Whitebirch padded along beside his mate, Blossomdew. He sneezed. He was sure he had a cold coming on. He wasn't surprised though. It was freezing in the mountains. Ahead, Smokepaw and their new companion, Kestrel, were chattering like talkative kits, or as his mother, Cherrytail, often said with amusement, "Magpies!". Kestrel had decided to leave the Tribe of Rushing Water to come to SkyClan, but Whitebirch highly suspected that he had left so that he could go with Smokepaw. He wasn't the only one. The entire group thought so. Their little group consisted of himself, Blossomdew, Smokepaw, Kestrel, Cherrytail, Echosong, Sandyfoot and Tinycloud. They had all been washed down to the clans' new territory, and now they were on their way back to SkyClan, the long forgotten clan that was now only known about by ThunderClan, StarClan and SkyClan itself. He looked at Blossomdew. She looked very tired and thin; more than usual. She had been like this recently, and she felt very hot when he curled up against against her at night to sleep, even though she insisted that she was perfectly fine. He would keep an eye on her from now on.
"Are you feeling alright? You've been really tired lately." Whitebirch's warm breath stirred her ear fur as he touched his nose to it.
"I'm fine." sighed Blossomdew. Her eyelids felt droopy, her paws stumbling and clumsy. Whitebirch frowned, and stayed close to her. The other cats padded along, puffing their fur to keep out the cold; Tinycloud, Sandyfoot, Cherrytail, Smokepaw and their new companion, Kestrel. On her left, Echosong was frowning at her with the same concern as her mate.
"I think we should find somewhere to rest for the night. Blossomdew is exhausted."
"Yes, please." Tinycloud's short legs weren't helping with this, and she was tired too. All of them were. Sandyfoot swayed with tiredness with every step, Cherrytail's and Echosong's usually bright eyes were dull, and Smokepaw and Kestrel, the youngest of them and being eight-moons old, were falling behind. Even Whitebirch was slowing down, even though he was usually determined and never gave up. And she was beginning to stagger. She didn't know why she was like this now. She lay beside Echosong, who curled her tail around her as Whitebirch, Sandyfoot and Cherrytail dug a snow-den, Smokepaw and Kestrel half-heartedly building up the snow around it by sleepily patting the dug out snow down and around the mound for support. Tinycloud had found some moss, feathers and dry grass for bedding. Blossomdew went in first, collapsing onto a nest, panting with exhaustion. Whitebirch settled down beside her, still looking worried as the others settled around them. Echosong slept on her right with Cherrytail, Tinycloud and Sandyfoot, and she felt Smokepaw's tail tickle her cheek as she lay down beside Kestrel. She was so tired, and she feel asleep the moment Whitebirch pressed against her fur.Before she drifted off, she felt a tinge of worry.
What's happening to me?
Smokepaw watched Blossomdew carefully from where she lay next to Kestrel. Why was she so tired? She was usually confident and bright, but within the last few days, she had changed dramatically. She was small, only half a mouse -length taller then Tinycloud, but Smokepaw was smaller then her mother, and she wasn't this bad. Was she sick? Of course she's not sick. Me or Echosong would have noticed by now. But then I haven't exactly seen every disease out there. She would keep an eye on Blossomdew.
* * *
"Is something bothering you?" asked Kestrel.
"It's Blossomdew. I don't know what's wrong with her." Smokepaw murmured. Ahead, Blossomdew was leaning heavily on Whitebirch's shoulder, and everyone else was beginning to notice. The cats in front walked close together in front of her, blocking out some of the cold wind. Smokepaw was worried. Blossomdew was getting thin. They all were, but this was something else. Her ribs stuck out, and her pretty eyes had sunken into her skull. Smokepaw was then reminded of something, but suddenly the thought disappeared.
No! Why did I have to forget that? StarClan please! Help me remember. But nothing came to mind. All she remembered was the the cats who had this weren't as thin, as weak, and their eyes had not sunk into their skulls. It was then that Blossomdew's eyes rolled, and she collapsed. Everyone gasped, and swarmed around her."Someone dig a snow-den!" commanded Echosong. They all hastily dug, Whitebirch shaking was fear as he tried to wake Blossomdew. Whitebirch dragged Blossomdew into the den, and Echosong demanded that they stay outside. Digging another snow-den, they crouched inside, the air tense and their fear-scent all around them.
Echosong inspected Blossomdew. This had never happened before, had it? She tried to rouse her friend, but the she-cat just lay there, a vile scent rising from her. She stiffened, and it hit her.
Greencough! How haven't I noticed? StarClan, we need to get her out of these mountains right now and into some forest! She needs warmth, food, feverfew and catmint, and soon! She bursted out of the den, and into the one the rest of the cats had settled in.
"We need to get out of here right now!" she yowled.
"What's wrong with her?" gasped Cherrytail, leaping to her paws.
"Greencough!" when she said the word, there was an eerie silence. Echosong's patience spilled.
"Right now, she needs some food in her. Before we go! Someone hunt!" all of the cats except Whitebirch shot out of the den like furry comets, desparatly looking for prey tracks. Whitebirch was frozen with shock.
"I need to see her." he whispered.
"No, I'm sorry. Hunt for her. I'll look after her, I promise." they argued for a few minutes, but then Whitebirch gave up, hesitating as he went past the den with his mate in it. Echosong urged him on, and went back in. She was terribly frightend. It was then that she noticed one place was larger than the rest of her. Whilst her rib bones showed, her belly had a small, yet noticable roundness. She brushed her paw against it. A feeling of protectiveness swelled over her, as she realized that if they didn't do something fast, it would spread to the fragile lives inside Blossomdew. She couldn't tell the others... in case the worst happened. "Blossomdew." she murmured. "Get better. For you, for us, for your kits's sakes... live."
Whitebirch didn't care as the scent of greencough lingered in his nostrils. He knew that they had to get out of the mountains. Blossomdew was draped over his back, her paws dangling limply. She had only woken a few times to eat something, but she was very weak, and they had had to force her jaws open to push in pieces of prey. Surely the mountains weren't this big? They had been travelling through them for the last half-moon. Suddenly they all stopped. A scent on the wind. They knew that scent...
"Forests!" gasped Sandyfoot. Kestrel's eyes widened with wonder, and then they began to run, Whitebirch slower because of Blossomdew. The mountains ended, and a plain stretched out. And not far beyond... trees. Lots of trees! They had a chance of saving Blossomdew. They stepped onto the dry grass, and ran toward the treeline, a new confidence in their their hearts.
* * *
Blossomdew whimpered in the soft nest. She felt hot, feverish. They were looking for anything to help her, but there was only feverfew and none of the life-saving catmint. The feverfew had helped a bit, but not as much as she needed. Whitebirch pressed against her. StarClan... please. Don't take her yet. He looked up desperately as he heard rustling, but all he saw in Tinycloud's jaws was feverfew. "It's all I could find. Some of us went to twolegplace to look for catmint, but... it doesn't sound like they've found anything." When Whitebirch closed his eyes and pushed his muzzle into Blossomdew's fur, Tinycloud's eyes glazed with grief and anguish. "I'm so sorry."
Blossomdew's dreams were dark and confusing. She was sinking into belly-deep mud at every step, and she could see cruel eyes glistening like ice shards in the shadows; of foxes, badgers, rats, eagles and cats. She felt like she was going to vomit, and she felt sick, restless and uncomfortably hot. She could only think of one thing; kits. Her kits. She had to find her kits. She saw tiny, writhing bundles, but they were getting further and further away no matter how fast she ran. She wailed with grief and frustration. Whispering around her grew to hissing, and then yowling. She screeched, and collapsed, writhing on the ground, trying to block out the voices. "Blossomdew." she stopped. A voice. She looked around, bristling.
"Who-who, who's there?" she whimpered, dragging herself to her paws. A pale-gray tabby she-cat appeared from the shadows. Stars glittered in her soft fur and green eyes. Behind her, other cats stood, the same stars swirled into their pelts - a gray and white tom, a tabby she-cat, a tortoiseshell she-cat and a tabby tom. Behind those four were other cats she didn't recognise. These weren't the cruel eyes in the shadows. They were StarClan.
"I am Storm. Former mate of SkyClan's founder, Clear Sky." her green eyes turned very serious. "I am here to give you a warning. You need to get well, very soon. If you don't, it won't be just your life at risk. You may need to seek help from a species that is not your own." they began to fade.
"What? Storm! Wait! What do you mean?" she was left alone, and then her surroundings were blurring too. She saw a peculiar shape, and then she awoke, still feeling as sick and feverish as before. Whitebirch slept beside her, and she coughed, the cough wracking her body. She felt a weight in her belly; one she had just recently began to feel. She looked down at it, a feeling of love and protectiveness swelling in her chest. Wrapping her paws around her belly protectively, she weakly ate the feverfew at her muzzle, and drifted back into an uneasy sleep.
Smokepaw and Kestrel felt uneasy. Twolegplace was indeed as daunting as they were told. Frecklewish had told her that catmint grew mostly in Twolegplace, but they had had no luck so far.
"I don't like this." mewed Kestrel, the fur on his spine lifting. "I can barely smell anything over this reek of monsters."
"Yes, but its for Blossomdew's sake." she meowed. "Let's try their gardens, get away from the stench." they scrambled onto a wood wall, and leapt down into a bed of strong-scenting flowers.
"Woah, we don't get this kind in the mountains... ach-choo!" Kestrel sneezed. Both sneezing, they pushed their way out of the flowers, pollen tickling their noses. Once they had recovered, they inhaled, trying to tease out the mouth-watering scent of catmint. They couldn't detect a thing, but then they stiffened, hearing a voice.
"Hello!" they spun round, to see a plump ginger she-cat padding toward them. A collar was on her neck.
Kittypet. "I haven't seen you here!" said the kittypet. "I'm Cinnamon. Who are you?" the kittypet seemed friendly enough.
"I'm Kestrel, and this is Smokepaw."
"Odd name, Smokepaw." mewed Cinnamon.
"We have a question." said Smokepaw. "Do you know if there's any catmint around here?"
"Catmint?" Cinnamon blinked. "I knew of a small patch, but the housefolk who owned it pulled it up about a moon ago. That's the only patch I know of." Horror ran through Smokepaw. They were too late!
"Oh no." whispered Kestrel.
Whitebirch tensed when he felt Blossomdew shift beside him. He opened his eye just a slit, and he saw her slowly eat the feverfew - it looked like it was such an effort for her to chew and swallow. And then she curled back up, her paws on her belly, before her breath slowed, showing that she had gone back to sleep. But her breathing was shallow. Her skin was burning through Whitebirch's fur, and he moved away a little.
"Echosong!" he called. The she-cat pushed through into the honeysuckle bush.
"What is it?" she asked. Her eyes ran over Blossomdew's belly.
"She feels like she's burning up." his voice trembled. Echosong's eyes widened. She disappeared, and then reappeared with a large piece of soaked moss. She began to rub the moss over Blossomdew's fur, making the water soak to the skin. Blossomdew looked somewhat more comfortable, and her groans of discomfortable eased. Obviously the water had been cold, cooling her skin.
"Whitebirch." Echosong murmured. He looked up. "This won't be easy to say..."
"She's not going to die!" he hissed, but then his voice faltered. "She's not going to die..."
"It's not that." whispered Echosong. "She's weak. Very weak... and its not just herself at risk." Whitebirch was confused. But then he followed her gaze to Blossomdew's belly, which looked unusually swollen. He stared at Echosong.
"Put your paw here." she nudged his paw onto the sick she-cat's belly, and he felt some shapes. Some tiny pulses, so faint. "She's going to have kits. And I think she needs to be taken to the kittypet healer. If she dosen't get better soon, she and your kits will die."
Smokepaw felt faint. Blossomdew was going to die after all.
"Is something wrong?" Cinnamon cocked her head to one side. "You look like you've eaten a rotting sparrow."
"Our friend is sick." Kestrel mewed. "Very sick. She's got greencough, and catmint is her only hope..." Cinnamon blinked. She looked shocked.
"I know someone who can help." she meowed.
"What?" Smokepaw looked up. "Who?"
"He's a housefolk. He's the vet."
"The vet?" Kestrel blinked in confusion.
"The housefolk who heals other housefolk's pets. pets like dogs, us, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, etcetera."
I have no idea what a guinea pig and a hamster is. But they sound rodent-ish.
"Can we trust a twoleg?" she asked Cinnamon.
"Twoleg? Oh, housefolk. Of course you can trust the vet! He's helped heal me many times! I was feeling a bit poorly once, and he gave me some yucky liquid, but it helped me get better. And look at this." she flicked one torn ear, and showed them a scar on her shoulder and belly. The belly scar looked nasty; her attacker must have really clawed her. "I was once attacked by this rogue; I think he was called Breezepelt or something. My housefolk took me to vet, and I came out as good as new - well, almost, of course, because of my ear and scars. He'll have her fixed in no time! If you take me to her, I'll lead the way. I guarentee you won't regret this."
It had taken Cinnamon a long time to convince Smokepaw and Kestrel. Finally, they had agreed. She trotted along behind them, and she remembered that dreadful experience. She had wandered down the road, and had spotted this bedraggled looking black tom. He had many scars, his fur was unkept. She had gone up, asking if he was alright, but then he had leapt onto her, raking his claws over her flesh and sinking his teeth into her ear, saying "you dare even talk to Breezepelt?" She had dragged herself away, and fled back to her home. Her housefolk had rushed her to the vet. It had been painful, but a few days later she was back home.
"We're here." said Smokepaw grimly. She inhaled, and almost leapt back when she scented the vile smell of sickness. She heard an agonised yowl.
"Make the sickness go away!" wailed the voice. Smokepaw and Kestrel exchanged a horrifed glance, and pushed into the bush. Inside, there was several cats; a white she-cat, a silver tabby she-cat, a tortoiseshell she-cat, a ginger tom with darker ginger legs, and a white tom with faint markings that reminded her of brich tree bark. Lying in the nest was a tortoiseshell and white she-cat. She was the one wailing. The birch-tree bark patterned tom looked grief-stricken, and his eyes would not leave her. He was looking at her belly, and it was then that she realized that this cat was expecting kits.
"Hey!" Kestrel mewed. "This is Cinnamon. She says she can help Blossomdew!" all the cats spun round, hope flaring in their eyes. Smokepaw whispered to her all their names: Tinycloud, Echosong, Cherrytail, Sandyfoot and Whitebirch. Blossomdew was the sick cat.
"She says that a twoleg healer is her only option." Smokepaw said.
It had taken a long time to persaude all of them to trust Cinnamon's word. Eventually, they had all agreed. Now Cinnamon led the way. Whitebirch had insisted on carrying Blossomdew. He felt a surge of fear and love toward her and their unborn kits. He comforted himself by trying to imagine what their kits would be like. He had a feeeling that there was four kits growing inside Blossomdew. He could imagine one being feisty and caring, one being timid and wanting to prove him or herself, another being sweet and loyal and another being brave and eager to learn. He couldn't possibly think of any names for them, or what they would look like.
"We're almost there." mewed Cinnamon. He was distracted from his thoughts as the kittypet slowed to a stop, and she flicked her tail toward a small twoleg structure. "But we have to cross the Thunderpath." he stiffened.
"So near, yet so far." whispered Sandyfoot. Cinnamon turned to them.
"It's not that dangerous, but still, be wary. I have to go home now, I'm sorry. My housefolk will start yelling for me. I hope Blossomdew recovers in no time."
"Thank you." he whispered. Cinnamon nodded, and then she padded off down the twolegpath, and disappeared round the corner.
"Right." Cherrytail mewed. "Whitebirch, Echosong and Blossomdew will go first. Kestrel, Smokepaw and Tinycloud will go and then Sandyfoot and myself will go last." Whitebirch and Echosong pressed against Blossomdew, who was between them. She looked like she was going to collapse.
Please, stay standing just a little longer!
"GO!" yowled someone. Together, they raced onto the Thunderpath. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a light growing ahead as a monster approached from around the corner. Blossomdew stumbled awkwardly, but he shoved her ahead of him. Just as the monster was a few fox-lengths away, they dove headfirst onto the acrid scented grass, panting with relief. Soon, everyone had crossed safely. When the others had wished Blossomdew luck, he gently guided her to the entrance. A soft light glowed from a small hole in the closed entrance. She sank to her paws on the step, swaying.
"The twoleg will help you, my love." he murmured, pressing his muzzle against her cheek. "And our kits." she looked up at him trhough glazed eyes.
"You know?" she whispered.
"Echosong told me." he replied. He tipped his head back, and yowled loudly. He heard footsteps; the twoleg was coming. "I promise I'll come back for you soon. Good bye. I love you."
"I love you." she echoed as he slid into the shadows. Whitebirch watched as the twoleg looked down in surprise. It wore a dark blue pelt. It's gaze softened, and it crooned soothing words. It gently picked up Blossomdew, and carried her inside, closing the door behind it.
A few days later.
The fire had gone out, she was sure. Blossomdew blinked, gazing up at the ceiling. She was in one of those cages; it was slippery, shiny, hard and silver. A soft white pelt covered the floor of the cage. She could hear the murmurs of cats around her; kittypets, mostly, but some rogues.
"I was attacked by a fox, the ruddy thing. Just for walking past it!"
"I've just had my kits."
"Oh, aren't they just the sweetest things you ever did see?"
"I had something wrong with my belly."
"I swallowed something I shouldn't have. It looked so tasty, but my belly began to feel like it had been pierced. It's much better now!" she rolled over. She tested her paws. Not so clumsy anymore. She didn't feel feverish. She felt normal.
"I'm Princess. What happened to you?" asked a tabby and white kittypet in a cage opposite to her own.
"Greencough." Blossomdew replied. "How about you?"
"Just a little accident." Princess showed her her leg, which was wrapped in something white.
"Will you stop chattering, Princess?" muttered a gray she-cat. "You never shut up." also in the gray she-cat's cage was a black and white tom.
"Well, sorry, Ruby." Princess said. "But its so boring when it's quiet!"
"That's easy for you to say!" said the black and white tom. "We actually don't mind peace and quiet!"
"Whatever, Socks. Anyway, poor you! How did your housefolk react when they found out?" Blossomdew decided to tell just a little lie. She couldn't be bothered to go into detail about the clans.
"Oh, he was very worried. But I'm sure I'll be better in no time."
Smokepaw lapped at the surface of the stream, relishing the cool water. It was New Leaf since the mountains, and heat had caught them by surprise. It was hotter than usual. She loved the feel of the sun on her pelt. Back home, she would bask on one of the rocks if she had the time, as the sun heated them up a little. She also loved a nice juicy vole. She ate one now on a warm moss patch, the sunshine dappling her fur. The moss wasn't as good as the rocks, but it was soft and warm. She knew that Blossomdew was getting better. She knew it in her heart. Blossomdew and her kits were going to be fine. Whitebirch and Echosong had revealed the secret just after they had left Blossomdew in the care of the twolegs. Smokepaw had seen kittypets come out in their carriers when she went to check on Blossodmew through the little hole in the wall, their pelts glossy and looking as bright as a berry. The hole she checked was sealed by something transparent. It reminded her of ice, only it wasn't as cold. Blossomdew looked much healthier everytime she looked. They were staying in the nearby forest for the moment. It was very small, but it was good enough for a small group of cats.
"May I join you?"
"Hi Kestrel!" she purred. "Of course you can. Want some vole?"
"Yes please!" Kestrel sat down beside her. The moss patch was on a log, which stretched above the shallow stream, which was only a tail-length below. She pushed her nose into his soft beige tabby and white fur. Kestrel's tail draped down over the log. It flicked at the surface of the water, curling away when a drop threatened to dampen his fur. She then stood up, and casually lifted her paw. And then she swiped it, pushing him into the stream.
"Don't you like swimming?" she teased as he gasped with surprised. "Hey!" he jumped out of the water, leaping headfirst into her flank, sending them both over the log and into the stream again. The two young cats play-fighted in the mouse-deep stream, and splashed each other happily. Nothing in the world right now could make them less happy. And then Smokepaw realized it.
I love him. I love Kestrel. And... and I think he loves me.
Whitebirch tapped on the transparent ice. Smokepaw had told him about it the other day, and he had come to see Blossomdew, to see if she had recovered yet. The kittypets and several rogues and loners slept in some other cages. There she was! She was in a cage, curled up, her flank rising and falling gently. He tapped harder. Her ears perked up, and she rose her head. Her eyes were as bright and beautiful as ever. Her pelt was sleek and shiny, and she looked like she had put on more weight. Her belly looked more swollen. She got to her paws.
"Whitebirch!" he could hear her through the ice.
"How are you?" he asked.
"I feel much better." she mewed back. "I think I'm healthy enough to get out of here." his heart leapt.
"Really? But do you know a way out?"
"No. You have to get me soon. Some rogue told me that the twolegs are going to make me into a kittypet!" she spat the word. His heart then sank. He felt a jolt of horror.
"Oh, no!" he gasped. If they made her a kittypet... they could take their kits away. Make them into kittypets! "I'll get you when I get back, okay? Try and find a way out!" he turned, and leapt off the stacked boxes. He ran through twolegplace, his heart racing.
This is a disaster! What if I come back, and they've moved her?
Blossomdew paced frantically.
"Will you stop pacing?" muttered someone. She ignored it. The rogue earlier on, an old, scary-looking reddish she-cat called Brick, had also taunted her that the twolegs would take her kits away. Blossomdew was scared for herself and her kits. She didn't want to be a kittypet, either! Stuck in a twoleg den all day with a suffocating collar around her neck? Never being allowed outside? Given dry, tasteless pellets like the ones they gave her here? Being dragged around by twoleg kits? Her kits being taken away from her... She scrabbled desparatly at the web walls. Her claws were wrenching, and she saw blood streaked on the webs. She didn't care.
"Oi!" she felt a claw scratch her tail. "We're trying to get some shut-eye!" Blossomdew saw red. She whipped around, hissing. The kittypet leapt back, ears flat with shock.
"Shut-eye?" she spat. "My kits are in danger, you mouse-brain!" the kittypet shrank against the other side of his cage, far away from her. Then she stopped. What was that? She had seen the twoleg who filled up the bowl with pellets do something to the metal thing that was stuck over the side of her cage. She went up, and inspected it. The twoleg had grabbed some little bit that jutted out of the metal thing, and had slid it up and then to its left. She twisted her head awkwardly as she tried to look at it. Blossomdew then seized it with her teeth. The stick groaned, and she sensed several cats shifting in their sleep in the cages around her. She tugged harder and harder, and then, suddenly, the cage door swung open. And it was at that moment that she saw her friends' faces at the hole in the wall. Blossomdew scrambled up on a cage, but then she heard a voice.
"Blossomdew! How did you get out?" She looked down. It was Socks. Ruby crouched beside him, looking up with scared eyes.
"Please help us!" begged Ruby. She hesitated. These two weren't sick; they had just been caught. They could leave this place.
"Okay, but you'll have to be quiet!" Blossomdew reached down from on top of their cage. She heard her friends scrabbling at the the hole in the wall. She struggled to reach it. Suddenly, they froze. There was a sound from the door. She heard the footsteps of a twoleg, saw its shadow. She then got a grip on the catch. The cage swing open, ans Ruby and Socks scrambled out and up beside her. The twoleg was coming closer to the door. They desperately tried to open the catch on the ice hole. Suddenly, the door opened. The twoleg stared at them. And then it ran forward, yowling, a stick with a loop on the end swinging toward them. But they stick shot past them, hitting the ice hole. It fell open.
"Go!" Blossomdew shoved Ruby outside. Socks leapt after her. She felt the twoleg grab her tail, but then Whitebirch appeared. He slashed his claws over the twoleg's paw as Cherrytail pulled her out. The cats spun round, and ran toward the forest as the twoleg let go with a howl of pain.
Smokepaw ran, exhilaration and relief running through her. Running this fast really thrilled her. The blood roared within her, and she felt like she was about to leap into battle. Blossomdew and the two loners ran alongside the group of cats. Blossomdew was slower due to her new added weight in her belly, but she was still fast. Whitebirch, Tinycloud, Sandyfoot, Echosong, Cherrytail and Kestrel were running around her. And then, they felt grass beneath their paws. They were safe, back in the forest. Blossomdew flopped down under some ferns, panting. The two loners' sides heaved, but their eyes sparkled. They were quite thin. The she-cat had a torn ear, and the tom had a scar on his shoulder - they had been through much. Echosong nosed Blossomdew, checking her all over, putting her ear to her belly, and nodding with approval.
"You look very well, Blossomdew!" Sandyfoot was looking at her fur, which was sleek and back to its usual softness. Smokepaw touched it with her paw. It was as soft as swan feathers, as usual. the cats swarmed around Blossomdew in a happy reunion. Whitebirch was murmuring words in Blossomdew's ear, his eyes closed.
"Those lovebirds." whispered Kestrel to her. She felt warmth spread through her pelt as he pressed against her.
* * *
It hadn't been too hard to convince Ruby and Socks to travel with them to SkyClan. They had no where to go, and they had never learned to hunt or fight well, being born kittypets; and they wanted somewhere safe to live. On one side, jagged stones rose, dark and silent against the bright blue sky.They padded past a large hole, and Smokepaw felt like StarClan had once dwelled here. But there was no whispering voices, just an empty, eerie silence. Moorland stretched on their other side - and beyond that lay a montrous structure, gleaming with monsters. Smokepaw was frightened by them. She had never seen so many.
"Are you scared?" Kestrel asked gently, seeing her trembling.
"Yes." she whispered.
"I'll protect you." he promised. But she knew he was scared too. She felt his heart racing.
"We'll have to use that river." mewed Echosong. "It's the safest way." but the river was brown and dark. Twoleg debris floated about, drifted lazily in the current. The river wasn't natural. It was too dirty, and the sides were too steep. Above, a bridge stretched, monsters roaring over it.
Ruby struggled through the river. It wasn't even water. Thick, brown sludge. It reeked, and she felt like she was going to vomit. Bones and bodies of rats were littered about, and several live ones scampered around.
"Rats are such a scourge." muttered Whitebirch. Both Ruby and Socks stiffened. That word haunted them. A memory from seasons ago. Their weak little brother, Tiny, had transformed into a fierce, powerful cat called Scourge. Claws reinforced with dogs and cats teeth. His collar, stained with blood, studded with teeth and claws. He had turned them away when they had begged for help. But he was dead now. Killed by a ginger tom called Firestar when these thunderpaths had been forest, moorland and marsh. They had heard about it, seen the body for themselves. She and Socks had struggled to survive for a long time, going as far as gnawing bones. Fighting for every morsel of food. Her torn ear and Socks's scar proved that. She felt sorry for Tinycloud, Blossomdew and Smokepaw. Being smaller then the others, they were sinking into the sludge more, the stuff oozing halfway up their shoulders. Blossomdew wasn't as tiny as Smokepaw in Tinycloud, but the weight in her belly dragged her down more. But then they saw a rise ahead. The sides of the walls ended, stretching into a grassland. They went faster, and then they had dragged themselves out. Their fur was plastered with the sludge and mud. Dead leaves clung to their pelts. They washed their pelts free of the sludge in another nearby river, which had managed to stay clean and pure. Blossomdew, mud-free, was gazing ahead.
"That way." she mewed. "Sandstorm said we follow this river."
* * *
They had passed a barn, and been greeted by four cats, called Ravenpaw, Barley, Lily and Honey. They had talked about the clans, as Ravenpaw was once part of them, before moving on. The other cats were getting very excited, because they knew that they were getting closer to home.
Whitebirch could feel it. Home was not far away. Everyone else could feel it too. They were walking with a skip in their steps, and they looked brighter and more alert every day. Blossomdew was getting ever closer to kitting, and they were both very excited and nervous at the same time, becoming parents. They now all knew Smokepaw's decision. She was resigning her post as medicine cat apprentice. She was going to become a warrior. They were all proud of her, and supported her in her decision. Kestrel was especially delighted. Echosong looked content, as she would still be a medicine cat, and there would be no squabbling once they got back. Secretly, Whitebirch thought that Frecklewish wasn't quite ready for the full role of medicine cat yet. She lost her patience when she was under stress, sometimes. And, she was still a kittypet.
"Look! I recognise that!" yowled Tinycloud. "It's the twoleg point!" cheers went out through the group. The twoleg point was a tall pointy structure. It was massive and box-shaped, with a large spire on it. It was quite eerie, but the SkyClan cats knew where it was. They all began to run.
They were in the twolegplace. Home was so close, Blossomdew could almost taste it. Every so often, she felt a small twinge in her belly. She dismissed it, even though she was going to kit any day now.
I still can't believe it. We've been through so much, but we've all survived. We've been through storms, blizzards, mountains, twolegplaces, I've been close to the brink of death, and we've been over thunderpaths, but we've all made it! We're all going to be okay. Blossomdew was getting tired. Echosong noticed, and they began to slow down a bit. She felt another twinge, and it was harder this time.
It must be just me. They saw the forest looming up not far away. Their hearts quickened. She looked at all her companions. Whitebirch, Smokepaw, Echosong, Kestrel, Sandyfoot, Cherrytail, Tinycloud, Ruby and Socks were trembling with excitement as they made their first step into the forest. They passed her and Whitebirch's special place. It was a shaded, grassy clearing surrounded by trees. A clear stream went through the middle, and a mossy tree stump stood by the bank. She and Whitebirch exchanged a happy glance. They would come here later. Hunt, and talk about the journey, talk about their kits. But suddenly, she felt a searing pain in her belly. She gasped as the pain radiated through her.
"She's kitting!" gasped Echosong. Blossomdew struggled to catch her breath. Socks rushed to her side as she staggered. Whitebirch went on her other side as they half-guided, half dragged her along. Then they heard yowls of rejoice. The clan had seen them.
"You're alive!" she recognised Fireflower's voice. She heard Sandyfoot inhale sharply.
"Tell Frecklewish to get some herbs!" Echosong commanded. "Blossomdew is kitting!"
Blossomdew lay in the nest, a stick clamped in her jaws. She had been in pain for a long time, and it was dusk now. The clan was celebrating like never before. She felt Vixenwhisker brush her flank with her bushy tail. She had missed her friend so much. Nightkit and Foxkit had grown a lot, and were trying to see. Whitebirch paced outside. Another contraction wracked her body. She felt the stick begining the splinter.
"The first one's coming!" gasped Clovertail, pausing from licking Blossomdew's ears soothingly. And then the pain eased.
"It's a little she-kit!" cooed Echosong. Blossomdew felt Frecklewish place her daughter at her belly. Before she could look, the pain started again. A few moments later, her first son was born. And after, her second son and daughter. Two toms and two she-kits. Blossomdew stared at the four little bundles, suckling at her soft belly. She felt love swell within her heart, and she nuzzled each precious bundle lovingly. Whitebirch was licking her ears happily, saying how beautiful and brave she was.
"How about the light brown she-kit be called Duskykit, and the silver tom Icekit?" Whitebirch suggested.
"They're perfect." she murmured. She looked at the last two kits. She knew the name of the tortoiseshell and white she-kit immediatly.
"This is Poolkit." she decided. "And this is Jackdawkit." she gazed down at the gray and black tabby tom, his snowy white underbelly bright in the dark of the nursery. "Welcome to SkyClan, little ones."
Smokewhisper and Kestrel were curled up together beneath a tree. She had gained her warrior name half a moon ago. She let out a small sigh of content next to Kestrel. She had never felt so safe, so happy. The clan was stronger than ever. Sandyfoot and Fireflower were mates, with Fireflower showing signs of kits growing in her belly. Tinycloud and Rabbitleap, who was her father, were reunited. Ruby and Socks were fitting into clan life. Echosong was medicine cat again. Blossomdew and Whitebirch's kits, Duskykit, Icekit, Poolkit and Jackdawkit were full of life. And Smokewhisper and Kestrel were having kits of their own. Smokewhisper swept her tail over her belly, which was just beginning to swell. She gazed across the clearing. A birch tree stood, tall and proud in the sun. Blossom was budding on its branches. She closed her eyes, and she had never felt any happier, then where she was right now, with Kestrel beside her.
Well friends, that's it! I hope you;ve enjoyed the series!