Banished Stars (Chapter 1)
Word-Count: 1632 Content Warnings: ??? Written: 2017?? Last Edit: ???
The pale ginger tom stepped out of the safety of the shadows, pushing his nose against the ground. "I smell Dustclan," he growled.
From the cool shadow, his companion meowed back. "Dustclan? Surely they are not so stupid to openly walk on Woodclan territory now! Do they want to be driven from the Drylands?"
"Never underestimate the stupidity of a Dustclan warrior." The ginger tom snorted. He was Palethorn, one of Woodclan's strongest warriors. Palethorn was one of the cats who had fought in the battle to push back Dustclan's territory. He had seen first-hand the other clan's meekness and disorganization. "They might have even forgotten these fields are Woodclan's now."
The other cat, a chubby tom named Thickshadow, chuckled lightly and stepped closer to Palethorn. "Where did this Dustclan warrior go?"
Palethorn took a deep breath, opening his mouth to really search for the scent of the intruder. "East...toward the Behemoth's Pass." Where the giant, reeking beast of the Twolegs stopped was well into Woodclan territory, with no dispute. Whoever this intruder was, they were inviting war.
Thickshadow's eyes looked down. "Do you think Dustclan is struggling with the-"
"Shh! Don't speak of that...they'll hear you." Thickshadow gulped.
Palethorn flicked his tail in the direction of the Behemoth's Pass. The signal was clear and the two warriors headed out to follow the intruder's scent...
Rainstar counted the head's of cats. Nine, nine cats who had made the journey on the Behemoth, nine cats who were all that was left of Tideclan. They flattened their bodies against the side of the raised platform, desperately trying to stay in the small shade it provided. It was Leafbare, but in this new land, it felt like the hottest Greenleaf they'd ever experienced. Rainstar was almost afraid the Sun was about to fall on top of them.
"It's hot!" The young apprentice, Pebblepaw, whined.
A senior warrior, whose patience had clearly worn thin, snapped back, "You think we didn't notice?" She turned her narrowed eyes toward Rainstar. "Rainstar, what is your plan?" The last word was contorted into almost a mocking tone.
Rainstar craned her neck to look around. "It's very hot, but there is prey. I can smell..." she paused. "Mice?" The smell was mouse-y for sure, but there was so much stink and dust it was hard to pinpoint it. "We will have to get away from the Behemoth's Tracks to get a clear scent."
"I'll be happy to leave that horrible thing behind," Pebblepaw said. "Happy to get something to eat, too." Behind him, the creamy colored Shellpaw giggled.
A small, white cat's chirp cut off the merriment. "The clan will be fed before you eat," she reminded him. "Even in these new lands, we must respect the Warrior Code." Pebblepaw lowered his head in embarrassment.
A low moan rumbled from the iron machine, stretching into a high-pitched whistle. The Behemoth lurched to life, slow at first as if waking from it's slumber. Rainstar quickly jumped back onto the platform beside the tracks. She flattened her ears to protect her from the sound, and watched the Behemoth power itself away.
The short-furred, gray leader did not turn her head. She stared intensely forward, and let out a low hiss. Her clan below noticed this oddity, and began to peer themselves over the platform.
Another cat, a strange cat, stood on the other side of the tracks. He stared directly into Rainstar's eyes.
Rainstar saw than her clan had noticed the strange cat. She finally spoke, as if for the benefit of her audience. "Who are you?" She snapped.
The other cat was a brown tabby, with no tail. His lack of tail made him look stout. "I've never seen you before," he said. "Any of you."
"Who are you!" Rainstar repeated, louder this time.
"Where did you come from?" the other cat said suspiciously. His tone was enough to send Rainstar in a charge at him, pouncing him and holding him by the shoulders. The two cats rolled back off the Behemoth's tracks. The brown tail-less tom was able to easily kick Rainstar off of him and onto the ground.
The small white cat, Crystalsight, squeaked as she saw her leader thrown into the dust. "Rainstar!" She cried.
Rainstar stumbled to her feet, her breath heavy and unven. "You-you...!"
"Rainstar?" The tabby said. "Who gave you a name like that?"
The gray-and-white she-cat's eyes narrowed. She took in a sharp breath, as if an old wound had been scratched open. "S-Starclan gave me that name! I am Rainstar of Tideclan!" Some of the Tideclan cats shrugged or looked away from each other's eyes at the statement. They all knew this was not the time to bring up the past.
"You know of Starclan?" The stranger replied, curious. He didn't seem fazed my Rainstar's hostility at all. "You are Clan cats?"
"What do you know of the Clans?" Rainstar said. The rest of Tideclan had climbed over the Behemoth Track's to circle behind their leader. They were so tired from their journey, they could hardly rally the strength to fight beside her.
"I'm a Clan cat. Snakeskin of Dustclan. I've never heard of...Tideclan, was it?"
Rainstar was silent. All of Tideclan was. They had traveled for days to this new, hot land. None of them ever suspected they'd find more Clan cats, in a place they never even had thought existed.
"You reek of the Behemoth." Snakeskin continued, "Did you...did you ride that thing here?"
"Yes. We came here from the Coastlands." Rainstar meowed, a new sense of calmness within her.
Snakeskin blinked. "Well...." His eyes flashed and his teeth shown in a big grin. "Welcome to the Drylands!"
The Tideclan cats whispered, Drylands.
"You'll need somewhere to stay." Snakeskin pointed out. Rainstar swallowed uneasily. He was right, and her clan was in no position to search for safety by themselves. It was apparent she would need Snakesin's help.
"Yes," Rainstar said quietly. "Tideclan... requests your assistance." She paused "Dustclan's assistance."
The tailless brown tabby's eyes flashed with enthusiasm, but he quickly hid it with a face of a polite diplomat. "Very well, I will bring you before our leader, Quietstar. He will decide what to do with your clan." Rainstar nodded at him.
Frostfang, a bold white Tideclan warrior, growled under her breath. "Not even a day into our new home, and Rainstar has bowed before another clan," she said with contempt. A brown tabby tom beside her growled deep in his throat. His eyes burned like thorns at the leader.
Rainstar raised her neck, desperate to ignore Frostfang's comment. She hoped that Snakeskin hadn't heard. "Which way toward your camp?"
"Well..." Snakeskin scowled. "This...is not Dustclan territory. We're in Woodclan territory."
How many new clans that she'd never heard of were there? "Woodclan? Why are you in another clan's territory?"
Snakeskin was already walking through the scraggly underbrush. "Maybe, you just don't know how things work here." He turned back to look at her with a smug gleam in his eye. "Why is a whole foreign clan in the Drylands?"
Rainstar hesitated to follow. What did this strange, tailless cat mean by that? How did he seem to know that Rainstar wouldn't talk about the circumstances around their exile? This cat seemed dangerous, but she knew she was in no position to be choose-y with their allies.
"Woodclan's patrol will be heading this way. We'll cross by them unnoticed if we follow the northern path." Their guide explained.
"Why?" The young gray tabby apprentince, Pebblepaw, asked.
"There is a dead skunk between the paths. They will avoid it, and the stench will cover our own scents." Snakeskin replied calmly.
"Oh..." Pebblepaw was sorry he asked.
Frostfang and the brown tabby tom looked harshly upon the tail-less stranger. "He's dangerous..." The tom whispered.
"...and I don't trust him." Frostfang finished. Another warrior glided his tail across Frostfang's back. When the white she-cat turned to look back, he titled his head toward Rainstar with sympathetic eyes.
"We have no other paths to follow," The ginger warrior shrugged. Frostfang peered at him for a moment, then nodded begrudgingly.
Snakeskin's prediction was right. They did not meet with any other cats on their journey. Rainstar was hoping she could get a good sniff of these Woodclan cats, to begin to familiarize herself with their scent. However, it wasn't possible to smell anything but rotted skunk for quiet a while.
She was expecting that on their course north, they'd be headed into thicker vegetation. The grass here was sparse and brittle, and the ground was dry and cracked. It was difficult to imagine how cats hid from their prey out here. Their journey never brought them to a forest, or even a grassy field, like Rainstar had ever known. Their journey was an endless show of coarse grass and dirt. The only landmark that she noticed what seemed to be some kind of large plant, something round and covered in incredibly thin thorns. Patches of it grew in the western horizon.
"That's the Dustclan camp." Snakeskin said to her, noticing her gaze. "Well...the barrier of it. Wait here, I will fetch Quietstar. I don't know how our clan would feel if I lead a large group of rogues into their camp..." He trailed off.
"We are not rogues," She hissed quickly. "We are Clan cats."
"Maybe in your home," Snakeskin said, "But here, you are strangers without territory. We call those rogues."
Rainstar felt her fur lurch forward, almost ready to pounce again. She needed to control her temper. This cat was right...they were without territory, or knowledge, and were near helpless here. It was a hard fact to be reminded of.
"Quietstar will help you," the tail-less tabby mewed and padded off into the dust.