Banished Stars (Chapter 3)
Word-Count: 2,294 Content Warnings: ??? Written: 2017?? Last Edit: ???
Rainstar had never felt more eyes upon her. Every cat's sight bored into her, and it seemed like every bright star was another eye. Her breath flew from inside her, unable to catch it.
"They showed me rain clouds, so dense and deep they blocked out the sun." Foxflight said. Rainstar's heart dropped. What a horrible omen! But, she noticed, Foxflight looked ecstatic. It hit her....she had not seen or heard of any river in Drylands. The mentioning of finding your own water....how scarce was water? How desperately did these clans need rain? Her train of thought was in interrupted by more of the Dustclan medicine's cats prophecy. "They told me...Rain will bare the Clan's heart."
A shiver ran through Rainstar's spine. Rain will bare the Clan's heart? The words carried a palpable importance, but she was unsure of their meaning. Doubt swelled in her mind that this prophecy was even about her, despite her name. Foxflight, and Quietstar, both seemed very sure. Rainstar could tell they were looking upon her as some kind of strange savior. The thought made her horribly uncomfortable.
"I see." Rainstar said at long last.
"Lets get to camp." Quietstar said. The idea was a relaxing change of subject for Rainstar. The group of cats headed toward the prickly plant. The plant had some kind of planks around it, and ditches carved out behind it, lower than the surrounding area. The cats inside were hidden and safe from the harsh, dusty wind. Softened grass grew close to the roots of the defensive plant. Snakeskin must have already explained everything to the Dustclan cats, for they offered no protest or surprise when Tideclan arrived. Instead, they looked on with wide, hopeful eyes.
The playful Tideclan apprentince, Pebblepaw, stared up at the large mass of spiked plant. "What is that?" He asked.
"That's a cactus," said Foxflight. "Specifically, a prickly pear cactus."
Pebblepaw wrinkled his nose. "It doesn't look like a pear tree."
"No," Foxflight's eyes gleamed, "But the fruit is just as sweet if you can take a bite out of it. Go on, I dare you." He flicked his tail at the cactus.
Pebblepaw took a hesitant step toward it, before Snakeskin chuckled and prodded him. "He's pulling your leg, young one." The apprentices eyes widened and his jaw slacked, looking at shock at Foxflight's deception. The bright orange medicine cat just laughed. Wavecrash, who had been watching from a distance, sneered. What kind of cats were these Dustclan warriors?
"Here is the remainder of the fresh-kill," A queen softly offered to Rainstar. "We saved as much as we could for your clan." Rainstar nodded her head with respect at the she-cat, who introduced herself as Berryjuice, and called her clan over with a little meow. The Tideclan cats had never seemed more happy with her decision, quickly coming over to eat.
Berryjuice smiled. Her eyes caught something in the distance... "Oh, here comes Ratpaw."
A young apprentice brought some kind of moss toward the gathering of Tideclan cats. They looked at it questioningly at first, but as the apprentice got closer it became apparent the moss was damp and dripping with water. They lapped on the moss, desperate for its moisture.
"There won't be enough for all of you if you continue like that," Snakeskin said as Wavecrash almost chewed on the damp moss. Ratpaw giggled. Wavecrash narrowed his eyes and shot a dark look at Snakeskin, but backed away from the moss to let the other cats drink. It was not enough to quench any of the cat's fearful thirsts, but it would last them until morning.
"Water...." Crystalsight said. "Water is very scarce here isn't it?" She turned to look at Foxflight with her pale gray-blue eyes.
"Very. I'm guessing its not where you come from?"
Crystalsight smiled. She seemed happy to have the opportunity to talk about her home. "We lived next to the ocean....water, all the way to the horizon. It was salty, the ocean. But the rain and rivers the flowed into it were clean. We never had concerns about water before."
Foxflight laid down and yawned. "So, then, I'm guessing you never had to dowse before have you?" He said sleepily.
"No." The white cat admitted. "I have....no idea what that is."
"The water in the Drylands is fleeting. It gathers in puddles and springs in different places everyday, and sometimes is just under the surface. Sometimes its very under the surface," He ended the sentence with a playful tone, but then his face grew dire and dark again. "It is the responsibility of the Medicine Cat to dowse-- to use their connection to Starclan to find the water everyday for the clan."
Crystalsight took a deep breath and sighed. "I hope this is something I can do reliably for my clan."
Rainstar overheard this, and cooly stated, "I am sure you will be able to dowse, Crystalsight. You are an amazing medicine cat, gifted since birth. I doubt there is any talent Starclan has not gifted you."
"And I will help you get the ropes!" Foxflight added. He rolled on his back and grinned at the white she-cat, who shone with the most demure smile. Rainstar flashed with jealousy, but turned her head away before any cat could notice. They were both Medicine Cats, of course they would have a strong connection.
"I can begin to teach you about the Drylands herbs too...I doubt the same things grow where you come from." Foxflight added.
Crystalsight's eyes peered up and down the bizarre cactus plant. "Certainly not."
Rainstar grumbled, just as Quietstar appeared beside her. "If we are to bare our hearts," he said, "I want the heart of Dustclan to be nothing but kind and generous." Uncomfortably reminded of the prophecy that these cats so firmly believed was about her, Rainstar looked away. Kind and generous were traits that Clan cats did not often show to other clans. Usually that kind of hospitality was reserved for only clanmates. She began to have a fog of doubt about how capable a leader Quietstar could be, but pushed these thoughts away. It was his kindness that had saved Tideclan, for the time being. She should be nothing but grateful that he held such values.
While Foxflight gave some herbs to the tired Tideclan warriors, Snakeskin bounded over to where the two leaders sat. "We dug out a small clearing for the Tideclan cats to sleep," he reported. Quietstar acknowledged his statement with a nod, and turned to Rainstar. "You should rest." She tood up, and followed Snakeskin to the far corner of the camp. Warriors with dirt-covered paws took steps back, revealing the loose cool dirt and moss they had uncovered. It was not very big, Rainstar noticed, but would be big enough for the night.
Pebblepaw and Puddlepaw were listening in on the easy-going Dustclan cats gossiping among themselves. "Cactusthorn was near the quarry, and heard a Stoneclan patrol. He said they were talking about sick cats... seemed pretty worried," a she-cat said.
"Oh, I hope its not greencough on the spread," said Berryjuice. "We've dealt with enough lately." The other cats nodded solemnly.
"Well, good thing Stoneclan is down in that pit. Keep their sick cats away from us." Ratpaw said, lighting up when his comment warranted some laughter.
"Stoneclan lives in a pit...?" Puddlepaw squeaked. The Dustclan cats seem surprised he had talked, but didn't seem particularly annoyed.
Still, Rainstar watched and thought it was better the little tom didn't eavesdrop. She wanted to avoid stepping on any toes. "Puddlepaw, Pebblepaw....lets get some rest."
The apprentices dragged their feet to return. Tideclan curled up and laid down to sleep, not minding that the warriors slept with the apprentices and leaders alike. The formality of divided dens didn't seem important right now. Rainstar wondered how long this living situation could last.
She had a horrible nightmare that night. A powerful, dark tabby with a long protruding fang, the endless beating of the ocean against her back, and a struggle to breathe.... Rainstar woke up gasping for air.
"What is it?" Crabclaw said, jumping to his feet. "Who is there?" He swung his head back and forth, searching from some intruder.
Rainstar swallowed hard, burying her fears. "It's nothing, Crabclaw." She didn't mention her nightmare. She did not want it to be seen as a bad omen from Starclan. Rainstar knew this dream was nothing but her own fear....she hoped.
Crabclaw sat back down uneasily, flicking his torn ears. He had gained many scars in the final battle for Tideclan. Although they lost, Crabclaw was able to escape with his life and that was a testament to his strength and Warrior spirit. The orange tom was one of only two warriors that remained.
The grief was almost suffocating. The elders, most of the warriors, queens... Rainstar felt as if she was under the harsh waves of the ocean again. She shook her head. She needed to focus.
Crystalsight was already up. She was always an early riser. The clan once joked that she never slept, though now Rainstar was starting to believe that the stress of their journey had made this true. "Rainstar, Foxflight has offered to take me out to show me how to dowse for water."
The gray and white she-cat wanted to ask if she could come to. She was curious about this dowsing, a ritual they never heard of in the Coastlands. However, Crystalsight continued, "Snakeskin said he will take you and the warriors to the hunting grounds."
Rainstar's fur prickled. Her feelings were vocalized by the newly-awoken Frostfang. "What are we, fresh apprentices? We know how to hunt by ourselves," the white cat hissed.
"Yes, but..." Snakeskin said from behind them. He was sitting above the dug-out nest on a protruding stone. Rainstar wondered if he had just arrived there, or if he had been waiting silently for a while. "You may not know where to hunt, here."
Frostfang flattened her ears, unhappy with Snakeskin's surprising appearance.
"I mean no insult, Frostfang." The tail-less brown tom continued, dipping his head politely. "I simply want to give your clan the most opportunities we can, to let Tideclan thrive here in the Drylands."
"Thanks." She said dryly. "We won't be here for long anyways." Frostfang shot a glance at Wavecrash, who nodded back at her.
"What about us?" Pebblepaw chirped excitedly. His plumper brother, Puddlepaw, was right next to him nodding. "Can the apprentices go to?" There had been four surviving apprentices from the last battle. Pebblepaw and Puddlepaw, brothers, and the she-cats Shellpaw and Cedarpaw. All of them were young. They had just started their training at the beginning of Leaffall.
Rainstar realized that Shellpaw and Cedarpaw had both lost their mentors. The two apprentices were awkwardly looking around. Without their mentors, they looked lost. Rainstar immediately decided she must give them new warriors to train them. Tideclan would continue, even after such a loss.
"Tideclan, hear me." Rainstar projected her voice with passion. Even Dustclan cats looked over. Many seemed impressed the leader was able to command such a presence. "The time has come to give Shellpaw and Cedarpaw mentors...new mentors." She added with sorrow. Besides Crystalsight, who was a medicine cat, there were only two eligible cats in the clan for the duties of training the young ones- Wavecrash and herself. This would make the decision easy. "Shellpaw, Wavecrash shall be your mentor." Wavecrash was the clan deputy, but Rainstar could sense his dislike of her leadership. Shellpaw, however, was a perkier and easy-going cat. Rainstar thought perhaps she would not be so harshly effected by Wavecrash's disdain. The two cats touched noses. The little creamy Shellpaw seemed almost instantly happier. "Cedarpaw..." Rainstar went on, "I will be your mentor."
Cedarpaw, a brown tabby she-cat, was one of the boldest apprentices that Tideclan had ever known. Rather, she used to be. Cedarpaw had watched her previous mentor, Creekcall, die in battle. When Rainstar saw her again, she could tell that something in the little apprentice's eyes had gone out. Cedarpaw would never be the same. These days, she had been silent as the grave.
Rainstar stepped closer to the tabby, smiling as much as she could and extending her nose to meet with her new apprentice. Cedarpaw stared emptily. The leader hesitated. It was a simple tradition to touch noses with your mentor...why was Cedarpaw holding back? A dark thought crossed Rainstar's mind. Did she blame Rainstar for Creekcall's death...? The gray-and-white cat craned her neck farther still to bump noses with Cedarpaw. She wasn't going to wait for the small brown tabby to turn away.
There was a small ringing of voices, Crystalsight, Crabclaw and even the grumpy Frostfang, who called out their approval of the new mentorship. Berryjuice and warriors of Dustclan even smiled and chattered. "It's been a while since we've heard an apprentice get their mentor," one blue-ish gray cat remarked quietly.
Rainstar let her worries pass for the moment being. "Yes, the apprentices will come with us. We should all learn as much as we can about this place. Together."
Pebblepaw and Puddlepaw beamed with smiles their faces could barely hold. Snakeskin smiled as well. "The more the merrier," he added. "Let's get started." He tilted his head toward the northern fields. The group stood up and headed in that direction.
Crystalsight called over from the edge of the makeshift Tideclan nest. "I will catch up with Foxflight."
"Great!" Rainstar said a bit too loudly. It seemed forced and it was, though Rainstar could hardly explain why she was uncomfortable herself. Something about the idea of Crystalsight being far from her, and close to the strange medicine cat, made her uneasy.