Chapter 8: Fawnfur
It might have been early evening when the rain stopped. The torrent ceased into a gentle dripping and then finally nothing. The last droplets glimmered on leaf tips, trickling down while above the thick clouds disappeared slowly, scattering away across the WindClan moor. I looked up and watched them float away, pushed onward by some unknown force. Left behind in their wake were golden beams of sunlight along their uneven, white tops. And in some area where the leaves weren't so thick I saw the arch of colors stretch across the sky.
The gray haze pulled away from the tree tops, letting in the blue light tinted with orange. Somewhere I heard a robin call. I could see the squirrels jump out from knot holes, shaking their fuzzy bodies and then hopping along narrow branches to leap over the forest floor to another great tree. It was so peaceful. But I knew that peace held something hidden at the core.
With the slacking of the rain, the bush under which I huddled seemed to get warmer. I breathed out and shook my shoulders, hoping to get some heat. I would have been happier in camp. But my Clan had all but chased me away. Bumblethroat had cornered me when Jayfeather was in the medicine cat den. He told me to leave or he would hurt me. I had seen cats watching from the warrior den. They didn't stop him. So I walked out while it rained.
I knew he had to be suffering after Graykit died, but after a brief flash of pity for the light gray tom, I felt anger in my heart. I had done nothing wrong, but the Clan was against me. They thought me a traitor.
Well I've done everything for you, I thought angrily. And this is the thanks I get for trying to save you?
My chin jutted out and I glared at the tree in front of my bush. Two roots from another tree enclosed the blackberry bush I huddled beneath. I was lonely and cold, and my fur itched from the few thorns I'd brushed against. I could only wait until night time before I went back into camp. Bumblethroat wouldn't notice me then. I knew if I waited much longer, Jayfeather would be concerned. I didn't want to worry him much. I didn't really want him to know about how Bumblethroat had convinced me to leave. What kind of a medicine cat am I if I get scared away by Clan members? What kind of medicine cat am I if no one trusts me, if they hate me, and don't believe a word I say?
I stood up, wanting to do something and not lay under that bush. I didn't want to think about what had happened. I walked out, the water catching in my fur and running down. It felt cold and I shivered, turning to lick it off. Once out, I stared around. What could I do? I decided to walk around the territory. A whole season had passed since I was a warrior and went on patrols. Now I just wanted to explore and not have to look for leaves. When I started, it felt natural, as if I was doing my real duty. I started down to the lake, and through the trees I could see it glimmer with faint light. There were dark blue patches in the waving water.
I watched it for a short time before a sound caught my attention. My ears rose and I turned my head, quickly, trying to find where the shriek had come from. Bodies crashed into the bushes and claws slammed into the ground and into fur. I blinked. A battle? Near the ShadowClan border?
I raced forward, listening as the hissing and fighting got nearer. I first saw Lionblaze's golden pelt, and then two other Clanmates: Ivyflight and Meadowpaw. Then I saw who the opponents were. Though all were covered in mud, the ShadowClan cats were the worst, their fur spiked and almost covering their color. The light gray tom fought beneath Lionblaze, though he didn't land a blow, Lionblaze was too quick for him, he fought well, not giving up, kicking with his back legs, getting back to his feet and striking out, baring his teeth. He did have lines of dark red through his fur. His sisters weren't much better.
I just stood there, my sides heaving as I watched the cats get thrown into bushes, leaves scattering, and patches of fur hung on plant stems. What was going on? Why had Lakefrost crossed into ThunderClan territory? I wondered if he thought he could see me again. I admit I did want to talk to him, to ask if he'd ever gotten Honeybee back home, to ask if Fallingstar had forgiven him yet, and if they'd ever found out which cats were with the Dark Forest. I could already see one answer to my question. Honeybee, a golden tabby was fighting with Meadowpaw. She was the most wounded, limping, her eyes wide, unable to even land a blow.
"Stop!" I yowled.
For a moment they all froze. Lionblaze and my Clanmates looked back. That gave Lakefrost and his siblings time to form a line, crouching low, ears against their muddy heads.
"Get help, Fawnfur," Lionblaze told me, turning back to the ShadowClan warriors.
I didn't move and Meadowpaw muttered something. The golden tom looked back at me, his eyes narrowed. "Hurry before their reinforcements come."
"We aren't invading!" Lakefrost hissed. "If you gave us time to explain, we would have told you that!"
"Then what are you doing here?" Lionblaze demanded.
"We got lost," Lakefrost meowed quietly.
"Lost?" Ivyflight echoed. "Did the rain wash away our scentmarkers?"
Her sarcasm made the ShadowClan trio bow their heads.
"This has been two times, Lakefrost," Lionblaze hissed. "You've crossed two times. This isn't something innocent."
"Then your patrol attacks one of ours after trying to rearrange the border," he continued. "Our Clan won't tolerate this!"
Meadowpaw and Ivyflight yowled their agreement. They moved forward as Lionblaze did, no longer wanting to talk, it was time for revenge. But I couldn't allow it. My friends were innocent. I didn t know what they were doing here, but I didn't believe it was dangerous, perhaps they only wanted to find me. I ran forward, startling my Clanmates. I got to Lakefrost's side and stood in front of him.
"Stop," I meowed. "At least listen!"
"Fawnfur," Lionblaze whispered. His eyes widened and then constricted. "You are-"
"How did you get here?" I demanded, turning to Lakefrost.
"The tunnels," he answered. His eyes were wide and for a moment, I could smell his fear through all the mud, blood, and anger.
From the corner of my eye, Lionblaze's ears went up. His legs became stiff. I could tell he knew something.
"And why did you come?" I meowed.
The gray tabby looked at me. He gave a sort of smile, but then dropped his eyes. "Pinekit and Chestnutkit disappeared from the nursery. We went to find them, but they'd gone underground. So we followed, but it started raining. We got lost. We did find them, but we couldn't get to them. We saw some WindClan cats, but they left our kits to die." His eyes blazed and he looked passed my shoulder to Lionblaze. "Pinekit and Chestnutkit did get out, but our way was blocked. We found only one other tunnel, and it brought us into your territory. We were only trying to get home."
"Where is the tunnel now?" Ivyflight asked.
Lakefrost twitched his tail, sort of pointing. "By some birch tree. But it won't help you, the moment we got out, it collapsed. It's only a muddy dip."
"Go to your territory," Lionblaze meowed. I glanced over and saw his eyes were no longer burning. His claws were in.
"You- you believe us?" Honeybee spoke up. She shifted on her feet, picking up her wounded paw.
The golden tom nodded. "We've had experiences with the tunnels before. Ivyflight, Meadowpaw." He nodded his head. The she-cats backed away, but neither looked happy.
"Thank you, Lionblaze," Lakefrost sighed. "We won't ever do this again."
"Next time I won't be lenient, no matter what the excuse," the ThunderClan warrior replied.
Lakefrost and his sisters turned away. But as they did, Mallowstalk glanced at me and then skyward. At first I was confused, then I realized she must have been reminding me of the time. The full moon was almost there. She turned away before I could nod back. The three cats disappeared between the trees, a direct line to their territory. We sat and watched them go, wounded, dirty, tired. I only blinked, wondering what would happen next.
I looked at him. He frowned back at me, his golden face serious.
"You disobeyed an order."
"I'm not a warrior," I reminded him. "Medicine cats are above Clan rivalries."
"But in this time of danger, of a possible invasion, you did nothing. Any cat of ThunderClan, or any Clan for that matter, would have listened."
I blinked and couldn't look him in the eye.
"What were you doing out here anyway?" Ivyflight asked. "You'd have to leave camp the same time as us to get here. I never saw you."
I swallowed. "I waited out the rain. I got caught in it."
"Then come back to camp," Lionblaze meowed. "We have to talk to Bramblestar."
He turned away. The patrol went with him. I glanced at the border and then slowly followed. My paws felt like stones. It was so hard for me to go back. I could only hope no one was there waiting for me. That Bumblethroat and his mate weren't angry and wouldn't attack me. But at least Lionblaze wouldn't let them hurt me. I hoped.
"You were there when Graykit died, you left during the rain," Meadowpaw whispered. The white she-cat with ginger and gray spots walked beside me. Her steps were slow and her yellow eyes stared at me. "You were meeting with them weren't you? That's why you saved them. You're a traitor, working with ShadowClan."
She spat at me and hurried forward to her mentor's side. I stared after her, my heart aching. So that was what my honest action got me. Scorn. This would only be more proof for the cats that despised me. Meadowpaw would be sure to spread the word. Once again, I looked over at the border. I wished I'd never gotten into this mess.