Shattered Sky | Chapter 14 of 35

Author: Erin Hunter | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2739 Views | Add a Review

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CHAPTER 7

The early morning sunlight slanted through the trees, shedding blotches of golden light on the forest floor. Alderheart enjoyed the warmth on his fur as he scoured the ground outside the camp, sniffing at each clump of new growth. Now that his Clanmates’ injuries from the battle were beginning to heal, the medicine-cat den was much quieter; Alderheart had taken the chance to restock the herb stores.

He spotted a tuft of comfrey, nipped off a few stems with his teeth, and headed back through the thorn tunnel into the camp. As he passed the apprentices’ den, he hesitated for a moment, then padded over and stuck his head through the barrier of ferns that screened the entrance.

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust from the strong sunlight outside, but then he could make out the mound of Twigpaw’s back where she lay curled deep in her mossy nest.

She was so disappointed yesterday, when Bramblestar decided not to send out a patrol to look for SkyClan, he remembered. She has always wanted to have kin in the Clan. I was disappointed myself, but I can understand. There is a lot going on with the Clans right now. He let out a long sigh. Perhaps we can go look for SkyClan when we’ve dealt with the rogues.

“Do you really think that the cat you saw in your vision could be my kin?” she had asked Alderheart then.

Alderheart could see the desperation in her eyes. “Yes, I do,” he assured her. “And even though Bramblestar can’t send out a patrol just yet, we are not going to ignore SkyClan.”

However, Alderheart had seen that Twigpaw was still upset when she went to sleep the night before. He wasn’t surprised that now she seemed to want to stay curled up in her nest for as long as possible.

Then a breeze stirred the ferns at the mouth of the den, and a beam of sunlight from the entrance struck the mound of Twigpaw’s sleeping form. Alderheart suppressed a gasp. He slid into the den, clawed the bedding aside, and realized that the heaped-up moss and leaves he was gazing at were no more than an empty lump. Twigpaw was gone!

Heart thumping, Alderheart drew back from the apprentices’ den and bounded across the camp.

You’re being stupid, he told himself. She must be around here somewhere. But then he realized that Twigpaw must have deliberately piled up her bedding to make it seem as if she was still there. She has to be hiding something!

Brushing past the bramble screen into the medicine cats’ den, Alderheart found Briarlight doing her exercises, raising herself up on her forepaws while Jayfeather supervised her.

“One more, and then rest,” Jayfeather instructed her.

Briarlight obeyed, then let herself flop back into her nest. “Phew! I’m exhausted!” she panted.

Jayfeather turned to face Alderheart, alerted by the sound of his fur brushing against the brambles. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Your breathing sounds as if you ran all the way from RiverClan. Is it the rogues?”

“No,” Alderheart responded, dropping his stems of comfrey. “It’s Twigpaw. She’s not in her nest. I thought she might be here.”

Jayfeather shook his head. “Not since last night,” he replied. “You could ask Leafpool. She’s over at the nursery, checking on Blossomfall.” As Alderheart turned to go, he added, “Don’t worry. Twigpaw will turn up.”

Hoping he was right, Alderheart left the den and headed across the stone hollow toward the nursery. All around him, the camp was waking up to the new day. A few warriors were emerging from their den, blinking in the strong sunlight, while the first of the hunting patrols was already returning, carrying their prey across the clearing to the fresh-kill pile.

Close to the pile, Alderheart spotted Berrynose and Tigerheart standing nose to nose, their shoulder fur bristling and their tails bushed up to twice their usual size. They were hissing at each other, clearly furious, though Alderheart couldn’t make out what it was all about. His heart sank at the thought of yet another argument between ShadowClan and ThunderClan cats.

He had decided that it was none of his business when he saw Purdy get up from where he was dozing in a patch of sunlight and thrust his way between the two quarreling cats.

“Stop it, stop it, both of you,” he began. “This is no time for fightin’ among ourselves. We—”

Purdy broke off, then gasped out a few more words that Alderheart couldn’t understand. The plump brown cat’s limbs jerked and spasmed, and he fell to the ground as if some cat had attacked him. But there was no attacker in sight.

Berrynose and Tigerheart sprang apart, letting out yowls of alarm. By then Alderheart was racing across the camp, heart pounding harder than ever in panic. More cats gathered around, wailing in dismay or asking Purdy what was wrong. Alderheart had to push through the crowd to reach the old cat’s side.

“Keep back!” he snapped. “Let him breathe!” Turning to Berrynose, he added, “What happened?”

It was Tigerheart who replied. “We were arguing, and Purdy was trying to break it up. Then suddenly he said that one of his forelegs hurt, and he . . . he just collapsed.”

Alderheart crouched down and put his nose close to Purdy’s. The old tom’s eyelids were fluttering, but he was still conscious. Relief began to trickle through Alderheart. Maybe he’ll be okay.

“What’s wrong? Is it the indigestion?” Alderheart asked, remembering how the elder had been complaining of bellyache. “How can I help?”

Instead of replying, Purdy began struggling to get up, then had to give in, flopping back onto his side. “Can’t . . . can’t manage it,” he gasped. “Hurts too much.”

Alderheart began to examine him, running his paws over Purdy’s chest and side, though he wasn’t sure what he was looking for. He could feel the old cat’s heartbeat, laboring and irregular, and fear gripped him deep within.

“I haven’t been feelin’ quite myself lately.” Purdy’s voice was weak, and he had trouble forcing out the words. “But I just thought . . . it was normal. I’m an old cat, after all, and I expect to get some aches an’ pains. . . . I didn’t want to cause trouble, not with so much goin’ on.”

“Helping you wouldn’t have been any trouble!” Alderheart protested, trying to sound confident, aware of the ring of anxious faces that surrounded him and the elder. “But don’t worry, Purdy. I’m going to help you now.”

It’ll only make things worse for Purdy if I admit the truth, he thought, fighting back panic. I have no idea what’s going on, or what Purdy needs me to do.

“Go get Jayfeather!” he ordered Berrynose, who instantly shoved his way through the watching cats and streaked across the camp toward the medicine cats’ den.

Alderheart’s fears peaked as he turned back to Purdy and saw the faraway look in his amber eyes. It was almost as if he had already crossed the border into StarClan territory. Yet as he gazed up at Alderheart he seemed as calm and good-humored as ever.

“You’re a good medicine cat, young ’un,” he murmured. “You’ve got some big paw prints to fill, but I reckon you’re goin’ to be just fine.”

Then he let out a long sigh and lay motionless, his eyes still open as if he was gazing at something far away.

No! He can’t be dead! Alderheart thought, every hair in his pelt rising up in denial of what he was seeing. “Purdy . . . ,” he choked out.

Jayfeather had reached his side, along with Leafpool, who must have dashed across from the nursery.

“What’s happening?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Alderheart replied, forcing down the wail of a lost kit. “Purdy complained of indigestion earlier—and just now he said he had a pain in his foreleg. Then he collapsed, and . . . and he’s not breathing. But he has to be okay,” he finished, anguished. “Purdy can’t be gone!”

Jayfeather bent over to examine the elder, sniffing carefully from his ears to his tail-tip. Then he shook his head sadly and reached with a gentle paw to close Purdy’s eyes.

“No!” This time Alderheart couldn’t suppress his wail of grief. “There must be something we can do,” he insisted. “Maybe we can chew up some chamomile, put it in his mouth, and rub his throat so he swallows it. Maybe we can push his chest to make his heart start beating again!”

But when Alderheart reached out to touch one of Purdy’s legs, he could feel that it was already beginning to stiffen.

“Don’t, Alderheart.” Jayfeather’s voice was surprisingly sympathetic as he hooked a paw around Alderheart’s neck and pulled him away. “Purdy’s gone. He was very old and lived a long life, and now that life is done. Part of being a medicine cat is knowing when you have to let go.”

Alderheart stared at Purdy, who had been alive and speaking only moments ago—and now lay dead on the ground like a piece of prey. “I didn’t help him,” he whispered.

Jayfeather touched his tail to Alderheart’s flank. “Sometimes you can’t.”

Alderheart shuddered, feeling waves of heat and cold pass through him. Will I ever get used to seeing cats die? he asked himself. Especially an elder like Purdy, who was such an important part of ThunderClan? He turned away, his head and tail drooping. Purdy said I’d be just fine . . . but will I?

Graystripe and Millie moved Purdy’s body to the center of the camp, where more of his Clanmates gathered around to share tongues with him one last time, grooming his pelt to make him ready for burial. The rest of the Clan sat nearby, silently grieving as they waited for that night’s vigil to begin. The ShadowClan cats joined in, too, sitting together at a respectful distance.

Alderheart felt like the fog of regret and sorrow that surrounded him would never lift. He padded quietly over to Bramblestar, who was sitting close to Purdy’s body, with Squirrelflight by his side.

“Bramblestar,” he began hesitantly. “Purdy was never a warrior. Do you think he’ll be allowed to walk with StarClan?”

Bramblestar gazed at him, not replying for a moment. When he spoke at last, he didn’t seem to be answering Alderheart’s question. “We first met Purdy when we made the journey to the sun-drown-place,” he meowed. “He saved us from a dog, and then showed us where we could find food.”

Squirrelflight nodded. “I’ll never forget that. Without Purdy, we might not have made it to the meeting with Midnight—and without her, we might never have known to leave the old forest and find our new home here.”

“When he came to join us,” Bramblestar went on, “he fit into the elders’ den like he had always been living with us. He cared for Mousefur when she was ill and dying.”

By now, most of the cats who were clustered around Purdy’s body had turned to listen to their leader.

“He was always good with the apprentices,” Ivypool put in. “Do you remember, in the Great Storm, how he looked after them and kept them out of trouble?”

“And he told the best stories!” Ambermoon added.

“And he joined in when we fought against the Dark Forest,” Squirrelflight pointed out. “He may have been a kittypet once, but he was a brave cat and a true member of ThunderClan.”

Bramblestar nodded, his amber eyes warm as he met Alderheart’s gaze. “Alderheart,” he mewed. “Which of us deserves better than Purdy to walk with StarClan? I know he’ll be there, watching over us.”

“Thank you,” Alderheart whispered.

But Bramblestar’s assurance did little to ease Alderheart’s grief. He still felt as if there should have been something he could have done to save Purdy. It’s okay to think that he’ll watch over us from StarClan, but he watched over us while he was here. Sighing, he rose to his paws and headed back toward the medicine cats’ den.

Halfway there, he halted. The stress of Purdy’s death had driven everything else from his mind, but now he remembered what he’d been worried about when he found him.

Twigpaw . . .

If she had come back to the camp, Alderheart knew she would have come out to pay her respects to Purdy.

That means she really must have left. And I have a horrible feeling that I know where she went.

Alderheart turned and raced back to where he had left Bramblestar beside Purdy’s body. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” he murmured, so as not to disturb the other cats. “But this is an emergency. I need to talk to you.”

Bramblestar didn’t protest, but rose to his paws and gestured with his tail for Alderheart to follow him to a spot near the entrance to the warriors’ den, out of earshot of the grieving cats. “Well?” he asked.

“Twigpaw is missing,” Alderheart announced. “I’m afraid that she may have gone out on her own to look for SkyClan and the cat who might be her kin.”

Bramblestar slid out his claws and dug them hard into the ground. “Great StarClan!” he exclaimed, exasperated. “Could Twigpaw have chosen a worse time to run away?” Then he shook his head, clearly trying to recover his calm. “We’ll send out a patrol to look for her,” he meowed.

Bramblestar turned back to where the rest of the Clan was sitting. “Cats of ThunderClan!” he called, and as his Clanmates’ faces turned toward him, he continued, “Yesterday we decided that we would not send out cats to look for SkyClan. But now Twigpaw is missing, and Alderheart and I believe that is where she has gone—to find her kin. The journey is too dangerous for an apprentice traveling alone, and so we must bring her back.”

As he spoke, Ivypool sprang to her paws. “This is all my fault,” she mewed, her blue eyes filled with distress. “I spoke out against sending a patrol, and I know that upset Twigpaw. But I didn’t realize she would react like this. I should have known . . . ,” she finished miserably.

“Don’t blame yourself,” Bramblestar told her. “We all agreed that this was not the right time to search for SkyClan. No one cat is responsible. All we can do now is send some cats out to look for Twigpaw and bring her home safe.”

“I’ll go,” Tigerheart offered immediately.

“And so will I,” Dovewing added.

“Thank you.” Bramblestar glanced around at his Clan. “Molewhisker, you will go too,” he decided. “You made the first journey with Alderheart, and you know the way to the barn where he saw SkyClan in his vision.”

“Sure, Bramblestar.” Molewhisker got up and padded over to join Dovewing and Tigerheart.

The three cats dipped their heads to their Clan leader, then headed across the stone hollow and disappeared into the thorn tunnel.

Alderheart watched them go, thankful that they would look out for Twigpaw and bring her home safe. Then his belly twisted with worry as he remembered the huge Thunderpath that lay between their territory and the yellow barn.

She has to go that way, he thought anxiously. I hope she remembers how to find the tunnel.

And even if Twigpaw managed to cross the Thunderpath safely, there were more hazards on the other side. A young apprentice, all on her own, just wasn’t safe out there.

I know she would do anything to find her kin, but does she really know how terrifying a journey like that can be for a cat?

Alderheart wanted to claw off his own fur when he remembered how distressed Twigpaw had been when they’d discussed SkyClan the night before.

“I could have been more reassuring,” he murmured aloud. “And now she’s gone.”

I’ve already lost one friend today, he thought, his heart heavy. Am I going to lose another?

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Nicely written. I cried when Needletail died ;(
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batool
thanks i was looking for a website like this to read i just want that could make the full screen best regards
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