Episode One, Season One of War. Enjoy!
I hate my life. I really do. I mean, here I am, sitting in my family's den, a shiny new warrior, with nothing to do but watch a bug crawl across a stick. And not a pretty bug either. A fat ugly one.
"Brookfall!" my Mother calls from the other side of the bush that is our den. I look up and hit a branch. Rubbing my head with my paw and cursing, I stick my nose out my nest, "What?"
My mother is like me, but softer looking. She has my light brown pelt, white paws, tail tip, muzzle, chest, and belly. But whereas my eyes are a sharp green, hers are the blue of a lazy summer day. "Your father would like your help with dinner."
"But Mom, I'm doing stuff," I complain, simply for the joy of arguing with my mother.
My mother shoots me a disapproving look, "You know tonight is a big night Brookfall, now please go help your father,"
"Do we have to go?" I whine. But I get up and pad out to the bigger part of the den anyways, this time ducking under the branch.
"Yes!" my mother looks exhausted and I feel bad, "Now please for the love of-"
"Alright, alright..." I mumble, heading outside. My father looks up to greet me, his dark tabby pelt harder to distinguish in the dimming light. But his green eyes are luminescent and I wonder how it is I look so much like my parents. "What are we having tonight?" I ask.
"Rabbit with rosemary." he replies happily.
I look around to see the other members of our camp out of their family dens eating their catches. I sigh and look at the trees surrounding us, wondering how far WaterClan territory stretches. It must go far- hundreds of cats live in it in separate camps. Our camp is particularly small and far out of the way of the rest of the camps. Which is why we can usually get out of doing things that the rest of the Clan has to do.
I call for my mother once the rabbit is ready and we dig in. Then my mother goes off to get ready and I turn to my father who is cleaning away the bones, "Dad, why is she getting all groomed? Nothing's going to happen tonight, we just have to sit in the middle of camp and let Braveclaw tell us some stuff. It's nothing important."
"Brookfall..." my father meows tiredly, "It is important. Even though no one from our camp is going to get drafted tonight, we still get war news and you know how important that is."
"Yeah, yeah..." I sigh. The War...another benefit of being so far out of the way of everyone else is that we hardly get reminded of the horrible battles that rage across the border and pretty much everywhere else.
FireClan and WaterClan have been fighting for what seems like forever. There's not a single reason, just so many that meld into one wave of hatred from both sides. And tonight there are going to be twenty new soldiers pooled from around the Clan to go and help. No one from our camp has ever been chosen, but you never know.
Braveclaw comes out of his den. I look at him thinking for the millionth time how lonely his life must be. He's given up his home in the Main Camp and come here to be the Main Camp's representative, unable to mate or have kits because it might get in the way of his job. Sad stuff.
The other cats gather around him, talking quietly. A few cats mingle, but mostly everyone stays in their family groups. Braveclaw looks unusually grim and I remember how he looked the night he gave me my warrior name a little over three moon ago. He seemed happy then. Now he looks pained.
"Welcome everyone. As is custom, every moon the Main Camp sends twenty fresh warriors into the field to relieve the sick, injured, and those whose drafts are up. This moon the draftees are..."
He proceeds to read a long list and everyone zones out for a little bit. Until Braveclaw gets to the last name. He takes a deep breath, "And, for the first time ever, someone from our camp has been chosen...Brookfall?"
Eyes are on me and I feel a small sense of excitement and dread. My mother lets out a whimper and my father's face is a mask of shock.
"That's all," Braveclaw says softly and, with an apologetic look at me, heads back inside.
I feel shocked. But also more excited then I probably should be.
"She'll be killed!" my mother sobs as she has done the entire night. My father comforts her and I press against her, "I'll be fine Mom..."
Braveclaw sticks his head in, "Hello?" he pads in, "I'm so sorry about all of this Brookfall." he is sorry. Getting stuck managing a Camp as small as ours means that he knows everyone so well.
"It's fine, really."
"Tomorrow you leave for the Barracks..." Braveclaw sighs, "You might as well get some shut-eye.
I nod and, after saying good night to him and my parents, head towards my nest. The bug is still on the branch and I resume watching it, trying to ignore my father and Braveclaw talking and my mother's sobs.
The next morning Braveclaw wakes us up. My mother's eyes are puffy from crying and my father still looks shocked.
A stony faced escort arrives, ready to take me to the Barracks. I smile and say good bye to my parents like a good cat and don't let any tears fall. The rest of camp has come to watch by this point, no one saying a thing as I leave.
I look back, trying to memorize everything. The place I grew up in, my mother's hopeful but pained face, my father trying to be proud but only being sad. Braveclaw's comfortingly familiarity and every cat in camp who I've known since I was born.
I turn away and allow the escort to take me in silence.
We travel for what feels like forever. When we stop for a lunch, I ask my escort where we're going and why it's taking so long to get there. He just told me it was classified.
Finally, as the sun is sinking below the horizon, I see it. Or at least, I think I see it.
"Is that it?" I ask, pointing to the huge clump of tightly woven brambles.
"You have sharp eyes," my escort meows, "That's the Barracks, where everyone sleeps. The rest of it is mostly up there," he flicks his tail and I look up, then yelp in surprise. A group of seasoned looking warriors snicker down at me from their various stances on the tree branch. One tom is lifting himself up with one paw. He winks at me and I feel my ears grow warm, hurrying on.
"Your squad will be meeting in a few minutes here," my escort informs me as he leaves me at the bottom of a large oak. "Some have been here for half a moon, some have been here for a couple more days then you."
"Thanks," I say earnestly.
He nods and leaves me alone with my thoughts.
The second ones to show up, besides me, are almost the oddest pair of cats I've seen. One is a short, grizzled looking old tom with dark brown fur and blue-gray eyes. The other is quite possibly the most attractive tom I've ever seen. He's a dark gray tabby with golden eyes. They seem to be arguing about something- the older tom insistent, the cute one exasperated. The stop in front of me.
"Hi," I say to the cute one, "I'm-"
"Name and age," the old tom interrupts.
Thrown off, I stutter, "B-Brookfall. I'm 17 moons."
"Sir," the old tom says, then crudely imitates me in a stuttering falsetto, "I-I'm B-B-Brookfall SIR."
"Sorry...sir," I amend.
"This is Commander Badgerstrike," the cute tom meows, "He's in charge of the squad. I'm his second, Gorsefur,"
"Have you ever been in the army before?" Badgerstrike meows loudly.
"No!" I meow back, starting to get exasperated. A little too late I remember, "Sir. No sir."
His nostrils flare but he continues asking me questions. Do I have any medical problems, did I complete all eight moons of training, do I do well with other cats, what are my strengths, my weaknesses, who was my father's brother...random questions, strange questions. I answer them all though and apparently I've done alright because Badgerstrike nods, then looks at Gorsefur, "Did I miss anything?"
Gorsefur hesitates, then asks, "Do you have a mate?"
"What? No!" I squawk, "I'm 17 moons old, what kind of a she-cat do you think I am?"
His eyes are amused as he nods, "Just checking." I feel a small rush and I wonder if they actually required him to ask that.
"Oh look, here comes more..."
It's another pair...or a group? A fiery looking she-cat is heading over to us with a muscular golden tom talking to her. Behind them, a...well, there's no other word for it, long tom follows, not speaking.
"Hey Shadowsong," Gorsefur greets the black she-cat. Her eyes are a golden-orange, a shade darker then his and I wonder if they're siblings, "Glad to see you didn't drop."
"Please Gorsefur, just because I haven't been on your squad the last few rotations doesn't mean I've gone all wimpy-" she starts before the golden tom interrupts.
"Wimpy? Shadowsong, you're a freak of she-cat nature. That other day when that fox jumped out at us and everyone was freaking out and you just smacked it..." he cracks up, then adds, "I mean, obviously it wasn't good. But for a she-cat..."
"So you guys have done this before?" I venture.
Shadowsong looks at me through narrow eyes, probably judging whether to eat me or not. The golden tom smirks, "Sure thing. Gorsefur, Shadowsong, and I go waaaaay back. We all started in this elder's squad together a while back-"
"I am not an elder!" Badgerstrike roars the same time Gorsefur corrects, "It wasn't long ago Oakclaw. It was last season."
"So how old are you?" I ask.
"Oakclaw here is about 2 moons." Shadowsong smirks.
"Hey!" he yelps, "I'm at least 3!"
Gorsefur rolls his eyes, but I can see he likes these two, "Shadowsong and I are 18 moons. Oakclaw is 19."
"Young cats these days..." Badgerstrike rolls his eyes. I figure he must be at least 30 moons old. Probably older.
"Adderscar back there is 15 moons," Oakclaw meows, flicking his tail towards the small ginger tom who hangs awkwardly at the back of the group. "He's a genius which is why he got in so early. Dung at fighting though."
Gorsefur swats him with his paw and I feel like the odd one out. Everyone else is older- or younger- then me. And has been here before.
"And our last member!" Badgerstrike meows, not paying attention to us. THe others look up and everyone- even Gorsefur- groans slightly.
A gorgeous silver tabby picks her way delicately towards us, her wide blue eyes scanning the ground for mud patches.
"Silverflower," Gorsefur whispers to me, "I served a moon with her once...awful cat."
"Is she mean?" I whisper back.
"Worse- she's...well, she's what Oakclaw thinks every she-cat is like."
From my little amount of time with Oakclaw I know this is a bad thing. "Oh."
"Hello," she says with a posh sounding voice. She must come from somewhere near the Main Camp. "Are you my squad?"
"Sadly," Adderscar mutters. Oakclaw shoves him and smiles at Silverflower, "Don't pay any attention to him,"
She eyes him, then nods. Flouncing over to sit by me after glaring at Shadowsong who smiles sweetly back. Joy.
"Alright you rats!" Badgerstrike meows, cutting our conversation to a halt. "We begin training in the morning."
We all grumble, but head to bed. I feel like part of the team with Shadowsong and Oakclaw jostling on my right and Silverflower flouncing beside me. Adderscar hangs back and Gorsefur leads us into the Barracks.
I can't sleep. So I do what I would do if I was at home and pad outside, sitting under the stars. But Gorsefur is out there already. Not knowing the policies on sneaking around at night, I start to creep back inside, but he turns, "Hey."
My heart flutters, "Hey," I say, padding over cautiously.
"Hey," he says, smiling at me.
I sit and look around. The scene is different, but the stars are the same.
"So...you want some pointers?" I look up, Gorsefur startling me.
"Sure," I say.
Gorsefur nods, then closes his eyes, "Badgerstrike is kind of...erratic. But he is a good Commander." he sounded defensive, so I nodded, "Oakclaw is kind of like my brother...he's a cocky jerk sometimes, but he's a fur ball too. Shadowsong is Silverflower's opposite- she's tough, one of the toms, not afraid of anything...Adderscar was bitten by an adder as a kit but he survived. He's a brain. And... that's pretty much it."
"You sound so...caring," I say, "I wish I was already part of the family."
"You will be," Gorsefur meows confidentially. He stands, "Night." And with that, he leaves me with my pounding heart, the stars, and the strange notion that I might be in love.
The morning apparently means something different here then it does at my camp. The sun isn't even up when we are dragged outside, muttering and growling. Badgerstrike glares at us through half-open eyes, Gorsefur seems half asleep still, Oakclaw and Shadowsong have already gotten in three fights, and only Adderscar and Silverflower seem unaffected.
We're taken out to a huge groves of pines with no branches until foxlengths up.
"Climb," Badgerstrike helpfully instructs.
"What?" Silverflower meows, 'But I just had my claws sharpened yesterday, they'll be ruined-"
"CLIMB." Badgerstrike bellows. Shadowsong and Oakclaw are alreayd scampering up the tree with Gorsefur close behind. Adderscar is surveying the tree, finding the best route. I sigh and start up.
Within a few moments my muscles are burning. I'm the second to last one up, a wailing Silverflower stuck below me, and when I finally pull myself onto the branch everyone is seated on, gasping, Gorsefur gives me a smile.
After that we run around the entire compound, listen to Badgerstrike drone on about the history of the War, have lunch, do pull ups on the trees using our paws, and spar. I'm faster then everyone else, but I don't have their stamina. I'm hopeless at the tree pull-ups and I'm nursing several bruises from falling. I do well at sparring though, beating Adderscar as well as Silverflower.
When I hit the moss after the long day, I fall almost instantly asleep.
We continue in that routine for a few days. I slowly start winning the races we have until I can run faster and longer then anyone. I don't fall off as much in tree pull-ups and I can scamper up the tree as fast as everyone else. I even beat Gorsefur in a spar one day.
"Good job everyone," Badgerstrike meows one day as we're grooming, "Tomorrow is our last day, then we get relocated."
There are excited murmurs throughout the practices the next day and finally, at dinner, Badgerstrike stands.
"Our first mission as a squad is very important," he meows. "Sageheart's squad down on the Southern border by the Tall Rocks needs help driving the FireClan fiends back. We leave at dawn and we'll get there hopefully at about lunchtime."
"Brookfall will probably get their sooner!" Oakclaw teases. Everyone laughs and I feel a warm glow. I've been accepted.
Everyone heads to bed in a good mood. I look back at the stars and close my eyes, hoping that somehow Mom and Dad will know that I'm alright, that I'm happy.
"Brookfall, you coming?" I glance back to see Gorsefur looking at me.
I turn back and smile up at the stars for a moment before spinning back around and bounding into the Bunker, "Yeah."