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   Chapter 21 Vultureclaw is Acting Suspicious and He's not the Only One

City of Ice and Fire By Grace Estellar Characters: 34419

Updated: 2019-10-20 22:43

****Goldenclaw's POV****

Goldenclaw's day has been going well, up until the point he had to go on patrol with Starkpelt. Don't get him wrong, taking Violetpaw out to patrol the FangClan border was always enjoyable, but he would rather not have the skittish tag a long that came with it.

"Wow! That must be the ThunderPath!" Violetpaw exclaims excitedly, her multicolored tail whirling through the air.

The tortoiseshell she-cat bounds out of the bushes to approach the wide stretch of black cement road before them. Goldenclaw's eyes sting at the burning rubber air and the gritty asphalt prickling his toes, trying to get in between the creases of his pads like intruding worms.

Worms would be better than this though....but I guess this is better than ducks. He's not sure how a duck would even get into his paws in the first place, but considering what bloodthirsty little beasts they are he wouldn't be surprised if they found a way. He hadn't the slightest clue as to why Arrowheart didn't agree with him.

Before his parabatai had left for his mission (a half moon time flies) the black furred tom had brought one home to camp for dinner. The clan was delighted by the succulent prey, but Goldenclaw had just watched them in horror as they ate the nasty thing.

"Be careful Violetpaw. You mustn't get to close." Starkpelt murmurs.

The older warrior was several tail lengths away from the road, shrinking away from the asphalt with barely concealed terror. A part of Goldenclaw wanted to drag the warrior onto the path just to see him squeal. He was unsure as to why Blossomstar had allowed the warrior to remain in HunterClan after handing over the Mortal Moss to Frostfang. We can't trust him. For all we know, he'll just betray HunterClan again at the next chance he gets.

"I'll be telling MY apprentice what to do thank you very much." Goldenclaw practically snapped. Violetpaw looked back at her mentor when the flinty tone was uttered, her violet eyes widened with surprise. "Violetpaw, come back here this instant. The ThunderPath is not something for you to prance around on."

He gestures pointedly to two of her paws that were already set on the hard black surface. The tortoiseshell gives him a sheepish nod before scuttling off the path, the slight gust of a recently passed monster ruffling her fur.

"Sorry. I just wanted to see what it felt like." Violetpaw told him earnestly.

Goldenclaw forced himself to relax. After all, it wasn't Violetpaw's fault he was in such a bad mood this morning. As if having to deal with Vultureclaw and Starkpelt wasn't bad enough, Nightrose had been acting very odd this morning.

She seemed giddy...and tired too. If he did not know better, the golden tabby would go as far as to say the black she-cat had been up all night long off on some special escapade. But that just couldn't be right? Could it?

"It's alright Vi. I was just worried about you. My uncle-Er Arrowheart and Nightrose's uncle died on this very ThunderPath because he wasn't careful." He gives her a sad smile, both from his mistake of including himself as on of Silvermoon and Badgerstripe's biological kits, and the fact that Silvermoon's brother had died so tragically.

"Oh. Mom told me about that too. I promise I'll be more careful." Violetpaw gives him a sympathetic smile, her expression becoming somber.

The two cats don't talk much after that during the patrol, though that doesn't prevent them from getting quality work done. Within an hour, all the borders for the dawn patrol are successfully covered. He leads his group back with his head held high, alert for anything that may approach them.

There had been many more demon sightings in HunterClan territory since Goldenclaw fought Frostfang at the Silent Forest alongside the Silent Brothers. Blossomstar was worried what all these demonized animals in daylight could mean, and also if the other territory's were being affected. Though the light brown tabby leader has not sent out a questioning patrol to any of the other clans just yet.

I suppose she's just biding her time until the Gathering.

Goldenclaw remembers Blossomstar's announcement yesterday; their leader plans to tell the other Clans about Frostfang's return at the next Gathering. He is unsure if the leader will reveal information to the other clans on the two missing Mortal Instruments though. Many of the senior warriors said that the Mortal Moss and the Mortal Stick were HunterClan business only. He supposed they were not wrong, but the idea of lying to the other clans makes him feel uneasy.

"A lie of omission is still a lie." Silvermoon's firm voice echoes in his head.

The silver tabby she-cat had told him this on several occasions, one of the worst being the time Nightrose and himself hid a frog under Dapplefur's nest. Arrowheart had wanted no part in the horrible prank, arguing that the heavily expectant queen didn't need the stress of laying atop a slimy, disgusting living creature.

He'd had a point: the calico queen had been furious when she found the offending amphibian. Silvermoon has appropriately punished Goldenclaw and his sister with no supper that evening, and helping Lilyspots out in the Medicine Den the next day.

One might say sending kits to help out a Medicine Cat was a bad idea, but considering that she made them clean out bedding the entire day that reasoning need not apply. Needless to say, that was one of the most boring days in Goldenclaw's kithood that he can remember.

"Thank StarClan we're back." Starkpelt murmured the second the tunnel entrance of camp came into view. The warrior said nothing else to Goldenclaw and Violetpaw before darting into camp, his ears pushed back.

"What's wrong with him? He acts like a skittish mouse." Violetpaw mews.

Goldenclaw shrugs. "I have no idea." He'd rather not talk about the traitor anymore than he already had to. And so he changed the subject. "You did a good job today. How about you go get something to eat. We can go hunting together later." Violetpaw doesn't look satisfied by his response, but she does brighten at getting to train later.

"Okay. I'm gonna go find Smokepaw, Mousepaw and Stripepaw. See you later Goldenclaw." The apprentice said before bounding away.

Her mostly white paws were going off in the direction of the fresh kill pile. As the hunting patrols of the day had yet to return, only last night's sparse pickings remained. He watched Violetpaw scoop up a feathery pigeon before changing his focus onto Vultureclaw. Like he'd promised his parabatai, Goldenclaw had been keeping a close eye on the deputy. Besides the strange command for Blossomstar to have guards, he didn't seem to be up to much lately.

This didn't seem to be the case now however.

Goldenclaw watches the older warrior murmur a few words to Ashwhisker and Frondleap discreetly at the edge of camp. Despite the sizzling rune of advanced hearing being activated on him for the patrol earlier, Goldenclaw can't pick up what the three are saying. He is able to see them slip out of camp though, all discreet and sneaky like.

I have to follow them. See what they're up to.

He ignores the protesting rumble from his tummy. In his haste to wake Violetpaw up for the dawn patrol he did not eat before leaving camp earlier. This hadn't been an issue on patrol, as his stomach had yet to awaken for the day. But now he could feel it yowling in outrage.

It could not be said that the golden tabby's appetite was small. He always needed to eat plenty of prey before feeling full. This in particular was why he wasn't looking forward to Leaf-Bare as he would most likely starve during the prey poor season.

So, he really wants to go eat right now, but he knows that he cannot. Vulture law's suspicious sneaking around was one of the first things of interest he'd seen from the tabby deputy ever since Arrowheart left with Sparkpaw and Patchfur for their mission. And as Nightrose was nowhere to be found it was up to him to see what was going on.

It'll be alright stomach. I promise we'll eat plenty of food when we get back.

With that in mind he headed after the three other toms, acting as nonchalant as possible to not attract attention. He slips by the few remaining warriors in camp with ease. The ones that had been on the way out of camp- Specklefoot, Palenose and Bearfur- give greetings to him as he passes by. Goldenclaw returns them as quickly as he can before he's heading through the thorn tunnel leading out of HunterClan camp.

****Arrowheart's POV****

The second time he woke up, Silverthorn, Strikeclaw, Sparkpaw and Simon were already up and moving for the day. Sunlight spilled down in shafts through the foliage overhead, the heat of it warming his pelt. Yawning, Arrowheart hauled himself up out of his nest.

Or he tried to at least. He found that Patchfur's arms were wrapped around him to keep him close. The slumbering presence of Patchfur nestled behind him made his heart beat harder and his face flush. The young Shadowhunter found that his own arms and legs were splayed awkwardly out in front of him. The weird stretching out of his body made him ache, the need to stand becoming all the more apparent.

Arrowheart wasn't fond of the idea of waking his boyfriend though, seeing as he'd made his boyfriend lose sleep over him both for waking him up in the middle of the night and worrying Patchfur when he collapsed. And so he resigned himself to the discomfort, hoping that Patchfur would wake up soon.

He turns so he can face Patchfur, doing his best not to jostle the warlock. In sleep the bicolored warrior looks so much more peaceful. Years of difficulty and hardship the older warrior faced over the years fades away in sleep. It leaves behind the face of an innocent, kind hearted cat that could, in his humble opinion, absolutely do no wrong.

Arrowheart can't understand how anyone could ever do anything to hurt such a wonderful tom. It angers him to his core to think of how carelessly some cats had treated Patchfur; MagicClan and Venomfang whisk into his mind with a frigid breeze that felt as though shards of compact ice were soaring through it. The Shadowhunter has to physically restrain his claws from unsheathing to tear at the be


"But Simon isn't like other fledglings, he hasn't attacked Arrowheart or I yet. I trust him completely." Sparkpaw said.

Sparkpaw flashes the tabby tom a smile that Simon returns. The two young cats seem to shuffle even closer together, a familial sort of gesture that makes Patchfur shuffle closer to Arrowheart, twining their tails together in one easy move. Arrowheart blushes, but doesn't protest, nor does he pull away. Patchfur can feel his heart soaring.

"That may be true." Arrowheart concedes. "I wouldn't place all your mice in that pile though. Simon's body is in a state of shock after only coming back to life recently. His impulse will likely become apparent in a matter of days."

"But..." Sparkpaw trails off, unsure what to say as her green eyes stared past Patchfur to their companions in front of them.

Silverthorn and Strikeclaw had come to a halt, right at what turned out to be the edge of the tree line. Patchfur and the others join them there to see how the land dips away with the forest to leave several black and yellow ThunderPaths in its place. Several monsters zoom by on it, the smell of burning rubber heavy in the air. The burning makes his eyes water. He hurriedly blinks back the tears.

"WolfClan is just past these ThunderPaths." Strikeclaw tells them. The brown tom's amber eyes never leave the cars as he says this.

"Woah! We have to cross all of those?!" Sparkpaw asks in shock. "How did your whole clan manage to do that?"

There is some awe in the fiery she-cat's voice. Patchfur can't blame her, he too is wondering the same thing. At least five separate paths lay sprawled out before them with only small stretches of ditches in between each one. Silverthorn beams at the apprentice's praise, her green eyes glowing with pleasure.

"Thanks. We of WolfClan are some of the fastest cats there are. It wasn't much trouble for us to get across."

"That's good to hear. Do you think you can show us how you did it?" Arrowheart asks.

"Why of course. Though, " Strikeclaw casts a glance at Simon, "I'm not sure if he should come along."

"Well, that's too bad. If you want our help then he's coming. Get over yourself and let's get moving." Patchfur said curtly before gracefully sliding down the slope. The other cats rush to follow him.

****Goldenclaw's POV****

He keeps his paw steps as light as possible as he makes his way deeper into the undergrowth. Vultureclaw's hulking form is easy to follow despite the tall, swishing fronds of ferns and prickly bushes that kept trying to snag on Goldenclaw's tabby fur. He notes that this doesn't seem to be the first time Vultureclaw is going this way through the forest with his two companions as he spots the imprinted paw prints in the mud.

Overhead, the sun shines down through interlaced branches, scattering shafts of light. Goldenclaw avoids these spotlights as best he can in the hopes of keeping out of Ashwhisker's view. Vultureclaw must've designated the gray warrior to make sure they weren't followed.

Five times already had the sniveling warrior looked over his shoulder. At first, Goldenclaw had worried that he had done something wrong in his stalking approach. Once he discovered how often Ashwhisker would look back however he decided that couldn't be the case.

Still, he more than a little relieved when the group of three arrived at their destination. Much to his own surprise, Vultureclaw had led Ashwhisker and Frondleap to the fallen tree that Goldenclaw, Sparkpaw and Simon had first confronted Frostfang.

Vultureclaw wasted no time hauling himself on top of the splintering log, his amber eyes narrowed as he stared down at Frondleap and Ashwhisker. He felt sickened to see the deputy do something that such an evil cat, his apparent father had done.

Goldenclaw huddles in a bush to listen closely to what the deputy has to say. This way, he could listen in without getting spotted by unwarranted gazes. His pelt prickled as sharp leaves jabbed into his fur, but he ignored the discomfort for the sake of keeping hidden.

"I'm sure you know why I've called you both here, so I won't bother explaining the situation again." Vultureclaw begins.

"Yes. I for one think the plan is brilliant. Don't you Frondleap?" Ashwhisker nudges the other tom next to him.

"I agree. Though I wish Starkpelt's part of the plan went by unseen. Stupid fool just had to get caught." Frondleap growls, his tail lashing.

Goldenclaw's heart thuds harder at the tom's words. Vultureclaw was involved with Starkpelt's actions to steal the Mortal Moss?! Does that mean they're working for Frostfang? He feels himself shuffling closer in the bushes, his breath coming out of him in quivers.

Vultureclaw raises a paw. "That matters little now. What's done is done. Though we must assure that he doesn't mess anything up again...Ashwhisker, you can handle that." Ashwhisker gives an eager nod.

"Of course Vultureclaw, I'll make sure he doesn't interfere. His silence will be quick and easy." Ashwhisker's claws unsheathe, a smirk full out on his face. Frondleap gives an easy murmur of agreement, though Goldenclaw can see the uncertainty in the warrior's eyes.

He must not really want to do this. I mean, Watertail is his mate after all. And by the looks of things Vultureclaw must hate Downworlders just like a Frostfang.

And then that's when he felt his nose start to itch. The scratchy feeling likely came from the pungent scent of flowers close by. It may not be the spring but there were still plenty of fresh flowers giving off their sweet aroma in the air.

"Achoo!" He sneezes.

Vultureclaw, Ashwhisker and Frondleap all freeze in place, instantly alert by the sound. Their heads swivel rapidly as they try to pinpoint the source of the noise.

"Find whoever made that sound. They must not be allowed to spread word of our plans." Vultureclaw orders with a snarl.

"Yes Vultureclaw!" Frondleap and Ashwhisker chorus.

Goldenclaw can feel his heart pounding even harder as the two toms begin to frantically search. He keeps himself perfectly still, trying to control his breathing and the way blood rushes around inside him, filling him with adrenaline. Should he fight, or should he flight?

It is then that an idea sparks in his mind. It is dangerous and devious, but it might just work.

I must be losing my mind....but what do I have to lose?

Sparkpaw's face flashes into his mind, the fiery she-cat smiling brightly at him. Then comes Arrowheart and Nightrose, his siblings who've always been there for him. Badgerstripe and Silvermoon come afterwards. All the cats who he holds close, cats who'd be devastated by the loss of him.

But if I don't do this, how can I keep them safe?

It is with that this thought in mind that he exits his hiding place to make his way down into the hollow.

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