Episode 8 of Season 1 of War.
My name is Brookfall and I come from the tiny fishing camp that Main Camp cats call Summerstorm. Probably because when the angry summer thunderstorms come we get flooded. Or just because it sounds pretty, who knows?
But in the world of refined commanders and well educated apprentices, I am a country she-cat, not really knowing much about Main Camp and it's ways. I was the only she-cat my age, I was best friends with my parents. I didn't get a true education- I just know how to hunt and fight as well as I do thanks to the army I was forced to join, the first of my camp to do so.
WaterClan cats stream into Main Camp, one talking with Gorsefur before he heads with the others and Gorsefur returns to me.
"Pebblepelt says he'll go brief to Riverclaw or Waterstar."
"Riverclaw?" I gulp, staring at the huge camp that thrives below me. I can barely even see the end of it- there's a market where cats call out with fish and medicines and other stuff. There's barracks and a huge sprawling medicine compound and dens where families sit, watching kits tumble about or talking over fish.
"The deputy of WaterClan," Gorsefur peers at me, "You okay?"
"I-I just never..." I tear my gaze away from the camp and look into Gorsefur's golden eyes, "It's so big. And it's so grand and it's..." I trail off, looking back towards the WaterClan Main Camp. My own dusty little home has nothing compared to it.
Gorsefur looks at me, then up to the sky. "It'll take a day to walk back to where Badgerstrike is. And he's not expecting us for at least another couple of days. We can stay here for tonight if you'd like."
"Can we?" I dance excitedly, "Let's go, let's go, let's go!"
I charge down the slope, Gorsefur purring behind me. We explode into the camp, the barracks being the first part.
A couple of soldiers glare at us. I skid to a halt and wave my tail embarrassedly. One of the soldiers approaches, "Names, ranks, and reason for visiting the Camp?"
"Gorsefur and Brookfall, second and soldier, and we're just visiting on a day off," I note the white lie, but Gorsefur just blinks at the soldier, who he obviously outranks. The soldier nods and slinks away and we pass.
"Where do you want to go first?" he asks, "The market, the Capitol, the Academy...?"
His whiskers twitch, "The market is where cats from all over WaterClan territory come to trade. Whether it's food, some elders sell stories...there's nothing like it anywhere else in WaterClan. The Capitol is where Waterstar, Riverclaw, and some of the most senior commanders live. And the Academy is where the apprentices train."
"Did you ever have an apprentice?"
A flash of sadness burns briefly in his eyes, "I did. Once."
"Once?" I pry carefully.
Gorsefur shakes his head bitterly, "He was cocky. We were on border patrol and he got himself killed in a scrimmage. That was before I was sent to the army."
There's something more, but he doesn't offer it up. "Maybe market first?" I ask softly. He nods and we pad through the barracks, passing sleek furred, well muscled cats, who look at us imperiously. Gorsefur seems at ease, but my pelt is still prickling even after we leave.
The market is so much more chaotic by comparison. There are yowls and caterwauls and the scent of food and herbs is every where. I blink and look around, excited.
Gorsefur purrs and practically has to shout in my ear, "Want to walk around?"
We do. We have nothing to trade, but a few vendors recognize Gorsefur and call him over. We end up with a few fish in our bellies and I (unwillingly) got some flower-smelling stuff rubbed on my fur, so now I smell like Silverflower. Joy of joys.
"Gorsefur!" a call rises over the rest of the meows. Gorsefur looks up and purrs. "Bluestone!"
He pads over to stand where a gorgeous blue she-cat sits in front of a selection of beautiful flowers. "Long time no see," she purrs silkily. Almost immediately, my eyes narrow and my fur bristles slightly.
"I've been out on a squad," he meows, "I'm a second now."
"My little soldier's all grown up," her whiskers twitch and she flicks silver-blue eyes to me dismissively, "Who's this?"
"This is Brookfall, one of the soldier's in my squad."
"Hi," I say, trying to relax.
"Do you need protection or something?" Bluestone purrs like it's the funniest thing she's ever heard.
"No, we're here together," Gorsefur's tone is light, but I can see the annoyance in his eyes.
Bluestone jerks back slightly, "Well....um, well would you like to get her a pretty flower?"
Gorsefur shakes her head, "We've nothing to trade. We should go, see you later Bluestone."
He leads me away and I glare at him, "And who was that?"
Gorsefur sighs, turning his eyes to the heavens, "Bluestone and I used to be...together."
"Oh," I look down at my own slightly dusty, plain brown pelt. "Sorry you have to be seen with me."
He snorts, "Don't do that Brookfall. You're a gorgeous, funny, smart, tough she-cat and I'd much rather be with you then spend one more second with Bluestone."
My heart flutters and our eyes meet. The crowd jostles around us, and after a moment Gorsefur clears his throat. "Want to see the Academy?"
I nod, breathlessly, and we pad off.
"They're going to be late," Shadowsong meows flatly.
"We should still wait..." Silversong wheedles, "We need as many cats as we can to take on Firestar and his cronies."
"We're waiting," Badgerstrike meowed.
"Badgerstrike, all respect to you and whatnot," Adderscar meowed, "But if they were coming, they'd be here by now. Either they're dallying off somewhere together or something happened at the camp. Either way, we can't afford to loose any more time. Someone is going to discover us or a FireClan cat is going to get ahold of the mission plan, tell Firestar, and they'll kill us as soon as we set paw over the border."
Badgerstrike was torn. His second...he needed his second. And an extra soldier was always appreciated. But Adderscar and Shadowsong were right.
"Let me think about it," he meowed at last.
Silverflower glared at Adderscar and stalked away. Shadowsong nodded and padded into the woods, presumably to hunt.
StarClan help me, Badgerstrike thought.
The apprentices are almost as good as I am.
The thought makes me more then a little uncomfortable as we watch the young cats tumble, slash, and dodge their mentors'. We've sat here for a while, but I can see the longing in Gorsefur as he stares at the small cats and their teachers. So I say nothing.
I can't help but wonder what it would be like for me here, to have a mentor who I hadn't known since kithood or to get a real education and know everything about the rest of the world, all about the war. I wonder what it was like for Gorsefur. I look at him and I can just imagine a little gray apprentice with stubby legs and eager gold eyes. The thought makes my whiskers twitch.
Gorsefur looks at me, "Ready to go to the Capitol?"
I nod. He gets up, and with a last look at the Academy, leads me on.
"We have to cut through the dens to get there," he meows. I follow him as we weave past families, little kittens helping their parents get dinner ready. My heart aches as I think of my mother.
Gorsefur suddenly dodges between dens and I follow him, confused. Behind us, a pretty black she-cat pads past us. Once she's out of sight, Gorsefur continues on.
I glare at him, "Please tell me that wasn't another-"
"Don't," he begs. But I can see a hint of laughter in his eyes.
The laughter trickles away as we pad on. Gorsefur pauses again, in front of one of the dens. I look at him then try to peer in. I can barely make out a light brown tabby she-cat and a... I look at Gorsefur.
"He looks exactly like you,"
"Let's go," Gorsefur turns away and I dart in front of him.
"So are we going to just come back later so you can introduce me to them? I'd love to meet your parents."
"Brookfall," his tone is warning.
"What?" I ask, "Do you not want to have to explain how I'm not yet another she-cat and just a friend? What is it?"
Gorsefur glares at me, then sits heavily, "I haven't been home since I joined the army," he meows.
"Why?" I ask softly.
His eyes are agonized. "You remember that apprentice I had?" I nod slowly, "That was my little brother," he meows bitterly. "It's an honor to get to train your own blood, a sign of trust. I let my brother die because I couldn't protect him."
"Gorsefur..." I whisper.
"So no, I don't really feel like introducing you to my parents. Sorry, Brookfall." he stalks down the path and after a stunned moment, I follow him.
Badgerstrike knew what he had to do. He sighed softly.
I pressed against Gorsefur as we traveled through the night. "What was his name?" I ask softly.
His jaw tightens, then he relaxes, "Stormpaw."
I look at the stars, "I always wished I had a sibling," I meow.
Gorsefur snorted, "Usually they're little brats, but they can be alright."
I purr, "So we'll get to them tomorrow?"
"Just in time to start the mission."
"I don't actually know what we're doing, you know," I tease, "I had to go save some warriors before I was told."
"Oh, yeah," Gorsefur purrs, "We're killing Firestar."
"Uhuh," I see the look in his eyes, "Seriously?!"
"Gorsefur, that could be dangerous." I meow slowly.
"We'll lose cats," he admits.
I stare at him, "That's not fair! I don't want to loose anyone! I love you guys too much!"
Gorsefur looks at his paws, "I hate it too. But sacrifice is part of a soldier's life. There's never been a cat I looked at and thought 'I can't live without them'. Not since Stormpaw." He looks up and meets my eyes.
My heart pounds. We have stopped walking altogether. We stand, nose to nose, the moonlight turning his fur silver and his eyes into small suns. "I'm just a normal she-cat."
"Yeah," he nods. "But there's something about you...I just...I fell for you. Hard. And the worst part is I know you've always just thought of me as a fri-"
He stops talking as I touch my nose to his. "Don't." I whisper, purring.
"Have you made your decision?" Shadowsong asked as soon as Badgerstrike came out of his den. He nodded heavily.
The squad assembled and he looked at them. Cocky Oakclaw, smart Adderscar, pretty Silverflower, sharp-tongued Shadowsong.
The might all be dead tomorrow.
"Yes," he meowed, "We can't afford to wait any longer. We have to go. Tonight."
His announcement was met with grim faces. All the joking, the messing around from the past few sunrises was gone, only solemn faces and determination remained.
Badgerstrike turned and faced the FireClan border. This wasn't the first time he crossed it, and it would hopefully not be the last. He could hear Silverflower praying softly behind him.
I hope didn't just kill all of us, he thought.
Then he led them forward, towards the most dangerous fight of their lives.