Chapter 10: Mallowstalk
The ginger she-cat walked forward, the wide moonlight glowing down on the faint stripes in her fur. She moved soundlessly through the pine trees, her black paws invisible in the night as if she glided instead of stalking. Her bright yellow eyes pierced the darkness, looking for any movement. So far just the bats flitting overhead in the warm early greenleaf air caught her attention. Not much prey dared be out in the dark in ShadowClan territory. She didn't mind though. If she didn't catch anything for the Clan, she at least had the pleasure of being out of camp.
Mallowstalk didn't much care for being with the other cats. Sure she liked her Clan and definitely loved her siblings, but she just couldn't stand being surrounded by so many cats. And ShadowClan wasn't even the biggest Clan by the lake! Something about being in their presence made her nervous as if they were all staring at her, watching and judging her as if they were thinking about her parents. Her young mother, somehow the leader of ShadowClan, one time ThunderClan warrior who had all these new ideas that made ShadowClan far from the dangerous Clan it once was. Or they were thinking about Brownfeather, Mallowstalk's father the warrior that dared find love in another Clan and fight off the traitor within his own. Mallowstalk didn't want to be looked at while cats thought of her parents, or she thought with dread, her ancestors.
She was related to the great Tigerstar of ShadowClan, another traitor in the past. Related through Brownfeather, son of Tigerheart, son of Tawneypelt who was the daughter of the tabby tyrant. On her mother's side, Mallowstalk could trace her family to the great Firestar, leader of ThunderClan. Fallingstar, once Fallingsnow of ThunderClan, was daughter of Dewstep, a onetime rogue who was the son of Hollyleaf-the murderous she-cat everyone thought had died. And Hollyleaf had been the unknown daughter of Leafpool (of course that wouldn't have changed anything if Hollyleaf had still been Squirrelflight's. Firestar was still in her blood). The two greatest enemies somehow combined within her. Something that the whole lake could judge, wondering just which side she took after.
Mallowstalk sighed and shook the gloomy thoughts off of her like rain water. She couldn't think about it. It would distract her from the hunt. There were some interesting creatures out at night. She could find a few mice and a bat was almost like a bird except faster. If she could also catch an owl that would be something to talk about next Gathering. She smiled. The last had been just last night. She hadn't attended this one, but the Gathering before she'd participated as a warrior at last, feeling grand for once. She wanted to do something good that would make the Clans all realize she was just like them. That despite what mixed up things her parents and ancestors had done, she wouldn't.
The ginger warrior yawned, feeling so tired. The dark tree shadows leaned around her. She could faintly see birds roosting up high and wondered if she dared climb for any. It was dangerous in the dark and her mentor had advised against it, even when the Clan was in need. She continued to look up, her eyes on the bats above, daring one to come closer. She could see Silverpelt behind their shadowed bodies. The stars of StarClan glittered above, dimmed by the glowing moon, but still they sat there waiting. She wondered what it was liked above in the stars and what StarClan did all day. Did they have patrols? She wondered. Did they have to hunt or fight? She wondered if the dens were crowded.
The she-cat's nose wrinkled. She didn't think she'd be able to handle that. So many cats in a tight space. . . She shivered, her tail wrapping around her paws. When she opened her yellow eyes, Mallowstalk saw two bright streaks travel across the sky. She held her breath, watching the falling stars. They seemed to get so bright, coming closer and closer, and then- the light disappeared, leaving dazzles in her eyes. She could hardly see now that her night vision was ruined. She blinked away the spots in her eyes and stood up to hunt.
A short time later, the sound of padding paws caught her attention. They were behind her as if someone followed her over the needles and roots. They weren't being very quiet, not like hunters or an enemy Clan fearing discovery. She flicked her ginger ears back and lifted her head, trying to catch the scent. Was it one of the other warriors? Where they stalking her? As she walked on and the cat did not pick up the pace, she began to be worried, her heart pounding just a bit faster. They were just walking, not hunting and not trying to talk with her. She quickly hurried around a tree and stopped, turning around, the fur on her neck raised. She quickly listened for the paw steps. They sounded to her right, pausing just slightly. They knew she wasn't walking anymore.
Mallowstalk lowered herself, stepping forward lightly as if hunting a mouse. As she neared the approaching sound, she sniffed, trying to catch the scent of the cat. The air was still and she couldn't pinpoint the smell, although it did smell like ShadowClan. . .
"This isn't funny," she hissed under her breath. "I'm not an apprentice anymore. My mentor can't keep doing this."
Some assessments had gone this way, she'd hunt only to be pounced on in a mock attack when she least expected it. She'd grown ever watchful during hunting, scared some cat would start a battle with ShadowClan.
Mallowstalk took another step forward, bending over the tree root. She suddenly sprang up as the sound got closer. She came face to face with a glittering cat. The small silver dots along its fur lit up a tiny area, shadows jumping wildly as the cat stumbled backward. Mallowstalk growled, confused and uncertain in the light. This wasn't any cat she'd seen before. But the scent of ShadowClan was everywhere. She flexed her claws, ready to attack, but then another cat came from nowhere, walking from the shadows like Mallowstalk had done before. This other cat glittered too and Mallowstalk realized she was outnumbered. She wondered just how many friends these glowing cats had.
"Mallowstalk," the second cat meowed. The voice was a tom's and she flicked her eyes over. Now that she looked at him, she could see he was a dark ginger. His face was a mix of old and young and something about him reminded her of Brownfeather. She blinked her eyes uncertainly, glancing back at the she-cat she'd first faced. The dark gray she-cat with yellow eyes looked calmer now. She sat down, her matted fur looking like the night sky with stars in it now that Mallowstalk looked. None of them threatened her. They waited, watching her with amused eyes.
"Just like your brother," the she-cat rasped with her gravelly voice. She laughed, it sounded harsh, but it wasn't a mocking laugh. Mallowstalk looked between the two intruders. Why where they here? They weren't acting like enemies at all!
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"That doesn't matter," the ginger tom meowed shortly. "We don't have much time."
He turned his gaze from the she-cat to Mallowstalk. "We've come here to deliver a message from StarClan. You don't have much time because a Clan will be destroyed if you don't hurry."
"A Clan?" she didn't understand. And StarClan?
"In one moon the thunder will be stilled by the evening and the morning. Only the four and the fawn can prevent this disaster from happening. Hurry."
He nodded at her and the stars in their fur started growing dim. Their shapes faded away from her and Mallowstalk could only stare. Suddenly the gray she-cat became solid again. She looked directly into Mallowstalk's eyes with her own yellow ones. "Tell this to Badgerface. Somehow he is able to ignore us, but he can't right now. We're afraid of sending him a dream because he might not remember."
She blinked and then disappeared. The bright light shot away, going back into the sky. Mallowstalk watched the streaks before looking back into the shadows of the dark forest. She shook her head. Had she really seen that? She looked around but there was only the scent of ShadowClan and underfoot the soft ground of her territory. She could see nothing of their presence, no fur or paw marks. She stared hard. She swallowed and stood up, making her unsteady way back to camp.
Only the night guard saw her enter. He nodded to her as she crept into the warrior's den. Inside she quickly lay next to her siblings. Her paws didn't stop trembling.
Lakefrost woke up, his gray tabby pelt shifted until he could look at her, his blue eyes blurry as if he wasn't quite awake.
"What's wrong?" he mewed, blinking at her.
"Nothing," she replied staring at him. "Go back to sleep."
He closed his eyes and rolled over just to start snoring. She gave him a tired smile and curled up next to him. Badgerface was on one side of her and Honeybee on the far side of Lakefrost. The four were together. Mallowstalk glanced upward at the bush's heavy enclosure. It was warm with all the cats. Their breaths slow and heavy. It was hard to believe that something so unnatural had just occurred. Mallowstalk didn't know what to do with what the two StarClan cats had told her. What had they meant? It made no since at all, and what did Badgerface have to do with anything? Her eyes slowly closed even as she tried to think things through. Reality and dreams blended in an instant.
Honeybee led the way through ShadowClan territory. Mallowstalk paced by her yellow sister's side, Lakefrost and Badgerface following behind. Honeybee had said this was important, but Mallowstalk would rather be hunting. She could hear the claws of squirrels and mice just around every tree, eating, waiting to be caught. She wanted to be out, but Honeybee insisted they all come, though they each had something else they should be doing. Mallowstalk hoped Lakefrost and Badgerface didn't get in trouble for abandoning their duties. They had patrols to go on. Lakefrost was missing the dawn patrol for this and Badgerface should have been hunting with Mallowstalk, Wrenpaw, and her mentor.
"She was acting strange yesterday," Lakefrost whispered to Badgerface. Mallowstalk twisted an ear back to listen and she looked upward through the high tree branches at the bluing sky. Her paws glided across the ground, not paying attention to where she really went. "She was all scared and then wouldn't tell me a thing," her gray tabby brother continued. "If she doesn't have anything useful, I'm going to throw her in the lake."
Honeybee looked behind and then at Mallowstalk. "What are they laughing about?"
"Nothing," Mallowstalk meowed, trying to keep her face straight. She wasn't sure she agreed with Lakefrost, but it sounded like a good idea. At least then they could say they were rescuing their sister instead of avoiding patrols.
Honeybee narrowed her eyes but hurried forward. Mallowstalk finally noticed they were heading for the border leading away from the lake. The trees were thicker there and less wet. The pines took over from the taller hardwood trees with high branches. What little undergrowth faded away to almost nothing, fallen logs everywhere. Mallowstalk hadn't once been out of territory but she had a feeling it was a lot more wild out there. Her sister didn't stop but stepped right over the scentmarkers. Mallowstalk paused at the edge, staring at her. Between the trees to the right a bare trail led up to the twoleg nest. To the left far below near the RiverClan territory the greenleaf-place would be packed with twolegs playing on the lake.
"What are-" Mallowstalk tried to meow.
"No one can hear this," Honeybee hissed back. "We can't chance that our Clan will hear."
"Hear what?" Badgerface asked. The amused smile had been replaced with annoyance. His green eyes glinting.
"What I have to tell you!" his sister answered, exasperated.
"This better be good," Lakefrost meowed.
"If any cat catches us out here. . ." Mallowstalk continued.
She quickly joined her sister on the other side. The brothers reluctantly followed, glancing behind at the territory. Mallowstalk felt this was worse than invading another Clan's territory. Out here there was nothing. It wasn't Clan territory. They weren't supposed to be out here, away from Clan and its code.
Luckily Honeybee didn't take them far. She led them to a bush near a clump of toadstools. She sat down in the shadow. Lakefrost quickly joined her. Mallowstalk could see the interest on his tabby face. She wondered what could be this secretive that Honeybee had to take them out of territory. If it was about her latest tom, she certainly would toss her sister into the lake.
When everyone was settled, Honeybee burst out. "StarClan came to me yesterday."
"What?" Lakefrost and Mallowstalk meowed together. "Me too."
They shared a glance. He'd seen StarClan? She looked at him and then at her sister. All three? They each looked at Badgerface.
"N-no, I didn't see StarClan," he got out, his green eyes shocked.
"Well, I did," Honeybee mowed, looking way. "They told me a prophecy."
Lakefrost nodded eagerly.
"They had a message for Badgerface too," Mallowstalk meowed, suddenly remembering. She looked at her brother. "You're in this too."
He looked relieved.
"So we all know where a part of this," Lakefrost purred. "So what does it mean?"
Everyone went silent and didn't meet any eyes. Mallowstalk looked away and peered out of a bush. She could still remember the glittering stars on the fur. She couldn't quite remember what they'd said to her she'd been so surprised.
"No one has any idea?" Lakefrost asked.
"Well. . ." Mallowstalk paused. "I remember something about morning and evening."
"And silenced thunder," Honeybee put in.
"Good, good," Lakefrost meowed, nodding. "I heard something about a fawn and that I only had a moon. Does that sound right?"
They all nodded. Only Badgerface looked confused. Lakefrost lay down on the ground. Mallowstalk slowly copied him; this would be a long time. The dampness seeped into her undercoat. The toadstools were crushed and their sharp, musty smell filled the area.
Lakefrost continued, "Well, I know that the fawn is Fawnfur of ThunderClan--"
"How do you know?" Honeybee interrupted.
"She's the only fawn around here," Lakefrost defended himself. "If we go to her, I'm sure she'll have more information for us."
"That means the thunder to be silence is ThunderClan," Badgerface muttered.
"ThunderClan can deal with their own problems," Mallowstalk growled, getting up. "Why do we have to help them?"
They shouldn't have to go to ThunderClan with anything. They were two separate Clans! Why couldn't Fawnfur just do it all herself? She was a ThunderClan cat. Why did they have to go to them? If they went to ThunderClan, they'd be betraying their Clan. WindClan or RiverClan would think they were plotting together. Already WindClan thought the two were so close. They couldn't afford another battle after that last large one Eveningbreeze had caused.
Lakefrost frowned at her. "StarClan wants us to," he meowed. "And if we do nothing, we might be next."
Mallowstalk looked away from his gaze but slowly sat back down. The tom let out his breath and looked at the other warriors.
"So, if we work together, we can figure this out."
For a while no one spoke and then Honeybee spoke up. "Between morning and evening is day."
"Or night if you reverse it," Badgerface meowed. "You know, evening and morning?" He looked at them with his green eyes. His tail flicked, scaring away a fly that tried to land on him. Mallowstalk eyed the flying creature as it neared her.
"So the danger is coming in the night," Lakefrost meowed.
"Yes," Mallowstalk agreed. "That's what they said."
"Maybe it's someone named Night," Honeybee meowed.
"Who do you know?" Mallowstalk asked her sister.
"Nightshade in ThunderClan."
"Why would he destroy ThunderClan?" Mallowstalk asked, disgusted. "He's one of them! If he did, he wouldn't come after ShadowClan. Fallingstar is the leader!"
Nightshade would never attack his own sister.
"Maybe a rogue," Badgerface put in.
"Maybe," Lakefrost nodded. "I think we should contact Fawnfur."
"No," Mallowstalk meowed, her ears back as she stood again. The mushrooms fell from her sides. "That's where I draw the line. I don't see why we have to get caught up in ThunderClan problems. They're the strongest Clan in the forest. They can't be defeated. And if this were true, whoever it is trying to kill them, they must only have a grudge on ThunderClan. Why else target them? We'll be fine."
She stared hard at her brother. Lakefrost just looked at her in shock and looked around to see the others nodding. Mallowstalk took heart. They weren't as crazy as Lakefrost after all. They felt like she did. She couldn't understand why Lakefrost wanted to help an enemy Clan or even why he wanted to talk to this Fawnfur so much, but she knew it was a mouse-brained thing to do.
"No, you don't mean that," he protested. "How can you be so blind? Once they're gone, WindClan will try to get their land and we'll want it too. It will just cause fighting."
"At least we'll have more hunting grounds," Mallowstalk meowed, keeping her face straight and voice level. She quickly pushed her way under the bush, the twigs digging into her back as she left. She stalked way, keeping her tail high and ears lifted. She would not show Lakefrost how much his surprise and disappointment hurt her. How much she was regretting what she said. It just wasn't possible to go back now. Everything in her head screamed at her that it was illogical to help this other Clan. She couldn't let her emotions get a hold of her. Not like Lakefrost who always seemed to defend ThunderClan when anyone else spoke against it. She couldn't associate another Clan. Not ever. If anyone thought she or her siblings would help, they'd think they were betraying ShadowClan. She couldn't ever let that happen.
The she-cat walked over the border and as she went, a shadow appeared at her side. She looked over, seeing Honeybee.
"Why aren't you there?" Mallowstalk asked. "You got us out here."
Honeybee looked down and sighed. "I know. It just seemed so important. I've never spoken to StarClan before and it bothered me. But Lakefrost. . . he's going too far," she sighed again. "I have better things to do than help a Clan that won't appreciate it."
Mallowstalk nodded, a slight smile on her face. At least someone else agreed with her. It made her feel a bit better. They didn't get far when the sound of running came after them. Mallowstalk peered back to see Badgerface coming around the trees. He was panting when he reached them.
"You said no too?" Mallowstalk asked, her voice suddenly weak. No one was with Lakefrost?
Badgerface nodded, not meeting her eyes. "I didn't see how I could help."
Mallowstalk thought she saw something in his eyes. Something hurt. He was hiding from her. Hiding something that held him back from helping his brother. Mallowstalk didn't even want to ask. For a while the three walked together, saying nothing as they went back to camp and then Badgerface spoke up.
"He left before me," the brown tabby meowed, dragging one black paw through the dirt. "I heard something before he left."
"What?" Mallowstalk asked, looking at him again.
"He wondered how to get close to Fawnfur."
"Well, how?" Honeybee asked when Badgerface said nothing for a short time.
"He said the only way to see a medicine cat was to be injured." He looked at his sisters. "I'm scared. He might do something dangerous to himself. He can't have something light. The ThunderClan cats would just send him home to get Flametail then. But if he has something major then Fawnfur will have to look at him."
Mallowstalk's breath caught. Just how mouse-brained was her brother? How could he think to do this stupid thing?
"We have to stop him," she meowed. "We've got to keep an eye on him to prevent him from hurting himself."
The others nodded.
"At least that's something I can do," Badgerface sighed.
Mallowstalk reached over and quickly licked his head. Whatever was bothering him he had to get over. She just wasn't sure how. Maybe he needed to get his mind off of something. But first they had to solve Lakefrost's problem. Her brother was turning crazy fast.