Chapter 17: Fawnfur
When Badgerface said he'd help me, I was surprised by the suddenness, but I welcomed it like a cloud in a sunny sky. He was on my side, believing Lakefrost had the right idea. It made me happy that I could convince at least one cat I needed him. With him on my side, I felt certain his siblings must have felt the same.
I was wrong of course. Life could never be so easy. Mallowstalk immediately went after her brother, demanding he tell her what he was doing. In the end, she refused to listen and turned away, heading for ShadowClan land, leaving her brother with me.
I felt panic fill my chest. She couldn't just leave. I'd been so close. I took a step forward.
"Please," I meowed. "Why aren't you helping? What do you fear?"
Something was holding her back. Something that prevented her from giving me her word and her help. Something that made her work even against StarClan themselves. Badgerface had overcome his fear. Overcome the doubt that filled him and had him side with his sister this half moon. He was making his own decisions now. I could see that hurt Mallowstalk, but a thrill of joy tingled in my paws.
How dare she tell me to run away and leave my Clan to be destroyed on its own. I might still live, but I would be Clanless. What cat can live that way, no one to live with or to love, nothing to do all day but serve themselves? Becoming a rogue wasn't for me, so I had to help my Clan survive and do everything in my power to stop Mallowstalk from leaving without at least giving me a reason to forgive her choice.
I saw her freeze. Her back tensed and even her sister, who hadn't yet started walking away, looked interested. I glanced at her and she looked at me, quickly swallowing and facing away.
"What about you Honeybee?" I asked, pinning her down. If I could just get one more sibling, then maybe, just maybe, Mallowstalk wouldn't be so against me. She would give in to the inevitable and become the cat StarClan sent me to find.
"I just don't have the time," Honeybee meowed, lifting her head, her pink nose in the air. "There are just so many toms and so many things to do in the Clan. I don't have time to cross borders and talk about prophesies."
I could feel my jaw drop. What had she just said? It sounded as if she thought toms were more important than a Clan's safety. I glanced at Badgerface. He frowned, his ears tilted at an angle.Mallowstalk still had her back to us, but at least she wasn't walking away.
"And if you helped ThunderClan the toms would lose interest?" I slowly asked. I didn't want to offend her and have her running back to ShadowClan to get warriors to chase me away, but at the same time, talking about mates just seemed wrong.
"Um, no," Honeybee meowed. Her head lowered and she licked her whiskers. "I just didn't. . ." she just trailed away as if uncertain.
"Then would you help your brothers?" I asked. "They think this is important. I know it is. And I know StarClan wanted you to help me for some reason. I need you."
Honeybee met my eyes. "They told me that day to pay attention to my duties and to stop distracting the toms."
"Maybe I should listen to them." Her tail twitched. I could see her looking at her sister's back. "Mallowstalk?"
"I don't care what you want to do, but don't involve me." The ginger she-cat's legs trembled and I watched her start to walk away.
What was her problem? I wondered, glaring at her.
And then suddenly the world and sounds faded from my sight.
-Line to past-
A ginger she-cat walked in the night. Stars shone in the black sky above, a full moon hanging over head in a forest full of pines, their needles caught in the luminous light. The ground was free from undergrowth and I could see nothing moving below, but one shadowed shape. A ginger she-cat formed when she left the shadows, her black paws seemed invisible as if she floated instead of walked.I could sense her mind; it swirled with thoughts. She wasn't concentrating on hunting at all. She padded along, looking up into the sky at the moon. If I pushed, I could enter her thoughts, become her. . .
Mallowstalk enjoyed staying away from the Clan. She didn't like all of those cats, so many in one place. She loved being out in the forest away from everyone. Left alone. When she was with them it felt as if they were judging her. Remembering who her ancestors were, thinking and wondering just who she'd follow after.
She was related to the great Tigerstar of ShadowClan, a 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. The whole lake seemed to just be waiting to see if she too would become a traitor.
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 Gathering had been just last night. Although she hadn't attended, she'd been at the Gathering before that, participating as a warrior at last and felt 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.
She suddenly felt tired. She yawned widely and quickly started walking again. She couldn't keep forgetting her duty. Her Clan had to eat after all. 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 ginger she-cat's mind stayed on StarClan for a short time and then the sky was alight. Two glowing streaks parted the sky. She stared upward, captivated by the sight. They seemed to get so bright, coming closer and closer, and then- the light disappeared, leaving dazzles in her eyes.
She shook her head, her night vision was ruined. She started hunting again, but it wasn't too long before the StarClan cats revealed themselves.
"We have a message from StarClan," the gray one said. ". . . ."
My sight shifted once more, taking me away from the scene and I didn't get to see the prophecy. Instead, when my sight returned, it was day. The sun glinted down from above. I was still in the ShadowClan territory. I could hear voices beneath a nearby bush. Without hesitating, my mind went there and I came upon Lakefrost and his siblings. The gray tabby was speaking now. I quickly started listening and I entered Mallowstalk's mind, once more hearing her thoughts. At the same time, I concentrated on the warrior's words.
"Maybe," Lakefrost nodded to Badgerface's suggestion. "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," the gray tom 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. 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.
Mallowstalk shook her head. It just wasn't right.
-Line to present-
I gasped as the world resolved around me. I was myself once more. Often I had gone into the past, living at another cat for a short time. But this was different. I had been me, choosing to listen in on Mallowstalk. I had learned. Learned too well exactly what my 'enemy' was afraid of. Scared she would be seen as evil, taking after Tigerstar or the others.
I looked at her, surprised to see her facing me now. Hadn't see been facing away?
"What happened?" Honeybee asked, peering at me. They remained on their side of the border, but almost leaned over the scentmarkers.
I tilted my head and glanced at Badgerface. He blinked at me as if not sure what to say. I looked at Mallowstalk.
"You can't tell me you didn't notice how much time passed with you just standing there with a stupid look on your face," Mallowstalk asked me.
My ears went back. "Usually no one notices."
Usually I hadn't done that in front of others.
"Are you okay?" Badgerface asked, concerned.
"I'm fine," I assured him. I glanced at my paws, wondering what I should say. We were supposed to help each other after all and my gift might help them help me, but I'd held this secret close to myself and only two alive knew about it. Could I really share it with them? Cats not in my Clan? I blinked. I suddenly felt I understood Mallowstalk in my own way. I too looked out for my Clan first and didn't want to betray them to others, but this once I had to. It was necessary to save them in the end.
I took a deep breath and gathered my courage.
"I see the past," I meowed, looking each of them in the eyes. "No one else can know about this. They just wouldn't believe me. We also can't tell anyone about what we're about to do. The Clan leaders would never work together against this unknown threat. We have to keep everything a secret."
"What do you mean you see the past?" Mallowstalk demanded.
I licked my lips, wondering what I should say. What would convince her without driving her away? "I just saw that you don't want to betray ShadowClan and that you don't want anyone to think of you as a traitor like Tigerstar or Eveningbreeze."
I watched the ginger's eyes widen, her tail grow stiff.
"I've seen other things," I told them. "Maybe this was why StarClan warned me. But they must have felt you could help me best. Mallowstalk," I turned to her. "You can't live like this. Your Clan will either accept you or not. You just need to do the right thing. Firestar got in trouble all the time when he was a warrior, but he did what he had to help the other Clans. Lakefrost is the same. And if you're scared of betraying your Clan, does that fear mean more to you than your family? You've betrayed him, working against him."
She looked down, breathing deeply.
"What would any of you do if this was your Clan in danger?" I turned on them. "You'd want all the help you could get. So for a short time just think of my Clan as yours. That you're the ones who could all die. Then I think--"
"Quiet," Mallowstalk snapped at me, her eyes blazing into mine. "I'll help you, just stop seeing my brother. Just stop enticing him. He has enough troubles without actually falling in love with you."
I pulled away. "I'm not doing it on purpose. I--"
"What's that?" Badgerface suddenly meowed, jerking his head up. His green eyes stared into the undergrowth behind me.
I quickly turned just in time to see a silver form shaking the milkweed stalks before disappearing. I drew in breath. I glanced skyward. Sunhigh was practically over. I had to leave. I couldn't stay here much longer.
"I better leave," I meowed, facing them one last time. "You are really going to help me, right?"
"Trust us, Fawnfur," Mallowstalk meowed. Though she didn't looked entirely happy she seemed to have accepted me.
"So what do we do now?" Honeybee asked.
"We'll have to meet again," Mallowstalk replied. "When this apprentice has some free time. Tomorrow, sunset, by the lake. We'll talk about the prophecy."
"And Lakefrost?" I asked.
"Probably nothing we can do about him," Mallowstalk meowed. "Fallingstar will never change her mind, but we'll make sure he stays informed."
I nodded to her and then hurried away. I glanced back to see her leading her siblings away. I approached the area the silver form disappeared and saw his fur on the bushes. I breathed his scent in. Dread filled my heart. Owlface. He'd followed me. He'd found me and saw me speaking with the ShadowClan warriors. I swallowed. This wasn't good. I could just feel it.
I started running, hoping I could find him someplace nearby and maybe speak with him. I bounded through the thick weeds and over the fallen branches and leaves scattered around the forest. It wasn't long before I came face to face with Bramblestar.
I halted just in time. He shot from the bushes, Whitewing, Tigerpaw, and Toadstep behind him.
"You're safe," he meowed, staring at me, smelling my fur as if checking for wounds.
"Yes," I answered, trying not to pull away. "I'm fine. What were you expecting?"
"Owlface saw you by the border. Three ShadowClan warriors had you surrounded. We thought they were attacking."
I blinked and searched the patrol. It had gotten bigger since we'd stood still. They pulled themselves from the undergrowth all facing me and Bramblestar, almost halfway to the border. There in the back I spotted Owlface. He breathed hard as if running had exhausted him. The silver warrior glared at me, his eyes hard, his tail thrashing. I sighed and turned away, paying attention to Bramblestar.
"Did anything happen?" my leader asked slowly.
"Of course not," I meowed. "I was hunting and then I saw them. We got to talking."
"This doesn't seem right," Whitewing meowed. "ShadowClan's been guarding that border all quarter moon. They wouldn't even talk to us when we saw them."
I could feel the silence. The patrol stared at me.
"Did they want anything?" Bramblestar asked.
"No, they just wanted me away from the border," I answered. That sounded more real. Just talking wasn't ShadowClan's style. Or at least not the past's ShadowClan. Fallingstar had been changing them lately, but many still believed the stories to believe the Clan had even changed.
"Then you are fine?"
"Back to camp," Bramblestar ordered the patrol. "Come on, Fawnfur."
I didn't argue and quickly joined him as we made our way through the forest. I kept my eyes on Owlface the whole way back to the quarry. He didn't walk with me like he used too. Something had changed. I wondered just how long it would be until he told the Clan I met secretly with Lakefrost before. For all I knew he might even lie and make the situation worse.
As we walked, I noticed some of the patrol glancing back at me and then whispering to each other. I narrowed my eyes until I saw Bramblestar staring at me with something like suspicion. I blinked. What had happened? Had he already told them?
I swallowed. I just had to talk to Jayfeather. He might just be the only cat who'd believe me from now on. I had to tell him that I had found the four and that they were willing to help me. We only had to meet tomorrow and I'd learn more. I wondered if it would be possible to meet. What if Bramblestar didn't let me out of camp without an escort either?