Banished Stars (Chapter 5)
Word-Count: 1,366 Content Warnings: ??? Written: 2017?? Last Edit: ???
"We're not on Woodclan territory," Foxflight said with concern. "He has no reason to attack us..... surely they can't be trying to steal this place, too?"
"Look," said Snakeskin dryly. "He's alone."
"There is no way Woodclan would try to claim more territory with just a single warrior." Foxflight said, calming himself down.
"Whatever he is here for," Wavecrash butted in, "He's not happy."
Rainstar hadn't kept her eyes off the charging, pale ginger tom. She waited with her shoulders close to the ground, ready to pounce once he got in range. A wretched stench preceded Palethorn....it was not of any Clan, or even of any cat Rainstar had ever met. It was worse and sharper than the rotting skunk they had used to disguise them earlier.
Palethorn leaped into the air almost like he was about to fly. Rainstar was ready, colliding with him in the air. Rainstar latched her front claws into Palethorn's shoulders. The ginger tom writhed, hissing and spitting. He said no words. The warrior shook his body violently, throwing Rainstar off a great distance.
Wavecrash was waiting behind him, biting as his leg. Palethorn continued to hiss widly, mouth nearly foaming, and used his other leg to kick Wavecrash square in the chest. Wavecrash shot back. "He's....stronger than before..." The Tideclan deputy wheezed with pained breaths.
"Something's wrong!" Foxflight's eyes widened. "Look at his eyes! Look at his teeth!"
Rainstar had just managed to get up and run back into the fray. She finally got a glance of Palethorn's eyes-- they were huge and wide, and seemed to be red as blood. "What happened to him?" Rainstar called over to Foxflight, desperate that the local medicine cat might know something.
"I have no idea." Foxflight replied, mouth slacked.
There was no more time for talking. Palethorn had jumped at Crabclaw, who managed to pin the red-eyed tom on his back. Although in the weakened position, Palethorn tried to grab at Crabclaw's throat with his teeth. Crabclaw craned his head to avoid the chomping mouth. All of the sudden, Palethorn knocked Crabclaw aside the head. The blow was powerful enough to shake off the strong warrior.
Crabclaw hissed in fury. "Wavecrash!" He called over. Wavecrash nodded. He plowed into Palethorn, pushing the wild tom toward Crabclaw's direction. Crabclaw raked his claws onto Palethorn's fur, and together, the two warriors were able to restrain him. Palethorn sputtered, mouth wet with spit, chomping at the air with crazed ferocity.
"He's not stopping!" Crabclaw gasped. "What is the matter with you?"
Palethorn's only reply was a strong hiss, wreaking with the stink of death in his breath. The Woodclan warrior writhed, and Wavecrash and Crabclaw almost lost their grip.
Wavecrash signaled to Crabclaw, both of their eyes filled with knowing remorse, and Crabclaw pushed Palethorn's head down.
"No!" Foxflight winced.
Wavecrash leaned into the neck of the sickly cat, clamping down with force. The Woodclan tom sputtered for a moment, and then was still and heavy.
Snakeskin was behind Wavecrash as he stepped off the lifeless body. "This...will cause war," he whispered.
Wavecrash spat blood on to the ground. "I don't know what else we could of done! He was crazed!"
Crabclaw pushed himself closer to Foxflight. "Do cats normally go blazin' mad out here?"
"No," Foxflight replied with surprising amounts of calmness. "I've never seen anything like this before." His eyes darted over to Snakeskin, who shrugged and shook his head.
Crystalsight stepped forward. She had been with Frostfur and the apprentices, keeping the young ones from going near during the battle. "His eyes were round and red."
"The sun." Snakeskin's voice was chilling, and came just as the last rays of light vanished below the far, dusty ground.
Crystalsight flicked her ear to acknowledge Snakeskin's odd comment, but seemed to pay no other notice. "He stinks like death, his fur is patchy, and his teeth seem..." She paused. "They're sticking out more."
Rainstar walked beside Crystalsight. She was right. This cat was unmistakably Palethorn, the warrior from last night, but he looked bizarre and twisted. "He must have been sick." She gulped.
"Undoubtedly." Foxflight added, "We should stay away from his body."
"Sh-shouldn't we bury him?" Pebblepaw mewed.
Snakeskin spoke in a reassuring tone. "We'll take him to the Woodclan border. They will find him and bury him, in his own clan."
Rainstar's eyes widened. "Find him? Don't you mean to tell Woodclan what happened? They might think...think we attacked him unprovoked."
"No matter what we tell them, this will surely bring war. Even if we did tell us the truth, I doubt they'd believe us. We need to get back to camp, now, and tell Quietstar." His voice was forceful and upset.
Rainstar was struck with the disturbing truth that her clan might have just started a whole new war, not only for them, but the clan that had sheltered them in their time of need. Is this the heart of the clans? Endless War?
Wavecrash and Frostfang looked at Rainstar expectantly for her reply to Snakeskin. Rainstar kneaded at the dirt and looked away for a moment, turning her head back quickly. "Let's go back." She said, turning in the direction of the Dustclan camp. Wavecrash and Frostfang exchanged disapproving looks, but stayed silent.
Rainstar walked with purpose, looking ahead. She did not notice Cedarpaw quicken her pace to catch up with her. "Rainstar," Cedarpaw meowed.
The leader was surprised. Her skin seemed to prickle as if full of static. Rainstar composed herself quickly, "Yes Cedarpaw?"
"He smelled like he was already dead. When he arrived, it was like....he was already dead." She turned her sight away.
Rainstar didn't know what to say. She hesitated long enough that Cedarpaw continued to speak without reply.
"Death is spreading."
Rainstar's fur visibly prickled. "That is...." She fumbled for words. What a horrible thing to say, especially from a young apprentice. But what if whatever disease that Palethorn had would spread...? What if her clan....
"Starclan will protect us." Crystalsight, once again, broke Rainstar's trance. Her words seemed to pierce even Cedarpaw's deep funk.
The young, brown apprentice spoke in a tone that Rainstar had not heard since before they were banished. "They better, they owe us." From behind, Foxflight chuckled his familiar dry, quick chuckle.
Rainstar let herself smile as well. It was good to see Cedarpaw acting like her old self again, even if for a moment. The gray-and-white she-cat looked up at the sky. The dark, endless blackness speckled with glowing flashes of light....it just seemed so strange here.
Starclan had lead them here, Rainstar tried to convince herself. They will protect us. But the same, dark thought echoed across her mind. Starclan never protected them from the war in the Coastlands. Had their ancestors let them be slaughtered, and forced from their homelands.... or had they never been there at all.
Rainstar remembered what Crystalsight said. The stars were divided, and Tideclan had no Nightkeeper. Maybe even Tideclan's ancestors had been driven from their home in the silvery sky.
She coughed. This was all very....distant. Rainstar knew she needed to focus. She was the leader of Tideclan, here on the ground, and she would need to lead her clan here. Starclan was irrelevant to this truth. They relied on her... however reluctantly. Rainstar had to guide them.
They returned to the Dustclan camp. Snakeskin and Foxflight curled carefully through the Prickly Pear to Quietstar's well-protected lair. The Tideclan cats headed to their corner of the camp. The stout Snakeskin advised them that this was matter for Dustclan to handle. Rainstar flopped over in the center of the cleared bit of ground. She was exhausted. Her eyes drifted to the sky, and she noticed the moon was almost full. The gathering in the Coastlands would be soon, if the moon was even the same here was it was there. She was suddenly unsure, but quickly shook the thought out of her head. She seemed to be doing that a lot lately. Rainstar sighed deeply, and laid her head down. She was about to fall into an uneasy sleep, but was awoken by a slight nudge, and the face of Quietstar.