EOTW: Faded Bounaries: Chapter Six

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Published: November 4, 2013
Warriors Series 5: Echoes of the War
Book 1: Faded Boundaries
Chapter Six

    Blazepaw was woken by the feeling of a tail brushing his shoulder. It had been dark and pounding rain when he’d drifted off, still clinging to his branch, but now the sky was a weak grayish-blue, probably late morning. He looked up to see the ShadowClan warrior he had been sharing his branch with, a tom named Wetwhisker. The tom mewed gruffly, “Come on. Cats are starting to gather down below.”

    The apprentice blinked the sleep out of his eyes. With a weary little shake of his head, he tried to focus on the world around him. The first thing that he noticed was that the loud pounding of the night before had ceased. “When did it stop raining?” he asked groggily.

    “Last night,” the tabby told him. “I kept waking up.”

    As Blazepaw looked out at the sky into the territories past the lake, he saw that it was foggy and gray, but the rain had ceased. He crouched low against the branch in order to look down at the ground below. Through the fog, he could see massive amounts of debris, branches and leaves and scraps of twoleg thing. There were cats moving around down there too, little blots of color. He couldn’t imagine how they were walking through all that clutter.

    “Come on,” Wetwhisker urged. “We should see when the leaders are planning to leave.”

    Blazepaw nodded. “Right, sorry.” He waited for the older tom to start down the tree trunk, then followed him down, clambering easily down the soggy bark. He and the ShadowClan tom were both pretty comfortable in trees, so they waited at the bottom for the others on the tree to come down, helping the more timid climbers off of the tree.

    When everyone was off the tree, Blazepaw turned to look at the center of the island. He could see cats picking carefully around the fallen debris, blinking in bewilderment. Blazepaw couldn’t blame them. The Gathering Island looked completely different. The trees looked bare and stripped of branches and leaves that had been torn off during the storm, which were strewn about the ground. The grass was plastered down from the sheer weight of the rain, and fog was wrapping around everything. Even the Great Tree wasn’t left untouched. A branch higher up the tree was snapped in half, left to dangle awkwardly off the tree. Blazepaw couldn’t take it in.

    As he looked at the wreckage, he noticed a familiar pelt moving through the crowd. He bounded over to the warrior, calling out, “Squirrelflight!”

    The deputy looked up as he bounded over. “Blazepaw!” His adopted grandmother pulled him into a quick embrace, on paw on his back and her chin on his shoulder. Blazepaw melted into the embrace, finally letting himself feel fear, like he couldn’t in front of the other Clans’ warriors the night before. The rain was over, but what was going to happen now? What kind of devastation had been left behind that they hadn’t seen yet?

    The older warrior pulled back, letting out a weak purr. “Thank StarClan you’re safe. Have you seen Silentpaw?” Squirrelflight might not have been their father’s actual mother, but she was just as invested in Lionblaze’s kits as if she was.

    Blazepaw shook his head, guilt clenching in his gut. “Not since the rain started.” He turned to look at the rest of the cats, gaze scanning for the black pelt of his sister. Guilt burned under his pelt; why hadn’t he tried to find her during the storm? What if she’d gotten swept out by the water? He was her brother, he was supposed to look after her.

    Noticing his concern, Squirrelflight brushed her tail comfortingly against his flank. She told him warmly, “I’m sure she’s fine, Blazepaw. We’ll find her together.”

    “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.” The young tom let out a shaky sigh. “Thanks.”

    “Hey, it’s what I’m here for,” the she-cat reminded him warmly.

    Blazepaw shook his pelt out, still damp from the night before, and began to make his way through the clutter, Squirrelflight right beside him. He began calling out his sister’s name. “Silentpaw! Silentpaw, where are you?”

    All around, cats were calling out for their Clanmates. Blazepaw could see some grouping together with the cats they recognized. There were plenty of voices calling out, but eventually he heard one that he recognized. “Blazepaw!” A familiar gray tom bounded over, yellow eyes lit up with concern.

    “Bumeblestripe!” Blazepaw greeted him with a quick rubbing of muzzles, letting out a purr. He was fond of his mentor, and glad to see him unhurt.

    The gray tom pulled back, eyes running over his apprentice. “Are you alright?” he asked urgently.

    “I’m fine,” Blazepaw assured him.

    Bumblestripe relaxed. “Good.”

    The apprentice hesitated, remembering his earlier quest. “Have you seen Silentpaw?” he asked.

    The larger tom shook his head. “Sorry, I haven’t.” His gaze shifted over to Squirrelflight, and in a more serious tone, he told her, “I found Mistystar and Weaselfur, they want to gather the cats by-”

    Suddenly, a wail of horror rose up from the edge of the island. “The tree-bridge is gone!”

    Blazepaw’s blood froze at her words. As he exchanged a look of horror with Bumblestripe, other cats took up the warrior’s call, cries of horror and panic becoming deafening. The three ThunderClan cats followed the crowd over to the first cat to speak, to see for themselves.

    As they walked, Blazepaw heard a familiar cry. “Blazepaw!” He turned to see Silentpaw, Ivypool, and an unfamiliar WindClan warrior bounding towards them. Silentpaw nearly knocked him over as she crashed into him, rubbing her muzzle desperately against his head and neck as he did the same. “I thought you got washed out into the lake!” his sister mewed with relief.

    He leaned into his sister’s embrace, feeling relief wash over him. “Me too.” The small tom pulled back, flicking his tail as he told her, “Come on, let’s see what they’re wailing about.” With that, he and the others followed the crowd to the edge of the lake.

    The small tabby tom felt terror tighten in his chest as he saw that the warrior was right. The lake looked swollen, pushed out farther than the usual boundaries, and the fallen oak that served as a bridge to dry land was nowhere to be seen. He couldn’t take it in. That tree had been there since before he was born, since the Clans had first claimed the lake territories as their own. It had been given to them as a sign from StarClan that they were meant to live by the lake. What did it mean now that the tree was gone?

    From the desperate yowling, he wasn’t the only cat thinking on those lines. He could hear an elderly she-cat wail, “Is StarClan angry with us?”

    Another cat, a young apprentice he guessed, let out a frightened yowl. “Will we have to leave the lake?”

    As the gathered cats continued to wail and yowl, a cat managed to push her way to the front of the crowd, turning to face the cats in front of her. Blazepaw was barely able to recognize her as Ashstar before she let out a commanding screech of, “Silence!

    Reluctantly, cats fell silent, the noise fading out until every cat had stopped their yowling. Ashstar waited until everyone was silent before speaking again. She held her head high, glaring out at the crowd as she told them, “Cats of all Clans, the storm is over, but we don’t know how far the damage has spread. Right now, the most important thing is to get back to our Clanmates. They might need our help, and if it starts raining again, we can’t be stuck here. We have to get across to the other side.”

    “How?” a ShadowClan she-cat called out dubiously. “The tree-bridge is gone.”

    Another familiar voice called out, “We’ll have to swim.” Blazepaw recognized the voice as Mistystar’s. As cats murmured in shock and worry, the speaker managed to push her way to the front of the crowd, taking her place beside Ashstar. She addressed the crowd in a firm, strong tone, telling them, “The water is still now. It’s safe to swim across.”

    Cries of protest rang out. “Are you mousebrained?” a WindClan tom mewed incredulously. “We’re not all RiverClan, we can’t swim that. It’s too deep!”

    Mistystar glared at the tom. “Would you rather stay until StarClan descends to rebuild the tree-bridge from scratch?” she asked sarcastically. The warrior looked away irritably, ear flicking with annoyance. “We need to get home now, so we’re going to have to swim. My warriors will help everyone who needs it across. Not everyone at once, though.”

    “Form a line, everyone,” Ashstar commanded. “Warriors pair up with young apprentices, elders, and queens.”

    Calmer now that they had clear orders, the cats began to comply, sorting themselves into groups to cross together. Blazepaw found himself bundled together with Silentpaw, the WindClan warrior she’d come with, Eelpaw and Finpaw of RiverClan, and Ivypool. They were fairly close to the front of the line, so they didn’t have to wait long. Blazepaw watched anxiously as the first group, a RiverClan warrior with a couple of WindClan and ShadowClan cats, came up to the shore. One of the WindClan cat glared at the RiverClan warrior. “I’m not going in that water,” the WindClan tom growled.

    The RiverClan warrior, a tom named Grasspelt, flicked his tail in irritation. “Fine. Stay here then.” The WindClan warrior hesitated. With a final glare at Grasspelt, he finally padded into the water, flinching as the cold water washed over his fur. Soon, his group had swam all the way to the other side and were safely out of the water.

    There was one more group before them, then it was Blazepaw’s turn. He approached the water, fur fluffing out uncertainly.

    Beside him, Finpaw let out a snort. “Scared, tree-climber?” she sneered.

    Blazepaw glared at her, but before he could say anything, Silentpaw was in front of him, glaring at Finpaw with her sightless gray eyes. “Hardly,” she told the apprentice coolly. “We both know how to swim, actually.”

    The ginger tom glanced at his sister gratefully, but he still felt uncomfortable. True, Jayfeather and Cinderheart had given them both swimming lessons when they were kits, and later as apprentices, but he’d never had the knack for it that Silentpaw had seemed to. Jayfeather had spent more time teaching her, anyway. She’d always been closer with the medicine cat, while Blazepaw had been closer with his parents. But he didn’t need Finpaw to know that, so he said nothing.

    Finpaw glared dubiously at her, but said nothing. Silentpaw let out a snort of triumph. To prove her point, she waded into the water without hesitation, kicking with strong hind legs. The small she-cat turned herself around to face shore once again. “Well?” she said pointedly. “Are you coming?”

    The rest of the group approached the water, but the WindClan warrior held back, eyes flashing with fear. “I can’t swim,” she said anxiously.

    Silentpaw’s tone softened as she assured the she-cat, “It’s alright, Darkbreeze. You can swim beside me, I’ll help you.” Blazepaw blinked in surprise. Darkbreeze – Breezepelt’s daughter, the new WindClan warrior.

    Darkbreeze hesitated, then lifted her head, stiffened with determination. The she-cat approached the water stiffly, Silentpaw swimming to her side as Darkbreeze slipped down into the water. Finpaw and Ivypool entered next, and soon only Blazepaw and Eelpaw were left.

    The tom hesitated, fear creeping through his pelt. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t. He would be dragged under and he’d drown, in the cold and dark, alone. Fear closed his throat; he couldn’t breathe.

    Eelpaw’s voice sounded behind him, breaking him out of his thoughts. “Come on, it’ll be fine.” He looked back at the RiverClan apprentice in surprise. Eelpaw looked steadily at him, mewing gruffly, “C’mon, I’ll help you, just stick next to me, I’ll guide you.”

    Blazepaw was surprised by the tom’s offer. He’d thought Eelpaw would be as stuck-up and irritating as his sister, but apparently not. “Thanks.”

    “Don’t mention it.” The tom started off into the water, leaving a reluctant but calmer Blazepaw to followed. He flinched away from the cold water as it lapped at his fur, getting it wet and soggy again, but at least the lake wasn’t the raging, wild torrent of the night before. As the ground gave way under him and he had to start kicking out his paws to swim forward, he forced himself to focus on the shoreline ahead. As promised, Eelepaw stayed next to him with a tail on his back. The tom helped steer him through the water.

    Finally, they reached the other shore. Blazepaw scrambled onto shore as quickly as he could, trying to hide how much his pelt was trembling. Silentpaw came over and pressed herself against him, supporting him. The tom waited until his trembling subsided bit, then turned to Eelpaw. “Thank you,” he mewed gratefully.

    The young RiverClan tom nodded stiffly. “It was nothing.” He turned to Silentpaw, adding, “Thanks for helping me last night. You’re not so bad for a tree-climber.”

    Silentpaw gave a snort of amusement, replying, “And you’re not so bad for a fishface.”

    Eelpaw’s stiff demeanor broke as he gave a purr of amusement. “See you next Gathering?” he asked.

    Both siblings nodded. “See you,” Blazepaw confirmed. Eelpaw gave a final nod, then padded off to join his Clanmates.

    Darkbreeze, who was still nearby, turned to Silentpaw. “Thanks for helping me, Silentpaw,” she mewed brightly. Her fear from earlier seemed to have vanished entirely. “I guess I’ll see you next moon, huh?”

    “Of course,” Silentpaw said with a friendly flick of her tail. Darkbreeze padded off, leaving Blazepaw and Silentpaw with their Clanmates. Some were still crossing over, but there weren’t many cats left on the other side of the lake.

    The last group to cross over had two leaders in it; Mistystar was helping Bramblestar cross over. As they reached the shore, Mistystar remarked to Bramblestar with amusement, “Of all the ThunderClan cats who can’t swim, I wouldn’t have guessed you, Bramblestar. Didn’t Feathertail and Stormfur teach you anything on that journey of yours?”

    Bramblestar let out a mrowrr of laughter in his deep voice, telling her, “They tried, but I was always too heavy to swim.”

    “The silly furball nearly drowned when we reached the sun-drown place. I had to go and save him,” Squirrelflight added as she approached them. She embraced Bramblestar, rubbing against his neck. “I was worried when I couldn’t find you.”

    Bramblestar rubbed his muzzled against his mate’s cheek, letting out a deep purr. “I’m fine,” he assured her. “Besides, if I ever get swept out into the water again, you’ll save me. You seem to be good at that.”

    “You better believe it,” she told him. As she pulled back, she turned to look at the gathered cats. “Now what do we do? We can’t swim over again for the next Gathering?”

    “We can decide about that later,” a voice said from behind them. Blazepaw turned to see Rowanstar of ShadowClan approaching them. “Right now, we need to worry about getting back to our Clanmates.”

    “He’s right,” Bramblestar mewed. “Before the next Gathering rolls around, we can send messengers to the other Clans to figure out where to meet. For now, let’s gather our Clanmates and leave.”

    The leaders departed, each yowling for their Clanmates to gather to them. Blazepaw and the other ThunderClan warriors soon bunched in around Bramblestar. Squirrelflight weaved between them, doing a quick head count to make sure they hadn’t lost anyone. “Everyone’s here, Bramblestar,” she called out to her mate.

    “Very well. Let’s go home then,” Bramblestar decided. With a wave of his tail, he led his Clanmates away from the Gathering Island and back towards their own territory. As Blazepaw followed them, he couldn’t help but feel anxiety. If the flood had been bad enough to take out the tree bridge, what else had it changed?

    What if there weren’t any Clanmates to go back to?
© 2013 - 2020 Jayie-The-Hufflepuff
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I told myself I wasn't going to write any more of this until Bramblestar's Storm came out and I figured out how much it was going to contradict my story, but what the hey. I really felt like writing a chapter of it tonight, so here it is. I might write more soon, and I will probably continue it even if it ends up contradicting Bramblestar's Storm, because I like the story I've come up with for it.
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