|New Generation Series|
|Preceded by: |
|StarClan Calling||Succeded by: |
The greatest promise is made to a friend but can be broken by the thorns of betrayal...
Sandstorm left the meeting with her tail drooping. It was obvious Firestar was worried about Spottedleaf. Honeyfern caught up to her.
"Where are you going?"
"Home!" cried Sandstorm. She lashed her tail in anger. Honeyfern stepped back but said, "We have to help Leopardheart! She is your chosen! She needs us!" Sandstorm hissed, "I believe in Leopardheart but I refuse to help her free Spottedleaf."
Honeyfern began to speak but Sandstorm bounded away, with traces of tears on her cheeks. Honeyfern was upset. She did not know what to do. Sandstorm had been her mentor in the living world and even though they hunted with StarClan Honeyfern still looked up to the senior warrior. But Sandstorm could not help so Honeyfern turned to go home. Then she stopped.
She could help Leopardheart! On her own! Honeyfern raced to the Pond of Reflections and found Leopardheart. The young warrior was following a glowing trail, her head high.
Now I know where she is. thought Honeyfern. I just need to send her a sign. A calling......
Leopardheart's paws were aching and she was still following the glowing trail. she knew it was a sign from StarClan but she had found not a way out or her friends. She walked along glumly when she heard voices. Leopardheart crouched down and listened.
"Tigerstar says that this will help."
"Well I say we just kill them!"
"Dummy! 3 of them are already dead!"
"Well then that apprentice!"
"Yeah. I agree." The cats padded away and Leopardheart peeked out. There was a small opening in the ground. She padded over and sniffed inside. She could smell cats!
She hissed softly to see if they could hear her. Immediately, voices chroused and there was a hubub.
"Not another one! Why'd Dad throw me in here?!!?"
"Perhaps it's help!" said a softer voice. The gruff voice of a tom said, "Or they're just being sadistic again."
Then a voice Leopardheart hadn't heard for a while spoke. "Well, what are they going to do? We're already trapped here!"
Leopardheart gasped and meowed, "Mossnight?!" her friend had a sharp intake of breath and then she gasped, "Leopardheart?!" Leopardheart skidded down the hole and herded the 4 cats in it out. One was the silvery Mossnight. One was a large tom with black paws that Leopardheart identified as Blackstar. One was a beautiful tortoiseshell who looked overjoyed at being freed. The last cat was a tabby with a white underbelly. He looked like he just wanted to get away and go somewhere.
Leopardheart ran up and licked Mossnight's head. "I missed you!" she purred. her friend purred and said, "Can we go home now? I hate this place! But we need to get Spottedleaf and Blackstar home too!" she added, indicating to the tortoishell and white tom. The brown tabby was still sitting still.
Leopardheart padded up to him and said, "Who are you? Whay were you here?" the tom looked up and answered rather sulkily, "My name is Hawkfrost. I was in here because-" his voice wavered slightly, "I fell in love."
Leopardheart shrugged. Many cats had found mates but she knew that path wasn't for her. But she thought, no matter how silly falling in love was, locking a cat up for it wasn't right.
Leopardheart turned to the 3 other cats and said, "We need to leave. Now."
Turning back to Hawkfrost, she said, "I know you're not of StarClan. Go to where ever you need to go but we are leaving." Hawkfrost nodded and the 4 other cats swept past him.
After a few minutes Hawkfrost turned and ran up the slope, towards Tigerstar's training grounds.
Hawkfrost hurtled up the slope towards his father's training arena. He didn't even know if she would be there but he wanted- no. Needed to see Raincloud. He felt warm at the prospect of finally seeing his mate again. He didn't care what Tigerstar did this time. All that mattered was him and Raincloud.
Gasping for air, he slowed down as he approached the training area. He could hear cats shrieking.
And one of them was Raincloud.
He hurtled down the hill, more terrified then he had ever been before. He raced downward and yowled "STOP!!!!" when he got to the training area. Raincloud sprang off of a wiggling Tigerstar and dusted herself off. She looked up at Hawkfrost.
"You ruined on of my best training sessions you mouse brain!" There wasn't a mouse tail's worth of friendliness in her voice and her eyes were cold. Hawkfrost saw a glimmer of sorrow in her eyes but it was gone in an instant.
Hawkfrost knew what had happened. He had seen this expression on to many cats. Tigerheart, Brambleclaw, Ivypool, and even himself. This was the look that tore cats apart.
Tigerstar had gotten to his beautiful, sweet Raincloud and made her a monster.
Hawkfrost lowered his eyes and Tigerstar snickered. His father said, "Why don't you join our training session Hawkfrost?"
Hawkfrost nodded and tail drooping, walked into the clearing.
Mossnight ran, relieved at the chance to strech her legs. The 4 cats had been running for about an hour and they were still following a trail. Leopardheart had explained she could 'sense' where the others were so Mossnight had followed her. But she was beginning to doubt her friend. She was about to say something when they heard a faint noise ahead.
"Brightshadow." verified Leopardheart.
How do you know? Mossnight wanted to ask. But she had just learned not to question her friend too closely. The cats entered the clearing and Mossnight almost didn't see Brightshadow but when she swept her eyes over the clearing the second time she saw him.
The tom that was usually so confident was lying in the middle of the clearing, staring at nothing. Leopardheart ran to him and after a thorough examination she meowed, "He'll be fine. he's just had some emotional trama."
They picked up Brightshadow and dumped him on a branch.
Mossnight and the others began to pull the unconcious tom while Leopardheart took the lead.
Mossnight had several thoughts as she went through the forest. One was how much Leopardheart looked like her sister, Bramblepath. The other was that Leopardheart had better know where she was going.
Mossnight had been lost before and she didn't want to lose herself in this nightmare again.
Hawkfrost fell back as Raincloud's paw smacked his head. He fell to the ground and listened, heart aching, as she proclaimed her victory.
"Tigerstar, why is Hawkfroat so easy to beat?" she flashed him a smile, "It's like fighting a kit! He won't even fight back!"
You were my friend!! screamed Hawkfrost inside I loved you!
But Raincloud paid no intention to her old friend's hurt. She flounced to the end of the clearing and sat down. Tigerstar watched her happily. Hawkfrost knew he didn't feel for the apprentice, he knew he had created something so deadly that the 5 other cats of the phropecy might not stand a chance.
And- he thought miserably They think she's their friend. They couldn't hurt her. Just like me.
Raincloud sprang back up. "Can I go find Darkstripe?" she meowed. "He promised to fight me but he hasn't yet." Tigerstar rumbled, "He couldn't take on a starved warrior! But go ahead." he meowed. But before Raincloud could leave, the bushes on the other side of the training arena shuddered with the presence of many cats.
Leopardheart was running through the trees now. She had collected both Bramblepath and Scarshade and Brightshadow was awake. The cats including Spottedleaf and Blackstar were now running off. Leopardheart was scared. She had rescued almost all of her friends but Raincloud was still missing.
Most of the others just assumed that the Shadowclan cat's barbed remarks were a learned trait, for all ShadowClan cats were nasty, but Leopardheart saw deeper into the gray warrior. Raincloud hid deep pain inside of her and there were dark places in her mind that would never leave. And Leopardheart was scared that her friend had fallen into one of those deep voids and her friend, the real Raincloud, would never see the light again.
Leopardheart did not know of the shadowy night trips and training bouts that Raincloud took place in but she knew that her friend could fall prey to the evil cats that resided in the Dark Forest.
So, even though she knew her friends were tired, Leopardheart pushed the pace. Brightshadow had almost fallen completely behind but Bramblepath had caught him on her shoulder and was now hobbeling fastly while supporting her injured friend.
Leopardheart knew they would give out soon but they had to-
She smelled something. More cats. She quietly lead her friends through the braken to intrude on an interupted training bout....
Hawkfrost looked as cats stepped out from behind the vibrating ferns. The one in the lead was a dappled golden cat. But 6 more cats spread out behind her. Hawkfrost recognized Bramblepath as she took the lead from the golden cat. Bramblepath smiled, "Sorry if we're interrupting you....playfight." this drew a hiss from Tigerstar and Hawkfrost wondered if Bramblepath was trying to get killed. the brown tabby went on, "But you have our friend. Give her back."
Tigerstar opened his mouth but Raincloud stepped forword. "Who says I want to leave?" Hawkfrost felt a leap in his heart, thinking she had recovered and would stay with him. But the dappled warrior went on, "I have training to complete. Tigerstar is here and so I will stay." Hawkfrost felt his heart fall inside and Bramblepath narrowed her eyes.
"Raincloud, we have training for the phropecy. From much...better cats." Raincloud snorted. "Who says this is about the phropecy?! There are bigger things then StarClan. Tigerstar is teaching me things and I will soon rule the forest!"
Bramblepath looked at her friend in shock. Hawkfrost wondered if she saw the same thing in Raincloud's eyes that he had. A flash of sorrow. The old Raincloud. A puppet under Tigerstar's spell.
Bramblepath shook her head sadly, "Raincloud...you're my friend. I don't want to leave you here with him," she flashed a look at Tigerstar.
Raincloud laughed, "You don't know what you're talking about. You all could join us. We would rule the forest! No cat would ever be in danger and we would be complete and utter rulers!"
Bramblepath stepped forword on stiff legs, "You." she told Raincloud, "Are insane."
Raincloud hissed and the Bramblepath growled. Hawkfrost was worried. It looked like it would be a fight. Then-
Mossnight couldn't watch as Bramblepath and Raincloud began to circle. Raincloud was her best friend and Bramblepath was a great friend too! She leapt to her paws, "STOP!!!!" The 2 she-cats glared at her and Hawkfrost looked releaved. Mossnight felt scared but she stood up and walked over to Bramblepath and Raincloud.
"You guys are my best friends! I can't let you hurt each other! Raincloud," she turned to her friend. Now her voice was soft. She was no longer trying to convince them not to fight. She was trying to retrive her friend from a dark place that she could not see into. Mossnight almost cried. "Raincloud..you are my best friend. You're my sister practically. How can you do this to me? How can you do it to us? How can you do it to yourself?" Mossnight's voice became a whisper, "Please Raincloud. Please."
Raincloud turned and Mossnight thought she saw a flash of sadness. Then her friend spun around, her paw with claws unsheathed, scratching Mossnights face. Mossnight fell to the ground. Her face felt like it was on fire. Raincloud seemed about to attack again when a golden streak flew over Mossnight's head.
The golden she-cat had barrled Raincloud over and gave her a sharp cuff to the ear. Then she leapt up and with Brambeplath's help, picked up Mossnight and all the cats began running, lead by Leopardheart.
Mossnight knew they were almost to StarClan's hunting ground but even though she was excited to return home she felt a deep pain in her heart.
Raincloud isn't with us. I have failed. was all she could think as her friends carried her into StarClan.
Brightshadow ran alongside Bramblepath as they entered StarClan's hunting grounds. All the cats paused as they felt the Dark Forest loose its hold on them. Brightshadow could think much clearer and he felt stronger. He leaned over to Bramblepath, "I'm glad we're out of there!" she looked at him, her eyes shining with emotion, "I am too." but there was an even deeper feeling in their green depths. Brightshadow searched his mate's face, trying to find what it was. Then he realized, "You're not upset about Raincloud are you?!"
She looked at him, tears beginning to pool in her eyes, "I was supposed to save her! But I fought her! And Mossnight is injured and I lost her! It's all my faut!" Brightshadow laughed and Bramblepath looked at him in anger, "What?" He snickered, "Bramblepath. Just because you are the smartest, greatest, most beautiful cat that ever lived, doesn't mean that you have to be perfect!" Bramblepath looked at him, "I know. But I feel like I have to!" He sighed, "Look," Brightshadow said, his voice gentle. "You aren't perfect. But you don't have to be. You're like our leader and everyone knows leaders aren't perfect. No cat is."
They stood there and Brightshadow hoped she wouldn't ask-
"So, what made you so traumitized while we were in there?" she asked. Brightshadow stuttered "Uh..I. I mean....I-" then he realized she had told him everything, he should be honest with her. "Tigerstar told me that it was my fault we were there." she giggled, "Was that it?" he looked at her, "Yes"
"Oh Brightshadow, you daft furball." she twined her tail with his but just as she was about to say something the bushes in front of them rattled.
Leopardheart stared as the bushes in front of her opened to- Honeyfern??!!
The pale ginger she cat looked happy, "Thank StarClan it worked! I tried to help you but I wasn't sure that it would work! and it did! Oh I'm so happy! I was so scared for you! Are you ok? Oh no! Is Mossnight ok?"
As Honeyfern went on, Leopardheart remembered her trainer had a habit to talk a lot when she was nervous. Or happy. Or sad. Pretty much all the time. So she said, "Honeyfern, thank you so much! But we have a badly injured cat here and we need to speak to StarClan. Can you take us to the camp?"
Honeyfern nodded and turned around. She lead them back to the StarClan camp and Leopardheart breathed a sigh of relief as Spottedleaf broke away from the group and went into a medicine den. She and Bramblepath set Mossnight down on a nest of moss and feathers. The StarClan cats were emerging from their dens and looking at the new arrivals. Some kits gasped, "Look! It's them" said one. The kit's pelt was gray and white and Leopardheart spotted Bluestar sitting by the kit. Hello Mosskit. she thought.
Spottedleaf rushed out with a bundle of herbs in her mouth. She began spreading them on Mossnight's face. She told the other cats, "We can send you each back to your Clans now." Leopardheart nodded and within an instant, she was back on ThunderClan territory.
Scarshade stumbled. She was back in the lake. She vaugly remembered she had been swimming before Brokenstar had come. She swam out and ran to her camp. She could hear a patrol. Her mother, Mistystar was leading it. She ran to greet them and her mother yowled, "SCARSHADE!!!!" the patrol ran to meet the lone warrior and her Clanmates were all around her, purring and licking her pelt.
Home again. thought Scarshade. She followed the others back to camp and when she got there it looked the same as it had been. Scarshade almost cried. She was home! The deputy, Reedwhisker brushed against her pelt, "Welcome back!" he purred. Scarshade blushed. Reedwhisker had been her mentor and she had a tiny crush on him. Reedwhisker continued, "You were gone for 7 sunrises!" he sounded slightly impressed, "Where were you?"
Scarshade shrugged, "I....just went off on my own for a while." realizing how lame that sounded she continued, "But it doesn't matter. Mom won't punish me!" Reedwhisker purred.
Scarshade left her friend and padded to her den. She never wanted to dream again but she was exhausted. So she fell fast asleep.
To her relief, the next morning, she woke up without a dream in her mind. She streached and looked at the sky, "Almost sunhigh!" she exclaimed. She jumped out of her nest and headed to the river to catch some fish.
Bramblepath opened her eyes. She and Brightshaodw were back in the clearing they had started in. She breathed a sigh of relief. She began to run back to camp. Brightshadow called, "Wait! Where are you going?" she tossed over her shoulder, "Camp! Come on!"
When they arrived at camp they found out 3 facts.
- They had been gone 7 days.
- Bramblestar had lost a life fighting a dog, and then falling over the edge of the ravine.
- Bramblepath's sisters were becoming apprintices.
Bramblepath sat down as her little sisters proudly stood next to their father. Maplepaw was apprenticed to Jayfeather, causing a lot of laughing from the Clan and a lot of grumbling from Jayfeather. Cinderpaw became Icecloud's apprentice. Icecloud was happy and Cinderpaw was energetic bouncing around her seated mentor. Finally Spottedpaw was the only one left. The small tortoishell looked at the cats and brightened as Bramblestar said, "Spottedpaw, your mentor will be Bramblepath."
Bramblepath gasped and Spottedpaw barrleed into her. "You're supposed to lick me mouse brain!" she told her sister.
After the new apprentices were calmed down Bramblepath told Spottedpaw to lie down and they would train in the morning.
Bramblepath sank into her nest and almost instantly fell asleep. The last thing she remebered was Brightshadow sitting next to her.
Mossnight opened her eyes. She had herbs plastered to her face. she was lying in the WindClan medicine den. Kestrelwing said she had just had some kind of attack from a rogue. She could have gone back to the warriors den by now but she wasn't ready. Her heart still hurt. The others thought Raincloud was already gone, a lost cause. But Mossnight knew better.
Her old friend was in there. She had seen the flash of sadness, Tigerstar was just using her. And Mossnight knew Raincloud was just a pawn. Tigerstar would use her and then have Hawkfrost or someone else dispose of her. Mossnight couldn't let that happen. but she thought something funny had happened with Raincloud. Something with Hawkfrost.
Mossnight knew if it came down to Raincloud being disposed of, Hawkfrost would never hurt her. She didn't know why but he wouldn't. She had seen, when he saw her stop the fight, he was worried but thankful. He thought she was a savior.
He loved Raincloud.
The possibility hit Mossnight so hard that she actually yowled. After she had assured Kestrelwing she was fine, she thought more about it. It made sense. And maybe...Hawkfrost had been imprisoned by his father so Raincloud would train harder.
Mossnight sank into her nest. This infomation wasn't helpful. But at least she knew some more. She decided to tell the others about her idea when they met next. She struggled to remember when that would be.
Then she remebered. The night of the daytime gathering.
Hawkfrost was in his den. It was night, or what was considered night in the Dark Forest. The trees grew close together and foxes and badgers roamed around, attacking cats. Tigerstar was out now, attacking the foxes and badgers. Hawkfrost usually went with him but Tigerstar had a new partner. Raincloud.
When the other cats had left Raincloud had seemed shocked but then she recovered and strutted around boasting, "Did you see Mossnight's face?" she asked Hawkfrost for the millionth time that night, "She was shocked! She's so dumb!"
Hawkfrost had inwordly thought, She wanted to save you from this! Of course she's shocked! You betrayed her! And me. but he had nodded and laughed. If Raincloud talked to him without scorning him, he would reply no matter how wrong it was.
Raincloud walked in the den, "Look! Not a scratch on me! Tigerstar said I broke his record. I killed 2 foxes and a badger!" Hawkfrost gave a congragilitory murmer and turned over. Raincloud chatted away and Hawkfrost was content with listening to her voice.
The next morning, Tigerstar was in Hawkfrost's den. Hawkfrost knew he should have been expecting this.
"You really should stop thinking about Raincloud. We could use you in training."
"I don't want to be used anymore."
"Shame. I could put you back in that hole but that seems like a gift. You wouldn't have to watch Raincloud change."
"Just shut up. Leave me alone. You're just jealous."
"I had 2 mates. And both of them could last a day without attacking me."
Hawkfrost leaped at his father. Tigerstar easily swatted him aside and Hawkfrost slumped to the ground, a trickle of blood running from his mouth.
Tigerstar twitched his tail in satisfaction and walked out.
And for the first time in his life, Hawkfrost cried.
Raincloud watched as her old friends exited. She knew they were her enemies now. A part of her knew it didn't have to be like this, but she knew that it did. And they would have to deal with it.
She knew her friends and Hawkfrost had lost all faith in her. At least Hawkfrost still hoped. Whenever she sat by him she could feel his excitement. But she knew she had to lose him, Tigerstar had told her that to be a strong warrior she would have to walk alone. And if Hawkfrost couldn't accept that he would learn to.
Raincloud stretched in her nest, thinking hard. Why am I following Tigerstar? popped into her head. She shook it away and got up. As she headed to the training clearing she thought much about her transformation.
Raincloud came to the conclusion that when she had power she could do what she wanted, just as she got to the training clearing. And she needed to obey Tigerstar to learn how to get power.
Maybe one day she could love again. Maybe she could become a part of the phropecy again. Maybe she and Hawkfrost could be together. But she had to get power first. She remebered once long ago, she had sat in the Great Oak and realized that she wanted- no- needed power.
And the only way to get that was to stand back and watch the old Raincloud fade away and embrace the darkness that would lead to her light.
If you liked this read the following book, The Hunt!