Shattered Sky | Chapter 22 of 35

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

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CHAPTER 15

Twigpaw’s belly was yowling for food as she stumbled across a grassy clearing, forcing herself to take one paw step after another. She had never felt so exhausted.

The sun was slipping down the sky, casting long shadows across her path. Around her, trees stretched in every direction; she had no idea where she was or which way she should go. She had begun to despair of ever finding her kin, or even remembering her way home.

Reaching the roots of an oak tree, Twigpaw flopped down to rest. Her rumbling belly told her she should hunt, but she was too weary. The day before, she had even stooped to rubbing up against the legs of a Twoleg, purring and trying to look cute. The Twoleg had put out a hollow thing like a big hard leaf, full of some creamy white stuff. Twigpaw had lapped it up; it had tasted good, but it had made her feel sick for the rest of the day.

When did I last eat real prey? I can’t remember. . . .

The days were beginning to blur into one another, so that now she had trouble remembering how long it had been since she’d first left ThunderClan. After she’d lost consciousness when the monster struck her on the Thunderpath, she had opened her eyes to find herself in a strange Twoleg den. It was full of peculiar, acrid scents, and a Twoleg with a white pelt kept forcing round white pebbles down her throat. She slept most of the time—maybe the white pebbles were Twoleg poppy seeds—so she wasn’t certain how long she had stayed there. But it must have been at least a quarter moon.

Finally she had started to feel stronger. Maybe the white-pelted Twoleg was like one of our medicine cats. He was kind, but Twigpaw knew that she couldn’t stay there. She waited for her chance, until one day a second Twoleg opened the door of the den where they were keeping her.

Twigpaw swiped at the medicine Twoleg as he tried to force another pebble into her mouth, dropped to the ground, and fled out of the den. She heard the Twolegs yowling behind her, and their heavy paws thumping along the ground, but she didn’t stop until she found refuge underneath a bush beside a Thunderpath.

After that, Twigpaw had begun to search for the yellow barn Alderheart had seen in his vision—but she’d had no idea where she was. She spent several days trekking to and fro around the edges of the Twolegplace, and she had many conversations with kittypets, who all looked at her as if they thought she had bees in her brain.

She’d finally found the barn, but there was nothing there except a faint scent of cats to tell her that she had found the right place. She was too late.

SkyClan might have been there at some point—but they had moved on.

Twigpaw set out to follow the scent trail, but it was faint to start with, and soon it faded altogether. For the last two days, she had been wandering aimlessly, not even knowing how to get home to the lake.

Here and there in the forest she encountered Twolegs, some of them living in pelt-dens, like the ones who came in greenleaf to the clearing on the ShadowClan border. The cats she met were all kittypets, and none of them knew what she was meowing about when she mentioned the Clans or asked if they had seen SkyClan.

Twigpaw was slipping into deeper sleep when she became aware of a gray tom standing beside her, staring down at her with brilliant blue eyes.

“Get up!” he urged her. “You’re wasting time! Don’t you know that you’re our only hope?”

“No, I’m too late . . . ,” Twigpaw responded, struggling to her paws. “I got attacked by a monster and messed everything up.”

“It’s not too late,” the gray tom insisted. “Wake up right now, and look for the blood trail in the sky. . . . Follow it until you can see the whole circle of the sun.”

Twigpaw startled awake, finding herself still curled up among the oak roots. Looking around, she realized that she was alone in the forest; the gray tom had vanished. But through gaps in the trees she could see the sky and realized that the sun was setting—and just as the gray tom had said, there was what looked like a trail of blood leading to the horizon.

Was that a dream or a vision? Twigpaw wondered. It had to be a dream . . . I’m not a medicine cat. I don’t have visions. But something about that cat was so convincing. . . .

Even though Twigpaw was exhausted, she forced herself onto her weary paws and began to stumble along, following the trail in the sky.

Shadows were gathering beneath the trees, and Twigpaw could barely force one paw in front of another. There seemed to be no end to the forest, and whenever she caught a glimpse of the sun, it was crisscrossed with branches. It was impossible to get a clear view.

Twigpaw was beginning to despair when the trees ahead of her started to thin out. A fresh spark of hope gave her the determination to bound forward, then thrust her way through a dense bank of ferns and break out into the open. The sky ahead of her was a blaze of scarlet, but the sun had already vanished.

I’ve failed, Twigpaw thought, letting out a murmur of dismay.

Then she realized that in the direction of the sunset the ground fell away sharply into a rocky cliff. Scampering up to the edge, she was just in time to see the sun, a huge red circle, before it dipped below the horizon of the plain below. Twigpaw stood staring until the last of it sank out of sight and the red trail in the sky began to fade.

So I did what the gray tom said. Now what?

Twigpaw turned around, gazing back through the trees and across the swell of moorland where she had emerged. There was no sign of any cats, and when she tasted the air, she couldn’t pick up the faintest trace of cat scent.

It was just a stupid dream, she thought miserably, collapsing in a heap. She was no closer to finding her father than when she’d left ThunderClan, and now she had no more ideas.

It’s time to give up. I’ll sleep now, and when I wake up, I’ll try to figure out a way to get home.

She was curling up in the shelter of a rock, wrapping her tail over her nose, when she spotted something moving through the bushes at the bottom of the cliff. A gray flash. Is it . . . ?

New energy seemed to flow into Twigpaw’s body as she rose to her paws again and began scrambling down the cliff face toward the place where she had seen the movement. Soon she came to a wide ledge overlooking a shallow valley with a stream at the bottom. And beside the stream . . .

Twigpaw let out a loud meow of delight. Cats! So many cats, making their camp. Her gaze devoured them; she could hardly believe what she was seeing. That’s him—the gray flash I saw moving though the bushes. I don’t think he’s the tom I saw in my dream. But he looks just like me! Her paws skimmed the rocks as she hurled herself down the rest of the cliff, so eager to meet her kin that she never thought she might be in danger of falling.

At the sound of Twigpaw’s meow the cats looked up at her and began to crowd together defensively. For the first time, Twigpaw could see how skinny and bedraggled they looked . . . even worse off than she was herself.

Among them was a small white she-cat whose belly was so swollen that she must be close to kitting. A larger tabby tom stood protectively beside her. Twigpaw noticed three young cats, too, about her own age, staring at her with a mixture of fear and curiosity.

The cat who looked like her spotted her at last, and his eyes grew huge. “Who are you?” he asked, at the same moment as one of the others demanded suspiciously, “What do you want?”

“I’m sorry,” Twigpaw apologized, skidding to a halt. She was hardly able to contain the excitement that was rushing through her from ears to tail-tip. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I think I may know who you are. Are you SkyClan?”

The cats exchanged sad glances. “We are what remains of SkyClan,” one of them told Twigpaw.

A brown-and-cream tabby she-cat stepped forward and dipped her head to Twigpaw. Though she was as thin and weary-looking as her Clanmates, she held herself with dignity, and her voice was strong as she spoke. “We have been on a long journey, faced great hardship, and lost many friends,” she meowed. “But yes, we are SkyClan. How do you know?”

“I come from ThunderClan,” Twigpaw replied eagerly. “My name is Twigpaw.”

As soon as she mentioned her Clan, astonished exclamations rose from the cats around her. They exchanged excited glances, their suspicion and uncertainty vanishing.

“You come from ThunderClan? We know about ThunderClan!” one of them exclaimed. “We’ve been searching for you for moons and moons!”

Twigpaw blinked as suddenly the cats crowded around her, their words tumbling over each other in their eagerness.

“Echosong had a vision!” one of them was saying. “She said the fire had burned out, but we should find the spark that remains!”

The brown-and-cream tabby let out a purr. “We knew the fire had to be Firestar!” She paused, her eyes rounding with sadness. “But is it true, has he died?”

Other cats broke in before Twigpaw could answer the question, crowding around her until she almost felt she couldn’t breathe.

“He came to visit us with a brave she-cat! They gave us back our Clan when it was almost forgotten.”

“He showed us how to hunt!”

“He taught us the warrior code!”

“We still teach our kits about him. We will honor his name forever!”

Twigpaw wasn’t sure what to say. She’d never met Firestar. “I—I’m sorry,” she stammered. “This, um, Echosong’s vision was right—Firestar is dead.”

The Clan’s enthusiastic meows faded somewhat. But they didn’t seem surprised. After a moment, the tabby she-cat asked, “How did he die?”

“In a great battle, saving his Clan,” Twigpaw replied. “I wasn’t born then, but I’ve heard so many stories about him! ThunderClan also honors his memory.”

“So who is leader of ThunderClan now?” the she-cat mewed.

“He’s called Bramblestar. He’s a great cat, too.”

The tabby she-cat nodded slowly, taking all this in. “My name is Leafstar,” she continued at last. “I met Firestar when he came to the gorge and rebuilt our Clan, and I know that ThunderClan is good and honorable. Can you take us back to your hunting grounds? Echosong had a dream where we came to live beside the other Clans—by a large body of water. We would be so grateful if you could take us to Bramblestar.”

Twigpaw bowed her head, humbled to think that her Clan was held so highly in the memories of these cats who lived so far away. But can I even find my way back? She wasn’t sure what to say. I have to try. They’re all counting on me.

After a moment, the gray tom who looked like Twigpaw stepped forward to stand at Leafstar’s side. “My name is Hawkwing,” he announced.

“He is the deputy of this Clan,” Leafstar meowed. “The deputy Firestar knew, Sharpclaw, was Hawkwing’s father. He was killed when a group of rogues attacked us and took over the gorge. We were forced to leave; at first we settled down by a lake not far from here, thinking it might be the water from Echosong’s dream—but when greenleaf came, Twolegs moved onto our territory. And so we had to leave our home a second time. We have been wandering through the woods, searching for the spark that remains. And it sounds, Twigpaw, like that is you.” Her eyes warmed as she looked down at the young apprentice.

Twigpaw was overwhelmed, but a small part of her registered what Leafstar had said: a group of rogues attacked us and took over the gorge. Twigpaw swallowed hard, wondering how to tell these cats, who had already suffered so much, that Darktail was now causing trouble for the other Clans.

Glancing at the gray tom, Twigpaw realized that he was staring at her. For a moment she wondered if he might actually be the gray tom from her dream—but that cat’s eyes had been the brilliant blue of a clear sky, while Hawkwing’s were warm amber.

Just like Violetpaw’s!

“Are you alone?” Hawkwing asked her. “Where are your Clanmates? We’re not near the lake, are we? What brings you this far from home?”

Twigpaw hesitated, overwhelmed by the questions. “My Clanmates are back on our territory,” Twigpaw explained, struggling to find the right words. “There’s . . . there’s a lot going on back home. There’s a group of rogues on the territory, led by a cat you might know. . . .” She swallowed, wondering how the SkyClan cats would react. “A rogue named Darktail.”

Leafstar gasped, and Twigpaw saw something dark flash in Hawkwing’s eyes.

“Darktail?” he said, as though the word felt strange on his tongue. “Darktail is . . . on your territory now?”

As quickly as she could, Twigpaw explained how Alderheart had had a vision of SkyClan, and had led a quest to try to help them, only to get to the gorge too late. She explained how he and the others had been fooled by Darktail into believing that he led SkyClan, only to realize the truth after staying with him for some time.

“They fled and came back to the lake, but Darktail must have followed them,” Twigpaw finished. “Because he showed up and began attacking Clan cats not long after they returned. And now . . . well, they’re still trying to drive him out.”

Twigpaw saw Leafstar and Hawkwing exchange a serious look.

“Well,” Hawkwing said, determined. “Now I’m even more sure that we have business at the lake.”

Twigpaw looked from the older cats to her paws, feeling awkward.

“Were you on the quest, Twigpaw?” Leafstar asked after a moment. “Have you seen the gorge since we left?”

Twigpaw shook her head. “I was too young; I wasn’t part of ThunderClan yet. Alderheart found me and my sister Violetpaw on his way back to ThunderClan. We were very young, and it looked as if our mother had abandoned us.”

“What cat would do that?” a gray she-cat meowed, while sympathetic murmurs came from several of the others.

“I don’t think she meant to,” Twigpaw responded, quick to defend the mother she had never known. “Some of my Clanmates and I went to look for her, and we decided that she must have died—we think that she was probably hit by a monster on the Thunderpath.” She hesitated. “Then Alderheart had another vision where he saw SkyClan again—and he saw you, Hawkwing. He said you looked . . . just like me.” As she mewed the last few words, Twigpaw suddenly felt like she was being stupid. She couldn’t meet Hawkwing’s gaze anymore, so studied her paws as she added, “I just had to come and find you. I had to know whether there was any chance . . .”

For a moment no cat spoke. When Twigpaw dared to raise her head, she saw a stricken look in Hawkwing’s amber eyes.

“You’re right, Twigpaw.” His voice was filled with sorrow. “Your mother must have died, because there’s no way that Pebbleshine would ever have abandoned her kits if she were alive. I know, because . . . because she was my mate.”

Twigpaw looked up at him, her heart beating so fast she could hardly breathe. “Wait!” she choked out. “Are you saying . . . ?”

“I’m your father, Twigpaw,” Hawkwing meowed, and ran forward to nuzzle her close.

With Twigpaw in the lead, along with Leafstar and Hawkwing, the cats of SkyClan straggled along the bank of a narrow stream that wound its way through dense forest. They were traveling toward a high hill Twigpaw could see in the distance—a hill, she hoped and believed, that was one of the same ones she could see from the lake. At last the trees were thinning out, and ahead Twigpaw could see open country, with hills rising in the distance. Three sunrises had passed since she had found SkyClan, and sometimes she was afraid that they would never find the lake again.

Paw steps sounded behind her, and Twigpaw glanced back to see the pale gray tom, Sagenose, hurrying to catch up.

“Are you sure of where you’re going?” the SkyClan tom demanded, falling into step beside Twigpaw. “We’ve been traveling so long I think my paws are going to fall off!”

Twigpaw halted, suppressing a sigh. How many times have they asked me that question? “No, I’m not completely sure,” she replied. “But I think we’re heading in the right direction.” As Sagenose let out a disbelieving snort, she added, “You see that hill up ahead? I’m sure I see that on the horizon when I hunt! So we must be getting closer.”

Sagenose flicked his ears dismissively. “Is any other cat concerned,” he meowed, turning to Leafstar, “that ThunderClan hasn’t invited us? This one apprentice came looking for us, but she admits she wasn’t exactly sent.”

Twigpaw flinched, looking helplessly at Hawkwing. Could I possibly have come all this way to find my father, only to have his Clan refuse to follow me home?

Hawkwing moved closer to her until their pelts brushed. “Sagenose, we’ve discussed this,” Hawkwing responded. “Twigpaw will take us to Bramblestar. When we talk to him, we’ll know more about what the future holds.”

More cats crowded around as they heard the beginning of the argument.

Sparrowpelt shouldered his way forward and rested his tabby tail for a moment on Twigpaw’s shoulder. “Sagenose, we’ve been wandering for moons, trying to find the right home,” he meowed. “And before Echosong died, she told us to follow the blood trail in the sky, and that led us straight to Twigpaw! Echosong even said she’d had visions of a ThunderClan cat. Surely that means—”

“We still don’t know that we’ll be welcome,” Sagenose interrupted, glaring at Sparrowpelt.

“I believe it was meant to be this way,” Hawkwing cut in. “This is how we were meant to find ThunderClan.”

“Of course you feel that way,” Sagenose snapped. “She’s your kit.”

“That’s enough!” Leafstar thrust her way into the center of the group, her tail raised for silence. “Enough debating! I am your leader, and I’ve decided that we will follow Twigpaw back to ThunderClan. And that’s the end of it! Sagenose, do you want to be part of SkyClan or not?”

“Of course I do!” Sagenose blinked, sounding a little hurt. “Well, obviously I do. I’ve been through enough with you!”

“Fine,” Leafstar mewed evenly. “Then no further arguments.”

She set out again, striding determinedly along the bank of the stream, and the rest of the Clan followed.

During the argument—and even now that it was over—Twigpaw had been squirming uncomfortably. I hope I can even find ThunderClan. And that they’re willing to take me back . . . not to mention an entire new Clan. . . . Lilyheart’s words echoed in her mind, from the Clan meeting just before she’d run off. This isn’t the right time to find your kin.

But surely things had improved since Twigpaw had left?

Leaving the last of the trees behind them, the cats struck out into open country, drawing nearer to the hill Twigpaw thought was close to the Clans’ territory. Sunhigh was long past by the time they reached it and trudged up the slope to the top.

As she crested the rise and looked out across the land ahead, Twigpaw halted as if she had just run into a tree. “Oh!” she exclaimed. She had expected to see the Thunderpath and the tunnel where she and Violetpaw had been born. Instead the ground sloped gently away in front of her, covered with bushes and clumps of fern. Down in the bottom of the valley the bushes gave way to dense woodland; here and there Violetpaw caught the glimmer of water.

“Is everything okay?” Leafstar asked, padding up to stand beside her.

“Oh—uh—yes,” Twigpaw stammered. She didn’t want to tell the SkyClan leader that, once again, she had no idea where she was.

Bracing herself resolutely, she led the way down into the trees.

A narrow stream trickled through the undergrowth, and Leafstar decided that they should hunt and camp there for the night. Twigpaw found it difficult to sleep, shifting restlessly in the nest she had made under an elder bush. She was too worried about the next day’s journey.

How long will SkyClan go on following me, if I can’t lead them to the lake soon?

Not long after the cats set off the following morning, they emerged from a thick bank of fern onto a strip of grass that bordered the hard black surface of a Thunderpath. Monsters were roaring up and down it in both directions, their bright colors glittering in the sunlight. Twigpaw’s belly churned as she remembered the monster that had struck her when she fell from the tree.

“Do we have to cross here?” Hawkwing asked.

Twigpaw nodded. She knew that a Thunderpath lay between the lake and the place where she had found SkyClan; she could only hope that this was the same one. It looked very different from the area where the tunnel was.

But it must be the right one, she told herself. How many Thunderpaths do Twolegs need?

Twigpaw waited with the SkyClan cats in a line along the grass verge until Leafstar gave the order to cross. Twigpaw could hear the growl of an approaching monster as her paws skimmed across the Thunderpath, but every cat had reached safety on the other side before it swept past on its round black paws.

“Now where do we go?” Tinycloud asked. The pregnant white she-cat was leaning on Sparrowpelt’s shoulder, and she looked exhausted. “Is it much farther?”

I hope it isn’t, Twigpaw thought, gesturing into the trees with her tail. “This way.”

Sunhigh was still some way off when Twigpaw rounded a bramble thicket and halted at the edge of a clearing. In the middle was a cluster of weird rocks made out of flat pieces of wood. Tasting the air, she picked up the faint scent of Twolegs.

“Oh, I don’t believe it!” Plumwillow exclaimed as she followed Twigpaw around the bramble thicket. “You have Twolegs near your territory, too?”

“Twolegs are everywhere,” Sandynose responded, touching his mate’s shoulder with his tail-tip. “We’re not staying here, are we?” he asked Twigpaw.

Memories were scrambling into Twigpaw’s head. She had never seen this place before, but she remembered Alderheart telling her about his journey to the gorge, and how he had his companions had stopped at a greenleaf Twolegplace and eaten delicious Twoleg food. This must be the very place!

“No,” she replied to Sandynose, “but it means we don’t have much farther to go.”

As they left the greenleaf Twolegplace behind, the trees began to thin out. Soon Twigpaw and the SkyClan cats were faced with a steep slope covered with wiry grass and gorse thickets; here and there outcrops of rock poked through the turf. A stiff breeze swept down from the ridge; Twigpaw’s whiskers twitched with excitement at the familiar scents it brought with it.

“Don’t tell me we have to climb that!” Tinycloud groaned.

“Yes, we do.” Twigpaw replied. “But we’re very close to the ThunderClan camp now. You’ll see!”

Leafstar took the lead as the cats toiled up the slope, while Sparrowpelt and Hawkwing helped Tinycloud. A few tail-lengths from the top, Twigpaw bounded ahead and let out a caterwaul of joy as she reached the ridge, digging her claws into the tough grass.

“Look down there!” she meowed as the SkyClan cats struggled up to join her. “There’s the lake—and the horseplace—and you can’t see it from here, but the ThunderClan camp is down there, too. We’re almost home!”

Yowls of excitement followed her announcement, and Hawkwing gave Twigpaw’s ears an approving lick. “I knew you would find the way,” he meowed, resting his tail over Twigpaw’s shoulders. “I’m very glad Alderheart took you and your sister in,” he added.

“So am I,” Twigpaw purred.

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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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