The Clans are divided.The leaders are lost.StarClan is silent.War rages - between families,between rogues,between littermates.And when a young rogue named Lavender realizes not everything is as it seems,she has a choice.
The question is....
What will she choose?
The little kit fell into exhaustion.She was pitifully small,as she hadn't eaten in...how long?Four days?Five?Hunger gnawed at her.Finally she couldn't stand it anymore.She fell to the ground.
The kit smelled a fragrance she remembered from the breif time she had with her mother before her murder.She remembered the herbs her mother had named.Her mother,Gentleberry.
She sighed.The scent was something familiar.Nothing had been familiar for the kit.
Something stood over her,blocking the sun.She didn't have enough strength to lift jer head,but she smelled a cat.She heard a silky mew from the tom cat.“Little one,little Lavender,why are you here?"
The kit groaned.The tom,sensing her hunger and exhaustion,piled the lavender around her as bedding and brought her a mouse.She ate the whole thing before she remembered the manners Gentleberry had taught her.But already the kit was drowsy.
And the tom let her sleep.
She lifted her head over the top of her nest.“It isn't time for needed-running,is it?"She asked.Robin nodded.
“Can you do trades-making today?"He asked.She nodded.
Sleepily,Lavender climbed out of her nest.The small den that Robin had built for her had been her only home.At least,the only one she could remember.
It wasn't a big den,but it suited them.A dome woven from brambles,with curtains of reeds dividing the living section from the trades-making place.Piles of whatever prey Robin caught,whatever herbs Lavender could trade for,flowers with wonderful fragrances.
Robin would be hunting if he asked Lavender to do the trades-making.She was just sorting the herbs when a skinny rogue came in with a mouthful of simple acorns.
“What can you give for 'em?"He asked,dropping the nuts at Lavender's feet.
She glanced at the piles and grabbed a small bit of sweet smelling flowers.“Take or leave,"She said.
The rogue's shoulders sank.“I can get more,if you could just lemme have dat dere mouse-"
“Take or leave,"she repeated firmly.
“Can dey be eaten?"
Lavender glanced at the flowers,then back at the rogue.She could count his ribs.A cat his age probably had kits and a mate,possibly more than one litter.Clearly he was in hard times.But weren't they all?
Lavender sighed and walked over to her herb pile,and grabbed a few leaves.She knew from what she gathered here and there that they would help with hunger and keep cats strong.“Here."She said.
The rogue looked at her with gratitude in his eyes.He scooped up the herbs and the small group of flowers and trotted out,a slight energy now guiding his paws.
A familiar face walked in soon after.“Hello Marigold,"Lavender said cheerfully.The golden she-cat had her two daughters with her,Cloud and Dawn.
Marigold dropped two fat voles,and Dawn set a bundle of catmint beside them.Lavender grinned.Marigold's family were better off than most in this uncertain time,and they were loyal customers to Robin and his adopted daughter.
“I can give you three bundles of flowers,and some horsetail,and a bird?"She offered.Marigold nodded.As Lavender went to prepare the trade,she noticed a small line forming outside the den.A busy day.Her favorite kind.
Marigold and her kits left with their trade,and Lavender added to the store what they had given her.Catmint,she knew,would fetch a good deal.
A young kit by the name of Jetkit was next.A Clan name,Lavender recognized.The kit was of Clan blood.Clan blooded cats had a more likely chance of survival,and often they had lots to trade when they came to The Alley.
The Alley was the largest group of cats living together in the forest.It was an old alleyway between to twoleg-nests that had been long since abandoned.Outside of twolegplace,it was the most populated - and most dangerous - area.
Jetkit dropped three small mice.“My mother,Applepelt,wanted some marigold,and some horsetail,and she said,if you have it,a bit of catmint,please?"
Lavender looked at the mice.“You can have the marigold and horsetail,"she said gently,“But catmint is rare.I need a bit more than this."The kit nodded in understanding.She accepted the herbs and scurried out.
All the day long,Lavender trades-maked,the business that Robin ran.Going through inventory,she found two of the small mice Jetkit had given her,and a good sized bird.She set the prey down in the living space for dinner.
Robin came in then.In his mouth he held several large leaves,all wrapped up.“What is that?"Lavender asked.
He unwrapped one of the leaves to reveal a poultice.“We can demand more prey for this than just the herbs alone.It be marigold,horsetail,and coltsfoot.Good for cuts,prevents infection."
He placed the bundles beside the herbs.“I found some catmint at a good trade,"he said,“But it will be gone tomorrow,if it isn't now."
Lavender said thoughtfully,“Sunset isn't for a while yet.Why not go check?"It was common sense to not go outside after sunset.Besides,all the trades-making places were empty.
Robin shrugged.“Anyway,anything good for dinner come in?"She nodded.She preffered fresh-kill,but running a trades-making place made food easy to come by.And if the prey wasn't eaten before it went bad,it was useless.No one would trade for it,and they would loose their business.
They ate their mice and bird in silence.
As the sun went down,Robin pulled brambles around the den,slid their trade into the living area,as was custom.The Fighters who stole from trades-makers at night would need to enter their home before they could find the stock.
Lavender sat in her nest,grooming her fur.The nest was scattered with sweet flowers.Robin sat in the nest on the other side of the space.
Lavender sighed contentedly.
This was home.
Early the next morning,Lavender quietly organized the trade in the trades-making place and prepared a meager breakfast of a single vole and a few strengthening herbs.After eating her half of the mouse,she laid it with some of the herbs by her father's nest.
She opted to eat her herbs as she went.
She took some horsetail and a bundle of the poultice that Robin had gotten yesterday.She reasoned that with the recent attacks of The Fighters,these items had become valuable.
Leaf-bare was coming and she had to find more catmint.The herb would be worth more and more as the cold weather deepened.She could provide enough prey all winter for her and Robin.
Walking down The Alley,she knew she would be a target.Needed-running wasn't done till the sun was quarter-high.Few cats were out.
She sighed and decided to try Stone's trades-making place.Stone was a rough tom who lived alone.His mate had died a season before,and his kits were grown and had gone to build homes of their own.
Lavender called inside,“Stone!"No answer.“Stone,It's Lavender!I need some stuff!"
The grey cat pulled away the brambles.His trades-making place was empty,his trade stored in his home.“It's a bit early for needed-running,"he snapped.
She tossed her head.“I have items that will interest you."
He raised an eyebrow.“What items?"
“Do you have catmint?"She said,ignoring his question.
Stone shrugged.“Enough for the family of Ole' Finn if they all had greencough five times over.What do you have to make it up to me?"
Ole' Finn was a former kittypet,one of the more prosperous cats of The Alley.He had a nice large den and a large family of ten kits.A couple of the grown kits still lived with him and his mate,a Clan blood named Hollywind,with their mates and kits of their own.Needless to say,it would take a lot of catmint to cater to his family.
“I have herbs."
Stone smirked.“Herbs.For catmint,which only grows in the twoleg gardens?The Raiders won't be back till greenleaf with the next bunch of it."
Lavender sighed.“I know,but-"
“Sorry,Lavender,"Stone said,turning away.
Lavender stopped him,saying,“I have a bundle of poultice.Ready made,worth more than the herbs alone."
Stone looked at her curiously.She dropped her bundle and unwrapped it.“Horsetail,Marigold,and colstsfoot."She said.She shoved the horsetail next to it.
Stone nodded slowly and disappeared into his living space.He came back with his mouth full of catmint,careful not to swallow the sweet juices.
Lavender smiled.With a quick thank you,she grabbed the bundle and ran down The Alley.Cats were beginning to stir now.Trades-makers were just beginning the day,and already she had completed some of her needed-running.
She came into her den to see Robin standing by the trade.“Where were you?"He demanded.
Lavender dropped the catmint.“I went to see Stone about-"
“You didn't tell me,"Robin said fiercely.“And you set up our trade.The Fighters could have-"
“The sun was up,"Lavender muttered.
Lavender placed the catmint with the other herbs.They now had a nice store of the herb.And just in time for cats to begin their needed-running.
Lavender took her place,organizing the trade,when Robin stopped her.“Lavender,"He said,“Can you go visit the Wet-foots?"
She nodded and ran off into the forest.She knew the way by heart to the little family by the river.They were of Clan blood,from what used to be RiverClan.They were fishers,and only traded fresh fish.Only traded for what they needed.
Lavender kept a tight grip on the package her father was sending to Old Wetfoot.She didn't know what was in it,but fish was in high demand in leaf-bare and when the river froze it was impossible to get.
Out in the woods,homes were spread farther apart.Families often stayed together in a large den instead of kits moving out at adulthood.Most families took on the name of whatever cat built the den.
The Wet-foot territory spread from the river's edge to the end of a huge clearing.A fence of brambles was put up.Lavender called out,“Berrywood?"
Her old friend ran to the bramble fence.“Lavender!"He skidded to a stop and removed a rock from the tunnel under the bramble fence.Lavender crawled into the tunnel.
“It's been so long!"Berrywood exclaimed.“How's your father?"
“Well."Lavender replied curtly.“He sent a package for your grand-tom."
Berrywood took the package and ran into the large den.It backed onto the river.It was at least five times the size of the den that Robin and Lavender lived in.The Wet-foots had a large cellar where they stored their fish and herbs.In green-leaf it kept them cool,and in leaf-bare it protected the herbs from the cold.
Soon enough,Berrywood's brother,Troutpaw,ran out of the den.“Lavender!"He squealled.“Did you bring me a treat from The Alley?"
“Troutpaw!"His mother,Dusky,said as she ran after him.
Lavender laughed.“Sorry Troutpaw,maybe next-time."
“What brings you alone,Lavender?"Dusky asked.
“Robin sent me."
The she-cat nodded.She looked young,though she was a grandshe-cat several times over.And,Lavender noticed,her stomach was swollen with kits.
“How are Fox and Dawnskies?"Lavender asked.The Wet-foots had an extended family so large that Lavender couldn't keep up with who was living where or who was expecting kits.She didn't visit often enough to know.
Dusky grinned.“Fine.Fox is building a den on the other side of the river.He plans to harvest wild herbs and deliver them to The Alley and to twolegplace.Dawnskies doesn't want him to travel so much,but he is sure it will make a good business."
Lavender nodded.“Herb supplies is low in The Alley.Twolegplace has catmint,but many herbs are wild and they don't have a good supply there,either."
Just then a familiar russet pelt called a greeting and slipped through the tunnel.“Good morning,Dusky."Fox said politely.He smiled at Lavender.“Lavender!"He said excitedly,“It's been so long!"
She nodded.“Hello,Fox.How's Dawnskies."
Fox told her that she was doing well.“And,"He added,“She's expecting kits."
“That's wonderful,"Lavender said sincerely.
She turned when she heard panting behind her.Berrywood was running out of the house,with four small fish in his jaws.He dropped them at her feet.“Grandtom Wetfoot is bringing the rest."
“The rest?"Lavender gulped.How would she carry this much fish home?
Sure enough,Old Webfoot came out of the den with four more fish in his jaws.Drypaw,Troutpaw's littermate,came with a big fish in her jaws,and Lakepelt had another large trout.
“How in the world is one little cat like Lavender supposed to carry all that?"Dusky asked,voicing her thoughts.
“I can go with her,"Berrywood offered.“And Reedbed could help."
When Reedbed had picked up his share,and Lavender thought she would gag on the smell of all the fish she struggled to hold,They prepared to go.
The Wet-foots said their goodbyes as Lavender,Berrywood,and Reedbed set on their way to The Alley.
Lavender dropped the fish she was carrying on the pile of prey.Reedbed and Berrywood did the same.Robin smiled and dipped his head to the Wet-foot toms.
“Please,stay for the night."Robin invited them.Tired after the trek through the forest,Reedbed accepted.
Lavender noticed that the toms eagerly ate their voles.She supposed that as fishers,they ate mostly,well,fish.
The sun had not yet gone down,and Lavender noticed that they were running low on the scented flowers that were so common in The Alley.
“Robin,"she said,remembering how upset he was that morning when she left without telling him,“I am going to pick flowers.The sun still shines high and I won't be gone long."
“Not alone,"Robin protested.
Lavender rolled her eyes.“Berrywood?"Her friend smiled and followed her to the entrance.
Robin let them go.
Out in the stretch of woods behind the den,a huge patch of daisies and lilies grew.Tugging some free,Berrywood asked,“Why do cats here trade for these flowers?They are no herbs,they cannot be eaten."
“Because,"Lavender said,flicking him with her tail,“We grace our homes in elegance."
Berrywood rolled his eyes.“Whatever that means."
Lavender and Berrywood each had huge bundles of flowers,and she carried as many roots as she could hold.She told him they worked great for luring prey.
She looked up.The last rays of sunlight shimmered through the treetops,and then the world fell into darkness.“Oh no,"she murmured.
Lavender felt her heart hammering in her throat.“Hurry."
She ran as fast as she could with Berrywood on her heels.It wasn't too far to her den,but at night,The Alley was hard to navigate.
Lavender heard a sharp intake of breath from Berrywood and heard a loud thump.She spun to see what had happened.
His paw was caught on one of the many twoleg things left behind from when the twoleg-nests were inhabited.She recognized it as a brick.His paw was twisted at an angle that made Lavender's stomach churn.
He pulled his paw free and groaned.Lavender heard a sickening snap.Berrywood tried to push himself to his feet.He groaned again.She could tell that his leg was injured badly.
She longed to run through the terrifying darkness,to be safe in her nest.She longed to be a kit again,having Robin tell her stories of the times before the Clans divided.But she had to be here to help Berrywood.
She stood beside him,and gratefully he leaned on her shoulder.Slowly they limped along.Robin's den wasn't too far,now.Lavender thought they just might make it.
“Where ya goin'?"Someone behind them hissed.Lavender tensed.She turned into the faces of three cats.Two toms and a she-cat.
The she-cat walked around them in circles.She swiped at Berrywood,knocking him over.He groaned and pulled his injured leg in close.“Leave him alone,"Lavender growled.
“Ya gonna stop me?"One of the toms,the one who first spoke,taunted.“Kits can't fight,can dey,Snake?"
The other tom shook his head.
The she-cat joined her companions.“Shadow,I'm in the mood for some...elegance,"She looked at the flowers that Lavender had picked,that now sat at her feet.She added,“I also hear that the roots of those flowers are good for luring prey."
Snake nodded.“Shadow,if our little sister wants elegance,she must have it.Don't you agree?"
Shadow,the first tom,nodded.Lavender growled,“These flowers are for my father's trades-making place."
Snake hissed and gave Lavender a swipe across her cheek.Blood began to well.
Lavender's fur bristled.She unsheathed her claws.
She wasn't totally sure how it happened,but she somehow ended up on top of Shadow.He was a thin black cat.He looked weak.But he proved his strength when he used his hind legs to kick her in the stomach.
She hit the ground hard.The she-cat was on her in an instant.She heard the yowls of protest from Berrywood and knew that Snake was attacking him with all his might.
Blood ran into Lavender's eyes as the she-cat clawed her.Lavender struggled under her weight.
“Lavender!"Berrywood groaned.She heard another snap as he yowld in pain.She felt sick with fear.She had to protect her friend.She had known Berrywood since she was a kit.
With renewed energry,Lavender showed off the she-cat.She slash her side open.Glaring in menace,the younger cat went for her throat.
Lavender felt blood in her mouth.She knew that no healer could fix this.Closing her eyes tightly,she bit deeper.
Shadow looked up from where he was assisting Snake in the torment of Berrywood.“Alpine!"He yowled in greif.
Snake stalked toward Lavender.Has was twice the size of his sister,and Lavender knew she could never fight him on her own.
The rogue glarred at her.“You took my sister,"he hissed in hatred,“And you won't live to regret it."
Lavender realized she was whimpering in fear like a little kit.
As Snake lifted a paw to slice her throat,Shadow stopped him.“Let her go.Help me with Alpine."
Snake reluctantly walked over to help his brother drag away Alpine's body.
Lavender ran on to Berrywood,who was collapsed on the ground in a bloody mess.His leg was bent in unnatural angles.His paw was twisted.She realized in horror that her friend was barely breathing.
“Don't leave me,"Lavender whispered,“Please,Berrywood,don't leave me..."
This was when she realized how extremely tired she was.She was slightly dizzy from blood loss.And Berrywood,in that huge puddle,his paw soaked in it...
She didn't want to think about it.
It was almost moonhigh,no where near sunrise,but something told her that The Fighters wouldn't be back tonight.
She looked at her companion.Guilt gnawed at her.She had been the one to suggest they come out here.“I'll be back,Berrywood."She promised.And she ran down The Alley faster than greased lightning.
“Robin!"She called at the top of her lungs.“Robin,Reedbed!Hurry!"
Her father came immediately.“Where have you been?"He hissed.
“No time for that.Bring herbs.Lots and lots of herbs.And cobwebs.It's Berrywood."
Reedbed,whome she hadn't noticed in the background,snapped to action.Living in the woods,he knew many things about herbs and grabbed all sorts of things - some that Lavender recognized,some she didn't.Horsetail,marigold,juniper berries.
She led them to where Berrywood was sitting in the ever-growing puddle of blood.Reedfeather quickly chewed ther horsetail and marigold into a poultice,which he applied generously to Berrywood's leg,his side,his forehead,his tail.He placed codwebs on all of his scratches,then turned to the leg that was undeniably broken.
“Get me a stick and some vines,if you can find them."Reedbed said in a low voice.
Lavender looked at Berrywood,then glanced at her father.“I'll get Annelda."
Weaving her way through the many dens of The Alley,she came to the cozy shelter of reeds.If she knew Annelda,the elderly healer would still be up,organizing her herbs while she dozed off.
A horse mew from inside told her to come in.
Annelda was an old she-cat with pale tabby fur.Her coat was long and silky and well groomed,comparred to Lavender's short,tangled grey mess of what she called fur.
Lavender sighed.The den always smelled like herbs,and the healer often traded for scented flowers to perfume the den.The result was a sweet,minty fragrance that Lavender loved.
“Annelda,we need your help.My friend Berrywood and I had a fight with The Fighters,and his leg is broken real bad..."She trailed off as she realized that Annelda was starring at her instead of preparing herbs.
“Lavender,"She said at last,“You are the one I am concerned for."With a healer's eyes Annelda was seeing the cuts and scrapes,the blood,trying to judge how badly the she-cat was injurred.
Lavender hissed in annoyance.“I am fine.But Berrywood is not.He is probably bleeding to death out there while we stand talking!"She winced as she had a thought that she didn't want to think.She tried to push it away,but it wouldn't leave.
He is definetely bleeding to death out there.
The healer sighed and grabbed a huge wad of cobwebs.She told Lavender to carry them,then prepared a pile of herbs.And they set off.
Reedbed was still applying cobwebs to Berrywood's wounds.The latter was barely breathing.Lavender could smell the many herbs that Reedbed had used on his brother.Berrywood smelled like Annelda's den at the moment.
The old healer jumped into action.She layered more cobwebs upon the ones that were soaked with blood.When she came to his leg,Annelda confirmed what Lavender had feared.
“Bad break.The paw is twisted pretty bad.I...I don't know if I can fix this."
Lavender swallowed hard.“I don't care how far I have to go to find a healer who is qualified,but I swear to StarClan,I will.I will go to twolegplace and back."
Annelda looked up briefly from her work.“You wouldn't make it to the Stars' territory before you collapsed."
“I told you,I'm fine!"Lavender said,though she knew it wasn't true.Her grey fur was a dirty brown with caked blood.And no matter how much she denied it,she could barely put one paw in front of the other,never mind twolegplace.
Robin seemed to notice for the first time that she was swaying on her paws with exhaustion.He was beside her as she collapsed in a pile of dirty,blood-stained fur.
Lavender woke in her nest.She could hear Robin trades-making on the other side of the reed curtain.Sunlight filterred through the brambles,and she could almost beleive it was a normal day,that it had been a dream,but as she stood and felt the pain throb through her,as everything around her spun,as she could smell the herbs on her pelt,she knew it was real.
She pushed through the curtain,no matter how much her wounds protested.She said in a shaky voice,“Robin?"
Her adopted father turned to look at her.The same skinny rogue she had given the herbs to a few days before was offering a tiny amount of acorns,and a small bundle of reeds.He gave her a half smile.
As a trades-maker,she knew she wasn't supposed to do favors,but Robin had also taught her that making friends with the customers helped business.Clearly her miniscule act of kindness had brought him back,though he had little to give.
Robin told her,“You're supposed to be resting."His voice was hoarse.
Lavender didn't care.“Where's Berrywood?"She demanded.
He looked at her and said,“Annelda is taking care of him."He paused.At her questioning stare,Robin added,“Reedbed is with them.Annelda says that with his help,maybe she can help Berrywood's leg."
“Will he ever be able to walk again?"
Robin said nothing.
After a moment he turned back to the rogue,who was standing so patiently.“I can give you a mouse and some marigold for this."
The rogue nodded.He dipped his head to Lavender and,taking his items,walked out.
Robin sighed.“There goes a good cat.He works hard day in,day out,and is rewarded with a few acorns and whatever he can find."The tom shook his head sadly.
“What good are acorns,anyway?"Lavender asked.She had seen a couple cats trade for them,but she knew they weren't worth much.
Robin told her they helped lure squirrels,though Lavender knew there weren't many squirrels in the area.
“Do you know his name?"
Lavender looked at him in curiosity.“What kind of name is Unknown?"
“It isn't."Robin said.“He never says who he is.He is Unknown,so we call him that.He doesn't seem to mind."
Lavender nodded thoughtfully and then went quietly to the entrance.The sunlight blinked in her eyes.
“Where are you going?"Her father asked.
She sighed.“I'm going to see Berrywood."
Walking through The Alley,Lavender observed all the cats doing their needed-running.She saw Jetkit,the tiny cat,and young Cloud,she saw Ole' Finn taking his grandkits around.
When she reached Annelda's den,she hesitated.She could hear shuffling inside.A pitiful moan reached her ears,and she knew it was Berrywood.
She went inside.
Reedbed looked up from where he was sitting beside a nest.Inside was a small clump of fur,shivering despite the warm weather.
“How is he?"Lavender asked in a soft voice.
Reedbed shrugged.“Not too well..."He trailed off and went to change his brother's bandages.
The elderly healer came into the den with a large supply of herbs.She must have been needed-running.Dropping the herbs into her supply,she examined his leg.
Lavender stood in silence,not wanting to disturb the healer.After a moment,she asked,“Annelda,will he ever walk again?"
Lavender sighed.That one saying had little power anymore.Every cat knew that the StarClan that the Clan bloods beleived in had not “spoken" to them since long before Lavender had been born - since the time when Robin was a kit.
It was hopeless.
As the young she-cat turned to go,Annelda stopped her.Lavender stood,impatiently but still,while the healer examined her wounds and dressed them with herbs.
When the pretty pale tabby finished,Lavender was free to go.
She knew Robin would insist she didn't work today,and the thought of staying in her nest bored her.He wouldn't appreciate her going out to collect flowers,not so soon,so she quickly ran over the list of cats she knew,the ones who would be free to do something interesting.The list was pitifully small.
The Wet-foots.No,she didn't want to be the one to tell them about Berrywood.Not when it was her fault.
Dawn and Cloud.No,they would be too busy helping their mother with their needed-running.
Dimly,at the back of her mind,Lavender remembered a small bit of her life in Twoleg-place.Robin had taken her away from there quickly.It was a rough place,where herbs were harder to get,hunting was more fierce.
And cats would kill for their territory.
Shoulders squared,Lavender set off.
The old paths and scent trails worn throughout the forest were reminders of the Clans that used to inhabit these woods.Lavender had been taught the story since kithood,how the rogues destroyed the Clans,how the survivors moved on.The forming of the Alley,the beginning of the chains of cats who supported one another,of the community that Lavender knew she couldn't survive without.
Lavender scented the air as she wanderred through the woods.In the back of her mind,she knew Robin was worried about her,but she didn't care.Not in the least.Something told her she had to move on.She was grateful to him,he had raised her from kithood.She knew nothing of her parents,Robin had been the only father she ever had.
But it was time to leave.
As the trees began to thin and the leaves became more scarce,Lavender noticed that large twoleg nests loomed above her.Fences surrounded them,and,she noticed,the scent of other cats was well in the air.The Raiders,most likely,or kittypets.
Lavender knew that trades-making,while a profitable proffession in The Alley,was worth nothing in twoleg place.Raiding,maybe,or healing.No,not healing.Too painful a reminder of the injury she had brought upon Berrywood.
Skirting around the twoleg nests,Lavender jumped at least ten feet in the air when she heard a voice behind her ask,“Who are ya,stranger?"
When she turned,she was greeted by a tiny ginger tom.His fur was so short that Lavender shivered just looking at it,his eyes icey blue.
“I'm Lavender."The lithe grey she-cat tried to look brave in front of this unknown cat.Probably a kittypet,judging by his collar and his scent,obviously of twoleg.“Who are you?"
Lavender gave a snort.Under her breath,she murmured,“Stupid name."Rivet showed teeth,obviously hearing her comment.
“So,Rivet,"Lavender said,hissing at the unfamiliar name,“Are there any rogues around here?They'd call themselves-"
“The Raiders?"Rivet interupted.At her nod,he said,“They live by the little blue house.You'll find it,just ask the tortioseshell she-cat.Her name is Missie."Lavender nodded in thanks and,saying a quick farewell,took off.
There were a lot of twoleg nests - Rivet had called them “houses" - and Lavender wondered how she would ever find the little blue one the kittypet had mention.The small alleyways between them twisted and turned till she was so lost that she couldn't keep track of where she was.
She scented cat down one alley.Twoleg things laid around and their scent mingled wtth the cat's.“Hey,"Lavender yelled,“Who's there?"
She heard a hiss.
“This place is mine!"The cat growled,popping its head up out of the garbage.Her fur was tortioseshell,her eyes brown.
Lavender unsheathed her claws.“I'm not here to fight.Do you know a cat called Missie?I think she's a kittypet..."There was no way this rough,skinny she-cat was the one she was looking for.
“Kittypet?That insults me."The tortioseshell's claws glinted silver,her fangs bared,her eyes narrowed in hatred.“No twoleg owns me.I am Missie."With a growl,her stare became so menacing that Lavender stepped back.“What do you want?"
“I am looking for The Raiders,the rogues by the blue twoleg nest?"
Missie gave a nod and jumped off of the pile of garbage where she had apparently been scrounging for food.Saying nothing,the former kittypet walked out of the alley.She moved fast and didn't speak,so Lavender was hard pressed to keep up.
Lavender could smell the herbs before she saw the small twoleg nest.The garden in the back must have held dozens of herbs,all ones that Annelda would want to get her silky paws on,that would bring Robin good trade in the trades-making place.
The smell of cat was masked from her by the herbs,but as Missie led her behind the twoleg nest,the taste in the air became more apparent.Lots of cats,toms and she-cats,Clan blood or rogues or even kittypets.All camped out outside the property of the small blue house.
A stockpile of herbs sat in the center of their encampment.These were definetely the cats she was looking for.
“Thank you,Missie."Lavender said politely.Silently the loner ran off to go look once more in the garbage for scraps of food that might interest her.
One of The Raiders,a sentry,probably,yelled,“Who goes there?"
“My name is Lavender.I come from The Alley."
Murmurs and whispering began,and Lavender flinched hearing them speak.Something told her they knew more about her than she knew herself,but she learned nothing from their gossip.
“Isn't she the one that was missing?"
“Remember that Clan blood?The murdered one?"
“A perfect likeness of 'er."
“She looks so much like..."
A tall brown,lanky tom silenced them.“Lavender,"He said,as if testing the name on his tongue,“Why do you come?"
“I want to become a Raider."
The whispers started instantly.Again the brown tom hushed them.
Lavender shuffled her paws uncomfortably.
“Lavender,"The brown tom said began in a hushed tone.He spoke as if it pained him,as if he didn't want to talk to her but didn't want to turn her away either.“You are...welcome,but Raiding is a difficult job.Only so much can be salvaged from the gardens,and then we have to take it to The Alley and to the outlying healers here in twoleg place.Only the tough can do this job.
“I can do it,"Lavender insisted.The brown tom gave a nod of consent.
Lavender had been accepted.She was officially a Raider.
The tom turned away,and once more chatter began.
“Remember that Clan Blood....her name was Glowingberry,or Grousemerry,or something like that."
“Gentleberry.Her name was Gentleberry."
“She looks so much like her."
“She couldn't be the kit.It just isn't possible."
“She has to be."
Then,a loud voice rang out.An old tom,his muzzle graying,his tail hanging low,exclaimed in a shaky old voice,“The Lost has returned!"
Lavender's jaw dropped.She couldn't be the cat they were talking about.She couldn't!She had lived her whole life with Robin,grown up in The Alley.“I'm not the cat you think I am!"She screamed.Her head hurt trying to imagine her life before Robin.He had always been there,since she was a kit.Flatly,void of emotion,she said loudly,“I'm sorry."
Everything was silent.Lavender walked towards the pile of prey.She could tell where it was by scent.Pelt pricking from all the watchful eyes,she picked a scrawny mouse.There was better prey,but this would do.She didn't work for this prey,and Lavender did not take charity.
She starred at her prey as she ate,as if it would run away.Not wanting to face the silent,ever gathering crowd,she decided to ask the brown tom where she should sleep.Her journey had been long,and Lavender was tired.The brown tom was the only one who acted as if she were just another rogue.He was also obviously the leader,so he was the one to ask.
Lavender found him by the fence of the blue twoleg nest.“What is it,Lavender?"He asked without facing her.
“Where do I sleep?"
The brown tom purred in amusement.“We aren't a Clan,we don't make camp."It was here he faced Lavender.“Sleep where you like.We gather at sunrise,share our prey,and Raid."
Lavender nodded.She was about to turn away,when the tom stopped her.The tom flicked his long tail.Then said,his voice so low she could barely here it,“Call me Griffin.But never speak of me with the others,not using that name."
Lavender twisted her face in confusion.But she didn't have time to ask what he meant,because Griffin said simply,“You will call me Lead."
Then he was gone.
Lavender ponderred over why he did not want the others to call him by name.Maybe Lead was a title.But he had been so secretive over his name that she wondered why Griffin didn't want the others to know.
The sun went down,golden light cascading down the walls and alleys of twoleg-place.The mass of cats gathered by the house looked scarlet,bathed in the evening light.As red as a wave of blood,the tide gushed throughout the twolegplace.Droplets flicked off into the forest,but a huge river of scarlet moved into alleys.Till,finally,the only one left was Lavender.
She was about to go into the forest when she heard a familiar deep voice,one that had confused her all day.“Lavender,we must speak."
“What do you want,Griffin?"
The lanky cat wove out of the shadows.His fur glimmered like polished wood,the kind twolegs used in their nests.She had never noticed before,but saw now,his beautiful green eyes.
Griffin sighed.“What have you heard from the others?"Lavender said nothing.“Out with it.I know it troubles you."
“They act as if they know me."Lavender sighed.Sitting down,she curled her bushy tail around her paws.Griffin settled down across from her.She knew he was listening intently from the way he pricked his ears.“And one said....said something about the missing..."
“'The Lost has returned.'"Griffin said.Lavender felt icy claws shoot over her spine.He had quoted the old tom exactly.Hesitantly,she nodded.
The brown tom shook out his fur.“We Raiders have a story.I suppose all professions do,but ours is unique."Lavender rolled her eyes.More stories was all she ever got,not answers.
Griffin ignored her and continued on.
“The Four Clans were at peace,until the group of rogues,The Birdwings,attacked them..."
A/N: This takes place in The Forest.
Grassydew yowled in protest,grappling with the rogue she-cat.Screams of defiance echoed the air around them.Behind him,Grassydew could hear Silentfox breathing hard.
“Lichenstar!"She yelled,“Where are you?"
One of the rogues answered the tortioseshell instead of the leader.“Give up,you whining kits!"He hissed.“The forest,the pines,the river,the moor,it belonds to us now."
Grassydew groaned as the rogue pinned him to the ground.There was no regret in her eyes.Just a fire of hatred.And victory.
“Sparrow!Eagle!"She yelled,“Head for the river!"
Silentfox was one of the first to fall.And Grassydew as well.But dimly,as his world faded around him,he knew that this wasn't the end of the forest.They may lose the battle,but life would go on.Things would just be...different.
The rogue she-cat lashed her brown tail.“Robin!"
A short golden tom cat appeared by her side instantly.He said confidently,“The Clans are fallen.Too many warriors dead.The survivors have no chance."
“Survivors?"The brown cat hissed,her voice raising in anger.Robin flinched as she unsheathed her claws.“WHAT SURVIVORS?"
“Not mamy,not enough to rebuild the Clan..."
“YOU IDIOT!"He stepped back as she raked a claw across his cheek.Blood welled instantly.There would be a scar,a deep one to part the fur.“Survivors means hope.Hope means they regroup!"
Wren gave him an icy stare that made Robin flinch.“Where is the medicine cat - the healer?"
Robin took a step back before replying to avoid those razor claws.“Rhea and Dove are holding her."
Wren's eyes narrowed and Robin wondered immediately what he had said wrong.Then he winced as he heard Rhea say in a horse voice,“Gone."
“How?"Wren's words were sharper than her claws.“Where is Dove?"
“Dove is dead.And the medicine cat,Gentleberry,escaped.Clan healers can fight.Well."Rhea's voice filled with grief and sadness.She didn't show any recognicion of the wounds she had recieved,didn't seem to feel the pain.The only pain the young cat felt was the pain of losing her love.
Even cold-hearted Wren showed compassion on the young queen.“Dove's death won't be for nothing,"The brown she-cat assured her.“Your kits won't grow up knowing their father died in vain."
Robin stood silently,afraid to confront the leader,afraid to speak.The swipe to his face stung like fire.Rhea sat silently.Wren did not challenge her.
“We will find that healer,"Wren said at last,“And make sure none of this Clan survives.If we take down one,the others will fall."
And,then,the rogues left the ThunderClan camp in ruins,dead warriors scattered everywhere.Even the nursery had been raided,every last kit they could find killed alongside their mothers.
Gentleberry looked the tom in the eyes.“Stealing?From twolegs?"
He nodded.“We have no choice,Gentleberry,"He pleaded,“The forest isn't safe."
A few rogues behind him nodded in agreement.“This is easier than hunting,"One said,“And some cats will trade their prey for herbs."
“You're a healer,you should understand."The black tom looked at Gentleberry with his deep,green eyes.“We have to raid the garden.It's the only way."
“Fine."The medicine cat turned away,her gray fur thick and knotted as ever.
“We've been camped here for moons,Gentleberry!"He yelled after her,“We're starving!We can't just die out!That's what these rogues want."
What she didn't hear,was his last words.“And I'm not letting my kits die."
Pinestar's tail lashed.“The Lost one will lead the way."
Gentleberry's face filled with confusion.“Who is The Lost?"
The cat's face faded away as she woke suddenly.With a yowl,she screamed into the darkness,“The Lost will lead us!"
The black tom jumped up in his nest a few fox-lengths away.“Are you alright?"
Gentleberry shuddered.“The kits...now."
Robin's pelt squirmed.“Wren,are you sure about this?"
“Yes!They are the last of ThunderClan!The others,we have no chance of tracking down."
Robin unsheathed his claws.As he stalked among the small nests of cats beside the bright blue twoleg nest,He let scent guide him.Wren split off from him and went to look for another cat,leaving him to his mission.
He wrinkled his nose as he tasted ThunderClan scent.This had to be the healer.His heart hammered in his chest as Robin saw in the dim light three small kits curled up next to Gentleberry's stomach.
He lifted an unsheathed claw.And brought it down on one of the she-kits throats.With an abrubt cry,the body fell limp.
The slight sound woke Gentleberry.The queen's eyes widened in fear and anger.“Griffin!"She screamed as she jumped up,unsheathing her claws.
The black tom was on his feet in an instant.Griffin hissed at Robin and took a swipe at him.
Robin leaped at Gentleberry,trying to take a killing bite.The queen struggled and fought against him,but he pushed her down.Griffin was on his back,but he shook him off.
“Run,"Gentleberry urged her kits,“GO!"
One kit sprang to her paws,trying to wake her brother.Robin glanced at Gentleberry.Her wounds were beyond any herbs.She would die anyway.But,trying to complete his mission,Robin gave a last slash at the healer's throat.Gentleberry collapsed in the nest.
Griffin fought off Robin,trying to keep him away from the kits.A gentle rain began to fall,and aoon became a downpour.As it became harder to see,Robin shoved over Griffin.
Fighting through exhaustion,he slammed his paws on the sleeping kit's neck.The she-kit squealed and ran,knowing it was hopeless for her brother.
As the tiny kit escaped into the rain,and other cats were stirring,Robin knew he had failed.Yes,Gentleberry was dead,but ThunderClan blood ran in that kit's veins.
ThunderClan blood was still alive.
Wren was yowling in triumph,signaling that she had made her kill and was escaping into the forest.Robin didn't think it would be wise to meet her in the woods.So,off he went.
He ran into the storm,just as the last of Griffin's cats awoke,and Griffin regained his footing.
Griffin gave a sigh as he finished the story.
“But...but that kit can't be me,"Lavender protested.“Robin took me in,he PROTECTED me,and now you are trying to tell me he tried to kill me?Are you mad?"
Griffin narrowed his green eyes.“I don't know why Robin sheltered you but that isn't the point,Lavender!"He looked spitting mad with rage,like a snake ready to strike.“Your mother issued a warning the night you were born,a prophecy from StarClan!This is about you,Lavender.You are The Lost,the one from the prophecy."
Suddenly Lavender's heart stopped.Jaw dropped,eyes wide,she stepped back from Griffin as if spellbound.In an awestruck whisper,the gray she-cat said in disbelief,“You're my father?"Griffin gave a solemn nod.“But ROBIN is my father,not some cat I've never met!"
Lavender stood,pelt pricking.Robin would have told her if this was true,wouldn't he?