The Curse of Sight
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|Losely based on the novel Varjak Paw by S.F Said, this story follows a young seaside Clan cat named Amberclaw. She has amber eyes. But in her Clan, amber eyes mean death...|
My name's Amberclaw, and this is my story.
I live in BreezeClan, a Clan that has managed to survive right next to the sun-drown-place.
Most cats here have eyes the colour of the waters here- blues, turquoises, blue-greens and greens. I can't really figure out why.
I was born with amber eyes, even though my parents don't have them.
In BreezeClan we have weird superstitions.
One of them is that amber eyes mean death.
"Mother, why was I called Amberclaw instead of Ambereyes?"
Amberclaw had been wondering about her name for ages. She had asked her mother, Ternshadow, about why BreezeClan's leader, Wavestar, had chosen that suffix for her name.
"Hush! You know why. We could not have the other Clans thinking we had an Impure One in our Clan!" the white she-cat with black paws, a black-chest and a black forhead stripe had answered.
Impure One. That had been Amberclaw's label since the day she had opened her eyes. It was as if she had been marked with a permanent pawprint. Even worse, she felt like she had spent her whole life trapped behind silver bars like others in her Clan that had been captured by Twolegs. Her Clan seemed to gawk at her all the time. When she was a kit she had slept in her own separate nest, away from her brother and sister, Rushingwind and Fishpool. She was not allowed to go to Gatherings; she had been announced once as a warrior but BreezeClan had told the other Clans she had died in battle. Despite her horrible life, she was still expected to hunt for her Clan. To escape the pain she would often wander down the cliffs on a path once used by Twolegs that now had the pawprints of many generations of cats imprinted on it. She would watch the birds of the sun-drown-place nest in cracks in the rocks or on rock shelves. She sometimes collected shells when there was the right tide was in. She knew all there was to know about the sun-drown-place; every nook and cranny, every little secret hiding in the grasses and reeds on the dunes. Life was not all bad; because of this knowledge she was good friends with the medicine cat, Shellfoot.
She was dipping her foot in the waves, wondering how to swim, when Shellfoot came bounding down the cliffs. The medicine cat was so dedicated she barely left the camp except to collect supplies. It was getting close to leaf-bare so the medicine cat was out and about more often than usual. Amberclaw was in an awkward position when the dark cream she-cat arrived. She had stepped into the water and the waves of the shallows were gently lapping against her light brown fur, slicking it dark brown.
"Amberclaw! What are you doing?" Shellfoot looked shocked.
"I'm... in.. the water?" she replied hesitantly.
"It's forbidden to swim in the waters of the sun-drown-place for any cat! You could get washed away by one of the Great Waves!"
"I'm not just any cat, Shellfoot. I'm an Impure One. It's worth being somewhere where I can't affect any cat around me- and the only place I'm going to do that is a place no cat would go."
"You could be seen by other Clans! The sun-drown-place and the shore may be neutral territory, but DuneClan territory is just over there! They'll see you!"
The medicine cat flicked her tail towards the larger dunes where the fiercely loyal and strict Clan made their camp.
"There was a Gathering a quarter of a moon ago. I'm pretty small- other cats would probably think I'm a new apprentice."
"I don't want to hurt anyone, Shellfoot!" she cried.
Being an Impure One meant that Amberclaw carried bad luck wherever she went, or so the Clans believed. When she was barely two days old, the whole nursery of kits except for her litter was killed by a massive outbreak of greencough. She was out hunting as an apprentice one day with her friend Reedpaw. They had been passing a Twoleg path that ran right along the edge of a section of the cliffs and curved around to a Twoleg place many fox-lengths behind DuneClan territory. Suddenly, a dog broke free of its Twoleg and pounced upon poor Reedpaw, sending the apprentice over the cliffs to her death on the rocks below, where the Clan usually hunted fish. In the moon before Amberclaw's warrior ceremony her father, Boulderfur, had been suffering from an unknown disease. He had been getting better, but during Amberclaw's warrior ceremony he coughed up blood and fell to the ground, dead. Her Clan's superstitions seemed right, but was it just a lot of bad luck?
One thing was for sure: wherever she went, Amberclaw somehow dragged sorrow, pain and suffering with her.
There had been huge tides for several sunrises. Amberclaw had watched as the water consumed the shore, almost reaching the dunes. There was no chance of going near the cliff path or the rocks; the Great Waves that came with the tides smashed against the stone with enough power to kill anyone. This was a typical beginning of leaf-bare for BreezeClan. As usual, DuneClan had left their camp and moved further back up the dunes to a temporary camp. She wished she could be down on the shore while DuneClan were away; they were usually gone through all of leaf-bare so she could get away with wandering into their territory a little.
A sharp voice interrupted her. It was Fernleaf, one of the senior warriors.
"You're on patrol," the brown tabby she-cat mewed coldly.
"Why do we even need patrols? DuneClan are away," she complained.
"StoneClan are still here! You know very well that they live at the bottom of the next cliff. And ReedClan live near that stream that runs down the next cliff."
Amberclaw sighed and dragged herself to her paws.
"Fine, fine, I'm coming," she sighed.
The patrol was about to leave when she arrived, panting. Fernleaf, Longwhisker, Bluntnose and Shorefur were waiting for her. Fernleaf was washing her brown tabby fur, and she rolled her green eyes as Amberclaw padded wearily up to them.
"Why does she have to come?" asked Fernleaf's apprentice, Nookpaw.
"We need all the warriors we can get," mewed Shorefur, the Clan deputy.
"Does that really include an Impure One? I could die!"
The apprentice was panicking.
"Hush, my sweet. It is leaf-bare, and prey is scarce."
Nookpaw's mother, Dawnshine, had come to see him off on his first patrol. The black apprentice sighed as the light ginger queen groomed his fur.
"I'm an apprentice now! I don't need your slobbery tongue," he complained.
"Yes you do," she replied crossly. "You can't look like a scruffy furball for your first patrol."
Shorefur waited until Dawnshine had finished grooming her son. When Nookpaw finally struggled out of his mother's grip the patrol slipped out the camp entrance.
"You know the deal, Impure One." Longwhisker's voice was full of malice. "Stay in the shadows and hunt what you can. On these cliffs, we're exposed. We don't want the other Clans seeing you."
Amberclaw did as she was told. When her patrol turned to go to the StoneClan border, she turned in the opposite direction, heading for the DuneClan border. It was low tide, or at least, it had only engulfed half the beach. She glanced at the rocks. They were half covered and waves crashed against them, calling her with their thunderous song. She looked around, checking to see if the patrol had come to check the DuneClan border. They hadn't.
"I suppose a little rock fishing couldn't hurt," she muttered to herself.
She padded off towards the other end of the beach. When she reached the rocks, she looked around for the large, covered channel in the rock where her Clan fished. It ended right next to the reef. There were huge rocks blocking the low tide waves coming in from the front and the side waves were always small by the time they reached the shore, so the most any cat got wet was up to their belly. She squeezed into the channel and padded out towards the reef. As she peeked over the edge she saw many fish shining as they scurried around the reef. She spotted one that was very plump. It was grazing on the seagrasses that grew just below the channel's end. She crouched into a fishing postition, being careful not to throw her shadow on the water. She slashed her paw into the water. A fraction of a second before her paw slipped below the surface, the fish swam away, its silver scales shimmering as if it was boasting its bravery. Amberclaw tried to pull her paw out, but it wouldn't move. She shuffled forward on her hind legs and looked over the edge of the channel. Her paw was firmly wedged between two rocks. She tried to ignore the pain and pulled with all her might, but her paw still wouldn't budge. She panicked as a small wave washed into the channel. The tide was coming in.
"Help!" she screeched. "Please, help me!"
The rocks ahead of her couldn't withstand the high tide waves for much longer. The Clan only fished at the beginning of low tide until their chest got wet. They couldn't risk catching a cold or some other form of sickness.
"StarClan, please help me!" she yowled.
She eventually gave up on calling for help. The tide was up to her chest fur now.
"So be it," she whispered. "This is my fate- to die young like any Impure One."
A huge wave crashed over the rocks and swept into the channel. It strained her trapped paw, but she still managed to hang onto the rocks. Soon all the waves were as big, and she lifted her head up, trying to breathe. It was no use. She was underwater moments later. Her paw was still wedged between the rocks. She was running out of air. Her lungs screamed and her body went limp. She tried to breathe, but all she breathed in was choking, salty water. She gave up on trying to escape. After that, the world spun around her and was plunged into darkness.
"Clurd, ig sheek gwnar bre owane?"
"Ri dunt nowel. Hr pwawr lukks ulmusgt a bral az mih lrg n sagle wrs wren I lst thurm tr thu mronsteu."
Amberclaw thought the voices were in another language at first, but as she opened her eyes, the words, like her vision, cleared. She realised who the voices were, and what they were saying.
"Cloud, is she going to be ok?" A black she-cat with a white belly asked.
"I don't know. Her paw looks almost as bad as my leg and tail were when I lost them to that monster," A voice mewed from a little further away
"I... have a name, you-you know," Amberclaw groaned.
The she-cat bounded out of her sight. Moments later, she returned with a grey and white tom. Amberclaw sat up abruptly when she looked into the she-cat's eyes. They were amber!
She shuffled back in what she realised was a moss and bracken nest.
"Relax. Drink this."
The tom, Cloud handed her a cup shaped leaf with a golden poultice. When she stared at the two cats suspiciously, the tom sighed exasperantly.
"Well, aren't you the cautious one?" he mewed. "Don't worry. It's honey, chamomile and borage leaves."
She lapped it up cautiously. It had a sweet taste at first, but soon after she swallowed it, a bitter aftertaste swept along her tongue.
"Yuck!" she mewed, spitting out what she could. "And I smell weird, too!"
"I rubbed wild garlic on your paw," Cloud mewed.
"You wouldn't dare hide my scent! My Clan will come looking for me," she lied.
Or at least, that's what I'm going to let him believe, she thought.
"At least your paw won't get infected."
She looked down at her paw. It was swollen and deeply cut, but at least it wasn't bleeding. The tom seemed to have ignored her comment about her Clan.
"I'm Blacky," mewed the she-cat. "My friend here's Cloud. He's really skilled with- what's the word again?"
"Medicine," Cloud put in.
"But I was the one who saved you," Blacky mewed proudly.
"Thank you, Cloud and Blacky," she mewed. "I'm Amberclaw."
Amberclaw talked with Blacky about life in BreezeClan. They chatted about eye colours, and Blacky was shocked to find out about the Impure Ones.
"So your Clan think it's really your fate to die?" she gasped.
"Yes," Amberclaw replied.
"I don't understand... in Twolegplace, there are lots of cats with amber eyes. Cats are blind, have an eye of a different colour to the first, or have a slice of different colour within their eyes. Old Rose has pink eyes and snow white fur... she looks like a perfect flower. Except that she's an old cat," Blacky explained.
Amberclaw was puzzled. She had never heard of such things.
"I can take you to Twolegplace, if you like. But maybe when your leg's better."
"That would be great."
"Cloud says it's too dangerous to go there, but he and I both survived as kittypets and then loners in there for many seasons. There's dogs and Twolegs and the occasional bad cat, but mostly it's okay."
"I heard the cats there are vicious."
"I heard Clan cats are vicious," Blacky purred humorously. "Yes, the loners in there have formed Gangs, and you can't really be in there without being in one. The Roaches are the largest gang in the area. Their leader is Roach- predictably, being the arrogant, cruel cat he is- and his sister, Thorn, has gained herself a sort of deputyship. The only cat who dares defy them is Old Rose. They're afraid of her appearance- Roach thinks it's some kind of omen- and that's the only reason they aren't tearing her to shreds."
"But Old Rose is an elder... surely they wouldn't be afraid of her simply because of her eye colour."
"You're right. She raised an abandoned puppy into a fiercely loyal dog. Rose's enemies are the dog's enemies."
"A dog? How in StarClan's name does she train it?"
"My warrior ancestors. They speak to us in dreams and send our medicine cats omens to guide us."
"I don't believe that."
"It's true, believe me," she argued loyally. "They watch over us. They love us... a lot of them are our kin."
"Then why aren't they saying anything about the amber eyes superstition?"
Amberclaw couldn't think of an answer.
It took a week of painful rehabilitation to get her paw better. Every day, she exercised it and bit back a hiss when Cloud applied wild garlic to it. Slowly, she managed to put weight on it, then eventually limp on it. It wasn't long before she could walk on it. Today she was going to try and run on it. She and Cloud were near the TwoLeg path. "If you want to survive like me, you have to be able to run," Cloud mewed. "Here comes your chance now."
A TwoLeg was coming along the path with a black and brown dog. The monsterous beasts were both huge, and when the dog saw her, it tore free of her leash. She froze, terrified. She tried to run away, but she tripped over a root of a pine tree. The dog saw its oppurtunity and bolted forward. Suddenly, there was a flash of grey and white and the dog let out a yelp. Cloud had leapt onto the black and brown beast and had begun fighting it. His moves were well coordinated. Almost like... a Clan cat, she thought. The dog turned tail and fled back to its TwoLeg, whining pitifully.
"How did you learn how to do that?" she inquired.
"I... I was once a Clan cat," Cloud mewed, swallowing hard. "You might know my brothers... Shorefur and Cliffleap."
"You're Cloudheart? I thought you were dead..."
"No. Clan life was too much for me. My eyes are halfway between amber and green. I was often called a Semi-Impure One. Original name, I know, but we're very rare, you see, so when I was born, BreezeClan figured there really was more than a couple of us, so they had to make a name up on the spot. At first, I gave up the name of a warrior to learn medicine. Eventually, the Clan decided I was too close to being an Impure One that I should not be honoured by StarClan. I was not allowed to visit the Mooncave."
She gasped. The Mooncave was a special place near the rockpools where the Clans shared dreams with their warrior ancestors. She wasn't allowed to go there- even if she was a medicine cat she would be forbidden because she was an Impure One- but she had heard stories of the dripping stalagtites in there that carried the purest water of all, even when the tides came in. If a cat caught a few drips on their tongue, they would be whisked away into a dream in StarClan territory. Once a month, it was not submerged; the medicine cats could go there to share dreams with StarClan.
"I know how you feel," she murmured.
"I was still allowed to enjoy the other privileges of being a medicine cat," Cloud continued. "When my mentor- Rockface- died, I became medicine cat and trained my own apprentice, Shellfoot.
"You were Shellfoot's mentor? The one she never talks about?"
"Yes. Soon, the Clan got suspicious of my eyes when you were born and even my own family turned against me. And when I was hit by a monster, well, that was the last straw. My two brothers drove me out of BreezeClan. I met Blacky and we've been living together ever since. You probably don't remember."
"This superstition has gone too far," she mewed bitterly. "I have to find out why StarClan aren't speaking up about this. Cloud, we're going to the Mooncave."
"Amberclaw, this is too dangerous!" Blacky hissed. "If your Clan sees you-"
"What are they going to do? Kill me? As far as they're concerned, I'm going to die anyway," she mewed confidently, but a seed of doubt had planted itself in her mind.
They wandered along the cliffs, carefully avoiding spots where the thin shale crumbled. As they passed over a coal seam, Blacky suddenly slipped, her paws scrabbling on the black rock. She clung on to a small tree, but its roots were lifting from the ground one by one.
"Help!" she yowled.
"Everyone close to you will die." Wavestar had said those words with no compassion instead of her virtues when she had become a warrior. Now they swirled around in her head, making her feel dizzy.
No. I can't let Blacky die.
She felt a huge strength in her and grabbed Blacky by the scruff with all her might. She hauled the black and white she-cat to the top of the cliff, where they lay on a clay pan, panting. Next thing she knew, everything went black.
She found herself surrounded by a beautiful forest. Bright light shone through the gaps in the trees. A pleasant, warm breeze whistling rustling the leaves of the trees was the only sound that could be heard. It carried the scent of flowers throughout the forest. It was so peaceful in this place, so...
I must be in StarClan! But... am I dead?
"Hello, Amberclaw," mewed a tom cat's voice. It was almost a whisper, as soft and gentle as the wind.
"Who's there?!" she called out.
"Me," the voice mewed again.
"Nice clue there, buddy," she replied sarcastically.
Suddenly, something furry slammed into her. She was so used to being totured that fear immediately stabbed her in the stomach.
"Haha, gotcha!" The voice was the same as before, but louder and more playful. She spun around to find a blue-grey tom behind her.
"I never knew StarClan cats were tricksters," she mewed crossly.
"StarClan?" the tom cocked his head in confusion. "Oh, you're a Clan cat, aren't you... sorry, I forgot."
"Forgot? How do you know me... you whispered my name before."
"You really don't know anything, do you?" the tom sighed. "Oh well. Follow me and I'll tell you something interesting." He bounded away into some bushes, not waiting for her to follow him.
Amberclaw looked for a way out of the forest. If this is a dream, I should try to wake up, right? she thought. She squeezed her eyes shut and willed herself to wake up, but after a few moments she realised that she couldn't.
Sighing, she bounded after the tom.
She had been running for quite a while, leaping over the roots of ancient deciduous trees and ducking through bushes. She dived through some bushes and all of a sudden she burst into bright sunlight. Unfortunately, she tripped over a root and and tumbled head over heels down a grassy hill, landing face first in dirt.
"Nice landing," the tom's voice from before snickered.
Coughing, Amberclaw heaved herself to a sitting position. Her senses came into focus, and she heard a stream bubbling away happily and saw it moments later, framed by golden and green hills, tall grasses and.... him. He sat before her, eyes shining with cheekiness.
"Hey, what are you playing at? I wanna know what you-" she started to stand up, but she winced as her previous paw injury sent pain shooting up her leg.
"You're hurt?" All of a sudden the tom's amber eyes looked concerned. Wait... he had amber eyes! Before she hadn't had a chance to look at him properly.
Before she could finish he approached her and sniffed at her paw. Suddenly, his tongue flicked her leg. She sprang backwards, ignoring the throbbing pain that her leap induced.
"I don't even know your name and you're licking me!" she gasped.
"Well, if you must know, my name's Storm," the tom mewed. "And I was trying to heal you. Just give me a minute."
He approached her again, slowly this time, and began to lick her swollen paw again.
I've never been... touched... by another cat before, she thought. I'm sort of scared... what if he's not a friend?
"There, all done," Storm sighed. "Feel better now?"
Miraculously, the pain in Amberclaw's foot was gone. "How did you do that?" she gasped.
"One of the many powers we have in the Realm of Spirits," Storm replied casually, but his eyes searched the surrounding area, as if he was looking for something. Then his eyes settled on a clump of heather on the opposite bank. "You can come out now, Old Blue," he called out.