Episode Seven, Season Two, of Solitary.
Split Between Borders
The wind was blowing in my ears as I opened my eyes. I could see the pre-dawn light coming through the trees as I looked around the makeshift camp that the eight of us had built the night before.
There’d still been no luck in terms of the Gathering place. A quarter-moon had passed since we had bumped into Oak and his little patrol, and still there was nothing. We hadn’t bumped into them again, yes, but I thought we would’ve had least had some luck.
Yet there was none, absolutely none at the thought, I let out a sigh. Maybe I made a bad decision getting into this. If I thought it would be for this long, I may not have done this.
Too late now, though. I have no choice but to continue. No backing down now. I had made a promise – there was no backing down on it now. Breaking the promise, I knew, would not be a good thing.
In the little light there was, my gaze set on the cats sleeping in their nests. The she-cats slept off to one side – Cinderfire, Scorch, Waterfall, Tawnydapple. The toms were nearby: Gorsetuft, Molefrost –
Wait a moment. I blinked for a moment, wondering if I was seeing things. The answer was no: nothing changed when I opened my eyes again.
Where’s Pouncestep gone?
Sleepily, I rose to my paws. Why would, at this hour, Pouncestep not be here? That’s odd. I lifted a paw to go to the black tom’s makeshift nest, to see if he’d just slipped off somewhere recently. Mind you, I swear I didn’t hear him –
At that moment, the bushes shook nearby. Resting back onto my paws, I turned my head and my ears pricked, wondering what the noise was. A cat slipped out of the bushes: small and black. It was none other than Pouncestep himself.
“Pouncestep!” I hissed quietly, not wanting to wake the rest of the cats up. “Where have you been? I woke up and you weren’t there.”
The ForestClan warrior winced at this, his fur fluffing out defiantly. Pouncestep stared at me for a moment, before mewing: “Ah, I’ve only been gone for a moment. You must’ve been woken up by me going to the dirtplace, I apologize.”
I narrowed my eyes. I didn’t recall hearing anything as I woke up, after all. However, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. “It’s okay. Go get some rest; we have a big day ahead of us. We’re going to push for finishing the TreeClan side of the border search.”
Pouncestep nodded. “Okay, Wisp.” He then got into his makeshift nest, and curled up, his eyes closing.
For a moment, I watched him sleep, as the previous one replayed in my head. I didn’t believe what he had said. My tail twitched slightly at the thought.
There’s something not quite right about Pouncestep… I’d better keep a good eye on him.
With a commanding sweep of her brown tabby tail, the leader of the patrol led her cats towards the border. Her pawsteps were brisk: there was, according to her behaviour, no time to waste.
“Whitestar will be waiting for us,” she mewed quickly as she stepped over a large tree root. The other cats nodded at her words while following her manoeuvre.
“Did he say what this meeting was about?” A gray tabby with rippling stripes spoke as he gazed at the she-cat in front of him. “It’s not the Gathering. Never has ForestClan been forced to call a meeting with us outside –”
“No, Ripplejaw, he didn’t.” Hawkstar cut off the young cat brusquely. “All I know is that it’s important. He wouldn’t have sent a cat like Swallowwing to our camp without a good reason.”
Ripplejaw looked stunned for a moment, but then nodded, his long fangs protruding as he closed his mouth. He then shook out his fur before the four cats continued on for a moment longer, walking through the forest.
Finally, the brown tabby slowed, bringing her patrol to a halt. In front of her, there were four cats waiting. At the head of their group was a black tom, with one twisted white hind leg.
That cat was the first to speak. “Hawkstar, you’ve finally arrived.”
Hawkstar – the brown tabby – nodded. “I apologize for my patrol’s lateness: we had some delays on our departure.” She then sat down, which resulted in her group of cats following suit. “What is your reason for you calling this meeting, Whitestar?”
Whitestar flicked his tail as he too sat down – and likewise, his cats also followed suit. “I’m concerned about the cats that are searching for a new Gathering place. It’s taking longer than what I thought it would take them.”
One of Hawkstar’s cats – a brown-and-white tom – snorted at this. “We told them to tell us when they found a place, mouse-brain,” he whispered under his breath.
The other cats in that group flicked their ears in annoyance – except Hawkstar herself, who pretended as if she didn’t hear his comment. Instead, she mewed: “No news isn’t bad news. We told them to tell us when they found a potential Gathering place, not for updates.”
“No news isn’t good news either,” one of Whitestar’s cats, a small brown tom, grumbled. “What if the rogues get to them first? I don’t think they’ll let us off the hook that easily. They’re obviously still angry at us after –”
“Quiet, Smallstripe.” Whitestar silenced his warrior with a flick of his tail, to which Smallstripe grumbled in annoyance. He then turned back to Hawkstar. “I’m still worried. It’s not exactly safe out there, with the rogues. Maybe we should’ve waited until we –”
“Whitestar.” Hawkstar’s voice was firm this time, her tail still. “We need to have faith. StarClan brought us to this territory for a reason. There is a reason for everything. There was always going to be challenges. Remember the journey? Remember how hard that was?”
Whitestar shivered at that – evidently, for him, travelling to this land had had an impact on the leader. He nodded. “That was so hard. So, so hard. I don’t know how hard it was for all of you, but for me… physically it was extremely difficult.” His gaze flicked to his twisted white leg and back again. “I don’t want to face those challenges now. Well, not right now, anyway.”
Whitestar’s Clanmates shot him pitied looks. One, a dark gray tabby, rested her tail against the tom’s body. Meanwhile, Hawkstar and her cats were a little more wary.
“…Whitestar, we understand.” A white she-cat from Hawkstar’s patrol spoke, her green eyes wide. “We all do.”
Hawkstar nodded, agreeing with what her Clanmate had said, before speaking herself. “We must face these challenges first. There is no time to worry. TreeClan and ForestClan will push through this, Whitestar, I assure you! We just have to hope that they will find a Gathering place. It will take time, but they will find one.”
“They’d better,” Smallstripe muttered again from behind Whitestar.
Whitestar himself was nodding. For a moment, his eyes closed: then they opened again, green sticking out against his black fur. “…You’re right,” he mewed slowly. “We just have to hope. I… just don’t want anything bad to happen though. The move here was bad enough.”
For a moment, all cats sat in silence, looking at each other’s group solemnly. Finally, a cat – the brown-and-white one who had muttered a comment to himself before, spoke up. “Is this meeting over?”
A ForestClan cat, a ginger cat with a black front leg, nodded. She hadn’t spoken before, but now, she did. “It looks so. Swallowwing, Whitestar?” She turned towards the black leader and the dark gray tabby who had comforted the leader earlier.
Swallowwing was the cat who responded. “Yeah, it looks over,” she mewed. “I think it’s best that our Clan head back now. That’s all we have to say.”
“Okay,” Hawkstar mewed. “Farewell Whitestar, Swallowwing, Smallstripe, Sunshade.” She nodded formally to the four cats.
“And to you - Hawkstar, Kestrelfeather, Blossomheart, Ripplejaw,” Whitestar responded, his tail flicking as he unsteadily got to his paws. He then got up and their patrol slowly went away back to their Clan’s camp.
Hawkstar’s patrol hesitated as they saw the cats leave. As they faded into the distance, she gathered up her own, and they too went on their way. They had their own business to get to back at camp.
There was no time for them to be worrying about the Gathering cats. All they could do was to wait – and hope for them to bring back good news.
The morning was rather uneventful, so to speak. In other words, we still had no luck finding the Gathering place.
At sunhigh, the eight of us came together, after yet another frustrating morning of searching. All looked frustrated: especially Gorsetuft, who looked furious as they all talked after catching some lunch.
“I can’t believe that we’ve looked all around TreeClan’s borders and nothing has come up. Absolutely nothing.” The spike-furred tom had said this between mouthfuls of a small squirrel that he’d managed to catch. “We should’ve gone around ForestClan’s borders first. I bet the Gathering place is closer to that territory.”
Tawnydapple, his Clanmate, seemed to grumble in agreement. The TreeClan warriors looked displeased, but said nothing. Like them, I refused to speak. After all, how was any cat meant to know what was out there?
Rogues don’t care. Loners don’t care, I thought. All rogues and loners do is eat, sleep, fight and repeat. They don’t care for their surroundings. I know I never really did.
“Too late now,” grumbled Waterfall, who had just finished her shrew and was now lying down. “We’ve looked around TreeClan boundaries now. Can’t go back in time to look at ForestClan’s boundaries.”
“The area outside ForestClan is full of those hostile rogues anyway,” Molefrost snorted. “Best not to bump into them if we don’t have too.”
Gorsetuft opened his mouth to reply, but words failed him. The spike-furred tom fell silent, and I could tell that he knew Molefrost had made a fair point. Oak and Flame’s groups are closer to their territory. After that first battle, they don’t want to heighten any more tensions. Especially since they know I’m involved with the Clans now. They hate me.
“Mmm.” Tawnydapple mumbled in agreement, before the tortoiseshell she-cat rose to her paws. “It looks like we’re all done. Are we going to keep moving? We’ve got a job to do.”
Everyone – including myself – groaned at this. This job was getting tedious, and I knew for one that I was starting to question what I had decided to sign myself up for. It was obvious that they were the same.
Reluctantly, I rose to my paws. Cinderfire quickly followed suit, as well as Molefrost. Gorsetuft, Scorch, Pouncestep and Waterfall were all more reluctant to get up, Pouncestep complaining of sore paws as he got onto them. As the last cat got to their paws, I flicked my tail. Back to leadership duties again, I guess. “Let’s go,” I mewed.
We then set off, albeit not very far. It was only a couple of minutes before we stopped again.
I’d happened to choose a route near the border: after all, as we’d reached the point of doing one side of the territories, I had decided that a visit to the border line was a good idea. However, as we arrived, I started to doubt it, as a few of the warriors behind me looked slightly surprised as they realized where they were.
“…It’s the border line,” Waterfall breathed, as she realized. The blue-gray she-cat ducked her head to sniff at the scents. “Oh, how I want to go back home to my Clan. It’s so hard out here.”
“It reminds me of the journey to this place,” echoed Tawnydapple, to which Molefrost and Gorsetuft were nodding.
“I want to go home now,” Cinderfire meowed. The gray she-cat, although new to the Clans, seemed sad to be at the border. Now, I realized, that the Clans meant a lotto these cats – more than I thought.
I suddenly felt conflicted. Was this really the best idea that I had made? Feeling as though I had made a mistake, I felt worry build up inside of me.
At this rate, they’ll all abandon me for their Clans! What have I done!?