Authors: Erin Hunter
With special thanks to Cherith Baldry
|CLEAR SKY'S CAMP|
light gray tom with blue eyes
young white she-cat
small yellow tabby she-cat with green eyes
mangy tom with splotchy fur
she-kit with green eyes
|TALL SHADOW'S CAMP|
black, thick-furred she-cat with green eyes
sleek, dark gray tom with golden eyes
small gray tabby tom with blue eyes
delicate tortoiseshell she-cat with golden eyes
gray-and-white tom with green eyes
long-furred black tom with white ears, white chest, and two white paws
wiry brown she-cat with yellow eyes
thin, gray tabby tom
orange tom with amber eyes and big white paws
chestnut brown she-cat
brown tabby tom with amber eyes
|RIVER RIPPLE'S CAMP|
silver long-furred tom
she-cat with a short, thick gray coat and bright blue eyes
she-cat with prickly, bushy fur
tom with ears the size of a mouse's, missing part of one ear
tom with four black paws
golden she-cat with green eyes
mangy tom with knotted fur and one eye
Gray Wing crouched at the top
of the hollow, the faint sounds of his sleeping denmates just barely reaching his ears. The fat, white circle of the moon floated above his head, casting a frosty light over the moorland grass.
A gentle breeze ruffled Gray Wing's pelt. His eyes grew heavy, and he opened his jaws wide in a yawn.
He was sitting in the cave behind the waterfall. The gushing cascade glittered in the moonlight, and tiny specks of silver whirled across the walls and floor of the cavern.
I'm back in our mountain cave!
It's been so many moons since we left!
Movement beside the far wall caught Gray Wing's gaze. Stoneteller, the Tribe's Healer, was pacing toward the tunnel at the back of the cave, which led to her den. Her paw steps were unsteady with age, her body scrawny and her pelt thin.
She's so old,
Gray Wing thought.
I can't count how many seasons she's seen.
Gray Wing glanced around. He saw his mother, Quiet Rain, curled up in her sleeping hollow, and the rest of his Tribemates were asleep too.
There's Dewy Leaf .Â .Â . oh, she's had her kits! Three of them, and they
look so strong and healthy. And there's Snow Hare. She used to tell such wonderful stories.
Curiosity swept over Gray Wing. When he lived in the cave he had never entered the Healer's private den.
But I'm dreaming!
Maybe I can follow her now, and she'll never know.
He rose to his paws and padded after her.
But Stoneteller had vanished by the time Gray Wing reached the mouth of the tunnel. All he could see was a faint silver glow at the far end. Ignoring the prickling of his pelt, he slipped softly down the dark passage toward the light.
As he approached the end of the tunnel Gray Wing crept forward more cautiously and stretched his head into Stoneteller's cave. He stifled a gasp as he gazed around.
The cave was much smaller than the one where the Tribe lived. Moonlight flooded through a jagged hole far above, washing everything with a frosty light. Stoneteller sat with her back to Gray Wing, gazing upward.
Pointed stones stretched down from the roof of the cave, and more of them grew up from the floor. Several met in the middle, so that it seemed as if the Tribe's Healer was sitting in a forest of stone trees. Ripples of water trickling down the stones shone in the moonlight and gathered in pools on the floor.
Fascinated, Gray Wing crept into the cave, drawing closer to Stoneteller as quietly as if he was stalking a piece of prey. He was sure that he hadn't made a sound, but before he could dart out of the way, Stoneteller extended a paw to halt him. Gray Wing yowled in alarm.
This is a dream,
he told himself.
How can Stoneteller know I'm here?
“Why are you following me?” Stoneteller asked. Her voice was gentle, though she didn't turn to look at Gray Wing.
His ears flattened in mingled fear and embarrassment. He had no idea how to respond. “I don't mean any harm,” he protested. “I .Â .Â . er .Â .Â . I just wanted to .Â .Â .” His voice trailed off and he gazed up at Stoneteller, bracing himself for a sharp rebuke.
Sighing, Stoneteller drew her paw back. “You came here because I invited you,” she meowed, her voice full of wisdom. “I
you to follow me. I called you here.”
Every hair on Gray Wing's pelt prickled with amazement and he raked his claws across the hard, damp floor. “You can do that?” he whispered. “Even though I live so far away?”
Stoneteller looked at him for the first time. “Part of your heart will
Gray Wing knew that was true. Though life in the mountains had been harsh and cold, sometimes he still longed for the thunder of the waterfall and the sharp peaks outlined against the sky.
And I still miss the cats I left behind .Â .Â . especially Quiet Rain
“Then whyâ” he began.
“Be quiet,” Stoneteller mewed.
Her trembling whiskers were angled toward a spider spinning its web in the silvery moonlight. Gray Wing spotted some flies caught at the edge of the net; the spider was making her slow way over to them, the shining strands quivering with her movement.