Nobody has gone back to the Twolegplace, in this chapter of…
Trailing Stars: Chapter Eight
Edited by: Sun-for-Two
illustrated by Jayfrost
The sun had risen and set seven times since the day the patrol had brought back the deathberries. I wince inwardly every time I think about how close I was to eating them. Hunger consumed my senses of right and wrong, I had realized that day. The thirst for something can make you go crazy. It clouds your senses and turns you into something you’re not. That day put me to shame, and I realized how weak I truly am when put to the test. In this case, the test was being able to hold back hunger, and like most cats, I did not succeed.
I make myself look so strong on the outside, but in truth, I think I’m pretty weak. I offer my place in the makeshift den to other newly found apprentices, and so I sleep under the slight cover of an aged willow tree. I’m miserable alone under here, but it earns me good with Copperclaw and Cakestar.
Being alone has given me time to think though. Sleeping by myself eliminates any distractions from the late-night thoughts that crawl across my mind while in my nest.
I ponder about the fact that we need food in order to keep some cats from dropping dead from starvation. It’s the only thing keeping some of us healthy enough to go hunt for anything that can go under the category of food.
We haven’t gone back to Twolegplace. Cats have gotten sick from eating what we brought back. Sadly, we don’t have any herbs to keep them from crying out at night in pain from a bellyache, especially the poor kits.
Because I’m bigger than most apprentices, for I’m the oldest, I am allowed to hunt with the young warriors. It’s hard seeing their looks of frustration and sadness. The younger cats have hope that everything is going to be alright in the end. Their optimism is something we envy but lack, for we know the truth and how the world truly is.
A rule, one that not many cats like, especially the selfish ones who haven’t fully lost their wild cat instincts yet, is that whatever food we find goes to the elders, kits and queens first. Slight logic, yes, since the warriors and apprentices eat last, sometimes we go hungry and haven’t enough energy to hunt. See the problem?
* * *
I’m lying on my back under the shade of the tree, watching the twinkling stars dance across the sky. Belief in StarClan gives me slight hope. They can’t just leave us here suffering like this. It’s not right. Is it? I just don’t know anymore.
I hear a high-pitched scream, and my vision darts to the nursery. Bolting upright, I dash across the clearing. I was sleeping outside, as this gives me the quickest access to most of the dens.
“What happened? Hello?” I questioned fiercely, my eyes adjusting to the den which was not lit by the moonlight.
I get a shrill response from Echowing. “This kit won’t wake up!” My heart beat speeds up. Not again!
“Give her to me. I’ll carry her to Dawnmist,” I say softly, bending down to pick up the kit in my jaws. Echowing flinches and steps back, while I hurry out of the den, kit tucked securely in my jaws. I can feel her stirring and inwardly thank StarClan for sparing her, for now at least.
When I arrive, I duck my head into Dawnmist’s den and grunt silently at the bitter smell of the potluck of herbs scattered across the ground and stacked against the wall.
“Dawnmist? You there?” When I don’t get an immediate response, I try to set the kit down softly, but almost drop her when I hear sudden pawsteps approach behind me.
“Dawnmist went out for herbs,” a cold and collected voice meows. It was Silverwind. “What do you need?”
I flick my tail towards the kit. “She’s sick,” I say, voice wavering. “Fix her.”
Silverwind’s eyes flick up in distaste. “You won’t get anything with that attitude,” she snorts. “But I’ll do it for the well-being of the kit.”
I turn away, exchanging a silent glance with the kit’s mother. The worry in her eyes seems to have bubbled into frustration.
“Go get Dawnmist,” Silverwind meows on my way out. “She was out collecting the kind of herbs this kit needs to survive. Tell her to return as soon as possible. She should be near the outskirts of Twolegplace.”
I nod vaguely, flick my tail in farewell and dash off.
When I was younger I wondered why anyone would want to be a medicine cat. I mean, who’d want to stay stuck in a den all day full of sick cats? What honor is there in that? Now that I’m a tad bit older, I see why. It’s the most respected position in the clan. You literally can decide the fate of the whole clan: try your best and make them better, or give up, sit back and watch them die. You may not ever be able to hunt and fight like warriors, but the honor of doing what you do amounts to that.
My pads are dry and cracked from walking on hard, cold dirt, and every time I step down I curse quietly.
After what seems like forever, I finally see the distant twoleg lights that begin to guide my pawsteps in the pre-dawn night. I catch a whiff of BlogClan scent and know that Dawnmist must be near.
The outskirts of Twolegplace are strange. It’s solid land that suddenly gives way: you plummet down, down, down a hill that leads into the beginning of twoleg territory.
Suddenly, I hear a yelp. There’s a flash of fur here, there, claws hanging from the cliff. Everything is happening so fast that I’m sort of in a daze, a trance. Then I fluff out my fur and glance around, frightened. Out of the corner of my eye I see grey fur. It was Dawnmist, face to face with another cat. I can’t make out the shape at first, so I inch closer. What if it’s a rogue? What if she’s in trouble? Defending the medicine cat surely would rank me high on Cakestar’s list.
I’m up close enough now to see Dawnmist’s face, but she has an unreadable expression. I glance toward the other cat and it’s most definitely a tom.
I crouch down, curious. I narrow my eyes and watch their mouths move.
“H-hazelburrow!” Dawnmist stammers, breathless. “You saved my life! I almost fell . . . I could have died!” She shakes out her fur as if trying to recollect herself.
The other cat, whom now has a name, gives his chest a lick, embarrassed. With eyes clearly glowing, he touches his tail tip to her nose.
“Anytime,” he says simply, a shy smile playing at his lips.
I can see Dawnmist blush from a mile away. She pulls away and bounds off, but not before picking up the scattered piles of herbs dropped around her.
Hazelburrow’s disappointment radiates off of him like the rays of the sun. For a moment he looks almost sad before he trots off, tail drooped.
* * *
The next few days are like mirrors of the previous. Everything is the same: hunting patrols are sent out, kits rushed to Dawnmist for bellyaches. It’s mid-noon and I return back from a border patrol with a few other apprentices: not that we have any definite borders yet. Padding back into camp, I see Copperclaw standing next to a tree, claws flashing in and out. I notice Hazelburrow emerging from the medicine den, a worried look on his face. Dawnmist steps out after him, eyes dark and fearful, pawsteps small and hesitant.
Copperclaw strikes her claws against a tree, and then hurries off after Hazelburrow, who heads into the forest. I brush away my uncertainty and confusion and pad off into the medicine den to see if Dawnmist needs any help and if everything was alright. She shoos me out, a deep hollow expression clouding her usually bright green eyes.
That night, I awaken to the sound of shushed hisses coming from Copperclaw’s makeshift den which was around the bend of a wide rock. I arise, eyes bright with curiosity and mischief.
I follow the angry meows and stay hidden outside, ear pressed against the entrance.
“It means nothing!” I hear a usually-soft voice hiss to the deputy.
“You sure about that? Do you know what he really thinks?”
Dawnmist sighs, “Yes, I’m sure. And what business do you have with Hazelburrow and I? We’re just friends.”
Copperclaw looks hurt but quickly shakes the expression away. “Whatever, just don’t do anything you’ll regret later.”
Dawnmist grits her teeth, flicking her tail. She turns away and bounds out of the den, an action that would spark a rivalry between the two she-cats for a long time to come.
I yelp out of instinct as I see Dawnmist’s fiery eyes staring at me.
“U-uh . . . hi?” I say, wincing under her unwavering gaze.
“Should I even bother to ask what you were doing here?” Dawnmist sighs, but her expression remains calm.
“You have the most interesting conversations!” I giggle, trying to noticeably lighten the mood.
The medicine cat rolls her eyes. “Don’t I? But it’s nothing pertaining to you – nothing you should worry about. Just go back to sleep, alright? Or go on a patrol or something. I don’t know.”
I nod. “Okay, see you later. Sorry for prying.” Dawnmist nods as well, but I can still decipher the fairly hidden trouble in her green eyes.
While padding back to take place in my nest, I hear a loud murmur of voices. “Too early for this hour,” I hiss aloud.
“Shut up, will you? You all are going to wake the whole clan!” I regret my words as soon as they fly from my mouth, for I notice that the whole clan is there.
“What the heck?” I mutter, eyes widening. They’re all crowded around the medicine cats den for some odd reason. I can hear Silverwind’s annoyed hisses from fox lengths away. Her fur is bristled, protectively curled around the den entrance.
“Stay out! Everyone is fine! Your kits are alive! Go back to your dens or something. Ugh, Dawnmist!” Silverwind’s desperate pleas aren’t heard over the crowd of she-cats surrounding her figure.
“You have my kit! You stole him!”
“Sandykit, are you in there?”
“You’re such a horrible medicine cat. It’s a shock that Dawnmist hasn’t fired you. Hey, where is she, anyway?”
From the corner of my eye, I see Dawnmist approaching her apprentice. She whispers something fiercely in her ear and Silverwind’s figure turns pale. She nods and steps out from her place of guarding the entrance.
I hear a yowl and cats push past Dawnmist, piling into the den. After a few seconds, their voices go dead.
“There’s only two,” I hear a voice whisper quietly.
And that’s when the arguing and fighting erupts.
In the background, though, it’s as if you can hear someone whisper: “When will this end? Will we ever be safe at all?”