The moon hung like a silver claw scratch in the sky. The grassy fields, usually emerald green and verdant in the sun, was washed silver and gray by the light beaming from above. Four cats, lined with stars, watched over the plains from their stony perch that overlooked the fields. They calm but expecting eyes, and none of them moved. It seemed like they were frozen in time, that was, until the largest of them, a silver and white cat with ethereal amber eyes, swiveled his ear to the right.
"They're coming," he meowed.
The black she-cat to his right huffed. "About time."
It happened in a moment. Cats streaked out from the neighboring woods, one or two or even three at a time. All of their pelts were filled with stars. Their eyes glowed with spectral energy and pierced through the night like multicolored flashes of lightning. Slowly, they approached and clustered about the base of the short stone with the rounded top, where the four cats watched from above. A long-furred cat huffed as he shuffled closest to the base of the stone as his berry-pink tongue hung out from between his jaws.
"They're all here, Thornstar," he panted.
Thornstar glanced over the gathered cats. There were about fifty of them, and they all stared at the four cats on the stone with nervous gazes. He shuddered a little. This reminded him of the Gatherings he used to attend back when he was still alive. Nostalgia flooded his chest for a moment, but he swallowed it down. No. He couldn't be thinking about when he was still living. This was about the cats that lived now.
"These might not be all the cats in StarClan, but asking you to gather all of them would be impossible. Thank you for your help, Swiftrunner," Thornstar nodded his head down at the cat before he turned back to the waiting cats. "We've called you here to inform you of our decision. The Clans stand at the edge of a precipice, and one wrong move may plunge them into the abyss."
The cats at his feet remained silent. The cats beside him shuffled nervously. Thornstar swallowed.
"There may not be any leader in StarClan, but we believe we are the four that know our Clans the best. That we will make the best choices for the Clans of the valley-- that this decision will benefit everyone in the long run," Thornstar continued. "And so, Duskstar, Miststar, Birchstar, and I have decided that StarClan is not to intervene with what fate has in store for these cats. This means no dreamwalking and no prophecy giving."
There was an uproar. The starry cats yowled and screamed and hissed up at the four cats. Thornstar cast a glance at the cats next to them. The black cat, Duskstar, snarled down at the lot.
"Don't you see? The Clans cannot depend entirely on us to guide their way. Living cats, not the dead, must guide the living!" Duskstar snarled.
A light gray she-cat next to Duskstar nodded. "The Clans will not get anywhere if they rely solely on the word of their ancestors. It is time for them to lean on their clanmates and friends in order to survive these treacherous times," Miststar murmured.
"This will surely bring about their destruction, then!" a sandy-colored she-cat howled. Thornstar recognized her as one of the first medicine cats of DuskClan, Leopardbrook.
"No," Thornstar persisted. "Not if they do this correctly. Surely you remember the times when StarClan has remained quiet during your life, Leopardbrook. Did you not survive your ordeals with your own paws and your own mind?"
Leopardbrook glared at him. "Do not compare those times to now."
The cats no longer hissed and yowled, though they stared at each other helplessly. Thornstar noticed there were some that sent glares as sharp as fox's teeth in their direction. He suspected that this decision would divide StarClan into factions, no matter how necessary this was. A long sigh left his jaws before he lifted his head again.
"StarClan has been walking at the Clans' side ever since they arrived at the valley. There must come a time when they must learn to be independent and strong-willed in order to survive. Do you not have any confidence in your Clans? Have you not seen how they have flourished in the midst of droughts and cold leaf-bares? They have the strength to walk their own paths and guide others, as they've shown in the past," Thornstar raised his voice again. "Any cat that is caught sharing tongues with the living will be sent to the Place of No Stars. Any cat that is caught delivering warnings or visions of the future will be sent to the Place of No Stars. Any cat that is caught visiting the dreams of their kin will be sent to the Place of No Stars. Is this understood?"
More bristling and growling. Mistystar's tail rested on his shoulder. Duskstar and Birchstar remained silent. Yet, there were no further outcries or words of anger. Thornstar nodded his head.
"Then this meeting is finished. May Silverpelt light your path," Thornstar meowed as he leapt off the rock.
Slowly, the cats drifted away and stalked over the hills or back into the starry forests not far from them. He watched them leave as his tail flicked to and fro, yet his expression remained as stoic and stern as when he was atop the rock. Guilt and worry wash over his bowels, and then came the doubt again. He looked over at the other leaders.
"Well?" he asked.
Duskstar shrugged. "We did what had to be done. It went better than expected."
"The Clans will have to learn to deal without us for some time," Miststar murmured. "It's the truth of the matter. Besides, we have our own issues to deal with..."
"Your big mouth did a good job of keeping that under wraps. Silverpelt forbid what would have happened if StarClan cats start to panic," Duskstar pointed out. Then, she arched her back and stretched. "Anyways, I'm going to go back to napping. Try not to have a panic attack, alright, Thornstar?"
The two she-cats went their own way and left Thornstar and Birchstar alone. The dark tabby tom stared at him with large, solemn eyes.
"What is it?"
"Nothing." Birchstar shook his head. "I'm just wondering if you made the right choice."
Thornstar flattened his ears. His pelt prickled and he lashed his tail. "I'm sure of it."
Birchstar frowned, then nodded as if in affirmation. "Very well. I trust your confidence. So long, Thornstar. Make sure to get enough rest." The other tom didn't even give him a chance to bid farewell. Within a heartbeat, he was already bolting towards the dark horizon, over the hills where the other cats went. Thornstar was left alone.
He rushed off in the opposite direction, running as fast as he could. It was kind of hard to believe that, despite him being dead, he still had issues with running for a long amount of time. Then again, it wasn't like they were immortal. There was something past StarClan, he believed, something that actually let cats rest and remain unworried for eternity.
Thornstar ran and ran for a long while, until the skies became black and empty. He streaked towards the shadowy forest in the distance, but was careful not to get too close. His eyes narrowed as he attempted to peer in between the branches. He saw pairs of eyes glimmer at him from the depths of the blackwood.
"I did the right thing," he growled, lashing his tail once. "There's no other way. I did the right thing, and they'll know soon enough."