Chapter 10: Fawnfur
Sunlight glimmered down as slants through the green leaves. Thick, puffy, wool-like clouds drifted by, dotting the blue sky. Birds flitting in the branches knocked the leaves, scattering shadows and making them dance. I hopped over ferns in the undergrowth, landing on soft grass. A large fallen log covered in toadstools lay to my side, a black bird hopping across, boring its beak into the crumbling bark.
As I landed, it saw me and flew away cawing. Its talons tore away some of the wood, sending it raining down on me. I winced, ducking my head. When it was finally gone I looked up after it. The forest had gone silent around me, frighten.
"You made me lose it!" a shout startled me.
I lowered myself, tail filling out as my ears darted around. I calmed my quickened heart when I realized it was just my sister. The ginger-brown she-cat who looked just like me leaped over the fallen log. She glared at me, her golden eyes like smoldering ash.
"I'm sorry," I told her. "I didn't mean to scare it."
She sighed and shook her head. "It's fine. It's not like the Clan really needed it or anything. This greenleaf has been plentiful."
I nodded and looked at my sister. She stared into the shadows as if unconcerned, but I knew I had hurt her pride. No cat liked missing prey, least of all young warriors.
"Who are you hunting with?" I meowed, sitting down. I wrapped my tail around my legs. It had been a long time since we just talked. We weren't alone together that often. We'd grown apart since kithood. My sisters and I got closer when we finally became warriors, but after Sunstorm's death, my family just drifted, avoided talking about it, or really looking at each other except in passing. Perhaps our mother and Morningsong had more in common; after all, they were both warriors while I took on the healing art.
"Owlface, Pricklethorn, and his apprentice," she meowed, copying my position to rest on the soft forest floor. It didn't look like she was in a hurry either. The happiness I felt that she was willing to stay was dashed away with her words.
"Them again," I grimaced. "You're always with those cats."
"Well, why not?" she challenged.
"It's just you never used to like them. We always used to be together. We've been so far apart lately. I don't even know what you want anymore." I didn't want to argue with her though. She had her own reasons for being with them I'm sure. Even if I wasn't fond of the group. "I miss you."
"So do I," she whispered quietly. "It's been so long."
I glanced up. She stared off into the distance, probably remembering our past. I could certainly remember it. I'd get caught up if I wasn't careful.
"It's been a long time since we just walked together," she continued. "Or hunted together. Remember the time when we all worked together to chase away that badger?" she laughed.
"Yeah," I meowed. "I remember. Sunstorm was around then. The day before our first Gathering as warriors if I remember correctly."
"You would," she smiled at me. "Probably could see the very moves we did to make it fall down that slope and sent it running into WindClan territory."
I nodded. Yes, I could if I wanted to and she knew it. Just like I knew she could see things going on in the present. I wondered if she'd seen anything lately. I'd just never asked before. I didn't know what she saw. She'd never been so open about her visions. Not like Sunstorm or me. I wondered if she could see the troubles stirring in the other camps.
"So how has life been for you?" I meowed.
"Fair," she jerked her head. "Not too busy."
"You've been guarding the ShadowClan border for a while."
"Someone has to stop them from coming over."
"They haven't tried again since the fight," I told her. It hadn't been so long ago. She still bore the scratch marks. The shallower cuts were already closing, but the deeper still had brown scabs. I examined them with my medicine cat eyes.
"Am I going to live?" she meowed with pretend concern.
I giggled. "Yes."
"Good. That means I can fight some more ShadowClanners."
I frowned at her. "Why do you want to fight them so much? What is with you guys?"
She frowned back at me. "Nothing."
"Someone has to protect you," she meowed, reaching out with a paw. It rested on my own. "They've been so bold lately. And that one tom, Lakefrost. He's too interested in you. We have to teach them to stay in their place."
"But, Morningsong, there isn't anything between us."
She stared at me and I shut my mouth.
"There may not be. But Owlface thinks so."
"Owlface doesn't know anything. He's a big liar," I growled, anger filling my chest. I pulled my paw from under my sister's ginger-brown one. I kept one shoulder turned to her so she couldn't see my face.
"He may not know anything at all," Morningsong stressed, "but something was between you and him."
I tilted my head just a bit to watch her from the corner of my eye. What 'he' was she talking about? Lakefrost or Owlface?
"You promised Owlface you'd be his mate," she meowed.
"I did not. I only said I'd hunt with him and do as he asked."
"To protect that ShadowClan tom. That isn't something an innocent medicine cat does."
I felt my face burn. "Well, what would you have done?" I growled.
"Told him no and leave me alone or I'd rip his ears off."
I sighed and faced her again. I know she would. She'd told him that after Sunstorm died and Owlface started padding after her. Once rejected by my sister, he'd turned to me. I guess I hadn't scared him enough to avoid me and that got me into this mess.
"You're right," I sighed. "It's just, I couldn't think. I didn't know what to do."
She nudged me and smiled gently. "I don't know what is going on between you and that Lakefrost or why you wanted to meet with him. I don't think it really matters much now that he's not allowed back onto our land. You won't be seeing him again. But you and Owlface do have a problem and you made a mistake giving into his demands."
I nodded. She was right. She usually was.
"But why should we let that hold us back?" she meowed. "We have things to do, a life to live. We need to get back on track. No more padding after ShadowClan or encouraging them to come over here."
I lowered my head, knowing she really meant me. It probably did look like I was encouraging them.
"My friends and I will be here to see to it," she assured me. "We won't let them over. Ever. They'll stay in their territory and not start wars. You can count on it."
I knew she meant to make me feel better, but I could only feel my heart sink. Morningsong was so mistaken. It wasn't about that at all. I needed Lakefrost. We needed to talk, to communicate to do StarClan's will. She thought she was protecting me and the Clan, but she was so wrong.
"Why are you friends with them?" I asked.
"I just got different friends is all. We want the same things," she answered after a pause. "We don't like the way they're staring at our border or our she-cats."
"But why him?"
"Owlface? Because despite the problems between you, he's a good tom."
"But he's turned the Clan against me."
"If he didn't your own actions would have."
I had no reply.
"Did you want anything else?" she asked.
"No," I told her.
She tilted her head and watched me for a few more heartbeats. "You remind me so much of Sunstorm."
I blinked at her. "What do you mean?"
"So determined. You're so focused that you forget to see the big picture. You two can't see the enemies about you and are so innocent of it all and of betrayal. She might have seen the future, but she was so blind sometimes. Couldn't live in the moment. And yet, you are trapped in it. Blinded by the past and what is happening to you with Owlface. Both of us are unable to rely on the future our sister told us to expect. She shouldn't have died."
I glanced down, unable to meet her eyes. She hadn't been this open with me for so long, I didn't know what to say.
"You've gotten over it," I meowed quietly. "You're just so strong."
"You're wrong," she replied, her eyes turned away from mine. "I think about her every day. How cruel it was for her to die like that. So young. She had so much to do a great life ahead of her." She took a quick, shaky breath.
I blinked, my eyes on her wrinkling face. She closed her eyes and bowed her head.
"Out of all of us, you're doing what she said we would," she meowed when she opened her eyes again.
I tilted my head.
Morningsong noticed and smiled at me. "You're a medicine cat. She said you'd always do it. She saw it. She's never going to be a leader. And Cinderheart is the deputy. She's going to be leader after Bramblestar finally dies. There's no way I'll be deputy now."
"You can't be serious," I meowed. "He's not going to die yet."
"He's not getting any younger."
"But Firestar lived a long time."
"He was the longest leader there was," Morningsong nodded. "But Bramblestar was his third deputy. He's older now. He can't last forever."
I sighed and nodded. She was probably right.
"I'm happy for you though," Morningsong bumped my head. "Doing what you love." I noticed though that seemed a bit forced.
"Are you sure everything is all right?" I asked. She sounded kind of doubtful or worried, a crease between her eyes.
She tilted her head and her tongue poked out. She hesitated just a heartbeat more. "I wasn't going to say it, but are you sure you're happy? You don't want a mate at all?"
"Not one bit," I exclaimed, my tail going straight. "I'm quite content. And Jayfeather once told me the whole Clan was my family, everyone my kits. So I can't be unhappy."
She blinked at me. "I guess."
"I hope you aren't thinking I really want Owlface?" I questioned.
She shook her head. "No. I really doubt that. Besides he's lost interest in you."
"So quickly?" I meowed dryly. After the moons of being on my tail?
She smiled, her eyes just slits. "He thinks you're crazy."
I stared at her, my mouth open. For a while I could only hear the chirping of crickets and two squirrels hopping on the branches above. I could even hear Pricklethorn teaching Rosepaw nearby.
"Something about him working for some dark forest cat or another. About us being in danger and dying because of him. He thinks you've got cobwebs in your head. I told him to lay off and leave you alone. You're very busy and worried lately and Bramblestar and you aren't on the best terms."
"You know about that?" I winced.
"Who doesn't," she sighed. "We can all see it and sense it. Most of the Clan doesn't seem to be on your side anyway. And with Bramblestar not happy with you it gives them license to do what they want, say what they want. They do think you're breaking the code and even a spy for ShadowClan."
"Do you feel the same?" I whispered.
"No," she shook her head. "You're my sister. I don't care what they say or what you do. You've made mistakes. Who doesn't? And I know you'll fix them. So I trust you. Just as long as you know what you're doing and doing the right thing."
I nodded. "Thank you."
She smiled at me again, blinking slowly. "Just try to keep out of trouble, eh?"
"You know me," I tried to smile back. I knew though that her version of trouble was what I had to do to save the Clan. I wondered what she'd think if she saw me with ShadowClan again. Would she finally turn against me and ignore me like the others in our Clan? I don't know if I could handle being rejected by my family too. So far Cinderheart had stayed out of it, but I knew it would only be time before Bramblestar spoke to my mother and she tried to sort things out.
I waved my tail at my sister and walked away. I let her get back to hunting. There was nothing more I could do. I had spoken with my sister, learned how she felt about the border battle, and that she was doing this for me, despite what reasons the others fight for. I could only wait for the full moon now. There wasn't much I could do but wait for Lakefrost and his siblings to find the cats responsible for our downfall. I wasn't having much luck in my own Clan. The one thing I had learned was that I was wrong about Owlface. There was no way he was working for the Dark Forest. He hadn't understood one word I'd said to him that day when I fixed his wounds. If he had, he wouldn't have told Morningsong or the others about it. He wouldn't tell Morningsong I was crazy.
I sighed. So I was wrong. I didn't want to risk ostracizing other members in my Clan or making them all think I was insane and deceitful. So I decided I wouldn't leave my mentor's side. Jayfeather was the only cat in my Clan I could rely on now. I had to speak with Lakefrost soon. I looked skyward. Only four more days until the Gathering. Only four more days until the end.