Silence fell over the area. Not a single rustle, mewl or subtle heartbeat could be heard. Yet Whitestar remained unaffected. Darkstorm turned her head frantically, searching for something in her brother’s eyes that said he knew what was going on, but he had a look of pure bewilderment on his face. Whitestar was just staring blankly, half smiling but maintaining his seriousness. Echostar was the first to speak, though she was entirely unproductive. “W-what?” She mumbled. She then shook her head briskly, shaking off any hesitation. “To what, dare I ask?”
The ThunderClan cats stayed quiet, lowering themselves down to the ground in embarrassment, while the rest of the crowd started to mutter words of confusion, anger and fear. “You’re crazy, Whitegaze!” An anonymous ShadowClan warrior called out, refusing to respect his nine lives after what he’d just said.
Whitestar responded with a noticeable flinch. “To whoever said that, I would like to remind you that my name is now Whitestar. StarClan has given me my nine lives. I am a fully fledged leader.”
“Prove it!” A RiverClan cat called out. “Let me rip one of them out of you!”
“SILENCE!” Creekstar bellowed. She tilted her head toward the moon; clouds were creeping towards it, but it was still bright and completely visible. “Whitestar, please forgive my loud-mouthed warrior. He’ll be picking ticks off of the elders for a quarter moon when we return home.”
The furious RiverClan cat bolted out of the crowd and through the bushes, excusing himself from the gathering. It was surprisingly, Blackflame, a senior warrior of RiverClan who hadn’t stepped foot into the elder’s den since he was an apprentice. Whitestar dipped his head to the calico she-cat. “Thank you, Creekstar, but I honestly don’t think he deserves to be punished. He is a loyal warrior. I understand his hesitation towards questioning the warrior code. I understand all of your hesitation as well.” He said, clearly addressing the rest of the crowd.
Darkstorm leaned over to her brother. “Change the warrior code…he’s really serious about this?”
Canyonstone shrugged. “I’m not sure. I don’t know much about him…even though I grew up with him as deputy. All he ever did was what was expected of him. He never let his personality show.”
Darkstorm looked back up at the ThunderClan leader, narrowing her eyes in suspicion. “And those white, sightless eyes…how did he ever manage to become leader?”
“Now, to answer Echostar’s question, there are a few things that I’d like to change“
“A few things? Cliffstar interrupted. “Isn’t it more than enough to want to change just one thing?”
“Calm down, please, the warrior code has been around since the joining of the four Clans. It is outdated and it is high time for a change. First, I would like to change the rule that a cat cannot be made deputy unless he has first mentored an apprentice. I would also like to add a few more requirements. The ability to mentor a young cat, I think, has little to do with one’s ability to lead. A leader is not there to teach its Clan, but to protect and command them. Next, a cat that is half-Clan, or has the blood of a kitty-pet, loner, or rogue should not be permitted to be named deputy.”
Upon hearing the word “half-Clan” Darkstorm immediately looked to Canyonstone, who was bristling and clearly holding back a livid growl.
“Next, I would like to—“
“Hold it right there Whitestar, this is ridiculous!” Creekstar boomed, obviously renouncing her previous open-mindedness towards Whitestar’s ideas. “Have you forgotten about Mistystar? She was once the leader of RiverClan and she was half ThunderClan! What about Firestar? The famous ThunderClan leader who was a kittypet! StarClan showed their approval by giving them nine lives! You have no right to add those rules to the code!”
“You are failing to see what mediocre leaders they were. Firestar was weak, everyone knows that. And Mistystar was the product of Bluestar—Bluefur at the time—and Oakheart, two deputies that ignored the warrior code to be together. It should not be encouraged; therefore half-Clan cats should be shamed by knowing that they are disallowed to be deputy.”
“That doesn’t make any sense!” Creekstar argued. “Who are we to punish a cat for the mistakes of their parents?”
“That was my next point.” Creekstar backed against the tree trunk. “Furthermore, any cat that mates with a member of a rival Clan shall be exiled. Their kits will stay with the Clan in which they were born and will not be permitted to know their parents—“
“Wait!” Echostar yowled. “Look!” She gestured up at the sky; dense clouds were now moving over the moon. She glared harshly at Whitestar. “This gathering is over.”
With a quick hiss in the new leader’s face, she leaped down from the tree and motioned for her Clan to follow her. The other two leaders did the same. Whitestar remained on his branch, staring straight ahead. “Think about what I’ve said to all of you!” He called. Jumping down to the ground, he flicked his tail over his son’s ear as he trotted past him. “Rockfall, lead the Clan home. I’d like to see if I can change Creekstar’s mind before I go.”
Darkstorm was reluctant to go with her Clan, but with one final, anxious glance at her brother, she got swept away in the stream of cats that poured past her. She quickly located her deputy, who was walking briskly behind Cliffstar. “Tumblestep!” She shouted.
“Is that it? We’re just going to leave?”
“What choice do we have? Clouds have covered the moon! No one wants to listen to that mouse-brain’s ideas! Let’s just return home and forget that this ever happened!”
“Forget it? We can’t just forget it! He wants to change the warrior code, for StarClan’s sake!”
“Darkstorm!” Cliffstar’s paw slammed down in front of her. “Enough. We will not speak of this. Tonight, we discovered that Dawnstar has been succeeded by a fool. It is unfortunate, yes, but can we do anything about it? No. The code can’t be changed unless all four leaders vote on it. So let it go.” Se whirled around and darted to the head of the group.
Tumblestep shrugged at Darkstorm and ran after his leader. Darkstorm followed, her heart still pounding from the stress of it all.
As the ShadowClan cats flowed back into the camp, Bearclaw poked his head out of the warriors den and widened his eyes at the sight of the distressed cats. “What’s going on? What happened at the gathering that’s got everybody in a fit like this?” He said as he approached Cliffstar, followed by some other murmuring cats.
Cliffstar’s ears were flat against her head. She huffed and turned away from him. “I will not speak of this now nor will I ever. You can all talk about it if you wish, but I am going back to my den and sleeping until sun high.”
Tumblestep kept behind her, tripping as he hopped away. “Me too!”
Darkstorm reached out as they left, wishing that her leader would address the situation. Bearclaw, too, watched his leader and deputy run away to sleep off the problem. “What happened?” He asked again.
Behind Darkstorm, the cats that were at the gathering were beginning to walk off with their friends; none of them so much as looked in Bearclaw’s direction. “At the gathering…” Darkstorm gulped between words. “A-at the gathering Whitestar tried to change the warrior code.” She said it as if she herself didn’t even believe that it had happened. When her eyes met Bearclaw’s again, she was surprised to see that he was perfectly calm.
“Is that all?” He said.
“Well…yeah! It was awful! He said all of these terrible things about half-Clan cats and that their parents should be exiled and-and…” She choked on her words as her breathing quickened enough to make her cough.
Bearclaw moved closer to her, his eyes now wide with empathy rather than confusion.”Half-Clan cats?”
“Yes! Half-Clan cats! He wants to alter the warrior code so that half-Clan cats will be shamed!”
Bearclaw was never known to care about anyone or anything, but in that moment, Darkstorm saw that suddenly, he cared about what she was saying. She did not know him well. They had been apprentices together, she remembered training with him on occasion or hunting with him, but friendship was out of the question. “Come with me.” He said, pushing her along as he walked.
She was completely dumb-founded by his actions, but she didn’t question him. They hurried through the forest and got as far as the clearing, but they stayed just at the edge of the forest, still shrouded by pine trees. “Now, what exactly did Whitestar say he wanted to do?”
“Everything I already told you…he wants to change the warrior code so that half-Clan cats are punished for being born. And he wants to exile all the parents of half-Clan cats.”
Bearclaw sat down, shaking his head. “The other leaders didn’t like that too much, I take it?”
“No, they hated it! And StarClan didn’t like it either…they covered the moon and ended the gathering. Whitestar seemed totally unaffected by it all.”
“I always knew something like this would happen when Dawnstar died. Leave it to her, the kind, accepting leader, to choose a blind eyed mouse-brain as her deputy.” He paused to dig his claws into the earth in frustration. “Darkstorm.” He looked straight at her. “I’m half-Clan, and you’re half-Clan too, aren’t you?”
She froze, shocked at how quickly he was able to admit such a thing. After a few seconds of silence, she inched her little mouth open. “Y-yes, I’m half ThunderClan.”
“As far as anybody else knows, my father is Loudstorm…but my real father is Blackflame of RiverClan.”
“Him? H-he was at the gathering! He tried to pick a fight with Whitestar before he even said any of those horrible things and then just took off when Creekstar told him to keep his mouth shut!”
“I see…well, I can’t say it surprises me in the least. My father can be quite vengeful.”
“Wait, if you’re half-Clan, then why are you being so calm about all this?”
“Darkstorm, listen to me, Whitestar is a fool. Hopefully ThunderClan will realize that soon and drive him out. Fools don’t get what they want. At least not around here, because it sounds to me like the other leaders aren’t going to cooperate with him for a second.”
Darkstorm slowly nodded. “Yeah…yeah you’re right. He’s out of his mind if he thinks he’s going to get any of the other leaders to change the code.”
Bearclaw tucked his paws under his chest as he hunkered down, gazing in tranquil silence at the clearing outside the trees. Darkstorm did the same and once she had calmed enough, she deiced to ask him a question. “So…is this why you’re always alone? Why you don’t have any friends? You don’t have to be ashamed of being half-Clan, you know. I’m not, even after what Whitestar said.”
“No. That’s not the reason. It’s not anything like that. Trust me you don’t want to know the reason why.”
She wanted to press harder for an answer, but he had already stood up and started to pad away. “Come on, I’ll walk you back to camp.”
After Bearclaw had opened up to her, her nerves were calmed and she was able to enjoy the peaceful walk back to camp. No one acknowledged that they’d been gone or appeared to be shaken by the night’s events. “This is all so bizarre…” She commented, looking around at all the cats lounging around or walking together into their dens.
Bearclaw nodded. “It is. I’ve never seen the Clan act so careless before. The code may not be important to me, but I know it is to them.”
Darkstorm searched his face for some greater meaning behind his words. She knew he was always aloof, but did he really not care about the code? Even though Darkstorm frequently broke it to meet with her brother and mother, she still followed the other rules as closely as she could. Bearclaw huffed and stretched, interrupting her thoughts. “Well, I think I’m going to go get some rest. You should, too, Darkstorm. You were really shaken up tonight.”
She looked after him as he swaggered into the warriors den. Since everyone else had already retired, she decided that she would as well. Curling up in her nest next to Timberheart and Bearclaw, she fell into a troubled sleep.
She awoke before the sun and for once, she thought she’d wake up her apprentice early. She stood up, stretched, and noticed an absence in the den. Bearclaw was no longer in his nest. Yawning as she moved, she exited the den and with a quick survey of the camp, concluded that he’d gone off somewhere by himself. She wondered if he did that often, and she’d just never been awake to see it. She walked a few fox-lengths forward and heard someone walking behind her. She looked over her shoulder to see Bearclaw returning to the warriors den. He glanced at her coyly before he ducked back into the den.
Darkstorm wondered about Bearclaw often. There was something mysterious about him that no other cat seemed to take an interest in. She would mull over befriending him, but she had other matters to attend to. She dropped down into a hunter’s crouch to be sure that she would go undetected. The sun was just about to peak over the hills to signal the start to a new day. On more than one occasion, she had been loudly awoken by Pinepaw. It was time to return the favor. She inched into the den, grinning at how peaceful the future warriors’ looked. She drew in a deep breath, reared back and yowled, “GET UP YOU LAZY FURBALLS, DO YOU WANT TO BE WARRIORS OR DON’T YOU?!”
The apprentices jumped awake, howling in shock. Pinepaw and Oakpaw scrambled around and groggily bumped heads, for the second time in a moon. Darkstorm rolled over cackling loud enough to wake the whole Clan. “Darkstorm, you piece of mouse dung!” Pinepaw squealed.
His mentor could hardly hear him over the sound of her own laughter. “Serves you right!”
Mosspaw and Shypaw, who’d spoken to Darkstorm very few times, failed to see the humor in the situation.
“Come on, all of you. It’s early battle training today!” Darkstorm waved her tail enthusiastically, but only Oakpaw and Pinepaw followed her.
“Says who?” Mosspaw growled defiantly. “You’re not my mentor.”
“But I am.” Loudstorm appeared next to Darkstorm, undoubtedly persuaded out of his nest by her booming laughter. “It won’t kill you all to wake up early for once.” He smiled at Darkstorm. “Take them all out and work them hard. I’ll let the other mentors know.”
“Thanks! You can all come join us any time you like.”
“We’ll be out there shortly.”
“You heard him! Everyone come with me!”
While Pinepaw and Oakpaw were excited to have a group training session, the other three apprentices were not so keen. They lagged behind in the group, complaining quietly to each other while the two siblings walked on either side of Darkstorm, playfully arguing over which battle technique was better. Darkstorm could have interjected at any given moment to tell them that techniques vary greatly from cat to cat, but she found it much more amusing to watch their banter. Once she found a suitable spot for the day’s lesson, she perched on a tall stone and looked down on them. “Okay everyone, Sandypaw, Oakpaw and Shypaw are invading RiverClan warriors. They are trying to capture that pine tree over there. Mosspaw and Pinepaw are defending it and they’re out numbered! While they wait for more warriors to arrive and help, they have to defend the tree for as long as possible. To capture the tree, all three RiverClan warriors must have one paw touching the tree for at least five seconds. Clear?”
Though still reluctant, they nodded to her.
“Good. I’ll be watching carefully and I won’t judge you until the battle is over. On the count of three, the battle begins. One…two…”
Pinepaw and Oakpaw glared at each other, embracing their roles as enemies.
Completely ignoring the parameters of the lesson, Pinepaw and Oakpaw dove into each other, snarling and smacking each other with sheathed claws while the rest of the group darted towards the tree. It took them a few seconds to notice that their teams had gone off without them and rather than prove their skills to each other, they wanted to prove them to Darkstorm, as well as the other two mentors that wandered into the scene in that instant. Loudstorm and Timberheart joined Darkstorm atop the boulder and got comfortable beside her.
“What a show.” Loudstorm commented. He laughed through his nostrils. “It’s like watching kits brawl outside the nursery.”
“They’re not that bad.” Darkstorm argued.
Shypaw slipped on a dry leaf and skidded into the tree, then started to shout that she had claimed it and won the battle. “You did not!” Mosspaw growled and pulled her away from the tree by her scruff.
“Okay, they’re pretty bad, but not as bad as they could be.”
Timberheart was the next to laugh, only much louder and totally unapologetic. “Did you hear that, ‘paws? You’re not as bad as you could be!”
“Stop it!” Darkstorm nudged him hard in the shoulder. “Don’t make fun of them. You were an apprentice once too, you know.”
“True. I don’t remember my training sessions being quite so sloppy though…” He smirked up at Darkstorm, clearly mocking her abilities as a mentor—not the abilities of the apprentices.
She curled her lip at him before returning her focus to the “battle”. Timberheart was right, of course, she was a young mentor, but she was skilled enough to train an apprentice. “Okay, everyone stop!” She demanded.
Each apprentice halted and stared up at her, puzzled; tufts of fur floated down around them.
“What was that?” She asked, leaping down from the rock. “What’s your strategy?” She stood nose-to-nose with Mosspaw.
The tortoiseshell she-cat had her ears pinned back against her head. “Do we really need a strategy to defend a tree?”
“Yes. You do. You’re training for a real battle. Act like it.”
She looked up at Loudstorm, her mentor, glaring hotly at him. He only smiled and shrugged. “I’ll act like I know what I’m doing when you act like you know what you’re doing. You’re the mentor, so teach us! What are we doing wrong?”
The other apprentices gathered around, attentive. Darkstorm shook her head back and forth, back and forth. “What weren’t you doing wrong, is the easier question to answer.”
She saw disappointment come over the group like a dense storm cloud, but she could feel no sympathy for them. “Look, part of doing things right means doing it wrong first. That’s how you learn.”
“She’s right.” A new voice rang through the trees. “Even if she’s not you’re mentor, she is a mentor.” It was Mistydawn, Shypaw’s mentor. “Say…who mentored you, Darkstorm?”
She was distracted for a moment by Mistydawn’s narrow, brilliant amber eyes. “Timberheart mentored me.”
“How wonderful it must be for the two of you to be mentoring the closest siblings in the Clan!”
“Yeah, I love it!”
Mistydawn closed her eyes and grinned warmly. Darkstorm had a hard time believing that such a gentle cat could ever lay a claw on anyone or anything; it was fitting for her to have Shypaw as an apprentice. “Now,” she began, “why don’t we try something different? Darkstorm, I admire your efforts but I think it may be a bit too early for this lot to attempt an attack and defend mission.”
“All right, you take over for a while then.” She stepped back a few mouse-lengths and nodded to her.
“So…” The silver she-cat paced back and forth in front of the line of apprentices. “I’ve heard that you’re ‘not as bad as you could be’. Well I’d like to change that. What you want to be is: ‘not as good as you could be.’ Your goal as a warrior should be to never stop improving. Just because you’ve earned your warrior name, does not mean that you’ve learned all you can learn. Don’t forget that.” She sat down in front of them and licked her front paw casually. “So tell me what your strengths and weaknesses are. If you don’t know, we’re going to find out.”
“Uhh…” Oakpaw hummed. “I think I’m better at hunting than at fighting.”
“Let me see.”
Oakpaw’s yellow eyes traveled around and around and stopped at her paws.
“Well come on, step forward.”
She padded up to Mistydawn, who was quite intimidating, being about twice Oakpaw’s size.
“Hunting skills can be useful in a battle, too. You can sneak up on your opponents and attack them from behind. Show me your hunter’s crouch.”
She dropped down, almost flat against the ground. Her belly was just high enough to not brush the dirt beneath her. Mistydawn sauntered around her, nodding and mumbling to herself. “Excellent.” She mewed. “Just make sure to be aware of your tail. It’s there for balance, not to make extra noise by brushing the leaves on the dusty ground.”
Oakpaw looked behind her and lifted her skinny tail up a mouse-length. “How’s this?”
“Perfect. Now stalk around a bit, show me how you move. Is everyone watching?”
Darkstorm noticed that Pinepaw was looking away subtly. He wasn’t as talented as his sister and he knew it. Mistydawn was smiling brightly at Oakpaw’s stalking technique. She’s such a great mentor… Darkstorm thought. She really knows what she’s talking about. I hope I can be as good as her someday. “Let me see you pounce and we’ll find out if what you said was true or not.”
“What did I say, exactly?” Oakpaw wondered nervously.
“That you were a better hunter than a fighter. Prove it to me.” Mistydawn sat down and started to clean herself again.
“Okay…” Oakpaw spotted a leaf a few fox-lengths in front of her and decided on it for her target. She reared back slowly and deliberately, wiggled her hindquarters and flew gracefully into the air, landing directly onto the ‘prey’.
“Good.” The senior warrior praised. “But your jump was a little too long.”
Oakpaw spun around to look at her and saw that she had her eyes closed and was aloofly drawing her paw over her ears. “Did you even watch?”
“I didn’t need to. I felt the vibrations in the ground and I listened for when you leaped and landed. Your back paws scraped the ground noisily when you jumped. If that leaf were a mouse it might have run away by the time your paws met the dirt again.”
Darkstorm’s jaws hung open in amazement.
“Now, if this were a battle situation, you wouldn’t have to worry as much about being quiet. Under the shroud of yowling cats, tails or paws brushing the ground won’t be so easily heard. You can use a sloppier technique, but only if you still manage to land on your target. A leap into battle must be a much stronger leap than a leap onto a mouse. Understand?” She had risen and approached the young she-cat to look down at her.
“…Yeah. Thanks.” Oakpaw managed to grin, even though every cat could smell the anxiety on her.
“Well I hope you all learned something useful today. It was nice to get all the mentors and apprentices together for once. We have Darkstorm to thank for that.” She nodded in her direction and blinked appreciatively.
“Yeah, thanks a lot Darkstorm…” Mosspaw muttered under her breath.
Loudstorm pricked his ears and glowered down at his apprentice, but Darkstorm approached her gently and ignored her sarcasm. “You’re very welcome, Mosspaw.” She meowed.
The tiny corpulent she-cat responded by averting her gaze in embarrassment and then hurrying to catch up with the other apprentices as they started to shuffle away. “She wants to be a warrior so badly.” Loudstorm had appeared on Darkstorm’s right side, purring quietly in amusement. “She hasn’t quite figured out that it takes moons of training to get there, however. I suspect it’ll sink in soon, but before then she’ll be a cynical little runt.”
“She’s only been your apprentice for a half moon, right?”
“Correct. She hasn’t made much progress and she complains every step of the way.” He snorted resentfully. “She isn’t what I expected from my first apprentice. You got lucky with Pinepaw. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you discipline him.”
“I haven’t yet, but every apprentice fowls up sooner or later. I’m prepared for it.”
They heard Timberheart jump down behind them. “Come on. Why don’t we all go hunting before we return to camp? I’m starving.”
The three of them returned with two squirrels and two mice. They gathered around the fresh-kill pile, chattering about their morning. The sun was still high in the sky and there was much to do, but the apprentices would be doing most of the dirty work, like cleaning the elders’ bedding and fetching them water. Grayscar was directing that task. Somehow, Pinepaw had managed to get out of it, which was made clear once he’d approached the fresh-kill pile and picked up one of the mice they had caught. “I didn’t do any hunting today…” He admitted. “Is it okay that I eat this?”
“As long as you paid attention during training today.” Darkstorm responded.
He got comfortable next to his mentor while Loudstorm and Timberheart stood to take their leave. “Honeyfoot asked us to help her gather some herbs earlier today.” Timberheart explained. “We’d better go before she gets annoyed.”
“See you later, you two.” Loudstorm bade.
“Bye!” Darkstorm lifted her head for only a second before she dove hungrily back into her squirrel.
Pinepaw picked at his mouse thoughtfully. “Hey Darkstorm…”
She looked up, swiping her tongue around her mouth.
“What exactly does the warrior code say about half-Clan cats?”
She looked quickly back down at her food and took a big bite to buy her some time to think. “Not much, actually. All it says is that you must remain loyal to your own Clan.”
“Then…why is it so bad to have a mate in another Clan? As long as you’re still loyal to your own Clan, shouldn’t a cat be able to choose any mate they want?”
“It’s a bit more…complicated than that.” She struggled to find the right words to say to her young, impressionable apprentice. “Think about this for a moment. Imagine you fell in love with a WindClan cat and she had your kits in her Clan. Then one day, a horrendous battle broke out between us and WindClan and you spotted your true love attacking me. Who would you defend?”
He furled his brow in deep thought. “It would have to be you. I would defend you no matter what.”
“You’re not listening to me.” She fidgeted with the squirrel fur in frustration. “I know you’ve never been in love, but just try to imagine it, okay?”
His eyes rolled up and he thought some more.
“Think about the way your parents act around each other—or think about how loyal you are to your sister, you love her don’t you?”
“Of course I do!”
“Then imagine she was a WindClan cat and you saw her attacking me. Who would you defend?”
He finally understood the severity of the question. “I see the problem.”
“Yeah…” She dug her nose into what was left of her squirrel, hoping to find one last morsel of meat. “It’s complicated. Really, really complicated. That’s why it’s best that your loyalties remain to your Clan and only to your Clan.”
“I still don’t understand why the new ThunderClan leader wants to shame half-Clan cats.”
The conversation stung and she couldn’t tell Pinepaw why. “I think…his logic is that if the parents knew their kits would be punished for their mistakes, then it will discourage inter-Clan relations.”
“I still don’t think the kits should be punished. I wouldn’t treat a half-Clan cat any different from any other cat, but I guess it makes sense to punish the parents.”
Some day… She promised herself silently. I’ll tell him the truth.
Sleep would not come to her that night. She rose from her nest and saw once again that Bearclaw was absent. She left to take a walk in the forest, hoping to run into him along the way. Silverpelt glittered above her, completely untainted by clouds. Though it was cold, the night was crisp and clear and perfect for a walk around the woods. She walked, unknowingly fast, until she reached the clearing and stepped into it to have a look at the sky. I’ll be up there someday… Just like every cat before me. In StarClan I bet there are no borders. No fights, no prey shortages, and no crazy leaders to make me question the warrior code.
A moth fluttered by her and she became a kit again. She frolicked across the clearing, purring so loudly it shook her bones. She chased after it until it flew high above her and became nothing but a shadow against the night sky. The ThunderClan border now stood only a few fox-lengths in front of her. Just as she’d realized where she had ended up, she smelled a cat coming speedily towards it. Her hackles rose, but she soon recognized Cloudstep’s scent and she relaxed instantly. He stopped right before the border and a mouse came scampering to her feet. She pounced on it and unsheathed her claws into it, killing it swiftly. The ThunderClan warrior nudged through the bushes and appeared, surprised to see Darkstorm on the other side. “Oh!” He exclaimed. “Don’t worry. I made sure not to cross the border.”
“It’s fine. Here, you should have it anyway. It started on your territory.”
“No, it’s yours. You killed it.”
“How about we share it instead? Does that sound fair?”
He hesitated and then approached her, still being careful to stay within the ThunderClan boundaries. “Okay, sure.”
Darkstorm bit the tiny creature in half and dropped one over the border; she too was cautiously keeping her paws in her own territory. She nibbled on the mouse thoughtfully while Cloudstep devoured his in two quick gulps. “Thank you.” He grunted as he began grooming himself.
“No problem.” They shared a few instants of quiet before Darkstorm finished and started to lick her paws. “So, Cloudstep…” She began.
The white tom glanced over his shoulder anxiously and then back at her, his brow lowered. “Listen, I’m grateful that you let me share that mouse but we really shouldn’t be talking like this.”
At first she felt hurt, but then she thought of something clever to say. “Okay, but tell me, what part of the warrior code are we breaking exactly?”
He opened up his mouth to make his point, but all that came out was a sigh.
“I’m on my side of the border, and you’re on your side of the border. You were stalking a mouse on ThunderClan territory, I killed it in ShadowClan territory. I don’t think we broke any rules by splitting it.”
“Okay, okay, you’re right, but I still feel uncomfortable talking to you outside of a gathering…”
“That’s fine. Although seeing as you’re a good friend of Canyonstone’s, too, I’d like it if we could get to know one another, if it’s okay with you.”
He looked away from her, still contemplating the code. “Okay, but only for a little while.”
“I really want to know what’s been going on in ThunderClan right now after what Whitestar said at the gathering last night.”
His eyebrows folded over his eyes in a sharp glare. “Everyone does. Crowpelt, the WindClan medicine cat already came to ThunderClan earlier today, voicing his ‘deep concerns’ for our leader.”
“Of course he’s concerned.” Darkstorm inched closer to him; he inched away. “Medicine cats always worry about other Clans. And…I worry too. What he’s saying would affect all the Clans, not just ThunderClan.”
“Well, the other leaders clearly protested every suggestion he made and as long as they’re still against it, you have nothing to worry about.”
“I want to believe that…but just how persistent is he going to be about all this?”
“How should I know?” Cloudstep’s anger suddenly spiked and the fur on his tail bristled and fluffed out. “He’s only been our leader for a few days, he doesn’t tell us anything. But I still trust him…I always trust our leader. If he wants to change the warrior code, then I know he must have a good reason for doing it. And even though he’s not your leader, I think you should trust him too. We should all trust the leaders. They became leaders because they were meant to.”
His words were biased. He trusted Whitestar over any of the other four leaders, yet he stood there and tried to tell Darkstorm to trust the cat that was trying to shame half-Clan warriors. It didn’t make sense to trust any leader other than your own. Despite her whirling thoughts, she had run out of things to say and a thick silence fell over them that made both their pelts hot with discomfort. “I should return to my Clan now…” Cloudstep mewed gingerly. “Maybe I’ll see you at the next gathering.” He darted back into the trees without waiting on a farewell from Darkstorm.
She stood there stiffly, locking her eyes on the tail of the mouse she had eaten. Was this how the four Clans were supposed to be? An anxiety ridden dispute over a puny piece of prey was surely not what the first Clans had in mind. Historically, though, cats fought constantly when they all shared a single territory and the Clans had thrived as four for countless moons. It would be unwise to question any of it now.Breathing out a deep sigh, Darkstorm turned back into her own Clan as well.