Chapter 2: Lakefrost
--Gates of Dawn by Secret Garden
The sky turned golden orange. Lakefrost could see it through the needles in the trees. Nightfall was coming. He sighed and shifted, bringing his attention back to camp. As the sun set, a few cats returned to the clearing for the night while others started out to hunt. ShadowClan was in constant motion. Normally night hunters, they used the warmth of greenleaf to catch prey and protect in their territory. Lakefrost wished he could leave the camp as well. Instead he was stuck in the clearing as punishment.
A punishment I don't deserve, he thought with narrowed eyes. Anger burned in his chest and he found it hard not to yowl out to the sky. No one understood. He'd done it to help Fawnfur and her Clan, but they didn't believe him, convinced he was meeting with her just to be her mate.
And it was Ashpaw who'd given him away. Lakefrost could see the smoky gray apprentice walking into camp with his mentor Brownfeather. Once Lakefrost had regretted slapping the apprentice around, but if he got his paws on Ashpaw again, the tom was going to pay. He'd messed everything up.
Last quarter moon Lakefrost had finally gotten the opportunity to meet with Fawnfur. He got to tell her that he and his siblings were supposed to help her. They'd received prophesies from StarClan warriors themselves, but Lakefrost was the only one willing to help the ThunderClan medicine cat. And he was the only one being punished.
"Are you finished cleaning the elder's den?" Ivytail asked.
Lakefrost glanced over at the other warrior and nodded. He found it hard to still be required to clean out all the dens. And he was made to do it every day. That freed up the apprentice for hunting and battle training. That was part of his first punishment. The second one, after meeting with Fawnfur only a quarter moon ago, was worse.
"Then find a warrior and go hunting," Ivytail told him.
He nodded again and rose. His tail hung low. Whenever he wanted to leave camp, he had to find a warrior to escort him. All in an effort to make sure he wasn't trying to go back over the border. He wasn't allowed to go to the next three Gatherings either. And to top it off, he had to sleep in the apprentice den with Ashpaw. The apprentice didn't realize he'd done wrong. He wasn't guilty or proud of telling on Lakefrost. He acted like everything was normal. Lakefrost knew if he could get the apprentice alone just once, no one would see him again.
He snorted as he approached a group of warriors near the fresh-kill pile. Who would have thought he'd be so bloodthirsty? It was this prophecy business. It made him angry and frustrated. He couldn't do anything about it and it made him want to lash out.
"Would you go hunting with me?" he asked Knotfur.
The she-cat with the long, tangled black fur blinked her yellow eyes and him and fixed him with an angry stare.
Lakefrost swallowed. Out of all the cats he'd hoped she'd agree to take him. But she was the angriest at what he did. It was with her Lakefrost had crossed the border to see Fawnfur. She'd asked him to go hunting with her, but he'd taken the chance to leave. Now Knotfur thought he had some mate in another Clan. She'd loved him, he knew, but now she hated him.
"Go with your mentor," she growled at him and turned away. She didn't even take her sparrow with her.
Lakefrost looked down. Out of all the things he'd done, hurting her was what he regretted most. Lakefrost's sighed. He could feel the eyes of the other warriors on him. They were probably hoping he wouldn't ask them. They believed he deserved everything Fallingstar had decreed. So many warriors didn't even want to be with him, talk with him, or hunt with him. He was an outcast in his own Clan.
"We'll go with you."
Lakefrost's ears went back as he faced his sister. The anger came rushing back, filling his ears like a buzzing bee.
"I don't want to go with you," he growled and turned his back on her. He looked at the other warriors, wondering who to approach. They'd all started walking away, to get far from him as possible but still be in camp.
Mallowstalk flicked her ears. Even Badgerface and Honeybee seemed annoyed.
"You'll want to come," Mallowstalk insisted. "We have a lot to talk about."
"You have nothing to say that I want to hear," Lakefrost spat. It was her fault he was in this mess. She hadn't wanted to help him the first time and the others had agreed with her. So they'd tried to prevent him from speaking with Fawnfur. And gotten him in trouble with ThunderClan and Fallingstar the first time. He wanted nothing to do with them now. It was going to be their fault when ThunderClan was wiped from the forest.
"Really, you do," Mallowstalk growled back. Her voice lowered to little more than a whisper. "We spoke to Fawnfur."
He faced her. His ears rose high.
"Let's go." Mallowstalk jerked her head to the camp entrance.
Lakefrost reluctantly went with them. At least no one called them back. Going with his siblings meant he was hunting with warriors.
They got far from camp and when Lakefrost felt sure no other cats would likely be near, he confronted his ginger sister.
"Did you really speak with Fawnfur?"
She nodded. "We spoke just this sunhigh. And we agreed to help her."
He blinked. Really? He continued to stare and she continued to frown. Finally he looked over at Badgerface and Mallowstalk.
"You mean it?"
They both nodded.
"What convinced you?" he asked slowly.
"She did," Honeybee sighed.
"What did she say? How did she manage?" He'd thought they were so against it.
"It doesn't matter what," Mallowstalk snapped. "Just accept we'll be helping."
"She told us to get over our fears basically," Honeybee meowed. "Act like it was our Clan instead of someone else's about to be destroyed. She told Mallowstalk that even if she was scared everyone thought she was a traitor, at least she'd be doing the right thing. And that everyone should accept that instead of getting mad at her or shunning her."
Mallowstalk growled at her sister. "At least she didn't tell me to stop chasing after toms."
The sisters glared at each other. For a moment Lakefrost was afraid they'd start fighting. He'd never seen them so angry with each other before. Mallowstalk must not have been happy that she was helping. Or that someone realized she was scared of being a traitor. He hadn't even realized she was scared of that.
"Badgerface was the first one to decide though," Mallowstalk meowed after a few more glances at Honeybee.
"Really?" Lakefrost wondered what Badgerface had overcome. He hadn't thought his brother was scared of anything. Maybe that's why it had been easy for Fawnfur to convince him.
They all looked at the dark brown warrior but he seemed not to be paying attention. He was starting at them, but almost through them like they weren't there. Lakefrost blinked and quickly looked away. That was strange. It was like his brother wasn't really there or hadn't heard them.
"So you're going to help now?" he confirmed.
Mallowstalk nodded. "We didn't have much time to talk so we're meeting tomorrow night at sunset."
"Someone in her Clan was spying on us," Honeybee meowed. "She had to run off. I don't know if she'll make it."
"She'll make it," Mallowstalk meowed. "If it's that important her Clan doesn't die, she'll meet us."
"Definitely," Lakefrost nodded. He worried about the cat who'd seen them. It would make trouble for Fawnfur. And for them if he or she reported it to Fallingstar.
"I want to thank you," Lakefrost meowed. "You might not think being thought of as a traitor isn't so bad anymore, but it is. I can tell you. So I'm glad you're willing to face it to help me."
"Not just you, mouse-brain," Mallowstalk meowed. "ThunderClan."
He smiled. He knew she could care less about the other Clan. So she had to be doing it for him. He grinned at her and after a short time, she smiled back.
Honeybee nudged her head into his own and he nudged back. Mallowstalk got closer and he brushed his tail down her side. Lakefrost purred. He was glad now. They wouldn't be working against each other anymore. They would help him now. He had to be happy about that.
The sun started to set, quickly sinking in the sky. An auburn color settled on the lake, quickly fading away to a dark purple as white specks glimmered in the sky.
"I can't believe I'm doing this again," Lakefrost meowed. He hunched under the bushes, hiding to make sure no one passing by could see him. His pelt reeked of garlic and toadstools, anything to prevent his real scent from coming through and latching onto ground or leaves.
Honeybee grinned at him. "At least you're with us. We'll come up with something if anyone else shows up."
"I don't mean that," he meowed. Now he was suddenly worried about another cat catching them. Not only was there sunset border patrols, but ShadowClan was notorious for night hunting. They might be spotted by one of their own if they weren't careful. "I was thinking how gross it would be to lick this all off later."
Honeybee's smiled faded as a disgusted look crossed her face. "Ewww. Why don't you just leave it on?"
"The last time I left it on was when Ashpaw saw me. I tried to chase him down but he was already at camp," Lakefrost reminded her. "Fallingstar could smell it. If I came back like this, she would know I was up to something."
"I hadn't thought of that," Honeybee agreed, looking worried.
"If you're done chittering like squirrels, I think I can see her coming," Mallowstalk growled from the other side of the bush.
Lakefrost lifted his head and peered out from the leaves and branches. Badgerface appeared to be stalking something in the trees, acting like he was hunting for anyone happening to walk by. Mallowstalk stood out, watching the ThunderClan border. She sat on the lakeside, peering out over the water and then back to the trees. Lakefrost stared to the ThunderClan side and thought he could see some movement through the undergrowth.
A ginger-brown tabby she-cat poked her head out and then cautiously stepped down the bank to the water's edge. There she leaned down and got something to drink.
"Here!" Mallowstalk called.
The she-cat raised her head quickly and stared at them. For a moment, Lakefrost was worried they might have the wrong cat, that it was her sister Morningsong they'd called too. The she-cat started walking over. Then she came close enough that he could see the three white spot on her ear. They had the right one. He sighed in relief.
"I feel so open here," she meowed, glancing around.
"That's why I thought no one else would come here," Mallowstalk meowed. "They'd also don't like the feeling. And there isn't much prey."
"Unless you like fish," Honeybee chirped up.
Fawnfur jumped and looked under the bush. Lakefrost and his sister came out. Fawnfur wrinkled her nose at the scent he exuded.
"It's good to see you again," she meowed. He thought he could see her smile.
"And good to see you," he meowed, blinking pleasantly.
"Are you still being punished?"
He nodded. "They had to sneak me out for a pretend hunt."
"I'm so sorry about that."
"It's not your fault."
"But it is. If I hadn't kept you-"
"No, it's fine." He flicked his tail in finality. He didn't blame her at all. He was surprised she thought he would.
Fawnfur opened her mouth again.
"Enough," Mallowstalk meowed sharply. "We don't have all night. Now let's say what we have to say and get out of here."
Fawnfur blinked and looked cowed by his sister. Lakefrost spared the ginger a glare.
"Badgerface, get over here!" Honeybee called.
Lakefrost turned around. He hadn't even realized his brother wasn't there. The dark brown tabby warrior was always so quiet. It was hard to tell when he was there or not, or if he was even paying attention.
"Badgerface!" Honeybee had to call again.
Abruptly the warrior turned around and faced them. A worried looked creased his brow. Suddenly he saw Fawnfur and his eyes widened in shock as if he hadn't realized she'd even gotten there. Which was odd as they hadn't been hiding since her approach. Honeybee waved her tail and he came closer. Now Lakefrost looked at Fawnfur, waiting for her.
"We need to go to the Moonpool," she meowed.
"I went there last night with Jayfeather," she meowed. "I wanted to ask them if they'd clarify what the danger was. StarClan told me that we all needed to go there for a message. They didn't tell me much after that. So we have to go now."
Lakefrost stared over her shoulder. He could glimpse the WindClan moor at the other edge of the lake. It would be a long walk there and back. They wouldn't have a lot of time to hunt if they went. What excuse would they have for the Clan then?
"Do we really have to go there?" Mallowstalk demanded.
"Yes," Fawnfur meowed firmly back. "That's the only place I'm going to get my answers. And they want you there too. We better start."
She was aware how long it would take then. Lakefrost looked at the others. They didn't look happy at all.
"Come on," he encouraged. "The sooner we get this done the sooner we can come back. Then if we know what we're supposed to save ThunderClan from, we can stop it. That way everything will get back to normal." He looked Mallowstalk in the eyes as he said that. She would like that wouldn't she? He knew he would.
She sighed but nodded. "Let's move."
They started to walk away, following Fawnfur. Then Lakefrost heard the bushes shaking behind them. Everyone froze, turning to stare. A small shape forced its way from the ShadowClan territory and to the lake edge.
"What are you guys doing out here?" Ashpaw demanded.
Lakefrost blinked. Why was this apprentice everywhere? Did he have some sort of code-breaking alarm that alerted him where to be? Just at the wrong moments to ruin everything?
"Ashpaw," Mallowstalk meowed calmly. "Go back to hunting."
Ashpaw tilted and ear and looked at them. His eyes stopped on Fawnfur and widened. They looked at them again and settled on Lakefrost.
"You," the smoky tom whispered.
"Ashpaw," Mallowstalk started to growl. "This doesn't concern you."
"Please just leave us," Honeybee meowed.
"But Fawnfur and Lakefrost," he meowed in confusion.
"I-" Fawnfur started to speak.
"You aren't going to tell me what you're doing, are you?" Ashpaw growled, anger suddenly on his face. "I know you don't trust me. Well I don't care. Fallingstar will make sure I know."
With that he turned around and started running back for the territory.
Lakefrost's eyes widened. They'd never make it to the Moonpool now, and if they did, who knew what would find them on their return.
"We have to get him," he meowed to the others.
"We don't have time," Fawnfur insisted. "The moon isn't going to stay in the sky forever."
They looked at each other. They had to choose. Moonpool or Ashpaw?