“Please,” Mintfern pleaded, kneading the ground where her sister stood with her claws. She was vaguely aware that she was sobbing now. “Please help her. I love her. I’ll do anything.”
Past the darkness, the shadow cat smiled.
Down in a Hole
Original Concept by Patch
(Go check out Holly's version of the story too!)
Mintpaw scrambled up to her sister as the rest of RiverClan broke away from a throng. She pushed past a small tom, who hissed, but the blue-white she-cat ignored him. An orange-brown tabby excused herself from her new mentor, whose whiskers were twitching in amusement, and trotted over to her sister.
“Can it wait?” Tawnypaw asked just as Mintpaw approached. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “I need to start training with Acornfall right away!” Mintpaw gave her sister a stern look of disapproval. She shook her head furiously.
“Not at all.” Mintpaw gazed at her sister sadly, hoping Tawnypaw would take the hint already. “Tawnypaw, you broke the promise.”
Tawnypaw’s eyebrows raised. This was not the reaction she expected. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she replied, baffled.
“Yes you do.” Mintpaw’s glare was back and livid. She took a step closer to Tawnypaw. “We made a pact to be sisters forever. We would train together. We wouldn’t let anything between us.” Mintpaw’s voice was nearly a snarl. “And you… abandoned me. How am I supposed to train without a sister?”
Tawnypaw’s eyes softened. “Mintpaw, we’re no longer kits. I know I made the promise but…” her orange eyes glistened as she spoke to Mintpaw. “...but there is a great big world out there and now that I see it…” Tawnypaw trailed off and shook out her coat. “In that pact, we swore we’d be happy. Being a medicine cat is my destiny-my happiness-, and being a warrior is yours.”
“We can’t go fishing together, though,” Mintpaw meowed, disappointed heavily. “Stonefang said he’d teach us to be the best hunters in the Clan, just like him.”
“And you will be,” Tawnypaw promised, smiling slightly. “You don’t need me to make Dad proud. You’re bold, headstrong, and wonderful, Mintpaw. You take the most after Mom. Dad needs a cat like her in his life again, and I’m afraid I can’t be that cat.”
“But I can’t make Dad happy by myself!” Mintpaw exclaimed. Her voice was nearly a wail. “I can’t do anything by myself!”
“In time, you will be able to do anything,” Tawnypaw mused. Her eyes gleamed with wisdom beyond her years. Deep down, Mintpaw couldn’t believe her sister was only six moons old. Acornfall deserved her as an apprentice. She would be a great medicine cat. The only thing holding her down was... Mintpaw.
Mintpaw sniffled. Tawnypaw noticed and pulled her sister in close, and Mintpaw was slightly grateful for the warmth in the orange cat’s fur. “I’m afraid of losing you,” Mintpaw whispered, voice cracking. Tawnypaw adjusted her head to look Mintpaw in the eyes.
“You will never lose me,” she vowed quietly. “We may be separated by interests, but we are sisters. We can’t help that.” Mintpaw couldn’t help a smile.
“Mom said to always keep each other,” Mintpaw meowed. “And that’s what we’re gonna do, right?”
“Bingo,” Tawnypaw whispered, grinning.
Leader: Badgerstar: broad white tom with black patches and a black stripe down his nose.
Deputy: Rainstep: blue-gray tom with elegantly long legs and watery blue eyes
Medicine cat: Acornfall: light brown tabby tom with a long tail and green eyes
Warriors: Stonefang: broad gray tom with orange eyes
Fleetcloud: lithe ginger she-cat with small yellow eyes
Ottershade: dark brown tom
Shellfoot: off-white tom with clear blue eyes
Spottedcreek: dainty tortoiseshell she-cat with a thick, pluming tail
Mintfern: white she-cat with tints of blue-gray and green eyes
Softwater: white she-cat with very soft fur and blue eyes
Reedclaw: orange tom with brown eyes
Sharpfire: dark ginger tom with ragged fur
Websplash: silver tabby she-cat with stunning golden eyes
Mallowsong: small, dark gray tom
Tawnyflower: orange-brown she-cat with thick fur and orange eyes, medicine cat
Minnowpaw: solid silver she-cat with yellow eyes
Bumblepaw: silver she-cat with black stripes and large green eyes
Midgepaw: gray and brown tom with yellow eyes
Puddleheart: silvery blue she-cat with a glossy pelt, nursing Sharpfire’s kits: Yarrowkit and Eelkit (two moons old)
Chapter One: The Oddities Edit
“Wake up already! You’re on dawn patrol!”
Mintfern blinked awake to the grinning face of Reedclaw. His gentle brown eyes gleamed teasingly above her as he nudged her to her paws. She grunted and heaved herself to her paws as Reedclaw padded over to a small cluster of cats. Blinking the sleep out of her eyes, she began to recognize them.
Leading the patrol was Sharpfire. He was feared by other Clans, mainly because of his fierce skill in battle. Mintfern remembered when she was an apprentice, he had taken the last two lives of the former ThunderClan leader, Sootstar, after Sootstar killed Sharpfire’s sister. However, he had a gentle side and often joked around with the rest of the Clan. His mate Puddleheart had recently given birth to his kits, who were adorable. Mintfern was surprised he wasn’t deputy.
Beside Sharpfire was Fleetcloud and her apprentice, Minnowpaw. Fleetcloud was Mintpaw’s father’s sister, so her aunt. Fleetcloud was more like a mother to Mintfern, though. The ginger she-cat was constantly cheering Mintfern up and lifting her spirits. Minnowpaw was loyal and ambitious, just like her mentor. Mintfern could already tell she was a future deputy, if not leader. Her siblings, on the other paw, were another story. In a nutshell, Midgepaw was annoying and Bumblepaw was stupid.
Reedclaw had just begun a conversation with Softwater when Mintfern approached. Mintfern didn’t know Softwater very well. She was apprenticed just after Mintfern became a warrior, and talked with the same strange accent her deceased parents did. Mintfern didn’t recall Softwater’s parents very well. She remembered they were weird, and didn’t much like fish, but hadn’t been RiverClan-born. Softwater was an only kit, but her beauty made up for it. She had a long, delicate tail and the softest white fur Mintfern had ever seen. She often heard other cats hitting on her at Gatherings, asking if she was from StarClan. Mintfern thought she was alright, but didn’t like her all that much.
Speaking of liking cats…
Mintfern shook her head. The patrol had hardly left camp and she was already over thinking. But now that she was on the topic, she snuck a glance at Reedclaw. She was often asked (mainly by Reedclaw’s best friend, Mallowsong) is they were mates, when were the kits going to happen, etc. The truth was, Mintfern wasn’t sure. She did like Reedclaw in a like like way, but they had never discussed actually becoming mates. One day they both got annoyed at cats asking, and stopped saying no. But Mintfern wasn’t planning on having kits anytime soon.
“Nice weather we’ve been having lately,” Reedclaw commented, glancing up at the sky as Sharpfire left behind a scent-mark. Sharpfire let out a low whistle.
“Too moist,” he replied, “and a bit windy. We’ll be having some green-leaf storms soon. Lucky us.”
Fleetcloud shrugged. “That’s no excuse to not enjoy right now,” she pointed out. “It’s very refreshing, especially after swimming.” Minnowpaw nodded agreement. Mintfern opened her mouth to join the conversation, but another voice cut her off.
“How do RivarClan cats prepare for summer storms?” Softwater whispered. Most of the patrol turned, surprised that she had even spoken. Mintfern sniggered at her pronunciation of RiverClan, but Fleetcloud stomped on her paw.
“Well,” Sharpfire explained slowly, “if it’s just raining with thunder and stuff, we ignore it. If a tree looks like it’s going to fall, we evacuate, but it’s never a huge threat. Flooding’s the problem. Usually we’ll just all climb the oak outside camp, kits and elders first, and wait for the waters to die down. Storms can’t be stopped, only dealt with.” Mintfern wasn’t really paying attention, but Softwater was listening with great interest. Her blue eyes were round.
“Interesting,” she meowed. "There is big storm on it's way, yes?"
Sharpfire froze. "Well... I suppose, yes. The air's been like this for a couple days now, so bigger than normal." Mintfern felt uneasy at the strange tone he used. Softwater nodded and stopped talking after that, and the patrol continued on. Mintfern would steal glances of Softwater from time to time, and every time the white she-cat was staring at the sky.
The second the patrol got back to camp, Mintfern saw the large fresh-kill pile. Her eyes widened and Websplash, obviously proud of the haul, strode up.
“I know, right?” she squealed, practically bouncing. “I lead the hunt today, and the lake was so shallow, it was insane!” Mintfern laughed. Suddenly, a loud “Moooooom” could be heard from across camp. Websplash rolled her head before excusing herself and darting away, meowing “Coming, Midgepaw!”
Mintfern chuckled before choosing a small minnow from the pile. She began to approach Reedclaw, but felt a fluffy tail land on her spine before she got anywhere. She turned around with a sense of dread, and her fears were confirmed.
“What do you want, Tawnyflower?” she growled. The ginger she-cat returned her stare evenly.
“It’s greenleaf now, so every cat is getting a checkup,” she explained. There was no emotion in her tone. “It’s your turn.”
Mintfern followed her sister wordlessly to the medicine cat’s den after dropping her fish. There was an awkward gap between them that Mintfern wanted to fill, but at the same time, was glad for. She entered the den and gagged immediately.
Although she and her sister had drawn apart and had no wishes of reconciling, Mintfern hated the medicine den on its own. It was dark and smelled like bile and sickness. For this reason, she had a tendency to suck it up every time a cough or chill passed her.
“I got Mintfern,” Tawnyflower explained to Acornfall, her mentor. Mintfern’s eyes adjusted, and she was slightly startled as she realized Acornfall’s leafy gaze was on her. Tawnyflower was looking at Acornfall weirdly. “Why are all the herbs in a pile?” she asked, scrunching up her nose. “That’s quite unorganized.”
“Storm’s comin’,” Acornfall explained. “I don’t want to lose them or myself.” He gave Mintfern a brief set of commands- open her mouth, cough for him, hold out her paw.
“Done,” he meowed. “Tawnyflower, could you go grab Softwater next?”
Mintfern stood outside the den and watched as her sister left her without a goodbye. She watched through narrowed eyes as Tawnyflower approached Softwater. Both she-cats were giggling as they padded up to the den. Mintfern stayed suspicious the whole time. Softwater was never that friendly, and Tawnyflower was treating her more as a sister than she treated Mintfern.
Mintfern shook her head and padded off. There were other things to worry about.
Chapter Two: Conceal the Feels Edit
“Hey Mintfern! Would you mind showing Bumblepaw how to make a nest? I gotta go eat.”
“Sure thing, Spottedcreek,” Mintfern replied, curling her tongue in a yawn and padding over to the apprentices’ den. A few lazy hours had passed. A couple bored cats tried swimming, but deemed the lake oddly shallow and came back, disappointed.
When Mintfern entered the den, she saw what a mess she was getting herself into. Moss was everywhere from the ceiling to the floor, and smack in the middle was Bumblepaw, bedding smothering her striped silver fur.
“How do you mess up that badly?” she asked, gently picking a piece of moss from Bumblepaw’s head. The bubbly apprentice huffed.
“Midgepaw wouldn’t help me,” she muttered. Mintfern chuckled and began piling up the moss. "He just left with Stonefang to get more moss."
“First of all, you already have way too much moss for one cat,” she meowed, beginning to mold the appropriate amount of bedding.
“Unless you’re as fat as Midgepaw,” Bumblepaw whispered, eyes gleaming now that she was moss-free. “Hey, you still have a lot of moss. That could be enough to surprise Minnowpaw with a nest.”
“That’s a nice idea,” she replied curtly, tossing the silver tabby the extra moss. “Here, now that I’ve shown you how to make a nest, make one for your sister.”
The two worked in silence for a minute before Bumblepaw’s head raised.
“Very good,” Mintfern praised. “Tuck in the edges a bit, but you did very well for your first time.”
Bumblepaw did as told without removing her gaze from Mintfern. “Have you ever had an apprentice?” Mintfern, surprised at the question, shook her head.
“No,” she meowed, beginning to leave the den. “But I suppose I have been a warrior for a couple seasons now. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to apprentice Yarrowkit or Eelkit.”
Bumblepaw shook her head. “I dunno. Yarrowkit seemed interested in becoming medicine cat.” Mintfern stopped dead and slowly turned her head.
“Well… that’s a bit of a problem, isn’t it?” was all she could reply with.
She left without waiting for Bumblepaw to reply and snuck a glance at the medicine cat’s den. She looked over at the nursery. Eelkit was staring enviously at Minnowpaw, who was following Fleetcloud outside camp to train. He was obviously ready to fight, or, he thought he was. Yarrowkit was chasing a butterfly and ignoring everything else. What if Yarrowkit really wanted to be a medicine cat? Or worse, what if it was literally his calling? Would Tawnyflower or Acornfall become a warrior? Mintfern narrowed her eyes as she saw her sister pad across camp, politely greeting each cat she passed by and eventually sat down beside Softwater. Maybe it was Yarrowkit’s destiny, and not Tawnyflower’s, like Mintfern had predicted so long ago.
“Why so glum, chum?” Mintfern straightened her back and rounded her eyes at the sound of Shellfoot’s voice. Her former mentor’s tail was kinked over his back and he looked quite pleased.
“Why so pleased, … trees? Cheese? I can’t think of a rhyme,” Mintfern snorted, breaking into a grin. Shellfoot laughed, then followed her gaze. His smile faltered slightly.
“Are you still mad your sister became a medicine cat?” he asked seriously, staring at Mintfern curiously through his clear, watery eyes. Mintfern shook her head furiously and stared at her paws. Shellfoot sat down in front of her and raised her head with his paw so they were looking at each other face to face.
“I’m your mentor,” he meowed evenly. “Or at least, I used to be. You can tell me anything, you know.” He laughed drily. “Heck, I can probably understand what you’re mad about anyway.”
“I’m over Tawnyflower becoming a medicine cat,” Mintfern growled, unable to even believe herself. “And I don’t care. She doesn’t like me.”
Shellfoot looked over his shoulder. Mintfern saw him, tail twitching, as he watched Tawnyflower and Softwater giggling profusely. At one point, Tawnyflower rested her head on her friend’s shoulder affectionately as she laughed.
“You’re upset because Tawnyflower treats Softwater more like a sister than you,” he realized quietly. Mintfern felt her claws unsheathe and scrape at the ground impatiently.
“She promised,” she finally whispered, voice trembling, “she wouldn’t love anyone more than me. And here she is now, acting like she and Softwater are-”
Shellfoot smiled ruefully at her. “Mintfern, you’re a grown cat now. I can’t help you make decisions. You know what to do, and how to handle yourself. Now is a perfect time to reflect the maturity you’ve grown into.”
Mintfern heaved a long, drawn-out sigh. “You’re right,” she admitted. “I can handle these situations without complaints." She looked past her former mentor once more, and her eyes landed on the still conversing Tawnyflower and Softwater. Mintfern smiled. She could handle the situation herself, just like Shellfoot said.
“Hey!” She bellowed at Tawnyflower from across camp, making sure every cat could hear her.” Tawnyflower spun around, startled, and Software froze. Mintfern grinned, now that camp had gone silent, and continued triumphantly.
“Medicine cats aren’t supposed to take mates, y’know!”
Chapter Three: For Good Measure Edit
“What in StarClan was that?” Tawnyflower demanded, stomping over to Mintfern. Mintfern was on the ground, laughing maniacally. Her sister’s face had been so red, and Softwater had crept away. Courtesy of Bumblepaw’s comic relief, there was a long “ooooo” that had broken the awkward silence after Mintfern’s loud meow. It was brilliant. It was embarrassing. Mintfern was proud of herself.
Tawnyflower hissed Mintfern back to reality. “Jeez, don’t mark yourself,” Mintfern huffed, rolling up onto her paws. “It was a joke.” Tawnyflower scoffed.
“A very mean joke,” she growled. “And it can be taken very seriously. If Acornfall were to believe you-”
“But he wouldn’t, ‘cause you’re such a great medicine cat,” Mintfern purred drily. “Besides, you said it yourself. You don’t like anyone, and technically, you can’t. Now if you became a warrior-”
“Enough about that already!” Tawnyflower roared. A few cats stared, but none lingered. “I made my decision, alright? Let it go, and let me be happy.”
“You won’t be happy once Yarrowkit replaces you.”
Tawnyflower’s mouth opened in confusion. “Puddleheart’s kit? What’s he got to do with anything?” Mintfern jerked her head to the medicine cat’s den.
“See for yourself,” she meowed. Tawnyflower followed her gaze and gave a small gasp. Sure enough, Yarrowkit was in a conversation seemingly too deep for his age with Acornfall, whose eyes were shining proudly, as if Yarrowkit was his own apprentice.
“He can’t do that,” Tawnyflower snapped. “Acornfall or I would have to retire, or-”
“But what if it’s really his destiny?” Mintfern prodded. She was trying to get under Tawnyflower’s fur, and it was working. “What if you were supposed to be a warrior, and you’re just keeping him from being the best medicine cat RiverClan’s ever see-”
“It’s just a phase!” Tawnyflower growled, more to convince herself than Mintfern. “Yarrowkit isn’t replacing anyone!” With that, she flicked her tail and turned towards her den.
“Whatever you say,” Mintfern mused, narrowing her glassy eyes at her sister. “Let’s just hope you don’t break the code with your little friend so Yarrowkit really doesn’t replace you.”
Mintfern knew she had hit Tawnyflower’s soft spot when her sister froze in her tracks and slowly turned around. “What. did. you. say?” she growled slowly through gritted teeth. Mintfern’s eyes twinkled in amusement.
“Getting defensive now are we?” This only added to Tawnyflower’s enragement. Mintfern was encouraged, and took a daring step closer. “What, are you and her a thing now? Not completely perfect, are we? Or should I say, not completely straight?” Mintfern winked, and Tawnyflower lost it.
“You just jealous that I treat her more like a sister than you!” Tawnyflower exploded, nearly all of her fur on end. “Well I’ve got news for you: Softwater may not be my sister, but she sure as the Dark Forest acts more like one, you annoying brat!”
Mintfern raised one eyebrow, and Tawnyflower stormed off. Softwater approached her caringly, but Tawnyflower hissed at her, and the white she-cat scurried away.
At that moment, Stonefang and his apprentice Midgepaw padded into camp. Midgepaw, as always, was swaying on his paws and his eyes were half-closed. Stonefang looked genuinely confused at the tension in camp. He dismissed Midgepaw to the medicine cat’s den for his daily herbs before swinging his head around.
“What’s going on?” he whispered to Mintfern, who watched as Tawnyflower’s tail disappeared inside the medicine cat’s den stormily.
“Tawnyflower got hissy when I told a joke,” she explained bitterly. Stonefang raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment.
“Are my kits being nice to each other?” he warned jokingly. Mintfern rolled her eyes.
“Well, what do you expect?” she asked dryly, glaring at the side of the medicine den. Stonefang nudged her.
“You know Bumblepaw, Midgepaw, and Minnowpaw’s relationship?” he asked, flicking an ear at his apprentice. Midgepaw was in the middle of camp laying lazily. Bumblepaw skipped by him, nearly tripping over her brother. Midgepaw hissed and Minnowpaw stepped between the two, lip curled. Mintfern snickered and nodded. Stonefang laughed and looked down at her.
“That’s what I don’t want to happen,” he began. “Anyway-”
Stonefang’s head suddenly whipped around, alarmed. Mintfern followed his gaze with a horrified expression and saw Minnowpaw and Bumblepaw step back, alarmed. Midgepaw was convulsing violently and flailing out helplessly. Above him, Tawnyflower stood in pure horror.
Chapter Four: Yarrow for Sickness Edit
“What’s going on?” Mintfern shoved forward, eyes wide in concern. Tawnyflower was still frozen and staring down at the convulsing Midgepaw in fear. Tawnyflower’s mouth was moving, but no words came out.
“He must have eaten the wrong herb!” Websplash, Midgepaw’s mother, cried as she shoved her way forward.”Oh no, and just when Acornfall has left camp!” Mintfern remembered that Midgepaw had a sneezing problem and needed daily herbs to milden his problem, but this had never happened before. Ottershade, Websplash’s mate, draped his tail comfortingly over her shoulder.
“It’s okay, we have two fully-trained medicine cats,” he promised. “Even if one is out of camp.” His gaze met Tawnyflower’s, and he nodded.
But Tawnyflower still didn’t move. Her panicked eyes were still on Midgepaw as a crowd began to gather.
“Do something!” Spottedcreek cried, ears flattening. Badgerstar was beside her, eyes narrowed.
“Come on, Tawnyflower!” he rumbled.
Suddenly there was a flash of yellow. Mintfern saw Yarrowkit dart past Puddleheart and rush up to Midgepaw’s trembling body.
“Yarrow!” he squeaked in his high-pitched voice. “Whatever he ate, he must throw it up right away, otherwise he might digest the poison.”
With that, he turned and disappeared inside the medicine cat’s den as if he had lived there his whole life. Cats began murmuring and Tawnyflower’s slitted eyes darted back and forth. Mintfern caught Softwater looking at her paws, practically ashamed to know Tawnyflower.
When Yarrowkit returned, he had the plant clamped firmly between his jaws. He chewed it slightly with his new meat-teeth, and shoved it between Midgepaw’s open mouth firmly. Midgepaw chewed it, hardly able to keep the yarrow between his jaws, when suddenly the convulsions stopped. RiverClan held in their breaths, waiting for a reaction, when suddenly Midgepaw rolled over on his belly, lurched, and vomited.
There was a simultaneous sigh, but Mintfern was startled at Yarrowkit’s knowledge. Sharpfire, who was apparently just as surprised, gave a shocked rumble.
“How did you know what to do?” he breathed, leaning his head down so he was eye-to-eye with the small kit - his son, Mintfern remembered. Yarrowkit shurgged.
“I’ve picked up things here and there,” he replied, sounding much too mature for his age. “And plus, if I’m named after yarrow, shouldn’t I know what it does?” Sharpfire laughed and meowed “fair enough.”
“Well, I’d like to thank you,” Websplash purred, touching Yarrowkit’s nose to her own. “You saved my son’s life.”
“Is Midgepaw alright?” RiverClans’ heads turned to see Acornfall burst through the barrier, dripping with long stalks. “Minnowpaw told me he had been poisoned.” He nodded at the brush, where the sleek silver apprentice appeared.
“He’s just fine, thanks to Yarrowkit,” Websplash gushed, patting Midgepaw’s back with her tail and gazing at the yellow kit affectionately. “He saved my son’s life.”
Acornfall’s eyes widened as Badgerstar appeared next to Websplash. “It’s true,” he meowed, looking thoughtful as he watched Poolheart guide Yarrowkit back to the nursery. “That kit has potenial.”
“Son,” Acornfall spoke gently. Yarrowkit stopped, turned away from his mother, and looked Acornfall directly in the eyes. Acornfall knelt down so he was looking the yellow kit straight in the eyes. “Is it true, what you did?”
Yarrowkit nodded. “It wasn’t anything special. Just yarrow, really. Every cat knows that.” Acorn gave a small, amused pfft.
“Well obviously all the big cats didn’t,” he meowed. “I’m proud of you. StarClan has a great fate for you, young one.”
Yarrowkit beamed at the medicine cat’s words. In fact, the rest of the Clan was so distracted by Acornfall’s praise that only Mintfern noticed Tawnyflower leaving the clearing, tail drooping.
Mintfern poked her head around the corner that led to the dirtplace. She knew for a fact her sister wasn’t doing her business. The muffled sobs became clearer now (as did the smell) and Mintfern saw her sister, back facing her, weeping. Mintfern softened.
“What’s wrong?” she whispered.
At her voice, Tawnyflower froze. She sucked in a shaking breath and turned to face her.
“Nothing,” she meowed, attempting to growl. “Nothing is wrong.”
Mintfern raised one eyebrow. “Then why were you crying?”
“Your eyes are red.”
Tawnyflower took in another trembling inhale. “Look, Mintfern, I failed. I panicked. I almost cost Midgepaw his life. Maybe you’re right about Yarrowkit. Maybe I was never supposed to be a medicine cat, okay?”
“Tawnyflower, it was a joke. I just said that to make you mad. Yarrowkit can’t be a medicine cat, not with two other ones.” Mintfern smiled feebly. “Especially not two great ones.”
Tawnyflower blinked at her. “Joke or not, it’s turning out to be true.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Uh, yes it is. Promise.”
“Like you promised to be a warrior?”
Tawnyflower stomped angrily. “Ugh, get over it! Why does everything have to come back to this?”
“Because-” Mintfern was broken of by a clap of thunder. She stared angrily at her sister once more before streaking off, back to camp. Why did everything have to turn into a fight?
“Bad storm comin’.” Mintfern’s thoughts were broken by Sharpfire’s rumble to Fleetcloud.
“It shouldn’t be horrible, but the dry lake, the moist air, the thunder- not great signs," the ginger warrior mused.
Sharpfire nodded thoughtfully as Rainstep began to call together evening patrol. Grudgingly, Mintfern joined Reedclaw’s patrol and stole one last hostile glance at Tawnyflower as she emerged from the dirtplace to acknowledge her mistake.
Chapter Five: False Reality Edit
“Help me! Please, someone!” Mintfern darted through the forest. Dark branches swung and ripped at her face, but she ignored them. She didn’t know who was crying or why, but she had one thought on her mind: help them.
The cries for help had slowly become choked sobs. Mintfern felt herself slowing, but not from tiredness. Her paws began to stick to the ground. Water pooled around her at an alarming rate, but Mintfern kept running. Suddenly Mintfern felt her paws churning. She raised her neck as the water grew higher and higher, suffocating her. Above her, thunder rumbled and lightning crackled. Her paws gave way, and Mintfern’s head disappeared under the liquid. In a horrible moment, Mintfern realized she was drowning in blood.
Mintfern closed her eyes as she slipped underwater, but reopened them once again when she felt her paws hit the ground. She opened her eyes to a calm, starry clearing around her. A stream with golden fish lapped around her paws. Mintfern took in a deep breath. So this is StarClan.
Mintfern’s head shot up. That was the voice crying for help! She looked up, eager to see who was calling for her, but to her disappointment she realized the cat had no face, just a shimmering star-teemed body.
“Don’t fight destiny,” the faceless cat whispered. Its voice harmonized around itself. “Don’t fight destiny.” Mintfern stumbled back as it became a chant, and more and more cats’ voices joined in. Mintfern recognized all of them, but couldn’t place voices to faces. The faceless cat sauntered towards her, and the voices became so loud they were overwhelming.
Mintfern fell backwards before she knew what was happening and once again was plunged into the ocean of blood. She choked as she went under, then her vision darkened to nothing.
Mintfern woke with a start. She smacked her face with her paw, just to make sure she wasn’t dreaming any longer. She realized that she was in a cold sweat and her heart was pounding. What was that all about?
Was someone in danger? Was someone going to die? A chill ran down Mintfern’s spine. She sure hoped not.
Slowly but surely, Mintfern began piecing the dream together. When she and Tawnyflower were kits, they would try and explain the other’s dream, and Mintfern had always prided herself over it, though Tawnyflower was the better interpreter.
Although blood was obvious, it also meant something that cannot change or was permanent. Drowning meant being overwhelmed. So… she was being overwhelmed by something she couldn’t change? Mintfern was confused, but it would make sense. But what can’t I change?
Mintfern couldn’t fall back asleep, so instead stared at the night sky. Gray clouds were rolling in, signifying the storm was nearing. She tried desperately to recall aspects of the dream. And suddenly she knew.
Sharpfire had explained earlier that storms couldn’t be stopped, only dealt with.
And things that can’t be stopped are sometimes overwhelming.
Mintfern’s eyes widened as the first droplets of water pattered down. The wind picked up in her fur, giving her a chill down her spine. She felt the panic rise inside of her as the dream pieced together.
“Storm!” she screamed. “The storm is here!”
Chapter 7: The Storm Edit
“Did someone say the storm was here?”
“WHO STEPPED ON MY TAIL?”
“The storm is here, get up, you lump!”
Mintfern scrambled out of the den, and Rainstep, the deputy, followed. His gaze was at the sky and concerned.
“Ottershade, wake Badgerstar,” he barked. The brown tom scuttled out of the den and shot towards Baderstar’s den without hesitation. Mintfern scurried towards the deputy.
“What would you like me to do?” she asked, eyes wide. Rainstep looked thoughtful, then his gaze shot towards the medicine cat’s den. Mintfern inwardly groaned, and before Rainstep told her what to do, she shot towards Tawnyflower and Acornfall’s den.
Mintfern ducked under the entrance and heard Acornfall’s gentle snores drown out the rumbling of thunder outside. She jabbed him in the flank with her paw, and his snoring turned into a confused snort.
“The storm’s here,” Mintfern warned as he stumbled to his paws. She looked over her shoulder and saw sleepy cats stumbling towards the great oak. “We’re evacuating.”
“Just as I feared… wake up, Tawnyflower. Get the herbs,” Acornfall mumbled, still weary. Tawnyflower blinked awake. As she did so, Mintfern began to leave, but Acornfall’s call stopped her.
“I can’t carry these herbs myself,” he meowed. His green stare landed on Mintfern, who inwardly hissed.
A few heartbeats later, Acornfall, Tawnyflower, and Mintfern shot out of the den. Cats were already nearing the top of the tree, and the rain was already falling hard. Mintfern looked down and saw that the water was up to her sheathed claws.
“Those are the last cats!” she heard Badgerstar yowl as he saw them approaching, slurred by the rain. Lightning crackled beside him, and a few of the younger cats mewled in fear. Acornfall began climbing the tree, and Mintfern and Tawnyflower began passing up the herbs. The storm was gaining power as Badgerstar counted the cats. Mintfern had just passed up the last herb and began climbing when Puddleheart’s piercing cry cut through the storm.
“Yarrowkit is gone!” she yowled frantically. Mintfern could barely make out the troubled queen through the rain. Suddenly Mintfern was thrust back into her dream, wounds reopened, at the sound of Puddleheart’s voice.
Is Yarrowkit the faceless cat?
“He was following me,” Puddleheart sobbed. “He must still be down there!” “We’ll get him!” Mintfern exclaimed, without even realizing what she said. Badgerstar looked down in surprise.
“Are you crazy?” Tawnyflower hissed to Mintfern. Mintfern ignored her.
“We’ll be right back,” she promised. “Puddleheart, we’ll get your kit,” Mintfern swallowed and looked her sister dead in the eye, “-I promise.”
Mintfern jerked her head towards the nursery, and to her relief, felt Tawnyflower follow. The water was rising at an alarming rate, and it was up to Mintfern’s ankles as she sloshed around, looking for the light brown kit.
“It’s no use!” Tawnyflower screeched through the pounding of the rain. Thunder clapped, and Mintfern jumped. “I can’t see anything! We’ll never find the darned kit!” Mintfern felt her heart sinking with the rest of the storm. Yarrowkit was going to die, like in the dream, and she couldn’t stop it. “Mama!”
Mintfern’s heart leapt. She and Tawnyflower looked at each other wildly.
“Did you hear that?” Mintfern yowled. Tawnyflower nodded and bounded inside the nursery. Mintfern followed, and was relieved when the rain stopped hitting her head. She watched as a nest floated by her and left into the sheets of rain.
“I heard him in here,” Tawnyflower panted, soaking off her soaked fur. Mintfern was too cold and tired to argue. Suddenly the medicine cat leapt towards the corner of the den, where a small shape huddled on a log from the wreckage.
“Thank StarClan,” Mintfern murmured, closing her eyes as Tawnyflower placed the kit between her teeth. The peace did not last. Tawnyflower’s eyes widened as a long creak came from outside the den. Something flashed in Tawnyflower’s eyes- an epiphany, maybe- and she met Mintfern’s stare confidently.
“Take the kit,” she whispered. Mintfern opened her mouth, but Tawnyflower flung Yarrowkit from across the den. Miraculously and frantically, Mintfern clamped her jaws down on the kit’s scruff. Tawnyflower was bounding across the den towards the exit. Her eyes were wild.
“Run, run, run Mintfern!” She screeched. Mintfern didn’t hesitate. The rain hit her hard once again as she left the shelter, but she ignored it. She turned back around, and Tawnyflower was one leap away from the entrance when-
“Tawnyflower, TREE!” Mintfern screamed, nearly dropping Yarrowkit. Tawnyflower froze, but it was a mistake. The lighting-stricken elm smashed into the nursery from above, crushing the bracken den and everything inside. Mintfern scrambled back as debris and water flew from the impact.
Mintfern flung Yarrowkit on her back numbly. She was aware of her own trembling. “TAWNYFLOWER!” she screamed. A tear slipped down her cheek, but it washed away with the rain. “TAWNYFLOWER!” At that moment, the thunder ceased to exist. Mintfern did not feel the rain. Instead she kept her trembling eyes on the nursery, waiting for Tawnyflower to move. She did not.
“Mintfern! There you are!” Mintfern didn’t turn her head as Rainstep and Shellfoot raced up to her, completely drenched.
“You found him! Excellent work!” Shellfoot exclaimed through the rain. “I’ll carry Yarrowkit, you walk back to the tr-”
Shellfoot stopped when he saw Mintfern’s sniffling. He and Rainstep both froze. “Where’s Tawnyflower?” Rainstep whispered. He was barely heard through the storm.
Mintfern barely mustered the energy to look at the collapsed nursery one last time before her legs buckled underneath her, and she blacked out.
Chapter Eight: Again Edit
She was reliving the same dream.
“Help! Help me!”
Mintfern bounded through the forest, twigs still catching her fur, trees still dark, everything the same. Except with a twist- Mintfern knew exactly who the desperate cat was.
“I’m coming for you, Tawnyflower!” she screamed. “Just hold on!”
To Mintfern’s annoyance, the blood began pooling around her, and she gagged again on the stench. Her head disappeared, and she was once again thrown into the tranquility of StarClan. She waited impatiently for the faceless cat- Tawnyflower, she remembered- to appear. But nobody came.
Mintfern began falling back, into the ocean of blood, once more. She was reaching out to a cat who wasn’t there, helpless.
Oh, if only there were a way to save your dear sister.
Mintfern’s eyes widened at the new, echoing voice. She tried to reply, but her mouth was stuck together.
And oh, if only you knew.
There is a way.
Mintfern’s eyes widened, but felt her back hit the sea of blood as she disappeared underneath the crimson waves.
Mintfern blinked awake, startled, only to realize she was on a branch. She unsheathed her claws and dug into the back when she was the looming ground below her, and RiverClan- or what remained of it.
“How ‘ya feelin’, kiddo?” Fleetcloud asked gently, appearing beside Mintfern. Mintfern shook her head, and suddenly the previous events struck her.
“Where’s Tawnyflower?” she meowed rapidly. “Is she okay?”
Fleetcloud stared at her paws for a long time. Finally she cleared her throat, but she did not meet Mintfern’s gaze. “When Shellfoot and Rainstep went to find you,” she explained slowly, “it was raining really hard. They could hardly see you or Yarrowkit. Then you passed out, and they had to carry the two of you back…” Fleetcloud bit her lip. “Badgerstar said to wait until the storm died down to fetch her.”
Mintfern scrambled to her paws, but felt suddenly dizzy and sat down on the branch. On branches around her, cats were murmuring to each other and grooming the wetness out of their pelts. “Well, are they getting her now?” she demanded, looking at the sky. There were no clouds, but a few stray raindrops fell here and there. The sky was blue now that it was daytime.
“Well, they sent out a few c-”
Fleetcloud fell silent, as did every other talking cat. Sharpfire and Ottershade padded slowly up to the tree, heads hanging.
Strewn across their backs was Tawnyflower.
Mintfern screamed. No cat seemed to hear her. They waited until she had echoed into the breeze, and her voice was silent as she stared at the unmoving body of her sister.
“She’s alive,” Ottershade reported feebly, “but barely.”
Bumblepaw let out a thin wail. Acornfall looked stunned.
“Is anyone else injured?” Badgerstar meowed. The authority, usually in his voice, was gone.
“Mallowsong twisted his paw,” Spottedcreek reported. “But that’s all.”
Mintfern couldn’t help but try to find Yarrowkit. The kit was staring down at Tawnyflower, mouth wide, and guilt sparked his gaze. He feels bad because Tawnyflower could have saved herself over him. Him, who could replace her any day. Him, who could practically wipe her name from medicine cat history.
She chose him.
Mintfern’s eyes welled. Maybe Tawnyflower could be a brat- but she was braver than Mintfern could ever imagine.
The rest of the day was incredibly slow. Every time Mintfern passed the medicine cat’s den, she heard agonized moans and cringed, trying not to acknowledge the horrible state Tawnyflower was in. When she returned from a hunt, Badgerstar called her over.
“Mintfern,” he began, clearing his throat. “Walk with me.”
Mintfern did as told and followed the large, black-and-white leader to his den.
“Since Eelkit is nearing apprenticeship, it’s usually around this time that I pick his mentor.”
Mintfern nodded, having no idea where this was going. Instead, she was trying to focus on something. Badgerstar was forgetting something, but she didn’t know what.
“...And since you have proved yourself over and over again as a great warrior of RiverClan, it’s time you had an apprentice.”
Mintfern froze. “Wait, really?” she gasped. There was a tingling in her paws, as if she had just been announced an apprentice at her first Gathering.
Badgerstar laughed. “Of course, would you li-”
“Wait.” An epiphany had struck Mintfern. She met Badgerstar’s gaze evenly. “What about Yarrowkit? Who will mentor him?”
Bagerstar flinched, then sighed. “We’ve all seen how Yarrowkit’s talents work. He is incredibly talented, and Puddleheart has spoken to me already about him being a medicine-”
“There are already two medicine cats!” Mintfern snapped, not caring how harshly she was talking to her leader. Badgerstar sighed and closed his eyes.
“I know,” he murmured. “But truth be told, we don’t know how long Tawnyflower is going to last.”
Mintfern slowly closed her mouth and stepped back.
“I know it must be hard, losing your sister, but I think having an apprentice will-”
“Are you serious?” Mintfern snapped, aware of the angry and sad tears streaming down her face. “Acornfall has already given up? He can’t save her? Your miracle-from-StarClan named Yarrowkit can’t save her? She saved his life; You better hope on StarClan that he saves hers.”
And with that, she streaked out of the den.
Chapter Nine: Broken Back, Broken Soul Edit
"Let me talk to her!”
Acornfall’s tail swished patiently. “I already told you. She isn’t awake, and besides, having a visitor might be unhealthy.”
Mintfern gritted her teeth, about to argue, but Yarrowkit scrambled into the den. Acornfall’s gaze rested on the kit and filled with warmth.
“What is it, Yarrowkit?” He meowed, voice honey-slickened. Mintfern, from behind him, mouthed his words exaggeratedly.
Mintfern had been increasingly angry at Yarrowkit as the day wore on. He had returned to his normal, peppy state nearly right after the storm, and although Puddleheart had thanked Mintfern profusely, her son had ignored both Mintfern and Tawnyflower and gone on with life as usual. She risked- probably gave her life for you, and you repay her by ignoring her? Mintfern clawed the ground, trying desperately to keep her thoughts to herself.
The kit grinned, oblivious to Mintfern’s raised fur. “I was just talking to Spottedcreek,” he mewed, hardly able to contain his excitement. “She thinks she might be expecting kits!”
Acornfall’s eyebrows raised. “Really?” he murmured. “Would you like me to show you how to check?”
Yarrowkit’s eyes brightened. “Yes, please!” he exclaimed. “Come on!”
Acornfall followed the kit out of the den more slowly. He gave Mintfern a warning look before disappearing after Yarrowkit.
Mintfern rolled her eyes and, in attempt to rid her mind of Yarrowkit, turned towards Tawnyflower. The ginger she-cat’s eyes were closed, and her paws lolled out awkwardly. Her fur was matted and unkempt. Mintfern didn’t see anything wrong with her until she saw her sister’s back. Tawnyflower’s side was heavily swollen and bruised, and with every little breath she made she gave a little wheeze, like her lungs were collapsed. Mintfern’s ears turned back.
Suddenly Mintfern jumped back. The faceless cat! That was the voice!
“Where are you?” she demanded, turning in a circle.
My, my, how ignorant are you?
Mintfern opened her mouth to reply, but Acornfall and Yarrowkit ducked under the entrance before she had a chance.
“She was much farther along in her pregnancy than I thought,” Acornfall was explaining. “She’ll be due in only a few days!”
“Maybe she’s just so fluffy she didn’t notice,” Yarrowkit suggested. “Or, maybe she wanted to stay a warrior as long as possible. After all, she is still training Bumblepaw.”
“I’ll have to tell Badgerstar to assign her a new mentor today,” Acornfall replied, catching Mintfern’s eyes. “He’s one lucky tom; Spottedcreek’s his mate. Mintfern, I hope you haven’t been bugging Tawnyflower…?”
Mintfern shook her head. “Nope. What’s wrong with her, anyway?”
“Broke a couple ribs. Lungs are collapsing. We’re trying to keep her breathing. She’s actually waken up a few times, but we’ve lulled her out of it with poppy seeds,” he explained. He was so calm, so unbothered that Mintfern hated it. Mintfern leered towards him curiously.
“So is she going to be okay?” Mintfern asked warily. Acornfall winced and snuck a glance at Yarrowkit, who was now outside talking to Minnowpaw.
“I don’t know,” he admitted finally. “Right now it’s too swollen to see if her spine’s broken, but if it is, I’ve heard of cats who can never walk again. Even then, her lung might give way any day.” Mintfern bit her lip and nodded.
“Acornfall!” someone called from outside. The brown tabby’s ears perked before he streaked out.
“Alright, now that it’s just us, show yourself,” Mintfern demanded to the faceless cat. there was an omniscient giggle, then words.
You really aren’t very close with me, are you…
Mintfern’s eyes slowly widened. “Tawnyflower?” she whispered. There was another soft laugh. “Tawnyflower! Are you okay?”
I have no idea.
“Where are you?”
StarClan, I think. Here, maybe. I dunno. I can kinda see you, but I can also see the stars... they’re so beautiful, Mintfern…
“No no no, don’t follow them,” Mintfern stammered. “I’m not going to lose you like I lost Mom.”
Tawnyflower was cut off by Badgerstar scrambling out of his den like a kit, practically telling every cat he was going to have kits. His big paws thundered across the clearing, deep voice speaking rapidly to Spottedcreek. Mintfern couldn’t help a quick smile.
“Tawnyflower?” Mintfern whispered. There was no reply. She shrugged, thinking that Tawnyflower needed her peace, and left.
She decided it was a nice time for a walk. It was late afternoon, and Rainstep had already assigned the rebuilding team. Mintfern wasn’t built for rebuilding, and every cat knew it. So why not just avoid it all?
As she wandered around the territory, Mintfern couldn’t help but wonder about the other Clans. Did the storm affect them, too? Did they have to evacuate? Did they- Mintfern shivered - did they lose anyone?
“What are you doing here?”
Mintfern was jolted from her thoughts by the new voice. Her head jerked up to see oak trees towering above her, and an angry, dark gray face close to hers.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I must’ve-” her rambling was cut off by a powerful brown tabby she-cat, who nudged the black tom aside.
“RiverClan must’ve gotten hit pretty hard by the storm, Wolfpelt,” she observed coldly, nudging the black cat and glaring at Mintfern. She felt small under the ThunderClan cat’s ice-blue glare. The third and last cat, a silver tabby tom, flicked his tail but cast Mintfern a hostile look.
“Hit hard enough that the fish flew from the lake and into our territory?” he spat. Mintfern’s eyes rounded and felt dread hit her belly.
“No, you don’t understand!” she wailed.
“Oh, we understand perfectly,” Wolfpelt concluded dryly, leering forward threateningly. Mintfern gulped as his claws unsheathed. “Ashclaw, Hawkfeather-” his golden eyes narrowed. “Get her.”
Hawkfeather’s cry threw Mintfern off as a large brown paw came down on her. Mintfern spun, tearing towards her own territory, before Ashclaw’s claws hooked onto her pelt and she hit the ground with a smack without allowing her even a few tail-lengths. Her jaw tingled with pain, but she shook it away as Wolfpelt’s claws raked down her spine.
Mintfern stiffened. “I’m defeated!” she croaked, overwhelmed by the flurry of paws. “Please, just let me go home!”
Ashclaw’s lip curled. “And why should we do that?” he pressed.
“You’re nothing more than a fish-breath hunting on our land,” Hawkfeather agreed, watching Mintfern scramble onto her back like a squirming beetle.
“You’re treating the code like it’s crowfood,” Mintfern growled, voice trembling. Wolfpelt stepped back, as though thinking about her words, but the other two warriors ignored her, snarling and advancing.
Mintfern whimpered and was beginning to wish she could disappear when a russet shape hurled from the bracken and tumbled into Cleverstorm. The strange she-cat (who smelled strangely of RiverClan) battled the ThunderClan warrior violently, and Mintfern wasted no time and launched up at Ashclaw, claws unsheathed.
“The rest are almost here!” the ginger she-cat crowed to Mintfern. Mintfern had no idea what was going on, but was on her paws and aiming blows at Ashclaw’s neck. She began to recognize familiar landmarks, and realized they were on RiverClan’s side of the border.
“It was a trap!” Wolfpelt cried, stumbling back. “They’ll outnumber us!”
Ashclaw was fairly quick to turn away from Mintfern, but Hawkfeather looked more reluctant to end the battle.
“You’ve won this time,” the brown tabby snarled, her tail leaving a line in the muddy ground. “But wait until Larkstar hears about this!”
“There are scent marks from your Clan here as our are on your territory,” the russet she-cat replied smoothly. “So Badgerstar will just as easily believe us.” Hawkfeather growled but said no more, and the small patrol disappeared.
Mintfern turned to the ginger she-cat, eyes wide. The strange cat was grinning at her, and Mintfern’s heart skipped a beat. Would she be the next on the strange cat’s list of prey?
Chapter Ten: Operation Flower Edit
The she-cat laughed. “Dude, you look spooked,” she chortled. Mintfern forced her fur to lie flat.
“Get off of RiverClan territory," she spat. The she-cat didn’t seem bothered.
“Oh, I’m so intimidated!” she squeaked sarcastically, making one eye go one way and one go the other. Mintfern briefly wondered how this was possible, but instead gritted her teeth. The she-cat gave a low whistle.
“Chill, I was joking,” she huffed. Then she held out her paw, horizontal from her body, in a strange gesture. “I’m Rune, friend of RiverClan. May I put emphasis on friend.”
Mintfern cautiously touched her paw to Rune’s extended one, and Rune finally put her paw on the ground again. “What makes me think I can trust you?” she growled threateningly. Rune flicked an ear in amusement.
“I saved your tail, dude.”
Mintfern didn’t like to admit that she had a point. “What’s a dude? Some sort of insult?”
Rune laughed, suddenly and rudely. Mintfern felt her fur flush angrily as the ginger cat rolled on the ground howling. “I’ve heard… a lot of Clan cats… say stupid things…. but that-” she broke off in another explosion of laughter.
Finally, Rune regained herself, pulled herself to her paws, and met Mintfern’s gaze. “If it makes you feel better about who I am, I know your Clan because my best friend used to live there.”
Mintfern, still slightly embarrassed, flicked an ear. “Used to?”
Rune shuffled her paws, and suddenly Mintfern saw another side of her. “She died, many moons ago,” Rune breathed, eyes mystic. “We were best friends, and she left to join the Clan with her mate to protect her daughter. We still met to share tongues time after time, and then one day, she just didn’t show up. Her daughter is still dwelling. I believe her name is-”
“Softwater,” Mintfern finished in a whisper. Rune was still avoiding her gaze, and Mintfern felt a rush of pity. “So are you a kittypet, or a rogue, or a loner?”
Rune shrugged. “I’m a Rune.”
Mintfern pushed back a smile. “I know what it’s like to lose someone." she swallowed back a sudden lump in her throat as she thought of Tawnyflower. "My mom died when I was really young, and my sister was just injured during the storm and no one thinks she’ll live and I regret it so much not being a better sister and-”
Before Mintfern realized it, she was rambling and sobbing at the same time. Rune scootched towards her and draped her tail over Mintfern’s back comfortingly.
“So what about her is injured?” she asked. “Softwater’s mom- her name was Lake, then Lakewing- knew a lot about medicine and passed some on to me.”
“If Acornfall can’t fix her, then no one can,” Mintfern growled. Rune’s gaze sharpened at Acornfall’s name. “But anyway, a tree fell on her back, broke a few ribs, and he’s not sure if her spine is broken or not.”
“I hope her spine isn’t broken,” Rune meowed, standing. Her tail flickered. “I knew this cat named Rocky, we were acquaintances, and during a windstorm part of a Twoleg roof came down and broke his spine.” She clicked her tongue and shook her head. “He dragged himself around for a bit, and me and some other friends hunted for him, but one day he just got really congested and eventually there was nothing we could do.”
Mintfern swallowed, shaking and praying that Tawnyflower would not receive this fate. “What happened to him?”
Rune sighed sadly and avoided the RiverClan cat’s gaze. “We knew Rocky’d suffer if he kept living like this. One of his friends- former kittypet- suggested bringing him to a Twoleg, as they had more powerful medicine. But on the way there, Rocky’s condition worsened, as if carrying him made it worse. He was screaming, kicking with his front legs, biting, even. We set him down, and one of the cats took him out of his misery.”
“You killed him?” Mintfern’s meow was raspy and shocked. Rune’s head shot up.
“What were we supposed to do?” she pointed out. “He was suffering, whatever-your-name-is.”
“Mintfern, sorry. But anyway, were we just going to let him die slowly and painfully?” Mintfern shook her head; Rune had a point.
“Hey, what’s your sister’s name, by the way?” Rune asked, peering at Mintfern through her glassy yellow eyes.
“Tawnyflower,” Mintfern replied. The words felt dry on her tongue as she spoke them.
“Look, no cat deserves to die like Rocky,” Rune explained. “I want your sister to live healthy, too. We’re gonna find a way to save her, alright? It’s gonna be called Operation Flower, after Tawnyflower. With me?”
She then placed her paw firmly on the ground. Mintfern placed hers on top of Rune’s. New determination surged through her at the thought of saving her sister.
“For Tawnyflower,” she meowed firmly.
Chapter Eleven: Leave Her For the (Almost) Dead Edit
After that, Rune said goodbye and left Mintfern on her own. It was lonely, actually- Mintfern felt as if she had said goodbye too many times already that day.
As she returned to camp, a feeling tugged her to Acornfall’s den. But as she saw the light brown tom conversing lightly with Yarrowkit outside of the den, she was emotionally pushed away. He can’t take Tawnyflower’s job!
“Hello, Mintfern.” Mintfern turned as Puddleheart padded up to her, tail kinked. Mintfern swalowed anger that this was the mother of Yarrowkit and blinked in response.
“Can I help you?” She asked politely. Puddleheart shrugged as Eelkit darted up, prancing around her paws.
“I just thought I’d say hi,” she meowed. Her head drooped slightly. “I wanted to apologize, for Tawnyflower. I can’t believe what she sacrificed to save my son.”
“Yeah.” Mintfern’s fur prickled along her spine. “Don’t you think it’s a bit in the way of him to be around Acornfall all the time?”
“Acornfall doesn’t mind,” Poolheart pointed out, waving her tail towards the den. Her blue eyes were sparked with something Mintfern couldn’t read. “Besides, without Tawnyflower, he could use a little help. Especially since…” Puddleheart caught herself and stared at her paws.
“Especially since what?” Mintfern growled warningly. Poolheart opened her mouth. “Since Tawnyflower is going to die anyway?” The queen stared at her for a long moment before taking in a long breath.
“Her spine is broken,” she explained quietly. “Yarrowkit told me what Acornfall told him. She’ll have to drag herself everywhere, if she’s even fit to live that way.”
Rocky! Mintfern felt a rush of dread she she remembered the cat Rune had told her about. Rocky had been useless and ultimately died. Was Puddleheart hinting that Tawnyflower would die too?
“But… he didn’t tell me that,” Mintfern murmured, eyes widening. Puddleheart saw her dismay and placed her paw on Mintfern’s.
“Acornfall tends to sugarcoat things,” she meowed gently. “I’m sorry. Losing a loved one can be hard, sweetie. I’m so sorry.”
Mintfern felt her eyes well. Now Tawnyflower wasn’t just planning on dying- she really was. She realized with a jolt that Puddleheart was right. “I’m sorry,” she choked, excusing herself from the queen. “I have to go.”
“So there’s nothing you can do?”
Mintfern looked up miserably. She knew she looked gross- red eyes, running nose, and face-first in her bedding. Reedclaw was above her, sympathetically rubbing her back with his paw. She had explained everything to him, excluding Rune. She shook her head before flying into a coughing and sniffling fit.
“I just want to tell her I’m sorry!” She wailed. “She doesn’t deserve this. I do.”
Reedclaw just nodded, obviously not knowing what to say.
“I just can’t believe I wasted my time and now she’s gone,” Mintfern whispered, curling up into a miserable ball.
“Well, if she’s gone, can’t you still get Acornfall to visit her at the Moonpool?” Mintfern raised her head as Bumblepaw popped in cheerfully.
“Bumblepaw, she’s grieving,” Reedclaw explained with disapproval. “And plus, Acornfall doesn’t visit the Moonpool just to see the deceased.”
Bumblepaw sagged. “It was just an idea,” she muttered.
Yeah, plus Tawnyflower isn’t even all the way dead, Mintfern thought sourly, recalling the strange conversation she’d had with her sister earlier. She’s here, and she’s not.
Night fell on the longest day of Mintfern’s life. She grew restless in her sleep, even with Reedclaw cuddled beside her. She rolled to her paws, thankful for the starlit sky above her, and padded out of the warriors’ den. The gentle snoring turned to crickets as Mintfern padded lightly over to the medicine cat’s den. Acornfall was in his usual nest by the corner, while Tawnyflower was stretched out by the entrance. Mintfern winced at the sight of her, more swollen than ever. The medicine cat’s breathing was getting lighter and lighter.
“Tawnyflower,” Mintfern rasped, barely audible. She was glad Acornfall was too far away to hear. Her faith dropped when there was no answer. “Tawnyflower?”
Mintfern’s heart leapt as she heard the quiet reply. “Tawnyflower, I’m so, so sorry. It’s all my fault. I just… want you to be okay.”
I know, Tawnyflower replied gently. There was a great deal of sadness in her voice. It’s pained me, watching you grieve when I’m not even dead.
“But… you sort of are,” Mintfern pointed out in a whisper.
Only sort of, Tawnyflower replied. Her voice began to get cut off. Sort of, as in, I can only talk to you before I flicker over to StarClan.
Mintfern’s stomach dropped. “Are you dying?” She rasped.
No! Not now, anyway! Tawnyflower exclaimed. Mintfern wondered if Acornfall could hear, but he stayed asleep. I just…. Can’t… talk… that much.. At once…
“How can I talk to you wihtout this?” Mintfern whispered, looking desperately into Tawnyflower’s closed eyes.
You have to… go…
“Go where? To Twolegplace? To bed?” Mintfern fretted. She waited impatiently, but Tawnyflower was gone again.
Chapter Twelve: Omens and Prophecies Edit
Mintfern was not woken early to go on dawn patrol. She was told to rest, to take it easy, and to reflect.
But RiverClan wasn’t being specific. What was she supposed to reflect on? Tawnyflower’s life? Their life together? Mourning? Realization that she was gone?
Mintfern was too restless to reflect on anything, anyway. Tawnyflower wasn’t going to be able to muster the energy to talk today, so Mintfern was stressed on finding out how to talk to her. She gazed out the warriors’ den absently. Camp was lazy despite the recent storm: a patrol was heading out, Badgerstar, Stonefang, and Rainstep were conversing by the fresh-kill pile importantly, Spottedcreek and Puddleheart were gossiping outside the nursery. Mintfern’s eyes slitted as Yarrowkit skipped over to Acornfall, whose brown ears poked out of the den.
Mintfern watched them carefully. Tawnyflower was sprawled outside Acornfall’s den, breathing so rapid it was hardly there. Acornfall had said he wanted her to “get some air” outside. Yarrowkit looked like he was pleading with Acornfall as the light tabby strode across camp, lightly touching his tail to his ear. Acornfall ducked under the barrier, and Yarrowkit looked a little crestfallen.
“You don’t like him either?”
Mintfern spun around, fur on end. Softwater padded out of the shadowy den delicately, nodding at Mintfern curiously. Mintfern’s fur grew hot. “Who? Yarrowkit?”
The white she-cat shook her head. “Acornfall,” she meowed simply. There was a spark in her eyes that Mintfern almost missed.
“Oh,” Mintfern watched as the medicine cat’s tail disappeared with the rest of his body. “I mean, he’s not my favorite cat in the world, especially after what happened with Tawnyflower.”
Softwater nodded in understanding, and Mintfern forced her fur to lie flat with the reminder that Tawnyflower liked Softwater more than she. There was an awkward silence before Softwater’s name was called on a patrol. The fluffy she-cat waved her tail in goodbye as she left Mintfern confused and concerned.
Mintfern noticed Yarrowkit still looking out of place. Acornfall must have gone out to get herbs, she realized with a jolt, and Yarrowkit isn’t old enough to leave camp yet. Mintfern swallowed back a fit of anger and padded out from the den. Yarrowkit’s wide yellow eyes blinked up at her as she approached.
“Hey there!” Mintfern chirped. Yarrowkit beamed at her. “I was just wondering, since you and Acornfall are really good friends, and I am so eager to learn about StarClan, what does StarClan do for the living cats?”
“StarClan does a lot for us,” Yarrowkit replied immediately. He looked around, as if StarClan were right beside him. “They watched over and protect us. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, they send prophecies and omens. Medicine cats get to visit them at the Moonpool every quarter moon,” he added with a hint of jealousy.
“Well isn’t that grand,” Mintfern gushed like she’d never heard it before. “Thank you so much!” Then she kinked her tail and padded away, dropping her smile as soon as Yarrowkit couldn’t see her.
Okay… so that helped with nothing, she inwardly growled. She plastered a fake smile and posture as a pale white pelt emerged from the warriors’ den nearby.
“You’re awake!” Shellfoot exclaimed, half purring. “I’m glad. I know you were told to rest, but I think hunting really helps with distracting yourself for a bit. Care to join me?”
“Sure,” Mintfern replied, this time sincerely. Shellfoot could always find a way to soothe her.
They walked in silence down to the lake, the treeless sky towering above them. “There it is,” Mintfern breathed. Even now, she was still in awe of the looming green lake, stretching for more fox-lengths than she could count. She stepped forward, but Shellfoot stepped in front of her.
“Hey, I just want you to know something, okay?” He meowed seriously. “I know a lot of cats have been really… kind of rude about this whole Tawnyflower thing. I know you guys never got along, but the way they put it… she’s not even dead, you know? There’s still hope for her. They don’t need to act like she’s gone to StarClan already.”
“Thanks, but I was told her spine’s broken,” although Mintfern’s voice was grim, she did feel a wave of relief. Some cat finally understood her. “There’s a large chance she’s going to die.”
“Who told you that?” Shellfoot asked, drawing his eyebrows together.
“Um, Acornfall,” Mintfern lied, not feeling like explaining Rune and her story of Rocky. Shellfoot nodded slowly.
“Acornfall isn’t exactly known for his accuracy,” he replied. He skipped over a puddle, barely avoiding it. Mintfern giggled as he forced his fur flat. “With that storm, we’re going to be dodging these forever!” Shellfoot grumbled, shaking his coat.
“Hey, look at that,” Mintfern commented, nudging her former mentor. Shellfoot followed her gaze, squinting. In the pale blue sky, then thinnest outline of the moon was visible, hiding behind the clouds.
“That’s weird,” Shellfoot agreed. “It’s almost sunhigh, and I can still see the moon. StarClan must love us, eh?” he joked.
But Mintfern wasn’t paying attention. Instead, her gaze was on the crystal clear puddle, reflecting the sky without distortion. She could see the moon perfectly in the small pool. And then something clicked.
Mintfern nearly jumped with shock. Tawnyflower must have sent an omen! She realized in excitement. She turned to Shellfoot, who looked shocked at her sudden sparkiness.
“Mintfern?” he asked carefully. Mintfern had already began to skip back to camp.
“Thanks for taking me!” she hollered over her shoulder. “I found what I needed! Thanks, Shellfoot!”
Mintfern thought she heard a muffled “you’re welcome!” but didn’t stick around long enough to find out. She was going to the Moonpool, and she was going to talk to her sister face-to-face.
Chapter Thirteen Edit