Gingerstar's StoryGingerstar, aka Elmwolf4. Clan, Branchclan, Rank, Leader. Mate: None. Enemy: Sagefall. Kits: Hawkkit, Fawnkit,Opalkit.---- --------
She woke to the sound of a crow calling outside of her nest.
Yawning, the ginger tabby stretched slowly, keeping her eyes closed. She was still chasing her dream through the moor of her mind, trying to find that wonderful wish of her saving all of FernClan.
She could see it now. Nightstar was being attacked by a fox on her last life, along with the only kits in the clan, Icekit, Rainkit, and Runningkit. Yes, she could see it now… Heroically leaping into the path of the fox, turning and doing the special up-slash her old mentor, Fireclaw, had taught her. The fox’s eyes, turning from horrified shock into a lifeless abyss. And Nightstar, wobbly but alive, touching noses with her, announcing her the new deputy and like a ‘daughter of Firestar.’ She, holding her head high, her green eyes full of fire as FernClan yowled her name.
Yes, this was her deepest wish. And would it come true?
She padded out of the warriors den, careful not to step on Lionfur as she gingerly tiptoed around him, his golden pelt rising and falling as he slept. Her gaze was warm as she passed him, watching his tail twitch in his dream. They’d become mates just that moon, and she was still in a happy daze.
As she exited the den, her gaze swept around the clearing. Dawn was here, the first rays of the sun peeking out from behind the birch trees of the surrounding forest. Stormtail, the deputy that she longed with all her heart to be, nodded to her as she passed.
“Greetings, Gingerstep.” He meowed deeply. Gingerstep could see clearly, as with every cat, why Stormtail had been chosen for deputy after Fireclaw died. He was a big, stormcloud-colored tabby tom with dark blue eyes. Handsome, loyal, respectful, talented; Gingerstep thought with resentment. She knew it was wrong to be jealous; it only made you meaner; but still. From the moment she was born and she opened her eyes she knew what she wanted. And that was to be the deputy, then leader.
“Good morning, Stormtail.” She replied, dipping her head. “Give my regards to Snowleap. I know how much she grieves for Mistykit right now.”
Last night, a fox came in and stole Mistykit, Snowleap and Stormtail’s newborn she-kit, from where she had tumbled out of the nursery and fell down the little hill out of camp. They hadn’t seen her since, but it was rough for Snowleap and Stormtail. Icekit, Rainkit, and Runningkit would probably not be playing happily today.
Stormtail nodded, his eyes shadowed, and padded toward the Highrock, where Nightstar denned below. Probably to ask about Mistykit’s death ceremony.
Gingerstep had only gone a few paces when a silky voice purred from behind her. “Good morning, Gingerstep.” It purred. Her eyes sparkled as she swiveled around and there was Lionfur, his eyes dark with amusement. “Slept well, I presume?”
“Like a kit.” she purred back.
“Hey, let’s you and I take a walk around the lake, shall we?” he mewed, cocking his head. “Nightstar isn’t up yet, and Stormtail is busy. We could sneak away and have a little fun.”
Gingerstep hesitated. She knew it wasn’t right, but all the same she would hate to disappoint Lionfur. As handsome and kind as he was, he also got very moody and would be angry for days afterward at her if she turned this down.
And besides, how bad was a little fun?
“Alright.” she meowed back. “But only for a little bit.”
Lionfur’s eyes glimmered mischeviously. “Only for a little bit.”
“This is the life, isn’t it?” Lionfur purred as they sat side by side, tails touching, watching the dawn rise over the wide lake. Gingerstep twirled her tail around his. “It really is.” She purred back, in total ecstasy. She was here with her mate. She was in a strong, good clan that she grew up in from the start. She was one of the most favored and popular warriors around, not to mention almost a senior warrior. Next time, Gingerstep was positive of it, Stormtail- then Stormstar- would choose her to be his deputy. Then she would be Gingerstar. Gingerstar, leader of FernClan.
Gingerstep closed her eyes and leaned over towards the edge of the rock they sat on, feeling the watery breeze. Life… life was perfect.
A loud splash made her suddenly turn.
Except she couldn’t. Gingerstep thrashed, suddenly feeling heavy and soggy. She gasped for breath but found none, just dark water. Her eyes flew open, the green fading dully amongst the dark blue of the water imprisoning her, and she was surrounded by water.
It was her. Falling into the lake.
Had she really fallen?
Well, it didn’t matter now. Gingerstep felt strangely sleepy, and everything began to go fuzzy and darker. Her eyes drooped, and her paws stopped thrashing. In fact, she felt very… very… calm.
Her eyes flew open, and she gasped. There, in front of her, was Fireclaw. Her mentor when she had been an apprentice, killed by foxes only last moon, and yet healthier and stronger looking than ever. His rusty reddish pelt shone with a silver tint, and his leaf-green eyes were full of stars. He was only a couple of pawsteps away, not swimming, but not drowning either. And his gaze was very intense.
Gingerstar, it is not your time yet. You must go up. You can swim, remember? Fishpelt showed you when MistClan was still allies with FernClan. You know how. It is not your time yet, Gingerstar.
You must go.
He slowly faded and became one with the water around her, and Gingerstep was suddenly filled with a new hope. Energy surged through her paws and she shoved upward, seeing the sunlight above her.
She burst forward, her lungs tightening.
The sun was just above her.
Gingerstep tore out of the water like a fish, gasping for breath. Her eyes, blurry with water, scoured the lake. There, loping calmly away, was Lionfur.
Lionfur stiffened when he heard a splash from where Gingerstep had disappeared. He shook his fur off as if he was shaking the feeling of worry off with it. He had finally ended her, he told himself. Finally, he had a chance to be in the running for deputy. Lionfur had never liked Gingerstep. But he was a great schemer, and he prided on that. All it took was a bit of charm, a walk by the lake with no one else knowing about it, and boom. End of Gingerstep. Here comes Lionfur, soon to be Lionstar. And if he had to, he would kill Thornheart, too. Hmm. That would definitely secure his place.
Lionfur froze completely. He turned slowly around.
There, by the rock, a shape was halfway out of the water. A dark shape. It turned toward him slowly, and went still.
It leapt up out of the water, shook a bit, and began to pace briskly toward him.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Lionfur was cold all over. He began to shake, but pushed himself to his feet and took off, sprinting towards the pine forest. How? How could she have survived?
Or… was that even her? Was that even a cat?
Thud. Thud. Thud.
All he could think of was to run. Swerving around the thick pine trunks and bolting as fast as he could, Lionfur turned once, and shock jolted through him. Gingerstep, her green eyes cold as ice yet rageful as fire, was right behind him. And then she pounced.
Her tail drooped as she stood over Lionfur’s body. She had thought she loved him, but he had betrayed her. And she had killed him for it.
But now? Gingerstep looked up at the sky, where the sun was high in the sky. Now, her precious circle of perfection, of her life, had been shattered. Now, the mere thought of returning to FernClan filled her with fear and revulsion.
So Gingerstep, her only thought in the world having been to become leader, turned away from her Clan’s territory and began to walk into the unknown woods, the sun reflecting on the shimmering lake behind her.
She awoke to the sound of birds chirping cheerily to one another.
Gingerstep groaned and blearily opened her eyes. Her back hurt like a badger had clawed it, and the pile of dead leaves she had slept on was nothing compared to her soft, mossy nest in FernClan. She stood up, her legs sore from walking until the sun had set last night, and pawed the leaves into a pile. She padded a couple steps away from her temporary den and sighed, looking around. Surrounding her was a dense deciduous forest, with bright green leaves and thick oak trunks towering to the sky. A place much unlike FernClan’s open grassy clearings and dark pine forests. It was strange, Gingerstep thought as she began to pad further away from FernClan’s territory and into the unknown, how much this forest felt natural to her. How much it felt like home.
The sun began to climb into the sky. Gingerstep went further, her paws becoming sore, having to stop multiple times to yank thorns out of them with her teeth. She didn’t really mind it, though, surprisingly-- In fact, she realized as she loped along briskly, she didn’t feel tired at all. She felt… Gingerstep stopped and closed her eyes. … free.
Her eyes flew open suddenly, and she tensed, the ginger fur on her back slowly rising. She inhaled again, to make sure she hadn’t imagined it.
No, it was real. She smelled another cat.
Gingerstep began to stalk forward, then stopped. She looked around, but saw no felines in view. Should she risk it and head toward the other cat? Or should she continue in a different direction?
She hesitated, but then slowly began to pad where the scent of the cat got stronger. No, she thought firmly to herself, she couldn’t spend her life running away from other cats. She was a clan cat at heart, and she belonged with other cats. Staying away from them was not something she would do.
So she went on, further and further, until the scent was the strongest thing in the area. Staying low, Gingerstep stalked silently into a small briar bush and peeked her head out of it.
WHAM! She was suddenly hit by something large and dark from her side. Flailing, Gingerstep crashed into an oak tree and whirled around, blood pounding in her ears. There, in front of her, was a stocky tuxedo cat with candle-like yellow eyes. Gingerstep stopped. He didn’t look ready for a fight- In fact, he looked a bit shame-faced as he ducked his head. The tom opened his mouth, but Gingerstep got to it first.
“What,” she spat, her strong headed temper lashing in anger, “in StarClan’s name do you think you’re doing?”
“I thought you were a mouse.” He mumbled, looking at the ground. Then his ears perked and he looked up, eyes wide. “Wait- are you a Clan cat?”
Gingerstep scoffed. “I look nothing like a mouse.” she snarled, but her eyes softened a bit. He was young; if he was a clan cat, she would guess he would’ve just had his warrior ceremony.
“And, no.” she mewed a bit quieter now. She looked down at the ground, and her ear twitched. “I just became… became a rogue.”
“Ah.” Gingerstep looked back up and the tom had sat down. “I understand.”
There was a pause. Then, “What’s your name?” the tom asked.
Gingerstep dipped her head. “I’m Gingerstep, what about you?”
“Badger.” he replied.
Gingerstep nodded politely. “Umm…” she scuffed the ground with her paws. “Do you know where any other clans are besides RiverClan? I… well, I just ran away from FernClan, and I wanted to join a clan.” she blurted, not knowing why she was telling a stranger this.
Badger’s eyes widened. “Well,” he began, and hesitated. “Well, there are no clans nearby that I know of, no clans that would take in a loner. But,” he began hastily as he saw the look in her eyes, “There is… well, if you want to meet more cats, there’s going to be a gathering of some loners and rogues coming up. The next full moon, actually. Only in a week.” Badger mewed, and hope sparked in Gingerstep’s chest. She could at least meet more cats.
“And, well…” It was Badger’s turn to scuff the ground shyly. “If you didn’t have a place to stay, I mean, you could… you could stay with me. It would be nice to have a hunting partner.”
Gingerstep smiled. “Sure!”
Badger beamed, his yellow eyes lighting up like a fire. “Great! Here, let me show you my den.”
A twig cracked under Gingerstep’s paw, and they both tensed. She flinched and froze, turned back, and saw nothing. Swiveling around, she nodded conformation to Badger and they continued on.
The full moon glowed brightly overhead. After a week of hunting, talking, and laughter, the loner gathering, or Coming of Lost Souls, as Badger reported it was officially called, was finally here. Gingerstep’s heart pounded in her chest as shivers of excitement ran up and down her spine. Would she meet other clan cats?
Badger suddenly stopped, and Gingerstep almost ran into him. “Oof!” she hissed, screeching to a halt. She peered behind his shoulder and saw a shallow, wide creek, shadowed by the trees above, running slowly along. A thick log stretched across it, and from what moonlight aided Gingerstep to see, the log looked extremely slippery and mossy.
Badger cleared his throat and nodded toward the other side of the creek, where there was a small tangle of underbrush and then, from the way the light shone behind it, what looked like an enormous clearing. Gingerstep could hear the faint sounds of talking and rustling from the other side.
“Behind this log is the Coming of Lost Souls area.” Badger mewed. “But you have to be careful, it’s a bit slippery on the log. Here, I’ll go first.”
He stepped in front of Gingerstep, his black pelt shining in the moonlight. Carefully, he put one paw in front of the other as he crossed the log, his claws sinking silently into the rotting bark for a better grip.
Within moments, Badger was across. Gingerstep gulped and put one shaky paw onto the log. The creek was barely up to her chest fur, yet flashbacks of the lake stormed through her mind. Terrified, she placed her forepaws in the safest spots she could find and then lifted her back legs up. Carefully stepping slowly along the log, Gingerstep calmed her mind. There we go. That’s it. Don’t worry. Just a little creek.
And then she felt it.
Lionfur, from behind, pushing her in. Lionfur shoving her with unsheathed paws and she was toppling, falling, looking down into the black abyss of the lake as--
Gingerstep’s shoulder smacked into the hard-packed sand of the bottom of the creek. Embarrassed, she stood up and padded the rest of the way out, shaking her head when Badger opened his mouth to question her. “It’s a long story.” she mewed quietly. “About… about why I’m afraid of water.”
Badger nodded, his yellow eyes full of sympathy, and laid his tail on her back to steer her toward the bushes. Then they came out into the biggest field Gingerstar had ever seen.
Lit by moonlight, the silvery meadow was huge, spanning the distance so that the trees on the other side looked like twigs. The clearing was like a funnel, the outside taller and slowly sloping down toward the center, where most of the cats were. Some sat on the edge, but most stayed in the middle, crowding around a towering rock that stood straight up. Stunned, Gingerstep stumbled back a bit. She turned around and saw Badger behind her, but a sleek white she-cat was padding gracefully up next toward them. Gingerstep was surprised by the sudden dagger of jealousy that jolted through her. This she-cat was beautiful, no doubt- crystal-blue eyes and sleek white fur with not a speck of dirt. She looked like a StarClan cat.
Badger’s eyes lit up, and another pang of jealousy throttled her. “Feather!” he purred, bounding over to her. “You came!”
“I always will, for you.” this Feather purred, nuzzling him. Her eyes flicked over to Gingerstep. “Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, that’s Gingerstep.” Badger nodded in her direction. “She just ran away from her Clan, so she was staying with me for a bit.
“Gingerstep, come meet Feather!” Badger called over to her. Instead of walking over, she shuffled backwards a bit. “No- no thanks.” Gingerstep choked. “It was nice- nice to meet you, Badger.”
Spinning around and running blindly towards the center, that surprised look in his yellow eyes was the last time she ever saw Badger.
After multiple ‘excuse me’s’ and lots of glares, Gingerstep had run into a ridiculous amount of cats and finally found a place in the center, near the rock, where she sat sadly facing the tall boulder her tail wrapped around her paws.
Why? Why could she never find the right cat? All her life, Gingerstep had dreamed of finding a mate to grow old with. She thought that dream had come true with Lionfur- then he tried to kill her. And if not for Fireclaw, he would have. The she killed him. It was like twisted Romeo and Juliet story. And then, later, she had found Badger. Gingerstep had thought he liked her, too… but then Feather came along.
Please, StarClan. Gingerstep threw her head up to the night sky and closed her eyes. Please let me find a cat I can grow old with and love. Who will always be loyal and love me too.
“You look a little wet.”
Gingerstep’s eyes flew open and she swiveled around to see a handsome brown tabby tom with amused green eyes sitting about two tail lengths away, his posture friendly. “May I ask how that happened?”
She opened her mouth to speak but no sound came out. Had StarClan heard her prayer? “It’s… I fell into the creek over there. While crossing.” she replied lamely, nodding her head in the direction of the entrance she had came through.
The tom scoffed. “That creek?”
Anger shot through her pelt, making her pelage warm and her ginger fur ruff up in indignance. “You try having your mate try to kill you by drowning you in a lake! Then see if you’re afraid of water!” she spat, then turned around and raced away. Apparently no, StarClan had not heard her prayer.
She found a place on the edge of the clearing, away from all the other cats. Sighing and closing her eyes, Gingerstep let her blood cool. Then she felt ashamed. She shouldn’t have acted like that. Her mind was still reeling with thoughts of Badger and Feather, and she wasn’t thinking right.
“Hey, I never meant to insult you, you know.” A quiet voice came from directly above her.
Gingerstep shrieked and whirled around, bolting to her paws, her tail erect. There, above her, was the brown tom, perched in a tree branch. “I personally think you look like a brave, talented she-cat. Anyone could fall into that creek.”
She was glad it was night, so the tom couldn’t see her blush. Instead, she mewed, “How did you get up there?”
The tom scoffed again, and she hotly opened her mouth to speak, but he cut her off. “Your parents never taught you this? Well come on, it’s easy! Put your forepaws up onto the bark and dig your claws in. That’s it. Now climb over here, onto this branch. Beside me. There you go!” The tom purred, and Gingerstep’s chest swelled. Before she knew it, she had bolted up the tree like a squirrel being chased. She settled down on the branch and looked at the cats below. From here, everything was very quiet. Gingerstep was acutely aware of the brown tom beside her.
“Did your mate really try to drown you?” He broke the silence, looking over at her. Gingerstep nodded. He huffed. “That must have been rough. My condolences.”
“I killed him afterwards.” she added timidly, not sure what his response would be. He looked back up at her, and to her surprise, grim amusement filled his eyes. “Got what he deserved. You did right.”
He broke it again.
“My mate…” he was quiet for a second. “My mate died in kitting.”
Gingerstep was shocked. She had no idea this wise, amusing, happy-go-lucky tom had felt sadness in his life. “And…” she paused, afraid of the answer. “The kits?”
He shook his head and looked away. Gingerstep swallowed and looked down. That must have been horrible. But, at least his mate still loved him when she died.
“I’m Gingerstep.” she mewed, looking over at him.
“Sagefall.” he replied, nodding. “Nice name.”
“Thanks. Yours too.”
“Gingerstep-” he began, but was cut off by a yowl as a cat bounded up onto the rocks. “May all of the clanless attending this meeting gather below this rock!”
“Oh, time to go.” she meowed briskly, and slowly but surely made her way down the tree, bark showering as she went, and Sagefall behind her. “Wow. You’re a natural at that.” He grinned, and Gingerstar blushed again.
Seconds later, they were sitting at the base of the rock, looking up at a long-furred gray she-cat with piercing gray eyes. “Thank you for attending the meeting of the Clanless, or Loners.” she meowed loudly. “I am Thistle, and you may address me as such. We have no news, since we are not a Clan.” she spat the name with disgust. “So you may disperse. As always, we need our sleep for the hunt tomorrow.” She meowed as she leapt down. “Now go back to your dens!”
Sagefall turned to her, just as Gingerstep turned to him. “Um…” she started speaking first. “Well, could I see you again?”
Sagefall nodded, his eyes curious. “Where are you denning?”
Gingerstep looked down. “I was denning with Badger, but, well… I’m not anymore.” she said coldly. “As of tonight.”
Sagefall’s eyes were surprised, but he nodded, knowing not to press the matter further. “Would you like to den with me?” he blurted, and Gingerstep looked up, surprised. She had just met this tom tonight. What if he turned out to be a murderer? Or what if he turned out to be horrible and mean; this was just an act? What if he tried to drown her like Lionfur?
“Sure.” Gingerstep heard herself purr. “That would be great.”