You are asleep in your nest in your den. You dream you are in your Clan's camp, near the entrance. It is night and the moon shines brightly overhead. You sit down expectantly, although what you wait for you don't know. And then another cat enters the camp. It is a silver she-cat with stars shimmering in her fur. She stands in front of you, green eyes holding great mystery.
"Greetings," she meows. "I have a message for you."
You perk your ears, showing that you are paying attention.
"You will find the Path of Ways.
"It will take you several days.
"Every day, a life will go.
"And when it's done, the one will show."
You are puzzled, but nod to show that you heard.
"Be at Fourtrees by sunhigh tomorrow. The others will be there. Go or die, but then again, you will probably die anyway." With a rueful smile, the StarClan cat fades, taking the Clan camp with her, and you wake up.
Will your life be taken by this mysterious starry cat?
Or not at all?
The first rays of dawn broke over SkyClan's territory. Wingflight stepped out of her nest, shaking scraps of moss from her light brown tabby fur. Why do I feel like I didn't sleep at all last night? she wondered. And then it came rushing back: the dream of the StarClan cat and the strange prophecy--it would come to be known as the Dream--and the meeting at Fourtrees that she would attend at sunhigh. She carefully exited the warriors' den, deciding that she would ask Treestar, SkyClan's leader, to let her go to the meeting. She headed to his den as the sun became fully visible over the treetops.
"Wingflight, can you go on the dawn patrol?" Finchtail, the Clan deputy, asked her.
She shook her head. "I need to talk to Treestar right now. Sorry," she added apologetically. "It's really important."
Finchtail just nodded.
Wingflight paused at the outside of Treestar's den. "Hello?" she called. "May I come in?"
Treestar beckoned her in with his tail. "What is it, Wingflight?"
"I had a dream."
She settled in front of him and told him everything. His amber eyes were pensive. "You can go, but I'll send some warriors with you. It could be a trap."
"It was a dream from StarClan," she reminded him. "Do they really want to add me to their ranks?"
"From what you told me, they do," he answered, still indecisive. He paused for a moment longer before he sighed and said, "Off you go."
In the RiverClan camp, a warrior named Gingerheart was having a similar conference with her leader, Jackalstar.
"I promise, it's perfectly safe," the ginger she-cat mewed.
"I don't think so," the leader answered, yellow eyes narrowed. "I don't trust the other Clans to be honest."
"I don't think that StarClan would send me on a quest if it was unsafe," Gingerheart countered.
"She pretty much said that you would die."
"You don't know that's what she meant."
Jackalstar took in a deep breath, releasing it with a whoosh. "Fine. You can go before you argue my ears off."
Gingerheart dipped her head. "Thank you."
Cinderpelt of ThunderClan, Patchfeather of WindClan, and Runningfire of ShadowClan each were permitted to go to Fourtrees. And they went alone.
Patchfeather glanced warily at the moorland grasses, half-expecting a hostile ShadowClan cat to leap out and attack him. He shuddered and continued to Fourtrees, hoping that the other cats the StarClan warrior mentioned wouldn't fight him.
Cinderpelt, however, boldly forged her way through the undergrowth of ThunderClan, excitement bubbling through her at the prospect of the quest and the Path of Ways, whatever that was. With a spring in her step, she skipped over the final stretch to Fourtrees.
Runningfire was having extreme misgivings. What was the Path of Ways? Who would take lives? Did it mean that the StarClan cat or someone else altogether was going to murder them? Who even were the other cats? What Clans were they from? Why did he feel like he was losing his fur? He shook his head and stepped into the clearing, noticing four other cats--a calico tom, brown tabby she-cat, ginger she-cat, and gray she-cat--entering from the other sides. It was too late to turn back.
Wingflight held her head high as she entered the clearing. The four other cats didn't seem very dangerous, but Wingflight made a mental note to keep an eye on the ginger one. Since the others all silent, Wingflight made the first move. "Hello, guys. My name is Wingflight. I'm a SkyClan warrior. Nice to meet you."
"I'm Gingerheart. RiverClan." The ginger she-cat tossed her head.
"Runningfire, ShadowClan," the russet tom mewed, pawing at the grass.
"Patchfeather, WindClan," the calico tom said quietly.
"Cinderpelt, ThunderClan," the mottled gray she-cat purred. "Hi!"
Gingerheart stepped forward. "Since I'm obviously the leader here--"
Wingflight bristled. "Says who?"
"Says I. And as I was saying--"
"We're supposed to be a team," Runningfire interrupted. "As much as I'd love for you to lead us--"
"You'd probably lead us over a cliff," Wingflight muttered darkly.
"--We're going to have to work together," Runningfire finished, shooting a glare at the SkyClan cat.
Gingerheart rolled her eyes. "Fine, whatever. Let's just get this over with."
And so the five cats set off with no idea where they were going.
Day One Edit
Runningfire yawned and stretched. The five had left Clan territory and could see Highstones towering in the distance. They had stopped to rest as moonhigh came, and Runningfire had fallen asleep to the sound of Wingflight and Gingerheart bickering. Surprisingly, he felt well-rested and ready to take down a badger.
Well, maybe not a badger.
The others stirred, waking up and stretching. Cinderpelt bounced to her paws. "Good morning, guys! Where are we going today?"
Gingerheart covered her ears with her paws, groaning. "I'm going back to sleep."
Wingflight poked her in the ribs with a paw. "No, you aren't. You're going to wake up and act like you're excited to do this like the rest of us."
"I thought we were a team. You can't tell me what to do," the ginger she-cat fired back.
"Will you two just stop fighting?" Patchfeather cried. "You're going to be the death of me!"
He covered his mouth, eyes wide. "I, of course, I didn't mean that," he added weakly.
Runningfire sighed. This was going to be a miserable quest.
A cold wind whipped over the rocks. Runningfire trudged upward, closing his eyes against its bitter sting. His fur seemed thinner than a mouse's and he was shivering to the bones. Wingflight and Gingerheart, for a start, weren't arguing but working together to ensure that no one slipped off the mountain.
"Are you okay, Runningfire?" Wingflight inquired, blue eyes concerned. "You look... cold."
He shook out his fur. "It's hard not to be cold in this wind."
"I was just asking."
And then, out of the blue, snow began to fall. It started as single flakes, drifting by, but whirled up in to a full-blown snowstorm. Runningfire squinted through the swirling flakes, eyes narrowed. His paw slipped on a rock, and it fell with a clatter. It fell for a long time... almost too long.
"Guys?" he mewed hesitantly, voice thrown away in the wind. "Guys!"
Gingerheart heard. She turned around. "What is it, Runningfire?"
"I think there's a ravine up ahead... Knock a stone down. See for yourself."
"It's a gorge," she said, snow muffling her words. "Everybody, stop!"
Runningfire stopped, but he couldn't see any of his companions. His surroundings were a white blur, stinging his nose and tugging at his fur. "Hello?" he called, but the wind stole his voice away.
"I'm right here," someone answered.
The last thing Runningfire saw before he was pushed over the edge was a pair of gleaming, brilliant, blue--or was it green?--eyes.