|"He pictured the river reaching up to the stick, lifting it, washing it away. Of course! The river must flow out into the lake."|
|— Jaypaw figuring out how to escape the tunnels in Dark River, page 303|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter nineteen of Dark River. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 19 (of 21)
- Page Numbers: 291-306
- Jaypaw says he'll go first, and he hardly realizes he said the word out loud, until he hears Breezepaw snort scornfully that he's blind. Hollypaw snaps at him that she supposes he sees perfectly in the dark. Jaypaw senses Breezepaw bristle, but he doesn't argue, and he's glad he doesn't, because he is on the verge of turning tail and fleeing back to the safety of the forest. All he can think about since he set foot in the tunnel is racing for his life, terrified, with Fallen Leaves. Images fill his mind of the dark tunnel, the roaring water, the shock as the wave hits him and sweeps him up like a leaf caught in a storm, gasping for air and finding only water to breath. He urges himself to not think about it.
- He thinks it's good that at least this time, there will be no glimmers of light to distract him, instead he can focus on his instincts. Lionpaw steps out of the way to let Jaypaw pass, and as he brushes past him, he feels relief flooding from his brothers pelt. He thinks Lionpaw believes Jaypaw will do better in the dark than he will; he hopes he's right. Cold air blasts over him, making his whisker tremble, but the breeze carries something else, whispers he feels rather than hears, flooding from deep inside the tunnel like the pulsing of blood in his veins.
- He pads into the tunnel, feeling the darkness swallow him, this isn't the kind of darkness he is used to. Blind in the forest, he can feel the warmth of the sun on his pelt, smell the fresh tangs that flavor the air, and hear the wind that rustles the leaves. This darkness is suffocating, musty, and cold, pressing against his fur and filling his nose and mouth. Nothing but blackness, thick as fur, soft as water, drawing him in. The rock beneath his paws is covered in fine silt, the walls so narrow they graze his pelt as he creeps slowly forward.
- Breezepaw's mew is as jagged as the walls as he asks Jaypaw if he can go any faster, and Jaypaw tries to block out the fear pulsing from the other cats, and pads on, feeling the path slope downward, the tunnel widen, cold air jabs his pelt as they pass under a slit in the roof. He wonders if this is really the right way. The draft flowing through the tunnel like water carries no kit scent, only the forest air seeping through the fissures in the roof. Suddenly, a pelt brushes Jaypaw's, and he bristles, meowing he's leading, Breezepaw, and barging the cat away. Breezepaw snaps from behind, wondering what he's talking about, he's back here.
- Hollypaw's nose brushes his tail tip as she tells Jaypaw no one is near him. Surprised, Jaypaw tastes the air, finding a new scent, not a Clan scent, but still familiar. He tastes the air again, his pelt prickling with unease as the other cat presses against him, matching him step for step. A voice whispers in his ear, saying he will walk with Jaypaw, as he had once walked with him. Jaypaw's heart lurches when he realizes it's Fallen Leaves, the memory of a great, black wave engulfing him makes him stop dead, and he fights the urge to turn and run, to pelt back to the cave and the forest, to the safety of the open sky. Fallen Leaves says he cannot leave him to walk alone, when Jaypaw had walked with him like a brother.
- Jaypaw blinks, trying to, and asks if he is dreaming. Fallen Leaves whispers no, but he has come to help, he knows where the kits are. Breezepaw crossly asks why have they stopped, and Hollypaw's nose flicks Jaypaw's tail, wondering if he's okay. He tells her he's fine, then lowers his mew to less than a whisper, breathing the words so only Fallen Leaves can hear, asking if he has seen them. Fallen Leaves presses his pelt to Jaypaw's, urging him forward, saying he knows where they are, but they must hurry. Jaypaw resists, wondering how he can trust Fallen Leaves, he couldn't even get himself out of the tunnels, and the ginger and white tom sadly murmurs he has walked them ever since, he knows them better than the moors about them.
- Jaypaw steadies his breathing, asking if he really has seen the kits. Fallen Leaves replies they are alive, but cold, they must hurry. Jaypaw touches his tail to Fallen Leaves' flank and lets the tom guide him forward into a tunnel that branches to one side, the passage slopes steeply down, and Jaypaw's pads slip on the floor, the rock is slick with rain. Breezepaw calls from behind, wondering is sure of where he is going, and Lionpaw anxiously asks if he can smell them, Jaypaw replies they went this way.
- Fallen Leaves swerves again, nudging him toward another tunnel, warning him to duck, and Jaypaw dips his head just in time, squeezing through a shallow gap. He warns to his Clanmates to keep down, as he wriggles beneath the pressing rock, and the gap grows lower and lower until he is scrabbling on his belly. Hollypaw pants that this feels like a dead end, and Jaypaw smells the sweet scent of heather and feels rain on his face, and knows there must be an opening in the roof up ahead. He slithers out of the gap, relieved to feel space around him. Heatherpaw's fur brushes the rock as she squirms out after him, asking which way now, and Lionpaw informs him there are three tunnels.
- Jaypaw tastes the air, but there is no scent of the kits. Fallen Leaves whispers this way, and Jaypaw feels his whiskers brush the rock on either side of him as he lets Fallen Leaves guide him into another tunnel. Breezepaw's mew is sharp as he asks how Jaypaw knows this is the right way, but Jaypaw can sense the panic throbbing beneath his pelt, and it comes from every cat, filling the darkness with a suffocating dread that Jaypaw tries to block from his mind. He lies he can smell them, and thinks to himself he mustn't let fear overwhelm him.
- The tunnel twists and veers upward, then widens, and air filters through a gap overhead. The patter of paw steps behind him slow, and Heatherpaw sighs, saying she knew it was a dead end. Jaypaw halts, sensing the unyielding bulk of a boulder blocking the tunnel ahead. Breezepaw mews they'll never get past it. Rain pounds overhead, dripping through a gap into the tunnel and echoing off the rocks as Jaypaw sniffs the wet stone. His nose runs along the boulder, following its smooth surface, until his whiskers touch the tunnel wall, finding a tiny gap opened between the boulder and the wall, too small to squeeze through.
- Breezepaw snaps now what, asking if Jaypaw thinks he can lead them back, his voice sounding unconvinced, then asks if he just brought them here to show them the boulder, and to let him guess, that it's a special StarClan rock and it's going to tell them where the kits are . Heatherpaw hisses at her Clanmate to shut up, and Breezepaw snarls why, they're lost underground, then asks if she wants him to thank Jaypaw. Hollypaw suddenly tells them to shush, and Breezepaw retorts he'll say what he likes, and just because he's her brother, but Hollypaw interrupts, hissing she can hear something. Lionpaw wonders what it is, his pelt tingling with excitement, and Jaypaw strains to hear, picking up the sound of a tiny squeaking noise, just a little louder than the rain, echoing ahead of him, and he wonders if it's the kits. He calls out if anyone is there, and the squeak turns into an excited mewling, confirming the kits are here.
- Fallen Leaves breaths into his ear, saying he told him he'd help Jaypaw find them. Lionpaw mews he thinks he can climb over it, then Jaypaw hears the scrabbling of claws against stone as his brother clambers over the boulder, and shallow water splashes faintly when he jumps to the other side. He says they're here, his joyful mew echoing around the tunnel. More claws scrape against the rock as Hollypaw, Heatherpaw, and Breezepaw scramble over to join him. Heatherpaw purrs thank StarClan they found them, and paw steps splash and a frightened mew answers her, mewing they can't climb back over, and they thought they'd be stuck forever. Breezepaw reassures them they'll take them home, and Heatherpaw urges Swallowkit. and tiny claws scrape the stone, then a soggy bundle of fur slides clumsily down onto the ground beside Jaypaw, and he asks if she's okay.
- The rain is pounding harder, they must be quick. Swallowkit answers she's fine but, then Breezepaw's mew interrupts her, telling Sedgekit it's her turn. Fur brushes the rock and another kit thuds lightly onto the floor. Jaypaw reaches out his nose to the newest arrival, asking if she's hurt, and Sedgekit replies no. Jaypaw sweeps the two kits together with his tail, pressing against their sudden pelts to warm them. Breezepaw lands beside him, and Jaypaw stiffens, realizing the third kit is in his jaws, and she's barely breathing, when Breezepaw lies her onto the ground, she doesn't move. Swallowkit wails that Thistlekit went to sleep and now she won't wake up.
- Jaypaw pushes the trembling kits against Breezepaw and crouches beside the wet, limp body at his paws. She is cold, shivering with small convulsions. Jaypaw begins to massage her body with his paws, trying to rub warmth into her pelt. Heatherpaw slithers over the boulder, asking if she's okay. Jaypaw orders her to help Breezepaw warm the other two, and she listens, muffling Sedgekit's mew when she complains they're hungry. Heatherpaw scolds it serves them right for wandering off, she sounds cross, but Jaypaw can feel her fearful gaze jabbing his pelt as he works on Thistlekit.
- Rain drips down harder through the roof, the silt has turned to slimy mud around his paws, and he rubs Thistlekit more urgently, knowing they have to get out. His siblings leap down from the boulder, and Sedgekit trembles as she asks if they know the way out. Breezepaw declares of course they do, they found their way in, so getting out will be even easier, but Jaypaw knows he doesn't believe this. Jaypaw softly mews they'll get out, and he waits for Fallen Leaves to whisper encouragement, but he only feels the quiver of the young toms tail against his pelt.
- Thistlekit begins to cough and fidget beneath his paws, warmth is seeping back into her body and she struggles to her paws, gasping they found them. Hollypaw folds herself around the shivering kit, asking if Thistlekit thought they'd leave them in this horrible place. Surpise pulses from the kit as she realizes Hollypaw is from ThunderClan, and Hollypaw explains they've been helping her Clanmates. Breezepaw growls they've caused a lot of trouble, and Lionpaw swishes his tail over the floor, saying they can worry about that once they're out.
- A noise like rushing air suddenly fills the tunnels, and Hollypaw mews the rain is getting harder. Lionpaw murmurs it isn't rain, it's coming from inside the tunnels, and Sedgekit echoes him with a squeak, while Breezepaw demands what it is. Jaypaw feels sick, he knows what this means, and he meows the river is overflowing. Lionpaw darts to Jaypaw's side, pelting bristling with alarm, wondering how he knows. Jaypaw closes his eyes, mewing he's heard it before, the tunnels are going to flood.
- Energy explodes from Lionpaw, mewing they've got to get out, and Sedgekit squeals as he snatches her up in his jaws, hissing out of the corner of his mouth for Breezepaw and Heatherpaw to get the other two. Jaypaw meows he'll lead, thinking he brought them here, he had to get them out. He pelts back along the tunnel, and fur brushes stone and claws skitter after him. Fallen Leaves falls in beside him, matching the rhythm of his stride. Jaypaw hisses he has to get them back to the cave.
- Fallen Leaves promises he will, the young toms paws making no sound on the tunnel floor as they race onward, but his pelt is hot with fear and his mind flashes with memories that echo in Jaypaw's mind; paws churning through muddy water, struggling against the currents that are too strong to fight, gasping for air but only finding water to breath, disbelief as the world closes in and life ebbs away from his body. Jaypaw thinks to himself that Fallen Leaves is remembering how he drowned.
- Jaypaw pushes on harder, ducking just in time to squirm under the low roof, and he wriggles forward, the rock scraping his spine and his claws splintering against the stone. Struggling to the other side, Jaypaw pauses, waiting util he hears the others emerge. The kits squeal with fear and pain as they are dragged over the rough stone. Jaypaw encourages them that they're nearly there. The tunnel is sloping upward now, there's one more twist and another turn. Water washes around his paws, and he can smell the fresh air. Jaypaw bursts into the cave, hope springing in his belly.
- He feels Fallen Leaves trembling with relief beside him. Ahead, the river is roaring, and Lionpaw shoots out behind him, telling him to take Swallowkit, and thrusting the kit at Jaypaw, who snatches her in his teeth. Hollypaw wonders what their brother is doing, exploding from the tunnel with Heatherpaw and Breezepaw. Jaypaw hears water splash as Lionpaw plunges into the river. Jaypaw drops Swallowkit, calling to his brother, and strains to hear over the roaring water. He asks Hollypaw if she can see him, who answers that he's swimming. Breezepaw gasps he's crazy.
- Lionpaw coughs he's okay as he struggles from the far side of the river. Heatherpaw calls, wondering how they'll get the kits across. Lionpaw yowls back, his mew edged with panic, that there's no point, the tunnel is blacked, the rain washed soil into the entrance and there's too much mud to dig through. Heatherpaw asks what about WindClan's tunnel, and Breezepaw bounds away as Lionpaw splashes back across the river.
- Breezepaw calls from the WindClan tunnel that it's blocked too, boulders have fallen from the roof, and it's like a waterfall, they'll never get the kits up it. Heatherpaw screeches they have to try. His fear making him angry, Breezepaw argues that he doesn't think there's enough space at the top to get through, if a kit got swept down over the rocks, it could die. Hollypaw yowls they have to do something. Jaypaw presses against Fallen Leaves, trying to read his thoughts, but the young toms flank seems to be fading, and Jaypaw's shoulder passes with a shiver through soft fur, and he hisses to Fallen Leaves.
- Fallen Leaves apologizes, guilt and grief hangs like mist in the air, and Jaypaw suddenly feels cold where his warm body had been. Panic grips him and time seems to slow, and for a heartbeat, Jaypaw glimpses a pair of eyes, calling to wait, he can come with them. Fallen Leaves blinks, his gaze filled with sorrow and faintly mews it's not his time to leave, and then he is gone. Sedgekit asks if they're going to die, her terrified mew rising above the torrent.
- Jaypaw's mind whirls as he tries to work out some way to escape. Water sprays his face as the river froths and bubbles against the cave walls. Lionpaw presses against him with the others until they are huddled on a narrow strip of earth, water snapping at their paws. Jaypaw silently pleas for StarClan's help, the blood roars in his ears, and he wonders if StarClan can even hear him down here. Suddenly, a silvery light glows at the edge of his vision, like moonlight creeping across a night black forest.
- Jaypaw looks up and sees a smooth ledge near the top of the cave, a cat sitting on it. It's the cat from his dream, with twisted claws, a balding pelt, sightless, bulging eyes. He was the cat who had sent Fallen Leaves into the tunnels to die. The cat looks straight at Jaypaw, and anger rises in his chest, silently asking if he has come to watch them die too. A shadow moves beneath the cats paws, he is rolling something toward the lip of the ledge, something long, smooth, and slender. Jaypaw's fur stands on end as he realizes it's the stick from the lake.
- Its markings are clear in the moonlight and, as Jaypaw stares in confusion, the cat lifts his paw and holds a trembling claw over a row of scratches, five long and three short. Jaypaw gasps, noticing those scratches weren't there before, he remembered from counting the marks so many times, so he knows them by heart. He realizes the scratches mean five warriors and three kits; them. Jaypaw stares, panic-stricken, into the old cats eyes, silently asking if they're going to die.
- The cat bends his head to look at the stick, before slowly lowering his claw and running it through the scratches, and with a rush of hope, Jaypaw understand they're going to survive, and the old cat nods. A paw sharply claps him on the ear, and Breezepaw snarls to stop staring at nothing and help them think. The vision disappears and Jaypaw is in the darkness once more, and he turns to the others, his pelt bristling with excitement, mewing there's a way out, he knows it. Lionpaw demands what is it then, and Jaypaw admits he's not sure, and to let him think for a moment.
- Heatherpaw screeches that thinking won't move boulders, they're trapped. Hollypaw suggests they could wait until the cave floods and swim up to the hole in the roof, and Breezepaw growls it's too small to escape through, and Heatherpaw points out the kits might drown. Jaypaw shakes his head. There is something on the edge of his thoughts, an idea he can sense but not reach. The stick comes to his mind, and he thinks how it had been in this cave, but he had found it by the lake, so how would it have gotten out.
- Water splashes at his paws, and he recoils, then freezes. He pictures the river reaching up to the stick, lifting it, and washing it away, then realizes the river must flow into the lake. He cries they'll have to swim, and Lionpaw splutters swim where, and Jaypaw answers the river runs to the lake, it'll carry them there. Breezepaw hisses that it disappears underground, and Jaypaw insists it comes out in the lake. Heatherpaw wails they're not RiverClan, they can't swim. Lionpaw presses against Jaypaw, asking if this will really work, and Jaypaw mews there's no other way.
- Hollypaw mews if they must do it, then they have to trust him. Breezepaw growls they might, and Heatherpaw screeches that if they don't do something, they're all going to drown. Hollypaw kneads the ground, saying they'll try it. Swallowkit squeals in terror, saying she's not going into water. Lionpaw promises they'll hold them by their tails, they won't let go. Thistlekit shrieks, asking their tails, and Lionpaw mews if they hold them by their scruffs, they'll swallow too much water, then says they'll have to keep their heads afloat by paddling with their forepaws, and he demonstrates how to do it, churning his paws in the air.
- Heatherpaw whispers that she's scared, and Lionpaw drops onto four paws and presses against her, mewing it'll be okay. Jaypaw is close enough to hear him whisper in her ear, that their time together will be something he'll remember even when he's with StarClan. Heatherpaw trembles, mewing there will be no borders between them there. Jaypaw blinks, startled by the emotion flooding between them, then light flickers in his vision and he sees the old cat again, silently urging them to leave now.
- Jaypaw thinks of all the cats who had ventured into this place, their fear and hope seems to whisper in the air around him. The scratches on the stick had marked their fate, and he wonders if the new lines really predict that the Clan cats will survive. Hollypaw instructs them to line up at the edge of the river, and tells Lionpaw to take Sedgekit, she'll take Thistlekit, and Breezepaw can take Swallowkit. Heatherpaw asks what she should do, and Jaypaw tells her to hold onto his tail, they're help each other.
- Heatherpaw agrees, and he feels her take the tip of his tail lightly between her teeth. Swallowkit's paws splash through the water as she tries to run, saying she's not going. She shrieks as Breezepaw grabs her and drags her toward him through the water, soothing her to not worry, he won't let go, there's no way he's letting her drown. Swallowkit whimpers, but doesn't try to escape again. Lionpaw urges them to come on, and Jaypaw wades through the shallows, his paws throbbing with dread as he feels the tug of the river.
- Lionpaw asks if they're ready, and Hollypaw answers yes, then Jaypaw tenses, mewing jump, then hurls himself into the rushing torrent. Heatherpaw tugs on his tail as water swirls her downstream. The current drags him under and he is lost in his dream of drowning again, choked by the tumbling water with the bodies of cats all around him and his ears filled with roaring.
References and citations
|Dark River chapters|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Chapter 7 • Chapter 8 • Chapter 9 • Chapter 10 • Chapter 11 • Chapter 12 • Chapter 13 • Chapter 14 • Chapter 15 • Chapter 16 • Chapter 17 • Chapter 18 • Chapter 19 • Chapter 20 • Chapter 21|