And now the story continues, in this month’s…
Trailing Stars: Chapter Seven
Edited by: Cinnamonswirl
illustrated by Jayfrost
Dawnfrost sat under a tree, her tail-tip twitching. The sun was setting very slowly. Her Clanmates sat in the middle of the clearing, eating their share of the food Copperclaw’s patrol brought back- though you could hardly call it food. The pizza was mouldy, the bacon tasted like leather… Dawnfrost shivered as she recalled biting into a tiny morsel of egg.
“I don’t want to eat anymore,” squeaked a tiny voice. “It tastes yucky.”
“It’s okay, Jadekit. Just don’t be picky, food is scarce,” warned Lilyshine.
Dawnfrost gulped. The little kit was right- the food was horrible. But cats were desperate for a meal. As Lilyshine ushered Jadekit away to sleep, other cats drowsily wandered away to get some sleep. The food definitely wasn’t a feast, and everyone only got a fraction, but it was one of the only meals they had had since turning into cats.
“Swiftfire, Kat, guard the entrance,” called out Copperclaw. The two obliged and quickly bounded away.
Dawnfrost lay down for her own sleep. An uneasy feeling was bouncing around in her stomach as she tried to settle down.
When Dawnfrost suddenly awoke, about an hour before daybreak, it was to a shrilly and painful wail.
Silverkit was crying out, his eyes wide in distress. Cinnamonpaw grabbed the tiny kit first, then raced him away to Dawnmist.
“What happened?” gasped Dawnfrost, rushing over and running into Shiveringrose.
“Silverkit has a bellyache,” gulped the dark she-cat. “And he’s not the only one.”
She gestured to where Dawnmist was already frantically tending to Spiritheart, Jadekit, and Nightflower.
“They won’t be the only ones getting sick,” muttered Dappleleaf darkly. “We need something to cure them, quickly.”
Copperclaw yowled for a Clan meeting, although most cats were gathered there already.
“We need herbs,” the deputy meowed. “Fast. Dawnmist, which herb-”
“Juniper,” interrupted Dawnmist loudly. “We need patrols to go out and find juniper.”
“What does it look like?” Shiveringrose called out.
“Well, they grow on a spiky bush. And they’re blue, or red. I think…” Dawnmist trailed off awkwardly.
Uneasiness rippled through the Clan. Daylight was finally breaking through the horizon.
Copperclaw narrowed her eyes. “I’m sending out patrols right now. Dawnfrost, you lead one. Take Hazelburrow, Swiftfire, Sageheart and Rainpaw. Echowing, you take Stormcloud, Russetpaw…” The deputy continued calling out instructions, although not every cat listened.
Dawnfrost turned around to find the cats on her patrol already behind her. “Let’s go, we have to hurry,” said Rainpaw quietly, shifting her paws.
“Come on.” Dawnfrost led her cats out of camp and through the forest.
Silence gripped the small group as a sense of dread towered over them.
“Does anyone remember what juniper looks like, specifically?” meowed Swiftfire, finally breaking the silence.
“Not me,” sighed Hazelburrow. Sageheart, Rainpaw and Dawnfrost nodded as well.
A sick feeling began to swell in Dawnfrost’s stomach. They scoured every bush they saw for any signs of the hopeful berry, but nothing they found fit the description.
“We should just give up now,” muttered Sageheart. “We’ve searched every bush since we left.”
“Don’t be so negative,” chided Dawnfrost, but she silently agreed with the smoky grey she-cat. They’d searched for ages.
“Should we go back?” meowed Rainpaw hesitantly. “We’ve been out for quite a while and found nothing.”
“Alright then,” agreed Dawnfrost, her heart aching with bitter disappointment. “Let’s hope the other patrols got lucky.”
Her patrol followed her, a disappointed and worried aura filling the air. They couldn’t let any cat die. They were more than cats. They were humans, with lives, families, friends… would that all just disappear? And didn’t cats have nine lives? That was what she was taught as a human. Where were the lives when they needed them?
When they arrived at camp, the scents of the other patrols were fresh. They were the last back. They hopefully squeezed inside to see if the others had found a cure.
That was the first word that greeted Dawnfrost’s ears. She recognised the speaker as Silverwind, Dawnmist’s apprentice.
“What do you mean?” growled Copperclaw. The fur on her back began to rise. “There can’t be none.”
“Our patrol didn’t find anything,” meowed Cinnamonpaw sadly, following Echowing over.
“Neither did ours,” mumbled Dawnblaze.
“I’ll go tell Dawnmist,” sighed Silverwind, her tail trailing behind her as she left.
“Wait!” The voice belonged to Jayfrost. Her patrol was behind her, and Lilyshine had something clamped in her jaws that looked vaguely like cranberries.
Silverwind turned around, her head tipped in interest. “Let me see that.”
Lilyshine dropped the branch and Cinnamonpaw ran forward to smell them.
“They look quite good,” the apprentice meowed, hunger gleaming in her cinnamon-brown eyes.
“Step back,” ordered a shaky voice. Everyone slowly backed away, and Dawnmist came through. Anger sparked in her eyes.
“I don’t remember every berry and medicine exactly, but I know what these are. Those are deathberries.”
Cinnamonpaw winced. “Oops,” she muttered, head down. “Sorry.”
Dawnfrost flattened her ears. That could danger even a human, she thought faintly.
“Get the rest of the Clan here, so I can show them,” instructed Dawnmist.
Jayfrost ran over and yowled for the other cats. The rest of the Clan, excluding Silverwind who was helping the sick cats, came over, their ears pricked.
“These are deathberries!” meowed Dawnmist loudly. “They will kill you if you eat one, and I don’t have any healing herbs to help you.”
Everyone shifted uncomfortably and hushed whispers echoed through the camp.
“Copperclaw, make sure all the patrols know what these are,” instructed Cakestar to the deputy, who was standing outside the group of cats. Copperclaw nodded grimly.
As the rest of the Clan left, Owlpaw came to sit next to her. “We aren’t safe, and we never will be,” muttered the apprentice sadly. “I hope everybody will be able to go back to their families by the end of this.”
“So do I,” Dawnfrost sighed. “So do I.”