|"[Lightning Tail] is the strongest cat in the group, and I trust him completely. Do whatever he tells you. If I don't return, you must be leader. I trust you to take care of our campmates. Keep the group together. The future lies in your paws."|
|— Thunder to Leaf and Lightning Tail in Path of Stars, page 270|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter twenty one of Path of Stars. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 21 (of 24)
- Page Numbers: 269-276
- Slash's words make Gray Wing's heart lurch. He blinks at his brother, Clear Sky, and wonders where Star Flower is, or her kits, or whether or not Slash is planning to kidnap her again. Fear sparks in Clear Sky's eyes, and he wails his mate's name, then races for the slope. Acorn Fur, Birch, and Nettle streak after him, their fur bristling. Gray Wing looks back at Slash, who is watching the shocked cats with delight, his whiskers twitching. He starts to threaten the mangy tabby, but Slash cuts him off. He asks the gray tom why he should bother with Clear Sky and his group, since he's making the pale gray tom suffer enough. With a hateful gaze, Slash hisses at Gray Wing, stating that it was he who took his cats away.
- Gray Wing's pelt is stabbed with claws of fear, and demands to know what he means. The brown tabby leader doesn't answer, and only beckons for his rogues to follow. He jumps off the rock, and slinks into shadow. Gray Wing starts trembling, since Slash had blamed him. Wind Runner's panicked voice snaps Gray Wing from his thoughts, and she mentions Slate and her kits. He stares across the clearing, replying that Spotted Fur was with the queen. But even though the golden-brown tom was with Slate, he couldn't beat Slash's gang all by himself.
- The dark gray tom exclaims that they have to get home, and turns to leave. However, invisible jaws clamp his chest, and his breathing becomes difficult. Wind Runner bounds over to her friend, and glances over to River Ripple, ordering him to get back to his camp, and protect Drizzle and Pine. The silver tabby tom agrees with a nod, and the wiry brown she-cat turns to Thunder now. She issuses out orders to the big ginger tom, and while it's said that Clear Sky had already left, Sparrow Fur remains. The tortoiseshell's pelt pricks.
- Thunder lifts his chin, claiming that he'll stay with Gray Wing, and help Slate. He tells Lightning Tail to take his cats back to camp, for the black tom is put in charge until Thunder returns. Leaf protests, mentioning that Slash wants his revenge. Thunder lowers his voice, and to Lightning Tail, meows that if he doesn't return, he has to take over. Lightning Tail blinks, asking if he will return, but before Thunder can reply, Violet Dawn hurries over. She firmly says he has to come back, and presses her nose to Thunder's cheek. The ginger leader stays like that for a moment, and promises that he'll be home.
- Gray Wing desperately looks up the slope, and thinks of Slash being in his camp now. Struggling forward, he makes for the bracken. Pebble Heart supports the gray tom, before looking back at Tall Shadow. He tells the black she-cat he'll be back soon. His leader dips her head, and sends Sun Shadow with them. Owl Eyes calls that he'll help also, and rushes forward. When the young cat presses against him, Gray Wing is briefly surprised, then remembers how tiny he had been, clambering over Turtle Tail while she'd watched fondly. Now Owl Eyes' muscles were strong in comparison to Gray Wing's bony frame.
- Wind Runner crashes through the bracken, her campmates with her. Moth Flight and Dust Muzzle follow, kicking up snow. Sparrow Fur pleads to come, which startles Gray Wing. After a heartbeat, he swells with gratitude, because all Turtle Tail's kits want to help. Willow Tail threatens Slash, her tail lashing, saying she'd kill him. Fern Leaf hisses, and tells the pale tabby that she'd help. As the early settlers move through the orange fronds, Owl Eyes and Pebble Heart guide the weak dark gray tom up the slope. He blinks as a cold wind buffets him at the top of the slope. The moor cat winces as snow stings his eyes.
- The camp hollow shows in the distance, shadowy in the moonlight. Wind Runner and the other cats run for the camp, and Gray Wing struggles to keep up. Struggling through the deep snow, Owl Eyes and Pebble Heart still guide him, but press even closer. Darkness edges his vision as he fights for breath, but he can only think of Slate and his kits, and he prays that they're safe. He ponders if Slash had been bluffing, just to scare them. His campmates streak ahead, reaching the camp. He gets frustrated, and snaps at his companions to hurry. Both the toms whisk Gray Wing towards the camp, while his paws churn helplessly.
- They manage to reach the gorse tunnel, but the others have already disappeared inside. Gray Wing picks up the scent of blood, and his heart quickens. He tries to pick up the sound of yowling, but nothing happens. Gray Wing can only hear the wind moaning in the moonlit moor. He shakes Owl Eyes and Pebble Heart off, and enters the hollow. The tomcat spots blood on some rocks, then sees Wind Runner and their campmates surrounding two shapes on the ground.
- Gray Wing barges past them, and stops. He recognizes Spotted Fur, and Slate; their pelts glisten with blood as they lay. Suddenly, the golden brown tom pushes himself to his paws with a groan. Spotted Fur croaks, and tells everyone that he tried to save Slate and her kits. He collapses with a gasp, and Pebble Heart dashes forward. However, Gray Wing barely notices. The dark gray tom is distracted by Slate, and is staring at her in horror. Reed Tail crouches next to the gray she-cat, and begins licking her neck, which is bloody. Her mate stumbles forward, pleading to the stars not to take Slate. He wonders if his ancestors are watching, and the ground sways below him. He feels grief spread through his heart, and demands to know if he lost enough with Turtle Tail.
- Slate stirs, whispering Gray Wing's name. He drops down next to her, struggling for breath. His mate opens her eyes, and stares at Gray Wing for a moment, her gaze blank. Terror flashes in the gray she-cat's eyes as she realizes her kits are missing, and wails for them. She yowls their names, and Gray Wing asks where they are. Slate tells the dark gray tom that Slash's rogues had come to the camp. The she-cat explains that she and Spotted Fur had tried to chase them out, but they were outnumbered, and starts calling her kits' names again. She darts across the clearing, scrambling one way, and then another.
- A terrified mew calls Slate's name, and a dark gray kit slides from the trembling branches. A pale silver tabby follows her brother, and snow falls onto the ground. Slate bounds toward the kits, her paws leaving bloody paw prints in the snow, and calls Silver Stripe's name, then White Tail's. Gray Wing is relieved to see that two of his kits are safe and here, and White Tail huddles under Slate's belly. Silver Stripe whimpers that her and her brother thought the rogues had killed her. White Tail huddles closer to his mother, and Slate praises her kits, calling them brave. The dark gray kit sobs that Black Ear was taken away, because he wasn't fast enough to hide.
- Slate is horrified again, and swings her gaze toward her mate. Gray Wing straightens his back, assuring her that he will find the kit. However, his breathing has become shallow, and darkness edges his vision. Thunder pads to the tom's side, ordering him to stay, as the ginger tom would find him. Determination is hard in Thunder's voice, but that doesn't stop Gray Wing from being frustrated. He protests that Black Ear was his kit, and Thunder solemnly tells the dark gray tom that he has done a lot for him, and asks him to find Black Ear in Gray Wing's place. The dark gray tom is touched, and thanks his foster son.
- Wind Runner lashes her tail, and orders Thunder, Owl Eyes, and Sparrow Fur to check the pine forest. She tells the three that Slash might be trying to take him back to his old camp. She turns to Swift Minnow, and directs her to take Reed Tail amd Dust Muzzle to the river. Lastly, Wind Runner announces that she'll take Gorse Fur, Sun Shadow, and Moth Flight, to check the oak forest. Willow Tail lifts her muzzle, and declares that she will accompany them, and Fern Leaf steps forward. The scarred gray she-cat says that she'll go with her friend too. Wind Runner, however, eyes them distrustfully.
- Gray Wing tenses, but the wiry brown she-cat flicks her tail, and briskly tells Fern Leaf to stay and help Pebble Heart and the others. The brown tabby dips her head to Willow Tail, and invites her to be on her patrol. Willow Tail puffs out her chest, promising Wind Runner that she wouldn't let her down. Gray Wing tries to stand up, but he falls back down, and rage flares through him. Pebble Heart presses against him, and asks Fern Leaf is she knows what coltsfoot is. Fern Leaf nods, but the dark gray tabby warns her it could be wilted.
- As Pebble Heart tells Slate to keep her kits warm, the world around Gray Wing swims. He hears paw steps thrum, and knows they're heading from the camp. He hears Thunder's voice, who fiercely promises him that he will find Black Ear. Darkness overwhelms Gray Wing, and his strength drips away into the snow.
Notes and references
|Path of Stars 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 • Chapter 22 • Chapter 23 • Chapter 24|
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