Prologue 1: Eveningbreeze
You don't remember me but I remember you/I lie awake and try so hard not to think of you/but who can decide what they dream?/and dream I do...
--"Taking over Me" by Evanescence
Her yellow eyes scanned the three cats in front of her. There was Longfang, a black and gray tom whose incisors jutted down almost his chin; Cinderblossom, a dark gray she-cat with little white spots; and Snowclaw, a white tom. The three sat across from her on the other side of the narrow ditch. Above them branches interlocked, almost blocking out the sky. She'd taught these cats, among others, for the last half moon, preparing them for the day they'd make contact with the cats of the living Clans.
Her sister, Fernstripe, sat near her side. The light tabby shifted, her tail flicking uneasily as she scanned the surrounding trees. She was watching for other cats who might seek to interrupt them. And there were a few who would disagree with what they were doing. Eveningbreeze knew she didn't have long. Which was why she'd only brought a small group that day.
"I want you to think of the cat you've been watching this past half moon," meowed the dark gray she-cat with ginger belly. "Picture them in your mind and stare into the Darkpool. I want you to imagine them here in the Dark Forest. Bring them to our realm while they sleep. Their dreams will guide them to us."
The three obeyed, concentrating hard as they stared into the Darkpool. The pool of water lay in a small dip beneath the pine and rowan trees. It was encircled by stones Tigerstar and others had gathered, lining the very edge as if to measure how big or small it got. The Darkpool was as wide as three cats and as black as the sky above. Small ripples wrinkled the surface, undulating from deep shadow to smudged gray. It was impossible to see the very bottom.
Eveningbreeze blinked and looked away from the Darkpool. It had a draw on her. She wanted to continue watching, to peer through the darkness and find the light from the living world, but she couldn't just yet. After these three were finished, then could she and Fernstripe visit ShadowClan as they'd planned.
The she-cat looked skyward. The dark, starless sky loomed above the trees, just patches above the knotted branches. It seemed so far away, but at the same time it seemed as if the branches touched the darkened vaults with their golden and orange leaves. The Place-of-No-Stars, the Dark Forest, was trapped in eternal leaf-fall.
There were many types of trees in the endless forest, a mixture of leaf- and needle-baring giants. Beneath all the twisted trunks and branches, patches of multiple layers of undergrowth choked the roots. There were brambles, thistles, gorse, very few ferns, the stinging ivy, and a few clearings of grass. Vines roped their way up the ragged bark, squeezing tightly to the trees as if choking the life out of them. A haze of smoke wrapped around the trees, a sharp irritating scent from a distant constant fire.
"I see her!" Snowclaw growled. His voice drew Eveningbreeze back to her 'apprentices'.
"She's in the forest," the white tom continued. "Near the dead elm."
"Good," Eveningbreeze purred. "And the rest of you? Do you see the cats?"
The other two nodded, glancing at her and back to the pool. If she were to look, she wouldn't see the same things they did. Every cat saw something different when they envisioned things into the Darkpool.
"Then go and find them before they wander off," she ordered. "And remember to not give anything away about us. Though we haunt them and weaken them before the battle, they must not be warned of our attack. Tease them, hurt them, lie to them- I don't care as long as they fear us. Fear their dreams and doubt their Clans. This is the time for revenge! These are the decedents of those that betrayed you. They are the offspring of your killers and the weaklings that didn't deserve life. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, Eveningbreeze," the three cats nodded. Satisfied glints flashed in their hard eyes. They leered, already thinking of what they'd say. Longfang, with his odd face looked the most frightening and Eveningbreeze had a hard time not flinching away. She knew whoever his target was wouldn't ever sleep easily again.
"Go," she ordered, nose flaring.
While the toms walked off, Cinderblossom stayed. She looked at both she-cats from across the pool with her wide green eyes.
"Marshalling forward shattered hope
Silver light on spider web gleam
Cutting strand and falling downward
Darkness take me
Never shall they save."
Then the she-cat turned away and disappeared into the thick undergrowth, pushing through with hunched shoulders. The thorns snagged in her pelt, but she ignored them. These dark hearted cats had long put up with these trials, just as they knew they could never catch prey in the forest, they knew they'd be torn by the thorns.
"That was a horrible poem," Fernstripe muttered, staring after the other she-cat. "It didn't even rhyme."
Eveningbreeze snorted. "It amuses her. She needs something to do in this forest. Which is why she joined me in the first place."
"But she seems crazy muttering nonsense like that!"
"I've noticed most cats aren't quite right here," Eveningbreeze murmured.
Her sister stared at her with wide eyes. Her mouth started to open as if she were going to ask a question. The light tabby never got to. Out from the forest edge, walking down to the lowest part of the ditch, two dark brown tabbies stepped. One set of eyes glimmered amber and the other tom's were light blue like a killing frost. His white belly looked almost too bright in the darkness.
"You must be careful," Tigerstar meowed. "Or someone might think you're talking about yourself."
"Tigerstar. Hawkfrost," Eveningbreeze meowed. She didn't bow her head, not like Fernstripe did the moment she saw them. She sat straight, stiff as she could, and tried not to glare. They need not know just yet how deeply she despised them. Once they'd had her respect, perhaps even her infatuation, but now she knew they were nothing but fools. They'd wasted the whole moon. Instead of coming to the Darkpool like she did, they hid out in the forest, being silent while they prepared for the night all of the Dark Forest would attack the Clans by the lake.
The two toms stood on the opposite side of the Darkpool that Longfang, Snowclaw, and Cinderblossom had left. Their tails twitched slowly side to side. Hawkfrost glared at Eveningbreeze, baring his teeth at her. She just narrowed her eyes and gave him a slight smile. Let him wonder what it meant. They were declared enemies after all. The whole forest knew it ever since their fight.
"Why are you here?" Tigerstar asked.
She let her eyes slowly move to the leader of the Dark Forest. His amber eyes glimmered at her. He already knew the answer. She could tell. He just wanted to hear it from her own tongue. Perhaps he just wanted a confession, a reason to blame her. She wouldn't fall for his trap.
"You are wasting the power of the Darkpool," he hissed when she didn't reply. Only then did he allow a growl to rumble in his throat.
"StarClan has long abused their own power," Eveningbreeze spat back. "This small bit will not matter. It will not affect anything when we all leave this forest."
"You must stop. You've disobeyed my orders, Eveningbreeze," he growled at her. "No cat was meant to use the Darkpool until the Dark Night. You've grown arrogant since you died. Until this point, only my good will in gratitude for all your help and cunning have kept you one of my leaders."
"But we can't let that continue," Hawkfrost meowed when his father stopped. "You've started turning other cats against us. They are using the Darkpool as if it were permanent."
"And know this," Tigerstar meowed. "They will be punished like you."
"You are the fools!" she hissed. The former ShadowClan warrior stood up and leaned over the Darkpool. She could feel her fur rise on end. By her side Fernstripe just huddled, trying not to be seen like she'd always done as a kit.
"Through me the Darkpool will never run dry!" she yelled. "The Clans will know us! We visit their dreams and bring up memories of the past. The Dark Forest will be on their lips before they ever reach StarClan!"
She glared at them to say anything against her. They didn't react. The two toms just watched her with calm eyes. She knew then they'd made this decision before they'd come. No matter what she said wouldn't change their cruel hearts. Well it didn't matter than if she explained herself, but she would, just in case there were listening ears.
"With each visit our fame grows," she meowed, settling back down. "And so will our power over the living. Besides, it's not as if I've told them to jump into the pool and visit their dreams. We can't control that. They're bringing the cats to us. That doesn't use up as much energy."
"You seem to know a lot about it," Hawkfrost growled.
"My contact and I do this often," Eveningbreeze explained. "How else do you think I get information on the Clans if I didn't visit her once and a while? I think I know more about the Darkpool than even you."
He growled even deeper and his claws came out. Eveningbreeze glanced around. She didn't see any movement in the shadow of the trees. Luckily the two had not brought any other cats. This was personal business. And as long as it was just the two of them, Eveningbreeze knew she had a chance.
"You must stop," Tigerstar ordered her again. "You and that ThunderClan she-cat might have helped us in the past, but there is nothing more we need from our contacts. The battle is too near."
"That is why you are the fool," she snapped. "You don't realize that StarClan is still working against us-"
"Those five?" Hawkfrost drawled. "I thought you'd taken care of that. Unless the she-cat came back. . ."
She frowned. When had he heard about that? She'd separated Honeybee from her siblings, but somehow her brother convinced her back to ShadowClan. But still, they hadn't done what the starry warriors required. They'd failed and so would the prophecy.
"They are through," Tigerstar meowed firmly, sweeping his tail downward. "They could not stop us in time. And now there is nothing they can do. Your little distraction wasn't worth a rat's tail. Now give up quietly and we will be easy on you."
She paused as if thinking it over. Her tail twitched restlessly, brushing against her sister. Fernstripe looked up, watching her sister's body move slowly as if she weren't aware how odd she was acting. Eveningbreeze was using the secret signals they'd used when they'd been alive. Fernstripe would understand her. At least Eveningbreeze hoped her sister hadn't gotten mouse-brained and still remembered the plan.
Finally she sighed and bowed her head. From the corner of her eyes she saw Hawkfrost grin. He thought she'd given up. What an idiot. She forced her heavy head upward and stood. All around her the forest was still as if awaiting her answer.
"Tigerstar, Hawkfrost," she paused again at watched them. Amber eyes gazed at her and she passed by them to stare at the son.
"There isn't anything you can do to stop me." She smirked at him, enjoying the rage flashing across his face.
Hawkfrost snarled, jumping for her. She shoved Fernstripe into the pool. Her sister shrieked and fought to swim, but she was sinking downward, the blackness covering her face. Eveningbreeze didn't waste time in following after. She jumped in after, pushing her sister downward into the black water. Claws gripped her tail like thorns, digging in and tearing as the darkness filled her eyes. Cold was all around her, soaking into her pelt, pouring into her ears and open mouth. She couldn't see a thing. Her tail stopped aching as the claws slipped free.
She was surrounded by nothing. For a moment she forgot herself. It was nice to just rest there in the cold and have nothing to worry about. She forgot her purpose. She had no name, she had no enemies, and she had no past or future. Was there a future? Wasn't there an imminent battle she was supposed to be worried about? She shook her head. It moved slowly, forcing its way between thickness. Her nose felt tight and so did her lungs. She had to breath! Her heart raced and her eyes flashed open, but there was still nothing. She was trapped in the dark. The cold everywhere around her, starting to fill her. Faint memories returned to her.
Think of one cat! she told herself. The image formed in her mind as her reasons came back to her. Why she'd plunged recklessly into the Darkpool. She was trying to visit someone. Someone living. The one cat she'd been meaning to see for a long time. The one who'd caused all of her problems. . . . and the world formed around her.