|"I hope Cloud Spots is right. But I just feel things are changing beyond any cat's control."|
|— Gray Wing in The Sun Trail, page 229|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter eighteen of The Sun Trail. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 18 (of 26)
- Page Numbers: 227-237
- The tribe cats glance at one another, confusion and sadness in their eyes. Quick Water meows they won't be far away, their paths will cross all the time and Gray Wing can tell she's trying to be cheerful. Jackdaw's Cry gives Falling Feather a friendly nudge and tells her she'll return when she misses the taste of rabbits or the feeling of wind in her fur. Quick Water, genuinely amused, replies to Jackdaw's Cry and tells him to wait until it rains, and they'll definitely be sheltering under the trees. As the leaving cats climb the slope out of the hollow, Clear Sky hangs back and faces Gray Wing. He murmurs to Gray Wing he'll see him soon and Gray Wing dips his head, thankful that he and Clear Sky were close again. He asks if Gray Wing will come with them, but Gray Wing answers his heart lies in the open, high places, but he'll walk with them a little way.
- Together Gray Wing and Clear Sky bound up the slope to catch up. Tall Shadow and Rainswept Flower come too, padding in a tight group across the moor until they reach the edge of the trees. Tall Shadow meows a goodbye and wishes them good prey and shelter as she dips her head to Clear Sky. She says there will always be a place for them with the moor cats, and Clear Sky responds that they'll always be welcome to visit them. Even though he knows he'll see his brothers again, it is wrenching for Gray Wing to turn and leave. His pace is slow as he heads back to the hollow, and his wounds ache. After a few paw steps, he glances back over his shoulder but Clear Sky and the others have already vanished into the trees.
- When Gray Wing and the others return, the hollow feels empty. Dappled Pelt is busy treating wounds and Turtle Tail is gathering grass, trying to repair the damaged nests. Cloud Spots pads over to Gray Wing, touching him on the shoulder with his tail and suggests they go out hunting together. Spirits reviving, Gray Wing agrees. Together they head out on the moor. A stiff breeze blows away the cloud and patches of blue appear here and there. Gray Wing catches a powerful whiff of rabbit and spots the creature nibbling the grass at the bottom of a rocky bank. Angling his ears towards it, he draws Cloud Spots' attention.
- Cloud Spots circles the rabbit to come at it from the other direction. Remembering how they used to hunt hares in the mountains, Gray Wing braces himself, crouching in a clump of long grass. A couple of heartbeats later the rabbit flicks up its ears, saw Cloud Spots and flees, heading straight for Gray Wing. Leaping out of the grass, Gray Wing knocks it over with a blow from his paw and its squeal of terror is cut off as he kills it with a bite to the neck. Cloud Spots compliments Gray Wing for his catch and he says it's nice and plump and it'll fill a few hungry bellies. He adds as Gray Wing begins to drag the rabbit back to camp that the others leaving won't make such a difference; it's just like his home has gotten bigger. Gray Wing mutters agreement through his mouthful of fur, but inwardly he wasn't so sure, hoping that Cloud Spots is right, but he feels things are changing beyond any cat's control.
- Gray Wing pauses near the edge of the trees, jaws parted to taste the air, half hoping that Clear Sky or the others would appear. A few sunrises had passed since the cats left the moor, and Gray Wing still feels part of him has been torn away. Disappointed, Gray Wing is about to turn back when he spots movement under the outlying trees. A cat emerges from a clump of ferns, glancing furtively from side to side before heading up the slope towards him. But it wasn't Clear Sky or any of his group; it was Turtle Tail. Gray Wing wonders if she was visiting Clear Sky and why she would look like she doesn't want anyone to see her. He draws back into the shelter of a rock until Turtle Tail walks past him. He steps out in front of her and greets her, and Turtle Tail jumps, saying he frightened her out of her fur.
- There's a weird scent on her pelt, one he couldn't place and his suspicions deepen as he asks Turtle Tail where she's been - and warns her not to tell him that she's been visiting Clear Sky because he knows she hasn't. Turtle Tail steps back, neck fur fluffing at his tone. She retorts that she was visiting Bumble in Twolegplace. Gray Wing asks if she's flea-brained, and she says she doesn't know what he's so angry about. She bubbles over how Bumble was so nice, the soft rocks with colored pelts in the Twoleg den and how comfortable they were. Gray Wing struggles to find his words, but he tells her that Twolegplace is dangerous. Turtle Tail dismissively flicks her tail and says Bumble looked after her and he should come and visit too.
- It feels like his whole life is coming apart to Gray Wing. His brothers and friends had left the group to live in the trees, and now Turtle Tail's seemed to forget she was a wild cat. He snaps at her that she's being ridiculous, and Turtle Tail's neck fur bristles as she glares at him. Suddenly, Gray Wing's tired of arguing and tells her to do what she wants. Leaving Turtle Tail to find her own way home, he stalks off into the woods. Instantly he feels swallowed into the dense green world, the air heavy with lush growth. He finds a familiar trail and heads along it, steering clear of strange scents.
- Without warning two cat shapes drop from the trees on either side of him and land in the undergrowth. Gray Wing braces himself for an attack, then in the next heartbeat recognises Jagged Peak and Clear Sky. Gray Wing lets out a welcoming mrrow and touches noses with each of them. He mews they scared his tail off, and Jagged Peak boasts they've been hunting in the trees. Clear Sky asks if he wants to join them, and Gray Wing glances up at the nearest tree. He thinks that it looks awfully tall, but says he'll do it, trying to hide he was scared. He looks forward to spending time with them again and scrambles up the trunk after Clear Sky and Jagged Peak. He balances on the lowest branch and digs his claws in nervously. Glancing around, he tries to enjoy the different scents and the rustling of leaves around him.
- Clear Sky takes off in pursuit of a squirrel leaping from branch to branch. Jagged Peak follows, and Gray Wing clambers after them, envying their confidence and speed. The squirrel leaps from the end of one springy branch into a nearby tree. Gray Wing pauses, assuming they've lost it, but Clear Sky doesn't stop. He jumps after it, almost flying as he hurtles into the next tree, right on the squirrel's tail. Gray Wing is even more surprised when Jagged Peak follows him.
- Gray Wing mutters he has to do this, struggling to keep his balance as he edges his way along the branch. He bunches his muscles and pushes off, reaching out his forepaws to grab the nearest branch of the other tree. His claws scrape along the bark and he screeches as he feels himself falling. At the last moment, he manages to get a grip but he's left helplessly swinging, with nowhere to put his hind paws. Fighting off dizziness, he manages to shift bit by bit along the branch until it grows wider near the trunk. He pulls himself up and sits shaking, wondering how he was going to get down again.
- His pounding heart quiets by the time Clear Sky and Jagged Peak come back. Clear Sky carries the squirrel in his jaws as Jagged Peak exclaims that it was a great chase, eyes gleaming with enthusiasm. He asks if Gray Wing's okay, and he confesses he thinks he's stuck. Jagged Peak mews confidently that he'll help Gray Wing down, and instructs him how to get down. When Gray Wing stands once again with all fours firmly on the ground, he tells Jagged Peak he's really good at hunting. Jagged Peak ducks his head in embarrassment and says Clear Sky's been giving him a few tips. Clear Sky leaps down the last few tail-lengths and explains with a modest look it helps to practice hunting among the trees. Gray Wing fervently meows he prefers rabbits on the ground any day and he follows his brothers along forest trails until they reach a sheltered hollow with a shallow pool at the center and deep banks of fern and bramble all around.
- Welcoming Gray Wing to their new home, Clear Sky announces out loud and Quick Water and Falling Feather poke their heads out from the fern. Falling Feather greets Gray Wing as they emerge into the open and Quick Water tells him they've been settling in well; the cats have made nests of twigs and lined them with moss, and they've already scared off a couple of noisy cats. Falling Feather puts in that they might invite rogues really interested in them to move in, and she adds faintly embarrassed that they might become their friends.
- While Gray Wing wonders why Falling Feather is so keen for new cats, he tells Clear Sky he's glad it turned out well for him. He asks Gray Wing if he's happy on the moor, and Gray Wing dips his head and answers he is. He heads back through the trees, happy to have seen his brothers and their new home. His thoughts are full of them and he isn't paying as much attention as usual to his surroundings. When a cat leaps out of the bushes ahead of him, he halts, so startled he almost falls over his own paws, brushing against a jagged tree stump.
- The cat's a silver tabby she-cat, green eyes narrowed into a glare. She hisses that he's one of the newcomers making trouble and that the rogues were here first and warns him to stop stealing their prey. Gray Wing mildly replies there's enough prey for every cat and introduces himself, asking for her name. She doesn't answer and meows gruudgingly that there's a wasps' nest in the stump he nearly fell over. Gray Wing spots a swollen gray lump in the tree beside him, and two or three tiny black and yellow creatures hovering over it with a muted buzzing. After asking what they are, she rolls her eyes and says they'll sting him if he disturbs them and challenges him to stick his paw in there if he doesn't believe her.
- Gray Wing backs off a pace or two and thanks her for telling him about the wasps. She growls and tells him she's not doing it to help him, it's so his screeching won't scare off the prey. She whirls around and spits to leave her in peace before she scampers off into the undergrowth.
- As he emerges from the trees and races across the moor, he finds the silver tabby sticks obstinately in his mind. He climbs the final slope toward the hollow and Gray Wing feels a twinge of guilt about his earlier quarrel with Turtle Tail. He wonders if Turtle Tail won't go to Twolegplace if he shows her how great it is here and as he pads into the scoop, he spots Turtle Tail under a bush, washing her ears. He greets her and asks if she wants to hunt, and Gray Wing explains when he went hunting with Cloud Spots the other day that they hunted rabbits like they used to hunt hares in the mountains and suggests they try it today.
- Though dark clouds were massing on the horizon, the sky above the moor is clear blue and the sun shines strongly and tiny brown butterflies flutter among the wild thyme. They spot a rabbit hopping peacefully here and there, stopping every few minutes to nibble at the grass. Gray Wing murmurs to wait while he sends the rabbit over to her. She nods and crouches while Gray Wing creeps around in a circle until he could see the rabbit between him and Turtle Tail, whose ears just poked up above the grass clump where she's hiding.
- Letting out a yowl, Gray Wing hurtles toward the rabbit. With a squeal of terror, the rabbit races off, heading straight for Turtle Tail. But she leaps out of hiding just a heartbeat too soon and the rabbit veers off. Though Turtle Tail dashes for it and Gray Wing forces an extra burst of speed, the rabbit dives down a nearby hole before either of them could catch it. Gray Wing spits that Turtle Tail wasn't concentrating and she challenges if he's ever missed a catch. Gray Wing says never an easy one. Turtle Tail snaps and says she's going to find a cat who doesn't expect her to fly like a bird and run like a rabbit, and Gray Wing guesses she means Bumble as he watches he stalk off across the moor.
- Clouds gradually cover the sky and by nightfall heavy rain sets in. Turtle Tail still hadn't returne and Gray Wing settles into his nest under a gorse bush. Sleep's hard to come by as he asks himself if he was too hard on her. At last he falls into a troubled sleep and wakes as the sky grows pale with dawn. Gray Wing rises and pads along the hollow checking for Turtle Tail's nest; it is cold and empty, her scent's stale.
- Anxiety grips Gray Wing like a fox's fangs as he frets about where's Turtle Tail and why she hasn't come home.
Notes and references
|The Sun Trail 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 • Chapter 25 • Chapter 26 • Bonus Scene|
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