|Linked:The First Arc|
|Preceded by: |
|Hopeless Dream||Succeded by: |
So... for the first book of my (not so) amazing Linked series! I dedicate this to Gingerear for dedicating her new story, Barbarian Clans, to me! Also, because she encouraged me to do this by helping me start.
Leader: Pantherstar--black tom with piercing yellow eyes
Deputy: Flameblossom--pretty ginger she-cat with amber eyes
Medicine Cat: Ambershine--ginger-orange she-cat with blue eyes
Mistfur (Apprentice, Jaguarpaw)--silver she-cat with blue eyes
Berryleaf--tortoiseshell she-cat with green eyes
Skytail--gray-blue tom with a white chest and paws
Antpetal--Mousy brown she-cat
Vinepelt (Apprentice, Bamboopaw)--gray she-cat with streaks all over her body and lime green eyes
Toucanfoot--Brown tom with long claws and ginger feet
Mothflight--Creamy brown tom with amber eyes
Streamlight--silver she-cat with dark stripes
Rainwhisper (Apprentice, Strikepaw)--grayish tom with pale blue eyes
Stormpelt--Muscular tom with a smoky gray pelt and yellow eyes
Cloudbreeze--Rather small white tom
Firetail--Ginger tom with amber eyes
Lilydrop--Striking and mysterious white she-cat with deep amber eyes
Jaguarpaw (mentor, Mistfur)--Said to be descended from the big cat itself, she has palette-shaped markings just like a jaguar and beautiful blue eyes
Bamboopaw (mentor, Vinepelt)--She-cat with a simple brown pelt and green eyes
Strikepaw (mentor, Rainwhisper)--handsome tom with a smoky gray pelt and a golden streak down his back
Whitemist (kits: Hawkkit, Splashkit--silver she-cats with black splotches and ice blue eyes)--pretty white she-cat with flecks of silver
Grayberry (kits: Waterkit, Swallowkit)--Gray she-cat speckled with black with pale green eyes
Whitemist's body convulsed for the first time, as she was having her kits.
Ambershine placed her paw on her side. "There has to be at least two," Ambershine mewed.
Whitemist's mate, Stormpelt, stood beside her. Toms didn't usually witness their kits' birth, but Stormpelt couldn't bear to leave Whitemist in pain.
Another jolt of pain passed through Whitemist's body.
"Push!" Ambershine called. Whitemist tensed and dug her claws into the moist dirt. It was utter agony. How could queens do this?
Ambershine twitched nervously. Whitemist worried. Is something going wrong?
The pain was so intense that she felt like she was going to black out.
And she did.
Stormpelt ran his tail down his mate's flank. She was still breathing; that was a good sign.
"Will she be okay?" he asked Ambershine, the JungleClan medicine cat.
"I think so," she said back.
"That's not good enough! Can you even assure that she will ever wake up?" snapped Stormpelt. Ambershine shrank away at his response.
Stormpelt sighed. "I'm sorry."
Ambershine nodded with understanding. "It's fine," she said, her voice flowing like the ominous jungle stream bordering their territory.
He peered over Whitemist.
"Wake up, my beautiful. You have yet to see your kits," he murmured. Icemist slowly stirred, and opened her eyes. Her light blue ones bore into his darker teal gaze.
"Stormpelt," she muttered, as she struggled to sit up.
Stormpelt pushed her back down into her resting position. "Yes?" he mewed softly, "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she murmured, "May I see my kits?"
There were two lumps of silver and black fur furiously suckling right next to each other, as if they were inseparable. Stormpelt twitched nervously, awaiting her surprised reaction once she saw them.
Whitemist gently licked the kit nearest to her.
The first kit rose, the other following soon after. They suddenly found themselves staring at a pair of twin ice-blue eyes.
There were two kits standing there, but also....only one. The silver-and-black furred kits seemed to be linked, joined by their flanks. They shared a single body.
Whitemist choked with fear and surprise.
"I'm sorry," Ambershine breathed to Icemist.
"No, it's perfectly all right. Just-just fine. But also, in some ways, such...such a disappointment. Oh, my poor kits!" Icemist began to wail.
"Ssh. They're lovely, with beautiful eyes just like you."
Whitemist just looked away. Then she looked down at her ragged pelt, so scrawny that Stormpelt could see her ribs.
"I look dreadful," Whitemist sighed. Then she began to groom herself, as the kits squealed in protest.
Ambershine dipped her head and slunk out of the den.
"Um, Whitemist?" Stormpelt interjected.
"Don't you think that we should name them?"
Whitemist stared off into the distance. "Oh yes. I forgot. You go ahead."
Stormpelt understood her disappointment, but their kits deserved names and care just like any other.
"The one on the right should be Splashkit, I think," he began. Then he turned his gaze to Icemist.
She sighed a soft, sad sigh. "The one on the left will be Hawkkit."
Stormpelt purred. "Those are perfect." Whitemist couldn't help but to purr too.
Stormpelt stopped suddenly. As much as he loved his twin daughters, he wondered about their futures. After all, they were conjoined. They could be deprived of so many wonderful things....
Hawkkit flickered her eyes open again, and emitted a small squeak. Stormpelt's heart filled with sadness.
Just then, he made a silent promise, a promise to help the kits through the difficult times ahead.
Chapter 1--Linked at Birth
"This is boring," Hawkkit complained. Hawkkit and Splashkit sat in the nursery, listening to Waterkit and Swallowkit squeal.
"Whitemist said to wait here until she comes back with our prey," Splashkit said firmly.
"Oh come on," Hawkkit protested, "Let's at least get out of the nursery!"
Splashkit rolled her eyes. "Are you looking for trouble?
Hawkkit just shrugged. But this seemingly normal, harmless action made Splashkit jerk up.
Splashkit and Hawkkit were born stuck together by their sides. Cats called them "linked" behind their backs, but it didn't bother Splashkit much. It was true.
They faced the same direction, at least, but it was hard to remain coordinated as they walked and ate. They had to be in sync all of the time, or else they would be practically tripping over themselves.
"We could play moss ball in here," Splashkit suggested. Since they couldn't toss moss to each other, they came up with a new version of moss ball, where they had to push it along the ground and kick it into their goal.
"Moss ball is boring too," Hawkkit complained, "And you know how Grayberry gets when we mess up her moss."
"Since when have you cared about Grayberry's moss?" Splashkit scoffed.
Hawkkit just shrugged again, making Splashkit jerk up with the sudden movement. Sometimes Splashkit wondered how she would even survive stuck with her derelict sister.
"Come on. It will only be for a little bit," Hawkkit said, lowering her voice so Grayberry couldn't catch it, "We'll just slip out, slip in. Whitemist won't even know that we're gone."
Knowing she could no longer fight it, Splashkit sighed. "Let's go."
Grayberry's head drifted up as they shuffled out of the den.
"Um...Hawkkit needs to make dirt," Splashkit quickly lied.
Grayberry nodded. "Be careful, and don't trip over anything."
Splashkit twitched her ears in annoyance. They were linked, but did they always have to be treated like moon-old kits?
The duo left before Grayberry could restrain them any more.
They scuffled across the damp clearing, vines dangling overhead. Cats all over the camp turned to look at them. Splashkit's lip began to quiver at their curious stares, but she just held her head high. Hawkkit, however, seemed strangely undaunted.
Splashkit skidded on a sticky green leaf, making Hawkkit trip.
"You're terrible at sneaking!" Hawkkit hissed under her breath.
They shuffled behind the elders' den, and into the dirt place. Finally, they stumbled through the tunnel into the jungle.
Chapter 2--The Jungle
Hawkkit was instantly fascinated by the leafy green abyss. Ants marched along the damp ground, and howler monkeys hooted in the trees above.
Suddenly, a hunk of mushy black substance landed with a plunk before their feet.
"Ugh. Dung," Splashkit grumbled. Another piece landed a frog-length from Hawkkit.
"Let's get out of here," she mewed.
They tripped over the tree roots and around towering trunks, through dangling vines.
They stopped for a rest, panting. Even walking is a labor with our stupid linked bodies, Hawkkit thought to herself.
Hawkkit looked up, and noticed a fairly thick vine dangling in front of them. A grin spread across her face.
"Oh no you don't," Splashkit said.
Hawkkit only grinned wider. This was going to be fun.
"If walking was hard for us..."
But Hawkkit sunk her claws into the tough vine and leaf. Splashkit just sighed and climbed up next to her.
Hawkkit swelled with joy as she saw her sister laughing aside her. She thought Splashkit had no idea how to have fun, but she was proved wrong. She, too, found herself laughing beside Splashkit as they clawed their way up, even during the times where they almost slipped.
They eventually hauled themselves to a branch crawling with ants and treehoppers. The storm finally broke, showering the jungle with rain.
"This is great!" Splashkit yowled to the canopy.
"Now you're getting it!" Hawkkit shouted over the thunder.
Splashkit purred. "Hey! Let's climb that one over there," she exclaimed, gesturing to a thick green vine.
They ambled over the slick tree branch, as they tried to move their paws at the same pace and time. Hawkkit was the first to stand on top of the thick, limp vine.
Suddenly, it moved. And it wasn't from the wind.
Hawkkit gulped as the "vine" rose beneath, and she found herself staring into twin beady eyes.
The snake unwrapped itself from the branch. Venom and spit dripping from its fangs, as it arched its head back to strike.
Chapter 3--Crime and Punishment
Splashkit knew she must've went into shock as that happened, because she couldn't remember anything from that moment on.
She woke up to the soothing licks of her mother, and the comforting fur of Hawkkit. She tried to say, "What happened?" but it came out sort of like "Urrrrgh...Wheppend?"
She curled back onto the den floor, her blue eyes flickering open. She found herself staring into Whitemist's.
"Oh my kits! I was so worried! Are you okay, Splashkit? Because Hawkkit...." Whitemist broke into sobs.
Splashkit tensed up. Hawkkit? Was she all right? She couldn't be...no. No. She wouldn't think about that.
Stormpelt came into the den. "She's woken up!" He purred with delight.
"Hawkkit?" Splashkit groaned.
Whitemist tensed, and Stormpelt shifted side to side. "Our patrol came just a second too late," he paused, trembling, "Hawkkit is alive. But the snake bit her just as we were climbing up the tree." Stormpelt shivered with sadness. "It's minor. But Ambershine saved her just in time."
At this little speech, Whitemist began tearing up again. "What were you thinking, going into the jungle? You could've been killed, and you practically were! I told you to wait in the nursery, and next minute you're gone! Do you have any idea how terrified I was that I had lost you? Don't ever go into the jungle again!"
Grayberry stepped in. "Sorry, I it's my fault! The kits told me they were making dirt, and I let them go!"
"Stay out of this!" Whitemist snapped to Grayberry. Splashkit had never seen her this mad.
"And you can stay in the nursery for the next quarter moon! And for now, Stormpelt will be watching you to make sure you don't get any more ideas like that!"
Stormpelt sat down awkwardly, and curled his tail over his paws. Just then, Hawkkit coughed, and rose.
"Hawkkit!" Splashkit squealed with relief.
"That was so epic, wasn't it?" she rasped.
Splashkit turned to her as much as possible, and stared at her with shock. "You just got bitten by a giant snake and you say that was epic?"
Hawkkit weakly shrugged. "Yeah. It was so awesome how the snake was all slimy and scaly, and its teeth were dripping with blooood and pooiison!" she groaned playfully.
Splashkit gagged. "First of all, that's nasty. Second of all, that was horrible. We nearly died. I'm never doing anything like that again."
A faint sound reached her ears. Splashkit realized that it was just Stormpelt chuckling.
Hawkkit dragged herself in the direction of Stormpelt, bringing Splashkit with her. "Will you tell us a story? Please?"
Stormpelt sighed, "All right. Anything for my wonderful daughters.
Splashkit's ears pricked. Now, she could have an adventure that wasn't life threatening!
"Once upon a time there was five Clans living in this jungle. MoonClan, DuskClan, SunClan, TwilightClan, and DawnClan. They lived peacefully for some moons, but then they were torn apart by fighting. And life in the jungle is hard, and it still is. Finally, some cats from those Clans decided to join together to make one giant Clan, JungleClan."
"That's us!" Hawkkit squealed excitedly, apparently getting her voice back. Splashkit just listened attentively.
"JungleClan would've thrived if it wasn't for the cats remaining in the original Clans. The ones who had stayed considered those who joined JungleClan traitors, and believed that they should be dealt with. In fact, they are still seeking revenge to this day." He stopped for a moment.
"Kits, I believe you are old enough to know why we move all the time--" he was cut off as Whitemist stalked into the den.
"What are you doing?" she mewed sharply.
"I was just telling them a story. A little Clan history."
"What do you mean, 'Clan history'! They aren't old enough to have all of the worries that we carry. It isn't right to be poisoning their minds with this rubbish! Out, now!"
Stormpelt looked embarrassed to be told off by his mate, but he still left the den quietly.
"You go girl," Hawkkit smirked at her mother.
"Rude," Whitemist said as she flicked her tail on Hawkkit's mouth. She just rolled her eyes. Splashkit shook her head (accidentally bumping Hawkkit's ear in the process). Why did Hawkkit always have to be so cocky?
The boring silence of the nursery was broken by a singular yowl.
Chapter 4--The Attack
More cats than Hawkkit had ever seen in her life poured into the clearing. She trembled with fear, yet shivered with excitement. One day, she would be a gallant warrior, fighting for her Clan....
She was jolted out of her reverie by a tense, panicking Splashkit. "What's happening? I'm scared!"
Hawkkit was about to console her, but she was shoved and practically sat on by Whitemist.
"Getoffa me!" Hawkkit said, her voice muffled by fur. When I'm a warrior, I won't be sat on by overweight she-cats! I'll be fighting!
She looked at Splashkit, trembling beside against her. Aw, who was she kidding? How could she ever become a warrior stuck to another cat. She loved her sister and all, but it would be much nicer if they had their own bodies.
Just then, the tang of blood hit Hawkkit's nose.
"We're highly outnumbered!" she heard Flameblossom, the deputy, yowl outside.
"Keep fighting! We just can't give up our home to these mange-pelts once again!"
She heard Flameblossom about to protest, but then she was cut off.
"I wish we were out fighting! Just think about it! Bam! Pow pow! Scratch!" Hawkkit exclaimed to Splashkit, "I bet this 'DuskClan' will be shaking in their flea-bitten skins!"
"We have no proper battle training," Splashkit reminded Hawkkit.
"Can't I dream?" she retorted.
The screeches and whumps of bodies hitting the ground began to die down.
Stormpelt barged into the nursery.
"We're losing," her father meowed.
"But my kits are still so young!" Grayberry cried.
Stormpelt looked at her, a sliver of sympathy in his gaze, "Round them up and prepare to escape."
The sound of Pantherstar and Flameblossom bickering reached Hawkkit's ears.
"Retreat!" Flameblossom finally yowled.
"Go!" Whitemist said, shoving Splashkit and Hawkkit out of the nursery, and striaght into the damp trees.
Chapter 5--Impairing the Journey
"We're surrendering?" Hawkkit said incredulously.
At the abrupt stop, Hawkkit tripped, sending Splashkit and herself sprawling. Splashkit seethed in annoyance.
"Run, or do you want to be torn to shreds by DuskClan warriors?"
Hawkkit was silent from then on.
The time seemed to drag by. Splashkit's pads were worn sore on the hard, moist jungle ground. She was thirsty, and hungry. And it was beginning to rain. She stopped to lap at a puddle, to find that it was stagnant and tainted with ant corpses. Gross. She spat out the water with gusto.
"Bad water?" Hawkkit remarked.
"Tell me about it," Splashkit grumbled.
They weren't used to this much traveling. True, they had done some major walking and climbing on their little expedition, but never this far.
Splashkit panted and wheezed with effort as she tried to keep the same pace with Hawkkit. Hawkkit was struggling with placing her paws at the right time.
Farther into the night, Splashkit must've stopped paying attention, because she dragged her paws along and tripped over a mossy tree root. With a squeal, she went plummeting into the icy mud, bringing Hawkkit crashing down on her. She wouldn't have even gotten up if it weren't for Hawkkit standing up.
Whitemist helped them up. "Pantherstar?" she called anxiously.
"What is it?" he shouted from the head of the patrol.
"My kits," she explained, "They're getting tired. I think we had better stop for the night."
The whole Clan came to a halt, Waterkit and Swallowkit prancing up beside them and stopping. Splashkit winced as if she had been struck. Two moon old kits were doing better than her and Hawkkit. They were completely useless to the Clan.
JungleClan decided to make their temporary camp under the shade of some short, prickly trees. Splashkit and Hawkkit settled down next to Icemist in a nest of padded jungle leaves.
We're an embarrassment to the Clan, Splashkit thought, as they tripped getting into their nest.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Whitemist prompted as they settled into restless sleep.
"Yeah. We're fine," Hawkkit grumped, curling up.
We're a burden to our Clan, Splashkit's final thought was as she drifted into sleep. I just wish I was normal.
Chapter 6--Traveling Again
Hawkkit woke up to the screeching of monkeys in the leafy trees. She groaned, and rolled over, bringing Splashkit on top of her.
"Oof," she grumbled.
The pair hauled themselves up, ready to face another day of traveling. Flameblossom was already making sure the Clan was prepared, and Pantherstar was surveying from a branch above.
"I wonder how he stands the prickles on his pads," Hawkkit thought out loud.
"His pads probably got used to it over time. Like how monkeys adapt to climb trees," Splashkit replied. Hawkkit twitched her ear. Why did her sister have to be so darn smart all the time? Compared to Splashkit, Hawkkit was a blundering, useless buffoon. Stupid Splashkit.
Guilt instantly swept over her. Splashkit was a good sister, and Hawkkit seriously cared about her. And they were going to be stuck together for life, so she might as well make the most of it.
"Prey?" Splashkit asked.
Hawkkit nodded, and they began to make their way across the clearing. They picked out a strange-looking bird Hawkkit was not familiar with, and bit into it.
Hawkkit instantly spat it out in unison with Splashkit. It was disgusting! It tasted like dead beetles mixed in with mud and some sort of stringy mystery meat.
"What in the name of StarClan was that?" Hawkkit exclaimed.
"Shh!" Splashkit hissed under her breath, her eyes going wide.
Hawkkit was licking her lips and smacking her tongue, when a shadow fell over her. It was Rainwhisper, a warrior of JungleClan.
"We don't use StarClan's name casually in JungleClan," he said sharply.
"Oh, um..." Hawkkit mumbled.
"Just keep that in mind, in the future," Rainwhisper finished ominously, keeping one eye on them as he stalked across the clearing.
"What's so wrong with talking about our warrior ancestors?" she whispered to Splashkit, at a loss.
Splashkit shrugged. "I'm not quite sure. I just know that Vinepelt was very angry at Jaguarpaw for using it the same way you did the other day."
Her sister was really observant, too. Hmmph.
As for Jaguarpaw, Hawkkit had been watching her for a few sunrises, to know how a proper apprentice would act. Hawkkit knew that Jaguarpaw was the kind of cat that she had always wanted to be. Pretty, smart, nice, a good hunter and fighter, perfect. But of course, Hawkkit could never be like that. She spared a glance at her body twin, Splashkit.
"What're you looking at me for?" Splashkit mewed.
"Nothing. Just thinking," she responded.
"Whatever. I think our Clan is leaving," Splashkit said.
Sure enough, the Clan was filtering out of the grove and into the steamy jungle.
"I think I will stand next to you this time," Whitemist said as they slowly left.
Hawkkit loved her mother, but like any other kit, she couldn't stand it as she hovered over them.
Splashkit and Hawkkit launched into a conversation about what you could hunt for prey in the jungle. Whitemist chimed in too, but not in the way she would like. Instead of giving them trivia and advice, it was something like, "Oh! Look at my beautiful little grown up kits! So smart already!" It made the journey much more painful, although they were getting much more coordinated and agile with all of the walking and dodging trees.
"When are we going to stop and make camp?" Hawkkit asked her mother.
"I don't know," she said softly, "It could be a few days. You will have to ask Stormpelt; I saw him talking to Flameblossom."
Without asking permission from Whitemist, Hawkkit and Splashkit trotted off to their father.
"Stormpelt?" Splashkit prompted.
"Yes?" he said, mildly annoyed for whatever reason.
"When are we stopping?"
"Should be a few more days."
Hawkkit's mouth dropped open. "A few more days?"
"Oh, that's nothing, compared to how we had to travel in the past," Stormpelt muttered.
"Can I ask you a question?" Hawkkit mewed.
"What is it?"
"Why do we always have to move? Who exactly is this DuskClan that was attacking?"
Stormpelt hesitated. "I would like to tell you, but I don't know how your mother would react."
"Come on, please?" Hawkkit whined, "We've been in the dark this whole time. And we're already five moons old, you know!"
"Yes, but Whitemist....she just likes to protect you, keep you close. Look, if I ever tell you, it will be later with her approval. So maybe when you're apprentices. I don't know. Just not right now, that's for sure."
Hawkkit dug her claws into the earth with frustration. Why couldn't they know? They were surely old enough! Did Whitemist think they were two moons old? Man, Waterkit and Swallowkit probably knew by then!
"It's so....unfair!" Splashkit exclaimed angrily, walking like she had to punish the earth for Whitemist and Stormpelt and how they were stuck together for the rest of their stupid, pointless lives.
"We probably won't even know where we're going until we're elders!" Hawkkit groaned.
"It's because we're conjoined; thats why! Whitemist thinks that we're for some reason more 'impaired' and 'fragile' because of this!"
Hawkkit kicked an empty nutshell, sending it boucing into a rock and ricocheting back.
Right under the paws of a white warrior.
Hawkkit vaguely remembered that her name was Lilydrop, and she was somewhat unusual and mysterious. The truth was, that Hawkkit was slightly afraid of the white she-cat.
"Having fun?" she she mewed dreamily.
"Er--" Splashkit began.
"No, I didn't think so," Lilydrop remarked.
Hawkkit and Splashkit just stared.
"I understand what its like," she stated.
"Erm...what?" Hawkkit mewed.
"I understand what it's like," Lilydrop mewed, "You have the right to know. And I will tell you."
Chapter 7--Lilydrop's Story
"In the beginning, there were five Clans: MoonClan, SunClan, DuskClan, DawnClan and TwilightClan," Lilydrop said, "They lived peacefully for awhile, but eventually things built up into a climax, and they practically tore each other apart."
"We know this part," Hawkkit mewed, "Start from the part after some cats decided to form JungleClan."
"Oh, okay," Lilydrop blinked, "So some cats of the five Clans combined to form one big Clan where there wouldn't be hunger and fighting. They expected everyone to join, but that wasn't the case. The remaining members of the five Clans looked at these cats of JungleClan as traitors. And after all these moons, they still do now. That is why we are constantly being pursued and attacked by these five Clans, mainly DuskClan and TwilightClan." Lilydrop let out an involuntary shiver.
"What's wrong?" Splashkit politely asked.
"Nothing," Lilydrop murmured, "Just memories. Anyways, DuskClan seems to have plenty of brute force and strength in numbers. TwilightClan, on the other paw...." Lilydrop shivered again.
"What?" Hawkkit said curiously.
"Oh, just my past. There are things that not even I would let slip to kits. Anyways, TwilightClan....they are beautiful cats. Real masters of strategy and charmspeak. But behind their beauty, I'm sure there's a price. Few know what grotesque things they have been doing to make themselves attractive."
Hawkkit and Splashkit listened, moony-eyed.
"Anyways, let's keep going," Lilydrop said as she began to pad ahead.
Hawkkit caught up to her again, practically dragging splashkit along.
"One day, when I'm a warrior, I will defeat all of TwilightClan and DuskClan! With you, of course," she added hastily to Splashkit.
Lilydrop gave Hawkkit such a deep look of sympathy that she could've been looking at a cat who was on the edge of dying a horrible death.
"What?" Hawkkit mewed as she trotted along.
"You don't understand yet, do you?" Lilydrop sighed.
"Understand what?" Splashkit interjected.
"You know you're not normal cats," Lilydrop said.
"Yeah," Hawkkit said, "What about it? We can be warriors, right?"
Lilydrop stared at the ground, sighing again, "I don't know."
"What do you mean?" Hawkkit said, her voice beginning to crack. Splashkit was blinking off tears.
"Kits, I told you that I would give you nothing but the solid truth. And the solid truth is, you are most likely never to become warriors," she confessed.
"What?" she choked.
"I'm sorry," Lilydrop mewed sympathetically, "It's just how it is. I might let you, but I'm not leader or even deputy. It's just....it's how the world is. Unfair. I'm so sorry."
"Let's go," Splashkit hissed sharply, doing a very quick job of hiding her tears.
They whisked away from Lilydrop. Hawkkit would never admit that she was crying, but she was so distraught that she couldn't help it.
Hawkkit had always wanted to become a proud, loyal warrior fighting beside her Clan. But she should've know all along. It was just a hopeless dream after all, she thought as she plodded through the jungle, crying, in the early morning light.