Oaktail's decision was made.
Now, he goes on a quest to find who he is.
The darkness falls for another time, another day.
Another day without Robinsong.
Another day without Sparrowheart.
Another day with Cedarkit. My kit.
Cedarkit is not actually my kit. I had found him at the bottom of the tree I was sitting in and brought him to the queens.
Honeypelt, the queen who had most recently had kits, had volunteered to suckle him. I gave up my kit.
Nobody knows anything but me.
I sit, watching Cedarkit play with Mosskit and Goldenkit, Honeypelt's kits. Honeypelt is over to another side, talking to her mate, Ravenwing. Her bright gold pelt is a sharp contrast to her mate's jet black pelt.
"Mosskit," Goldenkit squeals, "get off of me! Cedarkit is there, too!"
Mosskit clambers off of Goldenkit, but hisses at Cedarkit. "He is tiny and weak. Why would I play with him?"
Honeypelt's kits have already guessed that mine is different from them.
"Kits," Honeypelt calls from her place next to Ravenwing, "play with Cedarkit. He's no different from either of you. Just be nice."
I feel relief surge through my viens as my kit, who resembles me in every way apart from his bright blue eyes, leaps onto Mosskit, growling playfully.
Honeypelt shoots a look at me. It says, "Stay away from this kit."
I nod at her respectfully, back away cautiously, and go to see Shinefoot.
She is sitting in the entrance to her den, in the shade, watching me. She purrs as she sees me approach.
"Isn't there a Gathering tonight?" I ask her, looking up at the sunny sky.
"Yes," Shinefoot sighs. "You're not going."
"I knew that," I reply dryly, flicking my tail irritably. I want to see what the other Clans think about me- killing my mate, which caused her mother to kill herself, and killing ShadowClan's leader.
Who knows that I killed Nightstar? Unless Snakepaw or Bloomtail speak, I am not to be blamed by the Clans. They have no proof.
"That's good," Shinefoot whispers to herself. "I'll tell you about it, though."
I nod. "I'm a murderer," I whisper to her. "You can't help me."
From the look on her face, I know she knows what I mean.
As night falls, the cats that are to attend the Gathering begin to assemble.
Sandstar, the leader, is sitting on the Highledge, watching cats with his bright, beady eyes. I watch as his gaze settles on me and his mouth twists into a scowl.
I scowl back and turn away, towards where I can see Cedarkit batting at a leaf, his bright blue eyes bright with excitement.
I quietly pad over to him, trying to avoid the gazes of the cats that stare at me.
Cedarkit looks up at me, his eyes wide with curiosity. "Who are you?" he asks, relaxing as he smells my familiar ThunderClan scent.
"I'm Oaktail," I tell him kindly. "I'm a warrior."
Cedarkit purrs. "Will you play with me?" he begs.
I am shocked. Here is a kit, who could have been told things about me that could have resulted in his mistrust, but he was never told.
Is this an advantage or not?
I glance over at Honeypelt, who is guiding Mosskit and Goldenkit away from us. As I look at her, she looks up and nods.
This is my kit. I feel myself puffing my chest up with pride, but then I stop before my Clan thinks that I am a threat to this kit.
I see cats stirring as they look at me, alone with Cedarkit, and Honeypelt, who trusts me.
"Let's go," Sandstar suddenly calls, standing abrubtly from his perch on the Highledge. "We'll be late."
The Clan slowly leaves, leaving me, a few other warriors and apprentices, and the queens and kits behind.
"Cedarkit," Honeypelt calls from the nursery, "time to sleep."
"I want to play with Oaktail!" Cedarkit whines, but he obeys Honeypelt and retreats to the nursery.
"Be safe, son," I murmur.
An idea suddenly comes to me.
Why can't I hear what other cats think about me? What if Sandstar says nothing?
I creep out of camp.
The familiar foreign journey to the Gathering is strangely calming. I weave my way through ShadowClan territory, knowing that I am trespassing. On the night of the Gathering, I know ShadowClan will not defend their territory.
When I reach the log, the passage across the lake, I pause, pricking my ears. I hear no cat nearby.
I cross slowly, cautiously.
No cat challenges me, and on dry land I climb a tree and move from branch to branch, using my pelt and the darkness of the night to camoflague myself.
The new ShadowClan leader was telling the Clans about the brutal murder of Nightstar on the ThunderClan border.
Hisses were coming from below.
"Weaselstar, are you blaming my Clan?" Sandstar snapped, his fur beginning to bristle. "I don't think any cat would kill Nightstar."
Weaselstar, apparently the new leader of ShadowClan, nods. When he speaks, I can barely hear it. "Oaktail would."
Yowls of disgust come from the clearing.
"Why is he even in your Clan?" Weaselstar spits, slipping down to Sandstar's branch. "He doesn't deserve to be in ThunderClan."
Sandstar's voice was filled with calm anger. "He's going through a lot of emotional turmoil right now. He keeps making mistakes."
A ShadowClan cat calls, "Ban him, Sandstar!"
"Quiet!" Sandstar hisses. His voice, although calm, is filled with anger. "In other news, we have found a lonely kit. He is in the current care of Honeypelt, who recently gave birth to her other two kits."
I feel pride that Sandstar is willing to aknowledge my kit, however much he feels I should not befriend him.
I creep down the tree. I have heard all I needed too; the Clan will tell me what is going on in the others.
I duck beneath a tree and push my way into the hollow. I am back before my Clan, which is good.
No cat dares approach me. I push my way into the warrior's den and fall asleep.
In the morning, the sun is bright. I have no patrols to go on, so I go to see Shinefoot.
She is arranging herbs as I approach, but she turns around.
"I've figured it out," I say automatically. "I know what I am now."
Shinefoot pricks her ears expectantly.
I clear my throat. "I'm a curse."