Rising Hope

A story by Stormy.

Part of The Revolution Series.


Things have changed drastically for Meadowpaw and Mallowpaw. Upholding a promise, they plunge the Clan and Tribe into revolution.

Prologue “I assure you, the results have came out perfect,” Rose purred. Ash looked back. As always, her eyes were cold as ice, and her mouth was closed shut tightly. The only time she ever opened her mouth was to eat, drink, order commands, and kill. “Blackpaw, you piece of foxdung!” Rose yowled towards the bushes. Out from the bushes, came Blackpaw, moving slowly and rhythmically. The body was Blackpaw’s, no doubt… but he was different. His eyes were glassy. Instead of moving and shuffling around like usual, he was completely still. He didn’t speak. “Blackpaw, sit,” Rose commanded. Blackpaw complied, as he had no choice. “See… we knew it would work out fine,” Coal soothed Ash. “I haven’t seen any real proof yet,” Ash said coldly. “Okay. We’ll show you then,” Coal replied, “Blackpaw, run across the clearing, fetch that acorn, run back, and then bury it.” Flawlessly, Blackpaw executed the commands, quickly and efficiently. Ash began to smile. Rarely did she smile, but when it was, it was almost scathing. Almost hard to look at, even. Then she spoke, calm and clear. “This is perfect. I shouldn’t have doubted you. Although, I wasn’t expecting you to sacrifice Blackpaw.” Coal shrugged. “It’s a long story. One that you don’t want to hear.” Ash flicked her tail. “Nor do I have time to hear. Now go start your plans on how to spread this. We will have control over the Clan with ease.” The unfortunate Rubypaw was prancing past, sent on a hunting trip by one of the slaveholders. Quickly and expertly, Rose snagged her, pulled her down, and knocked her unconscious to go to the cave. “Do you have the mixture?” Rose asked. “Yes,” Coal said, bounding into the bushes, and returning with another wrapped leaf. “Well. Let’s start our trek to the cave.” Rose nudged at Rubypaw. “Help me carry this stupid lump.” Blackpaw carefully lifted her up by the back of her neck. “Well don’t act like a mother,” Rose snapped, “She won’t even care about her treatment by the end of the day.” Ash rolled her eyes and stalked off, while Coal laughed in delight.

Chapter 1 POV: Mallowpaw The sky seemed to be pouring out every last drop of rain it had. I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t even try to take shelter. I just the raindrops hit me, splashing my gray fur and whiskers. Meadowpaw was the same. Her pale, shiny golden pelt was reduced to an almost brown color, as it clung tightly to her body, accentuating her skinny frame. Stripepaw stood with us too. He may have been a slaveholder-in-training, he may be a klutz and an idiot, but he was feeling grief for Blackpaw too. Blackpaw had recently fallen victim to a plot that the senior slaveholders had created. It could’ve been me, it could’ve been Meadowpaw, it could’ve been any young apprentice or kit, actually. But it happened to Blackpaw. And he had intentionally done it. I almost wished that I were the one who was bloodily slaughtered on that pedestal. At this point, I was too depressed to even care if I became one of the living dead or not. If Blackpaw hadn’t sacrificed himself, and him and Meadowpaw could’ve lived happily ever after, although the thought of them together made me cringe a bit. But whom was I kidding? There is no happily ever after. Ash and the slaveholders controlled everything. I was just an insignificant speck, making no difference in life whatsoever. But then I remembered my last promise to Blackpaw, and I knew that wasn’t true. I knew I had to make a huge difference. I knew I had to overthrow the Tribe. Meadowpaw, Stripepaw, and I lay down our last flowers in Blackpaw’s memorial. “Right,” Meadowpaw said, “We start now.” It was too soon. All too soon. But I had to. “Yeah,” I replied, my voice sounding somewhat breathy. “Start what?” Stripepaw questioned. Mouse dung. “Do you think we can trust him?” Meadowpaw asked. “You can trust me,” Stripepaw said, “I won’t tell. I promise.” “Okay!” Meadowpaw exclaimed. “Meadowpaw, wait –“ I tried to stop her but it was all in vain. When Meadowpaw got her mind set on something, there was no stopping her. “We’re going to start another uprising,” she mewed, checking over her shoulders for possible eavesdroppers, “And it’s actually going to work this time.” A shadow fell over Stripepaw’s face. “I don’t know guys, I—You know what, I’m going to do it,” he replied, “I’m sick of being the coward.” “Great.” Meadowpaw smiled. “Let’s find some more recruits, shall we?” Finding cats to join in on the cause was harder than anticipated. Sure, I didn’t think it would be easy, but I also didn’t think it would be near impossible. First, we started with the cats that we knew participated in the last uprising, as they would be more likely to want to join in on the next one. Meadowpaw knew practically all of them. In the end, we only got three new recruits. A jumpy apprentice slave named Crowpaw, a lean warrior she-cat named Appleleaf, and a grumpy old gray cat named Stonewhisker, whose facial expression alike to one that you would make while sitting on a cactus. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. We took the three back to our meeting place, beneath the oak tree. Thankfully, the snow had begun to melt, and the chill through our fur was less extreme. “Coal, Rose, and Ash are the problem,” Appleleaf reasoned, “Whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to kill them.” “But… don’t you think killing is a bit extreme?” Crowpaw chimed in. “No,” Meadowpaw replied, “Killing is barely strong enough to make our point. And even that might just make all of the slaveholders and supporters angrier.” “That wouldn’t me good,” I reasoned, “But it’s the best idea we’ve had yet. We might as well just get to the root of the trouble and yank it out.” My statement elicited murmurs of agreement. “You realize that the execution of this is going to be hardest,” Appleleaf said. “Obviously,” Meadowpaw said, “I think that was enough for today. It’s getting dark, and if us apprentices are gone for any longer they could get in trouble.” I was awoken late at night, to the sounds of hissing and shouting. Slowly, I stretched, and pulled myself to my feet, resisting the urge to just flop back into my nest and sleep some more. Lazily, I trudged to the center of the camp. To my dismay, I saw Stripepaw and Stonewhisker, surrounded by slaveholders and warriors. Before them, lay the dead body of Scar. “Mallowpaw! I swear, it was just an accident,” Stripepaw pleaded. “It wasn’t an accident,” Stonewhisker snarled, “We just did what we had to do.” “You’re not supposed to kill them yet!” I yowled. Then, realizing what I had just said, I slapped my tail over my mouth. Dust (his name was Dust, not Rust, I had affirmed that) smiled a twisted smile. “Your little apprentice accomplice here has already told us all about it. There’s no need to hide anymore.” “I’m sorry,” Stripepaw pleaded, “Please don’t kill me.” “We’re not going to kill you,” Dust snarled, “We’re going to do something much worse. All of a sudden, slaveholders came out, grasping the struggling bodies of Meadowpaw, Appleleaf, and Crowpaw. “We’re going to put you in the dungeons.” I had only heard of the dungeons a few times, mostly from the word of elders. All I knew was that they were awful and cold, and they reeked of death. A pack of slaveholders and a few warriors circled us, ensuring that we were walking in the direction that we wanting to go without escaping. Even if we tried to slip away, we would be easily caught and injured. I shuddered at the thought, as well as the fact that we were actually going to be put in the dungeons. I had been down in the cave headquarters before, yet I had only taken that one path. This time, we took a different one, that was much larger, and much more twisting. There were so many loops and turns that I quickly lost my sense of direction, and gave into fear. “Welcome to your new home,” one of them said gruffly, before throwing me, as well as the others, into complete darkness.

Chapter 2 POV: Mallowpaw I shivered, as the cold seemed to seep into my skin. It was almost a wet kind of cold, making it much worse. I could feel the droplets forming on my whiskers. It was much worse than I had heard the elders describe it in their stories. I literally couldn’t see anything at all, except for the faint shine of the eyes of my dungeon mates. I hadn’t realized the beauty of Meadowpaw’s eyes until then. “Can anyone see?” Stripepaw’s voice echoed creepily throughout the dungeon. “I can’t,” I responded. Murmurs of agreement followed, echoing. “It’s creepy in here,” I heard Meadowpaw say. I jumped as I felt a pelt press against mine for comfort. “Sorry,” Meadowpaw said. “It’s all right,” I replied. “I heard the Snatcher lives down here,” Stripepaw mewed. “The Snatcher?” That was a tale that I hadn’t heard before. “What’s the Snatcher?” Meadowpaw questioned. “Ssh,” I told her, “I’m already scared enough, I don’t want to hear about this.” However, Appleleaf either didn’t hear me, or she didn’t care, because she began to speak. “When I was a kit, my mother told me stories about the Snatcher, so I didn’t go near the slaveholder headquarters when I was an apprentice slave.” She began, “The Snatcher is the one who waits in the shadows. In fact, we don’t know if he could be right here right now.” I shivered. Meadowpaw just pressed closer to me, and I was comforted. It was that warm and fuzzy feeling again. “The Snatcher used to belong to the Clan. He was always an impeccable warrior, one who was nice, popular, smart, funny, every good quality you could imagine.” Stories always started like this. Something perfect going wrong. “One day, he fell in love with another tomcat. It was hard for him to register, as well as everyone else. Due to this, he was cast out of the Clan, despite his apologies and efforts.” “One day, he snuck back into the camp, and hid in these very caves. As soon as the pack of warriors that made fun of him came into the caves, he snuck out, disoriented them using the fact that it was pitch black, and killed them. He left their bodies in the clearing, adorned with flowers.” “No matter how many times the Clan cats tried to get rid of the bodies and bury them, they always reappeared in the same place. They doubted that he was doing that all by himself, so they turned to StarClan instead. They believed that StarClan was punishing them.” “So, they decided to send the current leader, guarded by a few warriors into the cave to call for a truce. He killed them too.” “It’s a bit murky why he was known as the Snatcher, but most cats think it was because he always waited in the dark, and struck slyly.” Meadowpaw shivered beside me. “That was a creepy story.” “Yeah.” I acknowledged that the story sent a chill up my spine, but that was nothing new. I always got scared of the slaveholders, before I was thrown into this mess. But an idea was budding in my head. “Guys,” I started, “I think I know our problem in our brainstorming with this.” “What?” Appleleaf questioned. “Please explain.” I took a deep breath. “I don’t think Stripepaw and Stonewhisker can work with us… because well… they already screwed things for us. Sorry guys.” “Tell me something we don’t know,” I heard Stonewhisker snap in his crotchety old voice. “No… not just because that… we have to be sly. Unnoticed. Like the Snatcher. We can’t make a big deal out of our rebellion. We make one kill at a time to threaten them.” “No offense Mallowpaw,” Appleleaf began, “But that seems more twisted than something you would usually come up with. I don’t know if it’s such a good idea. I feel like we can do better than that.” I sighed, and gave the most dull, overused quote. “All’s fair in love and war.” I was unable to sleep that night, as I curled up with Stripepaw and Meadowpaw. I usually didn’t get to sleep with any company, and it was nice for a change. The only problem was that the cold stone earth sucked all of the heat from my body, and I knew it would be beyond rude to just flop on top of Meadowpaw. “Can’t sleep?” I heard her whisper. “I don’t think any of us can,” I replied. I heard Appleleaf shift, although she didn’t say anything. A droplet of water dripped from the ceiling and onto my head. “Yeah,” I heard Crowpaw say, timidly. I didn’t know what his problem was sometimes. “We have to find a way to get out,” Meadowpaw breathed, “We have to do this. No matter how much we struggle, even if we lose more cats. We have to do it for Blackpaw.” My internal clock told me that it was morning, although there was no evidence of a risen sun in the darkness of the cave. I heard some grunting, and the scrape of the rock in front of the entrance shifting. That rock was set up in a way in which it could only be moved by several cats on the outside. It was frustrating, to say the least. By the smell, I could tell that it was Scar and Coal. “Good morning,” Coal said. We remained silent. “Don’t I get a morning greeting?” “Good morning,” Appleleaf replied testily. “Thank you,” Coal sneered, “I figured that you would all starve down here, and we can’t have that. You have to enjoy your time down here as much as possible, after all.” “We are enjoying it quite a bit. It’s very nice and cool,” Appleleaf replied calmly. “Here you go.” I heard a thunk a few tail lengths away. From the smell, it was a mouse that must be a couple days old. “Enjoy your meal. As for water, you can try to drink it as it drips from the ceiling.” I heard Scar laugh. The slaveholders were about to push the rock back in place, when something completely unexpected happened. I heard a struggle and a thump as the slaveholders were knocked over by an external force. “It’s the Snatcher!” Stripepaw shouted, horrified. “That’s neither of our names, idiot,” they said, “It’s Berrytail and Speckpaw. We turned you down when you requested us for your little rebel team.” “Oh,” Stripepaw said lamely. “But, we’ve reconsidered. You had better run while you can.” I heard a hiss and a struggle. A slash of claws. The sound of blood hitting the dirt. I took the chance, and ran, urging Meadowpaw and Stripepaw along with me. I could hear the thump of Appleleaf, Crowpaw, and Stonewhisker’s paws behind us. Claws raked across my pelt as I darted through the entrance, admittedly almost running into the cave wall. My sense of direction was thrown off in the deep darkness. Suddenly, I heard a screech of pain. “Stripepaw!” Meadowpaw shouted. The sticky puddle of blood washed into my paws. I ran to his side. He already wasn’t breathing. Tears threatened to slip out from my eyes. I had barely known him, yet I had an unknown affection for him. It was strange and awful, the grief that was coursing through me. “We have to keep going!” Appleleaf shouted, as she swatted aside the slaveholder, “This is our only chance!” “We can’t just leave his body here!” I yowled in protest. “Look,” she said seriously, ignoring Scar’s hisses as Speckpaw barreled into him, “It’s our only chance.” And with that, she took off running down the path. Her pawsteps echoed, a thudding vibrating through the tunnel. I took a deep breath, collected myself, and followed after, Meadowpaw and Speckpaw on my heels, Berrytail and the others trailing after.

Chapter 3 POV: Meadowpaw It felt as if my heart was about to thump out of my chest, as I ran through the passageways, only relying on the brush of my pelt and whiskers on the sides to get me anywhere. The reassuring presence of Mallowpaw was there, at my side, making things a bit better. And things were pretty bad right then. I burst out of the cave, and into the sunlight. I realized that all eyes were on me. Including Rose’s. In a fury, she screeched, and launched herself at Appleleaf. However, Appleleaf quickly avoided the attack, and burst through the camp entrance. She didn’t stop for us even. My paws thudded against the earth as I ran through the entrance as well, following Appleleaf’s lead. I wasn’t sure if the pawsteps behind me were my friends, or the slaveholders. Hopefully not the latter. I felt claws sink into my back. I cried out in pain. Instincts kicking in, I rolled, throwing my attacker off. I could see it was Rose, her lips peeled back in a snarl. Suddenly, I saw Crowpaw barrel into her. And what I saw caught me by surprise. Crowpaw was an amazing fighter. He may be shy and awkward, but his skills were easily on Rose’s level. Intending to help him, I attacked Rose on her other side, my claws slashing through her ear. After that, we had to battle our way through the camp, moving quickly and slyly. It was a relief when we were out into the open forest, the treetops swaying friendlily over our heads. “I know a place we can stay,” Appleleaf mewed, breaking the silence. “Where?” Speckpaw questioned. “The barn on the edge of our territory. I think some other cats live there.” “We don’t want to get into any more fights though,” Crowpaw protested. Appleleaf sighed. It wasn’t until then, that I realized Appleleaf was the voice of the group, not me and Mallowpaw. “It’s better than taking our chances out here.” “I agree,” I said, “Let’s go there.” Curiosity overtook me, as I watched the large brown animals lumber around and graze on the field. “Cows,” Appleleaf mewed, “They’re harmless.” “But… they’re so big,” I added. “Just avoid their feet.” Tentatively, I began to walk across the field. Following me, was the rest of our group. I had a certain affection for them. Even grumpy old Stonewhisker. Even Speckpaw and Berrytail, who we hadn’t exactly got of on the right foot with. All of a sudden, I heard the sound of barking. Mallowpaw snapped her head up. “Dogs!” The barking drew nearer. To my horror, the cows began to disperse, and run. “Run!” I yowled, as I took off, ignoring the prick of the grass and twigs on my already raw pads. The fence was in sight… I just had to make it… I breathed a sigh of relief, as I realized that I had made it. But then, I realized that someone else might not have been so lucky. I heard a cry of pain. As the rest of the group trotted in under the fence, I saw Speckpaw, straggling behind. Blood was trailing down his hind leg, staining the grass scarlet. “Speckpaw!” I shouted, and took off into the field. Quickly, I guided him in by my tail. He sat down, and began surveying his injury. “It-it hurts real bad,” he mewed, “It feels like I can’t move it.” Mallowpaw came up beside me. Of course, she knew what to do. I remember she had mentioned to me earlier that she appreciated the works of a medicine cat. She felt it softly, and he let out a whimper of pain. “It’s dislocated,” she said finally, “I can snap it back in place, but it’s going to hurt a lot.” “Then don’t do it, please.” “It will hurt more if I don’t do it.” Speckpaw finally grunted noncommittally. “Fine. Just… make it quick.” Mallowpaw placed her paws on his hind leg. I heard a sickening crack. Speckpaw cried out, tears involuntarily streaming from his eyes. We all took a moment to stand up and recuperate. Finally, Appleleaf spoke. “I can see the barn on the horizon.” So could I. It cast a somewhat pretty shadow over the grass, its bright red contrasting with the beautiful blue sky. “Come on.” It didn’t take us long to reach the barn, surprisingly. Speckpaw was still limping, but not too badly. Although, there was an unmistakable sense of cat nearby. “You were right,” I said to Appleleaf, “We have company.” As if on cue, about six cats slunk out from the bushes. “What are you doing on our turf,” the large one asked. Surprisingly, he just seemed curious, not threatened or angry. “We need a place to stay,” Appleleaf stated, “And we need your help.” StarClan no. She was going to ask. The rogues didn’t seem sinister or threatening so far, but it was better to be safe than sorry. “Help with what?” he asked. “A rebellion.” “Hey,” the sleek black she-cat said, “They belong to that Tribe or whatever.” “Well,” Appleleaf began, “We actually belong to the Clan part of that Tribe.” The rogues looked at us, confused. “Our leaders are evil,” she said, “We need your help.” “I don’t know,” the she-cat mewed, “Sounds risky.” “Come on,” the large tabby tom said, “We need something to do. And these Clan cats seem nice so far.” She sighed. “We’ll help you,” he said.

Chapter 4 POV: Meadowpaw We were lucky. We were lucky that we had each other. We were lucky that we were still alive. And at the moment, we were lucky that we had these rogues. They were smart and skilled, unlike how most barn cats were rumored to be. There just had to be catch. We asked that over and over, but they seemed loyal and trustworthy. So we trusted them and trained them. “Okay,” I said, “Step with your right paw first. It will throw off the enemy on your left. Then, you can spin and knock them over. I demonstrated with a very unwilling Speckpaw. He hit the ground with a thunk. “Battle tonight?” I asked Appleleaf and Mallowpaw. They nodded. “Yeah,” Mallowpaw said, “Battle tonight.” “For Blackpaw?” “For Blackpaw.” It was no secret that we had to get rid of Rose, Coal, and perhaps Scar. We described them thoroughly to the rogues. The rogues finally told us their names. There were six of them: Lily, Leaf, Dandelion, Echo, Mint, and Rain. Dandelion was the orange tabby leader. Echo was the sleek black she-cat. I drilled their appearances into my head. I had to be able to help keep track of them during the battle, or things could go very wrong. Then we began to train. We practiced night and day, in the rain and sun, even when it was significantly uncomfortable. Mallowpaw never stopped complaining about it, but all it took to remind her of the importance was a simple comment about Blackpaw. “All right everyone! Pair up!” Appleleaf shouted. The rogues tended to pair up with each other, while my fellow Clanmates were with each other. “Let’s practice the duck and roll,” Mallowpaw suggested. “That only tends to work with smaller cats, like you,” Rain said politely. I shrugged. “We might as well practice it.” I practiced along with Mallowpaw. My moves were lightning fast, and my timing impeccable. We were ready. “Mallowpaw, I think it’s time,” I said to her. She just nodded. Then to my surprise, she pressed her pelt against mine. “Yeah.” “Stop making noise!” “Shut up, Dandelion! You’re squashing me!” I held back a sigh of exasperation. The rogues were skilled in battle, yet they were like kits sometimes. “Would everyone shut up,” Stonewhisker snapped. Despite our better judgment, Mallowpaw and I had allowed Stonewhisker back into the group. He could be pretty mean when he wanted to, and that was an advantage, because we all knew that slaveholders wouldn’t hold back. We came to a halt outside of the camp. “All right,” Mallowpaw began, “I have a plan.” “Why didn’t you tell me the plan yet?” I asked. “Shut up for a second,” she said, “Here’s the plan. Half of you rogues are going to pretend to want to join the Clan and/or the Tribe. This will allow you to infiltrate it, and kill either Coal or Rose. The system could possibly be put in disarray from that, and then we can strike.” “That actually sounds like a pretty good plan,” I admitted. “All right,” she said, “Dandelion, Lily, and Rain. You three go.” Tentatively, they began walking around to the camp entrance. I watched from the bushes, as they arrived at the slaveholder guard. “Who are you?” he snapped, “And what do you want?” “We- we want to join your Tribe,” Rain said, his voice wavering slightly, “We live just outside here, and we see how good life is here.” The guard nodded. “Fair enough. Coal! Rose!” Coal wasn’t in sight yet, although Rose came slinking out from a den, dropping the mouse she had in her mouth. “What is it?” she snapped, “Can’t I eat in peace?” “These three say they want to join us,” he said. “How interesting,” she said. She approached them. I watched as Dandelion gulped. “Only it’s a bit strange that these three come shortly after the disappearance of those traitors.” She looked closely at Dandelion. He began to shake. “It’s slightly… suspicious.” Lightning fast, she moved her arm, raking her claws over Dandelion’s throat. Dandelion began to cough and sputter, the sticky blood hitting the ground. Rain and Lily looked on with horror. And seeing nothing else to do, they fled. We all began to run away. We heard a troop of slaveholders hot on our heels. But then, we did the thing that saved us, and rounded a rock a few times. The slaveholders followed close behind, but lost us as we ran back into the trees. We stopped, panting. All of a sudden, I felt a presence looming over me. It was Rain and the rest of the rogues. “It’s your fault,” he said, “It’s your fault that you got Dandelion killed.” “Look, we’re sorry-“ I began. But I was cut off, as Rain leaped onto me, with a screech. I heard the noises of the rogues attacking us, ripping at our flesh. It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. It was supposed to move quickly and successfully. But now we were threatened by something else. I threw Rain off, and dove for his feet. Unfortunately, that was a move that we had taught to him. He was able to sidestep, and attack me. He raked a long gash along my side. But I realized, that my Clanmates were much luckier, as I heard Lily yell. “Retreat!” she called out. Just like we had taught her. Rain let out one last hiss at me, and bounded away. “You’ll regret this,” he hissed, “You’ll regret this.”

Chapter 5 POV: Mallowpaw I winced at the sight of the blood on Meadowpaw’s wound. “That little rat Rain,” she snarled, “He got me before running away with his tail between his legs.” Quickly, I fetched some moss from the side of the tree, and dipped it into the stream that we stood next to. The others were a bit upstream, figuring out what to do next, with Appleleaf at their head. It had been a day of surprises. I was surprised that our original plan hadn’t worked. I was even more surprised that the rogues attacked us; I was starting to think of them as friends. I had even shared tongues with Lily once. And then we had won against them. We weren’t safe, but at the moment was as much stability that I could wish for in these times. I pressed the moss to Meadowpaw’s gash. She flinched. “Sorry,” I mumbled, and began to clean off the dirt and crusted blood. “Ouch!” she exclaimed. All of a sudden, I saw more fresh blood seep out. “It’s pretty serious,” I said to her. She purred and batted at my ear. “You’re like a medicine cat!” “Now’s not the time, Meadowpaw,” I muttered, as I picked a few stems from the marigold I had stashed away, crushed them into a pulp, and pressed the pasty green all over the wound. “But seriously,” she said, “You are just so caring and smart. I can’t help but think that you would’ve been a medicine cat if our Clan system wasn’t so messed up.” My heart was thumping. “If I was a medicine cat, I wouldn’t be able to have love or a mate.” I stared into Meadowpaw’s golden eyes. “Like Blackpaw? Or…?” she mumbled, staring back at me. Before I knew it, I touched my nose to hers fast, then fled away. Meadowpaw was a she-cat. What is this feeling? What had I done? I curled up inside a bush, hiding from the world. Great StarClan.

Chapter 6 I remember that brief, completely confused feeling after falling out of a tree. It knocked my breath away. That’s how I felt after Mallowpaw had done that to me. My heart was racing, yet I still was confused about how I felt. Two she-cats together were unheard of. Yet what Mallowpaw had just done was something that only mates did to each other. That shaky, lovey-dovey feeling I used to have about Blackpaw shifted. It was happening now, almost like there was a strain on my heart. What if maybe I felt something more than friendship towards her? It was just too much. Sitting right there, with the marigold paste on my wound, I felt asleep on the cold ground. My dream was surprisingly warm feeling at first. I was standing in a beautiful green meadow, dotted with mallow. It was a beautiful sight. But all of a sudden, it burst into flames. The fire flickered high into the blue sky, staining it gray with smoke. I cried out, as the flames engulfed me. I woke up choking, trying to clear the smoke out from my throat. All of a sudden, I realized that I had better get with the others. It was unsafe to sleep outside in Tribe territory by myself. When I walked into the makeshift den, I saw Mallowpaw, sleeping peacefully, and my heart did a little thump. I prodded her. “Hey Mallowpaw,” I whispered into her ear, “Wake up.” “Wha-?” “Ssh. I just had a dream. Or more like a nightmare.” “What was it?” she asked, her voice groggy with sleep. “I… I was in a meadow with mallow flowers. It was really beautiful, but all of a sudden, it began to burn. The flames were really tall, and it blotted out the sky.” “I… I had a similar dream before. Before Blackpaw died. Except it was just mallow burning.” “Do you think it means something?” She bit her lip. It was a habit that Mallowpaw had that annoyed me to no end, yet it was still endearing. “Do you… do you remember what happened last night?” she said, her voice beginning to waver. “Yeah.” “Maybe… maybe it means that we shouldn’t be together.” I sighed, disappointed yet relieved. “Okay. But can I ask for one thing?” “What?” I took a deep breath. “Let’s cuddle up. Just for tonight. Then tomorrow, we’ll forget all about it.” She flashed a somewhat sad, halfhearted smile. “Okay.” So I settled down next to Mallowpaw, so our pelts were pressed together. The sound of her breathing lulled me to sleep. The next day was trying to say the least. I had to muster all my courage to get up, and walk alongside my comrades towards the camp. After much deliberation, we decided that our force was much too small, and we needed more cats. How to do this, I didn’t know. All I knew was that Appleleaf had a plan, and that we had best stick to it if we didn’t want our pelts ripped off. “Appleleaf, this isn’t the way to the camp,” Mallowpaw pointed out. Appleleaf rolled her eyes. “I’m not stupid, Mallowpaw. We’re not going to the camp. At least not right away.” Then I realized where we were heading. It was the rogues’ domain. “Appleleaf,” I began nervously, “I don’t think we should go here. We were lucky that we won that last battle with them. I can’t imagine that there’s too pleased with us at the moment.” She sighed. “Look… I made a deal with one of them.” “Which one?” “Echo.” Memories of that pretty, dainty black she-cat went through my mind. She seemed to be the most intelligent, yet most reserved out of all of them. Dandelion may have been the leader, but Echo was usually the backbone of the group. At least from what I had observed. Eventually, we came to a halt. The area was abundant in prey, since the Clan and Tribe didn’t hunt in the area. Birds twittered and squirrels chattered over my head. I resisted the urge to chase after them. My belly grumbled. Mallowpaw purred with laughter. The bushes rustled. All of our heads snapped up, to see Echo gracefully step into the clearing. Yet, it wasn’t just her. Many unknown cats began to slip between the bushes, and sit behind her. Instinctively, my pelt fluffed up, although I foolishly trusted Echo not to try anything. “I got what you asked for,” she said simply. Appleleaf dipped her head. “Thank you. This is much appreciated.” She shrugged. “No problem. The others were being ridiculous; Dandelion’s death wasn’t your fault. There’s nothing you could do to stop it.” “Thanks for being understanding,” Mallowpaw chipped in. I almost laughed at her, as I could tell she was trying to sound as professional and intellectual as Appleleaf. One of the rogues that had accompanied Echo began to speak. “My name is Shard,” he said, “Now. Can we stop with the formalities and get to the point?” Echo turned around and waved a goodbye with her tail. “Good luck,” she mewed. Quickly, Shard began to introduce the other rogues. “This is Spark… Ray… Misty and Cloudly… Twig… Vivian… and Ginger.” I noticed that Vivian was really pretty; not quite as attractive as Mallowpaw though. Ugh. Sometimes my brain just needed to shut up. The small she-cat named Ginger pushed forward a leaf bundle. “One drop of this will disorient any cat,” she mewed, “Slip it into these so called ‘slaveholders’ and the battle will be won.” Excitement pulsed through me. With this power, we were undoubtedly going to win. “With one of you for assistance, we are going to sneak into the camp, and spike their prey with it.” Appleleaf turned to me. “Meadowpaw,” she mewed, “You will help them do this.” Why me? Of all cats? She seemed to notice my surprise, and gave me an answer. “You are more brave and intelligent than you give yourself credit for. I think you are suited very well for this job.” “O-okay,” I said, “When do we do it?” Shard smiled. “Now.” My excitement had given away to fear, as we arrived at the back entrance of the camp. “All right,” Ginger mewed, “Their fresh-kill pile is next to the cave entrance, correct?” I nodded. “Yeah.” “We’re going to need a distraction,” Ray pointed out. “We’re on it,” Cloudy and Misty replied. And then they were off running. “Help!” they were shouting. “There’s a badger! Taking our kits!” Cloudy mewed. I watched, stifling laughter as Coal looked them incredulously. Rose ran up to them. “We couldn’t care less!” she snapped, “Now get out of our camp, intruders!” “But we need help,” Misty whined. Ginger and I took the chance. “Go!” she hissed under her breath. While everyone had their attention on Cloudy and misty, we dribbled the substance all over the fresh-kill pile. And with that, we went running out. Cloudy and Misty, feigning discouragement, followed after us. It appeared as if no one noticed. “Success!” Ginger mewed, cracking a smile

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