Chapter 1: Fawnfur
--Gates of Dawn by Secret Garden
The patrol arrived at camp just before sunset. We entered the gorse and bramble wall. On the other side the quarry walls rose above us, topped by trailing vines and bushes. Blue sky changed to golden, orange above the tree line. I watched Bramblestar nodded to the cats with him, dismissing them. I would have gone too if he hadn't called me back.
"Are you sure nothing is wrong?" my leader questioned.
"Nothing," I assured him. "They just told me to leave. They didn't like me near the border."
I spoke of ShadowClan. I'd been near the scent-markers just that sunhigh, speaking to three ShadowClan warriors: Lakefrost's siblings. Of course what I didn't tell Bramblestar was that we were going to meet later. ThunderClan was suspicious of ShadowClan lately. And who could blame my Clan? For a quarter moon ShadowClan had been guarding the border like ticks on a rabbit. Either to prevent us, ThunderClan, from going in, or to stop one of their own from leaving. Poor Lakefrost had been punished for seeing me and he was confined to camp unless he left with a warrior escort. I'd heard about this from one of his sisters. I knew his punishment was all my fault, and it hurt. Because I needed him. I needed him to stop my Clan from being destroyed and he was the only one willing to help. I might have gotten his siblings on my side today, but I didn't know how long they'd stay there.
"All right," Bramblestar meowed, getting my attention back on him. "Just don't go near them again. I don't know what they're up to, but it can't be good."
I dipped my head and started walking away. Then I felt eyes burning into my fur. I glanced over my shoulder. There I saw Owlface, glaring at me. I wanted to glare right back, but guilt and rage made me turn away. I continued to the medicine cat's den. I didn't wait to see where he went.
I was angry with my Clanmate. Not only had he been the one to get Bramblestar and the patrol, cutting my meeting with the ShadowClan cats short, but he'd been padding after me this whole moon. Ever since my sister Sunstorm died, Owlface had focused on me being his mate. But I was destined to be a medicine cat. I didn't have time or a longing for a mate. Yet he insisted, following me wherever I went, cornering me, talking to me. Even Jayfeather was frustrated with the silver-and-white tom. My mentor sent warriors with me wherever I went. Mostly cats who found Owlface as annoying as I did. They knew I had my duties and they could see Owlface was doing his best to convince me to break them. They supported me by standing by my side. However, that wasn't always effective.
Just this past quarter moon, after Owlface saw me with Lakefrost, he'd made me promise to spend time with him. In return, he'd promised to say nothing about my meeting with ShadowClan's young warrior, or the one I would have had the night after. Lakefrost never showed the next night, frustrating my plans and forcing me to spend so many days with Owlface. Having to hunt with him and go on patrols was distracting. Fortunately that morning a patrol had taken the silver tom away from me, allowing me to meet with Lakefrost's siblings. Unfortunately Owlface must have have followed me as soon as he was finished patrolling. He'd seen me with the ShadowClan cats. I met him and a patrol coming to my 'rescue'.
I shook my head and turned to the crack in the wall that lead the medicine den. Owlface was making everything more complicated than it should have been. I was trying to help ThunderClan, but he was working against me. I don't believe he knew it. I was keeping secrets. Perhaps I shouldn't have, but I didn't even know the whole truth. I didn't know what I was protecting my Clan from. Besides, if I did tell, why should anyone believe my causeless threat or trust me for siding with ShadowClan?
Now I know what you were scared of, Mallowstalk, I thought to the ginger-and-black she-cat as I leapt up the quarry wall. She'd known ThunderClan wouldn't accept their help and I was beginning to think she'd be right. So for now, I had to keep the news of impending doom to myself. And hope Owlface wasn't telling anyone lies or truth about me. But I feared he already had.
"What do you mean?"
I looked up and met the sightless eyes of my mentor. I knew he'd already read my thoughts. Sometimes he picked them up because they were loud. I knew his power and he knew my own--that I could see the past.
"It's Owlface," I meowed. "He brought Bramblestar and a patrol to the border when I was trying to speak with Lakefrost's siblings."
And I told him what happened. He was the only other cat in my Clan who knew the danger. From the start I'd told him everything. When Firestar visited me from StarClan with the message. What Lakefrost told me about the prophecy he'd received, and about all of our secret meetings. Out of all cats, I trusted my mentor the most. He knew how to keep secrets. He carried a few of his own.
"Now I think he's told the Clan about my meetings," I concluded when I finished. "They probably don't trust me anymore."
"Nonsense," he meowed. "They know you better than that."
I lowered my eyes. Did they really?
"You've served this Clan for moons," he assured me. "You let nothing sway you from your path. They have to see that."
I nodded, suddenly pleased. He was right of course. They wouldn't believe lies, or what they perceived to be lies. They had to know I had their interest at heart, no matter what I did.
"Now, look outside and tell me if the sun has started to set," he meowed.
I complied, turning around in the narrow tunnel to look back into the quarry. The sky above was darkening. The shadows deepening around me. Cats started coming through the camp entrance, getting ready to settle for the night.
"Yes," I called back to him. "I think it will be night soon."
"Are you going to come?" he meowed, walking up to my shoulder.
I looked at him in confusion. "To what?"
"The Moonpool," he meowed. "Didn't you see the half moon today?"
My ears went back and grew hot. I had completely forgotten about it. I had been caught up with Owlface and getting to the border alone that I hadn't noticed the growing moon. It was time for the medicine cats of every Clan to gather and visit the Moonpool.
"Of course I'll go," I meowed. Maybe I could finally ask StarClan for some answers. Now that I'd found the four as they'd instructed, perhaps they'd finally tell me what the real danger was. I couldn't stand not knowing. They expected me to win against a foe I knew nothing about.
Jayfeather nodded and I quickly started out of the rock and down the short trail to the quarry floor. The dirt felt soft and dry underpaw. A few green sprouts dotted the ground. A bush or two grew from the wall, providing dens for the nursery and apprentices.
As I looked around, I met the eyes of the few warriors still eating the last meal before they went to their nests. Owlface was among them. He sat with the young warriors, my sister among them. I noticed they really weren't eating as much as talking. They circled together, ears tilting to the silver tom.
My eyes narrowed. He was telling them something. Something that wasn't good for my reputation. I was looking at my Clanmate so much, that I wasn't aware I'd stopped walking.
"Are you going to stand there all night?" Jayfeather meowed behind me.
"Oh!" I quickly got out of his way so he could get down to the quarry floor.
"What is the matter?" he meowed.
"I just know he's telling lies about me," I hissed, keeping my voice low.
"Really," Jayfeather snapped. "You're jumping at shadows. Stop working yourself up. He has nothing to go on or tell about you. Just let him be. Unless he starts padding after you, don't think about him."
I lowered my ears, and looked away from the warriors. Jayfeather was probably right. But it hurt to know he thought I was overreacting. Maybe I was being silly and just wanted to think badly about Owlface.
Jayfeather passed by me and started for the tunnel. I walked after him, not looking toward my Clanmates. Even so, I thought I could feel their eyes on me. They were watching their medicine cats leave, I told myself, refusing to look at them.
Then it was Jayfeather who stopped abruptly. My face almost hit his tail. I tripped on my legs. I wondered who was acting more blind, him or me?
"Did we forget something?" I asked. I tried to remember if we were supposed to bring an herb with us to trade with one of the others. I wasn't certain, because I hadn't gone to the last meeting. I don't really remember what I'd done instead.
"Their thoughts," I heard him mutter as if he hadn't realized I'd asked a question.
I lowered an ear. If that was all he was going to say, then I was leading the way out of camp this time. I looked behind us and saw some of the warriors smiling, others staring at us. They probably wondered what our problem was. We were acting like rabbits balking at a fox.
"Come on," he suddenly meowed, turning around.
I dodged out of his way as he headed for the middle of camp. As I followed, I realized we were heading for the Highledge. We were going to see Bramblestar.
Jayfeather pulled his way to the ledge and I jumped up after him. We entered the cave. The darkness smelled like Bramblestar, but I could still smell the very faint scents of Firestar. Perhaps it was because his daughter Squirrelflight often came to visit Bramblestar. She wasn't there now. I could see Bramblestar curling up on his mossy nest. Bones lay near the den entrance, waiting for some apprentice to clean them up.
"Bramblestar," my mentor called.
The dark brown tabby opened his amber eyes and looked at us. I thought his eyes rested on me a bit too long and I felt like hiding behind Jayfeather. I shook off the kit-like thoughts and stood straighter. I was a medicine cat. The leader might get mad at me a few times, but I had my position and knowledge on my side. No medicine cat should be scared of their Clan leader. That was one thing I'd learned by looking through the past.
"Yes?" Bramblestar asked and sat up. "Shouldn't you be on your way? The others will be waiting."
Jayfeather nodded and flicked his tail. "I know. It won't harm them to wait a bit longer. It's not leafbare after all."
"What did you come to me for?" Bramblestar meowed. "Something so important that sharing tongues with StarClan can wait."
"There have been rumors in the camp," Jayfeather meowed. "I've heard them and find them disturbing."
I noticed how he said 'heard' instead of 'overheard'. Jayfeather was not nervous or ashamed to read others' minds. He just never told them he was doing it. Only Lionblaze and I knew how Jayfeather appeared so aware of every shifting current or path the Clan's mood was taking.
"What are these rumors?" Bramblestar questioned.
"The Clan seems to believe Fawnfur is seeing a ShadowClan tom and is going to tell Clan secrets to him."
My eyes widened and I couldn't stop a gasp from escaping. It was true? This was what he'd overheard? I felt sick. I wasn't sure I could keep standing.
"And you believe this isn't true?" Bramblestar asked. His amber eyes glanced over at me.
"I do not," Jayfeather meowed. A hiss edged his words.
"Then perhaps we should ask Fawnfur ourselves. It isn't very kind of us to exclude her." He openly stared at me now. "Is there any truth to these rumors?"
I stared at him, my mouth hanging open. I couldn't think of a thing to say. I hadn't even thought of coming up with an excuse or reasons for meeting with ShadowClan. I suppose I thought I'd gotten away with everything. I hadn't expected a challenge or explanation. I couldn't even think about lying to Bramblestar.
"How dare you ask that," Jayfeather growled before I could even answer. "She's been nothing but loyal to our Clan. She's trying to help us from being destroyed."
Bramblestar blinked slowly and kept the frown on his face. I realized he didn't even believe Jayfeather. He hadn't reacted to 'destroyed' at all.
"Just how has she helped?" Bramblestar meowed. "What are we supposed to be afraid of destroying us?"
Jayfeather blinked and even though he couldn't use his eyes, I knew the expression was the same for all cats. He didn't know what to say.
Bramblestar looked back over at me. "Your mentor believes whatever it is you told him. But tell me now. How have you helped ThunderClan? You've met with ShadowClan cats, let them over the border, spoke with one Lakefrost. You are closer to him than any Clan relation should be."
"I did not," I protested. When Bramblestar narrowed his eyes and folded his ears I quickly stopped talking.
"The day Lionblaze and the patrol escorted Lakefrost and his siblings back to the border, you went along. Whitewing saw you and Lakefrost whispering to each other. Pelt to pelt, were her words. And just a quarter moon ago, Owlface says he say you with the ShadowClan tom again. But then to make sure Owlface wouldn't tell, you promised to hunt with him whenever he nodded. I know he's been interested in having you as a mate, and you used that to stop him from talking. That doesn't sound like the actions of a medicine cat, or of a loyal Clanmate."
"And who told you this?" Jayfeather meowed. His voice strained to be steady. I didn't turn to look at him. Afraid of what unsaid things Bramblestar would think it meant.
"Owlface told me the last," Bramblestar meowed. "After you went to the medicine cat den." He glanced at me and then back to Jayfeather. "I don't like hearing this."
"Then don't believe it."
"What else can I? Your story doesn't even make sense. You don't even know what is going on. Fawnfur can't give either of us a straight answer. I can't trust her right now. She needs to be watched."
"No," Jayfeather growled. "Leave her be. It is medicine cat business. I am in charge of her."
"Very well," Bramblestar meowed, his voice low. "Make sure this doesn't happen again. I'm hoping you can straighten her out. But if there is one more word about Fawnfur and that tom, I don't care if you say StarClan told her to do it."
Jayfeather nodded, but when I stared at him with wide eyes, I could see he was having a hard time not snarling. My mentor turned away and I quickly followed.
"You don't have anything to say?" Bramblestar called after me.
I glanced behind. My ears went back as I hurried out of the den. No, I couldn't think of anything. I didn't think he'd believe me. It would just be more evidence for him to use against me. Twisting my words.
"What are we going to do?" I whispered as Jayfeather hopped to the quarry floor and marched for the entrance.
"We go see StarClan," he replied. "He believes Owlface more than us. He believes logic and ready answers. We need those answers to convince him. When we get to the Moonpool, I'm going to have some questions for our ancestors."
I nodded. I couldn't just stand back and let things happen. I'd gotten the four they wanted. But now they needed to tell me what for. I only had a half moon now.
"They must have gone ahead," Jayfeather meowed when we reached the stream on the WindClan border.
I breathed deeply and caught the scent of ShadowClan and RiverClan over the heather.
"I had to eat," I meowed as an apology. I hadn't had a meal since that morning. At sunhigh I'd hunted with Owlface and then ran to the ShadowClan border. I'd been so busy that day to even stop. So while we walked to our meeting with the other medicine cats, I found myself a mouse. Now we were late, and they had left without us.
"I doesn't matter if they missed us," Jayfeather meowed and turned upstream. "We'll see them up there."
I followed him, stepping over the grass. To the left the forest started, undergrowth scattered around the trunks. Where we walked was treeless, the start to the WindClan moor. We walked up the slope, the water bubbling beside us. The moon started to set and the stars glowed bright above us. It was peaceful. I should have been content, but I felt different inside. I felt as if everyone was against me. Bramblestar had chosen to believe Owlface over me. And it hurt.
I wasn't aware when we crossed over the rocky dip. Suddenly my paws felt cold, the pads crushed under the hardness. I looked around, hearing the small waterfall pouring into the Moonpool. Looking down I could see the others already sleeping. I hurried after my mentor and he lay down, licking water from the pool.
"Please talk to me StarClan," I meowed before taking a sip. The water was thick and cold against my tongue. I closed my eyes and curled up on the rocky ground. It wasn't long before I dreamed.