EDIT: Also, the first chapter was released in Cloudstar's Journey, so I'm adding that afterward. There are two new chapter pics too.
EDIT2: The iBooks preview is now up, and includes the Allegiances, maps, and up to Chapter 2. In the table of contents, it lists "The Sun Trail: Bonus Scene" at the back of the book, three chapters long. No clue what it is yet though.
EDIT3: Thanks to Leonard for pointing this out - the Browse Inside is now up:
http://www.harpercollins.com/browseinsi ... 0062063465
And the bonus scene is not something from the current Clans; rather, it's an epilogue sort of thing that takes place at the end of the book from a different character's point of view.
Tribe-Healer: 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
Cold gray light rippled over the floor of a cave so vast that its roof was lost in shadows. An endless screen of water fell across the entrance, its sound echoing from the rocks.
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.
“I need this!” he announced.
The tabby sprang up and nipped the end of the ginger kit’s tail. “We all need it, flea-brain!” she snapped as the ginger tom let out a yowl.
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.
Every cat is coming to the end of what they can bear, she thought.
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
"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 mrrow of amusement. "You shouldn’t call me that, Lion's Roar," she protested. "I've been the Teller of the Pointed Stones for many seasons."
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."
He would never have said that if he didn't mean for us to stay here.
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.
No cat sees it but me! What can it mean?
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. Maybe the warm weather is going to come early. But how would that help, when there are so many of us? Then she wondered whether the sun was really shining somewhere else, where there was warmth and prey and shelter. But how would that help us, up here in the mountains?
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.
Maybe Lion’s Roar is right, and only some of us belong here. Maybe some of us should travel toward the place where the sun rises, to make a new home in the brightest light of all. Somewhere they will be safe, and well fed, with room to nurture generations of kits.
As Half Moon basked in the warmth of sunlight on her fur, she found the certainty she needed within herself. Some of her cats would remain, a small-enough group for the mountains to sustain, and the rest of her Tribe would journey toward the rising sun, to find a new home.
But I won't leave the cave, she thought. I will see out the twilight of my days here, a whole lifetime away from where I was born. And then maybe . . . just maybe . . . I'll find Jay's Wing again.
Gray Wing toiled up the snow-covered slope toward a ridge that bit into the sky like a row of snaggly teeth. He set each paw down carefully, to avoid breaking through the frozen surface and sinking into the powdery drifts underneath. Light flakes were falling, dappling his dark gray pelt. He was so cold that he couldn’t feel his pads anymore, and his belly yowled with hunger.
I can’t remember the last time I felt warm or full-fed.
In the last sunny season he had still been a kit, playing with his littermate, Clear Sky, around the edge of the pool outside the cave. Now that seemed like a lifetime ago. Gray Wing had only the vaguest memories of green leaves on the stubby mountain trees, and the sunshine bathing the rocks.
Pausing to taste the air for prey, he gazed across the snow-bound mountains, peak after peak stretching away into the distance. The heavy gray sky overhead promised yet more snow to come.
But the air carried no scent of his quarry, and Gray Wing plodded on. Clear Sky appeared from behind an outcrop of rock, his pale gray fur barely visible against the snow. His jaws were empty, and as he spotted Gray Wing he shook his head.
“Not a sniff of prey anywhere!” he called. “Why don’t we—”
A raucous cry from above cut off his words. A shadow flashed over Gray Wing. Looking up, he saw a hawk swoop low across the slope, its talons hooked and cruel.
As the hawk passed, Clear Sky leaped high into the air, his forepaws outstretched. His claws snagged the bird’s feathers and he fell back, dragging it from the sky. It let out another harsh cry as it landed on the snow in a flurry of beating wings.
Gray Wing charged up the slope, his paws throwing up a fine spray of snow. Reaching his brother, he planted both forepaws on one thrashing wing. The hawk glared up at him with hatred in its yellow eyes, and Gray Wing had to duck to avoid its slashing talons.
Clear Sky thrust his head forward and sank his teeth into the hawk’s neck. It jerked once and went limp, its gaze growing instantly dull as blood seeped from its wound and stained the snow.
Panting, Gray Wing looked at his brother. “That was a great catch!” he exclaimed, warm triumph flooding through him.
Clear Sky shook his head. “But look how scrawny it is. There’s nothing in these mountains fit to eat, and won’t be until the snow clears.”
He crouched beside his prey, ready to take the first bite. Gray Wing settled next to him, his jaws flooding as he thought of sinking his teeth into the hawk.
But then he remembered the starving cats back in the cave, squabbling over scraps. “We should take this prey back to the others,” he meowed. “They need it to give them strength for their hunting.”
“We need strength too,” Clear Sky mumbled, tearing away a mouthful of the hawk’s flesh.
“We’ll be fine.” Gray Wing gave him a prod in the side. “We’re the best hunters in the Tribe. Nothing escapes us when we hunt together. We can catch something else, easier than the others can.”
Clear Sky rolled his eyes as he swallowed the prey. “Why must you always be so unselfish?” he grumbled. “Okay, let’s go.”
Together the two cats dragged the hawk down the slope and over the boulders at the bottom of a narrow gully until they reached the pool where the waterfall roared down. Though it wasn’t heavy, the bird was awkward to manage. Its flopping wings and claws caught on every hidden rock and buried thornbush.
“We wouldn’t have to do this if you’d let us eat it,” Clear Sky muttered as he struggled to maneuver the hawk along the path that led behind the waterfall. “I hope the others appreciate this.”
Clear Sky grumbles, Gray Wing thought, but he knows this is the right thing to do.
Yowls of surprise greeted the brothers when they returned to the cave. Several cats ran to meet them, gathering around to gaze wide-eyed at the prey.
“It’s huge!” Turtle Tail exclaimed, her green eyes shining as she bounded up to Gray Wing. “I can’t believe you brought it back for us.”
Gray Wing dipped his head, feeling slightly embarrassed at her enthusiasm. “It won’t feed every cat,” he mewed.
Shattered Ice, a gray-and-white tom, shouldered his way to the front of the crowd. “Which cats are going out to hunt?” he asked. “They should be the first ones to eat.”
Murmurs came from among the assembled cats, broken by a shrill wail: “But I’m hungry! Why can’t I have some? I could go out and hunt.” Gray Wing recognized the voice as being his younger brother, Jagged Peak’s. Their mother, Quiet Rain, padded up and gently nudged her kit back toward the sleeping hollows. “You’re too young to hunt,” she murmured. “And if the sharp-claws don’t eat, there’ll be no prey for any cat.”
“Not fair!” Jagged Peak muttered as his mother guided him away.
Meanwhile the hunters, including Shattered Ice and Turtle Tail, lined up beside the body of the hawk. Each of them took one mouthful, then stepped back for the next cat to take their turn. By the time they had finished, and filed out along the path behind the waterfall, there was very little meat left.
Clear Sky, watching beside Gray Wing, let out an irritated snort. “I still wish we could have eaten it.”
Privately Gray Wing agreed with him, but he knew there was no point in complaining. There just isn’t enough food. Every cat is weak, hungry— just clinging on until the sun comes back.
The pattering of paws sounded behind him; he glanced around to see Bright Stream trotting over to Clear Sky. “Is it true that you caught that huge hawk all by yourself?”
Clear Sky hesitated, basking in the pretty tabby she-cat’s admiration. Gray Wing gave a meaningful purr.
“No,” Clear Sky admitted. “Gray Wing helped.”
Bright Stream gave Gray Wing a nod, but her gaze immediately returned to Clear Sky. Gray Wing took a couple of paces back and left them alone.
“They look good together.” A voice spoke at his shoulder; Gray Wing turned to see the elder Silver Frost standing beside him. “There’ll be kits come the warmest moon.”
Gray Wing nodded. Any cat with half an eye could see how close his brother and Bright Stream were as they stood with their heads together murmuring to each other.
“More than one litter, maybe,” Silver Frost went on, giving Gray Wing a nudge. “That Turtle Tail is certainly a beautiful cat.”
Hot embarrassment flooded through Gray Wing from ears to tail-tip. He had no idea what to say, and was grateful when he saw Stoneteller approaching them. She took a winding path among her cats, pausing to talk to each one. Though her paws were unsteady because of her great age, Gray Wing could see the depth of experience in her green gaze and the care she felt for every one of her Tribe.
“There’s still a bit of the hawk left,” Gray Wing heard her murmur to Snow Hare, who was stretched out in one of the sleeping hollows, washing her belly. “You should eat something.”
Snow Hare paused in her tongue strokes. “I’m leaving the food for the young ones,” she replied. “They need their strength for hunting.”
Stoneteller bent her head and touched the elder’s ear with her nose. “You have earned your food many times over.”
“Perhaps the mountains have fed us for long enough.” It was Lion’s Roar who had spoken from where he sat a tail-length away. Stoneteller gave him a swift glance, full of meaning.
What’s that all about? Gray Wing asked himself.
His thoughts were interrupted by Quiet Rain, who came to sit beside him. “Have you eaten anything?” she asked.
All we ever talk about is food, Gray Wing thought. Or the lack of it. Trying to curb his impatience, he replied, “I’ll have something before I go out again.” To his relief, his mother didn’t insist. “You did very well to catch that hawk,” she meowed.
“It wasn’t just me,” Gray Wing told her. “Clear Sky made this amazing leap to bring it down. I just helped hold it while he killed it.”
“You both did well,” Quiet Rain purred. She turned to look at her young kits, who were scuffling together close by. “I hope that Jagged Peak and Fluttering Bird will be just as skillful when they’re old enough to hunt.”
At that moment, Jagged Peak swiped his sister’s paws out from underneath her. Fluttering Bird let out a wail as she fell over, hitting her head on a rock. Instead of getting up again, she lay still, whimpering.
“You’re such a silly kit!” Jagged Peak exclaimed.
As Quiet Rain padded over to give her daughter a comforting lick, Gray Wing noticed how small and fragile Fluttering Bird looked. Her head seemed too big for her body, and when she scrambled to her paws again her legs wobbled. Jagged Peak, on the other hand, was strong and well muscled, his gray tabby fur thick and healthy.
While Quiet Rain took care of his sister, Jagged Peak scampered over to Gray Wing. “Tell me about the hawk,” he demanded. “How did you catch it? I bet I could catch one if I was allowed out of this stupid cave!”
Gray Wing purred excitedly. “You should have seen Clear Sky’s leap—”
A loud yowl cut off Gray Wing’s story. “Let all cats be silent! Stoneteller will speak!”
The cat who had made the announcement was Shaded Moss, a black-and-white tom who was one of the strongest and most-respected cats of the Tribe. He stood on a boulder at the far end of the cavern, with Stoneteller beside him. The old cat looked even more fragile next to his powerful figure.
As he wriggled his way toward the front of the crowd gathered around the boulder, Gray Wing heard murmurs of curiosity from the others.
“Maybe Stoneteller is going to appoint Shaded Moss as her replacement,” Silver Frost suggested.
“It’s time she appointed some cat,” Snow Hare agreed. “It’s what we’ve all been expecting for moons.”
Gray Wing found himself a place to sit next to Clear Sky and Bright Stream, and looked up at Stoneteller and Shaded Moss. Stoneteller rose to her paws and let her gaze travel over her Tribe until the murmuring died away into silence.
“I am grateful to all of you for working so hard to survive here,” she began, her voice so faint that it could scarcely be heard above the sound of the waterfall. “I am proud to be your Healer, but I have to accept that there are things even I cannot put right. Lack of space and lack of food are beyond my control.”
“It’s not your fault!” Silver Frost called out. “Don’t give up!”
Stoneteller dipped her head in acknowledgment of the elder’s support. “Our home cannot support us all,” she continued. “But there is another place for some of us, full of sunlight and warmth and prey for all seasons. I have seen it… in my dreams.
” Utter silence greeted her announcement. Gray Wing couldn’t make sense of what the Healer had just said. Dreams? What’s the point of that? I dreamed I killed a huge eagle and ate it all myself, but I was still hungry when I woke up!
He noticed that Lion’s Roar sat bolt upright as Stoneteller spoke and was staring at her, his eyes wide with astonishment.
“I believe in my heart that these mountains are not where every cat belongs,” Stoneteller went on. “The other place is waiting for those of you who are brave enough to make the journey. Shaded Moss will lead you there, with my blessing.”
The old white cat glanced once more around her Tribe, her gaze full of sadness and pain. Then she slid down from the top of the boulder and vanished into the the tunnel at the back of the cave that led to her own den. A flood of shocked speculation passed through the rest of the cats. After a couple of heartbeats, Shaded Moss stepped forward and raised his tail for silence.
“This has been my home all my life,” he began when he could make himself heard. His voice was solemn. “I always expected to die here. But if Stoneteller believes that some of us must leave to find the place of her dream, then I will go, and do my best to keep you safe.”
Dappled Pelt sprang to her paws, and her golden eyes were shining. “I’ll go!”
“So will I!” Tall Shadow added, her sleek black figure tense with excitement as she leaped up to stand beside her friend.
“Are you flea-brained?” Twisted Branch, a scraggy brown tom, stared incredulously at the two she-cats. “Wandering off with no idea where you’re heading?”
Gray Wing remained silent, but he couldn’t help agreeing with Twisted Branch. The mountains were his home: He knew every rock, every bush, every trickling stream. It would tear my heart in two if I had to leave just because Stoneteller had a dream.
Turning to Clear Sky, he was amazed to see excitement gleaming in his brother’s eyes. “You’re not seriously considering this?” he asked.
“Why not?” Clear Sky demanded in return. “This could be the answer to all our problems. What’s the point of struggling to feed every mouth if there’s an alternative?” His whiskers quivered eagerly. “It will be an adventure!” He called out to Shaded Moss: “I’ll go!” Glancing at Bright Stream, he added, “You’ll come too, won’t you?”
Bright Stream leaned closer to Clear Sky. “I don’t know…. Would you really go without me?”
Before Clear Sky could reply, little Jagged Peak wormed his way forward between his two older brothers, followed by Fluttering Bird. “I want to go!” he announced loudly.
Fluttering Bird nodded enthusiastically. “Me too!” she squeaked.
Quiet Rain followed them, and drew both kits closer to her with a sweep of her tail. “Certainly not!” she meowed. “You two are staying right here.”
“You could come with us,” Jagged Peak suggested.
His mother shook her head. “This is my home,” she said. “We’ve survived before. When the warm season returns, we’ll have enough to eat.”
Gray Wing dipped his head in agreement. How can they forget what Quiet Rain told me when I was a kit? This place was promised to us by a cat who led us here from a faraway lake. How can we think of leaving?
Shaded Moss’s powerful voice rose up again over the clamor. “No cat needs to decide yet,” he announced. “Give some thought to what you want to do. The half moon is just past; I will leave at the next full moon along with any—”
He broke off, his gaze fixed on the far end of the cave. Turning his head, Gray Wing saw the hunting party making their way inside. Their pelts were clotted with snow and their heads drooped.
Not one was carrying prey.
“We’re sorry,” Shattered Ice called out. “The snow is heavier than ever, and there wasn’t a single—” “
We’re leaving!” some cat yowled from the crowd around Shaded Moss.
The hunting party stood still for a moment, glancing at each other in confusion and dismay. Then they pelted down the length of the cavern to listen as their Tribemates explained what Stoneteller had told them, and what Shaded Moss intended to do.
Turtle Tail made her way to where Gray Wing was sitting and plopped down beside him, beginning to clean the melting snow from her pelt. “Isn’t this great?” she asked between licks. “A warm place where there’s plenty of prey, just waiting for us? Are you going, Gray Wing?”
“I am,” Clear Sky responded, before Gray Wing could answer. “And so is Bright Stream.” The young she-cat gave him an uncertain look, but Clear Sky didn’t notice. “It’ll be a hard journey, but I think it’ll be worth it.”
“It’ll be wonderful!” Turtle Tail blinked happily. “Come on, Gray Wing! How about it?”
Gray Wing couldn’t give her the answer she wanted. As he looked around the cave at the cats he had known all his life, he couldn’t imagine abandoning them for a place that might exist only in Stoneteller’s dreams.
Growling in his belly woke Gray Wing. The pangs of hunger had seemed even sharper since Stoneteller's announcement a few sunrises ago. And the cavern hadn't stopped buxxing with discussions about whether it was a good idea to leave, and what the new place might be like.
Still curled up in his sleeping hollow, Gray Wing could hear excited chatter from cats nearby.
"What do you think we'll get to hung?" Gray Wing recognized Dappled Pelt's voice. "Maybe different kinds of birds - or those... squirrels that the elders put in their stories."
"We'll have to be careful." That was Cloud Spots, sounding thoughtful as usual. "If we eat too much we'll get too fat to hunt, and then where will we be?"
Gray Wing heard a snort of laughter from Snow Hare. "That's a problem I'd like to have!"
He lifted his head to see the three cats sitting close together, along with Tall Shadow, who extended her black-furred limbs gracefully as she rose to her paws. "I wonder what new hunting techniques we'll need to learn. It's bound to be different in the new place."
"Well, you've always been good at creeping around," Snow Hare mewed teasingly. "You'll be able to sneak up on your prey while it's asleep."
Tall Shadow gave her chest fur a complacent lick. "I just might do that."
Scrambling out of the sleeping hollow, Gray Wing shook scraps of moss and feather from his pelt and arched his back in a good long stretch. He decided to go and hunt. There's no point in wondering about prey somewhere else when we need to eat now.
Sunlight came slanting into the cave, turning the screen of water into a dazzling sparkle. As Gray Wing emerged from the path behind the fall, he saw the the sky was clear blue. Gray Wing's pads tingled at the beauty of the peaks outlined against it. He took great gulps of the cold, crisp air, relishing the way it felt like water against his fur.
How could I leave all this?
Continuing along the snow-packed ledge, hardened by the paw steps of many cats, Gray Wing heard voices coming from somewhere above.
"Bright Stream, you have to come with me."
Looking up, he spotted Clear Sky and Bright Stream at the top of the cliff where the water poured over the lip of the rocks.
"It'll be great," Clear Sky went on, "exploring new places together."
Bright Stream turned her head away. "I don't know... This is my home, and we've survived so far."
"Don't you want more than just surviving?" Clear Sky asked, curling his tail persuasively around Bright Stream's shoulders. "I want to go, but it wouldn't be the same without you."
Bright Stream's eyes shone, but she shook her head. "I've still got a few days to decide," she mewed.
Leaving Clear Sky gazing afer her, she bounded lightly down the rocks. Despite himself, Gray Wing's heart quickened as he saw her approaching. She's lovely... but she'll be Clear Sky's mate one day. He's a lucky tom, that's for sure.
"Can I hunt with you?" Bright Stream asked as she leaped off the last rock to stand at Gray Wing's side. "Just don't be like Clear Sky and pester me about leaving the mountains with Shaded Moss!"
"I won't," Gray Wing promised. "I haven't made up my own mind yet."
"For once I wish you poor hunting!" Clear Sky called down from the top of the rocks. "Then you'll realize that we have to leave."
Gray Wing gave him a good-humored wave of his tail, and headed for the ridge. Bright Stream scrambled after him. As they drew closer to the summit, icy wind blasted their fur and scoured the snow from the rocks, leaving them bare and gray. Dark, yellowish clouds massed on the horizon, promising more snow to come.
With his back to the gale, Gray Wing gazed around and spotted three more cats farther down the valley - tiny black shapes, too far away for him to distinguish who they were, pursuing a hawk that flew low over the slopes and gradually drew out of sight.
Bright Stream's voice broke the vast silence of the mountains. "Gray Wing - what do you think about Stoneteller's dream?"
Gray Wing hesitated before replying. "I don't know," he confessed at last. "Can Stoneteller really have discovered a new place for us to live, without knowing exactly where it is? Why haven't any other cats had the same dream?"
"Maybe it's something only Stoneteller can do," Bright Stream suggested. She paused, blinking thoughtfully; Gray Wing could see anxiety in her beautiful green eyes. "I love living in the mountains," she went on. "In spite of the cold and hunger. I always imagined I'd raise my kits here... but then, I'd always imagined their father would be Clear Sky."
As she finished speaking she turned her head away, giving her shoulder a couple of embarrassed licks. Gray Wing was surprised that she had confessed so much to him; she was always perfectly confident and self-contained. He felt a stab of envy that she had the courage to put aside her own hopes and dreams to travel into the unknown with Clear Sky - and that her bond with his brother was so strong.
Before he could decide what to say, Bight Stream gave her pelt a shake. "You should probably forget I said all that!" she meowed. "And don't you dare tell Clear Sky! I don't want him to think I've made a decision yet."'
"I won't say a word," Gray Wing promised.
I'm being torn in two, he thought. Clear Sky and I have always done everything together. Now I have to choose between going with him and staying here with the rest of my kin, in this place I've always called home.
A flicker of movement distracted him from his problems. Snow hare! Spinning around, he raced across the slope after his prey. Its thick white pelt hid it against the snow, but it stood out clarly when scampering over the rocks of the windblown ridge.
Bright Stream joined the chase, but Gray Wing outpaced her, relishing the feeling of the wind in his whiskers as he sped over the rocks.
With a final mighty leap he flung himself onto his prey; the hare's squeal of panic was cut off as Gray Wing's jaws met in its throat.
"Great catch!" Bright Stream panted. "You're so fast!"
"It's not bad," Gray Wing mewed, prodding his prey with one paw. For once there seemed to be some flesh on its bones. "We can eat and still take some back to the cave."
He and Bright Stream settled down side by side to enjoy the catch. As they feasted, he took in the magnificent peaks and valleys that stretched in front of them.
"You're going to stay, aren't you?" Bright Stream asked, fixing him with her clear green gaze.
Gray Wing took a deep breath. "Yes, I am."
When they had eaten their fill, the two cats picked up the remains of the hare and headed back toward the cave. Triumph flooded through Gray Wing at the thought of feeding his Tribemates.
When the waterfall came in sight, he spotted a group of cats toiling up the slope toward them. Shaded Moss was in the lead, with Clear sky padding along at his shoulder. Tall Shadow, Dappled Pelt, and Rainswept Flower followed close behind. Turtle Tail brought up the rear.
"Hi," Clear Sky meowed as the group came up. "Hey, you caught a hare!"
Gray Wing gave a nod of satisfaction. "Yes, we're just taking it back."
"We're climbing up to the ridge," Clear Sky explained, sweeping his tail around to include his companions. "We want to look for the best way to get out of the mounains toward the sunrise."