Chapter 20: Fawnfur
Author's Note: Onyxtail is just a more creative name than Blacktail but means the same. And you're all probably wondering where Tigerstar is. I have no idea! I'm staying away from that character, mainly because I have no idea what he'd do. After all in my book Firestar is dead, and I think that's who is has the greatest grudge against. So just read what happens in the rest of Omen of the Stars and find out what really happens. I'm certain the Erins can do a lot better job than me. I love their Dark Forest, it's just so much more interesting.
The darkness was everywhere about me. It smothered me until I couldn't breath and couldn't think. I fought against it, trying to reach the surface again. I had to find air. I was entrapped as though in sand, buried deeply and sinking still, the grains becoming heavier and heavier. I struggled, I tried to swim, but I was consumed and forgotten. I had no name. No place. I was nothing.
"She's dead, Onyxtail. Leave her."
"No, she isn't." It was a low voice like a tom's. "There aren't any wounds at all! She's probably faking."
"Leave her!" snapped the other cat. "It's one of the agents. We aren't supposed to hurt them!"
"Tigerstar said nothing about that."
I could feel something looming over me. I had to get away fast because I was about to die.
I sprang up. Leaves and dirt scattered. At first my limbs didn't want to work, perhaps woozy and tired from the poppy seed or because my spirit had been gone so long from it. Either case, I tripped over the roots encircling me and fell flat on my face. My nose hurt. From the corner of my eye I could see Onyxtail, a white and brown tom with a black tail standing nearby, amusement creasing his nearly see-through face. He was made of shadows, but I could see his coloring, but also that he was fading away to non-existence. He wasn't long for the Dark Forest. Perhaps only the thoughts of battle had kept him around.
His companion was a silver and ginger tom and seemed startled that I'd awoken. "We're sorry, Morningsong," he tried to say, but Onyxtail lunged forward not giving him a chance to finish.
I scrabbled for my feet, just barely leaping away as Onyxtail landed where I'd been. I turned swiftly and growled into his face. He snarled back at me and took a swipe, jumping after as I backed away. I knew I didn't have long. I was being distracted, unable to get to my Clan, and also I was marked for death. Any longer in the Dark Forest and I would have ended up like my sister Morningsong. Dead.
I ducked and Onyxtail went over my back. It was surprising how quickly I could relearn my warrior apprentice training. It must have been with Sunstorm and Redfur when we escaped the hill cave. We didn't really fight there, but enough so I had a bit of practice.
I stared at the second tom but he didn't seem eager to attack and I knew he wasn't the threat. I turned around just as the spotted tom landed a blow to my rump. I yowled as the claws dug deep, peeling fur and muscle. I took a swipe at him. I hit him and he closed his eyes, but then my claws went through him. My paw didn't go quickly, but slowly as if I were digging sand or pushing against a very strong wind. And it was as cold as frost.
My paw came out, no blood, nothing. Onyxtail could see my shock and he grinned at me, laughing.
"So you see, my dear. You can't wound me. I am invincible!" He yowled and charged.
I ran. Not knowing where Morningsong had hid my body, the only thing I was certain of was that I couldn't be far from camp. Morningsong would have wanted to find me again after the battle. She had intended for me to live after all.
I raced for the camp entrance. I plunged into the brambles. From behind, I could still hear Onyxtail, "You can't get away, my sweet thing."
Terror bubbled inside of me. I pushed my legs to go faster and came out of the darkness into the red night. I'd thought I'd been prepared. I'd had my vision with Eveningbreeze. Yet when I left the tunnel, I didn't realize how bad it would be. Eveningbreeze had been unattached. She didn't know my Clan, the cats or their names, didn't care about them, so I'd felt nothing, yet just as I got to camp, I felt anguish rush through me. There were dead bodies near the entrance. Another at the other end of the quarry. Yowls of terror and anger filled the air. Too caught up in my sorrow I couldn't stop in time and slammed into the Dark Forest cat guarding the entrance. They wanted no one to escape, they hadn't thought about anyone coming through.
She stumbled and I leapt over her. Onyxtail came next and tripped over the guard. They scrambled on the ground, hissing and spitting at each other. Claws out, they started fighting. He would be distracted for a while. I snuck away.
I could see my remaining Clanmates, huddled against the quarry stone walls. Others lined up near the dens snarling at shadow-cats that tried to break in. I could see Bramblestar in one of the small groups along the wall near the nursery. He was facing another dark brown tabby, one with a white underbelly and blue eyes. But it wasn't Hawkfrost, just a similar cat. For a moment I wondered where Eveningbreeze and Hawkfrost. My thoughts were quickly answered when a yowl above us was followed by two cats tumbling from the sky.
They skidded down the side of the quarry wall near the nursery. Hawkfrost clutched in the claws of dark gray and ginger Eveningbreeze. She'd thrown them both off of the side. Yarrowthorn and Sootwhisker stared down the sandy embankment, blinking their red-shining eyes. With a loud thud the two Dark Forest warriors hit the hard ground. Dust rose from their bodies.
I didn't see more, because that was when Onyxtail shoved that she-cat by the entrance away and with a roar lunged for me. I squeaked, I admit quite like a kit, and hurried away, racing toward the medicine cat den, the only place I'd ever felt safe. I could see Jayfeather at the top. He and Whitewing were fighting off a white cat on the narrow ledge. I halted down below, unable to go up the trail while they were in the way. I turned as Onyxtail reached me.
He was quick, aiming for my face. I ducked down, and gathered my paws under me to leap. I sprang up as his paw came down and he started to switch to the other, claws out. I bounded into him and forced him back, knocking him over. He landed on his side, grunting in surprise, but hardly hurt. I stood over him too long. He pulled his back legs up and scratched my belly. I yowled and flipped to my feet again, raking him down his ear and jumping over just as he rose.
I looked over my shoulder. Jayfeather was staring down at me, I could catch the movement of his eyes. For the moment he could see, as his gift seemed to work when StarClan (and evidently the Dark Forest cats) were around. Whitewing glanced my way and fended off another attack.
"Hurry up here!" Jayfeather yowled.
"I'm busy!" I yelled back, running away as Onyxtail tried to jump on top of me. I dodged sideways and twisted my back until I was facing another way and ran to the quarry wall. With my back to it, I growled at the tom.
"You aren't Morningsong?" he spat.
I flicked an ear in a negative motion and his eyes narrowed.
"My sister," I told him. "You are too late. She's already dead."
I had guessed right. He'd wanted to kill Morningsong himself for some reason. I didn't even want to know. The more I learned of my sister's past, the more I cringed. Thinking of my sister, I glanced over at Hawkfrost and Eveningbreeze. They were on their feet, though each bent over as if in pain. They circled each other. Eyes locked, their fur fluffy, tails thrashing. They didn't attack, just stared and circled, looking for an opening. Hawkfrost moved first, snarling as he dove forward. Eveningbreeze expected the move and jumped up, landing as he hit the ground. She got wrapped about his head and they were both on the dirt, rolling and kicking, and biting. They pushed each other away and got back to it circling again. It was a different fight than I was used to seeing or experiencing or hearing about. This was deadly. They weren't holding back, no reason to as they couldn't die again.
Onyxtail ran forward again, knowing I was pinned against the wall and either trying to use that to his advantage, or to make use of my inattention. He ran, paws pounding, but he didn't get far. The cat on the ledge fell down in front of me, scrabbling for a hold, but unable to get one as Jayfeather and Whitewing shoved him down. Onyxtail hit this other Dark Forest warrior instead of me. I flinched away and turned, struggling up the trail where Jayfeather and Whitewing grabbed my scruff and pulled me up. There was hardly any room for all three of us and we balanced precariously. Onyxtail spat at the white tom and looked up at us. I noticed the white tom was Snowclaw, one of the Dark Forest guards at the cave.
"These cats," Jayfeather meowed. "They are difficult."
"I guess they would be," I nodded.
"Welcome back," Whitewing meowed.
I tilted my head, not sure what she meant, until I remembered. I'd been exiled. I'd been missing from my Clan for at least a day or two. She wasn't attacking me like Bramblestar said my old Clan should if they ever saw me again. That was fortunate.
"We did learn that these cats are more solid than nothing at all," Jayfeather meowed.
"What do you mean?"
"They can't go through solid things. If they could, we would all be dead. They'd walk through walls and trees and bushes. They can't. We'd be dead otherwise."
"They trapped us in the quarry," Whitewing meowed as we watched Onyxtail and Snowclaw start up the trail toward us. "We didn't have any warning. The night guard went missing. I think it was your sister. I fear they might have gotten her first."
I nodded slowly, not saying a thing. I noticed Jayfeather glance at me and frown. I was certain he could see and hear my raw thoughts. Of what happened in the Dark Forest.
"I'm sorry," I whispered. "I couldn't stop it."
"It doesn't matter," he rumbled back quietly. "I'm sorry for your loss."
I glanced out over the quarry. The dead bodies laying on the ground, the living fighting to stay alive, but loosing as they grew tired and leaked blood. I wanted to run down there and give them herbs and cover them with cobwebs. But I knew I'd never make it through the row of Dark Forest cats. And my patients would be moving too much to put anything on them.
My roving eyes landed on Hawkfrost and Eveningbreeze. They still fought, though sluggishly and they wobbled and almost tripped when they came back apart. Finally Eveningbreeze just collapsed and lay gasping. Hawkfrost loomed over her, snarling and dragging his claws over her throat. She couldn't die, but lay there gasping and struggling.
"This time you won't get away," he snarled. I could hear him from where they were at, and was mildly surprised. My heart raced as I looked down on them. I had lived in Eveningbreeze's head for a short time and I felt hate for Hawkfrost. He'd killed my sister. This once I wanted her to win, to get up and hurt him, make him fade away into nothing and never return.
Eveningbreeze gurgled and bared her teeth. She glared, but her eyes started rolling back, the whites at the very edges becoming apparent. Then suddenly, she grinned. Her eyes snapped back. She started to fade. I could see the ground beneath her body. She left quickly, retreating, I could tell, and still very much alive. She was escaping the only way she could, back to the Dark Forest. Hawkfrost slammed his paw into the ground out of anger. She was gone.
I turned away as Onyxtail leapt up to face us. Snowclaw was right behind him. Somehow we held them at bay, although it was tough to maneuver on our ledge. We were stronger together, but below, more cats fell and didn't get up. It wouldn't be long until my Clan was dead. It was inevitable. It always had been. Then the stars started falling.
Down they came, shooting through the sky. It was suddenly bright again and when I looked up, I could see a piece of the moon. The shadow had fallen back and now the silver was coming through as were the stars. It wasn't long before I could see StarClan warriors darting into the quarry, pouring through the bramble tunnel and lighting the walls and ground in wavering light. It seemed like sunlight reflecting off a water. The Dark Forest cats seemed surprised and froze. They didn't hold back, though, and started attacking this new foe. ThunderClan regrouped and helped fight the shadow-cats.
They disappeared slowly, fading away like Eveningbreeze had, or running from camp, dodging the Clan cats. Jayfeather went into the medicine cat den and I could hear him dragging out bundles of herbs. Whitewing jumped down and raced after the shadow-cats yowling as loudly as she could, getting a few swipes in. I smiled and started to turn away as well.
Claws dug deeply into by back legs. I yowled as I was pulled off the ledge to the ground below. Onyxtail stood on top of me and released one paw. I stared into his blue eyes and shivered. I tried to roll over, but he was strong and had a good hold on a correct angle, that made me immobile. I couldn't move my back so I couldn't twist over. I watched his paw come down, the claws out, and thought I would die.
A streak of light jumped toward us. A ginger paw swiped Onyxtail's out of the way. It came back down swiftly and hit a white leg. Onyxtail fell. I wiggled out from him as he started to rise. Firestar didn't give him time, biting the Dark Forest tom's scruff and dragging him away from me. There he shook him and finally released him. Onyxtail gave him one look, snarled, and ran off, two ThunderClan cats giving chase.
My former leader turned back to me and smiled.
"Thank you," I told him softly.
He just nodded. I blinked and watched as he faded away. All round me the rest of the StarClan cats left. It was suddenly much darker in the quarry. They'd left so quickly! I sighed. It was over. All over. I looked around. I could see the bodies against the wall. I didn't go over, fearful of who they might be. Instead I hopped up to the medicine cat den and grabbed my own bundle of herbs. It was time I cared for the living.
As the dawn lit a fiery red hue in the bright blue sky above the green tall treetops, I leaned over Greeneyes, treating him. My eyes felt gummy and my head wouldn't stay straight, my eyelids drooping. I wanted to sleep. My paws hurt and the wound on my rump was stinging. I hadn't noticed it until the StarClan warriors left.
Someone cleared their throat. Bramblestar. He was as scratched and wounded as the rest, might have lost some lives too, but it seemed Jayfeather had gotten to him because he smelled of marigold and horsetail. For a moment I shrank away, remembering his cold rage when he cast me out. He held none of that anger and disappointment now.
"I'm sorry, Fawnfur," the leader told me. "I was wrong."
"Yes, very," Jayfeather snapped, walking over to us.
I was aware how much attention we were drawing. Cats laying or sleeping, or preparing the dead turned to look at us. There was no anger or disgust in their eyes this time. They knew I'd been telling the truth. They'd lived through it.
"I-" The words seemed to get stuck in his throat. "What we just saw. . . those Dark Forest cats. I was wrong." He bowed his head. He couldn't look at me and kept his amber eyes on his large paws instead. "I was so wrong. I'm sorry for exiling you and for doubting you. You can be a member of this Clan again. I just. . . I just need to tell you that. Please forgive my stupidiy."
I swallowed. I just couldn't bring myself to say anything. I clenched my teeth, remembering the way he cast me out and sent my own Clan to get rid of me. How sad and depressed I'd been and had to find solace in an enemy Clan. I looked around at the others. They nodded to me and I heard their own murmurs of regret and how they'd wronged me.
Bramblestar's eyes came up and he looked at me from his lowered head. He waited for my answer. But I had none to give.
I turned away from him without a word and looked instead to my mentor. He just blinked his sightless eyes and nodded to me. It was my decision.