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"The first rule of tunnelling is that you're always stronger than you think."
Sandgorse to Tallpaw in Tallstar's Revenge, page 23

Tunnelers are cats who clear the tunnels and memorize the tunneled path[1] so that they can use them to travel.

Description

Tunnelers are usually the smallest cats of the Clan[1], who spend most of their time in the tunnels underneath Clan territories. The role of a tunneler is considered special among WindClan, and is usually fought over.[2] Tunnneling was a skill most highly prized among the Clan, because it was easy to get lost in the darkness and vanish forever down a bottomless hole.[2] The dark, secretive abilities were feared and respected by the tunnelers' Clanmates as much as by other Clans.[2]

Tasks

Tunnelers were trained to clearing the secret passageways and memorizing the cobweb of paths that led underground.[1] Some passageways memorized were ones that led into other Clans' territories, giving a secret means of access into (or escape from) other Clan's land.[1] The exit was always carefully concealed with bracken and branches, and any traces of the scent of the tunnelers were wiped away with the pelt of a freshly killed rabbit.[3]
Often, the tunnelers grew so accustomed to working in blackness that they lost any daylight vision and were clumsy and nervous above the ground.[2] But once inside their tunnels, they could run as fast as any WindClan warrior, using scent and touch and sound to navigate their way beneath the entire forest.[2] They learned to leave a clear scent trail, marked like a border, so they could find a way out. [2] When the warrior Clans settled by the lake, the tunneling skill was abandoned.[4] The senior warriors declared that there were no tunnels there, and all cats must be trained to hunt and fight above ground from now on.[4]

Education

Training to become a tunneler took twice as long as it did becoming a warrior,[2] and the training brought injuries and deaths.[2] A few hard-learned rules kept the experienced tunnelers alive, and allowed apprentices to survive the first few moons of training underground. [2]
Training as a tunneler would let apprentices learn how to leave a clear scent trail, much like marking a border, so they could find their way out of the tunnels.[2] Tunnelers learned to recognize the feel of wind on their muzzles, and they knew that it did not necessarily mean that they were reaching the surface, [2] because, shafts that struck far underground would let fresh air in, though, it's not possible to climb out of them. [2] Even the least experienced tunneler was sure to stay alert for the sound of dripping water, because, whether the river is above or underground, they're no place for WindClan cats. [2]
Tunnelers also learned to recognize the scent of underground animals,[1] and not to hunt them, as, no cat wants to end up in a den of foxes, and cornered rabbits can often break ribs with their hind legs. [2]
After moons of training, tunnelers were able to imagine the route above ground,[2] so that they could keep track of where they were in the dark. [2] This skill was probably the most highly prized,[2] as, it was easy to get lost in the darkness of the tunnels and vanish into a bottomless hole.[2] The skills learned underground were feared as well as respected by the Clanmates of tunnelers and other Clans. [2]

History

In the Super Editions

Tallstar's Revenge

Sandgorse teaches his son, Tallkit how to dig tunnels, he explains the role. He tells the kit that being a tunneler doesn't just mean digging. They are also responsible for patrolling the tunnels and use them to hunt too. Sandgorse reminds him of the nursery tale about Shattered Ice, one of WindClan's first tunnelers. The warrior tells his son that without the rank of tunnelers, WindClan would've suffered through many preyless moons.
When Stagpaw, Ryepaw, and Doepaw are named as moor runners, the residing tunnelers raise their disappointment with Heatherstar, telling her that the role is important to WindClan and that they need to train new ones soon. Heatherstar understands their concerns, but, raises that it is a dangerous role and due to cave-ins and such. Plumclaw argues that they had the right to know that they weren't getting any apprentices, adding that it would've shown that WindClan still respected their tunnelers. Heatherstar tells the group that the Clan does still respect them and gives them many thanks during the colder moons for bringing prey. She says that their skills are valued and that it is a tradition that should be kept through future moons.
WindClan's elders, Flamepelt, Whiteberry, and Lilywhisker tell the apprentices and kits about their tunneling days. Flamepelt explains to Doepaw that hunting without sight is difficult and a well-trained tunneler could navigate by the way air ruffles ear-fur. The elder recalls a time he chased a rabbit under ShadowClan territory, and explains that to keep the secret of the tunnels, he caused a cave-in to avoid being found. Whiteberry tells the young cats that there were once enough tunnelers to patrol all the tunnels, to which Flamepelt adds that now a caved-in tunnel is one less to look after.
Doepaw begins an argument about moor runners being a safer rank, to which the old tom tells her about the dangers involved for them. He asks her what would they do if WindClan was invaded, and Doepaw tells him that they'd fight the opposing Clan off. Flamepelt ends the argument stating that the tunnels gave WindClan an advantage in battle.
Tallkit talks with Plumclaw, asking her if she was glad to be trained as a tunneler. Plumclaw tells him that she was and that both her parents were also tunnelers. The warrior tells him that she enjoys the feeling of being underground whilst the world above is still running around.
Later on, Tallkit is named an apprentice, and is instead named a moor runner. An uproar between the tunnelers happens as Sandgorse points out that both himself and Palebird are tunnelers and that their son should be one too. Heatherstar, however, points out that Tallpaw doesn't have the physique of a tunneler. The leader does make it clear that Tallpaw has the choice if he wishes, to instead train as a tunneler if he wants to.
Sandgorse takes his son into the tunnels, showing him around them. He explains that tunnelers always work in pairs for safety. Tallpaw stays and helps the warriors as they expand the tunnels down to the Gorge. The apprentice helps lay down the clay that the tunnelers were digging up. However, the cats dig too far and end up flooding the tunnel. All of them make it out alive, however, Tallpaw is a little shaken as the tunnelers begin planning their next steps to make it to the gorge. Following this, word spreads to Heatherstar about the incident and she stops the tunnelers from progressing on the gorge tunnel for their safety.
When the vistors arrive in WindClan, Sandgorse takes Sparrow to the abandoned gorge tunnel. However, the tunnel collapses and Sandgorse doesn't make it out. Following his father's death, Tallpaw considers training as a tunneler to even the numbers between them and the moor runners. However, he stays as a moor runner after confiding to Barkface. Heatherstar then puts an end to tunneling to prevent further deaths due to cave-ins and floods. She has the tunnels blocked off to prevent any further incidents.

In the Field Guides

Battles of the Clans

Webfoot tells a story of a WindClan warrior named Rabbittail, who got lost in the tunnels during a battle, not being able to find his way out. He discovers dead rabbits - a tempting treat for a hungry dog. But when a dog approaches him he thinks Rabbittail is the treat, and chases Rabbittail, who runs back to camp in a hurry to get away.
Heathertail explains the lost skill of tunneling in the section "Heathertail Speaks: The Lost Skill of Tunneling".
When the cats settled beside the lake, WindClan's tunneling skills were abandoned, as the senior warriors declared that there were no tunnels in their new territory and all cats must be trained to hunt and fight above ground. Some cats in the Clan knew differently, though, as some of the cats had played and battled for their lives in the tunnels below their new territory. Some cats from the other Clans - Jayfeather, Lionblaze, and Hollyleaf - knew about the tunnels.

Notable tunnelers

List of known tunnelers


Trivia

  • Despite tunnelling having said to have been abandoned when the Clans moved to the lake,[4] in Tallstar's Revenge, tunnelling was stopped by Heatherstar, when they were still back in the forest.[15]

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Revealed in Battles of the Clans, page 66
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 Revealed in Battles of the Clans, page 67
  3. Revealed in Battles of the Clans, pages 66-67
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Revealed in Battles of the Clans, page 68
  5. Revealed in Battles of the Clans, page 62
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Revealed in Tallstar's Revenge, allegiances
  7. Revealed in Tallstar's Revenge, page 12
  8. Revealed in Tallstar's Revenge, page 30
  9. Revealed in Tallstar's Revenge, page 13
  10. Revealed in Tallstar's Revenge, pages 37-38
  11. Revealed in Tallstar's Revenge, page 48
  12. Revealed in Tallstar's Revenge, page 38
  13. Revealed in Tallstar's Revenge, page 16
  14. Revealed in Tallstar's Revenge, page 211
  15. Revealed in Tallstar's Revenge, page 219
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