|"Don't you see? This can be our place!"|
|— Heatherpaw to Lionpaw about the tunnels in Dark River, page 76|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter five of Dark River. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 5 (of 21)
- Page Numbers: 64-89
- Lionpaw stiffens when he sees Hollypaw's eyes flash in the darkness, though they're closed when he reaches his nest. She is watching for him to slip back into the apprentices' den. Lionpaw hisses into her ear that he only went to make dirt. He flexes his claws, wondering why he has to explain every movement to her. Hollypaw rolls over without a reply. Lionpaw curls down into his nest, his back to her.
- Outside, the moon is high, the sky clear, the wind warm. Lionpaw longs to sneak out of camp and meet Heatherpaw. She never watches him like a traitor, she knows they are just playing, not swapping Clan secrets. Lionpaw closes his eyes, anger like a hard knot in his belly and falls asleep, beginning to dream.
- Hollypaw blinks at him, her eyes shining from the darkness of a burrow. They are full of warmth and excitement, like they had been when they played as kits. Lionpaw creeps closer to the entrance, wondering what she's doing there. She mews teasingly that she's going to get him. Lionpaw crouches, creeping closer. Hollypaw's whiskers twitch mischievously, her amber eyes glittering in the dark.
- Lionpaw's blood turns to ice. Hollypaw's eyes are green, not amber. He steps back. The eyes lose their playful glint, fixing him with a vicious stare. This isn't Hollypaw, Lionpaw realizes as a growl sounds up from the burrow, it is a fox.
- Lionpaw tries to run but his paws seem to turn to stone. The fox snarls, shooting out at him, teeth bared and red with blood. He wakes and leaps to his feet. Pale light filters through the branches of the den, speckling the sleeping cats. Hollypaw's head shoots up, asking if he is okay. Lionpaw pants that it was just a nightmare. She leans toward him, wondering what it was about. Lionpaw tells her that it was a fox.
- Cinderpaw says there are no foxes here, padding over from her nest, blinking encouragingly at Lionpaw. He bristles, wondering if there is anywhere safe from the two she-cats. He barges past them, going to get some food. Brambleclaw watches the camp from Highledge. Lionpaw guesses Firestar must be out on patrol. Jaypaw is washing himself beside the halfrock. He pauses as Lionpaw crosses camp, asking if he is all right. Lionpaw grumbles to him it was just a nightmare.
- Lionpaw pads over to the fresh-kill pile, picks a small, stiff mouse and goes over to Jaypaw, which they share in silence. Ashfur calls Lionpaw as he pads out of the warriors' den, telling him they're training with Brackenfur and Hollypaw. Lionpaw wonders if he can ever get away from her.
- The thorn barrier trembles as an early hunting patrol returns. Firestar and Sandstorm both hold prey, Spiderleg and Mousepaw both have a mouse, and Whitewing grips a plump thursh in her jaws. Brambleclaw calls down to the returning patrol if everything is all right. Firestar drops his prey onto the fresh-kill pile, saying all is quiet in the forest and prey is running.
- Berrypaw is already at the fresh-kill pile, sniffing Whitewing's thrush, which he picks up and carries to the nursery. Hollypaw greets Jaypaw as she bounds across the clearing, Cinderpaw with her. She asks if there is any food left. Brackenfur, who is pacing up and down in front of the camp entrance, tells her to eat later, training first.
- Lionpaw gulps down the rest of his mouse, feeling satisfied that Hollypaw would go hungry. He gets to his paws and hurries over to Brackenfur, Ashfur bounding over to join them. Hollypaw complains that she's starving as she catches up. Brackenfur promises a hunt after battle training. He darts out the tunnel, Lionpaw falls in beside Ashfur, leaving Hollypaw to hurry after them. They pad to the training hollow in silence. The sun slants through the leaves and the air trembles with birdsong.
- Ashfur sits down in the center of the hollow, his tail whisking over the mossy ground. He says that today, they'd be thinking about how the other Clans fight - their strengths and weaknesses, and the best way to exploit them. Brackenfur asks what strengths do the other Clans have. Hollypaw answers that RiverClan can swim, which meant they could approach from water.
- Lionpaw offers that WindClan is well camouflaged and small, making them hardest to detect. Hollypaw adds unless they're upwind, which their rabbity scent gives them away. Lionpaw bristles, thinking Heatherpaw doesn't smell rabbity.
- Ashfur asks, what about ShadowClan. Hollypaw growls they're just evil, so you'll never know how they'll stoop in any attack, making them unpredictable. Brackenfur presses for weaknesses.
- Hollypaw says ShadowClan is weak because they think they are braver than they really are; she adds that RiverClan is slower because they are so well fed. Lionpaw shifts his paws, looking for something to say. Hollypaw is answering everything first. Ashfur glances at him and asks about WindClan. Lionpaw's mouth turns dry. Ashfur's eyes seem to be boring into him, making Lionpaw worry that Hollypaw told him about his meetings with Heatherpaw. Paws itching, Lionpaw starts to panic as he realizes all three cats are staring at him, waiting for his answer.
- Hollypaw rolls her eyes, saying Lionpaw thinks WindClan has no weaknesses. Her accusation makes Lionpaw's ears burn with embarrassment. Anger rises in his throat, he hisses it's not true. Brambleclaw asks what's not true, as he comes padding down the slope with Berrypaw at his side. Lionpaw lifts his chin, telling him Hollypaw's accusation. Brambleclaw then asks why she would do that. Hollypaw says she was just teasing, Lionpaw is being touchy because he had a nightmare.
- Lionpaw lashes his tail, wondering if Hollypaw is determined to make him look like an idiot. Glaring at his sister, Lionpaw growls, WindClan is fast, but not as strong as them because they don't have any trees to climb in moorland, Brackenfur nods.
- They then practice battle moves that will work on a RiverClan cat. Brackenfur darts under Ashfur's belly, nipping his hindleg. Ashfur rounds on him, ready for counter attack, but Brackenfur already shot out of reach. Ashfur leaps toward him, but Brackenfur rolls out of the way, springing to his paws and launching himself onto Ashfur's back, unbalencing the gray warrior, sending him rolling onto his side. The two warriors jump to their paws, shaking earth from their pelts and turn to face their apprentices.
- Ashfur tells them to try. Brackenfur touches Lionpaw's flank with his tail, telling him to be the RiverClan cat, since he's bigger and more powerful than Hollypaw, and tells Hollypaw to try unbalancing him.
- Hollypaw nods, telling Lionpaw to not make it too easy for her, her eyes shining with determination. Lionpaw hisses he won't. He feels Hollypaw dart underneath him, her teeth grazing his hind leg. He drops his whole weight onto her before she can scamper free, then grasps her with his paws and tugs her onto her side. Hollypaw squeals that's not how they're meant to do it. Lionpaw spats she should have been faster, then begins to rake her spine with his hind claws while he grips her shoulders with his forepaws. She shrieks with pain, while struggling to free herself.
- Brambleclaw commands Lionpaw to stop, making him freeze. Hollypaw slides out from his grip and scrambles to her paws. Brambleclaw stares down at Lionpaw, his eyes blazing, telling him this was training, they didn't want any cat hurt. Lionpaw gets to his paws, mewing he's sorry, he got carried away.
- Hollypaw laps the scratches he had given her. Lionpaw feels a wave of guilt for letting his temper get away from him. He hangs his head and apologizes. The rage that had been seething in his belly all morning fades away. He glances nervously at his father, expecting anger, but Brambleclaw's eyes are full of concern.
- Brambleclaw requests Ashfur and Brackenfur to train Berrypaw and Hollypaw together, he is going to take Lionpaw hunting. Lionpaw's pelt burns with shame as he follows his father out of the hollow. He braces himself for a lecture, but Brambleclaw only pads silently through the trees.
- Lionpaw blurts out, he shouldn't have let his temper get the better of him, but Hollypaw has been bugging him all morning. Brambleclaw still remains silent. Lionpaw goes on that he knows that's no excuse, it would never happen again. Brambleclaws meows he knows, stopping to gaze at Lionpaw. Brambleclaw sighs that it's so unlike him, that he has always relied on him to take care of his littermates. Lionpaw hangs his head, knowing he has let him down. Brambleclaw asks if something is troubling him.
- Lionpaw knows he can't tell his father about Heatherpaw and how Hollypaw had stopped him from meeting her. Lionpaw tries to explain but trails off, then continues that it feels like Hollypaw doesn't trust him to be a loyal warrior. Brambleclaw nods, he knows what it's like, beginning to pad through the trees again. Puzzled, Lionpaw hurries after him.
- Being Tigerstar's son meant that Brambleclaw had to win the trust of every ThunderClan cat , over and over again, so he knows how frustrating it is to prove something that shouldn't need to be. The forest floor slopes upwards and the two have to sink their claws into the earth to help them climb.
- Brambleclaw says that the trouble is that everyone saw the evil in Tigerstar, they forgot what a bold and brilliant warrior he was. Lionpaw pricks his ears, surprised Brambleclaw is defending Tigerstar. Brambleclaw meows he hasn't forgotten Tigerstar betrayed ThunderClan, but that they all have their strengths and weaknesses, that it must be sad to be remembered for your weakness. Brambleclaw hopes to be remembered for his strength instead.
- Lionpaw mews of course Brambleclaw would, every cat in the Clan respects him. His fur prickles at the thought of his father being nothing but a memory.
- Brambleclaw says he wishes that was true. Lionpaw wonders what he means. Brambleclaw whispers that he thinks there may be one Clanmate who wishes him harm. Lionpaw's heart lurches, and he asks who. Brambleclaw shakes his head, saying it's not important, forget he said anything. Lionpaw carries on asking, but Brambleclaw cuts him off, saying, if you want to be remembered for your strengths, you must work on them. And if that means proving yourself to those who doubt you, then do it. Brambleclaw continues, you can't force Hollypaw to believe you, you have to show her you are worth believing in. Lionpaw feels weariness weighing down his paws, wondering why he should have to prove himself to Hollypaw, he hasn't done anything wrong.
- A stone clatters down against the wall of camp and lands on the ground outside the apprentices' den. Lionpaw lifts his head and blinks in the darkness, wondering if it is a rabbit foraging near the top of the hollow. He hears another cracking noise and realizies it couldn't be a rabbit, the first clatter would have sent it running. Curiously, Lionpaw quietly gets to his paws, glancing at Hollypaw, silently thanking Brackenfur for taking her hunting in the deep woods. When Hollypaw returned, she was exuasted. Lionpaw slips past her nest and ducks out the den.
- Lionpaw hears more cracking and thumping sounds, a pebble lands near his paws. He skitters backwards and cautiously looks up. Two round eyes shine at him from the top of the cliff, blinking. Someone was spying on the camp. He wonders if he should tell someone. Lionpaw glances around the empty moonlit clearing; no one is stirring. He didn't want to wake anyone until he was sure there was danger. He would look foolish if he called the alarm if some fawn had found the hollow. He would investigate first and call the alarm if there really was danger.
- Whitewing's pelt glows in the camp entrance, she is on guard. If there was trouble, he would call her. Lionpaw slips around the edge of the clearing and pushes his way among the brambles beside the medicine den. He knows he can climb the cliff behind them. Reaching through the prickly branches he feels the first ledge with his paws and hauls himself up. Then, careful no to send grit showering down, he scrabbles up from ledge to ledge until he finally pulls himself onto the grass at the top. Panting, he creeps around the hollow. A soft mew calls his name from the ferns ahead. He freezes as Heatherpaw slips out from beneath the arching fronds. Lionpaw asks if she dropped the pebbles, staring at her in alarm, thinking she could have gotten caught. He asks if everything is okay.
- Heatherpaw says she had to see him. Lionpaw feels a glow inside his chest. She was even braver than he thought, but he had to get her away from camp. He hisses for her to follow him. He hares off lakeward down the slope, but Heatherpaw doesn't follow. Lionpaw begs her to come with him, skidding around and looking back. With shining eyes, Heatherpaw says not to go that way, she has something to show him, then turns, ducking away under the ferns. Lionpaw hurries after her, asking where they're going. Heatherpaw says to wait and see. She seems to be heading toward the old fox den. Lionpaw warns her to be careful. She tells him it's okay, there aren't any foxes. She pauses in front of the brambles that crowd around the bottom of a steep slope, telling him to wait there.
- Lionpaw glances around nervously, until Heatherpaw calls him. He looks up to see her blinking at him from the entrance to a small tunnel. Lionpaw asks what she's doing in there. Heatherpaw tells him to come inside, as she scoots backwards into the darkness. Lionpaw follows, pausing at the tunnel entrance and calls to her, his heart pounding. Heatherpaw tells him to come on, her mew echoing. Lionpaw squeezes after her into the pitch-black tunnel. He crouches, wiggling forward, damp earth pressing against his pelt. The space is hardly big enough for a rabbit, let alone a cat. Suddenly, he feels space and cold air around him as the tunnel widens. Relieved, he stands up straight, and pads forward until he feels Heatherpaw's breath on his cheek.
- Heatherpaw says it opens to a cave, and that there are loads more tunnels, one leading to WindClan's territory. Lionpaw asks how she found them. She replies that Breezepaw sent her to catch mice around the cracks in the rocks just over the top of the moor, not far from camp. She chased one down and realized that the crack opened to a tunnel. When she went inside she found tunnels leading everywhere.
- Lionpaw asks if she had been afraid of getting lost. Heatherpaw says that she explored slowly at first, making sure she knew each tunnel well before trying another, then she found the one that leads to the cave. Lionpaw can hardly believe his ears. He gasps, ThunderClan could use it to escape if there was an attack or a fire. Heatherpaw says no, her mew sharp, that this can their place.
- Lionpaw echoes Heatherpaw, and she tells him they can meet here without anyone finding out. Lionpaw twitches his whiskers, praising Heatherpaw for her brilliance. She purrs, rubbing her muzzle along Lionpaw's cheek before turning away, urging him to follow her to the cave. The sound of her pawsteps disappear and Lionpaw fights the urge to run back into the forest. Instead, he follows Heatherpaw. As the blackness presses around him, he suddenly realizes how Jaypaw must feel. He checks for scent, but only finds it to be stale and musty, as if no creature has been down there for moons. He wonders why no one else uses the tunnels. Heatherpaw says they must not have been lucky enough to find them. They continue to talk about this for a few heartbeats, before the tunnel ahead brightens.
- Lionpaw stops dead and stares around in astonishment. The rock walls are lit by silver moonlight filtering in from a small hole in the roof. The floor is smooth and dusty stone, with ripples here and there. A river wounds across the floor and flows away into a low, broad tunnel, disappearing in shadows. Leaping up onto a rocky ledge, Heatherpaw asks, isn't it brillant. It can be their own camp. It can be called DarkClan. She decides she'll be leader and he'll be her deputy. Scrabbling up onto a higher ledge, Lionpaw objects, asking what if he wanted to be leader. Heatherpaw says she found the place, so she's leader, she jumps onto his perch, knocking him off. Purring, Lionpaw lands on the floor, asking Heatherstar what the plan is.
- Heatherpaw nudges Lionpaw awake. He jerks his head up, surprised to find rock walls around him, then he remembers he is with Heatherpaw in the cave. She jerks her head to the gap in the roof, where the sky is pale and creamy. They had dozed off. Lionpaw leaps to his paws, staring anxiously around the tunnels, asking Heatherpaw which leads to ThunderClan. She pads over to a narrow tunnel near the river's edge, telling him that's his. She flicks her tail towards a wider tunnel in the facing wall, stating that's where she goes. Her eyes glitter as she asks Lionpaw if he'll meet her again tonight. Lionpaw agrees, if he can can away. Heatherpaw's farewell echoes behind him as he hurries away down the tunnel. He knows his denmates must have noticed he wasn't in his nest. He wonders how he'll explain this to Hollypaw, who's bound to be suspicious. He has to come up with a reason why he was out of camp, or else he would never be able to meet Heatherpaw later.
- The tunnel grows narrower around him and something brushes his pelt. Lionpaw assumes it's the walls closing in. Panicking, he wonders if Heatherpaw remembered the right route. Something else brushes his pelt, it doesn't feel like earth. It feels softer, like the pelts of many cats pressing against his. Alarm shoots through him. He begins to run, hurtling through the dark, fear crushing the breath from him. Light glows up ahead. Desperation and relief make Lionpaw's legs weak as he shoots out of the hole. Dawn light floods his eyes, making him blink as he glances around. There is no sign of any patrol's yet. Ducking down, he scrabbles out from under the brambles and begins to hurry home. A thought comes to his mind as he slides to a halt; he can't come back empty-pawed.
- A sparrow flutters overhead. Lionpaw drops into a hunting crouch. Still as a rock, he watches the sparrow flutter to the ground and waits as it hops closer, fighting the urge to spring until it comes within reach. The leaves rustle as it bobs nearer. Lionpaw kneads the ground with his hind paws, then springing forward, quick as a snake, he kills the bird with one swipe. He picks up the limp body in his teeth and bounds toward camp.
- Still on guard, Whitewing greets him, saying she didn't see him go out. Lionpaw's mew is muffled by feathers as he says he used the dirtplace tunnel. His tail pricks at the lie, but he has no choice. Whitewing comments that Lionpaw will have a nice and early breakfast. Lionpaw nods, whisking past her into the camp. Hollypaw is lying beside the halfrock with Jaypaw. She looks up as he enters camp. Flicking his tail at her, Lionpaw drops his catch on the fresh-kill pile. Jaypaw mews he must have been up early, as Lionpaw joins them, clambering onto the halfrock and starts washing.
- Thinking fast, Lionpaw replies that the birds make so much noise, he was surprised they could sleep through them. Hollypaw narrows her eyes, saying that after her hunt with Brackenfur the day before, she would sleep through anything. Lionpaw wipes a paw over one ear. Inside, his stomach is as hard as a knot. He hates lying. He wasn't doing any harm by playing with Heatherpaw. But he knew his Clanmates wouldn't see it like that. Lionpaw silently tells himself he's loyal to his Clan, he shouldn't have to prove it. But still, the bitter taste of his lie still stings his throat.
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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