|"The hollow was too exposed. Down here, we have shelter and we'll be safe from foxes. And... just maybe, from other cats."|
|— Gray Wing in The Sun Trail, page 282|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter twenty three of The Sun Trail. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 23 (of 26)
- Page Numbers: 276-282
- After Gray Wing leaves Clear Sky's territory, he couldn't stop worrying about Jagged Peak. There weren't any cats to tell him how his little brother was doing and he wishes he still had Turtle Tail to talk to. He realises he's been missing her ever since she left to live with Bumble. She hadn't come to visit as she promised and though Gray Wing sometimes picks up her scent on the giant rock beneath the four oaks, he'd never see her there.
- Dappled Pelt stays with Skystar|Clear Sky for the next half moon, the sun setting when she finally makes it back to the hollow, shaking her pelt in annoyance as she padded down to join the others. She exclaims that any cat would think Clear Sky was trying to hold her prisoner and she's been stuck in his so-called camp, with hardly enough room to stretch her legs. Gray Wing asks about Jagged Peak and Dappled Pelt replies he can use his leg again, he's still limping badly but he should improve with time. She flops down beside Shattered Ice and remarks it's good to be back.
- Hawk Swoop says she's glad to see her and tells Dappled Pelt she's expecting kits with Jackdaw's Cry and was worried she wouldn't be back in time; Cloud Spots is great, but not the most sympathetic cat on the moor. Gray Wing and Shattered Ice congratulate Hawk Swoop and Dappled Pelt says that it's not the best time to have kits with the cold season coming, but she and Cloud Spots will gather herbs so they'll have everything to assist her if there's an emergency.
- The day after, Gray Wing goes hunting on the moor with Jackdaw's Cry, Rainswept Flower and Shattered Ice. The sun has just risen, a cold breeze blows across the moor and the grass is white with frost. The moor’s pools and streams are rimmed with ice and every cat has fluffed-up fur and breathing out white clouds.
- Rainswept Flower wonders if it snows here, and Jackdaw’s Cry nods. He says that his kits will need better shelter, and wonders if they may need to move into the forest for the cold season. Shattered Ice grunts that it’d cause trouble from Clear Sky. Jackdaw’s Cry’s ears flick up and he protests, saying Clear Sky doesn’t own the whole forest. Uncomfortable about the hostility towards Clear Sky, Gray Wing asks who can catch the first rabbit. They spread out and Rainswept Flower sees the first rabbit and breaks into a sprint to pursue a rabbit running to a gorse-covered bank.
- Gray Wing takes off after Rainswept Flower, hoping to intercept the rabbit before it can escape. While he’s still several tail-lengths behind, she reaches the top of a ridge and vanishes down the other side. A heartbeat later Gray Wing hears her alarmed screech, and Gray Wing yowls her name.
- Heart pounding, Gray Wing races towards the spot where he last saw her, finding himself on the edge of a hollow in the moor almost surrounded by gorse bushes. Gorse and rocks line the slope down to the hummocky ground at the bottom; the grass that grows there is sparse. At one side there was a huge boulder, at the other is a loose, bare stretch of soil. Gray Wing yowls Rainswept Flower’s name again. Shattered Ice and Jackdaw’s Cry pant up to him, and Jackdaw’s Cry demands to know what happened. Gray Wing replies Rainswept Flower had just disappeared, still stunned at the rate she vanished. Gray Wing asks himself if there’s something down there that eats cats.
- Shattered Ice points at the loose soil in the middle of the dip heaving and suddenly Rainswept Flower's head pops up. She scrabbles at the earth with her forepaws, but the sandy soil at the hole's edge crumbles away. Jackdaw's Cry bounds forward, but Gray Wing blocks him with his tail. He warns Jackdaw's Cry that they have to be careful, or they might end up down there. Gray Wing leads more cautiously into the hollow and asks Rainswept Flower if she's okay. She replies she's swallowed some soil, but she's not hurt and there are rabbit burrows under here, stretching in every direction. Shattered Ice's voice is sharp with interest when she asks if there are any rabbits. Rainswept Flower shakes her head and says the scents are stale.
- The ground gives way a little under Gray Wing's paws as he reaches Rainswept Flower's side and instructs her to push her paws when he says now. He cautiously leans over and fastens his teeth into his scruff, and gives the signal. Rainswept Flower pushes upward as Gray Wing heaves. For a few heartbeats he thought they would both end up down the hole, but then Shattered Ice reaches to grab Rainswept Flower's shoulder on one side. Jackdaw's Cry grabs the other, and all four cats tumble backwards, safe on solid ground. Rainswept Flower gasps out thanks as she spits out soil and shakes loose earth from her pelt.
- Jackdaw's Cry suggests they should get away from here, but Shattered Ice peers down the hole and scrapes at the edge with his forepaws. He thinks if they dig out the loose soil, they could get into the tunnels. Jackdaw's Cry asks why, but Shattered Ice doesn't reply and plops into the hole. There was silence for a moment, then his voice comes from a little farther away. He says that Rainswept Flower was right, there are lots of tunnels here and the soil is soft. They could easily widen them so that they could fit down them. Gray Wing meows Gorse and Wind would often hunt rabbits into their burrows as he begins to see the possibilities. Jackdaw's Cry's eyes gleam as he asks if they could chase the rabbits all the way to their nests. Shattered Ice reappears and after scraping at loose soil scrambles out he adds the tunnel stretches a long way -- if there's a battle, they could travel in secret to other parts of the moor. Gray Wing shivers and asks about what's he talking about when he says battles, and asks who they're meant to be fighting. Shattered Ice gives a doubtful look, but Gray Wing turns away and mews the tunnels will be useful for hiding from foxes and Twolegs.
- Rainswept Flower nods and says they need to tell Tall Shadow about this. She'll go and get her. While they wait, Gray Wing and Jackdaw's Cry go down the hole with Shattered Ice and begin digging out some more of the tunnel system. Gray Wing murmurs Shattered Ice was right, gazing down one of the black passages, as they seem to stretch a long, long way. He anxiously watches Jackdaw's Cry plunging into the darkness, then reappearing backwards, his paws scuffling into the earth excitedly. He meows it could be done, and they'd need to dig air holes that'd let light in too. And they could bring moss down for nests; Hawk Swoop and Jackdaw's Cry's kit would be safe and warm there.
- As he was speaking, the light suddenly fades. Gray Wing turns and makes out Tall Shadow's head blocking the hole. A moment later she jumps down to join them and exclaims this is great. Then she asks if they've scented any dogs or foxes, but Shattered Ice shakes his head and replies it's only stale rabbit scent. Tall Shadow muses they'll have to be careful that they don't fall in on them, but she thinks they should move the camp down here for the cold season and sleep under the gorse bushes in the warm season. Jackdaw's Cry makes a little bounce of enthusiasm and purrs that it's great.
- Over the next few days the cats move across the moor to the new camp, digging out spaces for dens and transporting bedding for new nests. Cloud Spots and Dappled Pelt carefully carry their store of herbs and found a safe place to keep them in one of the tunnels. Jackdaw's Cry is the most skilled at exploring the burrows, finding several that stretched for long distances beneath the moor and others with exits nearby among the gorse bushes and rocks on the slope of the hollow. Gray Wing is still mixed about living underground, even for only the cold season. He'd have to force himself into the enclosed, stifling spaces, but he could see some of the opportunities that the tunnels offer. He thinks to himself the hollow was too exposed and down here they have shelter and they'll be safe from foxes.
- A heartbeat later, Gray Wing adds reluctantly to himself -- just maybe, they can be safe from other cats.
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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