Chapter 14 || The Darkening Forest
The first mark of the wolf’s claw hadn’t been far. Batchaser, Rushingpaw, and Cypressfall had walked a little ways before a dark forest came into view. The trees were clustered together, an eerie feeling in the area. Everything was silent except the pawsteps of the three cats.
⠀⠀Batchaser hadn’t been particularly excited for this journey. His pelt had been prickling the whole time, his teeth bared and his eyes narrowed. He was still furious over the fact that Rushingpaw hadn’t asked him about bringing along the crazy she-cat first, but tried to convince himself that all would be fine. After all, an extra set of paws wouldn’t hurt... right?
⠀⠀“So who created the Forgotten Eternity?”
⠀⠀Rushingpaw’s question snapped him back into reality. His blue eyes flicked to the runt apprentice, huffing and twitching an ear. Who cared? They wouldn’t be in here long anyway.
⠀⠀“Well,” Cypressfall began, “I’ve heard many tales over my decades here. That secret StarClan cats created it—”
⠀⠀“Like ThunderClan?” Batchaser scowled.
⠀⠀“Hey, shut it, dingo,” the calico snapped back. “I’m from ThunderClan. You should be careful—”
⠀⠀“Ohhhhhh great. We’ve brought along another useless ThunderClanner.” Batchaser growled and whipped his tail in Rushingpaw’s face. “You see what an annoyance you’ve invited to come with us?”
⠀⠀“Well...” The apprentice looked down. “ThunderClan really isn’t that bad. I mean—”
⠀⠀Batchaser whipped around, blue eyes slits. “I was murdered by ThunderClan. Don’t even try to defend them. They’re heartless idiots that care nothing about anyone else.”
⠀⠀“I’m right here,” Cypressfall hissed through clenched teeth.
⠀⠀“I don’t really care,” the black tom snapped. “I’ll never forgive ThunderClan or the lunatic cat that murdered me. So how about you just shut up? No one cares about your stupid stories.”
⠀⠀“Hey! I do!” Rushingpaw growled.
⠀⠀“Oh, good for you,” Batchaser sneered, “you’re being sucked into her trap. But that’s what they all get you to do.” His mind flashed back to Jackalstar and the notion of the ThunderClan leader filled him with even more rage.
⠀⠀Cypressfall curled her lip. “What’s wrong with you? I’ve never met such a cruel cat.”
⠀⠀Batchaser was quiet, brimming with anger. “You’re not the first to say that.”
⠀⠀The calico rounded on Rushingpaw. “How do you deal with him?”
⠀⠀The gray tom ducked his head, hesitating to speak. “He and Jackalstar showed me StarClan when no one else did. I died so early on I... didn’t have anyone there for me.”
⠀⠀“That’s about all he’s done for you, huh?” Cypressfall concluded with a huff.
⠀⠀Rushingpaw didn’t respond.
⠀⠀“Well, if you want to leave because you can’t handle my mouth then please, go. I’d really love for you to do that,” Batchaser growled.
⠀⠀“I’m good,” Cypressfall answered.
⠀⠀Rushingpaw was silent for a while before turning his head toward Batchaser, an angry glint in his eyes. “Why do you have to argue with everyone? We’re just trying to help but you push everyone down and make them feel horrible.”
⠀⠀“Cats have pushed themselves down enough,” he spat. “I’m just helping them realize who they truly are. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
⠀⠀Lies. Batchaser hated who he’d become, but it was the mask he had. He would not allow it to slip.
⠀⠀Rushingpaw’s claws flexed. “Well, I do! You make me wish I’d never met you!”
⠀⠀“I wish I hadn’t ever met you either,” Batchaser ranted. “But we don’t all get what we want. I was murdered, you died early, and now we’re stuck with a crazy she-cat who’s probably going to get us killed. So suck it up or leave. I don’t care.”
⠀⠀Rushingpaw flinched. “You’re not the only one that’s angry, Batchaser. I died too, and I don’t even know what happened to me. How do you think that made me feel?”
⠀⠀“Yeah? Well you didn’t lose the only cat that loved you!” Batchaser snarled, whipping around and scratching the apprentice across the cheek. Cypressfall watched, her paws rooted to the ground.
⠀⠀Rushingpaw looked shocked, his jaws gaping open. But he narrowed his eyes and leapt at the black tom, flailing his paws to scratch any part of him he could. “You’re a terrible cat, Batchaser!”
⠀⠀“Yeah, I know!” The black tom threw him off and wiped blood from his cheek, panting. “But you didn’t live nearly as long as I did. I saw more than you. So don’t act all special since you died early. You can blame your mentor for that one.”
⠀⠀Something flashed in Rushingpaw’s eyes but he didn’t say anything. “I hate you.”
⠀⠀Batchaser scowled. “I know. You’ve said that about ten times.”
⠀⠀“You two fight like kits,” Cypressfall suddenly grumbled. “We’re never going to make it through the forest if you two bicker and attack each other every two minutes. Apologize and let’s move on.”
⠀⠀Rushingpaw raised his chin, smirking at Batchaser. “Well? Go ahead, apologize.”
⠀⠀The ShadowClanner rolled his eyes. “As if. I didn’t do anything.” He whipped around and continued to walk on.
⠀⠀“Hey!” The apprentice’s angry mew sounded behind him.
⠀⠀Suddenly, a loud crunch filled the forest. Batchaser stopped, his ears swiveling upward and his eyes widening. The two other cats stopped beside him, looking around along with the warrior.
⠀⠀“Did you hear that?” Rushingpaw whispered.
⠀⠀“No, we’re just looking around the forest for no reason at all,” Batchaser said sarcastically.
⠀⠀Cypressfall twitched her tail. “I don’t know what lives in this forest. It could be anything.”
⠀⠀The black tom didn’t respond. He heard another crunch and whipped his head in that direction, standing as still as possible. His companions grew as quiet as he did.
⠀⠀Red eyes blinked open, meeting Batchaser’s gaze. The pupils turned to slits and suddenly a deep snarl filled the area. Then, a blur of gray dove claws-first toward the group.