Trailing Stars: Chapter 26
edited by Monkeyfur
illustrated by Jayfrost
As the sun proudly peeked over the distant hills, the sky painted itself in soft oranges and pale periwinkles. The morning sun illuminated the delicate dew that swayed gently on crowded blades of emerald green grass. The water drops cascaded down onto the soil as a small perfumey breeze pushed the dew off their seats.
Rose and tulip petals were stolen by the wind that blew gently into the BlogClan camp and sifted through Kat’s thick cream-colored silk fur. She lifted her head and took in a deep inhale of the sweet scents, and at once felt at peace within her entire body.
The peaceful feeling was helped, notably, by her full stomach. The banquet last night not only lightened the moods of the Clan to an all-time high but also, in its most basic sense, allowed for the warriors to wake up without hunger pangs perhaps for the first time in moons.
Reeds hanging from the top of the nursery’s entrance grazed Kat’s spine as they danced gracefully in the serene gust of chilly air. Especially after her devastating fight with Copperclaw, she had usually found herself guarding the entrance to this den alongside two other warriors. Not that she didn’t enjoy making herself useful in hunting or patrolling, but she loved to tell fascinating stories to the kits. It gave her some resemblance of her humanity that she had forgotten in that second where her claws scored Copperclaw’s face and sunk into her pelt. They had avoided each other ever since, throwing nothing but disappointed glances across the clearing. Now that the rest of the Clan’s problems had begun to be solved, Kat knew that they were due for a discussion.
I’ll talk to her later…Kat decided tail swishing at her classic procrastination. I have to think of what to say. Plus, seeing her would only damage my mood.
A voice from the warrior’s den called out her name, she turned around and noticed that it was Mapledrift. The dark ginger she-cat stood beside Willowstep, Goldenfawn, and Doeleap, all of whom had just woken up from their sleep. Mapledrift approached her, whiskers twitching with an impending question.
“Hi, dudes,” Kat replied. “Good morning. It’s nice to wake up in a clean, beautifully decorated camp, isn’t it?”
“And with a full stomach,” Goldenfawn added.
“And with warm, dry weather,” Willowstep purred. Kat noticed Willowstep had closed her eyes and let a sunbeam bathe her in the warmth, “Anyway, we were wondering if you wanted to join a hunting patrol…?”
Kat stole a look back into the nursery. Iceflower, Swanfeather, and Snowbreeze, the three warriors who were on kit patrol the night before, were curled up amongst the kittens. Kat drew her lips back into a smile when she remembered the three warriors trying to distance themselves from the clingy kits the night before.
“I think they’ll be able to handle the kits by themselves,” Kat decided, turning back to the four cats, “Is Copperclaw up? Maybe we should take some apprentices, too.”
“She’s sleeping in. Emberdawn’s filling in as deputy,” Doeleap answered, “She’s quite good at it, actually. Seems to have a natural deputy aura.”
Kat purred at the comment, “Kind of like how Iceflower has that medicine cat spirit!”
The cats cheerfully agreed and chatted as they crossed the camp. The clearing’s floor was filled with both cushiony, short grasses and also some sand and pebbles, and Kat relished the softness underneath her paws. Their strolling took them across to the apprentice’s den, where Emberdawn was talking to a crowd of four young cats.
“Monkeypaw, Darkpaw, Cedarpaw, and Wrenpaw, why don’t you go practice your hunting skills on Mapledrift’s patrol?” Emberdawn said, her tail high in the air, “Whoever comes back with the biggest piece of prey wins a prize.”
“What prize?” Monkeypaw asked excitedly, bouncing with enthusiasm alongside the other three apprentices.
Emberdawn made eye contact with the warriors before answering, with a playful smile lighting up her face. “The satisfaction of having impressed me,” she responded. Before the apprentices would voice their confusion, she trotted off towards the warrior’s den to organize more patrols.
“Well, patrol leader, where are you taking us?” Goldenfawn asked the young dark ginger she-cat.
Mapledrift thought to herself for a moment, then brightened up at the thought of an idea. “How about by the stream, just past the willow tree? Some of you guys can catch fish if you’d like, and the blooming flowers would attract tons of mice and voles.”
“The flowers will look beautiful!” Cedarpaw chirped, running to the front of the patrol with the other apprentices trailing behind her. Darkpaw thundered after him, followed by Wrenpaw. Monkeypaw sprinted to cut them all off with giggles escaping his mouth. He pounced onto Cedarpaw, and the two play-fought before joining in another chase with their contemporaries.
“We should tell them to calm down, or else they’ll scare off all the prey in the forest,” Willowstep whispered to the four warriors. Doeleap nodded in agreement, but Kat shook her head.
“I know they’re being rambunctious,” she said with a sympathetic nod, “but they’re enjoying themselves. It was only a few days ago when patrols were one of the scariest experiences in the world, and we’d have to drag the kits from their nests…and they’d be just miserable about their situation, stomachs pained with hunger…and look at them now. Look at us now. It’s like a dream.”
The warriors all looked at the individuals who were almost no older than kits, frolicking through the newly-formed fields of vibrant flowers. The patrol purred to themselves, each of them soaking in the cheerful ambiance and beauty of the scene around them.
When Kat heard the splashing of shallow water coupled with delighted squeals from the apprentices, she knew they had arrived at their destination. The apprentices were pushing each other into the stream, taking turns feigning weakness and submitting to the cold water.
“Alright, kids, time to start hunting. I suppose we should move downstream, as the fish probably swam from the gang of noisy kits,” Mapledrift called out to the patrol, “Monkeypaw and Darkpaw, try the flower field for a few mice. Cedarpaw and Wrenpaw, maybe check out the willow tree for some voles. Willowstep and I will also go to the flower field, and maybe Goldenfawn and Doeleap can look after the others at the willow tree. Kat, you can hunt in the stream. We’ll reconvene with you at the willow tree in a little while.”
All of the patrol members obeyed, their confidence in their own abilities seeping through their fur. Kat began her walk downstream, eyes glued to the shadows moving underneath the water’s surface. The sparkles from the sunshine that were sprinkled on top of the stream current continuously distracted her, nevertheless, she couldn’t help but bask in the beauty around her. Her eyes followed to their illuminant, who was shining through massive, puffy, white clouds.
She was as far south as the stream could take her, and was close enough to camp that, if she strained her ears, she could catch the laughter of kits brightening the territory.
She focused back on her task. She could see the silhouette of a trout beneath the surface, and set her gaze on the individual. She was careful not to let her shadow hit the water and give her position away.
The trout came near her, and in a flurry of movement fueled with nothing but instinct, her paw slapped the water and threw the trout into the air. The fish wrenched back and forth in the air, and Kat jumped across the stream and caught the mid-air fish square in her jaws. When she landed on the other side of the small creek, she had already killed the trout.
“That was one impressive catch!”
Kat looked up to see Copperclaw on the other side of the stream. The brown-furred she-cat grinned weakly. The relationship between the two of them was painfully awkward at Kat’s own actions, which she regretted every day. Now, just as her instinct had first brought her into this awkwardness, just as it had allowed her to catch the trout with ease, it caused her to say what had been pressing on her mind to the spotted she-cat.
“Copperclaw, I-I’m…I’m so sorry!” Kat exclaimed, letting the fish drop to her paws. Copperclaw flattened her ears in confusion but was still curious to hear Kat’s words. She leaped to join Kat on the other side of the water.
When Copperclaw had settled, seated to the left of Kat and facing the rushing water, Kat let the words on her tongue spill out. The cream-and-brown cat couldn’t let her eyes meet Copperclaw’s, not only out of embarrassment but also because the she-cat still bore a fresh scar from Kat’s own claws.
“I’ve been sorry every day since I first spoke up at that Clan meeting, not just when I hurt you. I was angry, and I was frustrated, and I was tired, but that didn’t mean I was ever allowed to lay a paw on you. And not even that…you were right, all along. You knew we should have hope, and stay positive, and because of that spirit, we have the amazing Clan that we do now,” Kat said. She stretched her toes to touch the water as she continued. “I hate what I did to our friendship…I missed talking to you and confiding in you, and everything we had. I hope that we can have that again. But only if you want.”
Kat let her eyes finally meet Copperclaw’s, and the she-cat’s expression was more than kind. She did what she had done the same night that Kat had given her that scar–she offered her paw to her, her green eyes understanding more than Kat could ever hope to understand.
But instead of letting her instincts kick in and take over by unsheathing her claws, Kat did just the opposite. She moved forward and pressed her forehead against Copperclaw’s, and the two she-cats, at last, remedied their relationship. Perhaps it wouldn’t be perfect, but what friendship was perfect?
“I should be getting back to my patrol,” Kat admitted, dipping her head to Copperclaw. She snatched up the limp trout from her paws and threw herself to the other side of the stream. The deputy and the warrior exchanged one last look of pure understanding and joy before each heading their separate ways.
By the time Kat had returned to the willow tree, she was astounded to see the amount of prey already waiting there. Darkpaw and Monkeypaw guarded the stash of three squirrels, four mice, and two voles while the rest of the hunting patrol caught their last targets.
“Wow!” Kat exclaimed. “This is incredible! Who caught what?”
“I caught the squirrel and one mouse,” Monkeypaw said, beaming with pride. “Wrenpaw caught two voles, Cedarpaw caught a mouse, Darkpaw caught-”
“I think she gets the idea,” Goldenfawn interrupted, approaching with two mice hanging from their jaws by the tail. “The apprentices all did wonderfully. The Clan is bound to have a very nice breakfast today.”
All of the warriors and apprentices gathered under the willow tree and it was almost difficult to carry the enormous amount of prey back in one trip. Kat’s jaws were hurting before her paws reached camp soil as they were stretched to accommodate her trout, a squirrel, and a mouse.
The fresh-kill pile was almost half the height of an apprentice, and the scent of newly caught food dragged every single sleepy cat from their nest. Thistletooth, Pineblossom, Wavesplash, Fawnspots, and Juniperpool emerged from the warrior’s den, eyes aglow and set on the breakfast. Soon, they were cut off by another herd of playful apprentices; Sandpaw, Ivypaw, Bluebellpaw, and Crystalpaw. The young cats let out a chorus of laughter as they dodged each other’s attacks, and tumbled into the peach-colored sand floor, blocking the warrior’s way. Wavesplash and Thistletooth sighed at the apprentices’ antics.
Iceflower walked from the nursery, and her tired eyes revealed her growing impatience with the kits for good reason; Blackkit, Hollykit, Blossomkit, and Gingerkit had all sunk their teeth into her tail, and were letting her drag them into the clearing. Kat galloped over to the black-and-white she-cat to relieve her of their endless pestering.
“I’ll take them,” Kat said to Iceflower, who dipped her head gratefully.
“Good luck,” she replied teasingly. The three kits, as well as the rest of their herd, threw themselves at Kat, knocking the wind out of her. Kat lied down to watch the morning scene unfold as the kittens played beside her.
Iceflower rejoined Birchfoot, Cheetahspark, and Pineblossom at the fresh-kill pile, all of them sharing the news of the morning. Rainshine, Viperfrost, and Plumeflake had returned from picking flowers, their jaws filled with tulips and petunias that they proceeded to place around the camp.
The once-quiet morning camp was now filled to the brim with light conversations over breakfast, imaginary monsters being defeated by very real apprentice- and kit- heroes, and something that bore no actual noise, but was almost tangible; the quiet and internal reflection of a beautiful world. Kat’s eyes were closed, and she basked in the light of the rising sun, and in the rich fragrance of flowers and berries, and in the love exchanged by a collection of confident, happy, and, most importantly, special individuals.
Kat’s eyes opened as her ears caught Cakestar galloping onto the top of the BlogRock. The she-cat was no longer hunched, weak with illness as she had been before. Her thick mane grew more prominent as she puffed out her chest with pride for the Clan that was gathered below her. Jayfrost jumped up to join the leader with a sparrow in her jaws, dropping it at the russet cat’s paws. The two cats shared the fresh-kill while keeping a steady and joyous watch on the camp.
“Kat!” squeaked Pumpkinkit, pressing his little paw against her side. “Kat, will you tell us a story?”
The kits had gathered themselves beside her, all staring at her like small hawks glued to a mouse. She noticed that some of the younger apprentices, Eaglepaw, Lightningpaw, and Badgerpaw, took their prey over to sit beside the kits and Kat. The apprentices acted as if they were talking amongst themselves, but their ears were rotated towards Kat.
“Ah, um, sure,” Kat replied. Her eyes drew up to the sky while she tried to drum up a story. Her gaze stopped on Cakestar, who was observing her amusedly. Kat grew nervous when she looked back down and noticed that more warriors and apprentices had collected to hear.
“How about I tell you all about the time Cakestar first became BlogClan’s leader?” Kat announced, whiskers twitching. The kits tilted their heads with puzzlement.
“You mean when we all first came to the forest?” Blossomkit asked. “We all know that story!”
“You know that version,” Kat corrected cheerfully. “But I bet you never heard about when she rose to deputyship and then leadership after the leader Nightstar became evil!”
The kits gasped in unison. Emberkit stood on her denmate Brightkit’s side as she couldn’t contain her interest. All of the apprentices and kits leaned in to hear this new story, while the more seasoned warriors had to suppress their own laughter. Kat caught the gaze of Bramblefire.
“Hey Bramblefire, you remember that, don’t you? What was Nightstar’s evil plan for BlogClan, before Cakestar finally discovered it and fought back?” Kat asked. Bramblefire was initially nervous and caught off-guard by the question, but a playful prod from Mapledrift made him finally speak up.
“Uh…uh…he wanted to…um…invite PineClan warriors into the camp, and merge the Clan with their leader…uh…” Bramblefire’s pupils looked upwards as he tried to invent a name.
“Wafflestar!” Eagleclaw chimed in. “Wafflestar, remember? And then at the Gathering, almost a few moments before they unleashed their secret attackers on all of BlogClan, Cakestar…well, back then she was Cake-”
“-Heart,” Fallenshadows finished. “Cakeheart collected a bunch of BlogClan warriors–actually, it was Jayfrost, Shadefrost, Flowerstream, and Badgerflight…and they attacked before the PineClan warriors even knew what was coming!”
More tiny gasps escaped the jaws of the kits and apprentices, whose widened eyes revealed how interested and surprised they were by the now-group story. Kat nodded at the warrior’s interjections, a purr rolling out from the back of her throat.
“Exactly!” Kat exclaimed. “Emberdawn, you remember what happened next, don’t you?”
The story changed paws (and changed plot) countless times as each warrior took a turn adding something new. By the time it returned back to Kat, it was incredibly silly; Iceflower was somehow Kat’s son (or, as Iceflower interrupted, Kat’s “favorite” son), and Cakeheart had somehow commanded reign over a herd of flying pigs, and Duskthorn could somehow time travel and reverse the events of Nightstar’s reign…and many other additions, each with a new ingredient of spice and flavor just as unique as the cat that added it.
Despite the outlandish details and clearly unrealistic history, it no less drew a smile and even emotional investment from every single cat in BlogClan. Cats had gone in and out of the camp during the time to go on patrols, but they had all collected back together when the sun had begun to set. It was at this time of the late afternoon, early evening that the story was beginning to draw to its natural close.
“Ah, yes,” Kat agreed after Fireleap’s last inclusion. “I do remember Hazelburrow having that special power to speak to rabbits that had allowed us to take the camp back from Wafflestar. And then we were all finally back in this very camp, just about ready to tuck ourselves back into our nests…but I can’t remember exactly how this ends. Cakestar, do you think you know?”
Cakestar leaped down from the BlogRock and took a seat amongst the warriors. Her bright amber eyes were aglow with delight. Her mane captured the glow of the sunlight, illuminating her tall, agile figure.
“Of course I know,” she said kindly. She curled her fluffy tail over her massive light red paws. “Who could forget? We all filed into our nests, to sleep peacefully for the first time in moons. I had been given my lives, and I was Cakestar by then. But just before our eyes closed, there appeared in the center of camp every food we could have ever wanted–there were sandwiches, and cookies, and…well…cake…and the camp lit up as if fireflies were perched on every crevice in the clearing. We all got together and ate our fill, going on to dance and sing underneath the shooting stars. We finally did go to sleep, packed with hope for what was going to be a promising future. And we lived…” she nodded to Blossomkit to finish the story.
“…We lived happily ever after,” she squeaked.
BlogClan’s camp was filled with purrs and delighted whispers. Content with the perfect story, cats began to set up for the evening. The blanket of stars and constellations began appearing in a clear azure blue sky above them. It was too beautiful for cats to miss, and a collection of warriors and apprentices started to drag their nests out and park them underneath the heavens.
Another warm breeze swept gently through the camp, bringing with it what seemed like the same rose and tulip petals from the morning. Kat felt enriched and enlightened by everything around, every individual, microscopic object brightening her spirit.
Fawnspots was kind enough to bring Kat’s nest out for her. Kat picked herself up from the piles of kits that were settled on her and moved to the moss. Jayfrost and Viperfrost came over to lie down beside her, but they too could not escape the horde of kittens that cuddled against them.
Cakestar settled on top of the BlogRock. Copperclaw and Dawnmist were chatting outside of the medicine cat den and Silverwind was curling up between them. Some warriors had even opted to sleep on their backs and keep their watch surely on the stars. Kat spotted the apprentices slowly yawn and step into the apprentice’s den. She watched Blackpaw and Eaglepaw laughing together while Icepaw and Frostpaw quickly joined in with them. Blueheart, Fallenshadows, and Shiverfur were happily eating prey near the fresh-kill pile.
Everyone is united, happy and safe. Finally, we did it… Kat thought to herself. She flattened her ears and relished the ribbons of moonlight that reflected onto her creamy fur. Kat gazed at the stars that glowed brightly beside the full moon. We’ve become a Clan. And well, not just any Clan…we’ve become BlogClan..!