Chapter 37 || Out With the New
The week had been rocky, but nonetheless held high hopes and excitement for RiverClan. Since the group had led the Twoleg to the black part of the water, patrols had been sent to scout that area where the Twoleg contraption lay. Amazingly, the Twolegs were fixing it.
⠀⠀Not only that, but Timberfall had made a full recovery in seven days—history for the Clan—and managed to share enthusiasm about returning to their home. Under Pearlsnap and Applestar’s agreement, Beetlepaw had been changed from a warrior to a medicine cat apprentice. Timberfall had been surprised and ecstatic about the whole ordeal.
⠀⠀And as for Batchaser... well, he’d been trying to get along with everyone. The mask had fallen and he was actually managing to fit in with RiverClan—now wasn’t that something? Rushingkit had been on Batchaser’s hip the past week as well, and Pearlsnap was trying to gather as much information from the ShadowClan tom as she could—mostly to do with StarClan. He’d given in and admitted to the weak link between their ancestors and the Clans because of the war, of course, only to Pearlsnap, Applestar, and Timberfall, and they’d vowed to keep out of any battles and remain neutral on all sides.
⠀⠀Batchaser had been happy to hear that, and interested when Applestar has shared their history in the war as well. After ThunderClan had been blamed and driven out of their territory, Applestar had realized their mistake and tried to make amends. After speaking out at a gathering between only RiverClan, ShadowClan, and WindClan, ShadowClan had declared war on RiverClan for believing in traitors, and WindClan had sided with ShadowClan.
⠀⠀With Clans attacking from both sides, RiverClan had no chance. When the Blue Death hit, things became even worse and they were forced to surrender. ShadowClan wasn’t happy with that answer, however, and continued to attack RiverClan. Finally, when things got bad enough, Applestar decided to leave their camp and retreat farther back into the territory. No other Clans had attacked or come looking for them—thank StarClan, of course—and thus, they were here. After moons of silence on the war, ThunderClan had come back from their hiding place and attacked in full-force. With a new, strong leader and fearsome warriors, they now had the upper paw in the war.
⠀⠀Luckily, Batchaser was still with RiverClan. For now, at least. Speaking of...
⠀⠀“We need to move your Clan back to the original camp,” Batchaser hummed, wrapping his tail around his paws.
⠀⠀Applestar narrowed his eyes, grunting. “The last time we were in our old camp, we had two Clans attacking us from both sides. What would stop them now?”
⠀⠀“You’re stronger,” Batchaser responded, “and I’m here. As a StarClan cat, they’ll have to listen to me.”
⠀⠀“They don’t have to,” Timberfall countered, ear twitching. “In fact, it’s more likely they won’t believe you’re from StarClan. War doesn’t change minds easily. You were lucky—we aren’t in the war anymore. And Applestar supposedly remembers you.” The medicine cat shrugged. “ThunderClan will be hardest to conform, and I’m assuming ShadowClan won’t back down any time soon, either. However...”
⠀⠀Batchaser glanced at the chestnut tom. “Hm?”
⠀⠀“They have a new leader,” Pearlsnap cut in, scowling. “Fallenstar’s daughter, Spiderstar.”
⠀⠀Spiderstar... The name sounded vaguely familiar—there was a memory there, but Batchaser couldn’t put his paw on it. He shrugged to himself, then paused. “Fallenstar made his daughter his deputy? That’s unusual.”
⠀⠀Applestar shook his head. “No. Fallenstar... he made his Clan a monarchy, for some reason. Spiderstar has no kits to follow her, so ShadowClan has been left deputy-less for moons, since after the last gathering.”
⠀⠀A monarchy? Now that was new. “Interesting... I wonder why he chose to change the rank. Of course, by doing that, Fallenstar broke the warrior code—I can’t imagine his Clanmates were happy with that.”
⠀⠀Timberfall shook his head. “From what I heard in my last medicine cat meeting, half of the warriors left ShadowClan to become rogues and kittypets.”
⠀⠀Batchaser’s eyebrows raised. “Oh. How many moons ago did that happen?”
⠀⠀The medicine cat shrugged. “Dunno. Fourteen, maybe. ShadowClan stopped showing up at the meetings, and so did ThunderClan. WindClan was the last to go, and then... well, there’s no reason to meet by myself. StarClan stopped communicating, anyway. We never dreamed.”
⠀⠀“You let Timberfall meet with other medicine cats during a war?” the black tom asked, surprised. He turned his blue gaze to Applestar.
⠀⠀The leader sighed softly. “Yes. My faith in StarClan is still strong, and I didn’t want to anger my ancestors by preventing Timberfall from meeting the other medicine cats. However... it seems the other leaders didn’t quite agree.”
⠀⠀Batchaser snorted. “Well, trust me, RiverClan is the least problematic on StarClan’s list.”
⠀⠀Pearlsnap puffed out a breath of air. “Well, that’s a relief. Let me guess, ThunderClan is the top priority?”
⠀⠀“Yep.” The black tom swished his tail. “Our... group leader, of sorts, was an old leader of ThunderClan. She’s very invested in their new way of life and behavior.”
⠀⠀“An old leader of ThunderClan?” Timberfall piped up. “Who?”
⠀⠀Batchaser hesitated, ears flicking back. Jackalstar wouldn’t want him to say. “It doesn’t matter who. All that matters is that we’re going to save the Clans, at least, as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
⠀⠀“How many are in your group?” Pearlsnap asked.
⠀⠀The black tom hummed in thought. We have me, Jackalstar, Shellstar, Galewhisker, Cypressfall, and Rushingkit... “Six.”
⠀⠀Applestar’s eyes widened. “Six?”
⠀⠀“Yeah. All from different Clans, too... Three from ThunderClan, I’m from ShadowClan, another leader from WindClan, Rushingkit..” He shrugged. “We didn’t choose for this to happen, but it did. At least, I didn’t choose for it to.” He realized he was blabbering about his StarClan life, but it was exciting to talk about it to living cats—they ate up all of the information they could, and Batchaser relished that attention.
⠀⠀“That’s... a lot of cats saving the Clans. I forgot about Rushingkit traveling with you..” Applestar frowned. “He died so young. But now that he’s back, living and breathing, perhaps he can be a part of RiverClan again.”
⠀⠀“Definitely. You need to keep him out of harm’s way.” Batchaser scratched his ear with his back paw, groaning. “But seriously, enough talk. Let’s move this Clan back home.”
⠀⠀The others nodded and lead Batchaser out of the den. Without the storm, the sky was painted blue and white, soft clouds glittering over the trees. The sun hid behind a few clouds and darkened the camp slightly, shadows creeping over the earth and stretching long black fingers toward the river. I know this isn’t a sign from StarClan, but it sure looks like one.
⠀⠀“What makes you suddenly so important?” A sharp hiss next to Batchaser froze him in place. He narrowed his eyes and glanced over at Beavertooth, who was scowling at him by the fresh-kill-pile.
⠀⠀He shrugged, nonchalant. “I don’t know. Clearly I’m more important than you are,
though; and I’ve only been here a half moon!” Batchaser smirked at Beavertooth’s crooked snarl. He still disliked the tom, despite him saving Batchaser from the river.
⠀⠀Beavertooth leapt to his paws and stalked over to the black tom, fur bristling along his back. He squared his shoulders and craned his muzzle over Batchaser’s head. The black tom looked up at Beavertooth, unimpressed. “Watch your back, ShadowClanner,” he snarled. “Unlike Applestar, I’m not soft. I don’t double-deal with traitors.”
⠀⠀“Wow. You’re very scary, aren’t you?” Batchaser twitched his whiskers. A call from the middle of camp pulled the toms out of their bickering. “Whoops. Looks like we’re going back to the new camp, which I helped save by the way... guess I’ll see you there.”
⠀⠀Beavertooth was about to snap back with something, but Batchaser had already walked away and Applestar’s voice pressed over his. “It’s time to move to our former camp, RiverClan,” the leader stated diplomatically, chest puffing. “Take anything you might need with you. Please help Timberfall and Beetlepaw carry the herbs back to the old camp.”
⠀⠀Several warriors exchanged excited glances and flocked to either take their nests or carry herbs. By the time Batchaser realized what was going on, all jobs were full. He grunted and padded next to Applestar out of the mouth of camp, ignoring Beavertooth’s harsh glare.
⠀⠀“So,” the black tom mused. “This is happening.”
⠀⠀Applestar hummed. “Yes... it is.” He glanced at Batchaser, a look of confusion on his face. “I never really thanked you for everything you’ve done for my Clan. I.. doubted you, at first, but now I know I was wrong to do so. And for that I am sorry.”
⠀⠀Batchaser could hardly contain his laughter. The ginger leader eyed him suspiciously until he spoke. “Don’t be sorry, big guy,” the ShadowClanner giggled, tail flicking Applestar’s flank. “I’m a StarClan cat. That’s kind of my job here, right?”
⠀⠀“Hmm... yes, I suppose.” A genuine smile raised Applestar’s lips. “What are you going to do next? I can’t imagine you’ll be staying in RiverClan for much longer, since we aren’t the most problematic of your little list.”
⠀⠀The trees swayed overhead as a soft breeze brushed through the territory, ruffling their pelts. “I’m not sure,” Batchaser admitted. “I’m assuming ShadowClan, unless J— unless my friends want me to meet them back in WindClan.” Applestar twitched his whiskers, picking up on the hint of a name, but didn’t comment on it. “Then again, I can go wherever I want!”
⠀⠀Pearlsnap eventually caught up to the two and conversed with Applestar about the warriors and how much they’d helped with the medicine den. Batchaser noticed the shift in mood when the old—or, well, original— territory was crossed into. The enthusiasm grew, as did the buzz of chatter behind them. When the three led the Clan into camp, everything flowed smoothly from there.
⠀⠀Cats practically ran to their nests, setting their bedding down with smiling faces and bright eyes. Timberfall and Beetlepaw set up in the medicine den, storing rotten herbs in the corner to dispose of later. Applestar leapt up into his den, fur smoothing at the familiar scent and lulling hum of the river nearby. Batchaser sat in the center of camp, tail wrapping around his paws. He was happy for RiverClan—he really was. They’re finally back home because of me. I did that. I.. I fixed what I ruined!
⠀⠀The black tom watched as Applestar waited a few moments before leaping upon a willow tree stump next to his den, rising to his full height. “Let all cats old enough to swim gather to hear my words!”
⠀⠀The Clan swarmed in the center of camp, a hushed silence falling upon the group. Content with the quiet, Applestar cleared his throat. “First and foremost, I dedicate this meeting to Batchaser, Pearlsnap, Beetlepaw, and Rushingkit.” Said cats perked up slightly. “Without them, the Blue Death would’ve spread and we wouldn’t have been safe in the territories any longer. However, with their help, especially Batchaser’s, we’ve been able to return to our true home and make ourselves RiverClan again.”
⠀⠀Cats cheered, yowls echoing through the hanging branches and spreading over the meadows. Batchaser blinked and nodded, slightly self-conscious. He wasn’t accustomed to so much praise. “Now that we’re in our old home,” Applestar continued, “there are a few ceremonies that must take place. Bushpaw, Whisperpaw, step up.”
⠀⠀Rushingkit’s sisters exchanged eager glances and scrabbled into the middle of camp, smiling at their brother’s pride. “I, Applestar, leader of RiverClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on these apprentices. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend them to you as a warrior in their turn. Bushpaw, Whisperpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?”
⠀⠀“I do,” the sisters said in unison.
⠀⠀“Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. Bushpaw, from this moment on you will be known as Bushtail. StarClan honors your wisdom and kindness, and we welcome you as a full warrior of RiverClan. Whisperpaw, from this moment on, you will be known as Whisperflight. StarClan honors your tenacity and loyalty, and we welcome you as a full warrior of RiverClan.”
⠀⠀Screeches of delight filled the clearing, every single cat standing and cheering the new warriors on. After the sisters flanked the side of the camp, Applestar twitched his tail for silence. The Clan hushed. “This next ceremony is something new in the history of the Clans, and I hope everyone will respect and agree to my decision. Rushingkit, step up.”
⠀⠀Everyone froze for a moment, Rushingkit most of all. His soft blue eyes widened in shock and he swiveled his head toward Batchaser, beginning to tremble. An awkward silence filled the gap until Batchaser stood, smiling. “Go on,” he told the kit. The rest of the Clan began to cheer when Rushingkit stepped forward, tilting his head up to meet Applestar’s gaze.
⠀⠀“Rushingkit, you have long passed the age of six moons, so it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Rushingpaw. Your mentor will be Watercall. I hope she will pass down all she knows to you.” When mentor and apprentice touched noses, the Clan erupted in yowls. Bushtail and Whisperflight cheered loudest, of course.
⠀⠀Rushingpaw smiled and backed into the group of gathered cats, beaming. Batchaser smiled and hardly heard Applestar call off the meeting over the beating of his heart thrumming in his ears. The black tom padded forward and crouched down next to Rushingpaw, smirking. “So. You’re actually an apprentice now.”
⠀⠀The silver apprentice giggled, bopping Batchaser’s nose with his tail. “Yep, I finally am! Isn’t that amazing? One day, I’ll be just like you!”
⠀⠀Oh, trust me, you don’t want that... Batchaser’s smile dropped into a soft frown. He sighed wistfully and wrapped his tail around Rushingpaw’s body, pressing him close. “I hope you understand that with RiverClan in their original home, my job here is done... I gotta move on to my next mission down here.”
⠀⠀Rushingpaw’s eyes widened. “Wait, you’re leaving?”
⠀⠀Batchaser’s heart hurt. “Yes, I’m afraid. Jackalstar will need me for something new soon, so you won’t be seeing me for a while. Okay?”
⠀⠀The apprentice pushed his muzzle into Batchaser’s chest and cried out. “Okay,” he whispered brokenly. “I get it. That’s okay. Do what you have to do.”
⠀⠀“What’s going on?” Pearlsnap strode over to the two, concern clear in her posture. “What happened?”
⠀⠀“Nothing,” Rushingpaw mumbled, pulling away from Batchaser. “Batty’s leaving.”
⠀⠀Beavertooth glanced over.
⠀⠀”Leaving?” Pearlsnap echoed, clearly surprised. Applestar leapt down from the tree stump, a cloud of dust filling the air behind him. He sat down by his deputy, tilting his head. Timberfall and Beetlepaw neared them as well. “Where?”
⠀⠀Batchaser shrugged and slowly stood, grunting when his muscles popped. “Dunno. I’ll have to see, but most likely ShadowClan.”
⠀⠀“It was great having you, Batchaser. I understand that you’re needed elsewhere.” Applestar dipped his head and smiled.
⠀⠀“Yes, me too,” Pearlsnap said, ears flicking back in embarrassment. “Thanks for, uh, saving us with the whole river thing.”
⠀⠀“No problem,” he snorted.
⠀⠀Timberfall also dipped his head. “Thank you for healing me, Batchaser. I owe you my life.”
⠀⠀“See ya, Batchaser!” Beetlepaw leapt to his paws and purred, blinking up at the warrior. He hasn’t even realized he’d cut the ShadowClanner off. “Will you come back?”
⠀⠀“Probably,” Batchaser laughed. “Just yell if you need me!” The black tom paused and glanced at the four cats gathered around him. “Thanks for not kicking me out. But now... it’s time for me to go.”
⠀⠀A few more words were said before Batchaser turned and padded from the camp, heart weighing lighter in his chest. He smiled and hopped from the river’s shore to the stones inside, water trickling over his black paws. Batchaser scrabbled to the other side and twisted his head, longingly staring at RiverClan territory. I’m gonna miss them... As the sun began to set, orange and pink ripples spread across the darkening blue sky. But now I’m being called elsewhere.
⠀⠀Batchaser whirled back to the dark, looming pine forest ahead of him. ShadowClan didn’t seem any friendlier than before, and he supposed it would stay that way. Oh, dear StarClan, just let them listen to me...
⠀⠀As Batchaser took his first steps back to his old home, he pushed away the deep pit in his stomach that screamed at him to turn tail and run.