For far too long I have been down here in the shadows of this place. I have seen many cats come and go; the days and nights, intelligible so deep beneath the surface, recognizable only by the shifting of light flooding through the openings in the ceiling and forms pools of light on the rippled stone floor.
Nearby flows the river. It is a mass of soft, black water, its whispers the only things which I hear besides the mutterings of the wind, and the pressing silence which speaks with a voice of its own. The river, I find, is soothing to an ancient Guardian such as myself; though of course it is deceitful in its calm. When water thunders through the openings in the ceiling, splashing into the caves, rattling over rock, the river drinks in the falling rain and rises, swelling, flooding the tunnels darkened by endless seasons of emptiness of life.
How long ago did I come here, some ask me. How long have I protected these tunnels, guiding the fates of both the tribes, now only the Ancients, and the destinies of the Three? Foreseeing the future, the end, always knowing the outcome of every battle, when every death comes, when another poor soul ascends to StarClan?
Even I do not know the answer to this. I have been in these tunnels for what feels like endless generations, countless lifetimes. My body is twisted in its spirit. But my sense of purpose is undiminished. All I know is that I am doomed to be forever within this place, always the Guardian of the underground, always the watcher and waiter of what events are soon to come...until, of course, my service is ended. I do not need eyes to see, as do these cats of the surface world. I see in other ways, in ways that not even the starflecked ones in the sky know of.
Peace has not come to the lake. Not yet, and never. There will always be unrest with four such hostile Clans, with four groups of cats who will spill blood over the slightest and most ridiculed of issues. But since the Three have come, found the fourth cat who protected the Clans, and since they fulfilled their destinies to both the Ancients and to their own tribes, there has been peace...relative peace, considering what they had to go through to earn it, with the Dark Forest and its rising.
Now there is new trouble dawning. It is a new age for the Clans, a new time when they must face this unnatural threat. Because to some cats, it could be a lot closer to home than any could ever realize.
Prophecies have been cast once again. I have heard their whispers, and I sense that my strength is failing. Soon, I will diminish into total nothingness, to fade, my task in the tunnels done. I will exist no more, if the destiny that this one wields can be completed.
From my place upon the stone crag, I watch and I wait. Then I hear her approach.
She is lost and afraid. It is unsurprising, considering her age. But she has heard the stories from her mother many times before, so she is perhaps not as scared as she should be.
Then she emerges into the full light of the cavern. She pauses, staring in wonder at the river, and then up at the stone crag where I crouch, watching her, waiting for the first movement to be made, to assure me that she is, indeed, the one. Now I see recognition flood into her gaze, dark azure like a shadowed sky. Nervously she approaches me, her gaze never leaving my own.
"Are you Rock?" she whispers in a timid voice. It is, of course, to be expected that she is nervous, when she first lays eyes on me. I look nothing like the dwellers of the aboveground world. But she is not afraid. Curious.
I nod my head. "Yes, little one. And I have long been expecting you."
She tips her head to one side in puzzlement. "You've been waiting for me?"
She is wise, I can see. She has wisdom, and the intelligence to comprehend. She is ready to know.
"For many, many seasons, I have waited for you to come," I say to her. "And now you have arrived." I allow a trickle of curiosity of my own to come into my voice. "Tell me, little one, why are you here?"
She is surprised by the question, but answers quickly. "I opened my eyes, and found myself in this place," she says. "I follow the tunnels, leading deep under the earth where the air grows cold and undisturbed, and then came to this chamber. The place where Mother says she first saw you."
I nod. "I remember when your mother came here, all those moons ago," I say to her. "She did her duty admirably. But her destiny is not what I have waited to tell you about. You already knew of her destiny, after all, but yours is different."
There is excitement, kindling in her eyes. "Do you know my destiny?" she asks.
"I know all; knowledge is a heavy thing to burden," I say in response. "I know of the future. Of your future."
"Do you know my name?" she asks, as though daring me.
I let no amusement or anger cloud my senses. "I do, little one, though I prefer it to come from your own mouth," I respond.
She hesitates, and then she says, "Skykit. My name is Skykit."
"And why, Skykit, have you come to the tunnels?"
Her voice is strong when she responds. "To learn of my destiny."
"And you are promised a great one," I say to her, pleased with her response. She is quick-minded for one so young, ready to learn. More than ready to grasp her powers for the first time, to accept the fact that a new danger is returning to the lake.
I allow silence to hang in the air for a moment, before I say to her, "You have many strange dreams, don't you, Skykit?"
She pauses, thinking, and then she nods. "A lot. They're always the same, though. I dream of the past. I dream of what happened with the Dark Forest long ago. I dream particularly of Firestar's death."
She seems confused, even afraid. "Why, Rock? Why do I dream of such a noble cat's death?"
I do not answer this question. "Tell me more about your dreams of the Dark Forest," I tell her. "Because though I already know, I wish to hear what you can tell me about them, placed into your own words. It helps in the knowledge that is soon to be bestowed upon you, and your ability to comprehend the information. The events in your dreams do not match with what happened in the Dark Forest."
She looks away, as though she cannot meet my blind eyes that see all. But I hear her speak clearly to me. Her voice resonates around the chamber where we stand.
"I see things which could have been, but never happened," she explains. "If Shredtail had killed Lionblaze, then ShadowClan would have fallen. If Hollyleaf hadn't been slain by Hawkfrost, then she would have lived another life. If Brambleclaw hadn't raised a claw against his half-brother, Ivypool would have killed him, and received the scars, the wounds, and the memory. If Firestar hadn't died from his wounds, he would continue to lead ThunderClan to this day. Brambleclaw would have still been deputy."
Now there is confusion in her gaze as she turns her eyes back up to my own. "What does this mean, Rock?" she wails plaintively. "I do not want to close my eyes every night to dream of the battle!"
I allow her echoes to fade, before I speak again.
"The battle which occurred in the Clans happened twenty-two seasons ago," I tell her. "Many, many moons before you were even born. It still haunts the minds of all the survivors. But your ability has been making you look into the memories of your Clanmates. And your gift has been making changes to your dreams of those memories."
"Ability? Gift?" she murmurs, confused.
"It is time," I tell her, gazing firmly into her own dark blue stare, "for you to accept the knowledge of your destiny. You have been born with an ability and a gift. Together, they make a power. Your ability is to look into the memories of others."
"Like Jayfeather's powers?" she asks.
"No. You two only share the same ability," I frown. "You can both look into the memories of others to find answers. You can both read minds, hear the thoughts of others echo in your head. But your gifts differ. His gift is to walk in dreams, to walk in the past to preserve the future. Combined, his ability and gift form his power, making him one of the Three."
She nods, beginning to understand now. "And what is my gift?"
"Your gift is the ability of insight," I tell her. "The power to see into the future."
Her eyes widen in wonder.
"I, too, possess insight, before you may ask," I say calmly. "My power of insight has grown very strong and accurate, in all my endless seasons beneath the surface, guarding the tunnels. You are only just beginning to understand your insight. But you will find that as you grow older and stronger, and you learn to wield your gift, your insight's strength will increase as well, until you can look far and accurately into the future, and serve as a great guardian for your Clan."
"ThunderClan," she murmurs. "My home."
Suddenly there is fear in her gaze. "But what does this mean, Rock? Why have I been chosen to wield this ability and this gift?"
"Because danger is coming to the Clans once more," I say, no longer refraining the truth. "StarClan will be of no more help to mortal cats. Their connection was damaged after the living and after worlds collided. Whatever warnings they may send to this world will be useless and impossible to understand. And so they have chosen a champion to protect the lake."
She is silent for a moment, before she mumbles, "Me?"
"You," I confirm. "Danger is returning to the Clans, Skykit."
"What dangers?" she asks timidly.
"You will learn of the threat in time," I tell her. "Because we have no time left. It is time for you to awaken; see the light that is growing stronger? The sun is rising. It is time for you to return to the above world, and to leave me in peace."
"But I have so many questions!" she cries. "I am not ready to return. Will I ever come back here?"
"We have no more need to speak to each other," I say, as her outline begins to fade. "But I will promise you, Skykit, that we will one day meet again, when we are ready to begin."
"So has all my time down here been a dream?" she asks. "It's all been happening in my head?"
"Dreams happen in your head, but they are real," I respond. "May you never forget the first meeting between us."
Then she fades completely, vanishing into the air like dust, as she awakens from her dream.
It is then that I feel the first strains of time touch me, and I feel the slightest of my strength begin to wane. I did not dare tell Skykit how uncertain I am of the future, because in light of what is to come, my insight fails me, and I know that the threat the Clans will face is real.
All I know is that there will be a sign. A clear sign, as bright as dappled leaves. That is when the danger will come to the Clans.
A danger so strong and so powerful that my insight cannot, for once, see what is to come.
This, she will find out for herself.
When the time comes that I will be of no more use in this world, I know that I will be ready to leave, and when the Clans will truly be alone. Relying on nobody but the daughters of one respected, and one feared and hated, to be their salvation in the ending days.