I realize there's another story with the exact title, but the original editors are inactive, and this is my take on what would happen. I do not own any characters of the original series. Note that I also haven't read the original series in 500 years. If you do not like what I chose to happen, then that is your own problem and your own personal opinion. Do not blame me for it.
Fire didn't save the Clans. After the final battle with the Dark Forest, Firestar fell and Tigerstar rose, leaving the remains of StarClan to disappear. The stars are gone, and nothing but darkness hangs over the four Clans as the evil spirits rule over them and slaughter anyone who tries to stand against them. No stars may ever rise or shine again, and the hopes of the innocent mortals are as bleak and grim as a starless, black night sky.
Follow Bumblestripe on a tale of terror, drama, and twists as he desperately attempts to regain freedom for himself and his family, while all he loves around him shatters and turns against him.
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"May all victors join me beneath High Rock!"
Lightning flashed blindingly bright, outlining the dark broad-shouldered figure as if he was some part of a horror film. Just like that, the brightness disappeared, and still he loomed, grinning down at the dark figures that swarmed closer to him. His people, his warriors, those rejected from StarClan because of their unforgivable sins. To the side, tossed away like a miserable and unwanted piece of crowfood, a fiery body was crumpled up, festooned in his own blood. A cat who had not even been permitted to flee with StarClan, for he had been slain again, before his soul could rise. A fire that had gone out...forever.
"All hail Tigerstar, all hail Tigerstar!" To think, such a crowd of ruffians had bowed down to a single cat: rather than fight over leadership among each other. They submitted almost immediately to him and his prowess. Even the tom with a broken tail, a terror who had reigned before even Tigerstar himself, accepted the fact that he would stand below him.
"Firestar is dead! His spirit is no more, and we will hunt the remaining StarClan cats down until they, too, are nothing but air. Forgotten. Gone forever." The monstrous tabby's amber eyes slid over those eager, blood-stained faces. They were all ears for him. "We will establish rulers over the mortal Clans. ThunderClan will forever be mine. RiverClan will go to Mapleshade, as it rightfully should. ShadowClan shall belong to Brokenstar, and WindClan to Thistleclaw."
Not a soul objected, and only a mouse-brain would, especially when Tigerstar was in such a moment of triumph. He had conquered the Clans, just as he had always desired. Cheers and chants broke out, and he absorbed and enjoyed every moment of it, closing his eyes to draw it in as if it was the sweetest scent he had ever smelled.
Then, his gaze grew cold as it drifted towards the remaining mortals from the Clans. They looked beaten, exhausted, disconsolate from the recent death of their Clan members, friends, and even family. "As for you, pitiful Clan cats: join us, or stand as our prisoners until we grow sick of your cowardess, and elect to end you. But choose wisely: we'll slay you again as soon as your spirit attempts to rise from your corpse. StarClan does not exist: there is no light for you to join. Only darkness."
Murmurs and whispers of discontent and outright fear rippled among the living crowd. Not so much that they feared the Dark Forest: but rather, Tigerstar's gaze burned into one cat in particular.
His son, Brambleclaw.
"Your leaders, deputies, and medicine cats will remain as-is, unless they try to cause a...scene. Anyone involved in mutiny against the Dark Forest will be killed on the spot. No excuses." Without another word directed towards them, Tigerstar leaped down from the High Rock, landing lightly on his paws, despite his enormous size and superior muscle build. He nodded to Mapleshade, Thistleclaw, and Brokenstar.
"Take your Clans home, friends. Rule them as you desire, but we are one Clan at the center. That is the only rule. After tonight, the Code is no more. We will chase weakness out of our Clan bloodlines, and bathe the land in kittypet blood."
How could he wake feeling so comforted in times like these?
Warm and soft, clean fur was pressed against his side as soon as he erupted from his deep slumber. Lifting his head a hair, Bumblestripe glanced over at Dovewing sleeping soundlessly at his side, her nose buried into his platinum coat. He didn't wish to disturb her, but was curious as to what had dragged him from his sleep. Looking towards the entrance of the prisoner's den, he realized it was Brambleclaw's presence, waiting patiently there. The silver warrior raised his head higher, the sudden movement causing his mate beside him to wake. "Brambleclaw? Do you need something?"
The Clan 'leader' appeared exhausted, but every day seemed to be a living nightmare for him. Following the death of Firestar, he was announced as leader of ThunderClan, serving only under his father, Tigerstar. There was no way to gain nine lives: after all, StarClan had fled far from the Clans, and the Dark Forest would not bless the Clan leaders in case they attempted to revolt. And, of course, who was Brambleclaw's deputy? None other than his cantankerous brother, Hawkfrost.
"Just giving you prisoners a fair warning. Tigerstar's going to be putting you to work soon, and he's in a 'mood'. He won't tolerate disobedience today. ShadowClan's going to be paying us a visit tomorrow, and he wants the camp to be in top shape." After sharing that news, the dark tabby turned away from the prisoners, disappearing into the foggy atmosphere. Bumblestripe thought his words over, reminding himself that Brambleclaw wasn't a prisoner strictly because he wanted to keep his expecting mate, Squirrelflight, safe. He figured that if he was in good terms with his own father, Squirrelflight could be in good terms as well.
"ShadowClan's coming?" Dovewing questioned her striped mate, peering over at him almost enthusiastically. Regret pricked at the silver tom's belly: he saw the way his mate eyed that Tigerheart fox-heart. And with Tigerstar so fond of him, he'd stand no chance.
"What did Brambleclaw want?" Before Bumblestripe could respond to Dovewing, Squirrelflight prompted a question. This, in turn, woke Lionblaze and Cinderheart, and now they all stared at Bumblestripe expectingly. As for Foxleap...well, he was sleeping in, as per usual. A tree could fall on camp and make Tigerstar scream day and night, and Foxleap would sleep through all of it. No wonder Hawkfrost took so much pleasure in pummeling the russet prisoner.
"ShadowClan's visiting tomorrow, so he just warned us that Tigerstar would be extra edgy." Bumblestripe explained, feeling Dovewing shift beside him eagerly. Itching to change the subject, the striped tom glanced over to Lionblaze.
"How's Hollyleaf?" The black she-cat had been fairly unresponsive for the past few days, after a brutal lashing from Hawkfrost. She had trouble swallowing sharp comments, so he always made her regret it. Tomorrow, however, she'd be lucky: Brokenstar always eyed her, and considered the young black prisoner to be quite pretty. He fancied her, but Hollyleaf despised him. She was always talking about some 'Fallen Leaves' guy, anyways.
"Jayfeather said her leg's probably broken, but he thinks she'll recover quite well. She just needs her rest." Lionblaze frowned in his sister's direction, releasing a small sigh before continuing, "...I don't like it. I hate how Brokenstar always looks at her like she's--"
"Prisoners, get going! Camp isn't going to clean up itself!" A sharp command sounded from outside of the den, clearly emitting from none other than Hawkfrost. Grumpy old furball.
After waking Foxleap, the prisoners shuffled out of the den to begin their daily work. Bumblestripe cast Dovewing a side glance, pained by her obvious excitement. So, he decided to work alongside Graystripe instead, and offer his father his emotional support. The aging tom lost Millie in the battle, as well as his life-long best friend, Firestar. But what hurt him the most seemed to be the recent death of his daughter, Briarlight. Her death also stung Bumblestripe, so he often tried his best to talk an up-beat conversation with his father. For the betterment of both of them.
"Jayfeather said Hollyleaf'll recover. That's good news, yeah, dad?" He attempted to cast the fluffy prisoner a warm and hopeful smile, but his attempts were shoved off by Graystripe. He continued to work solemnly, his response spoken with a dry and bitter edge.
"He said Briarlight would, too."
His shoulders sagging in defeat and frame relaxing out of grief, Bumblestripe glanced elsewhere with a dejected sigh. He slowed his work temporarily before speeding it up again, uninterested in receiving a verbal lashing from Tigerstar. A rustling from camp's entrance caught his attention and, glancing over his shoulder, he spotted Rosepetal, Brackenfur, Hazeltail, and Cloudtail returning from their hunting trip. He envied them, with their freedom to hunt and explore outside of camp's walls. It wasn't necessarily that they were bad cats, nor did they support Tigerstar. They just didn't outright rebel against him, and therefore become a prisoner, like Bumblestripe and the rest. Sorreltail approached them in long, swift strides, and Bumblestripe listened into their conversation. It was Brackenfur who greeted her, naturally.
"Hey, Sorreltail. How're the kits? Are they safe? Did they miss me?" His voice was filled with fret, and he danced around his dappled mate eagerly. It was easy to tell that he was anxious: he had every right to be, too. Raising kits in such dark times was a risk, who knew what could happen to them. They heard all about how Brokenstar continued his early-kit-training schedule, and those poor youngsters were dropping like flies.
"They're ok, they're ok. Poppyfrost's watching over them while they sleep." The tortoiseshell queen gently bumped her forehead against his to offer some support and relief to his worrying, while Cloudpelt's shoulders slumped in the background. The white warrior had his litter killed during the battle by Clawface. Everyone in ThunderClan knew that if the Dark Forest tom dared to show his face in ThunderClan, the white warrior would tear him to shreds.
Bumblestripe cast Dovewing another side glance, noticing that she'd finished cleaning out the medicine cat den, and was now patiently waiting for permission to get her breakfast. His stomach twisted in agony as he looked at her, knowing she refused to start a family with him. He wanted a little family of his own more than anything, so he could dote over his kits and express endless pride in Dovewing. But she refused him. Why? What had he ever done to her? No, it wasn't a good time to raise kits, but he'd do anything to keep them safe. They could run away together, and he'd hunt for them and build them a big, sturdy den to keep all intruders out, and then he'd--
"That'd enough for now, prisoners. You may eat, but only a mouse-worth each." Hawkfrost's sharp command jolted the silver prisoner from his thoughts, so he turned and trudged towards the fresh kill pile. Glancing up, he spotted a flash of russet darting in Ivypool's general direction. Bumblestripe smirked, aware of Foxleap's obvious feelings for the silver and white warrior. He seemed to be in a trance even as he glided towards her. So captured by her presence, in fact, that he managed to trip over himself and end up rolling to her paws. How embarrassing...the poor mouse-brain.
Bumblestripe wanted to brighten his spirits, so he didn't want to feel the negative energy from his dear father, regardless of how much he loved him. Nor did he want his mind to be filled with the tragic thoughts of Tigerheart stealing away his mate. So instead, he ate with Squirrelflight. By StarClan, she could be as prickly as a porcupine, but she could also make herself acceptable company. For a decent amount of time, anyways.
She did best with topics about herself, at least topics that weren't offensive. So, he did just that.
"Any name ideas for your kittens, Squirrelflight? I'd love to hear them."
"Hmm?" She grunted at him in response like some sort of badger, wolfing down her fresh kill as if it'd be her last meal. "Say, speaking of kittens, I hear you're hoping to be a father, soon. Don't worry, I'm sure old Dovewing will warm up to you, eventually."
"O-Oh? Uh, yeah..." Albeit a generally gentle-natured tom, her question caused Bumblestripe's belly to tense and turn out of his vexation. It wasn't her fault, Squirrelflight didn't understand that it was such a tender topic for him. So, he blew it off to chill his nerves, and not pick a fight with such a spitfire.
Hawkfrost jumped in to unintentionally save him, anyways.
"Alright, break time's over! This dirty moss needs to be taken out of camp before it stinks the entire place up." His ice colored eyes darted from prisoner to prisoner, his tail tip twitching impatiently as he waited for them to move along. Except, Brambleclaw decided to intervene. Oh, StarClan, that wasn't such a brilliant idea.
"Not yet, let them finish their meals, no sense in having them waste their freshkill." Brambleclaw objected, causing his prickly brother to turn with a sharp snarl.
"Did I ask your opinion, brother?" Hawkfrost took a challenging step forward, practically thrusting his muzzle against Brambleclaw's. Coolly, the Clan's leader leaned back so that their muzzles did not brush, and he held his brother's gaze placidly.
"No, but I didn't ask you to order my Clanmates around. I'm the Clan leader, not you."
Hawkfrost attempted to step forward again, to remain locked in his brother's gaze and hold his level of intimidation. Still, Brambleclaw seemed unphazed by the deceased tom's attempts, only narrowing his eyes as a reaction. Fired by such an answer, Hawkfrost decided to take it a step further.
"Oh? How about I just kill you and take your spot as leader, huh? I am the deputy, after all." He spoke in such a menacing tone, and his voice shook with such rage. His claws had already crawled from their hiding places, ready to challenge Brambleclaw and take his life in the process. Thankfully, their father was quick to intervene.
"That's enough, sons. Hawkfrost, let them finish, pick on someone your own size. Brambleclaw's still a weak-hearted mortal...he's yet to be changed by the cold and hostile presence of the afterlife." Although Tigerstar saved the leader's skin, his gaze that rested on the shoulders of Brambleclaw was gleaming with disgust and disappointment. Biting his lip while his tail lashed madly, Hawkfrost whipped around and forcefully marched away from his brother.
"That was a close one," it as Brightheart who commented on the scene, her single eye glinting with concern for the living clan leader. "If Tigerstar didn't step up...Squirrelflight's litter could've become fatherless." Turning to her snow-colored mate, the former queen changed the subject to something more of her interest. "I'm going to check up on Poppyfrost, dear. She hasn't been fairing well since the death of Berrynose." The red-patched she-cat darted off in the nursery's direction, leaving Cloudtail to sigh to himself. Brambleclaw, who had been frozen in his place for quite a few moments, finally turned towards his imprisoned friends.
"Bumblestripe, could you fetch Jayfeather for me? I got really tensed up when Hawkfrost went picking a fight with me, and...as embarrassed as I am to say it, I think I pulled a muscle. I'm feeling very tender." The dark tabby frowned to himself as he admitted his persistant pain in his shoulder, and Bumblestripe gave him a curt nod in response. He wasn't all that hungry anymore, anyways.
"Afraid of what tomorrow might bring, eh, Bumblestripe?" The blind tabby was effortlessly stacking dried and now-useless leaves in the corner of the Medicine Cat den, his entire frame faced away from the entering silver tabby.
"Oh...Yeah, I suppose. How do you know that, anyways?" The prisoner cocked his head in confusion, puzzled by how the Medicine Cat could read him so well, despite those pastel blue optics of his being sightless. He welcomed himself in, shuffling deeper into the dry den. Thornclaw was resting in the corner, his golden pelt ominously dull. He had been complaining of a bellyache a few days prior. Bumblestripe commented that he was probably pregnant, but he didn't take to the joke too well.
"I don't need eyes to know or see things." Jayfeather's tone darkened as he snapped at the tom, who became awkwardly quiet as the Medicine Cat's temper soured. Seating himself, the silver tom waited for Jayfeather to finish, allowing his tail to usher along the dust on the ground. "Well, Bumblestripe, are you here for something, or are you just here to cry to me about your love life?"
Ok, he wasn't one to snap all that often, but the grumpy furball was pushing it. The silver tabby lowered his ears in response to the blind cat's blunt question, a growl rising in his throat. He ordered himself to swallow it, retaining a gentle tone. He reminded himself that Jayfeather had it rough, as well: no longer did he have his powers to walk with StarClan and see what they could. On top of that, he was concerened with his little 'mate', Half Moon. As a StarClan cat, she was constantly targeted by Tigerstar and his forces, but fortunately, she managed to remain safe in hiding with the others. "I'm here on behalf of Brambleclaw. Hawkfrost was trying to square off with him, and he managed to pull a muscle..."
"Mmmh, fine. I'll take care of it. Thanks for informing me." Still, the Medicine Cat refused to face the prisoner, so Bumblestripe slowly crept away from the den. Rude, as always. Why was it so hard to strike up a nice conversation with cats in ThunderClan? As soon as his head poked out of the dark and pungent den, he was dragged back into more work. But this time, it was something much more...delightful.
"Hey, Bumblestripe. Since Thornclaw's ill, we need someone to take his place on the border patrol. Go with Rosepetal, Blossomfall, and Mousewhisker." The order sounded from Brambleclaw, who looked uncomfortable in his skin. He reassured himself that he'd receive some aid to soothe his pain shortly, seeing that Bumblestipe had returned from the Medicine Cat den.
"Really? Yeah, I'll go!" An opportunity to leave camp, thank StarClan! He hadn't been able to go patrolling in what felt like moons. He didn't mean to be discourteous or inhuman, but he was thankful that Thornclaw was too sick to go out. Rarely were prisoners permitted to attend patrols. Heart racing with his sudden lift of spirits, he jogged over to the aforementioned cats with his whiskers quivering in excitement. The three cats gave him a small nod of acknowledgement before they bolted out of camp, heading in the direction of ShadowClan's border.
Naturally, borders meant little to nothing now, with the Code no more. Still, the Dark Forest cats enjoyed having their mortal Clan cats pitted against each other for their entertainment. On top of that, it meant that the strongest would live and reporduce to provide them with acceptable warriors, while the weak would fall. It also meant that cross-Clan relationships were permitted...which only disturbed Bumblestripe even further.
"Hey, are you feeling ok, Bumblestripe? You were all ready to go, but now you're dragging behind!" It was his good friend Rosepetal who spoke, her pale eyes locking with his and revealing her deep concern for his status. Shaking his head, he tried to force her a reassuring grin, although she didn't seem to be fooled by it.
"Yeah, I'm fine! Great, actually. Just wondering off in my thoughts, it's felt like moons since I've been out here. Nice to stretch my legs again." As he continued to talk with the dark cream warrior, he began to feel relieved of his stress, and feel better about himself. She was a very kind she-cat, and he was thankful for her companionship. She was a real hardy friend, and he appreciated that. So he could be completely honest with her, right? "I'm just worried about tomorrow. Dovewing, I try love her as my mate, and I want to support her and make her happy. Have a family with her, make her feel secure, like the Dark Forest will never touch her. But..." He shook his head slowly.
"Afraid Tigerheart will take her away from you?" Rosepetal shared his frown at this point, lightly nudging his shoulder to offer support. "You're a nice guy, Bumblestripe. She'd be fiendish and mouse-brained to leave you for that fox-hearted Tigerstar descendant. He's a scary weirdo who gives me bad vibes. Way too ambitious and conceited, you'd think he has a stick shoved up his-"
"I-It's ok, Rosepetal, honestly. It's not just that. I can't really explain it, but thanks a lot for trying. It means the world to me, having your support and all. You're a very good cat." He meant it, too. Quickening his pace as if attempting to escape from her help, Bumblestripe caught up with the rest of the patrol. Blossomfall and Mousewhisker were playing a little game of 'match-maker', and placing bets on how Foxleap would embarrass himself next, and when he'd ask Ivypool to be his mate. Bumblestripe could detect that his sister was crestfallen deep down: she had feelings for Thornclaw. Not that he didn't approve as her brother, he just thought that the golden tabby was a little...old for his sister. But love had no boundaries, right?
"Hey! You, ThunderClan gossipers! How about you use your sense of smell rather than your incessantly babbling tongues?" The four ThunderClan cats looked up in shock, freezing in their tracks to find themselves face-to-face with a ShadowClan patrol. It was a ginger tom speaking, Rowanclaw, if Bumblestripe recalled that correctly. A cream-and-gray tom stood beside the Clan leader, looking rather skittish, as if it was his first fight. Two other cats, Toadfoot and a white she-cat, jogged up to meet their ShadowClan companions. All four looked skinny and malnourished, which didn't come as a surprise to Bumblestripe. Brokenstar was probably starving them for his amusement.
"Sorry, Rowanclaw. We were just trying to enjoy ourselves while outside of our brooding camp." It was Mousewhisker who spoke, honestly and politely to the rival Clan. But they seemed unmoved, Rowanclaw progessively growing more and more prickly. Did someone make dirt in his freshkill?
"That doesn't matter, I don't care. You trespassed, and that's a punishable crime." Without another word, the ShadowClan tom launched himself at Mousewhisker, taking the gray-and-white warrior by surprise. The white she-cat and Toadfoot followed, taking on Bumblestripe and Rosepetal. Meanwhile, the skittish gray-and-cream ShadowClan cat hesitated, as if looking for a way to escape, only to have Blossomfall crash into him. Rosepetal had no issue handling the white warrior, but Toadfoot seemed to have the upper hand against Bumblestripe. They rolled, leaving the ThunderClan tom pinned.
"It'll be good if I exterminate kittypet-blooded scum like you! I'll please Brokenstar, and maybe he'd even give me some sort of award. A promotion, perhaps." Toadfoot sneered into Bumblestripe's face with his teeth revealed, attempting to plunge them into his neck. In response and desperate attempt to save himself, Bumblestripe used his superior size to roll away and crush Toadfoot underneath him.
"Not today! A good warrior doesn't need to kill." The silver tabby hissed under his breath, while driving his claws deeper into the ShadowClan tom's flesh. He screamed in pain, kicking and flailing underneath the weight of Bumblestripe. A merciful cat, the ThunderClan warrior let Toadfoot up to flee, but he turned around and resumed attacking the silver tom.
"I'll die today, if need be! You act so humble and cowardly, you're just afraid to kill! No wonder your little mate prefers Tigerheart: you're a kitten in a warrior's fur." That hurt. Flattening his ears as hatred boiled in his veins, Bumblestripe charged forward and tackled Toadfoot, and continued to wrestle with him. He would've kept going, if it wasn't a cry from Rowanclaw that distracted him.
"ShadowClan, retreat! Retreat!" The ginger tom was struggling away from Mousewhisker, who was a badger in battle. Bumblestripe would know: he was his mentor, after all, and a skilled one at that. Nobody ever gave the poor warrior credit. Rowanclaw, however, didn't seem to be fairing so well. He was struggling to walk, weakened by both starvation and sudden blood loss. Mousewhisker had let him go, but it seemed that he unintentionally did more damage than expected.
Before he could fully retreat with the white she-cat and anxious tom, Rowanclaw collapsed on the ground.
"Murderer!" And this was coming from Toadfoot, who turned and threw himself at Mousewhisker. Taken by the element of surprise, the ShadowClan cat was given the upper hand, driving his teeth into Mousewhisker's neck at full force.
"N-No, leave him alone!" Bumblestripe screeched, flinging himself at Toadfoot as his adrenaline kicked in, and terror swam through his blood. He wouldn't let that fox-heart kill his former mentor, even if Mousewhisker was a wallflower with kittypet parents. The silver warrior shredded Toadfoot's ears until his claws swam in hot, scarlet liquid, and the ShadowClan cat reeled away with a cry of agony. Bumblestripe's heart was pounding so hard that he was practically deaf, and he desperately drug Mousewhisker back to camp with his patrol members.
When they returned to camp, Bumblestripe bolted to the Medicine Cat den, practically dragging the complaining Jayfeather to Mousewhisker. Dovewing wasn't there to offer any support. Go figure.
"I'm not a kit, piece of fox-dung!" The blind Medicine Cat argued after Bumblestripe released him, anxiously circling the fallen warrior and the busy Medicine Cat. However, before he could set to work, the broad-shouldered Tigerstar interrupted him.
"Enough. Let him go: Mousewhisker was too weak to survive combat. His blood is tainted by that of a kittypet, and he is therefore no use to us." The Dark Forest beast commanded, eyeing Bumblestripe as if he was challenging him to go against his opinion.
"He's not weak!" Blood roaring in his ears, the silver tom protested against Tigerstar's order, as expected. Nobody deserved to die. "He terminated Rowanclaw, the ShadowClan leader. That has to mean something to you, Tigerstar." Heat rose from his quaking body, and he held Tigerstar's gaze for several moments. But the alpha was not swayed. Hawkfrost hauled the flailing Bumblestripe off to beat some sense into him and punish him for arguing with Tigerstar. The last thing he saw was the starry form of Mousewhisker, ruthlessly killed by Tigerstar for a second time.
At dawn, Bumblestripe lay stubbornly in his nest, nostrils flaring in protest as the scene replayed in the back of his mind. He'd avenge Mousewhisker...not by killing Toadfoot, but by ending Tigerstar, and therefore by ending the reign of the Dark Forest. His right cheek was swollen from his pummeling by Hawkfrost, and Dovewing, having returned late, tried to offer him comfort.
"Are you ok?" Fake friends, fake support, fake relationship. She pretended to act innocent, as if Bumblestripe was oblivious to her infidelity. Did she take him as some sort of bee-brain?
"Don't play coy with me, Dovewing. You know what happened, and you weren't there to do anything about it. Too busy fooling around with Tigerheart to bother with your official mate. Y'know, the one who cares about you, rather than himself and his ambitions to take over his Clan." He scoffed lightly, turning his back on Dovewing who huffed in protest.
"Don't you go pointing paws at me!" Her voice rised as her temper did, tail twitching out of irritability, so hard that Bumblestripe could feel it against the stale moss bedding.
"It's the truth! You were with him, weren't you? Right after his Clanmates killed my mentor? Right after Tigerheart's own father died? He probably didn't even care. You were with him."
"..." Dovewing's hard glower was elsewhere, her hackles bristling out of angst. Stubbornly, she drifted into vexed and cold silence.
"Weren't you?" He pressed with edge in his tone, desperate to get his answers. He event struggled out of his nest to rise and glare at her, but she faced away from him once more. His legs quivered not only out of weakness and agony from Hawkfrost's beating, but also from desperate rage.
"I was, ok?! Are you happy now? I was out all night with him!" Dovewing's ears were flattened and her fangs bared in warning, flicking her head in Bumblestripe's direction to order him to back off. Sniffing dryly, he leaned away from her, his sudden ire replaced by disappointment and betrayal.
"...Is it so hard to just tell me? I thought we're best friends, and supposed to be honst with each other? Can't you just tell me what I did wrong...? What I can do to make you happy, even if not as your mate...?" Bumblestripe spoke in such a small and distant voice, the hairs along his spine having fallen flat, falling like his hopes for her. She gave him no answer, gave him nothing but frigid and hostile silence that chilled him to the bone. Fortunately or unfortunately, ShadowClan arrived and interrupted their uncomfortable conversation.
"ShadowClan is here! And we have pleasant news to share."
As if nothing had ruffled her feathers, Dovewing darted out of the prisoner's den to meet him, welcomed by Tigerheart's embrace. He had such a cheesy and satisfied grin plastered all over his muzzle, like he was the greatest cat around. How Bumblestripe despised him, the little wannabe Tigerstar.
Speaking of which, Tigerstar stepped forward, greeting Brokenstar with a firm and cool nod. "What news do you speak of?"
Brokenstar straightened to stand taller and seem more presentable, despite being horribly unattractive due to his patchy coat and battle-scarred body. He looked like a rat that had a whole Clan after it, and just barely managed to escape alive. Bumblestripe almost pitied him.
"Rowanclaw, unfortunately, passed away after your warrior killed him fairly. Good timing, no?" He let out a raspy and dry laugh, as if he mentioned some good private joke between himself and Tigerstar. "In his place, Tigerheart is the new leader of ShadowClan. Darkstripe and I agreed that it's for the best. With that frog-heart Rowanclaw gone...ShadowClan will rise and drive kittypets out of the forest."
Tigerheart seemed to grow and gleam from the deceased leader's praise, standing taller with his chest puffed out. Cinderheart gasped beside Bumblestripe, and uncertain whispers lingered among the ThunderClan cats. But the ShadowClan members and Dark Forest cats paid no attention to them.
"Grand, this is grand! Everything is falling perfectly in place, Brokenstar. Please, meet here again tomorrow after I get things arranged with Hawkfrost, so that we may begin with the plan." A nefarious grin cracked across Tigerstar's features, and Brokenstar muttered his agreement before turning and exiting ThunderClan's camp. Tigerheart and Dovewing exchanged their sorrowful goodbyes before parting ways, and the shadowy cats disappeared from camp.
Moments later, a bark-colored head appeared from the Medicine Cat den. "Dovewing, could I see you, please?" Leafpool called the pale prisoner over, who trotted over in response.
Whitewing had fallen ill yesterday, the same thing that Thornclaw had. The tom was growing worse and worse, and Bumblestripe was starting to fear the worst. He was trying to comfort Blossomfall, but his attempts seemed to leave no impact on her. I wonder if Leafpool's informing Dovewing that she doesn't think Whitewing will make it? Ivypool's out of camp, so I'm certain she'll get the same talk later.
"Hey, Bumblestripe! Can you help me with this branch?" It was Lionblaze who called for him, so he nodded and hurried over to the lion-like tom. He was shocked to not see Cinderheart aiding him with the work.
"Where's Cinderheart? Normally she's with you every step of the way. Things are alright between you two, right?"
"Oh, yeah, yeah. We're perfectly fine, better than ever, actually." A small smile formed across his face, but it wasn't built of pure happiness. There was a hint of worry. Why? "...We're expecting kits, actually. But I'm afraid of what lies ahead for them..."
"Understandable," Bumblestripe commented quietly as he worked along, frowning despite his excitement for his friend's parenthood. "I wish we could find a way to win our freedom...to have things they way they once were."
Lionblaze's body flinched, casting the tabby warrior an apologetic glance after he assessed the situation. "I-I'm sorry, I know you and Dovewing are going through a rough patch-"
"No, don't worry about it. I'm happy for you." With a final shove, the two toms moved the branch to where they wished for it to be. "I think we're done. I'm tired of her infidelity."
"Good on you," smiling, Lionblaze gave the tabby tom a small nod before trudging a distance off, pausing to glance back over his shoulder at Bumblestripe uncertainly. "And what you mentioned earlier- maybe there is a way. But that's something you should keep to yourself for now..." Lionblaze's eyes anxiously darted over to a nearby Dark Forest warrior who passed by, but he was oblivious to the conversation of rebellion among the prisoners. "...I'll talk to you later tonight, Bumblestripe." The golden tom dismissed himself once the coast was clear, darting away to meet up with his mate and discuss their kittens.
After the two toms parted ways, Bumblestripe made his way back to where the prisoners rested. He noticed that his father wasn't particularly active that morning, and was still hiding within the den. Ducking inside, the tom realized that his father appeared to be in a worse condition when his eyes settled on him. Slinking over, he gently lay himself down beside his father, allowing their pelts to touch comfortingly.
"...I'm sorry about Mousewhisker, son." The ragged gray warrior spoke with his eyes shut, his breathing threateningly slow and his voice practically inaudible. His words had been so silent that Bumblestripe had to scoot himself closer to hear them, finding his heart racing rapidly in fear. He couldn't lose another loved one, not so soon.
"It's ok, dad." The younger one responded quickly, resting his head warmly on his father's and shutting his own eyes. "Don't worry about me. You need your rest, you've had a long couple of days-"
"I miss her." Graystripe interrupting the prisoner naggingly, a soft whine in his voice that caused Bumblestripe's throat to throb in grief. His father didn't specify who he missed, but all of the emotion from his father caused him to feel a wave of horrible grief. He could sense the immense amount of agony emitting from the older tom's presence, like shadows creeping over what was a sunny and beautiful morning.
"Silverstream." He finished weakly, squeezing his eyes further shut. "I can hear her calling my name every duskfall, it's like bird-song to my ears..." His body shuddered like a great chill hit him, and he curled into a tighter ball of sorrow. "...but she's gone. They killed her, Bumblestripe. What relief is death if the ones I love will not be there to welcome me, because those devils drove them away?" A burst of energy and anger, and it was gone as quickly as it came.
Bumblestripe raised his head from his father's, his gleaming optics resting on his father's sunken frame. He clung onto life because his two children were all the joy he had left in the world. In death, he'd have nothing. Only emptiness, like a starless and moonless midnight. "My sister and I are still here, and we still love you, father." He allowed his tail to embrace the thin body of Graystripe, his fear suddenly disappearing. "And we always will, even if you decide to let go."
Graystripe's flank no longer struggled to rise and fall, and instead he lay there still. Bumblestripe was left in the unwelcoming darkness of the den for a few moments before there was a blinding light, and his father's spirit rose from its corpse. He was young and powerful, and free from his aging prison at long last. He embraced his son for a final time before lifting off into the air and disappearing.
He had no time to mourn. Bumblestripe stole away as swiftly as he could to bury his father's remains and confront Brambleclaw about the situation. Lies had to be told, lies of betrayal and disownment, but it was for the betterment of Graystripe, and for the Clan. For now it was an awful way to remember Graystripe by, but they'd learn of the truth soon enough.
"Graystripe ran off and disowned him," Brambleclaw explained to Tigerstar as he relayed the message, "...Bumblestripe appears to be very upset by it. Blossomfall will be very hurt when she learns that their father abandoned them."
"I never knew Graystripe was such a coward. Running away? Hmph." The broad-shouldered Dark Forest tom stalked a ways off, thoughtfully staring down at the earth. "We'll send out a search party promptly."
They attempted to search for Graystripe until duskfall, with no success. They couldn't even find a scent trail. Hawkfrost didn't seem concerned, he declared that Graystripe was senile and had run off to die. But Bumblestripe knew the truth, even if calling Graystripe a coward made his blood boil.
At night, he lay outside of his den, watching the sky blacken.
That night, there was a single star in the sky, and not only did it light up the darkness, but their hearts as well.
It felt like years since Graystripe's passing, while it had only been about a moon. At dawn Bumblestripe struggled to rise, his body stiff and feeling as if dust had collected upon it. His sister was horribly distraught, convinced that her father was now senile and had run off to abandon her and her brother. Soon, she would learn the truth. Or at least, that was what Bumblestripe told himself every night when he struggled to fall asleep. It was a heavy burden he had to carry on his shoulders, for the sake of his Clan. Especially in this moment, as the Dark Forest grew restless after discovering a single star gleaming so boisterously bright. It mocked them, day in and day out. The evil spirits were as busy and enraged as a bee hive that had come under fire.
But on better terms, Squirrelflight and Bramblestar produced four fine and healthy kittens named Alderkit, Sparkkit, Dandelionkit, and Juniperkit. Bramblestar practically lived in the nursery at this point, sometimes Bumblestripe even joked with Lionblaze that it was Bramblestar who was mothering and nursing their kittens. Squirrelflight practically shot her freshkill out of her nostrils when she overheard the two toms, she was laughing so hard. Her mate wasn't so amused.
While the Dark Forest cats were quite harsher than normal, it seemed that their grip on the prisoners had loosened somewhat. Foolish thing to do, in Bumblestripe's mind. The prisoners in any Clan could act like a ticking time bomb, slowly counting down until the day they exploded up against the Dark Forest in rebellion. They could only bear so much lashing until they finally cracked. To Bumblestripe's relief, this meant more service to his Clan as an almost normal warrior, increased patrols and more opportunities to leave camp.
Without either Dovewing or his best friend Mousewhisker, however, things felt different. While Dovewing only caused him to feel more resentful, the void that Mousewhisker once filled left the tabby warrior feeling lonely. He also no longer had his father to talk with, with Graystripe's secret passing.
At least, not yet.
Now with Lionblaze fretting over Cinderheart like she was as fragile as a leaf, Bumblestripe had less cats to chat with. So for now, Foxleap was filling that...void. And by StarClan- could he be obnoxious. Especially about Ivypool, all he could ever talk about was Ivypool. But Bumblestripe couldn't be such a hypocrite, he knew he used to talk about Dovewing all too often. So he did his best to grit his teeth and suffer through Foxleap's many questions about relationships and comments about how breath taking Ivypool was and his eyes. Like he was doing right now.
"-like, I just don't know, Bumblestripe! How do I ask her, what should I do? I-I feel like I'm going to be all awkward and trip all over myself when I ask her, quite possibly accidentally shove Tigerstar into an ant pile and then have all the angry ants come out and bite Hawkfrost, and then-"
"Foxleap," he finally broke as he stopped in his tracks mid-patrol, turning to face the russet tom, "-...I'm not the best to ask about relationship advice! Just look at how Dovewing and I went." Bumblestripe lowered his voice and soothened his tone as he spoke, having no intention of hurting the young warrior's feelings. He just...didn't want Foxleap to bank on his terrible advice and lose the she-cat of his dreams for it. But the red tom only stared at him dumbly, head lowered like Bumblestripe was totally missing out on something. "Why're you looking at me like that?" Growing hot in his skin, he began to wonder if he had something stuck in his teeth. Ugh, mouse-brain!
"You're totally blind to it, aren't you?" Foxleap snorted so loudly that Bumblestripe swore that something accidentally came out of nose. But still, the silver tabby prisoner stared at Foxleap patiently.
"Rosepetal, you bee-brain!" Foxleap exclaimed as if it was obvious, turning and marching away from Bumblestripe with a roll of his pale eyes. Stumped and getting an awkward feeling in his gut, the silver tom chased after the red warrior.
"What about her?" But Foxleap didn't want to give answers, he only wanted to give a chase. If only the Dark Forest warriors saw them...they'd be toast. Lashing his tail in frustration after Foxleap stuck his tongue out at him, Bumblestripe darted after the tom, only for reality to hit. "Foxleap, wait-!" Near the ancient oak, the ground had collapsed to form a deep and deadly crater in the earth, and he was heading right for it. "No!"
But right before Foxleap's hind legs left the earth and sent him diving down to his doom, something caught him. With a starry flash, someone caught him and took him to safety back onto the ground. Skidding to a halt, Bumblestripe stared at his StarClan father in awe and also terror. "Dad!"
"G-G-G-Gray..." Backing away with his eyes as round as those of an owl, Foxleap stared at Graystripe with his jaws parted. It took a few moments for the situation to sink into his thick skull before he sent Bumblestripe a scathing dirty look. "You knew! He died and went to StarClan, and you lied to the whole Clan!" Graystripe had already vanished, fearful of being possibly spotted by a wandering Dark Forest cat.
"Foxleap, I can explain-"
"And your sister!" He gasped, raising a paw to his gaping mouth like some gossiping she-cat. "Oh my stars will she be furious when she finds out!"
"She's not going to find out, Foxleap." The silver tom cut him off swiftly with his tail lashing. "This is our secret now. If the wrong ears find out my father's in StarClan, he'll get killed again, and we'll be without any hope or help. You have to keep this between you and I, otherwise we risk destroying our only chance. I know my sister is upset, but..." He shook his head. "We can't risk it. Not until we know who we can fully trust to join this revolution."
"You mean...we can't even trust your sister?" The russet tom was starting to settle down and regain himself, looking a little more dignified than terrorized. He couldn't hold the warrior's gaze with such a shocked look in them, Bumblestripe felt as if he had betrayed everyone. Maybe he had. But it was for the best.
"Bumblestripe, again? Really?" The sarcastic tone came from the undergrowth from the other side of the crater, a thick-striped pelt similar to own rippling through the dark bracken. The ThunderClan prisoner felt the hairs along his spine standing up out of frustration, prepared for a fight. But right now, he was only praying that Toadfoot was on that patrol so he could sink his claws into his worthless hide and make him regret every laying a paw on Mousewhisker. But it was Darkstripe with Pinenose, and only those two. He was almost somewhat disappointed.
Turning and attempting (yet failing) to flatten his bristling coat, Bumblestripe faced Darkstripe. "We're on our side of the territory. Actually, you two are on ThunderClan territory." He corrected the pair with a small grin in attempts to be friendly, but the two felines saw through it.
"We understand that." Pinenose replied in a sharp growl, stepping up to stand beside the Dark Forest tom proudly, as if she was something special.
"We heard an awful lot of noise and only came over to...check up on our neighbors." Darkstripe offered a prickly grin, in which Foxleap recoiled in disgust. The russet tom looked as if he stepped in a steaming-hot pile of fresh fox dung. "After all, I'm a Dark Forest cat and formerly of ThunderClan. Is there anything wrong with checking up on old friends?"
"Well, everything's fine, thanks for your concern." Bumblestripe dismissed the pair before turning back to Foxleap, while cautiously glancing over to make sure the two cats left. They did. After waiting for several moments, Foxleap finally peeped up.
"You don't think they heard us, right?"
"No," Bumblestripe gave a small shake of his head. "You were loud, but not that loud." Turning and letting out a mental sigh of relief, he began to walk back towards the direction of camp. "C'mon, let's get back so you can ask Ivypool that question you've been dying to pop. Besides, the patrol is probably back by now. Let's grab our prey and meet up."
"Mom always said I was as loud as my coat color." Foxleap sounded almost triumphant about it. Bumblestripe didn't think it was meant to be a compliment, but he didn't want to deflate the red tom's ego. He needed to feel good about himself before he asked Ivypool to be his mate, otherwise Bumblestripe was positive he'd make a fool of himself. "I think Darkstripe and Pinenose are a thing. I think we interrupted their date." Foxleap wrinkled his nose in disgust as he finally broke the silence between the two, hoping to remove such awkwardness from the air.
"That's just gross and strange." Bumblestripe muttered under his breath, deciding to give the red tom some slack. "He's dead. I wonder if that means their kits would be half alive, and half dead?"
"Maybe they're only born half a cat..." Foxleap added thoughtfully as the two toms entered camp, only for the red one to stop dead in his tracks. There she was: Ivypool. Standing by the fresh kill, like she was waiting for him. Expecting it. Growing insecure almost immediately, Foxleap attempted to turn and flee out of camp, but Bumblestripe caught him and shoved him forward. He wasn't getting out of this one, it was time for him to man up.
"What're you waiting for? Go!" Bumblestripe urged the red tom forward who stumbled, quickly racing towards Ivypool this his heart pounding in his chest like heavy rain on leaves. He tripped over his paws as anticipated, spiraling down towards Ivypool.
"L-Look, I've been meaning to ask you for a long time Ivypool, I'm just a coward. I-I don't mean that I always am, just when I'm around you. Wait, that doesn't sound right." Foxleap stared at the ground while Ivypool chuckled at him, rising to her paws to walk alongside him after he dropped his fresh kill off. "Like, I'm afraid you'd deny me, that's what I mean. Not that I'm not confident, you wouldn't like that if I was. Right? Or would you? I-I mean I want to be me, but-" in the midst of his rambling on, Foxleap tripped over his own paw and swerved to his right, slamming into Hawkfrost to send the tom into the dirt.
"I'm going to murder you, Foxleap!!"
"What I'm trying to say is that I love you and would love to be your mate, Ivypool!" Finally, Foxleap got it out, even though Hawkfrost was cursing at him in the background and going on about how much he'd make him suffer under his claws. What a drama-queen. The red tom stood there, desperately staring into Ivypool's cool eyes as if he'd die if she denied him. She only smiled at him sweetly and touched his nose to his, gently brushing dirt off of his back with a swift sweep of her lengthy tail.
"You big oaf," it was hard to hear her underneath all of the purring she was doing unintentionally, so much that her body began to quake. "That had to be the worst attempt I've ever seen, but I have to say yes. I'd happily walk by your side as your mate, Foxleap."
Bumblestripe watched the pair embrace in the distance by the prisoner's den, relaxing his frame contently as he slowly seated himself. Hawkfrost stormed off to take his frustration out on someone else after he was ignored, likely to go complain to his father. The silver prisoner was proud of his work. Even if he couldn't end up in a happy relationship of his own, the least he could do was help out Foxleap, even if it didn't require giving him any advice. He just needed a literal push.
"Bumblestripe?" The voice took him by surprise, causing him to leap to his pause and his fur to stand up. Turning with his eyes round, he realized that it was Sorreltail. "Could we talk, please? Outside of camp?" Although his instincts told him otherwise, the silver tom nodded and trotted after the queen who had lost her kittens at a leisurely pace, to ensure that he recieved no suspicious glances from his Dark Forest superiors. Once they were a safe distance from camp and Sorreltail ensured that nobody was eavesdropping, she stepped closer to Bumblestripe. "I know about your father, for the record. The rebellion will be soon." The tortoiseshell spoke in a low tone, and her eyes held a mischievous gleam that would spell nothing but trouble.
"How do you know?" The prisoner's words came out as both a gasp and a half-hiss, disgruntled that his father would go behind his back, and above all things else, mention nothing about the upcoming revolution. However, he immediately felt foolish. How was Bumblestripe to know where Sorreltail's true loyalties lied? She could be putting up a front to appease her Dark Forest masters by milking secrets out of him? Yet if that was a case, Bumblestripe already spoiled it all.
It was almost as if she could read his unspoken fears. Flicking her tail dismissively, the former queen quickly decided to explain the situaiton. "He came to me in a dream- he's come to a few of us, actually. He's picking your allies for you, Bumblestripe, because he can see what we cannot. Graystripe wanted to inform you personally- honestly! But...it wasn't safe. He couldn't linger long."
The slightest sensation of relief washed over the black-striped warrior, and he allowed his shoulders to relax. Good- it appeared that she was on their side. He nodded his broad head to communicate his understanding, and prepared to step away as if he was dismissed from her conversation- but it was far from over. He would wish that he left at that moment.
"Wait-" Sorreltail begged him to return, and at once a sense of urgency gripped her voice. Was Graystripe ok? Had the Dark Forest found out already? "That's...that's not the real reason I brought you out here today, Bumblestripe. It's all true, and I wish it was all, but..." He could tell that she didn't wish to deliver whatever news she had to share by the way that both her head and tail drooped towards the dry forest floor. He immediately shared her despondent demeanor, but little did he know, he would feel much more frenzied when he heard what she had to tell him. "Whitewing passed away last night, but that wasn't the reason why Dovewing was visiting Jayfeather that day you saw her."
In that moment, he knew what she had to say- he could only hope that Sorreltail would hold her tongue, or even just lie to spare him the agony.
"Bumblestripe...Dovewing's expecting kits. But we don't know who the father is."