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For Feather's contest.

Prologue

A sinister laugh reverbated through the dimly lit forest. In the small patch lit up by the eerie glow of the fungus, two toms stood; one a light brown, the other a very dark grey. Longing for even the tiniest wisp of moonlight, the tom was scared inside, but he stayed on his paws. "Well done, Adderpaw..." The dark gray tom spoke in a cruel rasp. "I didn't think you had the courage, but it seems I was wrong." A small shape lay on the ground, kicked to the side like carrion. Adderpaw flinched. "Remind me why we're doing this?" he asked the tom steadily, his amber gaze troubled as he looked at the shape. "Are you sure this is right?"

The tom slashed at Adderpaw's ear. "Right?" he snarled. "Right? Do you think I care whether it's right?"


Adderpaw jumped, and he saw his nest scattered around at his paws as if he had been running. It had all been a dream, yet he was still bleeding where the tom had slashed him. That's how things worked in the Dark Forest; if you got an injury in dreams, you retained it in the real world. He shut his eyes as the pain came. He wouldn't go to the medicine den. Cinderscatter asked too many questions. Then she passed by. Spottedpaw, the most beautiful of the apprentices. Only Russetpaw knew the truth, and she wasn't telling.

Adderpaw sat down and wrapped his tail around his paws as Spottedpaw came in, her tortoiseshell fur shining in the dappled sunlight. "Spottedpaw!"

She looked in concern at his injury, her blue eyes shining brighter than Silverpelt. Russetpaw was named for her, but the other two had nothing to do with their names. They were just called Spottedkit and Adderkit by their mothers. Adderpaw had always wished that he could have chosen his own name; that would have been cool.

"You should go and get that looked at. StarClan knows how you got it!" Spottedpaw mewed lightly, flicking him affectionately on the shoulder with her tabby tail. "You injure yourself too easily..."

Chapter One

Doubtfully, Adderpaw padded into the medicine den, the pungent scent of herbs stinging his nose like the nettles had when he was a kit. Cinderscatter was clearly busy sorting the juniper berries. Laid in a nest, bleeding from the flank was...Russetpaw?

"Russetpaw, no..." Adderpaw choked, his voice a low, pained rasp. "No...please don't leave me..."

Russetpaw sat up, but then flopped back down again. The cobwebs clearly weren't stemming the blood flow, and if they didn't Russetpaw could die in moments.

"I'm not going anywhere." she mewed weakly.

Adderpaw locked his gaze with her ice blue one, looking desperately into their depths. "Cinderscatter!" he yowled desperately, hot tears stinging his eyes. "Help her...." he trailed off, choking, unable to stop crying. "...please."

Her eyes filled with understanding, she patted another cobweb on, and plastered it with marigold. "She is in the paws of StarClan now, Adderpaw. I can do no more."


Spottedpaw padded in neatly. "You look dismal." she commented, looking at Adderpaw.

"Dismal?!" cried Adderpaw, the fire in his eyes flaring up in his anger. "If your sister was bleeding incessantly from the flank, you'd feel dismal too!"

Looking dismayed, Spottedpaw gazed at Russetpaw as one ice-blue eye dulled, and then the other. She glanced at the flank, which now lay still, rivulets of blood still running down the cold fur. "She's gone." she murmured silently.

"You didn't save her!" stormed Adderpaw. "You didn't care... you didn't care..."

"It's not that we didn't care about Russetpaw-" began Cinderscatter, but Adderpaw raged on before she could finish.

"Think about me for once while you sort juniper berries! Think about me! You never thought about me, or Russetpaw. And now look! My sister's dead, and you're doing NOTHING. No thyme leaves, no poppy seeds, no NOTHING."

Spottedpaw opened her mouth to speak, but with a frenzied shriek, Adderpaw hurled himself at her, slashing at her fur wherever he could reach, mad with grief and fury, mixed into one- which turned into insanity. Her blue eyes were pleading, but eyes meant nothing to Adderpaw; only revenge registered.

Chapter Two

It was the end of the vigil- and as the sun fell onto Russetpaw's fur, the elders limped towards the body to take it for burial.

"NO!" shrieked Adderpaw, beginning to cry once more. "You're not taking her!" He watched as his tears fell onto the fur, the scene before him swimming. Spottedpaw walked up to him timidly, but Adderpaw pushed her away.

"You have the nerve to come crawling to me now when you didn't save my sister? I'll NEVER forgive you! NEVER!" he cried, his neck fur bristling. He trembled in anger, and arched his body protectively over his dead sister.

"Why?" he caterwauled, once Amberstar had forced him to relent.?

"I'm not the medicine cat apprentice." Spottedpaw reminded him gently. "I came in to help, because Gingerpaw wasn't around."

She walked off and nuzzled Ashpaw, a dark gray tom. Jealousy filled Adderpaw; Spottedpaw clearly liked Ashpaw more than Adderpaw. It just wasn't fair. Life wasn't fair.

Chapter Three

"But Fireflower..." groaned Adderpaw, rolling over in his nest. "I don't wanna train today." His amber eyes closed for the third time that morning.

"Come on, Adderpaw." sighed the flame-coloured she-cat, prodding him again. "You'll never be a warrior if you don't train." There was a shadow behind her, it's cruel amber eyes staring at him wickedly. It was the cat that trained him in the Dark Forest. It extended one sharp talon.

"StarClan, no..." gasped Adderpaw. "Fireflower, run!" The shadowy cat slashed down from Fireflower's neck to her tail. "No..." He looked around to attack the cat, but it was gone. Adderpaw was left alone with his dead mentor.?

What if that happened to my sister?? The thought echoed round Adderpaw's head, filled with foreboding.

Chapter Four

Adderpaw slept soundly that night, for the first time in many moons. He woke up in a meadow of lush, green grass bathed in sparkling sunlight. A full moon glowed brightly overhead in the blue-black night sky peppered with tiny stars, even though there had been no Gathering.

"Am I in StarClan?" asked Adderpaw hoarsely, as a slim starry-pelted cat made her way over the grass towards him, her pawsteps light.

"You are not dead, little one," began the starry cat, her voice silvery. "Indeed you are not dead. I'm just here to give you a warning."

"A warning?" Adderpaw's neck fur bristled, and his amber eyes widened in fear.

"Yes, a warning." replied the cat patiently. "You must not carry on training in the Dark Forest..."

Adderpaw suddenly recognised the cat with a pang of guilt. "Russetpaw?" he asked uncertainly.

"Yes." Russetpaw licked him fondly on the shoulder. "If you do, it will lead you...." She gestured with her tail to the forest with the dense mist hanging over it.

"But when I don't..." Adderpaw stammered.

"Your family will do anything for you, remember?" Russetpaw retorted as she began to fade.

"Don't leave me!" he gasped, trying to grab madly at a fading paw. But she was long gone.

Chapter Five

"I'll stay with you." promised Furzepaw- his eyes gleaming. "I promise."

Adderpaw rolled his eyes- his eyes gleamed sinisterly in the bright light. 

"Really." Furzepaw actually meant it this time- Adderpaw could hear it in his voice.

Chapter Six

Battle yowls came as the other three clans pelted downwards, each on their own side. Adderpaw found himself looking at a russet-coloured apprentice, and scratched their eyes until they yowled like a kit. Blood streamed from them, and Adderpaw realised they would probably be blinded forever. 

"No!" cried Adderpaw, screaming, before a heavy crash hit him. He found himself clawing out the eyes of another cat, as if something was controlling him, now unaware of his Clanmates.

"Let me stop!" he yowled to StarClan- "Why am I dealing out such monstrocity? Please help!"

"StarClan won't help you now, Kittypet."  said a small voice in his mind. It was a voice that chilled him to the bone.

"You!" he thought. "Get out of my head!" thought Adderpaw, flailing on the ground.

"I'm actually quite comfortable here, Adderpaw."

Adderpaw clawed at least another three cats before the cat left him.

Oh StarClan."  thought Adderpaw.

Furzepaw landed on top of him.

"You betrayed me!" cried Adderpaw angrily.

"I don't want to be on the losing side." smirked Furzepaw. "Goodbye, Adderpaw."

Then everything went black.

Chapter Seven

Adderpaw- no, Adderpaw!  

The voice was so distant Adderpaw couldn't hear it.

Adderpaw...

The voice was desperate. Adderpaw wanted to wake- he couldn't though- and he couldn't control his body.

Please wake up

Adderpaw recognised the voice- Spottedpaw's. He idly realised she actually loved him.

Please.

Adderpaw wished he could.

StarClan- you can't!

Adderpaw heard no more of it as his ears seemed to leave him.

==Chapter Eight==

Adderpaw woke up and gasped when he saw the wound.

"He's awake!" called the medicine cat to Spottedpaw, and the young she-cat came in. 

"Everyone's hungry." Spottedpaw told Adderpaw dully. "There's no prey anywhere. And your mother's got greencough."

Hunger and sickness? Adderpaw looked horrified.

Adderpaw knew it was his time when Russetpaw appeared. "I love you." he gasped to Spottedpaw.

"I love you too." Spottedpaw breathed.

That was when all left him and his flank fell still forever.

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