Whitestorm led the Clan through the forest, racing through the undergrowth with the speed of a cat half his age. The rest of the Clan matched his pace with their pelts fluffed up in terror. Even the elders managed to keep up. Fear must have lent speed to their paws.
Mistyfoot ran alongside her Clanmates, Spottedkit bouncing onto her chest with each step. Willowpelt ran beside her, a mewling Sorrelkit grasped in her jaws. The pale gray she-cat looked terrified, but she pushed on, her eyes narrowed with determination.
Mistyfoot's own heart was pounding wildly with fear, but she knew she had to keep going. If we stay here, we'll die.
Finally, the trees cleared, and Mistyfoot could see the flat gray stones of Sunningrocks ahead. Relief washed over her. We made it.
Whitestorm led the patrol straight to Sunningrocks. He bounded up to the closest tree and climbed swiftly up to the higher branches, Streamkit held tightly in his jaws. He was followed by Bluestar, who settled on a branch a little bit below Whitestorm's. The rest of the Clan followed suit, scrambling swiftly up and gracefully up the thick trunks. Mistyfoot felt at a loss as she looked at the tall, imposing trees that loomed far over her head. She'd never tried to climb a tree before.
Willowpelt seemed to notice Mistyfoot's hesitation. She passed Sorrelkit over to Dustpelt, who carried the kit up the trunk of a tall birch. The pale gray she-cat mewed urgently to Mistyfoot, "Let me carry Spottedkit. I'll go up first, and you can hold onto my tail as you go up."
Mistyfoot blinked gratefully at her friend, her fear subsiding slightly. She reached out and let Willowpelt take the small black-and-white kit from her jaws. The pale gray queen climbed a few feet up the trunk of a sturdy redwood. Mistyfoot hesitated before scrambling clumsily up the tree trunk, reaching to grasp the tip of Willowpelt's tail in her jaws. The pale ThunderClan queen led her friend up the tree patiently, keeping her pace slow despite the danger at hand.
Finally, they were both able to scramble up onto a moderately thick branch high above the rocky ground. Mistyfoot braved a quick look down, and imediatly turned away and squeezed her eyes shut. The dizzying height was too much for a RiverClan-raised cat. She wrapped her arms around the branch and dug her claws in, holding on for dear life while fighting the urge to vomit.
They waited there for what felt like moons. The terror of being up so high had begun to fade, and Mistyfoot dared to open her eyes a slit, keeping her gaze firmly at the level of the trees. When nothing bad happened, she opened her eyes fully, her gaze seeking out each of her Clanmates through the leafy branches. When her gaze reached Whitestorm's tree, she froze, horror threatening to overwhelm her. Whitestorm was there, Streamkit still grasped strongly in his jaws, but Bluestar was nowhere to be seen. Whitestorm met her gaze, misery and apology in his eyes. Clearly he had seen Bluestar leave, but had been unable to stop her. He couldn't chase after her; he was in charge. He had Streamkit to care for, and if the Clan saw that both he and their leader were gone, they would be completely lost to panic.
None of that applied, however, to Mistyfoot. No cat except Willowpelt would miss her if she left. She turned to Willowpelt and mewed urgently, "Take care of Spottedkit." Before Willowpelt could offer any objection, Mistyfoot scrambled down from the tree, forcing aside her fear of climbing as she did. Once she reached the ground, she bolted away from the tree, heading for the one place she knew Bluestar would be; the gorge.
Mistyfoot tore wildly through the forest, fear pushing her to go ever faster. She wasn't too far from the gorge when the reek of dog-scent hit her like a blow to the face. A few moments later, she was able to hear the loud and vicious barking of the pack. Even though she knew nothing of the dogs' language, she could tell exactly what they were barking. "Pack, pack! Kill, kill!" A chill ran down Mistyfoot's spine at the words.
A single yowl of terror could barely be heard above the barking. "StarClan help me!"
Mistyfoot gasped. "Fireheart!" She quickened her pace, fear for her mate blotting out everything else.
The yowl came again. "StarClan, where are you?!" Mistyfoot could hear the triumphant baying of the pack, and she knew she had little time. A few moments later, the trees cleared out enough for her to see what was happening. Bluestar was racing towards the dog pack several fox-lengths in front of her, and a terrified Fireheart was clamped between the jaws of a giant brown-and-black monster of a dog, the biggest one in the pack. The whole pack was gathered right at the edge of the gorge, baying excitedly as their leader prepared to finish off the cat.
Mistyfoot barely had time to feel fear for him when Bluestar hurled herself at the pack leader, smashing into his side. The giant dog let out a yelp of surprise, dropping Fireheart as he did. The strength with which Bluestar hit him was enough to send him falling over the edge of the gorge. But just before he fell, the dog clamped its jaws on Bluestar's leg, dragging the elderly she-cat down with him.
Fireheart let out a screech. "Bluestar!" He crouched on the edge of the gorge, bunching his hind legs underneath him. "Bluestar, I'm coming!" Before Mistyfoot could yowl out a protest, the ginger tom leaped off the edge of the gorge after his leader.
Mistyfoot put on an extra burst of speed, throwing herself over the edge of the gorge moments after Fireheart hit the water. The force of the impact caused her to sink down into the murky depths, but she managed to kick up strongly to the surface. She swung her head from side to side, finally spotting a ginger shape several foxlengths away. Fireheart!
The former RiverClan queen swam strongly towards her mate, her powerful hind legs pushing herself easily through the foamy water. However, she was much clumsier than before; the weight of her heavy belly was throwing her off balance. As she got closer, she could see that Fireheart was trying desperatly to hold onto the scruff of an unconcious Bluestar. She closed the distance between them and grabbed onto Bluestar's scruff. "Let go! I've got her now!" She managed through a mouthful of Bluestar's fur.
Fireheart obeyed, realeasing his grip on the elderly leader. Mistyfoot tried to resume her former pace, but Bluestar weighed more than she had expected, and her own heavy belly made her unbalanced and akward. She was suddenly hit by a wave, momentarily pulled under the surface. She clawed her way back up, but Bluestar's weight was becoming too much for her. She felt herself being pulled down again when she heard two splashes.
She felt two pelts brush against hers, and when she turned her head she saw that Shadepelt was swimming beside her, Bluestar's front leg draped over her back. Stonefur's voice sounded from her other side. "We've got her, Mistyfoot."
The blue-gray queen shook her head. She knew that if she let go, Bluestar's head would fall under the surface. The five cats swam together for a while before finally reaching the riverbank. Mistyfoot, Shadepelt, and Stonefur dragged a half-dead Bluestar onto the shore. She could dimly hear Graystripe hear out a warning, and she caught Tigerstar's scent. Most of her attention was fixed on her dying mother.
Bluestar opened her bleary eyes, her gaze softenening as she saw Stonefur. "You saved me." She murmured.
Mistyfoot stroked Bluestar's shoulder with her paw. "Shh. Try not to talk."
Bluestar ignored her, pushing on in a tired voice. "I want to ask you to forgive me for sending you away. Oakheart promised me Graypool would be a good mother for you."
Shadepelt looked from Stonefur to Bluestar, shock in her eyes as she realized what the dying leader meant. Stonefur replied in a curt voice, "She was."
The ThunderClan leader rasped, "I owe her so much. Oakheart too, for being a wonderful father. I watched you grow and saw how much you had to give to the Clan that adopted you. When Mistyfoot rejoined my Clan, I could not have been more grateful, or more proud. If I had made a different choice, you would have both given all your strength to ThunderClan. Forgive me."
Mistyfoot did not hesitate. She leaned forward and licked her mother on the ear. "I forgave you long ago." She murmured.
Shadepelt had by then backed away, recognizing that this was a conversation in which she had no place. Stonefur stiffened, uncertainty flickering in his eyes. Fireheart spoke up. "She suffered a lot of pain for her choice. Please forgive her." He pleaded.
Stonefur finally dipped his head, rasping his tongue over Bluestar's ear. "I forgive you too." He murmured.
Weak as she was, Bluestar began to purr, her eyes shining with love for her children. Mistyfoot felt her heart breaking in two as her mother grew ever weaker.
The dying queen lifted her head, her eyes unfocused. "Oakheart, have you come for me? I am ready."
Fireheart cried out, "No! Bluestar, don't leave us!"
Bluestar seemed barely awake now. "I must." She whispered. "I have fought my last battle. When I saw the Clan at Sunningrocks, the strong helping the weak... and I knew you and the others had gone to confront the pack... I knew my Clan was loyal. I knew StarClan had not turned their backs on us. I knew... I knew I could leave you to face the danger alone."
Fireheart let out a pain-filled moan. "Bluestar..."
The elderly she-cat looked up at her depuy with the light of StarClan gleaming in her eyes. "Fire will save the Clan." She murmured. Mistyfoot froze. The words had the ring of a prophecy, but she had never heard it before. By the lack of surprise on Firehearts face, however, it appeared he had.
The dying she-cat continued, "You never understood, did you? Not even after I gave you your apprentice name Firepaw. And I doubted it myself, when fire raged through our camp. Yet I see the truth now. Fireheart, you are the fire that will save ThunderClan."
Mistyfoot listened as the prophecy's meaning was unraveled before her. She didn't doubt Bluestar's words for a heartbeat. She had known there was something special about Fireheart, ever since she had first met him. The deputy's endless courage and loyalty had kept ThunderClan from crumbling away to nothing even in its darkest hours. He was truly a gift from StarClan. As if to prove her thoughts, the clouds parted to release a bright ray of sunlight. It hit Fireheart's pelt, making it glow like a burning flame. He looked like a true leader.
Bluestar's voice was growing steadily weaker. "You will be a great leader. One of the greatest the forest has ever known. You will have the warmth of fire to protect your Clan and the strength of fire to defend it. You will be Firestar, the light of ThunderClan."
Fireheart shook his head desperatly. "No. I can't." He rubbed muzzles gentley with the she-cat. "Not without you, Bluestar."
The blue-gray queen looked up at her deputy and her daughter in turn. "Your kits will make fine warriors," she whispered, her voice seeming to come from a distance. "I will watch over them and their kin, moon upon moon." Then she let out a soft, peaceful sigh and closed her eyes forever.
Mistyfoot let out a low wail, pressing her muzzle into Bluestar's fur. Grief threatened to consume her. Now she had lost two mothers, and one of her strongest ties to ThunderClan was gone. She felt the warmth fade from Bluestar's fur, and for a moment, she thought she could faintly smell Oakheart's scent. Then it was gone.
She turned to Stonefur and asked in a rasping tone, "Will you help us take Bluestar's body back to camp?"
Stonefur hesitated, and for a moment Mistyfoot was sure he would agree. Then she shook his head slowly. "I promised Leopardstar we'd be back by sunhigh." He mewed. "Besides, I don't belong here. This is your home now, your Clan. I will never forget Bluestar and all that she sacrificed for us, but she deserves to be laid to rest by the Clanmates she gave her life for nine times over."
Mistyfoot recognized the truth in his words. "Then this is goodbye." She murmured. Stonefur would always be her brother, but she knew that it would never be like this again. The river would always stand between them, a great barrier they could never again cross. They were in enemy Clans because of the choices they had made, and they would never be able to change that.
The regret in Stonefur's eyes showed that he understood as well. "Yes." The two siblings rubbed muzzles for a long moment, breathing in each other's scents, greeting each other as siblings for the last time.
Finally Mistyfoot pulled back, dipping her head slightly. "Goodbye, brother." Stonefur padded over to Shadepelt, touching noses with his mate briefly. Then both cats waded out into the river.
Mistyfoot padded over to her mother's body. Bluestar wore a peaceful smile in death, as if all her suffering and pain had been lifted from her in her last moment. Mistyfoot dipped her head to the fallen queen in a gesture of utmost respect.
She thought of all she knew of Bluestar's past. The loss of her mother in a battle with WindClan. The loss of her sister to a monster on the Thunderpath. The burning secret of her love for Oakheart. The untimely death of Mosskit. The betrayal of Tigerstar. The eventual loss of her sanity. She had fought battle after battle in the service of her Clan, always for her Clan. She'd given up everything she had, even her own children, in order to become the leader ThunderClan needed.
Mistyfoot would always respect and love her mother, but she was choosing a different path. She was choosing loyalty to herself, to what she wanted and who she loved. She had made some of her own sacrifices, but she had pushed on, and she had come out of it with a mate and kits that she would never have to give up.
Mistyfoot looked up at her mate, a purr building in her chest. Fireheart's coat still held that hue of a burning flame, although his green eyes were dull and tired. Mistyfoot knew that soon he would enter into the world of StarClan and prophecies, a world which she could never truly be a part of. But she would be there for him every step of the way, at his side as a true ThunderClan warrior. She loved him, and that was more than enough. She pressed her shoulder against his, a purr rumbling in her throat. "Let's go home." She meowed.
They picked up Bluestar's body together and began to drag her away. Mistyfoot looked back briefly and saw that Stonefur was looking back too. The brother and sister shared one last, long glance. Then Mistyfoot turned away, walking side by side with the cat she loved, ready to embrace life as a full ThunderClan warrior.
So this is the end of A Misty Flame. Again, so so sorry about not posting in forever. There's a sequel I already started over on DeviantArt called "Streampaw's Quest." I'll post it all here over the next hour.