Chapter 5 || Placed Blame
Batchaser was laying in a makeshift nest under the towering oak trees, his nose twitching as a leaf fell on top of it. He blinked his blue eyes open and batted the green leaf off, groaning as he picked himself to his paws.
⠀⠀The tom straightened his back as he pulled himself into a sitting position, laying his thin tail around his black paws. Batchaser flicked an ear and examined his surroundings; the tree he was lying under was massive, much larger than any other trees in this forest. It’s branches wove together like snakes, intertwining to make following the branches even more confusing, with tendrils hanging from the sides.
⠀⠀It vaguely reminded him of a tree he used to sit under back in ShadowClan’s territory, in the living world. Back when he was alive. Batchaser’s claws flexed as he remembered how it felt to live; he missed ShadowClan’s dark territory, he missed the different types of weather, he missed gaining scars and wounds. If only he could return.
⠀⠀Batchaser had never had these thoughts before. It was always fine for him to be dead; that hadn’t ever bothered him. But now? Batchaser felt lonelier than ever.
⠀⠀“WELL IF YOU’D KEEP YOUR CLAN OUT OF EVERYONE’S BUSINESS, MAYBE THIS WOULDN’T BE THE CASE!”
⠀⠀Batchaser was jerked back into reality as the shriek of a tom rang throughout the forest. His ears pricked and he lifted himself to his paws, following the distant sound of arguing voices.
⠀⠀When the black tom stopped by the bushes, he shrunk low to the ground, flicking his ears back as he peered through the foliage. He caught sight of a white tom adorned with black stripes, his green eyes sharper than jagged ice. Batchaser followed the white tom’s gaze and immediately recognized Jackalstar.
⠀⠀“Oh, shut your jaws, Shellstar. You’re just placing the blame on ThunderClan, because apparently trying to help others means we’re the cause of all problems!”
⠀⠀Shellstar curled his lip, beginning to circle Jackalstar, who stood her ground with defiant amber-yellow eyes.
⠀⠀“Like I said, it’s not our fault,” Jackalstar continued when there was a moment of silence between the two leaders. “And I’m not blaming ShadowClan, either. I’m not blaming any Clan. This was a cat -- one only. One that wanted to bring destruction to the lake.”
⠀⠀The large white tom’s muscles rippled under his pelt as he stopped dead in his tracks. “Are you insisting what I think you are?”
⠀⠀A look of worry came across Jackalstar’s face. “Yes. I think... I think The Dark Forest has a spy here. A rat. Someone we all trust. A snake in the grass. A--”
⠀⠀“I get it,” Shellstar grumbled, holding up his bushy black tail for her to quiet. His green eyes flashed with something Batchaser couldn’t quite place, but it disappeared before he could figure it out. What was that? Fear? Guilt? Anger? Denial?
⠀⠀Jackalstar swished her tail, furrowing her brows. “I think I might have some idea of who the rat is.”
⠀⠀Batchaser’s blood went cold. Without another thought, the black tom turned tail and sprinted through the bushes. They know about you. They know about the fake prophecy. You idiot!
⠀⠀Fear crept its way up his whole body as he aimlessly ran through the forest. He didn’t know where he was going, but it didn’t matter at this point. He was exposed. His stupid prophecy would only cause his death.
⠀⠀Then he heard it. Thrumming paws behind him. Terror caused his legs to move faster, and the tom yowled in pain when his paw was caught on the root of a tree sticking out of the ground. Batchaser tumbled over the terrain and smashed into the side of a tree, groaning in pain. However, his wounds immediately disappeared, and he regained his strength.
⠀⠀“Batchaser!” A furious hiss sounded above the tom and as he blinked open his green eyes, he made out the form of Jackalstar, the sun outlining her sides, shafting light onto the tree.
⠀⠀The black tom said nothing. Jackalstar unsheathed her claws, eyes burning with newfound anger. “I’m disappointed in you. Really. After our little trip I had the crazy notion that maybe you weren’t as bad as you make yourself out to be, but clearly I was wrong!”
⠀⠀Batchaser recoiled, his heart nearly pumping out of his chest. He didn’t respond; he only tried to keep himself calm.
⠀⠀The white she-cat’s claws suddenly sheathed again and she shook her head. “Just stop eavesdropping, will you?”
⠀⠀“Jackalstar..!” Batchaser recognized the voice of Shellstar, who was just now appearing from the bushes, panting heavily, looking like he was going to keel over. “Did.. y.. ou... find... the cat...?”
⠀⠀The brown-patched she-cat nodded, ripping her gaze from Batchaser and examining the other former leader. “StarClan Shellstar, keep up, will you? You run as fast as a two-moon-old kit.”
⠀⠀Shellstar didn’t respond, only stood there for a few more silent moments until he gasped in the StarClan air. He padded forward slowly, his green eyes landing on Batchaser. “Who’re you?” he asked, tail-tip flicking back and forth as he spoke. Jackalstar turned back to stare at the former ShadowClan warrior.
⠀⠀The black tom drew in a breath and staggered to his paws shakily, looking between the two. So... they don’t know of what I’ve done? She’s only angry because I was listening to their argument?
⠀⠀“His name is Batchaser,” Jackalstar mewed. “And he’s apparently mute.”
⠀⠀“Really?” Shellstar inquired, tipping his head to the side. Jackalstar rolled her eyes and Batchaser shot the she-cat a glare.
⠀⠀“No, I’m not mute,” he snapped, facing the black-striped tom.
⠀⠀“Why were you eavesdropping then, Batchase?” Shellstar asked, his voice somewhat laced with bitterness.
⠀⠀“First of all, it’s Batchaser,” the black tom growled, his pearly-white claws sinking into the ground. “Second, I could hear you two idiots from a mile away. Are you really all that surprised I decided to come listen?”
⠀⠀Shellstar’s ear twitched and he slightly narrowed his eyes at Batchaser’s response. “Does he always address Clan leaders this way?” the white tom asked Jackalstar, his claws curling. He doesn’t like to be disrespected.
⠀⠀”Former Clan leaders,” Batchaser corrected, holding his head high. “And yes, I’ll talk to you however I wish. Especially if you’re too much of a coward to announce how you feel about me.”
⠀⠀Shellstar curled his lip and Jackalstar stepped in between the two cats, acting as the mediator this time; maybe she was picking up a few skills from Galewhisker. “Stop,” she ordered, “this is no time for an argument.” The amber-eyed she-cat faced Batchaser. “What did you hear?”
⠀⠀The black tom shrugged, licking his paw and drawing it over his ear. “Stuff.”
⠀⠀“How about you tell us a little more than ′stuff’,” Shellstar snarled, all calmness swept away. Batchaser smirked, proud that he’d been able to anger the former leader so quickly.
⠀⠀“You two disrupted my peace with your stupid bickering and I came over to shut you up. Then I heard you throwing the blame at each other, and grew interested. Then you--” he pointed at Jackalstar, “--spoke about how The Dark Forest had a spy in StarClan. That’s all I heard, besides your very loud muttering,” Batchaser growled, staring at Shellstar, who was snarling curse words louder than to just himself.
⠀⠀Jackalstar flicked her tail. “I trust you’ll hold this information to only yourself?”
⠀⠀Batchaser shrugged again. “Who knows? I might go and tell everyone, I might not. Just depends how I feel, really.”
⠀⠀“You stupid little--” Shellstar began, leaping to his paws as he snarled insults and made his way toward Batchaser. Jackalstar, however, held the former leader back. She whipped around to glare at the black tom, unsheathing her claws.
⠀⠀“Don’t test me, Batchaser,” she spat, her voice laced with venom more deadly than an adder’s. “If you tell anyone and I find out, I’ll kill you. That’s a promise.”
⠀⠀The black tom acted calm and rolled his eyes, but inside he knew that was true. She had ThunderClan eyes everywhere and pretty much knew every cat. If she wanted him dead, she’d succeed in doing so.
⠀⠀Shellstar was silent as he turned away curtly, motioning for Jackalstar to follow. “We have matters to discuss,” he murmured, scowling at Batchaser. “Without any eavesdroppers.”
⠀⠀“Indeed we do,” the white she-cat agreed, dipping her head. “Batchaser, leave.”
⠀⠀Giving Jackalstar a dramatic bow, Batchaser snorted. “As you wish, your Majesty.”
⠀⠀The she-cat rolled her eyes and said nothing, watching as the black tom turned and padded away.
⠀⠀But as he left the two former leaders, Batchaser’s smirk turned into a frown. They knew about the prophecy, and probably only had to ask Paleheart who’d delivered it. Then he’d be exposed.
⠀⠀His thoughts sent Batchaser spiraling into a world of terror; if they found out -- no, when -- they found out about what he’d done, what would happen to him? He guessed Jackalstar would kill him herself, but wondered if that was even possible. StarClan cats could gain wounds, but they’d disappear in a matter of seconds. So how would she take his life if he was already dead? And if it was possible, where would Batchaser go next? Would he never wake up again, or would he be sent to another place?
⠀⠀Shaking his head, Batchaser decided to clear his thoughts by hunting. He spotted a flash of gray fur on the ground and crouched down low, stalking forward. He narrowed his blue eyes and leapt, landing squarely on top of the mouse.
⠀⠀Batchaser grabbed the small creature in his jaws and traveled back to the large oak tree, feeling at peace again. He set the mouse down and tore a morsel off, gulping it down quickly. His eyes drifted from his catch and set on the red flowers swaying above his head, attached to the branches of the tree.
⠀⠀It was beautiful, to say the least. Batchaser rolled onto his back and abandoned the prey, staring at the cloudless sky and the leaves that drifted from the tree.
⠀⠀If I’m going to be killed, then I should enjoy StarClan while I can. But what much left is there to relish?