Chapter 9: Sunstorm
As the sun set around them, Sunstorm and Redfur had made a nest of pine needles in between the roots of one of the trees. They curled together, not really needing the warmth, but liking the company. For one reason, Sunstorm didn't want to get separated from him if the forest changed in the night. Dots and slashes of honey light leaked down the trees as the world took on black.
"Tell me about you," she told him. "What was it like in WindClan? Did you have any siblings?"
He nodded, closing his golden eyes. "I had a fair amount of siblings. Half siblings from both parents. But I had one nestmate. He became leader of my Clan. But then there was a sickness. The rabbits carried it. Clan members died. I died and so did my brother. A young leader, not even lost any of his lives to battle. But he'd eaten the infected rabbit and passed it on to our Clan."
"How sad," she meowed.
He nodded, glancing at his paws. "I had a mate once. Just for a moon before the sickness. We never had any kits. She lived and found another tom. And our Clan rebuilt. But I was bitter. I had died too soon, so had my brother. We weren't close in life after we became warriors, but after death, we never separated. Except when the other leaders wanted to talk to him, to teach him StarClan's secrets. That was went I took to leaving StarClan on my own adventures. That's when I got lost; trying to find what else was in the skies. Harestar hated it when I left. He was scared I'd never come back. In time we grew apart and became used to death. We hardly ever speak now."
He looked away and sighed. "But once, he told me so many secrets the leaders keep from the warriors."
"Such as?" She was interested. She thought every StarClan cat was mentored and there were no more secrets. She'd always been taught that.
"Things about the Dark Forest."
Her ears rose and she stared at him. "But I know about the Dark Forest. That's not a secret."
"But things about it are," he meowed. Then he closed his mouth and looked away.
"Please tell me more," she told him. "It doesn't bother me. I'm really interested."
"I'm not sure I should be telling you or anyone. He was punished for telling me. That's when we started drifting apart. He became so lonely."
"At least tell me one thing," she meowed. "Do they have Changing Lands there?"
He snorted with laughter. "I wouldn't know, I've never been there."
"Do all evil dead cats go there, or just the ones from the Clans?"
Redfur tilted his head. "I've never been certain on that. All I know is that the cats there never spoke to each other. They wandered alone, forced to, unable to find each other. It's probably just like here though. Different StarClans, different Tribes all meshed into the skies with their own territories. They just don't know about each other. Then again. . ."
He drifted off, staring through her, a frown furrowing his ginger brow.
"'Then again'?" she questioned.
"Right after you left," he meowed. "Something changed. The leaders told us that the Dark Forest cats were gathering under Tigerstar. So now, they aren't alone. They've found each other. Maybe he has more than just former Clan cats with him now."
Sunstorm's eyes widened and she stared at him. Dread filled her heart. "And what is he going to do with these cats?"
"Attack the Clans on the Night of the Dark Moon."
"Oh, no," she meowed. Her head spun, and suddenly she remembered. She remembered falling off of the mountain.
The edge crumbled even more just as Moss reached her. Sunstorm felt the ledge turn to dust in her paws and she slipped farther down. Her claws dug into the side of the mountain. She stared up as Moss crouched down. Sunstorm's golden eyes met the green of her friend's.
"Hold on," Moss meowed. She put her paw down, reaching as far as she could, her claws extended.
Sunstorm felt lightheaded and she found it hard to breath. She could only think about the nothing underneath her. Then her eyesight seemed to go and a power filled her.
It sparked in her head. The familiar power she'd once felt while alive rushed through her, shocking her. Pictures filled her mind so quick she could hardly process it. As she stared upward into the hazy sky, her mouth worked on its own, declaring the words in her head.
"Thunder will be silenced in the forest of darkness. Only the fawn in the shadows and a warrior who crosses unknown skies can stop the evening tiger from tearing down the trees."
Sunstorm snapped out of the trance long enough to realize her hold on the rock had weakened. Moss stared down at her, yowling, trying to reach for her paws. Sunstorm thought she could hear the others fighting the hawk, their growls and scratching, the shriek of the bird. Sunstorm stared up at Moss, back legs pummeled the stone, searching for a hold. But her claws shook, slowly weakening, slipping down, scratches in the rocks. The hold broke.
"Thunder will be silenced in the forest of darkness," Sunstorm spoke the words, feeling them in her mouth. "Only the fawn in the shadows and a warrior who crosses unknown skies can stop the evening tiger from tearing down the trees."
Redfur stared at her.
"We have to go to the Dark Forest," she meowed.
"Go to the Dark Forest?" he echoed. His eyes were wide.
"Yes," Sunstorm nodded. "We have to. I'm needed there."
"Just because of that-that prophecy?" he demanded. "How do I know you just aren't making up nonsense?"
She stared at him, her eyes hard. "Am I just talking nonsense?"
Redfur lowered his yellow eyes and shook his head. "No. You aren't. I know it, but still, cats just don't go there."
"But we need to," she told him. "We are the only ones who cat stop the Dark Forest and save the Clans."
"What about that shadow fawn?" he meowed.
Sunstorm thought about it. The sun sank behind them into an unfamiliar forest. The stream flowed nearby, a gentle movement along a pebbled bank. It was peaceful. So different from just that morning when the two StarClan warriors were chased by insane kits. She was glad they'd gotten out of that territory. Even if it had been an undignified roll down a sand hill into the Changing Skies, unknown skies as no cat had marked them as territory.
Redfur nudged the mouse bones by his paws, reminding her of his question.
"We are all needed," she meowed simply. "I don't know where the prophesy came from, but I know it's true. We have to go."
"We're only two cats," he meowed. "We could go back to StarClan. They were developing a plan."
"But we won't get there in time," she replied. "We don't know the way back to StarClan. And I thought the leaders didn't want us interfering."
He lowered his head. "I don't know anymore. We can only trust them."
"Sometimes a cat has to rely on herself," she meowed. "Right now, I know where we have to go. StarClan can do their own thing, whatever it is. We've got to stop Tigerstar."
The ginger tom slowly nodded. "I'll go with you."
"Great," she meowed. Then thought. "So how does one get to the Dark Forest? Where is it?"
"It's everywhere," he meowed, looking back at her.
She stared at him in confusion.
"All around us, the same places in the sky cats call home, it's there too. It's just another layer we can't see or interact with."
"And you know this how?"
"Only leaders and medicine cats are supposed to know," he meowed. "But he told me, like he told me other things. They just don't want cats crossing over for chats or battles, for cats to look for revenge."
She nodded. That would make sense. If cats knew how to get to the dark forest, they might go after the great enemies to get back for the things they'd suffered. She looked at him to continue.
"But it's there," he shrugged.
"But how do we get there?"
"You think it," he meowed, sounding embarrassed and uncertain. "You think about going to the Dark Forest and supposedly you take a step and you're surrounded by the dark trees and starless skies. I don't really believe it myself. I mean, how is that supposed to work?"
She smiled at him as he admitted his doubt. "Well, it doesn't hurt to try. If it really doesn't work, then I promise, we'll just go home. And maybe, for all you know, we could just think our way out of the Dark Forest and back into StarClan."
He blinked at her and then nodded slowly. "Okay. Let's try it."
He stood up and went to her side.
"Dark Forest," she murmured. She closed her eyes, comforted by his warm pelt beside her. She tried to envision what the Dark Forest would look like. Tall black tree trunks, a dark sky above, no lights except for the glowing of eyes peering behind the trees and from the leaves. Evil leers, blood dripping from exposed claws. The cats thin and full of scars.
She shivered and her eyes snapped open. She really didn't want to scare herself. Redfur looked at her in concern.
"You tell me what to think about," Sunstorm told her. "What I think of, I don't want to go there."
"I'd think of home," he told her, slightly smiling. Then the look left his muzzle. "But for you, I'd go to the Dark Forest. So close your eyes again."
She did and waited as his voice whispered into her ear about a dark place, filled with smoke and thorns, thick trees and thick undergrowth, not a sound to be heard anywhere. In the sky, nothing but black, for they were far, far, far away from stars and lights.
She stepped forward, thinking of the trees, trying to shove the glowing eyes from her mind. She took another step and thought she could smell something burning. Took another step and her pad was pierced by something sharp. Sunstorm's eyes shot open. There was no light, no light anywhere, but she could still see tall, twisted trees strangled by thick vines. So many type of undergrowth on the ground, hiding the dirt in branches and leaves and sharp spines. She didn't look at much else, sitting to pull the thorn in her pad out. As it slid from her flesh a stream of blood flowed out. She quickly licked, spitting the spike out.
"So dark," she heard Redfur mutter.
She looked over and saw him standing, straddling the knobby roots of a rowan tree. But on his fur, she could see the speckles of starlight. She could faintly see her own glowing. She tried to dim it, but they refused to darken. If anything, maybe this was the only light they'd ever see for a while.
"So, we're in the Dark Forest," she nodded, walking over to him. She was careful not to step too hard on her injured paw. "What do we do now?"
He looked at her and quickly licked one of her ears. "I guess we look for Tigerstar?"
"Yes, and we tell him to give up."
He tilted his head and looked at her funny. "I hope you're just joking."
She grinned at him. "It worked, so we have to do what we came to do."
"And what is that?"
The voice was low. Certainly not Redfur's. They turned around, searching for the other cat.