|The Soaring Wren Series: Return to the Clans|
|The Departure||Succeded by: |
- 1 Blurb
- 2 Prologue
- 3 Chapter One - Leafpaw
- 4 Chapter Two - Hollypaw
- 5 Chapter Three - Wrenstar
- 6 Chapter Four - Soarpaw
- 7 Chapter Five - Wrenstar
- 8 Chapter Six - Leafpaw
- 9 Chapter Seven - Soarpaw
- 10 Chapter Eight - Hollypaw
- 11 Chapter Nine - Wrenstar
- 12 Chapter Ten - Soarpaw
- 13 Chapter Eleven - Leafpaw
- 14 Chapter Twelve - Hollypaw
- 15 Author's Note
In the second addition in The Soaring Wren Series: Return to the Clans, we see into what has become of the fifth Clan.
The WillowClan camp has been destroyed. The cats of WillowClan have set a date to leave. But even the prospect of leaving doesn't come without fear.
The deaths of three Clanmates have just made the Clan weaker, and even Wrenstar is struggling under the burden. Can the Clan pull the strength together to get through, and to depart as one - to what could be their new home?
Meanwhile, the omens are increasing for Leafpaw. Can she forsee what is happening to the fifth Clan - and what's going on - before it's too late?
The warriors in the sky were somber as they stared down on the WillowClan camp. Willow branched ravaged the place, scattered over the land. They could see three unmoving shapes caught among the branches - one gray, one tortoiseshell, one ginger-and-white. A dark brown shape lay separately, not moving.
"It's worse from up here," reflected a tortoiseshell she-cat, her yellow eyes brimming with sorrow. "My father will be so upset to hear of my death..."
A dark brown cat was beside the tortoiseshell, her tail-tip resting on her shoulder. "It was the same with me," she mewed quietly. "Except that it was my mate."
"I remember the day that I had to say goodbye," the tortoiseshell sobbed. "That was hard. At least I had Dewfrost." She sighed. "He was a great father."
"And a great mate," whispered the dark brown cat.
The dark brown cat lifted her head to see a black-and-white tom sitting nearby. The tortoiseshell didn't meet his eyes, only buried her nose into Fennelcloud's fur and sniffed loudly.
"Do you know where Soaringstar is?" asked the black-and-white cat. "I need to ask him something."
"He's gone down to the living," growled a silver cat, his head poking out from a bush. "He was going to visit Wrenstar, Toadleap."
Toadleap snorted. "I should've guessed that." The black-and-white tom stormed away.
"Typical," snorted a dark-furred she-cat. Her fur was bristling wildly. "Toadleap likes to think he knows everything."
"Oh, yes," said Fennelcloud. The dark tabby paused, then changed the subject. "Now, what's happening to us?"
"We're going to have to change skies again," growled a dark gray she-cat. Her amber eyes burned into Fennelcloud's pelt. "I am one of the few that will return."
Fennelcloud dipped her head, as did the silver tom. "Of course, Willow," she purred.
The tortoiseshell's eyes were round as she stared at the dark gray she-cat. "The founder of WillowClan," she whispered under her breath.
"Will they be fine?" asked the silver tom.
"They will be, Darkshade," mewed Willow. "You'll see. It will be just like the first time."
The tortoiseshell she-cat sniffed miserably in reply. "I do-don't w-want t-to le-eave," she stammered.
"We're going to have to, Pineleaf," whispered Fennelcloud, her amber gaze sorrowful. "There's nothing we can do."
Willow nodded. "There's nothing. We'll send a message to someone about when to leave."
"To who?" asked a dark blue-gray she-cat, who snorted again. "WillowClan has two medicine cats, remember that."
Willow's amber gaze was thoughtful. "Bluemist, I know which one to send it to. Fennelcloud will give the message to her."
Fennelcloud jumped. "Me?" The dark brown tabby's fur bristled in anticipation.
Willow nodded, and flicked her tail for Fennelcloud to come closer. "Yes. This is the message I want you to give..."
Chapter One - Leafpaw
Littered remains of trees scattered the ground in front of her. Yowling of cats split the air.
"Run!" yowled a cat from the crowd, the noise barely heard above the ruckus of the monsters.
Most of the cats were fleeing, fleeing away. A dark brown tabby cat was standing at the entrance. All the cats inside that were seen were fleeing from the noises.
She was full of fear, couldn't move. And yet she wasn't there at all...
Now she wasn't there. She was falling... falling into blackness...
Leafpaw blinked open her eyes to see the CloudClan medicine den. Streamreed was bending over her: she must have been the cat that was calling Leafpaw's name.
"What was up with you?" Streamreed mewed crossly. "You were squirming like a fox in a fit!"
"Sorry," Leafpaw mewed, fixing her green gaze on her paws. Despite this, she couldn't help but think about what she had seen in her dream. It felt so real...
Was that happening to WillowClan? she thought worriedly. She was instantly reminded of the Gathering, two days ago.
After the leaders had made their report, Leafpaw could have sworn she felt a whisper in her ear. It had said this: A great doom is coming. Something that no cat can stop. The holly's thorn and the wing that soars must save the Clan of the willows from themselves falling. Follow the clouds, and you will find an oak, with clouds, currents, hollows, and leaves. Find the leaf's sedge in the clouds, and there will be five once more.
What could that message had meant? Was it something from StarClan?
There will be five once more. The last part of the message rang in Leafpaw's mind. Did that mean that the vision was in WillowClan, and that their home was being destroyed?
Maybe the message from StarClan and that vision were related somehow.
"Leafpaw! Are you listening?"
Leafpaw jumped, and turned towards Streamreed again. The dark gray she-cat looked unimpressed.
"Leafpaw," she mewed, her amber eyes narrowing, "what is up with you today? You're most unlike your normal self."
Leafpaw didn't reply. Her mind was still focused on that vision. All those cats, running from those monsters... fleeing...
"Go get a piece of fresh-kill, so that you can concentrate," hissed Streamreed, flicking her thick tail to the den entrance. "Maybe that will help you."
Sighing, Leafpaw moved out of the den, tail trailing in the dust. Meanwhile, the usual hustle and bustle in the CloudClan camp was going on as usual.
"Come on, Duskpaw," mewed Muddapple. The speckled brown she-cat looked harassed. "Time for training."
The dark brown tabby tom - who was Leafpaw's only brother - ignored his mentor's words. Instead, he padded up to Leafpaw's side.
"You're not yourself today, are you?" he whispered.
Leafpaw was silent for a moment, before she shook her head. "No - I'm not."
For a moment, she and Duskpaw sat side by side, letting the warm newleaf sun shine on their pelts. The troubles that Leafpaw was facing swam in her mind. What did that vision mean?
Chapter Two - Hollypaw
Hollypaw skidded to a halt abruptly. She could see the Moonfall, not gleaming as it was in the night. Staring around wildly, she looked into the eyes of some of her Clanmates.
Hollypaw turned to see Riverkit. The little silver tom was staring at the Moonfall.
"It's the Moonfall, little one," whispered Silverfern. The silver she-cat licked her son's ear as she went on. "It's the Gathering place - and where Wrenstar, Meadowcloud and Soarpaw share tongues with StarClan."
"Can I touch it?" asked Riverkit, brightening up.
"No," said Silverfern, picking Riverkit up by his scruff. All that time, Silverfern's mate, Addertalon, and Riverkit's sister, Fernkit, had been watching.
Those two aren't affected by this, aren't they? Hollypaw thought.
On the other hand, Bramblefern's kits looked rather worried about the situation.
"I don't think the willows are going to grow back," squeaked Branchkit, the biggest and eldest of Bramblefern's three kits. "The monsters only want them to fall down!"
"They'll grow them back," mewed Littlekit stubbornly. "StarClan won't move us!"
"Bet they won't," Branchkit replied loftily.
The third kit, Wolfkit, wasn't saying anything. The silver tom's bushy tail was flicking side to side apprehensively.
Those three! Hollypaw thought, trying to hold back a purr. The three kits were only a moon younger than her and Soarpaw, and were due to become apprentices around the time of the new moon.
"I'll be glad when this is over," Bramblefern muttered, turning to her mate, Rockshine - who was also Hollypaw's mentor. "It wasn't as bad with my first -" Bramblefern broke off awkwardly.
Hollypaw turned to see Dewfrost. The dark gray tom looked harassed.
"Do you know where your mother is?" the deputy asked. "And Cinderdust, Burninggaze, and Pineleaf?"
Hollypaw shook her head. "I thought Wrenstar would've turned up by now.
Dewfrost gave a weary sigh: the pain of not finding Pineleaf was obviously hitting him hard. "We'll just see. If Wrenstar's not here soon, I'll be sending out a search patrol." After that moment, Dewfrost turned tail on her and stormed away.
"Wrenstar's not in the camp?" Rockshine mewed, surprised. "Dewfrost is right - she should be here by now."
A concerned look swept onto Bramblefern's face at Rockshine's words. "Don't remind me about that," she growled. "That was painful."
What's Bramblefern talking about? Hollypaw thought in confusion. But that was the least of her worries at the moment. The most important thing was finding Wrenstar - wherever she was. In this situation, it was important that she would be found - as well as Cinderdust, Burninggaze, and Pineleaf.
Oh Wrenstar, Cinderdust, Burninggaze, Pineleaf - where are you?
Chapter Three - Wrenstar
The banging of monsters continued in the background as Wrenstar came to. Staring around, she knew something wasn't right.
This isn't the WillowClan camp...
Staring down at her paws, she saw the problem. Below her, she could see all of WillowClan territory. The Moonfall stood at the edge of her vision. Seeing her Clanmates wreathing around it, Wrenstar breathed a sigh of relief.
"This didn't come without loss."
Wrenstar turned to see a pale ginger cat standing behind her. His amber eyes shone with something Wrenstar couldn't see. Pride - or sorrow?
"No, it didn't," Wrenstar whispered in reply. "Three lives lost."
The ginger cat sighed. "Four - in a sense."
"What do you mean - in a sense?" Wrenstar hissed crossly. She wasn't in the mood to muck about!
"You've lost a life," the ginger warrior mewed softly.
Words echoed in Wrenstar's mind, from her leadership ceremony. Her first life - given by Rosefall, her foster mother - for strength, had been lost already by a border skirmish with some rogues, two moons after she had borne Hollypaw and Soarpaw.
This life, on the other hand, was from Sparrowsong, her foster father. His words echoed in Wrenstar's mind, as clear as they were when she got them.
"I give you a life for courage," the dark brown tom had mewed, their gazes meeting. "Lead your Clan into battle. You must lead them - no matter what."
"I wish I had gotten to meet my two daughters," the ginger cat went on, jolting Wrenstar away from her thoughts. "They were my only kits."
Wrenstar shuffled her paws guiltily. Their kits had grown up without a father.
"Go," whispered the former leader. "You have Fernkit's life to live now. Don't forget to show forgiveness."
The last words the cat had said Wrenstar barely heard. She let herself fall into darkness.
Jolting awake, Wrenstar heard the treating rumble of the monsters once more. Scrambling to her paws, her eyes widened as she saw the ravaged camp.
It was unrecognizable. Chopped pieces of willows scattered the ground, and branches spanned the length of the camp. Wrenstar swore the sight tore her heart in two.
My Clan's home is gone...
She couldn't bear to look any longer. Turning her back on the sight, Wrenstar sprinted away, through the paths of willows where many cats before her had walked. But this time, it felt different.
She didn't have a home anymore - and neither did her Clan.
Blindly stumbling through the paths between the willows, the roar of the monsters fading behind her, all Wrenstar's instincts were to get her to the Moonfall. Her legs were aching - she reminded herself that she had to take herself easy after losing a life - but she continued.
And at long last, she saw the sight that she wanted to see. She heard a cat' voice yowling:
"Dewfrost! Dewfrost!' Wrenstar's here at last!"
Chapter Four - Soarpaw
Soarpaw crouched wearily at the edge of the clearing, watching the WillowClan cats around her swarm around the Moonfall. All the worry from the morning was still afresh in every cat's mind. No cat was safe, it seemed - not after that.
"Aspendusk, I'm - I'm scared."
Soarpaw turned around, and saw Aspendusk and Splashstrike sitting nearby. Splashstrike's voice was shaking.
"What if Burninggaze doesn't live?" the blue-gray she-cat went on. "He's the only family I've had since - since then -" Splashstrike turned to sob into Aspendusk's thick gray fur.
"Since the -" Aspendusk started, but Splashstrike interrupted him.
"Don't remind me," the she-cat sniffed.
Soarpaw felt some sympathy for Splashstrike. The she-cat had been rather worried about her family - ever since her mother and two littermates had died the moon before she had been apprenticed to Dewfrost. The only member of family she had left in the Clan was her father, Burninggaze.
Aspendusk sighed. "It's the same for my sister," he said quietly: Soarpaw knew that the dark tom was talking about Pineleaf. "I hope that they aren't both dead."
"Is that Nightfleck?" Smallspeck rasped from where he was crouching at the edge of the camp. The gray elder flicked his tail. "He was looking out for Wrenstar -"
Smallspeck's words were cut off as Nightfleck yowled: "Wrenstar's here at last!"
"That solves that problem," Aspendusk huffed. "Let's see if she knows anything about those three."
At that moment, Soarpaw realized that Cinderdust was also missing.
She lifted her head to see Wrenstar stumble into the camp. Soarpaw saw Meadowcloud rise to her paws, and rush over to Wrenstar.
"She's tired," Nightfleck mewed, as the silver-flecked tom padding into the camp after his leader. "Isn't that unusual? She shouldn't have been this tired."
Soarpaw saw Dewfrost nodding in agreement.
Soarpaw turned, and saw a sight that she thought she would never see.
A dark brown tabby she-cat was standing there, fur thick and sleek, amber eyes bright. Soarpaw knew this cat - it was Fennelcloud, Dewfrost's mate, and the mother of Aspendusk and Pineleaf. She had died of greencough, which had spread through the camp in leaf-bare. Soarpaw shuddered in worry, and in fear.
"Fennelcloud," she whispered in reply.
"It is good to see you again, Soarpaw," Fennelcloud purred. "I have come to you with a message from StarClan."
"StarClan?" Soarpaw echoed.
Fennelcloud nodded. "When the moon is gone, the willows will return to their past."
What? "That doesn't make any sense!" she yowled at Fennelcloud. "Tell me more!"
Fennelcloud said nothing, but smiled. The she-cat's outline faded until she was a puff of smoke, and then nothing.
Soarpaw blinked. All the cats in the clearing were looking at Wrenstar. Dewfrost was asking: "Do you know where Burninggaze, Cinderdust, and Pineleaf are?"
Wrenstar looked down at her paws. The WillowClan leader raised her head, and mewed quietly: "All of them are dead."
Chapter Five - Wrenstar
Grief had hung in the air for the past few days after the felling of the willows. Cinderdust, Burninggaze, and Pineleaf had been well missed in the camp. It had affected all the cats - especially Splashstrike, who had taken to moping around the temporary camp.
Wrenstar felt as if she had recovered from the loss of a life. It had been hard - Sparrowsong was the giver of that life, and he had been her foster father in the Clan. But she had to move on.
"Gather, cats of WillowClan!" she yowled from the front of the Moonfall. Wearily, her cats moved closer.
All of the WillowClan cats were tired. They had disliked the fact that Wrenstar had refused to make dens around the Moonfall.
"Why aren't you?" Silverfern had yowled at her, her blue eyes blazing. "My kits will freeze!"
"It's newleaf," Wrenstar countered. "Fernkit and Riverkit are over the worst of the weather. And if we have to leave -" as she said that, Wrenstar felt a lump in her throat - "we won't be able to make dens every night.
Silverfern had just snorted impatiently as she stormed away.
Now all of the cats of WillowClan had gathered around the Moonfall. Wrenstar stretched each leg in turn, before she opened her mouth to speak:
"I am sure," she meowed, "that we won't be able to get our home back now. As such I have decided that we will leave here at the new moon, to find some new hunting grounds." Wrenstar felt a lump in her throat - she didn't want to leave her home. But if her Clan was threatened by the monsters, she knew that she should lead her Clan to safety, rather than letting them stay and starve to death.
There was a shocked silence after Wrenstar's words. Then Silverfern angrily rose to her paws.
"Why have you decided to leave?" she meowed at her former mentor. "We can't leave the place where our ancestors brought us! Besides, my kits are too young to travel."
Wrenstar flicked her tail impatiently. "We can't be threatened by these falling willows," she replied. "We'll lose cats, and die out."
There was a silence as Silverfern sat down again. Then the WillowClan medicine cat, Meadowcloud, rose to her paws.
"Cats of WillowClan," she meowed, "it is painful to see my home being destroyed. But Wrenstar is right. Cats will starve, and WillowClan will die out. I am sure it is not StarClan's will for this to happen."
"And what if it is?" Silverfern hissed at the medicine cat.
There was a shocked silence after Silverfern's words. All the WillowClan cats had turned towards the silver tabby she-cat. In response, Silverfern leant on her mate, Addertalon, while her two kits mewled at her paws.
"WillowClan is strong," Meadowcloud mewed calmly. "I am confident that our Clan won't die. But for this to happen, we have to leave."
Some cats in the clearing were nodding, others shaking their heads. Wrenstar felt an idea pop into her head.
A vote! Why don't we vote to decide whether we should stay or leave?
"Silverfern," Wrenstar mewed calmly, flicking her tail at the silver cat. "Come here."
Shocked, Silverfern rose shakily to her paws, and moved towards Wrenstar. When she arrived at the right side of the Moonfall, Wrenstar mewed: "Stay here." Then she moved over to the other side, where she explained the plan:
"Cats of WillowClan," Wrenstar meowed, "we are torn as if to decide whether we should stay or leave. Today, I ask all cats to express their opinion."
"Even the kits?" Bramblefern asked, flicking her tail at Branchkit, Wolfkit, and Littlekit.
Wrenstar nodded. "Even the kits. If you want to stay, crowd by Silverfern's side of the Moonfall. If you want to leave, go by mine."
The WillowClan cats moved around the clearing, and Wrenstar felt her throat tighten with apprehension. What would the cats decide?
To stay, or to leave? It was their decision now.
Chapter Six - Leafpaw
The cats were moving.
Leaving was the prospect. Leaving the Clan. Cats moving sides, trying to decide where their loyalties lay.
The cats had stopped. The dark brown tabby she-cat on one of the sides started to count. There was a stony silence.
And even the cat who was counting stopped. There was a stony silence. Then she opened her mouth, and spoke:
"Cats of WillowClan," the dark brown tabby announced, "you have made your decision. We are going to be leaving to find a new home."
Cats were weeping, others with a look of brightness in their eyes. They weren't going to live there for much longer... they were going to move away...
"Leafpaw!" A sharp voice cut into the vision.
She saw the vision fade, and Leafpaw blinked. She wasn't in that place, wherever it may be. She was still in the CloudClan medicine cat's den. Streamreed had a look of utter annoyance on her broad face.
"What is up with you, Leafpaw?" the dark gray she-cat meowed. "Every second day, it seems you fall into a vision or something. What are you thinking?"
"Sorry, Streamreed," Leafpaw mewed quickly. The medicine cat's words had stung. But I do actually have a vision every second day, she thought.
She kept the thought away from Streamreed, who was still staring at her angrily. Finally, Streamreed flicked her bushy tail angrily.
"You can go clean the elder's den," she huffed angrily. "You are at my limit, Leafpaw. One wrong move, and I'll see Thornstar about making you train as a warrior."
Leafpaw gulped nervously. But I don't want to train as a warrior, she thought. My heart is on the path to becoming a medicine cat. StarClan, please don't make me be a warrior!
"Now," Streamreed hissed, flicking her tail towards the herb store. In a rage, the dark gray she-cat left the den, her tail lashing.
Sighing, Leafpaw trailed into the herb store. The prophecy rung in her ears, the one that she had received at the Gathering: A great doom is coming. Something that no cat can stop. The holly's thorn and the wing that soars must save the Clan of the willows from themselves falling. Follow the clouds, and you will find an oak, with clouds, currents, hollows, and leaves. Find the leaf's sedge in the clouds, and there will be five once more.
Leafpaw was guessing that when it said 'five once more', it meant that the five Clans were going to unite again.
At that moment, Leafpaw's blood chilled. If she was guessing right - and by her gut instinct - she was, it meant that WillowClan was going to have to leave their home.
But what if that has something to do with it? she thought.
Maybe I can ask Blossomwind. Streamreed won't help, in her state.
One of CloudClan's two elders, Blossomwind, was a former CloudClan medicine cat. Before retiring at an old age, she had been very skilled. She was the cat who had trained Streamreed, and all the cats of CloudClan respected her.
Collecting up some moss from the store, Leafpaw padded out of the medicine den. What did that vision mean this time? Why was she receiving them?
You've got to help WillowClan, or they will fall, a cat's voice whispered in her ear.
Chapter Seven - Soarpaw
Soarpaw's fur bristled worriedly.
How would the other medicine cats react to the knowledge of that WillowClan would be leaving their home? What would their sudden reaction be? Scuffling her paws, Soarpaw stared fearfully at the Moonfall, where some of the WillowClan cats were standing.
"Is this it?" asked Addertalon. The dark brown tabby's eyes were wide. "This is the Moonfall?"
"Of course it -" Meadowcloud mewed, before cutting herself off. "Sorry. I forgot that you didn't train in WillowClan."
Addertalon merely dipped his head in reply to Meadowcloud. "I wasn't the ordinary warrior. I was lucky that Soaringstar let me into WillowClan all those moons ago, when Dewfrost took me into the camp with all those warriors."
Soaringstar. Soarpaw's thoughts stung with the memory of her deceased father. She wished she had the chance to know him - but he had died in battle, leaving Wrenstar to take his place. A moon after, Soarpaw and her sister, Hollypaw, had been born.
I wonder if Hollypaw feels the same?
Soarpaw turned her head towards the small she-cat. Her fur was sticking up defiantly, her green eyes scanning the rock for what seemed the millionth time. Sighing, Soarpaw turned her head back to the older cats' conversation.
"And I snarled at you," Wrenstar pointed out awkwardly, her tail flicking at Addertalon.
Dewfrost snorted. "That was before you found out -"
"Silence!" Meadowcloud cut off the WillowClan deputy's words. "Soon StarClan will be calling to us, and we will communicate with the other four Clans."
"Which everyone knows about here," Meadowcloud pointed out quietly. The flecked dark gray she-cat looked irritated. "Of course every cat has heard what happened the first time. Now shut up and be quiet."
All the cats obeyed Meadowcloud's words, and even Wrenstar submitted to her medicine cat's words. Around Soarpaw, silence pressed on. When would the other cats come?
And then, the vision opened. Bright light filled Soarpaw's vision.
"What's going on?" asked Hollypaw. "This bright stuff.. but it's so dark on the outside..."
Wrenstar gave a furious hiss at her daughter, and covered Hollypaw's mouth with her tail to stop her from talking. "Quiet!" she hissed. "We're supposed to be sharing tongues with StarClan!"
Soarpaw looked back to see Hollypaw slump with defeat. Looking back at the vision, she saw the six other medicine cats waiting.
"Greetings, Meadowcloud," mewed a black-and-brown tom. Soarpaw recognized Darkpool, the medicine cat of HollowClan. "Why so many cats? I can see Soarpaw -" Darkpool flicked his tail at her -"but what's with the others?
Wrenstar shoved in front of the group of cats. The six medicine cats from the four other Clans were silent, as well as the WillowClan party. Holding her tail in the air, she spoke:
"My name is Wrenstar, leader of WillowClan. You all know Meadowcloud and Soarpaw. My other cats are Dewfrost, my deputy -" Wrenstar broke off, as Dewfrost flicked an ear at the cats - "Addertalon," - Addertalon raised a paw - "Rockshine," - Rockshine, who was being relatively quiet, dipped his head, "and his apprentice, Hollypaw." Hollypaw gave a weak purr at the medicine cats as her greeting.
The six cats from the other Clans were silent as they took in the scene. Finally, Pansypetal - the medicine cat of CurrentClan - dipped her head.
"This is all very well," the black she-cat mewed, "but they shouldn't be here." Pansypetal's blue gaze swept towards Wrenstar. "Why are you here?"
Wrenstar hesitated, and took a deep breath. Finally, she spoke:
"We are leaving the willows."
Chapter Eight - Hollypaw
The shock of this news was evident to Hollypaw. Their mouths opened, falling down like stones. She wasn't surprised that they had done so.
"You said what?" gasped the black-and-brown tom that had spoken earlier. His amber eyes were dark as he stared at Wrenstar.
Wrenstar held her head high as she stared back at the tom. "I said, we are leaving the willows," she repeated icily.
The medicine cats on the other side of the vision exchanged glances, except the smallest of them: a white she-cat with leaf-green eyes. Her gaze was locked on Soarpaw, then it switched to Hollypaw. Hollypaw stared back, determined not to let her fade from her sight.
"Well..." A dappled brown-and-white she-cat spoke, her green gaze evident with worry. "That was unexpected. What happened?"
Before any cat could move, Dewfrost shoved his way to the front of the group. The gray tom's fur was bushed out, his sun-yellow gaze wide. Hollypaw wasn't surprised if the WillowClan deputy felt worried about speaking to these cats, who lived in places beyond WillowClan territory.
Dewfrost dipped his head to the medicine cats. "My name is Dewfrost," he meowed. "I am the deputy of WillowClan. The reason why we are leaving the willows is because they have fallen. We have evacuated the camp. We have no home left for us."
The six medicine cats nodded uneasily as Dewfrost stepped back.
"Let's go speak with StarClan," a dark gray she-cat growled. Her long fur was matted, and her amber eyes were full of hidden fire. "The visitors might as well speak with them too, now that they are here."
Hollypaw watched Soarpaw as she went to speak with StarClan, and she did the same. She wondered if she would see any of her ancestors, as her vision faded into an uncontrollable dizzying blackness.
When Hollypaw woke up, she was in a starry clearing. Trees - willow trees, to be precise - outlined the clearing, their branches thick, and their roots strong.
Like they used to be before they fell, she thought, a hint of sadness evident.
As her dark paws scuffled the ground, hardly believing she was in StarClan territory, she heard pawsteps. She turned, in the shock.
Two StarClan cats were standing in the clearing.
Hollypaw gave a small jump. The two cats had fur that shone like stars - something that Hollypaw had never seen before. Both the cats she saw were gray - yet one was a tabby she-cat with blue eyes, and the other wasn't. He was a large, sleek tom with bright green eyes.
"Greetings, Hollypaw," mewed the tabby. Her head dipped to the ground as she spoke. "My name is Feathershine. I was a deputy of WillowClan many moons ago, when your father was a warrior."
In return, Hollypaw dipped her head. "I am honored to meet you, Feathershine," she mewed.
As if on cue, the gray tom stepped in front of Feathershine. He too, dipped his head to Hollypaw. "Greetings," he meowed. "My name is Lizardsplash, and I am Feathershine's son. I grew up with your father. I was WillowClan's deputy before him."
"I am honored to meet you too, Lizardsplash," Hollypaw replied, fixing her gaze so that it met Lizardsplash's squarely in the eye.
"We have a message from StarClan for you," Feathershine meowed. "However, we aren't the cats giving it to you."
"Well then..." Hollypaw let her voice trail off. Who is, then?
As if the StarClan cats could read her thoughts, Lizardsplash swept his long, sleek, lizard-like tail at her. "Follow us," he mewed quietly.
Hollypaw fell into step behind Lizardsplash and Feathershine. Who was the StarClan cat giving her the message? The thought was urging her on, making her excited. Who was it going to be?
Finally, Feathershine shot a blue gaze at her. "Come on, Hollypaw," she whispered. "We're here."
The two cats moved away, and a pale ginger tom entered Hollypaw's vision. His amber eyes were serious as he stared at her. After one long moment, he rose to his paws and made his way towards her. Frightened, Hollypaw backed away.
"Don't be scared, Hollypaw," the ginger cat told her. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just giving you a message from StarClan."
At this, Hollypaw felt comforted. She stood up straighter, and padded closer. "What is it?' she asked.
The next time the cat spoke, his voice was different. His voice was lower, more smoothed out, as he meowed: "A great doom is coming. Something that no cat can stop. The holly's thorn and the wing that soars must save the Clan of the willows from themselves falling. Follow the clouds, and you will find an oak, with clouds, currents, hollows, and leaves. Find the leaf's sedge in the clouds, and there will be five once more."
Hollypaw's legs were shaking as she fought to stand up. In her mind, this didn't make any sense at all! "Tell me more!" she yowled at the ginger cat. "I don't understand what this means!"
The StarClan cat only gave one sorrowful look at Hollypaw as he faded from her vision. But Hollypaw did hear one last echo that shook her to the core.
"I never told you who I was, Hollypaw. Well... I am Soaringstar. I am your father."
Chapter Nine - Wrenstar
"Is it true that we are going to have to leave?"
Trembling on stiff legs, Wrenstar could barely look at Fennelcloud. The dark brown tabby she-cat's amber eyes were thoughtful as she gazed at her solemnly. Although as she hated to admit it, Wrenstar knew that her Clan would have to leave the willows.
Fennelcloud gave a soft sigh. "I refuse to admit this to you," she sighed. As she spoke, a brown StarClan cat jumped between a gap separating some willows - one cat that Wrenstar had never seen before - and padded up to Fennelcloud.
"You want to admit it?" Fennelcloud asked the brown tabby.
In reply, she nodded. "She must help with the destiny her daughters have to face." The she-cat's eyes were brimming with sorrow - a sorrow that even Wrenstar couldn't detect.
"Do it, then," Fennelcloud pleaded, her amber eyes wide. "I know Wrenstar too well..." Fennelcloud's voice trailed off.
The brown tabby she-cat that Wrenstar didn't recognize took Fennelcloud's place. As Wrenstar saw Fennelcloud back away into the willows, the cat in front of her dipped her head. "I have been looking forward to meeting you," she purred. "My name is Flowerheart. I was one of Soaringstar's denmates in his youth." At the mention of Soaringstar, Wrenstar spotted Flowerheart's green eyes shimmer with sadness.
I wonder why she's concerned about Soaringstar, Wrenstar thought, then she shoved the thought away. Soaringstar's dead! Nothing serious can happen to him - can it?
After she had thought, however, she saw Flowerheart's eyes narrow in distaste. "No, I'm not concerned about Soaringstar," she meowed. "I watch your daughters from the stars. I can only think of what could have been." A small sigh came from Flowerheart as she gave a tiny flick of her tail.
"I thought this was about what Fennelcloud had to say, not about Soaringstar," Wrenstar interrupted meekly.
"Oh, sorry," Flowerheart meowed quietly. "I was just flashing back to when I was a warrior. Anyway, back to the real point of why I was here."
"About if WillowClan has to leave or not," Wrenstar echoed quietly.
Another small sigh escaped Flowerheart's lips. Her tail brushed along the ground as she spoke: "It is not the destiny of WillowClan to stay alone. Working together with other Clans is more important now. Yes, I do think that you will have to leave... but this will be hard for StarClan as well, not just your Clan that walks the earth. Some of us here grew up here, and the old spirits have gotten used to this place. But now, it is time to return to where WillowClan started all those moons ago."
Wrenstar felt her legs tremble again. "It can't be..." she whispered.
"You have to do things that you don't accept," Flowerheart said quietly. Her green eyes burned into Wrenstar's blue ones as she went on: "I didn't want to die myself. Don't forget, don't make a choice that you don't regret."
Wrenstar felt her vision change, as Flowerheart whispered: "Follow me..." into her ear.
The vision turned into the willow forest, before the willows had fallen. Flowerheart was beside her. The brown tabby's fur was bristling worriedly, and Wrenstar guessed that the StarClan cat knew what was going to happen.
Flowerheart disappeared into the forest, and Wrenstar followed. A cat's voice split the air:
"Oh, sorry, Flowerheart. I just wasn't looking -"
Wrenstar turned to see three other cats. One was Flowerheart's spirit, who was watching. The second was another brown tabby - Wrenstar guessed that was Flowerheart, when she was alive. The third was a pale ginger tom, his muscles sleek under his short fur...
Soaringstar. He must've been Soaringsky then - a young warrior.
Soaringsky's eyes were apologetic as he stared at the living Flowerheart, whose green eyes were like ice as she stared at him. Then Flowerheart started yowling her rage to the sky:
"More like dawdling, more like," she hissed. "You're so arrogant - strutting around the camp as if you're Clan leader! Will you just quit it?"
Soaringsky's amber eyes blazed with shock and hurt, and his mouth fell open. Yet, Flowerheart continued with her outburst:
"Yes, you do," hissed Flowerheart. "Stop thinking you're so great."
After this, the living Flowerheart disappeared back into the willows, with Soaringsky laying behind, his mouth still hanging open. "But Flowerheart..." the then-young tom whispered.
The ground slipped from under Wrenstar's paws, and she felt herself falling. Blackness filled her vision as Flowerheart's voice rang through the air, for the final time:
"You're going to have to leave the willows, Wrenstar... and take everything you can. You were luckier than me."
Chapter Ten - Soarpaw
Rain thudded down, forcing the WillowClan cats to seek shelter under the little foliage they had left. Soarpaw was shivering. This wasn't the right time for this to be happening - the WillowClan cats were scheduled to leave in three days, to go to unknown lands.
"Come on, Soarpaw," called Meadowcloud softly. The dark gray medicine cat's green eyes were round. "We need to help prepare."
"Prepare?" Soarpaw asked. "What do you mean by prepare? We have hardly any herbs left." It was true that the WillowClan cats were short on herbs - the whole stock had been lost when the Twolegs had cut down willows around the camp.
"We need to at least find something," Meadowcloud pointed out. "Fernkit and Riverkit will struggle to make the journey, and possibly Smallspeck as well. The old and young need tending to."
"What about Bramblefern's kits?" Soarpaw queried. "They're still kits. Will they have trouble with the journey?"
After speaking, Soarpaw noticed Meadowcloud's eyes gleaming with delight. "They don't need it. I think Wrenstar has something planned for them before we leave."
Soarpaw was wondering what Meadowcloud was talking about. Then she remembered that Littlekit, Wolfkit, and Branchkit were very close to their sixth moon: it was obvious that Meadowcloud was inferencing that they would become apprentices just before they left.
"You wait and see," Meadowcloud mewed confidentially. "I'm going to search for herbs. I need a warrior escort."
Dewfrost, the Clan deputy, swooped in on the conversation. "You need a warrior escort?" he meowed. "I'll send Tangleleap to go with you." The gray tom turned around, and started calling Tangleleap's name across the camp.
"That solved that problem," Meadowcloud sighed, as Dewfrost padded away. "Soarpaw, while I'm gone, just make yourself useful in some way." Meadowcloud rose to her paws, and padded towards Tangleleap, who was sitting, waiting for the medicine cat at the temporary camp entrance.
Soarpaw watched Meadowcloud and Tangleleap pad away, and she sighed. What was she supposed to do on a day like this?
"Soarpaw?" Yellowpaw came rushing under the tree Soarpaw was sitting under. The dark gray she-cat's fur was soaking wet. Soarpaw felt the temptation to flinch away from the wet fur, but she kept still. "Are you doing anything right now?"
"No." Soarpaw licked one ginger paw and brought it over her head. "Why?"
Yellowpaw shrugged. "I don't know. Hollypaw wants to see you, for who knows what."
Soarpaw's blood chilled. Why did her sister want to talk with her? She hadn't done it often since their apprentice ceremony, and Hollypaw seemed convinced that Soarpaw should've trained as a warrior.
Yellowpaw flicked her bushy tail. "Over there," she said quietly, and Soarpaw spotted Hollypaw sitting under another willow tree, also trying to shelter from the downpour.
Soarpaw nodded, and ran with all her might. Rain fell on her pale fur, making it wet. After a long time, it seemed, Soarpaw finally reached Hollypaw. The black she-cat's green eyes were wide.
"When I spoke with StarClan at the Moonfall," she whispered, "a cat came and spoke to me. He gave me the following message: A great doom is coming. Something that no cat can stop. The holly's thorn and the wing that soars must save the Clan of the willows from themselves falling. Follow the clouds, and you will find an oak, with clouds, currents, hollows, and leaves. Find the leaf's sedge in the clouds, and there will be five once more."
Soarpaw gulped. Hollypaw wasn't the only cat to have received that message. She had received it as well.
"I got it too," she whispered. "What do you think it means?"
Hollypaw unsheathed her claws and dug them into the ground. She looked up at Soarpaw, and asked: "Does this mean we're going to save our Clan?"
Chapter Eleven - Leafpaw
Leafpaw's mind was whirling with thoughts. She still couldn't believe that the WillowClan cats were being forced to leave their home! What was going to happen next - LeafClan getting forced to move? HollowClan? CloudClan?
Jolting herself, Leafpaw shook her head in a daze. It wasn't likely.
"Leafpaw?" Streamreed's voice rang through the den. "You haven't been yourself, have you?" The dark gray she-cat padded towards her.
Leafpaw shook slightly. The fact that she had received a prophecy from StarClan was a different matter. "I received a-" she began.
Streamreed silenced her. "Whatever StarClan has told you, it is your own," she whispered. "I can't help you with StarClan's wishes. Leafpaw, just learn to deal with it. Ever since the Gathering, you've been shaky."
For the first time, Leafpaw realized how much time had passed. Judging by the shape of the moon last night, tonight it would just be a small sliver in the sky.
"I suppose I've been a bit obsessed," Leafpaw sighed. "But this is the first real message from StarClan that I've got... I just -"
"It is an achievement, when you get something important from StarClan," Streamreed said quietly, as she rested her furry tail over Leafpaw's shoulders. "I know I was like that, when I was Blossomwind's apprentice. StarClan knows that you have great responsibility, Leafpaw, and now it's your time to bear it."
Leafpaw smiled, letting Streamreed's words sink in. The image of Blossomwind - CloudClan's former medicine cat, and now the oldest cat in the Clan - popped up in her mind as well. Now Leafpaw finally understood why StarClan had given her this message."
Streamreed then moved away. "I'm going to be taking some borage to Shinestrike, her kits are due any day now. You can just do something useful." With that, Streamreed padded away into the herb store.
Leafpaw watched Streamreed disappear, then she padded out of the den. Newleaf sun shone onto the camp, where a few warriors were relaxing in the sun. She also spotted her littermate, Dawnpaw, and the former rogue Oakpaw. On the other side of the camp, Bramblefire's young kits were playing in the sun.
Quietly, Leafpaw purred in delight, seeing her younger sisters. One day, they would be fine CloudClan warriors.
The sun was rising high in the air, and Leafpaw saw the Clan deputy, Aspenroot, head outside of the warriors' den. The gray tabby looked disgruntled as he looked at the warriors, then he took up his usual place in the center of the camp, and started to call out names for patrols: "Swiftwind, can you lead a patrol along the CurrentClan border? Take Flashpelt, Fuzzywhisper, Rainpelt, and Dawnpaw with you."
All the warriors padded reluctantly up to Aspenroot. Meanwhile, Dawnpaw continued resting in the sun, ignoring the deputy's instructions, until Rainpelt strode out from the group, and came up to her apprentice.
"Dawnpaw!" Rainpelt mewed loudly. The blue-gray she-cat flicked her tail angrily as she went on. "You're on sunhigh patrol, and if you don't get up now, you'll be on apprentice chores for a moon."
That seemed to get Dawnpaw moving as she sprang to her paws immediately. "Oh, am I?" she purred sweetly. "I didn't hear. Right, Rainpelt, I'm ready to go."
Dawnpaw sprang over to Aspenroot, while Rainpelt stalked away, flicking her tail angrily as she went. Her dark mood vanished immediately, though, when she slunk up to Flashpelt again, their pelts brushing.
They'll be more kits in the Clan soon, Leafpaw thought, purring slightly.
As if on cue, the prophecy from before started to ring in her ears, the message repeating itself over and over again. When it stopped, Leafpaw felt relief, but then another voice followed:
"Leafpaw, be prepared... the prophecy is coming to you soon..."
Chapter Twelve - Hollypaw
The dawn light filtered through the last of the willows as Hollypaw opened her green eyes. Most of the camp was silent, although the feeling of dread haunted some of the cats' thoughts. Today, WillowClan would be leaving the willows, to search for a new place to live.
All the other warrior apprentices were still sleeping - Ripplepaw, Yellowpaw, Sunpaw, and Tanglepaw. They were all three moons older than her, the kits of Stormstrike and Hareswift. Turning her back on them, Hollypaw stretched.
Some of the warriors were up already. Rockshine was up, with Bramblefern and their kits. Littlekit was sitting between Bramblefern's paws, and was complaining.
"Hey, Bramblefern, I'm groomed well enough," the brown she-cat grunted. Meanwhile, Wolfkit and Branchkit were watching their sister eagerly with bright eyes - they were taking pleasure at her discomfort.
Why are they getting groomed? Hollypaw thought, curious, as she bended over to lick her own fur.
A flash of dark for protruded at one end of the camp. It flashed by the Moonfall, and the cat sat down, while she yowled: "Let all cats gather below the Moonfall for a Clan meeting!"
After Wrenstar had spoken, all the other apprentices jolted awake. Ripplepaw was the first to get up, rubbing his eyes. "Why is Wrenstar calling a meeting this early?" he mewed sleepily.
"We're leaving today," Hollypaw pointed out sharply, flicking her tail at her dark gray denmate. Annoyed, she stormed up to gather by the Moonfall.
All the cats were awake after Wrenstar's call - even Smallspeck, who had insisted the day before that he could sleep through anything. The warriors were blinking hazily at Wrenstar, the apprentices standing sleepily at the back. Silverfern was trying her hardest to keep Fernkit and Riverkit calm. Bramblefern and Rockshine were sitting with their three kits on one side of the Moonfall.
When all the cats were silent, Wrenstar started speaking: "Today," she mewed wearily, "is the day we have to leave the willows."
Hollypaw noticed an immediate reaction about those words. Smallspeck's eyes clouded over: Tangleleap sat up straighter. Splashstrike just turned and started sobbing quietly into Aspendusk's fur.
"But as a token to remember this place by," Wrenstar continued, "I want to perform one last ceremony before we leave."
After Wrenstar had spoken those words, Littlekit, Wolfkit, and Branchkit started sitting up proudly beside their parents.
It's their apprentice ceremony! Hollypaw realized, her eyes widening. She had forgotten that Bramblefern's kits were only a moon younger than her: they were now six moons old.
"Wolfkit, come forward." Wrenstar beckoned the gray tom with her tail. "From this day forward, until you receive your warrior name, you shall be known as Wolfpaw. Ambersun, you have shown great resilience and dignity, and it time for you to have your first apprentice. You will be mentor to Wolfpaw."
Ambersun emerged from the group of warriors, her eyes shining. Her eyes glittered with pride as she touched her nose to Wolfpaw's.
Branchkit was next to be called up. "From this day forward, until you receive your warrior name, you shall be known as Branchpaw. Nightfleck, you did an excellent job of mentoring Ambersun, and you deserve another apprentice. You will be mentor to Branchpaw. Share your fighting skill and courage with him."
Branchpaw's green eyes were glittering with delight as Nightfleck emerged from the crowd. Hollypaw saw the two cats touching noses, and Nightfleck was purring happily.
"And Littlekit." Wrenstar's blue eyes were full of pride as her younger sister took her place beside her. "From this day forward until you receive your warrior name, you shall be known as Littlepaw. Splashstrike, you have gone through a lot of suffering. I have given you Littlepaw to mentor. I wish for you to share your fairness and intelligence."
At once, Splashstrike appeared from the group of warriors, her blue eyes bright, yet full of grief. Hollypaw could tell she was remembering her family, all of which had died in the willows. Their noses touched, and cheering erupted, starting with Tanglepaw, who was leading:
"Littlepaw! Branchpaw! Wolfpaw!"
The cheering seems to make the whole Clan happier, Hollypaw thought, as she cheered the three new apprentices' names. Even in this time of darkness.
Eventually, it stopped, and Littlepaw, Branchpaw, and Wolfpaw returned to the crowd with their new mentors. The whole Clan was silent as Wrenstar shot her dark blue gaze at every cat in the clearing.
"Look around you," the dark tabby leader mewed quietly. "This is the last day we will see these willows. Today, we start a new dawn. Today, we start searching for our new home."
After Wrenstar had spoken, all of the cats - including Hollypaw herself - bunched closer to one another. This was the time that the whole Clan had to unite.
"Is everyone ready?' Wrenstar called.
There were quiet assents from most cats in the clearing. Others said nothing. Without further ado, Wrenstar flicked her tail in the direction of the sunrise, and mewed quietly: "Then we shall embark on our journey."
Wrenstar leap down, and streaked to the front of the group. The rest of the cats clustered together, not willing to let go of one another. Hollypaw stayed at the back, looking at the willows for one last time. She would remember this place forever, as long as she lived.
"Hollypaw?" Ripplepaw appeared at her shoulder. "We're leaving now."
Hollypaw nodded as she stared at the willows for one last moment, then she turned and went after the rest of the cats. That was the past. Now, they were travelling, and where they were going was the future.
Goodbye, my first home. I will never forget you.
Omg I made the ending sadddd. Poor WillowClan cats. D:
Anyway, this is the end of the book, I hoped you enjoyed it!
The book that will succeed this is Finding Four.
If you want to read all of the Soaring Wren Series books, click here.
Until next time,