Warriors: power of three 4 - eclipse

Advertising Download Read Online


PROLOGUE

The forest shimmered in bright sunshine, the undergrowth rustling with prey. Beneath an ash tree, a black tom stretched and let the sun slanting through the branches bathe his belly. With a purr, he lapped at his chest, paws curling in contentment.

Suddenly a tortoiseshell darted out of a bush and hurtled past him. The tom rolled onto his flank and called after her:

“Mouse?”

“About to be fresh-kill!” the tortoiseshell answered. She plunged through a wall of ferns and disappeared into the greenery, her white-tipped tail whisking behind her.

Beyond the ferns, the forest floor sloped down into a grassy glade. At the bottom, a dark gray she-cat gnawed at a tick lodged at the base of her tail. She grumbled to herself as she tugged at the fat bug, then stopped and looked up the slope.

The ferns at the top were shivering.

“Got you!” A triumphant mew rang out; then the ferns shivered again, harder than before, and the tortoiseshell popped out with a mouse hanging from her jaws. She blinked at the gray she-cat. “Hi, Yellowfang!”

“Good morning, Spottedleaf,” Yellowfang called back. “A good day for hunting.”

“The hunting’s always good here.” With a flick of her head, Spottedleaf tossed the fresh-kill down to Yellowfang before bounding after it.

Yellowfang sniffed at the fresh-kill and jerked backward.

She rubbed her paw against her broad, flat muzzle as the dark shadow of a flea scuttled across her nose. “I thought these hunting grounds would be safe from fleas!”

“You probably brought them with you.” Spottedleaf narrowed her eyes at Yellowfang’s matted pelt. “When will you learn to groom yourself?” She leaned forward and began to lap at a large knot of fur on her Clanmate’s shoulder.

“When you stop trying to take care of every cat,” Yellowfang muttered.

A voice sounded at the top of the slope. “I can’t imagine that ever happening.”

Spottedleaf glanced up. A white tom was trotting down the slope toward them. “Whitestorm!” she purred. “Is Bluestar with you?”

“She was a moment ago.”

“I still am!” Bluestar burst from the trees and raced after Whitestorm. “I would have kept up with you if Tallstar hadn’t stopped me.”

“What did he want?” Spottedleaf asked.

“He was fretting, as usual.” Bluestar glanced at Yellowfang’s flea-bitten nose and curled her lip. “Bad luck,” she sympathized. “I didn’t think there were any fleas here.” Spottedleaf let out a soft mrrow and flicked the tip of her tail against Yellowfang’s shoulder.

“Tallstar?” Yellowfang prompted, shrugging Spottedleaf away.

“He’s worried about the kits,” Bluestar explained.

Yellowfang’s tail twitched. “Hollypaw, Lionpaw, and Jaypaw?”

“Who else?” Bluestar sighed. “The prophecy has gotten under his pelt like a tick.”

“But their training is going well,” Spottedleaf pointed out.

“They each seem to be figuring out their path at last.”

“That’s true.” Yellowfang stared at her paws and added quietly, “But there’s so much they don’t know.”

“They’re still very young,” Bluestar warned.

Yellowfang looked up. “That doesn’t mean we have to deceive them.”

“Do you think it would help if they knew everything?”

Bluestar countered.

Yellowfang’s shoulders stiffened. “Lives begun in decep-tion are always lived in shadow.”

Bluestar sat down. “They cannot know the truth. We have kept this secret for a reason—one that we all agreed upon, Yellowfang. We have to do what is right for the Clan.”

Yellowfang tipped her head to one side. “It’s a lie. How can that be right?”

“It wasn’t us who lied to them in the first place,” Whitestorm reminded her.

“But we go on hiding the truth,” Yellowfang argued. “I still think there’s too much secrecy in their lives.”

“They know about the prophecy,” Spottedleaf put in.

Yellowfang shifted her paws. “The prophecy! I wish they’d never heard about it. I wish I’d never heard about it! Sometimes I think it would have been better if they hadn’t been given their powers at all.”

Spottedleaf brushed her tail along Yellowfang’s flank.

“You know we had nothing to do with that,” she soothed. “We just have to hope they use their powers wisely, for the good of ThunderClan.”

“Just ThunderClan?” Whitestorm looked thoughtful. “If their powers are so great, shouldn’t they be used to help all the Clans?”

Bluestar widened her eyes. “These kits were born into ThunderClan! They have been raised as loyal ThunderClan warriors. Why should they feel responsibility toward any other Clan?”

Yellowfang narrowed her eyes at the old ThunderClan leader, but said nothing.

“Some things we must agree to differ on,” Whitestorm meowed peaceably. “The most important thing is that the kits respect and listen to their warrior ancestors.”

“Yes,” Spottedleaf agreed. “We must make sure they take notice of what we tell them.”

Whitestorm twitched his ear where it was being tickled by a blade of grass. “No cat is born so wise that it can’t learn from its elders. We must guide them where we can.”

“Easier said than done,” Yellowfang muttered.

A butterfly flitted overhead, making jerky progress against the breeze. Spottedleaf ’s eyes flashed, and she suddenly reared up, clapping her paws together above her head. The butterfly surged upward and out of reach.

“Mouse dung!” Spottedleaf dropped back onto four paws. She noticed Bluestar padding away. “Are you leaving already?”

Bluestar glanced back at Yellowfang. “If I stay, we will argue.”

Yellowfang flicked the tip of her tail. “So you still think we should keep the secret from them?”

“I understand your fears, Yellowfang,” Bluestar murmured.

“But for now this secret is safest kept with us.”

Yellowfang looked away. “Nothing but stubbornness,” she growled under her breath.

“Bluestar believes she’s doing the right thing,” Whitestorm told her. “You trusted her before, remember?” He nodded to Yellowfang and Spottedleaf, then followed Bluestar out of the glade.

“And what about you?” Yellowfang’s pale stare rested on Spottedleaf. “Do you agree with all this secrecy?”

“Truth is a powerful weapon,” Spottedleaf replied. “We must be careful how we use it.”

“That’s no answer!” Yellowfang snapped.

Spottedleaf searched Yellowfang’s anxious gaze. “Why are you so worried?”

The fur along Yellowfang’s spine rippled. “I don’t know,”

she admitted. “I just have a feeling.” Her gaze drifted toward the trees, searching the forest. “Something’s wrong. There is a darkness coming that not even StarClan can prevent. And when it comes, we will be helpless to protect the Clans. Helpless even to protect ourselves.”

CHAPTER 1

Hollypaw crouched low, pressing her belly against the boulder. It was still warm from the sun, which was dipping behind the distant hills. A cold wind rolling from the mountains ruffled her fur. From here she could see green fields unfolding toward a swath of forest; somewhere beyond those trees lay the lake, and home.

Though the trees were still in full leaf, they were a shabby green, and the air had a new, musty taste that hadn’t been there on the journey to the mountains. Leaf-fall is coming, she thought.

She couldn’t wait to be home. It felt as though they had been with the Tribe for moons. At least they were safely out of the mountains. The ground would be softer underpaw from here on, the hunting easier, and the territory steadily more familiar than rock and water and stunted trees.

She glanced over her shoulder. Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight were talking in low voices with Stormfur and Brook.

Tawnypelt and Crowfeather leaned in beside them. Were they saying good-bye?

Hollypaw was still shocked that Stormfur and Brook were staying behind. Last night, at the farewell feast in the cave behind the waterfall, Stormfur had announced that he and Brook would accompany the Clan cats to the foothills, but no farther. Jaypaw, of course, had just shrugged and nodded, as though he’d known all along the two cats would not be returning to ThunderClan. But Hollypaw could only guess at why any cat would want to stay in the mountains when they could live by the lake. Brook must feel the same way about the mountains as I do about my home. And Stormfur loves her enough to stay with her, wherever she is.

Suddenly, a flash of brown feather caught her eye. An eagle was skimming over the rough slope below her. Ahead of it a hare pelted in terror, throwing up dirt and grass from its long back feet. Folding its wings deftly against its sides, the eagle attacked, tumbling the hare head over heels before pinning it to the ground with thorn-sharp talons.

Hollypaw envied the eagle’s speed. To be able to fly like that! She closed her eyes and imagined skimming over the grass, paws hardly touching the ground, light as air, faster than the fastest prey. . . .

“I wish we could get moving again.” Lionpaw’s impatient mew broke into her thoughts. He padded onto the boulder and stood beside her, following her gaze toward the eagle feasting on its catch. “I wish I had something in my belly,” he mewed.

“Do you suppose we’ll ever be able to fly?” Hollypaw murmured.

Lionpaw turned and looked at her as though she’d gone crazy.

“I mean,” she tried to explain hurriedly, “Jaypaw said we have the power of the stars in our paws.” It still felt strange to say it out loud. “We don’t really know what that means. I was just wondering if—”

“Flying cats!” Lionpaw scoffed. “What’d be the point of that?”

Hollypaw’s ears were hot with embarrassment. “You’ve got no imagination,” she snapped. “Here we are with more power than any other cat ever, and you act like it’s nothing at all! Why shouldn’t we be able to f ly, or do anything we want to? And stop laughing at me!”

“I’m not laughing at you.” Lionpaw flicked Hollypaw’s flank with his tail. “I just think we’d look stupid with wings.”

Frustration surged in Hollypaw’s chest. She rounded on her brother, glaring. “You’re not taking this seriously enough! We’ve got to figure out exactly what this prophecy means!”

Lionpaw blinked and took a step backward. “Keep your fur on. You know Jaypaw and his visions. They sound great, but we have to live in the real world.”

“What does the real world mean, now that we have the power of the stars in our paws? We’ll be able to do anything!

Imagine how much we’ll be able to help our Clan!”

Lionpaw frowned. “The prophecy didn’t say anything about helping our Clan; it just mentioned the three of us.”

Hollypaw stared at him. “But the warrior code says we must protect our Clan before anything else!”

Lionpaw’s gaze drifted to the distant hills. “Are we bound by the warrior code if we’re more powerful than StarClan?”

he wondered out loud.

“How could you say such a thing?” Hollypaw scolded, but a shiver of foreboding ran along her spine. If the prophecy meant that they had to live outside the warrior code, how would she know what was right? How would she know what she was supposed to do if it came to a choice between her own safety and her Clan’s?

Jaypaw’s pelt brushed hers as he jumped up beside them.

“Could you two speak a bit louder?” he hissed. “I think some of the others didn’t hear you.” His blue eyes were f lashing with anger. Blindness had not robbed them of showing feeling.

Hollypaw spun around to see if any of the other cats had been listening, but the warriors were still deep in their own conversation. “No one’s taking any notice of us,” she reassured him.

“Not every cat has got such good hearing as you,” Lionpaw added.

“I’m just warning you to be careful, okay?” Jaypaw mewed.

“We have to keep this a secret.”

“We know,” Lionpaw assured him.

“Actually, I don’t think you do,” Jaypaw argued. “How do you think the other cats would react if they found out we’ve been born with more power than StarClan?”

Lionpaw glanced at Squirrelflight and Brambleclaw. “They’d never believe it.”

“I hardly believe it myself,” Hollypaw admitted.

“They’d believe it, all right.” Jaypaw’s voice was icy. “But I don’t think they’d like it.”

“Why not?” Hollypaw felt a jolt of alarm. She hadn’t thought about how her Clanmates would take the news. Surely they’d be glad? They must know she would only use her power to help them!

Lionpaw seemed to agree with her. “Won’t they want us to be the best warriors we can be?”

“This prophecy isn’t about being a good warrior!” Jaypaw warned. His claws scraped against the surface of the boulder in frustration. “It’s about having more power than StarClan.

Don’t you think ordinary cats might find that a bit scary?”

“But we’re not going to do anything bad,” Hollypaw insisted. “This is a gift to our whole Clan, not just us.” What did Jaypaw think they were going to do with their powers?

“Shh!” Jaypaw’s hiss cut her off as Squirrelflight bounded toward them.

She halted at the edge of the boulder. “What are you bick-ering about?”

“Hollypaw and Lionpaw are just arguing about who’s the best hunter,” Jaypaw mewed smoothly.

Hollypaw opened her mouth to object, then stopped herself. She hated lying, but she couldn’t give their secret away, not here.

“You shouldn’t be standing around chatting,” Squirrelflight told them. “Not when Brambleclaw has just told you to find fresh-kill. He wants to make sure Stormfur and Brook have something to take back to the Tribe.”

They had been so busy arguing, they hadn’t heard the order.

“You shouldn’t have to be asked twice,” Squirrelflight scolded.

Hollypaw hung her head. “Sorry.”

Squirrelflight flicked her tail toward a cluster of trees at the side of the slope. “Try there, and hurry up!” The copse cast a long shadow that stretched up the hillside. The sun would be setting soon.

Lionpaw licked his lips. “There should be plenty of prey in there.”

“Enough for everyone,” Squirrelflight agreed. She turned to Jaypaw. “Will you come check Tawnypelt’s pads? One of them is bruised where she trod on a sharp stone.”

There had been enough sharp stones to bruise everyone’s pads on the trek down from the mountain; Hollypaw guessed that Squirrelflight was finding Jaypaw something useful to do, since he couldn’t hunt. She tensed, knowing how over-sensitive Jaypaw could be. But her littermate just nodded and followed Squirrelflight back toward the warriors. He didn’t even bristle when his mother bent down to lick a grubby patch of fur behind his ear.

The gesture pricked at Hollypaw’s heart. Squirrelflight still saw them as kits. It would be easier if they still were; kits didn’t have to worry about having more power than their warrior ancestors. But things change, she told herself. She turned away, suddenly anxious. Would there come a time when Squirrelflight would be afraid of her own kits?

“What’s ruffling your pelt?” Lionpaw asked.

Hollypaw licked the fur prickling on her shoulder. “It doesn’t matter.” She nodded toward the copse. “Let’s hunt.”

She padded to the front of the boulder and let her paws slide over the edge. It was a short, steep drop, but the grass below looked like it would make a soft landing. She leaped. As she landed, a flurry of fur and paws knocked the breath from her body and sent her flying. Who’s attacking me? Gasping, she scrambled to her paws and prepared to defend herself.

“Why did you get in the way?”

Breezepaw!

The black WindClan apprentice was shaking out his fur beside her. “I almost had that mouse!”

“Sorr—” she began to apologize, then bristled. Why didn’t the dumb furball look where he was going? “I thought we were supposed to be hunting over there!” She flicked her tail toward the copse.

“I decide where I hunt!” Breezepaw snapped. He glanced up at Lionpaw, who was peering over the edge of the boulder.

“At least I was hunting and not sitting around chatting with my denmates.”

“Your denmates wouldn’t want to sit around and chat with you even if they were here!” Hollypaw retorted. She felt instantly guilty. Even though he was as bad-tempered as his father and twice as smug, she had begun to feel sorry for Breezepaw. Crowfeather treated his son with such scorn that Breezepaw sometimes seemed a loner among his own Clanmates.

Lionpaw jumped down beside her. “Are you okay?”

“Of course she is!” Breezepaw snorted. “She’d be even better if she were hunting like she’s supposed to, instead of getting in my way. The sooner we get this fresh-kill, the better. Then we can go home.”

It had been obvious from the start that Breezepaw hadn’t wanted to come to the mountains. And Crowfeather hadn’t acted like he was glad to have him along. He didn’t seem proud of anything Breezepaw did, unlike Brambleclaw, who made Hollypaw feel like the best warrior in ThunderClan when he praised her. Compassion welled in her chest as she looked at the miserable WindClan apprentice. “We’ll be back at the lake before long,” she mewed gently.

Breezepaw glared at her. “Why do we have to find fresh-kill for the Tribe, anyway? Why can’t they hunt for themselves?”

The compassion evaporated. Hollypaw wondered if she should remind Breezepaw that the Tribe cats were exhausted by their recent battle, and that prey was scarcer than ever in the mountains because of the gang of rogues who had invaded their land and forced them to set borders around their hunting grounds. But if he didn’t know that already, she wasn’t going to waste her breath. Let him figure it out. All she wanted now was to be back home, warm in her nest with a full belly and her denmates sleeping peacefully around her. She glanced at her brother. Would he set Breezepaw straight?

But Lionpaw just rolled his eyes at the WindClan apprentice. “Go catch a rabbit.” He snorted and stomped away across the grass.

Breezepaw curled his lip. “ThunderClan cats think they’re so special,” he sneered before stalking down the slope.

Hollypaw hurried after her brother. He was muttering under his breath as she caught up to him.

“I wish I had the power to shut that furball up once and for all!”

Is he joking? Hollypaw looked sideways to see if Lionpaw’s eyes were shining with their usual good humor, but they were half closed in a frown. She skipped in front of him and blocked his path. “You don’t mean that, do you?”

Lionpaw flicked his tail. “Of course not,” he grumped. “I’m just tired.”

“But do you think that’s what ‘the power of the stars’

means?” Hollypaw persisted. “The power to make any cat do what we want?”

Lionpaw shrugged but didn’t meet her gaze. “I suppose,” he answered. “I haven’t really thought about it.”

“You must have!”

Lionpaw padded around her and kept going for a few moments before he spoke again. “I hope it will make me stronger than any other cat, so that I can always win battles.”

He paused. “What about you?”

“I hope it means I’ll know things other cats don’t.”

“Like what?” Mischief lit his gaze. “How to speak to Twolegs?”

“Don’t be stupid!” Hollypaw’s claws itched with impatience. “I mean the power to understand”—she groped for the words to explain—“everything,” she mewed at last.

Lionpaw nudged her shoulder affectionately. “Is that all?”

Hollypaw flicked him away. “You know what I mean.”

They had almost reached the trees before Lionpaw spoke again. “Perhaps each of us will feel the power differently,” he ventured. “Jaypaw can already tell what cats are thinking, can’t he?” He caught Hollypaw’s eye. “He does it to you, right?”

Hollypaw nodded.

“Leafpool can’t do that,” Lionpaw went on. “None of the medicine cats can. Jaypaw is already making predictions about trouble in other Clans, too. That must be his power—to see things other cats can’t.”

“He’s the least blind of us all,” Hollypaw murmured, feeling her pelt prickle the way it did when Jaypaw said exactly what was running through her mind.

Thick foliage grew at the edge of the wood, and she halted to let Lionpaw take the lead. “Have you felt anything yet?” she ventured as he began to nose his way into the bushes.

To her surprise, Lionpaw spun around to face her. His eyes glittered with a strange intensity. “At the start of our journey, we stopped on the ridge to look down on the lake, remember?

Then you went off to catch prey and rest, but I wasn’t hungry.”

He blinked. “As I was looking at the territories, I started to feel . . . well, kind of strange.”

Hollypaw leaned forward. “Strange? How?”

“I felt like I could do anything!” Her brother’s eyes f lashed.

“Run to the farthest horizon without getting tired, fight any enemy and win, face any battle without being afraid.”

Hollypaw shifted on her paws and realized that she was backing away from him. Something about him suddenly made her feel uncomfortable: the way he had tensed his shoulders so that he looked more powerful than before, the faraway look in his eyes, as though he could see beyond her, beyond the woods, to some distant place where he could take on enemies single-pawed. She thought back to how he had fought for the Tribe; how he had come staggering out of the battle covered in blood—none of it his own—still ready to fight until there were no cats left standing.

The fire in his eyes sent a shiver through her pelt.

How could she be scared of her own brother?

CHAPTER 2

Jaypaw touched his nose to Tawnypelt’s pad. It felt hot and fat. “Swollen,” he pronounced. “The skin’s grazed but not bleeding. But you already know that.” He could hear Hollypaw’s and Lionpaw’s faint mews as they headed away to find prey. Were they talking about the prophecy?

Tawnypelt pulled her paw from under his muzzle. “I knew I couldn’t taste blood, but I wasn’t sure if a stone had worked its way in.” She licked it. “My pads have grown so hard from the mountains, I can’t tell calluses from cuts anymore.”

“No stones,” Jaypaw reassured her. He nodded toward the sound of water babbling over rocks nearby. “That stream doesn’t sound too deep. Go stand in it. The water should ease the swelling.”

He padded after her and heard the splash as she leaped into the water.

She gasped. “It’s cold!”

“Good,” he mewed. “It’ll take down the swelling quicker.”

He pricked his ears. Hollypaw’s and Lionpaw’s voices had faded into the distance. At last he had shared with them the secret he had kept to himself for so long. Telling it had felt like walking through unknown territory, each word falling like a paw step on uncertain ground. Lionpaw had accepted it as though something that had been confusing him had finally been explained. Hollypaw’s reaction had been more frustrating: She only seemed concerned about how they could use their powers to help ThunderClan, and kept fretting about the warrior code. Didn’t she understand that the prophecy meant more than that? They had been given a power that stretched far beyond the boundaries set by ordinary cats.

Tawnypelt’s mew interrupted his thoughts. “This water’s very cold.”

“It’s mountain water.”

“I can tell,” Tawnypelt meowed urgently. “My paws have gone numb!”

“Well, get out then.”

With a gasp of relief, she landed beside him and began shaking the water from her paws, scattering icy drops on his fur.

Jaypaw shivered and moved away; mountain winds and cold water were a bad mix. “Does your paw still hurt?”

“I can’t feel it at all,” Tawnypelt replied. She paused. “Actually, I can’t feel any of my paws.”

Squirrelflight was padding toward them. “Any better?”

“I think so,” Tawnypelt meowed.

Jaypaw felt his mother’s tongue lap his ear. “Are you okay, little one?” she asked gently.

He ducked away, scowling. “Why shouldn’t I be?”

“It’s okay to be tired.” Squirrelflight sat down. “It’s been a hard journey.”

“I’m fine,” Jaypaw snapped. His mother’s tail was twitching, brushing against the gritty rock. He waited for her to make some comment about how much harder the journey must have been for him, being blind and all, and then add some mouse-brained comment about how well he had coped with the unfamiliar territory.

“All three of you have been quiet since the battle,” she ventured.

She’s worried about all of us! Jaypaw’s anger melted. He wished he could put her mind at rest, but there was no way he could tell her the huge secret that was occupying their thoughts . “I guess we just want to get home,” he offered.

“We all do.” Squirrelflight rested her chin on top of Jaypaw’s head, and he pressed against her, suddenly feeling like a kit again, grateful for her warmth.

“They’re back!”

At Tawnypelt’s call, Squirrelflight jerked away.

Jaypaw lifted his nose and smelled Hollypaw and Lionpaw.

He heard claws scrabbling over rock as Breezepaw arrived.

The hunters had returned.

“Let’s see what they’ve caught!” Tawnypelt hurried to greet the apprentices.

Jaypaw already knew what they’d caught. His belly rumbled as he padded after her, the mouthwatering smells of squirrel, rabbit, and pigeon filling his nose. If only it weren’t going to be given to the Tribe.

Crowfeather and Brambleclaw were already clustered around the makeshift fresh-kill pile. Stormfur and Brook hung back as though embarrassed by the gift.

“This rabbit’s so fat it’ll feed all the to-bes,” Squirrelflight mewed admiringly.

“Well caught, Breezepaw,” Tawnypelt purred.

Jaypaw waited for the WindClan apprentice’s pelt to flash with pride, but instead he sensed anxiety claw at Breezepaw.

He’s waiting for his father to praise him.

“Nice pigeon,” Crowfeather mewed to Lionpaw.

Breezepaw stiffened with anger.

“And look at the squirrel I caught!” Hollypaw chipped in.

“Did you ever see such a juicy one?”

“Come see!” Tawnypelt called to Stormfur and Brook.

The two warriors padded over.

“This will be very welcome,” Stormfur meowed formally.

“The Tribe thanks you.” Brook’s mew was taut.

Jaypaw understood their unease. By accepting fresh-kill, they were openly admitting their weakness. Hunting was poor in the mountains now that two groups of cats were sharing the territory. And yet Jaypaw could feel fierce pride pulsing from Stormfur. The mountain breeze stirs his heart as well as his pelt.

There was a core of strength within him, a resolve that Jaypaw had not sensed before, as though he were more rooted in the crags and ravines than he ever had been beside the lake. He truly believes that this is his destiny. The Tribe were Stormfur’s Clan now. He had been born RiverClan, and lived with ThunderClan, but now it seemed that he had found his true home.

Jaypaw shivered. The wind had been sharpened by a late-afternoon chill.

A howl echoed from the slopes far above.

Brook bristled. “Wolves.”

“We’ll get this prey home safely,” Stormfur reassured her.

“The wolves are too clumsy to follow our mountain paths.”

“But there’s a lot of open territory before you reach them,”

Brambleclaw urged. “You should go.”

“We should all head home,” Crowfeather advised. “The smell of this fresh-kill will be attracting all the prey-eaters around here.”

Alarm flashed from every pelt as Jaypaw detected a strange tang on the breeze. It was the first wolf scent he’d smelled. It reminded him of the dogs around the Twoleg farm, but there was a rawness to it, a scent of blood and flesh that the dogs did not carry. He was thankful it was faint. “They’re a long way off,” he murmured.

“But they travel fast,” Brook warned. The rabbit’s fur brushed the ground as she picked it up.

“We’re going to miss you,” Squirrelflight meowed. Her voice was thick with sadness.

Brook laid the rabbit down again, a purr rising in her throat.

Her pelt brushed Squirrelflight’s. “Thank you for taking us in and showing us such kindness.”

“ThunderClan is grateful for your loyalty and courage,”

Brambleclaw meowed.

“We’ll see you again, though, won’t we?” Hollypaw mewed hopefully.

Jaypaw wondered if he would ever return to the mountains. Would he meet the Tribe of Endless Hunting again?

He had followed Stoneteller into his dreams and been led by the Tribe-healer’s ancestor to the hollow where ranks of starry cats encircled a shimmering pool. He shivered as he recalled their words: You have come. They had been expecting him, and they had known about the prophecy! Yet again, Jaypaw wondered where the prophecy had come from, and how the Tribe of Endless Hunting were connected to his own ancestors.

“There’s no more time for good-byes!” Crowfeather’s mew was impatient.

“Take care, little one.” Brook’s cheek brushed Jaypaw’s before she turned to say good-bye to Hollypaw.