We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
The night air was chilly and fresh for the first time in moons. The heat of day had already evaporated come moonhigh and a promising late summer breeze lifted Pinestar's spirits. It's getting cooler, thank Starclan. She thought, padding through the woods ahead of her clanmates, her paws heavy with an icy cold dew. The light of the full moon spilled over the evergreen canopies, its pallid glow dripping softly through the dense pine needles and boughs. With an energetic buzz, the ginger she-cat lead towards Starclan's Claws hastily, eager to take her place among the clan leaders for the first time.
Pinestar would be foolish to say she wasn't anxious, but a burning anticipation overpowered all else, quenching her fears. Even with her heart fluttering like the wings of a hummingbird, she was able to stomach her nerves and hold herself together. She held a brisk and effortless pace, seemingly unphased by her first gathering as leader of Nightclan. What's their to worry about? I've been Nightclan's leader for a whole season already! Pinestar cleared her throat, as if she was choking on her careless thoughts. This was no laughing matter. This wasn't arranging patrols or addressing your allies. This was a counsel between enemies, the true nature disguised with sweet words of success and a pretense that all is well.
Though all clans knew of the fires both Treeclan and Lightningclan had suffered. Although Lightningclan is no concern to Pinestar, her heart hardened at the thought of her squirrel-chasing neighbors. It was no secret that part of Treeclan had been scorched, and it was predictable for Lionstar to attempt to reclaim the Deer Path. Would Nightclan be able to protect both the Wooded Marsh and the Deer Path throughout leafbare? Pinestar did not know, but with Treeclan short on prey from the wildfire, Pinestar knew what was coming. Even the thought of it made her tense as Nightclan grew closer to Starclan's Claws. Her mind had been roaming the whole trip, and when her green eyes finally caught the sharp rocks glimmering in the moonlight, her heart skipped a beat.
It looked like Nightclan was the first to show up, and Pinestar almost let out a sigh of relief.
Turning back towards her clanmates, she made a brisk announcement.
"As you all know, remember to be careful talking with the other clans. Keep your ears clear for any information that may prove advantageous to Nightclan. That being said, I hope you all can relax and have a good time!" She finished exuberantly. "Let's go."
After dismissing her clanmates, Pinestar headed down towards the large, round boulder all the clan leaders spoke from. All the gatherings she had been to in the past, she was always looking at the five figures from afar, but now...Pinestar felt pride burn deep, and with a powerful leap, she launched herself on the far end of the boulder, courteous enough to leave room for the others to come. Or rather, the least number of rivals passing by her, the better. It felt like she was waiting forever, alone on the boulder while her clanmates mingled, until the scent of Treeclan filled the clearing.
Pinestar's heart dropped to her paws as her eyes caught the large shape of their leader on his way to the very boulder she sat on. The ginger she-cat's green eyes greeted Lionstar warmly, her true hostility well guarded. Perhaps a little admiration leaked through for a moment, meeting a leader who has held his throne for moons, a leader whom she had watched for moons address the clans from this very spot...but that moment was short lived, and Pinestar's childish excitement was replaced with confidence and eloquence. With a posture boasting unwavering ease, Pinestar dipped her head respectfully and mewed a lighthearted greeting to Lionstar, trying to distract herself from the cats pooling into the clearing as the other clans arrived. She didn't need to focus on the stress of public speaking. Not yet at least.
"It's a fine evening for a gathering, isn't it?"
She didn't mind keeping up small talk, but deep inside, Pinestar honestly couldn't wait for all of it to end.
blinded by the light of a new sun take it to the world, gonna sing it like an anthem
"If anyone asks about the fire, stay silent on the damages our territory has suffered. Gatherings are meant to be peaceful," Lionstar caught the eye of every cat chosen for the occasion. "But that won't stop rumors from spreading and plans from forming if we are not careful." The golden tom's gaze lingered on the forms of Owlpaw, Berrypaw, and Amberpaw. They're almost ready. He would have liked for Ravenpaw, Aspenpaw, Fawnpaw, Thornpaw and Finchpaw to accompany their littermates to the gathering, but not even he was so heartless as to unleash eight apprentices upon their unsuspecting neighbors.
Not to mention trying to keep Finchpaw and Thornpaw out of trouble. Gorsetail would be an elder before the night ended.
Having said his piece, Lionstar led the way into StarClan's Claws, walking through the long shadows of the sky-touched pillars. He shared a nod with his deputy and medicine cat, before approaching the center.
NightClan were the first to arrive. Though their figurehead was nowhere near as diminutive (or hostile) as Ravenstar had been, Lionstar showed no sign of intimidation or hesitancy as he climbed the boulder to sit beside Pinestar. He had earned his place here long ago. So many leaders had come and gone around him, with the exception of Hawkstar, it wouldn't surprise him greatly if NightClan or RainClan had a new leader by the end of next season.
"It's a fine evening for a gathering, isn't it?"
"It is," Lionstar agreed, tone diplomatic. "Not a cloud in sight. StarClan must be in a good mood."
She must know about the fire, he thought as he let his gaze wander from Pinestar's poignant green stare to the cats gathering below them. If she knows about that, then she must know what we're planning. What he was planning. Once the gathering was over, and Lionstar had a stronger grasp of how the rest of the valley was recuperating, he was going to pull his deputy and medicine cat aside for counsel.
TreeClan needed more territory if they were to get the most benefit out of leaf-fall. They were not the only Clan in need of land; the scent of RainClan was carried in with the breeze, but Lionstar was not interested in the water-loving Clan. His curiosity lied with LightningClan, who had suffered far worse in the fire than his own cats.
Desperation could make someone act rashly or lash out in fear. He'd already told Gorsetail to double the border patrols in the open woods. With the state the ugly, charred woodland was in, however, they would see LightningClan coming long before they reached the scent line.
Firestar was shaken awake by Redscar's forepaw. Quickly sitting upright, the she-cat felt her fur bristle and the threat of a snarl to escape her maw, but she calmed herself. Memories of the recent battle and fire burned into her dreams, making the nights restless. Which gave reason for her to slip away to sleep until the gathering. Redscar arrived on time to wake up but still exhaustion clung to the leader's calico pelt.
"Did I oversleep?" She asked, the tom replied with a shake of his head before stepping back to allow Firestar to fully wake up.
Exiting her barely rebuilt den, Firestar scanned the slowly recovering camp. The smell of burnt earth was heavy in the air, smoke still hung above them. It would take a good strong wind to push it away. Firestar only hoped that the kits hadn't gotten sick from the smoke, the last thing she wanted was the loss of young life.
Turning to look at a few senior warriors, she nodded in approval to them leading out the repairs. Unfronatnely a few warriors hadn't been accounted for. Flashbrook assumed to be among the fallen. His body hadn't been recovered but it would have taken a gift from StarClan to survive venturing out to the fire alone. Firestar added another hope to her growing list, she hoped that Flashbrook hadn't suffered.
As she came closer to the group attending the gathering, Firestar greeted them with a single bow of her head. Lynxpaw was her apprentice and alongside Larkpaw would be attending their first gathering. Firestar gave special instruction for Tawnytail to keep any eye on them. The last thing they needed was the entire valley to know just how badly they were hurt.
"Follow me!" She chirped, not bothering to give a small speech. She picked up a trot and headed out of camp.
Careful to pick her way across the burned territory, Firestar slowed their progression to ensure they didn't get covered in soot or inhale too much lingering smoke. As the time past, Firestar forced herself to push aside the pain still dug deep in her heart. The pain of her dead daughter.
Upon arrival just outside of StarClan's Claws, Firestar stopped the group. Turning to face them, she forced a smile.
"Remember, no fighting. Avoid all StoneClan cats if possible. Keep your heads up. Kindleflare, please talk to Falconstorm or NightClan's medicine cat for herb aid," She told them, meeting the gaze of each cat before turning back to head into the sacred place.
A sigh of relief escaped her as she realized they had arrived before Hawkstar. Walking over she joined the other two leaders with a quick leap to the boulder.
"Thank StarClan the night is clear," She added her sentiment with a polite and mellow tone of voice.
It had been a week since StoneClan had reclaimed the Sun Stones. A sand brown ear flicked at the thought of that night and all the events that had transpired. Both he and Firestar had lost a life, and though they'd each recovered... It had been two lost lives too many. Hawkstar hated more than anything that the battle had occurred, yet with Leafbare on the approach as Greenleaf began to give way to Leaf-fall, StoneClan needed all the territory for hunting that they could possibly own. With a barely concealed grunt, the large tabby tom lifted himself from his mate's side, waiting for her to join him before padding out.
Every step sent a reminder to his nervous system he'd been badly injured not long ago. Despite StarClan's aid, one week was not enough for the burning scar to subside. Washing the blood from his pelt had helped cover some of the damage, the sandy-hued fur no longer plastered to his broad-shouldered frame, but the part in his fur was unnatural to anyone who gave him more than a passing once over. His pale amber gaze landed upon Mistpetal in the gathered crowd, a silver face he was still growing used to since the change of deputy just prior to the battle against LightningClan.
When she nodded to indicate all invited cats had arrived, Hawkstar descending stiffly from the Rock Pile to join them. His sweeping eyes paused upon the form of his daughter Herondive, seated beside her apprentice Meadowpaw. Although he'd considered bringing both Meadowpaw and Kestrelpaw, he'd decided instead to bring Mothpaw. Hawkstar hoped the younger cats might be on better behavior if their siblings were not around to influence their choices. With a shallow breath the only indication of his intent to speak, he delivered gentle words of warning only loud enough to be heard by those nearby.
"Everyone on best behavior." He rasped, the mountainous tom reserving his vocal strength for the Gathering. "I will not tolerate news of sharp words originating from my Clan. If you cannot be diplomatic, avoid engaging with LightningClan cats. And be respectful; we are all aware of the blaze that swept over the valley. Do not go sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, trying to figure out just how badly the other Clans were affected. Thank StarClan we were fortunate." A final flick of his tail indicated their departure.
Trusting the more senior warriors to keep the group together, Hawkstar focused on picking a pace that would not aggravate his wounded side too much. Frozenrain's blue gaze caught his attention in the moonlit night, and he offered her a comforting smile. I'm alright, it said. As StarClan's Claws drew nearer, the StoneClan figurehead found his thoughts wandering once again to Mistpetal. This would be her first Gathering as deputy, the first time she would set paw on the ledge designated for second in commands. He wondered how many faces had changed. Wolfclaw's long reign as deputy had finally come to an end, under circumstances much more pleasant than those of many past deputies.
He motioned for his Clan to slow as the edge of StarClan's Claws drew into view. His senses told him three of the five Clans had arrived; he was simply thankful not to be the last. Steadying himself and preparing for the display of strength to come, Hawkstar slipped into the polite persona the other leaders were most accustomed to. Another signal of his tail, and he charged forth, his lope near-imperceptibly adjusted to accommodate his still-healing wound. As he'd done so many times before, the StoneClan leader veered off from his Clan, shifting course for the familiar rock spires.
In a pawful of well-versed bounds, the sand-colored tom scaled to the leaders' perch; those who knew him well might have noticed the way he led with his non-dominant paw. The subtle detail was the only indication something was amiss concerning the large framed tom. Well... That, and the raised skin twisting its way along the tom's chest and neck. With his usual polite head tip, the StoneClan figurehead lowered himself to a seat next to Lionstar, skillfully placing the golden tom between himself and Firestar. "Greetings." He offered them all, his tail folding over massive paws. "It would seem the weather is much more accommodating today." He remarked.
leader of stoneclan
and may you have the courage to scale their summits
Even the hourglass stops Take my breath away I was born to shine
He was uneasy about this Gathering. Stormstar was letting him handle more and more of the day to day tasks needed for the clan. He had this sickening feeling he was being trained to take over far sooner than he'd have liked. He didn't dare ask the aging leader, but the feeling was there. It wasn't like the other tom had completely stepped down yet or anything of that nature. Final decisions were always brought before Stormstar, and when things got unmanagable it was still Stormstar that everyone looked to.
But the fire had been something he'd thrown himself to monitoring without thinking about it. He'd ordered the fastest runner in the clan to head upstream and check how far the fire had spread, to make sure it wasn't going to somehow jump the water and start devestating the entire region. He'd prepared everyone to leave if they had to, though didn't expect to have to. He made sure everything that could be needed was gathered. Preventive measures and a plan of escape should RainClan find themselves before a wall of flames.
Silverfrost was shaken from his thoughts by the sound of his leader's voice. "The fire will be on everyone's mind tonight. Do not bring it up unless they bring it up first. Don't pry and mind your words."
As Deputy Silverfrost had to agree. With apprentices coming the likelihood of someone saying something insulting was pretty high. But he believed in his clan, and had to trust that they wouldn't say anything too unfortunate amongst their peers in the other Clans. Two apprentices this time, one his own. And the reappearance of Swanfeather still bothering him on some level. He tried very hard to remain neutral regarding the medicine cat that had once turned their lives upside down. But with Ottersplash showing no signs of recovery it was better to have some sort of medicine cat than none at all.
More and more these thoughts troubled him, to the point that once they made it he actually ran into Stormstar's flank before realizing they'd arrived. "Sorry Stormstar." He mewed quietly, focusing on the night at paw.
He worried about his leader, the aged tom seemed to have less and less ability to navigate, and he wondered if the others eyes were going blind. But the other clans didn't need to know that so Silverfrost stayed close to his side, at least until he got close enough to the leader's rock that he could go no further. Stormstar managed well enough, not the slightest hint of what Silverfrost suspected was going on but dared not mention. Head up, body centered, absolutely calm. Stormstar didn't waver, and Silverfrost had to respect that and do his best to emulate it.
He heard the other greeting the other leaders as he walked away, and hoped things would remain at least civil during this night's activities. TreeClan and LightningClan had been hit pretty hard by the fire. What lied ahead for those two clans, he wondered, and should he have allowed them to take the two kits in a territory eaten by fire? In the end the choice had been Stormstar's as well, but he hadn't liked it.
RainClan had arrived last this time, and Silverfrost was on gaurd as the hostilities between certain clans had been getting steadily worse this past season. Fire in the Valley, border changes, and now a clan whom he wondered how they were going to survive leafbare. He didn't know the extent of the damage, of course, but as the fire had started in that territory he didn't imagine it was good.