Flashpaw sat down in the ferns with a vole, away from his Clan. Nobody gave him any thought.
He scowled. Everyone hates me! he thought, The leader wishes I wan't even born. My father, the deputy doesn't either. My mother is in another Clan. My littermates are dead. And all the apprentices pick on me.
What if I never become a warrior? Flashpaw thought worriedly.
"I can't wait to become an apprentice!" Flashpaw heard Dustkit squealed to his best friend, Morningkit.
"I know!" Morningkit breathed.
"Hey, look, it's Flashpaw!" Dustkit yowled.
"Hi, Flashpaw!" Morningkit meowed, bounding over with Dustkit.
"Hi, kits. How are things?" Flashpaw asked, resting his head on his paws.
"We're becoming apprentices tomorrow!" Dustkit meowed, puffing out his chest with pride.
"I heard," Flashpaw mumbled.
"What's wrong?" Morningkit asked.
"I have no friends. Everyone has a bone to pick with me." Flashpaw gnawed on the leftover bones of his vole.
"Oh," Dustkit meowed, his eyes filling with sorrow.
"Hey, Flashpaw!" a scathing voice rang out, "Flutterstar wants you to go on a patrol, or are you just going to sit there socializing with kits and eating all the fresh kill."
Flashpaw turned to see Treepaw, his blue eyes glimmering snootily.
"Yes, Treepaw, I'm coming. You'll just have to work your fat, brown hindquarters to catch up."
Dustkit and Morningkit started to giggle and Treepaw bristled with fury and opened his mouth to retort, but couldn't because Flashpaw zipped past him and into the forest.
Arrogant furball! he snarled inwardly to Treepaw.
He froze and widened his eyes, Ahhh, I'm such an idiot! I don't know which patrol to join!
Flashpaw shrugged his worry off, I'll just hunt. This'll teach Flutterstar not to have the apprentices rag all over me.
Flashpaw stalked a mouse, keeping his body low, his senses sharp, and he pounced.
By the time the sun set, Flashpaw had caught a pile of prey and he hauled it all back to camp.
Flutterstar padded up to Flashpaw smoothly, "Why didn't you go on the patrol?"
"Treepaw didn't tell me where to go!" he protested, "He just stalked off into the forest and I tried to follow him."
"It's true!" Dustkit interrupted.
"I saw it too! He speaks the truth!" Morningkit meowed.
Treepaw's mouth was open wide with shock and Flashpaw smiled gratefully at the kits. They had taken quite a risk lying for him, with their apprentice ceremonies so close.
Flutterstar eyed them and meowed, "Very well. Treepaw will have tick duty for a moon and he cannot go to the Gathering. Flashpaw you carry on and you kits will have your apprentice cermonies first thing in the morning."
Treepaw simmered with rage and he dug his claws into the dirt. He stalked off, stiff with anger. He started to worry and he felt a bit guilty.?
What if he uses unsheathed claws next battle training? What if he blames his next fault on me? What if...
"Isn't this great, Flashpaw. Treepaw is in trouble and we get our ceremonies. We can put our nests next to each others' and we can hunt and train tomorrow together!" Dustkit meowed.
Flashpaw smiled and he shook off his fears about Treepaw. For the first time in his lonely kithood and apprenticeship, he had two friends. Dustkit smiled back and Morningkit gazed up at him with big beautiful amber eyes.
I have friends now. Maybe now, things will start to look up.
"Flashpaw!" Sunclaw, his mentor called, "Come on! We're going to the Sky Oak for some battle training with Treepaw, Dustpaw, and Morningpaw."
Flashpaw stopped grooming his white fur and got up with his mentor. Once again, his head was filled with worry about what Treepaw would do to him from the other day's incident with the patrols, but he was excited about Morningpaw and Dustpaw being there.
He had started to slightly crush on Morningpaw. He figured Dustpaw would have an easier time attracting she-cats than he would and Morningpaw was the only she-cat to like him.
He and his mentor padde to the Sky Oak where Treepaw, his mentor; Leafpelt, Dustpaw, his mentor; Softclaw, and Morningpaw, with her mentor; Eaglenose, were waiting.
"First Treepaw will face off against Flashpaw," Leafpelt announced.
Treepaw smiled narrowing his eyes, and furtively unsheathing his claws.
Flashpaw's blood froze with a jolt.
So he is going to use his claws!
Well, if that's how it is, then that's how it is!
He kept his claws sheathed and Flashpaw sprang at Treepaw. Treepaw lashed out with a front claw, but Flashpaw ducked, Treepaw's claws whistling past his ears. Flashpaw sprang at Treepaw's legs and bit him, rolling away after, then springing again.
"Yay! Go Flashpaw!" Dustpaw yowled.
"Wow!" Morningpaw breathed, "Flashpaw is good!"
Flashpaw was caught off guard by her praise and that's when Treepaw caught him on his cheek. Blood started gushing from the wound.
"Oh no!" Morningpaw murmured.
"Treepaw! Sheath your claws!" Leafpelt scolded.
Flashpaw whirled around, blood flying from his cheek and he ran at his opponent, weaving from one end of the clearing to the other and sprang at him, landing on top of Treepaw's shoulders. Treepaw crumpled to the ground and Flashpaw pressed the apprentice's cheek to the ground. Blood dripping from his wound, he lifted his head, triumphantly, not lightening his grip on him.
"The winner is Flashpaw!" Leafpelt announced.
"Hooray!" Dustpaw cheered.
"Yay, Flashpaw!" Morningpaw bounced up and down on her toes.
Sunclaw nodded at him approvingly, "You'll be a warrior in no time. In the meantime, you should get that wound checked. It looks like a nasty scar."
"Nah," Flashpaw meowed, "I'm alright. I want to train some more."
"Ok, Dustpaw. You and Morningpaw face off," Softclaw meowed.
The battle was over quickly, ending with Dustpaw pressing Morningpaw's face into the mud.
"Morningpaw, you train with Flashpaw. Dustpaw will train with Treepaw," Eaglenose meowed to the pretty tortoiseshell.
His heart skipped a beat as Morningpaw padded over.
Morningpaw asked, "Can you teach me how to fight like you did? That was so good!"
Flashpaw smiled and swept a paw over his ear, "Sure!"
Flashpaw padded into camp with Dustpaw and Morningpaw, each carrying quite a bit of prey. They had been hunting as much as they could to keep out of trouble with Treepaw so Dustpaw and Morningpaw had become quite the hunters. They set their prey on the pile.
"There you are, apprentices. Flutterstar wants me to take you three out to get some moss. It's your turn to change the moss in all the dens," Softclaw meowed, padding up to the friends.
"No. That's okay. We'll do it ourselves," Dustpaw meowed.
As Softclaw padded away, Dustpaw turned to Morningpaw and Flashpaw and whispered, "I have a quick way of doing this. Flashpaw will collect the moss because he is the fastest. I will clear out the bedding to spare you both the dirty work and since Morningpaw is the most delicate, she will put the moss in place."
"Good idea!" Morningpaw meowed.
Flashpaw nodded, "We'll be done in no time."
Flashpaw bolted to the forest and he went to where he could find the softest moss. He cut it off the trees quickly and cleanly and zipped back to camp with his jaws full, passed it on to Morningpaw, and went back for more.
Flashpaw inhaled deeply on his way for the moss and he closed his eyes, letting the thump of his paws on the ground cleanse him of his worries.
Then he hit something solid. He looked up. Treepaw was staring down at him, a mouse in his jaws.
"Watch it!" Treepaw hissed. Treepaw unsheathed his claws and bunched up his muscles. Flashpaw's green eyes widened. Treepaw was actually going to kill him... right there.
"Treepaw!" Leafpelt called.
"Another time, Flashpaw!" he spat, stalking off.
Flashpaw heaved a sigh of relief and gave his ruffled, white fur a lick before collecting some more moss and bounding back to the camp. Dustpaw had a heap of dirty moss by the entrance of the camp and was wildly scraping old nests from the elders' den. Morningpaw was taking the last pieces of moss from the earlier load to the apprentices' den. He dropped the moss and went back for the third and probably last load since his first load had filled the apprentices' and warriors' den. The second would fill the nursery and elders' den and the last would fill the medicine den and the leader's den.
Hurriedly, he ran back into the forest and came back in a matter of minutes. Morningpaw was rushing to finish and Dustpaw was sitting next to the moss pile he had made.
"Hi!" Dustpaw greeted him, "Let's carry this moss out now."
Dustpaw and Flashpaw carried the soiled moss out of camp and left it there just as Morningpaw finished in the medicine den.
"I left the leader's den for all of us!" she breathed, her amber eyes sparkling with excitement.
Dustpaw and Flashpaw exchanged a glance of excitement. Dustpaw, Flashpaw, and Morningpaw each grabbed a bundle of moss and headed into Flutterstar's den. She wasn't there. Flashpaw looked around in awe. How he wanted a den all to himself, but he knew he would miss Dustpaw and Morningpaw.
Flutterstar let out a hiss behind them.
Flashpaw shrieked and dropped his moss and the three apprentices spun around.
"Pesky apprentices!" Flutterstar growled, "Change my moss and go." The three obeyed quickly and scampered out of the leader's den.
"Wake up, Flashpaw!" Dustpaw meowed.
Flashpaw sat up, grumbling and started grooming his messy, white fur. Dustpaw waited patiently.
"What's happening today?" Flashpaw asked.
Morningpaw spoke up, "Today, we are going with the leader and a few warriors to WindClan to warn them not to steal our prey!" She bounced her paw excitedly.
"Just us?" Flashpaw gasped.
"Yup!" Dustpaw answered, grinning with glee.
Flashpaw shot a glance at Treepaw who was scowling with jealousy.
Flashpaw brightened instanly and meowed, "Well, let's go!"
The three apprentices bounded out of the den and met Flutterstar at the entrance with her deputy and three of her most senior warriors.
"Good!" she meowed, "You're up. Now, let's be on our way." She started off briskly with the seven cats trailing behind.
"I wonder if we're going to fight!" Dustpaw whispered, his eyes glowing with excitement.
The deputy, Brindletail, heard him and chuckled, "It's not likely we will fight. It would be the whole of WindClan against us."
"There will be other times, young ones," a senior warrior, Talonpelt, meowed.
They padded across the border and onto the moorland.
"How can they stand it here?" Dustpaw scoffed.
"Beats me," Flashpaw meowed.
"Intruders!" a voice like claws scraping tree bark shouted out.
A patrol of WindClan warriors padded up and the leader snarled, "What do you want?"
"We would like to speak with your leader," Flutterstar replied evenly.
"Or are you too tired because of chasing rabbits all day?" Dustpaw asked, giving the cat an innocent look.
The ThunderClan warriors snickered.
The WindClan tom bristled, "We'll take you. WindClan! Surround them!"
The WindClan patrol surrounded the ThunderClan cats and Flashpaw grew uneasy.
They arrived at the camp shortly, and their leader padded over as the WindClan cats in the camp bristled and snarled at the appearance of the patrol.
"What is it, Flutterstar?" the leader, Snakestar demanded. "Is it shortage of prey, perhaps!" the tom hissed mischeivously, his eyes glittering.
"Yes, indeed, Snakestar!" Flutterstar growled, "We have been scenting WindClan on our territory and we have found scraps of fur and bones. And your Clan seems so much more well-fed than ThunderClan. We have right to be suspicious."
Snakestar chuckled, "We need that prey. Now leave or I'll let my warriors tear you apart."
Flutterstar snarled, "Well your actions will bring bloodshed and injury among our Clans. I hope your happy when cats die."
Snakestar chuckled again and replied cooly, "I think I will be."
The ThunderClan patrol left the WindClan camp and back to their own.
"What is going to happen, Flutterstar?" Morningpaw asked.
"I fear war is coming..." the leader murmured, "War.... or starvation."
"Sunclaw!" Flashpaw called, "Dustpaw, Morningpaw, and I are going hunting!" Flashpaw called.
"Ok," Sunclaw meowed, "Just patrol the WindClan border while you do." Over the past two moons, the rivalry between WindClan and ThunderClan had grown even more violent.
Flashpaw nodded happily and he and his two friends bounded out of camp.
"Ok," Flashpaw meowed, "Let's split up."
Dustpaw ran off and Morningpaw started padding in the opposite direction.
"Morningpaw! Wait!" Flashpaw called.
Morningpaw turned around, "What is it, Flashpaw? WindClan?"
Flashpaw shook his head and stepped closer to her.
"Morningpaw.... I have been too shy to tell... to tell you this."
Morningpaw's eyes widened in curiosity.
"I love you, Morningpaw..." he whispered.
"I love you, too!" she purred.
Flashpaw breathed a sigh of relief and twined his tail with hers.
"Congratulations! Morningpaw and Flashpaw forever! Yay!" Dustpaw squealed, stumbling out from the bushes.
Flashpaw and Morningpaw let out a purr at their humorous friend, then split up to hunt. After a while, they gathered their prey and went to patrol the WindClan border.
As they arrived, they found three WindClan cats with prey dangling from their jaws.
"Morningpaw, go get help," Flashpaw whispered.
Morningpaw sped off and Flashpaw and Dustpaw burst out of the bushes, snarling.
"What are you doing on our territory?" Dustpaw snarled, far from his fun self from a moments ago.
One of the cats looked up, his eyes glittering, "Well, young one. In a rush to attack, are we?"
It was Snakestar.
Flashpaw gulped. Snakestar would tear his friend apart.
Snakestar pinned Dustpaw down.
"Noooooo!" Flashpaw yowled.
"Hey!" a loud, sharp voice snapped.
Flutterstar burst out of the bushes with her teeth bared with Morningpaw, Sunclaw, and Leafpelt.
Snakestar got off of Dustpaw and hissed, "This will be finished tonight!" Then, he and his warriors raced away.
The ThunderClan cats headed back to camp after picking up the prey they had caught earlier.
In the apprentice's den where Flashpaw, Dustpaw, and Morningpaw were resting Flashpaw spoke up, his voice quivering, "I'm so s-sorry I didn't do anything... I- I was so scared, I-"
Dustpaw cut him off, "It's ok, Flashpaw. I know I would have been rooted to the spot, too. Anycat would have."
"Way to go, hero!" Treepaw sneered.
Morningpaw turned on him, "Shut up! Just shut up, you stupid mouse-brain!"
Treepaw's eyes widened, then he slunk out of the den.
"Thanks, Morningpaw," Flashpaw sighed, resting his head on his paws.
Morningpaw gave a dull nod.
Dustpaw rested his head.
"Flutterstar wants you three for the Gathering," Softclaw meowed, cautiously poking her head in the den. "Rest," she purred soothingly to the three worn out apprentices.
The three cats nodded and fell alseep in an instant.
"You guys! Flashpaw! Morningpaw! Dustpaw!"
Flashpaw stretched his eyes open to see Sunclaw, the moonlight illuminating his mentor's head..
Flashpaw shook his pelt as Morningpaw sat up and started to groom his pelt. Dustpaw sat up and yawned.
"All cats coming to the Gathering, fall in!" Flutterstar yowled.
Flashpaw, Morningpaw, and Dustpaw gathered around Flutterstar with lots of their Clanmates. They went out of camp and traveled to the island the ShadowClan way so as not to bother WindClan. They arrived at the island last and the Gathering started.
Snakestar went first, "ThunderClan is stealing our prey, our kits, and our territory. You MUST ally with WindClan to stop them or they may be after yours next."
Flashpaw felt a cold rock sink in his stomach. How could Snakestar do that? How could he lie to all Clans without breaking a sweat? And, judging from the glares ThunderClan recieved, how could the other Clans believe him?
Dustpaw flexed his claws angrily and Morningpaw bristled.
"Hold on!" Flutterstar hissed, "It has been proven that the situation you propose is what you are doing, Snakestar. Why do you think WindClan is looking more well-fed than other Clans? Where did Dustpaw's siblings go? Where is our territory going?"
"Lies!" Snakestar spat.
"ThunderClan should not be considered a Clan!" a ShadowClan cat yowled.
Flutterstar shook her head and sighed, "You can't teach the stupid. ThunderClan, let's go."
ThunderClan filed off the island and back into their camp. Tired and angry, the cats wordlessly headed to their dens.
Flashpaw had the feeling he was being watched. He saw two tawny gold eyes shimmering and he was about to strike when he heard a hiss then a long object hurtled toward him.
The snake stared at him and Flashpaw looked around. There were more.
"Snakes!" he yowled.
The whole camp burst into action.
The warriors started to pick them off, but more kept flowing out of unseen places.
Flashpaw raced into the clearing, "Morningpaw! Dustpaw!"
"Here!" Dustpaw called from a tree. Morningpaw was beside him.
"ThunderClan! Evacuate! There are too many!" Flutterstar shouted. The snakes hissed and slithered toward the cats.
ThunderClan pounded on and on toward the WindClan border where they faced a wall of WindClan warriors and Treepaw.
Treepaw snickered. Snakestar's eyes were glowing with approval.
Stuck between snakes and WindClan, ThunderClan unsheathed their claws and attacked.
Flashpaw fought off a huge tom and went to help Morningpaw and Dustpaw. They were fighting five huge warriors and two snakes were slithering up behind them.
"Mo-" his call was cut off as Treepaw bowled him over and sank his teeth into his scruff.
"Say good-bye, Flashpaw!"
Flashpaw lashed out and raked his claws across Treepaw's eyes. Treepaw howled and stumbled backwards. Treepaw attacked again. Yowls filled the clearing. His head knocked against a tree and the whole world went black.
Flashpaw woke in his nest to see Sunclaw bending over him.
"Flashpaw, it's time for your warrior ceremony."
"Wha-?" he shook his head. His head burned.
Sunclaw led him to the Highledge where Flutterstar was smiling approvingly.
"Flashpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect ThunderClan at the cost of your life, if necessary?"
"Then, by the powers of StarClan, I award you with your warrior name: Flashglow. We honor your skills in battle and we welcome you as a full ThunderClan warrior."
"We won?" Flashglow asked groggily.
"Yes!" she purred. "Thanks to you, Treepaw and Snakestar were blinded and are now are prisoners."
"What a minute!" Flashglow shouted, "Where are Morningpaw and Dustpaw? Shouldn't they have gotten their ceremonies?"
Mintpelt, the medicine cat, shook her head, "They're dying..."
Flashglow felt terrible grief wrap around his heart, "No! Give them their warrior names! They don't deserve to die like this!"
"Morningglow! Duststorm! May StarClan light your path!" Flutterstar yowled.
Flashglow hurried into the medicine den and went over to Duststorm first.
"Duststorm, don't go!"
"It is my time, Flashglow," the brown tabby tom purred, "It was an honor to be your friend." Duststorm fixed him with a warm amber gaze before the light died from his eyes.
Flashglow let out a yowl of grief and touched his nose to his fur.
He went over to Morningglow, "Morningglow, do not leave me, too..."
"I'm sorry, Flashglow." she gave him a feeble lick.
"I would have loved to stay and have a future here... with you and Duststorm. Just remember, don't look back. When we are together again, we can make time stand still. I love you."
Morningglow's eyes closed for the last time.
He bent his head and wailed to the sky.
Don't look back... he heard Morningglow's voice.
"Time stand still..." he whispered.
Flashglow ran rhythmically through the forest.
Time stand still... Time stand still....
He thought of Morningglow and Duststorm every day. He couldn't help it.
As he stopped at the entrance of camp, he was oblivious to all sounds. Everything was in slow motion. Until he heard the voice of his kits.
They were his foster kits, though he had no mate. He had found them in the forest. One was a brown tabby tom and the other was a beautiful tortoiseshell. He knew they were not reincarnations, just a reminder of the flash of friendship he had known.
"Father!" Morningkit bounded over.
"Father!" Dustkit purred.
He purred at his kits as nuzzled him.
Time stand still...