The Lost Life.
Episode Six, Season One of Double Agent.
So, the elders and queens settled into the new camp. Snowfeather spent her moon in ShadowClan, then returned to WindClan. But the horrible deeds of her Clan still hung over her mind, and Snowfeather began to doubt if the side she’d grown up thinking was good was right.
The Lost Life
“ Snowfeather? Windpaw?” a hoarse voice calls from the entrance. I moan softly and lift my head, struggling to focus my bleary eyes. Windpaw stirs in her nest and pokes her muzzle out of the top.
“ Harestar?” she crawls from her nest and shivers. I notice with distaste that it is lined with wool. Wool that could have gone to the warriors who work so much harder than her. All she does is mope and shoot me deathly glares. I take a deep breath and rise from my nest, fluffing out my pelt against the cold. Harestar’s lean frame is silhouetted in the moonlight. His shadow adds another layer to the darkness of my den. I hobble over to him and gently urge him inside. He is shivering, teeth chattering. I claw some moss from my nest and lay it down for him to rest on. “Windpaw, why don’t you-”
“ I don’t need order from you,” she sneers, then begins to ruffle Harestar’s fur as to warm him. I ignore her and allow my nose to guide me to the right herbs. Harestar has stopped shivering, but his teeth occasionally chatter. I feed him the herbs and cover him with more moss from my nest.
“ What were do you doing out so late? It’s leaf-bare. You had us all worried sick!” I exclaimed. I look at his paws. They’re covered in reddish-brown mud. “ And you’ve got mud on your paws, too! What were you doing, digging?”
“ It’s none of your business!” Harestar snarls and shoots up, eyes bright with anger. Shock and indignation burn in my belly. I curl my lip defensively ands step back, marching to whats left of my nest. Windpaw smirks and tucks into the warm wool in hers. I can hardly wait for my time to be Rainpaw again.
Next morning, Harestar’s gone from our den. Creamy dawn light filters through the entrance, dappling the floor. I yawn and slowly open my eyes. I turn to smooth my ruffled fur, then get up and arch my back in a stretch. I peer through the entrance and gasp. The ground is white! A smooth layer of crisp, white snow coats the ground. I inhale sharply. It’s beautiful. The snow is wondeful, yet it is my enemy. I'd better go build up my stores, I think and begin to head out of the camp. And in the meantime, why not check on the apprentices? It's been a long time since I've seen Ryepaw and Smokepaw.
When I reach their camp, I find Ryepaw pacing, looking distressed. She looks up when she sees me, and rushes to my side.
" Snowfeather! Have you seen Smokepaw?"
" No," I say, confused " should I have?" Ryepaw shakes her silver head.
" He went out last night and never came back!" she wails and pummels the ground. Panic begins to set inside of me, but I fight it back and try to appear calm.
" Would you like me to look?" I offer and smooth her ruffled pelt with my tail. She nods, then adds
" He said he had a meeting on the border!" I flick my ears to show I've heard her, and begin to rush away.
Deep inside of me, panic begins to set in. There’s something odd about the whole thing. I race across the moor, heading for the outlines of pine trees. Something’s wrong. Greatly wrong. I pause to sniff the earth. Aha! The scent of Smokepaw is here. Nose to the ground, I follow the trail as it goes nearer and nearer to the ShadowClan border. A dreadful suspicion sits on my chest. They couldn’t have. What incentive…
“ Smokepaw!” I shriek. There, on the ground, is the mangled body of the apprentice. Oh, StarClan, why? I sink to the ground, moaning, stomach turning.
“ Snowfeather?” I hear a voice. Mintleaf’s scent washes over me and she inhales sharply.
“ Why?” she croaks and crouches down beside me. Her voice is taunt with grief. “ He was so close to being a warrior… and I was so proud to be his mentor.”
“ We’ve got to tell Harestar,” I shake off the numbness in my head and nudge Mistleaf to her feet. I allow the trembling she-cat to lean on me as we head back to camp.
Harestar listens to our tale in the frosty light of the clearing. No sooner is the last word out of my mouth then he scrambles up to HighRock and yowls out “ ShadowClan! We must attack!” Warriors look up in surprise. A queen called Petalbright sweeps her kits towards her with her tail and widens her eyes.
“ Why?” she calls.
“ Because they murdered Smokepaw!” Harestar yowls back.
“ Smokepaw?” Gorseheart growls and steps forwards, black fur rising.
“ We found him mauled on the border,” Mistleaf hisses.
“ What!” Browntuft lets out a furious cry. I watch as the camp erupts into angry yowls and shocked meows. Harestar’s eyes narrow and I shiver. He seems to be reveling in it all. And I can’t let them fight!
“ Wait!” I say and stand up. WindClan turns to look at me with curious eyes. “ How do we know for sure that a ShadowClan cat is the killer?” murmurs arise at my proposal, and the light of battle fades from some eyes.
“ Are you suggesting that a WindClan cat killed Smokepaw?” Harestar growls.
“ No!” I reply “ but it could have been a rogue, or-“
“ It doesn’t matter!” Harestar growls. “ ShadowClan is the group most likely to have killed him. We’ll fight!” he roars and cheers rise from all around him. I look around helplessly. “ Gorseheart, Browntuft, Mistleaf, Voleclaw, Ryepaw…” he pauses, taking a second to rake his gaze over the warriors “… Swiftfoot, Rabbitnose and Stormheart.” I watch, helpless, as the cats stream for the barrier. There’s something wrong with this whole affair. I race through the barrier and follow the trail of my Clan. Panting, I find them at the border snarling at ShadowClan. I see Frozenwhisker at the front, with Hollowstar at his side.
“ - listen, we know you’re grieving, but what evidence points to us being the killers?” I hear Frozenwhisker’s voice echo calmly to the WindClan cats. The snow crunches as Harestar unsheathes his claws.
“ We don’t need evidence! Hasn’t seasons of war and fighting been enough? WindClan, atta-“
“ Stop!” I yowl and throw myself in front of Harestar. Spluttering, he reels back. I feel my fur rise as I turn to glare at both leaders in turn. “ Look at yourselves! The poor creature hasn’t even been buried yet, and you wage war over him!” the grotesquely mangled body of Smokepaw is half-covered in snow by now. I casually peer into the exposed claws for signs of golden brown fur, or anything that suggests that Hollowstar or a ShadowClan cat killed him. Instead, I find light brown fur. Surprise pricks at the back of my mind. There’s only one cat in ShadowClan with that colour fur. Reedflame’s friend, Drizzlefall. Could he be the murderer? I scan the ShadowClan ranks for as sign of him. There he is. The tom has his lips curled and is near the front of the patrol, next to Blackfeather. That’s not the behavior for a killer.
“ I don’t care about burial rites!” Ryepaw snarls. The light of battle is flaring in her eyes. “ They killed Smokepaw! I want my revenge!”
“ And you will have it, Ryepaw. But not know. Do you really want to upset your brother in StarClan by leaving his body to rot?” At the mention of her brother and StarClan, Ryepaw becomes subdued. She twitches an ear.
“ No… I guess not.”
“ Good,” I step forwards and trying not to cringe, pick up what is left of Smokepaw and begin to drag it back up the moor. “ I’m going to bury Smokepaw. Tomorrow we can wage war and other nonsense like that.” Hollowstar snorts and his patrol melts back into the pine trees. Harestar looks furious, but he dares not disagree with the supposed will of StarClan. Muttering under his breath, he helps me dig a hole and cover Smokepaw with cold snow. The burial is filled with bristling pelts. I know they think they’re doing the right thing, but I don’t believe ShadowClan would do something like that. They didn’t seem exactly ready for battle a moon ago. If only there was some way to find out.
“ Smokepaw was the best apprentice a mentor could wish for,” Mintleaf says, voice cracking. “ He was always ready to train. Heat, snow, rain, always ready.” Rain! Then it hits me. Maybe Rainpaw can help with this investigation.
“ Snowfeather?” Rabbitnose turns around and spots me leaving.
“ I’ll be back soon,” I say and race towards the pines of ShadowClan.
Luckily, or unluckily, the first cat I run into his Reedflame. He’s crouching down, green eyes narrowed as he peers into the undergrowth. Not wanting to disturb his hunt, I sit down and curl my tail over my paws. In a blur of grey fur, Reedflame launches himself at his target. There’s a squeak, then a disgusted snort. The ferns tremble beside of me. Fast as lightning, I slam my paws down onto the escaping mouse and kill it before it can even shriek. Reedflame emerges from the thicket. His gaze meets mine and he yelps.
“ Rainpaw?” I dip my head mockingly to him.
“ The one and only. Nice catch.” I nose the mouse to him. Reedflame rolls his eyes but plays along.
“ Why, thank you. I see you have returned from collecting herbs, sniveling, cold and hungry. Well, ShadowClan is always open to the desperate traveler!” he mocks.
“ Have you ever tried living as a rogue?” I growl. “ But, anyways. What’s going on in ShadowClan?”
“ Oh, the usual,” Reedflame snorts “ being accused of murder, trying to prove that we didn’t do it.”
“ Really?” I have to choose my words carefully. “ Have ‘they’ found out?”
“ Found out what?” Reedflame frowns. I shuffle my paws awkwardly.
“ You didn’t-“
“ StarClan, no!” Reedflame lashes his tail. “ Sorry, but with WindClan up in our faces all the time, it’s hard not to get tired of being accused of murder.” My head is whirling. So they didn’t do it after all! Suddenly, Reedflame’s voice drops to a whisper. “ Rainpaw, you look… different.” Then I understand like a clout over the ear. The mud! I forgot to make myself brown!
“ I…” feeling like a cornered rabbit, I crouch in the shadows.
“ You’re not brown!” Reedflame exclaims and growls. He thrusts his muzzle in my face. “ Who are you?” Quick as a bird, I barge past him and thunder through the forest towards the moor. He calls after me, but my head is pounding and my stomach is turning. He knows! Heart burning, I collapse on the cool snow over the moor. Terror courses through my veins. He’ll tell. But deep down, I know Reedflame wouldn’t do that. He will keep my secret. He has to! But I’ve made a more important discovery than that. ShadowClan didn’t kill Smokepaw. I glance up the moor and spot the dark shapes of my Clanmates disappearing into the heather. Now all I’ve got to do is talk to Mintleaf.
I manage to catch up with the patrol. Harestar narrows his eyes.
“ Where have you been?”
“ I saw something that looked like fox droppings,” I shrug nonchalantly. “ Just wanted to make sure it’s owner wasn’t around.”
“ Was it?” Harestar’s eyes flash in the darkening light.
“ Not that I could see. Can I have a word with Mintleaf?” while the latter shoots me a puzzled glance, Harestar sniffs and begins to walk away.
“ Feel free.” When the patrol is gone, Mintleaf eyes me warily.
“ What do you want?”
“ Mintleaf, I need to speak to you about Smokepaw,” I say urgently. Mintleaf drops her head, letting out an anguished whimper.
“ I… I’m sorry. I don’t want to talk about him right now,” she whispers.
“ I just want to know about his battle skills,” there is no time for sentiments.
“ Battle skills?” Mintleaf lifts her head “ Smokepaw was the best apprentice for that! We were going to do double attacks before… you know.”
“ So he could beat off invaders?” I prompt, mind whirling.
“ Oh yes!” Mintleaf lashes her tail in excitement. “ He could smell an intruder for a mile around!”
“ If he could do that…” I reply slowly “ then how did ShadowClan kill him?” Dead silence. Mintleaf’ eyes being to narrow and she digs her claws into the ground. I watch carefully as her eyes widen.
“ Are you suggesting that a WindClan cat killed Smokepaw?” she gasps. I nod.
“ It would have had to be one of the dusk patrol cats, since Ryepaw told me Smokepaw went out at night…” I think aloud. Which cats acted like they’d done something wrong? I list the cats in my head. They’re all acting normally, except…
And then it hits me like a wave.
The mud on his paws.
I turn to face Mintleaf, and understanding flits through her eyes as our gazes meet.
“ It was Harestar.”
Armed with this new knowledge, Mintleaf and I slip into camp. Harestar is up on the Highrock, looking like some phantom creature with the moon shining on his battle-hungry eyes and the snow dotting his pelt.
“ We will get to their camp. The queens and elders will be our first target. We’ll kill them swiftly and silently, then move on to the warriors. Soon, we will have their whole camp under our control! They will pay for murdering Smokepaw!”
Blood-hungry yowls greet his words, but I see a few uneasy glances exchange between warriors. Do it now! I shoulder through the cats until I reach the section directly below Harestar. He looks down at me, and I see triumph glittering in his eyes. Tipping my head back, I let out a furious howl.
“ I agree, Harestar! Someone must pay for killing Smokepaw, so why don’t we launch your attack on this camp?” confused silence greets my words. Harestar’s eyes turn deadly and cold.
“ What are you saying?” he hisses.
“ I’m saying that the killer was in WindClan,” I feel the tension almost vibrating in the air. “ I’m saying that someone here was the killer, and that someone…” Harestar cuts me off before I can finish. He leaps down from the Highrock and slams his head into my shoulder. The wind is knocked out of me and I stagger to the ground.
“ So you are accusing one of us of disloyalty, eh? I can’t have a medicine cat who does that. Snowfeather, I think you’re time is up. Say your goodbyes and get out!” he spits. Hot fury surges into my chest and I surge upwards, claws extended for his face. Harestar is completely taken aback. He tumbles to the frosty ground as I dig my claws into his cheeks. My warrior training from ShadowClan comes rushing back. I put a warning hind leg on his belly, and slide my claws down to his throat. Harestar’s eyes become wide and frightened. The WindClan warriors gather around me, ears flattened. I thrust my muzzle in his face and curl my lip.
“ It was you, wasn’t it?” I say in a soft whisper. “ Wasn’t it?”
“ I-I don’t…” Harestar chokes and squirm, trying to get free. I push my hind leg warningly at his belly and he subsides.
“ Well, didn’t you?” I raise my voice. “ Answer!”
“ I did, okay?” Harestar yowls in desperation. “ I wanted war! This stalemate was driving me insane. WindClan deserves that land!” Shocked gasps rise from around us. Mintleaf steps forward, eyes as hard as flint.
“ You killed my apprentice. You’re a monster. You belong nowhere but the Dark Forest!” she turns to me, and I see the rage boiling within her gaze.
“ Should we send him there?” Gorseheart growls and steps forwards. I shake my head.
“ He still has three lives, and I would balk at killing a cat three times, even if that’s what he deserves. I say we let him go, and tell him to get out of here as fast as he can.” I kick at him in contempt. Gorseheart nods grimly.
“ I agree. On the count of three. One… two..th” before he can finish, Harestar pushes free of me and hares towards the exit. Mintleaf curls her lip and beings to pursue him. She is joined by a group of furious warriors which is led by Ryepaw. Gorseheart watches them go, jaw set. He turns to me and dips his head.
“ Thank you, Snowfeather,” he says.
“ It’s no thanking matter,” I say “ I did what was right.”
“ So you did,” Gorseheart agrees “ But that doesn’t mean that the attack is off.”
You can read the next episode here!