The night was dead silent, as two figures gently paddled side by side, their eyes shinning in the dark of the night, leaves crunching under their feet.
"Did you hear about what happened?" The sleek black she-cat asked the tom, placing her head against his shoulder, "In the street right across mine?"
"No, what?" Concern entered the gray tom's expression.
"A fire," she she-cat shuddered, "I was awaken in the middle of the night, by the sounds of the twoleg machines roaring about."
"A fire?" The cat stopped paddled and turned to face her with a serious expression, "Are you sure that's what it was, Bella?"
"I have eyes and a nose," Bella replied with a gentle sniff, flicking his nose gently with her tail, "Which can't be said for you, Strike."
"Hey!" He purred, as he turned around and batted at Bella with sheathed claws, as she let out playful shrieks, trying to avoid his soft paws.
When they were done joking around, Bella returned to Strike, and their pelts melted back together again as they continued their discussion.
"Several of the dens on the streets were burning," Bella whispered gently, "And there were a lot of twolegs that were being pulled out of the houses."
"That sounds terrible," Strike shuddered gently, "I can't believe I didn't hear the fire."
"I told you your senses weren't working," Bella's whiskers twitched and Strike gently rolled his eyes at her, pretending not to be amused.
"Were any of the twolegs dead?" Strike asked her cautiously.
"I don't know," Bella shrugged, gently, "They were being carried by other twolegs, though, so I think that most of them were hurt."
"Poor twolegs," Strike murmured gently, "I know sometimes they can forget to feed us, or keep us locked inside when it rains, and we can really hate them for that, but sometimes it may be wise to stop and think about what we do without their aid."
Bella nodded gently, "I wonder what the cats who lived on that street will do now."
"Life will be tough for them," Strike agreed, "I doubt that most of them will even be able to survive for another couple seasons."
"Poor cats," Bella gently murmured.
"I'll think about them before I go to sleep everynight," Strike claimed, "And thank the stars that I have not been bestowed with that unfortunate fate."
"As will I," Bella murmured.
There was a gently moment of silence.
"Well I have to go now," Strike finally murmured, "The twolegs will begin to worry about me if I take any longer than I already have."
"I should probably be heading back too," Bella agreed, "I guess I'll see you again tomorrow night."
"Bye," Strike whispered, as he turned around and began to paddle away from the pretty she-cat, "I love you, Bella."
"I love you too!" Bella replied, as she began to paddled in the opposite direction of her mate, soft footsteps carrying her back to her nest.
And as they gently walked away from each other both had the poor kittypets that were about to suffer a terrible fate on their minds, wondering how destiny could possibly be so cruel to any cat, and grateful that they were fortunate enough not to have had the fires reach their dens.
While above them, the stars sparkled brightly, the only hope left for the cats that were lost in life, and with no other lights left to guide them.
How could everything go so wrong in just a single night? Leaf wondered his head turning around in horror, trying to take in the full amount of damage that had been caused by the fire.
The foul smell of smoke and ash still hung in the air, causing Leaf to cough with every sharp breath he took, brining hot tears to his eyes.
But the smell and the contaminated air weren't the only problems caused by the fire. If one were to glance at the street that had been Leaf's home for all of his life they could never have been able to tell there was any twoleg life there, if not for the tens of cats prowling around the streets helplessly.
The houses had all dismounted into large piles of ash, a lot of it had been swiped away by the fierce winds of autumn but it was impossible to avoid getting your paws dark while walking through the streets.
leaf could hardly remember what state he had been at a few nights ago, when he had woken up to see his twolegs frantically trying to exit the house, coughing wildly and screaming at each other.
As soon as he smelled the smoke, he hadn't hesitated to follow them through the exit of their den and into the cold darkness of the night where one of the moving machines that carried them around, with big red flashing lights, appeared and kidnapped them, leaving Leaf stranded in the middle of the night all on his own.
A large rumbling noise erupted from Leaf's stomach and he sighed loudly, not sure how to solve the new problem of hunger. His owners had always fed him before and satisfied his stomach's needs.
But not he was all on his own to find and prepare food.
It might not have been so bad if he were the only one who had lost his twolegs; he could have went to the big green box stuffed with leftover food and eaten from there, but with so many hungry cats that didn't know how to catch their own food, it was too crowded to even get near the green box.
Another loud rumble erupted from Leaf's stomach which he desperately tried to suppress; both the disturbing noise and the hunger that came with it.
Do I stand any chance of survival without my twolegs?
Leaf doubted that the answer to that question was the one he would wish to receive but he reminded himself forcefully that his twolegs would be back soon.
They will be back.
They had to return. And they would. His twolegs would never abandon him. They just had to heal after the fire, find a new den and return to come pick him up and take them to a new street and a new house, with those brand new toys that he could claw, while his owners sat on them.
"I hope they hurry," He whispered to himself, "My stomach really hurts. The brown food they fed me might not have tasted the best but at least it kept me full."
Placing his head on his paws, Leaf sighed, and decided that falling asleep, under the tree in the backyard of one of the neighboring den's of his former one where he had been spending most of his days since the fateful night of the fire, would be the thing to do at that moment.
When Leaf opened his eyes he was facing a wide and fast forest, full of vivid life, with beautiful flowers, brightening and coloring the scene set before him, squirrels, mice and birds all which gave his stomach a hopeful lunge causing him to gently lick his lips alongside many other plants such as ferns and short berry trees scattered around the green landscape.
"Where am I?" Leaf gently wondered feeling a strong sense of excitement surge through him as he took several soft steps on the dreamy land.
There was no reply, as he realized that the forest was no inhabited by any cats; rather it was just him and the nature that bloomed before his eyes.
A mouse gently scurried along, right before his paws, and Leaf instinctively felt his claws dashing at it, and draining its life away.
Slowly, he lowered his head to bite into the mouse feeling a warm feeling taking over him, before turning his head back up admiring the wonderful forest yet again.
I'd give anything to live here...
Leaf blinked his eyes open and coughed when the sharp scent of smoke reached his nostrils yet again, alongside the sharp tears that the coughing brought.
The whole dreamy forest had just been a vivid part of his imagination; something he had wanted so badly he had been able to create it in his dreams.
Sighing, he pushed himself up to his paws, trying to imagine how wonderful a life in that forest would be.
"I wish it were real."
Another one of those dreams, Leaf realized as his paws gently snapped several twigs which were lying under them, and the warming smell of the forest reached his nose.
He had been having the dreams for the past half moon, during which his twolegs still had not shown up. He had been left with no choice but to fight his way through the other hungry kittypets to get a few scraps of food each day.
It only became worse every night when he returned to his dreams where the lovely forest would taunt him about what he could never have.
Yet again he could see the vibrant flowers, hear the lovely birds and smell the rich prey of the forest; all of which made him yearn to actually be in the forest.
Yet he knew the closest he could ever be to it was his dreams.
And it would be very likely to remain that way.
He sighed, feeling the mouse that always showed up at that particular point in his dream, gently scurrying by him and as always he felt his claws being lowered.
With a swift movement he had killed the mouse and it was lying nimbly on the floor, as he leaned over to take a large bite out of the mouse, and a juicy flavor exploded inside his mouth.
He was surprised with how much stringer it felt than usual, and figured that he must have been getting hungrier by the day, without his twolegs to feed him.
Once he had picked the mouse clean to the bone, he pushed it aside, and gently began to paddle along the forest figuring that he should enjoy it while he could.
The forest felt even warmer than usual and the strong scent of the trees was far more vivid. Leaf could actually feel, more than ever,like he was actually in the forest.
Sighing, he continued to paddle along, allowing his dream's usual cycle to continue. Soon he was sure to reach a long and vast stream, which produced a loud thrashing noise.
And soon enough, he could hear the loud noise, moments before the beautiful river came into his view, shimmering under the sunlight.
As always, the forest was very silent and there didn't appear to be any life but the birds, prey and little insects that were floating around.
Reaching the edge of the river Leaf stared into it for a little while, making out his ginger pelt and deep amber eyes in the reflection that it provided.
Leaning in a little closer to get a sip of water, Leaf soon found himself tripping into the river and let out a loud gasp, as he felt the cold water soaking his pelt.
But there was no one.
Forgetting for a moment that it was a dream, and therefor he could not be hurt, Leaf began thrashing wildly, trying to get a grip on anything he could find.
He soon, had his paws clinging to a sharp rock, and with a mighty heave, he pushed himself out of the water, his paw sliding against the sharp rock, as he pulled himself to the shore, dripping wet.
But Leaf found himself unable to mind that he was soaking, or that his paw was bleeding and stinging terribly in pain. Rather, he found great joy in the pain oozing through his body; pain he was positive was physical and not mental; as it felt too sharp to be anything but.
Because he was sure now that this couldn't be a dream.
He was actually in the forest.
"Are you sure it's a good place to live?" Reed, Leaf's friend since kithood questioned, as they paddled through the forest together, Leaf jumping with each step.
"I'm sure of it!" He assured his friend, "I've been having dreams about this forest for the past half moon cycle now; I know it's the perfect place to live."
"It appears pretty," Reed commented uncertainly, glancing at the large, towering trees.
"There is a lot of prey," Leaf quickly added, "Fresh food tastes much better than the stale, dirty things we manage to pick up."
"I miss my twolegs," Reed sighed.
"We all do," Leaf replied gently, inhaling the sweet scent of the forest, "But I guess we just have to face the fact that they won't be returning no matter how much we want them too."
Leaf hadn't realized that he had been thinking that the whole time, until the words finally escaped his mouth and he was left to realize how truthful they were.
Reed sighed, tears reaching the edges of his eyes, "I still can't believe they would abandon us like this," He croaked, "After all our memories."
"Twolegs are strange I guess," Leaf whispered, as he continued to lead his friend through the forest, before finally pausing to turn around.
"What do you think?"
It was a tense moment while Reed glanced around shyly for several long moments, obviously not sure what the consequences of his choice would be.
Then he sighed.
"I suppose life here would be so much easier; and perhaps I just have to accept that my twolegs will never be coming back. I'll stay with you."
"Great!" Leaf beamed, feeling relief rushing through him.
"I hope I won't regret this."
"I hope so too."
"There is plenty of space for other cats as well," Reed claimed, "Maybe it would be a good idea to invite more cats here so we could become a group and help each other surviving. It had been tough for all of us without our twolegs to provide us with the basic needs of survival."
Leaf found himself glancing at Reed, his mind whirling as he began to wonder if it just might be the best idea he had ever heard.
"This is a fair amount of cats," Lead observed, his eyes glancing over the kittypets that he had been trying to convince for the past few sunrises to come join the Clan that he was trying to start up alongside Reed.
"Do you really want us to live here?" One of the plumped cats asked glancing at the forest cautiously, "It looks nice, but the food might be able to run..."
"There will be more of it," One of the other cats that had gathered whispered, "And it will taste much better. We won't have to fight for it either."
"But I don't know how to hunt. And it must be hard..."
Leaf raised his voice a little, feeling the need to capture the attention of the cats that were gathered to hear what he had to say, "I was thinking that we could possibly form a Clan, which would make survival easier yet eliminate any competition... We could learn to live together in the wild."
There was a tense moment of silence as the cats glanced at each other curiously, all considering what had been said and what the consequences of agreeing to join might become.
Then one of the cats; a brown tabby tom, with bright yellow eyes that held a certain flare to them took a step forward and loudly spoke, "I will join your Clan."
Autumnstar was standing at the entrance to camp when Leafpaw returned from a hunting; two mice proudly hanging from his jaws.
"Good hunt, Leafpaw!" He congratulated and Leafpaw purred a thanks, feeling pride swelling through his heart as he walked up to the fresh-kill pile and dropped off his mice, before turning around and paddling over to the apprentice den; unable to keep himself from glancing around camp as he did.
A moon had passed since Reed-Reedpaw now-had given him the idea to gather the kittypet's together to create a Clan. Enough of the kittypets had agreed to join and the first cat who had agreed to join the Clan; whose name had then been Fawn, had agreed to lead the new Clan they decided to call AutumnClan-after the season during which it had been founded-and take the name Autumnstar.
Of course they hadn't known at the time that he should take the suffix of 'star.' Several sunrises into the birth of the Clan, Autumnstar claimed to have been visited in his dreams by cats in the stars who would guide his Clan to become what they were trying to be.
Soon, Autumnstar was appointing a deputy, selecting mentors for 'apprentices' and gained nine lives. At first Leaf had been a little infuriated that he had been an apprentice when he had been the one that had gathered the kittypet's trying to convince them to join the soon-to-become AutumnClan. He soon, however, found that being an apprentice really wasn't that bad and he didn't really mind it at all.
He realized that it would make his life in the Clan much more complete.
A moon afterwords AutumnClan was large and thriving with many former kittypets who were quickly adjusting to a life in the forest.
It was exactly what Leafpaw had been hoping would happen.
"I think I'm going to become a warrior soon!" Leafpaw heard Crimsonpaw explain, as he entered the den gently, glancing around quickly.
Besides Crimsonpaw, the only other apprentice was Firepaw, whom she was speaking with.
"Awesome!" Firepaw exclaimed, "I think I still have to wait several moons before I can become a warrior."
Ignoring the excited chattering about the apprentices, Leafpaw walked over to his nest, gently curling up against the moss and allowing himself to fall asleep.
When Leafpaw woke up there was a lot of commotion stirring in camp. He quickly jumped to his paws and dashed out of his den to see what was going on.
Reedpaw was standing in the center of camp, his eyes shinning with excitement.
"The twolegs have returned!" He exclaimed bouncing on his paws with great excitement and the Clan immediately burst into chatter while Leaf was left to watch curiously.
They took their time...
But Leafpaw found himself wishing that they had never returned in the first place. All of AutumnClan were formerly kittypets and Leafpaw suddenly found himself worrying that many members of the Clan would decide to join their twolegs again; leaving AutumnClan with just a handful of cats, and they would be left with no choice but to disperse after that.
After how hard they had all worked to bring the Clan together.
Ignoring the excited chatter, Leafpaw sighed, turning around and heading back to his den, a single thought repeating over and over in his mind.
This was a terrible idea from the start...
"Would all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the HighStone for a Clan meeting!" Autumnstar's loud voice rang through camp waking Leafpaw up for the second time that day.
He felt anxiety surging through his body, as he forced his eyes shut and tried to remind himself that he wanted his twolegs to return. They had been his best friends since kithood and there was no reason to favor the Clan over them if they had returned.
But as he paddled out of the den, he found himself wishing that the twolegs hadn't returned at all.
I like the Clan; and as much as I may have enjoyed the company of my twolegs they are my past... or they were supposed to be.
Leafpaw joined Reedpaw who was sitting before the HighStone his whiskers quivering in excitement as he faced his Clan leader.
"Hey," Leafpaw gave his friend a gently smile and Reedpaw waved his tail at Leafpaw.
"They actually did return," He claimed, "Not every single one of them; but most of them did," He was obviously thrilled by the return of his twolegs.
"Great!" Leafpaw choked out his fake enthusiasm, trying to at least look happy for Reedpaw's sake even if he wasn't nearly as delighted.
Once all the cats had settled beneath him, Autumnstar began, "Our twolegs have returned!" He claimed, excitement rising in his voice.
The cats quickly turned to each other prepared to erupt into chatter, however, before they could, Autumnstar quickly flicked his tail, "You have not left yet," He claimed, like a mother scolding her kits, "I still wish for you to listen properly when I address the Clan."
The cats quickly quieted down, some dipping their head in shame, while Autumnstar continued, "This Clan was originally created to help us surviving in the wild without the help of our twolegs! We have grown to be much larger than I ever thought we would. However, I am aware that now our whole purpose has been knocked over there is no purpose to keep this Clan together."
There was a tense moment of silence before he continued, "I do not blame any of you for wishing to return to your twolegs. They were your family first. So, once I have dismissed the Clan for a final time, in just a few moments, you will be free to return to your old lives."
The air was more tense that Autumnstar was intending to make it as he sighed, "I bid you all farewell and wish you well in life."
He flicked his tail and the cats began to disperse, as Leaf realized with a sharp blow of pain, that almost all of them were rushing to escape camp.
I know the Clan was worth more than this to them...
"Wait!" Leaf felt his voice rising loudly, and his gaze desperatly turning to all of the cats who were trying to push their way out of the entrance.
The Clan may have only been a moon old; but it had grown so quickly and so strong, recieving so many blessings from the cats that Autumnstar claimed to dwell in the stars.
His voice must have been louder than he heard it to be, because all of the cats quickly snapped around, a curious look entering their eyes.
"What's wrong, Leafpaw," Autumnstar asked his gently as he forced himself to keep his head up and face the cats that were anxiously awaiting their departure from the Clan.
"How could you do this?" He felt himself asking his Clanmates, "You worked so hard to feed this Clan, to bond with the other members of it and to prove your loyalty. Every piece of prey that we caught and distributed to the rest of camp was proof that you were connected to this Clan. Every patrol that we set off on was proof that you were dedicated to AutumnClan. Every new arrival you anxiously welcomed was proof that you were all for the better interest of the Clan. But now you just leave it."
"We knew our twolegs first," One of the warriors claimed.
"Yes, but they are twolegs," Leafpaw pointed out, "You can't communicate with them like you can with the Clan. And what about all of the hard work you put into becoming so fit and learning how to hunt and fight off intruders. Those abilities will rot away if you return to your old lives."
"And this forest was created for us. I can feel it with every step I take into the soil, each breath I draw in, and every tree that I can see. StarClan created this forest for us to live in it. StarClan is counting on us to make good use of what we were given."
"If you compared your lives with the kittypets to your lives in the Clan, which one actually makes you feel better about yourself? Which one did you get more joy, excitement and pleasure out of? Which one did you feel served more justice to your birth."
There was a tense moment of silence while Leafpaw paused.
Then Reedpaw turned around, "I'd like to remain in the Clan," He claimed, "Because Leafpaw is correct. This life has always been a better one for me."
The excited looks on his Clanmates' faces began to change to thoughtfulness as they tried to process what he said; and decide if he possessed a point.
Autumnstar, however, was quicker to make his choice and quickly jumped back onto the HighStone, his eyes shinning with a brand new light.
"Leafpaw has a point," He claimed, "And I refuse to let this Clan die after all StarClan did to help me build it this past moon. AutumnClan will still be open to those who wish to stay!"
Leafpaw waited in apprehension as the former kittypets began to further debate returning to their old lives. A few moments later, many of them were turning away from the exit, heading back to stand beneath the HighStone, leaving a warm feeling inside of Leafpaw.
Perhaps this AutumnClan does have what it takes to survive after all...
There was a gentle moment of silence.
"Is that you Belle?"
The night was silent a little longer, before the tom hiding behind the ferns felt himself being bowled over by a light body.
"Hey!" He protested, batting at his mate gently, as they rolled around in the grasses, the moon shinning brightly above them, before breaking apart, both laughing.
"How was your day?" Belle questioned, as they straightened themselves, and quickly patted down their fur with quick licks.
"Fine," Strike claimed, "Yours?"
"The usual," Belle replied, gently leaning against him, as they began their nightly walks, the sweet scent of the cool air filling her nose.
They were silent for several long moments before Bella spoke.
"Remember that fire that I was speaking of, which took place three whole seasons ago. You could smell the ashes for almost a moon, even on my street."
"I remember that," Strike nodded, "What about it?"
"The kittypets that lived near that street turned out to be just fine," Bella claimed, "Not only that, they formed a Clan in the forest that was a couple blocks behind them."
"A Clan?" Strike questioned.
"Yes," Bella nodded, "They live together now; or so I have heard from so many of my neighbors and the alley cats. I've even heard a rumor that their leader; Autumnstar has nine loves, which is why he has already "died" twice but yet still survived it."
"That sounds fake," Strike claimed, "It's probably just a rumor."
"I don't know..." Bella shrugged, "I heard it directly from a kitty pet who was watching I'm as he got hit by a two leg monster and lost one of his lives."
"That's interesting," Strike claimed and Bella agreed, continuing on to explain the Clan to her kittypet mate, who was listening in interest."
"Who would have known?" Strike me owed gently when she was done, "That such a thing could have come from something as disastrous as a fire."
"I guess sometimes we all fail to foresee the future effects of events," Bella claimed and Strike gently bobbed his head up and down in agreement.
"Is the Clan populated?" He asked Bella.
"Very," his mate replied, "They have a couple dozen warriors already and about ten apprentices. I recently heard that one of the first apprentices, Leafpaw, became a warrior; they names him Leaffall.
"That's a strange name," the Tom observed and Bella purred, turning her head up to the stars.
"I remember when we wondered how fate could be so cruel," she whispered, "But it seems to have had the opposite effect on the kittypets that we all thought it might have."
"Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge fate," Strike whispered, "It does know what's best; it created the timeline of the world and will always know what is to happen after all."
"I guess the Clan cats learned that firsthand," Bella replied, "But I'm sure they have been glad to have learned it. Because now they have a strong Clan which will doubtlessly survive.
"They are the first of the seasons," Strike whispered, "Somehow, though, their story seems incomplete... I have a feeling it is to continue."
"As do I," Bella claimed, before gently flicking Strike's nose with her tail.
"I have to go now, I'll see you tomorrow," she claimed.
Strike nodded, turning his head back up to the stars; they looked the same to him as they had three seasons ago; the night of the fire.
But he was sure they looked different to those cats of AutumnClan.
"Good night, Bella!" He called after the she-cat, barely able to hear her reply, when it came to him.