Quest of Loyalty is the third book in The Mating Quest.
“You’re looking no different than the last time I saw you!” the ginger cat turned her head up to see a familiar pelt she though had left the world forever.
“Glad to know that I was appreciated,” she mumbled.
The two cats waited in silence for a while, as scratched the dry mud with her claws. Finally she pulled herself up and looked at him curiously, “Aren't you supposed to be dead?” she asked him at last.
“No,” she responded sharply. “And I am most certainly not dead, no matter what your ugly pelt might ever hope. But you,” her eyes glittered with curiosity, “I know that you are dead.” “I am dead,” he responded honestly. "But that doesn't mean I can’t appear to you.”
“It means you shouldn't,” she sharply retorted before looking around curiously. “Where is the other one. I have heard that he has been killed too.”
“You have heard lies, I thought you should know. Starclan does make miracles, as I am sure you are perfectly aware.”
“You mean they could bring him back from death but they couldn't bother to come and find me? When I did absolutely nothing at all?”
“I wouldn't say you did nothing. You tore them apart and you only further loosened the thin and feeble threads that connected them.”
She snarled, “There never even were threads between them.”
“Anyways,” the tom sounded a little bored. “I thought you should know that they are coming. Soon, you might end up seeing them.”
“Am I allowed to rip their pelts into shreds?”
“Starclan doesn't tell you what you can’t do,” he claimed, “but I wouldn't advise taking down a pack of strong and resistant cats.”
“What do you know?" she sneered. “You are dead.”
“I am wiser than you,” he claimed with a little glitter in his eyes. “But beware of the fact that you can affect these cats. You can ruin them, if you try.”
She narrowed her eyes, “Then they must prepare to become ruined.”
With a sad sigh, the starry cat slowly began to fade back, away from the world of existence.
“Nice seeing you around here.” Roboflight pulled her head up to see a dark pelted tom, wearing his usual grin of confidence.
“You are still here?” she asked him in bewilderment. "Why?”
“That’s no way to great a tom who came all this way to see you.” He tilted his head slightly to the side, a cautious smile plastered onto his face, “I should have expected a better greeting.”
Roboflight felt her ginger face growing redder, “I didn't mean that,” she managed to meow. “I just thought that your pack would be off the island by now, because you are moving so fast. Or at least, you were moving fast when we were swimming.”
He shrugged. “We've only been on here for a few sunrises now, Roboflight. We may be cats of the ocean, but we are still cats, and we need solid ground beneath our feet. We have been spending large chunks of our day, trying to regain energy.”
“Still.” She frowned, “Even then, you should be nearly off this island, not close enough for you to come see me. Even if you had to travel a little bit to find me.”
His gaze traveled away from her, “There have been a couple… hazards we have been forced to overcome in order to continue.”
Roboflight now, looking down at his paw, noticed a missing scrap of fur on his paw, and dried up blood on top of it. She took a quick step back. “What did that?” she asked him. “Did you get attacked by badgers or foxes?”
“Erm… I’ll leave your pack to figure that out,” he slowly trailed off, hiding his paw behind his other foreleg. "But it’s not really that big of a deal. Just things that you will realize you have to deal with and will end up consuming some of your time.”
She frowned, “The only thing here which I could imagine hurting a cat is a fox or a badger and those are a big deal,” she paused for a moment. "Wait… are you talking about rouges?”
“Well… them too. It’s no big deal.” He sighed. “I didn't come here to talk to you about how this place isn't nearly as pleasant as it seems.”
“Well,” Roboflight began. “What are you here for then?” she grinned. “You can’t teach me how to fish anymore, because we are no longer in the sea. That excuse won’t work this time. Unless, of course, you have come here for me to teach you a little bit of hunting…”
He snorted. "Are you suggesting that you are a better hunter than me?” he asked, bewildered.
“I’m not suggesting it,” she claimed, “I’m clearly stating that it is a true fact. You might know how to swim, but on land I am a much better hunter than you.”
He laughed, “Who are you trying to fool, Roboflight? A snail could become a better hunter than you. You don’t have the reflexes.”
Roboflight cuffed him around his ear, with a roll of her eyes. “What does that make you?” she asked him.“A fallen leaf on the floor?”
He let out a soft growl.
“What are you doing here anyways?” she asked him. “I would have thought you have better things to do than meet me…”
He shrugged, “Not really.”
Roboflight let out a laugh, “If that’s how this part of the quest is going to go, I think I will enjoy it very much. I thought it was supposed to get harder and harder.”
“If you asked me I would say it has.”
She gave him a friendly push. “That’s because you are like fish. That part of the quest was probably easier to you than the forest we had to cross was.”
He shrugged. “No, not really,” he claimed. “We had some issues with sharks, and we wore out a lot faster on water than we would on land. We are cats, not fish.”
“You swim like fish,” she claimed. “And you have brains as simple and dumb as that of a fish.”
He pounced on her for that comment. "I’ll show you the fish-brain!” he claimed, as they began to roll over, laughing as Roboflight tried to throw him off her.
“You are so fat!” she protested. “I can’t get you off me.”
He just laughed as he kept her pinned down, while she tried to break free from his grasp. A sudden snap of a twig, from behind them, made Tidalpelt suddenly turn around, scanning the area for a moment, before pulling himself off Roboflight.
“Well,” he purred. "We are out of time. I will have to teach you how to hunt on land next time, though, Roboflight. And maybe I will teach you a bit of fighting too. You would really need that.”
“Hey!” she protested as he slowly paddled away.
Waiting until she could no longer see him, Roboflight turned around when Tidalpelt was out of sight and began to walk back towards her camp, where the rest of her pack would be waiting for her to return.
“Where were you?” Bravescar demanded as soon as he saw her enter, “You left me worrying about you. I was about to send a patrol.”
Roboflight shrugged him off, “I was out trying to hunt, but I guess I am not really in it today because I couldn’t catch much except for a small mouse.”
She placed the mouse on the small pile of prey located in the center of their small camp.
Firehowl scowled, “You need to try harder, Roboflight. We aren't going to survive if all we have is slackers like you who can’t do anything.”
“Knock it off, Firehowl,” Bravescar retorts, “Like you have never made a mistake before. Roboflight works more than hard enough, if I need to remind you she even saved my life.”
He shot Roboflight a hard glare, “But not without rubbing it in my face,” he whispered quietly so that only she could hear him, before turning around and stalking off.
Roboflight just sighed, rolled her eyes, “Thanks,” she gave Bravescar a tight smile, “For saving me from Firehowl back there.”
Roboflight couldn't tell if he was blushing or not but he just stammered, “No problem, Roboflight. Anytime you need it,” he slowly walked away leaving Roboflight unsure of what had just happened.
Shrugging, she picked her small mouse back up and went to a corner of the camp to slowly eat it. After a quick glance around, she decided to head for the shade of one of the trees in the corner of camp, on the opposite corner of Firehowl.
Paddling under the tree, she spread her legs out and slowly began to suck on the mouse she had caught. It was small and she felt guilty that she had spent time she was supposed to be using hunting, with Tidalpelt goofing off and play fighting instead.
But then again, she sourly thought, her minds floating bitterly to Firehowl, he will never know what it feels like to love someone because he is too rotten and self-centered to get the attention of any she-cat. He’s probably just jealous.
She was so angry she hadn't realized that she had just admitted to herself that she had feelings for Tidalpelt and they were more than merely friends.
She caught herself quickly enough and corrected her thoughts, Not that I would really know… Tidalpelt is just my friend but it isn't like Firehowl has one of those either. He is just a lonely cat for an obvious reason which is that he will never be able to get anyone to like him.
She let out a ‘humph’ before turning her attention back to the mouse, which she was quick to finish. She knew that she shouldn't be complaining about a lack of food, especially after they had just escaped the harsh hunger that the forest brought but she couldn't help wishing there was more to eat.
Sighing, she reminded herself that there might have been more to eat if she had actually hunted instead of playing around. Refusing to let her guilt get to her, she stretched out and tried to lay down and relax under the shade of the large and old tree.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” She looked up to see Aquatail, followed by Petalfall not too far behind her. They were both carrying large pieces of prey and Roboflight realized that they had been out hunting.
“Sure." She pulled herself back up, and slid over to make room for the two she-cats, who ravenously dug into their food the moment they were seated.
They finished more than half of their piece of prey, by the time Roboflight had finished licking her paw.
“Wow,” she commented, trying not to sound rude. "You must be really hungry.”
They both nodded. “We didn't get to eat that much last night, even though it was a little more than usual and we spent the whole day hunting.”
Roboflight frowned. "You were hunting the whole day?” she asked them and they nodded.
“Why?” Aquatail asked her.
She shrugged, “Bravescar told me he was getting worried about where I had gone, since I had been out of camp for a while, but if you were gone all day he should have been worried about you too.”
Petalfall let out a soft laugh. “Wow, Roboflight. I didn't know you were that unobservant, especially after you and Firehowl have proved that you truly do hate each other.”
Aquatail had her head turned away, as if she was looking for something.
“What do you mean?” she asked her. “What haven’t I observed.”
Petalfall rolled her eyes in a good-humored way. “Roboflight, the whole pack can easily notice, that ever since you saved him from the shark, and even a little bit before that, Bravescar had feelings for you. He was probably just saying that to make you know he cared.”
Roboflight was taken aback, and she turned to Aquatail to see if she agreed but her head was still turned away, and Roboflight couldn't help wondering if she was just looking away to avoid the two she-cats.
Oh Starclan, does Aquatail really like Bravescar?
She glanced around anxiously. When she didn't say anything Petalfall smiled, “Well?”
“Well what?” she nervously replied.
“Well, do you like him back?”
Roboflight could clearly see that Aquatail was bristling right now. And as much as she hated that she might be about to anger her friend she knew that she had to answer honestly. “I really don’t know… I mean, I’ve never really thought of him before, but he is nice and sensitive.”
“Unlike Firehowl?” Petalfall finished for her with a purr of amusement. "I can agree with you there.”
Aquatail had just turned around when they were interrupted by a loud noise coming from the center of their camp. “Bravescar!” a loud voice boomed.
All of the cats, quickly jumped up and whirled around, ready to fight off any intruders.
Featherbreeze twitched her whiskers. “You scared the living being out of me, Inkpelt. I thought I was about to meet Starclan.”
He inhaled deeply. “For a moment there, just a while ago I thought I had,” he admitted. “It was horrifying.”
He now had Bravescar’s full attention, and Roboflight couldn't help her eyes from gluing to his dark ginger pelt, as he spoke.
“Was it rouges, or some other threat?”
Inkpelt let out a harsh laugh. “Hardly. The only threat was her mouth.”
The pack exchanged a confused glance and Petalfall was the one who asked, “Who was it Inkpelt?”
“You won’t believe me,” he claimed with an uncertain voice. “You are not going to believe what I tell you but I know what I saw. My eyes have never failed me before, and although I don’t know how it happened, why she is here, and if she even knows of our presence I know that I saw her and that she is very close. Much closer than we could have ever thought.”
Roboflight realized with a quick glance to her right that Petalfall knew exactly who it was that Inkpelt had seen. Her gaze was fierce and bitter and her nose was stuck in place, as her whiskers slowly twitched in a despaired and jealous manner.
She turned her head away in pain, as if she was seeing, or hearing about, a living nightmare. One that Inkpelt didn’t seem to mind at all.
One that should be dead.
And suddenly, she knew exactly who she was, who Inkpelt had seen, and why he could have been so calm about the prospect that he might be in Starclan.
“Will you just tell us who you saw?” Firehowl asked, impatiently.
“It was Driftingcloud.”
The cats were all stunned, except for Petalfall who refused to meet the gaze of any of the cats who were staring at her in joint curiosity. Roboflight tried to resist the urge to see the she-cats reaction, but it was a powerful one and she couldn’t help gazing at the pretty cat from the corner of her eyes as she faced Inkpelt.
“Well…” Bravescar seemed twice as surprised as most other cats, and it didn’t appear to be in a pleasant way. Roboflight sympathized with him. The thought of having to travel with Driftingcloud was bad enough but being responsible was a pain that Roboflight had experienced and wasn't willing to force her worst enemy to do, even to save her life.
A living nightmare had returned.
The rest of the pack didn't seem nearly as delighted as Inkpelt did. He was smiling like Roboflight had never seen him smile before and she couldn't help wondering what he saw in Driftingcloud that made him so happy. How he could possibly look twice at her with poor Petalfall standing over her shoulder, just waiting for him to turn around and see her.
She couldn't help wondering if Bravescar stared at her that way, since Petalfall said he had an interest in her, which she had been completely unaware of. But she just couldn't imagine a tom looking at her that way, and decided that if Bravescar even did have an interest it wasn't something he would pout about for more than a second. He was too strong and independent to do that.
The pack was murmuring with excitement among themselves.
“We have to go speak to her,” Inkpelt insisted. “She probably never wanted to leave. I still think she got lost and she must feel so abandoned.”
Roboflight had to fight the urge to swipe her claws across her face and ask him how abandoned he thought that Petalfall might feel. Sharing a glance with Aquatail she realized that the blue she-cat felt the exact same way as she did.
But Inkpelt didn’t seem to catch on and he kept gazing at Bravescar with hopeful eyes, “Maybe she will want to come back to us,” he offered, “If she got lost she would be so happy to see us again. I know she would not have run away on purpose.”
Roboflight had to resist the urge to snort as Bravescar looked thoughtful.
“She might think that we abandoned her and be angry, though,” he claimed, “She might try to attack us or refuse to come back because she is so angry. And I can’t truly believe that she didn't run away until I hear the words from her own mouth.”
“I think she left because she was a whinny quitter and she was tired of this quest which is not for babies like her,” Firehowl snapped, “not because she was on some mighty expedition to catch prey for us or whatever. I say we leave her on this island, to do whatever she pleases.”
Roboflight felt like she could press her pelt against his and run him over with delight for that slightest moment, as he sneered, for once not at her.
Inkpelt barred his teeth. “You never even knew her. You have no right to judge her on what you saw from the outside.”
“I think she talked more than enough so that we could see her inside just as well as her glorious outsides." He drew his lip back into a snarl. “Admit it, Inkpelt, all you ever saw in her was her looks. You kept obsessing over how pretty she was and ignored the person inside of her.”
Inkpelt took a daring step towards Firehowl, anger glistening in his eyes.
“Watch how you speak of my mate,” he threatened.
“You aren't mates anymore.” Firehowl seemed exasperated." When Driftingcloud ditched us, she ditched you too. Get over her pretty pelt.”
“You don’t know what it feels like,” his angry voice cracked with grief and Roboflight could see Petalfall fighting hard against her tears.
She pressed her pelt against that of the cream she-cat in an effort to comfort her, but she knew that there was no cure for heartbreak like the one Inkpelt and Driftingcloud were putting her through at that moment. She sighed, wondering how a cat could be so cruel.
Firehowl didn't reply to him comment. Instead he took another step towards the dark tom, his eyes glistening with anger, as Roboflight wondered if he could actually be thinking about Petalfall, who was barely managing to keep herself together at that moment.
Cruel, arrogant, self-centered and bratty Firehowl, caring about Petalfall. It was almost hard to believe but Robolight realized it was probably true from the sad and sympathetic look in his eyes, combined with anger at the injustice. Is he only horrible around me? But why? Or has Starclan sent him a small amount of sympathy so that someone who had nerve could stand up to Inkpelt? She almost felt like she was looking at a different cat then the one that had tormented her for months.
Bravescar seemed to have a slightly worried look on his face, scared that a fight might break out any moment between the two cats. A fight that he would have to stop.
But the two cats stood still for a moment, both glaring the other one with hostility before Inkpelt broke eye contact and turned around, disappointment available in his face. “I shouldn't have expected you to understand,” he claimed sadly, “none of you.”
Bravescar blinked sadly at that last comment and Firehowl continued to give Inkpelt a deathly scare that was all too familiar to Roboflight.
“I really don’t know…” Bravescar trailed off." What if we all decided together? I think it is a choice for us to make, not for me to make.”
The cats nodded in agreement but Roboflight didn’t need to think about what she would vote for, as the cats crowded around Bravescar.
He made sure that they were all there before nodding. “Those of you that want to go find Driftingcloud can go under that tree over there while those that think we should leave her alone can go to the fresh-kill pile.
Some cats, like Roboflight, Inkpelt, and Firehowl were quick to move, and didn’t surprise any cats with their choice. Roboflight was surprised, however, when Petalfall stood in the center, unable to decide where to go to, and even farther surprised when she went to stand by Inkpelt.
She let out a low sigh. She would just never get some cats.
After some hesitation Aquatail joined the two cats while Bravescar went to stand by Petalfall and Inkpelt, soon followed by Featherbreeze.
Realizing that she had lost, Roboflight let out a low sigh. She could feel Firehowl bristling beside her, and she shared his anger. But Aquatail seemed to have a deadly stare on Roboflight, and as much as she tried, she couldn’t convince herself that she didn’t know why.
Bravescar nodded curtly when he saw that the cats had agreed to go after Driftingcloud. With a flick of his tail, he soon had the whole pack following him out of the camp, as Inkpelt paddled alongside the leader of their pack, a shy but happy smile on his face.
Roboflight wondered how a sweet tom could possibly be so cruel. She didn't approach Petalfall even though she could have been the cat that changed the call to visit Driftingcloud. She probably had her reasons and being pressured wouldn't help her in getting over them.
Inkpelt was the actual one leading them, while Bravescar was paddling beside him, asking him several times if he was sure he knew where he was going, and each time he would respond with a confident nod saying they were almost there.
But it wasn’t long before Roboflight was feeling tired, and sure that Inkpelt had lost them. She was about to walk up to Bravescar and suggest that they turn around and try a different route when she heard an ear piercing yet beautiful voice that she had hopped never to have to hear again.
“Fancy finding you here.” Her dark ginger pelt which was glossed so perfectly she-cats would kill for it, and her deep green eyes which reminded Roboflight of a lush and green forest in the warmest months of greenleaf.
And yet, it was the most devastating and horrifying thing she had seen since they put their paws in the waters of the chilly ocean.
It was Driftingcloud.
The green eyes on her precious pelt shined even more as she looked down at the cats who had once been her traveling partners. Her eyes twisted from a curious look into a playful one, and finally into an angered one as she noticed Inkpelt.
“You!” she hissed. “You abandoned me. I thought that you of all cats would jump to my defense, come and try to save me, but you just forgot about me and took her-" she sneered at Petalfall, “-as a replacement for me. How could you be so cruel?”
“Believe me,” Inkpelt’s eyes were wide, as Roboflight watched with fascination, “I wanted to turn around and save you. I begged the clan to turn around; I told them that you would never dream of ditching us, because you were tired. And I never took Peta-”
He was cut off by a loud screech, coming from his former mate, as the direction of her fury changed from Inkpelt to the whole pack. “You thought I would ditch you because I was too soft! You thought I would ditch you because I complained too much! Or did you think I would ditch you because pretty she-cats can’t manage to do a thing? And here I was thinking you abandoned me!”
Bravescar stepped forward, “Driftingcloud, we hardly had anytime left. We were being pressured by rouges and you didn’t seem very happy to be there-”
“None of us did!” she yowled back. "And suddenly just because I was the one who expressed all of our thoughts I am kicked out of your group!”
“No!” Bravescar yowled back. “We waited for you, and we searched a little bit, but there were no signs of where you had went and we needed to continue!”
She sneered for a moment, before her eyes widened playfully as she looked back and forth between Roboflight and Bravescar, as Roboflight felt herself growing red.
“Have I… missed out on something?” she asked Bravescar with a playfully menacing tone. “Why would you defend Roboflight for her poor choice to leave me behind? Or is there something going on between you two which I am unaware of.”
Roboflight noticed some cats from her pack trying to conceal their smiles at this but Aquatail was still turned away, supposedly focusing on some bug in the dirt.
The big was a pretty big one, but Roboflight wasn't prepared to believe she was actually looking at it.
“No,” Bravescar responded, trying to sound cool and calm, but Roboflight thought she could hear his voice a little unsteady. "I am the new leader of this pack. Roboflight gave me the leadership a while ago, after Firehowl was killed by the rogues.”
“I was NOT killed by any rogues!” Firehowl snapped, looking even angrier than Roboflight had ever seen him before, as he rolled his eyes. "Will you all stop with your complete nonsense?”
The cats didn’t bother trying to tell him, that he had in fact been dead, and risen by a miracle of Starclan. One that only Roboflight would ever know about.
“You are the leader of the pack?” She seemed slightly surprised. “Oh well, I always thought it should have been you anyways. Roboflight was a little too… Roboflight just couldn't lead. Or do anything else for that matter.” She rolled her eyes as ginger warriors glared at her, hatred available in every fiber of her being.
Bravescar also appeared to bristle at that comment, as annoyance flashed in his eyes. “Please, Driftingcloud, tell us the truth. Did you really run away from the pack? I want to believe you didn’t but it is hard not to, especially after you complained so much, and had such a horrible attitude.”
“Of course not." She rolled her eyes. “I wouldn’t be mad at all of you for ditching me if I had ran away. I just got lost and none of you even cared enough to find me.” Her gaze rested on Inkpelt. “I loved you. I trusted you with my life, my feelings and my secrets and my heart. And you ditched me. You left my heart to rot alone, by proving that you didn’t care and you could move on so easily and take Petalfall as a mate. You have no idea what you did to me, and how horrible I felt, Inkpelt. I can’t find it in my heart to forgive you for that.”
“Please,” the dark tom was begging now and Roboflight had to resist the urge to roll her eyes. Honestly, what did he ‘’see’’ in her, except for a pampered and pretty she-cat who thought endlessly about herself and not the slightest bit about those who were around her.
“I swear to Starclan I wanted to come back to you. But the pack would never let me. A real fight in camp even broke out when they refused to return.”
She sneered. “I wish I had been there for the fight.” Her gaze was locked onto Roboflight as she said this and she returned the glare, feeling more hatred inside her towards the ginger she-cat than she did towards Firehowl, something she had not even thought to be possible before.
“But they wouldn’t let me. I was very mad at them.” Tears were forming around his eyes, and Roboflight wanted to shake the tom and ask him what was wrong, and if someone had possessed him. “And I never did forget about you. You were always in my heart, and I felt just as abandoned as you did.”
“Even with Petalfall?” she asked through a sneer.
“I never mated with Petalfall,” Inkpelt claimed, “I swear to Starclan that I never did.”
“Starclan is for fools,” she murmured.
Bravescar took a step forward. “And you expect me to believe that you didn't run away after you call our most prized possessions, our warrior ancestors, fools?”
Driftingcloud ignored him, as she glared at Petalfall. “Tell me, you, did you really not take Inkpelt as your new mate after I ‘abandoned’ you?”
She kept a straight face. “I will not answer any of your questions until you properly address me, Driftingcloud. I think you know my name very well since you used it several times.”
Driftingcloud rolled her eyes. “Of course I know your name; we were working together on the same pack, for what felt like way too long, and if you remember correctly you kept eating with us.”
Roboflight could tell that Petalfall was fighting the urge to tell Driftingcloud that she had been the one eating with her and Inkpelt, and butting it on the time they were supposed to be spending together, but instead she said nothing, as she continued to keep a straight face, looking straight at the same cat Inkpelt was looking at with sad and hopeful eyes.
“So, Petalfall, did you mate with Inkpelt?”
“Really?” She pulled her lips back. “How do I know you are not trying to protect him from my wrath by covering up for him?” she asked.
“I am not,” Petalfall claimed.
“We will see about that,” she responded. “There is only one way to find out if my former mate really feels anything for you and that is to make him choose.”
She pulled her hind legs back, a menacing grin on her face and she leaped straight at the cream-colored she-cat without a warning, and with claws unsheathed and teeth bared, out for whatever kind of revenge and blood she would be able to get with them.
“Say goodbye,” she whispered happily as her claws made contact with Petalfall’s pelt, as the she-cat was too surprised to properly react.
At first there was nothing, but within seconds, her new wounds had opened and blood slowly was oozing out of her body, as her eyes widened even farther in shock.
She took a couple slow steps back but Driftingcloud had no intention of letting her go. She jumped right back onto Petalfall and began to attack her with swift and steady claws, as Petalfall made a feeble attempt to get the ginger cat off of her.
Roboflight felt her heart crunch in sympathy for the cream she-cat and her refusal to properly fight the former pack member who was about to bring her death. She wanted to wonder why Driftingcloud would do something so cruel but she already knew the answer.
She wanted Inkpelt to choose.
She turned to the black tom who had his eyes wide with worry and confusion. He was obviously not ready to make a choice, but he would have to very soon.
Or Petalfall would die.
But Roboflight wasn't about to wait for Inkpelt to realize what a fool he was. Petalfall might have died by then, and she wasn't about to stand around while she died.
She pulled her legs in, prepared to leap onto the cat who was about to murder, but was stopped by a rasping voice, coming from Petalfall.
“Don’t Roboflight,” she whispered. “I don’t want any of you to save me except for Inkpelt. Drifitngcloud is right, he has to choose.”
“But you will die, Petalfall!” Roboflight begged, hurt ebbing through your voice. “We can’t afford to lose you too.” “I would never forgive you if you saved me,” Petalfall managed to gasp, as another pair of claws came down to strike her face. “Please Roboflight, let us finally finish this.”
Reluctantly, Roboflight pulled herself back up, and turned away not wanting to watch the scene which was about to unfold before her.
Bravescar was soon beside her, his pelt brushing against hers, as he also turned his head away from the fighting. “Please make it stop,” he whispered hoarsely to her. “Please Roboflight just make them stop. Petalfall is going to die if you don’t do something.”
She sadly shook her head. “None of us but Inkpelt can interfere,” she claimed softly. “I won’t let you, Bravescar. I hate it too but I can’t let you interfere.”
“I know that,” he sighed, “but I was hoping you might be able to convince Inkpelt that saving Petalfall is what he really has to do. The right thing to do.”
“Why me?” she asked him, confused. “You are the leader of this pack, if anyone can get him to do what he has to it is you, Bravescar.”
He shook his head. “This is no longer a matter of the pack,” he claimed, “although it will affect us, this is the choice for Inkpelt to make, both between these two she-cats, and between what he knows to be right as well as what he has loved this whole time.”
“But why me?”
“Because,” he replied honestly, grimacing as another screech of pain came from Petalfall, “you are the most convincing and effective cat I know.” He looked at her solemnly. “And you are the only one in the pack that Inkpelt doesn't seem to have a set opinion of.”
I don’t know…” she trailed off.,“I don’t think he would listen to me if he can’t listen to his heart.”
“You can make him listen to his heart." Bravescar was pleading now. "Will you please do it for me, Roboflight?”
She sighed. "Fine. I guess I will try...”
Inkpelt was looking away from the fighting as Roboflight took soft steps towards him. “Inkpelt…” She hesitated for a moment. "Inkpelt do you realize what is happening?”
“You take me for a fool, Roboflight,” he claimed, pain cracking through his voice, “but I know exactly what is going on.”
Petalfall began to gasp behind Roboflight and it was all she could do to continue talking to Inkpelt calmly. She reminded herself that Petalfall’s life depended on it. “Inkpelt you have to make a choice or this will never end. These two she-cats will be ruined by you.”
“I never wanted this." A small tear fell down his eye. “I never thought that the quest would put me through this much pain. I would cross that sea hundreds of times instead of making this choice. I would endure the suffering of this journey for my whole life to save me from choosing now.”
“You can’t,” Roboflight claimed and as she spoke she understood that what she said was true. “This is not just a test of physical strength and perseverance. This is a test of choices and doing what is right. This is your test to find your one love. Your true love and to pick them.”
“But… I can’t,” he choked out, “I love them both.”
She stared at him straight in the eye. "You have to chose Inkpelt, and you have to chose fast. Unless you want Petalfall to die.”
“But then Driftingcloud will abandon me!” he wailed. “I love her too!”
“Do you love Petalfall?” she asked him, trying not to lose her patience.
He nodded, “Yes.”
“Do you love Driftingcloud? Do you truly honestly love who she is, and not what you see on the outside?” She waited patiently for his answer.
“If you had to chose. If they were both being attacked by rouges, and you could only save one, who would you chose to save, Inkpelt? Who would you chose to save?”
“I would kill myself,” he honestly replied. “Because I can’t imagine living without either of them.”
“If you don’t act soon there will be no Petalfall to live with,” she grimly replied. “If you don’t act fast that rogue, Driftingcloud, will rip Petalfall to shreds, while Petalfall is too kind and loves you far too much to fight back and hurt your true love. Petalfall will die.”
Shock entered his eyes as if he just seemed to be sucking this in, pulling himself out of his fantasies and into the pain of the new world.
He let out a quick cough followed by a rasp. "I can’t live without her,” he croaked, “I need her to stay with me on this quest. She is the only reason I don’t do what Boulderclaw did.”
“Then save her.”
“I…” he paused for a moment, and realizing she had done all she could, she sighed and paddled away from him, to go stand by Bravescar again.
It was all she could not to look at Inkpelt as he appeared to be struggling to make a final decision. She just kept sending prayers to Starclan that he would realize what he had to do, and realize it quickly enough.
She was pulled out of her prayers by a loud screech and quickly whipped her head up to see who it had come from and why. She found herself staring wide-eyed with horror as Inkpelt jumped into the fighting scene, claws out but she couldn’t tell who he was trying to side with.
Please Starclan, spare Petalfall, she begged Sandpelt and Boulderclaw, as well as any other cats in the stars who might care about what was happening below.
She waited nervously as the scene began to clear up and let out an immense sigh of relief as she noticed Inkpelt, standing over Driftingcloud, whom he had pinned down.
“Please stop!” he begged.
“No,” she hissed. “I knew that you loved Petalfall. And you betrayed me and my heart! I can’t forgive you now, Inkpelt! I will pain you by forcing you to fight me.”
“No, Driftingcloud." Bravescar finally took a step forward. “When you threaten Inkpelt, you threaten the whole pack. You will leave now Driftingcloud, or you will be forced to fight each and every one of us. Trust me, you are not a match.”
She hissed. “Fine.”
Inkpelt let her go, and Driftingcloud let out a loud hiss before, crawling away. “I am not done with you yet,” she warned. "You have not seen the very last of me.”
As she ran away all of the cats seemed to be sighing with relief, but they were pulled out of their joy but Firehowl, who had to point out the obvious truth.
“I wouldn't be too ready to celebrate,” he claimed and the cats turned around to face him. “Inkpelt might have made the correct choice but I don’t know if he was fast enough.”
Right behind him lied Petalfall, in a mass of blood, and right on the verge of death.
“Petalfall, no!” Inkpelt wailed as he ran up to the pretty she-cat. "I’m so sorry, Petalfall, please don’t die on me! I should have reacted faster but you can’t punish me like this.”
She gasped for breath and managed to force a smile which came out like a grimace. If Petalfall were the cat watching at the moment she would have walked up to Inkpelt, put her tail on his muzzle and told him to back away and give some time to recover.
But Petalfall was injured too fatally to murmur a word, as she quietly closed her eyes. Aquatail let out a soft whimper, “Is she going to die?”
But, yet again, the lack of a medicine cat in the pack turned out to be a major disadvantage. And although Bravescar kept murmuring that she wasn't dead yet, the whole pack knew that she didn’t stand a chance against he deadly wounds. She was sure to die soon unless Starclan managed another miracle.
Inkpelt had tears streaming down his eyes as he stood over Petalfall’s body. She was still breathing, but it was soft and it was fading, like she was trying to cling onto life.
Roboflight realized that this struggle was putting her through pain and the only reason she wasn’t giving up was so that Inkpelt wouldn't feel lost in the pack.
Roboflight felt her heart clench, as she wondered if there was nothing, absolutely, nothing that Starclan could do to save her pack mate and the cat that Inkpelt cared most about.
“There is in fact something we can do." She turned around to find Sandpelt, a hopeful gleam in his eyes. “But as always it will have a great price to pay.”
“I don’t have any more leadership to pass over,” Roboflight claimed slowly.
“It’s not leadership we want,” he claimed. “The sacrifice we were to ask of you has already been made, and Inkpelt has proven that he truly loves Petalfall as well as the fact that nothing can get in the way of that.”
“So can you save her?” Roboflight asked him softly. She hadn't even realized that the rest of the pack had gathered around the spirit of the dead cat as he nodded slowly.
“I have already told Starclan and help is coming,” he promised. “It should only be a few more moments before we get a medicine cat to help out.”
“Thank you,” Roboflight breathed, and the pack nodded in agreement. Inkpelt was too busy mourning to even notice the arrival of his former pack mate.
It was a moment later when a silver she-cat climbed down to the soft grass from the clouds above, her pelt glimmering as she tried to hurry, with all the herbs that she carried in her soft and pretty jaws.
When she finally reached the cats she was panting. “Sorry it took so long,” she huffed, “it was on short notice and I had to gather all of my supplies.”
“No problem,” Sandpelt purred softly, before flicking his tail towards Inkpelt and Petalfall. “The she-cat there is the one that needs to be healed.”
She nodded softly, before paddling over to Petalfall.
“Excuse me,” she gently whispered as she passed by Inkpelt who finally looked up.
“Who are you?" He asked, his muscles tense, ready for attack.
“I am a Starclan cat; here to heal your mate,” she claimed. “I need you to excuse me for a moment so that I can heal this cat. I think you would like that.”
“How do I know that?” he asked her hostility. “You could just be a loner. I have no reason to believe you and you have no proof except for those leaves in your mouth which could easily be fake.”
“I’m your only hope,” she whispered softly.
Realizing that she was correct, Inkpelt took a slow step back, “If you hurt a hair on her pelt…” he threatened, “I will rip your pelt out. I will tear your fur into pieces; I will make you wish you were never born.”
“I don’t think I could hurt her much more than the state she is in right now,” she admitted slowly. “But I am dead anyways, so you couldn't really hurt me.”
The she-cat didn’t wait for Inkpelt’s response, as she pulled out a bundle of cobwebs and frantically began to apply them onto Petalfall, carefully.
The pack watched, tense with worry, and Sandpelt was among them again, for this first time since he had been killed by the snake bite it the forest.
The moments were long and drawn out as she applied cobweb after cobweb, herb after herb and fed her plant after plant in order to heal Petalfall. “This is worse than I thought,” she murmured, “not only does she have horrible wounds, but the cat that attacked her also has a disease which she has spread through her claws."
The pack exchanged another large nervous glance with each other as she continued to work on Petalfall. Inkpelt was father off from the cats, sitting anxiously as he awaited the fate of the cat he had chosen over his beautiful and cruel former mate.
It felt like too much was happening at once.
Finally, after what felt like several sunrises the medicine cat turned around.
“Is she okay?”
She shrugged. "I think she will be fine. Just take her back to camp. There is nothing I can really say for sure at this point, Starclan has no power over here; as you know. This is unfamiliar territory for us too, so we are not strong enough to save the life of Petalfall like we could that of others,” her gaze quickly fluttered to Firehowl, before reaching Roboflight for another quick moment than back down to Petalfall.
Inkpelt was staring at Petalfall’s body in deep pain, not even thanking the cat who had tried to save her life. Roboflight felt another stab of sympathy for him, seeing his crumpled face.
“Thank you,” Bravescar dipped his head. "We are in your debt.”
The she-cat flicked her tail kindly, “There is no debt in Starclan,” she claimed, “only friendship.”
“You have won my friendship then,” Bravescar murmured softly and the medicine cat smiled, before she quickly started to fade into the mist, followed by Sandpelt, who stared at Firehowl the whole time.
“Don’t forget what I told you,” he whispered. “It will mean the greatest difference later.”
Firehowl didn’t reply. He just looked down at his paws, not prepared to meet the eyes of his clanmates who were all looking at him for some sort of explanation.
Bravescar sighed as Sandpelt finally disappeared. “We might as well get Petalfall back to camp so that she can rest quicker. The faster she is healed, the faster we can continue.”
“She can take her time,” Inkpelt whispered, “I don’t care about wining this quest if I won’t have Petalfall beside me to win it with her.”
“It’s funny how quickly he can forget about Driftingcloud,” Firehowl quietly whispered in Robofligt’s ear. “He had done the same thing to Petalfall awhile ago when Driftingcloud asked to be mates. I don’t think he is a tom worthy of any she-cat,” he had a venomous look on his face.
“Those two were the only things he had,” Roboflight replied, “And he couldn’t bear the thought of not having any. So instead of taking a risk to have both; he likes to play on the safe side and cling to one as much as he can. You can try to be a bit more sensitive." She glared at him.
“Why don’t you try that first?” he sharply responded. “You aren't so sensitive when it comes to everything else, why should I be any different?”
She hissed in his face, and he hissed back, as anger flowed through her veins. For a moment back at camp, it seemed like Firehowl had become a different, better cat but he was still the arrogant and bratty tom he had always been.
Bravescar stuck his nose into Roboflight’s fur. “Come on, Roboflight.” He tried to push her away. “With Petalfall’s life at stake I think you should be doing better things than starting pathetic fights.”
Roboflight sighed and shot a final and furious look at Firehowl before turning around and stomping away.
What is his problem?
“Can we please slow down?" Inkpelt begged as the pack walked across the grassy fields of the island. “Petalfall is still tired and she can’t move as quickly as you guys.”
“I’m sorry,” Bravescar called over his shoulder, “But we have to keep moving. We can actually move as fast, if not faster than the OceanClan cats now and we need to take advantage of that before we go back into the ocean and swim into the volcano.
“But Petalfall is still feeling horrible after the fight with Driftingcloud and she needs to rest. If we keep pushing her like this how is she to fully recover.”
Petalfall, who was leaning against Inkpelt let out a loud sigh. “Please, Inkpelt. I will be fine. You just have to stop fussing over me for a moment so that I can get some peace.”
Bravescar didn’t respond, he just continued at the same face as before. After traveling in the water so long, the cats didn’t mind the long walk. In fact, they rather enjoyed it, despite their sour pads. Finally being able to transport themselves with their feet was a relief.
Bravescar seemed more confident with his position as the leader of the pack than he ever had before, as he put one confident step after another.
Roboflight was relieved to see that the tom was finally learning how to deal with the pressure of all the cats that were relying on him for survival. He seemed to be struggling and hesitating with the power before but as he walked along the island he seemed prepared to do whatever was necessary with it.
“This feels to easy,” Roboflight heard Aquatail whispering beside her. “The only thing we have had to face so far is the threat of Petalfall’s life and a warning from Driftingcloud. It can’t be this easy. I know it can’t. That’s not the point of this part. We were told that we would have to use our loyalty on this part of the quest, but I haven’t found any need for it so far. Inkpelt needed to find his loyalty in Petalfall to save her, but that has nothing to do with us as a pack. I fear that there is something dark ahead.”
“Exactly what we needed,” Roboflight sighed, “more trouble ahead.”
She shrugged. "Maybe I am wrong, but I just don’t see what kind of a test this is. We should be at the other end of the island by tomorrow at sunhigh. It doesn't feel challenging enough.”
Roboflight shrugged, not wanting to let on that she believed everything Aquatail was saying and that it had really bothered her too.
She sent a backwards glance at Inkpelt and Petalfall. Petalfall had her eyes closed and her head was still against Inkpelt but she had a radiant smile on her face like the moment she had been waiting for her whole life had finally reached her.
And in a way, it had.
But Roboflight knew that the only time she could truly smile like that was when Mountainclan won the Mating Quest. Only then would she be able to feel like her life was complete.
A tom couldn't do that for her.
She found her thoughts wondering to Tidalpelt along with these thoughts and the jitters that came into her stomach when she saw him. It was irony though, thinking that the first time she saw him, she had been on the verge of clawing his muzzle off, because he had stolen her prey.
And they had never real come to confess any feelings for each other or do anything that cats on the verge of becoming mates might do. Tidalpelt had saved her life once, he had showed up in an attempt to teach her how to hunt fish and in their most recent meeting he didn’t seem to have an actual purpose, except for maybe escaping his pack for a few moments.
But from the look that was in his eyes she knew that he felt the same way about her as she did about him. And yet… she wasn't sure exactly how she felt about Tidalpelt. He was well-built and capable. He was a natural leader, the obvious choice to lead Oceanclan, but he was also arrogant. He seemed to think he was a little higher than her, and like she should be honored that he came to meet her.
A part of her felt like she should be falling for Bravescar. He was much kinder and he was peaceful. He wasn't one for much nonsense, so there wasn't much room for fun, but he was sweet and if he cared for her he should have been the obvious choice.
But he wasn't.
And having Aquatail paddling alongside her, watching Bravescar closely, didn’t help Roboflight that much. She didn’t know how Aquatail would react if she became mates, but even if she didn’t get mad, Roboflight felt that Aquatail, who obviously liked Bravescar more, should be able to take him.
For once she felt herself longing for the physical challenges of the quest as opposed to the emotional ones. At least it was clearer what you had to do when you were swimming across an ocean or saving your clan mate from a shark. It wasn't nearly as clear when the matter came to choices and hurting the feelings of other cats in the process of your choice.
Bravescar suddenly stopped. “Let’s go hunting for a little,” he claimed, and looked around the pack for a moment. “Aquatail, Firehowl, Featherbreeze and Inkpelt. Can you four go hunting?”
Inkpelt looked reluctant to leave Petalfall behind.
“Don’t worry,” Bravescar nodded at the she-cat. “We will keep her safe and prepare the dens.”
Reluctantly, Inkpelt nodded.
Petalfall let out a frustrated sigh at her mate, “I’ll be fine,” she snapped, “You need to stop worrying about me. It starts to become annoying.”
He looked down at his paws, “I’m sorry. It’s hard not to though. You almost died.”
“I’ll be fine." She flicked her tail at him. “You can go and hunt.”
Inkpelt sighed, and let her pull herself off her shoulders, before giving her an affectionate lick and running off with the other cats to go hunting.
Bravescar sighed once he had finally left. "A part of me feels like he is exaggerating.”
“Yeah,” Roboflight shrugged," I guess we will never know. But I guess it would be more useful to build the camp than to gossip about how Inkpelt really feels.”
His face turned a little red. “I guess you are right,” he claimed, and began to help Roboflight as she set up the den.
Petalfall got up and tried to help them but she couldn't do as much as the other two. She was extremely light on her paws, and occasionally she would have to sit down and rest.
However, both Roboflight and Bravescar were pleased that Petalfall was helping set up the camp, as little as she may have contributed. The fact that she was on her feet meant that she was strong enough to walk and help gathering moss and digging; a sure sign that she would be okay.
Inkpelt would be relieved.
They soon had a small camp set up, and it wasn't long after the rest of the pack arrived with a fair amount of prey; enough to feed all of the cats.
The pack sat down and began to eat, as well as rest after the long and tiresome traveling of the day. Inkpelt was eating beside Petalfall, for the first time since Driftingcloud had disappeared. Firehowl wasn't sitting beside anyone but he glared at Roboflight the whole time. Featherbreeze quietly ate at the side, not looking at anybody, fully encompassed in her prey. Bravescar, Aquatail and Roboflight quietly ate together, none of them uttering a word.
Everything seemed to be back into its hideous place in Mountainclan’s pack.
That was until they heard a loud firing noise coming from a stick in the hands of a large and angry twoleg, followed by a loud screeching noise, which caused the whole pack to turn around and see where it had come from.
Petalfall was lying on the ground, as Inkpelt stared at her in horror, and the blood rapidly began to leak from her shoulder.
Roboflight froze, her blood cold, as Petalfall earned another fatal injury on the same exact day, and right after Starclan had worked so hard to revive her.
Bravescar didn’t pause nearly as long as her though. He just turned to face the twoleg, his lips drawn back into a snarl and he quickly tackled the twoleg, scratching at one of its long legs with his sharpened claws, before digging his teeth into it.
The twoleg let out a shriek of pain and shook Bravescar off fiercely, as the tom hit the ground with a thud. But he was soon found facing five more angry cats, which were ready to attack him on Bravescar’s command. A quick glance at Inkpelt told Roboflight that the tom was more than prepared to kill.
It almost scared her a little.
The twoleg was quick to accept defeat, and holding onto the stick that had created the loud noise even tighter he turned around and ran. The pack didn’t bother to chase him although Inkpelt refused to turn away from the twoleg until he was completely out of sight.
In the meanwhile, the rest of the cats gathered around Petalfall, all fearing the very worst; that Starclan’s help might have been a waste of time.
“What should we do?” Aquatail whispered. “She can’t die now. Not after we have fought so hard to keep her alive. We have to do something, Bravescar…”
“I don’t know what to do,” Bravescar admitted slowly. "We don’t have any cats here that can heal her. I think we will just have to go sleep and see if she is any better in the morning.
“Someone should watch guard over her… in case something happens,” Featherbreeze claimed and the pack nodded in agreement.
Petalfall, who was still conscious, shook her head. “You shouldn't stand guard for me,” she claimed, “you need to get your sleep for tomorrow. It’s not like you can react if anything happens.”
“Maybe we can,” Bravescar replied. "And we need at least one cat to stand guard anyways. In case those twolegs return. I think we should switch a lot though so that everyone can get as much sleep as they need.”
The cats nodded. "Roboflight, you will keep guard after me. And after you Featherbreeze will keep guard. After her I want Inkpelt,” he paused, “I think that will be enough.”
The cats nodded and he flicked his tail. "Get some rest while you can. I’ll wake you up when it is your shift, Roboflight.”
She nodded as the pack wished Bravescar a good night before curling up in their dens and falling asleep in worry for Petalfall and her still undetermined fate.
Roboflight was woken up a little while after, by Bravescar.
“It’s your turn to keep guard,” he whispered to her.
She nodded before taking his place as guard. It was cold outside and Petalfall was resting peacefully close to her. Blood was slowly trickling out of her shoulder and there was a small pile of blood beside her but she seemed to be fine and besides her cuts she looked fine, which was a relief to Roboflight.
The moon was at its highest and despite the bitter cold Roboflight felt peaceful outside, as the breeze ruffled against her fur.
However, her peace was soon ruined by a pair of eyes she felt burning against her pelt. She pulled her head down and from the gaps between the leaves of a bush she saw a pair of deep blue eyes. She almost jumped, at first thinking it might be a twoleg or rogue before she realized that it was just Tidalpelt.
“Hey,” she purred when she saw him, before straightening her face. "You really shouldn’t be here. Petalfall is fatally injured and if the pack finds you here they will tear you into shreds.”
“But you would defend me… wouldn't you?” he asked her honestly.
She turned her eyes away from his. “Don’t make me chose like that, Tidalpelt. Just go before you get yourself into any trouble. We will have to play your silly games later.”
Hurt flickered in his eyes for a moment before he shrugged. He quickly touched noses with Roboflight. “I guess I will see you later then,” he claimed before pausing, “and just a warning… Your real threat won’t be from the outside. We have discovered that the test to this part of the quest is a choice you have to make.”
“What choice?” she asked him.
He flicked his tail dismissively. “I can’t spoil it for you! You will find out really soon anyways, I am sure," he claimed before hopping off, leaving Roboflight alone with the dark sky, moon, and stars again.
She soon went back to sleep, but not before waking Firehowl and telling him that it was his turn to keep guard, and earning another glare from him.
She fell into an easy sleep filled with blue at every corner, sharp blue eyes that seemed to encompass her and trap her inside herself. It wasn't exactly a nightmare but it wasn’t a pleasant dream.
She was woken early the next morning by Bravescar telling her that they had to go. She sighed, before pulling herself up and following him outside of camp.
“How is Petalfall doing?” she asked him, worried.
“I think she will survive,” he claimed, “but she claims that her shoulder still hurts and I don’t know if she will be able to keep up with us.”
“Will we slow down for her?” Roboflight asked her leader.
He shrugged. "I don’t think so,” he claimed. “We are almost at the water. I want to reach the edge of the island by tonight so that we don’t fall too far behind.”
“But if Petalfall can’t move that fast…”
“Inkpelt won’t like this but we will have to make her. We can’t wait for her to get better or the quest will be over by the time we leave this island. I’m sure she will understand.”
“It’s Inkpelt I am worrying about,” Roboflight slowly admitted. “He started so many fights over Driftingcloud and I don’t think he would hesitate to do the same for Petalfall.”
Bravescar sighed. "I will make sure he doesn’t cause any problems.”
“Good luck,” Roboflight gave him a fond lick before walking off to join Aquatail and Featherbreeze who were quietly eating prey they had caught in the morning.
When they saw her they passed her a small mouse, and she purred in gratitude. "Thanks,” she meowed before slowly chewing the meat. There was an awkward silence that took over the three she-cats. Roboflight and Featherbreeze were no longer friends and it always made it weird to have the two cats together.
“How is Petalfall?” Featherbreeze finally asked. “She is still alive, right?”
“Obviously,” Aquatail replied, “or Inkpelt wouldn’t be eating right now,” she flicked her tail to the black tom who was eating alone. "He would be with Petalfall’s body, mourning over it until her died.”
Featherbreeze nodded in agreement before turning back to her meal. The three cats didn’t utter another word to each other until Bravescar called the whole pack, to continue their journey.
Roboflight wasn't surprised when she walked up to Bravescar and saw Inkpelt in a furious debate with him while Bravescar remained calm.
“Petalfall will be fine,” he claimed. “All she needs is time.”
“What she needs is rest and a break from this quest!” Inkpelt shot back but that was the end of their argument, and Petalfall was soon dragging Inkpelt away from the leader of their pack.
As soon as Inkpelt was gone Bravescar flicked his tail, to let the day’s walking begin.
Roboflight paddled alongside him for most of the days walking, but Aquatail and Firehowl occasionally did too. The whole pack was quiet except for Inkpelt who kept fussing over Petalfall.
They stopped at sunhigh to go hunting again. Inkpelt and Petalfall didn’t go to hunt, but the rest of the pack did. As Roboflight was hunting she felt the same blueness from her dreams taking over her again.
She whirled around. "What are you still doing here, Tidalpelt?” she asked him. "You should have been off this island a long time ago.”
She felt a pelt brushing hers and turned around to find the tom she had been addressing. “The quest has caused some…” he hesitated for a moment, “complication we are still trying to sort out before we decide to continue. Your little friend is causing some problems.”
“Which little friend?” Roboflight asked, confused.
“The pretty one,” he flicked his tail, “You know, the one that talks way too much, and thinks she is something for us all to gasp at. I think she abandoned your pack or something.”
“Oh,” she paused. “You mean Driftingcloud.”
“Yeah,” he rolled his eyes. “She expects us all to moon over her because she is pretty. I don’t even think she is that pretty.” He smiled. “You are prettier.”
She flicked her tail in his face. "Stop trying to make me feel good,” she laughed. “We all know for a fact that Driftingcloud looks a lot better than me.”
“At least you are nicer.”
“I can’t argue there,” she responded with a purr, “but I think that’s an easy award to get. Unless, of course, your name is Inkpelt,” she thought for a moment, “although I am not sure if even he thinks she is nice anymore.”
“If he is than your Inkpelt is crazy,” he murmured.
Roboflight leaned down to pick up the two mice she had caught while hunting. “You should probably get going,” she murmured. "If your pack has some complications it is probably best to just deal with them.”
He nodded and licked her in the face. “See you later I guess,” he claimed before walking away with a flick of his tail. Roboflight watched him for a moment before turning away, picking up her prey and taking it back to where the pack was waiting.
They ate in another awkward silence before Bravescar pulled them all back up to continue, claiming that they had to get going if they wanted to reach the edge of the island by that night.
“Do we have to get there by tonight?” Firehowl asked him, with a quick glance at Petalfall. “I mean, why is it a big deal if we get there one day later?”
“Because, one minute can mean the difference between victory and defeat it this quest,” he responded. "And one day is all they need to secure a victory they seem to be taking.”
“Where is Cloudclan?” Aquatail suddenly asked. “We know that Oceanclan is ahead of us, but are we ahead of or behind Cloudclan?”
“I don’t know,” Bravescar admitted, “But it doesn't matter if we are behind Cloudclan if Oceanclan is going to defeat us anyways. There is no difference between second place and last place.”
The cats didn’t reply, just kept walking as the sun slowly began to reach the edge of the sea which was now visible. Even the sigh of the water made her feel sick and nauseated at the thought of needing to swim across it again to get to the volcano; something they would have to do.
Aquatail appeared to be thinking the same thing because she turned Roboflight, “I remember we were so excited when we first saw the sea… but now I don’t know if my paws will want to leave the island. The water just seems way too intimidating now…”
“You will have to,” Bravescar grunted from in front of the two cats. “It’s not like we can just live on this island for the rest of our lives.”
“Maybe you could,” a soft and pretty voice whispered. “Maybe you could just abandon the quest and live here. It’s nice and peaceful and all of your struggles would be at ease.”
The pack whirled around to find the cat who was saying it, and they immediately pulled their lips back into a threatening snarl.
Petalfall’s eyes widened with fear, and Roboflight could feel her pulse accelerating. And not just because it was Driftingcloud. But because for the first time in her life, Driftingcloud had said something sensible.
“What do you want, Driftingcloud?” Bravescar snarled at the she-cat, and she took a cautious step back, a confident look on her face.
“I want to make your pack a suggestion,” she responded calmly.
“What?” Bravescar was still hostile.
“Why are you treating me like I am an enemy cat?” Driftingcloud asked him. “I was once a part of your pack, remember? I would want the best for you.”
“It’s hard not to be when you attacked Petalfall and then threatened Inkpelt,” Firehowl responded for Bravescar, “and according to your story, we abandoned you. Why would you want the best for the pack you abandoned, and the pack of your former mate?”
“Because,” she responded airily, “I was still with you for that short period of time. I had to endure your pain and struggles, and although I hate many of you,” her gaze rested on Roboflight as she said this, “I can’t pretend we didn’t grow closer together from this experience.”
Roboflight wanted to ask her if she was aware of what she was saying. The quest had only made things worse between the cats that had never bothered to talk to each other before. It had ripped apart the cats that actually had bonds with each others, and it had made each of them hate the others so much.
“If you just stayed here, you wouldn’t have to worry about prey as much, the twolegs give us the leftover of their food. You wouldn’t have to fret about shelter, as you could set up a clan and live there. You could still have mates and friends, there are other cats around here, and I should assume you are all pretty close after this point of the quest.” A group of doubtful looks between the cats seemed to deny her statement.
“Anyways, what reason would you have to continue the quest?” She gave them a smug look. "If you lived on this island there would be nothing left for you to miss. None of you had cats you were really close to in the clan anyways.”
“Leave, Driftingcloud,” Bravescar hissed, “before we tear you into shreds." But Roboflight just had to give him one glance and his eyes showed that he was already thinking about what Driftingcloud had stated and Driftingcloud seemed to know it too because she smiled too.
“Whatever you say,” she claimed before flicking her tail at them and paddling away.
The cats were silent for a moment before Inkpelt finally whispered, “She does have a point,” the other cats looked at him in surprise and he shrugged. “Don’t act like she doesn’t,” he claimed, “I know that you were all thinking the same thing.”
And Roboflight had to admit that she was. She had been thinking the exact same thing as Inkpelt and Driftingcloud had managed to get her to wonder what the real point of this quest was. She could stop this torture and live a happy life here. She didn’t have to finish this.
None of the cats said anything except for Firehowl who stepped forward. “I think that if you hate this quest so much you can stay here and live on this island alone,” he spat, “because I can’t see Petalfall staying here with you. At least she is not a coward who will always try to escape something difficult.”
Inkpelt snarled and Petalfall looked away, guilt available on her face.
“Well…” Aquatail turned to Bravescar. “What do we do?”
“I want to ignore it,” he claimed, “but I really can’t. What we need is time to think on this before we actually act. Let’s get to the edge of the island tonight and then we will choose.”
Robofligth realized that what Aquatail had warned her of was approaching. It wasn’t as scary as she had thought it might be, but somehow it felt worse. Like she was being pulled from both sides, about to be split in half. It hurt worse than any amount of swimming or walking could have.
The pack quietly nodded and continued their journey to the edge of the island. The pack was so quiet and enveloped in their thoughts that Inkpelt never even asked Bravescar to slow down for Petalfall.
Despite the fact that the moon had come out by the time they were before the sea again, none of the cats had fully been able to make up their mind.
And they soon realized they had been followed when they heard the same voice belonging to the pretty ginger she-cat. “Have you considered my option?” she whispered as she pulled herself out of a bush.
Bravescar, who was setting up a temporary camp, glared at her. “Go away, Driftingcloud,” he snapped. “Who said we even want to leave this quest?”
“It doesn’t need to be said,” she claimed. “What I need to know is if you quit the quest of not.”
The cats exchanged a glance before Bravescar finally shrugged. “We will decide tomorrow morning.”
“Can I be here then?”
“Do whatever you want, Driftingcloud,” Bravescar sounded exasperated. “But you are NOT sleeping in our den tonight. You are no longer a part of this pack.”
She shrugged and walked away. “I don’t think there will be a pack for Mountainclan at this time tomorrow.”
“Firehowl, you can go first,” Bravescar claimed, “If you think we should continue than you go stand by the sea. If you want to stay than you can go stand by Driftingcloud.”
Driftingcloud waved her tail flirtatiously at Firehowl, and Roboflight couldn’t explain the hostile ripple that crept up her spine at the smile that Firehowl returned to her.
But it didn’t take Firehowl a moment to decide that he would not be standing by Driftingcloud. "I've worked this hard to get here and I am not going to throw it away for the efforts of a pretty she-cat to rip us apart.”
Bravescar nodded. “What about you Petalfall?” he asked her and she had a slightly guilty look on her face. “We won’t judge you for the choice you make,” he promised her.
Her head slowly bobbed up and down as she took slow steps towards Driftingcloud, her head down. Driftingcloud had a smug look on her face but Roboflight couldn't help her stomach from crunching in despair. She still had yet to choose what she would do but it just hurt her to see that some cats could give up so easily.
Bravescar shot a look at Inkpelt telling the tom that it was his turn. Inkpelt didn’t hesitate to join his mate, and Roboflight had to hold in a loud sigh.
“Your turn Aquatail,” she nodded at the blue she-cat who stood still for a moment. Her eyes darted both ways, and she obviously wasn't ready to make a choice.
But she had to, and so with slow cautious steps she joined Firehowl, earning a look of approval from him. Featherbreeze looked both ways slowly before letting out a loud sigh.
“I’m tired of this,” she whispered, and took a step towards Driftingcloud. “I feel like I am betraying my clan and pack but I just can’t stand this anymore. I hope you can forgive me, but this quest has ripped me apart and taken everything that I have.”
Bravescar let out an understanding nod and turned to Roboflight. “If you join Driftingcloud than this will be over, and the pack will be set free,” he claimed.
“But I won’t,” she sighed, realizing what she had to do. “Starclan has helped us so much on this quest, they have went out of their way to help us, and I can’t throw that away. I appreciate the sacrifice of my ancestors and I am willing to die for whatever cause they want.”
She joined Aquatail and Firehowl, and Bravescar looked around nervously, obviously still trying to make up his mind on what to do.
His call would make the difference.
Finally he let out a loud sigh. “I don’t get what the problem with this pack is. I don’t get why it is so hard for us to get along. I don’t get why we have to fight and argue and hate each other over everything. There is nothing wrong with debating, that makes an environment where we can see all the options, but we can’t hate each other over our differences in opinions. We are a pack, we are supposed to stick together and be loyal to each other. In a dog pack it is one dog for all and all dogs for one. It is the team that counts. It is teamwork that makes them strong and the trust that they are able to place in each other. In a pack all cats are like littermates. Or in some cases, mates. I think if we actually tried we would easily be able to put our difference behind us. We would be able to forget what makes us different and the mistakes that we have made. We could become a family. We are the only ones preventing ourselves from doing this.”
The cats looked around nervously for a moment before Roboflight saw Firehowl nod. “I agree with you, Bravescar. Even though I am guilty of doing that myself. We are the only thing preventing us from becoming a team.”
The cats slowly nodded in agreement. “I am willing to continue this quest. I am willing to continue it if you can put behind the past and embrace the future. Together. I am willing to do this for you.”
The cats slowly murmured among themselves and Roboflight felt herself the first to say, “I promise.”
She was followed by Aquatail, then Petalfall, and soon the whole pack. Bravescar smiled fondly. "I want to be proud of this pack,” he claimed, “and I think this is the first step. Let’s get ready. We will leave half way through the day.”
“What about Petalfall?” Inkpelt asked. “Will she be able to swim?”
“I’ll be fine,” she claimed. "The thing that hit me went over my shoulder, not in it. I think that is why it healed so quickly." She played with her forearm a bit to show them.
Bravescar nodded. "Then we will leave at sunhigh today,” he turned to Driftingcloud, “you are welcome to come back,” he claimed, “since we are trying to start over.”
“I don’t want to!" she shot back. "I wish you good luck on your foolish attempt to prove something you have no need to prove,” she replied airily before stalking off.
Roboflight turned to look at the sea. It would be tough and challenging crossing the sea again. But she knew that she would do it.
Because this was the sign of her courage, her strength and her loyalty. She was loyal to her clan, to the quest and most importantly to the pack.
And she would go wherever they took her.