Читать онлайн "A Forest Divided"

Автор Хантер Эрин

  • Стандартные настройки
  • Aa
    РАЗМЕР ШРИФТА
  • РЕЖИМ

Dawn of the Clans

Warriors

A Forest Divided

Erin Hunter

Special thanks to Kate Cary

Allegiances

CLEAR SKY’S CAMP

LEADER

CLEAR SKY—light gray tom with blue eyes

LEAF—gray-and-white tom

QUICK WATER—gray-and-white she-cat

NETTLE—gray tom

THO RN—mangy tom with splotchy fur

ACORN FUR—chestnut brown she-cat

KITS

BIRCH—brown-and-white tom

ALDER—gray-and-white she-kit

TALL SHADOW’S CAMP

LEADER

TALL SHADOW —black, thick-furred she-cat with green eyes

GRAY WING—sleek, dark gray tom with golden eyes

JAGGED PEAK—small gray tabby tom with blue eyes

DAPPLED PELT—delicate tortoiseshell she-cat with golden eyes

SHATTERED ICE—gray-and-white tom with green eyes

CLOUD SPOTS—long-furred black tom with white ears, white chest, and two white paws

LIGHTNING TAIL—black tom

THUNDER—orange tom with amber eyes and big white paws

HOLLY—she-cat with prickly, bushy fur

MOUSE EAR—tom with ears the size of a mouse’s, missing part of one ear

MUD PAWS—tom with four black paws

KITS

OWL EYES—gray tom

PEBBLE HEART—brown tabby tom with amber eyes

SPARROW FUR—tortoiseshell she-kit

EAGLE FEATHER—brown tom

STORM PELT—gray tom with bue eyes

DEW NOSE—tabby she-kit with white-tipped nose and tail

RIVER RIPPLE’S CAMP

LEADER

RIVER RIPPLE—silver, long-furred tom

NIGHT—black she-cat

DEW —she-cat with a short, thick gray coat and bright blue eyes

WIND RUNNER’S CAMP

LEADER

W IND RUNNER—wiry brown she-cat with yellow eyes

GORSE FUR—thin, gray tabby tom

SLATE—gray she-cat

KITS

MO TH FLIGHT—she-kit with green eyes

DUST MUZZLE—gray tom-kit

ROGUE CATS

STAR FLOWER—golden she-cat with green eyes

SNAKE—gray tom

Map

Prologue

Cold mist pooled in the moonlit hollow. It swirled like water around the paws of the cats pacing restlessly beneath the oaks.

Clear Sky watched them from the edge of the clearing. Their pelts seemed to sparkle as though dusted with starlight. He shivered as he caught sight of Gray Wing, waiting at the far side of the clearing. The dead outnumber the living, Clear Sky thought, as he glanced toward the shallow mound at the edge of the hollow. Beneath the slow-settling earth lay the bodies of cats he had once hunted beside, killed in the Great Battle.

The spirit cats paused and glanced at him, then began moving once more, murmuring to one another in hushed whispers. Above them, the four great oaks creaked in the wind, their frost-whitened branches stripped clean by the cold.

Leaf-bare gripped the earth like a wolf holding prey. The earth felt like stone beneath Clear Sky’s paws. Couldn’t the spirit cats have summoned him to a greenleaf clearing, where warm winds could bathe his fur? After all, this was a dream.

A dark gray she-cat split from the others and padded toward him. “You came.”

“Yes, Storm. I came.” Clear Sky’s heart ached with familiar grief. How different his life would be now if he hadn’t let her leave the forest when she was heavy with his kits. “But why have you called me here?”

Storm’s gaze hardened. “We’re growing tired of waiting.”

Waiting? For what? Before Clear Sky could ask, bracken cracked on the slope. River Ripple was pushing his way through the frosty stems, his thick gray pelt silvered by the moonlight as he made his way down to the smooth earth at the bottom. Close by, Tall Shadow blinked near the roots of an oak. She looked surprised as though just awakening. Thunder’s ginger pelt glowed in the shadows.

The spirit cats must have summoned all the leaders to the dream.

Fur brushed the frost-wilted grass behind Clear Sky, and he turned to see Wind Runner slip silently past him. She had separated from Gray Wing’s group. Had the spirit cats called her too?

Clear Sky shifted his paws uneasily. The living stood separately while the dead stood together.

Were the spirit cats all that united them now?

“Well?” Storm’s sharp mew jerked him back from his thoughts.

“What?”

“We told you to grow and spread like the Blazing Star…” Storm glanced back at the living cats.

“You haven’t begun yet. Is fear holding you back?”

“Never!” Clear Sky puffed out his chest. “But how far can we spread? We already rule the forest and the moor. We recruit more cats whenever we can.” He thought of how his own group had grown since the last dream.

“It’s not enough!” An angry mew sounded beside Storm.

Clear Sky stepped back in surprise as he looked down and recognized the clear, bold gaze of a young cat he thought he’d never see again. The last time he’d seen this kit, her brown pelt had clung to jutting ribs. Hunger had killed her in the mountains before she’d ever left their mother’s nest. Now she stood, chin high, eyes blazing. Her sleek pelt sparkled in the starlight; firm muscle showed beneath.

His throat tightened as he gazed at his younger sister. “Fluttering Bird!” he rasped. “It’s you!”

“Of course it’s me.” Her yellow eyes blazed.

“I must go and speak with Thunder.” Storm dipped her head and backed away, leaving Clear Sky alone with his sister.

“It’s so good to see you—”

Fluttering Bird cut Clear Sky off. “Listen, you mouse-heart!”

Clear Sky stiffened. She was still a kit. How dare she speak to him like that? And yet… He frowned, puzzled. How long had she been with the spirit cats? She still looked like a kit, but she could see things he couldn’t. His pelt rippled uneasily. Could his younger sister be wiser than him now?

She held his gaze. “There were still leaves on the trees when we told you to spread like the Blazing Star. You talked about it, but you’ve done nothing!”

“We’ve survived,” Clear Sky argued. “Food is scarce and leaf-bare’s here.”

Fluttering Bird’s ears twitched. “You should be thinking of your kits and your kits’ kits. Strength doesn’t come from cowering in hollows and glades like frightened prey.”

Clear Sky leaned over her, pelt bristling. “I never cower!”

“Then act!” Fluttering Bird stood her ground. “Follow your hearts! They will lead you home.”

Clear Sky frowned. “You want us back in the mountains?”

“Not your old home!”

“Then where?”

“We can’t make every paw step for you. That will weaken you all! We have told you all you need to know.” Fluttering Bird’s gaze scorched into his. “Now you must start thinking for yourselves.”

Clear Sky stared past her, his gaze lighting on Tall Shadow as she shared words with Moon Shadow, Hawk Swoop, and Jackdaw’s Cry. Wind Runner was with her lost kits. She nuzzled them, and he could hear her urgent purr throbbing through the cold night air. Her mew was sharp with grief.

“My dear kits. Come closer. We won’t be together for long.”

Thunder paced to and fro, lifting his head eagerly as Storm padded to join them. Fox, Petal, and Frost crowded around River Ripple, their soft mews lost in the breeze. Gray Wing was several tail-lengths away, speaking with Shaded Moss and Turtle Tail. How separate they seemed. “We traveled here together,” Clear Sky murmured, half to himself, “but now we don’t even share prey.” Sadness tugged in his belly.

“And who’s to blame for that?” Fluttering Bird growled. “You turned against your own.”

“That’s not true!” he snapped back. “I’ve always done what I thought was best! I tried to take care of my own.”

“Then why do you stand here alone?” Fluttering Bird demanded. “Who do you have to care for you?”

Clear Sky swallowed, unable to answer her. Gray Wing seemed suddenly far away, the clearing stretching like a deep gorge between them. Thunder had not even met his eye since arriving in the hollow. Clear Sky knew the ...