There was no moon in the endless, suffocating darkness. The air tasted of mouse and other cats, but it was impossible to come across anything but endless trees and bracken.
A dark tabby, silver pelt rippled with black stripes, glanced around wildly. He couldn't believe he was stuck in this forest. No matter how long he ran, no matter how far he searched, the trees never ended; there was no way out of the dark forest.
No stars shone and the only light was his own eyes flashing in the bitter blackness. Darkstripe sucked in a breath, a wail trembling in his throat. Loneliness crashed over him. He'd met only one cat in this forest, and it was so long ago that Darkstripe couldn't even remember when it was; moons, or days, or maybe just minutes? There was no concept of time here.
No matter how long Darkstripe slept, there was no sun that welcomed him, no mossy nest that crunched when he stood up. There was no morning patrol, the familiar mews of his Clanmates and the warm pelt of Tigerclaw wrapped against him as he slept. All that was so long ago.
In the midst of his grief, Darkstripe almost imagined he could hear the heartbreaking meow of Tigerstar. He recalled standing in shattered silence as his leader, the tabby he had grown to love, bled his last lives on the ground. "No!"
Hatred for Scourge boiled in his chest. How was he supposed to know what happened in the forest? Scourge and the rest of BloodClan could be living there, for all he knew.
The only cat that Darkstripe had any more loyalty for was Tigerstar, and he recalled the cold way Tigerstar had left him in the whirling darkness of the forest. "We must travel alone."
Darkstripe's tail flicked back and forth. Hunger gnawed at him, but no matter how long he stalked, there was no prey, just the sliver of scent that fooled him into thinking there was. He brushed past a long stalk of grass, scenting a faint trace of Brokenstar; yes, even Jaggedtooth was here. Were all cats who betrayed their Clans here?
Darkstripe felt like screaming his agony. He didn't deserve this! He loved and lost, like all cats, and if Tigerstar was still alive...
Darkstripe shook off the thoughts, pricking his ears. In the silence he thought he could hear a faint voice. The confident way it ended the quiet darkness reminded him so much of Tigerstar, the great tabby that stood always so noble...
"Tigerstar!" he called as if in answer. His deep mew cracked; it had been a while since he heard more mews, as if they were replying.
Immediately Darkstripe burst into a run, skidding on the leaves and calling out like a kit mewling for its mother. It was really Tigerstar! His beloved leader had come back to him, and it was perfect, just perfect...
"Tigerstar, I'm coming!" he gasped, his voice echoing off the tall trunks and his paws rustling the bramble thickets. He couldn't see a thing, but the scent of Tigerstar, the voice, it led him on as if he could see like the sun was rising above the trees.
He emerged into a clearing, flanks heaving, paws aching.
"Tigerstar?" he whispered. He caught a glimpse of pale amber eyes flashing from the darkness. "No, come back!" he wailed, rushing forward on blunt striped paws.
Another voice made him freeze in his tracks. It was deep and confident like Tigerstar's, but younger and sharper. There's another cat with him! Darkstripe's eyes widened in horror. Tigerstar lied!
He trembled with sadness and his heart weighed as if it was covered in the tabby's betrayal. "Tigerstar!" he cried again, hoping to hear the meow again. But there was nothing, not even a trace. Just the silent wind as it rustled the leaves.