Charming's fiery eyes burned in Mintyheart's thoughts as he entered camp. Foxpaw's body was gone, which means Heavystep and Elderleaf were taking her to her final resting place. Dropping his prey off, he padded towards the apprentice's den.
The little tom's head poked out followed by the rest of him. He looked surprisingly awake, although Mintyheart couldn't stifle a purr at Palepaw's inside out ear. Flicking him over the head with his tail he fixed his apprentice's ear. "Are you ready to go out?"
"Y-y-yes!" A twinge of excitement in his mew.
This battle was good for Palepaw's moral. "Great. I was thinking that...OUCH!"
Hissing he turned to see who had jabbed him is his sore rib. Peppernose sat a whisper away. "I knew it." He hissed.
"You knew what? That jagging at a cat will get your whiskers clawed?"
"Why didn't you tell me you hurt your rib when I looked over you last night?" Peppernose growled.
"It's not bad." Mintyheart retorted.
Peppernose, like lightning, jabbed Mintyheart again, making the young warrior yowl. "Correction. It doesn't hurt unless you jab at it." Mintyheart growled softly.
"Get to my den. You need fresh cobwebs and marigold on your wounds as well."
"I was taking Palepaw out..."
"My den. Now." The black tom padded away.
Hissing Mintyheart turned to Palepaw. "Get something to eat. I'll be back in a moment."
Echopaw tossed and turned as she tried to sleep. She had stayed awake all night beside her sister and now the elders had taken her away. She kept thinking about her sister's death and what she should have done differently in order for her sister to still be alive. I should have been the one out there. I wish Starclan would have taken me and not her. She closed her eyes. Slowly exhaustion overtook her and she fell asleep. But her sleep was troubled. She opened her eyes and she was in a forest that she had never seen before. Gray mist hid most things from her vision. Padding forward she saw what looked to be sunrays at the end of a path. Squinting to see farther through the mist she could just make out the silhouette of a cat padding towards her through the sunlight's beams. "Echopaw" She heard from up ahead. The voice too good to be true, belonged to her sister. Pain filled Echopaw's mind at her dead sister's mew and she shuttered away. Hissing she turned pelting blindly through the haze. Was the cat following her a Starclan cat? Where they going to punish her for not saving her sister.
Blinking her eyes open she found herself in her nest. It was only a dream she thought. Looking over her eyes fell on Foxpaw's empty nest. Rising, she padded over and laid in Foxpaw's nest. Drinking in her sister's sweet scent she fell asleep again. Only to be woken, moments later, by the same dream. Seeing Shimmerpaw was asleep in her nest she moved closer to her adopted sister. Letting their pelts touch she heard a purr rumble out of Shimmerpaw as she welcomed Echopaw's closeness. Closing her eyes she let sleep take her once more. Moments passed and like the two times before Echopaw woke, wide eyed from the same misty dream. Hissing she left the den and padded into the clearing. The air was cooler but the sun's rays still warmed her pelt. Sitting down and wrapping her tail around her paws she stared off into space. Thinking back to the times of her and Foxpaw in the nursery. Surprise filled Echopaw as she felt a tail gently stroking her flank. Looking over, she met the gaze of her sister's mentor Spiceheart.
"I know what you're going through." The warrior mewed with sorrow and compassion in her eyes far beyond her years. "I know what it's like to lose a littermate."
Echopaw had never met Spiceheart's sister but she had heard about the she-cat and knew that she had died not long ago as an apprentice. The two she-cats sat in grief over Foxpaw. One had lost an apprentice the other a sister.
"I can't sleep." Echopaw mewed so quiet that a mouse wouldn't hear her. Spiceheart nodded in agreement. Her eyes were glazed with pain and sleeplessness. "I'm going to get a poppy seed from Peppernose. I'll bring you one." Echopaw padded to the medicine cat's den. She was mostly over the anger she felt towards the black medicine cat, but she still wasn't convinced there was nothing he could have done to save Foxpaw.
"Peppernose." She called. "I can't sleep. Can I have a poppy seed?"For a moment Peppernose stared at her, grumbled, and then disappeared into his den. "I need one for Spiceheart and Skypool too." She called after him. Looking over she saw that Bluefrost was asleep in one of the nest in the medicine cat den. I bet that was a struggle. I can't imagine trying to get Bluefrost to sit still. But they are brothers, she reminded herself. Still, I bet Peppernose has his knocked out with some kind of herb.
When he returned he came back with 8 seeds. "Eat four and take the others in this leaf to Spiceheart. I already bought some to Skypool." His voice was smoother than normal as if there was a hint of compassion for the little apprentice. Echopaw licked up her seeds and dropped off the leaf and seeds to Spiceheart who was still sitting on the edges of camp. Seeing that Skypool and curled up outside of the warriors den under some ferns, she padded over. Winterstorm was sitting next to her mother as if on guard. Nodding to Echopaw he padded off to join Sunstone and Blazingstar for a border patrol. Lying next to her mother's belly she felt Skypool stir. Her mother let out a soft purr as she began to lick her daughter between the ears. The rhythmic licking was healing for both of them. Soon Echopaw was fast asleep and in the misty forest. When the dream came to its normal end, it had felt like only minutes had passed. But when Echopaw had opened her eyes it was sunhigh. Skypool was still at her side and had a worried look on her face.
"You didn't sleep well did you?" Her mother asked.
"No. I keep having dreams."
"It's understandable. It will be hard for a while." Skypool rose to her paws. "I'm going to go out into the forest with Icecloud and Winterstorm. I need to get out of camp. You can join us if you want."
"Echopaw shook her head. She didn't feel like it right now. Nodding Skypool padded off towards the toms. Echopaw was giving herself a nice grooming when Peppernose padded by.
"Did you sleep well?" He asked
"I slept, but not well." Echopaw muttered back.
Peppernose stopped and looked at her curiously. "And why not?"
"I keep having this same dream over and over."
"What kind of dream?" He asked, vaguely interested.
"I'm in this strange woods and there is mist everywhere and then this cat starts padding towards me and I run." Echopaw meowed quickly.
"Do you know the cat?"
"No. I don't stay long enough to know. I don't want my ears clawed!"
"If you happen to dream that dream again, stay and find out who the cat is. Maybe Starclan is trying to tell you something." And with a flick of his tail Peppernose padded off towards Maplefur. As twilight was settling over the camp most of the cats were in the camp, looking tired from the busy day. Half the clan was too wounded to do their duties and the other half of the clan was exhausted from doing double duties. The borders had been quiet today and the fresh-kill pile was not as full as normal. Bluefrost sat by Blazingstar and Icecloud, talking quietly with each other. Winterstorm was sharing a thrush with Skypool. Mintyheart had convinced Maplefur to come outside and was sharing a rabbit with her and Palepaw. Heavystep was munching on two mice while talking with Elderleaf about the weather. Adderfang sat alone under a bush listening intently to what his brother was talking about. Sunstone was padding into camp while Echopaw and Shimmerpaw shared a mouse by the apprentices den.
Yawning Echopaw turned to Shimmerpaw. "I think I'm going to go to bed early." The run Shimmerpaw and her went on was great getting her mind off things but also tried her out.
Shimmerpaw nodded. "I'll be right in."
Echopaw curled up and didn't even hear when Shimmerpaw came into the den. As soon as her head touched her moss bedding she was dreaming.
Not again. She mumbled as her eyes opened to the foggy woods. Just as before she saw the silhouette of a cat padding forwards. Just as she was about to dash off she remembered Peppernose's words. "...stay and find out who the cat is. Maybe Starclan is trying to tell you something."
As the cat came closer she started to notice that it's paws where glittering like the stars. This is a Starclan cat. She thought. The cat padded closer till she could make out it's ginger and white pelt. Then it hit her, the cat padding towards her was Foxpaw! Dashing forward she shoved her nose in her sister's fur, breathing in her familiar scent. "Foxpaw!" She mewed releasing her,
"You look stunning! And your paws, they are twinkling!"
"Starclan has its perks." Foxpaw replied. "I've missed you."
"I can't bear not having you with me!"
"I will always be with you." Foxpaw draped her tail over Echopaw. "I will walk in your dream and live on in your heart."
Echopaw blinked at her. "But..." Echopaw stammered. "I don't want to be a warrior alone...we were supposed to be warriors together."
"You won't be a warrior alone." Foxpaw mewed.
"I know. Shimmerpaw and Palepaw will be warriors too but they are a bit older then us and it still won't be the same. I wanted to have you right next to be in the naming ceremony."
"That's not what I meant." Foxpaw mewed gently. "Your destiny isn't to be a warrior at all. Know that I'm in Starclan and have seen parts what lies ahead of you, it all makes sense. We were both part of something bigger then ourselves. Skypool was given a prophecy of hope when Patchstar ruled and now my death all point to one thing."
"Wait, it was Starclan's wish that you die and I be left alone to suffer on without you." Echopaw hissed.
"Sort of." Foxpaw's mew was soothing. "My death will help point you to wear you should be. If I was alive still, we both would have continued our training and became warriors, and you have a calling greater than that." She pressed her muzzle into her sister's pelt. "I must go now."
"No, please don't!" You didn't tell me what I am supposed to be!" Echopaw called as her sister's imagine began to fade.
"I can't tell you. You must find out for yourself. If you feel lost seek guidance." Blinking her eyes open Echopaw found herself feeling rested and in her warm den with Shimmerpaw and Palepaw close by. Sitting up and grooming her pelt she went over her dream in her head. She had always wanted to be a warrior but now the idea that she was meant to be something else intrigued her. Well I don't plan on being a Queen anytime soon. She purred to herself as she left the den and curled up to finish her grooming in the dawn sun's rays. Or an Elder. I can't be leader unless I was deputy. And I can't be deputy unless I'm a warrior. Which I'm told I'm not supposed to be. She felt a great comfort in seeing her sister again. She might not be able to be at my side here within the clan. But she will never leave my heart. I will be the best whatever I'm meant to be for her. Sunstone's mew broke her trance.
"Are you ready to get back to your apprentice duties now?" There was an edge in Sunstone's mew but Echopaw chose to ignore it. She was still in bliss of seeing Foxpaw again. Standing she shook her pelt nodding to the sandy she-cat. Sunstone turned and padded out of camp with Echopaw following behind.
"We will be hunting today. You will be going out alone and I'll track you and see how you are doing. My goal is to get you good enough to be made warriors with Shimmerpaw and Palepaw. I mean, getting past Palepaw will be a breeze, but I will be pushing you even harder in order to get past Shimmerpaw."
Echopaw rolled her eyes. Sometimes I think Sunstone is just as crazy as Maplefur. She purred to herself. Turning she padded into the woods and sat near the twisted roots of a huge oak. Prey will just walk right into my paws. As she sat her mind wandered... What am I supposed to be Foxpaw? We were going to be warriors, we always wanted that. I'm good at hunting and love learning battle moves. I don't want to give that up.
"What about your interest in herbs and healing," An unknown voice of a tom sounded in her head. What about it!? I'm not a medicine cat apprentice. Besides, Peppernose won't take an apprentice for moons and medicine cat apprentices get chosen by Starclan through signs and omens. Looking out she realized that two mice were out near the tree. Great, now Sunstone will think I have bees in my brain. Padding forward she chose the mouse farther out, and harder to reach. The mouse was nibbling on some plant and had no idea that the spotted brown she-cat padded closer and closer. Jumping into the air she killed it with a swift bite to the neck. As she breathed in the sweet smell of the mouse she was overwhelmed by the scent of juniper. Looking up she saw that the mouse had been nibbling on a juniper berry. Flicking her head from side to side she looked for a juniper bush but found none. This is odd. She thought. There are not juniper bushes around here. She recognized the scent of the berry and knew it was used for snake bites to draw out the poisons. Echopawflinched. What are the odds that the mouse I catch, is eating the herb that Spiceheart, my sister's mentor, had a sister named after. Shaking her head she picked up her mouse and padded forward. I'm not called to be a medicine cat. That wasn't any kind of omen anyway. As she padded along briskly Echopaw's paws become tangled and she fell into the bushes. Shaking off her pelt, not covered in leave scraps, she thought, what's wrong with me today? I never trip over...a scent pricked her nose. She couldn't define what it was but she had smelled it before...but where? Abandoning her mouse she opened her mouth to get a better smell. Locating the smell she looked at the plant. She had smelled the plant before when she helped Peppernose the night of the battle. It was called Feverfew and it was used to sooth scratches. Why am I running into all these herbs?
Just then Sunstone appeared. "What are you doing?! You left your prey just sitting in the open! And now I find you with your nose stuck in some plant! I know you lost your sister but that's no excuse to forget what you've been taught!" The she-cat's eyes burned with anger.
Echopaw stared at her, eyes wide. "I knew that Foxpaw was going to die." She whispered.
"What are you mumbling about?!"
"I knew Foxpaw was going to die." Sunstone looked confused at her apprentice. Echopaw continued, "I had a dream of a dead fox along the path towards the Shadeclan border. Starclan sent me a dream...an omen." Turning Echopaw pelted off towards camp.
"What are you mewing about?!" Sunstone called after her. "You left your mouse again!" Scooping it up, she dashed after the little she-cat. Echopaw raced into camp nearly knocking over Adderfang, who let out a fierce hiss as she passed. I have to find Skypool! If the prophecy she was given moons ago matches what I think then I'll do it. Echopaw vowed to herself. You hear that Starclan? If this is what you want you better make it clear or I'm going to become a warrior. She pelted to where her mother sat with Winterstorm. Skypool's eyes clouded with worried as Echopaw ran up, breathing heavily.
"What's wrong Echopaw?" She mewed.
"I need to talk to you about something...alone."
Winterstorm ducked his head and padded away, calling back his farewell to the two she-cats.
"Tell me the prophecy Starclan told you moons ago." Echopaw mewed directly.
Surprise flooded Skypool's face as she wondered how her kit had found out what she told no cat. Wrapping her tail around her paw she looked deeply into Echopaw's glowing eyes. This was important to her somehow. "There was a time in my life that all I wanted to do was join Starclan and end my life here with the clans. I had been through so much pain that I could no longer bear it. Everything I had ever loved was taken from me. My brother, my sister, your father. They were all ripped from me." Her eyes clouded as if she was reliving every moment. "I didn't want to live. Starclan sent me a dream. A cat told me, "You must take your love for your clan and pass it down, give what you wish you could have done." I didn't know what I was pregnant with you and Foxpaw at the time but as time passed I learned. The two of you renewed my will to live." She purred as she blinked at her daughter.
"What did you wish you could have done?" Echopaw mewed. Her voice shaking.
"I wish I could have saved every one of them. My littermates, my clanmates, and your father." She murmured.
Echopaw pressed her muzzle into her mother's neck. I accept, Starclan. I will be a medicine cat. Skypool's eyes glittered as she watched her daughter race across the clearing, flicking her tail in amusement as Sunstone entered and called after Echopaw.
"What are you doing now! Get back here! Echopaw! Blazingstar will hear about this!"
Echopaw twitched her tail back and forth at Sunstone as she disappeared into Peppernose's den. Peppernose looked up at her, "Do you need something?" He growled.
"Yes. I need you to train me to be a medicine cat."
"Absolutely not," snorted Peppernose.
"It's what StarClan wants!" exclaimed Echopaw.
"And I'm a rabbit," he retorted. Echopaw growled.
"Fine! I'll go talk to Blazingstar, and he'll make you train me!" and she stormed out.
"There you are! What do you think you're doing?" spat Sunstone, clearly furious, but Echopaw ignored her and raced over to Blazingstar where he was discussing something with Icecloud.
"Blazingstar, Blazingstar!" called Echopaw, a few steps from where the two warriors sat. "I need to be trained as a medicine cat!"
The leader cocked his head to one said, considering the small apprentice. "Oh? That's a big decision, Echopaw."
"Typically Starclan will send us a sign on who the next medicine cat will be. And it probably won't be for quite a few moons, as Peppernose is still young and healthy," added Icecloud, but Echopaw was shaking her head.
"I HAVE received signs from StarClan! Foxpaw walked in my dreams and more or less told me that I need to be the next medicine cat. She said she had to die in order for me to find my destiny!"
Icecloud looked at her with concern. "Maybe you should go see Peppernose, and –"
"I already did, and he turned me down! You have to let me do this!" she interrupted, while Icecloud let out a small hiss. "Sorry."
"I meant maybe he can give you some poppy seeds to help you get over the grief of your sister." Echopaw stared at the senior warrior. "Blazingstar, you've got to believe me! I knew she was going to die! StarClan sent me a dream before the battle," she said hysterically. Blazingstar hesitated.
"Blazingstar," Icecloud mewed. Blazingstar didn't say anything for a moment. "Would you mind giving us a moment?" he asked Icecloud, who nodded and padded away.
"Tell me about your dreams."
Echopaw took a deep breath before plunging into what had happened to her in the past few days, including the dream about the dead fox. Blazingstar didn't say anything but nodded a few times in encouragement.
"Do you believe me?" she asked hesitantly.
"I do," mewed Blazingstar simply. "Let's go talk to Peppernose." Leader and apprentice padded towards the medicine cat's den.
"Peppernose?" Blazingstar mewed softly. The two took a few more steps and then they saw Peppernose – asleep, but rather uneasily. Echopaw flattened her ears. "I've only been gone a moment!"
"I expect he's tired from treating everybody's wounds. Let's leave him be and come back later. There's a patrol I wanted to join anyways. Why don't you go hunting with Shimmerpaw? I'm sure Winterstorm won't be taking her out today anyway." When Echopaw frowned at the suggested, Blazingstar purred: "Medicine cats need to know how to hunt, you know. And then by the time you get back, we can talk to him, and hope that he's in a good mood." Echopaw purred, flicked her tail, and ran off to find her friend.
Blazingstar could hear Bluefrost's low mew from outside the warrior's den. He realized that he must have moved back in from the medicine cat's den, but he knew that he was in no shape to do anything other than sleep and bark out orders.
"…Yes, I suppose that's alright, Winterstorm. But try and get some rest, because I want you for the night watch guard." Winterstorm nodded and went back to sit down next to Skypool, and gently started grooming her. "Adderfang and Icecloud did the dawn patrol. So then I want Sunstone to take Mintyheart and Palepaw on another patrol, on the MeadowClan border, not the ShadeClan. Got that Sunstone? Oh, put a mouse in it. Then Spiceheart – you can take Echopaw and Shimmerpaw out hunting."
"Actually, sorry to interrupt, Bluefrost, but I just sent Echopaw and Shimmerpaw off hunting together. So I think I'll go hunting with Spiceheart, then."
"Uhh," he cleared his throat. Deputies didn't say "uhh"! "Are you sure? Wouldn't you rather go on a patrol and check up on the border—"
"No. I really fancy a hunting patrol right now!" he said cheerfully. Spiceheart glared at him. Bluefrost glared at him too. So much for keeping those two apart. Bluefrost tried to shrug, but his injured shoulder wouldn't quite let him. "Well, you're the leader." And he flicked his tail, signaling everyone to go about their duties, and hoped that Spiceheart had her head screwed on tight.
Back in the medicine cat's den, Peppernose was having an uncomfortable dream. He was walking in the woods. He knew it was ForestClan woods, but he didn't recognize any of it. All around him were voices whispering "Echo… echo… echo…." And their voices were, of course, echoing. Eventually Peppernose ran into a cat, Littlecloud, the ForestClan medicine cat before him and Peppernose's mentor.
"Littlecloud?" he asked.
"Can't you hear the echo, Peppernose?"
"Echo?" and he heard his own echo.
Peppernose jolted awake, his fur on end. He was gasping for breath and sweating. Echos… he thought.