Chapter 11: Fawnfur
"Your problems are not caused by the living!" I yowled. "Don't you see? Cats from our pasts that should be dead have come back and haunt your dreams with lies. There have been more battles this moon with so many different Clans over the smallest things. The Dark Forest is with us."
Cats just stared at me, they probably had no idea what I was talking about, but I could see some fear in their eyes, the anger dying out as they started to listen. Others of course, mostly from my own Clan, still had a hard look. They probably though I was just causing trouble.
"The Dark Forest, the Place-of-No-Stars," I continued. "Where cats go when StarClan will not accept them. The evil ones roam there: Tigerstar, Brokenstar, Hawkfrost, Mudclaw, Ashfur, Rockfall, Icetail." I watched their eyes grow with every name. Cats from the past from each Clan that had done some unforgivable evil act. "Sharpfang, Aspencloud, Eveningbreeze. These cats, they've banded together against us, lead by Tigerstar."
"Keep quiet," a cat suddenly spat. I was startled from my speech, suddenly loosing anything I'd meant to say. I spotted him, my Clanmate. His sliver body and wide white face. He just glared at me.
"Stop talking nonsense," he growled. "When cats are dead they're dead. StarClan wouldn't let anyone harm us."
"Please, just stop," Bramblestar spoke. Owlface's ears went back and I looked up. My leader was looking at me, not Owlface and the tom seemed to realize, his ears rising again.
"Despite how sincere our Fawnfur may seem," the ThunderClan leader meowed, catching everyone's astonished attention, "she isn't reliable. For this whole month she's been sneaking around, pretending to be mates with Owlface, using him to cover up her secret meetings with a ShadowClan tom."
"But, but," I meowed as eyes turned to me. For a moment I forgot what I was even doing. Why had I spoke out? Why was I willing to look like a fool in front of everyone? Why had I even decided to follow StarClan? Wait, StarClan.
"It was a prophecy from StarClan," I meowed. "They told me last moon, while you were at the Gathering. Firestar came to me. He told me we were in danger from the Dark Forest, that StarClan could do nothing to help us, because tonight, this night, the Dark Forest will have the power."
Cats gasped and stared at me.
"Enough!" Bramblestar snarled. "Fawnfur, enough of this nonsense!"
"But you know about the Dark Forest," I yelled back at him. "You know the danger it has, that they can affect the living, reach through dreams. On the Dark Night StarClan will not be able to help us, that is why Tigerstar is going to attack us now!"
I looked over. Mallowstalk and Lakefrost stood side by side, their other siblings behind them. They were farther away, behind another group of cats and now closer to their own Clan. Hadn't they just been behind me? I wondered and then wondered when they'd come out of the bushes. I hadn't even seen them. Or thought about them really. Just seeing them tonight had been a relief that I hadn't dreamed the whole moon and that I was hallucinating like Bramblestar would have me and the other Clans' believe.
"We each were contacted by StarClan as well," Lakefrost meowed. "They told us the prophesy that we and Fawnfur had to help stop the Dark Forest from rising. We couldn't. We couldn't find the traitors in our Clans, the ones that the Dark Forest have contacted and are using to get us to fight." He looked at them as if searching for those cats. Bramblestar looked away and so did a few others, not able to meet the gray tabby's blue eyes.
"But then just last quarter moon, StarClan met us again at the Moonpool."
"When did you go to the Moonpool?" I heard someone mutter from the direction of ShadowClan.
"I was there!" Ashpaw stood up. "I went with them. I saw StarClan and then I told Fallingstar they'd been looking for me so they wouldn't get in trouble for being out late."
"So you know about this already?" Fallingstar demanded, staring down at the apprentice who solemnly nodded.
"Well, what did StarClan say?" Kestrelflight, WindClan's medicine cat, meowed impatiently.
"They told us that the Dark Night would be when the moon was full," Lakefrost meowed. "That was when the Dark Forest would attack when StarClan's power was weakest."
"But why would they let this happen? Why haven't they told us?" Kestrelflight demanded.
"They had to close off communication," I explained. "They said they were sorry, but they'd caused this."
Gasps came to my words. It was as if everything I said was shocking. Well, maybe it was, but I was so used to it, I just wanted to get it out. "They had ruined the balance by speaking to regular warriors, not keeping conversations at the Moonpool, and by giving cats powers. They had to stop talking to everyone to restore the balance, but the Dark Forest got the power anyway. They are able to interfere with our lives. And Tigerstar wants revenge, so do the others."
"But why didn't they come to us?" Flametail asked. I saw him look at Lakefrost. "We are the leaders and medicine cats."
"I don't know," my companion meowed. "We wondered that ourselves. What could we do? Obviously we failed, we couldn't stop it. Now all we can do is warn you. And we have."
"But what do we do?" a RiverClan warrior meowed. "How can you fight something that's already dead?"
The Clans started yowling and demanding answers. Even the leaders couldn't calm them down. I couldn't make sense what anyone was saying and didn't try to. I wasn't sure what else I could say. I'd warned them all, perhaps not what StarClan would have had me do, but since Bramblestar wouldn't listen, I had to take it to all the Clans. Lakefrost and the rest must have agreed with me, why else stand beside me? Why else had Fallingstar just been confused?
"We can't just stand here," Rainstar yowled finally. "What if they're all ready attacking our camps? Everyone is unprepared, without protection. RiverClan!" He jumped off of the Great Oak and his Clan swarmed around him anxious to get back to their territory. It wasn't long before the other cats were just as impatient.
"No, we can't split up," Lakefrost yowled, but no one listened to him. I wound my way over to him.
"Why can't we?" I asked, "We have to make sure they're safe!"
"But we're stronger together," Lakefrost meowed. "They can't all attack us on the island."
"But the others!"
"We should bring them here."
But as I looked around, I realized there would be no time, no reasoning with the others. They were already fleeing. RiverClan had taken off, their bodies brushing through the reeds sounding like wind. WindClan too were running over the tree and along the shore of the lake. ThunderClan was starting for the tree, only Jayfeather staying behind, his sightless eyes staring at me. ShadowClan was still around Fallingstar who was saying something to them, Ashpaw by her side as she demanded answers from him. She spotted us and started over.
"I don't think it'll work," I told him. "We have to manage on our own."
"Then, I'll see you when it's over," he finally got out.
Fallingstar had come. She was staring at her four children, glancing at me. It was obvious she wanted to talk to me and to them, but my Clan was starting to leave me behind. I didn't want to be left without them. They needed me now that they knew the truth. I had to help them even more, tell them everything I knew, not just a hasty summary.
"See you when it's over," I meowed, suddenly choked up. I didn't know if I ever would see him again, or if our meeting would take place in StarClan when the Dark Forest finally won. I nodded to Fallingstar and ran over to Jayfeather. He stood up and licked my forehead.
"Don't worry," he meowed quietly to me. "You did what you needed to. There isn't any way Bramblestar can say you're lying. Let's get back."
I nodded and hurried after him as we went over the tree. I concentrated, holding on with my claws. I only could hope we'd get back in time, before the Dark Night started and hordes of Dark Forest cats came to bloody their dead claws.
When we got back to camp, nothing was unusual. Most cats were sleeping, but they quickly awoke with warriors tromping through, making sure everyone was alive. Bramblestar gathered them under the Highledge and explained what had happened at the Gathering. He had me tell everyone about the prophesies and what I and the ShadowClan cats had found out. So many cats seemed relieved to know that I wasn't a traitor after all, that I had very good reason to be seeing Lakefrost after all. I know Lionblaze nodded in my direction, respect in his eyes. Cinderheart wrapped her tail around me and even Frostshine and Dewstep smiled at me.
I didn't get any such acceptance from Lightningwhisker or Bumblethroat. Owlface looked uncertain and even guilty, licking his whiskers and glancing at me, then away, suddenly pacing and then stopping. Meadowpaw, too, seemed ashamed for what she'd called me last night. Morningsong watched me, her head tilted in wonder, but most of her face hidden away in shadow from a bush.
Bramblestar had everyone sleep in the open that night, waiting for the Dark Forest to come. Not many cats did sleep once they knew what was about to happen that we'd all be attacked by a powerful force, a frightful one. They stayed up and we sat there in silence, just waiting. The moon started sinking, its round shape full of its silver-gold glory. The stars still shone on.
Then a pale olive green started lighting up the sky. The moon was gone from sight, the light from the sun slowly consuming the tops of the trees. The shadows stated retreating, the tall branches silhouettes in the coming dawn. There was only shadows in the quarry where we all waited, laying out on the sand.
"They aren't coming, are they?" Lightningwhisker asked, her tail curled about her remaining kit.
No one would look at me. I couldn't look at them. My chest just hurt. What had happened? Why wasn't the Dark Forest here? I realized then Bramblestar was coming. I looked at him, my eyes wide and I'm sure pleading.
"Well?" he meowed. "The night is done. The full moon is over. There wasn't any darkness at all."
"I don't know what is happening," I meowed, shaking my head. "StarClan said they'd be here last night."
"There wasn't any danger was there?" someone with a young voice muttered. "She was just telling stories to get out of trouble, wasn't she?"
I looked and saw it was Rosepaw asking his mentor Pricklethorn. The dark splotchy tom nodded. "Obviously. I didn't see or hear any other cats."
Bramblestar flicked his ears toward them and just looked at me. "Were you lying to us? Were you and Lakefrost in on this, this little joke?"
Nothing about his voice was jolly. I wanted to cower. How could I have been so wrong? Why wasn't anything happening? This whole moon had been pivoting on this moment, the night with the Dark Night and the full moon. I hadn't thought anything would happen afterwards. I hadn't realized the night might never come, that the Dark Forest would trick me, trick StarClan into believing they'd come on a night and then change their minds.
"Fawnfur," Bramblestar meowed when I could give no reply. "I banish you. I exile you from this Clan for making us believe in a horrible danger. For lying to us and working with another Clan. You've shamed us in front of the whole Gathering, the whole lake. Leave now."
I stared up at him, my eyes growing wide. What had he just said? Banished?
"If any cat sees this traitor again, you may attack her like a rogue and chase her from our lands," my former leader continued, turning away from me.
"No, no," I protested standing up. "You can't do this! You can't exile me!" I snarled. "I've done everything to help you."
"This hasn't helped!" he snapped back, whirling on me. "There is no Dark Forest here. We are safe and the night of the Gathering is over. You see?"
He waved his tail and I looked at everyone in my clan just staring at me. The supporters I'd gained last night for finally telling them everything I'd done that moon, reviving their faith in me. I'd lost everyone again. They stared at me in confusion and hurt that I'd lie to them. And my heart ached. I hadn't lied. But I had. No enemy was here. We had not been attacked.
And the cats that had never believed me? They gazed at me with contempt and turned away. Owlface stared at me with his lip curling in disgust. Pricklethorn just leered at me, looking ready to attack me now. I looked at my mother. She stared at me, anguish in her eyes as she lost another kit. My sister. . . her eyes were so dull. She stared through me, unreadable if she were ashamed, justified, horrified, or glad I was leaving.
"You can't banish her," Jayfeather was the only one to speak up for me. He stood by my side, staring Bramblestar down, which was a good feat as he had no real sight to do it with. Bramblestar looked at him.
"Your apprentice lied to you," Bramblestar reminded him. "You've just seen that everything this moon, everything she's led you to believe is not something a sane cat would come up with."
"She wasn't lying," Jayfeather spat.
"Jayfeather," Bramblestar's voice got louder. "No more. It is finished."
Bramblestar stared and the whole clan got as still as the lake on a windless day. I stared at my mentor. His voice was so quiet I wasn't sure I had really heard that.
"I'll leave with her if you exile Fawnfur," Jayfeather told the ThunderClan leader.
"Dovetooth, Pricklethorn," Bramblestar meowed, his eyes closing. "Take Fawnfur out of camp. Squirrelflight, Lilyblossom, make sure Jayfeather doesn't follow or go anywhere."
Slowly the named cats got up. They uncertainly approached. I watched the two flank my mentor. He snarled at them, but they didn't react, just brought out their claws, standing in his way as Dovetooth and Pricklethorn came towards me. Pricklethorn looked satisfied as he came toward me.
"Are you going to fight or go quietly?" he asked me.
I looked at everyone again, but no one but my mentor was willing to stand up for me. I swallowed, my throat and eyes hurting. I turned away, padding for the entrance. What reason was there to stay? I'd failed. I had been wrong. I really was a liar, tricked by StarClan and by the Dark Forest.
I passed underneath the bramble bush the sharp thorns near my sides. I could feel the warm pelts of my escort behind me. Suddenly, as I glimpsed the forest beyond the tunnel, I realized what I was now. An exile. A cat without a Clan, no one to protect me, no one for me to care for. What could I do? What was left for me? What sort of life could I a lone medicine cat's apprentice even do?