Season 1, Episode 7 of War.
Freedom and Flashbacks
To be honest, I've always been kind of a morning cat. Back at my old camp one of my favorite things to do was to wake up early and watch the sun rise. Sometimes my mom would watch with me. Then I'd usually go back to sleep until patrols. But still, that was much more morning time then any other cat in the camp used up.
Today is no different. I get up early and watch the little trickles of light stream in from the horizon, then they pool together to become the sun.
"Enjoying the view?" Gorsefur says from next to me. Surprised, I turn and see him yawning, his golden eyes little suns of their own. I nod, not saying anything. "Morning, by the way," he meows, turning back to survey the woods, "You should know I don't usually creep up on cats like that in the morning, I'm not a creeper. We should go hunting, we need food,"
I blink, a little overwhelmed, "Um...I didn't really have you pegged as a creeper anyways, but thanks. And sure, I guess. You okay?"
His usually calm demeanor is a little frazzled, but he nods anyways, "Yeah, just...it's not every day you sneak into a FireClan prison camp, y'know?"
I'm so used to seeing the steely calm of the squad's second, this new sided of Gorsefur almost scares me a little, "Yeah," I meow, "I'm pretty freaked out too."
"Well, we'd better go hunting," he sighs. He creeps into the forest and after a brief What was that all about? face for my own benefit, I turn and follow him.
The squad was very obviously going out of their minds. Shadowsong and Oakclaw were confined to different corners of the camp after their usual bantering had turned into, as they called it, 'a fight to the death to determine the strongest WaterClan warrior of all time'. Obviously they weren't going to kill each other, but Badgerstrike had no patience whatsoever to be dealing with this.
Silverflower ad Adderscar were hunting- although the fresh kill pile was still relatively heaping from their last trip this morning. Badgerstrike was especially peeved with them- he was going to lose his bet with Gorsefur unless they stopped being so close.
He looked around the quiet camp once more, then rolled over and fell asleep.
"This is Rowanpaw," Firestar meowed. The small apprentice waved his tail nervously.
"And this is Sunpaw," the FireClan deputy, a she-cat called Orangeblossom meowed, showing off her apprentice. The golden furred she-cat looked at the WaterClan cats imperiously.
"This is Darkpaw," Waterstar meowed, nudging his black apprentice forward. Darkpaw looked at Rowanpaw as if sizing up her FireClan counterpart. Being leader's apprentice was a honor usually reserved for deputy's kits or the like. Darkpaw wasn't really special in that way- but she was extraordinarily talented and Waterstar had picked her to be his apprentice.
"And this," Riverclaw meowed, "Is Badgerpaw." Badgerpaw looked up at his mentor, then towards the other apprentices. Darkpaw gave him the slightest nod of encourgament and Sunpaw looked at him with thinly veiled contempt. Rowanpaw tipped his head and appraised him as though trying to decide if he was a fox or a mouse hiding in the bushes.
"You four are going to become very close," Firestar meowed, narrowing his eyes.
"Yes," Waterstar meowed, "The future of the Clans."
I am a FireClan warrior, I think. The mangy WaterClan tom who walks beside me, head down, is no more a friend then a twoleg is food. I try to sneer, I wish they were all de-no. I don't. I don't and-
"I can't do this," I meow.
"You have to," Gorsefur sighs. "With my gray pelt you look much more FireClan then I ever could. That'll make the story easier to buy for them. Besides, you don't actually have to be a FireClan cat- you just have to act like one."
"I'm not like you," I tell him, my voice shaking, "I can' just- I can't even pretend to want to hurt you because I don't."
His eyes narrow. "Do you think I've wanted to do any of the things I've done? No. But I do them anyways because my Clan needs me," he takes a step closer to me, "And they need you too."
I open my jaws but Gorsefur drops his head again. Just in time too, because the guards at the path ahead have spotted us, "Who goes there?"
"Brownfur," I meow. "Bringing in a WaterClan prisoner."
"The rest of your squad?"
"Mostly dead or injured," I glare at Gorsefur, trying to maintain a steady anger in my eyes, "He took them down with a few others, but I was only able t apprehend him."
"Hmph," the FireClan cat meows. But his anger is directed at Gorsefur and not my poor excuse for acting, "Bring him in and put him in a den,"
Trying to look like I know what I'm doing while heaving a sigh of relief, I motion roughly to Gorsefur and we creep inside the camp.
"What did you think of them?" Badgerpaw whispered to Darkpaw.
The older apprentice sniffed, "Sunpaw's desperate to prove herself and Rowanpaw's much too friendly. He's soft."
"Oh," Badgerpaw meowed, not wanting to point out that Rowanpaw had seemed interesting to him and that Sunpaw had seemed intelligent. They were, after all, the rival Clan.
"Riverclaw," Badgerpaw murmured, sliding over to his mentor, "Do you think...us apprentices could be friends? The FireClan and WaterClan ones I mean,"
Riverclaw looked at him, judging. Badgerpaw was hit with a sudden sense of unease as his mentor shot Waterstar a meaningful look, then motioned for Badgerpaw to follow him. The two padded into a clearing and Riverclaw sat.
"Badgerpaw," he began, blue fur shining in the weak moonlight, "I know you're lonely. You can't be with the other apprentices because of your status difference and Darkpaw isn't always the best of company. You need a friend. Another young tom who you can play and talk to without feeling awkward, is that it?"
"Yes!" Badgerpaw exclaimed, relieved to be understood.
Riverclaw looked torn, something Badgerpaw was used to dealing with. There was always a line between the mentor he considered his friend and the deputy of all of WaterClan.
"I cannot say I approve of what you want to do." he meowed finally, "But I understand why you want to do it."
Rvierclaw got up, "There's a nice meadow I'll have to show you sometime," he said meaningfully, "And maybe you'll find your new friend at the Gathering in three sun rises and be able to show it to him too,"
Badgerpaw felt a swell of joy, "Thank you Riverclaw!"
His mentor's blue eyes darkened, "I just hope you know what you're doing."
"There are about 3 WaterClan cats per each FireClan guard," Gorsefur whispered as they entered the camp- a dismal looking place with a few scraggly dens here and there. The nicer looking dens were swarming with FireClan guards. Hollow eyes and dark fur stood out in the prison bushes and I feel my heart wrench.
"Excellent," I meowed, "So all we have to do is- keep moving prisoner!" I meowed as a FireClan guard approached. After the cat passed, I continued in a lower voice, "All we have to do is rally them and they should be able to escape?"
"They're weaker from hunger and wounds," Gorsefur pointed out, "But yes."
I nod, then lead him to a random bush, "You spread the word inside here, I'll get the other bushes."
He nods and slips inside. I quickly dart to another bush and poke my head inside. Resentful, angry blue and green eyes glare up at me and I act like I'm checking them.
"Listen," I meow in a low voice, "You don't know me, but I'm here to help you..."
Badgerpaw turned, purring, "Hi Rowanpaw!"
The FireClan apprentice looked at the meadow appraisingly, "Nice land," he meowed, "Shame it's WaterClan though. Speaking of, we should make this quick- I'm not supposed to be here and Firestar would be furious if he found out," the tom winked, whiskers twitching.
Badgerpaw sat, tipping his head, "Do you have any friends in FireClan?"
Rowanpaw's open face fell a little, "Not many..." he meowed, "Being the leader's apprentice and all..."
"I know what you mean," Badgerpaw sympathized. He stood and poked Rowanpaw with his paw, "Tag, you're it!"
He hoped it was a game they had in FireClan too and he was rewarded with an eager laugh from Rowanpaw, "Oh, it's on !"
I look up, glad I remembered my cover name, "Oh, hello!"
The golden tom padding towards me has a scarred face, a battle-scarred face. I try not to be intimidated. "I heard what happened with that WaterClan cat," he meows, "Taking out your squad...it's a shame. And you'll never believe what we found out!"
Oh no... I try to sound eager, "What?"
"He's apart of the special squad WaterClan has assembled to...well, we don't know. But we can get him to tell us," There's a wicked gleam in his eye, "I wanted to tell you since I know he hurt you." the tom pads away, "I'm truly sorry for your loss!"
I wave my tail, but as soon as he's out of sight, I turn and pelt to the bush were Gorsefur is. He looks up when I pad in, "Brookfall, you have to go,"
"You know," I meow deadly, "And you want me to lead the revolution anyways."
"Sacrifices are made in war," he meows, "Besides, I'm going to escape. Without telling them anything about the mission. But you need to trust me and let me go."
My heart wrenches. I do trust him. I would do anything for him. But the one thing I will not let him do is die.
But when the FireClan cats come a few minutes later, I let them take Gorsefur whi gives me a wink.
Outside, the WaterClan cats are gathering outside of their dens.
"I'm sorry," Badgerstrike meowed to Darkthorn. The she-cat shrugged.
"I always knew it would happen," she meowed dully, "But now that it has..."
"I know what you mean," Badgerstrike meowed softly.
"By this time tomorrow I'll be Waterstar," she whispered. Badgerstrike's heart wrenched for her. She met his eyes, "But I'm asking one thing of you Badgerstrike,"
"Yes?" he meowed. He would be deputy to this she-cat when Riverclaw died. The thought made him feel squeamish.
"Stop hanging around Rowanfur," she meowed, eyes flinty.
Badgerstrike snorted, "We're just friends. We're both big warriors- it's not like we've mated or anything."
Darkthorn rolled her eyes, "You know war is brewing. You need to either stop or make it useful. Find out information about FireClan."
"I can't," Badgerstrike whispered, "He's my best friend. Just because he's FireClan-"
Darkthorn sighed and stood, "Just remember that I am the leader of WaterClan now," she meowed, "I have the power to either let this go on or... not."
It was brutal. The WaterClan cats swarm around their captors and the fight is quick. I watch it all wearily, not taking part, after I see the joy it gives the former prisoners to fight their own battles.
The remaining FireClan cats are retreating, but reinforcements are coming. The WaterClan cats need to disappear, now.
Gorsefur isn't back though. My heart aches, but I rally the WaterClan cats, "Come on, let's get out of here!"
We race out of the prison camp, whoops and purrs dominating the noises. We run for who knows how long before we stop for a rest. I watch back in the direction of the camp, waiting for a pair of golden eyes to appear in the bushes.
"Brookfall?" one of the warriors meow after a while, "We have to go. We all appreciate what Gorsefur did for us, but-"
"One more minute," I meow, blinking away tears. "Please."
The cat leaves me alone and gives me another minute before he nudges me to my paws. I shoot one last desperate look and see- a branch moving.
"Wait!" I yowl. The cats stop and we all watch as Gorsefur tumbles out of the bushes, decorated with a few scratches, but alive.
"Gorsefur!" I purr, rushing over to him. He gives me an affectionate lick and my heart soars.
"Let's get you all back to Main!" he tells the others. They cheer.
"I ask one little thing of you..." Waterstar meowed, her dark fur rising in anger.
"I can't give up my best friend!" Badgerstrike retorted, angry.
"Then you can't be deputy!" she snarled.
"Riverclaw's now dead yet," Badgerstrike meowed, dazed.
"And he won't be for a long time. He'll have time to train someone else. I'm sending you to the army. Maybe if you fought some of those FireClan scum you'll learn to hate them,"
Badgerstrike could only gape as his leader tore away his entire life, sentencing him to something between exile and forgiveness, something shameful.