A long time ago, a medicine cat had 4 kits and died after giving birth to them. It was quickly found out by her Clanmates, who wanted to punish the kits by leaving them in the forest to die. The medicine cat, now in StarClan, wanted to save her kits, so she sent a fake prophecy to all the Clan leaders that the offspring of these kits would be able to save the Clans, causing them to fight over the kits. They finally agreed to each take one kit, and treated them and their offspring with extra respect. However, after so many generations, the lie of the prophecy is finally revealed. The offspring of the “destined” cats are going to face the greatest destruction ever to happen to their family, and the terrible choice between kinship and loyalty to their Clans.
Note that the allegiances will be edited as the plot goes on.
Leader HAZELSTAR - apricot tom with hazel-colored eyes (he/him)
Deputy ACORNWING - light brown tabby she-cat with white speckles and pale amber eyes (she/her)
DAWNBLAZE - flame-colored tom (he/him)
SHIMMERSPOT - orange tabby she-cat with green eyes and white chest and paws (she/her)
BRIARPELT - bright ginger she-cat with red eyes (she/her)
SPLASHLEAF - gray tabby tom with blue-gray eyes and white underbelly (he/him)
ROSEDAWN - reddish-brown she-cat (she/her)
FLOWERTAIL - dappled silver she-cat with leaf-green eyes (she/her)
FLAILPAW - pale brown she-cat with amber eyes (she/her)
QUICKPAW - white she-cat with navy blue eyes (she/her)
SKYPAW - silver tom with black eyes and pale gray stripes across his back (he/him)
WAVESPECK - tortoiseshell she-cat with ruby eyes (mother to Horizonkit, white cat with ginger dapples, they/them) (she/her)
OLIVETAIL - light ginger tom (he/him)
Leader MAPLESTAR - reddish brown she-cat (she/her)
Deputy CLOUDFUR - snow-white tom (he/him)
Medicine Cats STARRYLEAF - sandy-ginger she-cat with narrowed gray eyes (she/her)
IVYSTEP - tortoiseshell she-cat (she/her)
JUNIPERSTORM - black she-cat with dark brown eyes and ginger tabby patches (she/her)
SPOTTEDSPRING - spotted dark brown tom (he/him)
ECHOMIST - gray-blue tom with white stripes (he/him)
BRIARPAW - brown tabby she-cat with black tail tip (she/her)
MINTSTEP - ginger she-cat with white dapples (mother to Sparkkit, ginger she-kit with bright green eyes, Icekit, white she-kit with blue eyes, and Shadekit, light gray tom with yellow eyes and one black paw) (she/her)
HAWKTUFT - white cat with brown eyes and strange, brown tufts around their ears (they/them)
Leader LIGHTNINGSTAR - gray-and-brown tom with sky-blue eyes (he/him)
Deputy MORNINGWILLOW - light gray she-cat with violet eyes and white paws (she/her)
Medicine Cat MEADOWLEAF - dark gray she-cat with blue eyes (she/her)
EMBERSPLASH - white she-cat with blue eyes like the winter sky (she/her)
MINNOWLIGHT - slim silver she-cat with bright blue eyes (she/her)
THISTLEFANG - dark brown tabby tom (he/him)
SPIDERSTORM - black tom with brown belly (he/him)
TREEHOPPER - golden tabby tom with deep blue eyes (he/him)
SPIRESHRIKE - gray tabby she-cat with pale stormy gray eyes (she/her)
DARKSTEM - black she cat with dark green eyes (she/her)
SKYBREEZE - light brown tabby she-cat with steel-blue eyes (she/her)
ASHPAW - dark gray-and-white tom with amber eyes (he/him)
TIDEPAW - white cat with black paws (they/them)
CRYSTALCLOUD - silver tabby she-cat with mesmerizing blue eyes (she/her)
WETHEART - gray-blue tom with ice blue eyes and white paws (he/him)
Leader ADDERSTAR - ginger tabby tom with pale green eyes (he/him)
Deputy MOUSESKY - small brown she-cat with blue eyes (she/her)
Medicine Cat LONGSKIP - silver tabby she-cat with green eyes and long tail (she/her)
BRITTLESPOT - light brown she-cat with white splotches and leaf-green eyes (she/her)
PUDDLEWISH - calico tom with black eyes (he/him)
FAWNSTEP - light brown she-cat with brown eyes (she/her)
LIGHTBERRY - white she-cat with silver splotches and green eyes (she/her)
RAVENHEART - black she-cat with blue eyes (they/them)
SHADOWSTREAM - white-and-black tom with green eyes (mae/mim)
SONGFLIGHT - tortoiseshell cat with blue eyes (re/rem)
SPLASHFRECKLE - orange tom with one yellow eye (he/him)
DOVESKY - silver she-cat with bright blue eyes (she/her)
MALLOWBREEZE - blue she-cat with light blue eyes and black paws, tail-tip and ear-tips (she/her)
LARKPAW - yellow tabby she-cat with amber eyes and white paws (she/her)
SLITHERPAW - black she-cat with green eyes (she/her)
VINEFROST - silver tabby she-cat with ice-blue eyes (mother to Nightkit, a black tom with green eyes, and Daykit, a silver tabby she-kit) (she/her)
BADGERBRIGHT - black and white tom with blind yellow eyes (he/him)
MISTYLIGHT - gray she-cat. Ancient medicine cat of ThunderClan. (she/her)
HEATHERSHINE - brown she-cat. Mistylight’s apprentice. (she/her)
EAGLESTAR - ginger tom. Ancient leader of ThunderClan. (he/him)
PONDFLICK - white tom with brown eyes. Deceased ThunderClan tom. (he/him)
Night has fallen. The dark blue sky was covered in thick clouds, leaving no moonlight or stars to light up the forest. Heavy rain was falling, but Mistylight barely noticed. She was staring so intently at a group of cats before her, she didn’t even realize what was happening until she saw what the cats are looking at.
Laying in the center of the crowd was her own body, now damp and lifeless. There were a few grief-stricken cries, but was quickly hushed by a stern yowl.
“Enough!” the voice came from Eaglestar, the ThunderClan leader. At his command, the cats quickly parted, and he walked slowly towards a dry spot beside Mistylight’s unmoving body, touching her sodden gray fur lightly with his head.
“You have broken the code the Clans followed for countless seasons before by having a mate and kits while upholding the code of a medicine cat,” Eaglestar declared, “And, because of your sins, you will be punished.”
Mistylight gulped. She knew the other cats couldn’t see her, but it didn’t stop her from shrinking into her own pelt.
“You have already received a punishment from our warrior ancestors as death,” Eaglestar mewed. “You couldn’t have paid a more deadly price. Thus, I will not give you any further punishments.”
Mistylight heaved a sigh of relief, but she still couldn’t shake off the feeling of dread inside her heart.
“However,” Eaglestar continued, much to Mistylight’s nerves, “Your kits will have to be punished, too. The other leaders and I have decided to leave them in the forest to fend by themselves, to the fear that their birth might anger StarClan.”
“What?” Mistylight screeched in horror, forgetting that no one could hear her, “Are you crazy? They’ll all die!”
Every cay was silent. Mistylight could see that none of them was pleased about the decision, but they didn’t dare say anything.
“Well, we may as well do it now,” Eaglestar stood up from beside Mistylight’s body, and walked casually towards the medicine cat den, where Mistylight used to call her “home.” Mistylight followed him, trying to think of a way to stop this cruel and cold-blooded cat who is about to kill her most precious kits.
Inside the medicine den, Mistylight’s apprentice, Heathershine, was sobbing on the ground. Beside the brown she-cat lay a nest made of moss, where four tiny kits are meowing loudly, trying to find their mother, who will never come back.
“My kits,” Mistylight called. None of the little kits turned toward her; they didn’t even seem to notice Eaglestar and Heathershine discussing intently at the den entrance.
“You can’t kill these kits,” Heathershine was saying when Mistylight turned her attention to their conversation, “They have rights to live, too, like the rest of us.”
“Their mother betrayed her Clan when she gave birth to them,” Eaglestar replied coldly, “If I don’t do this, StarClan will be outraged. They will sent disasters to us. We will all die.”
“StarClan will get angry only if you kill innocent cats!” Heathershine argued. Mistylight felt a surge of pride for her apprentice; no matter what happened, she still insisted on what she thought was right. But there was no time for praises now.
“Heathershine,” Eaglestar’s voice is dangerously calm now, “I am your leader. Do you really want to argue with me?”
“I am advising you not to do things you will regret afterwards,” Heathershine retorted.
There was a long pause. Mistylight waited, impatiently clawing at the ground, wishing that Eaglestar would think twice before banishing her kits. Then, after what seemed like forever, Heathershine sighed.
“Get on with it, then, Eaglestar,” she shook her head, “But I’m still unsure if it is StarClan’s will to kill these kits.”
No! Of course it’s not! Mistylight wanted to yell out loud, but she was lost in words. She just stood there, stunned, watching Eaglestar taking her kits outside one by one, until she couldn’t see their tiny bodies anymore.
“I’m sorry, Mistylight,” Heathershine whispered, her head low.
Mistylight wanted to reassure her that it’s alright, that she has done everything she could. As she tried to figure out what to tell her apprentice, Heathershine jerked her head up suddenly.
“Wha-” she blinked her eyes several times, then focused straight at Mistylight’s shimmering form. “Mistylight!”
“Heathershine!” Mistylight was surprised that her former apprentice could see her. She wanted to greet her warmly, but there was no time to lose. “You have to save my kits!”
“I-I’ve tried everything,” Heathershine apologized sadly, “Eaglestar just wouldn’t listen. He’s determined to leave them in the forest to die.”
“No,” Mistylight had a sudden idea. “There’s still a way to save them.”
“What? How?” Heathershine’s eyes lit up.
“I’ll give you a prophecy,” Mistylight meowed. She thought for a moment, then said solemnly, “The loss of the Clans draw near. Remember that, at the end, you can only rely on blood.”
“Okay,” Heathershine nodded, then stammered, “Uh, the prophecy -”
“Yes, it is false,” Mistylight admitted, “But you have to help me. Can I trust you to deliver the prophecy, Heathershine?”
“...Of course, Mistylight,” Heathershine’s voice was uncertain, but she seemed to have made up her mind. She straightened and said, “I’ll tell Eaglestar and the other leaders immediately. You can rely on me to do you this last favor.”
“Good,” Mistylight smiled the first time in days. “May StarClan light your path, Heathershine.”
Shimmerspot moved swiftly through the undergrowth, sunlight dappling her orange fur. She smelled the scent of mouse, and almost immediately spotted it, wriggling beside a fern bush at the edge of a small creek. She crouched low, slowly creeping onto her prey unseen. Just as she was about to pounce, a loud yowl erupted from behind her, and the mouse panicked, scurrying away. She bit back a curse and turned.
“For StarClan’s sake, Pondflick!” she growled impatiently, “you’ve just scared away my mouse!”
“I’m sorry, Shimmerspot,” Pondflick replied painfully, helding one of his forepaws. “I stepped on a thorn.”
Shimmerspot took a closer look at the white tom’s paw, and saw a sharp thorn stuck in his pad. “Nasty thorn,” she commented, “we’d better take you back to camp and let Dawnblaze take a look at your paw.”
Pondflick didn’t respond, just groaned again. Shimmerspot instantly felt a rush of pity for him; no matter how annoying the white tom seemed, he was hurt and needed help. She walked to his side, letting him lean against her. Together, they slowly made it back to the ThunderClan camp.
* * *
When the two of them entered the camp, the Clan’s medicine cat apprentice, Flailpaw, ran towards them worriedly. “What happened?” she asked with an anxious glance at Pondflick.
“He stepped on a thorn,” Shimmerspot explained.
Flailpaw rolled her eyes when she realized it was just a thorn. “Pretty big thorn, eh?” she meowed sarcastically, “Should be able to kill him. Let’s get him to the medicine den quick.”
Flailpaw nudged Pondflick slightly, and guided him towards the medicine den. As the two cats walked past the bramble tendrils that covered the entrance, a voice called Shimmerspot from behind. “You’re back early.”
“Acornwing,” Shimmerspot turned and dipped her head with respect to the ThunderClan deputy. “Pondflick was hurt, so I took him back to camp.”
Acornwing’s face was dark with worry, and with a jolt Shimmerspot remembered that she was Pondflick’s mother. “It’s just a thorn,” she assured her, “Pondflick was yelling so loudly I sent him back to let Dawnblaze take a look. Now, I should go to collect the prey we left outside, if that’s okay with you.” She had caught a sparrow and Pondflick caught a vole.
“Of course,” Acornwing nodded, and Shimmerspot raced out of camp again.
It was almost sunhigh, and Shimmerspot enjoyed the warm Greenleaf breeze that calmly soothed her fur. Every bush she passed, every tree she spotted, was healthy and full of life. She hoped that the forest could stay like this forever.
Suddenly a weird smell hit her. She tensed, and realized that her surroundings had changed. The forest was colder. Fewer leaves are growing on the trees. There’s not a single trace of prey scent, and heavy snow covered the ground.
‘“What in StarClan...” she had a horrible sensation that someone was watching her. She looked around wildly, but it seemed as though the forest was dead. Nothing answered her, not even the howl of an owl or a tiny rustle in the leafless undergrowth.
Shimmerspot started to panic. She was just about to cry out in horror when a cat slammed into her with a yowl. She tried to struggle, but the cat held a paw firmly over her neck. She was trapped.
“Wh-who are you?” she managed to choke out.
The cat loosened her grip, and Shimmerspot shakily stood up to confront the stranger. It was a gray she-cat, probably once beautiful. Her fur was now matted with snow and she seemed to have forgotten how to groom herself.
“I’ll have to ask you the same question,” the she-cat said crossly, “what do you think you’re doing in my forest?”
Shimmerspot looked around at the dead lump of trees. “This is your forest?” she asked incredulously.
“Got a problem with that?” the she-cat sneered, unsheathing her claws.
“Uh, no,” Shimmerspot gulped. This is not a cat she would want to mess up with. “Anyway, what’s your name? I’m Shimmerspot.”
The she-cat scowled. “Mistylight,” she said as though it was the worst thing in her life.
“Okay, Mistylight,” Shimmerspot was determined to keep the peace. “Do you know where we are, or why I am here?”
“I don’t know,” Mistylight seemed to have relaxed a little, but still guarded, “when I died, I just appeared here and never left. Maybe you died, too.”
The idea of death sent a shiver down Shimmerspot’s back. “I couldn’t have died!” she argued, “I-I was just walking in the forest. What could have killed me?”
Mistylight just shrugged. “Well, if you’re so anxious to get out of here, I can offer a way. But I can’t guarantee that it’ll work.”
“It’s okay, just try it,” Shimmerspot meowed urgently, then added, “please.”
Mistylight dipped her head to show that she understood. She muttered something under her breath, and suddenly a shadow fell over Shimmerspot. She looked around uncomfortably, but Mistylight didn’t seem to notice.
“At the sprout of Greenleaf, a warrior has come to hear her destiny,” Mistylight said, her head raised and looking at the sky. Then she fixed her brilliant gaze on Shimmerspot. “The loss of the Clans draw near. Remember that, at the end, you can only rely on blood.”
“What? What does that mean -” Shimmerspot started to ask, but her vision blurred. She looked down at her body, and saw herself slowly fading into the shadows. “Am I fading?”
“Looks like the prophecy has done its trick,” Mistylight meowed with satisfaction. “Good luck, young warrior. You’ll need it.”
With that she disappeared, and Shimmerspot was back in ThunderClan’s territory. Trembling, she took a look around. The forest was still the same, green and warm, but somehow it seemed less welcoming.
The loss of the Clans draw near, Mistylight’s voice still hung in Shimmerspot’s head. Remember that, at the end, you can only rely on blood.
Treehopper stepped cautiously through the shore of the lake, jaws parted to taste the air for unusual scents. He occasionally caught a few glimpses of a cat’s shadow in the woods, but it never stayed long enough for him to figure out who it was. Just as he was about to turn around and walk back to camp, a flash of gray fur exploded from the willows beside him, and a cat slammed into his flank, batting his fur with her soft forepaws. Treehopper yelped and struggled as the two cats rolled together with a flurry of golden and gray fur. Finally the other cat stepped down from him, and he held himself up with a sigh of relief.
“Spireshrike!” Treehopper protested as he pretended to be angry, but instantly failed and gave in to a laugh.
“Didn’t sense me coming?” Spireshrike’s stormy eyes sparkled with mischief.
“Yeah, yeah, you’re always the best at stalking,” Treehopper playfully flicked his tail on her back. She purred and rubbed her cheek affectionately against his, but pulled away just as quick.
Treehopper tried not to feel hurt. He liked Spireshrike since they were still apprentices, and finally got the courage to ask her if she wanted to be his mate on the day they were made warriors. Spireshrike seemed very happy and almost agreed, but instead she told him that she wasn’t ready to start a family yet. Treehopper had hoped that she would change her mind soon, but as more and more days passed, he started to doubt if Spireshrike really liked him. What if she was just being nice because she didn’t want to break his heart?
“Ah, well,” Treehopper started as an awkward silence fell between them, “what were you doing here, anyway?”
“I-I needed to tell you something,” Spireshrike meowed as she lowered her head in embarrassment, and Treehopper wondered what was bothering her. Finally she said, “I’m having kits, Treehopper. Your kits.”
For a moment Treehopper was too stunned to reply. “That’s...wonderful,” he managed to say. He nudged Spireshrike closer, drinking in her sweet and comforting scent.
But Spireshrike grunted and moved away. “Why don’t you understand?” her voice sounded hurt, “I’ve just been made a warrior. I want to enjoy my life as a warrior, not a queen!”
“You can still do warrior duties with kits,” Treehopper blinked, not sure why Spireshrike was acting so scared and angry.
“Oh, toms always think so,” Spireshrike retorted, “They don’t have to stay in the nursery for a moon, and then 6 more after the kits are born. The she-cats do all the work.”
“That’s not what I mean!” Treehopper protested, but Spireshrike just snorted and looked away.
“...I always wanted to have kits, Spireshrike,” he sighed when Spireshrike didn’t say anything, “especially kits with you. But if that’s not what you want, I won’t force you to keep them.”
“Well...” he must’ve looked pretty sad, because Spireshrike’s expression was suddenly full of doubt. “I’ll think about it. But I’m not promising anything.”
Treehopper let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” he dipped his head to her.
“I-” Spireshrike’s mouth opened as though she was about to say something, but she never got the chance to finish her sentence. A loud, painful yowl erupted from the direction of the ShadowClan border, making the fur on Treehopper’s back stand on end.
“That’s Embersplash,” Treehopper hissed as he recognized the voice of the senior RiverClan warrior. If the calm she-cat was making such a noise, then something must be wrong. Something is terribly wrong.
“We should go take a look,” Spireshrike said as she became instantly alert. “Let’s go.”
“But you’re bearing kits!” Treehopper argued, “What if there’s a fight and you get hurt? What if...” he couldn’t bring himself to say the word “death”.
“I’ll be fine,” Spireshrike assured him, then added shyly, “I’ve got a mate that will protect me and the kits. What’s left to worry about?”
Treehopper could tell that his face must be really hot. “I’ll protect you to my last breath,” he promised, “If some cat wants to hurt you, they’re going to do it over my dead body.”
Spireshrike smiled, but just then a battle yowl sounded, getting more and more louder still. Her smile fading, Spireshrike turned and raced toward the border, flicking her tail as she ran.
Left without any choice, Treehopper ran after his mate, about to enter a battle that might cost his precious kits’ lives.
* * *
When Treehopper and Spireshrike arrived at the border, the fight was already raging, ShadowClan scent mingled with the scents of river and blood. Treehopper spotted Embersplash in the midst of the skirmish, fighting the ShadowClan deputy, Cloudfur. She was frantically trying to bat the snow-white tom away, but Cloudfur had her pinned to the ground. He was just about to race to help when a yelp behind him caught his attention. He turned and watched in horror as a black ShadowClan she-cat raked her claws along Spireshrike’s pelt, scarlet blood oozing from his mate’s wounds. He let out a yowl of fury and pushed the black she-cat away with one paw, a bit harder than he expected. The she-cat stumbled away with surprise, but quickly regained her balance and turned her target towards Treehopper.
“Run!” He ordered Spireshrike. She looked about to protest, but then winced as if her wound hurts. Finally she nodded; with a final glance at the battle, she turned to leave.
“I’ll fetch help,” she meowed as she raced away.
Treehopper was still watching Spireshrike leave when the she-cat leaped on top of him, taking him by surprise. She sneered and clawed at his fur, but Treehopper managed to duck aside and and aimed a blow on her hind legs. She fell to the ground, looking dazed, and Treehopper easily held her down with his paws.
“Looking for a fight you can’t win, lizard-brain?” he sneered as he aimed several blows on the black cat’s pelt. The she-cat struggled helplessly, but then her eyes suddenly lit up, staring straight behind Treehopper.
He only had time to let out a yowl of shock before another ShadowClan tom pushed him to the ground, batting his fur furiously as he snarled. Pain surged through Treehopper’s body, and he struggled to maintain consciousness.
“No one can hurt my sister!” the tom shrieked and bit Treehopper’s neck hard. Treehopper let out a small groan, then gave in to the darkness that was threatening to swallow him.
Juniperstorm winced, trying to get rid of the sharp pain that kept stinging her forehead. She watched, shocked, as her brother Spottedspring fought viciously with the RiverClan golden tom who had been attacking her a moment before, yelling for him to stop hurting his sister. The enemy cat struggled to bat him away, but Spottedspring was fast. He kept dodging sideways or ducking, avoiding every blow the RiverClan tom gave him.
“You’re going to pay for attacking my sister,” Spottedspring growled.
The golden tom’s only reply was a pant, as though he was too exhausted to say another word.
To Juniperstorm, the RiverClan tom’s voice showed that he was giving up; but to Spottedspring it’s clearly not so. He seemed to have taken it as a provocation, and sprang once again at the tom with a furious sneer, clawing his fur and leaving scarlet blood marks behind. Finally, with a grunt, the enemy stopped wriggling and laid motionless on the ground. The other RiverClan cats have already retreated, so he was the only RiverClan cat left at the border now.
Spottedspring snorted with satisfaction. “He won’t hurt you again,” he meowed triumphantly to Juniperstorm.
Part of Juniperstorm was impressed, but her dignity wouldn’t let her say that out loud. “I could have dealt with him myself!” she growled angrily as she got shakily to her paws. “You’re just trying to show off.”
Spottedspring’s expression turned from pride to disappointment, but Juniperstorm didn’t care. Her brother was always annoying, and she didn’t want to mess with him. That’ll make her look childish.
“Well, uh, your wounds look bad,” he quickly changed the subject. “Do you want to -”
“Great StarClan!” a voice exclaimed and cut into their conversation. Juniperstorm turned and hissed as she recognized the tom in front of him instantly. It was her other annoying brother, Echomist, ShadowClan’s medicine cat apprentice, who probably came all the way from camp to inspect the wounded and treat nasty injuries. Injuries the hot-headed warriors caused, as he often said.
“I’m fine; I don’t need your stupid herbs,” she meowed crossly before Echomist could say anything.
But Echomist wasn’t looking at her. “That tom -” he pointed at the RiverClan tom that was still on the ground with his tail, his voice shaking with horror, “did you kill him?”
Suddenly Juniperstorm noticed the problem. “Oops,” she said as she turned to stare at Spottedspring. Echomist did the same.
“No...it can’t be!” her brother’s face was now filled with dread, and he looked as though he was ready to pass out at any moment. “I-I didn’t do anything. I just fought him a little bit...harsher than normal, I guess.”
Echomist didn’t even bothered to reply. He ran over to check the body of the RiverClan tom, flipping him over to make sure that he was still breathing. After a long pause, he relaxed and let out a sigh of relief.
“He’s still alive,” he meowed, then added, “but just barely. We have to take him back to the ShadowClan camp, so Starryleaf and I can treat him properly.” He flicked his tail towards the spot where his mentor was now checking on the other warriors for serious injuries.
However, Juniperstorm didn’t agree. “Why should we waste our herbs on some fish-breath that tried to attack us?” she complained.
“We are the ones who caused these wounds,” Echomist replied patiently as if he was talking to a kit. “Leaving the tom here to die would be disrespectful. StarClan will not approve this.”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s StarClan again,” Juniperstorm rolled her eyes and scoffed. “How are you so sure that our warrior ancestors agree with you?”
Echomist looked hurt. “You’re not a medicine cat,” he snapped and turned his back to Juniperstorm, refusing to say another word.
Juniperstorm scowled. “Annoying furball,” she muttered under her breath. Spottedspring blinked at her symphasically and laid his tail on her back; frustrated, Juniperstorm shook him off. The dark brown tom looked about to protest, but he clearly thought better of it. With a sigh, he ran over to Echomist and tried to comfort him instead.
Juniperstorm didn’t try to stop him; she never got along with her littermates. In fact, she never got along with any cat in her Clan. They tried to talk to her at first, but too many cats made her uncomfortable, so she snapped at everyone and acted grumpy. After a while, cats avoided talking to her. Angry became her extinct. She couldn’t even remember the last time she smiled.
“Happiness isn’t important,” she told herself. “You’re a warrior. You’re here to help your Clan, not just yourself.”
With that she sighed and ran over to join her Clanmates, who were getting ready to leave.
* * *
When Juniperstorm followed the other cats back to the ShadowClan camp, she found a crowd of cats already clustered around the entrance, looking worried and somehow excited.
“Did you win?” the newly-made apprentice, Briarpaw, asked excitedly. Clearly the cats that stayed in camp have already heard about the border skirmish.
“Yeah, we scared off the RiverClan cats,” Cloudfur, the ShadowClan deputy who has been leading the patrol, replied proudly. “They won’t be bothering us again.”
The cats cheered, but their voices quickly died down when they saw the motionless RiverClan tom among the cats. He was carried by Echomist, with Spottedspring and Starryleaf supporting on either side. The golden tom was still unconscious, but his breathing told Juniperstorm that he was still alive.
“Who’s that?” a cat asked with visible surprise. Juniperstorm recognized the voice of her mother, Ivystep.
“A RiverClan cat Spottedspring almost killed,” Starryleaf replied with a stern glare at Spottedspring, who seemed to have shrunk beneath his pelt. “I have to treat him quickly. He has some deep wounds.”
“Right,” Juniperstorm meowed, much to her own surprise, “He’s seriously hurt. Let’s get him to the medicine den.” For some reason, she was really worried about the golden tom.
Starryleaf looked as surprised as Juniperstorm was, but she didn’t say anything more. The experienced medicine cat carried the RiverClan cat to the medicine den as the ShadowClan cats parted to let them pass, and Juniperstorm sighed, unusually relieved.
Mallowpaw ran as far as her legs could take her. She didn’t know why she was running, or where she was running to. She only knew that something terrible was chasing her, and if she couldn’t run fast enough…
“Mallowpaw!” a voice sounded from somewhere up ahead, soft but urgent. Mallowpaw’s eyes lit up with hope. Maybe this cat who was calling her could help fend off this horrible thing that was chasing her.
“Who are you?” she skidded to a halt and called, her voice carrying far away through the breeze. No answer came. There was only silence.
Mallowpaw suddenly realized that she didn’t recognize her surroundings. Dark trees stretched around her, covering the black, starless sky. Poisonous-looking plants were growing at her feet, and strange footsteps echoed all around her, so she couldn’t make out which way the sound was coming from.
Where am I? She thought as she became more and more scared. She looked around, hoping to see a familiar face, or at least something that could help her get out of here.
“Mallowpaw!” the voice called again, this time much closer and louder, and Mallowpaw woke up with a start. She looked around, startled, and found herself safely curled up in WindClan’s apprentices den, with her friend, Larkpaw, sharply prodding her side with an impatient look on her face.
“You’re finally awake!” the yellow she-cat snorted. “You were yelling and kicking around in your sleep. Were you having a nightmare?”
“Yeah...sort of,” Mallowpaw shrugged. She didn’t want to scare Larkpaw out of her fur by telling her what she had dreamed about. “It’s just a dream; nothing to worry about.”
“Well, then,” Larkpaw tilted her head as though wondering what Mallowpaw was hiding. “Guess you’re okay now? ‘Cause Brittlespot’s waiting for you outside. Battle training.”
“Yep, I’m as ready as ever,” Mallowpaw stretched and left the den.
It was almost sunhigh, and the clearing was empty except for Vinefrost and her two kits playing outside the nursery. Nightkit, the bigger tom in the litter, was throwing a moss ball at his sister, Daykit. The silver tabby she-cat caught the moss ball with her head and stumbled backward, falling onto the ground with dust flying all over her.
“Ow! Nightkit hit me!” Daykit wailed. Vinefrost quickly went over to check on her, gently patting her back to calm her down and licking her fur clean.
“I didn’t hit you!” Nightkit retorted as he ran over to his littermate’s side. “You didn’t catch the moss ball. It’s not my fault.”
“Nightkit!” Vinefrost scolded. The black tom instantly lowered his head guiltily and muttered, “Sorry.”
“Okay, now you’re all clean again,” Vinefrost meowed briskly to Daykit. To both kits she added, “Don’t be so hard on each other. If you can’t do that, no more games today. Understood?”
The kits nodded earnestly. A moment later, Daykit picked up the moss ball and yelled, “My turn!” as she threw it across the clearing as hard as she could. Fortunately, the ball didn’t hit Nightkit. Unfortunately, it landed right on top of Mallowpaw’s face.
“Ah!” she fell back with a yelp. Daykit let out a squeal of surprise while Larkpaw asked, “Are you alright?”
Mallowpaw pulled the moss ball down from her head and shook her fur. “I’m fine.”
“I’m sorry,” Daykit ran over to her and apologized. She looked so miserable, Mallowpaw couldn’t bring herself to be angry with her.
“It’s okay,” she meowed, then asked the little she-kit, “Do you know where Brittlespot is?”
“She went to the mossy clearing,” Daykit squeaked. She seemed to be pretty happy that Mallowpaw wasn’t angry with her. “She said she couldn’t find you, so she’ll meet you there.”
“Okay,” Mallowpaw replied as she got to her paws. She said to Daykit, “Have fun with your moss ball!” and raced for the training area with Larkpaw at her side.
* * *
When Mallowpaw and Larkpaw got to the mossy hollow where apprentices train for battles, she saw her mentor, Brittlespot, waiting there with Larkpaw’s mentor, Puddlewish. Brittlespot had that annoyed look on her face like she always did, while Puddlewish simply dipped his head to them.
“You’re late,” Brittlespot said angrily. She was glaring at Mallowpaw especially. “What took you so long?”
“I-I overslept,” Mallowpaw replied, trying to stay calm. She couldn’t tell Brittlespot about her dream. It’s not like she would believe her, anyway.
“Well, you’re wasting our time,” Brittlespot snapped. Puddlewish started to say, “I think Mal-” but Brittlespot glared at him and he stopped himself.
“Mallowpaw had a nightmare,” Larkpaw meowed. Mallowpaw glanced at her sharply to tell her to stop, but she didn’t see her stare and kept going. “Then she was attacked by Daykit’s moss ball. That’s why we’re late.”
“Well, that’s...interesting,” Puddlewish concluded. He was clearly trying not to laugh, and Mallowpaw wished that the earth could open up and swallow her.
However, Brittlespot didn’t laugh. She was staring at Mallowpaw as though she’d just sprouted wings. “You had a dream? What kind of dream?”
“Uh...” Mallowpaw wasn’t sure why her mentor was interested in her dream. Well, at least she’s not mad at her now. “I was running in a dark forest. Something terrible was chasing me, trying to catch me.”
“Dramatical dream,” Larkpaw commented. But Brittlespot was serious. She turned and said something to Puddlewish, who looked just as puzzled as Mallowpaw was. Then she turned back to Mallowpaw. “No training today,” she said. “You have other things to do. Come with me.”
“What?” Mallowpaw asked, but Brittlespot was already leaving the clearing, with a flick of her tail motioning for her to follow.
With one last look back at Larkpaw and Puddlewish, Mallowpaw ran after her mentor. She had a feeling that nothing would ever be the same for her again.
Mallowpaw followed Brittlespot back to camp. They walked in full silence, but Mallowpaw thought she could detect fear in her mentor’s eyes. She felt totally confused and scared, not knowing what would happen to her next.
Brittlespot stopped at the entrance to the leader’s den. “Adderstar?” She called inside.
After a few moments, which seemed like forever to Mallowpaw, a ginger tom stepped out of the den. It was the WindClan leader, Adderstar. “Brittlespot,” he greeted the she-cat with a nod, then turned his attention to Mallowpaw. Mallowpaw tried to act brave under his fierce stare.
“It’s time,” Brittlespot meowed. She looked at Adderstar, and they seemed to share a silent agreement. Mallowpaw had no idea what they were talking about, and she wasn’t anxious to find out the answer.
Finally Adderstar heaved a long sigh. “Come in,” he said, “we have a lot to discuss.”
* * *
Mallowpaw has never been in the leader’s den before. It was big and cozy, with rays of sunshine pouring down through small holes on the roof, dappling the dry, brown floor. Adderstar’s mate Mousesky, who was also his loyal deputy, sat in one corner of the den with her tail wrapped neatly around her paws. She eyed Mallowpaw questioningly, as though unsure what she was doing here. Adderstar whispered something into her ear, and she nodded, her gaze still on Mallowpaw.
“Well,” Adderstar started as he beckoned the cats to sit down. “What brought you here, Brittlespot?”
“Mallowpaw had a dream,” Brittlespot replied. She dipped her head to Mallowpaw, asking her to finish the story.
Feeling self-conscious, Mallowpaw explained her nightmare as quickly as she could. She was aware of Mousesky scowling at her with her piercing blue eyes, but Adderstar nodded encouragingly at her, so she finished her report without much problem.
“It sounds like an ordinary dream to me,” Mousesky muttered under her breath. “No need to worry about it.”
But Adderstar ignored her. He was frowning worriedly at Mallowpaw, his tail flicking back and forth as though he was nervous. “Do you know what was chasing you? Or where that dark forest is?”
“No,” Mallowpaw admitted. “I-I have no idea what the dream was about.”
Adderstar nodded thoughtfully. “In any case, it’s time for you to hear the truth,” he meowed. Brittlespot opened her mouth to protest, but Adderstar silenced her with a stern glare. The light brown she-cat still looked uncertain, but she didn’t argue.
There was a long pause. Finally, Adderstar broke the silence. “Many seasons ago, there was a medicine cat named Mistylight,” he said, “she broke the code by having kits with another tom.”
Mallowpaw gulped. She had a feeling that the story would not go well.
“Mistylight died giving birth to her 4 kits,” Adderstar continued, “but the Clan leaders still wanted to punish the kits. They decided to leave them in the forest to die, since no cat was willing to take them in.”
“But that’s so mean!” Mallowpaw protested. “The code tells us to protect every kit, no matter who their parents are or what Clan they come from.”
“Sadly, the Clans didn’t think it that way,” Adderstar shook his head. “However, just before the Clan leaders were taking the kits away, Mistylight’s apprentice, Heathershine, got a prophecy from StarClan: The loss of the Clans draw near. Remember that, at the end, you can only rely on blood.”
Just hearing the prophecy made Mallowpaw’s fur stand on end. Rely on blood? That didn’t seem like something bright.
“What happened to the kits, then?” She asked, anxious to get over the prophecy part.
“Heathershine insisted that the prophecy is for the kits,” Adderstar said, “she claimed that the kits’ offspring will have the power to save the Clans, and the leaders hesitated. Finally, they agreed to each take in one kit, and pay special attention to their offspring.”
“But...” Mallowpaw tilted her head questionly to one side. “There must be more and more offspring, right? How do you keep track of all of them?”
“Well, there’s this coincidence,” Mousesky cutted in and replied, “every offspring of these kits has only one kit. Sometimes they have a litter, but most of them don’t live long enough to start a family. Think about it, Mallowpaw. Does your mother have any littermates?”
Mallowpaw tried to think about what her mother, Dovesky, had told her before about their family. “No,” she said.
Then the realization struck her. She looked at Adderstar with horror, but all she saw in the Clan leader’s eyes was pity.
Brittlespot started to say, “Mallowpaw -”
“No!” Mallowpaw shook her head, refusing to believe. “I’m not some kind of offspring from a code-breaking family. There must have been a mistake.”
Adderstar gently laid his tail on her back. “I know it’s hard to believe. But yes, Mallowpaw, you are descended from Mistylight. And you might be the cat in the prophecy, who’s destined to save the Clans.”
Mallowpaw looked at Brittlespot for help, but her mentor looked just as flustered as she was. She frowned and said, “She’s only an apprentice. It’s too early for her to start saving the Clans.”
The she-cat’s words didn’t sound like a compliment, but for once Mallowpaw agreed with her. “Brittlespot’s right,” she meowed, hoping to change Adderstar’s mind. “I don’t know how to save the Clans. I haven’t even finished my warrior training.”
“Well, that’s one problem we could solve right away,” Adderstar replied with a smile at Mallowpaw. “Let’s make you a full warrior of WindClan now.”
Treehopper woke with a start, his eyes blinking to adjust to the gloom of light that surrounded him. He was curled up in a pile of freshly-gathered moss, with sweet herb scents drifting all around him.
“You’re awake,” a voice mewed joyfully. Treehopper half rose and saw a sand-colored she-cat standing before him. The she-cat seemed vaguely familiar, but Treehopper couldn’t recall her name. “Who are you?” he asked cautiously.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” The she-cat chuckled, her eyes lighting up with amusement. “I’m Starryleaf.”
“Starryleaf...” The name struck Treehopper like a cruel lightning. “You’re ShadowClan’s medicine cat? So this is -”
“Yes, yes,” Starryleaf cut him off gently, “You’re in the ShadowClan camp, and I understand that you must have a lot of questions. But calm down. You need to rest.”
Treehopper opened his mouth to argue, but no words came out. Too many thoughts were buzzing in his head at the same time, making it impossible to think. He tried to stand up, but a sharp sting from his shoulder almost made him cry out in pain. He winced and sat down again.
“You wrenched your shoulder,” Starryleaf told him. “I’ve already treated it, but it’ll need time to heal. Rest now, and without my permission, don’t even think about leaving this den. Understood?”
Treehopper swallowed his confusion and nodded. “Good,” Starryleaf’s eyes glinted with approval, as though she was looking at an apprentice who just caught their first prey. With a flick of her tail, she turned and disappeared through the entrance of the medicine den.
When Treehopper was sure the medicine cat had left, he glanced around the den, trying to ease the panic that was forming inside his chest. How many days have passed since the battle with ShadowClan? How had he ended up in the enemy’s camp? And, most importantly, what happened to his Clanmates?
Treehopper was so lost in thought, he almost fell out of his nest when another cat rushed into the medicine den. The newcomer was also a she-cat, but black with ginger patches. Treehopper recognized her instantly, and rage filled his heart.
“You’re that ShadowClan cat who tried to attack Spireshrike,” he growled. “What are you doing here?”
The ShadowClan cat seemed surprised at his angriness, but quickly recovered and snorted. “I’m Juniperstorm,” she said, “and I’m not here to hurt you. Sheath your claws, will you?”
Treehopper glanced at his claws and realized that he had unsheathed them without meaning to. “Oh,” he grunted and sheathed his claws, trying to hide how embarrassing he felt.
Juniperstorm smiled, and Treehopper had a weird feeling that he had seen her before, even before the battle, like a long-lost friend. But he decided that it would be better not to mention that in front of a vicious ShadowClan she-cat who could kill you at any moment.
“Well...” Juniperstorm tilted her head, her brown eyes dark with worry, “how are you feeling?”
“What?” Treehopper was so surprised he’d lost the ability to talk. “Oh. Yeah, I’m fine.”
Junipterstorm let out a sigh of relief. “That’s good. When you’re healed properly, I want to give you a tour around the camp.”
Out of anything she could have said, Treehopper definitely did not see that one coming. He stared at Juniperstorm, not knowing what to say. “I have a mate,” he blurted out without actually thinking about it.
Juniperstorm laughed; not a nervous laugh, but those you hear when cats are amused. “I don’t like you,” she told him, “You just seem so...familiar.” She seemed to have trouble placing the last word.
“Oh,” Treehopper’s face felt suddenly hot with embarrassment. He muttered, “Okay, as you wish.”
Juniperstorm seemed satisfied with his answer. “I’ll ask Starryleaf if you can go out tomorrow,” she mewed happily.
Treehopper nodded, and that same smile spread across Juniperstorm’s face again. Treehopper still couldn’t remember why it seemed so familiar, but he didn’t have time to think about it. There were more important things to worry about now.
“So, Juniperstorm,” he started, “Why am I in the ShadowClan camp? What happened to RiverClan?”
“Well, there’s that border skirmish this morning, and me and my brother attacked you,” Juniperstorm mewed apologetically as though attacking Treehopper was the stupidest thing she’d ever done in her life. “Your Clanmates retreated without you, and you were badly hurt, so Starryleaf took you back to camp and treated your wounds.”
“And when can I go back to RiverClan?” Treehopper asked. No matter how good the ShadowClan cats are treating him, he was still anxious to see his Clanmates again. Especially Spireshrike.
Just thinking about his mate made Treehopper feel terrible. Spireshrike must be worried sick back at camp, unable to find the tom whose kits she was bearing, and he was here in ShadowClan’s medicine cat den, all wounds treated, chatting leisurely with another she-cat. He didn’t want to think about what Spireshrike might say if she ever found out.
However, Juniperstorm just shrugged. “Until Starryleaf says so,” she replied simply.
Treehopper sighed unhappily, and instantly felt guilty as a look of hurt flashed through Juniperstorm’s face. “You didn’t like it here?” she murmured.
“Uh, no, it’s not like that - ” Treehopper started to explain, but he never finished his sentence. A loud yowl sounded from outside the camp, followed by a lot of furious sneers. Treehopper recognized the voices immediately, and he had never been so relieved to hear any outraged yellings.
“What’s that?” Juniperstorm blinked, looking confused and surprised.
“It’s RiverClan,” Treehopper raised his head proudly. “It’s time for me to go home.”
Juniperstorm had never felt so alone and helpless.
Treehopper was the first cat she had felt like a true friend - in fact, the first cat that had ever befriended her, since she wasn’t exactly popular in her own Clan. They had so much in common that Juniperstorm felt closer to him than to her annoying and childish brothers. He was so easy-going, she couldn’t resist the urge to confide all of her worries in him. Unfortunately, all of these things are not going to happen now.
She watched, stunned, as Treehopper slowly rose from his makeshift nest in the medicine den, made his way towards the entrance, a huge smile on his face as if he couldn’t wait to leave. Juniperstorm wanted to stop him, but her paws seemed rooted to the ground. She was trembling with fear, and she tried not to feel hurt with Treehopper looking as joyful as ever beside her.
He doesn’t belong here, she scolded herself. He’s RiverClan, and he needs to go home.
The thought didn’t make her feel any better, but at least gave her a reason to follow Treehopper out of the den without trying to punch him in the face.
* * *
Outside, the clearing was in chaos. Juniperstorm saw the RiverClan leader, Lightningstar, standing defiantly in front of a group of hissing ShadowClan cats. Behind the gray-and-brown tom were Morningwillow, his deputy, and two other RiverClan warriors who are all snarling at Juniperstorm’s Clanmates.
“You dare kidnap one of our loyal warriors?” Lightningstar was saying when Juniperstorm and Treehopper were close enough to hear their conversation. The Clan leader’s voice was calm, but Juniperstorm could tell that he was trying hard not to unsheath his claws and start a fight.
“We didn’t kidnap your warriors, Lightningstar,” Sorrelfeather, a white ShadowClan she-cat, replied to the RiverClan leader a bit too disdainfully. “You abandoned that tom on the battlefield. We simply took him in and treated his wounds.”
“And who caused those wounds, eh?” one of the RiverClan warriors stepped forward and sneered. He was a dark brown tabby who Juniperstorm recognized as Thistlefang from the previous Gatherings. He stood boldly in front of Sorrelfeather until Lightningstar flashed him a look as if saying, shut up, or I will have you doing apprentice duties for the next two moons, and backed away awkwardly.
“Sorry for the disturbance,” Morningwillow apologized with a stern glare at Thistlefang. “We have a few hot-headed young warriors.” Turning back to the ShadowClan cats, she added, “We wish to talk to Maplestar. Can you bring her here, please?”
“I’ll find her,” another voice cut in the conversation, and Juniperstorm found Oakpaw, the newly-made apprentice, bouncing excitedly beside the crowd. Apparently he is over excited to see an enemy patrol in their camp.
As Oakpaw ran away to find the ShadowClan leader, Treehopper took a few paces forward and stood before his Clanmates. “Lightningstar,” he dipped his head respectfully. “I’m ready to go home.”
“You’re safe!” The other RiverClan she-cat from the patrol ran over to Treehopper and nuzzled his cheek affectionately. Juniperstorm knew that was Treehopper’s mate, but she couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy. She didn’t care any less about Treehopper than the gray tabby she-cat, so why did Treehopper like her more?
“Spireshrike,” Treehopper mewed comfortingly as the she-cat buried herself in his fur. “I’m very sorry. I promise I won’t leave you again.”
“I’m sure you won’t,” Spireshrike replied joyfully. She turned her head, and seemed to see Juniperstorm for the first time. “What are you doing here?” she snarled at her.
Juniperstorm stumbled backwards, not sure why Spireshrike was so angry. “I’m a ShadowClan cat,” she said, forcing herself to stay calm, “my duty is to protect my Clan.”
“Well, my duty is to protect my kits,” Spireshrike growled, and Juniperstorm noticed that her belly was slightly bigger than usual.
“You are bearing kits?” she stammered. This would explain Spireshrike’s anger and why Treehopper had fought her so viciously in the battle.
The realization sent a shock through Juniperstorm. So the two RiverClan cats were not just mates, but mates already with kits. She didn’t stand a chance in front of Spireshrike when it came to Treehopper then.
“Juniperstorm?” Treehopper asked worriedly, and Juniperstorm realized that she must have been scowling. She blushed and shook her head, trying to clear her mind.
Spireshrike narrowed her eyes. “Are you two hiding something?” she asked her mate.
“Um...” Treehopper glanced at Juniperstorm, and their eyes locked for a moment too long. “Nothing.”
His voice was pretty uncertain, and a look of hurt flashed through Spireshrike’s eyes. “Well,” she moved away from Treehopper, “I’m going to find Lightningstar. See you later.”
With that she turned and stalked away, her tail flicking back and forth as though she was flustered. Treehopper tried to call her, but the she-cat didn’t stop. Finally she disappeared from Juniperstorm’s sight, leaving her alone with Treehopper.
“Sorry,” she murmured. She wasn’t used to apologizing, but she truly felt sorry for disturbing their happy reunion.
“It’s okay,” Treehopper sighed, but Juniperstorm knew that’s not true. It was all her fault. She should never have shown any interest in Treehopper, especially not in front of Spireshrike.
An awkward silence fell between them. After a few moments, Treehopper shifted self-consciously and said, “I have to find my Clanmates,” then trotted away.
Juniperstorm stood where she was, unable to move or speak. She felt miserable, and even more terrible than being left out in her Clan. Just when she was about to cry, a voice behind her asked, “you okay?”
She half turned and saw her brother Spottedspring staring at her, a look of concern on his face. Under different circumstances, she would have yelled at him and told him to go away, but now she thought she had never been so happy to have a littermate who is willing to support her. She muttered, “I’m fine,” but nudged the brown tom closer.
Spottedspring seemed surprised, but he didn’t protest. He laid his tail gently on her back, and they walked slowly towards the warriors den together.
Shimmerspot was exhausted.
It’s been almost a moon since her encounter with Mistylight, but every night the memories still come back to her as vivid nightmares, preventing her from getting a good night’s sleep. As time went by, she started waking up late, missing the dawn patrol, and falling asleep when she was supposed to help the queens watch their kits playing in the camp clearing.
“What happened to you, Shimmerspot?” Acornwing had scolded her just this morning. “You’ve been acting strange lately. You need to learn to behave as a true warrior.”
“I’m sorry,” was all Shimmerspot had managed to reply to the stern ThunderClan deputy. She couldn’t bring herself to tell anyone about the prophecy, especially not Acornwing. She didn’t want to make the she-cat even more worried than she already was.
A moon ago, Acornwing’s son Pondflick had stepped on a thorn when he was hunting with Shimmerspot and got sent to the medicine den. Although the medicine cat apprentice Flailpaw had promised it would be alright, the wound somehow got infected. Now the poor tom was still lying in the medicine den, unable to move his swollen forepaw.
All of the ThunderClan cats must have been worried about Pondflick, but Shimmerspot knew that Acornwing cared about him most. The ThunderClan deputy visited her son almost every day, bringing him fresh-kill to make sure he doesn’t starve, and encouraging him to stay cheerful and upright even though the situation was tough.
Unfortunately, despite Acornwing’s caring for her kit, Pondflick’s wound has become worse over the last few days. Today, when Shimmerspot was sending fresh moss to the medicine den, she heard Dawnblaze and Flailpaw arguing over the tom’s illness.
“There must be a cure to this,” Flailpaw mewed briskly as she rummaged through her herb supplies. “There must be a cure for Pondflick's infected paw! Maybe we should try marigold, with thyme for the fever - ”
“Flailpaw,” Dawnblaze, who was usually calm and gentle, glared sternly at his apprentice. “Sometimes we have to accept failure; this is an important part of being a medicine cat. I know it’s hard, but you need to understand that herbs cannot cure everything.”
“But...” Flailpaw opened her mouth to argue, but clearly thought better of it and sighed instead. “So we just left him there to die?”
Shimmerspot gulped and almost screamed out loud. Die? She had expected Pondflick to get paralyzed or something, but not actually dying. This was too much for her to bear.
She somehow managed to get over the shock and continued to listen to the medicine cats’ conversation.
Dawnblaze shook his head, his deep amber eyes flicked with sorrow. He didn’t say another word, but Flailpaw seemed to understand. She nodded grimly and left for the den entrance, almost bumping into Shimmerspot.
“Hey!” The pale brown she-cat yelped in surprise.
“Sorry,” Shimmerspot apologized, then found the nerve to ask, “I-I heard you and Dawnbalze’s talk just there. Is Pondflick going to - ”
Flailpaw rolled her eyes and snorted, but Shimmerspot knew that the apprentice was trying to hide the hopelessness and despair that roamed inside her.
“He’ll be fine,” she said simply. “Now, if you could, please bring in the moss while it’s still fresh,” She pointed at the moss in Shimmerspot’s jaw, which was almost dry by now.
“Oh. Yeah, you’re right,” Shimmerspot nodded toward her and trotted into the medicine den.
Inside, the air was warm and cozy, but a depressing atmosphere also hung in the den. Dawnblaze was sorting some leaves that looked exactly identical to Shimmerspot into small piles, while Pondflick layed in his nest, wincing every time his paw touched the ground.
“Shimmerspot,” the elderly medicine cat greeted Shimmerspot warmly when he saw her.
“I brought you some moss,” Shimmerspot mewed as she set down the moss beside Dawnblaze, who nodded his head in acknowledgement.
There was a long silence. Finally Dawnblaze said, “Pondflick, I have something to discuss with you.” His tone showed it clear that he wanted to hold the discussion in private.
“Right,” Shimmerspot replied quickly. She had a terrible feeling that she knew what the conversation would be about. “I’ll leave you two in peace.”
With that she left the den again, her heart filled with dread as she imagined what Acornwing might say when she found out that her son was about to die.
* * *
Shimmerspot almost forgot that today’s night was the Gathering. As she and her Clanmates gathered at the entrance to leave, she noticed that Acornwing was staring at the medicine den, her eyes filled with anguish and seemingly distant. Apparently she had already heard the news.
“Is every cat here?” Hazelstar, the ThunderClan leader, asked with a worried glance at Acornwing.
“Yes, Hazelstar,” Dawnblaze replied as he walked over to join the crowd. There was no sign of his apprentice, Flailpaw.
Hazelstar must have noticed that too. “Where’s Flailpaw?” he asked.
“She needs to take care of our patient,” Dawnblaze flicked his tail towards Acornwing, and Hazelstar immediately understood. He sighed gravely and turned to leave, the crowd of cats following behind him.
Shimmerspot walked out of the camp just behind Dawnblaze. “How’s Pondflick?” she asked quietly, for some slight hope that he might have gone better.
Sadly, the old medicine cat shook his head. “He might be joining StarClan at any moment,” he murmured.
The cats walked on with full silence. Shimmerspot wondered that, if Pondflick was gone forever, then maybe ThunderClan wasn’t as strong as it seemed, too.
It was the night after Mallowpaw’s talk with Adderstar and the others, and also the night of the Gathering. Instead of just gathering the cats and going to the island as usual, Adderstar chose to hold Mallowpaw’s warrior ceremony at this time. Surprising timing, but it also made Mallowpaw even more excited.
Now, as Mallowpaw stood at the base of the Tallrock, her heart was filled with excitement and happiness. She definitely did not enjoy being destined to save the Clans, but becoming a true warrior of WindClan was always her biggest dream.
“Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather around the Tallrock for a Clan meeting,” Adderstar’s voice rang clearly across the open moor, loud and full of authority.
At the sound of their leader’s call, Mallowpaw’s Clanmates started to emerge from their dens. Mousesky walked out of the medicine den with her daughter, Longskip. A group of warriors settled at the other end of the Tallrock, led by Lightberry, Ravenheart, and Shadowstream. The kits, Nightkit and Daykit, ran excitedly out of the nursery with their mother behind them.
“Are we going to become apprentices?” Nightkit squealed in delight. “I’m going to be the best WindClan warrior ever!”
“No, rabbit-brain! I am!” Daykit nipped her brother’s ear playfully.
“Hey!” Nightkit squeaked while he batted Daykit’s soft fur with one paw.
“Hush, you two,” Vinefrost scolded. The two kits instantly stopped their play-fight, but judging from the mischievous look on their faces, the game was not yet over.
“I wonder what the meeting is about,” Larkpaw’s voice jerked her back to reality. “You know, normally we don’t have Clan meetings right before the Gathering.”
She half turned and found her best friend sitting beside her, the yellow tabby cat’s tail curled neatly around her paws.
Oops, Mallowpaw thought.
She was so caught up in her own thoughts that she had forgotten about Larkpaw. The she-cat had started her apprenticeship earlier than Mallowpaw, and now…
“What’s wrong?” Larkpaw tilted her head questioningly. “You look...worried. Is it about your dream this morning?”
“Um...nothing,” Mallowpaw lied. She was tempted to tell Larkpaw the truth, but afraid that it would make her hate her or want to stay away from her.
Larkpaw continued to stare at her. “But - ”
“Be quiet!” the senior warrior Songflight hissed, rem eyes stern but not annoyed. “Adderstar is talking.”
Mallowpaw quickly turned her attention back to the WindClan leader.
“Cats of WindClan!” Adderstar announced. “It is the night of the Gathering, and we are supposed to leave now. But I would like to welcome a young cat as a true member of WindClan first.”
All eyes turned to Mallowpaw and Larkpaw. Beside Mallowpaw, Larkpaw let out a tiny squeal. “I’ve only been an apprentice for 5 moons!” she whispered.
And I’ve only trained for 4, Mallowpaw thought guiltily. She couldn’t bring herself to tell Larkpaw that when the yellow she-cat acted so cheerful.
“Please come forward,” Adderstar meowed, “Mallowpaw.”
There was a long silence. Mallowpaw rose awkwardly from where she sat and trotted towards Adderstar. On her way to the Tallrock, no one gave her any congratulating compliments. Most cats were flicking their tails worriedly with a puzzled glance at Larkpaw.
“I, Adderstar, leader of WindClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice,” Adderstar said solemnly, ignoring the atmosphere of the crowd. “She has trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend her to you as a warrior in her turn.”
Mallowpaw gulped nervously. She risked a glance at where Larkpaw was sitting, and found that the other WindClan apprentice Slitherpaw, who was usually bossy and annoying, had taken over her seat beside the yellow apprentice and was talking urgently to her. Larkpaw wouldn’t lift her head to meet Mallowpaw’s gaze, while Slitherpaw caught her eye instead and gave her a huge glee as though saying, Look what you’ve done.
Mallowpaw replied to her with a glance that said, I’ll strangle you later.
She turned back to Adderstar. The WindClan leader was saying, “Mallowpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?”
“I do,” Mallowpaw’s voice was edged with fear, and she hoped that no one had noticed.
“Then by the powers of StarClan I give you your warrior name,” Adderstar declared, his bold green eyes fixed on Mallowpaw. “Mallowpaw, from this moment on you shall be known as Mallowbreeze. StarClan honors your bravery and quick-thinking, and we welcome you as a full warrior of WindClan.”
The crowd of WindClan cats below called out Mallowbreeze’s warrior name, but Mallowbreeze knew that they only did it because of the tradition. She stepped half-heartedly down the rock, trying to act confident.
“I’m so proud of you,” Dovesky, Mallowbreeze’s mother, purred while trotting over to meet her daughter, her eyes shining with pride.
“Thanks, mom,” Mallowbreeze replied with a forced smile.
Dovesky didn’t seem to notice. “I’ll leave you in peace now,” she said happily. “Go find your friends.”
With that she walked away, leaving Mallowbreeze standing alone. She was just about to find Larkpaw when the yellow tabby walked right past her without a word.
“Larkpaw,” Mallowbreeze called to her.
Larkpaw turned, her once-warm amber eyes now distant and full of hurt.
Mallowbreeze started, “I’m sorry - ”
“Hey, Larkpaw!” Slitherpaw suddenly appeared out of nowhere, her tail flicking back and forth excitedly. “Let’s go join the others. I’m sure Mallowbreeze would be busy now that she’s a warrior.” She emphasized the last word as though it was Mallowbreeze’s fault.
“Sure,” Larkpaw replied, and together the two she-cats dashed towards the camp entrance, where most cats are waiting to go to the Gathering.
Mallowbreeze followed them, but didn’t try to approach. She kept thinking that becoming a warrior wasn’t a good thing after all, if she had to lose her friendship with Larkpaw.
Treehopper followed his Clanmates as they walked along the stream that led towards the island. The full moon shone brightly in the starry night sky, basking the RiverClan cats in faint white light. Beside them, the small stream flowed gently without a sound, its surface shimmering with the cats’ reflections.
“I can’t wait to go to the Gathering!” Ashpaw, a young RiverClan tom who was walking just behind Treehopper, meowed excitedly with his amber eyes glittering. “I wonder how the other apprentices are doing. Skypaw told me last time that he caught a huge squirrel - ”
“Yeah, yeah,” his littermate and fellow apprentice, Tidepaw, was clearly uninterested in the topic. “They might not be there at the Gathering, though. Apprentices don’t go to Gatherings all the time.”
Ashpaw’s shoulders sagged. “Like you aren’t an apprentice,” he muttered under his breath.
Tidepaw did not bother to reply. They strode forward without even looking at Ashpaw, leaving their brother alone at the back of the group.
Seeing Ashpaw’s crestfallen expression, Treehopper couldn’t help but wince with sympathy. After his little stay in the ShadowClan camp, he had become more and more aware of his Clanmates’ interactions and feelings, from mates or littermates to mentors and apprentices. He wasn’t sure why; maybe he wanted to find out why he seemed so at ease with Juniperstorm, even though he was certain he had not developed any romantic feelings for her.
Thinking about this, Treehopper realized that he hadn’t thought much about Juniperstorm lately. With Spireshrike almost ready to give birth, he needed to gather his strength for hunting so his mate wouldn’t starve. He also has to keep the she-cat company in his spare time, since Spireshrike had shown it pretty clearly that she does not enjoy her boring days stuck in the camp’s nursery. She couldn’t even come to today’s Gathering, and Treehopper had promised to tell her everything when they got back. However, these were no excuse for forgetting Juniperstorm. He knew that he shouldn’t care about a cat from another Clan too deeply, but whenever he tried to keep thoughts of Juniperstorm at the back of his mind, he felt guilty as though he had abandoned an important part of his character.
Maybe I’ll see her at the Gathering, Treehopper thought. Then I might be able to figure out why.
“We have arrived,” Lightningstar’s voice brought him back to reality. He looked up and saw that the RiverClan cats had arrived at the island, and the first group of cats were already wading across the water that surrounded it. He walked forward and swam across with his Clanmates, feeling the icy-water refreshing his mind.
When Treehopper got onshore, he saw that RiverClan was the third Clan to arrive. ThunderClan and ShadowClan were both already in the clearing, cats from both Clans chatting with each other.
“Skypaw!” Ashpaw let out a happy squeal while running towards a young silver tom. The ThunderClan apprentice greeted him excitedly, and they started boasting about their training in the past moon.
Meadowleaf trotted over to where the other medicine cats were gathering, and the cats instantly started to exchange knowledge on herbs and illnesses. Treehopper noticed that the ThunderClan medicine cat Dawnblaze was frowning worriedly while explaining something to his fellow companions. Although he wasn’t sure what the old tom had on his mind, he prayed to StarClan for him and hoped for the best.
He looked around half-heartedly, not sure what to do or who to talk to in the crowded island clearing. As his eyes flew across a group of ShadowClan cats, he spotted the she-cat he most wanted to meet but was also afraid to encounter - Juniperstorm.
The black she-cat was standing just a few tail-length away from Treehopper, chatting casually with her brother - maybe Spottedspring, if Treehopper could remember - and didn’t seem to have noticed him yet. He decided to take that as a good opportunity to talk with the ShadowClan she-cat, so he stood silently nearby, waiting for them to finish talking so Treehopper could call Juniperstorm.
However, he never got the chance. The ground trembled slightly, and he found that the missing WindClan cats had finally arrived. The WindClan leader Adderstar stood bold and high at the front, while his Clanmates took turns walking over the tree bridge, all of them in grim silence.
“You’re late,” Hazelstar snorted. He was standing at the base of the Great Oak, along with the other Clan leaders. Apparently the broad apricot tom was annoyed.
Adderstar did not respond to Hazelstar’s direct challenge. “Let the Gathering start,” he announced and jumped to the lowest branch on the Great Oak. Lightningstar did the same, with Maplestar right behind him. Hazelstar let out a small growl, but didn’t argue further as he joined the other Clan leaders.
“I shall do the report first,” Adderstar declared before the cats could say anything. He looked at the other leaders as though daring them to argue.
“Of course, Adderstar,” Maplestar meowed calmly, but her flicking tail and slightly-bristling fur betrayed her. Treehopper thought he could detect sarcasm in her words.
Adderstar didn’t seem to notice, or he simply didn’t care. “Today, WindClan welcomes a new warrior,” his eyes shone with pride. “Mallowbreeze.”
Cheerings broke out from the crowd, but it quickly died down after cats started to realize that the WindClan cats weren’t doing the same. Most of their faces were grim or even angry, and Treehopper saw that the young blue she-cat, supposedly Mallowbreeze, was sitting alone at the back of the group while glancing worriedly around, showing no joy of becoming a warrior.
That cat looks way too young to have finished her apprenticeship, he thought, puzzled. What was Adderstar thinking?
As if on cue, Lightningstar rose from his branch and glared at the WindClan leader. “She hasn’t yet trained for 6 moons,” he pointed out.
“I know,” Adderstar dipped his head in understanding. “I made her a warrior early for other reasons. It’s time we reveal the Great Prophecy.”
As Adderstar finished his sentence, a sense of unease instantly spread through Juniperstorm’s body, making her fur tingle.
The Great Prophecy. She wasn’t sure why, but the words struck her as something she should know, something important that would help her solve her troubles with Treehopper…
Juniperstorm swallowed nervously and tried to dismiss that thought. She shouldn’t think about Treehopper. He already had a mate, and they were from different Clans, which made it impossible for him to have any feelings for her. However, as time went by, Juniperstorm found her own feelings clearer and clearer. She had a nagging suspicion that she didn’t feel close to Treehopper romantically...but she didn’t have any evidence, and she wasn’t sure that she wanted to find out the answer. If her guess was correct, then her worries would become much more complicated than it already was.
Well, she thought. Maybe now’s the time to find out if my life could possibly get any worse.
“The Great Prophecy?” Beside her, Spottedspring shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t like prophecies. They almost always bring bad news, and they don’t make anything clearer.”
“I agree,” Juniperstorm nodded. “A normal prophecy? Maybe not so terrible. But a great prophecy...that could bring the worst to the Clans.”
All around her, cats muttered together anxiously. Snakepelt of ThunderClan hissed and flicked his tail, while behind him, Fawnstep of WindClan frowned deeply as though worried. A group of apprentices squealed excitedly, but their mentors’ stern glares quickly shut them up.
Lightningstar glared at Adderstar, his gaze unreadable. “I believe that we have agreed not to share the information without all the Clan leaders’ permissions.”
“I am sorry to break our agreement,” Adderstar’s voice was anything but sorry. “But I believe this is the right time to share the prophecy. A threat for the Clans is coming...and the Great Prophecy may be the only way to save us.”
A heavy silence fell across the island clearing. No cat spoke; their eyes were focused on the four leaders atop the Great Oak, waiting for one of them to reply.
“Well, then,” Maplestar sighed. “What is this threat you were talking about, Adderstar?”
“Our young warrior, Mallowbreeze, has had a dream,” Adderstar dipped his head towards the back of the crowd where the young WindClan she-cat was sitting.
Juniperstorm followed the Clan leader’s gaze, finding most other cats doing the same. Mallowbreeze, with all the cats’ attention on her, stood up bravely and faced her audience.
“I-I had a dream yesterday,” she blurted out, her voice shivering. “I was running in the dark. There were no stars, no light, so I wasn’t sure of my surroundings, but I knew that I was in a forest. Something terrible was on my trail, chasing me, and I was running away from it.”
She paused and looked around nervously, maybe waiting for some cat to offer comments about her speech. However, grim silence greeted her words. No cat spoke, and Juniperstorm thought she could understand why.
“This is too vague,” she muttered. “even if it was a vision, there’s no way of interpreting it.”
On the other side of the island, the medicine cats seemed to have the same thoughts as her. “Do you remember more details?” Starryleaf asked gently.
Mallowbreeze shook her head, looking devastated.
“Well, then,” Dawnblaze sighed. “Maybe we’ll have to wait for StarClan to share more. I’ll watch out for more visions.”
The other medicine cats nodded, and the talk ended.
“Now, now, Adderstar,” Hazelstar’s eyes glinted with false sympathy. “What do you wish to say?”
“I will share the Great Prophecy,” Adderstar didn’t seem embarrassed by the tom’s words. “With your permission.” He nodded towards the other three Clan leaders.
Lightningstar’s gaze flickered dangerously. Maplestar growled. Hazelstar almost unsheathed his claws, but Adderstar had left them no choice. The three cats nodded reluctantly.
Adderstar dipped his head with respect. “A long time ago, the leaders of all four Clans received a prophecy: The loss of the Clans draw near. Remember that, at the end, you can only rely on blood.”
Juniperstorm shivered. Most of the cats in the clearing looked scared out of their fur, too; only Mallowbreeze and the other leaders seemed unaffected.
“What does that mean?” someone from the crowd of RiverClan warriors called, her voice edged with fear and impatience.
“We believe that the prophecy refers to four cats from each Clan, Darkstem,” Lightningstar replied to his warrior. “Four cats that are all descended from the giver of the prophecy - a medicine cat named Mistylight.”
Darkstem’s gaze darkened. “You mean that the medicine cat had kits?”
“Yes,” Maplestar mewed calmly. “And after the prophecy was delivered, her kits were sent to the four Clans separately. According to the prophecy, these offspring will somehow save the Clans.”
“And who are these offspring?” Cloudfur demanded. Apparently even the deputy wasn’t aware of the prophecy until now.
Adderstar raised his head proudly. “Mallowbreeze!” he declared.
Mallowbreeze stood up, looking at the ground as though waiting for it to swallow her up.
Hazelstar’s eyes shone. “Shimmerspot.”
An orange tabby she-cat shifted from a crowd of ThunderClan cats, her gaze full of acceptance but also fear.
“Treehopper,” Lightningstar mewed. Treehopper moved forward as his name was called, his eyes wide with surprise.
This is it. Juniperstorm’s heart sank. And the ShadowClan cat…
“And finally,” as if sensing her thought, Maplestar stood up from her branch gracefully. “Juniperstorm.”
Juniperstorm got up, and the clearing broke into chaos.
Shimmerspot couldn’t even hear her own voice.
When the leaders finished their calls, a few cats in the clearing let out small whimpers of fear or disbelief. That was enough to make the whole crowd panic, and in a few heartbeats the island was in chaos, every cat yelling around, demanding to be heard.
“Enough!” Hazelstar yowled, his voice full of authority. Shimmerspot couldn’t help but admire the leader’s calmness in such chaotic situations.
The voices gradually died down, and all eyes turned to the Clan leaders atop the Great Oak. Some stole glances at the four cats still standing up - Treehopper from RiverClan, Juniperstorm from ShadowClan, Mallowbreeze from WindClan, and Shimmerspot herself from ThunderClan - before turning to face the leaders, which made Shimmerspot uneasy from ear to tail-tip.
When every cat had their attention on the four Clan leaders, Adderstar cleared his throat. “I believe that Mallowbreeze’s dream must be related to the prophecy, and if so, then these four cats- ” he gestured at Shimmerspot and the others- “would be the offspring destined to save the Clans from their loss.”
No cat spoke, and Shimmerspot was afraid that she knew the reason why. Adderstar’s announcement had indicated the fate of the Clans - a fate that meant disasters and destruction are yet to come, and the only cats able to stop this are four inexperienced young warriors who barely knew each other until now.
“So...has any cat had any clues about what “loss” we would suffer in the near future?” a tortoiseshell she-cat at the front of the crowd asked, her voice trembling slightly. Shimmerspot recognized her as Ivystep from ShadowClan, who is also Juniperstorm’s mother. And according to the Clan leaders, Juniperstorm was somehow her sister...Shimmerspot shivered as she thought about how big her family could possibly have been.
Meadowleaf shook her head from her seat beside the assembled medicine cats. “We haven’t gotten any signs,” her gaze flickered worriedly. Dawnblaze and Longskip, who was sitting right behind her, nodded to prove the point.
The cats in the clearing muttered together in hushed tones. A few looked at the Clan leaders, waiting for their guidance, but the four cats sitting on the Great Oak seemed unsure what to say, too. Shimmerspot knew that the Clan cats were on the verge of panic, and if even the leaders and medicine cats have no idea what to do next, then the situation must be several times worse than she thought.
After several moments, Hazelstar broke the silence. “It might not seem clear right now, but we will soon figure it out,” his tone welcomed no further discussions. “Now, let’s continue the usual announcements. I’ll go first.”
The ThunderClan leader started to report the affairs in his Clan from the latest moon, but Shimmerspot wasn’t listening. She stared half-heartedly at her Clanmates resting beside her, their eyes fearful and scared. She was a little hurt by their doubts in her ability, but mostly she was worried about the future of the Clans - what if she couldn’t save the cats she cared about most? What if she couldn’t stop the disasters in time? Most of all, what if it was actually her fault that the Clans got destroyed?
When she finally pulled herself away from those negative thoughts, Lightningstar, apparently the last to report, was finishing his speech about good hunting among his Clan. As the gray-and-brown tom ended his words, the other three leaders nodded their heads in respect.
“Let’s end the Gathering now,” Maplestar declared. She jumped gracefully off the Great Oak with Hazelstar right behind her, Lightningstar following with an accusing glance at Adderstar as though saying, look at this mess you’ve created. Now every cat is scared. Adderstar flicked his tail and hissed softly, but he also left the oak tree and joined his mate and deputy, Mousesky, who didn’t seem to appreciate his acts during the Gathering either. Or maybe it was just the she-cat’s usual grumpiness, Shimmerspot wasn’t sure.
“We’ll go back to camp now,” Hazelstar mewed as he walked towards the ThunderClan cats, lining up beside the tree-bridge and waiting to leave. Shimmerspot fell in line behind Sandflower, who was discussing something urgently with Birchdusk. They fell silent when they saw her, and Sandflower managed an awkward smile. Shimmerspot felt as if several claws were scratching at her pelt, but she didn’t say anything. If her Clanmates didn’t want to be close to her anymore, then there were only two things she could do about it: ignore completely, or try to win their trust. Shimmerspot was going to try out the first option before she figured out how to accomplish the second.
After that, the ThunderClan cats walked in full silence. Skypaw and Quickpaw still bounced around, but even they seemed to have lost their usual excitement. Normally, they should be discussing what to boast to Flailpaw now when they get back to camp.
“It’s not your fault,” Dawnblaze fell in beside her. “The prophecy was delivered several seasons ago. Your destiny was already written in the stars.”
“I know,” Shimmerspot muttered, not sure if Dawnblaze was trying to advise her or make her feel worse. “But I don’t know if I’m up to the task. I’m just a young warrior who can’t even protect her Clanmates. Why not choose someone else? Hazelstar would be able to do it, or Acornwing, or you. Why choose me?”
“That question could only be answered by StarClan,” Dawnblaze’s voice seemed to carry the wisdom of the stars. “But have faith in yourself, Shimmerspot. I know you would be able to do it.”
Shimmerspot looked the old medicine cat in the eyes. His warm amber gaze looked like pools of sunlight, showing no pity or disgust, only acceptance of its own destiny and faith to be able to accomplish it.
“Thank you, Dawnblaze,” Shimmerspot nodded with newfound respect. Dawnblaze smiled weakly, and for the first time Shimmerspot noticed that the tom’s whiskers were turning white, and his once flame-colored fur looked more gray than usual, even in moonlight.
“A-are you alright?” she stammered.
Dawnblaze’s gaze darkened. “Flailpaw will be able to succeed me. She has the talent.”
“But - ”
She never finished the sentence. As the group neared the camp, Shimmerspot saw a small dark shape running towards them. She focused harder and recognized Flailpaw, the she-cat’s expression scared and urgent.
“You have to come quick,” she glanced nervously at Acornwing and Hazelstar. “It’s Pondflick - he’s dying.”
Shimmerspot raced into camp alongside her Clanmates, but when she heard Acornwing’s anguished yowl ahead, she knew it was already too late.
“I’m so sorry,” Flailpaw murmured somewhere to Shimmerspot’s left. She spotted the apprentice standing beside her mentor, the two medicine cats talking in hushed tones. The pale brown she-cat’s eyes were wide with fear and guilt.
“It’s not your fault,” Dawnblaze stared at the starry night sky, as if wondering which star Pondflick has become. “He is in the paws of StarClan now.”
Judging by the look on Flailpaw’s face, the apprentice was not reassured. Shimmerspot could understand why. Pondflick was the first cat to pass away under Flailpaw’s care; she must have felt terrible, losing a patient she might have been able to save. But the tom’s death was not her fault.
“Flailpaw,” Shimmerspot blurted, trying to fight down the sadness in her chest, masking it with forced calmness. “Pondflick had his own destiny, his own life. It was his time to go. I’m sure he will be happy in StarClan, and he wouldn’t want you to blame yourself like this.”
In truth, she wasn’t sure if she was trying to persuade Flailpaw or herself. Pondflick’s death weighed like a stone in her heart; the more she thought about it, the heavier it became, trying to drown her in a pool of despair.
Nevertheless, Flailpaw, looking somewhat slightly better, gave her a grateful glance. Dawnblaze also nodded with respect before disappearing behind the camp entrance.
The look on their faces made Shimmerspot wonder if maybe, just maybe, the tragedy today might bring ThunderClan closer together.
* * *
When Shimmerspot arrived into camp, her Clanmates were already preparing for the vigil. The elder Olivetail dragged Pondflick’s lifeless body to the center of the clearing, and Acorwing crouched beside her fallen son, burying her nose into his damp fur as if taking in his scent for one last time. Pondflick’s best friend, Splashleaf, has collected mint and rosemaries from the medicine den and was now rubbing the tom’s body with the herbs, but still unable to mask the scent of death that hung in the air around the white tom.
Shimmerspot almost bumped into Wavespeck, who was lingering at the edge of the crowd and didn’t even seem to have noticed her. The tortoiseshell queen’s eyes were distant and unfocused, as if she was trapped in her own world of sadness. Shimmerspot suddenly remembered that Wavespeck was Pondflick’s sister, his only littermate.
Growing up as the only kit in the litter, Shimmerspot had never experienced the loss of a sibling before, but she could understand that it must be painful. She didn’t trust herself to speak, in fear that she might say the wrong thing and make Wavespeck’s heart more pained.
“He is safely in StarClan now,” the murmur was all she could manage.
Wavespeck’s expression hadn't changed, nor did she acknowledge Shimmerspot’s words. Shimmerspot decided to give the she-cat some space, so she moved aside to join a group of warriors already preparing for the vigil.
She walked stiffly over to Pondflick’s body and settled beside Acornwing. The grieving deputy was too anguished to pay her any attention, so she sat without a word. She looked at Pondflick, finding the tom’s expression peaceful, as if he was just taking a short nap and would wake up any moment.
Where are you now, Pondflick? Shimmerspot’s thoughts drifted back to the day when the white tom and her hunted together - Pondflick’s last hunt. She kept thinking that if she had reacted faster, taken Pondflick back to camp faster, or simply refused to go hunting with him altogether, the lively ThunderClan tom would still be alive. Of course, Dawnblaze and Flailpaw and everyone had reassured her that it wasn’t her fault, but she knew it was. The prophecy the Clan leaders delivered at the Gathering - didn’t it say that Shimmerspot was somehow linked to a “loss of the Clans”? What if the loss meant Pondflick? And...what if the leaders misinterpreted the message, and she was actually the cause of this tragedy?
Everything made sense now. Her Clanmates’ disgusted stares. Wavespeck and Acornwing refusing to talk to her. Flailpaw feeling reassured that Shimmerspot thought the death was not the apprentice’s fault. Because they all had their doubts - that Shimmerspot was actually the one to blame.
The truth sent a shiver through her numb limbs, making her stagger backward. Splashleaf on her left let out a small hiss of annoyance. Acornwing didn’t even lift her head.
“What’s wrong?” Rosedawn asked gently. Shimmerspot found the reddish-brown she-cat standing at her back, staring at her worriedly.
She shook her head in exasperation. “It’s none of your business,” she snapped a bit too angrily.
Rosedawn’s eyes widened with shock and hurt. “Fine,” she muttered. Then she added with a scowl, “you’ve changed, Shimmerspot. You’re more...I don’t know. Angry and lonely, I guess.”
“I’m not angry nor lonely,” Shimmerspot growled, but even she could hear the hurt and doubt in her own voice. A small part of her wondered if Rosedawn was telling the truth, but she pushed that thought away quickly. “Now, leave me alone if you don’t want that anger you mentioned spilled in your face.”
Rosedawn nodded, her eyes betraying only a faint flicker of uncertainty before they became icy cold. The young she-cat trotted off to the other side of the clearing, leaving Shimmerspot alone in silence.
Only after the red she-cat disappeared out of Shimmerspot’s sight did she realize that what she said might have been a bit too harsh. But what could she have done, anyway? She couldn’t tell Rosedawn about her own doubts over Pondflick’s death. The warrior might have already been suspecting that it was her fault, and hearing herself saying this will only make things worse. Still, Shimmerspot knew that she shouldn’t have snapped at Rosedawn. That was a selfish thing to do, spilling her anger at innocent cats. She decided to apologize to the she-cat later.
She forced her troubles to the back of her mind and focused on Hazelstar, who was also getting ready for the vigil. The broad leader crouched between his warriors, his eyes flicking in the soft white moonlight. Dawnblaze, seated at the head of the group, stood up and gazed at Pondflick’s body with deep sadness.
“May StarClan light your path, Pondflick,” the old medicine cat spoke the ancient words of the funeral in a grave voice. “May you find good hunting, swift running, and shelter when you sleep.”
The whole of ThunderClan lowered their heads in respect, wishing Pondflick well for his journey to StarClan. Shimmerspot could almost see the silver outlines of Pondflick, giving his former Clanmates his thanks and getting ready to join the stars.
With that comforting thought, she lost consciousness and fell to the ground with a pang, vaguely aware of her Clanmates’ distant yowls.