Chapter 4: Fawnfur
"But we have to get to the Moonpool before the moon sets," I insisted. I knew he was having some problems with that apprentice constantly telling Fallingstar what he was up to, but we needed that message from StarClan. I had to think of my Clan first. I looked over my shoulder.
The lake shone brightly in the half moon, silver waves washing up to shore. The orb was slowly sinking in the sky, passed moonhigh. On the other side of the ThunderClan territory the moor started, a silver ribbon curved its way across the grassland and into the lake. We had to follow that up to the Moonpool. I'd been there just last night and StarClan told me to retrieve the four so we could all talk. It was important. I didn't know if they'd ever talk to me again.
"The next worse thing Fallingstar can do is exile us," Lakefrost meowed. "We wouldn't be a help to any Clan then."
"It might waste time, but we have to get him," Mallowstalk meowed, agreeing with her brother.
I sighed and looked at them. They seemed so determined.
"Split up?" I started to meow.
But Mallowstalk had turned and ran toward the ShadowClan forest as if I wasn't there. Lakefrost didn't waste time in following her and a heartbeat later I and the other two were after them.
Looking ahead I saw Mallowstalk's ginger pelt disappearing into the pines. She was faster than I'd supposed. Lakefrost entered next and then I was swept up into the darkened forest. I blinked in surprise as I followed the ShadowClan cats. I was in their territory now. Never had I crossed a border like this. I was really trespassing. A chill went through me, but at the same time I felt insanely happy I was doing something different. It must have been hysteria. If we failed to catch Ashpaw, I was in big trouble. Almost as big as my friends. If we just left him and headed for the Moonpool, I might have the knowledge to save my Clan, but never get the opportunity.
So I raced after in a territory not my own. We were unhampered by undergrowth, our trail wide open. Now I could see why Mallowstalk had learned to be fast. She wasn't tripping on plants when she hunted. Of course a WindClan cat would have beaten her, but a ShadowClan apprentice couldn't.
I spotted her ginger pelt flashing between the tree trunks. I just followed Badgerface and Honeybee, not sure where I was in their territory. I couldn't get separated from them or I would be lost. We caught up to Mallowstalk. I almost didn't see Ashpaw in the darkness. His smoky gray pelt blended well in the darkness. Even Lakefrost was somewhere. His gray tabby pelt hid in the shadows near the roots of a rowan.
I came to a stop and panted. I hadn't had to run like that since I was an apprentice. All of that training and hunting. I realized I wasn't as used to it anymore since I'd become a medicine cat apprentice. Maybe I should start practicing again, I thought to myself. I didn't know if I'd be needed in an emergency.
Mallowstalk stood in front of Ashpaw. She had one paw out as if she'd grabbed him in mid-run. I could see some blood dripping down his back leg. It wasn't much, but I suddenly wanted to treat him. He was just an apprentice after all; she didn't have to use her claws on him. Unless when she called, he wouldn't stop.
"You can't tell Fallingstar about this," Mallowstalk meowed.
"Why not?" he challenged. "You aren't supposed to be doing it anyway."
"Sometimes you should just mind your own business," Lakefrost snarled.
I stared at him. I'd never seen him so angry before. Then again, I hadn't known him long and just seen him in Gathering crowds on a few occasions. I really didn't know these cats at all, and yet I trusted them.
"If I see you, then it is my business," the apprentice growled back. "I don't know what you're doing. I want to know because everyone keeps leaving me out of things. I have to tell Fallingstar. You won't tell me what you're doing, so she will make sure you tell me."
"Then you'll get us into bigger trouble," Lakefrost growled.
"Well you're breaking the rules," Ashpaw meowed back. "You aren't even supposed to be over here."
"Come on," I meowed suddenly. "We don't have time for this. We have to go."
I was aware how much time was passing as we spoke with the apprentice. It was as if he was here just to waste our time, to make sure we wouldn't get time to talk with StarClan.
"Ashpaw," Mallowstalk turned to him. "You have to promise not to tell anyone about us. You can't say you saw Lakefrost here. If you do promise, well tell you what we've done later."
I stared at her. Would she really?
"How much later?" Ashpaw questioned slowly.
No one answered him.
"Then take me with you," he meowed. "Else I'm going back right now and waking her up."
"No," I yelled. Everyone stared at me. "You can't come and you can't tell Fallingstar."
"You know as well as I do that if he comes it will save time," Mallowstalk meowed. "I have no idea why he's wandering out here alone, and if we have to escort him back to camp, it will waste time. He has to come. We'll make it to the Moonpool with him before moon-set."
I knew she was right. It was better to take him with us and keep an eye on him then let him wander around and potentially tell Fallingstar. He would come. But I still didn't like it.
I sighed and nodded.
Lakefrost grumbled something about how we should just throw him in the lake or bury him up to his head in sand. Still, Lakefrost took the lead, walking through the pines ahead of us to guide us back to the lake. During the confrontation Honeybee and Badgerface said nothing, they took the rearguard position while Mallowstalk walked next to Ashpaw, making sure the apprentice didn't run away. We walked, but I wanted to hurry.
"Can we go faster?" I meowed.
Lakefrost nodded and started a loping run. We all quickly followed. Only Ashpaw and his shorter legs had a harder time keeping up. We left the forest and started running by the lakeside. The sand was cool underpaw and some of the smooth rocks shifted. When we got to the WindClan border, I was breathing heavily. My legs ached. The others probably felt it too. I glanced at them. They stumbled and panted. Luckily when we got to the uphill slope by the stream, Lakefrost stopped running.
We all took a drink and took some time to rest. I glanced upstream. No one probably wanted to run that. Then I looked at the sky. The moon was still slowly sloping downward and I knew we didn't have much time.
"Why are we going to the Moonpool?" Ashpaw meowed between deep breaths.
"What do you usually do at the Moonpool?" Lakefrost meowed sarcastically.
"Meet StarClan?" His blue eyes widened and Ashpaw stared at us all. "Why are you going to see them?"
No one answered. I didn't want to. After having Bramblestar not listen to me, or believe me I couldn't bare explaining. It wouldn't make sense. I couldn't tell others about the enemy no one knew. Only the four ShadowClan warriors believed me. Ashpaw would think we were silly or delusional. Or lying to hide the truth from him. It would just get him angry and tell our leaders.
"Why doesn't anybody ever tell me the truth?" Ashpaw wailed. "If you don't tell me now, I'm leaving!"
Now I glared at him. The apprentice glared defiantly back.
"I'll tell Fallingstar you let Fawnfur on our territory," he meowed, staring at Mallowstalk.
"I hate this apprentice," she muttered. Then she glanced at me.
I shrugged and then we both looked at Lakefrost.
"What?" he meowed.
"Should we?" I asked.
"He doesn't deserve to know anything," Lakefrost growled, not even looking at the smoky tom. "He's been causing trouble for us this whole moon."
"He'll just cause more if he goes back now," Honeybee meowed quietly. "We should tell him. Then . . . Well, I'd like for someone than just us to believe us. Out of the whole forest we're the only ones. What if we were to die suddenly?"
I blinked and stared at the golden she-cat. Was she serious? I really hoped I wouldn't die, but I was part of the Clan destined to be destroyed. I glanced at Ashpaw. But what was an apprentice supposed to do that we five warriors couldn't?
"Fine," Lakefrost spat. "Ashpaw, move it. We'll tell you on the way."
I started to lead the way up the mountain. I felt glad we weren't going to waste anymore time. Of course I was worried about Ashpaw, and what he'd do with the information or if he'd even believe us, but as long as we spoke to StarClan we could deal with him later. I listened with one ear as Honeybee started telling Ashpaw about the visit from StarClan. For the first time I got to hear the prophecy they'd been given.
"You must look for the young deer. Only the four and the fawn can stop the evening and the morning from stilling the thunder forever."
I mulled it over. It seemed very straight forward. I was the 'young dear', the fawn. No wonder Lakefrost knew to come to me. He and his siblings were 'the four'. And the stilled thunder was ThunderClan being destroyed. Of course I wasn't sure what the evening and morning referred to as. Were they names or where they an event or time? It was so annoying how prophecies couldn't just be explained and said what they really meant. That you figured it out afterward. I wondered if StarClan even knew what they meant when they gave them to us.
Ashpaw remained silent through it all. I watched his eyes widen when I glanced back. I hoped he believed us. Or maybe he thought it was some fantastic tale, something Honeybee came up at the moment. I mean, who really thought StarClan visited warriors for fun? Of course I could remember many times and stories that they had. They used to always visit particular cats. And now they'd stopped visiting everyone.
"Fawnfur also was contacted," Honeybee meowed when she was done. I realized I'd stopped listening to her until she called my name. I wondered how much she'd told him. About coming into ThunderClan twice, how I'd gotten them to help me, or why we were going up to the Moonpool?
"Yes," I quickly meowed, glancing over. "Firestar visited me during the last Gathering. I stayed in camp and that night while everyone else slept, he came. He told me my Clan was in danger of being destroyed and that I had to stop it. He said I'd have the help of four warriors and I had to stop someone that was close to me."
They all listened intently. I realized I'd never explained it to them before. As I spoke, I suddenly remembered more that my former leader had told me. I might have lived it twice, once when I Saw back into the past, but I always forget details. I'm only a cat after all and have a typical memory, perhaps less so because I've relied on looking back too often and didn't care to memorize. But something seemed familiar. As if I'd forgotten one important thing. Something that might have had Bramblestar on my side if I'd told him that morning. Something about a forest. . . .
"Who was it?" Ashpaw meowed.
"What?" I meowed. The thought slipped away from me.
"Who is close to you that you have to stop?"
"I have no idea," I shook my head. "I still don't know. It could be anyone in my Clan. Or even you by now. But anyway, I started gathering herbs because I thought we might need them if we were in a fight. So that was how I met you and Brownfeather and Lakefrost by the twoleg nest that one day."
Ashpaw blinked and looked upward as if remembering the time they'd all helped me carry herbs back to my camp. I'd vowed then I'd never accept help from ShadowClan again, but it looked like I needed it now.
"Then just last night at the medicine cat's gathering, StarClan told me we all needed to be there so they could tell us what we are supposed to help ThunderClan escape from."
"Oh," he meowed.
We didn't get to speak anymore because just then we topped the rise. Down below in a small, rocky dip, was the Moonpool. Surrounded by rock sides indented with cat paws, the pool rippled with the pouring water. We quickly walked down.
"Now take a sip and close your eyes," I told them. I wasn't sure if they'd been here before. Or if they'd even spoken to StarClan this way. As far as I knew only medicine cats and leaders were allowed to do so. A warrior might visit as an escort, but nothing more.
I followed my own instructions and hastily lay down. I didn't even watch to see if they complied. I'd brought them, now StarClan had to speak with me.
As my eyes closed, I suddenly felt the need to open them again. As I did, I found myself surrounded by cats. There was Bluestar, Spottedleaf, Yellowfang, Leopardstar, Tallstar, and all the other great leaders I'd heard talked about before. Until yesterday I hadn't ever spoken to them, only to Firestar. I felt proud and awed in their presence.
We still sat in the basin. The Moonpool rippled in front of us. Nothing seemed changed. But there were a lot of cats here with us. More than I could count. And they all sat there, watching me.
"Why did you bring him?" spat a brindled tom.
I looked around and saw that the angry gaze settled on Ashpaw. The apprentice looked around. His eyes were wide, his mouth hanging open as he stared at all the cats. StarClan started to glare at the young tom as more cats saw him. Ashpaw slowly noticed and his ears went back in fright.
"We don't need more cats involved," the brindled tom spat. "You're ruining the balance!"
I tilted my head. The balance?
"Peace, Harestar," Firestar spoke. I noticed the ginger tom now. He sat in the rows of other cats. Spottedleaf by his side. I wondered where Sandstorm was. Then I realized I didn't see any apprentices, kits, or warriors here. This was a gathering of medicine cats and leaders only. "They didn't know."
"But Harestar is right," Bluestar spoke up. "They shouldn't have brought him. It will hurt us even more."
"What's done is done," Yellowfang meowed, her voice scratchy. "We don't have much time."
"Yes, please," I meowed. "Tell us what the danger is."
"You must learn first, young ones," Tallstar meowed. "There is more in the stars than you realize."
"It is not right that they learn," Harestar spat. "They haven't died yet. It is not their time to learn."
"It is necessary," Tallstar meowed. "We caused the problems with keeping secrets like these. For now, this once, they must learn, so they can save our Clans. Without them, we will cease to be."
I swallowed and stared at them with wide eyes. I hadn't realized that.
"Then tell us," Mallowstalk meowed. "It's not like we have all night. Our Clans will miss us."
"For once, this runs deeper than just your Clans," Littlecloud meowed. I looked over and spotted the former ShadowClan medicine cat. "They will have to forgive you for this late outing. It will save them in the end."
"Will we be able to tell them finally?" I asked. "I can't keep this a secret. Bramblestar already doesn't trust me. Couldn't you help?"
"We can do nothing," Harestar growled. "We are cut off from you."
I stared, my eyes growing wider than I thought they could.
"It is by choice," Rowanstar meowed. The ginger tom was ShadowClan's leader before Fallingstar. He had a short tenure. Before him was Kinkstar, and before her was Blackstar. I couldn't quite see them in the crowd, but they must have been there, hiding behind all the other colored cats.
"We had to stop talking to you," Firestar meowed. "It seems StarClan has been lax with when and where they speak with cats. Even who. Warriors are not meant to see us unless they come to Moonpool to visit. It has to be for important things."
"The dead must stay dead and the living must live and not worry for the dead," Yellowfang meowed. "We were only meant to guide. But now we seemed to be controlling you. Staying leaders even in death."
"It was because of us, the Dark Forest gained power," Tallstar continued. "They once were meant to stay there, not knowing what went on in the world. It was a punishment. Now somehow they've contacted the living. Guided them, taught them, and controlled them."
"We realized it was because we'd messed up the balance," Littlecloud meowed. "Now we must restore it. We cannot meet with anyone outside of the Moonpool, give dreams, or omens for the time being. Until this passes, the Clans are on their own."
I gasped. "No, you can't just leave us. We need you! What are we supposed to do without you?"
"We have helped," Harestar growled. "We warned you, didn't we? I was against it, but they felt they had to speak to someone."
"We couldn't just let them drift without knowing why we refused to talk," Leopardstar glared at him.
"What is the Dark Forest?" Lakefrost meowed. He had an odd frown on his face.
I blinked. That was it. The Dark Forest. Firestar had told me to watch out from them that night he came to warn me. The Dark Forest wanted to destroy ThunderClan. I could vaguely remember hearing about it from Jayfeather, but I knew not every cat knew about this mysterious place. But something didn't sound right. How were dead cats supposed to destroy my Clan, I wondered.
"The cats who died go there," Rowanstar meowed slowly and hesitantly.
"But I thought everyone came here," Honeybee meowed.
"Not everyone can," the former ShadowClan leader continued. "These are the cats who are evil. They didn't follow our code. They were of complete mind and decisions. No disease, delusion, or being lied to made them turn against us or their Clans. They knew the code and chose not to follow it. They killed. They maimed and took control, all in the ambition of power. You know the cats there. Tigerstar. Brokentail."
"The cats from the stories," Ashpaw whispered.
"You can usually figure it out," Yellowfang rasped. "But until now, these cats walked alone. Tigerstar is gathering them. He is building an army. There will be war."
"The Dark Forest is rising," Bluestar meowed. "And now Tigerstar had followers in the Clans as well."
"We need you to stop them," Firestar continued with a nod. "You are to find these cats and stop them. Convince them what they are doing is wrong and that it will hurt the Clans. Whatever the Dark Forest has promised them are all lies."
"Could you tell us who these cats are?" Lakefrost meowed.
StarClan was silent. I could see them sharing glances. Finally Harestar spoke out. "We do not know."
I blinked. They didn't know? How was that possible, they were StarClan, they knew everything.
"We have our suspicions," Littlecloud meowed. "But the Dark Forest has blocked our sight from them. They are keeping their contacts a secret. But we know they have one in every Clan. They'll want confusion the night they attack."
"They are going to attack?" I meowed. "How?"
"They will come into the world of the living on the Dark Night," Firestar meowed. "The night of the full moon, when it is supposed to be the brightest, StarClan will be at its weakest, the moon suddenly gone. We will try to stop most of them from coming through, but many will. And you will be killed. Tigerstar is going to target ThunderClan at the Gathering, but he needs all of the Clans in turmoil so they will be unable to help. That is why we need you Fawnfur to find the one in your Clan who is his follower. The other four," he nodded to the ShadowClan cats with me, ignoring Ashpaw, "Are to help in the other Clans. They must each find whoever it is and stop them."
"With us not speaking with the Clans," Tallstar meowed, "We may be able to cut off the Dark Forest's power. We aren't sure what they are using, but once the balance is restored, they cannot communicate with the Clans. We hope it will cease by the full moon."
"So can we tell our leaders about this?" Lakefrost meowed.
Once again our ancestors grew silent. I realized they were trying to decide what to tell us and what not to. So much about learning and preparing us. They still wanted to keep their secrets.
"You may, to get their help," Rowanstar meowed slowly. "But we'd prefer this to be a secret. The Clans cannot know about the Dark Forest. Knowing about them gives them power as well. If these cats or their place is remembered, they will grow strong like us by worship and remembrance of them. Their spirits must fade, which is why we don't let the general knowledge of them among the Clans."
I blinked. I hadn't realized. No wonder they didn't tell anyone. I wondered how Jayfeather had come to learn about these evil dead cats.
"So can I tell my leader?" I meowed.
The silence became more uneasy and I wondered if I'd asked the wrong question.
"Do what you must," the cats suddenly spoke with one voice. I noticed them start to fade. "You have until the Gathering. Just a quarter moon."
Then they were gone from my sight.
And I woke up.
My head rose and I opened my eyes. I was still by the pool, but the stars now seemed less clear. I looked around, but I realized the moon had set. They couldn't speak with us any longer.
I stood up and faced the ShadowClan cats. They seemed just as confused and concerned as I did. I didn't know what we were supposed to do now. I thought they'd tell us. Instead we only had warnings.
"We better get back," Mallowstalk meowed in the silence. She seemed subdued. As if meeting StarClan had taken something out of her. Maybe she wouldn't be so against me now.
"But what are we supposed to do?" Honeybee meowed. "We only have a quarter moon until the Gathering!"
"Hush," Lakefrost meowed. "We know. And we have to find some cats no one even knows."
"At least we know there's one in every Clan," Badgerface meowed slowly.
Until that time, I hadn't realized the dark brown tabby tom hadn't spoken all night. I was almost surprised to hear his voice and to remember he was there.
"Then we'll have to find them," I meowed.
"But how?" Mallowstalk demanded. "We're in ShadowClan. If they wanted to help, they would have contacted one cat in every Clan."
"But if everyone was in a different Clan, then it would have been harder for everyone to find each other and talk," Ashpaw meowed. "This way we can all meet a lot easier."
"As if it's been easy," Lakefrost glared at the apprentice.
"Sorry," the other tom squeaked. I thought I saw his ears turn red.
"Well we have to get started," I meowed. "I will try to find someone in my Clan with the most reasons to work against StarClan and for the Dark Forest."
"At least it's in your Clan," Mallowstalk growled. "We have to look outside ours! What will Fallingstar think then?"
"Are you going to tell her?" I meowed.
"Will you tell Bramblestar?" the ginger she-cat challenged.
I looked down. I was seriously considering it. It would make it easier for me. Maybe he wouldn't believe Owlface so avidly. Yes Bramblestar knew Owlface had been padding after me, but at least the silver tom had been truthful about it when he told my leader what he'd seen. Bramblestar would probably not believe Owlface if the warrior had tried to lie about it. With that truth, Owlface had gotten Bramblestar to believe the lies.
I blinked. Maybe it was Owlface the Dark Forest was using. He was against me now and I was the one with the prophecy. Perhaps they'd been using him as a distraction. Perhaps I already had it figured out. But if that was so, I'd have to talk with that annoying tom again. I sighed. Life seemed to hate me.
"We need to get back," Honeybee meowed. "It's really late."
"What do we tell our leaders or Clans now?" Lakefrost meowed.
"Don't worry," Ashpaw replied cheerfully. "I'll tell Fallingstar I ran out of camp last night and you guys had to find me. Say I was being difficult."
"So nice of you to take the fall," Lakefrost muttered, rolling his eyes. "I wonder if she'll believe us."
"We have the whole trip back to figure out a better story," Mallowstalk meowed. "Now get going!"
We started walking. I realized I too needed a story for my Clan. Yet I still wanted to tell Brambelstar the truth. I knew I would. He just had to believe me. Then I'd have some help in my Clan. Other than Jayfeather, it seemed everyone was against me. If Bramblestar started supporting me, they would all have to see what a fox-hearted liar Owlface was. I knew I would tell my leader the truth. He needed to know. And I needed my Clan to trust me as a medicine cat again.