Episode 4, Season 2 of War.
This episode is dedicated to Robo. Without her amazing comments and love, this series would likely have died halfway through the first season. So I thank her for that, and for just being a great member of the wiki in general.
This one's for you.
The Camp by the River
I came from a country camp, a fishing camp called Summerstorm. Every day was a reflection of the day before and a mirror to the next.
This camp reminds me of my old one.
It sits, nestled by a river. Small dens are hidden in the meadow which itself sits on the bank of the river. The sun sinks into the water every night, drowning itself to be reborn. It's gorgeous.
It's also the perfect place to hide from the FireClan cats who are looking from us. Barely inside the WaterClan border, it's in the perfect position to hear rumors and collect information, but also far enough away so that we can recuperate.
We got in last night. Shadowsong already looks mostly back to normal. After she washed the blood off her pelt, attempted to refuse medication, got medication, and slept for a while, she was back on her paws looking ornery as every. Oakclaw and her are already back to arguing. Then again, nothing fazes Shadowsong. A fox attacked our camp once while we were sleeping. Everyone shrieked- even Badgerstrike, though he denies it. Shadowsong clawed it in the face.
Gorsefur on the other hand...I roll over and look at him. Same gold eyes, same dark fur, same everything. A cobweb over his eye and a few other on his pelt, but the biggest change is....I don't know.
I thought hanging out here would calm him down. But after maybe half an hour he hasn't said anything.
"You want to talk?"
He looks at me, shrugs, "What do you want to talk about?"
I feel a spark of hope, "Erm...you know how long we're staying here?"
Gorsefur's eyes turn flinty, "No one told me anything," he mutters.
"Oh," I meow, "Well they probably just don't want you to worry, you know, after-"
His glare stops me short and I look at my paws, my stomach roiling.
I look up to see a black she-cat standing over us. Her ice blue eyes are focused on Gorsefur rather dreamily and her silver chest, paws, and muzzle glint in the dying sunlight. I forget her name, but she's a warrior in the camp. Blueripple? Splashshade? Aquafur?
"Yeah Aquasplash?" Gorsefur meows. He sounds tired, but her got her stupid name right. Hrmph.
"We're all having dinner if you want to come..." she look shyly at him.
"Sure," he meowed, disinterestedly. She stands there for a moment, her eyes hopeful. Then she turns and pads back to camp.
The she-cat part of me feels bad while some darker part of me feels happy, "Gorsefur, she wanted you to ask her to eat with you." Eat with us, says my brain.
This manages to make Gorsefur portray some emotion, "Really? Why?"
I look at him in annoyance, "You couldn't tell? She was hovering around you all last night. And this morning. And this afternoon."
"Huh," is his unsatisfactory response.
I feel a flash of irritation, which is ridiculous. Gorsefur spent half a moon in FireClan with a cat who basically would do anything to hurt Badgerstrike- which included hurting his warriors. If he wants to like some other she-cat, that's great. "So?"
"So what?" he meows distractedly.
"So do you like her?" I feel vaguely frustrated.
He shrugs, "She's pretty."
I sigh and get up, "You coming?"
He shakes his head, "In a bit,"
I nod, feeling uneasy, and pad to the camp. I eat my dinner watching the river where I can still see him sitting.
He doesn't come.
That night I can't fall asleep. The river lulls me and the stars urge me to rest, but my eyes remain open. I'm curled away from the camp, but I can practically sense when Gorsefur walks in. He pauses for a moment and looks around.
I hear a rustle, then a whisper, "Gorsefur?"
I curl in tighter on myself, but I don't close my eyes. I can hear the small she-cat padding out to where Gorsefur most likely sits.
"Hey," he meows.
"You don't look so good," she observes, "I mean, besides the wounds. You look..." she trails off, unable to name what is ailing Gorsefur. I couldn't either.
Gorsefur sighs, "I just...I dunno."
"Want to talk about it?"
No, he doesn't.
"Sure," I tense as he continues, "I guess....it's hard to describe."
"You feel like you failed?" Aquasplash asks. She's one of those she-cats who are pretty, so when they say something intelligent it kind of shocks you. But not really- Aquasplash radiates smarts, the same way Adderscar does. It's infuriating.
"Yes," Gorsefur sounds relieved, "The Clan, Shadowsong, the squad, myself...Brookfall." my heart warms a little at this.
Aquasplash manages to hide her hurt, but not well enough, "You like her then?"
Gorsefur pauses and my fur prickles uneasily. What will he say?
"I don't want her to be hurt," he answers finally.
I guess that's something.
Aquasplash is silent for a while, "Do you hate them?"
"FireClan," she meows.
Gorsefur ponders this, "I hate some of them," he meows, "Definitely. But they're like us, you know? Soldiers and parents and friends and kits."
"They killed my parents," Aquasplash says bluntly. "My mother was expecting, it didn't stop them."
"I'm sorry," Gorsefur whispers. "I can't imagine what that would be like,"
"You come from Main Camp?" she asks. There's a pause, I can imagine him nodding, and she continues, "That explains it. They take you away from your parents nad start training you pretty early on, don't they?"
"Yeah." Gorsefur doesn't say anything else. He hasn't seen his parents in moons. The night he told me...well, he also told me that he mentored his little brother, Stormpaw. Stormpaw died and he couldn't face his parents.
"What do you want to do?" Aquasplash meows, "More then anything, I mean."
"I just want to save the world," Gorsefur meows.
"You think it needs saving?"
There's a rustle as Gorsefur shrugs, "I think it could use some saving right now. And I want to try."
"So why don't you?"
There's a lengthy pause. "When FireClan caught me I figured that my friends would come. And they did, but not for a long time. And in that time I guess I just lost faith in them. And in the world. I just stopped caring about them, this war, everything."
"And now I can't find what I lost. I can't..." He heaves a shaky breath. "What about you?"
I can imagine her staring off into the horizon with those ice blue eyes, "I just want to find a place where there's nothing. No war, no lies, no hate..."
They continue for a while, Gorsefur talking to this she-cat we've known for a day more then he's talked to me.
It's almost a relief to fall asleep. That relief is only shattered by the fact I slip away to the sound of Gorsefur and Aquasplash purring together.
That peace shatters at dawn.
I wake to a shriek. A cat yowls, "FireClan!"
A cat shakes me and I spring to my paws, Silverflower in front of me. "They found out we were hiding here," she meows breathlessly.
"Where are the others?"
"Adderscar and Badgerstrike are fighting, with the rest of the camp. Oakclaw took Shadowsong out, she was..." Silverflower trails off and I feel a stab of pity for the fiery black she-cat.
"I don't know," she meows, "Sorry,"
I charge past her into the main clearing of the camp. It's being torn apart. The red and golden FireClan cats clash with the gray and black WaterClan cats. I can make out Badgerstrike's pelt and Adderscar's distinctive ginger fur, but no Gorsefur.
I claw at a few FireClan cats, but they seem to be getting their fair share of clawings. They must have found the camp by accident, there's only a small patrol of one or two squads.
I find comfort in this and continue to weave through the crowd. I hear Silverflower yowl once, and look back to see her and Adderscar, fighting together like usual. My heart aches slightly.
The FireClan cats are leaving, or dying off. Soon there's only a couple. They must sense that's it's futile.
And as quickly as it began, it's over. The FireClan cats are gone. The camp visibly exhales and they go about the camp, quickly swirling back to dens and families. The picturesque camp by the river is broken and partially destroyed, but already they're beginning to rebuild.
I catch sight of Gorsefur and heave a sigh of relief. He stands next to the ruined elders' den, trying to re-do a cobweb binding on his side.
A shadow detaches itself from the side of the den. My heart starts to pound as a golden eyed FireClan cat crouches behind Gorsefur. How did we not see it? It doesn't matter. I start running, hoping I can stop it, save him.
Aquasplash gets there first.
The FireClan cat leaps and Gorsefur finally realizes something's wrong. He turns, but Aquasplash is already there. It's too late to attack the FireClan cat, she dives for Gorsefur and tackles him out of the way. He rolls in the dust, away.
Badgerstrike and one of the cats from camp get to the FireClan cat and haul it off, spitting. Aquasplash doesn't get up.
I run for Gorsefur, but he's running for her. So I change trajectory and head for the she-cat as well.
The FireClan cat's claws pierced her stomach. Blood turns the white sand red and her eyes are wide as she heaves for breath. Silverflower gets there and looks over the wounds, a wad of cobweb by her side. She looks up, blue eyes trembling, "She-sh-"
Adderscar pulls her away, wrapping his tail around her.
It's too late.
But Aquasplash isn't dead yet. The Clan backs away a little as she motions to Gorsefur to come closer. It takes all my will to stay behind.
"Why would you do that?" he whispers, golden eyes searching hers.
She let's out a shuddering breath, "My parents are dead. No one needs me like they need you," a weak purr escapes her, "Plus you're cute."
Gorsefur blinks and that's when I finally realize he doesn't feel for her. I don't know if he feels for me like he used to, but he's not in love with her. Obviously, this isn't something he's going to tell her before she dies.
"You're pretty cute yourself," he meows weakly.
She purrs, "Remember when we were talking?" she asks. The entire camp is basically leaning forward, watching this sick, sad drama play out. Gorsefur hesitates, then nods. Aquasplash is weaker now, "I really think you can do it. I'm just sad I won't be around to congratulate you when you do."
There are puzzled looks all around, but I know what she means and it makes me heart ache for this poor she-cat.
Gorsefur nods, "I really hope you find what you were looking for."
Aquasplash focuses on him with those intense blue eyes, "And I really hope you do too." And then she glances at me, with the strangest look of jealousy, sorrow, and acceptance, "There are cats who need for you to."
Gorsefur doesn't look at me, but he nods.
A tear streams down Aquasplash's cheek, but she's obviously trying to hold it together. She shakes and the blood still runs from her wound, "I really wish I had met you earlier," she whispers.
Gorsefur shakes his head, "I wish you hadn't met me. You might still be alive."
Aquasplash throws back her head and purrs, "But it would have been less of a life," she says. Gorsefur doesn't say anything and she looks at him, "Oh, don't be....sad," she murmurs, her breathing getting shallower, "You'll make...me....sad."
To his credit, Gorsefur does the best he can to look like he's not sad. Aquasplash's whiskers twitch, "There...you go. Now go and...save the world. Or whatever....it is...you crazy...kits do...these days."
She closes her eyes and doesn't speak again.
After Aquasplash is buried, I find Gorsefur sitting by the banks of the river.
"She wanted to leave," he meows, without turning around, "She wanted to find a better place."
I stay silent, not exactly wanting to purr and say I know.
"She should have," he meows bitterly, "She didn't deserve to die like that. She didn't-" his shoulders hunch and he doesn't talk.
"I'm really sorry," I meow.
He finally looks at me for the first time since we rescued him. And to my relief, his eyes are the same. He's lost the haunted look and now his eyes just betray all the pain he feels. "I'm sorry too," he meows, "I shouldn't have been ignoring you, I just felt like-"
"It's okay," I say.
He shakes his head, "It's not."
"Will it be?" I ask cautiously.
He looks at the river again, "I didn't think so," he turns back to me, "But now I think it will be."
He pads back to camp, but I don't follow. I look at the clear river, trying to see what he saw in it's depths.
I guess Aquasplash saved Gorsefur just as much as we did.
Maybe I'll get to thank her for it some day.