Chapter 17 || Newcomers
The stranger’s voice rang in Batchaser’s ears.
⠀⠀“Safe now, hm?” Batchaser walked up to them, lashing his tail. The black tom was suspicious.
⠀⠀“Indeed.” The smaller one stepped up, the one that had spoken before, her yellow eyes dim against her brown and gray pelt.
⠀⠀“Batchaser, stand back.” Cypressfall moved forward, twitching a torn ear. “They saved us. Isn’t that right?”
⠀⠀The other cat, a bulky dark brown tom, moved forward. Batchaser could see his muscles rippling under his pelt. “That’s right. It’s why you should be grateful.” His eyes landed on the black tom, a fire burning within them. “Unlike your friend here.”
⠀⠀“He’s not my friend.” Batchaser was taken aback as he snapped his head toward the calico. “Just ignore him.”
⠀⠀“Excuse me?” the ShadowClanner hissed. “I’m the one that’s getting you out of this dump.”
⠀⠀“What are your names?” Rushingpaw crept up from behind the two, ducking his head as he asked the question, cutting off Cypressfall from responding to the black tom.
⠀⠀The she-cat purred. “I’m Pepperclaw.” She jerked her head toward the huge tom. “This is my brother, Spicetuft.”
⠀⠀Stupid names, Batchaser almost growled, anger spiraling in his chest. They didn’t need help. They were fine! The black tom turned away, narrowing his blue eyes as he stared through the forest. The three were close to the end of the Darkening Forest. Couldn’t they get out of this already and leave?
⠀⠀“How did you two get here?” Batchaser heard the perky question from Rushingpaw. He quickly spun around and jabbed the apprentice in the side with a paw, baring his teeth.
⠀⠀“Rushingpaw, you ask one more question and I’ll rip your pelt off myself. The wolves won’t even need to do that,” Batchaser spat.
⠀⠀Cypressfall rammed into Batchaser, her eyes ablaze. She leaned down and whispered in his ear. “These strangers helped us, kid. Stop being horrible and let us do the talking. For once.”
⠀⠀Batchaser shook her off. “Whatever. If you don’t want me to be myself that’s fine. I’ll just sit here and watch you all have stupid small talk.”
⠀⠀Cypressfall didn’t say anything, wrapping a tail around Rushingpaw and pulling him forward. Batchaser scowled.
⠀⠀“So, please.” Cypressfall’s purr sent Batchaser into a full-on rage. “Tell us how you got here.”
⠀⠀Pepperclaw piped up, a half-smile crossing her muzzle. Batchaser just noticed the three claw marks circled around her eye. The scar had paled and had been grown over with her own mismatched fur. Maybe a wolf had done that. Why do I care? Batchaser reminded himself. He slumped his shoulders and looked away in boredom.
⠀⠀“Well, Spicetuft and I grew up in ThunderClan.” Batchaser groaned out loud but was ignored by the other felines. “Our father was the leader. His name was Dogstar.”
⠀⠀“Dogstar? That is the DUMBEST name I’ve ever heard!” Batchaser exclaimed in a half-wheezing laugh. Cypressfall turned to glare at him and he snapped his jaws shut. “Right. Sorry, my queen.” The calico scowled and whipped around, angling her ears forward to listen to the story.
⠀⠀“Our mother... well, she had been a medicine cat. She and my father’s bond was sacred at one point... before she died. Lots of our Clanmates rejected us despite her passing, and even the other Clans had gotten a hold of the news. As soon as we had become warriors ShadowClan set out to kill us. We were terrified.” Pepperclaw looked down and her brother straightened up to begin talking.
⠀⠀Before he could do that, however, Batchaser snorted. “Uhhhhh huh. Come onnnn, does anyone here really believe that?”
⠀⠀He looked around and all the other cats stared at him.
⠀⠀“Oh.” He huffed and rolled his eyes. “I forgot we had three ThunderClanners here and a useless RiverClanner.”
⠀⠀“Hey! I’m not useless!” Rushingpaw protested.
⠀⠀“Keep telling yourself that,” Batchaser grumbled.
⠀⠀“What do you mean ‘does anyone really believe that’? Does anyone really believe what?” Spicetuft swiftly moved forward, his shoulders wider than Batchaser’s whole body.
⠀⠀The ShadowClanner craned his head up to meet Spicetuft’s eyes. “I’m not scared of you,” he growled, his claws curling into the ground. “So how about you stop trying to intimidate me? It just makes you look stupid.”
⠀⠀“Pepperclaw?” The dark brown tom whirled around. “Will you give me permission to claw him?”
⠀⠀“Just answer the question!” Cypressfall hissed. “Stop being difficult.”
⠀⠀“Hmph.” Batchaser shrugged. “I said that because I find it extremely hard to believe that ThunderClan would ever turn against one of its own.”
⠀⠀“What Clan are you from?” Spicetuft asked suspiciously.
⠀⠀The blue-eyed tom puffed out his chest. “ShadowClan.”
⠀⠀The ThunderClanner huffed. “Figures. But I’m not telling my story to you, anyway. You disrespect those that are dead.”
⠀⠀“I am dead, you dumb idiot,” Batchaser snapped. “I insult everyone. Don’t act like you’re so special.”
⠀⠀“Let’s just finish this story before you and that ShadowClanner fight,” Pepperclaw finally cut in. “Plus, we don’t want more trouble with wolves.”
⠀⠀Spicetuft nodded and set himself beside his smaller sister. The she-cat cleared her throat and continued. “Anyway, ShadowClan waged war against us. They murdered many of our cats. ThunderClan blamed us, but our father was the only one that really cared. That is...” Pepperclaw choked on a sob. “Until.... until...”
⠀⠀“Until?” Batchaser asked with a raised brow, annoyance clear in his voice.
⠀⠀“Until they killed our father,” Spicetuft finished.
⠀⠀Batchaser snorted and looked away.
⠀⠀“After that, the deputy became leader. His name was Rockstar—”
⠀⠀These are the worst names I’ve ever heard in my entire life.
⠀⠀“—and he kicked us out. ShadowClan had been spying on ThunderClan so they... they hunted us down. They murdered us in cold blood.” Spicetuft’s voice became rough. “Then we were in StarClan, where angry ThunderClan cats killed us for ruining our Clan. And now we’re here, and we’ve been living here for a long time.”
⠀⠀Cypressfall and Rushingpaw were quiet, staring at the siblings with sympathy. “I’m sor—”
⠀⠀Batchaser cut in. “Enough with the sob story. How’d you kill those wolves?”
⠀⠀The calico turned angrily. “Batchaser—”
⠀⠀“It’s okay,” Pepperclaw interrupted. “Show them, Spicetuft.”
⠀⠀The dark brown tom disappeared into the foliage for a few moments before he reappeared, dragging two weird things. Batchaser shoved his companions out of the way to look, cocking a brow. “What are those?”
⠀⠀“We call them Bow Arches,” Pepperclaw explained. “Basically, you strap them over your back, make arrows, and bite down on the clamp. This will fire the arrows. They’re quite deadly wolves.”
⠀⠀Another stupid, terrible name.
⠀⠀“Whoa! That’s so cool!” Rushingpaw exclaimed, running up to see closer. “Can we have some?”
⠀⠀Pepperclaw and Spicetuft exchanged worried glances. “Well, we don’t have many. We made these and our backups. We can’t give any away. We’re sorry.”
⠀⠀“So much for that.” Batchaser heaved himself to his paws, the black tom’s tail whipping behind him. “Cypressfall, Rushingpaw, let’s go. I’m ready to get out of here.”
⠀⠀Rushingpaw looked suddenly crestfallen.
⠀⠀“He’s right,” Cypressfall agreed, taking the ShadowClanner by surprise. “We need to leave before any wolves return. Thank you for your time, Pepperclaw and Spicetuft.”
⠀⠀“Of course,” Cypressfall nodded.
⠀⠀“Do you want to come with us?” Rushingpaw suddenly asked excitedly.
⠀⠀Batchaser whipped to the apprentice. “Rushingpaw, I swear—”
⠀⠀“Don’t worry,” Pepperclaw replied. “We’ve survived here long enough that it’s become our home. We can’t leave now.”
⠀⠀“Besides, I don’t think either one of us wants to hang around that ShadowClanner,” Spicetuft growled.
⠀⠀Batchaser shrugged. “Fine with me.”
⠀⠀“Let’s go,” Cypressfall said, pushing past the black tom and leading the way. Rushingpaw was on her heels.
⠀⠀Batchaser stared at the two, turning and beginning to walk off. But there was a nagging feeling in his stomach. He wanted to ask them something.
⠀⠀“Do you two.. still.. like StarClan?” Batchaser asked without warning, turning to stare at them.
⠀⠀Spicetuft look surprised but then scowled. “No. Why would we ever like them? They did nothing when our former Clanmates murdered us. They don’t care about anyone.” Pepperclaw silently nodded her head along with her brother’s words.
⠀⠀The black tom gulped, nodding and turning to walk off. And those thoughts of StarClan didn’t leave his head all day.