Chapter 31 || Assignment
The wind ruffled the black tom’s fur as he ran from ThunderClan’s camp. His whiskers buffeted back and the tips of his ears flicked from the leaves rustling over his head. Batchaser’s paws began to shake, his heart pumping out of his chest as his tail waved behind him. He wanted to escape from the territory as quickly as possible, but the ShadowClanner wasn’t sure he could make it. The lapping waves of the lake rang in his ears as he neared the area, slowing down and emerging from the foliage around. Batchaser looked over the water, eyeing the stars that reflected through, casting light over the four territories. He smiled softly. It almost felt as if he were living. Maybe he was.
⠀⠀Batchaser’s chest fell back and forth as he breathed in heavily. The tom blinked, slowly, exhausting tugging at his chest and bringing him to the dirt-ridden ground. Mixtures of sand grains sunk into his midnight fur as he lowered his head, curling his thin tail around his skinny body. He stared back over the water, hoping Sunpaw would lead the other ThunderClan cats away from the lake. Batchaser didn’t want to be found again, but he was so tired he hardly cared at this point. He just needed to sleep. Why was he so tired? Maybe because it took all of my power to avoid being seduced by that creepy leader Doestar. He scowled slightly, ear twitching. Batchaser felt bad for any cat that had to be put through that event. The ShadowClanner felt like he was luckier than the others, considering he’d been able to escape. But that knowledge still presented all too many questions in his reeling head.
⠀⠀How was I even able to escape? My claws... they melted Doestar’s flesh, like she’d been burned by embers in a heavy forest fire. Batchaser frowned. I wonder if that’s how it works for everyone in the living world...I’m not sure. I don’t really want to test it, either. Only if I have to lash out.
⠀⠀Sighing, the black tom closed his eyes, darkness overlapping his vision. It blanketed his mind and tugged him into a dull, throbbing void where he couldn’t think clearly anymore, or even see anything around him except for shadows. Stars began to glitter around his paws and wrap their way up his body, swirling through his pelt and up his neck, coloring his eyes like space. The world around him beat back into life and he saw grass sprouting from the ground, tickling his paw pads and traveling through the rising hills and twinkling turquoise sky. Batchaser eased his tensed shoulders and unclenched his jaw, tail flattening out and prickling fur smoothing out. He smiled, softly, and the black tom felt at home once more. StarClan.
⠀⠀But his smile didn’t last for long. Curiosity prickled through his paws and his heart weighed with worry. Why am I here? Who called me? Batchaser knew the Star-filled Pool was closed... wasn’t it? Shivers wrapped down his spine and the black tom moved forward, sliding his paws over the soft, silky grass below and padding over the rolling hills. He twitched his tail, narrowing his blue eyes slightly, noticing a figure in the distance. Batchaser began to sprint, taking in the white and brown fur of the cat, the glimmering blue-amber eyes; he smiled. It was her.
⠀⠀“Jackalstar,” he breathed, bounding toward the she-cat. She turned her gaze to Batchaser, grumbling something under her breath and moving forward to meet him. The black tom slowed, tilting his head at the former ThunderClan leader. “What are we doing here?”
⠀⠀She shrugged nonchalantly, looking around with a bored expression.
⠀⠀Batchaser pursed his lips, willing Jackalstar to give him more information and actually be interested. “Aren’t you the least bit curious? I mean, someone must have called us here, right?”
⠀⠀“You are correct.”
⠀⠀Both cats whipped their heads to the side, eyes wide. Batchaser immediately noticed Galewhisker and ran forward, looking him over. “You did this?”
⠀⠀The gray tom nodded. “Yes. We needed to meet in an easier atmosphere. I think this is the perfect place.”
⠀⠀Jackalstar stood up from behind Batchaser, joining the two toms. “I agree. Seeing as we all woke up in different places-”
⠀⠀“Hey! Hey guys..!” The three turned toward the top of the surrounding hill, watching a small, pale gray tabby tom run down, a calico she-cat following slower behind.
⠀⠀“Oh, great,” Jackalstar muttered, looking away and rolling her eyes. “Here we go.”
⠀⠀Batchaser shoved the leader harshly, standing up and nodding down at Rushingpaw. Cypressfall eventually made it to the bottom of the slope, twitching her ear. “We’ve arrived. I’m guessing this was a planned group meeting?”
⠀⠀“I love being back in StarClan!” The small pale tom jumped around, face a mixture of excitement and nervousness.
⠀⠀Batchaser scowled. “Well, we aren’t here for long. We just need one more member...”
⠀⠀“He’s here. Unfortunately.” Jackalstar cast her gaze toward the horizon. A white tom with black stripes sprinted toward the group.
⠀⠀“Yup. That’s Shellstar, all right.” Batchaser felt a flicker of anger burn within his chest, but pushed it away. Now was not the time to seek revenge and keep grudges. He could do that after they saved the Clans.
⠀⠀The former WindClan leader finally made it over, panting and stumbling on his paws. “I.... am.... here..”
⠀⠀“You really need to work out.”
Batchaser scrunched up his nose. “You’re fat and slow.”
⠀⠀Shellstar glared at the black tom, claws unsheathing. “You want to really see how fat and slow I am once I rip your throat out?”
⠀⠀“Only if you can catch me,” he smirked, leaping back to avoid catching a paw.
⠀⠀Jackalstar rolled her eyes and stepped back. “Let’s all sit in a circle so we can see each other.”
⠀⠀The black tom hopped backwards, sitting beside Cypressfall and Galewhisker. “I love taking on the appearance of DarkClan worshippers.”
⠀⠀Cypressfall prodded Batchaser and smiled, ignoring his icy glare. “So, where did everyone wake up? I was somewhere off from ShadowClan’s forest.”
⠀⠀“On the border of WindClan and ThunderClan,” Galewhisker said, nodding. “A WindClan patrol came by, but I was able to avoid them before they saw me.”
⠀⠀“Good. We don’t want anyone seeing us yet,” Jackalstar noted. “It is imperative we stay hidden.”
⠀⠀Batchaser looked away, chuckling nervously.
⠀⠀“I was a little father off from Cypressfall, but I found her pretty quickly!” Rushingpaw purred, looking over at the she-cat with a smile.
⠀⠀“Good, good, no one cares,” Shellstar snorted, standing. “Well I woke up right by the Moonpool. In case any of you were wondering.”
⠀⠀“That is why I asked...” Cypressfall grumbled.
⠀⠀Jackalstar rolled her glittering eyes. “No one cares about you either, Shellstar. Only me, seeing as I’m basically the leader of you band of misfits.” The brown and white she-cat yawned and rolled her shoulders forward. “I think I awoke near RiverClan, but the borders were stale. Everything seemed empty. Not sure what’s going on over there.”
⠀⠀Batchaser flicked his tail, ignoring the glances from the others. “Well, let’s just say... I had a little run-in with a, uh... few certain cats.”
⠀⠀Jackalstar narrowed her eyes. ”Batchaser. We’re not supposed to interact with anyone yet! Are you brain dead?!”
⠀⠀“Hey! It wasn’t my fault!” the black tom snapped. “A patrol took me in and I couldn’t escape. I mean, I eventually did, but not before that weird, creepy leader tried to seduce me and-” He hesitated, deciding not to mention literally burning her face with his claws. “Well, it was weird. They were gonna kill me until I kind of pleaded for life.”
⠀⠀Cypressfall snorted. “I’d love to see you begging for life. Just kidding, that happened when we met.”
⠀⠀“Yeah, because you’re just as crazy,” Batchaser grumbled, shooting daggers at the she-cat. “Anyway, ThunderClan is all too weird and annoying. They’re definitely a no-no on our save list.”
⠀⠀“We’re saving everyone!” Shellstar hissed. “Even if ThunderClan is weird and annoying, they’re a main part of the lake and must be fixed. They’re probably just angry because all of the other Clans turned on them.” The white tom bared his teeth. “Might I mention that you caused all of this, Batchaser?”
⠀⠀“Yeah yeah yeah, whatever, stop berating me,” the black tom groaned, waving his paw dismissively.
⠀⠀“Should we check out RiverClan..?” Rushingpaw piped up, ears pricking. “Jackalstar, you said their scent was stale. Did something happen to them?”
⠀⠀The leader shrugged. “I don’t know, but they aren’t first on our list, ThunderClan is.”
⠀⠀“Oh, of course, just because you’re from ThunderClan that means they need the most saving,” Batchaser growled, furrowing his brows at the stupid she-cat.
⠀⠀“You said it yourself!” she retorted, “ThunderClan is weird and annoying, and because of that should be saved! They’re the most important out of anyone.”
⠀⠀“Yeah, unless RiverClan has left the territories,” Batchaser hissed. “Then you’ll really be sad we didn’t do more for them.”
⠀⠀“Then you can go save your fish-eating friends,” Jackalstar snarled. “Maybe bring Rushingpaw with you. No one cares about them because RiverClan is expendable. ThunderClan isn’t.”
⠀⠀“Hey!” Rushingpaw exclaimed.
⠀⠀“That is just so like you, making it all about yourself and your godly Clan. News flash, the lake is going to fall unless all of the groups are saved.” Batchaser lashed his tail. “That’s not hard to understand, but maybe you just have a tiny brain compared to the rest of us.”
⠀⠀Jackalstar leapt up but Galewhisker threw his body in front of her. “Let’s calm down and figure out a place to meet. Somewhere we won’t get caught and can really plan for the future.” He twitched an ear. “Any ideas?”
⠀⠀“I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t even born in this territory,” Cypressfall grumbled, looking away. Batchaser stared at her. He wondered how hard that was.
⠀⠀“Perhaps the island, where we hold gatherings?” Shellstar shrugged. “I doubt these Clans get together anymore.”
⠀⠀“Perhaps, but it’s really far for all of us,” Jackalstar said, pondering. “I was able to get into ShadowClan territory before falling asleep. I don’t feel like going all the way back to that stupid island.”
⠀⠀“Somewhere by the lake, maybe?” Rushingpaw offered.
⠀⠀“No, we’d be too visible,” Galewhisker explained, shaking his head.
⠀⠀“The Moonpool.” When Batchaser said it, he realized how brilliant it was. “That’s where we’ll meet. No medicine cats will be going there, especially considering StarClan can’t even contact the living anymore. We’d be hidden from sight and it’s closer than the island. There’s enough room for all of to talk and plan. I think we should go there.”
⠀⠀The group thought about it then began to nod slowly. “It is a good place,” Jackalstar grumbled. “I guess we should meet at the Moonpool.”
⠀⠀“Yup. See, a ShadowClanner full of good ideas!” he explained, smirking at Jackalstar.
⠀⠀“Go die,” she snapped, then began to dissipate. “Oh. Time to go already?”
⠀⠀“It takes a lot of energy to hold these meetings in the dream world,” Galewhisker explained. Batchaser realized how tired the gray tom looked. “I can’t do it anymore. We’ll meet tomorrow.”
⠀⠀“Will do,” Shellstar said, beginning to fade away.
⠀⠀Cypressfall looked alarmed, tail flicking. “Where even is the Moonpool?”
⠀⠀“I know! I know!” Rushingpaw smiled. “I can show you, Cypressfall! It’ll be a fun adventure for both of us!”
⠀⠀Batchaser couldn’t hear the rest of their words as they left the dream. Jackalstar waved goodbye to the black tom, and suddenly darkness was covering his vision, tugging him back into the void and softening all of his thoughts until he could plan no more.