Chapter 4: Lakefrost
". . . and then Onestar said that Rainstar was a liar and wanted to fight it out right there," Lakefrost smirked.
Mallowstalk and Honeybee laughed like they were supposed to, amused by the whole thing. Only Badgerface was silent, still looking off into the distance. Lakefrost wasn't sure he'd heard a thing. He was probably thinking about fighting and training too much to be paying attention.
Lakefrost ignored his brother and went back to telling his sisters about last night's Gathering. He'd been there with Knotfur. The both of them had sought out their friends in RiverClan: Tigereye, Gorseclaw and Dustyhead. With them were two ThunderClan apprentices. The group of them sat together telling stories until the leaders called the Gathering. Fallingstar had been the smallest and the youngest leader on the Great Oak. Next to her, Bramblestar and Onestar seemed old. Rainstar was also old. Onestar was now the eldest leader around the lake. Lakefrost couldn't help but guiltily wonder when the toms would die.
At first the three toms (when Firestar was still leader) had been unable to accept young Fallingstar as a leader when she became one, but after a time they had to. She had reliable Tigerheart backing her up and her whole Clan on her side. They daren't argue. By this time everyone accepted her even her sister and brother still in ThunderClan. Lakefrost had seen the two of them side by side looking up at their sister with pride in their eyes.
"So what happened?" Mallowstalk asked. "Did StarClan send the clouds?"
Lakefrost nodded. "WindClan looked like they'd attack until the clouds came. Bramblestar told them to stop fighting because the argument was so mouse-brained. He said wait until leafbare to bring out the claws. Of course at that point the Gathering was over. We had to come home."
"What do you think Badgerface?" Honeybee asked looking at her other brother. "Was Onestar right?"
Badgerface looked over at them, confusion on his black face.
"Did you say something?" he asked. He scanned their faces.
"Yeah," Honeybee nodded. "Was Onestar or Rainstar right? Which Clan should be given credit for making the dog stop bothering them?"
"Onestar?" Badgerface hesitantly meowed. He looked uncertain, his green eyes nervous.
Mallowstalk shook her head and looked away. "So oblivious. You know that old tom lies all the time, right?"
Badgerface turned to her and after a while nodded.
"Anyway," Lakefrost turned away from Badgerface and to his sisters. "As we were going back to camp, Bluepaw decided she'd like to know how to swim and jumped in the lake. Dappleflower and Redsky had to drag her out."
"Oh," Honeybee meowed, her eyes suddenly starry, "Redsky is such a great tom!"
"He has a mate, Honeybee," Mallowstalk chided.
"So?" Honeybee asked.
"So Dawncloud will tear you limb from limb if you get near Redsky," Lakefrost pointed out. "Stick with Orangestripe. He loves you."
"But he's so easy," Honeybee meowed. "There is no challenge."
"You want a challenge?" Mallowstalk asked, surprised. "Make them climb the Great Pine then or see who can catch the most prey. Stop stringing them along."
Honeybee gave Mallowstalk a nasty look.
"What happened to Bluepaw?" Badgerface asked. He looked concerned.
"Flametail said she'd be fine. She hadn't swallowed a lot of water and it is greenleaf after all. He just told her to leave swimming to RiverClan."
"Well I'm off then," Mallowstalk suddenly meowed, standing up and stretching. "I've prey to catch."
"I'm surprised you stayed so long as it was," Honeybee teased. "Your lover, the forest, calls."
Mallowstalk swiped playfully at her sister, missing her ear by a fox-length. The few bushes rattled as she left the camp. She left her siblings lying in a band of sunlight in the center of camp. Fallingstar had left Badgerface to guard but his siblings had joined him to talk about the Gathering. Lakefrost was still supposed to be asleep because he had a moon high patrol that night. He'd be up all night as planned, guarding the borders. Instead, he'd woken up early and found his siblings outside the warriors den, the rest of the warriors missing.
Mallowstalk had looked like she was ready to leave, but when Honeybee asked about the Gathering, his ginger sister with black paws had stopped to listen. Honeybee had been relaxed and not in any hurry. She didn't have anything to do that day. Fallingstar didn't make Honeybee do anything. It wasn't because Honeybee was special but because Fallingstar knew if Honeybee was assigned to do anything, it wouldn't get done. Lakefrost's tabby sister got to do whatever and any cat she tagged along with was in charge. The only one supposed to stay in camp was Badgerface. He was the guard that day. Batwing and the kits were still sleeping in their nursery.
"What happened in camp?" Lakefrost asked his brother when Mallowstalk left.
Honeybee, uninterested with the conversation rolled over, eyes closed, not paying any attention at all. She was asleep in seconds.
There was no answer from the dark tabby tom.
"Badgerface!" Lakefrost called, waving his tail in his brother's black face. Honeybee twitched in her sleep.
Badgerface blinked and turned to his gray brother.
"What happened in camp while we were gone last night?"
"Um, nothing?" Badgerface meowed, an ear tilted. "I was sleeping."
"And nothing wakes you when you're sleeping," Lakefrost shook his head.
Badgerface's head lowered in shame.
"Hey, I was only teasing," Lakefrost meowed quietly.
Badgerface looked up, his expression blank.
Lakefrost sighed. "I guess it doesn't matter. I guess I'll leave you."
He stood up and stared to leave the camp, deciding he'd find a hunting patrol and join them. He was halfway to the entrance when Badgerface called.
Lakefrost waved his tail in reply. Then he was out of the camp. He started walking for the ThunderClan territory. There was usually a hunting patrol over there. He planned on joining them. Lakefrost picked up his pace, weaving in and out of the trees, not being as quiet as he could be. There was nothing to fear. This was his territory. So when the two cats appeared before him, he was startled.
Lakefrost jumped back, the fur along his spine raising in shock. His claws came out in defense and he uttered a low growl. The two cats had come out of nowhere. They stood in front of him, at ease. Lakefrost looked over the intruders, his eyes calculating the threat. One was a white cat with black front feet and the other was a dark gray she-cat with yellow eyes. He stared between them, wondering why he hadn't smelled them before. How had they snuck up on him?
"Who are you?" he demanded with a growl, lowering himself to pounce. There might be more of them, but he would fight them off!
"Stay still, Lakefrost," the white tom growled in reply, "We're not here to fight with you. We have a message."
He reluctantly stood up. "I'll take you to Fallingstar then."
Well, at least they weren't attacking. That was something. If they had meant to hurt him, they would have done it when he wasn't paying attention. Now he'd take them to his mother and she could sort them out.
"Not for her," the other cat meowed quickly. "For you."
"Me?" his ears went up. What did any cat have to do with him? Did they want him to spy? "I won't do it, whatever it is," he growled in reply.
"You haven't even heard," the she-cat protested. Her voice was oddly raspy.
"I won't be your spy," Lakefrost growled, "Now go back to your territory!"
"ShadowClan hasn't changed a bit," the white tom laughed, pleased. "Even with ThunderClan blood."
Lakefrost stared at him in confusion. These cats weren't attacking--they were making fun of him! It was almost worse. He narrowed his eyes and ran for them. His claws were outstretched ready to tear the moment he reached them. He ran between him, his paw flashing like lightning, but they must have been faster still because he only touched air. No satisfying yowl of pain or fur between his claws came at his challenge. He quickly turned around, ready to run, but as he stared at them, he realized they hadn't moved.
Lakefrost shook his head in confusion. They should have been in different positions at least! He would have hit them if they'd stayed still. Yet there they were unmarked and unafraid. He glared at them wondering what technique they'd used. The gray she-cat glared right back. The white tom had narrowed his eyes.
"Are you finished?" the gray she-cat demanded, her voice hard.
"Leave," he spat at them, his tail thrashing. "I don't know what you're doing here, but it can't be good."
"Listen, young warrior," the white tom meowed, his voice low and dangerous. "We have a message for you. Fighting us won't stop a thing but if you don't do what we tell you, things will go bad for a Clan."
Lakefrost looked at them in surprise. Were they threatening a Clan? He stayed silent and nodded for them to continue. The quicker they said it, the faster it would be over and the more definite he could refuse.
"Fine, tell me," he growled. He didn't sit down, still ready on his toes in case they attacked. His ears constantly moving, looking for another threat if they'd brought friends.
"You must look for the young deer," the gray she-cat mewed her voice suddenly not raspy but clear as a sunbeam. "Only the four and the fawn can stop the evening and the morning from stilling the thunder forever. You have until the next moon."
Suddenly the two cats were gone. Lakefrost stared wide eyed. They'd just been there. Where were they? He looked around, searching, scenting, but there was nothing. And now that he looked, he saw no paw marks in the dirt and the needles. It was as if they'd never been there. His breath caught in his chest as he stared at his tracks running across the ground. He'd attacked StarClan cats!