"I'll be back tomorrow morning, Riverstar," the black tom, who Tidalpelt could barely make out under the dim lighting of the moon whispered, "These cat's will have quite a quest in store for them, I think. Let's just hope it doesn't last as long as last time."
"We'll be fine," Fadingclouds whispered softly, "We won last time, and these cats are strong and prepared. If it involves any contact with water I can't see how we would lose."
"I hope you are right," his leader, Riverstar whispered. The dark tom's pelt shined as he weaved between the medicine cat and his deputy before giving Riggedclaw a lick, "We await your return."
Tidalpelt held his breath, watching from his place behind, the large rock, on the other side of which the leaders of his clan were murmuring.
Riggedclaw nodded before turning around, and paddling through the heavy waters of the sea, his pelt dripping with water as he swam towards more shallow waters, trying to reach the shore, from where he would head to the cave where the destinies of Tidalpelt and his friends would be determined.
"The quests always worry me," Fadingclouds sighed loudly, while Tidalpelt continued to watch, hoping he might get any hints at his fate or who would be leading his pack.
"And with good reason," the moon turned the black toms slick and wet pelt a silvery color causing it to ripple every time he moved a bit.
"I still don't think we should do it," she huffed, "Killing off warriors is not the right way to see if they are fit for survival. I remember how much I hated to quest and it never brought us much but a plant that healed a couple cats with greencough who probably could have been healed some other way."
"It's a test to see who is worthy," Riverstar pointed out, "And-"
"I've heard it so many times," she flicked her tail at him, "But I still don't think it's the best way. We can survive without such a fierce test. Is it right to claim the lives of those who are not worthy?"
Riverstar flicked his tail, obviously a little annoyed with his deputy, "StarClan wishes it to be so, and so that is how it will be. They asked for us to take these quests, and that is why we do. I am not the one to question my ancestors and neither are you."
"I..." she stammered before sighing, and slowly paddling away from the quite shallow water where they had been standing, "Good night. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Good night," Riverstar nodded as she disappeared back into the depths of the water.
All was silent for a long lasting moment before Riverstar sighed, “I can smell you back there, Tidalpelt, you might as well come out.”
Blushing, Tidalpelt dragged himself out from behind the rock he had been concealing himself with and brought himself to sit by the leader of his clan, trying to hide all of the nervous energy zapping through his body as he knew that he would be facing the quest the very next morning.
“How are you?” Riverstar asked, in a calm melodic voice.
Tidalpelt shrugged, “Excited I guess. It’s the mating quests, and failure means we get kicked out of the clan,” he paused, “Or it means I have died.”
“I’m sure you will be fine,” Riverstar must have sensed all the nervous energy that was still flowing through Tidalpelt, “You are a strong cat, a good swimmer and a natural leader. Which is why I chose you to become the leader of your pack.”
“Really?” Tidalpelt felt his eyes widen at the news and in excitement.
“Of course,” Riverstar assured him, “I know a natural leader when I see one. I was the leader of my pack so many moons ago. Our quests was a more easy one, but challenging nonetheless. It was a struggle and being leader only added to my stress. But when you pack wins it means more than anything else.”
“I part of me can’t wait for it to start,” Tidalpelt sighed, wondering if he should be revealing this much to his leader, “But the other part of me wants it to never come.”
“All paths to greatness come through struggle, Tidalpelt,” Riverstar claimed, “You have to remember that. Every step of the journey will be a challenge greater that the last.”
“I know,” he replied, his paws tingling even under the numbing cold water at the prospect of what the next morning would bring, “I’ll remember.”
“Good,” Riverstar replied before nodding at the warrior and paddling off, to his den, while Tidalpelt watched his black pelt bowing up and down before sighing and following his leader to his den.
“Tidalpelt!” he felt a voice hissing in his ear, as small rays of sunlight entered his den. He resist the urge to swat away whoever was ruining his sleep, and kept his head stuck to his pile of moss.
“Tidalpelt!” the voice was louder and more demanding this time. Sighing, he snapped his head up to see a pretty blue coat standing over him, paired with gorgeous sky blue eyes of Rainfall, his only littermate, who always seemed to do better than him in everything, even as just a medicine cat.
He could feel his heart beat increasing as he remembered that Riverstar had chosen him to be the leader of their pack. Him and not Rainfall.
“Come on, Tidalpelt!” Rainfall was almost screeching this time, “We have to hurry up and go, before the other packs get ahead of us even before we start.”
Tidalpelt nodded, and quickly pushed himself up to his paws, not caring about his sleep anymore, as he had none of it left. The only emotion that sweeped through his body was the excitement of the quest and him leading his pack.
He paddled out of his den, to be greeted by fresh ocean water. His paws shivered as they were dipped into the cold sea, but he ignored the shivers creeping down his spine. He was starting his mating quest today.
Riverstar was addressing his clan from the Highstone. He didn’t have to confident smile like he did last time he sent the cats off on the quest. Instead, he looked worried and didn’t have the slightest reassuring smile on his face.
Tidalpelt’s stomach lurched, as he realized that whatever they had been sent to do was not good. Beneath his confident grin, something he always carried, he felt any ease he felt left towards the quest dissolving. Was something wrong?
Several long minutes past as he stood there, his pads gently touching the soft sand beneath the sea. All the cats were gathered and Riggedclaw stood beside his leader a harsh look planted on his face.
After several long moments of pause, Riverstar sighed and turned to face his cats, “We are ready to begin the mating quest!” he announced, “But before I announce what the quest is on, I must bring forward the cats participating in the quest.”
He was greeted with silence before continuing.
“May Tidalpelt, Rainfall, Rivereart, Russtlepelt, Hawkflight, Treefall, Sparkleleap, Soilfur, Grassfur and Lightclaw please join me to face the clan one last time before you had off on this quest.”
Tidalpelt sucked in his breath, before slowly paddling to the rock on top of which Riverstar was standing before sliding his paws, so that he was gripping it and pulling himself on top of the large rock, so that he could face the whole of Oceanclan.
He soon found the nine other cats in his pack standing beside him, their looks grim and not the slightest bit hopeful as Riverstar signaled with his tail for Raggedclaw to begin explaining what their quest was.
Raggedclaw nodded before turning to face his clan, “Without Starclan, we are hopeless,” he said out loud which was greeted with suspicious murmurs, “We need the guidance of our ancestors to lead us through all times; good and bad. However, the stone we use to communicate with Starclan is old and it is necessary that we find a new one as soon as we can."
“So Starclan has assigned the questing cats with the duty of finding a gem; one that will take them far away and back in an effort to ensure their guidance stays with us and test these cats for five virtues; courage, strength, loyalty, honor and love.”
Tidalpelt resisted the urge to look extremely panicked before all the other cats of his clan. They were counting on him to win and bring victory to them.
And he refused to fail.
“To get to this gem they must first cross the hostile forest behind Mountainclan and Oceanclan territory. Once they have reached the other side of the forest they must cross the sea, before resting on an island than continuing onto a volcano which they must delve inside to find the gem. Once they have reached it they must grab it and repeat all the challenges while returning back home.”
Tidalpelt’s brain began to whirl. He already wanted the quest to end before it started.
Riverstar butted back in, “To lead the Oceanclan pack of young warriors I have chosen Tidalpelt, whom I know I can rely on.”
Tidalpelt could sense Rainfall trying so hard beside him to hide a gasp of sheer horror. And although he was grinning on the outside, a wide smile spreading across his face, he couldn’t hide the sense of dread growing in the pit of his stomach as he tried to think brightly for the quest ahead.
The clan cheered and murmured them good luck, from where they stood in the icy morning waters of Oceanclan, and as Tidalpelt smiled, waving his tail at them and thanking them for their support.
But deep inside, he was wondering if he would ever see these faces again.
The forest smelled damp as Tidalpelt led his pack through the green grass and the long trees. Rainfall was at his side, paddling along softly, although he didn’t fail to detect the anger radiating from her.
Unable to resist he asked, “Is something wrong, Rainfall?”
“No,” she muttered darkly, turning her head away in anger as she continued to paddle alongside him, “I’m just, worried for the quest.” She lied.
Tidalpelt was left to wonder if she was still trying to convince herself that. She had lost to him for a change and if she expected him not to mention it at all, after all those times she had brought up the battles and training sessions which she had dominated leaving him as second.
But it appeared Rainfall would not be satisfied with anything less than first place even once.
“Are we lost?” she asked him, a dangerous gleam in her eyes as she raised her head, “Because I don’t think you know where we are going.”
“I am not lost,” he assured his sister, wanting to claw her pelt out.
“It’s okay if we are,” Rainfall claimed, not bothering to hide her voice, “I think I know the right way out of here.”
Tidalpelt ignored his boiling insides, “It’s not working, Rainfall,” he hissed, before raising his voice, “We are just fine, Rainfall. You don’t need to worry too much about the quest. I know you are scared about failing, but I’ll make sure we win.”
Rainfall have him a sweet, innocent glance sending his blood on fire, but he turned away from her sky blue eyes, a lighter and prettier shade of his, while he continued to put one paw in front of the other, imagining that the mud he gripped so fiercely was Rainfall.
This is the mating quest, he that he was scolding herself You should be able to put aside your rivalry with your sister for a moment so that you can actually win and get first place for once.”
Convincing himself that he was right, he raised his head defiantly and continued to take confident steps across the forest, not bothering to look at her.