Episode Six, Season One, of Solitary.
Not So Bad
I yawned, and arched my back in a long stretch.
Sunlight dappled the places without shade as the dawn light shone through. Looking around, I wanted to do nothing but watch life go around me. It was all so peaceful for once, and I could escape from all the problems I’d been facing.
Two sunrises had passed since the Clan cats had turned up at the border for their Gathering. In a way, the memory still haunted me. Why did they meet? What was its purpose?
There’s still a lot I need to learn about the Clans, I thought to myself.
Once again, the desire to find a group fuelled me. I now knew – after that moon of turmoil I had faced – that I couldn’t stay alone. But what was I meant to do, rejected by all the rogue groups that hunted the forests around Clan territory? There was no place for me to stay there.
The only place for me to stay was with myself.
Annoyed, I pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind. I didn’t need to think about that now. There were more important matters at hand. Sighing, I turned away from my den, and padded into the forest without looking back.
It seemed like that I had been padding in the forest for an entire sunrise when I found the small clearing. It was one that I had known for a long time – ever since Stream had shown me when I was a young kit. Most cats didn’t know about it, so it was usually peaceful – and also abundant with prey.
Licking my lips, I drew myself into a hunting crouch. Many prey scents wafted over my tongue. I crept forward, eyeing a mouse that was at the clearing’s edge.
“Ow! Mouse dung! These brambles…”
In front of me, the mouse scuttled away, alarmed. Cursing silently under my breath, I rose back into a standing position. Who had made that noise?
It sounds familiar…
Hesitantly, I tasted the air. At once, my fur lifted. TreeClan! But this is nowhere near their border line… What are they doing here?
I tasted the air again. There was definitely a TreeClan scent in the air – but there was only the scent of one cat. Silently, I wondered why a single TreeClan cat was out of their territory. Did they want to know what happened outside the borders? Did they want to spy?
The last thought made me shiver, and I pushed it to the back of my mind. Calm down, Wisp. If there’s one cat, surely they wouldn’t do that?
“I knew there was another cat here.” A cat spoke, the same cat as before. A white face poked out from between the trees, green eyes wide. “What are you doing?”
At once, I dropped into a crouch, and fearfully backed away. I didn’t want to be near that Clan cat! “You’re not in your territory any more, Clan cat,” I hissed, trying to cover up my fear. “Get back to it.”
The white TreeClan cat didn’t budge.
Would you rather I gave you something to think about, just like Smallstripe? I thought. Looking over, I realized that there were still unhealed wounds – mainly the one that Raven gave me when I tried to barge into his camp.
“You look like you’ve been in a few fights,” the TreeClan cat murmured. She slithered out from beneath the trees, forcing me to back away even more. “I’m not going to hurt you,” she added, when she noticed me doing so. “I won’t hurt you.”
I glared at the white cat for one moment, and then, very slowly, rose myself to my paws. “I have,” I hissed, in response to her question, as I pulled myself up. “I’d prefer you not to ask.”
The white she-cat stayed still again, and continued her icy pose. “What’s your name?” she asked.
“Why should I tell you, Clan cat?” I asked, feeling my claws unsheathe. “You’ll just croon about me to all your friends!”
At once, the white she-cat flinched. “Of course I won’t. My leader, Hawkstar, would punish me if she found out. I won’t tell any cat about you.”
I gave a heavy sigh. “Fine… My name is Wisp.”
“Wisp.” I saw the white she-cat whisper my name under her breath, and for once, I felt relieved to hear my name being called.
“You don’t need to do that, you know,” I added. I felt annoyed by the way she was whispering my name. I still felt she was going to tell her friends in TreeClan, whatever she did.
“Do what?” the white she-cat asked, her green eyes blazing.
“Saying my name under your breath.”
“Fine, leader,” the she-cat hissed. “I’ll do whatever you want, then.” Her voice showed scorn, as well as annoyance.
At once, I paused. “I didn’t mean to hurt you –“
The white she-cat gave a small sigh. “If you insist,” she whispered. She dipped her head to me. “My name is Blossomheart, and I’m a warrior of TreeClan.”
Warrior. Apprentice. Leader. The names the Clan cats had mentioned – from Whitestar, and then Blossomheart – sparked curiosity in me. This was my chance to learn more about the Clans, to understand them. I started to consider asking Blossomheart what they meant.
“Warrior?” I echoed under my breath.
Blossomheart gave a weary sigh. “Of course, not many of you rogues know about us,” she whispered softly. “Only one cat has decided to join our ranks since we moved here.”
I pricked my ears. “Who?” I asked, thinking of Cinder. I knew that she wanted to join the Clans…
“It was this dark gray rogue… stocky, thickset. Amber eyes, she had. She decided to take on a warrior name – Cinderfire.”
That’s Cinder, all right, I thought, scuffling one front paw against the ground. She’s gone to join the Clans…
“Why did you ask that?” Blossomheart continued, eyes burning into my pelt. The white she-cat sat down on the ground, not bothering to stand up anymore.
“Err…” I trailed off slightly. “I just knew a cat that had an interest of joining the Clans, that’s all.”
Blossomheart still looked unconvinced with what I had said, but she shrugged. “I’ll get in trouble with my Clan if they catch me here,” she whispered. “You wanted to know what a warrior was, right? Let’s go do something useful, then, and I’ll tell you.”
To my surprise, Blossomheart didn’t seem as hostile as I first thought. “Okay,” I mewed, embarrassed, yet surprised at the same time. I didn’t expect something like this to happen so quickly.
I followed Blossomheart as she padded through the forest, in the direction I knew that was towards the TreeClan scent line. At the border, we stopped, and looked at the Clans’ territory in front of us.
“This is a big risk,” I heard Blossomheart whisper, “but I’ll try.” I saw Blossomheart step back into TreeClan territory.
“Wait,” I mewed suddenly, as I saw Blossomheart stop. “What are you doing?”
Blossomheart turned back at me, and her green eyes burned into my pelt. “We’re going to be hunting on TreeClan territory – what else?”
At once, I felt my fur bristle. “I don’t think I should,” I mewed, backing away. “You’re from TreeClan – I’m not. Isn’t that your hunting ground, nowhere else? Aren’t rogues like me not supposed to hunt there?”
Blossomheart looked irritated. “Yes, you’re right. Now that you mention it, we’ll hunt near the border,” the white cat sighed, “seeing as you’re reluctant to step into it. It’s probably best for me, too – I’ll be breaking the warrior code, and Hawkstar will be furious.”
“Warrior code?” I echoed. This is just like earlier, before she – Blossomheart – brought up rogues, and Cinderfire! There’s a lot more to Clan life than what meets the eye…
Blossomheart gave another weary sigh, and the TreeClan cat flicked her tail. “Follow me, then,” she hissed. “Obviously hunting is not the best thing to do.” At once, Blossomheart turned her tail on me, and padded in a direction leading away from Clan borders.
Hesitantly, I followed her once again. What was Blossomheart going to say? Nevertheless, I felt a tingle of excitement. Maybe this would be the key to understanding them for once.
Then I won’t have to go into war. There will be no need, I thought, relieved, as I followed Blossomheart’s scent trail into the forest.
Blossomheart stopped at the edge of the large oak that lay just outside TreeClan territory. She knew that this was the right place to tell Wisp what he desired. Even though he was foreign to her – a cat outside the Clans – she knew that he had some interest in them.
With a jolt, she realized: He smells familiar… have I smelt his scent before? The scent had been lingering in many places: the Gathering two nights before, the time she hissed at Gooseflight…
Gooseflight? For the first time, Blossomheart felt a pool of dread. A cat had overheard. She didn’t need to reveal this to Wisp right now, however. All she needed to do was to figure out the task at hand.
Turning around, she saw the pale tom slide out from behind a birch tree. Narrowing her green eyes, Blossomheart stared at Wisp, for a moment. Finally, she flicked her tail, beckoning for him to sit down, and he obeyed. Blossomheart sat down as well.
“So,” she meowed, keeping her gaze on Wisp, “what do you want to know?”
I kept Blossomheart’s gaze as she stared at me, and her words continued to ring in my mind. So what do you want to know? I stayed silent as I let the words sink in, and when I had thought it over, I replied:
“Everything. Everything about the Clans.”
For one moment, Blossomheart was silent, as she comprehended everything. Finally, she gave a small shake of the head. “Not all of it, Wisp,” she whispered. “I can’t bear to give away my Clans’ deepest secrets. But I can tell you – at least – the purpose, and things of one.”
I nodded. “That’s fine by me.”
I watched as Blossomheart sat up straighter. “There is a lot of purpose to being in a Clan,” she started quietly. “There is honor – every time you restock the fresh-kill pile, to every training, to every battle fought to keep our land safe from intruders.”
For the first time, I understood why Smallstripe had attacked me. He was trying to defend his Clan…
“Each cat has a role to play,” continued Blossomheart. “We have a leader, who leads us, obviously. Hawkstar is the leader of TreeClan, and Whitestar is ForestClan’s.”
After that, I felt stupid. Of course there’s got to be a leader. Without one, the group would shatter…
“Then there’s a deputy, who’s the second-in-charge, and takes over from the leader when he or she dies. Each Clan also has a medicine cat, which helps to heal the Clan from wounds made in either battle, or just doing everyday things.”
I would’ve been better off with a medicine cat, I thought, as I turned to look at the scratches which were still evident on my pelt. Then I wouldn’t be this injured. Maybe I would’ve been cured…
“Most cats in the Clan are warriors, like me. We fight to defend our Clan, and hunt for all of us. Younger cats who are six moons or older – apprentices – learn these skills from an older warrior, so that they can become warriors themselves one day.”
Who else? I thought. What about the kits, the things that everyone cherishes?
Before I could point this out to Blossomheart, however, she had started speaking again: “She-cats who are expecting or nursing kits are queens. All kits under six moons stay with their mother in the nursery. They are too young to learn our ways at that age, and they aren’t allowed out of the camp, so that they can stay safe.”
That answers my question.
“Finally, there are the elders, who have done our service to our Clan. They rest with us, and they are well respected among the Clan.”
“Is that it?” I asked, speaking for the first time in a while. “What about the warrior code that you mentioned earlier?”
Blossomheart shook her head. “That enough for today, Wisp. What if other rogues catch you here? My Clan will also worry about me.”
I gave a small nod. “Okay, then.”
Blossomheart rose to her paws, and I watched as she padded to the edge of the area. She glared at me one last time, whispered: “Meet back here tomorrow” – and then vanished into the trees.
I glared in the direction where Blossomheart had disappeared, and then I turned my back on it. My belly was rumbling: I needed to find some food. As I padded away from the oak, one thought hung in my head:
These Clan cats are not so bad… They’re better than I thought…