Chapter 13 Lakefrost
"You acted foolishly and endangered yourselves and your Clan," Fallingstar hissed.
The gray and brown tabby she-cat sat on top of the Large Stump, her tail thrashing by her side. As it hit the peeling bark, Lakefrost felt his heart thump. He could tell she wanted to stand up and pace, but the ShadowClan leader could only sit still while her Clan looked onward.
"You crossed the border, stole prey, and lied to a Clan leader!" the she-cat continued. Her green eyes burned and Lakefrost wanted to hide. He didn't want to be sitting there in camp, surrounded by his Clan, his unhelpful siblings by his side.
Only a few heartbeats ago had seen the ThunderClan patrol off, back to their territory. They'd left the four young ShadowClan warriors in the camp after explaining what they'd found that morning. Lionblaze made sure to make Fallingstar aware how much ThunderClan had been bothered by the brash display of theft and how frightened they'd been when Lakefrost went into fits in the camp after claiming he had a message from Fallingstar.
"I didn't steal that mouse," Lakefrost mumbled, trying to defend himself as he met his mother's angry gaze. "I caught it on our land."
"ThunderClan doesn't know that," Fallingstar snapped. "They also wouldn't believe that if it is true."
Lakefrost's heart stung. She didn't believe him either. He glanced down.
"What were you even doing over there?"
There was silence. Lakefrost swallowed. She wanted his answer now.
"You killed it there and got blood on yourself. What exactly did you want to see ThunderClan for?"
Lakefrost could feel the eyes of his Clanmates. They watched him, wondering the exact same thing. Lakefrost wanted to tell them about the prophecy that StarClan cats had given him, but then they'd see him as helping ThunderClan even more; just like Mallowstalk did. Anger curled in his belly. His ginger sister was getting off lightly. Fallingstar seemed to know Lakefrost had planned it and that his sisters and brothers had just followed him across the border.
"What about you?" Lakefrost meowed, lifting his head. "You crossed borders before."
Fallingstar blinked. Lakefrost could hear the apprentices gasp.
"Don't compare my life with yours, Lakefrost," the Clan leader meowed quietly. "What I did has nothing to do with your own problems. I crossed borders yes, but not for the fun of it. Tell me what your reason is."
"You were trying to help ShadowClan--"
"I didn't know anything about their problems until after I joined the Clan."
"Well, I'm trying to help too."
"Help what? Are there problems in ThunderClan we aren't aware of?" She sounded dangerous. He tried to meet her eyes but they glinted down at him. She didn't believe him! She thought he was making excuses!
"I don't know," he meowed, lowering his head. He only heard they'd be destroyed but what type of answer was that? She would believe him even less. A Clan couldn't be destroyed, there had always been four and ever would be.
"You lie to us like you lied to ThunderClan," Fallingstar finally meowed when he didn't speak. "If you were any more bold, ThunderClan might have started a battle with us for stolen prey, just to make us realize we can't get away with things. And I agree. I'd do the same to them if one of their warriors came stealing ours. Luckily they've given us a warning."
The Clan murmured.
"Now I want to hear what your sisters and brother have to say."
Fallingstar turned to Mallowstalk. His siblings shared a glance and finally Mallowstalk stood up.
"We'd heard Lakefrost was going to cross the border and we felt we had to stop him. We just got there and tried to take him back when the ThunderClan patrol ambushed us and dragged us to their camp."
"And what about that stolen mouse?" Fallingstar asked.
"It was our own," Mallowstalk meowed.
"And where did you hear that Lakefrost would cross the border?"
Mallowstalk paused, her tail twitching anxiously. "Badgerface overheard him saying he wanted to meet with someone."
The Clan murmured some more as Fallingstar's eyes rested on her son.
"You wanted to meet with someone?" she growled.
Lakefrost avoided her eyes. He wouldn't explain. He'd just dig himself a deeper grave if he tried to make them understand he only wanted to see Fawnfur. But she was a she-cat and a medicine cat and from ThunderClan. They would imagine all sorts of situations that were all untrue. Lakefrost only wanted to talk to her about the prophecy StarClan had given him. She was the fawn in the prophecy. They had to find what would destroy her Clan.
"All right. If that is that case, Lakefrost, you are banned from going to the next three Gatherings. You are also banned from patrolling or walking anywhere near the ThunderClan border. And you will take care of the elders for a half moon. If you are caught breaking these rules, you will be forced to live with the apprentices for a moon and a half."
"But, Fallingstar," Lakefrost tried to protest. He had to go there. He had to meet with Fawnfur.
"No buts." She sighed and her eyes softened. "I'm not trying to be cruel, Lakefrost. I'm trying to prevent trouble between our Clans. I don't want any more kits to be born half-Clan or Clans having to lose valuable members."
"But I'm not--"
"You might not feel that way now," she meowed, "but if I let this continue, you might just break more code rules, cross more borders, and your feelings might grow to something more than friendship. Now please, try to behave this moon."
She jumped off of the Large Stump. The rest of the Clan quickly dispersed. Sunhigh was fading fast and they had things to do. Only a few cats glared at Lakefrost before walking off. Mallowstalk stayed though, and Honeybee and Badgerface with her. He looked at them before turning away.
"What about Mallowstalk?" Lakefrost quickly growled, standing up as his mother neared. "She followed me across the border too!"
Mallowstalk glared at him. Fallingstar stopped and faced him.
"From what the ThunderClan cats told me, she was really trying to stop you. She didn't intend to go across the border and cause trouble. She was trying to prevent it."
So was I, Lakefrost thought bleakly.
"Now go see Flametail."
"But I'm not sick," Lakefrost muttered.
Fallingstar narrowed her eyes. "And that fit you did in the ThunderClan camp?"
"A lie," he whispered. "I had to get us out of there."
Fallingstar sighed and shook her head. "What kind of a son did I raise?"
She walked off, ignoring anything else he might have to say. He could only watch her, his heart sinking. He was trying to do so much good, but no one would help him or believe him. It seemed pointless or that even StarClan was against him.
"You see," Mallowstalk meowed, nearing. "Doing this isn't worth the effort. No one will let us help ThunderClan. They see it as betrayal."
"You're the one stopping me," Lakefrost growled. "If we hadn't started to fight then that ThunderClan patrol would have just taken me to Fawnfur for my 'injuries'."
Mallowstalk eyed his throat where the mouse blood had long since dried. Her own fur wasn't much better. She'd destroyed the evidence as much as she could before the ThunderClan patrol showed, rubbing blood onto her fur so Lakefrost wouldn't stand out. She'd helped him even as she was determined he didn't succeed.
"Clean up," she told him. "Then take care of the elders. That should keep you occupied until this all blows over."
She stared walking away, Honeybee and Badgerface trailing after. Lakefrost tried to catch their eyes, but they didn't look at him. Their tails remained low, their faces twisted with guilt.
"When this blows over," Lakefrost muttered, staring at them, "ThunderClan won't be there anymore. Why can't you see that?"
A quarter moon quickly passed by and Lakefrost stuck to camp, caring for the elder Oakfur. His care freed the apprentices to do more hunting and battle practice. Ashpaw seemed pleased about that and started talking to Lakefrost again, seeming to forgive the warrior for almost hurting him that one day. Wrenpaw was silent, going about her business, but Bluepaw couldn't help but joke about it, teasing Lakefrost whenever she saw him.
"Going to get mousebile for Oakfur?" she purred. "I heard those ticks were clinging hard this season. Almost as hard as the Clan's keeping their eye on you!"
She giggled and raced off after Dappleflower. Lakefrost glared after her. He could hear Dappleflower scolding her apprentice for disrespect, but when he turned away, he could feel her eyes on him. Bluepaw was right. The Clan was keeping an eye on him. That was one reason he hadn't left camp. He didn't want them seeing him go to ThunderClan.
He had to get there. He'd made Fawnfur promise to see him, but now that he had her agreement and trust, he wasn't able to even visit. He couldn't talk with her about the prophecy or StarClan or how he was even supposed to help. It was frustrating.
He grumbled and continued his walk to the medicine cat den to get the mousebile. On the way back out, he ran into Knotfur.
"Sorry," he muttered, his teeth clenched on the twig holding the moss drenched in mousebile. It smelled awful, stinging his eyes.
"It's okay," she meowed. Her yellow eyes looked at him in sympathy. "Do you need help?"
Lakefrost felt somewhat lighter. At least someone was being friendly. After his punishment was announced, most of the Clan avoided him or gave him dirty looks. Mallowstalk had tried to speak with him, but Lakefrost was so angry with her, he'd ignored his sister. Honeybee and Badgerface also tried to be friendly, but after being ignored, they'd faded off, sticking with their ginger sister. Lakefrost believed that because they'd helped her, they weren't worth trusting anymore. It seemed he was the only one who wanted to help ThunderClan. Maybe that was why StarClan had spoken to the four of them, determined to make sure at least one cat would help.
Knotfur smiled and led the way to the elder's den. "I was wondering if you'd go on patrol with me after this," she meowed.
"Not to the ThunderClan side, I hope," he meowed.
"No way," she protested. "I wouldn't do that to you. Fallingstar would have my tail next if I did that."
Lakefrost had to smile. She was probably right. If anything, Fallingstar tended to punish those who deserved it. Him the exception of course. But everything had pointed to him being the one at fault. He just wished he couldn't have explained things to his mother better. There were so many things he could have done instead.
"I'll go," he agreed.
"Okay, we're hunting."
They got to the elders' den and quickly entered the bushes.
Later, Knotfur, Lakefrost, and Scorchtree stood near the RiverClan border just before the twoleg-greenleaf-place. Lakefrost could hear the twoleg kits screaming and laughing through the trees.
"Okay, so we'll split up here," Knotfur meowed. She glanced at Lakefrost to see if he agreed.
The gray tabby tom nodded. He didn't see any reason to object, though he had thought Knotfur would want to hunt with him. Scorchtree left first and after a slow blink, Knotfur disappeared into the trees. Lakefrost was alone.
He glanced around, making sure no one else was around, and ran off. He wasn't going to waste this opportunity. He did feel bad that he wouldn't catch a lot of prey. He just had to make it back in time before Knotfur realized he was missing.
When he got to the ThunderClan side of camp, Lakefrost started to walk cautiously. Though there wasn't much undergrowth to make a lot of noise, it made it harder to hide. He used the shadow walking technique the ShadowClan cats knew, and slunk to the border. His ears and eyes were alert, trying to spot his Clan before they spotted him. He found a garlic patch and quickly rolled in it, hiding his scent before continuing.
The trees grew closer together, ferns and flowers appearing on the ground as the pines faded behind into oak, maple, and beech. He could smell the scentmarkers, recently remade, as he approached the border. He stood along the edge in the shadow of the trunk, peering over. Did he even dare do this a second time? What would ThunderClan do if they caught him?
Lakefrost looked over his shoulder, searching for his siblings. He hoped they weren't there. They would ruin things for him again. He also hoped there weren't any patrols. He'd have to hurry to get back to Knotfur, and pray he caught something on the way and came up with a good excuse why he didn't have more.
He licked his lips and quickly crossed. His shoulders were hunched, his belly low to the ground as he walked along the border, making sure to stay near in case he had to hop to the other side.
"Please be near," he whispered. Hopefully Fawnfur hadn't given up on him yet and still expected him to show and talk with her. He walked away from the lake along the border to the other twoleg-greenleaf-place. The one where the strange creatures slept beneath shining pelts and sat around fires.
As he neared, the border curved around the small clearing toward an abandoned twoleg dwelling. Lakefrost could see it through the trees. Bushes growing near the sides. Large vines trailing over the stones, the roof caved in, gaping holes along the sides. If anything, it was worth investigating. He and Brownfeather had seen Fawnfur gathering catmint there one day before the Gathering and tried to help her take them back to the ThunderClan camp. Maybe she was here again.
Lakefrost approached, his ears twitching. He entered the dark of the building and sniffed around. His garlic fur wasn't helping.
"Whew, if I couldn't see you, I'd sure smell you."
Lakefrost turned and saw her sitting in the dark corner by the large square hole he'd entered by. He smiled at the ginger-brown tabby. Two white fleck on her ear stood out, defining her from her sister Morningsong.
"Hello," he meowed.
"Hi," she meowed, her eyes suddenly lowered. Then they quickly rose. "I've been waiting by the border for a quarter moon! Where have you been? When you said you wanted to talk, I expected you to be here sooner!"
Now Lakefrost avoided her eyes. "Fallingstar punished me. I can't visit the ThunderClan side of the territory for another quarter moon. I also have to go soon. I'm supposed to be on a hunting patrol on the other side."
Fawnfur's eyes widened. "You just got here!"
"I know," he sighed. Frustrated. "But I'll come back. I promise. But I have to go before they find me missing. I also have to catch something on the way. But meet me here again later tonight. I promise we can talk then. I just wanted to make sure you'd still be waiting."
"I'll be there."
They nodded to each other and Lakefrost quickly left the dwelling. He was surprised when Fawnfur followed him. He glanced at her.
"At least tell me why we need to talk," she meowed, looking at him in confusion.
"StarClan came to me and my siblings a quarter moon ago," he explained as they neared the border. "They told me that--" now he tried to remember the exact words, "that we had to stop the morning and the evening from destroying the thunder. They said that the four and the fawn would stop it."
He watched her eyes widen. "So that's why you came to me," she mewed.
He nodded. "Now, I really have to go," he meowed. They'd reached the border, the scents of ShadowClan strong.
"You better be there," she told him.
He smiled at her and stepped over the border. As he went, he came face to face with another cat.
The small gray tom stared at him, blinked, and then looked at Fawnfur. Ashpaw gazed back at Lakefrost, a look of hurt on the apprentice's face.
"Ashpaw," Lakefrost wondered if he could get the tom not to tell anyone what he'd seen.
The apprentice didn't give him the chance. He turned around and ran for camp.
"Foxdung!" Lakefrost spat, his claws digging into the ground. He looked over at Fawnfur. "I don't think we'll be seeing each other very soon."
"But we only have a moon, Lakefrost," she protested.
"A moon for what?"
Now it was Fawnfur's turn to look horrified. Out from the undergrowth a long silver tom emerged. His large white face stood out, resembling the bird he'd been named after.
"Owlface," Fawnfur tried to meow, but the ThunderClan tom interrupted her.
"I see you're back again," Owlface growled, walking up to Lakefrost, his claws coming out. "Stay away from our she-cats or you're crowfood!"
He hissed and rushed forward. Lakefrost didn't take the time to stick around. He raced away into the ShadowClan territory, hoping it might be possible to catch up to Ashpaw. He glanced back, making sure Fawnfur was all right. He highly doubted the warrior would do anything to his own medicine cat, but something hadn't seemed right.
Lakefrost shook his head. He had enough problems of his own. He had to get Ashpaw before Fallingstar got the chance to punish him again.