Chapter 8: Fawnfur
Frostshine was a great help to me that day. We quickly got the herbs into storage and were out in the forest again. Frostshine limped along by my side as I searched for the herbs. I had a list of what we needed most in my head, but it was always getting pushed aside by the words Firestar had told me last night (the warning of how my Clan was in danger), and by the help the ShadowClan cats had given me. If only they'd mind their own business! I hadn't wanted to be caught with them on ThunderClan territory and told them to leave, but still I felt guilty that someone might have seen us and known what I'd done. I knew I had no right to feel as guilty as I did, but with my Clan in danger from unknown forces, it was hard for me to not take the responsibility.
"I smell mouse," Frostshine suddenly meowed, "Are you hungry?" Frostshine asked me, looking over her shoulder.
I glanced up from the poppy flower I was digging and nodded my head. I wasn't in the mood to talk, but Frostshine didn't seem to mind. She quickly limped off to find her mouse. Sometimes I wondered how she managed to hunt on her bad paw. It would see the mouse would feel her awkward steps and get away in time, but somehow she managed and wasn't the worst hunter in the Clan. I could only be in awe of cats who overcame disabilities to be useful to their Clans.
On my list of heroes were Brightheart, Frostshine, Deadfoot, and Littletail (a cat from long ago SkyClan who had such short back legs and tail that he couldn't jump up into the trees like his Clanmates but managed to be a very good strategic fighter helping his Clan win battles). I wondered how these cats could persevere without the powers of StarClan my sister and I possessed. Even now I was worried I couldn't manage the task StarClan had given me. How was I supposed to find the four warriors and stop the destruction of my Clan? For now I was doing all that I could and that was gathering herbs.
My muddy claws finally pulled up the flower by the roots. I laid it down beside me and started on the next. I knew I could pull up only two more. Jayfeather and I still needed a store for other seasons after all. If my Clan survived that long.
I was done with those two flowers when Frostshine came back. She had a mouse and a squirrel in her jaws.
"Here you are," the white she-cat meowed. She placed the squirrel in front of me.
I devoured the prey. I was surprised at how hungry I was. I'd almost forgotten my own needs over my fervor to save my Clan. Jayfeather said that was a quality all medicine cats had, but that I should take care of myself. I knew other cats would always help me with that. It was simply the way it was. I took care of the Clan and they took care of me. It was all part of my duties.
"I want to find some tansy and burdock after this," I meowed to Frostshine when we were done and the bones were buried. "Do you think you could take this to camp?"
"I can," Frostshine nodded. She picked up the flowers. She tilted her head, trying to to see the path she needed to get back to the quarry.
I watched her for a while before padding away to find my tansy and burdock. I hadn't gone far before I smelled another ThunderClan cat coming up behind me. I thought it was Frostshine and didn't pay much attention. I didn't notice that I couldn't hear her familiar limp. The tansy was very strong in my nose. I didn't think anything of the other cat until a silver pelt brushed against mine, leaning into me.
I jumped away, startled and came face to face with one cat I hadn't expected to see. His large white face reminded me of an owl and I knew his mother had named him well. Even his odd, staring yellow eyes started to unnerve me. Even with their sweet look. I could tell he was trying to say that he loved me.
"Owlface," I meowed, trying to keep my voice even. Unfortunately I could hear the wavering. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to see you," he purred. His voice was low and almost seductive. He moved closer, the purr increasing. "We can finally be alone."
"No, Owlface," I meowed firmly, moving away. "I won't go through with this again. You and I can't be together!"
Owlface paused and after looking down only for a heartbeat, he looked back into my eyes. "Yes we can. Medicine cats have done this all the time. No one needs to know. I love you Fawnfur! I can't be without you!"
Ever since Sunstorm's death, Owlface had been devastated. They would have been mates. I'd always known after her death that he'd still wanted a mate. Unfortunately his sights became focused on the two she-cats that looked just like Sunstorm: Morningsong and me. I knew he'd gone after Morningsong for a while, but somehow she scared him away. She'd become withdrawn and angry. It was hard for anyone to approach her. She did her duties but it was obvious her heart wasn't in it. So after trying Morningsong, Owlface came for me. He seemed to believe I loved him too, or that I'd grow to love him. But I knew it was impossible. I had no feelings toward him. None but pity that slowly grew to annoyance as he pestered me.
"No, Owlface," I said firmly to his face even though I knew it would hurt him. "I won't repeat the mistakes of the past. I will not take a mate. I am a medicine cat. I will only serve my Clan and StarClan."
Owlface started pleading with me then, trying to make me change my mind. He told me sweet things and he told me things to make me guilty. I ignored him, moving away if he came to close. Eventually he gave up.
He never did anything to hurt me, to force me into being his. I was afraid that some point he might. I don't know what I'd do then. I might have to get Bramblestar's help. However Bramblestar wasn't such a great leader, not like the others I could Look at from the past. There was some quality that he lacked but that made him a great deputy. Cinderheart was more of the leader. I wondered if I could take my problem to her. I wondered if she'd see it as a medicine cat problem or a daughter problem. I wasn't so sure going to her would actually help or if the Clan would just think me silly.
Owlface sat down beside me and started talking to me about other things than loving him. He told me about his border patrol and how WindClan had been walking around the border. He was sure they were thinking about crossing and stealing prey again. I tried to listen, but my mind was on my task and how important it was to gather the herbs and the coming problem.
"Sunstorm loved butterflies," Owlface meowed as he watched two flit through the tansy flowers.
I glanced up at them and Owlface who had a suddenly sad look on his face. No, he wasn't over Sunstorm's death either. For the first time in a long while, I felt sorry for him. He really had loved her so much. I wished I could help him get over her death like he could probably help me, but I knew he'd take it the wrong way and think that I wanted to be mates with him.
"Yes, they are beautiful," I agreed, licking the dirt from my muzzle.
His eyes brightened and he told a story about Sunstorm after became a warrior. Owlface and Sunstorm were on a hunting patrol and she ended up chasing a butterfly. As he spoke, I could feel myself go back in time to watch as it happened. Sometimes it was hard to control these visions and this happened to be one of those times.
-Line to past-
Sunstorm saw the shadow flying through the air. It was a bit hard to see as the bright sun reflected off of the bright white snow. The thick branches cast long shadows down on her, but it didn't defuse the sunlight. She had to squint. The she-cat glanced over at Owlface, but he was trying to dig out a mouse den. He was convinced it wasn't that deep and wanted to get the mouse inside.
Sunstorm turned away from him and looked up, trying to find that shadow. She could still see it. It wasn't going very fast, but it wasn't going slow either. It would make an impressive catch if she were to get this. She was sure it was a bird. And what warrior or apprentice could brag they'd caught a bird in flight?
She licked her lips and prepared, lowering herself for a jump and targeted where the shadow would be. She got ready and at the right moment, leapt for the sky. Her back legs kicked under her, pushing her high. Her front claws came out and her forelimbs twisted, grabbing the bird to her chest. For a moment she felt its wings flutter against her brown-ginger fur. Sunstorm came down. She hit the ground and rolled, not willing to let her prey go, but by the time she hit the slush of snow, she had a sinking feeling inside she had caught the wrong thing.
Sunstorm got up, shaking the wet snow from her body and looked down at the crumpled shape between her paws. The small, insect wings poked out, twitching. The small black body was slowly dying. Sunstorm looked down at it, sad. She had just killed the first butterfly to return to the forest. Newleaf was coming in a moon or two and she'd just killed the first omen that the flowers would start budding and the trees to grow leaves. Devastation filled her chest.
Owlface approached, crunching down the thinning cover of snow, his dirty paws left stains on the white blanket. He looked at her catch and then at her.
"I thought only kits hunted butterflies," he tried to tease her.
Sunstorm's tail drooped. She so had wanted to impress this older warrior. Now he thought she was still a kit. She felt her fur heat up and she turned away, wanting to hide from his sight.
Owlface blinked, surprised at her reaction and quickly hurried after her.
He quickly caught up to her. Sunstorm waited but kept looking at the ground. The smell of a real bird was nearby but she could hear its call as it flew away, startled by Owlface's loud cry.
"I'm sorry," the silver tom meowed. "I didn't mean you were a kit. I think it's awesome you caught that while it was flying. That's hard. When I was a kit, I never caught one."
Sunstorm wasn't sure if she wanted to remind him that he was born in leaf-fall. He couldn't have caught one until he became an apprentice. She didn't remind him thought because he was actually making her feel better.
"The only thing I caught was my mother's tail," Owlface continued. "I'm sure the kits this season would love to hear about how you caught it."
"I didn't want to hurt it," Sunstorm sighed. "It means newleaf is coming. I love butterflies."
"Oh," Owlface meowed. He didn't know what to say to that. "Well, we could throw it back in the air," he suggested.
Sunstorm looked at him and blinked. She felt a smile on her face. "You don't know much about butterflies, do you?"
He wordlessly shook his head, one ear tilted back to the dying butterfly.
"I'll tell you," Sunstorm meowed.
He smiled back at her. His tail twined around hers as they started walking again.
-Line to present-
The vision ended and I was brought back to the greenleaf day I was living in. Heat soaked the air, brilliant green hanging off of trees and curling on bushes, the ferns starting to turn yellow at their edges. My paws were still, the claws tangled in the muddy roots of a tansy plant.
I looked at Owlface. His mouth was still moving and his eyes looking into the distance as he continued to speak. I realized that this memory was when he started loving Sunstorm and she had visions as him as her mate. It was hard not to listen to him and feel my own spark of affection for him. He really would have been good for my sister. He wasn't one of those pushy toms or a cat that had a mean streak. Fallingstar had even liked him when she used to be a ThunderClan cat.
I'd almost forgotten all about tansy and burdock when Frostshine came back. She must have followed my scent from the poppy flower patch.
"Hello, Owlface," she meowed, pleasantly, but I could see the annoyance in her eyes. Evidently so could he.
"Hi, Frostshine," Owlface tried to smile at her. He quickly stood up and stretched. "I've got to meet Sorreltail by ShadowClan."
He left us and quickly disappeared into the undergrowth. I watched him until I couldn't see him any longer.
"He's been bothering you again," Frostshine meowed, one lip curled as she gazed after him.
"No, not really," I tried to defend him, embarrassed at the same time as I remembered the way he'd greeted me.
Frostshine didn't believe me. "Jayfeather is worried he'll try something."
"Jayfeather worries too much," I snapped, digging my claws into a tansy flower, tearing off the petals.
Frostshine stared at me in shock. "You don't actually want his attention?" she asked about Owlface.
"No," I meowed, my ears back. "I don't want him at all. I wish he'd pay attention to Morningsong."
Frostshine sighed and shook her head, confused by me. But she helped, picking up the herbs I'd managed to gather before we started to the next area. We had to find some cobwebs. We never seemed to have enough when cats got into battles.