Leader: Drystar- golden brown tabby tom with amber eyes.
Deputy: Sunfur- dark brown tabby tom with orange-yellow eyes.
Medicine Cat: Skyflower- tortoiseshell-and-brown she-cat with a pale underbelly and soft brown eyes.
Pebblefoot- dark brown tabby tom with white-flecked feet. Apprentice, Softpaw.
Weedrush- pale brown-and-white she-cat.
Brightflash- orange she-cat with a white flash on her chest. Apprentice, Smokepaw.
Spikepelt - pale brown she-cat with green eyes, and spiky fur like a cactus.
Nighthowl - large, pitch-black tom with ragged fur.
Sandswift - flecked ginger tom with pale yellow eyes. Apprentice, Stormpaw.
Acacialeaf - dark brown-and-ginger she-cat with amber eyes.
Rockheart - thickset gray tabby tom.
Shadowstripe - dark brown tabby tom with dark amber eyes.
Softpaw- has fluffy dark grey, almost black, fur. She-cat with unusual yellow-green eyes.
Smokepaw-dark grey, almost black, tom with unusual yellow-green eyes. (Softpaw's brother)
Stormpaw - ginger-and-gray tom with deep blue eyes.
Rushingwind- brown-and-pale-ginger she-cat with dark eyes. (Mother to Drystar's kits: Windkit- golden brown tabby tom with white flecks, Duskkit- sickly dark ginger tom).
Lizardtail- scrawny, dark brown tabby she-cat with green eyes.
Ratfang- old brown-and-white tom with rat tooth scar on his shoulder. Mate of Lizardtail.
Leader: Sunstar- huge, yellow tom with amber eyes.
Deputy: Snakeflash- lithe and swift brown tabby she-cat with thin black stripes.
Medicine Cat: Stoneclaw-
Leader: Cactusstar- silver-and-black she-cat with many battle scars and grey eyes.
Deputy: Shrubfur- old brown-and-black tom with bald patches. Apprentice, Gravelpaw.
Medicine Cat: Mintwhisker- dark ginger tom. Apprentice, Leafpaw.
Palestone- sandy-coloured she-cat with green eyes. Apprentice, Slitherpaw.
Dustclaw- brown tom with black patches and a missing claw.
Longtooth- scraggly pale-and-dark-brown tom with long canine teeth.
Darkleaf- dark grey she-cat with scars running along her left flank. Apprentice, Frogpaw.
Tbc if needed.
Gravelpaw - mottled gray tabby tom
Slitherpaw- sleek silver she-cat with large, wide green eyes
Groups of rogues have created their own Clans in a half-barren desert far away from the Lake and Forest. They have learnt to survive in the tougher environment... but all three Clans may be pushed to their limits by a season-long drought that has shown no signs of lessening.
Skyflower, medicine cat of DryClan, is struggling to keep it alive. Warriors have deserted the Clan, elders have died, and queens are fighting to keep their kits alive. Prey is scarce, and water is nowhere to be found. Her ancestors in the stars have not answered her prayers. At least that's what she thought... until she found the omen. But it doesn't seem like anything she's ever read before.
Can Skyflower trust her ancestors, or is the fate of DryClan entirely on her shoulders?
The silver moonlight spiraled down the sky, coming to rest on the small shape of a tabby crouched in a ravine.
It may have been a ravine, to a stranger passing by, but the cat knew better. The tall, red-coloured rocks bore wavy lines that reminded it of water that had once rushed past the walls. One could almost hear the roar of waves, the splash of cat's bodies hitting the water as they dived in, or the cry of gulls above. But now a she-cat sat alone at the bottom, poking the skeletal remains of a fish beneath her claws. She shivered, though there was no wind, and tipped her head back to see the sky. Suddenly, she struck down on the rock with her claws.
" Why won't you listen!" she spat, as the clang echoed throughout the ravine. " I've kept my faith in you through these hard times, and now you leave us to die?" her voice changed from fury to despair. " Are you going to leave us to die? Are you going to watch kits- kits barely old enough to leave their mother's sides- wail and whimper until their scrawny bodies flinch one last time?"
Her anguished voice sprang around the ravine, sounding like an army of ghost cats. As she wailed, the air shimmered before her. When it stopped, it revealed the form of another cat sitting with its tail curled over its paws.
" Skyflower," it meowed, voice powerful and supernatural. The golden cat was surrounded by an aura of bright light.
" What?" the tortoiseshell spun around. Her eyes widened at the sight of the cat, and her fur bristled. " What do you want now?"
" Skyflower," the cat repeated calmly. " Listen."
" Listen to what?" she arched her back, but her fur began to settle back down. A spirit was not to be ignored. The cat blinked placidly and opened its jaws again.
" We have no control, Skyflower. We do not know what caused the drought, and we do not know how it will end. But there is a way we can help you- and there is a way one cat can help you. If-" here, the cat lost its serene expression. It became larger and larger, fur turning darker, into red. Skyflower flinched as the spirit boomed out the last words.
" If it follows that path!" Then, with a burst of starlight, it disappeared. Skyflower blinked. Never had she received such an omen! Her thoughts were whirling, with anger, and relief that she at last had an answer. It took her a while to notice a shriveled, dry stem in front of her paws. Bending down, she sniffed it. " Catmint?" she identified, astonished.
It must be an omen!
Skyflower bent down closer, letting the scent wash over her. It was an extremely small stem, probably young when it had been plucked. Her heart beat faster as she began to realize.
" Dry stem... DryClan! Young stem... but it already has full leaves. How odd. Maybe... maybe..." she gasped. " Of course! Full leaves, young stem... a warrior! The youngest warrior-" she let out another panting breath as she realized- " the youngest warrior in DryClan!"
Trembling, the she-cat tipped her head back up to the sky.
" Thank you for revealing yourselves to me. I understand now." Bowing her head, she began to climb back up the spiraling columns of rock.
And there is a way one cat can help you... if it follows that path! The phantom cat's words rang in her head. The meaning was suddenly clear to her.
I have to find the youngest warrior in DryClan, and tell them what the spirit cats told me, hence putting it on the 'right path'. The youngest warrior will save us!
Chapter One - Brams
"Your vigil is over."
Shadowstripe sighed with relief as he heard the deputy, Sunfur, call his newly received name. Feeling stiff after sitting at the camp entrance all light, the dark tabby arched his back in a stretch, then proceeding to stretch out his long, bulky legs as well.
My vigil is over. I'm truly a warrior now! Shadowstripe thought gleefully, as he finished stretching. Sitting down on the sandy, desert ground with a thud, he looked up at the sky. It was bright blue - completely bright blue. He groaned.
No rain today, he thought, looking down. I don't even remember the last time it actually did...
Many moons had passed since it had last rained in the three Clans' territories - so long that Shadowstripe couldn't count the moons any longer. A drought had swept across them all, killing many Clan cats in the process - more than usual.
Shadowstripe knew it was fairly normal for a Clan warrior to die of overheat, or thirst - but never as much as this. All Shadowstripe wanted was for some rain to fall for once, so that his Clan could get released from this drought. Every cat in his Clan was exhausted - and every cat knew it.
The thought made Shadowstripe himself tempted to have a rest. Feeling his eyelids starting to droop, he turned in the direction of the warriors' den, and stepped forward -
"Not so fast, Shadowstripe!"
Sunfur's deep mew jolted the young warrior out of his trance. Shadowstripe turned to look at Sunfur, whose dark tabby tail was twitching. The deputy looked annoyed, and Shadowstripe gave him a quizzical look, wondering why.
"You're going on the dawn patrol to CactusClan," Sunfur mewed, before Shadowstripe could reply. "Acacialeaf is leading, Weedrush, and Pebblefoot is also going with his apprentice."
Shadowstripe stared at Sunfur. He didn't want to go on the patrol! He opened his mouth, and started: "But Sunfur, I -"
"Want to go on the patrol?" Sunfur interrupted, smirking. "Well, go on then, Shadowstripe, the patrol's waiting for you."
Shadowstripe hissed at Sunfur, annoyed with the deputy. Oh, come on! Do I have to go on patrol, especially just after my warriors' vigil!? Dropping his gaze, he padded - reluctantly - over to Acacialeaf, whose brown-and-ginger tail was lashing in frustration.
"Finally, Shadowstripe," Acacialeaf hissed, her voice fierce. "Come on - let's do this patrol." Acacialeaf then headed out of the camp, Weedrush following. Pebblefoot then followed - his apprentice, Softpaw, bounding after him.
Shadowstripe proceeded to stay at the back of the patrol, still angry with Sunfur. As they walked through DryClan territory, on the way to the CactusClan border, Shadowstripe trailed behind the rest of them, letting his feet drag. The rest of the patrol kept on shooting Shadowstripe suspicious looks, but the tom didn't care.
I'm angry. You don't understand.
After what seemed like an eternity, the group finally reached the CactusClan border. Shadowstripe finally looked up, seeing Weedrush taste the air. He saw the brown-and-white she-cat's tail shoot up, and Shadowstripe heard her hiss to Acacialeaf: "I smell a CactusClan patrol!"
At once, there was a commotion. Pebblefoot was trying to calm down a very excited Softpaw, while Acacialeaf and Weedrush shot worried looks at the border, whispering quietly to themselves. Meanwhile, Shadowstripe slunk forward, feeling satisfied. He always enjoyed a taste for battle.
As Shadowstripe joined the line of cats, the CactusClan cats came into sight. Shadowstripe recognized Shrubfur, the CactusClan deputy, leading the patrol - his apprentice, Gravelpaw, behind him. Three other cats - a sandy-coloured she-cat, a silver-furred apprentice, and a tom with two different shades of brown on his pelt - were behind them.
"DryClan," Shrubfur rasped. The CactusClan deputy staggered forward shakily, and the black-and-brown tom tasted the air. There was silence for a moment, before the tom mewed: "I believe you're on our territory...?"
No, we're not! Shadowstripe thought, hissing. He was furious again - even more furious now! He looked beside him - Weedrush and Acacialeaf both looked baffled, while Pebblefoot had cocked his head. He couldn't see Softpaw. He then looked at the CactusClan cats - they looked uneasy.
One thought then hit Shadowstripe: Shrubfur's losing his mind. I've heard rumors at Gatherings that he's started to go crazy...
Pebblefoot then stepped forward. "No, Shrubfur, we're not..." the dark tom began.
Shrubfur then staggered forward again, until the deputy was standing in front of Pebblefoot. Shadowstripe saw the deputy unsheathe broken, chipped claws, and then he heard the old cat say: "You're lying. DryClan cats always lie."
And in that moment, Shadowstripe knew he'd had enough.
THe dark tabby unsheathed his claws, and he stalked forward in Shrubfur's direction. He heard Pebblefoot starting to speak to Shrubfur again, and then he heard it trail away. Then, he heard Pebblefoot calling his name:
"Shadowstripe! What are you doing??" Shadowstripe heard the deputy say. However, Shadowstripe was not in the mood to listen. Blood roared in his ears as he leapt forward - claws unsheathed - at Shrubfur.
He ignored the deputy's cries below him, and Shadowstripe lunged out with one paw, and brought it over the tom's flank. Shadowstripe saw Shrubfur shoot him a shocked look, the older cat weakly pawing at him, not really trying to fight back.
He swiped again, and again, each time making another cat down Shrubfur's flank. Three wounds were now on Shrubfur's flank - all of then bleeding . Shadowstripe knew he was winning - the deputy was pinned down, and his blows were getting softer, and less frequent.
Then, without thinking, Shadowstripe slashed his claws down Shrubfur's belly, and it was all over. He saw the CactusClan cats' body slump over, the tom's amber eyes glazed over. Suddenly feeling another wave of tiredness hit him, Shadowstripe backed away, exhausted.
He hadn't realized the full extent to what he had done. Only when he heard Gravelpaw yowl "No!" from the other side of the border, he realized.
Now, his Clanmates were smarming around him, scowling. Shadowstripe felt guilty - he'd let them down when he'd attacked - and now that he realized, killed - Shrubfur. There was a prolonged silence, before Weedrush broke it with:
"Oh, Shadowstripe... what have you done?"
Chapter Two - Blazey
Skyflower had stopped counting.
She had ceased to keep track of how many starving, dying cats stumbled into her den everyday. Ceased to count how many herbs she gave them. Ceased to remember every time she'd mouthed the words " I'm sorry." Ceased to feel happy, ceased to do anything but rant and rave at what her ancestors had done to her.
But there was the omen.
She remembered that crystal clear dream of hers, describing how the youngest warrior in the Clan must be set on the path to save the Clans. And it was all to clear who that warrior was.
Shadowstripe. His vigil would end today.
A new thrill and charge filled Skyflower that morning, when she'd awakened in the pre-dawn light as she always did. Even in the early hours, the dryness of the drought was laced on her tongue. Stretching sore muscles, Skyflower rose. She yawned and tried to lick her fur flat, but there was no spit left on her tongue. Sighing in pain and fatigue, the medicine cat stumbled out of her den. She grabbed a bundle of dry twigs- probably left for her by the apprentices- to set out and gather water for the elders.
Each day, the water which could be gathered in muddy puddles or still-alive grass stems faded further and further out. Skyflower didn't knowh how long she wanted to do this... wasting dock on her own pads when she had to save it for others. And when she brought back the water, it turned into a full-out brawl. Sometimes, Drystar was too thirsty to even calm everyoe down.
Drystar. Hmph. What kind of leader is he? Skyflower thought, as she began to shuffle out of camp. The sun's glowering rays were touching the sky now. She'd have to hurry if she wanted to catch the water before it evaported. Skyflower slipped out between the dry bushes that used to be the camp entrance, seing Shadowstripe's form as he shifted position. Despite not knowing him well, warmth spread through her body. He'll save us. The stars said so.
Skyflower picked her way across the cracked and dead earth. She wrinkled her nose as she passed several ghastly snake carcasses, all ridden with insects. The tortoiseshell shuddered in repulsion. She'd have to collect those insects... sometimes they were all a cat could eat. Sighing to herself, she continued, passing the puddle she'd gathered water in yesterday.
It was completely dry.
Skyflower tried to ignore it, searching the ground for some grass or plants. Instead, standing out like white fur in the shadows, was a clump of fertile soil. Shocked, Skyflower approached it. The earthy smell was almost to wonderful to be real. She stretched out her muzzle and poked it. The earth shifted and tumbled around her paws, distorting the lines of shadows lying across it. Skyflower inhaled sharply.
Shadow stripes. Shadowstripe! It's a sign! Happily, Skyflower poked around in the earth, finding moisture pockets and a few green leaves. She gathered a little of the water, wanting to preserve her miraculous find.
As she made her way back, Skyflower knew it had been a productive way. As the bright blue sky arched above her and the blazing sun steamed her back, she felt optimistic and cheerful. All because of the newest warrior she knew would save the Clan.
Her mood quickly vanished as she neared camp. The dark shapes of vultures circling in the air made her sick. Who died? The familiar numbing spread up through her body. A rustling of dry leaves made her start and turn. A pair of broad shoulders shoved their way through the crackling stems of the entrance, thorns raking through grey fur. Rockheart. Skyflower's face twisted wryly. The love interest of her youth before she became a medicine cat, and one of her best friends.
" Who was it?" she croaked, startled by how dry her voice sounded. The massive tabby's green eyes flashed sympathetically. He trotted forwards and rested a tail on her shoulder.
"No one yet." His eyes flashed darkly. " But Duskkit is sicker than ever, and Sunfur deserted."
" Sunfur deserted??" Skyflower gasped, wincing as the air stung her throat. Maybe he lost his mind. That happens now, sometimes. She was shocked. " But-but who will replace him as deputy?"
" No one, if Duskkit dies," Rockheart sighed. " You know how that'll break Drystar."
" I know," Skyflower stood straighter. She noticed how Rockheart's eyes traveled longingly to the damp bush she'd collected water with. Skyflower sighed and fixed him with a stern glare. " This is fur Duskkit, and Duskkit only. I think we can go without water today."
Rockheart dipped his head in defeat. Skyflower could only too well relate to the driving thirst inside of each of them. Cautiously, she began to enter camp, afraid of what she'd find. What she did see was not far from her guess... a group of whispering cats gathered around Duskkit in a circle. Rushingwind, his mother, as obviously making a huge effort to stay calm.
" Out of my way!" Skyflower called, padding forwards. The cats parted, gazes drawn to her damp bundle. Skyflower's heart ached at the pitying sight of Duskkit. His scrawny body made him look no more than two moons, though he was actually four. His brother, Windkit, looked shaken. Of the two, Windkit was healthier, though looking nowhere near his four moons of age. Rushingwind soothed her other son while anxiously searching Skyflower's gaze.
" I'm sorry, Skyflower, I'm giving you so much trouble," the queen said pitifully. Skyflower blinked.
" Not at all. It's just my duty." Skyflower stroked Duskkit's shivering frame, as though he were cold in the hot weather. " Drink, little one," she purred and placed a stem in front of his mouth. The little kit whimpered and grabbed onto it with his thin yellow teeth. He sucked mightily once, twice, and three times before Skyflower had to gently pull it away.
" Water..." Duskkit cried.
" No, little one, it's not good for you." Skyflower knew she shouldn't give him too much. Besides, Windkit was also thirsty. She approached the golden brown tom and offered him a stem. He sucked three times as well before she pulled it away.
" You know..." Skyflower turned back to Duskkit. " I was thinking that-"
" Patrol's coming! Patrol's coming!" Skyflower whirled around at Brightflash's loud meow. The orange she-cat looked troubled. She sidled up to Rushingwind and Skyflower overheard her murmur. " They don't look happy..." Skyflower turned to see the scrawny shapes of a few of her Clanmates straggling through the entrance. Her keen medicine cat eyes picked out wounds and blood. Shadowstripe was in the center of the patrol. He looked unhappy... but there was a definite rebellion to his stance.
" You idiots!" Skyflower raced over. She couldn't believe it. They'd fought. They'd actually fought! The patrol looked up startled. Acacialeaf took a few steps forwards but Skyflower kept talking. " Getting into a fight? Wasting my herbs?"
" Hello! Only this idiot here has wounds because he started the fight." Acacialeaf shoved Shadowstrip forwards. He raised his head and met Skyflower's stare, dark eyes flashing. Skyflower suddenly felt defensive on his part.
" So he started the fight! Why didn't you help?" Skyflower shot back, arching her spine. Acacialeaf crouched down, tail swishing over the sandy earth.
" I never-"
" What is going on here?" a voice boomed. Skyflower winced inwardly. It was Drystar. The golden brown tabby was huge and intimidating. Skyflower briefly recalled that his warrior name had been Blazeheart before he'd ceremonially change it to Drystar. The leader's eyes were troubled but snapping with annoyance. Shadowstripe arrogantly met his gaze.
" Drystar," Acacialeaf shoved Skyflower out of the way and dipped her head. " This dumb excuse for a cat may have jeopardized our entire chance for survival."
Um, no. He's meant to save the Clans. Skyflower mentally countered Acacialeaf's statement. Shadowstripe swung around his dark head and curled his lip.
" I did no such thing! It was a skirmish, is all." He abruptly changed form furious to calm and collected. Skyflower nodded approvingly. Drystar, however, ignored the warrior and gestured with his tail for Acacialeaf to continue.
" We had a confrontation with CactusClan, and Shadowstripe here," she jerked her head, " went ahead and killed the deputy."
" Killed him?!" Drystar exclaimed. Shadowstripe obnoxiously shrugged.
" Aye, killed him," Acacialeaf growled. " Now we might as well be at war with them, knowing Cactusstar."
Drystar groaned. " First Sunfur, and now this. Shadowstripe, you broke the code. What do you have to say for yourself?"
" I did what I had to. Besides, the Clans are better off without an old scraggler to feed." A collective gasp rose from the crowd. Drystar glowered at him.
" For that cruel statement, I'm considering doing the same to you. How would you like to spend the rest of your life alone in this hellish desert?" he snarled. Alarm pulsed through Skyflower. Huriedly, she stepped between the two toms.
" Look," she began, trying to keep calm and not wither under both tom's stares. " I don't know about this breaking the code buisness. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Besides, as I am a medicine cat and I can speak on behalf of StarCkan, they do not want us quarreling between ourselves now. Please," she implored.
" Fine." Drystar gave a disgusted sniff. " We'll settle this later, if this forsaken drought ever ends." With that, the leader marched away, casting a pained glance at Duskkit, his beloved son. Skyflower heaved a sigh of relief, but it didn't last long. Acacialeaf shot her a hostile glare, whispering 'traitor' as she passed. Weedrush refused to meet her gaze, while Pebblefoot merely sighed and led Softpaw away.
Gradually, the crowd dispersed,. Skyflower mentally berated herself for loosing Shadowstrip in the crowd. She had to confront him about this.
If he's going to save the Clans... why did he do this? Shadowstripe... are you really our only hope after all?
Chapter Three- Brams
Shadowstripe scowled as he let himself get hissed at by pretty much cat in the Clan, without saying anything in response.
He didn't care that the rest of DryClan hated him, just because he'd gotten into that little skirmish with that CactusClan deputy, and killing him. In fact, Shadowstripe felt as if... he couldn't really care less for anything right now. He felt as if his own needs were the things that mattered the most of them all at the moment, rather than the others.
Jeers filled his ears, but Shadowstripe was too lazy to care what they said. For some reason, the feeling of listening to others, that he'd felt some time before... had vanished.
Not that Shadowstripe really minded. He'd always been the cat that had relied on himself the most out of anyone, anyway - he'd never really trusted anyone else fully, no way.
To Be Continued