Quest of Strength is the second book in The Mating Quest.
“Starclan,” a black tom breathed, looking at the bright shinning stars illuminating the night. “I am prepared to leave.” He declared, with as much assurance as he could muster.
“No you are not,” a pale tom claimed, stepping out from the vast light of the stars. “Your journey isn’t over yet; you must continue onward.”
“I think I’d rather try my chances here,” the black tom retorted. “Better dead, than almost dead; being tortured by the pain that is about to kill you.”
“Well said,” he smiled twitching his whiskers with amusement. “But you will not be almost dead. Not if you can learn to work among yourselves. There is never hope for a team who is not truly a team,” he paused for a moment. "You have the power to bring them together, you know.”
“Me?” he was dumbfounded. “But I am not the leader, or the peace-maker, or even the strong cat,” he sighed. “I am the dead, emotionless cat, how could I ever bring together several patches of moss that couldn’t possibly be more different?" “Influence doesn’t always come from power.”
“But power always comes from influence,” he slowly responded, not taking his eyes of the dead cat. Wanting to change the subject he asked, “How’s your leg been doing.”
The tom smiled and he stuck out his front paw, which was just as pale as the rest of his body. “Like it was never there,” he purred before straightening his face. “I must get going now,” he claimed, and looked at his old partner one last time, “You have not been lost to the world yet,” he insisted, “Don’t be surprised of you are dragged back.”
“How is that even possible?”
“Sometimes all you have to do is wish hard enough,” his eyes seemed to be far away for a moment before they returned. “Remember that you are the cat who must stitch you group together,” he reminded him. "We can’t guide you every paw step of the way, once you set foot in the Ocean you have lost our reach.”
“Wait,” the tom hissed as the pale cat began to fade away. “What is my destiny?” he asked urgently.
“Your destiny,” he thought for a moment. “It’s too many things I can express at once but I do not believe it is not a bad one,” he smiled. “But to reach this destiny you will need to make a very special quest; one deep inside your heart.”
“What’s that?” he asked slowly, fearing the answer.
“A quest of strength.”
“I’m so sorry, Firehowl!” Roboflight choked on tears as she touched her pelt to his cold body. His black fur glistened in the moonlight, as Roboflight stood over his body with mourn.
Featherbreeze stood slightly behind her old friend, and together the two cats sat in a sad silence, as dark thoughts loomed around Roboflight.
They had already lost three cats in the first step of their long journey. She was beginning to doubt that there would even be any cats left at the end of their journey; leaving them with no hopes of victory.
Featherbreeze had dark hollow eyes too, as several cats emerged from their small den to come sit vigil alongside her former friend.
“I’ll never forget his sacrifice,” she choked out. “He died to save my life.”
There were sad murmurs among the pack, and they stood over their old teammate for a while, before several of them walked back inside, to get some sleep before the long journey that lied ahead.
Roboflight remained by the side of the cat she had once hated, even as it passed midnight, and Bravescar eventually approached her. “You need some rest,” he urged. “I know you feel horrible about what happened to Firehowl,” he claimed softly. “But if you are going to lead us, then you must have your energy. There is a whole pack out there counting on you." “But no Firehowl; the only cat who would risk their life for me.”
“Firehowl died so that the pack could move on. You need to honor him by pulling yourself together and counting on this harsh quest. I know it sounds hard, but we need you Roboflight. You have been trusted with this responsibility."
“But no Firehowl; the only cat who would risk their life for me.”
“Firehowl died so that the pack could move on. You need to honor him by pulling yourself together and counting on this harsh quest. I know it sounds hard, but we need you Roboflight. You have been trusted with this responsibility.”
“I just want to respect a brave cat for a single night,” she sighed. “Am I not allowed to do that anymore either?”
“No, Roboflight,” he sighed, “I guess you can sit vigil for a night,” he quietly paddled back into the den.
Roboflight knew that she had lost some of his respect, but she couldn't leave Firehowl's side after he had died to protect her, “I’ll never leave you Firehowl,” she promised. “I will always remember you in my heart, no matter how I once felt towards you.”
“Wake up from your sorry dreams,” a small voice echoed inside her head. “You are living inside a sad fantasy you soon won’t be able to crawl out of.”
“What do you mean?” she asked. “And who are you?”
“Who I am doesn't matter and what I mean is that you must see what your eyes enable you from seeing. There is hope to return him.”
“You mean…” she paused for a moment, “You can bring Firehowl back to life?” She could hardly believe it. ”I hope this isn’t a joke!”
“It is not,” she replied slowly. "But it will not be easy.”
“I’ll do anything!” Roboflight claimed. "Just name it and it shall be done.”
“The greatest sacrifice must be made for the one who made the greatest sacrifice. That is the only way to restore what should have been for the quest to be complete.”
“What does that mean?” she asked totally confused. "I don’t understand what you mean by that!”
“Just think for a moment,” she replied. "Stop and think. Use just logic and facts and you will soon realize what I am talking about.”
“Wait!” Roboflight called but the voice inside her had vanished, leaving her alone to think about what had just been said.
The one who made the greatest sacrifice, that was obviously Firehowl, she realized, as he had given his life so that she could be saved.
But the ultimate sacrifice? Roboflight struggled to guess what it was. She knew it was something she would need to make, but she couldn't think of what it might be. It would have to be something that she was very scared of; something she clung onto throughout the quest; something that could ruin relationships.
And suddenly she knew what it was. She no longer cared about losing it, if it might bring Firehowl back. Turning away from his cold body, she ran towards the den where her clan was resting.
“Bravescar!” she yowled.
This chapter is dedicated to Rainy!
“Are you sure?” Bravescar seemed like he was hardly able to believe what he was hearing. “Don’t let your grief cloud you judgment, Roboflight.”
“Don’t get too excited,” she sighed. “And it is not my grief clouding my judgment. We both know why I have chosen to give this away.”
“I thought you were fine,” he shrugged. "You shouldn't let the other cats ruin your self-esteem. They are all in a cranky mood after being on this quest for so long.”
“That doesn't justify the mistakes I made,” she pointed out.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” he claimed. “But if you insist I will gather the pack so that we can vote on the subject.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” she responded. "If I chose to quit, then they can’t make me stay. They will pick you anyways; you did more than me.”
He sighed, “I just don’t want you to make a decision that you will regret.”
Roboflight sent a glance towards Firehowl’s body, before swallowing a lump in her throat. “I’m sure,” she reassured him, “I am sure.”
Bravescar nodded. “But don’t start complaining about this later, Roboflight. You will remember that it was you who asked for this.”
“Of course I will,” she reassured him before entering the den.
The morning would reveal Firehowl’s fate.
Roboflight couldn't go to sleep that night as much as she tried. After hours of twisting and turning, she finally gave up and decided to gaze at the sky.
She had given her leadership up so that Firehowl could return, but would he really? She began to doubt that he would come back and suspected that she might just have been hearing voices in her head.
When the sun rose, Roboflight scrambled out of bed, to find that there was no one left in the den. Peeking her head outside the den she noticed that the pack was whispering furiously, while Bravescar stood in the middle of them, confused.
Roboflight pushed her way through the cat, and found herself bumping into a black pelt. “Sorry,” she murmured thinking it was Inkpelt, until she noticed the ginger muzzle.
“Yeah, who did you think?” he snapped at her, and she felt taken aback by his suddenly cruel tone. His eyes were sharp and they glared at her with hatred.
“Are you okay?” she asked him, trying to ignore the way he was looking at her, “You were dead when I checked on you last night.”
He seemed confused, “Me? Dead? I don’t know where you come up with these ridiculous ideas!”
The pack looked around sending silent glances at each other. Bravescar broke the silence by responding, “You were dead Firehowl. Killed by one of the rouges that were threatening us.”
“If I was dead then why am I speaking to you right now?” he demanded. "And don’t you think I would remember dying?”
“You died,” It was Inkpelt this time. “We were chased by the rouges, and we had to cross the stream. There one of them attacked Roboflight and you tried to push them aside, killing both of you in the process. We all knew you were dead, Firehowl. You weren’t moving a limb.”
“Stop feeding me fairy tales,” he snapped, “Why would I give my life for…,” he glanced at Roboflight with disgust for a moment, “For that little pest that calls herself a leader!”
Roboflight swallowed the tears that were building in her throat.
“Roboflight’s not the leader anymore,” Bravescar responded and all the cats looked at him in surprise. Roboflight found herself glad that Driftingcloud wouldn't be here to sneer at her.
“Do you want to vote her out?” Featherbreeze asked, surprised, sparking some anger in Roboflight that her friend wanted to suggest such a thing.
“No, he responded. “Roboflight quit; she thinks she isn't fit for the job.”
The cats seemed surprised, “So are you going to be our new leader?” Boulderclaw asked him. “Because I would vote for you.”
The cats murmured in agreement, as Roboflight had known they would. Firehowl didn't react, just sent a glare towards Roboflight before yawning, “I need some sleep though. I can hardly remember anything, and my muscles ache for a random reason.”
“Because you were dead,” Roboflight claimed, but he didn't listen, just walked into the den with his head held up high, leaving Roboflight with her heart drooping.
Was this the cat she had given up so much to save?
“We have to leave tonight!” Bravescar announced. "Who knows where the other packs have gone while we have been resting here for a few days?"
“If you hadn't noticed Firehowl rose from the dead,” Petalfall commented. “I think it’s only fair that you give him some time to regain his previous health. We might as well make advantage of the miracle Starclan even bothered to give us!”
Roboflight couldn’t help smiling. Ever since Driftingcloud had left, Petalfall had slowly been returning to her old, kind and caring state. The Petalfall that had kept the whole pack in place had returned when they needed her the most; and it was one more thing Roboflight thanked Starclan for.
Bravescar sighed, “We have been resting for enough time now, Petalfall. I appreciate your concern, but we have to move on if we don’t want to fall terribly behind.”
“We don’t want those rouges catching up to us either!” Firehowl added dragging himself to his feet, “They cause too many problems.”
“They are leaving us alone,” Boulderclaw claimed, entering the den with several mice in his jaws, earning him a grateful look from Bravescar, as Roboflight felt her mouth watering. “You killed their leader, and now they are leaving us alone.”
“I didn't kill anyone!” he protested, gladly accepting a mouse. “All I remember doing is sleeping! And I honestly don’t find it funny!”
“Come on Firehowl, do you think that we have nothing better to do than play a prank on you?” Boulderclaw asked, slightly annoyed.
Bravescar sighed, “I should sure hope not,” he sighed. “Either you have lost it, or the rest of us have still lost it. I think it is safe to assume your memory is the one which needs to be fixed. Must have happened when you hit your head.”
“I did not hit my head!” he growled, and glaring at Roboflight he added, “And there is no way I would risk my life to protect her!”
“Like it or not you did!” Roboflight suddenly screeched, tired of his rude and thoughtless attitude. “Stop acting like you are the only cat who ever knows anything.”
“It’s hard with you standing right by me.” He claimed, and Roboflight almost sliced her claws down his throat at that rude comment.
Instead she just stormed out of the den, eager to get away from the rude and inconsiderate tom.
She ran into Featherbreeze outside, and she let her old friend walk beside her. “I know Firehowl can be a pain,” she sighed, “But try to sympathies with him. He just rose from the dead.”
Because of me, Roboflight thought but didn't say anything.
“He could try to be a bit more kind,” she claimed. “He is acting like I have been horrible to him all my life, and now he is getting revenge. When did I ever do anything to him?”
Featherbreeze shrugged, “You two didn't get along as apprentice,” she claimed, “Besides, maybe he just doesn't want to show any type of feelings towards you after he risked his life to make sure you were okay.” “What kind of a reason is that?” she asked, confused.
“He might just want to hide how much he really cares about you,” she offered, “In fear that you might reject his favor, he could be trying to take it back.”
“I doubt it,” Roboflight replied, but as she said it the possibility began to race through her mind, as Featherbreeze nodded reluctantly before paddling away from her.
Roboflight felt her heart quicken at the possibility. She had never felt anything for Firehowl, but suddenly the possibility that he might like her made her feel like she was going to fall down, from excitement.
She tried to tell herself that it was nonsense, but she strangely felt her heart hoping for it; yearning for the possibility.
Can I really like Firehowl?
When she walked back to their den later that day, she was still wondering the same thing, her heart beating faster than it had when she jumped over the river.
She pushed her head inside the den to discover that Firehowl was the only cat in there. They exchanged a silent glance before his eyes widened in disgust and he wrinkled his nose.
"I was just starting to get some rest," he growled as he pulled himself up to his paws and began to exit the den. "But you just scared all of the sleep out of me."
Roboflight glanced at him, not wanting to believe the words that escaped his mouth.
"Why are you looking at me like I saved your life?" he asked her, slightly angered. "According to your stories I saved yours!'
As he marched out of the den, Roboflight felt her blood boiling. Featherbreeze was either lying or mistaken; there was no way Firehowl could feel anything more than hatred towards her.
And she fully returned the feeling.
Roboflight dipped her head into the water, and quickly jerked it back, when she realized how cold it was. She shook the cold drops of water off her paws.
Firehowl glared at her. “Don’t tell me you are scared of a couple drops of water,” he sneered.
Roboflight felt her heart burn with anger. “Shut up, Firehowl,” she snarled. “I’m just shaking a bit of water off my paws; you don’t need to be so sensitive about everything.”
“You call me the sensitive one,” he shook his head in mock disbelief before paddling away, leaving Roboflight with unsheathed claws she had been tempted to use.
Bravescar had a worried look on his face as his gaze reached the point where the sea intersected the sky. Roboflight could locate a small island in between where they stood and where the sun was melting into the sea; and as she looked harder she could locate a set of dark pelts bobbing through the water.
Roboflight felt her eyes seeking the familiar pelt of Tidalpelt. Firhehowl had been the one to throw himself in front of the rouges, true, but she never would have made it to the other side if she had not been pulled out of the river by the blue tom. Bravescar sighed after a few moments. "There is no way we can cross this sea now. We are no Oceanclan cats, and our pads belong on land.”
“But we can’t turn around here,” Aquatail claimed. “We have to go through the sea, there is no other way!”
“Well, we can’t just start swimming through the water. There are rocks to rest on, but we don’t know how to hunt, and I doubt any of us would survive if we just plunged into it.”
Aquatail shrugged, “I don’t see any solution at this point.”
Bravescar nodded grimly, “Neither do I, which is why I have decided that we must wait here until we know exactly what we want to do.”
Boulderclaw, who had been staring at the sea with a growing anxiety, seemed to relax, as the hair on his shoulders laid flat.
“How long will we rest?” Roboflight asked him, curious.
“However long it takes,” was his reply.
“This weather is killing me,” Roboflight complained. “I’d be willing to be left in the same den as Firehowl a whole night, if I didn't have to deal with these horrible winds.”
“Nature has its own way of proving our powers useless, against what it can do.”
Roboflight sighed as she carried the two sparrows in her jaws back to their den. It had been a very lucky hunt for the two cats, as the pack started to grow hungry.
Leafbare didn't bring prey, and that only made things harder for the already stressed cats.
Bravescar had kept them waiting for almost a moon now, and Roboflight was sure that Oceanclan must have already crossed the island. Cloudclan’s whereabouts remained a mystery.
But Bravescar had ditched his confused and worried face by the time the two she-cats returned from their hunting. The clan seemed worried as the prey was tossed on the ground and cats slowly bent down to pick it up, most had to share the small animals with another cat.
“What’s wrong?” Aquatail asked the leader and he shrugged.
“Something we have all been expecting for a while now,” he replied calmly. “ I've decided that we have to stop waiting and embrace the path that has been laid out for us. We will be swimming during the day and resting on the rocks at night. We don’t know how to hunt, but we will have to try. Unless we want to spent the rest of our lives here.”
“When will we leave?” Roboflight asked, as she felt Firehowl’s deadly and irksome gaze boring into her freezing shoulder, as she shuddered.
He looked outside the den, where the sun was slowly beginning to set, “We rest tonight, and we leave tomorrow.” He announced.
Roboflight sent a final glance at the setting sun, before paddling deeper into the den, and picking a place next to Petalfall, where she set up a nest.
As she slowly drifted off into an exhausted sleep, she wondered what the morning would bring. All she knew was that it wouldn't be good.
Roboflight coughed up some water and shook her head, splattering drops of water into the sea as little rippled formed, which were soon drowned by the ripples of her shaking pelt.
Bravescar was paddling in front and he was struggling no less than the rest of the pack. Since the morning they had barely covered any land. Their pace had been fair until they were no longer able to wad in the water, and were forced to swim; something none of the cats had the slightest bit of experience with.
Roboflight decided to be glad that at least Driftingcloud wasn't there to drive them all crazy with her nonstop complaints.
Beside her she could feel Inkpelt struggling with the weight of the water on his thick pelt. She felt bad for the tom, which she had occasionally envied for having such a gorgeously thick pelt. She was pleased with her thin and light fur, as she paddled through the water.
Petalfall sent Inkpelt a sympathetic glance, but wouldn't dare approach the black tom. Nothing had been right between the two since Driftingcloud and now there was no communication between the old friends, something that Roboflight pitied both of them for. She knew that they both had feelings but it just wasn't possible to express any of them after everything that this quest had done to them.
Roboflight felt herself bumping into another cat in front of her. "Sorry, Aquatail,” she murmured. She hadn't noticed the cat, because her blue fur blended in so perfectly with the water of the sea.
“Try to watch where you go next time!” she snapped, and Roboflight felt slightly taken aback by her tone. Aquatail must have been very reckless, for Roboflight knew that the she-cat was always trying extremely hard to make sure that nobody's feelings got hurt.
She didn't respond, knowing that nothing she said would fix the difficult situation. She could still see another group of cats, confidently bobbing through the water; and it made her angry to notice how easy this deadly task came to the Oceanclan cats.
Another problem for the cats, which seemed to get more challenging with every ounce of water they pushed with their feet, was hunger. Roboflight could almost hear the sound of her stomach over the waves crashing against the shore. The other cats seemed worn out by the pang of their stomachs as well, and none of them knew how to hunt fish unlike the Oceanclan cats.
Suddenly, she heard a loud slashing noise beside her and turned to see that Inkpelt had stuck his face into the water and he seemed to be flailing desperately. Roboflight was just about to help pull him out when he pulled his head up, a frustrated expression on his face.
“I didn't even come close to catching the fish!” he exclaimed, “And it was right in front of my paws!”
She could hear Bravescar sighing all the way from the front of the pack, over the loud sound of the waves. Roboflight understood how hard this must be for him, to lead a pack of desperate cats on a hopeless journey. They were cats, not fish after all.
And a part of her felt, that it was a good thing she gave it up, even if Firehowl hadn't came back because of it. Not that he mattered much to her anyways, all he ever did now was insult her, causing her to snap right back at him for his rudeness.
Suddenly, she felt the cats in front of her stopping, Aquatail turned around, a look of relief in her eyes. “Bravescar wants to rest on some of the rocks here,” she claimed, “We will continue after we have regained some of our strength.”
Roboflight couldn't have been more delighted and she quickly pulled herself onto one of the rocks. Water quickly began to leak out of her pelt, as she shook it with relief. The weight of the water had been killing her on the tiring journey, and it at the moment the only thing that could feel better than being dry was being hungry.
Bravescar had thought that out too, of course, and it was terribly disgusting, but all Roboflight knew they all had to stay full. It wouldn't keep her stomach satisfied for long, considering it will only be a couple pieces of prey, but it was better than starving.
She spat the three mice she had been carrying out of my mouth. They had made the pack move slower, but they were needed to survive. She poked the soggy prey, disgusted, and more willing to eat fish, but even fish was a delicacy for them at the moment, and she realized that she should be grateful that Bravescar was clever enough to think of something that will even get them a little food.
She picked out the smallest one, deciding to save the rest for later, and slowly began to chew it. It was all she could do to keep the disgusting thing in her mouth, and shove it down her throat. She would never have thought that her Mating Quest would force her to go as far as this.
Taking in another deep breath she stuck her muzzle back into the mouse and forced herself to take another bite. She felt the same disgusting taste enter her mouth, but she was slightly more prepared for it this time, and managed to shove it down her throat before her throat could shove it up her mouth.
She noticed Firehowl grinning with menace as he watched her eat. She sourly thought about how much he was enjoying her pain, when she realized that he was going to be forced to eat soon as well, and she would be left to watch him with glory while he did so.
She knew it was cruel but so was the jet black tom that was treating her that way. Inconsiderate and hardly bothering to consider how she felt.
She turned her head away from him and moved the mouse so that her body blocked him from seeing it. But she could still feel him staring into his felt, and it was all she could do not to make that stop her from reaching down and taking the largest bite yet out of her prey.
She coughed, and for a moment she feared that she was going to lose some of the only prey she had to carry. The island was rather close to land, and even closer to where they would have to journey once they reached the island, but the water slowed them down so much. Roboflight shut her mouth closed, and forced herself to chew the prey for a few seconds before she swallowed it in disgust.
Despite her hunger she felt relieved that she had picked the smallest mouse.
Three large bites was all it took to clean the mouse, and despite the swirling in her stomach she forced herself to lick the meat off the bones before throwing them into the ocean, creating a nice splashing sound, which was followed by a large ripple, which went a far way.
She turned around, prepared to watch Firehowl eat, but the tom had stretched out, with no intention of eating one of the three pieces of prey that he had brought along for the journey.
Roboflight had to resist the urge to ask him if he was going to eat or not and instead decided to stretch a little herself, while she could, and take advantage of the opportunity.
She didn't know how long she actually rested, but the sun seemed to be setting when she was woken up by a loud call from Bravescar.
“You can eat another piece of prey before we set off again,” he claimed, “If you want to save it for later that it's your choice. We won’t be stopping at all to hunt until tomorrow around noon at the earliest. I know that we are all hungry but we have to finish this journey.”
Roboflight took a look at what she had left, and decided that she probably didn't want to eat another piece anyways. She turned over to see that Firehowl hadn't eaten any, and wasn't showing any interest in putting any in his mouth. Instead, he seemed to be waiting patiently for Bravescar to continue.
Bravescar waited for a few minutes before taking a look around and nodding. He flicked his tail towards his pack, before diving back into the river. The pack quickly followed him and Roboflight felt a chill creep up her spine as the icy waters soaked her pelt.
She felt the urge to jump back onto the rock and dry under the sun, but Bravescar was already moving, leaving her with no choice but to follow him through the cold flowing waters.
Petalfall quickly moved in beside her this time, and took Inkpelt’s place.
“I still can’t believe they are making us do this,” she breathed, panting.
“Me neither,” Roboflight replied. “But if this is what it takes to be accepted into Mountainclan, I guess it is what I will have to do.”
She nodded. “I just wish it didn't have to be this hard.”
Roboflight nodded back. “We all do. I hate everything about this quest but it does have a purpose; and I suppose we have to appreciate that, instead of hating it. But it’s hard.”
Petalfall looked thoughtful. "Very hard. But that’s not the only purpose of this quest,” Roboflight noticed her sending a glance at Inkpelt and understood what she was trying to say.
She wanted to claim that she was sorry but she knew this was not her place to interfere. Whatever happened between Petalfall and Inkpelt would have to stay between them.
Petalfall soon left her side, and was replaced by Aquatail who seemed to be in a better mood than she had been before because she had a light smile on her face.
At one point in when the sun appeared to be touching the edge of the sea, Roboflight swam beside Bravescar, who had ran out of cats to swim by him.
Silence occupied their swim and soon it seemed to bother Roboflight. “It must be hard,” she claimed. “Knowing that you have the weight of all of us on your shoulders.”
He flinched, as if the thought of it made the weight so much heavier but he responded anyways. “I know.” He sighed. “But I try to remind myself that no matter how dark and bad things might seem Starclan is with us and had always been with us. They brought Firehowl back to us,” noticing the sour look Roboflight carried he shrugged, “I know you two don’t get along but try to remember the fact that you were crying for him to return when he was dead.”
“That was only because he was dead,” Roboflight responded.
He seemed slightly taken aback but continued anyways, “I don’t see any reason for those OceanClan mange pelts to have helped us. It seems to me rather like Starclan did something to command them to help us.”
Roboflight tried not to show the hostility she felt towards that reply. She felt that Tidalpelt hadn’t hesitated to help her because he knew it was right, not because Starclan commanded him to.
Bravescar’s whiskers twitched. “And I can’t help wondering if Starclan was part of the reason we lost Driftingcloud. I can’t imagine any of us surviving with her wining.”
Roboflight took a look back to make sure that Inkpelt wasn’t near before purring. You can say that again!” she exclaimed.
She was soon dismissed from Bravescar’s side, and was left to swim the rest of the day on her own. None of the cats seemed to have enough patience for a discussion, and Roboflight realized that she felt the same way, and if someone asked her a question she would snap the answer.
Soon the sun disappeared and was replaced by a moon which was almost gone, as only a few rays of light emerged from it. But Bravescar continued to paddle on, making them swim until the moon was half way up. The cats were exhausted, but Bravescar was determined to cover as much sea as possible.
When the moon was at its highest he finally decided to call it a day, and the cats pulled themselves up to the rocks, which were scattered all over the sea, and collapsed on them.
Minutes later, Roboflight felt herself stirring from hunger. She knew how hideous they tasted but she was so hungry and tired that she picked the largest mouse she had and quickly swallowed it down, hardly aware of the disgusting taste that it brought to her mouth.
As she ate she could feel Firehowl’s gaze still on her, a look of disgust and contempt visible in them. But she felt too tired to care and fell into quick sleep filled with uneasy thoughts.
The next morning all the cats set off early again, as Bravescar wanted to get out of the sea as quickly as possible, and it wasn't hard for Roboflight to see why. Soon they would be at a loss of food, and dangers like the terrible monsters that dwelled in the sea could still become a potentially large problem.
They had enough problems on their hands already.
Bravescar gave those who wanted some time to eat, while others slept for a little while longer, if they didn't want to waste their prey at the moment. Roboflight considered eating one of hers, before deciding against it; she had to be very careful about when she ate.
Curious to see if she would finally get the pleasure of torturing Firehowl by watching him eat, she turned to look at his stack of prey and was surprised to discover that only one piece of prey had been eaten and Firehowl was snoring away. ‘’Why won’t he get hungry?’’ she thought crossly. ‘’It should be impossible to eat so little but then manage to continue swimming…’’
But Firehowl’s stomach wasn't even smaller than hers. In fact, looking down at her stomach, she realized that Firehowl looked pretty plump next to them, when a thought passed through her head.
‘’What if Firehowl wasn't getting hungry because he was brought back to life?’’
She couldn't see much logic in it, but it was the only thing that she could actually think of so she decided that she would play with that thought.
It wasn't long before Bravescar was calling the clan to jump back into the waters and continue their journey. Roboflight shot the water a scared glance; she knew that it would freeze her to the bone, but as the whole pack jumped in, each one letting out an obvious shiver when their pelts touched the water, Roboflight realized it was something she would have to do.
She plunged into the sea, and gritted her teeth when she felt the cold sensation taking over her body. It was all she could do not to scramble back on top of the flat and sunny rock she had been resting on.
Bravescar wasted no time letting the cats adjust to the temperature of the water. He just ushered them all forward to continue their journey through the sea; one that Roboflight doubted any of the cats were looking forward to the least bit.
Roboflight spent most of the day swimming alongside Aquatail and Petalfall, while she noticed that Bravescar wasn’t with anyone that day. She figured it was because he must be exhausted from all of the work of both the journey and leading cats through it.
Half way through the day, they stopped again to eat, and Roboflight didn't hesitate to let the sun soak her fur as she ate her last prey, shoving it down her throat as disgusting as it was. She was surprised to notice that Firehowl still didn't eat, and decided to tell Aquatail about it.
She had already told herself not to bother Bravescar about anything as it was much easier for her to sympathize for the leader, as it was what she had been until Firehowl had died. Aquatail seemed to be filling in Bravescar’s old position as the leader’s helper, so Roboflight found herself dunking her pelt into the cold waters, to swim over to the same stone that Aquatail was prodding her prey on.
“Hey,” she called to the blue she-cat as she climbed onto her rock, and splattered a few drops of water into the sea beneath her. “I wanted to tell you something.”
Hey eyes widened, “Not good news I suppose. News is never good after all…”
“Erm…” Roboflight glanced around quickly, making sure that no one was listening before she responded. “It’s not really bad news, in fact I actually think it might be considered good… but it’s weird and I have no idea how or why it is happening.”
Aquatail seemed surprised and she asked, “So what is it?”
Aquatail laughed, “We have all been wondering that for a while now, haven’t we Roboflight,” she claimed, “but the fact of the matter is that it will remain Starclan’s mystery what really happened to bring Firehowl back. Although I must say I am surprised that you claimed it was actually good news. I never thought I would hear you gathering up the courage to admit that.”
Roboflight ignored her last comment, and tried to ignore her cheeks from flushing in a combination of anger at the idea, and embarrassment. “No, I know that Starclan sent us a miracle there,” she claimed, “It’s something else, although I think it might be connected…”
“Oh,” Aquatail didn’t seem to be expecting that, “Well what is it then?”
“He never seems to get hungry,” she claimed, and pointing his tail at him, “He has only eaten one piece of prey and it wouldn’t be lying to say that he looks much plumper than the rest of us. I don’t see how that is even possible…”
“Strange,” Aquatail commented. “He does look much better fed than the rest of us, but whatever it is, I would say it is a blessing. Best not mess with it by trying to figure out what it is. It will be one less mouth to catch fish for when we go fishing tonight.”
“That should be fun,” Roboflight sighed, not at all excited at the prospect of fishing.
“We need to eat,” was her simple response.
With a shrug Roboflight dived back into the waters and after swimming over to the rock she was resting on, pulled herself up and decided to rest while she could.
The sun was halfway down by the time Bravescar called the pack to continue their journey. Roboflight was very grateful for the rest and for the first time since they entered the sea she felt like she finally had her energy restored, except for her growling stomach, which she had grown used to ignoring by then.
It didn't take her long to lose her energy though, and the sun wasn’t even touching the edge of the sea by the time she felt hardly able to swim the slightest bit farther, although she was left with no choice by Bravescar who pushed the pack to constantly keep moving.
When she sun began to set, Bravescar finally turned around, but he had no intention to let his cats off to rest. “We need food,” he claimed. “I know that we can barely fish, if we even know how to at all but it is the only food out here and I refuse to let any cat go hungry.”
“Are you going to teach us?” Petalfall called from behind Roboflight, earning his a scoff from Bravescar.
“How am I supposed to teach you something I have no idea how to do?” he asked. “You will just have to try your luck. I won’t let you go to sleep until you have ate. A lack of food will cause you to die, and I have better things to worry about than making sure you stay alive.”
“Where do we have to fish?” It was Petalfall again.
“Wherever you want,” Bravescar flicked his tail in dismissal. “Just make sure to be back here before it gets dark.”
The cats nodded and began to disperse. Some remained where they were, looking down into the water as if hoping a fish would show up beneath their feet. Roboflight decided to move towards the setting sun, if nothing else so that she would be facing the light when she hunted.
After she had paddled off far enough from the place where Bravescar had dismissed them, she tried to turn her attention to hunting. Looking down into the water, she was only able to spot a couple fish, all which were swimming far enough that she would have to paddle, which would make them aware of her presence.
Reminding herself that she had to try, she slowly began to paddle towards one of the fish but it automatically sensed that she was there and quickly swam out of the way, before she could get any closer. Sighing, she turned around and began to paddle towards the other fish without any different results.
Seeing another fish through the corner of her eye, Roboflight began to swim towards it, only to find the same results. But this time she followed it in a hopeless pursuit as the difference between them continued to grow. Just when she was about to give up on the fish, she heard a loud splash of water and felt sea water being sprinkled over her face. “Looking for this?” she looked up to see a blue tom holding the fish, which she now realized was a trout, in his paw, with his signature smug smile.
“Tidalpelt!” she gasped.
He smiled, “I see you have missed me.”
She rolled her eyes at his sarcastic comment, “Can I please have my catch back?” she asked, “I saw it first you know…”
He grinned, “I believe we have already been over this, ginger, and the fact that we are in the sea doesn’t change the fact, the one who catches gets to keep the prey. It is just too bad for that was chasing it. You shouldn’t have sent it into my paws.”
“Please! I haven’t eaten in a long time and I need that to go to sleep!” she knew she sounded desperate but she needed the food.
“Sorry, but those are the rules of the wild. This is the Mating Quest, kitties aren’t supposed to play nice. Something you better learn quickly.”
“Then why did you save me when I almost drowned?” she demanded. “And then save the Mountainclan and Cloudclan packs?"
He shrugged, “I couldn't leave a cat to die when there was something I could do about it. I can assure you that there is lots of prey left in the ocean and that you wouldn't have caught this one anyways.”
Roboflight cursed him for being so clever. “Don’t you have someone better to annoy?” she asked him, “You do have a pack to look after…”
“The same could be asked to you,” he responded. “What are you doing out on your own without your pack? It looks like a cat asking for trouble to me.”
“I am no longer the leader of my pack,” she simply responded. “And I came out to feed my stomach, something which you are preventing me from doing.”
“Why would you lose your position?” he asked, surprised. “Which idiot would take you away from that position?” controlling himself he added, “My pack is resting on the rocks far ahead, and I felt bored so I just came on a swim… And since you say I am being such a pest I guess I will have to prove my value to you.”
Roboflight rolled her eyes, “You have to value to prove.”
This earned her a grin from the Oceanclan tom, “I was going to teach you how to hunt fish, but if you don’t want it I guess I can just leave. I have a pack that would appreciate me much more than you are right now.”
“No!” Roboflight quickly jumped in, then feeling herself go red, she added, “Please don’t leave. I would love to learn how to hunt fish.”
“I thought so,” he claimed, with a confident smile Roboflight had to resist the urge to wipe off his face. “The first mistake you made was that you were way too noisy while tracking it down. You have to be slow and quiet so that it can’t feel or hear you…”
Roboflight listened to all of his instructions and when he demonstrated watched very clearly. It was late by the time he was done, but when Roboflight set out to try it, she actually managed, with a little bit of luck, to catch the fish that she had targeted.
Tidalpelt was even prouder of himself than Roboflight was of herself. “Well,” he claimed, “my pack will be missing me. It was fun teaching an amateur some moves. Maybe next time I will teach you how to fight! But that will be a challenge since you can’t even manage to do that on land.”
He shrugged before turning around and quickly paddling away at a pace that Roboflight could never manage, “See ya later!” She hated her eyes for following his pelt for as long as they could manage to see it.
“I think we are almost there…” Bravescar panted as he spat water out of his mouth. Roboflight nodded, nonchalantly as the cold water continued to press against her fur, believing that the only reason he said this was to keep their lowered spirits up. All of them had been cranky ever since he had kept most cats up to late to hunt.
Roboflight was rather lucky, although horribly exhausted by the time she returned to him. Most cats were still trying to hunt without any success. They were all mad at the quest for bringing them here; where none of them stood a chance at survival. Their only hope was to reach land soon so that they can continue.
Not much to hope for when all they could see around them was a vast sea with waters rippling softly under the morning breeze. Normally such a view might have stirred her, but under the circumstances, it just made Roboflight feel sick to see how hard it was to escape the environment.
Bravescar sighed beside her, obviously echoing her worries. “I never thought when my day came for the Mating Quest that I would have to face something like this.”
“At least our prize will be greater when we return,” Roboflight shrugged. “The clans will be happy if we just return completing the quest. Mountainclan doesn't expect victory from us, you know…”
“But I guess since we are working so hard to get there, we should leave no point in dismissing victory and bringing our clan their pride.”
She nodded? “Well, Cloudclan couldn't be considered a threat. We just have to watch out for Oceanclan and I think we can easily win this race.”
Bravescar snorted. “Can you even see Oceanclan, Roboflight? The only chance we have of winning is our strong pads which will easily be able to push us up the steaming mountain we have to go over. Maybe Cloudclan isn't a threat, but it only takes one clan to defeat you in this race.”
Roboflight felt her thoughts trailing all the way back to Tidalpelt, and as much as she tried to fight it away an image of his confident smile, and that joyful glitter in his eyes refused to leave her mind. She let out a sneeze as she felt some sort of plant tickling her nose.
“Well,” she finally said. “You are the one who is constantly trying to keep our spirits up. I don’t see this helping that much in that zone.”
“I try to keep your spirits up,” he claimed. “But I don’t lie. What you just said, was very evidently a lie. It will not at all be easy to win.”
“Well land isn't close,” she rolled her eyes, annoyed at him for calling her a liar. “We still have a few more days if traveling.”
“Close is something that changes over time,” he explained. “We have never been closer which makes us close in comparison to what we have been before.”
Roboflight sighed, realizing that Bravescar was too stubborn to admit that he was wrong, and she was no different. But she felt too exhausted to spend the rest of the day fighting so she just sighed and fought her mouth to keep it quiet and not retort.
The rest of the morning went by uneventful except for the growling of Roboflight’s stomach and that of those around her. They might have ate before they went to bed, but with all of the energy they were consuming they would have to be eating a lot to actually keep their stomachs satisfied. Unfortunately though, this was the hardest place to possibly find food.
Roboflight doubted that any part of the whole quest could be more challenging, but she reminded herself that she had believed the forest was the hardest thing she would ever live in her whole life.
Maybe she would have to face that the quest would just get harder and harder, just in different ways. Bravescar let out yet another sigh beside her and she was forced to return from her thoughts to the waters, as they froze her fur putting her nerves back on end.
“This water so cold I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually frozen water we were breaking with our pelt,” she heard Aquatail stammer, shivering hard.
“What you say is partially true,” she heard Boulderclaw growl from behind her. She turned around in surprise as did Bravescar, curious as to what he was saying.
He indicated towards the water with his muzzle. “There are thin little strands of ice floating around. I doubt that the sea will freeze, but there is good reason for it to be cold.”
She looked down at the ice and saw that what he was saying was in fact true. Little and thin crusts of ice bobbed up and down with the quiet and shallow waves of the water. It was almost calming, and it would have been, had it not been the cause that she was gritting her teeth, praying that she would soon be able to get out of the freezing water, because not even moving could keep her warm.
Bravescar let out a shiver at the sight of them. “I don’t think this is a very good sign.”
She shrugged, not sure if it mattered and they continued quietly.
When your senses are so sharp from your nerves being scorched by the cold waters of the sea, it is hard not to notice even the stealthiest of things.
Which was exactly how the whole pack knew it the moment a shark was on their trails. All of the cats were soon running towards the front of the pack, trying to squeeze in with all of the other cats, frantically a their paws splashed helplessly against the water. Roboflight tried to control the quick pounding of her heart as Bravescar flicked his tail, indicating for them to listen.
“Do not panic,” he claimed. “I remember being told something about the sharks also being able to pick up a fear scent. We will quietly move to the rocks there are climb up them. We will have to wait until they leave before we can continue. I know I want to catch up, but being tracked down by a shark is the last thing we really need right now.”
The cats were relieved that he had made this call and carefully began to float towards the rocks which lied just a bit ahead of them. Roboflight knew that the shark was slowly circling around them and she could clearly envision her death at the jaws of the beast. She could almost feel it’s teeth wrapping around her leg and taking a bite out of it, before pulling her down under the water where she would either die from a loss of blood or a lack of oxygen, as the shark continued to pull her under.
She tried not to gasp for air while she still knew she had it but it was hard and she found herself unable to breath in fear.
“Are you okay?”
She whirled around to find Featherbreeze standing behind her. She nodded and gave a nonchalant shrug before turning away from her. The last thing she wanted right now was a conversation with Featherbreeze, but that seemed exactly like what seemed to be approaching, as there was nowhere else to escape to, as she was squeezed by the rest of the cats in her pack. She felt her breath shortening again.
“Are you sure that you are okay?” Featherbreeze repeated.
“I’m fine!” Roboflight snapped back, suddenly frustrated at her old friend for being unable to get out of her fur, “Why can’t you just leave me alone!”
Featherbreeze seemed taken aback, and her eyes revealed obvious pain. Roboflight immediately regretted it but didn't say anything, realizing that it was too late.
Once they reached the rocks the cats quickly scattered and frantically began to pull themselves onto different rocks. Roboflight felt her paws flailing desperately as she tried to cling to the rock. She could almost feel the shark breathing on her feet as she helplessly tried to pull them up.
Finally she managed to get her feet in the air, but panic still attacked her lungs as she tried to drag her body up. She could clearly see the ripples the shark was forming now, and feared that it might jump up any moment and snatch her legs. With a final heave she managed to pull her body onto the rock and as she turned around she realized that she could locate the shark as it swam through the water.
For a moment she was relieved to see that it wasn't coming towards her before she realized that it was heading straight towards Bravescar. She could feel her heart slowing down as Bravescar’s eyes widened with realization of what was coming straight at him.
There was no one else sharing a stone with him, and Roboflight realized what she would have to do a split moment before she did it. She flung herself through the air at the beast, as its head popped out of the water, looking for its prey. The moment Roboflight’s claws hit its smooth and slick pelt, it whirled around, no longer interested in the brown tom it had been targeting.
Roboflight braced herself for death as she felt herself falling back down into the water. She could already picture her death so much clearer than the bothering and detailed images she had before. Closing her eyes, she wondered if this was how Sandpelt had felt when he died, and if she would get to meet him in Starclan.
Suddenly she felt something ram against her and she turned around to find Aquatail throwing her away from the shark and towards a hard surface.
Although she could hear the shark approaching she felt too numb to pull herself up to fight it. She just shut her eyes, hoping that the strength of Bravescar would be enough. But the shark seemed to think the better of attacking a group of cats and he finally turned around, frustrated.
Roboflight forced herself back up to her feet and turned to Aquatail. “Thanks,” she murmured, "for saving me back there. I thought I was preparing myself to meet Sandpelt.”
She nodded, “You are a member of this pack. I am willing to sacrifice for you.” But by now they had both known that the truth was clear. She hadn't been trying to save Roboflight, she wanted to save Bravescar. Roboflight just got there first.
As she faced Aquatail, Roboflight notice a disappointed gleam in her eyes and I can’t help wondering if the reason she really wanted to save Bravescar was so that she could save him, not so that his life could be spared. And she couldn't explain the hostile feeling that crept up her spine at that thought.
She should hate Bravescar for taking her position as leader and forcing them to travel so much, just like the rest of the pack. But instead, all she could feel was pure satisfaction that it had been her that saved him, instead of Aquatail.
Firehowl. Tidalpelt. Bravescar.
Would her problems with toms ever end?
Firehowl swam alongside Roboflight, a sneer on his face as they fought against the current of the water. Roboflight tried to ignore the harsh way he kept looking at her but eventually she snapped.
“What do you want?” she demanded, splashing water in his face as she turned around to face him harshly. He seemed slightly taken back but his eyes remained bitter.
“Think you are so special now because you save Bravescar, don’t you?” he asked her, seeming slightly annoyed. “Why can’t you ever get enough of yourself?”
Roboflight felt her rage growing as she faced the black tom, and had to resist the urge to dunk him under the water and keep him there for the rest of his life, so that he could drown cruelly with the cruel waters, as his cruel little face deserved. Instead she just gave him a deep and heavy glare, with every ounce of hatred that she could muster. "It sounds like you are jealous,” she glared. “I wasn't being stuck-up about it at all. I didn't even mention it and you are coming all up my spine.”
“Because you are giving me that expression,” he snapped. “Like I am too good for you or something because you saved a cat. And the way you ignore me because of that.”
“I never ignored you!” she replied angrily. If they were on land she would have stormed off but while they were swimming she didn't stand a chance of getting away from him in a matter of seconds so she was forced to painfully endure having him stand beside her and absorb what he said before she could disappear.
He nodded nonchalantly, “Whatever you say, Roboflight. Whatever you say.”
It was all she could do not to attack him and keep her claws sheathed. She had to admit that Firehowl had his ways with words and he knew the perfect way to use them, for whatever occasion he wanted to. And he was obviously trying to make her angry at the moment. She told herself that she refused to lose against him and kept her mouth shut, knowing that responding would only make her angrier.
Firehowl shrugged, and seemed to give up his efforts. Roboflight slowly began to paddled away from him, and soon she found herself swimming alongside Boulderclaw who had a harsh look on his face.
“Hello,” she meowed. He didn't look at her, instead kept his gaze at the water below, gazing into it with a dark troubled look.
“What do you think would have happened if you didn't save Bravescar?” he finally asked her. “What sort of fate do you think he would have met?”
She was taken aback by his response to her kind greeting. “He would have died, I guess,” she responded not sure exactly what to say. “Why do you ask?”
“If I were Bravescar,” he admitted. “I would be mad at you for getting in the way of the shark.”
She looked at him bewildered. “You want to die?” she asked him.
He sighed, “Listen, Roboflight. I want you to swear on StarClan, on the spirit of Sandpelt or your parents. On the life of Firehowl.”
She gave him a sharp look. “What does the life of Firehowl mean to me?”
An amused smiled reached his face but he pushed it back. “Just swear to me, that you will not tell anyone this. I know you may think it will be for my better but it won’t.”
She was a little surprised, but she nodded, slightly flattered to be the only one chosen to know his secret. “I promise,” she claimed.
He sucked in his breath sharply before continuing. "When I disappear soon, you can’t tell anyone until a while later. This whole quest is worthless, and I don’t want to waste my life and efforts in something which I don’t believe in. I don’t believe in this quest. And I would rather die than betray the purpose of my life.”
“Wait…” she was confused. “Are you saying that…”
“I’m going to kill myself.”
There was a long moment of silence before Roboflight managed to choke out a “How?”
He shrugged. "Trust me, there are many ways to kill myself. I will decide when I get to that stage. But you have to promise you won’t tell anyone!”
“I won’t,” she responded. “But I have a question… Why are you telling me this?”
He shrugged, “I am dying to voice my opinion. I need someone to carry the reason why I died. Someone to make sure that it wasn't in vain.”
Roboflight could hardly believe the words she was hearing and the fact that she would keep it a secret. But she knew she wouldn't be able to tell any other cat after she had sworn not to. "I promise I won’t tell anyone, no matter how much I disagree with your choice,” she claimed shakily, wondering if it was the water that was making her feel cold or something more sinister had proven that it could beat the chill of any solid substance.
He nodded. “I hope you don’t,” he claimed. “I’m not sure when I will leave but don’t be surprised when I disappear.”
She nodded, hardly breathing. She felt guilty not running and telling Bravescar when she was jeopardizing Boulderclaw’s life.
But she didn't open her mouth again and remained quiet, continuing to paddle through the water, her dark thoughts engulfing herself. She could see Firehowl, not far away glaring at her like always. For once she didn't feel angered, from the fear that pounded through her heart.
“Hey, Roboflight, have you seen Boulderclaw?” Aquatail asked, sliding in next to her. She turned around in surprise, and noticed that the tom was gone.
“No,” she lied, looking around frantically, and realizing that he had in fact disappeared. "Where is he?” She looked worried.
“That’s what I was wondering… I last saw him with you, but now he is not anywhere. I was wondering if you might know…”
Roboflight stammered a bit, before responding, “I don’t know.”
A loud sigh emerged from Aquatail. “I thought not. I’m going to ask Bravescar if I can go look for him. I fear he might have lost himself.”
Roboflight nodded trying not to show how worried she was and Aquatail left again, so that she could bury herself in a pile of worries.
She swam alone until she could see the sun touching the tip of sea, letting the sun drown it. She wondered if that was the fate that Boulderclaw had met.
And yet, despite her worried, a part of her felt guilty for not caring enough. This cat was his clan mate and a part of his pack. She should care more; have more worry inside of her than she did at the moment. Was the pack so torn, that they couldn't bother about the life of another cat? A part of her feared that the answer was the pack had never gotten along well enough to care, and never would be able to.
She was pulled out of her thoughts by a loud screech from Aquatail as she approached the clan, sweating as worry glittered in her eyes.
Bravescar looked up. "What is it, Aquatail?” he asked her.
She was gasping for breath as she faced them all in terror. “Boulderclaw is dead.”
Bravescar silently looked up at the starry sky as the lights glittered beautifully, nothing like the devastating scene that was unraveling beneath them. Roboflight felt a stone form in her heart as the clan gazed down at the waters splashing beneath them.
The pack was standing on a large rock, mourning Boulderclaw in a mutual silence.
“It’s too bad we couldn't have his body here,” Petalfall murmured. “We are supposed to mourn for him with his body here.”
Aquatail bristled a bit at that comment and Roboflight had to bite back a sharp reply. She knew that Petalfall was just saying what she thought, but Aquatail wasn't taking it very well that she had stumbled across Boulderclaw’s body, and Petalfall wasn’t helping by criticizing.
Bravescar responded for her. "Come on Petalfall. What were we going to do? Drag him all the way back here? We would be worn out, far too worn out to carry him here. He would want us to continue and win the quest. That was what he died for after all.”
But Roboflight couldn't stand being silent at that comment. "He wouldn't want that,” she replied dully. “That is the last thing he would have wanted.”
Bravescar seemed surprised, “What wouldn't he have wanted?”
“He wouldn't want us to honor him by continuing the quest. For us to consider his sacrifice something to push us only harder to finish. I don’t think he cares much for his body, or where we leave it, but he did not die for this quest,” she kept her head down as she said this, not wanting to meet the toms eyes.
“What makes you so sure of that?” he asked her curiously, “I never knew you and Boulderclaw to be very close. He might have claimed he disliked this quest, but you never know what he is thinking moments before his death,” he had a stern look on his face.
“Maybe not,” Roboflight agreed, “but I know what he was thinking before he faced death in the eye. I know why he faced death in the eye. And although I am not sure of the details I know what made him face death in the eye,” she sheepishly looked away. “I probably should have told you earlier.”
He nodded, “You should have. But it doesn't help if you tell me what you know, but then you don’t tell me what the things you know actually are. How did Boulderclaw die? I don’t think it was because he got lost anymore…” he gazed at her, almost in a trance.
She had to turn away from his deep amber eyes, and felt her face warming up. "He..." she stammered slightly and found herself sighing loudly, not sure how to tell the clan.
“Go on,” Bravescar pressed his pelt against hers trying to warm her cold pelt. Firehowl shot her a mocking look and she avoided it as best as she could.
“Boulderclaw didn't want to live this quest any further,” she managed to say. “He was tired of it, and the fact that he was wasting his life on this quest disgusted him. He didn't want to die for it.”
Surprise entered Petalfall’s gaze and she let out a loud gasp, “He didn't… he wouldn't… he couldn't…” Tears began to brim along her eyes.
“He wanted to die,” Roboflight hung her head down sadly and felt Bravescar pulling in closer to her. “Do you know anything else?” he asked her cautiously.
She shook her head. “All I knew was that he wanted to die. He told me not to tell anyone and that he needed someone to remember and share the purpose of his death.”
Firehowl was looking at her with obvious and imminent anger now, “And you never told any of us? Why? We could have saved Boulderclaw’s life! You think that he wouldn't have wanted to live?”
Roboflight chocked back all of the anger that she felt towards Firehowl, “He didn't want to live.”
Silence dragged out the rest of the night.
The next morning they got up early again and continued the journey. After the loss of another clanmate, the cats were slow and tired, with spirits that couldn't be worse.
Roboflight barely felt her paws as she put one leg before the other. Dark thoughts engulfed her mind, and guilt came along with them as she wondered if Firehowl was correct. If she should have told the pack, and stopped Boulderclaw. He would hate her, but he would still be alive.
Even though he might not have been happy with the fact that he was.
The day went by horribly for the whole pack, as they were weighed down by the realization that they were missing one more member of their pack. Now they only had seven.
But a halfway into the day, Bravescar revealed something that was enough to temporarily remove the fright and sorrow that the death of Boulderclaw brought.
“Land!” he cried. “I see land! And it is very close!”
She looked up to see that what he said was true. Less than half a day’s worth of swimming away, lied an island. The island.
They were almost there.
Petalfall smiled sweetly. "That was a good catch.”
“Thanks,” Roboflight replied dropping the dead rabbit on the floor. “My feet have missed the soil so much. I don’t think they will ever be able to touch water again.”
“They will have to,” Firehowl grunted, a little farther off from them as he pulled into a hunting crouch. “Remember, we still have to get off this island, and there will always be the way back.”
“Please don’t remind me,” Petalfall complained. “I want to enjoy this land, without needing to worry about what happens when I lose it again.”
Roboflight heard a loud pounce and turned around to find, Firehowl with a sparrow in his jaws. She opened her mouth to congratulate him before quickly shutting it closed again, as she remembered that he had never bothered to compliment her after her catch, and that he would probably turn her compliment into something against her.
“I wonder what happened to Driftingcloud…” Petalfall finally admitted. “I have to admit, everything has been so peaceful ever since she left, but I can’t help wondering what actually happened…” she trailed off, and Firehowl abruptly turned around.
“I should think that you might know the answer to that question,” he claimed, and when he received a sharp look from both she-cats he shrugged. “What?” he sighed and turned around. “We are supposed to be hunting, not chattering anyways.”
Petalfall sighed happily, “I know, but it’s hard not to get distracted now that my feet are back on land,” she picked her feet up and placed them back on the ground just to prove her point. “My feet have missed a solid surface to put their pads against.”
“Your dreams don’t feed bellies,” Firehowl snapped before turning back around. “Now if you will excuse me.” He marched of in the opposite direction of the two she-cats.
“What’s gone up his tail?” Petalfall asked with an amused smile.
Roboflight rolled her eyes. “This is Firehowl. What else do you expect?”
Petalfall looked at her curiously, “He’s not usually ‘’that’’ bad. No need to exaggerate. He beats Driftingcloud any day.”
“He is ‘that bad’,” Roboflight claimed. "He never leaves me alone, and keeps glaring at me like I belong to a different clan. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”
Petalfall merely shrugged, but Roboflight could tell she had more to say. Sighing, she turned around and continued searching for prey to help feed the pack.
When they returned to camp that day, alongside the other patrols, they were treated like heroes. The pack thanked them several times for the prey they brought back, and were able to properly eat for once. Although they weren't entirely full they had satisfied their stomachs for a change.
Bravescar grinned after they were all done eating. “We have completed the hardest part of the quest!” he claimed. “We have proved our strength to Starclan and now we are ready to continue. The spirit of Sandpelt, Driftingcloud and Boulderclaw…” he hesitated for a moment before continuing, “have watched over us and will continue to watch over us during the rest of the journey.”
There was a small cheer coming from the cats, but Roboflight didn't join in. She had turned her head away from Bravescar and found herself looking at the entrance of camp where Inkpelt was quietly watching the stars. Taking a quick glance around, Roboflight slipped out and joined him.
“Hey, Inkpelt,” she greeted the black tom.
He gave her a light smile. "The stars are shinning so bright tonight. Almost like they our celebrating out return,” he breathed in deeply, “but any fool would know that this is far from done.”
She nodded quietly, not removing her eyes from the bright sky. “Do you think Driftingcloud is up there?” she felt the need to ask him.
He shook his head, “I think she is still down here. Maybe even closer than we ever could have imagined, and she is waiting for us to return.”
“There is another she-cat waiting for you to return,” she couldn't control the words that were escaping her mouth.
But he just nodded in agreement, “I know. But it’s not as easy as it seems just to live up on Driftingcloud and take Petalfall. One day, I am sure you will understand.”
Roboflight wasn't so sure but she just nodded and the two cats continued to gaze up into the bright night sky, as the stars danced and glittered illuminating their faces, and shinning flickers of hope down on their eyes.