Hey! sorry for the slight delay, been a little busy!

Chapter 30

The sky was clear, the half moon floating in the black sky that was speckled with stars that looked like chips of ice. Echoripple's breath came out in puffs and billowed in the air around her muzzle as she paced restlessly.

Nighthawk's embarrassed apology and Slash's warning of his departure the night before had melted away as she waited for her parents to arrive. Apprehension and tension hung in the air, there were no night sounds or wind, as if the whole forest were holding its breath for the meeting that could go either well or badly just as easily.

If Echoripple were to say now, she'd say it would go badly and she should leave while she had the chance. Crowstar and Rosepetal hadn't fought to keep her before, why would they be happy that she was alive now?

Echoripple was afraid they'd be angry, and try to stop her from her trying to stop the sacrifice. Crowstar was a leader, and held much authority over those kinds of things, if he wanted the sacrifice, she wasn't sure she'd get much further on her mission.

She growled to herself, Oh! why had she agreed to Briarberry and Blackear? In her desperation to avoid the meeting, she was almost about to run back to camp when she heard a soft call.

"Echoripple? Are you here?" That was Briarberry and Echoripple knew she had to go through with it now, no matter what happened.

"I'm here," she called back softly, not wanting to alert any cat that might be out hunting late. Although, with the snow so thick and the air so cold, it was unlikely.

Briarberry appeared from behind a snow-covered gorse bush. Her mottled red fur laid flat on her small, smooth shoulders and her green eyes glowed in the dark.

Blackear appeared behind his sister, he looked more uneasy then his sister and he glanced sharply around the small clearing on the border and his one good ear flickered nonstop.

Echoripple's breath caught in her throat as she saw two cats appear behind the littermates. One was a well muscled black tom that looked much like Blackear, but with brown paws; brown paws that Echoripple remembered from her dreams of the night she was sacrificed.

Then there was a slender pale red she-cat with thin, golden tabby-stripes that brindled her face that were marked with bright green eyes that were so familiar. Their scent… it was her own, it was still ThunderClan, but the underlying, identifying cat scent was her own.

Crowstar held his head with authority, looking her over with particular indifference. Rosepetal was more percipient, looking at her carefully, her eyes turned from curious to astonished to a look that showed she was just barely hoping for something that seemed impossible.

She recognizes me… Crowstar still looked indifferent, his finely rounded head, so much like her own, tilted to the side questioningly. "Why have you asked us here?" Crowstar asked brusquely, he was all business.

Echoripple gave a small dip of her head in respect. "I am Echoripple of Sky-"

"I know who you are," Crowstar snapped, "You're that rogue that SkyClan took in along with that other one, ah…Skysong?" Crowstar mewed with slight confusion.

"Stormsong," Echoripple corrected him.

"That's right," Crowstar nodded his head quickly, "Haven't seen her in awhile, did she leave?"

Echoripple flushed with anger. "She had kits, they'll be apprentices soon," she mewed curtly, defending her friend. She tried to curb back her tongue, but Crowstar was rapidly annoying her.

"Well get on with it, why did you want us to come meet you in the middle of the forest at night? And why are Briarberry and Blackear so intent on defending you?" Crowstar asked, for the first time, his eyes glinted with slyness.

Echoripple narrowed her eyes, she'd seen that glint, and now she understood that Crowstar had suspected something, he was testing her. Well, he's definitely testing my patience!

Echoripple cleared her throat, "I heard that at the last sacrifice you lost a kit… Her name was Ripplekit, correct?" She questioned. She wasn't going to straight out tell them, she was going to let them figure it out for themselves.

Rosepetal hung her head, her sides quivered with a barely repressed sob. Crowstar gave her a glare full of hatred and Blackear looked at her wryly. Good job, his expression said, Briarberry nudged her mother- no- their mother gently.

Echoripple didn't flinch. "Is it true?" she repeated again, she knew it was, but she needed to know that they'd admit it.

Crowstar glared at her and the words were forced through his teeth. "It is true," he growled. "And what's it to you? You were probably greedily feasting off all the prey you rogues catch for yourself," Crowstar mewed bitterly.

Echoripple gave a small nod of approval. "You assumption is wrong, I nearly drowned that night," she mewed. Silence fell over the cats, crackling with tension and silent questions were hurtled at her.

"I was washed downstream from near the gorge opening and was rescued just before I died by two rogues that lived near the river," she continued in a casual tone.

Rosepetal stared at her intently, understanding and joy glimmering behind caution. Crowstar just stared at her dumbly, no matter what he'd been thinking she'd called him here for, it had obviously not been this.

"What are you saying?" Crowstar growled, his eyes were like leaping blue flames, he wanted answers, and he wanted them now. Briarberry and Blackear glanced apprehensively at each other.

Echoripple just shrugged, she'd finished her story and any cat could figure it out now. "Take a good look at me and take a guess," she growled.

Crowstar blinked and looked at her carefully as she leaned nonchalantly again a tree, her eyes narrowed in slits, and her head cocked to the side. His eyes changed from annoyance to wonder as he slowly pieced everything together. Rosepetal had obviously already guessed and was looking at her as if she was a ghost.

Echoripple rolled her head and looked Crowstar, then Rosepetal right in the eye. She knew she had first opened her eyes just before she was dropped into the gorge, for that was as far as her sight memory stretched. So they had both seen her eyes, and her eyes weren't a very common color.

"Ripplekit?" Crowstar whispered, understanding flooded through him and shock was the only emotion on his face. He turned toward Briarberry and Blackear slowly. "Did you know?" he whispered in a ghostly tone.

They nodded slowly, hesitantly, but without regret. "That's why we asked her to tell you," Briarberry mewed quietly, looking nervous. Crowstar just blinked and turned to look at Rosepetal. She was practically bursting with shock, joy, and relief.

Rosepetal gave a shocked laugh that turned to sobs then back to laughter as she leaned against Blackear as she tried to control her emotions. Echoripple stood in stony silence, waiting for them to come to their wits and start asking her questions.

It took quiet a bit of baffled, unfinished questions for them to finally realize that the daughter they'd thought was dead for almost four seasons now, was standing, strong and healthy, in front of them.

"But… how?" Crowstar asked, the first real question he'd managed to ask her the whole time.

Echoripple shrugged. "Luck. Somehow I managed to get enough air to last me to where the river lets out into a little pool where Rain and Storm found me." She visibly winced as she mention Rain.

"Who's Rain?" Rosepetal asked quietly.

Echoripple looked at her paws, trying to stop her sadness from overwhelming her for a moment. "She's the cat who raised me, with Selena, another rogue," she mewed quietly. It pained her that she hardly remembered what they looked like. Rain had silver fur and amber eyes, and Selena, she'd been brown with green eyes, roughly. Echoripple couldn't remember the specifics.

Rosepetal looked a little ashamed that her kit had been raised by rogues. "Where are they now?" Crowstar asked rather sharply, as if he too was ashamed rogues had raised his kit.

Echoripple narrowed her eyes harshly at them. "They're dead," she spat, fury bubbled for a heartbeat as she remembered the unjust and mostly unprovoked fight.

Crowstar twitched his ears and Echoripple forced herself to calm down, flattening her fur and sheathing her claws. Rosepetal was looking at her in longing again.

"Will you join ThunderClan again now?" Rosepetal asked. Crowstar glanced sharply at his mate, but he seemed to want the answer just as much as his mate.

Echoripple felt a flash of panic and backed away quickly and shook her head. "No, SkyClan is my Clan now, ThunderClan didn't want me, and SkyClan let me in," she mewed with a hint of accusation in her tone.

Rosepetal stared at her in shock and desperation. "Its not that we didn't want you, we were bound by the warrior-code to give you up," Rosepetal mewed desperately.

Echoripple shot her a stinging glare and Rosepetal flinched. "Do you really think the sacrifice is beneficial?" Echoripple growled.

Rosepetal blinked, looking confused. "It wouldn't be there if it wasn't," Rosepetal stated matter-of-factly.

Echoripple growled, "Well, did ThunderClan suffer anymore then the other Clans? For me not going to StarClan?" Echoripple questioned. Rosepetal stared at her blankly, her blankness turning to horror.

"Are you saying that all the kits that have been sacrificed has been for nothing?" Rosepetal whispered in horror. Crowstar looked as horrified as his mate as they turned to look at each other.

"That's exactly what I'm saying," Echoripple responded clearly. "And I don't intend for there to be another sacrifice for the rest of Clan history," she stated, looking at them defiantly, no matter how much she was trembling on the inside.

They stared at her, "But its our tradition…" Crowstar trailed off. He looked at Rosepetal again, their eyes met and a silent agreement seemed to form between them, making Echoripple itch with curiosity.

"So?" she asked quietly, "Will you help me or not?" She asked, staring at them, unblinking.

Rosepetal nodded at Crowstar and her father drew himself up and stood in front of her, out-matching her in height by a mouse-tail. Echoripple met his eyes, though they were unreadable.

This is it, if he helps me, then ThunderClan is on my side, if he rejects me, then all is lost.

...

Finally! the meeting with her parents! hope you liked it! and Please Review!