Trailing Stars: Chapter Twenty Five
edited by Viperfrost and Emberdawn
illustrated by Jayfrost
Lionfire looked up, hazy sunlight filtering into her eyes. The sun had not yet risen above the lowest sycamore branches that lined the edge of BlogClan’s camp; in her opinion, that meant it was far too early to wake up yet. Unfortunately, her apprentice Owlpaw seemed to have other ideas.
“Come onnnn, wake up! Cakestar’s called a meeting!” The tabby’s eyes glinted in excitement.
Lionfire pulled a face. “StarClan, surely not another one?”
Owlpaw rolled her eyes, “Sourpuss.” She flicked her tail in both amusement and impatience.
Lionfire waited a moment before giving in, “Fine fine, I’m coming…” Lionfire sighed, before making a show of dragging herself off her less than comfortable moss nest. The rest of the senior warriors’ den was empty. It looked like they were all far more punctual than her, although she wasn’t surprised.
By the time they had reached the gathering area, it was mostly full, with just a couple of stray apprentices quickly trying to join the crowd without attracting much attention. Owlpaw shot a quick smile in her direction before going to join the other apprentices, taking a seat next to Moonpaw and Bluebellpaw, who quickly started an excited conversation among themselves.
As she scanned the crowd for somewhere to sit, Lionfire soon noticed how thin most of the cats looked. Automatically, she glimpsed back at her own ginger pelt, although it had started to look more tawny. Despite her long, thick fur she noticed a couple of her ribs were slightly visible when highlighted by the sun, the light faintly altered by green sycamore leaves.
Lionfire looked back at the group of cats and as she looked closer, she noticed how hollow and faded their eyes looked; many had drooping whiskers and muted, slightly lifeless movements. On the other paw, many looked hopeful and optimistic despite their degraded health, with the most recent danger passed. If not, they at least looked calm and content, assured that the clan was no longer threatened.
Shaking a russet leaf off that had fallen on her head and disrupted her thoughts, Lionfire headed nearer to the front of the congregation of cats in an attempt to be able to catch what Cakestar would say easier.
She found a comfortable looking branch next to Swanfeather and Shiverfur, quickly trying to cram in as much into a conversation before Cakestar addressed the clan. It reminded Lionfire of her old math class, where she and her friend would try and talk as much as they could before her teacher noticed.
Of all the things I still remember about being human, why do I remember my math class? She smiled to herself. At least some things were returning to her. Although something is definitely wrong if I remember school first of all things.
Her heart felt a pang of sadness as she thought about home, but she briskly brushed it aside as Swanfeather continued talking.
“What do you reckon this meeting will be about?” she mewed, black-tipped ears flicking forward.
“StarClan knows! Hopefully not another badger!” Shiverfur’s pale blue eyes widened slightly at her memories.
Lionfire smiled, “I doubt it.” She cast her hazel eyes over at the ledge where Jayfrost and Cakestar were chuckling about something, “I think she would look a little more worried.” She paused and then grinned, “I hope she would anyway.”
Emberdawn glanced over, “Don’t worry; it’s not another badger! You’ll be happy for once about a clan meeting.”
“Ooh! What is it?” Shiverfur’s smoky grey whiskers quivered slightly, her face lifting up.
The dark ginger she-cat winked, “Sorry, I can’t tell you that.”
“Don’t tell us it’s classified information or top secret or something.” Swanfeather looked skeptical and raised an eyebrow or the feline equivalent facial expression, but her green eyes glinted with mischief.
Emberdawn tilted her head slightly upwards, pointing towards the natural stone shelf, “You’ll find out soon enough. It looks like Cakestar is about to start.”
As if the auburn leader had been listening in on the conversation, she began, her amber eyes scanning the crowd. “As you know, the past few days have been difficult. But we managed to power through, and fortunately, we had no lives lost and hardly any injuries.” She paused whilst she glanced down at the cats below her.
Lionfire looked back at her flank, scattered with minor injuries – thin, already-healing scratches mainly, but also two or more deeper bites from her encounter with the badger. In hindsight, it was lucky she had been one of the cats on the fighting party against the badger. Her overgrown, thick coat had protected her from most of the damage that might have had more effect on another cat.
Across from her, she noticed Darkpaw promptly licking a nasty looking gash on her tail, and Winterpaw beside her, the white spashes of his fur still enveloped with a layer of dried blood. They weren’t the only ones to suffer injuries; Maplesky was flecked with deep cuts, Willowstep had a painful looking slash that cascaded from her shoulder down to one of her hind legs, and Cheetahspark suffered a scratched nose and a torn ear.
Cakestar continued, “Anyway, this has led to us neglecting our own care. I don’t know how much longer we will stay here in cat form; StarClan hasn’t sent any of our medicine cats a message yet.”
The collective mood changed slightly, suddenly everyone seemed slightly less hopeful, the world a little more hazy and obscure. Lionfire tried to keep her face a mask of optimism, but she could feel her features betraying her true emotions.
Iceflower and Jayfrost quickly picked up on the mood and instantly tried to look more cheerful and encouraging, though even they didn’t convince anyone.
BlogClan’s leader’s ears pricked up, the rust-colored ends tapering into smoky wisps that gently blew in the breeze. She must have noticed the pessimism of the clan cats. “As I was saying, we haven’t been able to look after ourselves properly, the prey pile has been wearing thin, and our herb stocks are low.” She must have noticed how ragged everyone’s pelts and how dull they looked.
“Tonight, in celebration of defeating the badger, and a way to fill every cat’s belly-” She started.
“And to raise everyone’s spirits!” Hazelburrow added thoughtfully.
Cakestar smiled before continuing, “Tonight, we will have a party-feast-banquet-thing!”
The apprentices were overjoyed. Cloudypaw, Wishpaw and Cheetahpaw even cheered. The mood suddenly changed, and many other cats joined in with the whoops and caterwauls and other supportive yells.
Once everyone had died down, Cakestar rose to her paws once again. She began giving out orders to each rank, Lionfire just about caught ‘senior Warriors decorate the camp’ before she was broken off by the ramble of everyone trailing off to go and do their tasks.
She shrugged, about to go her own way, but then saw Mapledrift and Russetfeather and quickly changed paths to go and join them.
“Hiya guys,” she mewed once she caught up to them.
“Hi!” The two dark ginger she-cats replied simultaneously.
“How are we even supposed to decorate the camp?” Mapledrift began, “It’s not like we’ll find fairy lights or anything here.”
Lionfire purred, “You never know, we all suddenly just turned into cats – anything’s possible.”
Russetfeather was about to add something, when Pebblepaw and Pastelpaw interrupted.
“Hey, do you mind if we join you? They had too many apprentices so they sent a few of us to join some of the other groups.” Pastelpaw asked.
Russetfeather smiled, “Sure. No worries! We’re supposed to be decorating the camp – however you do that.”
“Maybe we should go and patrol for flowers and things like that?” Pebblepaw suggested.
Before long, the group had a plethora of pinecones, flowers, nice looking branches, and other naturally pretty things. Mapledrift was looking pretty weighed down under the large amount of berries and unusual leaves that she was struggling to carry or balance.
“Ooh! Look! What a cool fern, can we take that as well?” She mumbled through the excessively large bundle she was carrying in her mouth.
“I think you have enough,” Lionfire laughed, “Let’s just take all this back first.”
They dropped off what they had so far just outside the camp entrance, before heading out for another search. The group found a place near a swamp, and quickly started gathering horsetail and reeds.
Lionfire was just chewing the stem of a plant (the name of which she didn’t know, but it looked nice enough anyway) when the reeds beside her rustled slightly.
A grey feline-shaped blur shot out, landing straight into the swamp. Rainshine shot up, her fur streaked with pondweed. In her mouth she held a frog, her nose was wrinkled in disgust, “Who on Earth would want to eat this anyway?”
Viperfrost followed her, emerging from the reeds, along with Dapplepaw, her pale blue eyes full of amusement, “I’m sure some apprentices or kits might try it as a dare.”
“Ew, definitely not.” Dapplepaw looked repulsed, and recoiled slightly.
Rainshine chuckled, “See?” She and the rest of her patrol set off again with their prey, leaving behind Lionfire’s group. They probably spent another few minutes there, when Pastelpaw piped up.
Pastelpaw looked up, a small pile of flowers littered by her feet, “Do you reckon we have enough yet?”
Russetfeather glanced at the sky, “I think so, besides we should probably be heading back anyway, it’s getting late – and we still need to put all the us at the camp.” She flicked her rust-coloured tail in the general direction of the receding sun.
The clutter of cats each picked up their load, Mapledrift and Pebblepaw sharing theirs between each other. Lionfire was struggling to carry so much, she still wasn’t used to not having hands or opposable thumbs – although she couldn’t deny how cool it was to have such heightened senses or flexibility.
They soon made it back to camp, although most of the other cats were already there, crowding the center of the camp, hurrying back and forth with various prey and other edible things. Lionfire even saw Irispaw carrying some honeycomb, although she had no idea how Irispaw had managed to get that without a beekeeper suit or being inflicted with many bee stings.
By the edge of the camp there was a blossom tree that had just started flowering, coinciding with the defeat of the badger. The medicine cats weren’t sure if it was some sort of sign from StarClan, but they had quickly disregarded it as mere chance.
Besides the blossom, that side of the camp was mainly just a large clump of ferns. The kits’ den was hidden among those, although it was a pain trying to find them when they ran off to play hide and seek. Especially when it came to Blackkit and Dawnkit, whose dark pelts were annoyingly perfect camouflage.
The rest of the camp was defended by rock cliff faces and thick undergrowth (though that was pretty flattened from having the weight of a thrashing badger on it). All the dens were made from woven vines and sticks, apart from the medicine cat den (which was lodged between the camp wall and some large fallen rocks) and Cakestar’s den (which was a hollow, high up the cragged rock face).
From here, Lionfire could see how easy it was for the badger to come so close to defeating BlogClan, despite the camp being easy to keep danger out. It was hard to defend once the threat was inside, and even harder to chase it away.
The camp wasn’t only nice from a technical point of view, but it was also nice just as scenery – surrounding the camp were many different varieties of trees, most of them old and tall, holding masses of green leaves. Birds of all types set the forest in a constant orchestra of whistling and warbling, accompanied by the rush of a nearby stream.
Lionfire picked up some of her flowers and resumed decorating the camp, rushing slightly as most of the other cats had already finished with their own tasks and started feasting.
After most of the plants had been more or less delicately placed in strategic places, she grasped the remaining bouquet and crammed it hastily into a crook inbetween some rocks, “Eh, looks good enough,” she murmured to herself, admiring her scruffy handiwork.
The ginger she-cat skidded down to go and join the rest of the clan, most of whom were now there. They were chatting amongst themselves, looking happier than they had in a long time, if not the happiest they had ever been since becoming cats.
Hesitating a few moments to take in the scene, she noticed that most cats had gone to get some fresh-kill before finding some other cats to talk to and share their prey with. Lionfire shrugged and followed everyone else’s lead.
She stalked over towards the prey pile, somewhat reluctant to pick anything. During the past few days when food had been scarce she had been more than happy to let the kits or elders have her share, not just out of kindness but also because Lionfire was relatively tentative toward eating raw prey.
Her stomach growled; she hadn’t eaten since this morning. Lionfire sighed and gave in to hunger pangs. She reached down and took a fish, although not without tensing and wrinkling her nose in protest.
Turning around to look for some people to sit by, she noticed Cakestar and some of the mods gathering on the ledge. Lionfire presumed that they were going to make some speech or another. A couple of meters away, she noticed Blueheart and Wavesplash calling her over to their clowder of cats, mostly warriors but a couple of apprentices too.
Lionfire picked up her disappointing fish and headed over in their direction, smiling as she joined them. “Hiya guys.” She nodded as she greeted them.
Willowstep smiled back, “Hiya.” She turned her mottled grey head to look at the ledge, before turning back.
“What do you reckon they’ll say?” Shadefrost asked, his amber eyes full of curiosity as he looked around at the rest of the group.
Laurelcloud tilted her head in his direction, “I’m not sure, there’s nothing much to talk about anymore.” She lifted a dainty paw and frowned, “Other than the fact we’re still stuck here as cats.”
“With no definite way of turning back.” Pineblossom added, sighing slightly and flicking her tail in annoyance.
Hootsnout and Starblossom joined the group of cats. The grey-and-white she-cat grinned. “What are we all talking about?”
Doeleap stopped eating her rabbit and lifted her head, “Oh, we were just wondering what they were going to say.” She gestured with her ears towards Kat and Birchfoot, who were standing somewhat awkwardly on the ledge waiting for something to happen.
Kinksong laughed nervously, “But then the conversation got negative and awkward.”
Starblossom raised an eyebrow and was about to ask, but was interrupted by Cakestar beginning her speech. The group of cats all turned their gaze towards her.
“Hello BlogClan!” She smiled, and was greeted in return by cheering and caterwauling. Lionfire quickly understood why people who lived near alley cats complained about the awful noises they made.
By now, most of the cats had finished their prey and had been conversing among themselves. Cakestar cast her gaze over BlogClan, “I hope you have all managed to get something to eat and fill your bellies,” she threw a look at the darkening purple sky, “By the looks of it, the moon will soon rise, and we can all get a good night’s sleep.”
Lionfire heard someone say, “Its about time,” and she smiled; although it was said jokingly, she couldn’t help but agree. Most nights she had been up keeping guard for the badger or had been woken by the wet and the cold that seeped through her bones.
Cakestar finished her speech with another basic update on the camp’s current status, allowing everyone to return to their conversations and then excuse themselves to go to their dens and nests.
Lionfire did just that. Politely making up some lame excuse about being tired, she retreated from the conversation which had become more like some two-sided lecture. She found herself following the small stream upwards to the highest point of the camp’s barriers.
She sat down and looked up. The purple sky had gone more dark blue, if not black, tiny shining pinpricks scattered across the night, illuminating the silhouettes of the trees that surrounded her. The closer she looked, the more she found herself lost among the puzzle of stars, which stayed the same but also seemed to be ever-changing in the tiniest of ways, as her eyes discovered dimmer dots hidden and overshadowed by the bolder and brighter stars.
Her surroundings became unfocused and as she looked further into the inky sky, her eyes began picking out outlines of cats in the stars, morphing the night into a feline dot-to-dot page. Suddenly, Lionfire felt herself flooding with hope. She didn’t know how or why, but she knew BlogClan would get themselves out of this mess.