'Want some?' said a voice. I raised my head.
I was sitting in the field; everyone was grouped closlely together, the head of each cat bent low as they murmured soft words to their companions. I could sense a feeling of both anxiety
and excitement; any moment now, Dire would summon us, telling us that it was time to leave. And only the stars knew how long we'd actually be gone. The sky, at long last, had finally cleared, all
that was remaining being a few wispy clouds, drifting by slowly. The heavens were speckled brilliantly, the stars touching the very top, to down below, almost to where the land met with the sky.
But not quite.
A warm, spring breeze surged by, ruffling my fur as i took in everything around me. As beautiful as this place was...It was not as beautiful as the lake.
And there's another thing i remember. When i was very young, Schala took me out one full mooned night to see the lake up close. It was a starry night, just like this one, but with the absense of the wispy clouds.
I can remember her helping me down the bank and to the very shore. She sat down beside me on the sandy beaches and we gazed out at the scenery around us. I had been in awe, and my amber eyes had grown wide. It was beautiful.
'Whats on the other side?' i had asked her, squinting my eyes.
'The plains' she had answered softly. 'When you get a bit older, i'll take you there, and we can run through the meadows'.
I believe i had asked her if there would be butterflies. Unfortunately, i can't remember her reply. That night...Was like a dream. I will never forget it. Perhaps it was just a dream. Or a fleeting memory that i have caught up with. I can't say.
'Earth to Nightfall' repeated the voice, jerking me out of my disarrayed thoughts. Mourn was standing infront of me, my eyes were averted to a half eaten rabbit that had mysteriously appeared at my paws.
'T-thanks' i stammered, smiling a little. He looked at me, a surprised expression on his face. This is because i never stammered. I could always keep my voice fiem and steady, no matter what the situation was. But somehow i had let it happen just then.
Quickly shrugging it off, i bent down and took a big bite of the rabbit, and then pushed it back towards him.
'So, how's things with Badger?' i asked him, throwing out the topic. He gulped down a piece of the prey before looking back at me.
'Good' he said, smiling sheepishly. I could tell he was embarrassed, but he continued. 'I think she actually likes me! We've been talking alot, and...I think we just...'
He nodded, giving a small laughed. 'Yeh'. I grinned back at him.
'I told you she doesn't like Kano!' i stiffened, realizing my mistake. He looked at me.
'She doesn't now' he said quietly, 'because he's...' he trailed off. He didn't need to finish, though; i knew what he was about to say. He shook his head. 'But anyway, that doesn't
mean she didn't before'
'Even if she did' i said frowning, 'i think it's pretty clear that she likes you now'. He smiled slightly and flattened his ears, bashful.
'I hope you're right. But, Nightfall, i'm starting to think that Ross likes you!'. I almost gagged on the piece of rabbit that i had been chewing.
I began to laugh. 'Mourn, what in the world make you think that? No one's ever liked me. And Ross, he...He doesn't like anyone'
My brother looked at me, his amber eyes glittering. 'I wouldn't be so sure, Nightfall. He was looking at you alot earlier'
I rolled my eyes. 'That doesn't mean anything. Sometimes, i start staring into space without realizing i'm actually looking right at someone. Maybe that's what happened'
Mourn shrugged his shoulders. 'Well, time will tell'
Another thing that i forgot to mention is that Ross is Dire's brother. He was my leader's only living relative, or atleast the only relative living within our band. I often see the two talking, but i never
knew exactly what they were talking about. Come to think of it, i only rarely saw Ross talking to someone other than his brother.
'Attention!' boomed a voice, spreading quickly through the group. ears pricked and heads were raised. Eyes were averted to Dire, who stood tall before us, his chest puffed out.
'We are leaving now. I expect that you are all well prepared. If any of the older ones are in need, help them, and so so with the kits as well'.
I involuntarily nodded my head, and then swept my gaze across the field. I watched silently as three cats made their way to the front of the crowd.
They were all old. The first one was a slended, white and ginger she cat whose fur was matted and even missing in some places. Her limbs were long, but they appeared to be weak; she
trembled with each step she took. Her tail was drooping, the tip of it flicking the slightest bit. I triec to catch a glimse of her expression, but i failed. This was Lea. The
second cat was even older, a tom known as Fished. His short grey fur was at least well kept compared to his preceder, but his face was covered in scars. No one quite knew how he had
gotten them; i've heard many stories, some more probable than others. Some say that his father abused him as a kit. Some say he got into a fight with an outsider. Some say that a rabid animal did it.
I don't know why he never told anyone, but i think he liked to keep it a secret and listen to the other's theories. The last cat was smaller than the others, but still very elderly. This was Harmony, the golden tabby cat that never talked. And
i mean that literally, because she was born mute. However, she was still one of the nicest cats i knew, and her expressions said it all. She followed behind Lea and Fisher, her head bent low.
I flicked an ear as my gaze followed them. I blinked. What are they doing?
When they reached the front of the rabble, Lea raised her head and looked directly at Dire (who was clearly as confused as i was). I could finally see her expression--and it was a mixture of pride and sorrow.
'Dire, we're staying here' she said, her voice cracking slightly. Her statement quieted down whatever murmurs were going on in the horde, and all eyes went to her. I caught Harmony casting a glance at everyone else, clearly uncomfortable. Fisher just stood there, saying nothing and looking at Dire.
'I was wondering if you would want to' sighed the leader, frowning. 'And i respect your wishes, But are you sure we can't help you there?'
Fisher shook his head, speaking out. 'We're all old, Dire' he said. His voice was always gentle. 'We'd just tire ourselves out. We're happy with spending
the rest of our lives by the forest'. I saw a few cats cast glances at the forest behind them. Now, it seemed sullen and empty, and i wonder of the old ones thought so, too.
'Alright' murmured Dire, dipping his head. 'You, Lea, and Harmony will stay here and rest peacefully by the forest'
Lea mirrored the gesture. I knew she was trying to be dignified, but it was clear that she and the others were all torn apart that we had to leave them.
Our leader turned back to the crowd. 'Well, then' he said. 'It's time for us to move on. Lea, Fisher, and Harmony...I grant you safe and happy lives'.
'As do we to you' rasped Fisher. 'And we wish you success in your quest to get the lake back'
Dire nodded respectfully before turning to us. 'Let's go' he said as he began to lead the way through the starlit field. I got to my paws and ran up next to Sapphire, Tin, Badger, and Mourn
as the whole group followed after him.
I glanced back over my shoulder, seeing the three elders grouped together, watching silently as we left. And i remembered with sorrow that these weren't the first cats that we had left behind.