Chapter 3: Sunstorm
Disclaimer: Warriors by Erin Hunter
And whose is the hand who raises/The sun from the heaving sea?/The power that ever amazes/We look, but never will see?
--"Gates of Dawn" by Secret Garden
The water lapped at her back legs. She could feel the gentle, but insistent tugging. It should have felt cold, but instead it was warm, almost soothing. She could hear faint rushing in her ears, felt soft sand under her cheek. Her chest rose and fell evenly. Her throat hurt as air rushed through her nose. Suddenly she coughed.
Jolting upright, the she-cat wheezed for breath, consciousness flooding her. When she recovered, she looked around. Sand piled around her in dunes. The water still flowed at her legs, pushing in and pulling out. She dragged her body away, getting the sand stuck in her ginger-brown fur. She pulled herself up, sitting and then standing.
She swayed. Her paws ached, her back ached, her head ached. She didn't it was possible to even feel like this. For awhile she stood, hoping the bruises would stop hurting. Her eyesight filled with black and she thought she'd pass out. She quickly sat, letting herself. When her golden eyes could see again, she scanned the area.
To the right a large stream flowed into the large body of water. She stared out over it, but couldn't see the end. A large, rolling horizon filled her vision. She wondered if it ever ended. Her eyes narrowed and she realized what it was. A sun-drown-place. A lot larger than the lake, the sun would sink into it every night. Or so she thought.
Sunstorm took her eyes from the water. Blue spanned overhead, the sun sitting on top of a small cloud halfway up the sky. She thought she could even see the moon on the horizon. It was larger than the half she'd last seen.
Last seen. . . She tried to remember when that was. She could remember pain and white everywhere. A cry of a large bird. Her breath caught. She could see a large shadow coming for her, outlined in golden light. It pushed her from a ledge and down she fell.
Her paws ached in remembrance of clinging onto the mountainside. She lifted a paw and looked at the remainder of her claws. They were nothing but stubs now, some cracked and bleeding.
"Where was I?" she asked. Her voice, sore like her body, rang about her without reply.
She sighed, trying to remember more. What was the last thing, other than the giant hawk?
She could remember dying. That wasn't too hard to recall. Her death in a stream, knocked out by a branch and drowned as her body floated to the lake just that newleaf. She'd woken up in StarClan, a cat with star-filled fur. She looked down at herself and could still see them glinting on her body. Most of the time it didn't shine much, unless she wanted it to. It was easier forgotten. Hazeltail said when StarClan visited the Clans by the lake, they couldn't help but glow. She wouldn't know. She hadn't gone back.
"What else do I remember?"
Hazeltail was her mentor for a while, teaching her the legends and duties of StarClan that not even the living cats realized. But Sunstorm still didn't know everything. She'd left before her training was complete. She'd left with--the name was on her tongue. Feathertail, that was it. She'd left with Feathertail to see the Tribe of Endless Hunting, another group of dead cats who lived in the sky. They'd made it to the mountains and lived there for a while. Sunstorm suddenly recalled her friends. There was Moss, a gray she-cat who loved to talk. Then there'd been others. A dark ginger tom with an odd name. Star. He'd been looking for his mate Water that Softly Falls, who'd been stolen by the giant hawk.
The memory came back then. All of it. The journey to the mountain peak with four other cats. Looking for the bird and finding the tree where it lived. Having it surprise them. She'd been too near the edge and fell off, falling down the mountainside off of the peak. She'd fallen into water.
"And I must have came down the river to here," she meowed, looking at the stream nearby. She shrugged. At least she couldn't die twice. Ending up here after falling from such a dangerous height proved that. Her eyes widened. So Water and the other cats stolen by the hawk had to be alive somewhere. Star would be glad.
She frowned. He wouldn't know. He didn't even know she was alive.
"What will they tell Feathertail?" she wondered. Then she blinked. The sand wavered in her vision. What if they never got off the mountain? When she'd fallen they'd still been battling the hawk. She didn't know if they'd won or been tossed off into the unknown. She wasn't sure if they could even beat the hawk. They must be able to. The Tribe killed hawks all the time for food. This one wouldn't be any different. She hoped.
Sunstorm stood, not wanting to sit in the sand any longer. She had to know what happened to Moss and the others. She had to find them again. The sand dug into her sore pads and claws. She started limping along, heading away from the water and up the slope. She reached the top and looked out on a strip of flat land. She looked left and then right. Wherever her eyes went, she could only see sand. A few thin stems of grass poked out in clumps, one lonely flower hung down, drooping to the grains below.
She looked around again, this time spotting something along the shoreline. Long, dark shadows rose from the ground, spread out as if a forest. She started over, limping all the way across the warm sand. She left a trail behind her of furrowed sand. She didn't mind. If she could see one cat in this strange place, she'd be happy. She could ask for directions then.
She neared the dark shadows and suddenly realized they were trees. Trees with black bark and gray leaves. She paused and stared. Disgust filled her. What sort of place was this? The trees weren't proper. There probably wasn't even prey anywhere. She looked at the bottom of the dark trunks. She couldn't see any undergrowth. Not even a weed or grass. There weren't any bushes or toadstools, no flowers, not even sapling pushed their way up from the fine sand.
She glanced away from the black forest. She searched the horizon, hoping for any other forest. Something green. She squinted and thought she could see something on the horizon. Another shadow. It was too far to walk that day. Night would fall soon. Her paws ached and when she looked down, she thought she could see blood leaking from her pads. That fall from the cliff hadn't been good for her. She sighed and decided she'd have to spend the night in this dark place. She started forward.
The gray leaves rustled overhead as if bird hopped along, sensing her. She walked beneath the shadows. Beams of light cut through the leaves, pooling on the ground, making the white quartz in the brown sand shine. Her ears twitched at the sound above her. She was hoping for something more. Like the squeak of a mouse of a call of a bird. She didn't know the last time she'd eaten. She didn't know how many days had passed since she fell. She didn't feel hungry anymore, but she wouldn't pass up the opportunity to sink her teeth in a nice, warm-blooded, fleshy mouse. Suddenly thinking about it made her mouth fill with water.
"Get off of me!"
Sunstorm's head lifted as she caught the faint cry. Had she actually heard that? She continued to walk, this time paying attention, trying to hear the voice.
"I hate you! Get off of me! I don't want anything to do with you!" The last ending in a rage filled screech. Sunstorm neared the sounds and as she went she thought she could hear someone being thrown to the ground. The thud was loud. So near she knew she was almost on top of whoever was arguing.
She spotted moving shapes behind the black tree trunks. Flashes of color in the gloom. Her heartbeat picked up.
"Leave me alone, I tell you!" It was obviously a she-cat.
"Hawthorn, please just listen." A tom's low rumble replied. No wonder she hadn't heard it before. It didn't really carry through the air.
"I told you to stop bothering me. This is the last time!"
"It will never be the last," he growled at her.
Sunstorm got closer, her body low to the ground, ignoring her aches now as she came upon them.
A yellow-ginger tom with brown stripes stood before a white she-cat with a black belly. She crouched before him, her tail puffed out with fear or anger. He stood with his claws out, a snarl on his face. Sunstorm could make out a faint ring of white around one of his eyes. Suddenly he leapt, landing on top of the white she-cat. She yowled, struggling under him, trying to flip over so she could kick her back legs into his belly.
Unable to keep watching this, Sunstorm rushed forward, ignoring the pain in her paws. She lowered her head, and hit the tom with the side of her shoulder. He fell back. The white she-cat pushed herself out from under him and readily dove behind Sunstorm. There she cowered, peering over the ginger-brown she-cat's shoulder.
"What are you doing?" Sunstorm spat at the tom.
He stared at her for a short time, glancing back at the white she-cat behind her. Sunstorm kept her eyes on him and when he turned back to her, she got to see his eyes. They were different colors. One blue, the other green. The one with the white circle around it seemed smaller.
"Well?" she spat. She tried to flex her claws, but then she felt pain shoot through her. She winced and remembered how wounded she really was. Why had she decided to pick a fight she probably wouldn't win?