_Everyone knows the three cats of the prophecy, Jayfeather, Lionblaze, and Dovewing, and how they stopped the Dark Forest from destroying the clans. But what if they’d never been born?
_It all started with a single mistake that Darkstripe made. A mistake that soon turned out to be the Dark Forest's biggest advantage…
Tigerstar, dark brown tabby tom with amber eyes
Brokenstar, dark brown tabby tom with orange eyes
Fighters (ranked by respect)
Thistleclaw, gray tabby and white tom with amber eyes
Silverhawk, pale gray tabby tom with blue eyes
Shredtail, dark brown tabby tom with yellow eyes
Mapleshade, tortoiseshell and white she-cat with amber eyes
Clawface, brown tom with dark blue eyes
Sparrowfeather, brown tabby she-cat with blue eyes
Maggottail, pale brown tom with dark blue eyes
Houndleap, black tom with amber eyes
Snowtuft, white tom with blue-green eyes
Hawkfrost, dark brown tabby tom with blue eyes
Cats Considered Useless
Rushtooth, light brown tabby she-cat with green eyes
Darkstripe, dark gray tabby tom with yellow eyes
Wind of Shadows
Heartless, black she-cat with amber eyes
Snowblaze, white she-cat with orange patches and dark blue eyes
Ripplestar, black and orange tom with yellow eyes
Scarletflower, dark red tabby she-cat with dark blue eyes
Feircewind, pale orange tom with blue eyes
Shaderiver, black she-cat with dark blue eyes
Freezepaw, white tom with burned fur and blue eyes
Cinderscar, dark gray she-cat with amber eyes
_Darkstripe walked through the endless trees towards the battle training clearing where Thistleclaw instructed him to meet. Everything was dark except for an eerie glow coming from the fungus that was littered across the ground like bramble bushes.
_Suddenly, paws slammed down on Darkstripe’s back. Pain flashed across his back as claws scratched his pelt, and the foul scent of Thistleclaw hit his nose.
_“Darkstripe!” Thistleclaw growled, his amber eyes full of cruelty. “You’re late, again!”
_Darkstripe let out a whimper as Thistleclaw shoved him to the ground.
_“Scared, Dirtstripe?” Maggottail snarled, stepping out from behind a bush.
_“No!” Darkstripe hissed back, getting to his paws. His yellow eyes glowed with strength and anger at the other cats’ taunts, but his heart was thudding with fear. He knew these cats would kill him for a mouse-tail, after the mistakes he’d made in the past few moons.
_About four and half moons before, Tigerstar and Mapleshade discovered a way to bring living cats into the Dark Forest, and gathered all the Dark Forest cats he could find. Now, the Dark Forest cats were training, getting ready to fight if Tigerstar’s sons needed help conquering the clans. But Darkstripe was late to almost every training. It wasn’t his fault. It was very easy to get lost in the Dark Forest. All the trees were the same endless trunks, the fungus and tall grass barely varying in size. The only thing Darkstripe could use to know where he was was the river of warm sludge that cut across the Dark Forest’s endless territory.
_“Maggottail,” Thistleclaw instructed, pacing back and forth with impatience. “You and Darkstripe will fight, and I will fight the winner.”
_Darkstripe turned to face Maggottail. The pale brown tom leaped at him, claws unsheathed. Quickly, Darkstripe ducked and rolled over to the right, landing on his paws. As Maggottail landed on the ground, he turned to claw Darkstripe on the face. Pain burst from his face as Maggottail slashed his claws just above Darkstripe's eye. Blood oozed out of the wound, dripping into his eyes and blinding him. Blinking blood from his yellow eyes, the dark gray tabby tom leaped at Maggottail, but the pale brown tom slipped easily out of the way and knocked Darkstripe over. Lashing out with his claws, the dark gray tabby tom managed to get a few good blows on Maggottail, but the pale brown tom raked his belly with his claws, and Darkstripe couldn’t suppress a screech of pain, which put a look of satisfaction in Maggottail’s dark blue eyes. Darkstripe closed his yellow eyes to hide a look of horror. How could a cat like to see others in pain?!
_“I win, Dirtstripe.” Maggottail snarled, planting a paw on the dark gray tabby tom’s throat.
_“Should I kill him?” Maggottail turned his dark blue gaze on Thistleclaw. Darkstripe’s heart stopped beating. He let out a whimper as Maggottail pressed his paw down harder on his neck, unsheathed claws just barely puncturing his skin.
_“No.” Darkstripe felt himself relax at the spiky-furred tom’s words. “But we will if he loses his next fight.”
_Darkstripe cleaned his wounds as Thistleclaw and Maggottail practiced fighting. The dark gray tabby tom didn’t know if wounds could get infected in the Dark Forest, but he wasn’t taking any chances.
_The Dark Forest had no herbs, no plants, nothing but tall grass, endless trees, and fungus. Since there were no cobwebs, Darkstripe had to press clumps of grass into the wounds, not that it would help much. His next fight would be before his wounds had a chance to heal anyway.
_Nearby, Thistleclaw and Maggottail clawed and snarled at each other. Thistleclaw sprang at Maggottail, but he slipped out of the way, clawing at the dark gray and white tom. Thistleclaw turned, clawing and spitting. Maggottail matched the experienced warrior blow for blow, blood turning his pale fur red. Thistleclaw’s darker pelt was also covered in blood, gleaming scarlet in the eerie light of the fungus. The two cats fought on, both determined to win.
_When he was done packing his belly wounds full of grass, Darkstripe lifted a paw up to find where the wound on his face was. His dark gray tabby fur bristled with terror when he realized that the wound was just barely above his eyes. Half a mouse-length lower, and he would’ve been blind. Just the thought of the absolute darkness… It send shudders down his back. He’d never be able to see… Never able to find his way through the Dark Forest… Never be able to see the cats sneaking up on him, ready to claw out his throat…
_Darkstripe shook his head to clear it. He wasn’t blind, and he never would be. Maggottail would never blind him, he was too useful.
_“Am I?” the dark gray tabby tom muttered to himself. “They wanted to k-kill me. They wouldn’t c-care if they bl-blinded me!”
_“Stop it!” Darkstripe hissed to himself. “They certainly would kill me if they knew of… of this c-cowardice.”
_How, Darkstripe wondered, how did he ever end up like this? In the Dark Forest, surrounded by such horrible cats… He’d never dreamed of this happening. Ever since he was a kit, he just wanted to be a great leader, like Bluestar. He knew he had what it took to be a leader. He knew he’d be the best leader for ThunderClan. That he’d win every battle and save ThunderClan from anything. And then came Tigerclaw…
_Tigerclaw was the best warrior. He was better than Bluestar. Better that Darkstripe, Darkkit at the time. Tigerclaw could win any battle. Tigerclaw could catch any prey. Tigerclaw could lead the clan…
_Tigerclaw deserved to lead the clan. More than Bluestar.
_Bluestar was weak. She wanted peace. But they were clans! There was never any peace! Darkstripe had known ShadowClan would use Bluestar’s weakness to their advantage. How could the clan be so mouse-brained?! Didn’t they see it coming?!
_Tigerclaw had known they had to do something, and Darkstripe did too. They had to get Tigerclaw to become leader. Brokenstar was dangerous. And when he drove out WindClan… Darkstripe closed his yellow eyes, trying to block out the memories. He didn’t want to remember that part, what he did in that battle… How he-
_“Darkstripe!” Maggottail growled. “Fight me!”
_Before Darkstripe had a chance to react, Maggottail ran at him and knocked him over. But before Maggottail could slash his claws across his neck, Darkstripe rolled over out of the way, landing on his paws. He turned around, aiming for a blow on Maggottail’s face, but the pale brown tom slipped out of the way. As Darkstripe turned to attack again, Maggottail tripped him and planted a paw on his neck.
_“So, Dirtstripe,” Maggottail snarled, his blue eyes full of cruelty. “Any reason why I shouldn’t kill you now?”
_Terror filled Darkstripe. He was going to die. And this time, he wouldn’t come back. But Darkstripe pushed down his fear. He could try to convince Maggottail not to kill him. He had nothing to lose.
_“You don’t want to kill me.” Darkstripe answered. Maggottail looked puzzled for a moment, but his blue gaze returned to its normal horrific glare.
_“But I do want to kill you.” Maggottail hissed back, tightening his grip on Darkstripe’s throat.
_What Darkstripe needed was for Maggottail to loosen his grip enough that he would be able to escape. What could do that? Maybe if he distracted him with something… But what was worth Maggottail’s attention? What did he want…?
_“You don’t want to kill me,” Darkstripe continued, lowering his voice so that Thistleclaw couldn’t hear. “Because you want power, and I can help you get it.”
_“You?!” Maggottail laughed. “You couldn’t get more power over a rat! You just want to trick me into letting you go. I can get power myself. You’d just be a useless burden, slowing me down.”
_Maggottail had seen right through Darkstripe’s words. How had he been so mouse-brained to think that would work?! But Maggottail’s grip on his throat had loosened…
_“So, Dirtstripe,” Maggottail growled, and all of Darkstripe’s hope was replaced with complete terror. “Any last words?”
_“Any last words?” Thistleclaw echoed, his voice mocking. “Maggottail, why waste your time talking to your enemies when you can kill them? Or are you too scared to fight with your claws?”
_Now that made Maggottail angry. The pale brown tom whipped around, his dark blue eyes glowing with rage.
_“Who are you to say that?!” Maggottail spat. “Today I’ve won twice at battle training, and you’ve won nothing! I’ve been in the Dark Forest much longer than you! How dare you accuse me of such-” Maggottail paused, thinking of a worse enough word. “-mouse-heartedness! I only wanted to make his death slow and painful like he deserves! You are the real mouse-heart!”
_As Maggottail yowled at Thistleclaw, he loosened his grip on Darkstripe’s throat. Quickly, Darkstripe swiped his claws across the side of Maggottail’s neck, rolling over onto his paws. The pale brown tom turned around, aiming for a blow, but he was slower because of his wounds from his long fight with Thistleclaw. Darkstripe managed to slip beneath him, slashing his claws across his belly. Maggottail let out a yowl of pain, and Darkstripe easily flipped him onto his back, placing a paw on his throat.
_“Maggottail,” Thistleclaw growled savagely, stepping towards the pale brown tom. “Never call me a mouse-heart.”
_The dark gray and white tom hit Maggottail on the head with his paw. Turning to Darkstripe, he nodded his approval to him. Darkstripe let Maggottail stand up, and Thistleclaw signalled with his tail that they should go.
_As Darkstripe walked through the endless trees and fungus, he worried about what would happen to him next. He had earned Thistleclaw’s approval that day, but how long would it last?
Before The Journey
_Feathertail lay curled up in her nest. A pale light stone through the woven reeds of the warriors’ den. Around her, cats slept peacefully, oblivious to the prophecy that would send her and Stormfur on a long journey. The next morning, Feathertail and her brother would meet the cats from the other clans and start their journey to the Sun-Drown-Place.
_Why did they have to go all the way to the Sun-Drown-Place? Why couldn’t StarClan just tell Feathertail and the rest of the cats what they needed here? But StarCan must have a good reason to make them travel all the way to the Sun-Drown-Place. They wouldn’t make them go all the way there and back for no good reason.
_Feathertail had never been outside of clan territory except for when she went to the Moonstone when she was an apprentice. She’d get to see so many new things! But it would be dangerous. There could be foxes and badger, with no medicine cat to heal any wounds. It occurred to her that she could’ve asked Mudfur about herbs, but now he would be sleeping, and Feathertail planned to leave right after she woke up in the morning. But she knew basic things like cobwebs to stop bleeding, and she was confident that StarClan would help them if anyone got badly injured.
_A cold breeze blew through the den, and the cats around Feathertail stirred in their sleep. She would miss RiverClan wheen she left. Her friends, Mistyfoot, the water… She’d have to leave them all behind. Feathertail felt guilty about leaving her clan. They’d worry about her. Or at least the cats who thought she was loyal to RiverClan would worry about her.
_A lot of cats didn’t trust Feathertail and Stormfur because they were half-clan. They would probably think they left to go to ThunderClan to be with their father.
_What would Graystripe think when he found out that they went missing? Feathertail hated the idea of making her father worry. After she and Stormfur left, he’d have no family left in the clans. But they’d come back. How long could the journey take? StarClan wouldn’t send Feathertail and the other cats away for a very long time, would they? If the journey was for the clans, it didn’t make much sense to take the cats away from the clans.
_Feathertail didn’t want to leave her home and everything she knew behind, but at least she would have Stormfur with her. And it was for the good of the clans. Feathertail would go on this journey. If there was danger coming to the forest, she’d do anything to save her clan.