Dawn of the Clans
The Sun Trail
CATS OF THE MOUNTAINS
TELLER OF THE POINTED STONES (STONETELLER)—old white she-cat with green eyes
QUIET RAIN—speckled gray she-cat
GRAY WING—sleek, dark gray tom with golden eyes
CLEAR SKY—light gray tom with blue eyes
BRIGHT STREAM—brown-and-white tabby she-cat
SHADED MOSS—black-and-white tom with dark green eyes
TALL SHADOW—black, thick-furred she-cat with green eyes
DAPPLED PELT—delicate tortoiseshell she-cat with golden eyes
RAINSWEPT FLOWER—brown tabby she-cat with blue eyes
TURTLE TAIL—tortoiseshell she-cat with green eyes
MOON SHADOW—black tom
DEWY LEAF—tortoiseshell she-cat
TWISTED BRANCH—brown tom
SHATTERED ICE—gray-and-white tom with green eyes
CLOUD SPOTS—long-furred black tom with white ears, white chest, and two white paws
STONE SONG—dark gray tabby tom
HOLLOW TREE—brown tabby she-cat
QUICK WATER—gray-and-white she-cat
HAWK SWOOP—orange tabby she-cat
FALLING FEATHER—young white she-cat
JACKDAW’S CRY—young black tom
SHARP HAIL—dark gray tom
MISTY WATER—very old gray she-cat, with milky blue eyes
LION’S ROAR—very old golden tabby tom
SILVER FROST—old gray-and-white she-cat
SNOW HARE—old white she-cat
FLUTTERING BIRD—tiny brown she-cat
JAGGED PEAK—gray tabby tom with blue eyes
Near the back of the cavern crouched a frail white she-cat. Despite her age, her green eyes were clear and deep with wisdom as her gaze traveled over the skinny cats swarming the cave floor, restlessly pacing in front of the shimmering waterfall: the elders huddled together in the sleeping hollows; the kits mewling desperately, demanding food from their exhausted mothers.
“We can’t go on like this,” the old she-cat whispered to herself.
A few tail-lengths away, several kits squabbled over an eagle carcass. Its flesh had been stripped away the day before as soon as their mothers had caught it. A big ginger kit shouldered a smaller tabby away from the bone she was gnawing at.
The tabby sprang up and nipped the end of the ginger kit’s tail. “We
A gray-and-white elder, every one of her ribs showing through her pelt, tottered up to the kits and snatched the bone away.
“Hey!” the ginger kit protested.
The elder glared at him. “I caught prey for season after season,” she snarled. “Don’t you think I deserve one measly bone?” She turned and stalked off, the bone clamped firmly in her jaws.
The ginger kit stared after her for a heartbeat, then scampered, wailing, to his mother, who lay on a rock beside the cave wall. Instead of comforting him, his mother snapped something, angrily flicking her tail.
The old white she-cat was too far away to hear what the mother cat said, but she sighed.
She watched as the gray-and-white elder padded across the cave and dropped the eagle bone in front of an even older she-cat, who was crouching in a sleeping hollow with her nose resting on her front paws. Her dull gaze was fixed on the far wall of the cave.
“Here, Misty Water.” The gray-and-white elder nudged the bone closer to her with one paw. “Eat. It’s not much, but it might help.”
Misty Water’s indifferent gaze flickered over her friend and away again. “No, thanks, Silver Frost. I have no appetite, not since Broken Feather died.” Her voice throbbed with grief. “He would have lived, if there had been enough prey for him to eat.” She sighed. “Now I’m just waiting to join him.”
“Misty Water, you can’t—”
The white she-cat was distracted from the elders’ talk as a group of cats appeared at the entrance to the cave, shaking snow off their fur. Several other cats sprang up and ran to meet them.
“Did you catch anything?” one of them called out eagerly.
“Yes, where’s your prey?” another demanded.
The leader of the newcomers shook his head sadly. “Sorry. There wasn’t enough to bring back.”
Hope melted from the cats in the cave like mist under strong sunlight. They glanced at one another, then trailed away, their heads drooping and their tails brushing the ground.
The white she-cat watched them, then turned her head as she realized that a cat was padding up to her. Though his muzzle was gray with age and his golden tabby fur thin and patchy, he walked with a confidence that showed he had once been a strong and noble cat.
“Half Moon,” he greeted the white she-cat, settling down beside her and wrapping his tail over his paws.
The white she-cat let out a faint
The golden tabby tom sniffed. “I don’t care how long the others have called you Stoneteller. You’ll always be Half Moon to me.”
Half Moon made no response, except to reach out her tail and rest it on her old friend’s shoulder.
“I was born in this cave,” Lion’s Roar went on. “But my mother, Shy Fawn, told me about the time before we came here—when you lived beside a lake, sheltered beneath trees.”
Half Moon sighed faintly. “I am the only cat left who remembers the lake, and the journey we made to come here. But I have lived three times as many moons here in the mountains than I did beside the lake, and the endless rushing of the waterfall now echoes in my heart.” She paused, blinking, then asked, “Why are you telling me this now?”
Lion’s Roar hesitated before replying. “Hunger might kill us all before the sun shines again, and there’s no more room in the cave.” He stretched out one paw and brushed Half Moon’s shoulder fur. “Something must be done.”
Half Moon’s eyes stretched wide as she gazed at him. “But we can’t leave the mountains!” she protested, her voice breathless with shock. “Jay’s Wing promised; he made me the Teller of the Pointed Stones because this was our destined home.”
Lion’s Roar met her intense green gaze. “Are you sure Jay’s Wing was right?” he asked. “How could he know what was going to happen in the future?”
“He had to be right,” Half Moon murmured.
Her mind flew back to the ceremony, so many seasons before, when Jay’s Wing had made her the Teller of the Pointed Stones. She shivered as she heard his voice again, full of love for her and grief that her destiny meant they could never be together. “Others will come after you, moon upon moon. Choose them well, train them well—trust the future of your Tribe to them.”
Half Moon let her gaze drift over the other cats: her cats, now thin and hungry. She shook her head sadly. Lion’s Roar was right: Something had to be done if they were to survive.
Gradually she realized that the cold gray light in the cave was brightening to a warm gold, as if the sun were rising beyond the screen of falling water—but Half Moon knew that night was falling.
At her side Lion’s Roar sat calmly washing his ears, while the other cats in the cave took no notice of the deepening golden blaze.
Bathed in the brilliant light, Half Moon remembered how, when she first became Healer, Jay’s Wing had said that her ancestors would guide her in the decisions she must make—that, sometimes, she would see strange things that meant more than they first appeared. She had never been directly aware of her ancestors, but she had learned to look out for the signs.
Possible meanings rushed through Half Moon’s mind, thick as snowflakes in a blizzard.
The sunlight grew stronger and stronger, until Half Moon could barely stand to look into the rays. She relaxed as a new idea rose in her mind.