'This is the second book in The Clan Savior 'series.
Huge thanks to Jet who contributed a lot to this story.
"You and your kits are exiled from SummerClan"
A pair of amber eyes gleamed in the moonlight. They've got the wrong cat! This is perfect! The cat felt very pleased with himself, thanking the poor kittypet for turning up when she did.
After a while the cat was out of the forest again, turning his focus to a second cat. "You did well' he growled. "The stupid fools don't suspect a thing"
"Are you happy now? I killed her. That's enough isn't it?" meowed the second cat.
"No it's not!" The first cat growled. "I told you; no stopping untill Mudstar is dead!"
The second and sat down, curling himself in to a ball.
"But why all the others?"
"To drive her mad of course! She looked for one cat to blame, and she instantly blamed the kittypet. That's what we want remember?"
"It's what you want!"
"Are you forgetting I have complete power over you?" The first cat spat. "I could kill you if I want. And I will, if you don't follow my orders."
The second cat gulped. He wasn't stupid enough to say no after a threat like that. "Whatever you say, Fox."
Fox laughed, a sinister grin began spreading on his face.
"Get back in there. It's time for strike two."
"What have you done?" Mossfeather snarled at Mudstar, ears flat and tail lashing, "I thought she was part of the prophecy!"
"I thought so too untill she killed a cat!" Mudstar spat.
"No she didn't, she was out hunting!"
"There was nothing on the fresh kill pile!"
"She was hunting, I saw her!"
"How do I know you aren't lying? Aren't you so desperate to fulfill your stupid prophecy?"
Mossfeather scraped the ground with his claws. "How dare you question me! I'm your medicine cat!"
"Get out of my den!" Mudstar screeched.
Mossfeather left, a soft growl forming in his throat.
Mudstar felt bad that she'd accused Mossfeather of lying, but all evidence had pointed to Cloudfeather as the one who had killed Angelstrike. She couldn't invite her back in to the Clan.
"Mudstar!" some cat was calling her from the entrance.
Sunflame appeared, Robinpelt and Hailsream behind him. Last of all, Tanglestar, leader of WinterClan, followed them in. He gave Mudstar a nod. "Hello Mudstar" he meowed.
"Hello Tanglestar. Why are you on my territory?" Mudstar replied.
"Our medicine cat, Poppycreek was found dead near the border to your territory. Do you have any explanation?"
"What?" Mudstar growled. "You think one of us did that?"
"It wouldn't be the first time!" Tanglestar snarled.
"How dare you!" Mudstar screeched. "Get off of my territory before we force you!"
Tanglestar agreed, but before he left he said to Mudstar: "I swear Mudstar, if one more of our cats is found dead near your border, we will attack. Is that clear?"
Mudstar nodded, still furious.
As Tanglestar left, Mudstar realised that it wasn't just her Clan who was in trouble anymore, it was the entire forest. Maybe she'd exiled the wrong cat...
"Silverheart is kitting!" Sandpaw yowled.
Mossfeather came running, a stick clenched in his jaws. "When did she start?"
"Before sunhigh" Sandpaw meowed.
"When will this end?" Silverheart wailed. It was almost sunset.
"It shouldn't be long now." Mossfeather reassured her.
Silverheart breathed heavily, shaking as a spasm shook her.
"I think the first one's coming!" Sandpaw meowed.
"You're right it is. One push Silverheart."
Silverheart screeched as the first kill fell out.
"Quick, nip the sac!" Mossfeather ordered. Sandpaw did so.
"How many more?" Silverheart groaned.
"Only one I think" Mossfeather answered.
Leaftail poked his head in the nursery. "Is she done?"
"One more, now go away!" Mossfeather snapped.
"You don't have to be so mean" Silverheart meowed, shrieking as another spasm came.
"It's his fault Cloudfeather's gone. He's done something, I can feel it."
"Don't do that to him. It's not fair- AHH!" She broke off, shrieking, as the last kit fell out.
Leaftail barged in to the nursery. "I heard a shriek. Is she ok?"
"She's fine Leaftail, come and meet your kits."
Leaftail and Silverheart gazed down at their kits, one was silvery-grey, like Silverheart, and one was pure white. They were one tom and one she-cat.
"What shall we call them?" Leaftail purred.
Silverheart gazed at the silvery-grey one. Her eyes were the colour of sky. "This kit will be Skykit" Silverheart meowed.
"That's lovely. And what about this one?"
"Don't you want to decide"
"I was never good with kits."
"I... I want to name this one Cloudkit, in honor of Cloudfeather."
"In honor of a kittypet?" Leaftail growled.
"Yes, she was my friend. Please Leaftail, this means a lot to me"
"Ok, just for you" Leaftail meowed. He licked Silverheart between the ears and left the nursery.
"Cloudfeather would have loved that you know" Mossfeather meowed.
"I know" Silverheart replied. "I wish she was here"
"I wish she was, too." Mossfeather mewed.
"I hope she's okay"
"I'm sure she'll be fine."
But as he left the nursery, Mossfeather wondered if Cloudfeather really was ok.
Chapter 3 (Written by Jetfeather)
As a matter of fact, Cloudfeather was not okay. One day of carrying her kits out of SummerClan territory had taken a toll on her, and the sun was already coming down.
Please, StarClan, all I need is a place to stay, please help us!
Almost as soon as she had finished her prayer, clouds began to cover the falling sun.
"Oh, please, no," she murmured desperately.
"Mum, are we going to stop now?" Ashkit mumbled sleepily.
Cloudfeather gently put down Brownkit and replied worriedly,
"Not yet, Ashkit. But we will. I'm pretty sure we will..."
She picked her up gently and settled her between her shoulderblades, then picked Brownkit up by the scruff again.
Well, we might as well keep going. I can't believe SummerClan has such a big territory! We haven't even exited the territory yet...
Lost in the turmoil of her thoughts, Cloudfeather's heart began to fall, parallel to the falling sun. She didn't even notice the other cat until he spoke.
"Are you lost?"
She jumped, and spun around awkwardly to face him. Her eyes widened, and she put down Brownkit to speak.
"You aren't from SummerClan!"
The pale ginger tom laughed.
"No, I'm not from SummerClan," he agreed.
Cloudfeather unconsciously glanced around suspiciously, wondering if this was an ambush. The ginger tom laughed again.
"Don't worry, I won't hurt you. Here, as a sign of peace, how about you come with me to my den? I've got quite a lot of space to myself!"
He chuckled, and began padding away. A moment later, he glanced around.
Cloudfeather hesitated, then, reasoning that the cat who had really killed Angelstrike wouldn't be so courteous, picked up Brownkit and followed the tom.
They followed him through the forest until they reached a secluded clearing with a mossy hill in the middle, dotted with wildflowers, and butterflies and bees fluttering around under the pale lilac blue sky. The ginger tom padded up to the hill, and pushed his way through a thick clump of flowers that completely covered one half of the hill. The flowers gave way, and he disappeared through them. A moment later, realising that Cloudfeather wasn't following, his head poked out and he mewed,
"It's perfectly safe, I won't bite you, much less kill you. I swear on my life. Now come on, Cloudfeather!"
How does this tom know my name? We certainly didn't introduce ourselves. I don't even know who he is...
The ginger tom grinned at her, his amber eyes sparkling with unbound mischief.
"Aw, come on in! If you're worried about how I know your name, that's because I know everybody's name! I'm Fox, knowing extraordinare! Now come on!"
He dived back into the hill, and, still hesitant, Cloudfeather followed with her kits.
Surprisingly, for such a small hill, the cavern the tunnel led to was remarkably spacious. Fox glanced around the room, as if checking if everything was still there, then he padded over to a huge pile of moss in the corner and began making a spacious nest for Cloudfeather, Brownkit and Ashkit.
"You know, you can always add more moss to the nest if you want," he mewed as he worked. "But try to keep the cave tidy, okay?"
Cloudfeather nodded as he finished the nest, and padded to it. She gently settled her kits on it, praising StarClan for her good luck and Fox's hospitality. This would be a good place to raise her kits, and Fox seemed like a nice cat.
But she didn't see him pad to the opposite corner, to a hidden tunnel where a brown-red tom with ginger patches waited and whisper,
"She's safely contained. Don't break our cover, and she'll be out of commision for the rest of the.. operation."
The other tom nodded and padded away into the tunnel, and Fox quickly padded to a little niche where he stored prey, and hooked a mouse out and took a few hasty bites, so that when Cloudfeather glanced at him again she would think that he had been eating all along.
"No! Don't go in there!" Mossfeather yowled in terror. He saw Cloudfeather was going in to a fox's den. "Are you mad? Get out! Get out!"
A paw poke him hard in the side.
"Wha'? Sandpaw?" Mossfeather opened his eyes. It wasn't Sandpaw standing over him, it was Rainflight.
"Are you okay, Mossfeather?" she mewed. "I heard you yowling from my den,"
"I think it was just a bad dream" Mossfeather replied, blinking sleep from his eyes.
Sandpaw padded out from his nest. "I heard noises" he meowed, "are you okay Rainflight?"
"I'm fine" Rainflight said, "I was checking on Mossfeather"
"Well, we're leaving for the gathering anyway, so come on."
Mossfeather gazed up at the sky. The moon was high in the sky. Have I slept for that long? He and Sandpaw joined the patrol at the clearing. Hailstream, Brightstorm, Robinpelt, Blackstripe, Sunflame, Leaftail and Lionpaw were waiting for them.
"You took your time" Robinpelt mewed.
"Sorry" Mossfeather mumbled.
"Are we ready to go?" Mudstar meowed.
"Yes Mudstar" the cats answered. With a flick of her tail, Mudstar led her Clan to the gathering.
"It's moonhigh" Fox meowed, "do you want to go to the Gathering and see how your Clan is holding up?"
"Are we allowed?" Cloudfeather gasped.
"Sure, as long as no one sees us"
Cloudfeather looked at her kits, they were fast asleep.
"But what about them? I don't want to wake them up"
"They'll be fine. Eagle will look after them, won't you Eagle?"
Eagled nodded; "They'll be fine with me" he mewed.
Cloudfeather felt a little uneasy about leaving her kits with a stranger, but then again, she'd gone in to a stranger's den. "Okay" she meowed, "let's go"
"Great, we're the last to arrive" Sunflame growled.
"Never mind, we have very important news to deliver" Mudstar answered. "Come on Rainflight"
Rainflight followed Mudstar. Mudstar jumped up to the big rock, and Rainflight jumped up to the lowest tree branch.
"Let the gathering begin!" Nightstar yowled.
The cats instantly became silent.
"Do you have any news, Mudstar?" Nightstar asked.
Mudstar nodded. "Five sunrises ago, one of our warriors, Anglestrike was found dead, with no scents on her."
Tanglestar gasped. "Just like Poppycreek!"
Monkeystar turned to them, eyes wide. "You have dead cats too?"
Mudstar nodded. "Who's missing from your camp?"
"Indigo's two kits, Ratkit and Tigerkit"
"Hold on" Tanglestar meowed. "No one's missing from AutumnClan..."
"It's some cat from AutumnClan!" a cat wailed.
"No it isn't!" Nightstar yowled "All of our elders are dead"
Mudstar gasped. "All of them?"
"Yes, all of them!"
Tanglestar stared at Mudstar, eyes narrowing. "Hang on, didn't SummerClan just take in a kittypet?"
"Yes, but we had reason to believe she killed Angelstrike, so we exiled her"
"And you didn't make sure she left the forest?" Nightstar quizzed her.
"Well... no" Mudstar admitted.
"Why didn't you? She could be still lurking around!"
Cloudfeather watched the gathering, wide eyed. "Surely they still can't think it was me?" she gasped.
"I think they do- oh no, some cat's spotted us, run!"
Fox seemed to meld into the shadows padding to the den, and Cloudfeather hastily took off after him.
A flash of movement caught his eye, and Mossfeather glanced at a white pelt. "Cloudfeather?" he mewed. He blinked and rubbed his eyes, but when he looked again, she was gone.
"So? How was the gathering?" Eagle asked as Fox and Cloudfeather hurried into the den. Ashkit and Brownkit clamber onto Cloudfeather, echoing, "Yeah! How was the gathering?"
Cloudfeather smiled a bit, then frowned again.
"The Clans think I murdered Angelstrike, Poppycreek, the elders of AutumnClan and Indigo's kits."
"Is that bad?"
"That's bad, isn't it?"
Eagle looked inquiringly at Fox, who nodded almost imperceptibly. Then he announced,
"Well, you know what my mother Mistcloud always said?"
Ashkit gazed almost adoringlay at him.
"What? What did Mistcloud say?"
Eagle half-grinned and mewed, "A situation always looks better on a new day. So let's just eat and go to sleep, okay?"
Fox agreed and Cloudfeather nodded assent. They ate, and with an exhausted sigh, Cloudfeather slumped onto her nest, her kits snuggled up to her, under the watchful but secretive eyes of Fox and Eagle.
She was in the Medicine den, and Mossfeather was sound asleep. She didn't know why she was here, but it was probably very important.
Cloudfeather whirled around, and saw Mossfeather staring at her, shock and relief radiating from him.
"Mossfeather! You scared me!"
Mossfeather gave a long breath, then composed himself.
"Well, I have to say, you scared me, too. What are you doing?"
Cloudfeather licked her paw.
"I'm dreaming, aren't you?"
Mossfeather shook his head.
"No, but what was that other dream about?"
Cloudfeather looked confused.
Mossfeather hesitated, then mewed,
"Well, I dreamt that you were about to go into a fox's den."
"Well, when we were running, we found a fox's den. I was about to go in it, I was so desperate for a place to stay! But Brownkit could smell that there were foxes living in it, so we avoided it."
"Nice of you to worry, though."
Mossfeather hesitated some more, and was about to say something when something--or someone--dragged him away from sleep.
Cloudfeather looked confused.
"Mossfeather? What happened?"
Then she heard a familiar voice, loud and clear:
"Cloudfeather? Are you okay?"
Cloudfeather was jolted awake, Fox glancing worriedly at the she-cat.
"Are you okay? You were shuddering, and shaking, and all that!"
Cloudfeather shook her head dizzily, and replied,
"No, I'm okay."
Fox nodded, still unconvinced, but he pawed a hare over to her and her kits.
"Here, eat that. You can share with your kits?"
Cloudfeather nodded with gratitude and waited until Fox had padded over to the pile and gotten his own mouse before eating with her kits.
Fox glanced at Eagle and mewed,
"Want to share?"
Eagle nodded and padded over, his back to Cloudfeather.
"So she suspects nothing?" he whispered.
Fox nodded. "She's smart."
Eagle snorted. "And you don't have a mate. What else is new?"
Fox glanced at the kits, and whispered, "The kits?"
Eagle grinned. "I like Ashkit. She's smart, funny, and she's six moons old already! Brownkit is great, too. Strong. Wily. They'd make great allies."
"Then we'd better keep them our friends. And remember: Do not break our cover."
Mossfeather padded to Mudstar's den, troubled.
"Mudstar? Can I come in?"
Mudstar snapped back, "No, you can't."
Mossfeather hesitated, then mewed,
"I think I have information on Cloudfeather."
Mudstar stuck her head out, and hissed, "Get in."
"Well? What is it?"
Mossfeather hesitated, then mewed,
"I dreamed about her last night. But she seemed well groomed, not like a cat who's been living alone and starving. I think she knows very important information."
Mudstar leaned close, and murmured,
"Do you know what she knows?"
Mossfeather scowled at her.
"Of course not! Because you exiled her! Now we have no way of getting information!"
Mudstar snarled, "Are you threatening me?"
Mossfeather growled, "No, but I'm threatening to threaten you."
Mudstar yowled, "Get out of my den! Let me think!"
Mossfeather padded out, annoyed, but stood straight up when he saw a very familiar pelt.
"Foxthorn? Is that you?" He gasped.
Has Mudstar's brother returned?
"Lemonkit, step forward" Mudstar meowed. Today was the day that Amberkit, Lemonkit and Snowkit would get apprenticed. Amberpaw had already received his mentor, Sunflame. "Lemonkit, from this moment forward untill you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Lemonpaw." Mudstar said. She scanned the clearing. "Robinpelt, you are ready for another apprentice. You may have Lemonpaw."
"I wanted Robinpelt" Snowkit whispered to Lemonpaw, "lucky furball"
"Snowkit step forward" Mudstar mewed. Snowkit stepped forward.
"Snowkit untill you have received your warrior name, you will be known as Snowpaw. Mousetail will be your mentor."
"Amberpaw! Lemonpaw! Snowpaw!" The Clan called.
"I can't believe I missed their apprentice ceremonies." Cloudfeather meowed.
"We should be there too" Ashkit meowed, jealousy covering her eyes.
"You'll be there soon Ashkit"
"Don't call me that! I'm Ashpaw now!"
Eagle licked her head. "Well, hello there, Ashpaw! I can be your mentor, Eagle--"
Ashpaw butted his leg with her head playfully, and mewed, "You have to have the second part to your name!"
Eagle pushed Ashpaw away gently. "Okay, then, I can be your mentor, Eaglestrike."
Ashpaw nodded, satisfied, and mewed, completely forgetting that a moment before she had been complaining about missing the apprentice ceremonies, "Yay! What are we going to do first?"
"O-kay..." Cloudfeather turned to Fox, "can we leave now?"
"If you want" Fox mewed. He turned and padded back to his nest, yawned, and promptly went to sleep after muttering, "Eagle'll take you there, won't you? Thanks, Eagle."
Eagle nodded solemnly, and mewed to Cloudfeather, Ashpaw and Brownpaw, "Come on, let's go..."
they padded out of the den, leaving Fox to do his own thing.
"Then from this moment on you shall be known as Bushleaf."
"I'm surprised we made it in time for Bushpaw's warrior ceremony," Cloudfeather whispered to Eagle.
Eagle snorted quietly. "I'm surprised we actually came at all."
Ashpaw yawned and mewed, "can we tell Lemonpaw, Snowpaw, Amberpaw and Bushleaf good job?"
Eagle glanced at her, melancholy, and mewed, "Maybe another day, Ashpaw."
Ashpaw frowned. "But we're her Clanmates, right?"
Eagle paused. "Well, I'm not her Clanmate anymore."
Cloudfeather stared at him.
"What do you mean, anymore?"
"Why would you bother listening to the life story of a rogue?"
Cloudfeather stared at him.
"Maybe because you and your companion gave me a place to stay when I had none?"
"I was originally in WinterClan, a halfclan cat. When they realised, they cast me to my father's Clan: SummerClan. But Leaftail just couldn't accept me, and drove the Clan against me, until only Mudstar's brother would accept me. But... he disappeared not long before they cast me out."
Cloudfeather stared at him.
"Mudstar would do such a thing?"
Eagle laughed drily.
"Not Mudstar. This was before Mudstar. Back when I was--"
"Cloudfeather! Ashkit! Brownkit!"
Cloudfeather turned, aghast, to see Mossfeather's curious face peering at her. She leapt back, and mewed in a quavering voice,
"Surely you would greet your Clan Leader before the medicine cat?"
Cloudfeather looked behind Mossfeather to see the solemn face of Mudstar, and behind her, the smug face of Leaftail. Her pelt bristled, and she mewed,
"You're not my Clan Leader anymore, Mudstar. You cast me out, remember?"
"I still have more authority than you, Cloudfeather."
"No you don't. I'm not in a Clan anymore, remember?"
Leaftail padded forward, looking like he could mate with himself.
"But your kits could. Eh, Mudstar? We agreed on that when I noticed you at my apprentice's warrior ceremony."
Mudstar sighed, suddenly looking a hundred moons older.
"Yes. Cloudfeather, we're going to accept Brownkit and Ashkit into SummerClan."
Brownpaw stared at her.
Ashpaw glared at her.
Leaftail smiled coldly at her, but it looked more like he was leering at her.
"Yes, and yes, without both Cloudfeather and--wait a second, did you say Eagle? That mange-pelt of my brother is still hanging around?"
Cloudfeather glanced at him.
"Eagle is your brother? Eagle is that true?"
She turned to where Eagle was, but only saw shivering branches and the near inaudible echo of the words, "I'm sorry, but I can't stay..."
"Eagle?" she asked.
Mudstar glared at Leaftail and Cloudfeather.
"There's no way your brother's still here, Leaftail. You were imagining things. Anyway, there are two Eagles in this forest, so it's probably not that Eagle. Cloudfeather, just leave."
She grabbed Brownpaw by the scruff, and Leaftail grabbed Ashpaw. Mossfeather mouthed a sorry as they padded away, and licked her ear before beginning to follow them, but froze when Mudstar yowled,
"Cats of SummerClan, we have accepted Brownkit and Ashkit back into SummerClan. From this day they will be known as Brownpaw and Ashpaw. Brownpaw's mentor shall be, uh, Leaftail. I will mentor Ashpaw. Clan dismissed."
Why does it have to be me, to have both my kits mentored by the cats who hate me most?
"Why did you do that to her?" Mossfeather growled. "Why seperate a queen from her kits?"
"Cloudfeather is the killer, but we can't punish her kits"
"Cloudfeather is not the killer!" Mossfeather snarled.
"Well, I'm going to go hunting with my apprentice now, so go away, Mossfeather." Mudstar glared at him until he had left the den, then sighed and padded to where Ashpaw was sullenly waiting.
"So, Ashpaw, we're going hunting with Leaftail and Brownpaw today. It's been the fifth day you've asked to do battle training with Brownpaw, and we've agreed to change the schedule to hunting. Okay? Good. Let's go."
Ashpaw sullenly padded after Mudstar, muttering things best left unsaid, and murmured to Brownpaw as they joined up,
"I've got a plan. Find some way to talk alone, I'm too suspicious."
Brownpaw nodded hesitantly, and mewed,
"I need to go to the dirtplace, can I go before we go hunting?"
Leaftail sighed, and mewed,
"Yes, sure, just hurry up."
Ashpaw narrowed her eyes and mewed,
'"Me, too. Let's go together, Brownpaw."
Brownpaw let herself get dragged away by Ashpaw, who hissed at her.
"Okay, so I've been thinking, the only way we'll get back Cloudfeather is to run away from the Clan. They'll never accept her back in SummerClan..."
Brownpaw nodded hopefully, then mewed,
"Let's ask Mossfeather to help! He wants Cloudfeather to come back."
Ashpaw frowned, then nodded.
"Okay. But how?"
Brownpaw glanced around, then staggered out, yowling,
"Ow! My stomach! Help! I can't make my dirt, and whenever I try it hurts! OH, THE AGONY! SOMEON HELP ME, PLEASE!"
Ashpaw chuckled to herself, then mewed, "Good one, Brownpaw."
Then she dashed out and yowled,
"I'LL HELP YOU, BROWNPAW!"
And she bundled him to the medicine den.
"Hey, Mossfeather, can you help me?"
Mossfeather glanced at her, then, glancing both ways, mewed,
"Are you going to run away? Are you going to ask me to help?"
Ashpaw glared at him.
"Yes, and yes. So are you?"
"I can't just betray my Clan, Ashpaw."
Ashpaw raised an eyebrow.
"You won't be. Anyway, you do want Cloudfeather back, right? She's the cat in your prophecy."
"ARGH THAT'S GROSS!"
They glanced over at the cat who had yowled, and saw Brownpaw backing away from the mouse bile. Mossfeather sighed.
"... Okay. After hunting, ask if I want help getting herbs."
Ashpaw smiled wryly and nodded. Then she dragged Brownpaw back to their mentors.
Mossfeather glanced around them, then mewed,
Brownpaw hesitated, then mewed,
"Thanks for helping us get out."
Then he glanced around to see Ashpaw already padding away. He nodded at Mossfeather, then scrambled after his sister.
Eagle sighed. He never liked killing former Clanmates, but then again, they were the ones to have rejected him. That's why he had killed one of the older warriors.
Don't blame me, Barkclaw. But out of all of the cats who rejected me, you were the only one to inflict the fatal injuries that made my brother all the happier...
He sighed, and turned away from the stream, where Barkclaw's limp body rested at the bottom under a slab of rock, to see Cloudfeather's kits dash into the clearing, their pelts fluffed up, and when they saw him, Ashpaw mewed, relieved,
"Oh, Eagle! I knew we'd find you somewhere here! Can you take us back to your den?"
Eagle nodded, and led them away. Ashpaw and Brownpaw bounced around him, updating him of general events in SummerClan.
Only Eagle noticed Mossfeather watching them from the edge of the clearing, his eyes narrowed as he pondered whether to follow them or not.
One glare from Eagle was enough to make up his mind: If you follow us, SummerClan will lose a medicine cat...
Mossfeather started, and backed away, running to the SummerClan herb patch.
"Hey, Cloudfeather! You know, you should eat something up. You haven't eaten anything for days. Come on!"
Fox pushed a mouse to the pining she-cat, who proceeded to poke at it distastefully. Fox frowned, then mewed,
"What if Ashpaw and Brownpaw come in right now! You don't want them to see a despairing she-cat who hardly acts like their mother! So eat something, and hope for the best!"
Cloudfeather frowned at the thought, but after a nudge from Fox, she took a hesitant bite, then, realising that she was hungry, finished off the mouse. Fox purred, satisfied.
"Good. Hey, look, I was right."
Cloudfeather's fur spiked up.
What!? Ashpaw and Brownpaw are back?
"Cloudfeather! Mum! we're back! Mossfeather helped us get back to Eagle, and he got us here! Thanks Eagle! Thanks mum!"
Brownpaw tumbled into Cloudfeather playfully, and began the laborious job of bringing her up to date. Ashpaw went straight to the pile and took a vole to share with her family, grinning, and waved Fox and Eagle to share with them. Eagle padded slowly to the family, and Fox mewed,
"No, thanks, I've already eaten."
Ashpaw looked slightly saddned, but brightened when she saw Cloudfeather again, and dived into the vole.
Fox watched this through narrowed eyes, thinking deeply.
If they're this determined to get back to their mum, I wonder how well they'll kill a cat who framed their mother...
His lip curved upward slowly, and he excused himself to the dirtplace tunnel to do his classic evil laugh.
"What? Cloudfeather's kits are gone?"
Mudstar glared at Mossfeather.
"Do you have anything to do with them disappearing into nowhere?"
"Well, they asked, and I replied 'no'."
Leaftail glared at him.
"Then you relented and got them out of the camp, didn't you?"
Mossfeather shuffled his paws, and muttered,
"You mouse-brain! We needed those kits to get Cloudfeather here, then interrogate her about why she killed Angelstrike, Barkclaw and the other cats!"
"Listen to yourself! She didn't kill those cats!"
Mossfeather swiped his claws across his leader's face, plunging it deeply, and stormed out of the den.
Leaftail gasped. Mudstar suddenly twitched, then collapsed on the ground, convulsing, again and again, until she lay there, still, scarred, and lifeless, her scars closing up. A moment later, her eyes fluttered open and she gasped,
Leaftail frowned at her, and mewed, his eyes averted, "I--I didn't kill Barkclaw."
"Then why all the other cats?" Mudstar croaked, now on her paws.
Leaftail snarled, "I did not cause the deaths of those cats! You're sounding just as bad as Mossfeather!"
"Speaking of Mossfeather..." Mudstar hauled herself onto the highrock, and yowled,
"Cats of SummerClan, I'm holding a meeting now!"
The cats gathered below her, and she mewed softly,
"Cats, I just lost a life because Mossfeather," she scanned the crowd for him, but when she tried to stared at him, he scowled and padded back into his den. "Because Mossfeather had been working with deathberries, and the traces were on his claws, and then when he rashly scratched me, those traces of deathberry sank into me, and I died. My Clan, I am now on my sixth life, and I do not want my life risked by a rash medicine cat. Therefore, I am going to demote Mossfeather, and bring Sandpaw up to medicine cat status. StarClan has spoken with me, unofficially, and her new name is Sandfeather. Mossfeather, from now on, you shall be an ordinary warrior."
The cats glanced at each other incredulously, Sandfeather included, but Leaftail yowled,
"Sandfeather! Sandfeather! Sandfeather!"
And the rest of the Clan echoed his yowls, first hesitant, then enthusiastic.
Mossfeather looked at his Clan and former apprentice through narrowed eyes, then made his decision.
My Clan Leader doesn't trust me anymore... So why should I stay loyal to her?
He padded away from SummerClan, his former Clan, and began tracking Ashpaw and Brownpaw's tracks to where Cloudfeather was currently lodging.
At least I'll be with a cat who actually trusts me.
But a nagging voice in his head kept repeating,
Even though her hosts may not feel the same way.
Shaking the thought out of his head, he reasoned,
They'd better be. I was the one who smuggled them out of the camp before they were sentenced to exile.
"Mossfeather? What are you doing here?"
Cloudfeather's incredulous mew greeted Mossfeather when he stumbled into the den, and he grinned at her tiredly, mewing,
"Well, Mudstar lost a life, and she accused me, so now I'm not the SummerClan medicine cat. Plus, Sandpaw's Sandfeather now."
Cloudfeather's eyes widened, and she mewed,
"Did she exile you?"
"No, but I would be no use as a warrior, so I'm just going to stay with you, Brownpaw, Ashpaw, Foxthorn and Eaglestrike as your unofficial medicine cat."
"Foxthron and Eaglestrike?"
"Yep. Mudstar's brother, and Leaftail's enemy and brother. You know, the SummerClan cat who was friends with the WinterClan SummerClan HalfClan cat?"
"Mossfeather! I forgot to say thanks for getting us out," Fox drawled, emerging from the tunnel.
"No problem," he replied.
Eagle padded up to Mossfeather.
"Nice to see a brother who doesn't hate me," he murmured so softly, only he and Mossfeather could hear. Fox pricked his ears, and Cloudfeather looked vaguely confused. Then Eagle raised his voice and mewed, "So Cloudfeather's part of another prophecy? Mossfeather, you have had a lot of propecies in your lifetime. Smart that you realised that he was the cat who framed Cloudfeather."
"Who's he?" Ashpaw piped up angrily, "Who framed Mum?"
Eagle grinned halfheartedly at her.
"Ah, Ashpaw, but mum's the word."
Ashpaw stared at him uncomprehendingly.
"Ok" she mewed, not willing to get in to an argument and risk not seeing Eagle again. Then again, Eagle had sort of lied to her. Why not tell me about Fox and Mudstar? And since when was his name Foxthorn? The more she thought about it, she began to wonder if Fox was as trustworthy as he claimed...
Brownpaw groaned as a paw poked her in the ribs. "Hey Brownpaw!"
Brownpaw half-opened her eyes and meowed, "What? It's the middle of the night!"
"I know" Ashpaw whispered. "That's why we have to get away now before anyone notices we're gone"
"Because I don't think Fox is telling the whole truth."
"Hello, Ashpaw. Do you want to walk somewhere?"
Ashpaw jumped as Eagle's voice whispered from behind her.
"Oh. Um... We were, um..." Ashpaw sighed. She was just going to have to tell Eagle the truth. "Well, we know that Cloudfearher's innocent, so we need to find out who killed her."
Eagle froze. "I wasn't supposed to say anything"
"What are you on about?" Ashpaw meowed.
"Well..he said if I told anyone, he'd kill me."
"I knew it!" Brownpaw growled. "I knew Fox was behind this!"
"How did you know?" Ashpaw gasped.
"There was something about him. I knew from the moment we met."
"Where are you guys going?" came a new voice.
All 3 cats jumped and Ashpaw whirled around to see Mossfeather standing behind them.
"We're going to find evidence that Fox was behind this!" Ashpaw hissed, "and Eagle's going to help us"
"Good" Mossfeather growled. "Let me help you"
Brownpaw turned to Eagle. "Where to?"
"The edge of the forest" Eagle meowed, "outside Twolegplace"
"Because..." Eagle sighed. "Because it's our other den, and Fox told me that if any of you asked about anything, that we do it there. Happy?"
"What if it's a trap?"
"Then I would've been the trapper. Come on, you're too serious to be apprentices."
Ashpaw frowned, but kept padding after him.
When they arrived at the edge of Twolegplace, Eagle glanced around, then plunged into a tunnel entrance. Mossfeather plunged right in next to him. Cloudfeather hesitated, then followed, as well as her kits.
It opened into a cavern not unlike Fox's den, except with a low ledge on the opposite wall. Eagle jumped onto it, and mewed,
"Well, back when Fox was Foxthorn and I was Eaglestrike, Fox was Mudstar's brother. When Leaftail, I and Mossfeather came to SummerClan as HalfClan cats, Leaftail was eager to just plain disown us, therefore becoming fully SummerClan with no connections. Mosseather and I, well, Mossfeather was destinied to be a medicine cat, and I was just a warrior. Fox and I quickly became best friends, although Foxthorn had been the original deputy. But before Goldenstar's death, she said that she was changing the deputy to Mudstripe. Now, both he and I didn't like this--who would? It's just as bad as Longstar, Mudclaw and Onewhisker."
"Nothing. Anyway, Foxthorn began feeling weird, and it caught onto me for a while. Soon the whole clan--and after a while, WinterClan--took sides to who the Clan leader should be. So Mudstar--at that time-- decreed that at the next Gathering, she would sentence her brother to death by drowning in the Moonpool, which I suppose she saw as symbollic, but Fox and I thought it was sick. So I asked my brother, Mossfeather to smuggle us out. Mossfeather smuggled Foxthorn out first, and when Mudstar saw that, she decreed that to punish him, she would kill me the same way. So Mossfeather smuggled me out. We secured two dens, one to go to if we were sick of the other, and we stayed like this, Fox wanting revenge, me just wanting to make Fox happy. I admit, I'm in admirance of Fox, for being so calculated. It's true, once he did say he'll kill me, but in a jokng manner. And yes, this is a trap."
"So why did ou tell them everything?" Fox padded from the shadows and peered at the group of watching cats.
"I didn't," Eagle mewed, "but let's at least lay down our arms."
"Claws, weapons of any sort."
"So you killed all those cats?"
Eagle scowled, then mewed, "No, i didn't! Why does everyone think I killed those cats?"
"Because you killed Barkclaw?"
"No,that was Leaftail."
Everyone turned in surprise to see Mudstar's astonished, shocked face staring fixedly at Eagle before she pelted off into the dusky light.
"How? Why? I didn't actually do anything bad to Foxthorn! Why? How did Leaftail bear with the deaths of all those cats?"
Sandfeather looked confused as Mudstar paced around her den, then he brightened as she mewed,
"Why don't we... keep Leaftail here and, uh, use him to lure Fox here?"
Mudstar stared at Sandfeather with such a burning intensity that for a moment Sandfeather wondered if he had said something wrong.
Luckily, he hadn't, because Mudstar mewed,
"Good idea! But... I have to apologise to Cloudfeather and her kits! And Mossfeather, too! Probably even Eaglestrike! Oh, no!"
She pushed her way out of the den and ran into the forest, intent on retrieving the exiled cats.
"So... Hey, Fox, want to, uh, see what Mudstar is doing?"
"To tell the truth, I've lost motivation for all this."
Eagle looked at him strangely, then mewed to Mossfeather,
"Want to look for Mudstar? Fox, you come too."
Fox shrugged again, and the group filed outside.
They ran into Mudstar at the herb patch, and when she saw Cloudfeather she gasped and mewed,
"I'm sorry! You can join SummerClan again! Come on! Mossfeather, you too!"
Hesitantly, Cloudfeather led her kits with Mudstar, and Mudstar padded to the edge of the patch. Then Mudstar looked back and gasped. Fox's eyes darkened and growled,
"So you want revenge on me, after you steal my leadership?"
Mudstar looked flustered, then turned to Mossfeather and mewed edgily,
Mossfeather hesitated, then mewed,
"Only if Eagle comes as well."
Eagle frowned, then mewed,
"Well, I can try..."
Fox padded up to him and whispered something to him, and he slowly nodded. With a sad lick of Fox's ear, Eagle followed Mudstar and the others to his trial run of life back in SummerClan.