Chapter 18 || The Lost Maze
The three had been walking for so long Batchaser thought his legs might snap off. His jaws were drawn into a half-snarl, panting heavily and feeling his wounds from the wolves wearing him down heavily. The conversation with those stupid siblings hadn’t left his mind all day. They disliked StarClan just as much as he did. So why was he in such a hurry to get back?
⠀⠀An image of Jackalstar flashed into his mind. He snorted to himself, lashing his tail. I don’t care about her. She’s a horrible brat, worse than Cypressfall or even Rushingpaw. Besides, it’s not like I want to see Shellstar. Maybe this is a bad idea.
⠀⠀Batchaser did wonder. Was this a bad idea? They’d already gotten this far... it’s not like the black tom was going to turn back now. That would be stupid.
⠀⠀The ShadowClanner didn’t want to admit it, but he thought it might be because he was lonely by himself. At least in StarClan he had a few cats to interact with. Unlike here, he’d be alone with those stupid wolf-cats if he stayed. So Batchaser wasn’t going to do that.
⠀⠀The curious voice of Rushingpw snapped Batchaser out of his thoughts. His ears angled forward, his brows knitting together as he followed his companions’ gazes.
⠀⠀In the distance, something large jutted out of the ground. Batchaser couldn’t tell what color it was, but he knew it was most likely the next challenge. The black tom huffed and continued to move on, his tail twitching. “Come on. We’re almost there.”
⠀⠀Cypressfall looked uncertain but followed anyway, Rushingpaw casting looks around the empty field. I hope we get there soon. This is the most uncomfortable journey I’ve ever been on. Truly, it was. Cypressfall was insane and Rushingpaw was too quiet for comfort, ever since he’d been killed by Shellstar. Batchaser didn’t like it. He missed the old Rushingpaw.
⠀⠀That’s idiotic, he scolded himself, shaking his head. Who cares? I sure don’t.
⠀⠀Batchaser pretty easily convinced himself he didn’t give a mouse’s tail. But there was still that nagging feeling in the back of his mind that made him sympathize with the small apprentice. He died twice, at such a young age. I mean, I did too, but... I got to live a long life. Rushingpaw didn’t.
⠀⠀However, those notions were cut short when Rushingpaw started up his yapping again. The black tom grumbled something under his breath and raised his head, examining the place they were growing closer and closer to.
⠀⠀It was a huge structure, green, leafy walls towering above. Weeds jutted out of the ground, vines entangled around each other as they crawled up the sides.
⠀⠀“Woah!” Rushingpaw continued, eyes wide and bright. “What is this place?!”
⠀⠀“The Lost Maze,” Cypressfall murmured.
⠀⠀“What?” Batchaser snapped, whirling around and fixing his piercing gaze on the she-cat.
⠀⠀“The Lost Maze,” she repeated, louder this time. “I heard it thrown around every so often, but figured it was a kit’s tale. However, this must be it.”
⠀⠀The ShadowClanner huffed and turned back around, lashing his tail. “A maze, huh? This is the second challenge?”
⠀⠀“Has to be.” Cypressfall took a small step forward, but shrunk back a bit. “Are we sure we want to do this? Cats said strange, dangerous creatures reside inside.”
⠀⠀Batchaser rolled his eyes. “I thought you didn’t know anyone that made it past the Darkening Forest.”
⠀⠀“I don’t anymore.”
⠀⠀“Mysterious.” The ShadowClanner looked down at Rushingpaw with a bored expression. “You ready?”
⠀⠀The small gray tom nodded slightly. “Yes. I just want to get back home.”
⠀⠀“You aren’t going home, kid,” Batchaser said. “StarClan it is.”
⠀⠀Rushingpaw looked suddenly sad. “You don’t think that, when we get out of here, we’ll be reincarnated or something? Or go back to the real world?”
⠀⠀“He’s right,” Cypressfall added. “Didn’t you mention something about StarClan falling apart?”
⠀⠀“No,” Batchaser hissed suspiciously. “How did you know that?”
⠀⠀“You weren’t listening,” the apprentice said in exasperation. “I told her about what happened.”
⠀⠀The ShadowClanner growled. “Whatever. Don’t expect to be going anywhere other than StarClan.”
⠀⠀Rushingpaw was about to snap back but Batchaser was already walking into the maze.
⠀⠀“Hey!” the small tom protested, leaping forward. Cypressfall stayed a few feet behind.
⠀⠀“Here we go,” she breathed, eyes wide. “We’ve made it to the Lost Maze.”