(originally written in November 2020)

I've finally returned to my roots... I started writing fanfiction over a decade ago, in 2009, when I was in middle school. The very first fanfiction I started was Warriors fanfiction. It was fairly typical middle school fanfiction fare for the time I believe— obviously none of it's on ao3, but it's your typical lol random XD type humor, very oc-centric, not very well written at all (like, not in a self-depricating way, but in a critical way), and like a lot of it is just... Crimge is dead in 2020 but it makes me cringe, because it's just obviously how much of a different person I am, and how much I've grown up and learned, because I would not write anything like most of it today. But I had this confidence in my writing back then that I wish I still had, and I wish I had even half of that energy still, and I had so much drive to develop and write about ocs that I wish I still had today, too. I only write as a hobby but Warriors was a huge part of that. I'll always be thankful for that. In a way, by writing this I'm getting back in touch with my roots. Writing Warriors fanfic was always so much fun to me back then, I miss writing Warriors stuff.

I reread The Last Hope and Crookedstar's Promise back to back recently. With all the cats being trained in the Dark Forest in Omen of the Stars, I was like, hey Crookedstar kind of was like the preview sneak peek of this huh! Brambleberry showed up in Omen of the Stars, and don't get me wrong, I love Brambleberry. She is great. I am a huge fan. But I was also like hey Crookedstar probably has a really unique perspective of this whole situation that not even Brambleberry has and I kind of miss that not being here! That's kind of sad! I wish Crookedstar was featured more here! Well good news, that's what fanfic is for. So I wrote a little bit of Crookedstar being in Omen of the Stars during down time at work; I had him visit Willowshine during a dream, though not entirely intentionally. Willowshine and Mothwing are really cool, I love them both.

I'm very far behind on Warriors. I just recently finished reading Thunder and Shadow, to give some perspective, so please keep any spoilers away from me. (I also recently read Bramblestar's Storm, and reading the two back to back really has given me some feelings about Rowanstar, and Onestar... I'm getting way too invested again. Maybe I need to write more). Anyway, I hope you enjoy! Thanks for stopping by!

Wilowshine's tail swished as she looked up at the barn.

At least, she thought it was a barn. She'd never seen one herself before, she had only heard tales involving them from elders passing down stories of past elders who had lived in the old Clan territories before the Great Journey. There was no barn on RiverClan territory now. She must be dreaming.

But why would she be dreaming of someplace she had never been before? Not all her dreams came from StarClan, of course. Some dreams really were just dreams. Yet she couldn't think of another reason why she would be here. Why would StarClan bring her to a barn? Why would a Clan cat be at a barn?

She realized there was a cat sitting nearby, facing away from her and towards the barn. We're they a StarClan warrior? Did StarClan wish to speak to her? Slowly, she walked towards them.

"Do you promise to be loyal to your Clan above all other things?" they asked.

Irritation trickled through Willowshine's fur. "I've already said I would stay away from the other Clans," she muttered. Did StarClan just want to remind her of their warning for the Clans to stand alone? She hadn't forgotten.

If the other cat heard her, she was ignored. "You and your desires are nothing compared to the needs of RiverClan."

As Willowshine drew near, she angled her path so she could sit next to them and see their face. Once she did,she was surprised to see their crooked jaw, a sign it has been broken. She had heard of a RiverClan cat with a face like this before, though... "Are you Crookedstar?"

Crookedstar almost jumped before turning his head to look at her. "I'm sorry, I didn't see you there." He studied her for a moment. "You're our current medicine cat. Wilowshine. You've heard of me before, I see."

"Of course I have! They say you're one of the greatest leaders the Clans have ever seen. " She dipped her head. "It is an honor."

Crookedstar stretched his neck to bathe the fur on his shoulder, clearly uncomfortable, so Willowshine rose her head and quickly changed the subject. "I didn't know there was a barn on StarClan's hunting grounds. I've never seen it before."

"It's not a popular spot. I don't come here often, either, but..." He tucked his tail around his paws. "Not every cat that goes to StarClan is a Clan cat."

"And not every Clan cat believes in StarClan," Willowshine added, thinking of her mentor.

"That's not a bad thing." She blinked surprise at those words, and he went on. "Some cats are too blinded by the stars to see the truth."

A StarClan cat that was fine with cats not believing in StarClan? Willowshine thought again of her mentor; Mothwing had been starting to question Willowshine's insistence of following StarClan's message to all the medicine cats. "Are you talking about me?"

No answer was given. Instead, he looked towards the barn. "You heard what I said before we started talking. I didn't mean to think out loud, but maybe it was for the best. Would you make that promise in exchange for your destiny, in exchange for strength?"

"As a medicine cat, I don't know if I need more strength, but that's an easy for most warriors to make. Of course I'll always be loyal to RiverClan. "

"Right. There are few Clan cats who couldn't make that promise, but I imagine most would give that answer." Crookedstar glanced back at her. "That was the wrong answer to give, but don't worry. Like I said, many cats would give that answer. In fact, while we could still see around the lake, I saw cats from all Clans who did make that promise, or at least, a similar one. I could see it because I could see the same things happening to them that happened to me."

"You weren't asking me to make that promise. You made that promise yourself."

His tail twitched. "It was soon after I broke my jaw, sneaking out of camp as a kit. No one was sure I'd be able to make it to be an apprentice. Then a cat appeared to me in my dream and offered to train me, if I made that promise. I thought she was from StarClan, since she was in my dreams, so I agreed. But I was tricked. I woke up every day with the pain and injuries I got from training in my sleep, and I slowly lost every cat that I was ever close to."

She blinked, looking up at him. Elders always spoke of the good Crookedstar did for RiverClan, but it was hard to reconcile that image now with Crookedstar himself telling her about a mistake he made. "Is that happening to cats around the lake now?"

"None of us can see the Clans now, but I saw signs it could've been happening before." He narrowed his eyes. "Just do not judge them too harshly, if they are. Surely, I've proven that any cat can make a mistake." Sighing, Crookedstar closed his eyes. "I did not come here to discuss what cats do in there dreams."

"You didn't? Then..." Willowshine looked at the barn. "Why did you come here? What did you want to talk to me about?"

Crookedstar stood up and gestured with his tail for Willowshine to follow him. Together, the two of them approached the barn. "Pretend, for a moment, I am not a StarClan cat. Think of me for a moment as just a Clanmate. Pretend StarClan cannot hear you, which should be waste right not, since we can't." He twitched an ear. " What do you think of StarClan's warning for the Clans, even the medicine cats, to stay apart and not trust each other?"

"What do I think? Well, I don't think the medicine cats have done this before. It does feel strange." They were close to the barn now. Willowshine opened her mouth; it was clear mice used to live here, but she could tell by the scent they were gone. "But, I've always trusted StarClan's wisdom before, and I've never been steered wrong. Then again, you said we can be blinded the stars so much we cannot see the truth, so I wonder..."

Crookedstar stopped just inside the barn, his tail falling closer to the ground. "I learned how to eat and hunt with my jaw like this in a barn. I wanted to visit Highstones to talk to StarClan, but I never made it there. And I did not speak with StarClan for moons afterwards. They did not guide me for much of my path before I became a leader, though I did not know that. But I found my destiny anyway, and RiverClan was fine until then." The tip of his tail twitched. "StarClan is dividing itself the same some of us have told you to. I am not saying any of us are wrong, I just want you to think for yourself whether it is a good idea. I came out here to think for myself, too. I never did enough of that for much of my life. I'm not yet sure if I agree with most of my Clanmates."

"Think for myself whether StarClan is right..." she whispered. She had never questioned StarClan before, so this was not going to be an easy task. Her dream began to fade, but Crookedstar said one more thing before she came close to waking up.

"Do not become so blinded by the stars that you cannot see the truth."