Chapter 16: Lakefrost
"What are you doing here?" the cat that wasn't Fawnfur demanded.
Now that he looked closer, he could see the differences between the sisters. Fawnfur had a thinner look about her, brought on by how stressful that moon had been for her. She also had three little white dots on one of her ears. Why had he thought this Morningsong was her? They weren't alike. Fawnfur would have never been so deceptive. She cared about her Clan, even if they were jerks.
"I woke up here," Fawnfur told her sister.
"You aren't supposed to be here!" Morningsong snarled.
"Well, I am," Fawnfur hissed back, her fur starting to stand on end. "Why are you doing this?"
"Can't you just accept it?" Eveningbreeze laughed. "Your sister has sided with the strong, tossing you to the wind like a mouse tail."
Lakefrost and the others looked back at her. She'd been angry before, completely glowering when Fawnfur came through the vines, but now she seemed amused again, like this was no big deal. Lakefrost glared at her. She had made him doubt his friend. She was playing with them, dragging them out of StarClan territory to make him doubt a full moon friendship. To distract him from saving his Clan.
He growled and charged. "Be quiet you foxheart."
"Yeah!" Honeybee yowled. "You almost ruined our friendship and tried to get me to leave the Clan!"
"She's a liar," Badgerface growled.
"And she and the other Dark Forest cats are killing our Clanmates!" Mallowstalk hissed.
The four advanced and Lakefrost was glad to have his siblings by his side. There was no arguing or trying to get out of it now. They were together and they had an enemy they faced. An enemy that truly was evil and conniving.
Eveningbreeze took one look at their combined attack. Her ears went down, the smile leaving for an odd twitch. She turned tail and ran, pushing through the vines. They whispered at her passing. Lakefrost and the others were right behind her. He didn't even glance back, leaving Fawnfur to work out her problems with her sister.
They raced onward through the Dark Forest, trees of pine but also others with leaves grew tightly packed in ragged order. Thick roots thrust through the ground, the sky above a thick blackness without stars or moon. And as always, a thick smoky haze. Eveningbreeze was swift, knowing the territory, and she made it through the undergrowth all right. He and the others weren't used to the thick weeds and thorns and quickly fell behind. But they continued on even though the smoky, burning air of the Dark Forest made breathing tough and scenting even harder. It wasn't long before they reached an oddly bare patch of earth. She raced across, disappearing down a slope.
Lakefrost plunged down, almost losing his footing. He scrabbled, stones rolling and skittering with gravity to the bottom where a dark black thing moved and two glowing cats sat, their eyes closed, their fur looking as if it were on silver fire. The light danced across their bodies and poured onto the water, shadows leaning away from them if they weren't banished altogether. Eveningbreeze reached the bottom and just stopped, staring at these glowing cats as she panted. Her yellow eyes darted rapidly to them and to the pool that seemed to grow smaller as if shrinking away from the brilliant glow.
The closer Lakefrost got, the farther he had to squint and close his eyes. They were hurting being so close and he hadn't realized he was cold until the warmth of the glow surrounded him.
The two StarClan cats, (for what other cats had that glow?) opened their eyes with all the noise. The she-cat didn't waste time or breath. She leaped up and knocked Eveningbreeze's paws out from under her. The ginger tom came quickly around the side and took her back legs while the she-cat started to grab the gray she-cat's scruff. Then she seemed to see Lakefrost and the others. She paused for a moment and then stretched out across Eveningbreeze, pinning her to the hard, rocky ground.
The StarClan cats looked at Lakefrost and his siblings. The gray tabby had reached the bottom of the slope. He stood there panting and watching them. Eveningbreeze just seemed stunned. She was staring up into the colored tree branches, a confused frown on her face. Her eyes were starting to water and her fur looked even more like shadows with the two glowing cats on her.
His siblings slid to a stop beside him, facing this new threat, possibly wondering what they'd have to do to get Eveningbreeze from the glowing cats. Lakefrost could barely stop blinking and squinting, trying to get a better look at the cats he and his siblings faced. He peered at the she-cat, looking for her coloring. He suddenly started coughing, breathing back the saliva in his mouth. He could hardly get a breath, just staring at the she-cat he faced. Yet another cat who looked like Fawnfur was standing before him.
"Who are you?" the ginger tom demanded, staring at them from where he crouched, one paw twisted, the claws in.
"These have to be the four ShadowClan warriors Fawnfur was talking about," Sunstorm meowed, blinking at them.
Lakefrost wondered how she knew about Fawnfur and what the ThunderClan medicine cat apprentice had said about them. Then he wondered what the ThunderClan she-cat was doing now. Why had he just left her to face her sister like that?
Eveningbreeze struggled, seeming to recover from her shock. Everyone looked at her. Evening the glowing cats did, examining her.
"Chasing this ragged pelt are you?"
"What are you doing to the Darkpool?" Eveningbreeze spat before Lakefrost could answer and explain what was happening.
"Drying it out," Redfur told her, sounding smug.
"Not possible," she growled.
"But look," Sunstorm purred. "It's already fading away."
Lakefrost glanced at what they called the Darkpool. A puddle of something that might have been water. It was fluid and rippled and seemed like water, but it was totally black with lighter lines. Two stone rings were around it, one farther back the second inside, but the water wasn't touching the inner ring. The pool looked about a fox length across and getting smaller. So this was important to the Dark Forest?
"It's only because the whole of the Dark Forest used it to travel to the lake territory," Eveningbreeze growled back.
"Well it will still be gone, no matter what," Redfur snarled. "Then you and your friends will have no power over the living."
The dark gray she-cat started to heave and gasp for breath, shaking the two StarClan warriors on top of her. Slowly Lakefrost realized she was laughing. It was such a wild and heavy laughter that it scared him. His fur stood on end and he just stared as she grinned, her eyes so wide even though the silver glow had to be hurting them.
"You, you, know that when that is gone, these four nice warriors, oh make that five including your little sister," Eveningbreeze giggled. "They can't get back to earth or to the Clans."
"What do you mean?" Sunstorm spat, pressing down so her claws drew blood.
"They'll die here!" Eveningbreeze laughed. "No food, no water. Your spirits will be trapped here with us! Here in the Dark Forest!"
She laughed again. Lakefrost stared at Sunstorm. The two StarClan cats looked back at the living cats, horrified. Quickly their glowing faded, not completely, but less brightly and eye-burning.
"Is that possible?" Badgerface meowed, tilting his head.
"This is bad," Redfur meowed, as if he hadn't heard.
"It has to be possible," Sunstorm nodded. "Although she could be lying. But there is a chance she's correct."
They were hardly glowing at all, just faint flecks along their fur.
"We have to get out!" Honeybee gasped, standing still and straight.
"Quickly," Mallowstalk growled.
"But Fawnfur!" Lakefrost protested as they walked to the Dark Pool. "And the Dark Forest cats! They're down there."
"Killing our Clans," Mallowstalk spat. "We have to get down there and help them. Coming here was useless!"
He had to agree with her there, and yes they did have to go back before that quickly shrinking pool disappeared. But they had to get Fawnfur too.
They were too distracted, arguing about going or not, finding Fawnfur, that Eveningbreeze wasn't being watched as closely. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her gather her back legs under her, kicking hard. The ginger tom yowled in pain, jumping up and hunching over his wounded paw. Sunstorm looked in his direction, but got a face full of claws. She recoiled as Eveningbreeze kicked her off. Lakefrost turned to fight, but Eveningbreeze was on her feet. She didn't even stop to face him. She ran on, pushing passed Badgerface and Honeybee, jumping straight into the black water. It seemed to cling to her to crawl up her sides as she sank deeper in. The last he saw of her were yellow glaring eyes.
They all stared where she disappeared into the darkness. Sunstorm seemed angry, licking Redfur's paw, but they didn't look like letting Eveningbreeze escape was a bad thing. They didn't talk about it again.
"You have to go," Sunstorm meowed, fervently. "We can't let you get trapped here. Leave, I'll get my sister. You just help the Clans."
"Come on, Lakefrost," Mallowstalk meowed. "Trust her. She won't let her sister get trapped here."
"Anyone know how to use this?" Honeybee meowed, tilting her head and staring into the water. "Where did Eveningbreeze go?"
Lakefrost slowly approached. All of them sat around the black water's edge, just peering in. He thought he could see something there. Perhaps Eveningbreeze would come back and drag them in? He shivered at the thought.
"Think of your bodies and going back," Sunstorm told them. "I think that might work. We watched some Dark Forest Cats use it and they were staring for a while before they went. They probably choose where to go."
"Sounds like it might work," Mallowstalk nodded, looking at Sunstorm and the pool. "I want Lakefrost to go first though."
He glared at her. "Why?" He seriously didn't want to drown in that.
"I don't trust you. You might turn around and try to rescue Fawnfur."
"She needs to make it here in time. We just left her with that crazy Morningsong. No offense Sunstorm."
The ginger-brown tabby she-cat narrowed one eye and frowned. He had a feeling she wasn't angry at him, just surprised at the news. No one had yet explained what both of her sisters were doing in the forest.
"You should get going," Redfur meowed quietly. "We will take care of Fawnfur."
Mallowstalk glared at him until he agreed. He peered down, trying not to think what jumping inside would be like or that he might actually drown. Or he might get lost. He tried to think about the Moonpool, a better, nicer looking pool of water with its small waterfall. As he thought, the water lightened and there he could see that very water, a gray tabby laying at the water's edge, eyes tightly closed. So that was what he looked like?
He swallowed and stepped in. The water was cold like ice and he thought his paw was staring to go numb. He shivered but went farther in, keeping his mind on the Moonpool. He was all the way in now and sinking fast. He stared wide eyed at his sister as he sank under, the darkness slowly covering his face. He couldn't stand it anymore. He started thrashing, trying to get out, but he only went under more quickly.
Suddenly he was hitting something so hard, his tail and feet were hurting. He opened his eyes and jumped to his feet. Heart racing, he stared around. The ridge stony walls rose above him, the sky above silky dark blue, and a large full moon the color of drying blood overhead. He closed his eyes and sighed, realizing he was back. He could hear the water falling into the Moonpool, a soothing sound.
Not too much time passed before his siblings were back. He heard them waking up. Honeybee gave a shout of terror, Mallowstalk was off running before anyone could stop her and she almost fell into the Moonpool before she opened her eyes, and Badgerface just opened his wide eyes as if awaking from a bad dream. Once they were all there, Lakefrost glanced at the sky. He wondered how much time they had left. The moon couldn't stay that way forever could it? How long had it been? It didn't look like it had moved very far in the sky and there wasn't any dew on his fur. So he and his siblings couldn't have been in the Dark Forest for very long.
"Let's hurry back," he meowed.
"Of course," Mallowstalk muttered, her ears flat.
Only Badgerface looked confused. It was a look Lakefrost came to associated with when he couldn't hear. He motioned with his tail and the four took off. They stood on the crest of the dip, staring down. There was the forest to one side of the stream and down to the other was the moorland. Red light shone down on it, making the tall grass look bright with blood. He could barely make out a small dent and there were cats racing everywhere. They scattered and regrouped, others just lay unmoving on the ground if he could see them at all. It seemed as if some cats just disappeared into the ground. He wasn't sure which were from the Dark Forest and which were WindClan.
"We can't waste time going around ThunderClan," Mallowstalk meowed, gazing down at the moorland, her eyes hiding pain. "We have to go through it."
She didn't get any argument from him or the others. They quickly crossed the stream at its most shallow and walked into the forest. The undergrowth was thick, but nothing like the Dark Forest. Once he realized the ferns and bushes wouldn't scratch him or trip him, he was racing. They all ran as fast as they could now, hearts pounding, knowing they were trespassing and that there were battles being found, there was a lot of excitement. Part way through the ThunderClan territory, they heard the yowls. They got louder and to the left side. He knew they had to be near the ThunderClan camp.
He was right. They passed a few more trees and there was a section without. He thought they'd gain speed and distance, but as they sped up, the ground seemed to crumble under him. He halted and tried to back up. Badgerface yowled in terror as he almost fell down into the quarry as well. Mallowstalk had him by his scruff pulling him back. Lakefrost fell down to a lower ledge, but it wasn't too far. He managed to scramble back up. His siblings peered over the edge of the quarry wall. When Lakefrost reached them, he could see where all the noise was coming from.
There were the ThunderClan cats. They were bright, the moon lighting up their fur in the oddest ways. And there was the Dark Forest. They seemed see through, just mere outlines full of darkness. Shadows that moved on their own. The glowing eyes caught in the light of the blood moon. There were at least twice as many shadows as living cats. ThunderClan fought from the ledges, trying to protect the dens of the elders and kits. But there was blood on all pelts but the shadows. And some cats lay still in the dirt, the shadows leaping over them.
Badgerface's yowl seemed to catch the attention of some of the shadows. One with blue eyes, and a faint brown coloring and stripes, white on the underparts looked up at them. It flicked its tail and two others retreated out of the camp entrance.
"We have to get out of here," Lakefrost hissed. "I think they saw us!"
The others nodded and they raced along the edge of the quarry. There was no way they could stop to help ThunderClan, their own camp had to be surrounded. As they passed by some bushes, he thought he could see a ginger-brown tabby tail sticking out one of the bushes. He didn't have time to stop and look to see who it was, but he thought it might have been Morningsong. The Dark Forest traitors would want to stay out of the fighting. They wouldn't want to show their Clan they weren't fighting, and they wouldn't fight the Dark Forest in case they were accidently hurt. So Morningsong's body was out of the fight, and her spirit was in the Dark Forest.
The four cats continued on, heading for the ShadowClan border. Lakefrost hoped they got back to camp in time, before any of his Clanmates were laying on the ground, not moving. He couldn't help but think of a black she-cat with tangled, knotted fur.