[Author's Note: Heh, heh. Um, hi guys! Yep, I'm back. And feel very guilty about this late update. I am a horrible procrastinator, and I've been in a bad mood for a while and didn't want to write this. But here it is, because I felt bad for totally ignoring this story. We're still in Rainfeather's flash-back in this chapter. Anyway, enjoy!]
Rainfeather yelped and flipped backwards from the force of the collision. The other cat let out an oof! of pain and tumbled back the other way. The tawny she-cat crashed against the forest floor into a pile of dead leaves, sending them flying up around her.
When her head stopped spinning, she scrambled to her feet, spitting out dirt and leaves, and whirled to face her opponent, hackles raised, claws unsheathed.
"Trespasser! What are you doing on my territory?" She demanded to the cat who was struggling to their feet. They appeared to be a tortoiseshell and was obviously ThunderClan.
"What?" The cat turned to face her, yellow-green eyes narrowed in confusion. He spotted her and frowned. "You're RiverClan, aren't you? I'm not on your territory!"
"Of course you are, you-" The rest of Rainfeather's retort died on her lips as she finally recognized the irritated cat in front of her.
Out of all the ones she had seen, Thrushtail definitely didn't fit the noble images of most deputies. His pelt was tortoiseshell marked, a swirling mix of orange, brown, and black, with a smudge of white across the bridge of his nose, a look usually reserved for she-cats.
He was a rather frail looking creature, bony and slim, with long legs that just made him look unstable. His fur was thin and, other than the attractive markings, didn't make him look any good. His ears twitched and swiveled constantly, as if he was always on alert, his eyes were the color of unripe limes, and the tip of one fang poked out from under his lip.
Rainfeather shook her head and regained her voice. "Yes, you are on my territory. Out, now."
Thrustail's frown deepened. "No, I'm not." He growled. "Stupid she-cat. I haven't passed any markers. Which means you must be on my territory."
Rainfeather snarled at him. "I am not! ThunderClan territory doesn't start until past the silver birch tree."
Thrushtail glowered at her. "RiverClan idiot! The silver birch tree farther to the east. Over here the markers are back there-" He pointed with his tail. "-by the fallen pine tree." He smirked at her triumphantly.
Rainfeather swallowed, remembering vaulting the fallen pine several tree-lengths back. She raised one paw and licked it, trying to seem nonchalant. "So?" She said, her voice squeaking slightly. "I could barely even smell it. ThunderClan needs to keep up their patrol duties."
"What do you think I was doing, foxface!" Thrushtail yelped indignantly, beginning to circle around her.
"Apparently smacking into me." Rainfeather retorted.
"I was assualted! You're the one who came flying over the tree stump like a missile! Fishbrain!" Thrushtail argued, his ears flattening.
"I figured you would have heard me coming. I thought ThunderClan were the kings of the forest." Rainfeather growled lowly.
"We are! Not like RiverClan curs whose heads are so full of water they can't think!" He frowned, eyes narrowing as he scrutinized her. "You're Rainfeather, aren't you?"
"No, I'm Riverstar." She deadpanned sarcastically, somewhat uncomfortable at both the knowledge of her identity and how close Thrushtail was standing as he examined her.
He ignored her comment. "I saw you two gatherings ago." He said. "When they announced you had become a warrior. You were just a cheeky little thing back then, practically bouncing on your toes when they called your name." He continued walking around her in a slow circle. "You look alot different now."
"I'm alot stronger now." She growled lowly.
"Why, had any good skirmishes?" He questioned lightly.
"I'm about to have one." She rumbled almost inaudibly. Inwardly she hissed in frustration. Either chase me off or fight me, stop small-talking me! Were all ThunderClan cats this strange and obnoxious?
The dark light that was filling her eyes seemed to finally rouse Thrushtail, and he shook his head briefly and coughed. "Anyway." He said briskly. "Have you taken any prey from here?"
"No." Rainfeather muttered. "I was just walking."
Thrustail leaned his face in close to hers and inhaled deeply. She squirmed away uncomfortably.
"Nope, can't smell any blood on you." He said, stepping back casually. "You're fine."
I just told you that, ThunderClan idiot. Rolling her eyes, Rainfeather turned and began to stalk away through the forest towards her own clan full of cats that still had half their brains functioning properly.
She hadn't gotten more than three tail-lengths when she heard the crunching of leaves and a mass of tortoiseshell fur landed lightly in front of her.
"Where are you going?" He questioned, looking startled.
"Back to my own clan." She snarled, brushing past him and continuing to walk. Where else would I be going?
"I'm walking you back." He said quickly, stepping in next to her.
"Why?" She snapped. I think I know the way back to my own clan!
He looked bewildered and slightly uncomfortable. "Because you were on my territory. That's-that's what good deputies are supposed to do." He statement sounded almost like a question.
He doesn't even know what he's doing! Rainfeather thought in disgust. We should invade ThunderClan more often. They never set their markers and their deputy's an incompetent kit!
Rainfeather walked in silence the rest of the way, trying to act completely oblivious to the cat walking a bit too closely next to her, his tail occasionally accidentally brushing against her flank. She tried and failed not to sigh in relief when the fallen pine tree came into view.
She sprang up over to it, scrambling up the rough bark and sending showers of dead pine needles sprinkling down from the branches. She was about to jump down when there was a scrabbling sound. She turned and lifted her head back up over the side of the log. A tortoiseshell head popped up over the other side.
For a second, their noses brushed against each other, whiskers skimming each other's faces. Rainfeather sprang back in startled surprise, landing back on the forest floor.
"Where are you going?" Thrushtail questioned, barely flinching from the touch. His golden eyes were large and round.
"Home." She snipped, starting to turn away.
"Ah." Thrustail said. He was silent for a few moments, then a thought seemed to occur to him. "Hey, uh, don't-don't do that again. You know, they trespassing thing. Stay on your side, okay?"
"Mmm-hmm." She muttered, continuing to stalk through the woods, leaving the dazed and bewildered tortoiseshell behind.
Meanwhile, a few tree-lengths away, a cat was chasing a mouse through the woods. Brambles snagged at its fur, and tendrils made grabs for its paws, but the cat was intent on the prey.
Rounding a tree trunk, the mouse stumbled over a stone, and with a satisfied hiss, the cat pounced. There was a crack of the mouse's neck breaking, and the cat picked up the limp body, mouth flooding at the taste of blood.
Past the overpowering scent of mouse, the cat picked something else up, and close by. Ears pricking, the cat slithered over to the nearest tree and peered around it. Two shadowy shapes were moving through the woods, walking closely together and appearing to be talking.
Ears flattening, the cat began to creep alongside them. Trying to stay quiet, a deep thrill still coursed through its veins. Maybe it's ThunderClan, and I'll catch them plotting to take over our territory. I'd get some respect then!
The cat's heart was starting to sink however. Because, the closer the shapes got, the more and more they looked familiar. One of them in particular.
No, it can't be.
Both the shapes stopped in front of a dead tree. Thinking quickly, the cat skittered up the nearest small tree and scrambled out onto one of the twisted branches. Hardly daring to breathe, it peered out over to scene unfolding below.
Yes, it was true. No denying would stop the fact of what was going on down there. Bile rose in the cat's throat.
Why? Why would she do this? How could she?!
The mouse forgotten on the ground, the cat dove from the branches and tore blindly through the forest, furious tears spilling down its cheek fur.
Rainfeather padded back through the woods, still unsure if she should be furious or embarrassed. Yes, she had blatantly ignored the scent markers, but that stupid, infuriating ThunderClan cat had treated her like a kit!
Tired of conflicted emotions, she just decided to settle on being frustrated, because it was easier to deal with than the other two. Fur prickling in annoyance, she whipped through the brambles. I just want to go home and dunk my head in the river!
A mouse skittered out in front of her paws. She made a grab for it, but it disappeared long before her paws smacked down where it had been a second ago. This reminded her about her lack of prey, as well, which didn't improve her mood at all.
The trees were thinning out, and the scent of reeds and the sound of rushing water replaced the silence of the woods. She breathed in deeply and then scampered forward, clambering over the rocks and dropping down onto the familiar ground coated in wet grass and trampled reeds.
The river stretched out in front of her, babbling and splashing, cool and inviting. Shaking her fur out, she began to move towards it, wanting to dip her paws to remove the mud and grit from the woods.
She had barely gotten to the bank, however, when suddenly the air was lacerated with snarls and hisses. Shadows exploded from under the water, around rocks, behind bushes. She let out a cry before suddenly they were upon her.
The fastest one slammed into her, sending her reeling off balance. Two huge cats lunged forward, clamping their paws over her shoulders and forcing her down. She tried to yell out at them but another set of paws pressed down on her muzzle, forcing her to be silent.
She rolled one of her smokey green eyes upwards and could make out the shape of four cats, clanmates, surrounding her. Two hulks of cats, Houndtooth and Greytail, were pinning her down, water streaming off their fur from swimming the river. The tabby and white paws of Flowerpelt held her face to the ground. Another, Whitepaw, was circling the group, blue eyes furious.
Spits and hisses rolled from the cats' throats, and with her ear rammed down into the grass she could only make out a few words.
She twisted her head with difficulty and manged to catch more of the conversation.
"Throw her back over the border!" Whitepaw's high voice cried excitedly.
"Wait! Wait! Bring her back to camp! Stonestar can deal with this!" Flowerpelt reminded them harshly.
"Stonestar's her father. He'll never give a fair trial." Greytail argued.
"I don't care, it's the warrior code." Flowerpelt retorted. "And I don't think even Stonestar will help her out of this."
The paws were removed from her muzzle and shoulders, but before she could run teeth clamped down on her scruff, and more on the loose skin by her tail. She was hoisted roughly into the air and dragged across the muddy ground, her face skimming across the grass as she dangled.
After a few tail-lengths the cats carrying her abruptly stopped. "How do we get her across?" Came the muffled voice of Greytail.
"Just swim and pull her along." Flowerpelt snapped in frustration, and from the place where her face was pressed into the reeds, Rainfeather heard the sound of her and Whitepaw splashing into the water.
After another moment's hesitation, the two cats, Greytail and Houndtooth, carrying her began to slide into the water. Rainfeather's paws dipped into the cool river as the padded, until they couldn't touch the bottom anymore and leaped in to swim.
Almost immediately, her face was dunked underwater. She cried out, releasing a thin stream of bubbles through the water. Greytail, holding her scruff, jerked his head up, and she managed to lift her muzzle from the water enough to get a quick, sputtering breath, before she slipped under again.
She flailed her paws wildly, managing to get enough boost to tip her nose out of the water. She struggled to take a breath but it turned into a snort as a wave slapped across her muzzle.
Tipping her head up as high as she could, she manged to burble out, "Hurry up!" before her face dunked under again. All she got in response was a sharp kick to the chest, which may or may not have been an accident.
After a few more minutes of slogging through the water, struggling to get enough breath to stay conscious, Rainfeather felt her toes brush pebbles. A moment later, she was hauled up from the water and tossed onto the bank roughly.
She landed with a splatter of wet fur onto a patch of trampled reeds. She lay there for a moment, gasping in hungry gulps of air, barely conscious from oxygen-starvation.
She scarcely got a moment's rest, however, before her two guards had tramped over and were jabbing her roughly to her feet.
"Up! Up!" Houndtooth growled in his low, rough voice.
"Get into camp and face your trial." Greytail hissed.
Bewildered, Rainfeather stumbled to her feet and staggered unsteadily towards camp, occasionally bumping into one of the cats. The reeds tunnel finally camp into view, and the cats slipped through it.
The scene in front of her was not one of a normal morning in RiverClan. Usually, upon returning from a dawn patrol, a cat would come in to find their clanmates stretched out in patches of sunlight on the ground, nibbling prey and sharing tongues. Kits would race about camp, leaping for butterflies and pouncing on the warriors' tails, while being chased by their exasperated mothers. Everyone would be quiet, content, happy.
Instead, the scene that greeted her was of every warrior and apprentice in camp crowded around the tunnel, their eyes were hard and cold, and their pelts bristling when the tawny she-cat stepped gingerly into camp. Her dusky eyes swept quietly over the group, who stared her down coldly.
Upon a sharp nudge from Greytail, she continued to walk forward. The crowd parted grudgingly as she made her way along, sending hisses and growls in her direction. She finally broke through the cats and found herself seated in front front of the log where the leader went to address his clan.
Seated at the very base of the log were the rest of the patrol that had ambushed her. A few feet away from them sat Rainfeather's patrol, their expressions ranging from angry to pitying to bewildered.
At the sight of the three of them, Rainfeather regained her voice. "Where the hell were you lot?" She hissed. "What did you do? Why are we being treated like rouges?"
A mighty swat from Houndtooth sent her sprawling onto the floor.
"Not 'we'." He said lowly. "You."
"Silence, scum." Greytail added. "Keep your muzzle shut until Stonestar returns."
"Where is he?" She questioned, ignoring his command.
He swatted her ear with claws out, but answered her question anyway, "Out." He growled. "Patrol with Twigleaf, Reedfur, and Hawkpaw."
"Should we send a patrol to get him?" Flowerpelt questioned.
"If he's not back soon." Greytail answered.
"We could always deal with her ourself." Houndtooth muttered grimly. There were yowls of asset from the crowd.
"Stick to the warrior code." Flowerpelt snapped. The cats grumbled but stayed still.
Rainfeather was practically shaking. What was this? What was this?! She couldn't even ask what it was she had done wrong. Everyone was staring at her like she was the most vile piece of fox-dung in existence. Her patrol was up there like some sort of jury. Where was her father?
A moment later, there was the sound of reeds clattering, and a slim grey head slid into camp, followed by two toms and a bumbling young brown tabby apprentice.
"Wh-what?" Sputtered the old grey tom, yellow eyes skimming over the cats who were staring expectantly at him. "What is this?"
Greytail loped away from his position next to Rainfeather and stopped in front of Stonestar. He sunk to his knees and bowed his head. "Apologies for the interruption of normal duties, Stonestar." He meowed. "I thought it should be my duty to retell to you the, um, incident that has come to need your urgent attention. You see-"
Stonestar struck out a paw, swatting Greytail on the side of the head. The cat staggered, looking bewildered.
"Stop babbling, son, and get to the point." Stonestar snapped. "What in the name of StarClan is all this?"
Greytail swallowed, collected himself, then began again. "One of our clanmates has been brought to trial."
"Who?" Stonestar snapped.
Stonestar's expression didn't change, save for a brief flicker in his yellow eyes. "On what charges?"
"I think you'd better just come up here, sir." Greytail said quietly. "I, um, I'm not the right one to ask really. I wasn't there."
Stonestar looked like he was considering swatting the cat again, but instead simply nodded. "Very well." He muttered, walking stiffly through the crowd and leaping up onto the log, without a backwards glance at Rainfeather.
He turned to face the crowd, his eyes narrowed. "Will whoever is retelling this crime please step forward?"
Flowerpelt stepped forward almost shyly. She tipped her tabby and white face up to her leader, swallowing briefly before speaking.
"Rainfeather is being brought forth on charges of treason." She said smoothly.
"What?" Rainfeather could not help yelping. Houndtooth's paw came down hard on the side of her face.
There was a streak of grey, and then Houndtooth was flung sharply to the ground by Stonestar. The leader's face was pressed close to his, his teeth bared in a snarl.
"Who told you to inflict harm on her? Are you running this trial, foxdung?" He spat. "You do NOT touch her, understand?" Without waiting for an answer, Stonestar leaped off and stalked back to his log. Houndtooth struggled to his feet and sat back down, casting a baleful look at Rainfeather.
Flowerpelt continued to speak like there had been no interruption. "This morning, while on dawn patrol, Rainfeather was spotted with the ThunderClan deputy Thrushtail. The two were walking quite close together and talking to each other. At first they were on ThunderClan territory, then wandered into RiverClan land. They finally went separate ways by the fallen pine tree, where they exchanged an, ah, brief intimate nose-touch moment before leaving."
"Is that all?" Stonestar asked stiffly.
"Yes, sir. That's all I was told."
"So you didn't witness this." It was more of a statement than a question.
"No, sir. I was just chosen to relay the story. The witness wishes to remain anonymous." Flowerpelt explained.
"Why? Can't he come forward?" Stonestar questioned.
"Does it matter, sir? The information stays the same." Flowerpelt mewed.
"I suppose." Stonestar murmured. He flicked an ear. "Rainfeather, come forward."
Several cats grumbled as the tawny she-cat made her way forward to the front of the log. She tipped her head up to stare at her father. "Dad," She began, struggling to keep her voice steady. "It's NOT true."
Several cats looked like they wanted to protest, but Stonestar's glare silenced them. "Why is that?"
"I was on patrol and ran into Thrushtail accidentally. I had just gone a few paw-steps over the border." Well, maybe she could stretch the truth a little. "He insisted walking me back to border, and then I went back into RiverClan territory." She remembered something. "And the nose touch was an accident!" She yelped. She turned to the attack patrol. "And then they ambushed me and beat me up!"
"Lies!" Whitepaw cried out "We were serving justice to the traitor!"
"Shut up, Whitepaw!" Flowerpelt hissed softly. To Stonestar, she meowed, "We were just taking her back to camp for the trial."
"Trial for what?" Rainfeather hissed. "I accidentally ran into the deputy!"
"Liar!" Greytail spat. "You were seen conspiring with ThunderClan scum!"
Too furious to respond to him, Rainfeather whirled about to face her patrol. "You guys!" She cried. "Alright, friends, which one of you witnessed this? Which one of you actually thought I was betraying our clan? Which one of you curs ratted me out?"
Not one of them would meet her gaze. She started to take a step towards them when Stonestar's, "Stop, Rainfeather," halted her grudgingly.
Stonestar turned back to the rest of the clan. "I have heard the testimony, and my decision is that I have no reason to punish the warrior Rainfeather."
There were shrieks of protest.
"But she's a traitor!" Houndtooth said, raising his normally low voice. "It was witnessed!"
"By a coward who won't even step forward for the trial." Stonestar retorted. "I have no reason to trust this nameless witness's account over my daughter's side of the story. This trial is over, now everyone leave."
The cats stared in shocked silence, then began to slink away from the clearing. Overhead, a clap of thunder rattled, and clouds began to bunch in the sky, which had a few minutes ago been clean and clear.
The cats really didn't know where to go, but if they stayed in the clearing Stonestar would skin them alive. So they began to file into dens, and a few slunk off in small groups to patrol.
Rainfeather refused to meet the gazes of her patrol as they slunk past. She heard the pawsteps of one of them heading towards her, but she turned and raced off in the other direction.
She plunged into the warriors den, not sure why she thought that was the best place to be but not knowing where else to go. Her head was spinning, but she manged to make out the form of her nest off to one side of the den. She began to walk towards it, but ended up on her face when a paw struck out and tripped her.
"Oops." The cat hissed sarcastically.
Swallowing back a snarl, she stumbled back to her nest and sunk down into it. Her wrapped herself into a ball, her tail touching her nose. The reeds and moss her nest was woven out of poked against her pelt, suddenly feeling uncomfortable rather than soft.
She could feel the gazes of her clanmates on her. One by one, the cats in the den padded out, giving her a wide margin, all except one who pretended to trip and step on her tail. She squeezed her eyes shut.
What would her life be like now? She could never been allowed to go out of camp alone. Oh, sure, Stonestar would allow it, but someone would always be stalking after her. She would never be invited out hunting, no one would share tongues with her. Mothers would shoo their kits away from her. At gathers she would never be allowed to chat with the other clans. Some life!
Barely aware of it, she rose up from her nest and staggered out of the den. She pushed through the reeds, which clattered in the wind, which was picking up. Thunder crashed again as she padded down the shore and slid into the water.
She went limp in the current, like how she had learned was the best was to travel through the water, letting it drag her along for several minutes, keeping her head up for breath. finally, she saw a place she could hope off and paddled to shore, gripping the river bottom and shoving off. She grabbed and rock and dragged herself up onto it.
Turning her head, she looked back at the island in the distance. Black storm clouds bunched over it, lightning spiraling down from them.
She swallowed and turned back. Off in the distance, fields and forests stretched on, ending in the snow-capped mountains of PineLand peaks, and whatever lied beyond.
She sent one look back at her stormy home, swallowed, and turned away.
"Good-bye, clan. Good-bye, storm."
[Author's Note: Well, uh, there you go. That's why Rainfeather ran away from her clan. Yeah. Anyway, I tried to make this chapter long. I know it doesn't make up for going three weeks without updating, but whatever works. Until next time (Which will not take three weeks this time), ciao! :3]