|Destiny of the Clans Series|
|Preceded by: |
|Shattered Hopes||Succeded by: |
The Journey Begins
“Three will come again; the bright-eyed Jay, the prickly Holly and the brave Bolta.”
Hollypaw jolted awake but the words still whispered in her ears. She didn’t understand. Was StarClan giving her a message? And if they were, why weren’t they giving it to Flightfeather? After all she was the medicine cat. And Flightfeather knew what to do. Hollypaw had no idea.
Hollypaw looked up from her nest. Rowanberry stood at the entrance to the apprentices den. “Come on,” she mewed. “Time for battle training.” Hollypaw briefly wondered if she should share her dream with her mentor but quickly shook the idea out of her head. Rowanberry would get worried, and anyway she was a warrior; she wouldn’t know what to do either. Getting to her paws, Hollypaw shook scraps of moss and bracken off of her pale ginger fur. She leaped out of the den and followed Rowanberry through the thorn-tunnel. It seemed like moments to get to the training hollow, probably because she was still half-asleep and thinking of her dream. Rowanberry stopped in the centre of the training hollow, Hollypaw by her side. "Right," she mewed. "Attack me." Hollypaw blinked. She then remembered this was battle training and dropped into a hunter's crouch. She studied Rowanberry carefully. Judging by the way she was leaning slightly to the left meant she was going to dodge to the right. Hollypaw sprang forwards. She had guessed correctly; Rowanberry did leap to the right.
Hollypaw managed to push her over onto her back. She did an easy but useful move and clawed her belly, making sure her paws didn’t actually touch her mentor. Rowanberry had gone limp so it was quite easy. But she had to cling on tightly because she knew any second she wound leap upwards. When Rowanberry did lunge upwards, Hollypaw was already ready. She clung tightly to her dark ginger belly.
“Okay okay,” Rowanberry panted. “You’ve squashed me as flat as a leaf!” Hollypaw realized her mentor was in pain and quickly jumped off. Rowanberry shook sand off of her fur. Hollypaw, now completely awake, noticed how clumsy Rowanberry was. Usually she could beat her every time they did battle training but this time Hollypaw had managed to knock her over. She had tired her mentor out with a simple move! What was wrong with Rowanberry? Was she ill? Hollypaw then realized she was staring and looked away quickly.
“I think that should be enough for today,” Rowanberry meowed, still panting slightly. Hollypaw knew something was wrong now. Usually if they did battle training they would do it until it got dark, laughing and joking the whole way through. “Come on.” Hollypaw nodded and followed Rowanberry into the undergrowth. Hollypaw sat and wolfed down her fresh-kill. Her sister Snowpaw was approaching and the last thing she wanted was to have to talk to her.
She didn’t want to talk to anyone. All Hollypaw wanted to do was curl up in her nest and think things over. But before she could escape Snowpaw was by her side.
Snowpaw studied Hollypaw and for a moment it was hard to believe that she couldn't actually see her.
"Hey," Snowpaw meowed. Hollypaw couldn't help but noticing that Snowpaw was staring past her. Glancing behind her she saw Blackpaw.
Blackpaw, Hollypaw thought furiously. Why does she like Blackpaw? He's nothing but an annoying furball!
"Hi," Hollypaw meowed, finding it hard to keep her voice cheerful. "What's up?" Snowpaw jumped and turned her gaze back to Hollypaw.
"Nothing much," she meowed. "Have you seen Nightfall?" Hollypaw shrugged. Then she noticed the dark tom talking to Icepool below HighLedge. She flicked her tail towards him and Snowpaw leaped forwards towards him.
Well I'm glad that’s over.
Hollypaw licked her lips and then turned back to the apprentice's den, suddenly exhausted although she had nothing to tire her out.
Hollypaw woke at dawn the next day. Three will come again, the bright-eyed Jay, the prickly Holly and the brave Bolta. The words still played over and over in her mind, louder this time. She spent a while in her nest trying to remember her dream.
But it had slipped from her mind.
“Hollypaw,” a paw prodded her side. Hollypaw blinked realizing she had fallen asleep.
“Battle training,” she croaked. “Yeah I know. I’m just coming Rowanberry.” Scrabbling to her paws, Hollypaw shook out her fur and stretched, blinking sleep out of her eyes. How come she was so tired all of a sudden? Surely she hadn’t caught whatever Rowanberry had? But at the same time it felt likely, she could barley open her eyes. Hollypaw turned around and felt her fur grow hot with embarrassment. She had called Robinsong Rowanberry! Eyes round, she mumbled hurried apologies.
“It’s okay,” Robinsong mewed, looking slightly amused. “Come on. Rowanberry doesn’t feel she’s up to training today.” Hollypaw nodded. It didn’t come as a surprise; she had kind of expected it. Hollypaw followed Robinsong out into the hollow. Now this surprised her. The whole of the hollow was covered in a thick layer of ice. Yesterday it had been just fine. Carefully she padded across the hollow. Robinsong wrapped his tail around her neck as they came to an especially slippery bit and soon they made it across the camp. They plunged into the tangle of brambles and ferns and emerged, not at the training hollow, but at Sky Oak.
“We’ll do some hunting practice today,” Robinsong told her. “First I want you to tell me what you can smell. Close your eyes.” Hollypaw did as she was told and began to explore the world around her. A mouse was scrabbling around at Sky Oak’s roots. She could hear its tiny heart beating and its paws scratching. In the top most branches of the Sky Oak was a squirrel. She could hear its bushy tail sweeping across the branch that it was sitting on. Hollypaw let her senses flow further, out towards the lake. She could hear fish splashing in the lake and to her surprise she could hear ShadowClan
warriors by the shore.
“Elderflower, get back!” meowed one of the warriors. “You’re not a RiverClan warrior anymore!”
“Oh come on, Yewtail,” meowed a soft voiced warrior. “Don’t tell me you don’t miss the feeling of water.” Yewtail let out a longing sigh and Hollypaw could imagine her gazing out at the rippling lake. Then Hollypaw sensed another cat beside them.
It was another she-cat; she was keeping back from the other two cats.
“I won’t tell,” meowed the she-cat. “I promise.”
“Thank you Honeypaw,” Elderflower mewed. “Come on Yewtail!” Hollypaw heard a loud splash as the two former RiverClan warriors plunged into the water.
“Hollypaw,” Hollypaw jumped and her eyes flew open. She had completely forgotten about the training session.
“Oh yeah,” she meowed, dropping into a hunter’s crouch. “I’ll go get the mouse.” Hollypaw stalked forwards to the base of Sky Oak. The mouse was just inches away. She sprang but before she could land, the mouse sensed her and scurried into the hollow trunk. Hollypaw followed it. The inside of the Sky Oak was slightly scary. It was quite small but the very tall; she guessed it went all the way to the top most branches. Then, just as Hollypaw was about to spring she scented a familiar scent. Closing her eyes, she drew in her breath. It was her own scent! And Snowpaw’s! But as Hollypaw continued to draw in the scents, she found the smells of three unknown cats. Two she-cats and a tom. All the scents carried the same milky smell so they must have been there at the same time. Milky scent, Hollypaw thought. A queens milky scent and her four kits milky scents. But this queen was not Cloverpool. This cat was another cat all together...
Jay slept soundly that night. She was away from her Cleo, Spike, Tawny and Aidan at last. Alone; that’s what she liked. To be alone with her thoughts. She closed her eyes and memories of the open window came flooding back to her. What had she done? She had made the still morning suddenly a howling gale and nobody had noticed. Why hadn’t anybody noticed? Jay got to her paws and left the room. She imagined milky moonlight flooding in through the windows, casting weird shadows down the staircase though all she could see was blackness. Jay returned to the room with the open window and leaped onto one of the strange boxes so that she was level with the window-sill. Closing her eyes, she thought hard of storms. A strong gust of wind almost pushed her off of the box. Jay gasped in surprise and then began to think of a light breeze, just enough to touch her fur but not enough to ruffle it. To her surprise, it worked. A purr escaped her mouth as she realized what she could do. I can control the wind! Jay jumped down off of the box. She hadn’t realized how tired she was. Following her scent trail back to the room she had been sleeping in, Jay thought that she could hear paw-steps. Deciding it was nothing but her imagination; she carried on and curled up on an old and dusty rag.
It seemed like only seconds to Jay when the door creaked open. Leaping to her paws, she hissed and spat at the intruder, backing away. Then she tumbled into something. What was it? Another cat? Panicking, Jay scrabbled blindly, losing all sense of direction.
“Jay,” Jay calmed slightly as she recognized Bolta’s voice. “Can you see me?” She stopped struggling, turning her head in the direction of Bolta’s voice. The truth was all she could see was blackness but she could imagine the jet-black she-cat but she could imagine Bolta clearly.
She imagined sleek her black fur and her amber eyes, standing uneasily by the doorway and staring at Jay. Jay knew she was staring at her because her fur had grown hot with the scorch of Bolta’s gaze.
“No,” Jay had decided against lying. “I can’t see you.” Jay knew that Bolta’s eyes had softened. She didn’t know how. She just knew.
“Does your mother know?” Bolta asked. “Or any of your family?” Jay shook her head. Then she remembered the pity she had felt in Rory’s gaze.
“I think Rory knows,” she meowed. “But we’ve never talked about it.” Jay imagined Bolta nodding. “Please don’t tell anyone,” Jay added quickly.
“I’ll tell you a secret,” Bolta meowed, taking Jay by surprise. “If you promise not to tell anyone.”
“Of course I won’t tell anyone,” Jay replied immediately. Bolta nodded and sat down. Jay sensed her sadness as if it were her own. Of course she wouldn’t tell.
“When I was younger,” Bolta began. “I had a mate. His name was, Jacob. He was perfect, beautiful, an excellent hunter and very skilled in battle. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was that a cat like him actually liked me. Very soon I was expecting his kits. He stuck by my side. He hunted for me and made sure I had shelter and warmth. When I could no longer move from place to place, we lived in this very house. Then came the day that the kits were born. Jacob said he knew a cat that could help me and disappeared. The cat he had gone to collect came to help me. But where was Jacob? The cat, Rowan, said he had gone to catch me a mouse. But I never believed her. At first I thought that Rowan had hurt him, done something terrible to him. But then I realised that Rowan was barely six moons old. How could she possibly hurt Jacob? He was so brilliant in battle. It took ages for the kits to be born but at last all three of them were curled beside me in the freezing, draughty room. I named the two toms Henry and Finn and the she-cat Flora. They all looked like Jacob except little Henry. He was black like me. When they had fallen asleep, I wrapped them in a rag and went out into the freezing night. Rowan had left straight after Flora, Finn and Henry had been born and her paw prints had been covered by snow. I didn’t know where she had gone. I didn’t know where to find Jacob. I searched and searched but I couldn’t find either of them. Where had Jacob gone? He couldn’t have just left me. Then I remembered the kits, asleep and wrapped in rags. Alone and cold and completely unprotected.... I returned to the house to find it deserted, completely empty. Where were my kits? Where were Flora and Finn and Henry? I searched until dawn and then curled up in the room were my kits had been born. I was just about to fall asleep when I realized something was wriggling by my side. Quickly, I got up to find Henry under the rags. He was freezing and probably starving to death. I curled up against him and let him feed. But I was so exhausted I couldn’t stay awake to make sure he was fine.
When I woke up Henry was shivering and trembling. He was dying... It was too late. I couldn’t do anything for him except for stick by his side. It took a long time, but at last he was still. I buried him in outside. I believe it was next to the spot were Tawny buried your brother.” Jay’s eyes widened in surprise. She had had a brother? Why hadn’t anybody told her? “I went away then. I didn’t know where I was going, all I knew was that I had to get away from the house. I travelled from place to place but no cat was kind enough to take me in. No cat was kind enough to take me in except for Lido. She had had kits. Her mate had been Utri but they had had an argument before I had come. Utri stuck by Lido though, even though they were no longer together. I watched Lido’s only kit; Willow grow up. I helped Lido raise her and even thought of Willow as my own kit. But soon Willow was no longer a kit. She left us to find her own home. Soon it was only me, Lido and Utri living in a sheltered wooded area not far from here. We were soon joined by Lily and Smudge and Rory came after them. The clearing became too crowded and it was clear that we would have to move to a new home. We went to this house. I was very unhappy about it but managed to push the memories of my mate and my kits out of my head. Aidan and Tawny stumbled across us about nine moons ago,” Bolta finished. “I haven’t been in this room since I had my kits.” Jay tried to imagine Bolta young and scared. Somehow she couldn’t. She had always thought Bolta was tough, strong and untrusting. Now she knew why.
Jay was lost for words. How could any cat have such a terrible past? And what had happened to Flora, Finn and Jacob? Could Jacob, perhaps, have stolen Flora and Finn and gone into to hiding?
“I –I’m sorry,” Jay stammered Staring at the spot where she knew Bolta was standing.
“It’s not your fault,” Bolta murmured although Jay knew she was trying to convince Jay it wasn’t just as much as she was trying to convince herself.
“I really am sorry,” Jay meowed. “I must remind you of your own kits.” Bolta began to tremble. Jay approached her and pressed against her side. They sat there for a while staring at the rags in the middle of the floor. “We’ll find them,” Jay promised. “We’ll find Flora and Finn.”
To find out what happens next, read The Journey Begins!