Chapter 10: Disappear

The grey sky darkened and shifted to an inky, unclear black, as if the heavens weren't pleased and the stars didn't want to show themselves. Not yet.

A few faint and tiny specks twinkled dimly, but most of the dark navy sea overhead was only a vast and plain, vacant splash of dull color.

A lithe silhouetted figure moved swiftly through the bushes, eyes glowing in the darkness. Halting, perking its ears and whipping its head around occasionally, the small cat continued trotting through the leaves. However, the search was to no avail.

More cats followed closely, about three or four on the first one's trail. They sniffed along the ground and tasting the air, ears pricked for any signs of their missing clanmate, but it was no use.

A dark tabby tomcat's lime eyes narrowed and swept through the night air. He let out a faint growl of frustration and concern.

"Where is Dawnpaw?"

The one in the lead, a ginger apprentice she-cat, turned to face the deputy with her eyes cast down at the ground, tail tapping feebly on the cold earth.

"I-I don't know."

"You've searched everywhere, Firepaw?" Snowflower padded out from the small group of cats and asked her apprentice. The other cats stared at her expectantly, waiting for an answer.

At last Firepaw gave a weak sigh and shook her head slightly. "I have. I really don't know where Dawnpaw is."

"She can't have gone too far," Buzzardstrike, the deputy, declared firmly, his bright green eyes confident but hiding some traces of worry. "Split up and search the area again. I am sure she has to be near."

The others nodded and bounded off in their separate ways, their outlines silver in a dim moonlight that washed down from the night sky.

Firepaw, accompanied by her mentor, padded sadly through the trees, praying to StarClan that her friend would be found.

I won't give up, she promised. She has to be here.

Buzzardstrike went his own way as well, tasting the air for the young she-cat's familiar scent. He grasped for a spark of hope, wishing and hoping that he would be able to face Breezestar, telling him that they had indeed found Dawnpaw and that she was safe.

He sighed to himself and walked into the bare, shadowed forest while a chilling wind ruffled his tabby fur. His voice was drowned out by the distant howls.

"It was like she just… disappeared."

"You can sleep in one of the dens, Dawnpaw," Dusk's Light informed the young ginger and white cat, gesturing with her dark tabby tail at some sturdy dens hidden among boulders and branches, entrance half-covered with leaves.

Dawnpaw drearily lifted her head and glanced over at the dens. Her mouth became a tight, straight line and she stepped closer to the older she-cat hesitantly.

"A-are you sure I can?" Dawnpaw asked her guide hesitantly. "I mean, aren't the others also going to be sleeping there? You know most of them don't like… outsiders."

Dusk's Light had taken her on a stroll through the main places that the cats usually went to, but it was still only a tiny percentage, barely a grain of sand on a large beach, compared to the entire land. There were still towering mountains that blocked their path and thick, roaring rivers that were difficult to get over, and dense, dark forests that one would get lost in if not familiar with. Therefore, they had stopped and walked back at those times.

Dawnpaw also got to see some of the cats that called this place their home. Sadly, she had also found out many of them were quite wary or aggressive toward cats like her. What they meant by "outsider", she still wasn't very sure, despite what Dusk's Light tried to explain to her. But apparently many of the cats here disliked outsiders, cats of Dawnpaw's kind.

Outsider? the young she-cat had wondered quizzically. Outside of what, though?

She still was confused and had ten thousand questions she could ask, but most were lost in the breeze or the night air now.

Dusk's Light's voice snapped her back to reality.

Dawnpaw cleared her throat and looked up at the grey tabby. "What did you say, Dusk's Light? Sorry, I wasn't listening."

Dusk's Light sighed and repeated, "I said that it'll be fine. You don't need to worry. You might get a few hostile stares at first but later on, I'm sure they'll get used to you. Besides, I'll still be with you."

And that's supposed to make it better? Dawnpaw thought. She hung on what the older cat told her. Later on… Will I still be here later on, though?

Dusk's Light padded in one of the dens, brushing back some dangling leaves and brambles as she carefully stepped into one of the dens. Nervously, Dawnpaw followed after her closely, her steps small and timid.

The den was quite dark with the already dim surroundings outside, but as Dawnpaw peered into the inside of the den, she realized it was quite roomy, much bigger than it had looked outside. The entrance was narrow and she thought the inside wouldn't be very spacious, but she had been wrong. With the large area of space, she also saw some eyes that opened, gleaming in the darkness, staring straight at her and Dusk's Light, but as she guessed, mostly her.

Dawnpaw stepped closer to Dusk's Light and gulped, making her steps as soft and silent as she could. The gleaming eyes narrowed, some closed again, but others only got increasingly intimidating.

"Who's your friend, Dusk?" a large dark golden tom shifted in his nest and mewed threateningly.

"This is Dawnpaw," Dusk's Light introduced simply, her gaze equally confident as the large tabby tom's. "Dawnpaw, that's Lion's Roar."

"H-hello," Dawnpaw greeted in a whisper as she stepped forward. Lion's Roar stared at her for a few seconds more with narrowed bright green eyes, then gave a mutter of something and closed his eyes again. Many of the others did the same, yet some still watched intently as Dusk's Light led Dawnpaw to the back of the den.

A familiar black she-cat with grey spots laid in the back corner. As she sensed the two cats nearing, her blue eyes narrowed and she flicked an ear.

"Hello, Star's Shadow," Dusk's Light greeted and laid down beside her. The grey and black cat gave a grumbled "hey" and turned her attention toward Dawnpaw, who was still standing, once again.

"Oh, right," the grey and black she-cat meowed in between yawns, remembering. "You're that outsider, Dogpaw, right?"

"Um, it's actually Dawnpaw," the younger cat shuffled her paws and corrected nervously.

Star's Shadow slitted her eyes at the apprentice and gave a flick of her black tail.

"Whatever you say," she muttered and yawned again, then put her chin on her paws and drifted off to sleep.

Dawnpaw glanced nervously down at Dusk's Light.

"Can I sleep by the den entrance?" Dawnpaw asked, her green eyes cast down at the ground.

The older tabby cat looked up at the ginger and white apprentice and flattened her ears, a bit confused. She scoffed lightly.

"What, do you wanna escape after we all fall asleep?" Dusk's Light joked in a low whisper.

"N-no, of course not!" Dawnpaw defended a bit loudly. "I just… I feel safer if I can sense what's outside, I guess. I'm used to sleeping under the starlight where I can see the sky and trees around me."

Dusk's Light gave a small sigh and nodded tiredly. "Alright, I guess. But I'll still be keeping an eye on you."

Dawnpaw nodded and smiled slightly, stepping carefully over the sleeping cats and settled down right behind the den entrance. She looked up to the night sky, the beautiful, glimmering sea of stars reflected in her leafy green eyes. She sighed contentedly and forgot about her home, everything else, for one heartbeat. It looked beautiful.

Much more beautiful than the stars I had seen back at camp. There's something… different, she realized with surprise. I wonder why.

The young cat glanced back at Dusk's Light and held back a small chuckle when she realized the older she-cat had already fallen asleep within moments, despite saying she would be keeping an eye on her. She laid her chin on her paws and looked to the sky again, feeling her stomach growl.

That's right. I buried that prey from earlier somewhere around here. Maybe I'll find it and eat it tomorrow, Dawnpaw thought as her eyelids fluttered close and dreams overtook her.

She didn't get to see a dark shape flash by the den entrance silently and drop a squirrel gently down beside her paws.

Await the next chapter, and in the meantime, please review! :) Thanks for all the current reviews. Never thought I'd get to over 100 by only 11 chapters! You're all awesome! :D

Fact #11: I named my two parrots after a pet coconut I had when I was a kid. (Messed up, huh?)