Onewhisker yawned. Last night's battle had taken a toll on him. He still couldn't believe they had LOST.
"Onewhisker," a voice whispered.
"Wha...?" said Onewhisker.
"Onewhisker, it's me, Barkface," said a small brown tom who was peering into the warriors den, his face grim.
"What do you want so early in the mornin'...?" asked Onewhisker so tired he could barely speak.
"Onewhisker... it's...it's Tallstar..." said Barkface
"Wadda 'bout 'm?" asked Onewhisker.
"He's... he's dying..." said Barkface choking back a sob.
"WHAT?!?" Onewhisker yowled jumping to his paws.
"Shhh!" hissed Barkface. "Do you want to wake the whole forest?"
"Sorry," Onewhisker apologized.
"Come with me," said Barkface.
"Ok," said Onewhisker and he followed Barkface to where Tallstar lay.
Once in Tallstar's den, Onewhisker was overwhelmedby the stench of death and sickness. He could also smell something tangy. Was that...BLOOD? No it couldn't be Tallstar was dying of sickness not wounds.
"Tallstar?" said Barkface nervously.
"Barkface? Is that you?" Tallstar asked, his eyes clouded and unfocused.
"I've brought Onewhisker," said Barkface.
"Good," Tallstar said, than he went into a coughing fit. "Can you do me one last favor Barkface? You have been a good medicine cat and have survey me well."
"Anything," said Barkface.
"Go fetch Firestar, will you? I need to speak with him."
"Oh coarse said Barkface. Then he disappeared out of the den to go get Firestar.
Onewhisker felt very uncomfortable being left alone with his dying leader. What if Tallstar died before Barkface got back? What would he say? Worry prickled in every hair on Onewhisker's pelt.
Finally Barkface returned with not only Firestar, but Brambleclaw, the cat who had accompanied Crowfeather and the others on the great journey that led them to the lake, as well.
"Firestar's here," he heard Brambleclaw say. "I'll just wait outside," said Brambleclaw to Firestar.
"Is that Brambleclaw?" asked Tallstar. Onewhisker could see the look of uncomfortableness on Brambleclaw's face. He obviously didn't want to be here. Onewhisker was sympathetic, after all, he didn't really wish to be here either. "Don't go. You should hear what I have to say too," said Tallstar.
"Firestar, I must thank you," rasped Tallstar. "You have saved my clan."
"And Brambleclaw..." Tallstar went on. "You journeyed a long way to find this place for us, facing dangers no cat has seen before. Even Graystripe, may he walk in StarClan, would agree you will make a worthy deputy for ThunderClan."
"It wasn't just me," Brambleclaw protested, "it was all of us together."
"You're tiring yourself, Tallstar," Firestar's voice was gentle. "You need to rest."
"Rest will do me no good now," the WindClan leader meowed.
"You will be a noble addition to the ranks of StarClan," Firestar told him.
"Before then....before then I must say..." Tallstar began to choke, and his paws scrabbled in the dried leaves.
"Brambleclaw, go get Barkface," Firestar ordered.
"No," said Tallstar. "Nothing...any medicine cat can do for me now." His eyes half closed he took several gasping breaths before continuing. "There's something important I have to say. Where's Onewhisker?"
"Right here, Tallstar," said Onewhisker nervously.
"Good," said Tallstar. "Before I go to StarClan, there is something I must do." His voice was stronger now. "Firestar, Onewhisker, listen. Mudclaw is a brave warrior, but he is not the right cat to lead WindClan. In these last moons we have learned that the future of our clans lies in friendship. I want no rivalry between WindClan and ThunderClan after I am gone. We must have no enemies. But this will not happen if Mudclaw rules the clan."
Onewhisker exchanged a nervous glance with Firestar.
"I can still choose the cat who will lead WindClan after me," Tallstar rasped. "From this moment on Mudclaw is no longer deputy of WindClan."
Three pairs of eyes stared at him at him in astonishment.
"I say these words...before StarClan," Tallstar gasped out. "WindClan must have... a new deputy. Onewhisker, you must lead the clan when I am gone."