What Is Love
When You Can Have All The Power In The World?
Nightfall has always loved Sunsetfur. Sure she's the most popular she-cat in the Clan, with many followers, and a perfect life.
But is Sunsetfur as perfect as she seems? And if the seemingly Mary-Sue has a dark side, what will happen to those who get consumed by it?
Chapter One: Damaged
"Nightfall! Featherpelt! Sunsetfur!"
As our names are cheered, I take a glance at my sister. Beside me, Featherpelt sits in glee, her blue eyes alight with happiness.
"We're warriors!" She says in excitement, "We're finally warriors!"
I nod in agreement, and turn to my left. Beside me, Sunsetfur sits. My best friend is silent, but her green eyes have the same ray of joy in them.
Featherpelt's long fur sways, as she mews, "I always knew this day would come. All of us, finally reaching our destiny!"
Sunsetfur nods, but a wave of sorrow falls over her, "If only they could still be here..." She murmurs.
Featherpelt quiets down beside me, and I can feel myself drooping. It's obvious that this memory was still hurting Sunsetfur.
About two moons ago, her littermates went missing. Rockpaw and Shoalpaw had been on patrol, while Mistypaw was out on an assessment.
No matter how many search parties we sent out, nobody ever found a trace of them, not even their bodies. It was never properly explained, and after a while, everyone just assumed they were dead.
Sunsetfur never gave up though. When the other groups had stopped looking, she was still investigating every corner, almost desperatly. She clings onto the hope that somehow, somewhere, they're still alive.
It's a foolish hope, but I can't help but support her. I would feel the same way if this were to happen to Featherpelt. To lose my brave sister would throw me over the edge. After all, family is all we have in the end.
I jerk out of a dream, and my eyes settle on Featherpelt. Her tail is flicking, and she mews, "You keep drifting off into your own little world." She sounds a little hurt, and I look away, to avoid her gaze.
"Sorry." I mutter to her, "I was just...thinking."
Featherpelt rolls her eyes, "Well, you're better than Sunsetfur. She fell asleep." My sister flicks her tail at the white she-cat. Sure enough, she's just blinking sleep out of her eyes.
"I just... closed my eyes for a moment." Sunsetfur whispers, her green eyes still tired, "I didn't mean to actually..."
Featherpelt laughs, tossing her fur, "Well, whatever. Darksong was here, if you were paying attention. She told us to get some rest, okay?"
"Let's go then," Sunsetfur mews, "and try to avoid a nest near Snakefang. You know how he gets in the mornings."
We chuckle lightly, and step into the Warrior's Den, for the first time. While it might seems like just a crack in the rock, it opens into a wide cavern, a perfect place for a nest.
Since SpottedClan gets the worst of the Greenleaf heat, all the dens are designed to keep everyone cool and sheltered.
Once we step over all the sleeping cats, Featherpelt settles in the first empty nest there is, and promptly falls asleep. Beside me, Sunsetfur does the same.
Even though I lie down, I can't sleep, not now. Sunsetfur's beautiful white fur is glowing in the darkness, excluding the patch of ginger brown near her eyes.
How could I sleep, with her so close to me? Her warm fur brushes my own, sending shivers down my spine.
Why does it have to be like this?
It's easy to admit to myself in the dark. Sunsetfur is the centre of my life. While she might be popular, she's never been snobby, or condecending. In fact, she's the sweetest cat I've ever known. Combine that with her intelligence, and general good will, it makes it so hard not to fall in love with her.
I probably already have, and just refuse to admit it.
But Sunsetfur has always treated me as her best friend, or a brother. She's never thought of us as anything more, so why should I hold out hope? I'm just ordinary. Cats like Tigerstrike... she'd be falling into his neatly groomed paws.
Still, no matter what, I will always love her.
"Wake up, you idiot!"
Snakefang's grumpy yowl jolts me out of sleep, and my eyes blink, to adjust to the sunlight streaming in.
"What's going on?" I mutter, trying to focus.
Snakefang hisses at me, "Poppysong wants you on a hunting patrol! Don't be an imbecile! Join them!"
I drag myself out of my nest, still groggy from sleep. The brown tom growls as I pass him, and I take a moment to recharge in the sunlight.
The deputy nods to me, mewing, "Your patrol is over there. Stay near the river, alright?"
I dip my head respectfully, and pad over to where my patrol stands. Featherpelt and Sunsetfur are there, which relaxes me. But then, I see the fourth party. Hazelfoot.
The harsh golden tom was Sunsetfur's mentor. While he's gifted, he's rather scary. Sunsetfur has always been shaken around him, filled with fear. Featherpelt and I would console her, while avoiding him.
Hazelfoot glares at all of us, his eyes dark, "Today is a hunting patrol, not a social outing. You will behave like warriors, understood?"
We all nod, and he begins to lead us into the shade of the trees. Featherpelt nudges me, and whispers, "I think he's even scarier than yesterday."
I nod, but start staring off into space, Sunsetfur's perfect face filling my mind.
My sister mutters, and shoves me again, "Stop that." She mews, "Look, I know you care about her, but..."
"But what?" I mew, despite knowing how her scentence is going to end, "It's been like for a long time. She means a lot to me."
Featherpelt's voice drops to a whispered hiss, "I don't fully trust her. She's been acting really weird lately, and I don't like it."
"So?" I mutter, "That doesn't change anything. She lost lost her siblings."
"She's dangerous, Nightfall." My sister murmurs, "I was just trying to protect you. Our parents are gone. Isn't family all we have in the end?"
Then she stalks off, leaving me in the dust.
When we reach the river, Hazelfoot mews, "Okay, I want us to split up to hunt. That way, we'll cover more ground, and find more prey."
Featherpelt steps forward, her normally soft eyes dark, and mews to Hazelfoot, "I'll hunt with you."
Hazelfoot looks sharply at her, and then glances at Sunsetfur and I. Then he sighs, "Fine. Featherpelt and I will go upstream. The two of you will go downstream. You are not to return, unless you bring back three pieces of prey. Each." He adds sternly.
Then, he and my sister head into the undergrowth, and out of sight.
Sunsetfur nudges me, "Did you two fight or something? Featherpelt... I've never seen her like that. So... angry." I nod, sighing, "She's convinced you're acting weird. I told her it was nothing, but she got into a snit over it. She'll get over it."
Sunsetfur's eyes flash, but then return to their usual, calm colour, "Oh, okay. Well in that case, we better get hunting. Hazelfoot's serious."
"Was he always like that?" I ask, as we pad along the river, "I mean, I know he's harsh, but you seem almost terrified of him."
Sunsetfur mews, "Well, he's always harsh. But I'm not that scared of him... Hazelfoot's just very... intimidating. You know?"
I nod, but her answers are vauge, and I try my best to shake the feeling that she's hiding something from me.
Eventually, I go on the trail of a mouse, while Sunsetfur takes after a swift squirrel. As soon as the prey is within my jaws, a jarring scream causes me to drop it.
No... That's impossible.
I know that scream better than anyone. It's shrill, but it carries a message. And there is no other cat in the forest that screams like this.
My brain doesn't even register the command to chase after it. I just do.
With my paws beating against the ground, my eyes blur, and I realize that I have to get there. I'm falling, but there's no pain. All I can focus on, is this one, blood curdling, scream.
Featherpelt only screams like this when she knows she's going to die.
Chapter Two: Broken
I try to regain my composure, as my legs keep hurling themselves towards the scream. My sister is in danger, and now is not the time to panic.
But I can't help it. The last thing I said to her, was that I didn't trust her judgement. And now she could be dead.
Wasn't it her who said family was all we had in the end?
I'm such a fool...
As I finally reach upstream, I can see Featherpelt's gray body being tossed by the water.
No... I'm too late!
Then, I see another body in the stream. Her fur is sopping wet, but she's swimming the current. Somehow, Sunsetfur has found my sister.
I run up to the bank, and help Sunsetfur pull Featherpelt out. Sunsetfur just shakes the water out, but Featherpelt drops to the ground, barely breathing.
"I'm sorry," Sunsetfur whispers, "I got there too late... I heard her screaming, and..." She breaks off, as I stare in silence.
I lean down gentle, and nuzzle her. Her breathing is shallow, but it's there. For one moment, her eyes flutter open.
Her voice is quieter than a whisper when she speaks, "It's too late... Goodbye.... Nightfall..." Then, sheshuts her eyes, and falls to the ground, dead.
"No! Featherpelt!" I screech. But my sister doesn't move again. I nuzzle her, but her body's gone cold, the heat radiating away far too quickly.
What have I done?
Sunsetfur mews something about Hazelfoot, but I don't pay attention. She's gone a second later, and all I have left is my dead sister.
Our parents died when we were young. But the two of us always counted on each other, no matter what. Now I'm alone.
"I should have stuck by you." I murmur, "If I had stayed... you'd be okay. I just... I'm such a fool!"
Sobbing, I lean down, and bury my face in her fur.
"What if you were right?" I mew softly, "About Sunsetfur, I mean. It doesn't make sense, but... Oh, this is all my fault!"
I suppose Sunsetfur and Hazelfoot return. All I know is that I'm the one carrying her back to camp.
The rising sun warms my black fur. I blink my bleary eyes, as I see Featherpelt for the last time. Birdpaw, Laurelpaw and I will be burying her soon. But I don't want them to come yet. I need just a little bit longer.
She's dead, and I am to blame. Could I have saved her if I ran faster? If I had reached her sooner, would she be alright?
This leads me to wonder how she ended up there in the first place. Could she really have just slipped? It seems odd, as my sister was usually good with her footing.
She wasn't pushed... was she?
This sends chills up my spine.
Luckily, Laurelpaw shows up right then, before I can let my theories get the best of me.
"Nightfall, we're ready for the burial now." She whispers. Together, she and Birdpaw help me lift her body up, and we carry her to the grounds.
Carefully, the three of us lower her into the ground, and Birdpaw scrapes the dirt over her body. Soon, her grave is just another patch of dirt, just like the rest of them, surrounding us.
Frail Clovergaze is just able to say the words to send her to StarClan, before she becomes to weak to carry on. The two apprentices lead her back to her den, and I sit there, hoping that she'll return. That I'll wake up, and this nightmare will finally be over.
But it doesn't come. And all I can hear is Featherpelt's last words being echoed over and over again.
It's too late... It's too late... It's too late...
My dream is cut short by a soft mew. Featherpelt's face fades away, and I curse the sound that has awoken me.
When I open my eyes, I see Sunsetfur standing in front of me, and I wash away all anger. Her green eyes are gentle, as she whispers, "I need to talk to you. Will you please meet me behind the nursery?"
I nod, and she leaves. Making sure nobody follows me, I sneak out, and around the camp. Sunsetfur is waiting for me, when I reach the nursery.
"Is everything alright?" I mew, "This is a weird place to meet."
Her eyes fill with fear, as she stares at me, "Nightfall, I don't have much time. Something is happening. Your-" She breaks off, as something rustles behind her.
Hawkstrike, Sunsetfur's friend, is waiting, her fur swishing.
"There you are Sunsetfur!" She mews, "I've been looking for you everywhere!"
Sunsetfur cringes, "I need to talk to Nightfall, alone. Can this wait?"
Hawkstrike shakes her head, "This is more important than whatever you love birds are dealing with!"
I blush, and stammer out, "We're not... I'm not..."
Sunsetfur sighs, and looks at me, "Can I talk to you later?" She mews.
I nod, and she tears after her best friend. But her words still fill my mind.
The look of fear in her eyes.
And I start to wonder what's really going on.
"Jayclaw has kitted!"
The yowl echoes through the camp, and I stick my nose out of the warriors den. Riverblaze is clearly happy, as the proud father he is.
I pull myself outside, and the heat of the day hits right off the bat. I wince as the heat bakes my black fur. But I shake myself, and pad up to Riverblaze.
"Can I see the kits?" I mew. He nods, and I stick my head into the sheltered nursery.
Jayclaw raises her head, "Hello Nightfall." She mews. "Come to see the kits?"
I nod, and she holds her tail over the kits in turn, "The brown tom is Rowankit, the tortie is Tawnykit, the brown she-cat is Blossomkit, and the small gray she-cat is Featherkit."
Seeing my widened eyes, she mews, "I know Nightfall. I thought the same thing."
I look down, and I almost see my sister suckling at Jayclaw's belly. I feel like she could almost be living a second life.
Jayclaw looks me in the eyes and mews, "Let us hope this Featherkit gets to see life go on."
The day continues on without incident. Nothing odd happens, but Sunsetfur never confronts me again. She's constantly out, hunting with Hawkstrike. When she does return, she's weary, and all she wants to do is sleep.
I resign myself to working, and plan on hunting myself. And then, I hear our medicine cat.
Ashwhisker's mew of panic, makes me turn right around. Her face is gaunt with worry.
I pad up to her, "What's wrong Ashwhisker?"
The gray medicine cat dips her head, "He's missing. I sent Littlepaw out to collect some lavender, but he's still not back yet. I think something's happened to him."
I think about her statment, concerned, "I'll go look for him. How long has he been gone?"
"He left this morning. Haven't heard from him since."
My eyes meet hers, "I'll find him."
Ashwhisker returns to her den, and I set out. I don't expect it to be anything bad. Normally, the apprentices get scattered, and go off doing things for hours.
And then, I step into the herb clearing, and right into a sticky crimson puddle.
Great StarClan... He's dead!
Chapter Three: Suspicions
"L-Littlepaw?" I mew, heart pounding. I can't believe that he's just there, somehow dead.
This can't be happening.
I don't understand. He shouldn't be dead. So why is his body lying in front of me?
I lean down, when the bushes in front of me crackle. I look up, only for my eyes to meet Mountainpelt. The black and white tom is snarling, and his anger is directed towards me.
"You... You killed my son! You monster!"
I back up, but he stalks around me. His patrol stands behind him, looking confused. Poppysong looks bewildered, while Sunsetfur looks horrified.
Mountainpelt's growls get stronger, "I don't know who you think you are, but this is an act of betrayal!"
But I... I didn't kill him!
I try to mew my way out, but Sunsetfur leans down, "Look! There's golden brown fur stuck between his claws!" She mews. With one movement she leans down and plucks it out, "Nightfall is a black cat. There's no way he did this." Mountainpelt hisses, "Then who did? Who killed my kit?"
Poppysong mews, "We don't know that. I'm sorry, Mountainpelt, I know how horrible it feels to lose the one you love. We should take this back to Cranestar."
Mountainpelt finally nods, and we head back. He and Poppysong carry Littlepaw on their backs.
I stick close to Sunsetfur, and mew to her, "Thank you."
Sunsetfur whispers, "I would do it for any innocent cat."
We fall into silence. But my mind is a whirl as bits and pieces put themselves together.
Sunsetfur was there when Featherpelt died. Claming to have tried to save her.
She was here today on the patrol, Littlepaw being dead.
And she had wanted to speak to me privatly.
Something doesn't add up here, and I'm starting to believe it's her alibi.
I don't want to believe this, but my suspicions seem to make sense.
My only clear thought rises, and makes me feel scared.
Did Sunsetfur kill Featherpelt and Littlepaw?
I know it doesn't all add up, but I can't make myself believe that Sunsetfur is a murderer. I've known her since we were kits, and she's always been so kind and gentle.
My heart feels heavy. As much as I want to believe in her innocence, the evidence is starting to speak for itself.
"Let all cats old enough to hunt, gather to here my words!'
Cranestar's words bring me out of my thoughts, and I gather with the rest of my Clanmates. Poppysong must have convinced him to finally hold the Clan meeting.
To explain how Littlepaw died.
"I'm sorry to say that young Littlepaw has been found dead." He mews.
Willowfrost lets out a cry of pain, "My son..."
Cranestar blinks, and continues, "From now on, no cat my leave camp alone, and all apprentices must be accompanied by a warrior."
Cats nod quietly, then Raindapple calls out, "How did Littlepaw die?"
Thrushheart nods, "We need to know."
Cranestar mews, "After speaking with Poppysong and Mountainpelt, it seems that he may have been murdered."
Gasps break out around me.
Cranstar continues, "But, we do not know this for sure. For all we know, it could be a tragic accident."
"He would have been a great medicine cat. SpottedClan will mourn him." Blueflower mews.
Every cat dips their head in sadness. But my mind continues to scream as everything tries to place itself together.
One conclusion is still cooking in my head. I can feel it burning in my mind. Sunsetfur's all too innocent face keeps returning to my mind.
I can't stop myself from getting suspicious, and all too well, I remember Featherpelt's words to me.
"I don't trust her. I'm sorry Nightfall, but I don't. She's dangerous. And I don't want you to be the first to fall into a trap she sets."
I feel myself falling from the sky, and ground swaying, as the cat I love becomes a cruel and demonic monster in my head.
StarClan help me.
"Nightfall? Can we talk?"
I turn, and once again see Sunsetfur. She looks around nervously, "It's really important."
My breath catches in my throat. She'd wanted to talk before, and she wants to talk now. Doubt churns in my stomach.
"W-What is it?" I mew, trying to keep my voice from shaking.
She presses herself close to me, and starts to whisper, "I think that your life might be in danger."
I do a double-take, "What?"
Is that a threat, or a warning?!
She looks around, fear in her eyes, "I didn't want this, but-" She cuts herself off as Poppysong passes by.
"If you have nothing better to do than sit around and gossip, join the hunting patrol." Poppysong mews.
Sunsetfur looks pained, "Okay. I'll tell you later Nightfall." With that, she races away.
It's all I can do not to worry. If my life is in danger, how does she know, unless she'll be the one to take it?
"Cranestar! Poppysong! Ashwhisker! It's an emergency!" Laurelpaw shrieks.
My ears prick, as I look over to the entrance of camp. Laurelpaw's fur is sticking right up, and she looks horribly frightened.
Cranestar leaps down from his den in worry, "What's going on?" He mews.
Laurelpaw catches her breath, "Our hunting patrol has been attacked! Willowfrost told me to go back for help!"
Cranestar nods, fear blazing in his wild blue eyes, "Blueflower, Riverblaze, Nightfall!"
The called for cats assemble, and I shake any pains out of my mind.
Sunsetfur was on that patrol.
Two options spin around as Laurelpaw leads us to a battle.
Either she's evil, and helping with this attack, or she's innocent, and could be dying as we speak.
I don't know which one is true, but I just keep running. There's nothing else we can do.
"Laurelpaw, are you sure this is the right way?" Mews Cranestar.
Laurelpaw nods, "We'll be there soon!" With that she trips over a tree root, and stumbles down into a valley in the heart of the forest. Sure enough, there is the patrol. Coated in blood, matted fur, and yet they don't look too awful.
Willowfrost pads up to Cranestar.,"We just beat the last one. I'm sorry we dragged you out here."
I look around the scene, and there is Sunsetfur. I race over to her. She blinks her green eyes, "There you are." She mews.
I let out a sigh of relief, "You're okay!"
She sighs, "Everyone but Snakefang." With that, she steps aside, and sure enough, Snakefang is lying dead in front of us. Don't get me wrong, I hated him, but I can't help but feel remorse at the sight of his motionless body.
Sunsetfur sighs, "He was brave. A little too brave."
I lean down, and look at his wound, a simple slit across his throat. And in his claws, a tuft of golden brown fur.
Only Sunsetfur could have left that there.
With a hiss, I turn around and spit at her, "It was you!"
She looks at me, her eyes full of fear, "W-what?"
I growl, "Don't play innocent! You killed Featherpelt. You killed Littlepaw. Now, you killed Snakefang!" My eyes turn to slits as I pace towards her, "What happened to you? Why have you started killing our Clanmates? How could I have ever loved you?"'
Sunsetfur widens her eyes at my last remark. But she flashes her eyes, and snarls, "I didn't kill them. But since you're so quick to think that, go report me to Cranestar."
With that, she stalks away, "You're not the cat I thought you were."
That's when I realize what I've done.
And just how wrong I've been.
Chapter Four: Accusations
My words still float through my head. My cruel accusation of Sunsetfur, 6 moons ago. I still can't believe how malicious I was. Why did I suspect her?
I don't know if she's forgiven me. We barely talk. But no cat has died, so it makes me think. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was just a coincidence.
But one part of me still refuses to believe that. I hate that part of me. Why must I suspect someone I care so much about?
As plausible as it is that she's a killer, I really don't want that to be the truth.
"Let all cats old enough to hunt, gather to hear my words!"
Cranestar stands on Leader's Rock, looking older than ever. He'd started to look that way a few moons ago, and he seemed to be getting weaker every day. There were days when Poppysong would have to hold him up.
Don't let him die now.
"Cats of SpottedClan! Today we are here to welcome 4 new apprentices to SpottedClan. Rowankit, Featherkit, Tawnykit and Blossomkit, come forward."
The four kits nervously step forward. Jayclaw and Riverblaze watch them from a distance with love in their eyes.
Wheezing, Cranestar mews, "Until you recieve your warrior names, you will be known as Rowanpaw, Featherpaw, Tawnypaw and Blossompaw. Your mentors in turn will be Mountainpelt, Sunsetfur, Nightfall, and Ashwhisker."
Confused, I look up. I'm supposed to be a mentor?
I step out of the crowd, and so do the other three. Mountainpelt nods to Rowanpaw. The ginger apprentice bumps noses with him enthusiastically, while Sunsetfur and Featherpaw are quick with theirs.
Tawnypaw squeaks, and touches her nose to mine. Her green eyes are alight with happiness.
"Rowanpaw! Tawnypaw! Featherpaw! Blossompaw!"
After a few minutes, Tawnypaw, Featherpaw, and Rowanpaw all mew together, "Can we explore together?"
I exchange glances with Sunsetfur and Mountainpelt. Both nod, and I mew, "Why not? Let's go."
Featherpaw's eyes light up, as she exchanges an excited glance with her siblings. In that moment, I don't see Jayclaw and Riverblaze's daughter. I see my sister.
I'm transported back to when we were young apprentices, and Featherpelt was so excitable, and so eager to learn. She and I got into scrapes her and there, but we always picked ourselves up afterwards.
But the day our parents died, she changed. She became mature almost overnight, all her innocence gone.
And it scared me more than anything.
"This is the valley. It's in the heart of the forest, and has plenty of prey."
I zone out as Mountainpelt lectures the apprentices. I keep thinking back to what Featherpelt said about Sunsetfur. I had hoped to not remember these things, but Featherpaw's resemblence to my sister makes me think about it again.
I trusted Featherpelt more than any cat, and yet I don't know what to think about Sunsetfur. After everything I said to Sunsetfur, I'm not about to open that subject again. Even though it's been six moons, I still feel terrible about this whole affair. We decend into the valley, slowly. The aroma of pine is nearly overwhelming. I blink and shake my head. This is no time to pass out.
Something touches my side, and I squirm. Turning my head, I see Sunsetfur beside me, her eyes filled with pain.
"I'm sorry." I mew right away, "I wasn't thinking straight, and I was still greiving for Featherpelt. I lost control. I shouldn't have accused you so horribly."
Sunsetfur mews gently, "It's okay. If it was the other way around... I might have said the same things about you." Her green eyes drop to the ground, "D-Did you really love me?"
I swallow nervously. This isn't really the time, nor the place for a romantic confession. Still, I nod, "Y-Yeah. I did. I still do. Ever since we were kits, I thought you were incredible. But I never thought you'd ever like me."
Sunsetfur purrs, and open her mouth to speak. Before she can, though, a roar of terror echoes through the valley.
I whip around, and see Mountainpelt screeching, his fur standing on end, "Badger! Run!"
My eyes flash towards the black and white badger coming towards us. It's huge, bigger than any animal in the forest.
Sunsetfur quakes, "T-That's Slash... From the nursery tales!"
Dapplestorm purrs loudly. She licks my fur gently, before turning to Featherkit, and grooming her too.
"Now, be on your best behavior, you two. You want Blueflower to like the two of you, correct?"
Featherkit protests, "She does like us!"
Dapplestorm mews, "Yes dear. Now, run along."
Featherkit and I rush towards the far end of the nursery. Blueflower lies at the back, sleeping. Her own kits snore beside her.
Featherkit chirps, "Wake up! Blueflower!"
Blueflower raises her head, "Oh, you've come." She nudges her kits, "Story time."
Rockkit looks up, "B-B-But..."
Shoalkit yawns, "I need some more sleep."
Sunsetkit mews, "I'm ready for a story! Tell us!"
My eyes watch Sunsetkit's fur, and I purr to myself. Featherkit shoves me gently.
Mistykit flickers open her eyes, and stretches, "Already?
Sunsetfur almost replies, when suddenly, a roar of terror fills the valley. Mountainpelt's fur stands on end. "Badger! Run!"
We're running, and Sunsetfur's screaming. "It's Blade!" She shrieks. From the nursery tales!"
I don't stop to think, only remembering the fierce badger, that killed ruthlessly. And I realize just how important it is that we get away.
Mountainpelt and Tawnypaw leap over the stream, with Sunsetfur, Rowanpaw, and myself behind. We just make it over, when I hear Featherpaw's scream. "Help me!"
Blade is coming for her, and I'm forcing myself not to see Featherpelt in her scared blue eyes.
Just then, Rowanpaw jumps back over the stream, and pulls his sister up. "Run!" He mews. She scurries over the stream, and is just over, when a crunch of bone is heard. And Rowanpaw is picked up by Blade and carried back into the forest.
"No!" screams Featherpaw. "He can't die! No! He has to be alive! He saved my life!"
I can hear the other cats assuring her that he'll be fine, but I've lost any and all hope.
He saved her.
Could I have done the same for Featherpelt?
Tawnypaw and Featherpaw are silent as we return to camp. I can see that Mountainpelt is blaming himself, and Sunsetfur is trying not to cry. How could we let this happen? I think to myself, feeling guilt pile in my stomache.
Poppysong looks to us as we return, and pads up to us. "What's going on? And where is Rowanpaw?"
"He's dead." Croaks Mountainpelt. "Blade got him."
Poppysong gasps. "No! Oh Riverblaze and Jayclaw will be devesated."
Jayclaw steps out of the warrior's den. 'What? I heard my name."
Sunsetfur sighs. "Jayclaw, your son is dead. We encountered Blade. We ran, and Featherpaw tripped. Rowanpaw went back to get her, before any of us could. She escaped, but he didn't."
Jayclaw lets out a wail. "He was so young!"
I shut my eyes, and ignore Sunsetfur's pelt as it brushes against mine.
How can SpottedClan survive, if our Clanmates are dying all around us?
Chapter 5 ~Betrayal~
It is cold at the vigil.
The first one with no bodies present, since Rockpaw, Shoalpaw, and Mistypaw vanished.
I'm not sure how to react to this.
As much as I want to grieve for Rowanpaw, I still feel that something is wrong. As much as I believe Sunsetfur, Featherpelt didn't trust her. Of course, Featherpelt didn't trust most cats, but I trusted her more than any cat, after our parents died.
Featherpelt could read a cat. She could feel their emotions.
It scared me, but it scares me even more now.
I try to shake it off. Featherpelt is dead. And I love Sunsetfur.
That's when something hits me.
How did Sunsetfur get to Featherpelt before me? Why was she dragging her out of the river? And where was Hazelfoot during all this?
I think, totally conflicted, and try to come to a plausible conclusion.
Dawn comes much before a conclusion can form.
Poppysong sends out the dawn patrol, trusting Laurelshine and Birdfeather to lead some of the other warriors.
I shut my eyes, and imagine Featherpelt.
I wish she was here. She'd know what to do.
It hasn't rained in ages. Wincing as i step on the cracked ground, I make my way to the stream.
The place where my sister died.
I lean down, and lap the cool water, letting my paws sink into the muddy ground.
As I drink, a soft wet thing washes onto my nose. I open my eyes, and spot a tuft of silver fur. Featherpelt's fur. It's clung to the river all this time, and I snatch it up with my teeth. I carry it back to camp, and drop it in my nest. A fragment of my lost sister.
But I need it.
"Hey Nightfall! Can we go hunting?"
I groan and roll over on my back. Tawnypaw is standing right outside my den. "In a moment. I need to wake up first."
"Okay!" she mews, and races into the clearing.
I stand up, and shake the sleep out of my pelt. Then I pad out of the sheltered den, and into the heat. The hot sun burns into my fur, and I try to ignore the blazing heat. Tawnypaw's already ahead, bouncing on her paws.
"Alright, slow down. Yes we'll hunt, but not near the valley. Let's not have a repeat of before."
She nods, and we walk into the forest. Against my better judgement, we stop near the river. "Are we hunting now?" she mews. I nod. "I'll stay with you the whole time."
She drops into a hunters crouch, and starts creeping along the bank. Her feet touch the ground lightly, and she creeps towards a mouse, that's nibbling on a nut. With a swift leap, she lands on the mouse, and bites into it's throat.
"Was that good?" she mews. "I was worried it was bad."
I shake my head. "That was wonderful! I didn't think any apprentice could make a catch on their first day. We'll take that back to camp. I'm sure Clovergaze would love it."
Tawnypaw nods, and grabs her mouse. Holding her head hight with pride, we walk into camp, and she puts her mouse on the top of the pile. She heads off to brag to Featherpaw, and I sit down. My own appretice days were so lighthearted.
I wish it was like that now.
Sunsetfur pads up to me, her soft fur pressed against me. "Nightfall, you know the hill? Where you can look over the territory? I want you to meet me there tonight, so we can watch the sunset."
I turn around, and nod. "I'll meet you there tonight."
Through the day, I think about why Sunsetfur wants me to meet her. Many reasons fly into my head, each as unlikely as the next.
Eventually I eturn to camp, looking for Sunsetfur. I spot her next the the fresh-kill pile, and walk to her. The fading light on her fur turns it even more beautiful, as the white and gold merge together. She turns to me. "Are you ready to go? We don't want to miss it."
I nod, and she scampers away. I chase after her, feeling a cool breeze in my fur, and hear her laugh in the wind. We stop as we get to the hill, and she climbs up it, like she's done it a thousand times before.
"What are you waiting for Nightfall?"
I shut my eyes, and start up after her.
I climb to the top of the hill, where Sunsetfur waits. Her green eyes gleam in the setting sun. "There you are." She mews. "I like to watch this, and I thought I could share it with you."
The mountains seems to be alight with fire as the sun descends into the red sky. "It's beautiful." I comment quietly.
Sunsetfur nods. "I was hoping it would be beautiful."
"Yes." I mew. "A beautiful sunset like this was how Blueflower named you. She was stumped until the saw the light falling onto your fur, and then she knew."
Sunsetfur purrs and shuffles close to me. "I wanted it to be beautiful. You had to see this one. You had to see how beautiful it really is."
I nod gratefully. "I wish I'd come to this place sooner. It's wonderful."
Offhand, Sunsetfur mews, "I'm glad it's a beautiful sunset you got to see." She sighs. "Because after all, it's going to be your last."
"What?" I turn to her, and her gentle face is full of sorrow. "I'm sorry it had to be like this Nightfall."
Before I can run, her face twists into utter rage. She snarls, and her eyes are dark. Sunsetfur leaps at me, claws extended. She drives them into my neck, and I feel them ripping into my flesh.
Why would you do this Sunsetfur?
The world flashes black and white, and the last thing I see is Sunsetfur's rage, twisted in an unatural way.
Then I give in to StarClan's calling words.
I blink open my eyes, and see wispy trees and starlit ground everywhere. Scared, I pad forward. "Is this StarClan?"
A misty shape steps out of the distance. "Nightfall! It's me! Featherpelt!"
I race to me sister, and greet her in an embrace. "I've missed you so much." I murmur. "You were right. She is dangerous. I should have listened to you."
"Nightfall," she mews. "There's something I need to tell you."
I shake my head. "It can wait. Right now, I need to apologize for being such a mouse-brain."
She shuts her blue eyes and pulls herself close to me. "It's okay."
We stay close, but I can't shake this feeling. The fact that I'm dead.
That Sunsetfur, the love of my life, has murdered me.
Her betrayal hurts more than anything.
Chapter 6 ~Secrets~
Featherpelt leads me over to the Pool of Memories. She fog waves around the pool, and the present appears. Sunsetfur is returning to camp, and I automatically hiss at her.
Featherpelt puts her tail up to keep me from leaping into the pool, trying to kill her. "Just watch this." She mews.
I sit down, and let my mind clear as I look into the portal.
Sunsetfur approaches a bush, and mews, "Okay, I did it. I don't know why it had to be him. Can I see them now? Please?"
The bush shakes, and out steps Hazelfoot and Hawkstrike. Hazelfoot sighs. "Is he really dead? Can you prove it? How do we know you didn't just tell him to run off, so you could keep him safe?"
Sunsetfur's eyes glisten with tears. "He's dead. I brought his body." She turns, and drags my lifeless body in front of them. "See? I killed him. I didn't want to, but I did."
Hazelfoot nods. "Good good. I'm surpirsed you followed orders so easily. You killed both of them. It's funny."
Sunsetfur shakes her head. "No. I didn't kill Featherpelt."
Hazelfoot laughs. "Do you think I'm stupid? Of course you killed her! She's dead isn't she?"
Sunsetfur growls. "She drowned. I tried to save her, but she did before I could get the water out of her."
Hawkstrike rolls her eyes. "Sure you did. Pass me the body. We'll bury it later."
She leans down and tears drop onto my body. "I'm sorry." she whispers. "I wanted to save you."
She licks my fur, and passes the carcass to Hawkstrike. The brown she-cat snorts. "You really loved that fool."
"He was not a fool!" spits Sunsetfur.
"Whatever." mews Hawkstrike.
Sunsetfur shuts her eyes. "Can I see them now? I've held up my half of the bargain. For much longer than intended."
Hawkstrike looks to Hazelfoot. "What do you say boss? She did kill the love of her life, and her own father for us. I think we can give her siblings back to her."
Her father? She killed Sandspots?
Hazelfoot nods. "I think she's done enought for now."
Sunsetfur sighs, and Hazelfoot walks back into the bushes.
I stare at the fur quivering on Sunsetfur's pelt, and I realize how real her fear is. And that she did love me. The compassion is odd, and I'm almost alright with her killing me to save her siblings.
It sounds crazier when I actually think about it.
Hazelfoot returns, and with him are two skinny, gray cats. Sunsetfur runs towards them. "Shoalpaw! Mistypaw! You're alright." She lifts her head, and looks around. "Where's Rockpaw?"
Shoalpaw shuts her green eyes. "He-he didn't make it."
"What?" mews Sunsetfur. "Hazelfoot, what's going on? You promised you wouldn't hurt them!"
Hazelfoot shrugs. "It's not my fault. He struggled too much. He died trying to escape."
"No..." murmurs Sunsetfur. "He can't be."
"Well, he is." mews Hawkstrike. "Get over it."
Sunsetfur shuts her eyes. "This is all my fault."
"Yes it is." Hazelfoot mews. "We had to. If he didn't die, you would rebel. Now you know our power. We will not stop easily."
Mistypaw sobbs. "It was so quick, and their laughter was so cruel. Oh what are we going to do, Sunsetfur?"
She sighs. "We'll head back." She turns to Hazelfoot and Hawkstrike. "Can we go back now?"
"Yes." Hawkstrike smirks. "Though you better come back to work, or else we'll take those two again, and end their little, puny lives." Hazelfoot let out a cackle as Sunsetfur's tears stain the earth. "Fine."
They pad away, flattening their ears against the cruel laughter that rang in the empty clearing.
I sit up, and Sunsetfur vanishes. "She-she's innocent?" I choke out.
Featherpelt nods. "She was only protecting her siblings. I was wrong about her."
I sigh. "Neither of us were right. She had her secrets. And they were for the better."
Featherpelt shuts her eyes. "I wish we could have helped her, but it's far too late." She curls up. "I guess there's no way now."
I lie down beside her, and think of her. And I wish I could have helped Sunsetfur.
I wish I could have fixed this mess, before it ever happened.
I yawn as I open my eyes. The apprentice den feels stuffy, and I cough to clear my throat.
Featherpaw rolls over on her side. "Tawnypaw? Are you awake?"
I turn. "Yes. Featherpaw, do you feel nervous?"
"What do you mean?" inquires my sister,
"Something feels wrong today." I mew. "Like, everything is different."
"My fur is prickling." She admits. "But is anything actually wrong? Maybe it's just the heat?"
I shake my head. "Something worse than that."
Featherpaw shrugs. "Go back to sleep Tawnypaw. It's dawn. We need our sleep. Nightfall and Sunsetfur said we might have our first assessment soon." She yawns, and turns around. Soon her snores fill the den.
I roll over, and realize that I can't sleep. I stand up, and shake all the dust out of my fur. Then I exit the den.
The humid air makes my fur feel heavy, and I walk as quickly as I can, feeling hot and heavy. I wait by the warriors den for Nightfall, in hopes that we can start early today. I'm just about to give up, when Sunsetfur comes into camp, her eyes full of tears.
"He's dead!" She screeches. "He's dead!" Then she collaspses on the ground.
I run over to her, and shriek as I spot the body on the ground.
I stand in shock. There is really nothing I can say. Featherpaw on the other paw is screaming her head off. "Cranestar! Poppysong! Ashwhisker!"
I just look at my former mentor, still catching my breath. Nothing seems to croak out, but the tears that fall down my face.
This is what impossible looks like.
Poppysong clears everyone out, as she and Ashwhisker examines Sunsetfur. I sit quietly, and watch as Poppysong half comforts, half interrogates Sunsetfur.
"How did this happen?" She mews sharply.
Sunsetfur chokes. "We-we were watching the sunset. Nightfall saw something, and he went to look. I-I never asked what it was. I went looking for him, when he didn't come back. He-he was dead. I carried him back, when I ran into Hazelfoot and Hawkstrike. They-they said that they found my siblings. They had gone hunting rouges." She coughs, and falls over. "I didn't want him to die." She mews, her eyes hollow, and throat dry.
Poppysong licks her face. "Alright. Some cat, get Blueflower. She'll want to see her children again."
Darksong races off, and I look at Sunsetfur. Her green eyes are full of grief, longing, and something I can't quite place. Guilt?
I quietly look for Featherpaw, who's spent the last hour hyperventilating. "Are you okay?" I mew.
She shakes her head. "This can't be happening. This is not real."
I sigh. "Then why does the pain feel so real?"
After a while, Sunsetfur is released from the medicine den. Featherpaw races up to her, but the she-cat flicks her tail, and whispers something in her ear. Right away, my sister bounds up to me. "We're supposed to meet her in the training clearing." Then she runs off.
I look after her, but don't question it. Followering her odd instructions, I leave camp, and head to the clearing. I'm clearly early, but I don't bother to sit down. Something tells me that I won't be waiting long.
Shortly after I arrive, Shoalpaw, Mistypaw, Featherpaw and Sunsetfur join this mysterious meeting. Sunsetfur's eyes are cold, and scared.
"What's going on?" mews Featherpaw. "Is this a training session?"
Sunsetfur shakes her head. "It's more of a life-saving skill."
Mistypaw shrinks, and I gulp. "What do you mean?"
Sunsetfur winces. "Mistypaw and Shoalpaw weren't kidnapped by rouges. They were taken by Hazelfoot and Hawkstrike. They're dangerous. I was forced to work for them." Her eyes go bleak. "They made me murder cats, against my will. I killed my own father."
Featherpaw gasps. "Why didn't you just tell Cranestar?"
Sunsetfur cries. "They had my siblings. If I said anything, they'd kill them. Now, they're going to do something bad. They'll probably involve me. You need to hide from them. Aviod them. I will not let you be hurt by them."
Mistypaw looks at me, her blue eyes heavy. "Please. Don't trust them."
I nod quietly. "I just don't understand why they would do that. Killing off random cats."
Sunsetfur opens her eyes. "It's just one of those things." she mews. "And that Featherpaw, is how not to stalk a bird, courtesy of Shoalpaw." she added, much louder.
Confused, I tilt my head, only to spot the bushes moving. Sunstefur tenses, then relaxes as Darksong enters. "There you are!" she mews. "Cranestar's going to call a meeting soon. Clovergaze just died."
I lock eyes with everyone, and the 5 of us return to camp.
Cranestar stands upon Leader's Rock. His eyes are tired, and he looks older than any cat I've ever seen. But his voice is clear when he calls out for SpottedClan to gather. "Cats of SpottedClan, we have much going on. First off, Clovergaze has passed. She will be hunting with StarClan, and I hope she receives eternal rest."
The crowd dips their head to mourn for the elder. My eyes flicker around, and I notice that Hazelfoot's eyes are narrowed. I gulp, and turn back to Cranestar.
"In other news, as most of you know, Nightfall is dead. He was killed by rouges in the area. Sunsetfur tried her hardest, but was unable to save him. However, she was able to rescue Shoalpaw and Mistypaw, her siblings. Rockpaw has not turned up, and we are assuming he is dead."
Shoalpaw chokes back tears, and Mistypaw stifles a sob. I hang my head, unable to think of words.
Cranestar clears his throat. "Now, I hope to apprentice Shoalpaw and Mistypaw back to thier original mentors. Willowfrost and Mountainpelt step forward. I hope you can still teach them everything you know."
Willowfrost nods. "It would be an honor."
Cranestar nods. "And Tawnypaw is without a mentor. I must give her to one who can teach her well."
I swallow nervously. Nightfall will always be my mentor. It wouldn't be right if another cat took his place.
"I want Hazelfoot to mentor her." mews Cranestar.
Sunsetfur gasps. "What? No!"
Her voice is drowned out by the cheering of my name. Sunsetfur looks at me, her face full of worry. But I don't have time to say anything, as Hazelfoot pads over to me.
"Hello Tawnypaw. I hope I can teach you much." he mews.
I nod and bump noses with him.
I just hope he can't feel the terror running through my veins.
Chapter 7 ~Plea~
"Faster! If you don't fight like a warrior, then you'll die before you get to be one!"
I gulp, and charge at Hazelfoot. The large golden tom is clearly powerful, and I could easily die right here in this session. No cat would ever know.
Hazelfoot looks away, bored, as I leap at him, and slam into his solid ribcage. My head aches, but I pull myself to my paws.
"Look Tawnypaw. You'll never get anywhere in life, with a technique like that." he spits out the words.
I nod. "Yes Hazelfoot. I'll try again."
He nods. "This time, don't try to hit me directly."
I step back, and dart through his legs, raking my paw across his side. I can almost hear him rolling his eyes.
"Tawnypaw, listen to me." he mews. "No enemy will be scared of that. Unsheathe your claws when you fight!"
"But we're just training!" I protest. "It's not like I'll be fighting you!" I turn away and mutter under my breath. "Nightfall would have never been like this."
Hazelfoot growls. "You want to see how that move is really done? I'll do it on you."
Before I can say anything, he darts at me, knocks me off my feet, and rakes his claws across my side. I scream in pain, and writhe in pain on the ground. The sight of my blood is scary. It's much darker than I've expected, and I collapse. Behind me, Hazelfoot scampers off yelling, "Medicine Cat! Tawnypaw's hurt!"
I lie down, and wait for StarClan to take me.
I'm so sorry.
I awake in the medicine den, Blossompaw standing over me. "Are you alright?" she mews. "Ashwhisker said you might not make it."
I gulp. I almost died. All because of Hazelfoot. Aloud, I mew, "I'm fine now, just a little tired. Where is Ashwhisker?"
"That's probably the poppy seeds." Blossompaw mews. "She's off collecting borage. We're running quite low."
I nod. "Thank you." My sister shrugs, and returns to sorting herbs. I don't understand this facination she has with the herbs. But if it's a life she wishes to pursue, then she should go for it.
"Am I allowed to leave? I need to talk to Featherpaw." I mew.
Blossompaw nods. "Tell her I say hi. I don't get to see her very much anymore."
I flick my tail, and exit the den. I stumble a little bit, as I make my way across the clearing. Featherpaw spots me, and races over. "Tawnypaw! You're okay!" She embraces me. "Hazelfoot said you injured yourself in training. I doubt that. Did he attack you?"
I nod. "Yes. Ashwhisker didn't think I'd wake up."
She growls. "I hate them. Sunsetfur says they're trying to meet with her tonight, and she's going to try and report them. She's finally standing up to them, or trying."
"You seem on edge though." I mew.
She nods. "I am. Shoalpaw and Mistypaw got this idea. Today, when the pair of them return from 'hunting', we attack them. I don't really want to do this, but Shoalpaw thinks if we catch them off guard, we can end this." She shudders. "I'm not sure it's a good idea, but I want to get this over with."
I look at my paws, and weigh the options. "I think we should do it. We have to get rid of them."
Featherpaw sighs. "Alright then. Come on, I promised we'd meet them if we made the decision."
My sister races off, and I follow her blindly, unable to understand what's going to happen, and what the consequences will be.
I awkwardly lurk in the long grass, my tail stiff. Mistypaw and Featherpaw stand next to me, eyes alight with fear and excitment. I'm not sure which one I feel.
Shoalpaw is listening hard, ears cranned, face determined. "They have to be there." she mutters. "They'll come."
I gulp, and we wait. Eventually, Featherpaw mews, "I think it's a lost cause. Do you really think they'll come?"
Shoalpaw sighs, and steps away, when suddenly I hear paws stepping across hard dirt. A female voice chokes out a murmur, and continues walking.
"It's Hawkstrike!" Shoalpaw mews. "I'm going to get her."
Mistypaw nods, and growls, when Featherpaw stops. "No!" she mews. "Don't! It's not Hawkstrike!"
But Shoalpaw is already leaping out, her claws extened.
"Stop!" Screams Featherpaw. "It's Ash-" She breaks off as Shoalpaw crashes to the ground.
"Shoalpaw you idiot!" mews Featherpaw. "That was our medicine cat! I told you, but you didn't listen to me!"
Shoalpaw looks at her paws, embarressed. "I-I didn't mean to. I really thought she was Hawkstrike."
Mistypaw licks her sister's ear. "It's okay. The question is, what do we do with her body? We can't just leave it out here.
I nose the ferns nearby. "If we roll her body in them, and then carry it back to camp, we can say we found her out here."
"Would they believe us?" mews Mistypaw.
"I hope." I reply.
"She's heavy!" grunts Featherpaw.
We mutter, and continue dragging Ashwhisker towards camp. I long stick has snagged through her neck, and we all have to take our time to avoid it.
Shoalpaw says nothing, but her eyes are full of tears. It's almost as if her heart is broken, despite no relationship with the former medicine cat.
As we drag her into camp, cats let out cries of despair. "What's going on?" mews Poppysong.
I gulp. "We were hunting, when we ran into her. She had the branch snared through her neck. We thought we shiuld carry her back."
Poppysong nods. "How can SpottedClan survive? We're dying from the inside out!" Poppysong sighs. "This forest just isn't safe anymore."
She drags Ashwhisker away, to prepare her for the vigil.
Shoalpaw lets out a sigh, and Sunsetfur comes up behind us. "How did she really die?" she whispers in my ear.
I lower my voice. "Shoalpaw accidently killed her, thinking she was Hawkstrike."
Sunsetfur sighs. "I'm talking to them tonight. I'm finally standing up to them. Cranestar will know, and this forest will be safe."
I nod, and the she-cat slips away.
Featherpaw looks at me. "Do you think we can do this? Survive?"
I sigh. "I wish I knew Featherpaw. I really wish I knew."
The vigil is cold. Blossompaw's tears are leaking on to her mentor's coat. She doesn't know what she'll do without her. As much as i want to greive, my mind is on other things.
Things that threaten our survival.
I see Sunsetfur slip away through the corner of my eye, and motion to Featherpaw to follow me. Her blue eyes are sparked with fear, but she says nothing as we creep over to the firefly lit clearing. Hazelfoot and Hawkstrike sit waiting.
Sunsetfur stalks up to them, her green eyes narrowed in determination. "Don't get any ideas. This is all over. I'm not working for you, I'm not helping you, and I don't believe your lies."
Hazelfoot laughs. "And you thought you could just get away with it? Unlikely." His eyes narrow. "You'll do what we say. You might have your siblings now, but we can take them again in the blink of an eye."
Hawkstrike nods. "And your mother too. Did you really think we'd let her live forever? She's clearly corrupt."
Sunsetfur snarls. "The only corrupt ones are you! I can't believe I was stupid enough to believe you! I killed my own father, because I was foolish enough to trust you."
Hawkstrike narrows her eyes. "Just remember that I was the one who kept Blueflower alive. I could have let Hazelfoot kill her, but I saved her! All because I thought it would be to cruel for you to lose both your parents, the way I did!"
Sunsetfur stiffens. Then she snarls at Hazelfoot. "What is with you? Why do you want all this power? You'll never get it like this!"
Hazelfoot shrugs. "Only because you keep interfering. We can fix that easily. Hawkstrike, kill her."
Sunsetfur backs away, but Hawkstrike unsheathes her claws, and leaps onto Sunsetfur. Her amber eyes are fired with intensity.
"No please!" Sunsetfur mews, But Hawkstrike just raises her claws. I'm about the screech, by my voice has caught in my throat. I'm about to watch her die.
The bravest ones always leave us first.
Hawkstrike is just bring down her claws, and I'm shutting my eyes, trying to block out all this. Thinking that if I stand still, I can stop this all from being true. That everything is just a dream.
And that's when Featherpaw sneezes.
Hawkstrike whips around. The she spots my golden pelt, and Featherpaw's shaking tail. "So." Hawkstrike mews. "We finally meet your spies. I just can't believe it's the apprentices. They're useless."
Hazelfoot glares at us. "Thought you could interfere with our plans? Run off to Cranestar? Not going to happen. Hawkstrike, kill Featherpaw. She'll never be anything. Then continue onto Sunsetfur. I think Tawnypaw might make an excellent recruit for us."
"No!" I mew. "I'll never do that! I'll never be like you!"
Hazelfoot shrugs. "You will. After you watch your sister die." He flicks his tail. Hawkstrike pads over to Featherpaw. I'm just about to sink my teeth into Hawkstrike's neck, when a brown blur knocks over the tabby.
Jayclaw snarls at Hawkstrike, her eyes full of fury. "You will never hurt my daughters! Never!"
Hawkstrike laughs. "You and what army?"
Jayclaw shrugs, when Riverblaze tackles Hawkstrike. "This one." he snarls.
Hawkstrike pulls herself to her paws. "Good luck and good ridance." she mews. The she lifted her claws, and struck Jayclaw. "There is no escape."
Riverblaze's eyes flared, and he sunk his claws into Hawkstrike's back. She whipped around, and slashed her claws across his throat.
It hits me as I watch my parents bleed out in front of me.
They're gone. Before I can stop myself, I run into the clearing, screaming my head off. "Cranestar! Cranestar! Hawkstrike and Hazelfoot are traitors. My parents are dead, and my sister could be going the same way right now!"
This gets everyone's attention. In a matter of moments, they've been dragged out, bound by vines. Sunsetfur and Featherpaw are together, shuddering, and my parents are dead.
The more I think about it, the crazier it seems.
Cranestar looks more alive than ever, upon Leader's Rock. "So, cats of SpottedClan. We finally know why our cats are dying. It is because of them. Warriors I trusted. You are warriors no more, as I banish you. You are charged with treason and extreme murder. Never return!"
Hazelfoot shrugs and walks out, Hawkstrike close behind. "We'll be back you know. This isn't over."
"Yes it is." mews Sunsetfur. "You will never hurt us again!"
Hazelfoot narrows his eyes. "I have something special planned for you Sunsetfur. You've interfered with us far too much"
Then they turn tail, and exit the camp.
That's when Sunsetfur breaks down.
Chapter 8 ~Silence~
I creep through the forest, the eerie silence among me. Hazelfoot and Hawkstrik have only been gone for 3 days, but it seems odd. They said they would be back. And they know the forest better than I ever will.
A mouse scurries among the roots, and I crouch, in hopes of catching it. With a small leap, the mouse is history.
"Nice catch." Comes a voice from behind. I whip around, and then relax at Raindapple's presence. My new mentor is taking a bit of getting used to. But she's certainly nice.
Raindapple looks at me. "We should get back to camp. Cranestar said he would call a meeting soon."
I nod, and we head back to camp, the mouse's tail swinging.
Cranestar stands of Leader's Rock, his vivid blue eyes full of determination. "Cats of SpottedClan!" he mews. "We watched traitors walk away from our Clan. Now, we will find them, and destroy them. They mentioned plans. I intend to find out what they are, and stop them."
Featherpaw shudders. "I hope it's nothing bad."
Cranestar continues. "I want a patrol of about 2 cats to go and find them. I want this menace stopped. Are there any volunteers?"
Sunsetfur raises her voice. "I'll go."
Cranestar nods. "Anyone else?"
That's when I suprise myself more than anyone. "I'll go too."
Sunsetfur is slinking through the undergrowth. She's had much more practice than me, and I feel that I'm just tromping around.
Eventually, we reach a once beautiful glade. The dying grass, dead trees. It just looks sad.
"They'll be here." mews Sunsetfur. "Keep an eye out."
I nod, and we diverge off into the silence. There are scent traces, and prey bones, but nothing that suggests they're currently there.
It's spooky, and almost seems like something is watching me.
By the time night falls, I'm struggling to stay awake. But I force myself to keep watch for any signs of life. Then, as I creep around the sandy bank, I hear Hazelfoot and Hawkstrike talking. I crouch low, and listen carefully to their conversation.
"You just don't get it!" mews Hawkstrike. "I've been a fool! We can't keep killing innocent cats! Don't have have any morale?"
Hazelfoot snarls. "You are so useless. You don't seem to understand. Hawkstrike, you really are a fool."
Hawkstrike sighs. "Yes. I am a fool. The fool who fell in love with you. Even after you killed my family."
I gasp, but Hazelfoot just growls. "Love is a foolish sentiment. All I love is power. And I will get it, with or without your help."
Hawkstrike is crying now. "I wanted to be like you. I believed in you. But now, all I want is to be loyal to SpottedClan. I don't want to be like this!"
"You should of thought of that before. They cast you out! Do you really think they'll take you back? You are such an idiot. You're either with me, or you're out alone. There will be no one that cares about you." spits Hazelfoot.
Hawkstrike looks at him, her eyes empty. "So you don't care about me. All you care about is ruling the Clans. That would have been nice to know, before I was stupid enough to love you."
"You should have figured it out yourself. I'm going to get the recruits, and give a message to SpottedClan. Feel free to leave. I don't need you anymore." Then the golden tom stalks away.
Watching Hawkstrike break down right in front of me makes me feel so hollow. Like I should reveal myself, and bring her back. But another part of me still hates her for killing my parents. It's what makes me back away, and run back to the pine copse, outside the dead glade.
Sunsetfur is waiting for me. "There you are! Did you find something?"
I nod, and spill everything I just heard. Sunsetfur's eyes grow wide, and she stares at me. "She really feels that way?"
I sigh. "I don't know what to do. I think our best option is to go and report to Cranestar. It sounds like they want a battle."
Together, we run, and return to SpottedClan, where there is a cluster of cats in The Clearing.
"What's going on?" I mew.
Poppysong looks at me, her eyes tired. "Cranestar is dead. Hazelfoot came, he killed him. We tried to stop him, but he had some crazy group of rouges with him. They want a battle. A war."
Sunsetfur goes pale. "No..."
Poppysong sighs. "We fight them tomorrow morning. This is the one battle we can't afford to lose."
I stare at Cranestar's empty body. My heart is thumping, and my breath is caught in my throat.
StarClan. Please help us. We need you.
Chapter 9 ~War~
The cold dawn air breathes through the sky. The eerie feeling of being watched is all around. My eyes try to focus on the hazy field ahead, but the rising sun blurs my vision.
Poppysong stops and turns to the gathered cats. "This is a battle we must win! A battle that cannot be lost!"
Willowfrost stands nervously to the side. As the new deputy, she's taking her job seriously. I just worry for her.
Shoalpaw and Mistypaw stand together. "I want to end this." mews Mistypaw. "After what they did to Rockpaw."
Featherpaw nudges me. "We'll make it. I promise."
I sigh, looking at the field. I hope she's right.
Our battle line stands out in the center, Hazelfoot's army glaring back at us. The golden tom steps out of line, and up to Poppysong. His amber eyes are glinted.
"This doesn't have to be a battle." he mews. "You and your foolish 'warriors' can leave. You can spare so many lives."
Poppysong growls. "Never! If SpottedClan goes down, we'll go down fighting this menace to the forest!"
"Have it your way." Hazelfoot mews. "Attack!"
Soon, the field is full of screeching, fighting, cats. I throw myself into the thick of things, sparring side by side with Featherpaw.
A shot of searing pain comes down my side, and I whip around to spot a ginger she-cat. Her eyes are dark, and her mouth is curved in a creul smile. "Time to die, foolish one. Hazelfoot will rule all."
"Not likely!" I shoot back, and leap onto her scruff. I bite down hard, and try to keep her scrambling, but she throws me off. Her claws are sinking into my side, when Featherpaw knocks her over, power motivated by pure rage.
"You will never hurt my sister!" she screeches, and quickly ends the she-cat's life. She stumbles, and I hold her up.
"Zoey!" mews a dark brown tom. "No!" He runs over to her body. "We were going to be mates, and have beautiful kits. Wake up Zoey! Wake up!"
Featherpaw and I quickly lose ourselves in the crowd, in case the tom wants to take out his anger on us.
Suddenly Mistypaw lets out a screech. "Help me!" I spin around, and see Hawkstrike has her pinned down, teeth going for her throat.
I let out a yowl and run at her, striking Hawkstrike just before she kills Mistypaw. The apprentice rolls away, and I pin down Hawkstrike. I expect her to throw me off, or to fight, but instead, she goes weak. "Go ahead." she mews. "Kill me. I know you heard that conversation, your scent was everywhere."
I stop. "I can't. Hawkstrike, if you want to be loyal to SpottedClan, I'm sure they would take you back. Poppysong would make an exception if she knew."
Hawkstrike shakes her head. "There's no point. I've followed Hazelfoot for too long. I couldn't be loyal if I tried. I'm not good enough. Just kill me, please. I can't do this anymore."
"Are you sure?" I mew, unable to figure this out.
Hawkstrike nods. "I just hope StarClan is as forgiving as you are."
I gulp, and quickly slice my claws across her throat. She nods, stumbling, and bleeding. "Thank you. It's all up to StarClan now. May they bless you Tawnypaw. May they bless you well."
Then she collapses on the ground.
I tell myself it was what she wanted. But I can't shake the horror of knowing that I killed her.
The fight shows no sign of ending. My head pounds, and my paws ache, but I can think of nothing that means an ending. The rouges just keep on fighting, though for what I'll never know. This forest is not theirs.
While searching for Featherpaw, I collide with a gray tom. He grins at me, and pins me down. I push, and struggle, but it's no use. He's just too strong. I can't move, in fact, I can hardly breathe. It's killing me from the inside out. The tom breathes tom on my neck, and starts to drag his claws down my stomache.
I shut my eyes, and wait for the embrace of death.
But it never comes.
In fact, the weight of the tom if lifted off me. My eyes fly open, and I spot a black tom, fighting with fury. He matches the gray tom, blow for blow, and soon the gray tom runs off. The misty aura around the mysterious tom in almost blinding. But when he looks at me, I see the familiar glint in his blue eyes.
"Nightfall?" I mew, still stunned.
He nods. "Did you think StarClan would just stand aside, during the final battle for the forest? Impossible." Nightfall pads over to me, and helps me up. It's been so long since he was here, and I try to make the most of his visit.
"Is Featherpaw okay?" I croak out.
Nightfall nods. "She's fine. And you will be too. You have a long life ahead of you, and I want to see you enjoy it." With that, he scampers off into the thick of things.
I'm about to think this is hopeless. That it's foolish to even try. That's when I hear Sunsetfur growl in rage, and Hazelfoot screech in pain.
Every cat turns around, to see Hazelfoot and Sunsetfur sparring, circling each other like prey.
"You want a battle Sunsetfur?" mews Hazelfoot.
Sunsetfur nods. "Anything to rid this forest from your evil."
Hazelfoot laughs. "Then let the battle begin." He leaps upward, and Sunsetfur copies this motion.
All I can think is one jumbled thought.
Let Sunsetfur get out alive.
Chapter 10 ~Resolutions~
The battle is long, and crazy. Both cats have equal fighting skills. But it is clear that Sunsetfur has more to fight for. That she is determined to defeat Hazelfoot, and finally avenge all those dead cats.
Finally, Sunsetfur gets the upper paw. She slams her paw into Hazelfoot's side. "This is for every cat you and Hawkstrike have ever killed."
She twists and slashes her claws into his side. "This is for Rockpaw." Sunsetfur growls.
Before Hazelfoot can react, she pulls herself up, and shreds his ear to pieces. "This is for Sandspots."
He snarls weakly, but Sunsetfur cuts him off with a strong blow to the chest. "This one is for Snakefang."
Hazelfoot is clearly weakened, and feebly tries to swat her, but she knocks him aside. Her eyes are filled with a wild fire as she snarls, bringing her claws down at the same time. "And this is for Nightfall." She sigs her claws into his throat, tearing it apart.
"Good one little angel. I knew you were the smart one." croaks Hazelfoot. Sunsetfur growls, but then stops at Hazelfoot's eyes glaze over.
Silence falls over everyone
Hazelfoot is dead.
Around me, cats start to cheer, as Hazelfoot's cronies slink away. I start chanting her name, and Featherpaw joins in with me. But Sunsetfur doesn't look triumphant. She looks empty.
"Cats of SpottedClan, don't thank me. I don't want this." she ducks her head. "All my life, I've been a coward. Hid behind the strong, and hurt the weak. I don't deserve to be a warrior."
"No way!" I mew. "You deserve this more than any cat! You've saved countless lives today!"
She sighs. "And i could have saved so many more if I had just spoken to Hailstar and Cranestar in the first place." Sunsetfur looks out at us, pain in her green eyes. "Today, I'm going to be brave. I do not want to be a coward anymore. I just hope StarClan will forgive me."
I realize what she's about to do, right before she does. A scream escapes me, and I have no idea if I'm silent, and loud. "NOOOOOOO!"
Sunsetfur brings her claws to her throat, and I can hear Nightfall screaming too. He's running towards her, and just as he reaches her, Sunsetfur slices her claws through her throat. He stands next to her, clearly depressed. Then he fades back into the air.
Poppysong steps out of the crowd. "SpottedClan, today we have won a battle, but lost a brave warrior. She will be remembered!"
"Sunsetfur! Sunsetfur!" cries the crowd. The group disperses, except for me and Featherpaw. "You coming?" mews Featherpaw. I nod. "I'm going to carry her body back."
Featherpaw mews, "Okay, I'll see you back home."
I walk over to Sunsetfur's still body. "You didn't have to die." I whisper softly. "You were already the bravest cat I've ever known. I will make sure they remember you. On my honour."
I step back, and for a moment, I watch Sunsetfur's spirit rise from her body, and slowly float into the sky. When she dissapears, I pick up her body, and carefully carry her home.
You were already brave.
Chapter 11 ~The Last Sunset~
“Tawnyflower! Feathershine! Shoalstem! Mistyflight!”
My eyes light up, as I turn to my sister. “We’re warriors!” I mew happily.
Shoalstem looks at her paws. “I never thought they’d let me be one. Not after what happened with Ashwhisker.”
Mistyflight shoots a look at me that says, I never told them.
Feathershine sighs. “I wish that Sunsetfur and Nightfall could have been here for this.”
I shut my eyes. Sunsetfur just wanted to be brave. She always was, and always will be.
We’re congratulated, and thanked, and yet I still feel that something is missing. I think back to Sunsetfur, and how she felt that she couldn’t be brave. How she thought that StarClan would never accept her. Yet, as the moon rises, I spot a new star. Bright, and playful. Sunsetfur.
I’ll never know why she thought she was a coward. She did braver things than any cat I’ve ever met.
I just hope she knows how brave she truly is.
I look around, rather nervous. Will she be here? Will StarClan let her in? Then I spot a bright ginger and white pelt. Running towards her, I see her green eyes. They haven’t been that vibrant since we were little. Before any of us knew what would happen.
“Nightfall!” she mews, and races to me. We collide, and fall on the cloud covered ground. She looks at me, and I see the light in her face. For so long, it’s been dark, and hidden, hiding secrets that could never be uncovered. She looks bright, and alive now. “Nightfall.” Sunsetfur mews. “It’s been so long.” She purrs, and rubs her face against mine. I’m about to whisper to her, when I hear paws thumping, and turn around to see Featherpelt. Sunsetfur steps back. “I’m sorry.” she mews right away.
Featherpelt shrugs. “It’s fine. You didn’t mean any of this.” she turns to me. “Nightfall, I found Dapplestorm and Pebblefur. I want to talk to them.”
Our parents. I nod. “Of course! Can you just… give us a minute?”
Featherpelt nods. “Sure. You lovebirds have some catching up to do.”
I blush, and watch as Featherpelt scampers away.
Sunsetfur looks at me. “I didn’t want to hurt you, I never did, and I never hurt your sister.”
I rub against her. “I know. It’s okay. But my question is, do you care about me? I’m still not sure, and no matter what… I want to be with you.” I stammer awkwardly.
Her eyes light up, and she purrs. “Nightfall, of course. I’ve loved you every second, of every hour, of every day. I had no idea…” She trails off. We stand up, and start walking towards Featherpelt. Our tails entwine, and our hearts are aligned. Finally united as one.
In that one moment, I realize something.
It may have been the last sunset.
But it was certainly the best.
Great StarClan, that took forever. But it's finally over. I can't really think of too many questions I can answer, but there will be a prequel. It'll be called Scarlet Paws, and I have no clue when I'll start it. XD
Anyway, I hope you guys liked it.
ArtttThe amazing Vee drew this photo. All glory to the hypno-Vee