Chapter 16: Fawnfur
I could see him standing there. His gray tabby fur nothing but a ghostly form in the dark night. The moon remained hidden beneath the thick clouds and air felt thick enough lay on. Sometimes I wondered what those clouds were waiting for. When would they release the rain? Was that the Dark Forest's plan after all, to keep us hidden from the stars and moon? Just clouds keeping us apart?
I didn't want to believe that. There was no way the Dark Forest could control the weather. I shook my head. My ear tips brushed the ferns as my tail curled near my side. I was reminded why I'd come to the border. The Clan didn't feel so welcoming to me. I could feel their glares even when I was with Jayfeather. A few cats refused to let me treat them. And though other cats sought to include me, there wasn't much they and a medicine cat apprentice could do together.
He started to move and I realized I was missing my chance. I couldn't let him get away. It had been so long since I'd seen him. The last had been the night we'd visited StarClan together. We had to talk. I had to know what he and his siblings had found.
I rose from the undergrowth. My ginger-brown tabby fur brushed against the ferns and bushes as I jumped across the fallen leaves. I raced for Lakefrost. He tensed, eyes growing wider as he became aware of my movement. Ears folded back, he turned on me.
"Wait," I cried.
His ears went up and the snarl left his face for a small smile.
"Sorry," he meowed. "I thought I was under attack."
"It's only me," I purred, bumping heads with him.
"Of that I'm glad," he purred. He stepped back and looked at me. "What are you doing out at this time of night?"
"I needed to get away from my Clan," I sighed. "There have been . . . difficulties. Most of them seem to hate me now for any number of reasons they can think up."
He tilted his head again and peered at me. His eyes narrowed quizzically and his tail refused to stay still. Finally he closed his eyes and sighed, his paws moving in the sparse grass.
"I'm sorry. I didn't think we'd get in this kind of trouble. I can't believe your Clan doesn't trust you," he meowed.
"I know," I answered. "After all, I'm trying to protect them. I know they don't realize that, but it's still so unfair."
"You think StarClan would have been kinder to us," he snorted.
I nodded and glanced around, becoming aware just how open we were. I could only hope no one from my Clan or from his were wandering about. So far no one sprang out from the darkened trees to challenge us. Only the undergrowth rustled and small creatures darted about. There wasn't even the wind to move a thing, so I felt confident we'd hear somecat coming before we saw or smelled them.
"What about you?" I meowed. "You can't still be punished if you're out here alone."
He winced. His tail lowered and he didn't quite meet my eyes. "Actually I still am, but no one has stopped me yet. And I was kind of hoping I could leave the territory before anyone came after me."
"Leave the territory? Why?"
"Remember how I said Honeybee was missing?"
"Yes," I nodded.
"Well, I found her a few days ago. She left the Clan. I didn't bring her back last time."
"So you're going again?" I meowed. It was the only thing I could think to say. I wanted to ask him why she'd left, but I felt it might be personal. Maybe he didn't want to talk about that. He certainly hadn't told me where she'd gone, just that she'd left the Clan. So if he was going to find her and he came this way . . . did that mean she was in WindClan?
"Yes," he meowed, catching my wandering attention. "I didn't try so hard the last time. I thought she'd be safer out of the fight. But I know she has to be here now. StarClan wanted her; otherwise they wouldn't have called her. I have to make her see that."
"Oh. I'm sorry about stopping you then."
"No, it's fine. I've been trying to think about what to tell her. I don't know what I can say to her that she won't have an excuse for staying where she is."
I nodded. "If it's any help, tell her I need her. Every one of you is important to me. You can help me in your own ways."
"I'll tell her," he answered, a grateful smile on his face. "I just hope I can get her back before the Gathering."
"Is everyone else okay?" I asked.
His gray ears twitched and he shook his head. Suddenly I wondered if he was annoyed with me and if he just wanted to leave and look for his sister.
"While I was gone RiverClan had a border battle with us."
I blinked in surprise as my ears went back.
"So my Clan is still recovering from that. And I just found out that my brother is deaf."
"Badgerface?" I meowed. How could he be deaf? I was shocked and wondered what could cause such a thing. I was a medicine cat and I knew injuries that caused deafness or blindness were very rare. Most cats were born with impairments and died before they became warriors.
He nodded sadly. "It so odd. He's been hiding it for a long time. I can't understand why StarClan would do that to him and then call on him to help us look for those cats. It just doesn't make sense. And he thinks he's so useless and that he can't help us because he's deaf. And my sister, who's just fine, runs away because she thinks she a burden to our Clan!" he sighed and his voice lowered to a harsh whisper. "It's as if every creature in this forest is against us. I feel that we are losing. It's too much. We haven't even spoken to anyone in the other Clans, we don't know who our enemies are and the Gathering is coming too quickly!"
My eyes met the ground and I wasn't sure how to respond. This was the most he'd poured out his true feelings to me. I couldn't bother him with my own. Yet, I also felt some resentment. So much was happening to him that my own troubles were nothing in comparison. He'd been out of territory looking for his sister, there'd been a battle, his brother was deaf, and now he got to leave again. I was being left out of everything, as if I wasn't important. There was nothing exciting in my life, just being considered and outcast by my Clan.
I shook my head. Perhaps I shouldn't be so gloomy or angry. I should be glad no bad news was in my life, that everything was fine with my Clan for now.
"Sorry, if I'm not making much sense. I'm sure I'm scaring you. I wish it would just rain," Lakefrost meowed, shaking his pelt. "The air has been so heavy."
I nodded. "Soon. I hope the clouds leave before the Gathering."
He met my eyes and I knew he had the same thoughts as I'd before. Were the clouds the Dark Forest's plan?
"I really should go before it gets too late," he meowed. "I need to get Honeybee back before it happens."
I really wanted to speak longer with him, but I couldn't hold him back. He was right. If he wanted to bring Honeybee back before the Gathering, he had to go now. I wished him well and then watched the ShadowClan tom walk off, the border on one flank as he traveled away from the lake. His tail rested low and twitched slowly. A determined look hardened the blue eyes. I could see him for a long time, a lighter shape drifting between the dark trees. Finally a low pine with thick needles covered him from my sight completely.
I sighed and turned around. It was time I returned to my Clan.
When I entered the gorse and bramble tunnel, my vision narrowed with the blackness, only a circle of light guiding me onward. I left the tunnel, my fur snagging on a thorn, scratching my side. I spat and tugged away. When I faced the quarry again, I could see a cat sitting. My ears folded down as I realized how foolish I'd been. The Clan would know I'd been out of camp. Bramblestar would know. He just needed one more reason to take me out of Jayfeather's paws and punish me as he wanted.
"Fawnfur, Fawnfur," the cat sighed slowly, shaking her head. "What are you doing?"
My ears lifted slowly and I could feel my whiskers move forward and my eyes narrow slightly.
"Morningsong? I thought Dewstep was on guard duty."
My sister gave me a half smile and shook her head. "He was, but I offered. I knew you were still in the forest. And we both know the Clan doesn't need to hear about it."
"Thank you," I breathed out. I'd started walking to her the moment I saw who it was. Now I reached her side and so leaned into her warm pelt. She nudged me back, but otherwise kept sitting upright.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked. "You know better than to wander alone. And right now I refuse to believe you've been seeing that ShadowClan tom."
My jaw fell open and I looked at her wide-eyed. She continued to gaze at me with calm, almost icy eyes. How could she know? I wondered. Then I snorted. That was a silly question. She'd probably "seen" it. She'd known what was happening the moment it happened, living it and seeing it with me. I thought over Lakefrost's and mine conversation, wondering if we'd said something about the prophecy. Something that would need explanation.
"You have to stop doing that," she hissed. "I can't keep protecting you. If you keep it up, I might not want to."
"But I'm not doing anything wrong," I protested.
"You are friends with a ShadowClan cat. You have to admit, it doesn't look right."
I lowered my ears and hunched over. She was right once more. As much as I wanted the Dark Night to be over and my true loyalty and protection for my clan revealed, I was nervous as to how the Dark Forest would accomplish their destruction.
"Go to your nest," Morningsong murmured in my ear, giving me a lick. "You should rest. I'm sure tomorrow will be better."
I nodded in agreement and padded away. Nearly to the quarry wall I thought I could feel someone watching. I glanced up and saw eyes peering from the warriors' den. My breath caught in my throat, but I lowered my eyes and kept walking. In the entrance to the medicine cat den, I turned around and glanced out. Owlface had jumped from the den and approached my sister.
"She was at it again, wasn't she?" he asked, his voice a low irritated rumble.
"Yes," Morningsong snapped. I was surprise to see her teeth bared. She looked so different from before. "I swear, if she doesn't stop, I'm going to get someone to escort her!"
I watched her burning eyes dim for a heartbeat, her jaws slackened. Then, suddenly her head jerked up and she stared into my eyes, aware once more.
"Sleep, Fawnfur," she meowed, a more pleasant demeanor on her ginger-brown tabby face.
Owlface looked up, but he looked over my shoulder. He didn't know where I was. But they were both aware that I was watching. I backed away, retreating to my nest. My head swam in confusion. How could she act so differently in such a short time? Why wouldn't she escort me herself if she was so concerned for me? No one would think it odd to see sister and sister together. What was she doing that she didn't want to be with me?
I felt bad and confused as I circled in the mossy nest. As I laid my head down, my tired eyes on my gray mentor, I could smell my old bedding. It hadn't been changed for a few days now. I didn't mind much, it still had my scent, but I felt as if I'd been forgotten, or purposefully ignored.