- 1 Prologue
- 2 Chapter One
- 3 Chapter Two
- 4 Chapter Three
- 5 Chapter Four
- 6 Chapter Five
- 7 Chapter Six
- 8 Chapter Seven
- 9 Chapter Eight
- 10 Chapter Nine
- 11 Chapter Ten
- 12 Chapter Eleven
- 13 Chapter Twelve
- 14 Chapter Thirteen
- 15 Chapter Fourteen
- 16 Chapter Fifteen
- 17 Chapter Sixteen
- 18 Chapter Seventeen
- 19 Chapter Eighteen
You may have heard of the four Clans of the forest. You could say they're the main characters in the story, the ones everyone knows. No cat there, however, knew of the Clans hidden away among the mountains' hazy peaks, hidden above the clouds and shrouded in fog and mist. From the valleys and lakes to the very mountains' peak, six Clans rest. They live in remote strenous mountain territory, hard to reach for any cat only accustomed to walking through the marshes, moors, or forests. Don't be fooled, these cats have been here since the very beginning as well. They weren't just inspired by the four main Clans and travelled to the mountains for their own territory. No, these are far away mountains. Legend has it that more cats from the Tribe decided to set off in the opposite direction, finding a Twoleg boat and hopping in, being carried far overseas to where they reside now.
In the lowest valley, lies ValleyClan. They live in a valley with a river flowing through it, and many elk populating the area. The elk barely notice the cats, and vice versa, so it's no inconvenience for the felines. At the very highest part of the valley, cats can climb up to overlook the valley, and the mountains surrounding their residance. These cats are not accustomed to climbing very high mountain ridges, therefore it is a struggle for them to reach the Gathering area known as the Highlands, due to the high elevation and mountain view. The trek there is a struggle for these felines, however, because of their many years inhabiting the area, they have learned to deal with it. In their valley, wooded areas surround it, providing a healthy amount of prey. An abandoned Twoleg den is located there as well, but since no Twolegs reside there anymore, it is no threat to the Clan members.
In another valley on the other side of the territories, lies CoveClan. They get more sunshine than ValleyClan, as their valley is more exposed. The yellow-looking grass is often commented on from cats outside the Clan, as it is something unique to their territory. In their camp, they take joy in lying in the soft yellow grass and gazing up at the surrounding mountains. Don't be fooled by their low-lying camp, when they go hunting out into the territory, it can be steep and rough in some areas. CoveClan cats are often commented on being swift and accustomed to the heat, as their valley lies exposed to the sun, so they have the most exposure. One disadvantage to ValleyClan is that they don't have a river running through their camp, but rivers are plentiful in their territory.
LakeClan, as the name hints, lives around a lake. They are known for their excellent swimming skills, clear water, and mountainous setting. Mountains surround the lake, and on a clear day, you can find most of the Clan swimming through the large body of water. Whether they'd be playing or hunting, they were always up to something. They have a unique sandy shore, unlike anything else in the mountain's Clans. Their main source of prey is the trout in their lake, and when offered any land prey, they refuse. They think it's disgusting, just as the land cats think that their fish is disgusting. During storms, they retreat under the trees dotting the sandy shoreline, but there is scant shelter. However, since their fur is wet most of the time anyways, they don't really mind. Some 'islands' rise out of their lake, so often cats swim to those to hang out with friends or family.
PoolClan is another water Clan, however, they live in the river rapids. On the large rocks, a waterfall pours down, creating the swift waters. Cats often swim through the calmer area of the water though, and can slip back up onto the rocky shores despite their slickness. Their paws have excellent grip on slick rocks, and cats often comment on their ability to swim through swift currents to catch fish. PoolClan cats are often bold, biting off more than they can chew. They will tackle even the mightiest of problems, and they are known to be good friends. They are loyal, and would protect their Clan even with their lives. However, they can be a bit insensitive. They often think every cat would enjoy the feeling of the water rushing around them, and their paws waving through open space if they'd just get in and try it.
CascadeClan resides by a waterfall, however, they are not water-centric, as they only have a shallow pool to swim in beneath the waterfall. That is not efficient for catching fish or swimming, so, they take more to the surrounding mountainous forests. Their territory has a high elevation gain, which makes them accustomed to climbing uphill and strenous hikes. They are surrounded by lush forests, with vibrant green brush and tall trees that seemingly reach up beyond StarClan. Their territory is filled to the brim with rivers and tiny waterfalls, where kits practice their rock grip. The waterfalls are the tiniest any cat has ever seen, so if they fall, they don't have far to go. The most daring and hotheaded cats try to hop onto the rocks above the waterfall, and they often end up plunging to their death or getting heavily injured. However, most cats are sensible enough not to do that.
PeakClan is the Clan with the highest elevation, at the very top of the mountains. Their territory consists of almost all straight uphill climbs. They often have to scramble over rocks and whatnot to get to the highest peaks. Their camp is situated on a rocky peak, that gets very narrow at the top. When any cat looks over the edge, they are rewarded with gorgeous mountain views. Along the rock, cats make their dens under bushes. The camp can be treacherous, though, as some kits can be mouse-brains and walk off the steep cliffs upon looking at the mountain views, but most queens teach their kits not to get too close to the edge in fear of falling to their death. Most cats will sit on the steep rocks to talk and hangout, and hunting can be a struggle. With many cliffs and steep ledges, most prey falls before any cat can catch it. But somehow, these intelligent and strong felines still manage.
Now, you have been introduced to the six mountain Clans, so now, you can hear their stories.
It was a quiet day in the valley. Aspenstar flicked her fluffy tail, gazing over the cats from a small rock. Her deputy, Acorntuft, was sending out patrols. "Aspenstar?" A concerned voice drifted from behind the fluffy she-cat.
"Yes?" She meowed, turning her head to see Stormmeadow, her medicine cat.
"I have to talk," the gray-and-black she murmurred, her voice unusually soft.
"Is... something wrong?" Aspenstar meowed.
"It depends on how you'd interpret this," Stormmeadow flicked her tail-tip anxiously.
Aspenstar strained her ears forward, eagerly awaiting Stormmeadow's information. "I-I was visited in a dream last night, by Whisperstar. He looked nervous, and he said 'the mountain's haze will thicken'. I wasn't sure what that meant, so when I asked him, all I got was a vision. I saw cats' fur being whipped by rain, as they tried to navigate the slippery bluffs. Some cats fell, slipping from the rock, while others climbed slowly, placing their paws carefully so not to fall like the other one."
Aspenstar's eyes widened. "It sounds like a bad storm to me. Whether that's a metaphorical storm or not, I don't know. But from your vision, it looked to be a real storm."
Stormmeadow dropped her gaze, worry clouding her optics. Aspenstar had noticed gray clouds drifting in, but she had thought it would just be another storm - they could just take shelter in the forest, right? She suddenly meowed, "I know this would be atypical of a leader, but... we have to tell the Clan."
Stormmeadow's eyes widened, and her tail began to lash as she looked up at Aspenstar. "We can't! They'll be panicking like dazed elk! We can't!"
"We have to prepare them, and not telling them is certainly not the way," Aspenstar meowed firmly.
"Think about it - on short notice, your leader and medicine cat suddenly meow, 'oh, by the way a horrible storm is coming'."
Stormmeadow muttered, "I guess you're right..."
Aspenstar stood up. "It's settled then, let's go."
She padded towards the main area of camp, and leaped on top of the rock. "All cats old enough to run through the valleys, gather beneath the Lowrock for a Clan meeting!"
A gray-purple she-cat with white stripes dashed through the yellow meadows of CoveClan. Her vision was primarily focused on the rabbit she was chasing, but also on the cat she was hunting with. As the rabbit noticed that it was running straight into the paws of another cat, it was too late. The cat sunk his paws into the rabbit. "Good job, Foreststar," her brother meowed.
Foreststar purred. "Honestly, did you think even after lazing around in the cove for all these moons, I've lost my hunting skills?"
Foreststar, even as a warrior, had always been known for her superb hunting skills. Her brother flicked his tail, and meowed, "Let's go put this in the prey pile."
Foreststar trotted over to where she had buried another rabbit, and dug it up. Their catches dangling from their mouths, the two felines strolled over to the prey pile. They dropped their catches, and Foreststar looked over at her sibling. Upon looking at the setting sun, Foreststar's eyes widened in alarm. "The Gathering! We have to pick our cats!"
The Gathering may have been the next day, but CoveClan was a long distance from their Gathering area, the Highlands. They would set off tomorrow morning, and the cats had to be prepared. Foreststar leaped onto the Treeledge. The Treeledge was a sturdy branch on one of the trees in the cove. The tree was massive, so it provided shade for all the cats sitting down. "As many of you may know, the Gathering is tomorrow evening."
The CoveClan cats nodded, and it almost looked like a ripple through a pool of felines. "I must decide which cats I want to take." Foreststar flicked her tail.
Scanning the group of cats, she picked out each cat that would come on the trek. "Of course, me, my deputy and brother, Creekshadow, our medicine cat, Lavendergaze, and for warriors: Honeywish, Tigerbreeze, Runningpounce, Brackenspots, Duskwatcher, and Mudwhisker. For apprentices: Strikepaw, Ivorypaw, and Hailpaw." She finished.
The cats dispersed, and the mentioned cats murmured their enthusiasm. Foreststar caught Ivorypaw meowing, "This is our first Gathering! It's gonna be so fun!"
Foreststar leaped off the Treeledge, and Creekshadow padded up to her. "Another Gathering, eh? Don't you ever get tired of taking me?" He meowed, letting out a mrrow of laughter.
Foreststar did the same, and then she smiled. "I would never. You're my brother."
Creekshadow smiled warmly, and looked at his paws. She knew he was remembering when they were kits, their other littermates dropping dead at their paws, having been killed by a band of rogues. "You're pathetic. You couldn't save them." A rogue tom had sneered, and he padded away with the rest of his group.
Foreststar shook herself out of the horrible memory. However, one good thing had come out of it - Creekshadow and Foreststar were close as could be now. "Soooo, I'm gonna go get some rest, see you later."
Foreststar around, and padded to a cozy spot in the cove. No matter what any cat said, Foreststar liked to sleep out in the open, beneath the stars. It helped her feel closer to her ancestors. She closed her eyes, and she hadn't realized how tired she was. Sleep swiftly swept her away, off her paws, and took her to the world of a vision. She was suddenly transported into a tumultuous storm. Thunder crashed around her, and lighting lit up the cloudy sky. She seemed to be in the mountain's haze, as she couldn't see a thing. Then, she had a horrifying glimpse of something. A cat slipped off the edge of a rock, plunging to their death in the mountains. "NO!"
She reached out a paw to save them, but alas, the effort was useless. She saw cats sinking their claws in, as they climbed up the precarious ledges of rock. The rain pelted down onto their pelts, until they could do nothing but slip away into the vast landscape of the mountains. Foreststar gasped, opening her eyes, realizing with relief she was back in her den. However, she wasn't fully relieved. She slipped away onto a path that led to a small, abandoned Twoleg den, where the medicine cat resided. She reached it, and shook awake Lavendergaze. "Huh?" the she-cat muttered.
"It's important." Foreststar meowed urgently.
Lavendergaze sprang to her paws, and followed her leader outside. "You better have a good reason for waking me up this late," she grumbled.
"Oh, I do," Foreststar meowed, nervousness evident in her tone of voice.
Before even allowing Lavendergaze to get a word in, Foreststar began to spill out her vision. Lavendergaze's eyes widened at the details, and her jaw dropped. "This is bad, bad, bad." The medicine cat began to pace.
"Tell me something I don't know," Foreststar snorted.
"What you don't know, is how dangerous our own territories are going to become!" Lavendergaze snapped.
"With how rickety these old Twoleg dens are, who knows how long it'll be before they collapse onto your very own warriors? And the trees, though few and far between, they could fall on a passerby. The storm will also scare all the prey away into their dens, so food will be scarce."
Foreststar shook her head, as if to clear it. "This can't happen, no, I thought StarClan loved us!"
"This is too powerful for StarClan to control, so all they could do was forewarn us." Lavendergaze meowed.
Foreststar lashed her tail, anxiety taking over her body. "How are we going to prepare our warriors? The dens are going to collapse, and so many cats will die..."
Lavendergaze put her tail on the leader's shoulder. "Hey, I'm not guaranteeing anything to occur. The dens have withstood many storms before, y'know." She meowed.
"I guess you're right..." Foreststar conceded.
"We'll sleep on it," Lavendergaze meowed, and turned back to her den.
Foreststar watched as the medicine cat turned and padded into her den. She tried to calm herself, but she couldn't shake the feeling that this would be the biggest threat any of these cats would ever face.
A white she-cat with a speckled brown back and tail-top flicked a brown ear. Her yellow eyes gazed over the lake, where many cats swam through the glistening water. "Birdstar."
The she-cat turned around to the breezy voice of her medicine cat, Gingerscar. "Gingerscar," Birdstar meowed, dipping her head. "What brings you to me on this fine afternoon?"
Gingerscar's eyes looked troubled, and Birdstar examined them, attempting to find out what was wrong. "A fine afternoon indeed," Gingerscar meowed. Her voice sounded like she was stalling something.
Birdstar's gaze softened. "You can tell me anything."
"It's just - I don't think you'll be particularly thrilled with this news."
Birdstar flicked her tail impatiently. "Just tell me, would you? If something's wrong, I need to be informed."
Gingerscar drew in a deep breath. The tortoiseshell she-cat padded forward to sit beside Birdstar, and finally blurted out, "I had a dream... a very bad sign."
Birdstar tensed. "Go on..."
Gingerscar began to explain. "First, I saw these cats climbing some rocks on what almost seemed like PeakClan or the more rugged part of CoveClan's territory. But, the area was heavily misted, and you couldn't see a mouse if it were right beneath your nose. Rain was also pelting down, making the rocks perilously slick. All of a sudden, one cat fell. Then, lightning flashed, and it went on to another scene. This time around, cats were scrambling on a rocky mountainside. Their claws were deeply dug into anything they could grab, but, some still fell, plunging to their deaths."
Birdstar flicked her tail. "That doesn't seem like it would happen near our camp. We could just stay here, and not worry about a thing."
Gingerscar lashed her tail angrily. "I can't believe your ignorance, Birdstar. Have you forgotten about flooding? With rains that heavy, the lake surely would. And the trees could come crashing down on us. Even if, by some off chance, none of that happened, what about the other cats? They exist, and matter, y'know."
Birdstar flicked her tail dismissively. "If I were you, I wouldn't worry about it too much. It could've just been a nightmare."
"How did you ever get in charge, Birdstar?" Gingerscar growled.
The scar crossing the she-cat's face made her look even more threatening as she hissed, "I don't think nightmares would be that detailed. And, that's an odd thing to have a nightmare about. I'm not afraid of storms, and something like that hasn't occurred for seasons, if it ever did!"
Birdstar flattened her ears. "Leave," she meowed coldly.
Gingerscar whipped around and stalked away, huffing at Birdstar's arrogance. The leader held her head high. Something that outlandish can't be true... right?
The she-cat shook herself, and leaped down from the branch she had been perched in. It was high time to round her Clanmates up for the Gathering. She plunged into the lake, and swam to an island in the middle of it. In the small cluster of trees, she leaped up onto one's branch, and yowled, "All cats old enough to swim in the deepest lake, gather beneath the Islandbranch for a Clan meeting!"
One by one, cats clustered around the tree, looking up at Birdstar. Despite the disturbing message she had received, she couldn't help but feel proud that she was somehow in control of all these cats. She noticed Gingerscar, glaring up at her, but ignored the medicine cat. "As some of you may know, the Gathering is tomorrow night. Sadly, we live... decently far from the Highlands."
LakeClan's camp was located at the very edge of the mountain territories, while the Highlands were located in the center. This, sadly, demanded a long quest for the cats of the lake. They would have to leave that evening. "The cats coming with us will obviously be me, my deputy, and Gingerscar. Now, for the warriors. Torrentflight, Mossybranch, Thornstrike, Lilyglow, Birchdrift, and yeaahhh that's it for the warriors. For apprentices, I'll be taking Troutpaw, Lilacpaw, and Irispaw. That's it."
She hopped off the rock. "We'll be setting off at sundown, so rest up. You've got a short while."
Birdstar padded away to rest, but she could practically feel Gingerscar glaring daggers at her. And, Birdstar secretly knew, that her medicine cat was correct - this would be important. But, she couldn't worry about that. At least not right now, anyways.
A gray tom with black dapples was perched on one of the rocks beside the small waterfall. The thing was small, sure, but it sure was fast. It pumped water down and through the river with all of it's might, which was a lot. He gazed out upon the river, where many cats swam, and along the rocky banks, where many cats rested. He was quite proud of his Clan, after all, they were the only cats adapted to the river rapids. They were the only cats with strong enough paws to paddle through the rapidly moving waters. He smiled, despite his boredom. As if on cue, another feline walked towards him. The tom cat sat beside him solemnly, as if awaiting a moment for the leader to come out of his thoughts. "I know you're there, Oakblaze." he chuckled.
"Good." Oakblaze let out a mrrow of laughter, despite his serious expression.
"You don't look as happy as you sound," the leader meowed, sobering up.
"You're right, Ripplestar, I'm not," Oakblaze conceded.
"What is there to be sad about right now? You've got the river rapids, rushing as much as ever, the Clan is thriving, prey is plentiful. And, most importantly - me." Ripplestar purred.
The medicine cat frowned. "This is not a matter to play around with, Ripple."
Ripplestar rolled his eyes. "Fine, but next time you visit me, get a sense of humor," he purred.
Oakbreeze smiled, if only for a split second, then went back to his solemn face. "I received a... rather troubling dream last night."
The tom went on to explain it. The cats falling off rocks, the torrents of rain battering their pelts. Ripplestar's eyes widened. "The pool will surely flood!"
"We'll be driven off our territory, and forced to flee to... LakeClan." he spat out the word as if it were a piece of crow-food.
Ripplestar had always had a distaste for those cats. They thought they were so amazing, swimming through the lake - well, guess what? PoolClan has rapids! He snorted, letting out his frustration towards the Clan. Oakbreeze put his tail-tip on the gray tom's shoulder. "You're spiraling," he mewed.
"What's not to spiral about?" he snorted.
"Just... don't. Not yet, at least." The brown tom with darker brown stripes comforted his leader.
Ripplestar's yellow orbs locked with his light blue, and Oakbreeze stood up. "I'd best be going. You've heard what you needed to know. All I want you to do is think about it."
With that, the tom padded away, disappearing into the surrounding forests. Ripplestar huffed. "I wasn't spiraling... was I?"
To calm himself, he looked out upon the Clan. He spotted a couple apprentices, at the big rock overhang where some cats jumped in. Frostpaw, and her best friend, Barleypaw. "Are you sure about this?" Barleypaw asked.
Ripplestar purred in amusement - the fluffy brown-and-white she-cat had always been anxious. "One hundred percent," Frostpaw replied.
She flicked her half-gray, half-white tuft tail. In contrast, the gray dappled she-cat had always been daring, Ripplestar commented. It was a mystery how the two became best friends, because of their heavily contrasting personalities. "Okay, Barleypaw, just to assure you, I'll go first."
Barleypaw nodded, and smiled softly. "That would make me feel better."
Frostpaw leaped in, hitting the rushing water with a splash. A few seconds later, her head popped up, fur matted against her body. "See? Perfectly fine. Now you try-" All of a sudden, a rather forceful wave of water hit the apprentice, and swept her along the currents.
Ripplestar, alarmed, took immediate action. He swam into the river, paddling with his paws as fast as he could. He noticed that other cats had begun to swim after the apprentice, too. One was already ahead of the rest - a sleek she-cat named Daisypetal. Daisypetal slipped through the water, and caught up to the flailing apprentice. The gray-dappled she-cat was coughing, and Daisypetal, with no words, dragged her onto the rocky shore. Felines began to crowd around them. "Is she okay?" Many cats murmurred.
Ripplestar padded up onto shore, worry clouding him. He nosed his way through the crowd, looking down at Frostpaw. She coughed up water. "Frostpaw, are you awake?" He inquired.
"Y-Y-Yes..." She meowed between coughs.
She seemed more waterlogged than anything. Then, Oakblaze shoved his way through the cats, on the side opposite of Ripplestar. "Medicine cat, coming through!" He meowed assertively.
Ripplestar's friend began to pump the water out of the apprentice's chest, and she coughed it up violently. Soon, the coughs became more feeble, and less water was coming out, then they stopped altogether. "She should be alright now, there's no more water in her system." Oakblaze huffed.
"Thank me later."
He padded away, and Ripplestar wondered why he was so... tense. Was that the right word? Ripplestar had no time to ponder it before recalling the dream. It sure was troubling, and what was more troubling yet, was that he didn't know how to deal with it.
A gray she-cat with a lighter gray muzzle, a light gray bottom of her tail, light gray paw-tips, and a pink flower behind her ear sat on one of the rocks beside the waterfall. She quite enjoyed the calming sound of the cascading water. After all, it was the staple of her Clan, what they were named after. Her blue eyes shimmered like the water beneath the falls. She hopped down, feeling a sudden sense of urgency. The Gathering!
She had completely forgotten about it, and it was tonight. Fortunately, her camp was close to the Highlands. She hopped to another rock right beside the falls, and yowled, "All cats old enough to perch on the stones, gather beneath the Fallrock for a Clan meeting!"
Cats began to slip out of the shadowy area of the forest. One by one, one cat after another, until they were all seated beneath the leader. "I have come to a realization - the Gathering is tonight. Therefore, this evening, I must pick the cats who are attending this harmonious ceremony."
"Mouse-brain," she heard one cat breathe in the crowd.
"I heard that!" she snapped playfully.
"Anyways, of course, I, Silverstar, shall be attending. My deputy and medicine cat will be coming as well." She gave a nod to the two felines.
"For warriors - Dapplerain, Stormchaser, Sleekshrew, Dawnblaze, Hazelbush, and Tufttail will be coming. Apprentices, listen up - Barkpaw, Sandpaw, and Rosepaw will be coming."
The crowd dispersed, and the chosen apprentices talked amongst themselves. "There's no time to waste, let's go," Silverstar meowed.
As the sun set, the Clan headed out. Silverstar led her Clan through the trail that followed the river. As the sound of the waterfall became more and more distant, the she-cat and her Clan were getting closer and closer. Silverstar, as she approached, held her head up high. One Clan had already arrived, and that was ValleyClan. They must have set off early. Twoleg formations were all around the large in the trees, since Twolegs had populated the area before. But now, for mysterious reasons, they had abandoned it. Silverstar hopped up onto the stone ledge they had built, alongside Aspenstar. "Hello," Silverstar meowed to her fellow leader.
Aspenstar flicked her tail. "Hello."
The speckled she-cat noticed that the other leader looked nervous, as if something was troubling her. Perhaps her Clan had been attacked? But none of the cats showed any fresh wounds, or even signs of being attacked. They all had that anxious gleam in their eyes, though. "Is something wrong?" murmured Silverstar.
"Yes. You haven't heard?" Aspenstar turned her head, looking shocked.
"No." Silverstar shook her head. "What about?"
"I thought StarClan would warn all of us..." she muttered, and then seemed to snap out of her daze. "I'll tell you when everyone is Gathered, and the sun has gone down," she responded.
As more and more Clans arrived, PoolClan being the last, Foreststar let out a yowl to cue the Gathering's beginning. "I will go first," she meowed, urgency in her tone.
That same worry Aspenstar showed... observed Silverstar.
The moon's gleam and the blazing of eyes was the only thing that gave away the cats gathered there, as the CoveClan leader started, "Lavendergaze and I have received a... troubling prophecy, to say the least."
Silverstar noticed a hint of recognition in Aspenstar's and Ripplestar's eyes. "You mean the one about the torrents of rain?" Aspenstar burst out.
Foreststar looked surprised. "Yes," she meowed slowly, "How did you know?"
"StarClan sent me that prophecy too."
Birdstar stood up. "I think it's nonsense," she meowed nonchalantly.
Mutters and whispers rippled through the crowd, and one cat spoke up, "What is wrong with you?"
Birdstar looked down. "Common sense, I guess," she meowed.
"Quiet down!" Foreststar commanded, and the whole Highlands area when silent.
"Let me explain, for those of you who seemingly know nothing about this. Essentially, there was a torrent of rain. The mountains were being flooded, and the rocks and mountainsides were so slick, that cats were falling to their deaths. And, it was like you were in the middle of the mountain's haze - you couldn't see a thing."
The leader of PeakClan suddenly leaped up. "Why hasn't StarClan told all of us this?" he growled.
"Perhaps they haven't been able to tell everyone yet?" Silverstar suggested.
The tom lashed his tail. "I would've thought they cared about every Clan equally, and would've told them at the same time, but I guess I was wrong."
The CascadeClan leader could tell that he was infuriated, and she put her tail-tip on his shoulder. "Calm down, please. We only sleep so much, and StarClan has their own things to do too."
The tom's gaze softened for a moment, then it hardened once again. "Why should I trust a CascadeClan cat?" he sneered.
Ripplestar hopped in between them. "Break it up, you two."
The tom muttered something to the PeakClan leader, Smokestar, and he looked embarrassed for a second, then turned back to his aggressive expression. "Don't you dare say something like that to me," he growled, then looked away, as if knowing it was true.
Silverstar tilted her head. Had he committed some kind of action against the warrior code? She had no time to ponder it right now. Her mind was too busy racing, because of the prophecy. She sighed. She probably wouldn't figure it out tonight. The silver she-cat looked the other direction, and saw Aspenstar gesturing to her. "You haven't gotten the prophecy yet?" she meowed.
Silverstar shook her head. "No."
Foreststar meowed, "I think we should discuss what we're going to do about this - it's going to affect PeakClan the most," she added.
Smokestar shot her a glare. "Do you think I'm mouse-brained?" he hissed.
Silverstar looked up, and noticed the clouds drifting towards the moon. "Hold up!" she yowled, as loud as she could.
All the heads turned to her, one by one. "The clouds are covering the moon. Why don't we have a mature, organized discussion instead of wailing like a bunch of kits?"
To her surprise, Smokestar meowed, "I agree."
Ripplestar let out a mrrow of amusement. "You're not a very agreeable cat, Smokestar."
"For something reasonable, I am," he grunted.
Foreststar meowed, "Since it's currently my turn, let me discuss my solution. I think - uh - I actually don't know what to do."
Smokestar was quick to offer his solution. "I think we should all shelter in the Highlands. It's safe, and because of the Twolegs having cleared everything out, there aren't trees to topple on us or anything."
Silverstar slowly began to nod. "I think... that's a very good idea."
The other leaders chimed their agreement. Smokestar smiled at their praise. "It's settled then. Three sunrises from now, we meet here."
The leaders nodded. From then on, the Gathering continued as normal. But Silverstar couldn't help but think - what was Smokestar hiding that Ripplestar knew about?
How dare he? How dare Ripplestar manipulate Smokestar with his secret? How dare StarClan not send him the message first instead of all the other useless Clans. Smokestar huffed, gazing out over the mountains, releasing his anger. "I need to calm down," Smokestar muttered to himself.
He breathed deeply, and thought of his Clan thriving, along with Silverstar. However, that made him even more frustrated. I'm not allowed to have this stupid crush in the first place! WHYY MEEE??
Smokestar sighed, and he knew just sitting around wasn't going to do him any good. He would just think about the things he hated, and get mad about them, after all. The Gathering last night to him was humiliating, with Ripplestar now on board with his secret. He recalled what the gray-and-black tom had murmured to him last night with a shiver. He had come between him and Silverstar, and leaned in close to Smokestar's ear, and meowed, "I know you like her, but I don't think you should make your move quite yet."
He had been so many things, infuriated, embarrassed, in denial - it was too much to make sense of it all. He looked up, and noticed the gray clouds looming ominously over camp. "Great, the storm that StarClan warned almost all of us about." he growled.
Despite his tough and unconcerned exterior, on the inside, his belly was swarming with dread. He knew this would be bad, especially for his Clan, being at some of the peak heights of the mountain. He knew most cats would easily lose their grip and plummet to their death, as their pads may be tough and have adapted to gripping onto things over the seasons, they'd never seen anything like this before. Or at least, Smokestar hadn't. Despite the thick gray clouds, he noticed the sun setting. He'd have to go to the Highlands tomorrow to shelter with the other Clans. At least I'll get to see Silverstar, he thought.
He allowed a thought of her to slip past, after all, they were on the horizon of a huge storm. "Smokestar?" A cat padded up to him.
"What?" he grumbled.
"I'm sorry if it's a bad time, but... the prophecy, I just got it."
Smokestar rolled his eyes. "Great job, StarClan, you're on top of things this moon," he grumbled sarcastically.
He turned around, and meowed, "There's no need to explain. The other Clans already explained the fox-dung out of it at the Gathering. But, at least StarClan still somewhat cares about us."
As he finished the last sentence, the medicine cat's ginger-brown and black splotched fur bristled. "Of course they still cared about us!" she hissed.
"There had to be some sort of delay they couldn't prevent, just... I don't know what!"
"Calm down, Vixenstrike," he meowed.
Vixenstrike's fur smoothed, and she hissed, "I just don't think you're taking this very seriously."
And she stormed off. Smokestar, despite her irritation towards him, suddenly felt lonely again. He knew he should probably sleep, but he didn't want to see that utterly horrible vision the other cats had described. But, alas, without his control, his paws were moving. He scuttled down the huge rock that jutted out over the mountains, which was the main camp, and beyond the stairway to it that the Twolegs had constructed so long ago. He reached a flat, forested area, where most cats slept, and padded to a bed of moss. He lay down, and let sleep carry him away, off his paws.
Smokestar awoke from a dreamless sleep. He was surprised but also somewhat glad he didn't receive that horrid dream every other leader kept reporting. He gathered up his Clanmates, and set off for the Highlands. The clouds were moving in closer, but Smokestar set his jaw and padded forward. When he arrived at the Highlands, only one Clan hadn't yet joined, and that was LakeClan. They'll arrive soon, he thought.
He padded up to Silverstar. "Hello, how are you?" he meowed.
Silverstar looked taken aback that Smokestar was talking to her, but soon responded, "I'm doing well, you?"
He looked up at the dark gray, almost black, clouds rolling towards them. "I doubt any of us are going to be okay soon."
Silverstar gazed up too, and her jaw dropped open. "I didn't know it'd be this soon!"
Her tail lashed in worry. "No, no, I'm not prepared for this yet-"
Smokestar put his tail-tip on her shoulder. "Let me stop you there. Yes, you are. We're all in this together. Even if you're not prepared, then the rest of us are, and we'll help you through it."
Just then, he spotted Ripplestar smiling at them. "A rare moment of kindness from Smokestar," the other leader whispered to him.
Smokestar frowned at him, then turned back to Silverstar. He nuzzled her. Was that a blush he saw from the she-cat? Smokestar tried not to get excited, she probably didn't like him back. He pressed himself up against the she-cat. "You know we all like being around you, and I'll help you, no matter what it takes."
Silverstar purred, and whispered, "Thank you, Smoke."
Normally, he would not allow any cat to call him Smoke, but this was Silverstar we were talking about. He pressed as close as he could get to her, and felt the warmth of her fur against his. And, just for a moment, he thought, maybe everything will work out in the end.
Aspenstar turned her head to notice Birdstar arriving with LakeClan. "They sure took their time," she commented.
Foreststar, who was beside her, flicked her tail in amusement. As Birdstar and her warriors finally reached the Highlands Gap and scattered, warriors from each Clan padded up to visit with the warriors of LakeClan. Birdstar strutted over to sit beside the other leaders. "So, still don't believe in the prophecy?" Aspenstar meowed worriedly, casting her gaze towards the sky.
Birdstar rolled her eyes. "It's just a storm, but y'all would rage at me if I didn't show up, so here I am, I guess."
"Speaking of not showing up, where are Silverstar and Smokestar? I saw their warriors come in with them, but I haven't seen either of them since."
Birdstar widened her eyes. "You don't know about the Silverstar and Smokestar thing? Girl, I've gotta fill you in."
Foreststar looked addled, but meowed, "Alright, go on."
Birdstar inquired, "You haven't noticed how much they've been mooning over each other?"
"Not really," the two leaders replied in unison.
Birdstar let out a mrrow of amusement. Aspenstar tilted her head. Why were cats taking things like this so lightly? This was against the warrior code, for StarClan's sake! "Surely they're just friends?" Aspenstar suggested, but Birdstar was turned around, looking at something.
Aspenstar felt a sense of dread, that she may be incorrect, yet she followed the other she-cat's gaze. Smokestar had his fur pressed up against Silverstar's, and Ripplestar was watching, as if he were a wing-cat of sorts. Aspenstar tensed. She knew what she had to do. The brown-striped she-cat stood, her fluffy and tall body standing over most felines. "Smokestar? Silverstar?"
Smokestar shuffled away from the silver she-cat, and he looked humiliated. "What?" he hissed gruffly.
"What in StarClan are you two doing?"
Smokestar rolled his eyes. "She told me she was scared about the storm, so I'm comforting her."
"Suurreee, comforting," Ripplestar meowed from the side, and winked.
Smokestar's fur bristled. "Shut up!" he growled.
Suddenly, lightning split the sky, and thunder rumbled. "Under the ledge!" Aspenstar screeched.
Rain began to pour on the cats, as they tumbled over to where the ledge the leaders stood on created an overhang for the cats. They huddled under, cramped and miserable, as they watched the rain pour inches away. "It's begun," Aspenstar breathed, but she could barely be heard over the pounding torrent.
She noticed she was beside the other leaders, and shuffled closer to her friend Foreststar for warmth. The she-cat meowed jokingly, "Personal space, Aspenstar!"
Aspenstar knew she was joking, because that was something no cat could get here. Birdstar was on her other side. "So, you believe me now?" she huffed.
"Yeah, I think I do."
Birdstar looked almost triumphant, but Aspenstar could see a looming worry in her eyes. "Huddling under this ledge won't do forever - what're we going to do when we get hungry? Or thirsty? And we can't be cramped in here forever."
A ginger tom leaped up. "I'll go hunt," he volunteered.
Smokestar, his leader, grunted, "Flamehiss, you'll never catch anything in this weather."
Flamehiss turned his snout up and closed his eyes. "You don't know that." he pouted.
"Well, I can make an inference," Smokestar meowed gruffly.
Silverstar meowed, "At least give him a chance, Smoke. Even if he doesn't catch anything, at least we'll know what the conditions are."
Flamehiss gave a pleading look to his leader, and Smokestar's gaze softened. "Fine..."
He instantly tensed back up. "But don't think this will be an everyday occurrence!"
Flamehiss looked around the Clan cats. "So... anyone wanna come with me?"
A PoolClan she-cat stood up, and meowed, "I'll go!"
One by one, cats started volunteering, until they had a patrol of five cats. As they set off, Aspenstar admired their remarkable bravery. Even she, as courageous as she was supposed to be as leader, probably wouldn't take a risk like that. Those young warriors were definitely the futures of their Clans. "I hope they come back alive," Foreststar murmured, breaking Aspenstar out of her thoughts.
"If they even make it back," Aspenstar added.
Birdstar sighed, rolling her eyes. "You guys still believe this whole prophecy thing, huh? When this storm clears up tomorrow, you'll see who's really right."
There was nothing Aspenstar could do to change the other leader's mind at this point. That cat couldn't see sense if it were right in front of her nose. The fluffy she-cat huffed. "Believe what you will."
The felines fell silent, save for a few whispers to friends, as they awaited the return of the hunting patrol. Aspenstar could hear the rumbling of bellies, and she felt pity wash over her. Those cats had ought to return soon, right? At least one of them. That was when she heard paw steps, and cats gasped and murmured. Four cats came out of the bushes. Flamehiss, Volechaser, Horseheart, and Morninglight. Birdstar cocked her head, as one of the cats from LakeClan was missing. "Where's Troutwish?"
Morninglight stepped forward, and meowed quietly, "He's... not with us anymore."
Gasps circled around the ledge. How odd that the cat from LakeClan, the Clan who's leader did not believe in the prophecy, would die. Gingerscar stormed over to Birdstar. "This is your doing!" she yowled.
Birdstar snorted. "And how, exactly?"
"You dismissed the prophecy as if it were a kit begging for attention! You act like it's nothing, now see how reality hits you!"
Birdstar looked taken aback. Her fur bristled. "Are you accusing me of causing one of our warriors' deaths?"
"Maybe I am!" Gingerscar shot at her.
Aspenstar held her fluffy tail between them before any more quarreling could go on. "Gingerscar is correct," she meowed calmly, "believe us now?"
Foreststar couldn't believe what had just happened. StarClan had never sent the Clans such an obvious sign before. Birdstar glared at Gingerscar, and turned to Aspenstar. "As much as you'd like me to, no. A warrior was ought to fall off at some point," she spat.
Foreststar's fur bristled. "You're a mouse-brain to not believe us now!"
Gingerscar lashed her tail. "Unless you want your whole Clan dead, you'd better shape up."
Birdstar hissed. "You all are crazy as a fox in a fit! You just had some bad dreams."
Lightning flashed, and instantaneously thunder boomed. As lightning lit up Gingerscar's face, she shoved her muzzle just a whisker-length from Birdstar's. "It's StarClan's will. You need to leave, and return to LakeClan camp, so that none of your Clanmates are put in harm's way."
Birdstar turned her muzzle up, and closed her eyes. "Fine. Once this storm clears up, I'll be the most intelligent cat in the mountains!" she snorted, and with that, she padded away and up the mountain.
Foreststar's jaw was left hanging. This had to be the most brutal thing StarClan had done. But she was glad it was over. Birdstar was a bird-brain, much like her name suggested. The she-cat purred in amusement at the correlation. Gingerscar, huffing, stormed back to her seat beside the other medicine cats. Their eyes were wide, but they looked relieved, in a way. Foreststar broke the silence by meowing, "So... that happened."
"It did indeed," some cat spoke up.
Foreststar felt her muscles tensing, and she finally stood. "I'm going to need to take a walk. I'll try my best to stay safe."
She didn't leave the time for any cat to object, as she padded off. Rain pelted down on her, soaking her thick pelt. Even the shelter of the surrounding trees couldn't aid her in any way. She strolled through the mountains, noticing all the vegatation and flowers being battered by the heavy rains. She sighed. Prey would be scarce after this. She headed on, until she noticed water. The creek, she thought grimly.
This was on PeakClan territory. They had a creek, and it was swollen with water. It was raging, water violently hitting the rocks and surrounding trees that had been flooded. She sighed. She'd have to turn around, or get drowned in the creek. That was when a weight hit her from the back. "Oof!" she was pinned.
She smelled the scent of a feline, and she writhed. "Get off me!"
She recognized a she-cat's voice. "This had been needed for a while."
Foreststar couldn't tell what Clan the she-cat was from, or if she was even from a Clan, as her scent was disguised with that of the flowers. The she-cat carried her to the river, all the while the leader thrashed and struggled, but the weight of the she-cat was just too great. I never expected it to end like this, she thought.
The she-cat forced her into the water, and she felt her body being carried off by the swiftly running waters. She heard the malicious chuckling of the she-cat, and she tried to yowl for help, but she was just wasting air. She felt the river rushing around her, the rocks battering her sides. No. She suddenly thought.
She felt a rock, and made a weak effort to scramble onto it. Although weak, she managed to prop herself up on the rock. She gazed out onto the shore, there was no sign of the she-cat. She hopped from the rock to the muddy bank, and slipped. The water was grabbing at her tail, almost as if it were another cat trying to pull her under. She sunk her claws into the mud, and managed to pull herself up, panting. She walked over to where the murder attempt had taken place, and noticed paw prints. She went back the way she came.
Foreststar began with that. She followed the paw prints, and noticed a crushed patch of flowers, where the murderer had rolled in earlier. She then noticed a shadow between the trees, and a low growl. After the she-cat turned her head, it scampered back between the trees, and the way the paw prints headed. Was this the she-cat? She followed faster, and heard a bellowing in the distance. "You didn't kill her?"
"No... ma'am..." another she-cat whimpered.
"I raised my daughter better than that," the other she-cat snorted.
She heard crying, and sniffling, from the younger she-cat. "I-I'm sorry... I didn't know she'd escape the rushing river..."
"You pushed her in?"
The other she-cat had a shocked tone to her voice. "I thought she had fought you and you ran off like a coward. If you're lying to me, I will have your ears. But, this seems like something I'll have to deal with myself."
The other cat was padding towards her, and Foreststar tensed. The only sound was her racing heartbeat and the rain coming down all around them, but the leader barely noticed it anymore. Although she had nine lives, she didn't want to risk losing any of them. She darted to a tree, and frantically climbed up it. The she-cat was still stalking through the forest, and the leader could hear the leaves crunching slowly. Foreststar scrambled up to a branch, and huddled, hoping her fur wouldn't stick out too much. The other she-cat burst out of the woods. "Her scent leads up a tree..." she muttered to herself.
The she-cat padded towards the tree. "Come out, come out wherever you are," she purred menacingly.
Foreststar stayed as silent as she could, but she was sure the whole forest could hear her heartbeat by now. The she-cat was making her way up the tree, and Foreststar couldn't help but question: is it really the end of me?
All those other Clan cats were mouse-brains. They're so close-minded. They follow what StarClan tells them to do, and apparently any cat who strays from that path is blind. Birdstar snorted, and plodded on, despite the torrents of rain. She kept a brisk pace, not even halting to notice raging rivers or anything else the forests had to offer. She had a long way to go, after all. Right now, she was on the very west side of ValleyClan territory. Their camp was located off to the east. She could tell she had almost arrived to LakeClan territory, when she heard a sudden rustling from the bushes. Her fur bristled. "Who's there?" she hissed.
Her fur laid flat again when she realized it was just a black tom with a white chest, tail tip, and light gray paws and neck tuft. "Just a loner," she meowed, sighing her relief.
"Just a loner?" The tom flicked his tail, letting out a mrrow of amusement. "I thought you Clan cats were scared of us, so you drove us out of our territory."
The river she had been following rushed as Birdstar meowed, "We're not scared of you, we just don't want you stealing our prey or making your home on our territory. And, before you ask why I'm not driving you out, this isn't even my territory. This is ValleyClan's territory. I'm just headed back to mine from the Highlands Gap."
The tom cocked his head. "Highlands Gap?"
"It's where we all gather. We gathered there to shelter from the rain, because the Twolegs cleared out, so there's nothing to fall on us."
The tom nodded, but twitched his whiskers in amusement. "Why would you be hiding from a little storm?"
Birdstar rolled her eyes. "Tell me about it. They got some bad dreams about a bad storm, so they act like a higher power sent it to kill them all off."
The tom burst out in laughter. "Now that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!"
"I know, right?" Birdstar agreed.
The tom cat padded closer, upon knowing that the she-cat was friendly. "Say, what's your name?"
"Nice to meet you, Birdstar. I'm Storm. Hope to see you around. I'd best be going, I've got siblings to feed."
Birdstar meowed, "Wait!"
Storm turned around. "Huh?"
"I'll come with you. Aid you with my hunting skills, y'know?"
He looked surprised, but giggled and meowed, "Sure."
The two felines padded into the woods without saying a word. They caught a lot of prey, despite it running. Most of it fell due to the slick ground. When they had caught a lot, Storm strolled through a gap in the trees. "I have food... and we have a visitor!"
Two she-cats and a tom poked their heads out of dens of some sort. A brown one with a dark brown back, dark brown ears, dark brown paws, white ear tips, white speckles, a white tail-tip and yellow feathers in behind her right ear sprinted out of the den. "It's here?" she asked.
She looked up to see Birdstar, and then looked to Storm. A mischevious glint entered her orbs. "I never knew you had a girlfriend, Storm."
The tom bristled. "I don't! She's just my friend!"
Birdstar rolled her eyes, but giggled a bit too. In all honesty, she liked the prospect of that happening. No, I can't. I'm a Clan cat, he's a rogue.
She shoved it to the back of her mind. The other she-cat padded out slowly, whiskers twitching with mistrust. She was silver, and had white speckles, white freckles, and a white tail. She also had a purple flower crown on her head. "Who is this?" she inquired slowly, as if sizing Birdstar up.
"This is my friend, Birdstar. No need to be suspicious, Silver."
Silver was this cat's name. She still looked suspicious, but seemed to trust the leader more when she saw the prey. Beyond the camp, she could hear the rushing of a waterfall. That was when the tom burst out of the den. "Visitor?" he looked begraggled, and Storm laughed.
"Looks like someone just crawled out of his nest."
The brown-and-white she-cat with feathers looked back at her brother, teasing yet affectionate. "Yep. He did. He was snoring away while you were gone, oh, you should've heard him."
The tom flattened his ears. "Wren, you're gonna get it..."
Storm giggled. "Break it up, break it up. All of you, this is my friend, Birdstar. She's a Clan cat, but from another Clan. She's not going to hurt us."
The tom was dark gray, with a darker gray splotch on his back and top of his tail, and small white speckles along the black patches - almost like stars in the night sky. The tom tentatively padded forward. "Hello, Birdstar."
Birdstar dipped her head. "Hello...?" she didn't know this cat's name.
Wren, Midnight, and Silver bundled towards the prey, and ate it in swift, ravenous bites. "You see, we don't get that much prey, having to be worried about ValleyClan and all," Storm explained.
"I see," Birdstar replied.
Once the loners finished, they licked their lips. "Good job, you two," Silver meowed
Midnight looked up at Birdstar, and his eyes suddenly widened. He crouched, and backed away. "No, she can't be here- she's gonna rat us out to ValleyClan! We have to kill her!"
The tom scrambled towards her, and clumsily raked his claws out at her. She easily dodged. "What's his problem?" Birdstar asked.
"He gets anxious sometimes." Wren sighed and rolled her eyes. "Just let him get it out of his system."
The tom was manically clawing, and it looked like he had eaten too much catmint. He was painfully missing with every claw lash, and Birdstar felt pity for him. "What caused him to act like this?" she murmured.
"Oh, it was long ago... we prefer not to talk about it." Storm meowed.
Wren, however, launched into a story. "When we were kits, a Clan cat killed our father, because he was hunting on their territory. He hasn't been able to fully trust any Clan cat since then, and he'll have these episodes."
Birdstar nodded solemnly. "I'm sorry for your loss."
"Oh, it was quite some time ago. I was never really close to him, I think I was the least favorite," Wren chuckled.
That night, Storm strolled up to Birdstar. He dipped his head. "I'm sorrowful to see you leave our camp. May we meet again one day."
Birdstar shook her head. "No, I'm not leaving. I need shelter, at least until this horrid storm ends. My camp's probably flooded by now anyways."
Storm looked down, and nodded in understanding. "Typically, I wouldn't share my camp with anyone. But, considering your home is flooded, I couldn't turn you down."
Birdstar's ears perked. "Thank you so much!"
She threw the tom into a nuzzle, and his eyes widened, then he calmed. "Yes, yes, thank me later. It's what any cat would've done."
Birdstar trotted into a den, and curled herself up into a nest. She heard the soft snoring of Wren, and the rustling of Silver's nest as she rolled over, attempting to become comfortable. Birdstar sighed in contentment. This was much more contentment than she had ever felt in her Clan, in fact. No, she couldn't stay here. She'd be intruding on their peaceful, everyday lives. She slowly and gently drifted off to sleep. No cat would ever contain her, at least for a while.
Ripplestar's mind would constantly drift back to the rapids. With the rain pouring down outside, it reminded him of the pounding of the river during a dreary day. He sighed, homesickness overcoming him. "Is something wrong?" Oakblaze meowed softly from beside him.
Ripplestar shook his head. "Just feeling a little homesick, that's all."
He glanced over to Aspenstar and the temporarily empty seat of Foreststar, feeling a bit of resentment. He reckoned CoveClan and ValleyClan would be the least affected, considering they both lived in flat valleys. PoolClan's camp would surely be flooded. But, a tiny spark of triumph flew through him. He had always had a grudge against LakeClan, as he had thought they copied the idea of PoolClan, but with a lake. Now, they had a leader like Birdstar, who they had to force away because she didn't believe in a prophecy. Oakblaze thought aloud, "I wonder when this thing will clear up."
No cat answered. Silence drenched the clearing, much like the puddles forming from the rain. "Maybe it won't," muttered a cat who Ripplestar recognized as Lynxtuft.
"We can't give up hope yet!" Stormmeadow, the medicine cat of ValleyClan, protested.
"Easy for you to say - your camp won't be bothered a bit!" Ripplestar growled, not being able to contain it anymore.
Aspenstar shot him a glare. "This will affect all of us. We need to come together in times like this, instead of ripping each other apart."
Some cats nodded, while others mumbled in unsure agreement. Ripplestar sprung up, boredom seemingly taking over his brain. "I'm going to go for a stroll," he lied.
What he was actually going to do was very risky. He was going to check on his camp. A feline suddenly protested, "But Ripplestar, the rocks are so slick-"
"I don't care right now, okay!?" Ripplestar meowed.
He then padded forward, leaving behind the rest of his Clan, and the rest of the mountain cats. This was for him to do, and him alone. He strutted through the forests, trying to keep confidence in his step. But, he couldn't stifle a gasp as he traveled through the more rugged parts of PeakClan territory. He gradually halted as he reached a swollen river, and the log that would let him across was barely above the water. Despite being used to the rushing rapids, he had never seen anything like this. It was either going on the log, and having slim chances of survival, or die trying to swim across. He set his jaw. He had to cross. He tentatively placed a paw on the log, and slipped his body onto it. He inched across like a caterpillar, and the water hit his leg. "Eek!"
He jolted it up onto the log, and continued his descent. As he reached the other side, he paused to take in the river below him. His heartbeat was loud and wild with fear, but he had to make the final steps. He continued, slowly, fear getting the best of the tom. Ripplestar tumbled down to the other side, relief making his paws quiver. "I did it..." he gasped.
He took in his surroundings. Trees, and just about a fox-length and a half uphill. He padded up, the rain making it slippery. He sunk his claws in, so not to go tumbling back into the river, and hauled himself up. Despite not being used to PeakClan territory, he was proud of himself. The land gradually flattened out, as he made it father across PeakClan territory. The rain still battered down, but there was lots of tree cover, so he didn't get the worst of it. He went around curves in the path, crossed rivers that weren't as raging as the other one, but then the territory began to climb uphill again (small A/N: these are all based off real trails! I've been to the one Ripplestar is currently on myself, its very remote and calm but uphill the whole time). He groaned to himself, but followed it. He paused to gaze at a small patterned plant with fat leaves, and carried on. Then, he smelled his own scent markers. "PoolClan territory at last," he sighed.
He breathed a sigh of relief as his own territory welcomed him, the familiar trail comforting him. The land began to flatten again, and he rejoiced. He wasn't particularly skilled at climbing into high elevations, as he mostly swam in the rapids. He hiked the path for a while, until he came to another river. It was swollen, the water roaring as it pounded against rocks. This is not how it ends, he growled mentally.
Ripplestar didn't want his time to end here. He was a leader. He had a Clan, and who knows what they'd think if he never returned? Would they think he was just too cowardly to come back? That he didn't want the responsibility of leading a Clan on his shoulders? He shook his head, and bared his teeth. "Let's do this."
He started scouting out a way to cross. It looked like the rocks were the only way to cross the river, and those had been completely submerged in the floods. He'd have to construct something himself. Was there a fallen tree somewhere nearby? No, that was ridiculous. He couldn't possibly push a whole fallen tree by himself. He began to pad downstream, seeing if there was anything that could help him. That was when he spotted a log crossing the river. Much like that last one, though, the river was right below it, like a dog yapping at your heels. He sunk his claws into the log, and began to inch across. He was moving ever so slowly, but he was moving. He was alive. He successfully made it across, and as it was growing darker, he realized just how long he had been walking. "Darnit..." he growled.
Despite the rain clouds, and the pounding rain, there was a difference in the light. He would have to set up shelter. He felt the soil, and it was moist, uncomfortable, and slick. He couldn't sleep in that. But if he slept in a tree, there was a possibility the tree could fall, or the branch would move too wildly and fling him off. He padded forward, trying to see what he could find. He had no luck, though. It's either a tree branch or the soil.
He shuddered at the thought of sleeping on the soil. Worms would crawl all over him. Tree branch it is.
He climbed his way up a tall spruce tree, and found a thick and sturdy branch. All the more weight to crush me if it falls.
He shook, as if flinging the thought away. He curled up, and settled down on the tree branch. He closed his eyes. The rain pattering his pelt, and the wind howling in his ears was uncomfortable, but what could he do? He slowly but surely fell into a fitful sleep.
Ripplestar awoke in the middle of the night to a strange feeling. You need to get down!
The tom's fur bristled in alarm, and he didn't doubt his intuition once. He sunk his claws into the bark, and scooted his way down the tree. Even if he had a lack of sleep, he wasn't going to die tonight. He scampered away from the tree, and heard a something break off. Something big. It had been a branch directly above him, even bigger than the one he was sleeping on. His mouth fell agape, as the branch toppled down, taking multiple others with it, including his. They landed with a thud on the ground just fox-lengths away from him. "Thank you, StarClan!" he cried out loud.
They must have warned him, with that strange feeling. The rain pelted down on him, colder this time. The tom shivered. For the first time, he wondered if there were any loners out here to aid him. On his own territory. He shook away the thought. No, this territory belongs to PoolClan and PoolClan only!
He was starting to doubt whether he would survive this 'stroll'. Things were looking grim. The one time he tries to sleep, he is ripped away from it by a falling branch. He decided to continue on walking, because he could sleep in PoolClan camp, as long as it wasn't flooded. However, he had very dull hope for it. He felt his paws aching, and hissed inwardly. They couldn't right now. He had to continue. He ignored it, and pressed on. He came to a fork in the trail a while later, and took the left path, knowing it led to PoolClan camp. He continued on for what felt like forever, and the sun eventually came up. He sighed in relief. He would finally be able to see clearly again! He was very close to PoolClan camp. He felt happy, even though his paws ached and his sides had been scraped by countless briars, brambles, and thorns. That was when he approached PoolClan camp. He felt a sudden surge of happiness, but that was soon replaced with dismay. Water raged throughout the whole thing, destroying any dens that had been built, flooding anywhere cats would sleep. He let out a wail. "No! StarClan, how could you do this?" he cried.
But there was no answer. No cat to comfort him. He padded forward, until a surge of water violently hit his paw. He tumbled down, hitting his head on the rock, and yowled in pain. He could see blood seeping down the left half of his face. As he was swept away by the water, he was submerged. All he could see was raging water and the blood of his wound, until his head slammed into a rock.
The rain had lightened up a bit back at the Highlands Gap. Silverstar was pressed against Smokestar, who had suffered through her mutlitple anxious ramblings. Despite his rude exterior, he was quite a plesant cat to be around. "Foreststar's been gone for a while," Smokestar growled, "I say we go looking for her."
It was true. The she-cat had been absent for almost the whole day. "I agree," Silverstar meowed.
"Are you two mouse-brained?" A cat in the crowd spoke up, and his voice was recognized as Volechaser.
"If we venture out, we're going to get swept away by a river, or die just like Foreststar probably has by now. We have to stay safe, and not give in to the temptations of the outside world."
Smokestar stood up, and shook out his fur. "I'm going, whether you like it or not."
Anxiety flooded over Silverstar. What if Smokestar died? Or got injured? And Aspenstar would surely need her help controlling all the cats. Silverstar drew in a deep breath. "I'll come with you."
Smokestar looked surprised for a moment, then nodded. "Alright."
The two felines padded out of the Highlands Gap area, pelts pressed together for warmth. They stalked into the forest, rain pattering them. "Which way do you reckon she went?" Smokestar inquired.
"Uh - maybe back towards CoveClan?"
Smokestar grumbled, "That's the only information we have right now, might as well go looking."
They set off again, in the direction of CoveClan territory. They headed into the forest, until they came to a creek. It was normally wide, but the water level had risen, so the water rushed into the surrounding forests. Silverstar tensed. "Did Foreststar try to cross this and... never come back?" Nervousness flooded through her.
Smokestar shook his head. "She probably would've turned back at this point, so she must've gone a different route."
"Let's try straight ahead this time," Silverstar suggested.
And that's exactly what they did. Smokestar huddled tightly up against Silverstar and asked, "Uh... this may be awkward, but have you ever... had a crush on any cat?" he forced the words out.
He was alone, the warrior code couldn't get to him here. Silverstar's words paused, and she finally stammered, "A-actually, y-y-yes."
Silverstar couldn't believe she had just said that. She was such a mouse-brain! He can't know! She hissed to herself.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of," Smokestar comforted the she-cat.
Silverstar pressed, "If it's nothing to be ashamed of, then go, tell me who yours is."
Smokestar took a deep breath, "It's-"
And then the roaring river, beside them, flooded. Smokestar noticed. He turned, eyes wide, jaws open. Silverstar had already seen it, and she squealed. Water rushed towards the cats, and Smokestar picked the silver she-cat up by her scruff and threw her into a tree. "Climb!" he screamed.
Then, the water threw him off his paws. Silverstar climbed rapidly, but debated going back to get the tom. No, he can make it himself. He's tough, he's strong, he's handsome..
Silverstar climbed into a branch, spectating Smokestar. The tom was furiously trying to work his way into a tree. The silver she-cat narrowed her eyes. She had to do this. She climbed back down, until she was perched awkwardly on the bark of the tree. She reached out a paw, almost tumbling to her own demise as she did so. "Smokestar!" she cried.
The tom turned his head, and perked his ears. He sunk his claws into the ground, keeping the river currents from sweeping him away, and slowly, but surely, climbed towards her. Silverstar trembled. She almost couldn't keep the efforts of holding out her paw. She stretched it out farther, it one final attempt. Smokestar reached a claw out, and she thought, he's going to make it!
That was when a sudden burst of water swept away the tom again, and he cried, "No! Silverstar, help!"
The silver she-cat set her jaw. She may die, but she wasn't going to allow that to happen to her crush. She tumbled into the water, and was pushed after Smokestar. She was thrown under, and she forced her eyes open. She caught a glimpse of the other leader, until she hit her head on a rock. Surprisingly, she stayed conscious, but blood fell down the side of her head. "Smoke!" she screeched, using all the breath left in her body.
The tom looked her way, and he screeched, "Silver! You have to make it back to shore! Just leave me to die!"
This made Silverstar have more determination. She noticed a surge of water that would bring her towards Smokestar, and she took a deep breath. That was when the surge dragged her under, and she tumbled ungracefully towards the other leader. She was very close to him at this point, and she reached out a claw. "I'm not going to fail you this time," she hissed.
She snagged her claws into Smokestar's scruff, and she hauled herself all the way over. "Ow," he hissed.
But, when he turned around, and saw the state of her, his mouth fell agape. "Silver!" he gasped.
"No time," she meowed, "let's get back to shore."
"Paddle, we can combine our strength."
Silverstar was panicking inside, and she already knew this would probably be their death day. But she still had lives, and Smokestar probably did too. The two cats together fought against the current, and were slowly but surely making progress. A sudden burst of water shoved them downstream, and the silver she-cat screamed. Smokestar huddled against her, making sure they stay together. "We need to look for a loose log, or big tree branch," he meowed.
Silverstar nodded. She scanned the river. "See anything?" she asked Smokestar.
He shook his head. "No."
The current swept them onward, and their sides bashed into another rock. The silver leader felt a sudden jarring in her paw, and she screeched. She had hit her paw against it badly. Smokestar turned to her, and gasped. "Silver!"
He grabbed her scruff. "I'm gonna try to drag us out of here one last time."
Silverstar nodded feebly. Her vision was fading, and she started seeing double. That was when, in the current, another rock hit the other side of her head. She felt a searing pain, before her vision faded.
She slowly opened her eyes, and realized she wasn't in the river anymore. "Huh?" she meowed softly.
She noticed Smokestar, and he meowed, "You're awake!"
"How did you get to shore?"
"We came to a fork in the river, and in the corner, there was a piece of shore. I managed to swim us to it."
She reached up to nuzzle the tom, when a pain shot through her head and paw. Silverstar's head fell again, and she yowled in pain. "Oh, right... my injuries..." she meowed weakly.
Smokestar gritted his teeth. "They're... uh... pretty bad."
"Really?" the silver she-cat frowned.
"Yeah. Your paw's... well, you can see for yourself. And your head's pretty banged up. Both sides have awful bruises with blood running down them, and on the left side, your ear's torn."
Silverstar gasped, and managed to stand. While keeping her paw in the air, she buried her head into Smokestar's fur and began to cry. The tom nuzzled her sympathetically. She sniffled, and meowed, "Well, to cheer us up, what about before the flood? When we were talking about crushes? Who was yours?"
Smokestar's face flushed, and he meowed quietly, "It's... you."
Anxiety washed over Smokestar. Had he said the right thing? He felt mouse-brained. Of course Silverstar wouldn't like him! She was from CascadeClan, he was from PeakClan, and she'd tell everyone he was breaking the warrior code. Smokestar looked up, and tried to read the she-cat's expression. Was that happiness he detected? After a long pause, Silverstar finally responded, "Well, that's good... because I like you too."
Smokestar smiled, probably more than he ever had in his life. "I look like an idiot right now, don't I?" he chuckled.
"Yes," Silverstar purred, despite her injuries and the pain she was probably feeling.
Smokestar looked at her paw, which was twisted horribly, and was out at an awkward angle. "We have to get you back home. Forget looking for Foreststar, she's probably either dead or on her way home. Lean on me, and we'll get going."
Silverstar attempted to pad forward, but she made a pained expression when she did. "I can't..." she whispered.
Smokestar meowed reluctantly, "Well, I guess worst has come to worst. I'm going to run back to the Highlands Gap to get help from a medicine cat. Now, you stay safe."
He turned around, but his mate stopped him. "How are you going to get across the river?" she meowed weakly.
"I just will," Smokestar snorted.
"Think about it, Smoke. If you drown in the river, or take forever to get across, you won't be able to make it back in time. I'll have already died due to blood loss, something killing me and eating me, or I'll have lost a life and moved on."
The tom hissed, "I at least have to try."
Frustration washed over him, as he gazed over the river. His mate was right - it would take forever for him to get across. The river was still badly swollen, and water crashed against the rocks like waves. He narrowed his eyes. He'd have to try. He made a leap, and made it to one of the only rocks that wasn't completely submerged. There weren't any other rocks at the bank they'd waded in on, but hopefully it was shallow enough that he could walk. He began hopping from rock to rock. It was a painstakingly long process, as with the raging river, he'd have to calculate his every move precisely. He made it to the last rock, and stared on the long gap. He'd have to try, for Silverstar. The tom leaped as far as he could, and crashed into the ground. Pebbles poked at his pads, and he sunk his claws in. The current almost dragged him over, but his claws planted him upright. Smokestar moved paw by paw, until he made it to the last stretch of water. The sun was going down, at least as far as he could tell behind the almost black clouds, when he made it to shore. From this side of the river, Silverstar looked like a silver stick. He giggled to himself, and padded along the path. He could barely see a thing when he reached the Highlands Gap, and he could hear soft snores from many of the felines. "Smokestar?"
He glanced over to the cat who had mentioned his name. It was Aspenstar, the only leader still here. "No time for conversation. Silverstar's horribly injured."
He couldn't see Aspenstar, but he could tell she was shaking awake another cat. "Huh?" the tired voice of Stormmeadow sounded.
"Silverstar's badly injured."
Smokestar could vaguely see the medicine cat shoot to her paws. "Lead me to her."
The tom turned, and flicked his tail. "Right this way."
He repeated the path, this time with Stormmeadow trailing behind him. When they arrived at the river, the leader's paws were aching, and he was exhausted. He didn't think he could go on any longer, but he had to, for Silverstar. "She's at the fork in the river."
Smokestar could see Stormmeadow's eyes turning towards him, shock in them. "You went across the river? Elk-brains!" she snorted.
"The river swept us away!" he protested indignantly.
Stormmeadow began to make her way across the river, and Smokestar followed. He wasn't about to get caught in the current again, so he meowed, "When I was heading back, I used the rocks."
They were barely visible, but they were, just by the white foaming water washing up against them. Stormmeadow nodded. "Alright."
She planted her paws firmly on the rock, sinking her claws into it. The leader followed, worry absorbing his thoughts. What if Silverstar's died already? he fretted inwardly.
It took them a while to reach the fork, but when they did, relief shattered Smokestar's brain. "You're alive!" he cried.
Silverstar stirred from her slumber, and chuckled, "Sure am, but I would have appreciated some sleep."
Stormmeadow guffawed. "Of course you would've, now let's you check your injur- oh great StarClan have mercy!"
Smokestar felt a sinking feeling in his belly. That must mean they're bad, even for a medicine cat to tend to. "Can you fix her?" he murmured.
Stormmeadow gazed at Silverstar, sizing up her injuries. "Most of it..." she hesitated, "I think."
The tom shuddered. "How does it look?"
"For starters, her paw's fractured. See how it's twisted at an angle? That's how you tell. Her left ear is torn as well, I can't get that back. Both of the sides of her head are bruised, that I can fix, but she may have a couple scars. Tell me, did she black out at any point?"
Smokestar recalled when the she-cat had gone limp, and he had to carry her body through the rapids. "Yes. When her head hit a rock the second time."
Stormmeadow nodded. "I'll go look for herbs. You stay here, and comfort her."
The medicine she-cat padded away, and Smokestar leaped to sit beside Silverstar. He wrapped his tail around his paws, and tears fell down his cheeks. "I'm... I'm sorry."
The she-cat put her tail-tip on his shoulders. "It's not your fault, sweetheart," she murmured.
"Did you lose a life?" the tom asked, dreading the answer.
"No," Silverstar meowed, "Thank StarClan."
"Yes, do thank StarClan!" Smokestar exclaimed happily.
"How do you feel?"
"My head stings," the silver she-cat confessed, "and my paw still hurts like fox-dung."
Smokestar laid down, and curled his body around hers. "I'm sorry," he murmured sympathetically.
Silverstar embraced him, and put her head on his paws. She closed her eyes, and wrapped her tail around the leader. "Don't fall asleep, Stormmmeadow can't see this... she'll know we're mates."
Silverstar jerked her head up. "Oh, right!"
She placed herself back in her former position. Stormmeadow returned, carrying multiple herbs in her jaws. She made a poultice of something, and wrapped it around Silverstar's broken paw. She put cobwebs and dried oak leaves on the silver she-cat's wounds, as well. Smokestar watched intently, hoping and praying his mate would be alright. Once the medicine cat was complete, the sun was rising, but the rain was still coming down relentlessly. "Will she be okay?" he asked.
"We need to get her back to Highlands Gap," Stormmeadow responded.
With Silverstar between the two felines, they set off for Highlands Gap again, and did the same thing to cross the river, went back across the same path. When they got back, Stormmeadow laid out Silverstar in front of all the cats, for them to see. "This is what happened when a river swept them up." she announced.
There were mutters and whispers among the felines, until one cat piped up, "With all these disappearances and injuries, StarClan must be looking for a sacrifice!"
Yowls of agreement and protest broke out, and Aspenstar meowed, "Come on, don't be ridiculou-"
A feline interrupted her. "Why else would all these cats be getting injured? And leaving at their own risk? StarClan must be guiding their paws. We need to throw a cat off the edge!"
Many cats agreed to this fox-dung, Smokestar rumbled inwardly. "Can't you see this is utter elk-dung?" Smokestar hissed. "I mean, what is wrong with you cats? You come to this conclusion? Let's be reasonable. Cats are getting bored cooped up underneath this ledge. That's why they're going for walks."
The cat who had spoken, Tufttail, advanced forward menacingly. "Let's take this one," she meowed silkily.
Cats behind her rose up to follow her. "Surely you aren't all this mouse-brained?" he hissed.
Aspenstar jumped up, and cried out, "Stop!"
Smokestar was being cornered against the edge, with only the short stone wall the Twolegs had built to protect him from falling. He caught Silverstar's gaze, who looked apalled. "Stop!" She cried out, fear, rage, and pain all in her voice at once.
"Get him," Tufttail hissed at her new followers.
Two felines stalked out from the crowd, and they were about to pick Smokestar up by the scruff and throw him off, when Aspenstar leaped at them.
Aspenstar felt her body hit Tufttail, and the gray she-cat with black stripes getting knocked over. She hissed wildly. "You're preventing the will of StarClan, Aspenstar!"
Aspenstar flattened her ears against her head, partially because of the torrent, but also because of anger. "StarClan wanted us to live, that's why they warned us about this storm!"
Tufttail's eyes narrowed to slits. "We must kill someone for the storm to end."
"What about you, then?" Smokestar growled.
Tufttail shot a glare at him. "I was the one who interpreted this message, they couldn't possibly want that."
"Stop spreading this message if you're not willing to do it yourself," Aspenstar huffed.
Though gruesome, Aspenstar agreed that if Tufttail wanted to sacrifice someone, than what better cat for the sacrifice than her? She stepped off the she-cat with the short tail, and Tufttail glared at her maliciously. Aspenstar stood stiffly, staring right into the other she-cat's eyes. That was when Tufttail suddenly turned and leaped at Smokestar. The brown striped she-cat saw it all in slow motion. Tufttail's front paws hitting the tom, his eyes widening, and he managed to dodge out of the way. He slipped on the slick ground, but his attacker wasn't so lucky. Her eyes widened and she yowled in fear as she leaped straight over the barrier, and tumbled into the mountains. Aspenstar peeked over the edge, and Tufttail cried, "Help!"
The she-cat was soon no longer visible, and had disappeared into the layers of mountains before them. Smokestar looked down, and muttered, "She was insane."
Stormmeadow, who was beside Silverstar, managed to help the silver she-cat up. "What just happened?" The leader murmured.
"You've been through a lot today," Aspenstar meowed to Smokestar and Silverstar, "Go get some rest."
The felines nodded, and padded off beneath the ledge. She could hear their soggy pelts plopping down onto the ground. She was the only leader who remained awake in the temporary camp. Aspenstar shook her fur out, and trotted over to her seat. All the followers had returned as well, muttering nervously. Gingerscar stood up, and meowed so all cats could hear, "All you mouse-brains who believed Tufttail - a cat died, which was her. The rain has not eased up in the slightest."
"They want a leader!" some cat spoke up.
A chorus of yowls arose. Aspenstar lashed her tail. "I thought better of the Clan cats," she hissed.
"Which one should die first, Aspenstar, Smokestar, or Silverstar?" A tom who she recognized as Shrewcatcher cried.
Many mixed cries sounded, but they all eventually formed into one word, a steady rhythm of felines chanting, "Smokestar! Smokestar!"
Aspenstar stood up, and set her jaw. This was a massive amount of cats. Surely not all of them could be that elk-brained? She trotted to the center, and growled, "Surely you all see that this is stupid! Do you just want some entertainment? Is that it? You're killing an innocent cat for your own selfish desires?"
Some felines shuffled their paws with sheepishness. Aspenstar's fluffy fur bristled. "And how many of you actually believe this will cause the rain to cease?"
Some quiet 'me's' could be heard from among the felines, but no one actually stood up with pride in their cause. Shrewcatcher leaped at the leader, bowling her over. "How dare you draw these cats away from StarClan?" he hissed.
His voice rose almost an octave higher as he screamed, "How dare you?"
Aspenstar pummeled at the tom's belly, and eventually, he went flying off her. He landed on his four paws somehow, and while he was turned away, the she-cat pounced on him. "How dare I have some sense about me?" she hissed.
Thunder boomed, and a flash of lightning lit up Aspenstar's face. An expression of rage was etched on it, and a hint of disbelief. Her tail lashed furiously, and she could see the fear on Shrewcatcher's features. However, his face twisted into a sneer, and he hissed, "This isn't the end of my life."
He attempted to leap back up, but Aspenstar raked her claws across his face without thinking. He let out a horrible screech, and he yowled in anguish. "What'd you do to me?"
Aspenstar could see the blood leaking down his face, and realized she had caught one of the CoveClan tom's eyes. "Now do you see that StarClan wants none of this?"
The fluffy she-cat noticed that Smokestar had woken up, and he strode forwards. He reached them, and Aspenstar stepped off her foe. The gray tom examined him, as if asessing the damage. He hissed, "You've been blinded. Not much of a difference from before, though."
Aspenstar stifled a chuckle. She knew this was serious, but the tom's joke made her giggle. Thunder boomed once again, reverberating across the Highlands Gap. A flash of lightning lit up the sky once again, sticking out amongst the dark gray, almost black, clouds. The tom screeched, bleeding heavily from the eye Aspenstar had scratched. He lashed his tail. "I can't see out of one eye!"
Smokestar snorted, "And you certainly can't see reason either."
Shrewcatcher attempted to push the tom over and pounce on him, but with his clumsy moves, the gray leader easily dodged out of his way. The CoveClan medicine cat, Lavendergaze, rushed forward. The gray-purple medicine cat with lavender behind her ears rushed forward, and she meowed, "I'm going to collect herbs... somehow."
The medicine cat shivered as the cold rain droplets hit her pelt. "How do you guys stand this?" she grumbled.
Aspenstar shrugged. "I've been out here in it for a while."
The medicine cat rushed off, and Aspenstar turned back to look at Shrewcatcher. The tom was panting, blood still seeping from his eye. There were deep claw marks on his cheek, as well. Smokestar's fluffed out his fur, and batted the thin tom away with a huge paw. The scrawny tom was pushed over, and he tried to scramble back up, but failed. "Stay down," hissed Aspenstar.
When the tom stopped struggling, the fluffy she-cat purred. "Good dog."
She didn't usually act like this, and she normally sympathized with the injured cats, but this tom had it coming. She awaited the return of Lavendergaze with her herbs, and sat back down beneath the ledge. She could see the half-blind tom splayed out in the clearing, shivering from the cold rain. That was when the wind suddenly dropped, and a slight breeze replaced them. Is the storm over?
Aspenstar gazed up, seeing the clouds hadn't dispersed, but a whole had opened up. She could see the sun shine down upon the mountains for a brief moment, then the clouds closed back up again. They drifted steadily, and the rain fell to a drizzle. "Is it ending?" Aspenstar murmured.
The cats smiled, and Silverstar awoke from the commotion. "Huh?"
Then the silver she-cat looked up, and the fluffy leader saw her smile. "I think it's over!"
Aspenstar stood up, and rounded up her cats with the flick of her tail. "ValleyClan, to me. We will be traveling home."
Stormmeadow sprinted to her side, and inquired, "What about Foreststar and Ripplestar?"
The brown leader looked at her paws, and meowed, "I guess someone will find them along the way home."
"We can't leave without our leader or medicine cat! She's still collecting herbs!" Cried a CoveClan feline.
That was when Lavendergaze returned, a mouth full of herbs. She looked around the clearing, and asked, "Where's Shrewcatcher?"
Aspenstar pointed her fluffy tail right in the direction of Shrewchaser. "Right over there."
Lavendergaze padded over, and the deputy of CoveClan, Creekshadow, stood up. "We are not leaving until either Foreststar returns, or someone finds her."
There were murmurs among the warriors, but they eventually agreed. As the PoolClan cats were chattering, Aspenstar left the clearing with her Clan. She wanted to feel safe, she wanted to feel secure, but she just had a sinking feeling in her stomach that the storm hadn't concluded just yet.
Every second felt like a moon to Foreststar as the rogue she-cat advanced up the tree. Foreststar was trying to huddle into a ball, and be very still, but she believed the other cat had already spotted her. As the she-cat finally came to her branch, she turned her head towards the leader. "So, Foreststar, hiding like a coward, huh?"
The leader's fur bristled. Without saying a word, she lashed her claw out, raking it across the rogue's sides. She could tell the rogue was a fluffy black she-cat with deep blue eyes. The rogue looked at her bleeding side, unfazed. "You really thought that could hurt me? You weak fox-heart," she hissed.
Her voice dropped to a whisper at the last sentence. "What is all this for?" Foreststar wailed.
The rogue lashed her black, fluffy tail. "Isn't it obvious? When the Clans came in, no cat could live anywhere in the mountains without the fear of having some Clan cat rip their pelt off. And if we go to the outside Twolegplace, where are we supposed to go without getting picked up by a Twoleg?"
Foreststar lashed her tail. "If this is a battle over territory, we were here first. We claimed it, and whether you like it or not, it's ours."
The rogue narrowed her eyes. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. You just don't understand, do you? Territory is to be shared with every cat. You see, if we all just combined into one big territory, no weird name, no ranks, no anything - it would be so much better. Won't you join us?"
Foreststar snarled, "No."
The rogue shook her head. "Well, then, I'd hate to have to do this."
Without another word, she pounced. The leader, having nowhere to go on the branch, was pinned under her weight. She trashed. "What is wrong with you?"
The she-cat lifted her paw up, as if to make the killing blow, and then sighed. "We're on a tree. What good what your body be then?" she sighed.
I have more lives, Foreststar thought.
The rogue she-cat picked up the leader by the scruff, and she squrimed. She kicked out her paws back at the rogue, and screamed, "What are you doing?"
The rogue smiled. "Only creating a better life for everyone."
She let go of the leader, and Foreststar began her descent down the tree. She fell, and she hit a branch. She panted, and looked back up at the rogue. "A tough one, I see," she heard the rogue meow silkily.
I have to get down.
She gazed down the tree, spotting the next branch. It was not that far, but it was still something Foreststar had no experience in. She set her jaw. I die from that rogue or this.
She leaped, and felt a rush of adrenaline before landing with a thump on the next branch. She was still on her paws, though. She turned to see the rogue she-cat with an angry expression, and decided to move faster. She did the same thing, until she arrived at the last branch. She looked down to the ground, and back up at the rogue. The rogue was a long way behind her, so she could easily just climb down the bark and make a run for it. And so she did. The rogue had picked up speed, but Foreststar was still way ahead of her. As the leader reached the ground, she took off running, not even thinking to look back at the rogue. She ran swiftly, and for how long? She didn't know. When she couldn't take anymore, she finally halted, panting. She whirled around, and she couldn't even detect a scent of any feline. "I'd better find a place to sleep," she grumbled to herself.
She really had no idea where she was. She knew she was still on PeakClan territory, because she could smell their stale scents, but she knew nothing about their land. She noticed a hollow in a spruce tree, and she scrambled up. She slipped inside, and curled into a ball. As the sun set and the light faded, Foreststar sighed. She was lost. She had no idea where she was, and she was stuck in a huge storm. Just great. She closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep. She could think about this tomorrow, when she wasn't so tired of running.
Foreststar woke to the sound of paw steps crunching on the ground. Her fur bristled, and she immediately backed against the tree bark. She could eventually make out what the voices were saying, even against the torrents of rain. "I can't believe I didn't catch that rat."
Foreststar's blood went cold. Another feline meowed, "It wasn't your fault, mother."
She heard a hiss, and then a groan, "But it was! If I had just followed her as she hopped down that stars-cursed branch, I would have gotten her and killed her."
She heard a soft, tentative meow from the other cat. "We don't have to kill everyone, y'know."
And then came a snarl. "Of course we do! How else will we ever be able to use this land?"
Foreststar peeked out, and just before they went out of earshot, she saw the rogue's daughter look down at her paws and meow, "Couldn't we just find different land?"
At least that one has some sense, she grumbled inwardly.
Before leaping down, she checked that the wind wasn't blowing her scent towards them. It wasn't. When she made sure they couldn't hear or see her, she scrambled down the tree bark until she reached the ground. I have to find my way back to the others.
Her belly grumbled. But maybe I should eat first.
She eventually caught and ate a squirrel, then set off. She didn't know if she was heading the right way. The rain was too heavy, so she could barely make out any landmarks she might know. That's when she heard the sound of a raging river, and she could make it out beside her. She grumbled aloud, "Seriously?"
She couldn't cross. She'd have to late until the rain slowed down, or until someone came to look for her. Surely that wouldn't be long? The river had flooded the forest, so the she-cat scampered up a tree. I guess this tree branch is my new home.
She waited, and waited, but to no avail. Eventually, the sun set. She had seen some shadowy figures of cats, but they were probably rogues. One had been a fluffy tom, and the other had been a sleek she-cat. She didn't trust rogues anymore. She decided to go to sleep, and found a hollow in the tree. It took her a while to fall into a fitful sleep, but she did.
Foreststar blinked her eyes open. The rain pattered down, but it seemed to be stopping. "Huh?" she gasped out loud.
That's how shocked she was. She scrabbled her way down the tree trunk, and noticed cats coming through from Highlands Gap. "Hey!"
She recognized Aspenstar, and the fluffy she-cat turned her head. "Foreststar!" she cried joyfully.
Foreststar bounded towards the she-cat, happy to finally see another Clan cat. "What happened to you?" Aspenstar gasped.
The leader snorted. "It's a long story, but, long story short, I got chased by a rogue who wanted the territory to be hers, I got lost, and ended up here."
Aspenstar nodded. "Interesting... Anyways, your Clan have been looking for you. You'd better get back there. I'm glad your safe," she purred, before wandering off again with her Clan.
Foreststar made her way back to the Highlands Gap, where her Clan had been waiting. She reached it, and Lavendergaze bounded towards her. "You're safe!" she cried.
Thunder roared. Lighting flashed again, and the clouds broke once again. Foreststar looked up, and her pelt bristled. "No... I thought it was over..."
She then noticed one of her Clan members, Shrewcatcher. He scrambled to his paws, and she noticed his right eye had claw marks over it, and had become hazy and gray. He meowed, his voice a whisper, "StarClan really does want a sacrifice."
Thunder rebounded across the clearing, and lightning lit up his face.
Birdstar woke up, and stretched her stiff limbs. She yawned, and gazed at the other nests. They were empty. "I must have slept in," she grumbled.
She padded outside, and flicked her tail. She noticed Silver, Wren, and Midnight, but not Storm. She padded up to the group and inquired, "Where's Storm?"
"He went hunting," Silver replied.
The she-cat looked silly with her fur soaked from the rain, and Birdstar stifled a giggle. "I'm surprised he can find any prey in this," she snorted.
"A wonder, isn't it?" Wren agreed.
Birdstar tasted the air, and she noticed a scent. One that she recognized, but didn't at the same time. It was almost like she had heard about it in nursery tales, but it had never threatened LakeClan. That's when she realized - "Dog!" she cried.
Midnight's fur bristled, and he galloped over. "Where?" he hissed.
"I don't know, I just scented one!" Birdstar exclaimed in a panicky manner.
Silver meowed, "Everyone, let's look for Storm. He could be in danger."
The leader shivered at the thought of the loner tom being in danger. She didn't want him to die, not even to get injured. She had to save him! His scent was impossible to track through the rain, and Birdstar flattened her ears as it whipped at her muzzle. "Storm! Storm!" she cried.
There was no answer, only the boom of thunder. "We have to split up, we'll never be able to cover the whole area he hunts in this gaggle," Wren suggested.
Midnight asked, "Then what if one of us sees the dog?"
"I'm sure any of you are capable of taking down one of those elk-brained things on your own," Birdstar interjected with a snort.
"You'd be surprised." Midnight flicked his tail.
Birdstar scampered away, crying out Storm's name in search of the tom. The dog's scent was getting stronger, and soon she picked up a trace of something else. "Storm! I'm coming!" she cried, bounding over logs and debris.
The dog came into view, its large, bulky body towering over Storm. The loner was hissing, his hackles raised and his fur bristled. "Birdstar!" he gasped with relief.
The leader pounced onto the burly canine, ripping into its neck fur. It let out a loud whine, and threw its head back, tossing Birdstar into a nearby tree. This had allowed enough time for Storm to slip away, and scratch at its sides. Confused, the dog barked, and whirled around to look for the swift feline. Birdstar bit into its tail, and the dog rounded on her, snapping at the she-cat. "Chasing your own tail, honey?" she meowed silkily.
The dog seemed to know she was mocking it, because it growled and barked. Its vicious jaws missed Birdstar by a tail-length. She noticed Storm scratch at the creature's nose, and blood droplets went flying from the direction of its face. It howled in pain, as rain whipped the droplets away. Birdstar hopped down from its tail, which now had blood clumping all over it. She had reached in deeply. The leader scratched at its flank, and it howled, a high-pitched screaming noise. "You want your mommy?" Birdstar meowed mockingly.
The dog whimpered, and fled. It left a trail of blood behind it, and the red liquid soaked the ground with the rain. "Good job," Storm panted admiringly.
"You did great, too," Birdstar replied.
The tom looked at her, but the leader avoided his gaze with a flushed look. She didn't want him to see something humiliating like that. "Anyways, let's head back. The others are looking for you."
Storm nodded, and walked on ahead of her wordlessly. The walk back was silent, but not awkward. It was a warm silence, a friendly one. Birdstar spotted Wren in the distance, and cried out, "Wren!"
The she-cat turned her head, and flicked her ear. "Hey!"
She trotted over to them. "Did you defeat the dog?" she asked.
"Sure did," Storm meowed proudly.
"Oh, you should've seen Birdstar. She was hanging onto its tail, while it spun wildly. It ran away whimpering, and the blood she drew, there was so much."
Wren's eyes widened with awe as she looked at the leader. "Really?" she gasped.
The she-cat licked her chest fur with embarrassment. "I think he's exaggerating a bit," she meowed modestly.
Storm rolled his eyes. "Believe what you will. Anyway, where are the others? Are they okay?" he shifted his paws anxiously.
Wren nodded. "They headed back to camp. I was waiting out here for you."
Birdstar felt cold just looking at the loner's soaked pelt. The rain had drenched her fluffy fur, and it looked pretty soggy and uncomfortable. The felines padded back, and Midnight raced up to them. "You're alive!" he cried.
Storm embraced his brother, and meowed, "What, you didn't think I'd be?"
Silver walked forward more slowly. "How did it go? Did you guys see the... oh." She noticed the dog's blood clumped on their fur.
After presumably scenting the dog, the loner scrunched up her nose. "How do you guys deal with that stench? Good thing the rain will wash it out," she snorted.
At her remark, thunder resounded across the camp, and lightning struck nearby. "That lightning's getting pretty close. We'd better get to the den," Wren meowed.
The others nodded, and they reentered the den. Birdstar was surprised the carefully woven branches and leaf canopies had held up. She sat in her nest, gazing at the other felines. "So much for the prey," Storm grumbled, "I'm still grumpy about the dog eating it."
Birdstar gaped. "You let the dog eat it?"
Storm lashed his tail. "I didn't let him. He cornered me, snatched my food, and ate it."
After that, silence took over again. And, honestly, Birdstar liked that. She liked the silence. Other than the falling of rain, and the occasional sound of thunder, all was peaceful inside the den. Silver had gone to sleep, curling into a ball and putting her tail over her nose. She looked out at the cloudy dark gray sky, and the torrents of rain, until it suddenly stopped. "Huh?" Birdstar meowed, caught off guard.
Midnight bounded outside. She could hear him exclaim, "It stopped, it really stopped!"
Wren and Storm padded outside more apprehensively, while Silver was still asleep. Birdstar followed suit. "Did it really...?" she gasped.
"It did," Storm meowed.
"It really did..."
The peaceful silence stayed for a while, and Birdstar rejoiced in it. The felines had begun to start hunting again, with the prey coming out at the ceasing of the storm. Until lightning struck again, and thunder followed, and the rain fell... once again.
Ripplestar still hadn't left his camp. He hadn't been able to. His bruised and battered body wasn't in any condition to be traveling. He had made it out of the rapids by scrambling onto a rock, and he somehow managed to hop onto shore. After that, he had just lain there, for StarClan knows how long. That was when the torrents of rain had suddenly ceased, and then picked back up again. He had wondered why his Clan hadn't come back, but then again, could they? He didn't want them risking their own lives and health for him. Ripplestar had seven lives left, and all of those cats only had one. He sighed, putting his head on his paws. He wished he had Oakblaze here, to heal him and to keep him company. Or the joyful splashing of apprentices. The warriors, too, chattering and constantly leaving on patrols. He had to wonder if he'd ever even see them again. He got to his paws, and gazed at his wounds. A strange smell wafted from one of them. Is it infected?
He looked at his paws. Oakblaze would've known. But he had to make a survival here for himself, so he decided to go looking for herbs. The river had completely flooded the medicine cat's herb stash, but Ripplestar thought he knew what he was looking for. Turns out he'd been in the medicine den a lot less than he initally believed. He saw a cobweb. Don't they use that for something? Like... to stop bleeding? I don't think I need that right now. I'm not bleeding.
Ripplestar padded onward, flinching as some of his wounds touched the rocky ground. The wind almost swept the tom off his paws, and it took all of his remaining strength to anchor himself. How am I ever going to be able to walk? I'm not in good condition to be doing so, and the rain doesn't help.
All he could do, really, was hope that his Clan would return. Even if they did, it would probably take them a while to get to him. He collapsed back down, barely having the strength to even keep his head up. He was so tired of this, tired of the wounds, tired of the sickness he felt coming on. That was when he spotted something. "Cats?" he murmured hopefully.
Or was he just hallucinating? He used his remaining strength to get up. "Hello?" he called.
He perked his ears up. He wasn't hallucinating. He recognized first his deputy, Tawnywater, and Oakblaze behind her. "Oakblaze!" he meowed.
The medicine cat smiled, and then looked over his wounds. "Oh, StarClan! You're lucky to even be awake."
He bounded towards Ripplestar, bursting past Tawnywater to his leader. "Did you even make any attempt to help yourself?"
Ripplestar shook his head. "No. I just got some rest, because isn't that what you're supposed to do?"
Oakblaze hesitated. "Yes, but the wounds will get infected if you don't try to use any herbs or anything. What happened to you for them to be this bad?"
"The river swept me away," he explained, "but I managed to get out."
"Well, thank StarClan for that."
The medicine cat trotted off, presumably to get herbs, and Tawnywater padded up to him. "Do you want me to take over for now?" she offered.
Ripplestar nodded. "Yes."
His head fell again, and Tawnywater gave him a worried glance before padding off. He knew he wasn't safe, being right by the rapids, in a huge thunderstorm, but what could he do? If they all trudged back to Highlands Gap, the rainstorm would probably be over by then. Or they'd all be dead from the flooding. Whichever one happened first. Oakblaze returned, his mouth full of herbs. "You still awake?" he asked Ripplestar.
"Mhm," the leader mumbled.
Oakblaze sat beside him, and began to apply the herbs to his wounds. Ripplestar felt a stinging, and then the wounds gradually stopped their hurting. He sighed in relief. "Thank you, Oakblaze."
Despite the tom having his eyes closed, he could almost see Oakblaze smiling. He meowed, "how did I even survive?"
Oakblaze responded, "It's a mystery."
"I'm just glad to be here," Ripplestar murmured.
Despite the cold rain drops lashing down on him, and the wind buffetting his fur, he felt at ease. The roaring of the rapids, now more than ever, the paw steps of felines padding all around his camp. Ripplestar had helped to build this up, and he hoped he would always be remembered by the PoolClan cats as long as they lived. And that the Clan would always be known as superior to LakeClan. Now that thought made him happy. Oakblaze completed tending to his wounds, and meowed, "You need to go to your den. Don't go swimming, and don't do anything active until I check up on your wounds and give you an update. Alright?"
Ripplestar thought it would be common sense for no cat to swim in this weather. They'd get carried away by the current faster than the blink of an eye. The tom walked off to his den, or rather, what was left of it, and curled up. He was lulled to sleep by the sound of the echoing thunder and the brisk flashing of lightning. The cold rain wetting his fur, and the sound of his Clanmates, either terrified or just glad to be home.
A/N: I'm sorry for the short chapter, I just didn't have many ideas here.
Pain shot through Silverstar's paw as she hobbled back to the ledge they were sheltering under, after gazing out at the view of the mountains for a while. The view had been gorgeous, despite the heavy storm clouds hanging over the mountains. The leader had felt at home. She missed CascadeClan camp, even though the pool had most likely flooded over by now. Smokestar looked up at her, and then looked down at her paw. "Still not any better, huh?" he frowned.
"No," Silverstar sighed.
It would get better. She just had to keep telling herself that. She plopped down beside Smokestar, and the tom purred as he pressed close to her fur. The silver she-cat closed her eyes, a purr escaping her as well. Ever since the day where they had been swept through the rapids, Silverstar had always felt at ease around the gray tom. She just had to make sure no cat knew of their romance. She suspected that someone already knew, but she wasn't too worried about that right now. "Do you think the storm will ever end?" she fretted.
Smokestar sighed, his expression unreadable. "I don't know, to be honest."
"We have to cling on to hope," Silverstar urged her mate.
"I guess," he sighed.
Now the she-cat could tell that her mate was hopeless. The storm had returned to its full strength, pelting down and flooding even the lowest points in the mountains. She eventually fell asleep to the purring of Smokestar.
Silverstar could only see a gray mist all around her. Was she awake? Had it fogged up? She blinked, glancing around. She was standing up, alone, and the pain in her paw had alleviated. "Where am I?" she murmured to herself, confusion overtaking her.
"You're in a dream," a deep voice boomed.
The she-cat whirled around to see a tom. His fur was sleek, much like a CascadeClan cat's, and his body shape was the same, too. "Who are you?" she meowed.
The starry tom chuckled. "I'm honestly surprised you don't know. I am Cascadestar," he meowed, "the first leader of CascadeClan."
Silverstar stumbled back. "C-C-Cascadestar?" she was shocked.
"Yes, that's me," the tom replied nonchalantly.
"Why would you visit me?" the silver leader gasped.
"Oh, it's quite simple. I'm simply a messanger from StarClan, nothing more, nothing less. At least for now. They needed me to inform you of your... mistake."
Silverstar tensed. Of course they knew of her and Smokestar's relationship? Or had she done something wrong? "What mistake?" she inquired quietly.
"The storm. You'll find the meaning of this in the mountain's haze," the old leader informed her.
She relaxed. This wasn't about her and Smokestar. "H-how am I going to do that? My paw's broken, and it's so far... surely I'll slip and fall?"
He rolled his eyes. "Are you forgetting about your lives? Besides, you'll be guided by the paws of StarClan."
Silverstar decided that Cascadestar wasn't really a likable cat. How he got cats to start a Clan with him, she didn't know. "That doesn't change the fact that I have a broken paw!" she retorted.
"Sure it doesn't, but with a little determination and strength, you can make anything happen," Cascadestar meowed encouragingly.
Before she could fire back, the tom's physique faded, and Silverstar found herself alone once again.
She awoke with a jolt. Smokestar gazed down at her. "You okay?" he meowed worriedly.
"I got a prophecy," she gasped.
The tom snorted. "A prophecy within a prophecy? StarClan really likes their prophecies."
The silver she-cat lashed her tail. "Cascadestar appeared to me in a dream. He said we'll find the meaning of the storm in the mountain's haze."
Smokestar snorted. "That's ridiculous! They're storms! They're not supposed to have a meaning!"
Silverstar narrowed her eyes. "I think StarClan is angry, and we must find out why."
The tom sighed, and gazed down on his paws. He put his tail-tip on her shoulder, and murmured quietly, "If that's what you want... I'll do it."
Joy shot through the silver she-cat. She couldn't believe she had convinced a cat as hard to convince as Smokestar. "I'm going to tell Aspenstar," she declared.
Smokestar nodded, and the silver she-cat got up and padded towards Aspenstar. The fluffy brown she-cat had been sitting under the ledge, worry clouding her eyes. "Aspenstar?"
The she-cat looked up, surprised. "Huh-? Oh, hi, Silverstar."
Silverstar took a deep breath. "I know where we need to go to stop this storm. I had a dream, sent from Cascadestar himself."
Aspenstar's jaw fell agape. "Cascadestar?" her meow was quiet, breathtaken.
"Yes," replied the leader.
"He said we had to venture into the mountain's haze to find the meaning of the storm."
A determined look came across Aspenstar's face. She set her jaw. "If it's for the good of the Clans, then I will."
She trotted out in front of all the Clans. Silverstar sighed. How many times would they have to venture away? She was starting to think this was just as dangerous as if they were in camp. Well, at least they had each other. "Silverstar received a prophecy," began Aspenstar.
Murmurs ran through the crowd like a ripple, and Vixenstrike, PeakClan's medicine cat, stepped out. "Are you sure this wasn't just a dream?" she meowed skeptically.
Silverstar bristled. "I'm sure. Cascadestar himself visited me," she explained.
Vixenstrike lashed her tail. "It could've just been your imagination. Only medicine cats are supposed to receive visions."
"You just don't want your thunder stolen," Smokestar scoffed.
Vixenstrike shot a glare at her leader. "How could you say that to your own medicine cat?" her voice rose an octave higher at the last part.
Aspenstar meowed, "You have every right to be cynical about this, Vixenstrike. I know it's not something you're used to. But I think that seeing Cascadestar right in front of you is pretty solid evidence."
Silverstar smiled gratefully at Aspenstar and Smokestar. She knew that when she was speechless, those cats would stand up for her. The ginger she-cat with white and black dapples looked down, and shuffled her paws. "I guess you're right. I've just never seen anything like this."
"Thank you for actually admitting something, stubborn-paws," Acorntuft mumbled from the crowd.
Silverstar stifled a giggle. The ValleyClan deputy was right, Vixenstrike was stubborn. The medicine cat shot a glare at Acorntuft. "I admit stuff!" she pouted like a kit.
I can't believe StarClan chose that cat, Silverstar thought.
Aspenstar meowed, "Since Silverstar's paw is broken, she is in no condition to be out. Smokestar and I will go."
Foreststar stood indignantly. "Why not me?"
The fluffy she-cat shot her a hard look. "Because someone that doesn't have injuries needs to stay and watch over the Clans. I told you how crazy it got even with just me."
Foreststar was silent, and nodded agreement. "It's settled then!" Aspenstar declared.
She flicked her tail. "Smokestar, come."
And then they were off.