I'm not one to be scared of the woods. If I was, I'd be a useless cat and a hopeless warrior. But today, there was something eerie about the woods that I couldn't place. Fog rolled in over the forest, weaving its way through the trees and clinging to my spotted silver pelt. The sky was downcast.
Despite the eerie feeling that nipped at my tail, I dove further into the woods, ghosting along through the brush, every now and then pausing and tasting the air for prey. Wind rustled the bare branches of the trees, causing some twigs to snap and come crashing down to the grass. I looked up, tensing every time a gust of wind slammed against a tree trunk.
I couldn't see any prey. I couldn't smell it; the woods seemed empty. I whipped my tail around irritably. This hunt had gone no where, and I had spent more time in the woods than I wished to. Hissing curses under my breath, I relaxed my shoulders, wondering what excuse I was going to make when I got back.
The prey hadn't been running well, these days. Just yesterday, there was only three birds in the pile. Four of the seven warriors had come back with nothing. Foreststar, in an effort to feed the whole of the Thunderclan, had announced that a hunter could not come back without something in her mouth.
I guess I'm stuck cleaning the elder's dens tomorrow. Mousebrains.
I thought it was stupid to allow such a rule to be passed; if there was nothing in the woods to catch, then what was I to bring back? The only thing out here was trees. Leaves. I could go across the Thunderpath, to see if the Twolegs had left anything out in their yards, but I could hear the monsters roaring. I wasn't going to take that risk.
I could check at the creek. I may not be a Riverclan cat, but I do like the water; I have a feeling that my mother knew that when she decided what to call me. I've become good at catching toads for my younger siblings. The toads weren't a great food source, but it was better than going hungry and then having to shove the stubborn Lillyleaf out of her nest in the morning.
Flicking my tail in disgust - thinking about sinking my teeth into the nasty creatures made me sick - I turned around.
But just as I began to walk away, ears laid flat against my head, I heard it: the sound of a rabbit scampering through the woods, giving off a scent of fear. I immediately dropped into a crouch, But it wasn't a rabbit.
It was a cat.
A huge white tom, a bashed in skull, and scars, walking stealthily through the forest. I had never seen him at the Gathering, or on any border patrols. I immediately assumed he was a rogue. But there was an air about him that told me that wasn't the case. He was a Clan cat. Not one of our clans; oh, no. This was a cat from a different clan, and though I had never seen him, I recognized his scent; the metallic smell of blood, rabbits, and, worst of all, kits.
A memory came flooding back, slamming through my head and knocking me senseless....
I could taste the blood in my mouth as I ran to tell my leader and mate, Lightningstar, what had happened during border patrol. It was a time of war. All Clans were against one. The Swiftclan.
They swept over our land, killing our prey, kits, and apprentices. Now as I ran to the Thunderclan camp, I thought, I'm the only one left from that border patrol. What will we do if they invade all of the Clans? Death, I responded to my own question.
But I couldn't let that happen. I wanted to see Splashingkit get her warrior name. I wanted to see my kit grow up. So I would fight. I picked up my speed, dodging fallen branches.
The camp entrance was so close! Dashing full speed ahead, I leaped into camp. Several training apprentices looked at me, startled as I yowled to Lightningstar: "Swiftclan!" The brown and white tom peek his head out from our den.
"Whats happening?" He howled back to me. Searching around quickly for Splashingkit, I finally spotted her batting at the head of another kit, taunting her with a twitch of her tail and a nasty sarcastic comment. Good. She was safe.
I rushed into the den, my ears laid flat on my head. "Swiftclan attacked us! They killed every cat, but me! Lightningstar, they're attacking all the Clans! What will we do?"
"Nothing, Silverstroke." He said, studying me sadly. "But, our clan! The others! Splashingkit!" I protested, my thoughts racing. He couldn't be abandoning us now! But he was.
I had to take matters into my own paws. Leaping from the den with a quick nod to my mate, I yowled to all of Thunderclan, "Swiftclan! We need to get out now!" His eyes bore into my back as i paused for a moment, thinking of something to say. I thought nothing. Staying silent, I left.
Shouting out again, "SWIFT CLAN!", Elders and apprentices alike stopped whatever they were doing to look at me. Suddenly, all Starclan broke loose. An apprentice, Rosepaw called out over the noise,
"Which way do we go, Silverstroke?" My tail twitched uncertainly. "To the old camp! Follow me!" Another apprentice named Acornpaw wondered a loud,
"But what about Lightningstar?" I glowered towards the den, our den.
"Lightningstar is on his last life. He refuses to do anything with Swiftclan. If we don't hurry up, we'll be wiped out. My orders and my orders only!"
One Elder struggled up from her position, "I'm following her. I've suffered through much. I'm not going to have gone through that, and not lived a full life." The Elder walked over behind me. The rest followed, achingly slow. I carried Splashingkit by the scruff of her neck, she complaining.
Abrubtly through the quiet, dozens of sharp meows cut the air. Crazed looking Windclan warriors dashed out of the brush, tripping over branches that they weren't used to being there after living in the open most of their life. One of the warriors I recognized.
"Fallingsnow, what is going on?" A white she cat paused for a moment.
"They're coming. They wiped out Windclan, Riverclan, and Shadowclan! They're only a few cats left!" Fallingsnow had a crazed look in her eye as she began her mad scramble once more away from 'They'. Then it hit me. Swiftclan.
"Hurry! ELDERS, QUEENS, AND KITS AT THE FRONT! Warriors and apprentices in the back! Swiftclan is on our tails!" I hissed to Thunderclan. We kept quiet for the next few minutes; even Splashingkit stopped squirming. Twenty more crazed cats dashed from the brush, slipping and falling from not watching where they were going. They left us in the dust.
Then, we saw them. These cats were so big I doubted they were even cats. They had scars all over them, patches of fur that had not grown back, skulls bashed in, and blood darkening their pelts. A scratched black she cat with wounds everywhere imaginable stared me down. "Mm, Silverstroke. Where's your pathetic excuse for a mate gotten off too?" She asked, taunting me.
I swallowed. "I think you know, Tarnishedstar." Tarnishedstar unsheathed her claws, which were covered in dry blood. Some of it, however, looked fresh. Her bloodstained teeth were bared.
"Oh, yes, I really did enjoy killing Lightningstar, the mouse brain. Just as I will you." She launched herself at me. I let out a high, pained yowl as her claw dug into my eye. Thunderclan immediately took action.
Elders were surrounded by warriors and apprentices going head to head, claw to claw with Swiftclan. One Swiftclan Warrior, Moonscout penetrated are lines and cut down an Elder, Lilypool, and a Queen, Oakleaf. Her kits yowled at the sight of their mangled mother, left nearly shredded on the ground, dead.
I leaped into the circle, and fought Moonscout. I scratched his flank and deep red blood gushed onto my silver fur. His teeth bit into my back leg; fangs meeting bone. I pulled him off, and pinned him down on the ground. I couldn't see a thing; that bothered me more than the pain. If I didn't see a move coming, then it could be the end of my life. The end of my clan.
That only drove me forward.
He slashed at me with his claws, but I couldn't be shaken off.
Finally, I got enough hold on him to bite his throat. Warm blood gushed into my mouth. The taste was metal like- I hated it. Spitting it out, I ran to see my apprentice, Icepaw batting her paw at Tarnishedstar.
"NO!" I howled, all too late. Blood spurted from Icepaw; a huge gash ran down her skull, brains leaking out. Blood running down my face, I threw Moonscout over my head.
Running towards Tarnishedstar, prepared for revenge, I zipped under her legs, and, latching onto her back, broke one of her ribs. She howled in pain, collapsing. I tore at her tail, with broke with a satisfactory crunch. Some of Tarnishedstar's clan members leaped over to her as I left, my mouth still tasting of metal blood. They tossed her onto the medicine, ( if you could even call it that) cat's back, and stalked away. Calling over their shoulder, they gave a warning: "We will return. And when we do, the clans will be tarnished. No Starclan will be able to help you. Beware of Tarnishedstar!"
"I'll just bet!" I screeched after them, which sent them into a swift frenzy into the woods. But even I knew then that they would return someday, for my daughter, for all the clans to fight. And I, Silverstar, shall watch over them from Starclan. Heed my warning, young cat. This is no joke, for Swiftclan waits in the shadows, feeding the desire to watch you . . . Burn....
I snapped away from the memory... but wait. It wasn't even a memory. I never fought alongside the heroic warriors in the Tarnished Battle, as Thunderclan called it. In fact, I had cowered under the legs of our particularly angry medicine cat, Riverstone, who had ended the lives of any Swiftclan cat that dared to even bat a paw at us. I'd wailed the whole time, watching as half of the clan was cut down right in front of me. My pelt had been matted with blood for months after the fight.
And besides that, they called me Silverstroke. After the flashback had ended, I'd recited a warning, referring to myself as Silverstar. This was not my memory. This was a sign from my mother.
Swiftclan has returned.
And that white tom, with scars of many battles, was all the proof I needed.