Episode Two, Season One, of Solitary.
I felt my breathing quicken at the sight. All these cats were making my stomach flip. Why did I decide to go there in the first place? Why did I decide to look?
It’s because Oak said that there was cats coming to the area, a voice whispered in my head. And you decided to look. You didn’t have to look, Wisp… you could’ve just stayed in your own, solitary life…
I tried to push the thoughts away, but they were haunting me. The thoughts that were in my head were true. I didn’t have to go and see those cats. I could’ve stayed solitary.
But this felt different. It felt like I would be needed, in some way…
However, before I could do anything else, I sprinted down the tree, fast as a hawk, before the strange cats noticed. I ran into the trees, hoping to the sky that they wouldn’t see me coming.
I needed to think about this. The land was inhabited.
And what was I meant to do about it now?
Everything was falling – falling from the sky. Crashing erupted around the place. In this place of worry and fear, there was no time for peace.
Yowling of cats was splitting the air – shrieks of fright. Cats were dodging trees, some big, some small. Young cats were being held by older ones, their scruffs held tight.
“How are we meant to live through this?” a brown tabby she-cat asked. Her amber eyes were full of fear. “None of the Clans are safe.”
“We’ll have to leave,” echoed a skinny gray-and-white tom. His ears were torn, his teeth broken and jagged. “There’s no place here for us anymore.”
“Surely it can’t be StarClan’s destiny for us to leave?” whispered the brown tabby she-cat, her amber eyes like suns. “They can’t. StarClan has the power to stop anything.”
The gray-and-white tom gave her a sorrowful look. “They can’t, he mewed hoarsely.” As soon as he had said the words, however, a large branch hit him, and he fell to the ground. His tattered body was unmoving.
He was dead.
“Wisp!” A snarl broke in from the dream, and I opened my eyes, relieved to see the cover of foliage around me. It hadn’t been real, the thing I had seen.
It couldn’t be real. Why the starry ancestors from above would let the forest fall? It was impossible for that to happen –
Well, I corrected, maybe not. Those cats weren’t successful. Their ancestors failed them!
Remembering the strange cats living nearby, I suppressed a hiss of fury. Was this what had happened to them, before they had come here?
“Wisp!” The same voice spoke again. I looked down to see Oak there, with an evil grin spread across his broad, scarred face.
“I’m surprised you haven’t been scared off by our newest neighbours yet,” Oak taunted mockingly. The brown tom shot a smug glance at me. “They’re so big, they’ll hunt you, and eat you – they’re so vicious!”
I wasn’t inclined to agree with Oak. Knowing him, he was probably only doing this to taunt me. “So you don’t like them?” I retorted, my fur bristling in anger. “Why aren’t you running away, then? I thought scared cats fled from stuff like that.”
I saw rage flare in Oak’s green eyes, and I knew – for once – that I had angered him. It wasn’t like me to do that, but I couldn’t help feeling proud of myself.
“You’d better watch out, you solitary frog-brain,” Oak snarled, revealing sharp, pointed white teeth. “Because if you do this again, I won’t be afraid to attack you.” Tail lashing, I saw Oak turn away from me, and pad into the undergrowth, hissing.
A hidden fire burned inside me, proud, yet sad. I had finally learned to stand my ground – but maybe I had just created a fresh lot of enemies.
Twitching my tail contently, I purred. For once, I was not being bothered by other cats. For once, I had peace – something I hadn’t had in a while.
This is so good… I thought, as I closed my eyes. This is perfect.
“Hey, is there a rogue near here? I can smell his scent.”
My eyes flew open in shock. Apparently, I was wrong. Looking over, I saw a white she-cat – one I had never seen before – and a reddish-brown tom, also unfamiliar.
Those must be some of those Clan cats! What are they doing over here?
I bent my head down, and growled: “You’re right, Clan cat. And he’ll claw you if you bother him.”
The two cats turned – surprised – in my direction. Their eyes were narrowed slits as they took the scene in. The white she-cat looked unfazed.
“We’ll claw you, if you step on TreeClan’s territory,” she hissed, her fur bristling. “We’ll take you to our camp, and Hawkstar will not treat you kindly.”
Hawkstar must be their leader, I realized. These cats must be members of that ‘TreeClan’.
“Well, then,” I retorted, “you stay out of mine.”
The reddish-brown tom hissed angrily. His amber eyes blazed with fury as he stared at me, stony silent. Finally, he opened his mouth, and growled: “You’re lucky that you’re not on TreeClan territory. Some unlucky rogues have already been clawed by their foolish act. I assure you, rogue, that if you stay off our territory, you will be safe.” His tone was sharp, but there was a hint of warning in it, as well.
I nodded slowly. “I’m sure I will stay off your territory,” I mewed quietly. “If you stay away from my tree.” My tail pointed at the tree I was sitting on.
The white she-cat nodded. “You’d better.” At this, her and her reddish-brown companion turned tail, and padded into the trees.
As they left, I growled back at them: “You’d better stay away from my tree… or I will trespass, whether you like it or not.”
I paced around the forest, stepping carefully so I made sure I didn’t set a paw on Clan territory. Their scent markers were useful – it was obvious when you were about to step into their territory, unless their scent markers were stale.
My head turned in the direction of the forest, and my eyes narrowed. What did those Clan cats do all day, apart from scent-marking their borders and hunting?
Fighting, a voice in my mind said. Remember that reddish-brown tom and that white she-cat? They would’ve clawed you if you’d stepped on their territory. Of course they fight, Wisp, you mouse-brain. That definitely made sense. However, I was sure that there was something that tied them to their Clan. From the rumours that Raven had been talking about, I had picked up that Raven had heard some of the Clan cats talking about something called a ‘warrior code’.
Who cares what that is? Clan cats have stupid things.
“Come on! We need to see Hawkstar, remember?”
A voice – unfamiliar to me – made my ears prick. I saw two cats picking their way through the forest. Their eyes were wide.
“Shouldn’t we try and find a TreeClan patrol?” one of the cats asked a small brown tom. “They’ll escort us to their camp. Besides, we don’t even know their camp is, anyway.”
“It’ll be in a clearing surrounded by trees, knowing them,” the brown cat growled in reply. “It was like that in the old forest, where we used to live. Come on.”
The two cats moved away, and I felt my eyes widening. Were those two cats that I had just seen rogues? Were they something else?
I tasted their scent markers that they have left behind, and I felt my gray fur lifting. Those cats weren’t ordinary cats – they were Clan cats!
So then, why didn’t they know the way? I asked myself. Maybe it’s because there’s more than one group? That thought chilled me, but I couldn’t help wondering if it was true.
I narrowed my eyes as I stared through the bushes. I could see Oak and Raven pacing around their place again, worried about something. The brown tabby she-cat that I had seen with Raven a quarter-moon ago was also there with them.
Raven’s head was lowered. The black tom was scuffling one of his dark front paws along the ground. He looked up, and mewed: “Those Clan cats are a nuisance.”
Oak was obviously agreeing with his friend, because he nodded agreement, and growled: “There’s less prey for us. We’re starving because they’re all eating it.”
I knew that the last part of what Oak said was a lie. I had been able to find enough food for myself – so they shouldn’t have had any trouble as well.
“We’re fine, Oak,” the brown tabby she-cat mewed quietly. Her blue eyes were misty as she stared at the ground. “The forest has enough prey for everyone?”
“And what if another group comes along?” Raven pointed out sharply. His gaze snapped to the brown tabby she-cat. “Larch, there won’t be enough prey then.”
“I doubt that another group is going to come here,” Larch meowed, as she shot an icy gaze at Oak and Raven. “How can so many groups survive in the forest? There’s not enough space for them. I thought you would be wiser than that, Oak, knowing that you know the forest better than any other cat that lives.” She paused, and then added: “Even the Clan cats.”
“The Clan cats stay in their territories, marked with their scent,” Raven pointed out. “I haven’t seen one of them outside of them yet.”
I saw the three cats nod at each other, their gazes weary, yet alert. Finally, Raven stood up.
“Let’s go catch some food before the Clan cats steal it all, eh?” he mewed, his amber eyes shifting from Oak to Larch.
At this, I knew they were going to come. Turning tail so that they wouldn’t see me, I plunged into the thick undergrowth, thoughts rushing through my head. Larch did have a point when she said that only so many groups could inhabit the forest, but my question about it was that how many cats could live there before there was no room left.
My fur fluffed up as I wandered in the predawn light. The scent marker beside me was like a path to my destination, soon to be arrived at.
I needed to see if it was true, if there was two Clans that had inhabited the forest. It didn’t seem true, when I had looked at them from that tree all those days ago. But now, it definitely seemed possible.
Another chilly breeze buffeted me, and I looked on further, narrowing my eyes. Tasting the air, I could smell TreeClan scent, and another scent that I didn’t recognize. The scent was fresh, as well.
Fresh? It seemed unusual at this time of day, for the scent to be fresh. Were there cats nearby?
I tasted the air again, just to make sure. No, I don’t smell – wait a minute…
I could smell two different scents coming in my direction. Eyes widening, I turned, and hid in a bush nearby – close enough so that I could see what was going on, but also far away enough so that they couldn’t spot me easily.
A speckled gray tom emerged from the side that wasn’t TreeClan. I recognized him immediately as the second cat who had accompanied the small brown tom on his way to the TreeClan camp yesterday.
Almost on cue, the white she-cat who had threatened him at his tree stepped out as well. Her green eyes were burning like fire.
“Gooseflight,” hissed the white she-cat. I saw her claws unsheathe in fury as she took the scene in. Her gaze was fixated on the speckled tom in front of her.
“Blossomheart,” echoed Gooseflight, his blue eyes serious, yet was shining.
Blossomheart looked furious. “Get away from me, ForestClan scum,” she hissed. Gooseflight looked ready to protest, but she interrupted him before he could speak. “This is over. I need to stay loyal to TreeClan now. The Journey between the Forests is over.”
Gooseflight looked furious as I backed away, turned tail once more, and fled.
There are two Clans… my guess was right… I was haunted with fear. There are a lot of cats! Obviously my first and second guesses were wrong!
How can I be safe now?