United Stars (Chapter 5)
Word-Count: 1,489 Content Warnings: ??? Written: 2017?? Last Edit: ???
The directions to the Everpool were simple. Go west. Go west into the desert, and soon you will see a tree trunk on the horizon if you look hard enough. Head directly toward the tree, and never wander off-course despite any temptations. The Everpool is the only water in the desert, and it lays at the bottom of of the lone tree trunk.
Rainstar had followed the instructions carefully, but still felt hopelessly lost. There was nothing but dusty sand in every direction. Nothing could give reference to how far she had traveled, or how much farther she had to go. The sun reflected off the sand so brightly that she had to squint to protect her eyes. Even if there was something to see, Rainstar questioned if she'd be able to in these conditions.
The idea flickered in her mind that Foxflight had sent her into a trap, but she quickly dismissed it. Somehow, being lost in the desert seemed like exactly something Starclan would have mortal cats do. Some kind of trial, a test, as if there was not enough hardship in the Drylands. Rainstar's thoughts were bitter, but she was acutely aware they stemmed from fear. She was about to meet Starclan, for the first time directly. Shuttering, she wondered if the mystical ancestors would be angry at taking the name "star" before she had ever met them. Crystalsight had insisted upon it, spoke of their blessings, but it was unconventional. Rainstar calmed herself with the memory of Crystalsight. She knew she could trust the Medicine Cat.
At that moment, Rainstar saw something dark flash before her. Her head shot up quickly. It was gone. She struggled to open her eyes wider... no! It was still there. What seemed like only a twig shot up against the darkening sky. That must be the trunk. She breathed out a sigh of relief.
The gray-and-white cat continued forward, focusing all her thoughts on the tree trunk. She took about five steps when she thought she heard a noise behind her. It was a noise like a scurrying mouse. Her mouth watered with the idea of fresh-kill. She swallowed the saliva. She couldn't hunt now. Rainstar had to reach the Everpool, and had been specifically warned to never wander. Her head turned back around with might, and she continued forward.
The trunk grew closer. Rainstar tried to bound in great strides, but was struck suddenly by a gust of air. She landed awkwardly on her side. Climbing to her feet, she saw ahead a great pool of water, as great as the ocean she once knew. The Everpool! She hurried toward it, before a grim realization. There was no tree trunk. Rainstar dug her claws into the sand and stopped. How could such a clear ocean go unnoticed by the Drylands cats...
She blinked and tilted her head, and the ocean gave way to sand. Another temptation, another test. Rainstar began to feel like Starclan was toying with her, like a young kit with their first prey. Looking around, she was able to focus again on the tree trunk. The leader walked slowly, with heavy steps and deliberate footing, toward it. Her eyes never strayed again, even as more ghostly oceans and scurrying noises called to her from behind.
Only once she was in the shade of the now-thick tree trunk could Rainstar see the pool below. It was sunken deep into the dirt, with small clumps of grasses growing on the rim. The Everpool was smaller than she expected, though she questioned why she would ever have expected it to be large.
The sun was shining its last few beams before it would disappear beyond the distant mountains. The light was caught in the round Everpool, twinkling and sparkling into Rainstar's blue eyes. The leader wasted no time, dipping her head into the pool to take a drink. She couldn't remember a time before we she had felt so parched, and now with the mouthfulls of cool, fresh water she had never felt so refreshed. Rainstar greedily lapped up water. Her mind had briefly forgotten about her great quest to commune with Starclan, drowned out by the need for water.
She leaned in for another gulp, when she saw the shadow of another cat. Rainstar stopped. The shadow of many cats covered the pool, blocking the light of the first stars. Her mind raced with thoughts, of ambush and disaster, but were interrupted by a familiar voice.
"Rainstar," spoke Flickerstar. Rainstar turned around, coming face-to-face with the previous leader of Tideclan, the beautiful and sleek Flickerstar. Her pelt shone with silvery glow, and her eyes burned with power. This was a warrior of Starclan.
Rainstar bowed her head in respect. She turned her head slightly, looking for the other cats that had cast their shadows into the Everpool, but saw nobody else. It was only Flickerstar, who seemed to notice Rainstar's confusion.
"Where you expecting someone else?" Flickerstar mewed with warm humor.
Rainstar snapped her eyes back to the starry ghost. "No, not at all Flickerstar. I just.... thought that there would be more."
Flickerstar nodded with a pained expression. "There usually is... But your circumstances are different."
"Is Starclan angry? Have I upset them?" Rainstar blurted.
Flickerstar put her tail against Rainstar's mouth. The fur felt soft and somehow hollow. "Let me speak, Rainstar."
She drew in a deep breath. "We are alone because Tideclan is no more. You are a young leader, Rainstar, of a clan of tremendous power. Power like this, no land has seen before. A clan like this, no land has seen before. This is the power the stop what should have ended long ago."
Rainstar smiled, but her eyes were distant. She was so happy to hear the voice of her old leader, but the words she spoke didn't even seem like words. It was like Rainstar had forgotten all language. She understood none of it.
"I was able to loan you the life of a leader, but I can only give one. It pains me to say that you are mortal still, and it is not yet time for your eight more lives. I can only give you this wisdom to protect you." The shadow of night fell heavy around the Starclan warrior, and her ethereal glow seemed bright enough to burn. Rainstar's heart began to beat loudly against her chest.
Flickerstar spoke with dedication. "If the moon doesn't find its home in the sky, the sun will claim all.... Rain will bear the heart of the Clans, but there will never be enough water in the Drylands to wash away the blood."
A chill ran through Rainstar's spine. Her stomach turned in knots. "Flickerstar, what should I do?" she cried out.
Flickerstar was no where to be seen, but her voice echoed from all around Rainstar. "Rainstar! Rainstar!" the phantom cried in every direction. Rainstar felt dizzy, the voice driving her to sickness. Her head swayed rapidly to search.
"Rainstar!" A paw knocked against the gray-and-white leader's ear. Rainstar felt a jolt, muscles tensing, but realized she was no longer in the presence of Starclan. This was an earth-bound cat...a familiar face.
Rainstar blinked in shock, trying to push away any illusion. The young brown apprentince remained however. She was very much real. "Cedarpaw? What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to talk to Starclan, too." Her eyes were alight with determination. "I followed you, and drank from the pool while you were dreaming." There was not a hint of guilt in her voice.
"You did what?!" Rainstar shouted. "Only leaders and medicine cats can talk to Starclan."
"Not always." Cedarpaw insisted. "I saw something- I saw something bad."
Rainstar shook her head and stepped back. There was no point in scolding Cedarpaw on what she had already done, and she knew that if the small cat had seen something...she should hear it. "What did you see?"
"Our clan is under attack, and more cats are coming for them. We have to get back to them, Rainstar, we have to get back to them now!"
"Attacked?" Her breath flew too fast from her chest. "By who?"
"I don't know," Cedarpaw said. "But we need to help! They need you, Rainstar, and you have the lives of a leader to protect them."
Gaze darting away from Cedarpaw's, Rainstar kneaded the Earth. "I was not given any lives..."
"Did Starclan reject you?" Cedarpaw asked.
"No... they gave me a prophecy," Rainstar admitted.
"Great!" The brown cat jumped ahead, back east to the make-shift camp. "Whatever they gave you, it'll help. But we need to go now." Cedarpaw's eyes were wide and her voice was a plead.
Rainstar's muscles were ready, as if she was about to jump directly into battle. She could sense the urgency and growing impatience of the apprentice. She nodded and bolted as fast as she could eastward.