Moonlight washed palely over the border as two she-cats padded softly along. Two pairs of eyes, one ice-blue and another pale amber, blinked in the shadowed undergrowth. The small brown tabby she-cat blinked warmly at the other.
disturbed.” She flicked her tail towards a large rock almost hidden behind a waterfall. The sleek blue-gray she-cat meowed wistfully,“This reminds me of the Tribe of Rushing Water. I had many friends there. But how are we going to get to the rock?”
Brambleberry laid her tail tip gently onto the blue-gray she-cat’s back. “This way. There isn’t as much water pouring down over here.”
The two cats swam over to the rock. Shivering, the blue cat meowed, “It’s chilly over here!”
Two cats emerged from the Dark Forest, both dark-brown tabby toms. Together, they silently stalked the two she-cats. The she-cats had no notion that they were being stalked. The two toms looked at one another, reviewing their plan mentally, and nodded. As one, they leaped into the air, one landing on Brambleberry’s shoulders, the other knocking the surprised blue-gray she-cat unconscious.
Growling, Tigerstar attacked Brambleberry once again. Brambleberry leaped into the air and twisted, sinking her teeth into Tigerstar’s long, matted fur. Tigerstar kicked his hind legs onto Brambleberry’s stomach. Yowling, she tried to get up but Tigerstar held her down and raked her belly until she drifted into unconscious.
“I don’t know, but I need you to go get Yellowfang. Quick!” meowed Feathertail urgently, “I don’t know ThunderClan camp as well as you do.” She hoped Spottedleaf would hurry. Brambleberry could die if Yellowfang didn’t come quickly and treated her.
“Brambleberry! You’re alive! Who was with you? What happened? Brambleberry, I need to know!” Feathertail meowed, her voice rising. What had happened? Would Brambleberry be all right? What would happen if she never woke up? Would she just…fade? Feathertail didn’t even want to think about it.
She shook Brambleberry. “Brambleberry! Wake up! Please!” Feathertail glanced despairingly over her shoulder to see if Spottedleaf was back yet. They needed a medicine cat, desperately. She began to lick Brambleberry’s pelt to wash all the blood away. Maybe that way she’ll wake up, thought Feathertail.
“Yes and Brambleberry keeps on talking about a she-cat. I was about to get an answer, you know,” Feathertail replied, annoyed. Why did Leapordstar interrupt when she was least wanted or needed? Why couldn’t she go and do something useful for once, instead of just lying around ordering other cats to get her fish? She was new in StarClan, for- well for StarClan’s sake. She should stop ordering cats around and do some work for once.
Feathertail was confused. Why was Mistystar gone? Where was she? Who took her? She was so aggravated that she yowled to the open sky “What?! Where is the RiverClan leader? Where is she? Where is Mistystar?”
Icewing was back in the forest. The yucky one with the muddy rivers that were as slow as a slug climbing to the old Highstones and the icky, leafless trees that blocked out the sky; not the forest that the ThunderClan and ShadowClan cats lived in – not the one by the lake.
“Hello, Ivypool!” she called back. Ivypool was a cat from ThunderClan, and she was really nice, but she always seemed to have something other than training on her mind, meaning she was normally slightly distracted.
Tigerstar jumped onto a large rock, easily. “Those ThunderClan fools have been cheating in battle. They climb trees! Are they cats or are they weak little squirrels? We will do tree training too! We will play their own trick against them!” He growled. Tigerstar paused as yowls of approval rang out from the assembled cats beneath him. “We will work in partners! Snowtuft, you are going to be with Hollowflight, Shredtail, you are with Sunstrike, Thistleclaw, with Breezepelt, Ivypool with Blossomfall, Hawkfrost with Icewing, and Brokenstar with Tigerheart. I will be supervising. We are not kits play fighting so unsheathe your claws!”
Icewing nodded. RiverClan has never climbed trees, she thought rebelliously. But another part of her mind said this is going to make me the best warrior I can be. She told herself firmly that again as she strained her hind leg muscles to push herself up the tree. Hawkfrost circled around impatiently. Quietly, Icewing tiptoed down the tree trunk half way and bunched her muscles in preparation for the spring. She landed squarely on Hawkfrost’s shoulders, yowling in triumph. But her triumph turned to confusion when Hawkfrost rolled over and smashed her to the ground. Thinking quickly, Icewing pushed Hawkfrost off herself and when he was still recovering, slashed his belly with unsheathed claws. Growling, he pushed himself off the leaf littered ground. Icewing backed up cautiously, unsure if he was about to pounce. She relaxed though as Hawkfrost purred “Nice moves there ‘paw’ but I saw you coming down the tree. Try not to be quite so loud.”
Icewing didn’t move. Hawkfrost had started circling the tree once again. This time, she silently jumped straight from the branch so as not to give Hawkfrost any kind of warning. Howling, she bit down on Hawkfrost’s back as he jumped into the air to make
Icewing once again went up the tree. This time though, instead of jumping, she successfully got down on the other side of the tree without being heard - where Hawkfrost wasn’t waiting to attack her. Icewing crept up onto Hawkfrost and attacked from behind.
“Excellent thinking!” Eyes narrowing, Hawkfrost growled “However, your enemies may find that attacking you without you being on them is much easier than fighting you when you land actually on their back.”
“ThunderClan knows that trick. We must prepare for that. I am still a true RiverClan cat at heart,” Hawkfrost meowed, “You have a sharp and clever mind. Use that to your advantage, too. Let’s see how many more interesting strategies you can think of. More training and less talking!”
“You know, I think I’m the first RiverClan cat to do tree training – ever.” grumbled Icewing. Her muscles ached and her back was on fire. It would be a miserable day when the sun rose. Hawkfrost’s voice brought her back to reality.
“And why would I tell you, Breezepelt? Anyways, you’re still not ready,” replied Tigerstar coolly. “I hope you’ll tend to the ‘cat-in-the-brambles,’ as our apprentices kindly call her, next moonrise instead of training with us. Have fun with the mouse bile and changing her moss. She’ll like that. The rest of you, go – oh, and whatever you do, do not go near the clearing where we used to train or I promise I will personally rip out your pelt and use it to line my nest; even my warriors. I am making an exception for Breezepelt because he must go there tomorrow. Now leave me to think for once, instead of helping train you mouse-brained young ‘paws’ to become ‘better warriors’.” And with that impressive speech, Tigerstar bounded off the “Announcement Rock” and away into the forest.
What is the matter with him? Icewing was bewildered. Tigerstar’s never been grumpy enough to threaten to rip out our pelts before. Humph. Who is this mysterious she-cat? Why can’t we go to the old training clearing anymore? So many questions, yet no answers.
Suddenly, Icewing felt a pelt brush hers, then smelled the slightly musty scent that belonged to Ivypool. Ivypool’s scent was a mixture of Dark Forest and ThunderClan, just like hers was a mixture of Dark Forest and RiverClan.
“I know, Feathertail. Calm down. Besides, if we’re too hasty, it could lead to our downfall as well as Mistystar’s,” soothed Leopardstar.
“No one but us. They will all try to take over, and this is only RiverClan’s business.” Leopardstar meowed.
“Yes, I agree. Could you do that? I must go. Crookedstar asked me to come to a meeting of Clan leaders and medicine cats to discuss Brambleberry’s situation.” Leopardstar took off running, her tail streaming out behind her.
“Feathertail! Mistystar went to the Moonpool and I went with her and Mothwing but she never woke up! We had to drag her back to camp. Everyone thought she was dead but she was still breathing,” meowed Willowshine in a hurry, “What are we going to do?”
“Her spirit was captured by the Dark Forest. The Dark Forest, or The Place Of No Stars, is where cats that are not accepted by StarClan go after they leave their bodies,” explained Feathertail. “Ask Reedwhisker to temporarily take the leader’s role, but tell him not to change his name to Reedstar as we can not give him nine lives since Mistystar still has all of hers. Don’t forget, Mistystar is still alive.”
Feathertail’s voice faded away as she hurried back to StarClan’s hunting grounds. When she returned, Leopardstar was waiting for her. Humph.
“Crookedstar brought Brambleberry in and he questioned her thoroughly. All we got out of her was that she was walking along the border and got attacked by two cats from the Dark Forest,” meowed Leopardstar, “She doesn’t even remember anything about Mistystar’s capture.”
Feathertail nodded, “We need a plan to rescue her. Mistystar, I mean, not Brambleberry.” Though Brambleberry does need help, thought Feathertail privately. She knew not to cross Leopardstar when she was grumpy or happy, all the same.
“Well, we won’t be looking like that for a long time,” commented Feathertail. Leopardstar didn’t answer. They quietly strolled along for a while until they reached the border.
“I guess we’ll go in,” meowed Leopardstar. Not long after, they scented Brokenstar on the slightly musty breeze. Leopardstar tensed. Feathertail crouched. What does he want? she thought.
“Feathertail! What you are you thinking?! Since when were you so fish-brained?” interrupted Leopardstar, again. Feathertail silenced her with a glare. Leopardstar returned the glare but did not question her any further.
“What was that all about?!” hissed Leopardstar, narrowing her eyes.
“Really! Please stop insulting me! Now can we just get on visiting this place and get out of here? I don’t like it any more than you do!” Exasperated, Feathertail stalked off. With a heavy sigh, Leopardstar followed. Why was Grumpystar always so hostile? thought Feathertail.
“Wait,” Leopardstar halted suddenly, “I smell a familiar scent. Tigerstar!” They spun around in unison to see a large dark brown tabby striding towards them. “The visitors Brokenstar mentioned.” He nodded, “Don’t let me interrupt you. Continue as you please.” Tigerstar disappeared into the shadows.
Leopardstar didn’t reply.
The two walked off into the forest, following the twisting and turning path. Feacertail’s mind was filled with questions, one after another. Whys and hows and lots of coulds floated around in the air. She was sure that even Leopardstar, who as lost in her own thoughts too, could hear her mind buzzing with questions.
“Feathertail,” Leopardstar voice was tense, “I think we’ve been going around in circles.”
“How come? We’ve been following this path,” replied Feathertail.
“Look at that same gnarled tree trunk. I’m sure we’ve been past it before.”
“Hmm,” meowed Feathertail thoughtfully, “You’re right.”
“I’m going to scratch a cross onto this tree so that way we’ll know if we’ve been here before.” Leopardstar did so.
After a few hundred heartbeats, they came back to the same tree. Feathertail gasped, surprised at how easily they’d been fooled. “We really are going around in circles!” Her voice rose to a wail, “ We’re hopelessly lost in the Dark Forest! Here were no one would even think about us being in this…..place!”
“What do think we are going to do? Obviously we just don’t follow the path. Now let me lead,” Leopardstar shouldered past Feathertail and growled “Come on!” With a humph, Feathertail followed her leader. Why was Feathertail always so slow? She obviously thought I am a grumpystar, but that doesn’t mean she has to be so grumpy and sharp tongued with me. thought Leopardstar
“That’s because I’m leading,” grumbled Leopardstar. Really, Feathertail was so cheery she could beat a sparrow singing – that is, if she could sing. She couldn’t sing, only birds and possibly Twolegs could. Then she crashed into a bush.
Leopardstar didn’t like that and retorted “Well, stop singing like a bird!” With a growl of fury, she turned around and stalked off. She could sense that Feathertail wanted to say something back to her but even she knew better than to start an argument with a leader. Leopardstar felt a stab of self-satisfaction with that small victory of words.
Soon, they reached a clearing filled with cats surrounded by trees. They quickly hid themselves behind two of these disgusting under-growths and peered out from behind them. It seemed like the cats in the clearing were having a meeting of some kind. Some of the faces in the crowd looked familiar, and they scanned them with sharp eyes, gold and blue, to see what cats they knew. Feathertail was the first to spot a Lake cat they knew.
“Let’s continue along. Mistystar is obviously not here,” meowed Leopardstar. She turned and headed off into the shallow undergrowth. With a sigh of exasperation, Feathertail followed. She sniffed, then stiffened. Leopardstar followed suit, and smelled a scent that she had never wanted to smell for the rest of her death years.
“That was useless!” growled Leopardstar, “and now he can visit our territory! He probably set us up to get lost. That way we can’t learn anything.” Brokenstar was the most obnoxious cat from the forest to the sun-drown place; from the mountains to the lake.
“You still haven’t told me why you are going to let Brokenstar into our hunting grounds,” reminded Leopardstar. Feathertail was so forgetful she would forget she was on a patrol the minute she left camp.
“He said ‘If you’ll give me a tour of StarClan’s hunting grounds.’ Well, that is exactly what I plan on doing. I’ll give him a tour on the most boring and useless places,” Feathertail paused. “I’ll also give long uninteresting lectures. Then I’ll send him out of here like he did to us.”
“Brilliant, Feathertail!” meowed Leopardstar, “Great thinking!” How had Feathertail thought of that? Well, she’d add to that. “Try to somehow get him lost in the most uninteresting place – the island in the middle of the small lake would do. Just make a bridge out of wood and lead him across, then destroy the bridge and swim away.” He’s such a drypaw, she thought in disgust.
Leopardstar was pleased with the praise, but she decided not to say anything. Maybe if Feathertail gave her more compliments, she would make her her personal deputy – for helping the Clans only, of course.
“Cats of StarClan!” yowled Willowstar, “Brambleberry has been attacked by one of the Dark Forest. We are suspecting that Tigerstar did the fighting while a different cat dragged someone over the border and is currently holding them hostage. Leopardstar and Feathertail, would you like to speak?”
Leopardstar felt guilty that she was lying at a Gathering, but she had no choice. She jumped down from Highrock in a graceful leap and meowed “Feathertail, would you like to speak?” Leopardstar. She would probably mess up the whole lie and tell everything that had happened since the attack on Brambleberry and Mistystar.
Feathertail got interrupted again this time by Mossleaf, an old StarClan cat. “Are you not telling us something?” she meowed suspiciously, “Something is missing and without it, your story smells quite fishy.”
“I plan on giving him a tour of some of the most boring places there are here; like the many different varieties of herbs in StarClan that grow next to the border drop-off.” The border drop-off was when the territories just fell into space: the ground just turned right into sky. Of course, StarClan could walk on it, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that most cats were just afraid of the sheer drop-off, even though they couldn’t die a second time. Yellowfang’s voice suddenly brought her back to the present.
“I’ll be the medicine cat,” meowed Yellowfang. Feathertail nodded with appreciation. Leopardstar was surprised. Yellowfang was usually much grumpier than even the cat Feathertail called Grumpystar – namely, herself.
“I will need a medicine cat’s help on that. Also I will show him WarmRocks and the pond. It would be best to have some cats fishing there. The waterfall will be shown to him also, and best of all, I will make him swim! I’ll tell him he can either swim or be pushed into the water – his choice. Yellowfang will be my backup, since she’ll already be with me, making sure he doesn’t run away.”
The cats were all craning their necks and Leopardstar couldn’t see over the heads of the other cats. She felt like a kit. All the other cats were so much taller than her when the ones in front of her were so much taller than her when they were all standing on their hind legs and craning their necks, so she did what they were doing.
“And Leopardstar has one last thing to tell us!” yowled Feathertail over all the cats meowing in a hurry.
Leopardstar gulped “I do?” Did Feathertail want her to tell the cats about THAT? Feathertail gave a little nod as if she knew what Leopardstar was thinking. Leopardstar burned with fury. She was a leader and Feathertail was a mere warrior! She was superior and Feathertail was a servant! Leopardstar humphed again. All eyes were on her now. “Well, Feathertail and I found Tigerstar training cats from the living clans. We suspect the Dark Forest is tricking them into training since we found Blossomfall, Birchfall, Icewing, Ivypool…”
After the Gathering was over, cats clamored around Leopardstar and Feathertail. Is that really true? was the most common question.
“Enough!” yowled Willowstar, “This Gathering is over and will all of you please return to your dens. Leopardstar headed off to her den but stopped. There was going to be a lot a whispering. Instead, Leopardstar had Feathertail follow her to a secret place where Leopardstar had found when she had just joined StarClan.
“It’s beautiful!” gasped Feathertail.
“Duh,” humphed Leopardstar. They had just walked into a little clearing through a flowering arch. In the middle, was a little pond filled with every kind of fish, and to the back, was a small waterfall. They were surrounded by trees and flowers.
“No one knows about this except for you and me,” meowed Leopardstar proudly, “Now hurry and make your nest.”
“What about you?” asked Feathertail. Leopardstar pointed her tail tip to a small cave whose only entrance was under a willow tree. When Feathertail had finally gathered enough swan feathers, they both headed into the cave. The cave shimmered and sparkled from all the shiny things Leopardstar had put in. The cave was so small, during the day, it was flooded with green light. Leopardstar pointed to a small hole right above her comfy swan feather covered nest.
“You can see the stars,” Leopardstar meowed quietly, “There’s enough room for you to sleep next to me.” Feathertail quickly constructed her nest and laid down and sighed softly. Of course, thought Leopardstar, rolling her eyes. Feathertail is awestruck by the beauty, once again. Then, they both lay down to sleep.
Icewing woke up, stretched her mangled fur and yawned. It had been a long night. “What in the name of StarClan happened?” her daughter Petalfur shrieked with one look at her pelt. “I went night hunting and fell into a bramble pit,” lied Icewing. “The only bramble pit is next to the Twoleg place and there is absolutely no prey there,” meowed Petalfur suspiciously. “I got spooked by an owl,” invented Icewing, while secretly slipped a long thorn into her nest. She wriggled around a bit. “And there is this!” meowed Petalfur triumphantly, holding up the long thorn, “You have been sleeping on this too!” “Oh! Thanks for finding that, Petalfur,” Icewing meowed, feigning surprise.