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The Unknown- by Stormy

Prologue

Heavy mist shrouded the treetops, alight with the weak dusk moonlight. The fog was so thick that a cat could barely see their own paws before them.

Let alone the glowing blue eyes of the cat, from just across the lake.

The cat appeared to be hunched over something, his or her tail sweeping across it, like he or she didn't want any cat to see. Even if it was possible through the fog.

Snappily, the cat's head darted around the clearing, scanning the area around them.

With that, they disappeared into the bushes, silent as a snake weaving through grass.

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"Completely unfair. Making us trudge to this StarClan-forsaken place at this time of night. And all this fog too! Great StarClan," the speckled tom griped.

The she-cat just sighed. "Shut up, Thistleshade," she grumbled, "This already is horrific enough without you complaining the whole way."

The pair were ungracefully skirting around the lake, tripping over stones and stumbling over tree roots on their way.

The lake had risen, so when the she-cat took a step forward, she was surprised to have her paw splashed into ice cold water.

"Fox dung!" she snarled, holding up her dripping paw.

"Quiet!" Thistleshade hissed under his breath, "I heard something!"

Just ahead of them, the bushes rustled, like something had darted through them.

"What was that?" the reddish brown she-cat whispered, "Do you think it could be a fox?"

Thistleshade flicked his tail over her mouth, and sneakily crept forward, low to the ground. He sniffed the muddy earth. 

"It was a cat," he murmured, "They were here. They passed this way. Along with another cat. Do you think this is where Darkblossom could've gone, Amberstrike?"

Amberstrike was about to step forward and investigate, but stopped dead in her tracks. A strangled cry of horror escaped her jaws.

Thistleshade whipped around. "What in the name of StarClan--?"

Draped over a rock before them, was a body of a she-cat.

Before, she must've been a beautiful new warrior, her pelt black with pinkish-ginger splotches.

But now, it was nearly blotted out with sticky clots of blood. The crimson was smeared all over her, practically bathing her.

Down her stomach, was a long vertical gash, stretching from her chest all the way down.

Then there were four identical bite marks on her throat, all oozing blood.

Instantly they rushed to her side.

"Great StarClan. It's Darkblossom," Thistleshade muttered, throwing in some vulgar language at the end. Surprisingly this time, Amberstrike didn't seem to mind his mouth.

She was too shocked.

"What do we do?" she panicked, "We have to go back and tell Mintstar!" 

"No!" Thistleshade growled, rounding on her. "You know how that would look!"

"What do you mean?"

"Cats would pin the murder on us. We can't have that. It makes us look evil."

"Well," Amberstrike whispered, "If we hide the truth, then how are we any better?"

Thistleshade didn't respond.

Pawsteps were heard. "Someone's coming!" Amberstrike hissed.

Slipping away unnoticably as the wind, they were able to escape just in time for a patrol to come around the edge of the crystal cold water.

Frightened cries rose up.

Amberstrike turned away, closing her golden eyes shut. "Let's go," she murmured.

"Wait," Thistleshade mewed quietly, "Not yet."

Slowly, he wrapped his tail around Amberstrike's flank.

She jerked away, disgusted.

Thistleshade purred with amusement. "Come on. Darkblossom's murder doesn't affect us directly. Why don't you lighten up a little bit?"

Amberstrike just rolled her eyes, sighing.

But deep inside, she could still see the image of Darkblossom, sprawled across a blood-soaked rock.

Chapter 1

Her head was pounding, her whole body felt heavy.

Slowly, Darkblossom opened her eyes. She could still see, even though her vision was shaky.

She stood next to the icy blue lake. The water lapped at her paws, although she could barely feel it.

Her paws seemed numb. Yet warm.

But as she turned, she was greeted with a ghastly sight.

It brought her back, years before, when she was walking out to find her father. Smiling. Laughing.

Like nothing could ever go wrong.

But instead she came across his body, limp. Dangling from a tree, red and sticky.

But then and there, she saw what happened to her. Why she was there.

Her body lay across the rocks on the edge of the lake. She could barely make out her features, because she was so covered in blood.

I'm dead. I'm dead. She thought repeatedly. Cast out, murdered, left on the shore of the lake. Darkblossom wanted to cry, but couldn't feel the tears come. Instead, she stood, appearing utterly emotionless on the outside.

Slowly, she backed away. But her foot snagged on a stone, tripping her up, leaving her sprawling across the shore. Unthinkingly, she peered down at herself.

Uttering a quick gasp, she stood up, gazing at her own fur. Starlight adorned it, making it glitter and shine like never before.

"Darkblossom." A calm voice rang out behind her.

She jolted around in fright. Standing before her, was a pale gray she-cat with an exceptionally fluffy tail. Her fur twinkled with the mini orbs of light as well, even glimmering on her whiskers. Her eyes shone too, with a steady determination, yet an everlasting kindness.

Purring with amusement, she padded to Darkblossom's side.

"Welcome. My name is Swiftstep."

"Swiftstep... ?" she mewed, confused. "I have never known you. Isn't a member of my family or someone significant in life supposed to guide me to StarClan?"

Swiftstep's warm gaze suddenly grew dark and more drawn. "It is believed that I will be the best guide, for the times coming ahead for you."

"But will I see my sister? And my mother?" Once again, she tried to shake off the image of her sister hanging dead from the bottom branches of a maple, swinging in the breeze. Only to find that the image was permanently etched into her mind.

Slowly, Swiftstep nodded, and began to pad forward. Darkblossom found herself moving upwards as she padded forwards, past the treetops, along a starry path leading her up into the twinkling sky. For a moment, everything actually seemed all right.

But who murdered me? The cat had snuck up behind her, from the darkness so she couldn't see a thing until it was too late.

"Here we are," Swiftstep murmured.

The next pawstep Darkblossom took landed on a swath of lush grass.

Stretching before her, spanning her vision, were beautiful meadows dotted with wildflowers. Blue skies met with a golden sun.

Everything seemed so perfect, so cheerful. Only she knew better. Her mother, her sister, and now her, all cut down.

Urging herself to stop dwelling on it, she turned her attention to the view and to Swiftstep.

She padded into a forest, Darkblossom following closely. The trees arched overhead, in perfect health. A brook could even be heard bubbling up ahead.

"Before you reunite with your family, there are a few important things that I must talk to you about."

She had a bad feeling in her gut, but didn't show it.

"Like what?"

"Come up ahead, and you'll know."

The brook proved to be much closer than she had thought. Barely several fox lengths ahead, her paws hit the water, sinking into the mud. But it seemed strangely refreshing, instead of cold and repulsive.

Swiftstep settled down in a little sandy sip towards the edge of the stream, dry because of the gently sloping sides and screen of reeds.

She beckoned her forward, to join her.

Relucantly, Darkblossom obliged.

"Darkblossom, I believe your mother was involved in aiding the defeated Dark Forest to power again."

Instead of shock or betrayal, a wave of anger hit her.

"What do you mean?" she yowled, "My mother was one of the most caring she-cat you would've ever know, you heap of fox dung. What draws you to that conclusion? My mother would never do something like that."

"Yes, but your father might. Some cats would do anything for love, anything to heal their hearts."

"Now you're just talking nonsense," Darkblossom mumbled.

Swiftstep's eyes looked dark and sad. "You have to listen to me, Darkblossom. Trust me, I will always be by your side to help you."

Unwilling to admit that she was reassured, she snorted skeptically and turned away. The brook seemed to have calmed down, revealing little minnows that darted around beneath the surface. Darkblossom stood up. Clumsily, she smashed her paw through the water. To her surprise, one of the little fish was hooked on her claws. In one bite, she swallowed the whole body, smacking her lips.

She settled back down again.

"Do you know who killed me?" she inquired.

Swiftstep shook her head. "There are some things that not even StarClan know."

to be continued

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