|"The bark had been stripped away, the wood beneath it bone-dry. [...] Jaypaw ran his paw over it. The exposed wood felt sleek beneath his pad. He could feel something odd, too: scars scratched across the branch, too neat and regular to be natural. Some of them were crossed by other lines, like two paths going in different directions."|
|— Jaypaw discovering the stick in Dark River, page 61|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter four of Dark River. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 4 (of 21)
- Page Numbers: 58-63
- Jaypaw complains that he is still very tired, but Leafpool leads him down to the lake and responds that sunhigh is the best time to collect mallow. Jaypaw yawns and is still sore and tired, but is glad that at least the day is warm. The sun striking through the new foliage is very hot, and birds calls to one another, as Twolegs play in the lake, far off. Jaypaw shivers as he remembers falling into the lake when Crowfeather had rescued him, and thinks that he will not get his paws wet again if he can help it.
- Water babbles from a brook nearby, and its mountain scent reminds Jaypaw of the Moonpool. Leafpool leads him among the edge, and he is sorry when Leafpool veers away from the grass that feels soft and cool on his pads, and onto the pebbly shore. She comments that the lake is higher than she had hoped, and stops walking, telling her apprentice that they won’t be able to collect all the herbs she wanted, but that she can see a clump. Leafpool darts away toward a sweet scent, and Jaypaw follows her.
- Suddenly, the leaves flutter and quick, light paw steps beat in the forest behind Jaypaw. He realizes that it is a squirrel, and hears it skitter along the bank of the stream behind him and scrabble up a tree. Splashing is heard as a hunting patrol plunges toward him, down the shallow stream. Birchfall asks where it went in an excited mew, and Jaypaw flicks his nose toward the squirrel, which leaps along low branches. Mousepaw says he will get it, and pebbles rattle and water splashes as he scoots from the stream to the tree trunk. Jaypaw ducks and blinks as shards of bark, gouged out by Mousepaw’s eager claws, spray him. The branch creaks, and Mousepaw lets out a surprised squeal. He tumbles off the branch and crashes onto the pebbles beside Jaypaw, cursing, embarrassment flashing from his pelt. Spiderleg tells him it was a nice try, and Mousepaw calls back that he will get it next time.
- Jaypaw smells Ashfur and Lionpaw, with the patrol. Lionpaw bounds down from the shore and greets his brother, and Jaypaw flicks his brother’s pelt with his tail, commenting that it is a good morning for hunting. Lionpaw agrees, but Jaypaw stiffens curiously as he notices that Lionpaw is distracted. From the bank, Birchfall asks Jaypaw what he is doing, and he replies that he is helping Leafpool collect herbs, and nods toward his mentor who scuffles among the mallow stems farther down the shore. Lionpaw asks what she is doing, and Jaypaw answers, asking if he sees any more mallow. Lionpaw tells him that there is a clump by an old stick and nudges his brother in the right direction, though warning him of twigs and lumps of wood. Ashfur impatiently calls to return to the hunt, and Lionpaw asks Jaypaw if he can manage. Jaypaw exclaims that he can, and Lionpaw tells his littermate that he will see him later, then bounds away.
- Jaypaw listens to the patrol disappear into the trees, and is slightly envious of his brother, as hunting would be more fun than gathering leaves in this weather. He sighs and turns toward the mallow patch Lionpaw had spotted, smelling its sweet scent. He carefully avoids the rubbish on the shore and sniffs a mallow leaf, but Jaypaw’s front paw bumps into something hard. He wonders if it is the stick Lionpaw had mentioned, and it feels smooth to his nose as he sniffs it. The bark is stripped away, and as Jaypaw runs his paw over the sleek exposed wood, feeling scars scratched across the branch, some crossed by other lines.
- Leafool asks what it is from close behind Jaypaw, causing him to jump in surprise. He rolls the stick from beneath the mallow plant where it had lodged and shows his mentor the lines on it. She sniffs it and comments that there is no scent, guessing it is from by the lake. Jaypaw prompts the medicine cat to feel the even lines, and Leafpool agrees, wondering what made them. She predicts that it could have a fox or badger, but Jaypaw disagrees that they are too fine for fox or badger marks. Leafpool suggests that it is a Twoleg thing and flicks her tail, telling him to come and dig up some roots. Jaypaw smells lake mud on her paws as she goes on that he should start stripping off some leaves.
- Jaypaw wonders why Leafpool isn’t more interested in the stick, but reluctantly slides his paws from the branch. His pads feel warm where they had been touching it, and he strips a pawful of leaves from the mallow plant as Leafpool digs around a root and plucks it from the earth with her teeth. She suggests getting the mallow roots back to camp, and informs her apprentice where she left the other roots. The tabby she-cat bounds away, and Jaypaw picks up the leaves with his teeth, then begins to head up the beach.
- Jaypaw pauses, remembering the stick, and unwilling is to leave it lying where it is, as it could get washed away. He drops the mallow leaves and turns back, rolling the stick up away from the waterline with his paws. Leafpool returns to his side and meows that they can’t carry that home too, but Jaypaw insists that they can leave it somewhere safe. The gray tabby tom wants to come back and look at it again, and Leafpool tells him to hurry. Jaypaw rolls the stick over the pebbles and past the lumps of wood and rubbish on the shore, and he is panting by the time he feels grass brush his pelt. Jaypaw feels around until he finds a gap behind a twisted root, and shoves the stick into it, hoping it will hold fast if the water rises more. He is anxious at the thought of losing the stick to the lake, but Leafpool impatiently tells him to come.
- Jaypaw darts back to pick up the leaves he had dropped and follows his mentor into the trees. He feels uneasy at leaving the stick, and wants to find out why. Jaypaw silently promises that he will be back.
Notes and references
|Dark River chapters|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Chapter 7 • Chapter 8 • Chapter 9 • Chapter 10 • Chapter 11 • Chapter 12 • Chapter 13 • Chapter 14 • Chapter 15 • Chapter 16 • Chapter 17 • Chapter 18 • Chapter 19 • Chapter 20 • Chapter 21|
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