Episode Four, Season Two, of Solitary.
Soon enough, as time passed, Havenstrike, Tawnydapple and I eventually arrived at the border between the two Clans. As I expected, the two she-cats weren’t lying about what they had said to me earlier.
Whitestar was waiting at the border. His deputy – Swallowwing, I thought her name was – was beside her leader, the dark gray tabby’s pelt ruffled. Pouncestep and Gorsetuft were also nearby – Pouncestep looking jumpy as usual, while Gorsetuft had furrowed his face into a frown, the black tabby’s green eyes narrowed.
“Ah, Wisp.” Whitestar greeted me, the black leader limping over to me as he spotted me. Swallowwing stayed where she was, however. “I’m sorry about the disruption… Pouncestep convinced me to change the time…” At Whitestar’s words, Pouncestep jumped, and I wondered why.
His behavior is very suspicious, I thought, feeling rather irritated. I don’t know if I can trust Pouncestep… I didn’t bother to bring this up to Whitestar, however – my suspicion could easily be wrong.
“It’s all right, Whitestar,” I mewed, making sure to cover up my hidden discomfort. If Whitestar trusted Pouncestep, what could I do to change the leader’s mind? “I’m usually free when I’m not helping out at the Clans.”
Whitestar dipped his head to me. “Good.”
There was a moment of silence after this. Havenstrike then broke out with a snigger, breaking the quiet, and then the black-and-white she-cat turned back to her leader. “Whitestar, who got sent to TreeClan?” she asked. “I wasn’t told.” Meanwhile, I watched Tawnydapple slink over to join Gorsetuft, and the two ForestClan warriors started to converse with one another.
My gaze turned back to Whitestar as the older cat spoke: “I sent Smallstripe and Sunshade,” the leader replied, his tail flicking. “They should’ve got Hawkstar and her warriors by now – I would expect them to be here soon.” Whitestar scratched his ear with his non-twisted back leg, and then added: “If Hawkstar approves, obviously.”
Even though I wasn’t the cat asking the questions, I nodded. They’d better come here soon – I have better to do than to wait around here, for, um… StarClan’s sake.
I tasted the air, and thankfully the scent of TreeClan hit my tongue. I looked behind me: the ForestClan cats must have smelt it too, as Whitestar rose to his paws, Swallowing stepped back, and Tawnydapple and Gorsetuft looked up from their conversation. Pouncestep, on the other paw, retreated into the bushed – for some reason, he was scared of the TreeClan cats.
First of all, Smallstripe appeared around the corner, the small brown tabby’s tail lashing. His Clanmate, Sunshade, followed – a ginger she-cat with one strikingly black front leg, and then the TreeClan cats – Hawkstar and Kestrelfeather, accompanying Cinderfire, Waterfall, and Molefrost, TreeClan’s representatives.
When they arrived, Smallstripe and Sunshade stepped back, letting Hawkstar approach Whitestar. “Greetings,” the brown tabby leader mewed, as she approached Whitestar. “Smallstripe and Sunshade told me your news.” Her gaze turned back as she turned to nod at the two ForestClan cats, who did the same back to Hawkstar.
Whitestar nodded. “One of my warriors convinced us to head off early,” he mewed, turning to the direction where Pouncestep was sitting before he had retreated behind a bush. There was a moment of silence before Whitestar exclaimed: “Where’s Pouncestep gone!?”
I raised my tail as Whitestar spoke, knowing where the dark warrior had gone. “He’s behind a bush,” I mewed to the ForestClan cat, flicking my bushy silver-gray tail.
Whitestar shot a grateful look at me, before turning in the direction where I said Pouncestep had been. “Get out of there, Pouncestep!” the leader mewed.
There was a quick rustle in the bushes, and then Pouncestep appeared. The black tom hurtled out of the bushes, his blue eyes wide. “Sorry, Whitestar!” he gasped.
Whitestar nodded curtly at Pouncestep. “Don’t go hiding in bushes,” he growled. “Just go sit by your Clanmates, and deal with it.”
Pouncestep gave a quick nod back at Whitestar, before he scampered off to join Tawnydapple and Gorsetuft, who both scowled at the cat’s approach. As Pouncestep sat down, the two cats moved away, their faces holding an obvious expression of disgust.
Whitestar shook his black fur out, before turning back to Hawkstar. “I apologize for my warrior,” the green-eyed leader mewed. “Now, what shall we do about these cats?”
“Get them together and let them be friendly.” Kestrelfeather, the TreeClan deputy, butted in as the brown-and-white cat trotted up to the two leaders. “Then they can at least know each other… before they head off.”
I turned my head in Kestrelfeather’s direction. Was it even your place to talk? I thought, scowling. But then again, that is probably a wise choice…
Unfortunately, both the TreeClan and the ForestClan representatives seemed to disagree with Kestrelfeather’s suggestion. Pouncestep’s fur lifted and started to bristle wildly, while Gorsetuft hissed and stepped back. Waterfall, Cinderfire, and Tawnydapple all looked slightly uneasy, while Molefrost yowled at Kestrelfeather: “Do you think any of us want to do that??”
Hawkstar and Whitestar turned, scowling crossly at their warriors. I stepped back, joining the TreeClan cats, and being by Cinderfire. Meanwhile, Kestrelfeather turned to Molefrost, and hissed: “It was only a suggestion, for StarClan’s sake! Calm down!”
Back over by the leaders, I saw Hawkstar tell Kestrelfeather: “No – we’ll be heading back to camp soon, it’s not really worth it” The brown tabby leader then turned back to Whitestar, and mewed: “How long were you planning to take here, anyway?”
Whitestar shook his head. “Not long, Hawkstar – you do not need to worry. I have everything under control.” The ForestClan leader then moved to join the travelling cats together: Hawkstar, getting the message, started to follow. Kestrelfeather, Swallowwing, Smallstripe, Sunshade, and Havenstrike also joined their leaders. The TreeClan and ForestClan warriors shuffled together awkwardly, I stuck in the middle.
At this moment, I realized: This journey isn’t going to be easy – especially with the state these Clan cats are in.
I turned back to Hawkstar and Whitestar. Whitestar opened his mouth to speak, and the tom mewed: “It is time for you to represent your Clans – or in Wisp’s case –” Whitestar turned to me as he said my name – “your honour. We entrust in you that you will find a great Gathering place for us all, and with this I give you StarClan’s blessing. Good luck, all of you – Wisp, Cinderfire, Waterfall, Molefrost, Tawnydapple, Pouncestep, and Gorsetuft – and may StarClan light all of your paths.”
All seven of us dipped our heads in response to Whitestar’s words. “May StarClan light your own paths,” we murmured back without thinking, Molefrost seeming to take the lead.
Beside Whitestar, Hawkstar gave an approving nod. “When you find the place, report back to us,” the brown tabby mewed softly, flicking her tail. “We will leave you now and good luck to you all.”
I nodded. A wave of surreality washed over me, and I knew that our journey was about to begin. Hawkstar turned to all of us, her gaze sweeping over all of us travellers, before she flicked her tail at Kestrelfeather, and then the two cats left. Whitestar stayed a little longer, doing the same thing, before he too gathered up his cats – Havenstrike, Sunshade, Smallstripe, and Swallowwing – and left with them, leaving us seven alone.
The other six all turned to me silently. Apart from their own Clan, the only cat that they seemed to trust was me. Their gazes were all unblinking, and I staggered.
“Wisp, lead us.” The cat who spoke was Cinderfire. The thickset dark gray she-cat rose to her paws, and started at me with her amber eyes. “You’re our leader, in a way – you know this area well.”
“And me,” Pouncestep interrupted. The black tom padded over to Cinderfire his tail lashing. Suddenly, he seemed a lot more confident than what I have ever seen. “I have been a rogue before – if you’ve been paying attention.”
Cinderfire arched her back, and hissed at Pouncestep. “I wasn’t saying that only Wisp knows the area outside the Clans,” she growled. “I used to be a rogue too – I could say that for myself.”
At once, I felt cold. This is going to turn out badly…
And in the moment that I thought that, I saw Pouncestep unsheathe his claws, and hiss and Cinderfire, before the dark cat lunged at the TreeClan warrior.
I gasped. No! You can’t hurt Cinderfire! I thought, shocked with myself that I had jumped to the she-cat’s defence so quickly. Both Waterfall and Tawnydapple looked displeased as well, Waterfall standing by Cinderfire while trying to shove Pouncestep off her Clanmate. “We’re meant to be working as a team, guys!” she hissed. “We’re not meant to be fighting! Break it up!”
Unfortunately for Waterfall, Pouncestep didn’t listen. The ForestClan cat swiped at Cinderfire’s shoulder, leaving a mark on the she-cat. Cinderfire hissed furiously at Pouncestep, and alongside Waterfall, the two cats managed to deter Pouncestep away.
Pouncestep stalked off to Gorsetuft, hissing, while Cinderfire started lapping at her now-wounded shoulder. I could see that it was a small wound – thankfully, it wouldn’t interfere the dark she-cat greatly.
“You idiot!” Waterfall hissed at Pouncestep, her tail lashing. “Get over fighting!” Pouncestep simply nodded, and then dashed away to Gorsetuft’s other side. Gorsetuft scowled at Pouncestep, before the spike-furred tom went to join Tawnydapple again.
I knew that I had to interfere here. It was getting a bit much for me – and by the actions of Waterfall, it was obvious that the blue-gray she-cat didn’t want to fight either. “You guys!” I mewed loudly, trying to get all the cats’ attention.
To my relief, they all listened to me – even Pouncestep, who had grunted and reluctantly turned to me when I got their attention. There was a little bit of silence after the other six cats had all turned silent, before Tawnydapple asked: “Why have you gotten our attention, Wisp?”
I sighed. I didn’t want to talk a lot about it – I knew I wasn’t good at this sort of thing – but I knew that someone had to take the lead. Flicking my tail, I mewed: “Guys, just… calm down, okay? We are meant to be on a journey – and because you guys have been fighting, we haven’t even started it yet. Can’t we all just get along?”
“It would’ve been all right if he hadn’t attacked me,” Cinderfire pointed out bluntly, pointing her tail at Pouncestep – who promptly hissed in response, and turned away from the she-cat. “I wasn’t even trying to get attacked – I was only proving a –”
“Drop it, Cinderfire,” Waterfall interrupted. The blue-gray she-cat was obviously ready to console her Clanmate if needed, but she wasn’t doing it now. “That’ll just cause more fights, you know, and we don’t want that.”
I nodded at Waterfall, grateful for her response. “Thank you, Waterfall,” I mewed politely, causing the TreeClan cat to nod back at me. Turning back to the rest of the cats, I added: “Waterfall is right. Don’t ask for fight – just please, let’s not argue – I don’t want that. Now, can we just please get started?”
There was some scattered murmuring among the cats, before an unsettled ‘Yes, Wisp’ emerged from the small group. Approvingly, I nodded. “Good.” I hope this is going to be the end of this…
After I had spoken, there was silence again. This time, it was longer than the previous one, and it made me feel even more nervous of my decision. However, this time, the silence was not interrupted by a bitter argument.
In front of me, I heard a rustling in the bushes ahead. I looked up, seeing if the cat was Pouncestep – but to my surprise, it wasn’t. Pouncestep was sitting nearby, grooming his fur, and continuing to stay away from Cinderfire.
“Who’s there?” I called quietly, praying that wasn’t going to be the worse. Don’t be any of those cats… not Flame, not Oak, just please no… Those cats didn't need to find out about what I was doing.
Thankfully, it wasn’t. A ginger she-cat with one black paw, and green eyes stepped out. I recognized her immediately, and I gulped.