Three generations after Ivypool and Dovewing's deaths, the Clans turned their backs on StarClan and most of the old rituals. The only thing that survives is the Clan hierarchy and the names given to kits, apprentices, warriors, and leaders. But a ShadowClan Medicine Cat named Falconheart will change all that when a young kit named Lilykit is murdered.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery
Theme: In order to keep the present thriving, the future in order, we must keep our pasts close to our hearts, no matter how boring the history lesson...
Cats that have formally appeared in this fan-fiction. Those that have not won't be included.
Leader: Pantherstar – Black she-cat with yellow eyes; scar on face
Deputy: Amberpelt – Yellow tom with amber eyes
Medicine Cat: Falconheart – Fluffy black tom with yellow-green eyes
Medicine Cat Apprentice: Pumpkinfrost – Orange tabby she-cat with amber eyes
Blackfire - Black she-cat with fiery yellow eyes. Apprentice: Micepaw
Mouseleaf – Short-haired tortishell with golden eyes. Apprentice: Snakepaw
Mosstail – Golden she-cat with a very fluffy tail and light green eyes. Apprentice: Berrypaw
Bearclaw – Brown tom with very sharp claws. His mate is Whispertail.
Birchtail – Brown tabby with green eyes and a white stomach.
Shadeclaw – Black tom with golden eyes.
Whispertail – Golden she-cat with dark eyes. Kits: Lilykit, Whistlekit
Leopardfang – Yellow tom spotted like a leopard; a veteran in many battles.
Leader: Silverstar – Silver tom-cat with three scars replacing his left eye and a scar on his throat
Redfeather – Ginger tom-cat; claims to be the fastest cat in WindClan
Leader: Featherstar – Blue gray she-cat with teal eyes.
Leader: Icestar – White she-cat with icy blue eyes.
Lilykit stared at the red little orbs dangling from the bush, cocking her ears slightly. She turned to the dark she-cat in the shadows, her dazzling yellow eyes working their way into her soul. Lilykit hesitated, then mewed, “Are they good?”
“Oh, yes,” her golden eyes widened in sincerity. “They were my treat back in my youth. Now they are practically extinct…that’s why I brought you along, so you may have a taste that you will remember for a life-time.”
“But what about the other kits?”
She smiled. “They are not as special as you. StarClan told me that one day, you will be known as Lilystar.”
Lilykit gasped in surprise and glee, but then grimaced and her tail drooped. “Micepaw says StarClan isn’t real. Her mentor, Blackfire, told her so.”
The older she-cat’s tail flicked in annoyance. “Ignore those two she-cats. They do not have the skills to believe in StarClan.” She nudged the little kit. “Now eat.”
Lilykit hesitated again. She looked over her shoulder. “If I eat this,” she said, her voice barely a whisper, “You won’t kill him, will you? I wish to be his apprentice’s apprentice once.”
Her eyes turned into slits. “Fine, then.”
Lilykit smiled. “Good. I don’t like killings.” She turned her head to the bush, and parted her jaw, craning her neck to take a mouthful of the scarlet berries.
Pumpkinfrost poked her head into the Medicine Cat’s Den. Falconheart looked over his shoulder and slowly blinked at his apprentice. “Are those the burdock roots?” She nodded. “Good. Set them in the usual place.”
Falconheart followed his apprentice, who had only obtained her true Medicine Cat name last quarter moon, to the ShadowClan herb stock, all neatly placed in cache holes beneath the fallen tree that was Falconheart’s den. “Falconheart and Pumpkinfrost?” a she-cat meowed. They both looked back at a tortishell warrior; the sun rays hitting the patches just right enough for her fur to have a golden radiance.
“What is it, Mouseleaf?” he meowed, fluffy black tail swishing back and forth.
“Stomachache. It is so bad that I cannot take Snakepaw out for battle training. He’s cleaning the Elder’s den now.”
Falconheart nodded, and turned to his apprentice. “Here’s your next test, Pumpkinfrost. You know what to do.”
The orange she-cat purred. “A test? When I have received my name?”
Falconheart frowned at her. “To this day, Pumpkinfrost, I even give myself tests when I question a patient. Now, go on.” Pumpkinfrost nodded and swiftly stuffed the burdock into the right caches. While she padded over to the tortishell, Falconheart couldn’t help but silently rummage through the new supply of burdock root for washing. He smiled proudly as his apprentice ran through all the possibilities of stomach aches, like aged food or maybe even a pregnancy. Falconheart shuddered with delight at the thought of new little kittens squealing and squirming in the nursery, especially from a good, lovely cat like Mouseleaf. But his glee rotted away as he stared at something red in the jumble of burdock roots. “Pumpkinfrost. Come here.”
The orange tabby padded up to him. Before she could respond, he batted the berry out of the cache. “What is this!?” he hissed.
Pumpkinfrost examined it for a moment. “A deathberry.”
“And what was it doing the supplies!?”
Pumpkinfrost cocked her head to one side, not looking at her mentor but keeping her eyes fixed on the scarlet plants. “Pantherstar said they were good things for a Medicine Cat to have, Falconheart.”
Falconheart opened his mouth to screech at her, maybe claw her ears off. He closed his tight as smells of blood and burning flesh wafted into his nostrils. The cries of a small apprentice calling out to him, “Just end me…please!”
Falconheart visibly shook himself, taking in deep breaths and trying to shove the memory deep into the shadows. But it was so clear and vivid Falconheart felt it had only happened a heart-beat ago, instead of many moons. “Get them out of camp…now. I don’t want to see those things ever again – I don’t care what Pantherstar says,” he hissed, the scent of ashes and blood still in his nostrils. Pumpkinfrost nodded vigorously and rolled them up in a maple leaf she had been carrying the burdock roots in. Not bothering to watch his apprentice run off, Falconheart glared at the roots, knowing how long it was going to take him to watch away all the vileness from the deathberry that had rubbed on them.
He grabbed some juniper berries and strode over to Mouseleaf, who had probably heard the whole thing, but Falconheart didn’t care. “Off you go,” he said, dropping the berries at her paws. Receiving a nod and a thank you, the ShadowClan Medicine Cat padded away from her, and joined the ShadowClan Deputy, Amberpelt, by the fresh-kill pile.
“Any sign of Lilykit?” he meowed, settling himself by the yellow tom.
Amberpelt hesitated, swallowing down a bit of his mouse, and turned to Falconheart. “No. My hopes ride with Blackfire, Micepaw, Berrypaw, and her mentor, Mosstail, today.”
They sat together in silence, Amberpelt finishing off his mouse. Falconheart stared at a squirrel, his appetite gone from both the horrible flash-back and the depressing discussion of the lost she-kit.
“I can hear them! The search party’s here!” cried Snakepaw, Mouseleaf’s optimistic apprentice. “They must’ve found her! Oh, they must’ve found her!” He was hopping up and down with excitement, scattering dust everywhere.
Lilykit’s parents, Bearclaw and Whispertail, scurried out of the Nursery. Bearclaw stopped to tell his other off-spring to stay in the Nursery, mixed-emotions playing on his face. Falconheart understood why: was his daughter found dead or alive? Whispertail skidded to a halt at the entrance, eager yet worried.
Having discovered the search party on the way back, Pumpkinfrost entered camp first; head and tail hanging low, and she went over to sit beside Falconheart. The four she-cats walked into the camp, Mosstail carrying a small brown bundle of fur in her jaws. She set it at Whispertail’s paws, and sat down, her head hanging low. Whispertail shook for a moment, and then let out a yowl of anguish. Bearclaw bounded over to be at his mate’s side, and nearly fainted. Falconheart got up and hurried over to look at Lilykit, and his heart fell. The little kitten he had prayed to StarClan everyday to return home safe and sound was dead.
“We found her by a bush of deathberries. It is destroyed now,” Mosstail meowed. Falconheart gnawed at his lip and buried his nose in Lilykit’s soft fur. He nearly screeched. She smelled of blood and burning: just like the dying ThunderClan apprentice had…He shuddered, and the average scents of the ShadowClan territory wafted into his nostrils. Falconheart suppressed a sigh of relief.
Falconheart withdrew his nose, and was surprised that Whispertail and Pumpkinfrost had done the same. Whispertail had agreed with him that they should go back to the old rituals three generations before them, but he did not think she would practice them openly. And Pumpkinfrost…she usually just shrugged at his ranting against the Clan cats of the present, who had discarded their ancestor’s rituals as stupidity, along with the prized belief in and of StarClan. Falconheart couldn’t believe Pumpkinfrost had listened to him, and he was amazed that he even agreed.
And then most of the cats in the camp were bowing down to the little bundle, trying to stick their nose into her fur in a respectable way. But cats like Amberpelt and Pantherstar, and Blackfire and Micepaw, stood up. Falconheart looked back down at the little corpse, and leaned down to press his nose into her sweet fur when her eyelids suddenly flew open. Falconheart flinched, but kept a look of calm about him otherwise.
“Falconheart,” Lilykit whispered.
“Forgive me, little one,” Falconheart whispered back. “I wish I was there to ease your death…Did your mother tell you about StarClan? Oh, I hope they accept you…”
“It was not the berries that killed me…” Lilykit interrupted his worried ramblings.
“Oh? What do you mean?”
“She did it!” Lilykit hissed.
“She lurked in the shadows, but it was so obvious who she was. It was…” Lilykit suddenly gasped, and her eyes widened in fear. “She comes! She comes! She’s calling!!”
“Elders!” called Pantherstar from the High Oak. Six highly disheveled cats stood up. “Bury her.” They exchanged glances and nodded, hurrying over to the dead kit.
Falconheart pressed his nose to the corpse. “Who killed you, Lilykit!? Who!?” he whispered urgently, but he only received silence as she squeezed her eyes tight and whimpered. Falconheart blinked, perplexed, and when he opened them Lilykit’s face was in peace, and not a noise did she emit. Falconheart wanted to yowl a protest as he backed away to let the Elders through and watched them carry her away. But what could he do?
Suddenly, Falconheart had a glorious idea. He narrowed his yellow-green eyes, and thought, Yes…what can I do?
“We have concluded that Lilykit was hungry, and not knowing the dangers ate the deathberries. Her death was an accident, plain and simple,” meowed Pantherstar.
Falconheart’s eyes turned into slits. “Do you wish to hear my conclusion, Pantherstar?”
The leader frowned at him. “Later, Falconheart, later.” She jumped down the High Oak and sauntered over to her den, which was a hole beneath the High Oak.
He watched her leave, and then spun around. His ears perked up, Falconheart dashed past the Elders and Lilykit, through the ShadowClan entrance, and into the territory. “Guide me, StarClan. I know you are there. Lead me to where she died!” he pleaded, padding through the snow and glancing about.
The Medicine Cat’s head whipped around, locking onto a black fox, where the voice came from. It growled at him, and darted away. Falconheart flinched, and gave chase to the fox. The fox let out a snarl, and tried to pick up speed, but Falconheart remained only a mouse-length away. Falconheart didn’t even bother to be stealthy and silent: even though he was a good runner, it was hard to keep up with the black fox. Snow and trampled vegetation was scuffed everywhere by his paws, and the rustling of bushes was always in his ears.
They came to an old, fallen oak that would be an armful for a two-leg, leaning against two aspen trees. Falconheart smirked, knowing he had the fox this time.
Without even bothering to think about it, the black fox leaped right over the tree.
Falconheart skidded to a halt, his nose nearly brushing the dead tree. He paced alongside the tree, sniffing it. Falconheart got on his haunches and leaped. He made it partially, having to dig his claws in so he wouldn’t fall flat into the snow. Grunting and cursing his foul luck, Falconheart scrambled up the side of the fallen oak in the snow, and reaching the top.
Falconheart paused, taking in the scene. A small clearing, with a small impression in the snow next to a trampled bush, where scarlet splatters surrounded it; he gave the bush a look of distaste, and put his nose into the impression. “Was this where you were killed, Lilykit?” he whispered, and left the impression and the ruined bush.
Falconheart sniffed around, searching for tracks. Whoever had fed Lilykit the berries had covered her tracks, but he figured out where she had stood when Lilykit died. A clump of frosty ferns, two tail-lengths from the deathberry bush. A dark-furred cat could’ve easily hid in the shadows here.
Falconheart felt a tingling feeling in his stomach. StarClan was real. The black fox that led him to the tree was no coincidence: StarClan had sent it to bring him to the spot where Lilykit died. And he had narrowed the possible murderers down: it was a she-cat, because Lilykit referred to her killer as a “she,” and it was a dark-furred cat: black or brown or maybe even a gray color. Now, if it only if he could figure out whom it was exactly…
“Falconheart…” He nearly jumped out of his skin. He spun around, and there was Amberpelt, his back to the tree. Falconheart stared at the Deputy, too confused to greet him. Amberpelt did all the talking for him. “It is bad enough that you still believe in that mouse-brained mumbo-jumbo StarClan stuff, but now you try to turn ShadowClan against Pantherstar, and while you’re at it solve a fake murder. You have a lot on your paws.”
Falconheart blinked in surprise. “Start a ShadowClan rebellion? What makes you say that? And how did you figure out-”
Amberpelt silenced him with a flick of his yellow tail. “Putting your nose to Lilykit’s pelt when you knew we do not do foolish rituals any long? It was so touching the other cats had to do it. Soon, they’ll go back to believing in StarClan, and then they’ll go against Pantherstar. Then it will spread to the other Clans, and we will go back to our original ignorance. And as for Lilykit’s murder, it’s rather obvious. You are stupid enough to do it, and the way you ran from camp after taking your nose to her pelt made it obvious. Plus, I heard you talking to yourself. You’re going to solve a murder that didn’t happen.” Amberpelt uttered a sigh. “But either way, you’re number was up ever since that fire raged ThunderClan, it was just too hard to get rid of you.”
Falconheart’s eyes narrowed. “Are you intending to rip my throat, Amberpelt?”
Amberpelt nodded. “I’ll say we encountered a badger. Rip you up real good to prove it, too. Don’t worry: Pumpkinfrost will be a good Medicine Cat, better then you, anyway.”
He dashed at Falconheart, but the black tom managed to jump out of the way and trip Amberpelt up. Falconheart backed away from him, wary. “Was that meant to scare me?” he chuckled grimly, though he wished he hadn’t. Amberpelt let out a yowl of anger and slashed at Falconheart’s face, creating a gash from his ear and ripped down to his muzzle, luckily he hadn’t clawed Falconheart’s eyes.
Falconheart lunged at Amberpelt, pinning the yellow tom down. “Is Pantherstar involved?” Amberpelt was the Deputy, after all.
Amberpelt let out a hiss and kicked him off, throwing himself at Falconheart. He dug his fangs into his shoulder, clamping them down tight. Falconheart yowled in pain, and slammed his wrist in Amberpelt’s chest, with apparently enough force to knock Amberpelt away from him. A long strip of flesh dangled from Amberpelt’s jaws, and Falconheart’s shoulder was smothered in blood. Falconheart was glad that he wasn’t the only one in camp that knows how to cure a wound. Keep your mind on the present! You will not see Pumpkinfrost alive ever again if you let Amberpelt win! Falconheart rebuked himself, ducking from a blow to the head that could have knocked him to his paws. His eyes narrowed as Amberpelt’s throat became unprotected, and lunged.
Amberpelt gurgled as Falconheart dug his fangs into his throat. Pushing up with his back legs, Falconheart wrapped his front paws around Amberpelt’s waist. He sent Amberpelt down on his back, pinning the dying cat down. He spat out flap of torn out, bloodied skin and watched Amberpelt die.
His amber eyes glazed over in death as he bled out. Falconheart sighed and got off of Amberpelt, staring down at the bloodied snow. Someone was out for him. Someone wanted him gone: but even though he had a good hunch, Falconheart wasn’t entirely certain. Sighing, he took the dead Amberpelt by the scruff and dragged him back to camp. “What had happened to him?” Pantherstar said as ShadowClan crowded around Falconheart and Amberpelt.
The Medicine Cat set the Deputy down and sighed. “A fox attacked us. I was…” he paused. “I…I decided to get some deathberries. Amberpelt decided to join me.” He looked down, ashamed at his own lie. “And we ran into a black fox and…and he died.”
Pantherstar stared at her dead Deputy. “Is the fox dead?”
“Hmm…” Pantherstar tapped her muzzle with her black tail-tip. “Elders. Bury him.”
As the six weary cats dragged another dead cat for the second time that day to be buried, Whispertail walked up to him. He opened his mouth to speak, but suddenly she swiped at him, ripping his ear and making a long, blood gash that nearly went down to his throat. Falconheart flinched at the pain, and the spite in the queen’s eye. “My only daughter died by deathberries…and you dare try to bring those terrible things into this camp!? May you be dragged to the Dark Forest!”
“If the Dark Forest was real,” murmured Bearclaw, who appeared beside her; Whispertail opened her mouth as if she was going to disagree with him, but then quickly shut it.
She believes in StarClan and the Dark Forest just like I do…Falconheart thought, ignoring the pain in his face.
“Momma! Momma!” came a cry from the Nursery. “I’m hungry! Hungry!”
“Oh, Whistlekit!” Whispertail sighed. She glared at Falconheart, and then trotted over to the Nursery. “You’re too old for milk! Just look at your brothers, they are already eating shrews!”
Falconheart limped over to his den, where Pumpkinfrost waited. He was treated inside the log, in the compartment for Medicine Cats to sleep that was separated by a curtain of lichen from where the patients either slept or waited. While Pumpkinfrost wrapped cobwebs around his shoulder, she began to interrogate him. “Deathberries, huh? You wouldn’t let me bring only one into camp!”
Falconheart sighed. “That was a lie and a lie alone. I wanted to claw my throat out just saying it.”
Pumpkinfrost raised a brow. “Then why did you?”
Falconheart gave her a weak smile, and told her everything.
Falconheart woke up when someone was prodding in his good shoulder. When he opened his eyes, the Medicine Cat was surprised to see his apprentice standing over him, looking at Falconheart with intense, amber eyes. “I’m going to help you. I’m going to help you find Lilykit’s murderer.”
Falconheart paused, thinking. “You believe me?” She nodded. “It’s going to be dangerous, Pumpkinfrost. You know what Amberpelt tried to do.” He knew that he would never forget.
Pumpkinfrost nodded. “Yes,” she meowed. “But I’m willing to do it. If they try to kill my mentor, they can kill me, too.” She looked at him with sad eyes. “You’re like a father to me, Falconheart. You know I’ve always wanted a father.”
Falconheart was too shocked to say anything at first. He loved Pumpkinfrost, too, but not in a father-daughter way. It had appeared to him that she saw Falconheart as that rambling teacher, trying to stuff added knowledge into her mind while showing her the more Medicine Cat-ish lessons. Falconheart prodded the floor, opening his mouth but not exactly sure what to say. Thankfully, the yowls of shock and fury saved him.
Falconheart and Pumpkinfrost scrambled to their paws, tearing into the clearing. ShadowClan cats surrounded a WindClan cat, Falconheart remembering the time WindClan raided ShadowClan camp in a brutal war in his kithood. Falconheart had nearly been carried away by WindClan, but had been saved by his mother, who gave her life for him that day. But the fire at ThunderClan territory was the nightmare that stalked him at night, not seeing his mother batter at an enemy, and then dived into a bramble that covered her from his sight. Maybe Falconheart would have nightmares about it if he had witnessed his mother’s death, but no.
The WindClan cat crouched down, shaking with fright. Pantherstar leaped onto the High Oak, furious. “Kill him!” she hissed.
“No, no! Please, wait!” the WindClan cat meowed. “My name is Redfeather! I am here to announce that Silverstar was nearly murdered today – and not by a power hungry cat, but by a rebel!”
The cats froze in place. “A rebel!?” they whispered to each other, acting as if all the mice were poisoned.
“Silverstar sent me – Redfeather, the fastest cat in WindClan – to ask the leaders if they will come to the Island to have a meeting. You see, the rebel that nearly slaughtered Silverstar (may he live forever) said there were others...” he shuddered.
Everybody turned to Pantherstar expectantly. She stared at Redfeather for a moment, then meowed, “When?”
“Now,” Redfeather replied.
Pantherstar nodded. “Very well then. ShadowClan will be there.”
Redfeather smiled and nodded vigorously. “Expect WindClan and RiverClan to already be there. I will go get ThunderClan now.” And without a word, he dashed off.
Pantherstar let out a hiss. “Mouseleaf, Mosstail – catch that fool down, and come get to the Island when he crosses the ThunderClan border.” The two she-cats dashed away wordlessly. “Bearclaw, Birchtail, Shadeclaw, and Berrypaw – guard the camp. This could be a WindClan trick.”
The rest of the Clan – excluding the queens unable to go, and most of the Elders – headed out of the camp, and into the forest. It was a silent trek that made Falconheart uneasy. The thought of rebels and what Amberpelt had told him last night made the tom queasy inside. He wobbled stopped for a moment. “What’s wrong?” Pumpkinfrost asked as a mouse-length ahead, looking at him over her shoulder.
“Belly-ache,” he grunted. “Nothing some junipers can’t cure.” And they continued, Falconheart quickening his pace.
They entered RiverClan territory, and tensions mounted. It was only seven days ago that they attacked RiverClan, and they were not on good terms with RiverClan’s leader, Featherstar, because of it.
Even though it was expected, RiverClan did not ambush them. Falconheart and Pumpkinfrost were crossing the fallen tree when the Elder, Leopardfang, slipped and fell into the chilled lake below. Some bubbles rose to the top where he had fallen, and then his head pushed out of the water, gasping for air. He dug his claws into the tree, crying for help. Falconheart and Pumpkinfrost were too stunned to act at first, and Leopardfang needed to urge the two cats some more before they managed to shake out of it. They were about to lunge in and grab him when Mosstail appeared beside them. Mouseleaf leaped onto the tree. “No!” the tortishell cried out as Mosstail’s paw darted down at Leopardfang. Her claws caught him at the jugular, and she pulled it upward. Blood spurted onto the tree, and the old tom fell into the Lake, his blood mixing with the water.
“Move,” Mosstail hissed at them, ignoring the blood on her claws. They stared at her wide-eyed, until they managed to move their chilled paws.
Redfeather was right: WindClan and RiverClan were already there, Silverstar and Featherstar sitting on the branches of the tall tree. Pantherstar made her way over there, leaping from branch to branch up to the cats. Falconheart noticed that everybody in ShadowClan had alienated themselves from WindClan and RiverClan, who were trying to the same to them. With the Clans hostility at each other ever since they broke away from StarClan and the Warriors Code, Falconheart was afraid to say he wasn’t surprised.
Suddenly, a cat cried. “Look at Silverstar! Look at him!” It was Snakepaw. The cats all lifted their heads up to look at the silver tom, and there were slight gasps. A long gash was on his throat, not noticeable at first because he was so high up in the tree.
“How did he survive?” Pumpkinfrost whispered to Falconheart. “Certainly he no nine lives? He does not believe in StarClan…does he?”
Falconheart shrugged. “I don’t know. The scar isn’t deep enough to kill him – maybe he was moving when the rebel attacked or had a change of heart. Or maybe he has a very good Medicine Cat,” he chuckled.
There was rustling from the brush surrounding the Island’s shore. Falconheart knew who it was, and immediately forced himself to find a blade of grass more interesting than ThunderClan. He just couldn’t take it: the burn marks on the Warriors; on their Leader…It reminded him of that apprentice, the deathberries…
Falconheart realized he was shaking. He swallowed, and dug his claws into the dirt, forcing himself to be calm. When the ThunderClan Leader was with the other Leaders, Silverstar called them all to attention with a yowl. “I have an announcement,” he growled. “Some of you may have noticed” – he glared in the direction of Snakepaw – “that I have a scar on my throat. This was caused by a rebel: a traitor to the Clans! But he failed in trying to kill me, and now the fool is nothing but a bloody smudge. I want to say to you all, Leaders and Warriors, that you should be wary of anything suspicious. We may have a war on our paws,” he grumbled.
Featherstar nodded. “Yes. I have heard that there is a small group of cats in ShadowClan that is planning to take over the Clans.” She blinked at Pantherstar. “Is this true, Pantherstar?”
“I have heard,” Falconheart cringed when the ThunderClan Leader, Icestar, spoke up, “that there are rebels in all the Clans. I have tortured some apprentices that have spat upon me. I would not be surprised if there are some in RiverClan that would love to do the same, Featherstar.”
“I have picked a new Deputy,” Pantherstar meowed. “Her name is Blacklight. Come down and sit at the roots, Blacklight.” Falconheart heard Micepaw and some others cheer.
“Thank you, thank you,” she purred, padding over to the roots.
“Yes, yes. Very well,” Silverstar muttered. “But what about our rebel situation, Pantherstar?”
“I say us Leaders meet here every five days to talk about anything suspicious,” Pantherstar meowed. “If one of us announces any rebel activity, we gather our Clan here to talk about it.”
“I agree,” Featherstar meowed.
“I agree,” Icestar said.
“And I agree, too, but has there been any rebel activity in ShadowClan!?” Silverstar insisted.
“Oh, rebels?” Pantherstar purred, and looked down at Falconheart. Her eyes were blood-thirsty and ruthless, almost mad. “Oh, I know who my rebel is…”
Falconheart was unable to listen to the rest of the Gathering: a very important meeting, the Leaders called it. His suspicions were clear: Pantherstar had plotted with Amberpelt to kill him, because they thought he was trying to stir a rebellion. And maybe he was and Falconheart just hadn’t realized it, but at the moment Falconheart was just worrying about his life. When was the next time that Pantherstar would try to murder him? Judging by the look of malice Pantherstar gave him, it was soon. Falconheart knew he would need his claws unsheathed until the Leaders had decided that this rebellion was over.
“The very important meeting is over!” Silverstar yowled.
Pantherstar climbed down the tree and jumped down, landing softly besides Blacklight, who had replaced Amberpelt. With a flick of her tail, the ShadowClan cats filed out, and they were the first ones to leave the Island. Returning to ShadowClan was like leaving it: silent and awkward. Not a cat spoke, and there was tension in the air. Falconheart supposed they were worried if the four guards left behind had done their jobs right. Falconheart hoped so, too. He would yowl in anguish if he saw poor Whispertail and her remaining kits ripped apart by a predator, or maybe even from another Clan. One of Clans could have sent a splinter group to attack ShadowClan camp while most of their warriors were away.
The ShadowClan cats went pass the RiverClan border, and through their dense woodland. They entered the camp entrance, and were happy to see that no blood had been spilled. Falconheart was worn out, and dragged himself over to his den. Falconheart held back a yawn as he entered the log, then passed the curtain the lichen. Falconheart smoothed his nest with his paws, and lay down, using his paws as a pillow. He saw Pumpkinfrost poke her head through the curtain, before closing his eyes and falling asleep.
When Falconheart woke up and walked pushed past the lichen, he was surprised to see Pumpkinfrost sleeping at the entrance to the den, snoring. Falconheart shook his head in annoyance, and prodded her in the back. She opened her eyes slowly, then jumped to her orange paws, hissing, “Go to the Dark Forest, assassin!”
He dodged a narrow swipe to the head. “What in StarClan’s name are you doing, Pumpkinfrost!?”
Pumpkinfrost flinched. “I, uh, I…err, well…”
Falconheart silenced with a flick of his tail. “Why didn’t you sleep in your nest last night?”
“I didn’t mean to fall asleep out here…” Falconheart watched as Pumpkinfrost trailed off, and her nodded, and her eyes slid, barely open.
Falconheart smiled, resting a tail on her shoulder. “Go get some sleep, Pumpkinfrost. I’ll take care of myself today.”
Pumpkinfrost started to complain, but a twitch of his black tail-tip silenced her. Sighing, Pumpkinfrost padded into the Medicine Cat’s compartment, pushing past the curtain lazily. Falconheart waited until she was out of sight, and padded out of his den to check the cache holes. Much to his surprise, the dock supply was severely low. “When did that happen?” he mumbled to himself.
Falconheart turned and padded to the camp entrance. “Hey, Falconheart!” He turned around, and Mouseleaf and Snakepaw padded swiftly up to him.
“May we come with you? I want to work on my hunting skills,” Snakepaw explained.
“He’s a very good fighter, but a little clumsy with his stalk,” Mouseleaf said.
Falconheart nodded. “Just don’t scare away the herbs!” he purred with a wink.
They walked out of the camp, and a light snowfall came down on them. Falconheart sniffed around, trying to find dock. They stopped walking when Snakepaw scented a rodent and stalked off, and didn’t continue walking until he returned with a scrawny vole.
Falconheart stamped his foot down in the snow in frustration. There wasn’t any dock leaves anywhere. He was happy for Mouseleaf and Snakepaw; the young tom had managed to catch the vole with an expert swipe. And here Falconheart was tramping about, unsuccessful in every way.
A wind violently blew at his fluffy black fur, making Falconheart wince at its bitter coldness. “Brrrrr!” Snakepaw shook. “It’s getting cold. Can we go back to camp, Mouseleaf?”
“When Falconheart gets his herbs,” she replied coolly. Falconheart frowned. What if it took all night to find those cursed dock leaves? With his luck, Falconheart wouldn’t be surprise.
Whoooooo…The wind blew into Falconheart’s ear ceaselessly in its ghostly, literally and metaphorically chilling manner.
They entered the clearing where young Lilykit died, having gone in the opposite direction where the old tree lay. The snows from two nights back had filled the impression in the snow where her body had lay, and now covered the ruined bush. The scarlet splotches were gone, cleared away by the snowflakes. But despite the changes, Falconheart could easily make out the scene in his head. The dark she-cat in the ferns, tempting little Lilykit, Lilykit biting a deathberry…Falconheart shuddered and shut his eyes, shaking his head to block out the image of the dying she-kit, poisoned by the deathberries.
The wind seemed to pick up here, and got so loud that he thought he heard cat whispering in the wind. He nearly laughed at himself. “I’m back!” Snakepaw nearly startled him as he jumped out of the ferns where Lilykit’s murderer had hid, a robin dangling from his jaws. “It had a broken wing, so it was an easy kill,” he told Mouseleaf, laying the robin at her paws next to the vole. He looked over at Falconheart, a confused face. “What’s wrong, Falconheart? You look like you saw a ghost!”
Falconheart looked down, embarrassed. “I guess I wasn’t paying attention to you two,” he said with a slight shrug, and went to sit with the two other cats.
Falconheart turned to where the impression was, remembering it all too well. The whispers in the wind came back to him, and he closed his eyes, wondering if he could think up something that the wind would actually tell him. “Well, I suppose we should move on,” Snakepaw mused, grabbing his prey.
“Mmm-hmm,” Falconheart grunted.
Falconheart obeyed, coming closer to the ruined bush. He sat beside it, perking his ears to listen to the whispers. Suddenly the voice that had belonged to a tom was replaced by a gruff she-cat’s meow. “He has been rambling about StarClan to his apprentice; she’s been teaching them to that Mouseleaf cat, and she’s been talking to her annoying apprentice about Snakepaw, who has been talking to Whispertail about it, and she’s been teaching those StarClan myths to her kits.” It was Pantherstar.
He could hear Amberpelt hiss, it was so close it felt like the dead Deputy was whispering furiously into Falconheart’s ear. It made the Medicine Cat shudder. “It’s a chain reaction.”
“I think it’s rather obvious what we must do,” Blacklight, the new Deputy, muttered gravely.
“Kill the fool that started it.” Falconheart was surprised that they had dragged Blacklight’s apprentice, Micepaw, into the grim conversation.
“But we must be secretive about it,” whispered Pantherstar’s wind. “Say a badger did it.”
“And why not?” came Amberpelt. “Could teach ShadowClan what happens when you betray them…”
“But we are only killing him because of his beliefs. That may out-rage some of our cats, thus only making the fire of rebellion much larger,” Pantherstar explained. “Now, Amberpelt…I’m appointing you to kill him-”
“No! I won’t let you kill Falconheart!” hissed little Lilykit. Where ever they were having their conversation, it was in camp, that or Lilykit had snuck past Whispertail’s vigilant eye. “He hasn’t done anything wrong to you, you, you…bullies!”
“Hey, Falconheart?” peeped Snakepaw. Falconheart nearly hissed in frustration; now that the apprentice had spoken, he could barely make out what the whispering winds were saying.
“What?” Falconheart muttered.
“We, uh…We need to go.”
“Okay,” Falconheart meowed.
“Don’t worry, Lilykit,” Pantherstar’s wind whispered. “You’ve proven us wrong; we won’t kill him. We apologize for even having the thought. I have an idea: for being such a good cat, why don’t we go out into the forest and I’ll give you a big treat tomorrow…”
“Oh,” Lilykit whispered. “Can you at least tell me what it looks like?”
“It’s something you eat. That’s all-” Pantherstar was interrupted.
“We mean with you, Falconheart,” Mouseleaf said.
Falconheart nodded. “Go on without me. I want to look for some dock leaves…” He barely paid attention to what he was saying.
Snakepaw and Mouseleaf exchanged glances. “Well…okay.” They hesitated, waiting to see if he would change his mind, and padded away.
“Go up the trees!” it was the tom-cat that had beckoned him to the bush. “She who calls is coming!”
Falconheart scrambled to his paws, panicking for a moment. “Go! Go!” urged the voice.
Falconheart dashed away, the snow beginning to come down harder and faster than it had when he woke up. “There!” cried the voice as the Medicine Cat looked up at the branches of a tall pine. He scurried up the trunk, slithering through the branches until he was concealed in the limbs.
A black-furred she-cat came into the clearing the same way they did. Pantherstar! Falconheart gasped in his mind.
Pantherstar sniffed around. “He was just here…” she hissed, stomping her paw into the snow. Pantherstar came to the deathberry bush, sniffing the indentation in the snow that Falconheart had made sitting there, listening to the whispers in the wind. “How did I miss him!?” she grumbled. She sniffed around the indentation. “There’s a scent…” she whispered. “But the snow has covered up any tracks…” Falconheart mouthed a prayer of thanks to StarClan.
“I ruined his dock leaves for nothing! Oh…I’ll kill him later!” Pantherstar screeched, and bounded out of the clearing.
Falconheart waited, the snow falling on him and his branches. He began to climb down the tree, now slippery with snow. He padded a few tail-lengths away from the pine that had helped in his rescue from the murderous Pantherstar. Falconheart perked his ears up, trying to listen to anything else that the wind had to tell him. And then he realized that the wind had died down.
The whispers in the wind had been muted.
A day had passed since Falconheart listened to the whispers in the wind. He knew now that it was Pantherstar that had small Lilykit the deathberries, and StarClan wanted him to bring the ShadowClan Leader to justice. Why else had he heard the whispers of the past, and not Mouseleaf and Snakepaw? He held himself with pride, very happy that it was he, and not some other cat, that StarClan had picked.
Falconheart was checking his stock when someone poked it’s into his shoulder. Falconheart was so shocked that he nearly jumped out of his skin. He whipped around, his neck-fur standing on end. Pantherstar let out an mrrow of laughter. “My, jumpy today, aren’t we.”
Falconheart frowned, and sat down. “What is it?” he asked.
Pantherstar smiled. “When Blackfire, Mousepaw, Berrypaw, and Mosstail discovered Lilykit’s body and brought it back to camp, you said you had a conclusion of your own. I would like to hear it now.”
Falconheart was slow in his response. His mind was racing and his heart was pounding. “Yes…Yes, I do,” he meowed. “But I would like to say it in front of the Clan.”
Pantherstar nodded slowly. “Very well,” she grunted, and nodded over to the High Oak. She jumped onto the log before Falconheart made his way across the clearing and up to the tall tree. He jumped and scaled its branches, stopping at where Pantherstar sat to address a Clan meeting.
Falconheart realized that some of the cats had noticed him on the High Oak, and were staring at him. It took the Medicine Cat a moment to find his voice, “Pantherstar has allowed me…” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. Falconheart swallowed the lump that had magically appeared in his throat. “Pantherstar has allowed me…” Louder this time. More cats began looking at him. “PANTHERSTAR HAS ALLOWED ME!” He was screaming this time, catching every cat in the camp’s attention. Falconheart flinched as he stared back at the eyes, and swallowed more saliva.
“Pantherstar has allowed me,” he meowed, his voice perfect this time. “To tell the Clan how I think Lilykit died.”
Falconheart wasn’t sure why, but his eyes trailed over to Whispertail, who was staring at him with pure hatred in her eyes. “Why are you opening wounds that have just begun to heal?” she seemed to be yowling at him, anguish and fury boiling together in her blue eyes.
“I…I do not think her death was an accident,” Falconheart continued, “Instead, I believe she was murdered.”
“Murdered!?” someone gasped.
“Yes. I have seen the clearing where she was killed,” Falconheart meowed. “There was a patch of vegetation that a dark-furred cat could have easily hid in.”
Falconheart was about to tell them what Lilykit had said, about the dark she-cat, but thought better of it. None of these cats believe in StarClan and after-life. Well, except a few, he thought, remembering Pumpkinfrost, Mouseleaf, Snakepaw, Whispertail, and her kits.
“I believe it was a she-cat who killed her. And not just any she-cat…a Leader!” he announced.
There was shock all around. Screams of out-rage poured through. “It must’ve been Icestar!”
“No, Icestar has white fur.”
“What about Featherstar?”
“I don’t really think she did it…”
“SILENCE!” Pantherstar suddenly yowled. She nodded to Falconheart. “Continue.”
“Y-yes, but it is not a Leader of another Clan…” The camp was filled with silence. Falconheart felt as if impending doom awaited him. “It was our Leader. It was Pantherstar that killed Lilykit, all because she over-heard them plotting to kill a cat that had done no wrong against her, but she just feared that he might, and Lilykit said she would tell everybody! That is why Whispertail has no daughter now! Because of a tyrant’s cruel claw!”
Falconheart hadn’t meant to go on like that. His eyes travelled up to Pantherstar. She wasn’t fearful or enraged. She was…happy. Pantherstar was smiling, her tail curled over her paws. Falconheart wasn’t sure why, but he shuddered as he stared into her cordial eyes.
“…Who told you this?” It was Blackfire.
Falconheart hesitated, and then mumbled, “StarClan.”
“What? What did he say?” asked one of the Elders.
“Yes, what did you say, Falconheart?” Pantherstar said in a cooing voice.
“I didn’t hear him, either,” Berrypaw meowed.
“I said…I said StarClan! StarClan told me!” he called out. A heavy silence fell on the Clan cats once again. Falconheart stared at them, waiting for their response. They just sat there, staring at him with wide eyes.
“Traitor.” He heard Mosstail mutter.
“Rebel!” Bearclaw hissed.
“I call upon all rebels,” Pantherstar announced, “shall be immediately killed.”
Falconheart stared up at her, realization hitting him harder than a monster: Pantherstar! She is the one who calls!
Suddenly, cats rushed up to the tree, swarming it. They began to scaling its bark, yowling and laughing, as if it was a festival. Cats began climbing the High Oak’s branches, calling for Falconheart’s death.