I am totally obsessed with Warriors. I have read every book (other than Manga) up to Omen of the Stars #3- Night Whispers, which I read as an eBook. I especially love Hollyleaf, and I actually cried when Erin Hunter made her die. But I soon realised that the book never actually said that she died, only gave that impression. So I set to work, writing about what really happened to her. Here's the fruit (so far) of my labour:
The wind howled across the glimmering surface of the lake. Little ripples disturbed the smooth top of the water. The crescent moon cast an eerie glow across the landscape, and very few stars dotted the midnight blue sky. A lone cat sat on the cold pebbles looking into the deep blue as the water lapped against his paws, as though the lake was looking for comfort. The pale gray tom continued to stare, so intently, that it looked as if he was expecting the lake to tell him something.
"Why...why aren't you dead?" the murmur was barely audible, but another cat, hiding in the shadows, stalked out to meet him. Her soft pawfalls were silent, and the tom didn't notice her until she was almost standing over him.
"Ashfur. What are you doing out here, all by yourself?"It was the she-cat Bluestar, former leader of ThunderClan. The wind of her warm, tender breath gently ruffled his shoulder fur. On such a chilly night, even Ashfur was, initially, relaxed.
At first, not recognising Bluestar's voice, Ashfur whipped around at the voice of the she-cat. When he realised it was only Bluestar, he settled back down, his tail wrapped tightly around his paws. He deliberately hunched himself up, and pointedly ignored the she-cat.
"The others are already asleep. I know it's been...difficult for you today, but please, for your own sake, come back with me" Bluestar sounded awkward, and weary, as though the day had taken a lot out of her as well.
That day, AshfurÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s very own murderer had very nearly been killed, much to his glee. He felt guilty that he was wishing for a catÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s death, but he reasoned with himself, this was the very cat that had sent him to StarClan. But by some strange stroke of luck, the cat had survived, just. Curse that cat!
The malicious glint in AshfurÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s eyes faded, though it was still clear that he was agitated. He relaxed, and sighed. YouÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d have to have bees in your brain to stay out in this freezing cold weather.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œVery wellÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he growled, reluctantly.
The two cats, warrior ancestors with stars in their paws, padded slowly away, back into the forest, and as the moon shone high, in the shimmering night sky, all the cats of StarClan slept.
She took a deep breath, and charged into the tunnels. She didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t look back, didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t hesitate, even when she heard her brothers yowling after her. After what I did, thereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s no way I can go on, she thought, her mind swirling with anger, relief, regret and fear.
Hundreds of rocks and pebbles came thundering down around her. She looked up and saw a massive boulder coming towards her, fast. She tried to run, to escape the inevitable, but she had no chance. With a sickening crunch, the boulder hit her with extreme force. Her body crumpled beneath its weight. HollyleafÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s last conscious thought when the rock came was, Will I be allowed to enter StarClan?
Hollyleaf groaned and half-opened her eyes. For a few heartbeats, she wondered if she even had opened her eyes, then panic hit her. Had she become blind? No- as her eyes adjusted, she could perceive different shades of darkness. So, where could she be? The panic that she had experienced when she thought she had gone blind was nothing compared to this thought: Am I in...Dark Forest?! Hollyleaf quickly dismissed this idea, she couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t see any tree-like shapes, and the thought of being in the Place of No Stars was, well, it made her shudder. Dark Forest was an evil place. She craned her neck, and tried to shift her body, and yowled out in pain. Hollyleaf knew a fair bit about herbs, since she had been a medicine cat apprentice, temporarily. She couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t remember most of what she had learned, but it had been so long since she had put the healing skills into action, she had forgotten a lot.
After giving herself as best a once over as she could, being able to move only her head, her medicine skills came back enough for her to decide that she had several broken bones. In some cases, she could actually see where the bone had splintered and was creating a massive lump on her body.
Hollyleaf winced, shuddering. A sense of self-pity filled her like a dark storm cloud. She began to think that perhaps this was worse than the instantaneous death that, if she had been hit square on by the rock, would have befallen her. She thought that this was to be a torture conjured by StarClan to punish her; a slow, season-long, painful death, where every day the throbbing aches would be heightened, until one day, Hollyleaf would simply die.
So the she-cat closed her eyes, hoping that perhaps deep sleep would ease the pain a little.
As soon as she shut them, her other senses became suddenly keener, and she could hear a bird scrabbling around in the dirt with perfect clarity. This tiny sound ignited both the hunger in her, and the instinct, as a cat, to hunt.
It was then, that her eyes blazed with a sudden will to live, the desire to prove everycat wrong, to be away from here and be a normal cat once more, even if it meant living her life a rogue.
So, with a new burst of energy, she somehow managed to slowly haul herself to at least a half-lying half-sitting position. The excruciating pain shoot up and down through her body was enough to make her whimper. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, and slowly the pain ebbed away. Only time would be able to heal her, in these dark, almost lifeless tunnels that made Hollyleaf shudder with fear.
Hollyleaf stirred from her sleep. She wondered how long it had been since she had made the sudden resolve to escape the claustrophobic tunnels, and begin a new life. It had really been about a moon, but Hollyleaf could no longer keep track of the days she had spent sleeping on the dry earth, or sat, trying to exercise her legs by stretching them one by one.
From lack of care, her pelt had become tangled and knotted. It used to be as sleek as a RiverClan pelt, a pure black from head to toe. Now, it was dull and lifeless, attached to her skin like another cat permanently lying on her back. Even her ribs showed clearly through her skin.
There was a terrible hunger that gnawed at her constantly from day to day, like a ravenous fox clawing and biting at her insides. An awful thirst parched her tongue, making it feel dry as sand.
She knew now that her only chance for survival would be to get up and out of this StarClan-forsaken place.
Hollyleaf was so weak that moving was nearly impossible; never mind the fact that her hind legs had only just healed enough for her to walk.
Finding a hidden energy inside her, she nevertheless struggled to her paws. She took one wobbly step, another, all the while fighting a powerful urge to just stop.
Her weary legs managed to get as far as where the tunnel split, forking off into two different directions. She collapsed where she was, and rested, having a short sleep full of fitful nightmares, one so vivid that she screeched and woke herself up.
Seeing as she was now awake, Hollyleaf decided to take the left tunnel, since it appeared brighter than the other. So she stood, which was getting less painful each time, and with a sudden spark of hope in her heart, set off again.
She had not been limping through the narrow passage for long before she noticed that the tunnel was not getting brighter, as she had expected, but was steadily becoming darker, and darker, in fact, as dark as the other, right side branch of the cave. Hollyleaf wondered why this could be, as she passed any gaps or exits where the light couldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve been coming from. As she turned, she observed that a small spot of light was shining on the cave wall, a small distance away. That was when she realised: the light was actually coming from a tiny gap in the blocked cave entrance that Hollyleaf was nearly killed beside. The sunlight was coming through the gap, and because it was projecting against the side of the left tunnel, it made the tunnel seem brighter.
There was no time to lose by turning back; the black she-catÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s meagre amount of energy was draining rapidly. She padded hesitantly forward once more.
After a while, a scent that seemed strange to a cat who had not drunk properly for nearly a moon filled HollyleafÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s nostrils. Fresh water.
Hollyleaf gasped. Before her, was a narrow torrent of fast water, rushing out into the lake. At once, Hollyleaf bounded over, settling herself down at the edge of the stream, tongue out, lapping rapidly at the water. It was cool, and refreshing, sending a sudden coolness all over her body, brushing over her like the sudden gusts of wind you sometimes felt while patrolling the WindClan border. Hollyleaf raised her head, and sighed at the memory. It was something sheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d probably never do again.
Little beads of water trickled down her muzzle and dripped slowly onto the hard-packed dirt, making tiny plopping sounds before soaking into the ground.
Deciding that sheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d had enough to drink, she sat up, looking around her. It looked as though she was in a large clearing, the river flowing down the middle. There were lots of tiny slits in the caveÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ceiling, letting shreds of light pool on the ground, illuminating the otherwise pitch black cave enough that Hollyleaf could make out a large, reddish rock lodged in the corner, just across the river. When she gazed across at the stone, she felt a strange, cold shiver down her spine, like ice. Somecat, or something was watching her, intently, at that.
She turned, to see if she could find a way out, even more desperate now that she was scared out her pelt.
As Hollyleaf peered into the gloom, eyes narrowed, she screeched in horror. A cat was sitting in the shadows, glowing green eyes staring right through her. The only sign that is was a real cat was its tail, tip flicking slowly back and forth along the ground, stirring the dirt slightly. But the scariest thing about the cat was that it didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t appear to be...whole.
Hollyleaf tried to run, but her paws seemed to be fixed to the dirt, and she couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t tear her eyes away from the weird half-cat. It was faded, colourless and almost transparent.
Finally, she bolted, running as fast as she could, her paws pounding the earth and kicking up dust. It was only after she slowed down to rest, her legs aching after being pushed too hard, having only just healed, that she realised that she was hopelessly lost, and would never find a way out if she kept going. Her heart was beating rapidly, and she was gasping for air. Hollyleaf had a sudden thought, that, perhaps, the strange cat, as scary as it was, could help her find an exit.
She got up, and padded slowly down the tunnel she was in, trying to remember where she was. She had run so heedlessly that now, she couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t figure out which directions she had turned.
Eventually, though, she made her way back to the river cave. The cat was still there, in exactly the same place, and the exact same blank, distant look. Hollyleaf lay where she was, watching it as it had watched her. Slowly, as though it could feel itself being gawped at, its head turned and it stared directly at her. She almost screeched again, but clenched her teeth and shut her eyes instead.
As she cowered there, she didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t see the mysterious cat padding a few steps towards her.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAre you okay, there?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Hollyleaf tensed, and opened one eye. When she had comprehended that it was the half-cat speaking to her, she gave a mouse-like squeak, and fainted.
As Hollyleaf was coming around she could hear a soft voice murmuring. Her eyelids fluttered, and she woke up feeling sleepy and dazed, her eyes bleary, her vision swimming, and her head throbbing. She was lying on her side, and rolled over to see who was talking. She looked up, and towering over her was a ginger-and-white tom. His eyes were closed, and he it seemed like he was muttering some kind of incantation. He was sitting next to her, spine straight and tail wrapped neatly around his paws. He opened his eyes, and gave her a look that said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Are you really as weird as you look right now?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢, since Hollyleaf was lying on her back, legs in the air, head cocked, looking very kit-ish.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOh, so youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re awake, then,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said coolly, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou okay now?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Hollyleaf turned over again, and blabbed crazily, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOh, yes, thank you, very much better than I was. Who are you?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œErm...well, I-IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m...ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â stuttered the tom.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œLast I was awake, there was this really weird cat, it was white, but it looked like it had markings in the same colour, and I was really scared, because it was staring at me...Wait,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Hollyleaf interrupted, looking the cat up and down, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œyouÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re markings look really like itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s...ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOkay, okay, IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m the same cat! But itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a very long story, I am sure you will not want to hear it.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI have all the time in the worldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Hollyleaf replied breezily. This was not strictly true, as she was thirsty again, and the roaring hunger in her empty stomach had intensified ever since she had drunk the water.
But the ginger-and-white cat seemed to have been convinced, and began to speak in an entrancing story-telling voice.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œMy name is Fallen Leaves. I am cat of long, long ago, of the time of the ancient Clans.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI was ready to take on the tunnels, to complete my apprenticeship and become a sharpclaw. I was also young and heedless, and didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t take notice of the danger around me: there was rain in the air.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI entered the tunnels, fearful, yet full of determination. I knew that I couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t put this off any longer, and I was excited at the thought of becoming a sharpclaw. At first, I was unsure, but once I had found this cave, with its underground river, I knew that I was ready for the challenge that awaited me. Rock told me of his rules, and gave me one small piece of advice: Without light, you will have only your instincts. Follow them and if they are true, you will be safe.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen I asked him what happens if they werenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t true, he said only, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Then you will die in darkness.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ So I set off up a tunnel that appeared to lead upward, towards the moor, only to find that, after the incline, it led downwards again, and was a dead end.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
At this, he nodded toward one of the tunnels leading away from the river cave. Hollyleaf could clearly see why he had chosen this option. It certainly looked as though it could lead to a way out. She shivered, knowing that if this cat hadnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t caught her attention, she may have gone that way herself, and lost even more energy, for nothing.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI had almost reached the dead end when it started to rain outside. Small gaps in the roof let in drops of water, but I wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t worried. What could a few raindrops do? But I was wrong, fatally wrong.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
He shook his head bitterly, grim-faced and cursing himself for his young, naive thoughtlessness. Regardless of his own feelings, he carried on with his tale.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe tunnels flooded quickly. Once IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d realised that if I didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t get back to the cave, IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d drown, it was too late. I ran faster than I ever had before, but I was swept under. I drowned. You wanted to know who I am? IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m a ghost, your ancestor, but I never got to StarClan. So for too many seasons to count, IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve been wandering these tunnels.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Hollyleaf stared, totally horrified, and bewildered. The only way that she had survived was because it hadnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t rained. To have your nature deciding your fate like that chilled Hollyleaf to the bone.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t be a ghost. ThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s impossible, everycat knows that.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â cried Hollyleaf, after a long silence.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHey, just because youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve never met one, doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t mean they donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t exist.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â replied Fallen Leaves, ruefully. He sat there, shifting his paws, making little tracks in the earth. He glanced up occasionally at the black she-cat, looking down again when their eyes met. The handsome tom muttered something, shaking his head again.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou must be hungryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â stated Fallen Leaves, suddenly. It wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t a question.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œStarving, actually,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she replied, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œbut what can you do about it?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI will show you where there is prey.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Prey? In here? This cat must have bees in his brain! thought Hollyleaf, but didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t say it allowed, afraid of offending the cat that was about to give her food. He began to run lightly towards the tunnel on the far right, the one next to the passage that Fallen Leaves had died in. Hollyleaf swallowed hard, trying not to think about the unfortunate tomcatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s body swirling limply around in the rushing water. Instead she daydreamed about prey, lots of it, shrew, vole, squirrel, sparrow, thrush.
Then she had a worrying thought. If Fallen Leaves really is mad, then IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ll never get out of this place.
Yet somehow, Hollyleaf knew that Fallen Leaves wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t crazy. She remembered what he had said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Follow your instincts, if they are true you will be safe.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢
Fallen Leaves veered off for a third time. They had headed along a straight tunnel, that after the first turn lead upwards. Not once did he get lost, and he hurried along so briskly that Hollyleaf was sure that heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d miss a turn-off at least once. As if he could read her mind, which Hollyleaf, after everything else, would not have been surprised at, said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œDonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t forget, I know these tunnels like the back of my paw, IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve wandered them for more seasons than you could imagine.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
He purred at the stunned look on HollyleafÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s face.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNo, I canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t read your mind, but the faces you make say a lot about what youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re thinking!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â laughed the ginger-and white tom.
Then, they reached a dead end. A massive boulder was blocking the way.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHa! I knew that there wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t any prey!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â mewed Hollyleaf triumphantly.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNot here. But behind that rock there is. Anyway, you didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t believe that I was a ghost? Well...ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â and he took a deep breath, before running headlong into the boulder.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNo!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she screeched. She turned away, waiting for the crunch that would tell her that her new friend was dead, but it never came.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œDo you want me to tell you how to get over, or what?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â called Fallen Leaves from the other side of the stone.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œB-but how?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â stuttered Hollyleaf, astonished. But she had already answered her own question: Fallen Leaves had gone through the rock.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou really are a ghost!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she cried, distraught.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWell, that was what I was trying to tell you.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â called Fallen Leaves, sounding slightly frustrated, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNow, there is a narrow gap between the rock and the tunnel roof. You can probably make it through there. Just you wait until you see whatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s on the other side!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
At that moment, she remembered. She remembered when she and her brothers, Lionblaze and Jayfeather, at that time Jaypaw and Lionpaw, had come here to look for lost WindClan kits. The three kits had managed to sneak out of the WindClan camp, come down here to the tunnels for fun, and got stuck behind the boulder. WindClan thought that ThunderClan had stolen them. Hollypaw, Jaypaw, Lionpaw, and Heatherpaw and Breezepaw from WindClan found them, just in time to stop a battle.
But Hollyleaf put the past out of her find, because was so desperate to eat. She scrambled up the boulder in heartbeats, wriggling with ease through the gap, lithe, and thin after so long without proper prey. She jumped down lightly, and looked smugly at Fallen Leaves, who was standing in front of the tunnel wall.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSo, whereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s the prey?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The tom stood aside. There was a small hole in the earth. Hollyleaf crouched and peered into it. It rose steeply upwards, and at the end there was a small spot of light at the end.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œA hole. Great, thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s going to taste fantastic.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Hollyleaf muttered sarcastically.
Choosing to ignore HollyleafÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s sarcasm, Fallen Leaves went on, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œMore than a hole. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a burrow. If you wait, voles usually appear. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s so easy to get them; they basically run straight into your paws. Of course, I canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t, and donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have to hunt, so youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re on your own there.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m a warrior, I can hunt for myself!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Hollyleaf felt a twinge of remorse at this. Can I really say IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m a warrior now? After all, I can never go back now.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhateverÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â, Fallen Leaves shrugged.
At that moment, a vole rushed out of the hole. Hollyleaf pounced and gave it the killing blow. She ate so ravenously that the vole gave her hiccups.
Fallen Leaves purred, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t think IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve ever seen a cat eat so fast!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Hollyleaf felt guilty for not sharing.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSorry, do you want some?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
As quickly as she said it, she regretted it.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t...ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he sighed, slowly.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYeah, yeah, I forgot, sorry.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
There was an awkward silence, before another vole came running out. Again, Hollyleaf killed it and ate it.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve had my fill, letÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s go!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
So Hollyleaf scrambled over the rock again, and Fallen Leaves lead the way back.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHey, Fallen Leaves?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHave you ever met my brother?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Hollyleaf had remembered again trying to find the kits, and recalled Jayfeather knowing exactly where to go, and murmuring to himself on the way. It seemed strange.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYour brother? No, I donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t think so. Why?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Fallen Leaves was confused.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSo you havenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t seen a gray tabby called Jayfeather?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œJayfeather...Jaypaw...yes! He discovered RockÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s stick, and since then heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s been the only modern Clan cat to discover about us.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAha! I wondered who was helping him...ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œ...When you had to escape the flood in the tunnels! Yes, that was me! How interestingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Fallen Leaves finished off HollyleafÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s sentence.
Hollyleaf looked at the tom warmly. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou saved my life...ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWell, sort of. I only told your brother how to get out, so it was actually Jayfeather that saved you all.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Fallen Leaves looked sheepish. Under his breath, he murmured sadly, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou remind me so much of my mate...ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
But Hollyleaf caught it, and said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou have a mate?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI had a mate, but alas, it was not to be.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
They had reached the river cave again, and Hollyleaf put her head down to lap at the water. Fallen Leaves watched her softly.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou must rest again before I show you the way out.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYouÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re not coming with me?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â asked Hollyleaf, smile fading.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œDo you want me to come with you?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOf course!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Hollyleaf breathed.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOkay then, I suppose. But I donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t know, perhaps it was my destiny to walk these tunnels forever.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Fallen Leaves wondered, sadly.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOr perhaps it was your destiny to come with me...ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â whispered Hollyleaf, and twined her tail around his. At first, forgetting that he was a ghost, Fallen LeavesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ tail on hers felt natural, but then, realising that he shouldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t be solid, she leapt back.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI can touch you!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
But, much to HollyleafÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s surprise, Fallen Leaves didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t seem at all shocked. In fact, he just nodded.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen strong emotion is directed at me, I become solid for a short while. I discovered that when Jayfeather got angry at me, because he thought we were abandoning him. Wait, youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re not angry at me, are you?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he glanced at Hollyleaf, worried.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOf course not! Why would I be angry with you?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t know...then how come IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m solid? Oh wait, is it because weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re really good friends?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYes, that must be it." Hollyleaf gave him a weak smile.
More than friends, maybe? both cats thought at the same time, but neither was brave enough to say it out loud.
The mossy track led steadily upwards. Both cats padded on, weary, but with stocky determination and a picture of freedom growing ever clearer.
“How, how much longer?” Hollyleaf wheezed. Fallen Leaves snapped an impatient reply.
“I don’t know! What in StarClan do you think I can do, memorise the whole tunnel matrix?!”
The small she-cat whimpered, ears flat, and shrunk even smaller. Pressure was getting to her friend. Fallen Leaves looked sorry, but tossed his head and quickened the pace before words could be exchanged.
The two cats continued on for a short while, before Hollyleaf scented something.
“Umm, Fallen Leaves? Do you recognise that weed?”
“Are you sure? Because I smell your scent marking on it. Or at least, who else’s could it be?”
Fallen Leaves leaned closer, sniffing, mouth open. As he raised his head, his eyes told her that he did remember. Not good. Hollyleaf sank to the ground and moaned.
“The only way we’re getting out of here is if we try, Hollyleaf!” the commanding voice and statement were tinged with desperation and uncertainty. But it gave Hollyleaf hope again, and she went on, regardless of her own hopelessness.
Then, there was light. A side tunnel that Fallen Leaves had been about to bypass caught Hollyleaf’s eye. There was a small circle of sun at the end of it. She called out urgently.
“Fallen Leaves! I found the way out!”
And with a flick of claws and a sharp turn, he was bounding towards the light alongside her. As the pair burst out into the open, both recoiled immediately. The sunlight was blinding, after such a long time spent in the almost total darkness of the tunnels. After a few seconds blinking and shaking heads, the two cats walked out onto a springy bed of soft grass, familiar and comforting to Hollyleaf, but to Fallen Leaves, somecat who had spent a hundred seasons or more in the tunnels, so much greenery under his paws was strange and unfamiliar. Looking around, all he could see was trees, trees and the far off expanse of the moorland.
As Hollyleaf squinted though, she realised that she wasn’t where she had thought originally. These trees were not the same as the ones in ThunderClan’s territory, the scents were different too, and why did WindClan’s moorland seem so far away? The answer dawned on her, and made her fearful once more. They were in ShadowClan. If they found out she was alive...
She opened her mouth to tell Fallen Leaves, but at the confused, and slightly worried look on his face, Hollyleaf decided against it. Would he even understand what ShadowClan was anyway, and the danger they posed?
But it didn’t matter what she told him; they needed to get out of there, and cover their scent, fast. There was a puddle of mud just to her left. With a deep breath she waded into it, rolled onto her back and thrashed around until she was totally covered.
“Come on! I smelled fresh fox really close by, we need to make sure it can’t track us.”
Fallen Leaves suddenly adopted a very serious frown, and wallowed in alongside her. When they got out, both stinking and dripping wet, although Hollyleaf knew the danger they were in, she couldn’t help sniggering at the sight of the tom. He looked so soppy and helpless, like a giant, lost kit! But when she heard the approaching patrol, she went rigid. Then, swiping Fallen Leaves with a sheathed paw, she urged him, silently, to run. They thudded through the forest in the opposite direction of the lake, ears pricked for ShadowClan patrols; or worse, the sound of the camp. When they broke cover, she slowed down. Fallen Leaves looked bewildered.
“Those cats back there could have helped us!” he said, slightly annoyed.
“That’s not true, ugh, look...” she trailed off, and took a deep breath, knowing that she had no choice but to tell the truth. Fallen Leaves was looking at her expectantly.
“I... have a secret, and I’d be an outcast if anycat ever found out. why do you think I was in the tunnels in the first place? I couldn’t live with myself for what I had done. I killed a cat, Fallen Leaves, and not in battle. I murdered him. But I’m not an evil cat, it wasn’t my fault! I mean, it was, but...I should tell you the whole story.
“I knew my mother to be Squirrelflight, the ThunderClan warrior, and my father to be Brambleclaw, ThunderClan deputy. Why would I think any different? They were both mates, they loved me, and ever since I can remember I’ve smelt Squirrelflight’s scent. I mean, she never seemed to pay us any attention, we were all aware of the Clan’s whisperings; that Squirrelflight was back into normal warrior duties before you could say ‘fresh-kill’.
“We always just thought she was over-loyal. But one day, during a storm, the camp caught fire, and Ashfur nearly killed us all- he tried to stop us from escaping. I don’t know much about it, but apparently Ashfur was in love with Squirrelflight before she and Brambleclaw officially became mates. She broke his heart, and he was determined to get revenge. By killing us, he thought he could hurt Squirrelflight. And in the heat of the flames, she admitted the truth; we were not her kits. Now that Ashfur knew the truth, he would find a new way to hurt her. He would reveal the truth at the Gathering, stripping her Clan from her forever.
“So what did I do? I killed him. I didn’t feel anything for my ‘mother’ anymore, but I knew it would impact us too. Later I found out that my real mother was Leafpool, my father the WindClan warrior Crowfeather. The whole reason that Squirrelflight pretended to be our mother was so that Leafpool wouldn’t have been banished; Leafpool was a medicine cat- she was never supposed to have kits, and having kits with a cat from another Clan was even worse. Nevertheless, she was a traitor to her kits, and I will never forgive her for that.”
Hollyleaf spat on the ground, and stared blankly towards the horizon, bitter but stony-faced; the sadness that she felt was hidden well.
“Don’t start! I’m a murderer, you’re better off without me.”
“Don’t say th-” But Hollyleaf interrupted the uncomfortable tom.
“I said don’t! Now go...just go” her last words were whispered. Fallen Leaves summoned the courage to sit next to her, their fur touching. Hollyleaf huddled closer as a biting wind whirled, ruffling black and ginger-white fur. He put his head against hers.
“What are we going to do now?” he asked, quietly, words whipped from his mouth in the gale.
It was something that she had never actually thought of. She had been so focused on escape. And with thought of the future came memories, memories that grieved Hollyleaf deeply. Remembering everything before the Three, and the murder, and the tunnels, when they had a mother to love and care for them, even if she was only pretending for her sister. But all she could do was move on, build a new life, she could just go back and fix everything. Still, she could never leave without seeing her Clan for one last time.
As she discussed this with Fallen Leaves, the sun slid behind the distant mountains, and a full moon began to climb its way through the sky. When she looked up, she realised that tonight would be the night of the Gathering. This was her chance to say goodbye. Of course, saying goodbye physically would be impossible, but sneaking into the camp through the dirtplace tunnel (as she had snuck out so many times before), and visiting the warriors’, apprentices’ and medicine cat’s dens would be enough. Perhaps, if she could, she would visit Firestar’s den too. After all, he was her grandfather. But it would be a huge risk, as not all the cats would be at the Gathering. A risk that Hollyleaf couldn’t refuse to take.
The two cats, who had found more mud and re-applied, were creepy stealthily down into the forest. As they approached the camp, Hollyleaf saw that it was just past moonhigh; she didn’t have much time. She paused for a moment to remember where the tunnel was, and to flick Fallen Leaves on the nose with her tail, a reminder to stay where he was. She closed her eyes, tried not to breathe the scent of the dirtplace and emerged warily into the camp. There was no-cat around, other than a pair of warriors, Sorreltail and Brackenfur, sharing prey near the freshkill pile, and Mousefur, the elder she-cat, snoring on a rock just outside the elders’ den. She would still have to be very careful.
The medicine den was closest, so she edged along the rock wall before slipping into the crevice that her brother, Jayfeather, helped heal the cats of ThunderClan. The smell of borage leaves and yarrow, and all the other herbs, was overpowering, but it was the scent of Jayfeather and the current medicine cat, Leafpool, that hit her hardest. Chances were that she would never see her brothers, or anycat from ThunderClan, ever again. Not even in StarClan; they would reject her for killing Ashfur and turning down the life of a warrior and the warrior code, wouldn’t they?
“I’m sorry, Jay, Lion...” she breathed, wishing that none of this had ever happened.
Padding to the back of the cave, she decided that taking a few leaves would be sensible. She could still remember a small number of the herbs used to cure illness, and she gathered a small package of travelling herbs, wrapped in a leaf. She just hoped that her scent was still covered by mud. Hollyleaf tried to identify the smell of yarrow, and as she tried to grasp a leaf, her fur snagged on a jagged piece of rock. As she was trying to untangle herself, the cat guarding the entrance came into the hollow.
“The Gathering is finished; all the cats are coming across the log now.”
“Foxdung!” Hollyleaf swore angrily under her breath. She wrenched herself free, and peered out of the den.
The guard must have gone back to his post, and Sorreltail and Brackenfur had obviously gone to their nests, before they were wakened again to greet the party that had gone to the Gathering. The clearing was empty, other than Mousefur still snoring blissfully on the rock, so Hollyleaf streaked across it. She scrambled up the Highledge, and padded into Firestar’s den. It was too much; she should never have come back. She sat in a corner and sobbed, until some part of her told her that she was in danger. The cats from the Gathering would be back any second! She couldn’t go to the warriors’ or the apprentices’ dens- that would be pushing it to the limit, what if she woke somecat up? So, as a final farewell to her camp, she squeezed into the spot behind the nursery that she and her brothers used to hide in to talk about the prophecy. This would be her last goodbye to the Three, to her Clan, to being a warrior. It was the most heartbreaking thing that Hollyleaf had been through yet. She could hear muffled voices outside. The cats had come back from the Gathering. They were still outside the tunnel, so Hollyleaf had just seconds to sprint into the dirtplace. And she made it, but barely; Firestar was leading the patrol into the hollow. She crouched, and watched on remorsefully as the Clan came back in high spirits, all whispering together or greeting and gossiping with the cats who had stayed behind. Sadly, she tramped out of the dirtplace tunnel, and back to where Fallen Leaves was waiting, wide-eyed and anxious.
“What took you so long? I saw heaps of cats going into the forest...I thought you’d get found!”
“Look, I’m OK, so just... leave me alone.” Hollyleaf snapped.
Fallen Leaves looked hurt, but turned away and sat down to think about what they would do next. Where would they go? Then Hollyleaf remembered the bundle of herbs. She had dropped them at her paws to talk to Fallen Leaves. She felt guilty- it wasn’t his fault that she had gotten upset. She held the leaves gently in her jaws, and padded over to him.
“Sorry... but I got some travelling herbs, enough for two!” She purred at smiled at him.
He brightened, and they began to discuss a plan of action. Hollyleaf suggested going to live with the Tribe of Rushing Water, a group of cats who lived, almost, like a Clan in the mountains. Fallen Leaves didn’t understand, and it was then that she understood how little Fallen Leaves knew. He had only been becoming the ancient equivalent of a warrior when he was trapped in the tunnels and drowned, which probably meant he had never been out of his own territory, or whatever the long-lost ancient Clans had. So she began to explain, little by little, everything about her life, everything she knew, and he spoke about what it was like in the time of the Ancient Clans.
“There was a prophecy about my brothers and I.
‘There will be Three, kin of your kin, who hold the power of the stars in their paws’
At first, we didn’t understand, but then Lionblaze and Jayfeather discovered they had powers. Jay could walk in anycat’s dreams, and could tell what you were thinking if you didn’t shield your mind. Lionblaze could never be killed in battle. Now I’ve realised that I can’t be one of the Three, otherwise I’d have a power too...and I don’t.”
Hollyleaf looked miserable. Fallen Leaves stroked her shoulder with his tail.
Yes, it's long, but please comment!