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Ripplestar gingerly stepped up to stand by the Spiritpool, her blue eyes troubled. The cold from the stone seeped through her pawpads, and the silver leader shuddered at the loneliness that she felt. Jaysong wasn't with her this time; the medicine cat had stayed behind to help Silentpaw with the ill cats.

The she-cat gazed into the pool, watching drops of water disturb the stillness of the dark waters. Even this far into the cavern, she could still hear the violent pattering of the heavy, unending rain outside. The rain was what caused this in the first place, she thought, sorrow clouding her eyes.

Many cats had fallen ill that moon, and some died. It had shattered a piece of Ripplestar's heart when the first cat, a tiny kit named Dapplekit, passed away. The kitten was obviously in pain, her harsh coughing often causing her to cry, but Silentpaw didn't give up on her. The young medicine cat was devastated when Dapplekit died, and he tried harder than ever to heal the cats. Four more cats died, and Silentpaw sank into his secluded ways.

It hurt Ripplestar just to think about it.

She closed her eyes briefly, then looked back at the Spiritpool. She gazed at her reflection in the dark water. The reflection rippled, and the silver tabby twitched her ears. "StarClan, I'm counting on you." she murmured before lying down. She hesitated, then slowly lapped up some of the icy water from the pool and drifted off into sleep.

. . .

Ripplestar opened her eyes and found herself in a clearing. The normally bright green grass was now yellow and shriveled, if it was even there. The brown, dried leaves from the bug-eaten trees littered the dusty ground.

The few cats she was able to see looked terrible. Their pelts were thin and ragged, and their normally beautiful silver eyes were a dull grey, and they looked full of sorrow and regret. Ripplestar spotted Dapplekit among them, and she looked as bad as she did when the illness struck.

"What happened here...?" Ripplestar breathed, her eyes wide in horror.

A patchy-furred black she-cat stepped forward. It was Shadowfire, the cat who had delivered many a prophecy before. Padding alongside her was her son, Stormkit, who was practically clinging to her with fright in his eyes.

Shadowfire smiled sadly and wrapped her tail around Stormkit. "Hello, Ripplestar." she rasped; the silver leader was startled at how old the deceased warrior sounded. "I'm sorry that you have to visit now of all times."

"What happened?" Ripplestar repeated, her fur rising.

Shadowfire shook her head. "I'm sorry to say this, but your cats' belief in StarClan has wavered. Since the sickness overtook them, they have lost faith in our ability to aid them."

"No, that can't be true."

"It is. I'm sorry."

-tbc

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