|"That's it, we're finished. I have no brother. Get out of here."|
|— Clear Sky to Gray Wing in The Sun Trail, page 291|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter twenty four of The Sun Trail. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 24 (of 26)
- Page Numbers: 283-292
- Gray Wing is returning to the new camp with a rabbit dangling from his jaws when he spots two cats approaching from the forest. He drops his prey and waits for them. As the cats draw closer, he recognises them as Jagged Peak and Frost, the big white tom that joined Clear Sky. Jagged Peak is leaning heavily against Frost for support, and Gray Wing sees that he was hardly putting his injured leg to the ground. Gray Wing worriedly thinks it's been more than a moon since Jagged Peak fell from the tree and he'd expected that Jagged Peak should be able to walk properly by now.
- Gray Wing greets them, dipping his head as Jagged Peak and Frost come up to him. He asks if they've come to visit and Jagged Peak gives him a miserable look. Frost doesn't even acknowledge Gray Wing's presence and helps Jagged Peak to lie on the ground before turning away without speaking and bounding back across the moor. Gray Wing calls Frost a rude furball in his head, before asking Jagged Peak what's happening. Jagged Peak doesn't reply, instead glaring at Frost as he vanishes into the distance. Then he glances back at Gray Wing, giving his chest fur a couple of embarrassed licks. Gray Wing gently encourages Jagged Peak to tell him, who hesitates a moment longer before confessing it's about his leg; it isn't healing well enough, and it looks like he'll always have a limp.
- He struggles to say that Clear Sky said that because he can't hunt anymore, he isn't contributing to the group and Jagged Peak would have to survive on his own, especially with the cold season coming. He asks Gray Wing if he could come back to live with him and Gray Wing tells him, of course, he can. Slow anger begins to burn in Gray Wing's belly, but he hides it and talks about how Jagged Peak is welcome and the new camp which he can come and see.
- Gray Wing picks up his rabbit again and lets Jagged Peak lean on his shoulder until they reach the hollow. Tall Shadow is there, investigating one of the burrow entrances with Jackdaw's Cry. Tall Shadow turns and bounds up the slope to Gray Wing as he and Jagged Peak stagger down the slope. She asks what's this all about and Gray Wing explains, while Jagged Peak hangs his head, looking desperately unsure of himself. Tall Shadow snorts, saying its terrible that Clear Sky's done what he did to Jagged Peak to his own brother before welcoming Jagged Peak. She's sure Cloud Spots and Dappled Pelt can do something to help his leg, and they'll take a look at him right after they get back from their herb hunt.
- Jagged Peak thanks Tall Shadow and Gray Wing helps Jagged Peak to a sheltered spot under the gorse bush and drops his rabbit in front of him. He tells Jagged Peak to help himself to his rabbit while he sees a nest for him. Just inside the main tunnel entrance, there was a good pile of moss and bracken; Gray Wing drags some into an unused side burrow, digging out some of the soil to make the space wider. He then goes outside to get Jagged Peak, who's finished eating. He looks up drowsily at Gray Wing and he murmurs its good of Gray Wing to let him stay. Gray Wing settles Jagged Peak into his nest, and Jagged Peak drifts off to sleep right away. The struggle across the moor had clearly exhausted him.
- Gray Wing waits until he's sure his brother is okay, then climbs out of the burrow again. He tells Tall Shadow he's going to talk to Clear Sky, before leaving the hollow and bounding off across the moor. The path leading to Clear Sky's camp was guarded by Fox who draws back as Gray Wing appears. Gray Wing is slightly disappointed as for once he was itching to sink his claws into some cat's fur. When he reaches the clearing, he finds Clear Sky lapping from the pool at the centre of the hollow.
- Gray Wing announces he's been talking to Jagged Peak as he stalks up to his brother and Clear Sky raises his head and shakes water droplets from his whiskers. He admits he thought he wanted to talk about that. Gray Wing asks if Clear Sky had completely lost his mind, as Jagged Peak's his brother and he's always been loyal to him. Clear Sky nods but doesn't look guilty at all as he says he's sorry Jagged Peak's hurt but the good of the group is what is important. Jagged Peak was given time to heal, but it looked like he'd never be able to hunt again. Gray Wing protests that Jagged Peak is family and Clear Sky replies that it's why he had to be tough with him; the other cats wouldn't trust him if he made exceptions for his kin. Gray Wing is overwhelmed with horror, thinking it isn't Clear Sky he loves so much.
- Gray Wing leaps on top of Clear Sky and lashes out with his claws. Clear Sky bares his teeth in a snarl and clamps his forepaws around Gray Wing's neck, and Gray Wing thrashes his hind paws to throw off Clear Sky but he's too strong for him. In a few moments, Clear Sky pins Gray Wing to the ground, a paw to his throat and another to his belly, Clear Sky gazing down at him with hostile blue eyes and his chest heaving. He growls to Gray Wing to get out and don't come back.
- Scrambling to his paws, Gray Wing heads out of the clearing. Grief and anger surge through him so he brushes blindly through the undergrowth. When a cat appears on the track in front of him, he almost launches himself into another attack, before realising it's Storm. She asks what's wrong as Gray Wing gazes at her and forces himself to calm down. Her belly is heavy with kits but her silver fur is as soft and shining as ever. Gray Wing explains it's about Jagged Peak and with her green eyes troubled Storm nods. She says that Clear Sky would have never kicked out Jagged Peak if he knew he'd come to you, and how even if he seems cold, he really isn't. When asked why she says it's because he's worried by all the responsibility. Gray Wing shakes his head, saying it doesn't excuse what Clear Sky did. Storm doesn't reply but looks worried as she dips her head and continues along the track.
- When he returns to the hollow, Tall Shadow is waiting and asks Gray Wing about what Clear Sky said. Gray Wing angrily shrugs and says that Jagged Peak can't hunt anymore, so he has to go for the good of the group and he couldn't believe that Clear Sky was saying those things. Tall Shadow agrees that you must always put your own family and friends first, not the group, and Gray Wing mutters Clear Sky can't see it that way. He pads across the hollow to look in on Jagged Peak and finds him talking to Cloud Spots.
- Cloud Spots meows that he's pretty sure he and Dappled Pelt can improve Jagged Peak's movement. If his injured leg couldn't bear his weight, they'd just have to strengthen the other three. Jagged Peak asks how, and Cloud Spots promises he'll figure out exercises for him; even in Jagged Peak's nest he could bend and stretch his legs to make his muscles strong. He tries pushing with his uninjured legs, then goes limp, complaining it feels weird. Cloud Spots points out it's because he just has to get used to it, and in Clear Sky's camp, he was lying in his nest for more than a moon. Gray Wing agrees and says it'll make Jagged Peak feel better soon. Cloud Spots says he'll work on more ideas with Dappled Pelt and Jagged Peak will be hunting prey again soon. Jagged Peak blinks sorrowfully, saying he doesn't think he'll ever catch prey again.
- The days grow colder, the last of the leaves fall from their trees and prey becomes scarcer. Rabbits are staying in their warm burrows, only coming out to feed quickly in the morning and twilight, so that cats had to range further to search for food. Gray Wing ventures into the forest and picked up the scent of a squirrel. Stealthily he creeps through the undergrowth, trying not to step on any crunchy dead leaves. He slips around a bramble thicket and spots the squirrel nibbling on a nut in the middle of a clearing. Gray Wing thinks he can catch it and presses himself to the ground as he prowls forward because it's well away from the nearest tree.
- Readying himself to pounce, Gray Wing hears an outraged yowl and something heavy lands on him from above, knocking the breath out of him. The squirrel leaps up and flees for a nearby ash tree, scurrying up the trunk and disappearing into a hole. Gray Wing squirms from under the weight and scrambles to his paws and sees Fox facing him, his neck fur bristling and tail bushed out to twice its size. Fox snarls at Gray Wing that he's a prey stealer, and Gray Wing retorts it isn't his prey; it belongs to who catches it. Fox threateningly paces forward and says it's Clear Sky's territory, so the prey belongs to him and his cats. Gray Wing's alerted to Clear Sky emerging from a clump of bracken at the edge of the clearing, followed by Storm. Gray Wing takes a pace towards his brother and is cut off by Fox leaping at him.
- Fox bowls Gray Wing over, pushing his face close to Gray Wing's. His eyes glaze with fury, and his teeth are a paw-length away from Gray Wing's throat. Gray Wing thrusts at Fox with his hind paws, but Fox is a muscular cat and Gray Wing couldn't free himself. He felt Fox's claws dig into his head and slash across his forehead, blood trickling into his eyes and half blinding him. Panic throbs through Gray Wing, as this was no light skirmish. Fox really means to hurt him. He thinks about what Clear Sky is doing, questioning if he wants Fox to tear him apart.
- Summoning all his strength, Gray Wing lashes out with his forepaws. Seeing no more than a blur of the brown pelt, he couldn't aim, he just knows he needs to get this cat off him. Gray Wing strikes hard with one forepaw and a choking cry comes from Fox. Something warm gushes over Gray Wing's paws and the weight that pinned him down suddenly vanishes. He staggers to his paws, swiping blood out of his eyes to see Fox lying on his side among the debris of the forest floor. Blood was pouring from his throat over the dead leaves; Gray Wing's pelt was sticky with it and it clogged his claws where he dealt the blow. Fox gives a powerful kick with his hind legs, and stills.
- Clear Sky bounds forward to stand over Fox's body, then turns with a look of horror to Gray Wing, yowling that he killed Fox. Gray Wing freezes and stammers that he didn't mean to, but Clear Sky glares and cuts him off, saying that they're finished, Gray Wing killed Fox, only when he was just doing his job. Gray Wing protests they've been through too much together, but there is no regret in Clear Sky's cold eyes. He silently slides out his claws and Gray Wing realises if he doesn't leave right now, he'll end up fighting Clear Sky.
- Before Gray Wing turns away, Storm steps forward. Her belly is swollen and she moves slowly; Gray Wing can clearly see she is near to kitting. She regretfully glances at Fox's body, then pads past the corpse to face Clear Sky. She says she's had enough and is going back to live in Twolegplace, as it'll have better shelter for her kits when they're born. Clear Sky tells her that she'll need him to look after her. Storm retorts it's exactly what she doesn't need; Clear Sky treats her like a helpless kit, and she's sick of it. She also can't stand how Clear Sky treats cats when they step over boundaries and how Fox didn't have to die.
- Clear Sky is dumbfounded as Storm turns to Gray Wing and apologizes about how she should've understood when she saw how Clear Sky treated Jagged Peak. She dips her head to Gray Wing and turns to pad off through the bracken.
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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