally, Whitestar dipped his head. “Very well,” he mewed, so softly so that I could barely hear. “We will join your mission in defeating these rogues, once and for all.” The black tom gave a weary sigh. “I must tell the Clan.”
“And I’d better get back to mine.” Hawkstar’s gaze was full of understanding. “We shall meet at the new moon, Whitestar. Shall we bring our cats to the shared border at sundown?”
Whitestar nodded. “It’s a deal, Hawkstar,” he mewed, dipping his head.
I watched as Hawkstar got to her paws, and turned to Whitestar. “See you at the new moon,” the brown tabby whispered, and then she was gone.
At that moment, I did the same, and left Whitestar alone in his den. Not looking back, I left Whitestar’s den, and left the ForestClan camp, in pursuit of my own home.
I will see you at the new moon as well, I thought.
“Raven!” Flame called through the forest. She felt herself pushing through the forest on the ForestClan side, feeling hatred for the two despised Clans at the same time. She didn’t care for them. But she had found news, and Raven had to hear what she had heard.
“Raven!” she called again, her fur lifting. She continued running through the forest. This was urgent.
“Flame? Is that you?” A black head stuck through the bushes.
“Raven!” Flame gasped, staring at the black tom. How did he know that she was here? She had to find out.
“Flame.” Raven dipped his head to her. “What are you doing down this end of the forest? This isn’t in your hunting territory.”
“I’ve found news,” Flame gasped out. She felt her eyes widening in the shock.
Raven narrowed his eyes. “What is it?” he asked, and Flame heard his voice shake. She was surprised – Raven’s weakness was that he was scared of the Clans?
“The Clans have found out we’re attacking at the new moon,” Flame meowed. “We can’t attack on that day anymore.”
My heart was pumping wildly as I crept stealthily through the forest, ears pricked for any noises. At this time, it was rare to me to be out at night – especially because the battle was due to be tomorrow. I really needed to rest – but I felt restless.
A rustling of leaves brought me to attention, and I heard a voice, saying: “Let’s get them while they’re not suspecting it.”
The voice frightened me, and I recognized it at once. Instantly, I felt my blood running cold.
Raven, Oak, Flame, or someone in their groups had found out that the Clans had uncovered their secret.
Now, they were attacking early because of it.
Flattening my ears, I raced away. I couldn’t look behind me – I was frightened. The Clan cats were under attack!
Before I could think, I raced towards the border. As I reached the TreeClan scent marker, I fled into their territory. Still running at full speed, I swerved and ducked as I saw small shadows of tree branches and twigs come towards me, threatening to hinder me.
And at that time, it was the exact thing that I didn’t want.
It seemed like I was running for an entire season when I burst into the TreeClan camp. As loud as I could, I yowled: “Hawkstar!”
There was some murmuring, before a few warriors burst out of their den. I saw Blossomheart at once, and the white she-cat’s green eyes were wide. “What’s going on?” she murmured sleepily.
“The rogues are attacking early!” I managed to gasp out. “We have to attack before it’s too late!”