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 A   Message   of Blood

 By  Lynx  and  Holly

Prologue - Holly

A fluffy gray she-cat padded beside the lake. She knew she was on Clan territory, but she didn't care. She needed to tell someone something. Anyone, really. She scented the air. It smelled of Clan cats, mingled with a rogue-like scent. Perhaps exiles? She followed the scent, walking at a brisk pace in its direction. That's when cats came into view. She resisted the urge to bound forward and ask them how the Clans were doing, and strained her ears to listen to them. That's right, no powers.

She sighed in exasperation. Ever since losing her powers, life had been so difficult. She stalked closer, making sure to stay downwind and hiding in a bush. She couldn't get close enough, though. Loneliness engulfed her, but also resentment. These cats had life without powers, they didn't have anything to miss. She flattened her ears, envy coursing through her.  

She could make out a brown tabby tom, a gray-and-white scarred she-cat, who looked to be pregnant, and a tortoiseshell she-cat. She smelled the scent of one more cat, but they must have been hunting. She looked at herself. She was matted with dirt, and looked more brown than gray. No one would recognize her. She padded out of the bushes, finally revealing herself. "Hello." 

The tom turned around, his fur bristling. "Who's there?" He snarled, claws unsheathed. She felt a jolt in her stomach. Those amber eyes were so familiar... 

She forced herself into a purr. "I'm not here to cause any harm, I just have to ask you about something," She said, hoping her voice sounded sincere enough.  

The tom relaxed his muscles, and flattened his fur. There was still suspicion in his tone, however, as he meowed, "What?" She licked her jaws nervously, looking at the other two cats.  

The two she-cats padded forward to sit beside the tom, too, as she meowed, trying to keep all emotion out of her voice, "Do you know about the clan murders?" 

Chapter One - Lynx

"Ivykit, Dovekit!" Whitewing called, voice a smooth purr. "You can go explore now!" Dovekit squealed with happiness. "Let's go!" Ivykit nodded. "Where?" Dovekit thought for a moment. "The warrior's den!" Ivypaw shook her head. "I wanna go to the apprentice's-" Dovekit was already gone.

With a scowl, Ivykit followed her sister's scent. She finally caught up to her. "Who did you meet?" Dovekit asked. "No one, yet," Ivykit admitted. "I was just following you." Dovekit nodded. "Let's go in!" Ivykit shook her head. "No, that's scary!"

Dovekit rolled her eyes. "It's fine, mouseheart!" Angrily, she followed Dovekit in. "Hello, little kits," Came the booming mew from behind them. Ivykit jumped, looking around. "Hello, Lionblaze!" Dovekit chirped.

Lionblaze smiled. "Having fun?" Dovekit nodded. "Yeah!" "What about you, Ivykit?" Lionblaze asked. She shrugged. "It's fine." Lionblaze looked back at Dovekit. "Have you seen the apprentice's den yet?" Dovekit smiled. "Yeah! Me and Ivykit were just looking for nests! We're going to do everything together when we're apprentices!" She lied.

Ivykit rolled her eyes. "No, we won't," She muttered under her breath. Dovekit's ear twitched and her smile seemed more strained. "Well, that's up to your mentors," Lionblaze pointed out. "Who do you think will be our mentors?" Dovekit asked.

"I'm not sure, but Firestar will choose the best for both of you," Lionblaze rumbled. Ivykit nodded. "Firestar's the best cat in all the forest!" "I wouldn't be so sure about that," Someon mewed. Dovekit, Ivykit, and Lionblaze glared simultaneously at Berrynose.

He laughed. "What? He's not." "Who is, then?" Dovekit challenged, bristling with anger. Lionblaze inhaled deeply. "Berrynose, be careful of what you say." The orange tom padded away, trying to keep his cool. "Who is?" Dovekit repeated.

"I am, of course." Berrynose preened. Ivykit made a face. Dovewing snorted. "Yeah, right." Dovekit shot. "If you're the best, how come Firestar is leader?" Ivykit added. Berrynose rolled his eyes and turned away from the two kits.

Dovekit chuckled once they were out of earshot. "We really showed him!" Ivykit reluctantly nodded. "I have to admit, that was fun." Dovekit rolled her eyes. "Well, duh! It was fun because I chose what we would do!" All of Ivykit's reluctant warmth towards her sister vanished. "Of course."

Dovekit started off towards the medicine den, tail raised. Ivykit glared after her and stormed back into the nursery angrily. "Ivykit? What's wrong?" Whitewing asked. "And where's Dovekit?" Ivykit ground her teeth together.

"It's always about Dovekit, isn't it? 'Where's Dovekit? How do you feel, Dovekit? What's wrong, Dovekit'?" Ivykit said, tone mocking. "I'm sick of it!" She added with a snarl. Whitewing rolled her eyes and looked pointedly at Daisy, who smiled slightly.

"None of you even take me seriously!" She added with a shriek. She stormed out, tears blurring her vision. Where could she go? What could she do? She realized no one was guarding the camp entrance. She broke into a run and made her way into the forest, leaving a trail of tears behind her.

She panted for breath, the tears gone, eyes dry. She looked around nervously. She was in a grassy clearing. It had no flowers. The only sign that a cat had been there was a smooth, polished stick with claw marks. Some were crossed with others. Some weren't.

She crept closer, the sight of the stick filling her with curiosity. She placed one silver paw on it tentatively. Then another. She unsheathed her claws and was about to rake them across the stick when a sharp mew pierced the silence. "What are you doing?"

She scrambled away from the stick, looking around. She saw a gray tom padding towards her, electric blue eyes wide with anger. "I was j-just looking at th-the s-stick," She stammered. He flattened his fur and relaxed. "Oh." "Who are you?" She asked, peering at him.

He trained his shockingly blue eyes on her, and she got the feeling he couldn't see her, even with them that wide. He smiled, revealing sharp white teeth. "I'm Jayfeather." She blinked. "Why are you on my territory?" She asked. He laughed. "I'm a ThunderClan cat too."

She nodded. "Oh." "I'm the medicine cat. I was collecting herbs." He mewed. She smiled. "Can I help you?" He sniffed, then his eyes narrowed. "You're a kit. What are you doing out of camp?" He demanded. "I snuck out," She admitted with a small sniffle.

"Why?" Jayfeather asked, ears twitching. "I don't know. My sister was being mean, and my family doesn't take me seriously, and it's all so hard..." Her words got mixed up and jumbled together, and she didn't understand what she was saying or why.

When she was done, Jayfeather nodded. "My family didn't believe in me because I was blind. I was always the odd one out." Ivykit squinted. "Blind? I thought there were only blind cats in stories?" The mew shook him, rumbling his belly. "No, there are blind cats."

"So you can't see me?" She asked in awe. He shook his head. "No." "Can you see anything?" He opened his mouth, then paused. "No." This time, the way he said it made Ivykit think it was a lie. "Seriously?" She asked. "Seriously." He echoed.

"Wow," Ivykit said. "We need to get you back to camp," Jayfeather suddenly said. He crouched down, low enough for Ivykit to jump on. "Let's go." She nodded, and with a powerful leap of her hind legs, she landed squarely on his back.

He smiled, impressed, and took Ivypaw slowly through the forest. The trip was silent, but it didn't matter to Ivypaw. All her anger had evaporated, and she was interested in seeing what the territory was like. A rabbit crossed their path, but it took one look at Jayfeather and fled.

He carried her into camp, eyes open. "I got her," He announced loudly. Whitewing and Dovekit raced out of the nursery. "Ivykit!" Whitewing screeched. She jumped off Jayfeather and thanked him. He smiled strangely, and padded away.

"Oh, I was so worried!" Whitewing whimpered, sweeping her kit closer. Dovekit glared at Ivykit, who just winked. "Don't worry, mother," She said, smirking at Dovekit. Her sister clenched her jaw, eyes narrowed into slits of anger. "No need to be worried."

Chapter Two - Holly

Tigerkit squirmed as Tawnypelt placed him in the nest beside his siblings, Dawnkit and Flamekit. "But I wanna play more!" he protested.

"Yeah!" Dawnkit agreed.

Tawnypelt looked at them, with a stern but loving look in her eyes. "I know, but the sun is going down. The things that want to eat you will be out." 

Tigerkit felt fierce pride running through him as he puffed out his chest. "Nothing can eat me! I'm too strong!" he claimed.

Dawnkit rolled her eyes, pushing him over. "Yeah right," she snorted.

"Calm down, Dawnkit," Tawnypelt scolded her daughter.

As the sun set, the tawny she-cat curled around her kits. Her eyes were filled with love, which made Tigerkit purr. He knew he would grow strong one day. As he settled in, he listened to his mother's soft snores and her heartbeat, until he was awoken by Dawnkit. "Want to escape now?" she whispered.

Flamekit, who was on his right, shifted uncomfortably. "I don't think it's a good idea." 

"Don't be such a coward," Tigerkit protested under his breath.

Dawnkit rolled her eyes. "It's Flamekit. Let's just leave him here to be a goody two-paws while we have the time of our lives." 

The brown tabby tom smiled. "Sounds like a plan." 

His sister wriggled her way out of the nest silently, and Tigerkit followed shortly. The two kits sneaked away, making sure their paw steps were quiet. As they approached the exit, they noticed that Snowbird had been posted to watch the entrance. "Go to the Dirtplace tunnel," Dawnkit whispered quietly.

Tigerkit nodded, and they turned the other way. Snowbird's ear flicked, and the tom-kit thought she had seen them for a second, but then he saw the fly buzzing around her ears. He stifled a sigh of relief, as he didn't want to alert the guard of his escape. They crawled towards the tunnel, and shuffled their way out, until they were out of earshot of the Clan cats. "We made it!" Tigerkit exclaimed, disbelief in his voice.

Dawnkit chuckled. "Yeah, even I didn't think we were gonna pull that off." 

The tabby tom cocked his head. "So, where are we gonna go?" 

His sister tasted the air, as if scenting for prey or felines, and then asked, "How about the forest?" 

Since Tigerkit had no better ideas, he shrugged. "Sure." 

The two kits padded into the forest, where owls hooted, and moonlight glinted eerily through the trees. "It sure is creepy," Tigerkit commented.

Dawnkit snorted. "Oh, don't tell me you're getting scared." 

The tabby tom narrowed his eyes at the teasing note to his sister's voice. "I'm not!" he protested indignantly.

They walked in silence for a while, gazing at all the sights they were to see. Tigerkit was breathtaken at the beauty of the forest. Despite its creepiness, it was quite peaceful. Save for the crunching of their paws on the pine needles, the sound of their breathing, and the chirping of birds and crickets, the forest was silent. That was when they reached a black path, with yellow lines through it. It was almost like hardened ashes. "What's this?" he gasped.

Dawnkit put her paw on it, and instantly drew it back. "It's rough, and hard. And it's trembling." 

Then they saw blindingly bright lights, and Tigerkit shut his eyes. He heard the sound of something barrelling towards them, and he screamed, "Run!" 

He darted away from the path as a shiny object with round, black paws raced by. "What was that?" he spat.

Dawnkit looked at it, awe and fear creeping into her optics. "I think the elders said something about this, and it's called a Thunderpath." 

Tigerkit knew why they called it a Thunderpath. The monsters were as loud as thunder when they roared by, and scary. "Should we turn around?" he asked, his voice shaking.

His sister shook her head, looking shocked. "StarClan no! We've never seen our territory before, and now we're looking right at ThunderClan's!" 

Tigerkit lifted up his paw and put it over his nose. "Do they really smell like that?" 

He couldn't tell if it was ThunderClan scent, or the stench of the Thunderpath. If he did, he was surprised they hadn't always beaten ShadowClan in battle with their horrible stink. That was when he turned to look at the Thunderpath, and he saw a cat on the other side. "Dawnkit...?" he meowed quietly, turning his head.

"Yes?" she whispered back.

"There's a cat on the other side of the Thunderpath." 

She slowly turned her head, and Tigerkit saw her eyes widen. "I think it's a ThunderClan kit," she observed.

The tabby tom could see it was a kit, but he couldn't see its colors. It didn't look tense, or harmful. "Maybe we should say hi to our fellow escapee?" he suggested.

Dawnkit bristled. "Are you kidding me? We can't allow it onto ShadowClan territory! It might kill us, and we certainly don't want ThunderClan cats putting their stench on us!" 

Tigerkit shifted his paws sheepishly. "I guess you're right." 

But it was too late. The other kit was already bounding over the Thunderpath, and the tabby tom turned. It was a she-kit, with a white-and-gray pelt. Tigerkit backed away from it, and raised his hackles. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?" 

The she-kit looked confused as to why he would be hostile. That's when Dawnkit came darting at her, and scratched her nose. "You heard him! Get!" 

The other kit flicked her tail, unfazed. "I'm just here to visit." 

Tigerkit relaxed his muscles, and tentatively padded forward. The moonlight shone on his facial features as he inquired, "What's your name?" 

The she-cat turned to him. She's beautiful, Tigerkit thought.

"Ivykit," the she-cat responded.

Chapter Three - Lynx

She was not used to this. Not used to seeing other clan cats. She held her breath as the ShadowClan cat's walked in. Would she see him? She shook herself. It didn't matter. He didn't matter. She was a loyal ThunderClan apprentice, and she wouldn't be stopped by-

"Ivypaw!" A voice snapped her out of her reverie. She glanced around, Dovepaw was signaling for her to come. She padded over coldly. Their relationship had deteriorated as soon as Dovepaw, for publicity, no doubt, had pretended to have a vision from StarClan.

"What?" She snapped brusquely. Dovepaw shook her head. "It's nothing. Nevermind." Ivypaw rolled her eyes, which was a mistake. She saw him, padding into camp with the other ShadowClan cats. She walked closer, hoping to greet him.

"Tigerpaw!" It was Dawnpaw, Tigerpaw's sister. Ivypaw's eyes flitted towards the sandy she-cat. When she looked back to where Tigerpaw had been, he was gone. Cursing under her breath, she sulkily walked back over to the ThunderClan cats. Not seeing Tigerpaw had put her in an awful mood, although she didn't know why.

Firestar began the gathering, announcing their apprenticeship. Then he moved on to more serious matters. "One of our clanmates had a vision from StarClan. We know what's causing the drought." He mewed. "Large creatures with giant teeth and flat tails. StarClan called them 'beavers'." He continued.

"We need to stop them!" Someone from RiverClan yowled. Ivypaw nodded, she agreed. Firestar raised his tail for silence, and all the clamor ceased. "I think we should send a group of cats from each clan to investigate, and, if the need arises, fight these beavers."

Blackstar nodded. "Agreed. We should announce who's going after the gathering, at our individual camps, and then meet up again tomorrow."

Leopardstar spoke. "I believe we should do so." Firestar nodded his agreement. Onestar sighed. "Very well."

Firestar nodded smugly, satisfied. "How many cats should go?" Blackstar asked. "Two or three," Leopardstat replied. "Good idea," Firestar said. Leopardstar smiled her thanks, and Sandstorm seemed to bristle, if only for a moment.

The gathering moved on, and Ivypaw kept scanning the cats for sight of Tigerpaw again. She assumed he was Tigerpaw, seeing as it had been moons since they met, and kits weren't allowed to come to gatherings.

Then she saw him. He was with Dawnpaw, a ginger tom Ivypaw didn't recognize, and a yellow she-cat who walked away. Ivypaw saw her chance and hurried over. "Ivyk-Ivypaw?" Tigerpaw asked. She nodded, pleased that he remembered her name.

"Nice to see you again." Dawnpaw narrowed her eyes, she wasn't hostile, but she wasn't pleased to see Ivypaw, that was clear. "Dawnpaw, hello. How are you?" Ivypaw asked. Dawnpaw relaxed. "I'm doing well." She glanced at the now-confused-looking ginger tom.

"Oh, sorry." She laughed. "This is Flamepaw, our brother." She nodded. "Pleased to meet you." He glared at Tigerpaw. "You've met?" Tigerpaw nodded. "When we snuck out and you didn't come." Flamepaw glared at Ivypaw and stalked away.

Ivypaw watched him go amusedly. "So..." Tigerpaw said awkwardly. She shifted. "Flamepaw seemed... nice. Why didn;t he come with you?" Tigerpaw rolled his eyes. "He's such a goody four-paws. He never breaks the rules." Ivypaw purred. "And you?" He flushed. "I'm not Flamepaw."

She smiled slightly. "Clearly." Dawnpaw chuckled. "I'm going to go talk to Whitewater." She walked in the direction of the WindClan cats, presumably looking for Whitewater, a WindClan elder. Tigerpaw smiled at her. She smiled back just as the leaders decreed the gathering over.

As he was swept away by the crowd of ShadowClan cats, he managed to murmur in her ear, "Meet me at the Thunderpath tomorrow night," before he was gone. "What was that about?" Dovepaw asked, appearing by her side. She jumped, then laughed drily. "Oh, just a friend." Dovepaw nodded, unconvinced.

Ivypaw rolled her eyes. "Dovepaw, you're so nosy. What's your problem?" She growled, before stalking away towards the horde of ThunderClan-ese cats. What was her problem? Dovepaw was so infuriating. She felt like she was floating, and her anger soon dissapated, as she remembered what Tigerpaw had told her. She purred, excited to see him.

She cleared her head as they filed in to the camp. She was about to crash on her nest when Firestar called the clan meeting. He explained what would be happening about the badgers. "The cats going will be Lionblaze," Firestar quipped, "Dovepaw," Ivypaw turned to her sister, about to congratulate her sarcastically, when Firestar continued. "And Ivypaw."

Chapter Four - Holly

Tigerpaw felt like he was light as a feather. As he trotted back from the Gathering through the forest, he tried to contain his smile, as he couldn't explain his meeting to the other cats. As he arrived back at camp, Blackstar immediately leaped onto the Shaderock. "All cats old enough to lurk in the shadows, gather beneath the Shaderock for a Clan meeting!"

Tigerpaw wove through his Clanmates to sit beside Dawnpaw. "Who do you think will get chosen?" he whispered to his sister.

Dawnpaw shrugged. Blackstar began, "You heard what they said about the vision at the Gathering. I must pick some cats from my Clan to go."

Tigerpaw froze. He hoped he didn't get chosen. He wouldn't get to see Ivypaw tomorrow night! A silence fell across the camp as Blackstar announced, "The cats going will be Toadfoot, Tigerpaw, and Dawnpaw."

Dawnpaw's fur bristled with excitement beside him. Tigerpaw felt anxious. How am I ever going to break this news to Ivypaw....?

Tawnypelt then made her way through the murmuring crowd towards her kits. She threw them into a nuzzle. "Oh, my precious kits! I'm so proud of you!"

"Thanks," Tigerpaw muttered, lost in his own thoughts.

Dawnpaw glanced at him. "You aren't excited?" she asked, confused.

"I'm just nervous," the tom lied.

The reality of it was that he had wanted to see Ivypaw. He could just picture the she-cat showing up at their meeting place, only to be disappointed that Tigerpaw had tricked her. She'd never look at him again! Tawnypelt purred, "It's okay to be nervous, honey. Y'know, I was on a quest too."

Tigerpaw remembered when he, Dawnpaw, and Flamepaw were kits. Tawnypelt had always told them the story of the quest to the Sundrownplace, where she found Midnight the badger and was informed that the Clans had to move territories. "Will it be dangerous?" the tom asked, trying to keep the others from finding out his real insecurity.

His mother sighed. "It really depends on where you go. But traveling upstream isn't so dangerous, is it?" she cast an unsure glance at Blackstar.

"I guess."

After their mother had finally finished her praise, Tigerpaw slipped off to the apprentices' den. How will I ever tell Ivypaw?

There was a chance she could be coming with them, but it was small, wasn't it? The tabby tom closed his eyes and slipped into his slumber.

~~

He traveled with Toadfoot and Dawnpaw to the place where the leaders were meeting with their chosen cats. "This is exciting!" His sister whispered for probably the hundredth time.

Toadfoot shot her an irritated glance as he pushed through the undergrowth, until they came into a clearing. Tigerpaw scanned the cats, until he saw someone he couldn't believe was there. Ivypaw!

He saw the same recognition in the apprentice's eyes, and he felt warm relief wash over him. "You're here?" he meowed to Ivypaw.

"Yep," she replied.

Whitetail purred. "I'm glad some of the apprentices know each other. They'll get along better."

Tigerpaw stifled a sigh of relief. At least she thinks it's from the Gathering.

He recalled, moons ago, when they were kits, they had sneaked out one night. That was when he had met Ivypaw. He had thought she was the most gorgeous she-cat he had ever seen. Then he saw her sister, Dovepaw, whom she had told him about. So she's the 'prophecy brat', as Ivypaw put it?

Dovepaw did look like a brat. Her fluffy gray fur was perfectly groomed, presumably by her mother, and she had an arrogant look to her eye, as if she thought she was better than everyone else. A she-cat from RiverClan stepped out. "I am Petalfur, and that is Rippletail. We were chosen by Leopardstar."

A muscular golden tom stepped out from between Ivypaw and Dovepaw. "I'm Lionblaze, and those are Ivypaw and Dovepaw of ThunderClan."

Tigerpaw caught his friend's eye once again. That's all they were, friends, right? Surely he didn't feel something for a she-cat from another Clan? He shook the thought away. Of course they were just friends. Toadfoot stepped out from behind the two apprentices. "I'm Toadfoot, and those are Dawnpaw and Tigerpaw," he meowed bluntly.

The brown tabby tom could just feel all of the cats staring at him. His fur heated up with embarrassment. What if they thought he wasn't good enough? A white she-cat from WindClan stepped out. "I'm Whitetail, and that's Sedgewhisker... from WindClan."

Sedgewhisker looked fairly young, as if she was a new warrior. Whitetail looked older. "Let's go," Lionblaze meows.

The cats fall into a group behind Lionblaze, and Tigerpaw fell in beside Ivypaw. "H-hi," he meowed awkwardly.

"Oh, hi. Funny you're coming," Ivypaw replied just as awkwardly.

"So much for meeting up, huh?" he meowed quietly, in fear the others would hear him.

"Let's not talk about that." Ivypaw suggested.

Tigerpaw gave a brisk nod, and asked, "So, how are things with Dovepaw?"

The gray-and-white she-cat rolled her eyes. "She's going on and on about how she has these powers where she can see and hear cats from the other camps, and she said something about a sick cat in ShadowClan. Is there one?"

Tigerpaw's eyes widened, shocked. "A-actually, yes. One of our elders is a bit sick..."

Ivypaw looked shocked. "And she said something about brown creatures building a dam upstream, which is blocking off the water. That's why we're on this ridiculous quest. And the sick cat thing must be a coincidence - there's probably a sick cat in any Clan at any given time."

Tigerpaw nodded his agreement. "Yeah..."

SizThat was when he saw huge, hairless creatures. They were kicking at something with their two weird paws, the ones that were on the ground. "Twolegs!" Lionblaze hissed.

Chapter Five - Lynx

Ivypaw growled. "Hide!" She hissed, diving into a bush. Tigerpaw followed her, pelt bristling. "What are they doing here?" She asked, eyes narrowed.

"We're almost at the twoleg place, it makes sense," Tigerpaw pointed out.

"You're right," Ivypaw agreed. She suddenly realized how close she was to Tigerpaw, and shifted to the side. "What are they doing?" She squinted, peering at it.

"It seems to be an orange moss-ball," Someone noted. Ivypaw whirled around to see Dovepaw curling up next to Tigerpaw. She had to restrain herself from launching herself at her perfect sister.

Tigerpaw rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I guess." Ivypaw clenched her jaw, glaring at the idiotic twolegs and their pointless activites. She snorted as it hit one of the twolegs and the twoleg fell, cradling their paw.

Sedgewhisker was in a tree. She hissed down at them, "Go around." Ivypaw and Tigerpaw nodded, noticing that Dovepaw was already gone. She exchanged a look with Tigerpaw and slowly, they made their way around.

"Wow," Dovewing purred, once they met up. "That was so brave." Before Tigerpaw could respond, Sedgewhisker and Whitetail appeared, soon followed by Petalfur and Rippletail. "Dawnpaw?" Tigerpaw hissed, glancing around.

The sandy she-cat was stuck in a thorn bush. She struggled to come out. "Help!" She snarled. Ivypaw darted forward, quickly untangling her long fur. Dawnpaw nodded her thanks. Ivypaw smiled, herding her over to the group. Toadpelt glanced her over. "You're fine," He decided. "Let's keep going."

Ivypaw nodded, it wasn't easy. And why had she been so happy to see Tigerpaw? They were friends, actually, less than that. They had met by chance moons ago, it was nothing!

Sighing, she followed the group in silence. Her stomach grumbled, and Dovepaw snorted. Ivypaw glared at her, and hurried her pace to talk to Tigerpaw. "Hey," She greeted awkwardly, face warming. He smiled. "Hi. Thanks for helping Dawnpaw, by the way."

She shrugged. "It was nothing, really. I couldn't leave her for the twolegs," She mewed earnestly. Tigerpaw smiled. "It's cool that you got chosen," He finally said. She smiled back. "I think Firestar chose me because Dovepaw and I are sooooo close."

He snorted. "She does seem... stuffy." Ivypaw raised an eyebrow. "Stuffy?" "Well..." He shifted uncomfortably. "Is she really that bad?" Ivypaw laughed. "Believe me. Yes, she is." Ivypaw smirked as Dovepaw accidentally tripped Toadpelt. "Oh, sorry!" Dovepaw exclaimed, helping the warrior up. "See?" She murmured. "Alright, fine. She is that bad."

Ivypaw shuddered. "Everyone falls to pieces around her." She glared at Toadpelt, who was stammering about how it was fine. Tigerpaw rolled his eyes. "I guess, but he's like that about everyone." Ivypaw laughed, eyes wide. "Really?" Tigerpaw nodded eagerly. "Oh yeah." "Like when?" "His warrior ceremony," Tigerpaw chuckled.

"Tell me!" Ivypaw pleaded. "Okay," Tigerpaw said, with a sheepish grin. He began to tell her and embarrassing story. She laughed, it really was funny. Once they were done with the story, Sedgewhisker announced that they would be stopping for the day.

"Dawnpaw and Dovepaw, could you find moss and water? Toadpelt, could you hunt? Tigerpaw and Ivypaw, hunt with him, but maybe somewhere else."

Ivypaw nodded, but was slightly perplexed. Why did Sedgewhisker get to be in charge? Then again, she did have a certain confidence Ivypaw admired.

Tigerpaw nudged her. "Where do you want to hunt?" She looked around, keen eyes surveying the landscape. "How about that way?" She asked, gesturing towards the forest around them. He nodded, and they entered the forest.

Chapter Six - Holly

Tigerpaw's mind kept flashing back to when Dovepaw had curled up next to him. He felt confused, and also somewhat angry. The gray apprentice really did think that everyone loved her, huh? He glanced towards Ivypaw, and whispered, "Smell anything?"

The she-cat shook her head. Tigerpaw tasted the air, and at the same time, Ivypaw exclaimed, "Squirrel!"

The tabby tom followed her gaze. In a spruce tree, a fluffy brown squirrel was nibbling unsuspectingly on a nut. "Okay, Tigerpaw, I need you to scare it down. I'll be waiting in that bush at the bottom of the tree. Chase it down the bark, or try to get it to hop down," Ivypaw meowed in a hushed tone.

Tigerpaw nodded, and worked his way up the tree. He silently maneuvered his way to the branch the squirrel sat on. He made a rustling noise from behind it, which caused the squirrel to dart upwards. I hope Ivypaw didn't see that, he thought, flustered.

He climbed up the side of the tree, and leaped up above the squirrel. He lashed, claws sheathed, at the back of its tail. This worked as plan. The plump creature scurried down the tree hurriedly, and as it reached the bottom, Ivypaw leaped onto it from the bush. It let out a noisy squeal, that was abruptly cut off as the apprentice bit its throat. Tigerpaw hopped from branch to branch back down, and he heard his friend mutter, "Thank StarClan for this prey."

Ivypaw then looked up at him. "That was impressive, for a ShadowClan cat," she confessed.

The tabby tom flushed, and looked down at his paws. He shifted them modestly. "It really wasn't, but, uh... thanks."

The two padded onward, and after catching a couple mice, they ran into Toadpelt. "Oh- hello!" the tom exclaimed.

He subsequently darted away, and the two felines exchanged a glance, laughing. "Should we head back? We've got a decent amount, and Toadpelt probably has some as well," Tigerpaw meowed.

Ivypaw shrugged. "I guess. We don't wanna stray too far."

They turned, and dug up their catches on the way home. As they emerged from the forest, the first cat Tigerpaw saw was Dovepaw. The fluffy gray she-cat trotted up to them cheerfully, with what seemed to be a small glare at Ivypaw, meowed, "Hey! Oooh, a squirrel! Did you catch that?" she meowed to the tabby tom.

Tigerpaw shrugged. "I helped, but Ivypaw was the one who actually killed it."

The gray apprentice pressed up against him. "You must be pretty strong," she purred.

The tom took a step back. "Uh... thanks...?"

Ivypaw shoved her way between them, glaring daggers at her sister. "Can't you see he's uncomfortable?" she snapped. "Why don't you just actually consider that cats like having their personal space!" she hissed.

Tigerpaw stepped forward. "She's a little harsh in her means of communication, but, she's right. I don't appreciate having cats squeezing me out of my fur."

Dovepaw flattened her ears. "Whatever, Ivypaw."

She stalked away in what seemed to be bitterness at her failed attempt at what seemed like flirting. Ivypaw turned back to her friend, and giggled. "Did you see that?"

Tigerpaw laughed. "That was pretty funny," he admitted.

Dawnpaw trotted up to her brother, snickering. "Okay, that was hilarious!" she exclaimed.

The apprentice collapsed, laughing. "What was walking with Dovepaw like? Ivypaw tells me she's pretty snobby," Tigerpaw asked.

His sister, upon pulling herself together, gazed up at him. "Oh, she definitely was. She was talking about how she was going to save the world and how special she was. Didn't even give me a chance to speak about how I've been doing."

Ivypaw snorted. "That's Dovepaw for you."

The apprentice turned to him. "Anyways, she very clearly likes you." At that, the gray-and-white she-cat dropped her gaze. "Just, don't pay any attention to her, okay? She may seem perfect at first, but being her mate would probably be torture."

Tigerpaw rolled his eyes. "I don't have any interest in someone like that, anyway."

A little voice in the tom's mind uttered, there's nothing for you to be worried about, Tiger.

He shook it away, and hissed, I don't like her in that way!

Ivypaw looked back up. Was that gratefulness she spotted in her gaze? "Let's go put our prey in the fresh-kill pile," she meowed.

Tigerpaw agreed, and they set their prey down in a temporary fresh-kill pile. After that, Toadpelt came back in, and dropped another squirrel and a crow on the pile. "Let's eat!" Sedgewhisker cried.

Tigerpaw followed Ivypaw to the pile, and he picked up the crow. "Wanna share?" he meowed around the crow.

The she-cat just nodded, and they settled down in the corner of their camp, in the shade beneath a tree. The tabby tom was flummoxed. Why would Dovepaw like him? He couldn't imagine a cat who pretended to be so flawless, such as her, would like a ShadowClan tom like him. Ivypaw took a bite out of the crow. "That hunt was fun," she confessed.

"I'll say," Tigerpaw responded.

"I was thinking, do you want to ask Sedgewhisker if we can do it again at our next stop?"

"StarClan yeah!" The tabby tom replied ecstatically.

Ivypaw smiled at him, and went back to eating the black bird. Tigerpaw took a bite, the bird's blood running down his jaws. He licked it up, and grinned. "This is amazing!"

"I've actually never had crow before, but I agree," the she-cat admitted.

We have a lot more in common than I initially thought.

Tigerpaw's brain, against his will, strayed to thoughts about him being mates with Ivypaw. No, we are just friends! She just became my official friend today, anyways! I don't want to put her off with behavior like this, he scolded himself.

Ivypaw glanced at him, a concerned glint in her eye. "You okay?"

"Mhm, I'm just thinking about the Twolegs. They were kind of scary," he lied.

The other apprentice flicked her tail. "I could see why."

Tigerpaw wanted to sigh with relief, but then it would just be obvious that something else was on his mind. Something that she probably wouldn't like. For the rest of the meal, they ate in a comfortable silence. And Tigerpaw was thinking unwillingly that perhaps, everything would turn out alright.

Chapter Seven - Lynx

Ivypaw gazed at Tigerpaw as he slept. She twitched her ear, she was being creepy. Disgusted with herself, she stood and stretched, padding away. There was a boulder laying there randomly, it was elevated enough to see the stars and moon. She jumped, hooking her claws on the squishy, wet moss.

Hauling herself up, she craned her neck, watching the stars twinkle and the moon glow softly. "It's beautiful," She murmured to herself. She settled in, eyes never leaving the moon. "Gorgeous, isn't it?" A voice asked. She jumped.

Tigerpaw was climbing onto the rock. She flushed. "Yeah, I guess." He laughed. "Can't sleep?" She smiled. "Distracted." He chuckled. "I think Dovepaw was watching me sleep," He commented. "It felt like someone was watching me." Ivypaw laughed drily. "Believe me, she wasn't."

"Who was, then?" Tigerpaw raised an eyebrow. She smiled slightly. "Why do you want to know?" He smirked. "Someone was watching me sleep," He reminded her. She rolled her eyes playfully. "Come on. Let's go hunt."

Tigerpaw smiled. "Up for an adveture?" She launched herself at him, pinning him down under a paw, claws sheathed. "Always." He laughed, and his chest rumbled. He pushed her off, and licked his chest fur before bounding down. "Come on, snailpace!" He teased.

She smirked, following him down the boulder. The forest was dark, and the moon gaze everything an eerie glow. Ivypaw found it hard to believe that they had traveled so far from the clans. She let out a choked sigh. "I miss them too," Tigerpaw commented. She raised an eyebrow. "The clans, I mean." She nodded. "It's all so... strange. I never thought I'd be attacked by twolegs or go hunting with a ShadowClan cat," She mewed.

He nodded, smirking slightly. "I never thought I'd help a ThunderClan cat catch a squirrel." His eyes gleamed craftily, and Ivypaw laughed out loud. "We're hunting, remember?" He teased her. She grimaced, looking around. "What's up at this hour?" Tigerpaw snorted. "That." It was a small rodent, a mouse, maybe, or a rat. She wrinkled her nose. "Vermin."

"Come on, it's not that bad!" Tigerpaw protested. She snorted. The rat hobbled around, sniffing the trees and the leaves. "I will regret this," She whispered, ducking into a crouch. Carefully, she stalked the weird rodent. It paused, and she pounced.

"Nice catch!" Tigerpaw purred. "Thanks," She replied, hauling it over. "Hungry?" Tigerpaw nodded. She crouched down and began eating. Tigerpaw sat down next to her, eating faster. She gagged at the taste. "How can you eat this?" She asked. He smiled slightly. "Would you prefer a frog?"

She gagged. "ShadowClan eats frogs?" "Only in leaf-bare," He replied. She shrugged. "ThunderClan usually eats birds in leaf-bare. We know where some of the mouse nests are, though, so sometimes we excavate them." Tigerpaw's eyes widened. "Oh, clever!"

Ivypaw nodded. "Did you know that Firestar invented soaking moss with water as an apprentice?" His jaw dropped. "Really?" "Yep!" Ivypaw purred. "Firestar's the best leader ThunderClan's ever had." Tigerpaw nodded. "I can believe it."

"How's Blackstar?" She inquired, cocking her head. Tigerpaw's eyes shone. "Blackstar's great! He always gives up his portion for the elders or queens who need it, and he's always so diplomatic!" Tigerpaw enthused. Ivypaw smiled. "Would you like to be leader one day?"

Tigerpaw paused. "My father's the deputy, but Blackstar isn't too old. I think by the time he dies, I'll be too old to be considered for deputy."

Ivypaw nodded. "Makes sense. I don't think I'd want to be leader. Everyone else gets to retire and live in comfort, while the leader, even if he's three hundred moons old, has to take care of the clan."

He laughed. "I never thought of it that way." Ivypaw's next comment burst out of her. "Plus, if I had a mate, since I had nine lives, they'd die way before I did." Tigerpaw's eyebrows arched. "You're thinking about mates already?" She shrugged, wishing she hadn't said anything. "Well, I guess there's a few toms I'd consider." She mewed.

"Tigerpaw! There you a-" Dovepaw's mew broke off as she saw her sister. Ivypaw glanced at the well-groomed she-cat. "Dovepaw?" She asked. Dovepaw glared at Ivypaw. "The group's been looking for you, Tigerpaw. We should get back," She purred. Ivypaw glanced up, the sun was just rising.

Tigerpaw rolled his eyes. "Sure. Come on, Ivypaw." When he said her name, her heart skipped a beat. She smiled at him brightly. "Okay." He smiled and flicked an ear. She flicked one back. Dovepaw, looking jealous, flicked one too. Ivypaw snorted and followed her sister and Tigerpaw out of the shadowy woods.

Chapter Eight - Holly

Tigerpaw was a bit disappointed that Dovepaw had interrupted his adventure with Ivypaw. But he was also somewhat grateful, because when his 'friend' had said there were a few toms she'd consider, he thought he would burst out a confession right then and there. They padded back, and Dovepaw seemed to be glancing back at him every couple minutes. It was almost like the gray she-cat had a fascination for him. When they reached the temporary camp, Dawnpaw darted towards them. "Where were you!?" she exclaimed.

"We just went out to go hunt," Ivypaw lied.

"Yeah," Tigerpaw agreed.

Dovepaw glanced to the tabby tom, and purred. "With your intelligence, I'm surprised you didn't bring anything back. Was Ivypaw slowing you down?"

Her meow was silky and smooth, and made Tigerpaw somewhat angry. "Ivypaw didn't have anything to do with it, it was just, we had just left when you came and got us."

Dawnpaw shot a glance towards the gray she-cat. "See someone's a little jealous, huh?"

Dovepaw flattened her round ears, and licked her chest fur with embarrassment. "No," she mumbled.

Sedgewhisker walked forward. "Jealous or not, you've gotta stop lollygagging and get going," she snorted.

The fluffy apprentice rolled her eyes. "Alright, alright."

Ivypaw looked back at Tigerpaw, and giggled. "That was so Dovepaw."

The tabby tom snickered, and turned to Dawnpaw. "What you said to Dovepaw was priceless! At that point it was so obvious."

His sister smiled proudly. "Some cat had to state the obvious."

She turned back around, and stayed in front of Tigerpaw and Ivypaw. He glanced at the she-cat, and was awe-struck by how much he liked her. Was he one of the toms she was considering? He was curious to know, but he didn't want to appear nosy or obnoxious. Ivypaw wouldn't like him then. He looked up at Dovepaw, who looked quite exasperated. He nudged his crush, and whispered, "Hey, look at Dovepaw."

Ivypaw nodded to her friend, and looked forward. Her expression changed when she noticed her sister's look, and a humorous glint lit up her orbs. "Dawnpaw sure ticked her off."

Tigerpaw nodded, and purred. It was always funny when something like that occurred. He remembered something from his kithood. One of the apprentices, Owlpaw, had gone up to a different she-cat in ShadowClan named Ivypaw. Tigerkit had strained his ears, and he had heard him murmuring that he really, really liked her. The other Ivypaw had batted him across the ears with her claws unsheathed, and meowed, "Well, I don't," and padded away.

Then, he had a horrible vision of this Ivypaw doing something like that to him. He shook it away. Surely she wouldn't be that mean? He had been laughing then, but he was anxious now. He turned to Ivypaw, and told her the story. "That's hilarious!" she giggled.

"Yeah, I can't imagine being Owlpaw," Tigerpaw meowed.

Except, he could. And it was bad. "Would you ever do something like that to anyone?" he inquired casually.

"No, that's just rude! Especially if they were friends before!" The apprentice exclaimed.

Tigerpaw stifled a sigh of relief. It seemed like he was feeling a lot of relief. He changed the topic, and asked, "Isn't the sound of the river relaxing?"

Ivypaw nodded. "Yeah, almost..." she hesitated, "romantic."

The tabby tom stumbled. Did she really just say that?

Dawnpaw shot him an encouraging glance, and he gulped. His sister knew. "I wouldn't quite say that..." he meowed awkwardly.

Ivypaw's eyes seemed regretful, and she looked humiliated. Does she think I don't like her back? he wondered.

He wanted to burst out his feelings for the she-cat, but he knew there was a chance that Ivypaw still didn't like him and their friendship would fall apart. But he couldn't wait too long, otherwise she'd find another mate and move on from him, and he'd be left forever lonely. What about Dovepaw?

Then he glanced at the she-cat, who held her nose up arrogantly, and shook his head. Never, he silently vowed.

He looked at Dawnpaw, and asked, "Isn't the river soothing?"

"I agree with Ivypaw," his sister responded knowingly.

Ivypaw smiled shyly, and she still had that embarrassed look in her eyes. I don't want her to think I don't like her!

But at the same time, I do...

Tigerpaw was conflicted as he walked onward, and Whitetail asked from behind him, "I heard what Ivypaw said. That was awkward."

Her meow was quiet enough for only the tom to hear, and he meowed, "Yeah..."

The white she-cat continued, "Listen here, kit. That she-cat likes you."

Tigerpaw replied, playing dumb, "I know, I'm her friend."

Whitetail flattened her pointy ears. "No. She likes you."

The apprentice snorted, "As if."

Tigerpaw padded on, trying to forget what the older warrior had said. But older warriors had a lot of experience with these things, and she seemed to know what she was doing. He hung his head down, and thought of what to say. He didn't want to scare off Ivypaw, and he didn't want to say anything too soon, so he asked, "How did Dovepaw act when you were kits?"

Ivypaw flicked her tail. "Well, surprisingly, she didn't act as snippy. I don't think she knew she had powers. But, it seemed like Whitewing always favored her."

Tigerpaw blinked. "Wow."

He couldn't imagine his mother favoring Dawnpaw or Flamepaw over him. He knew she always praised Flamepaw for his good behavior, but she never showed him more love than Tigerpaw and his sister. "What was it like?" he ventured.

"Oh, it was sad, to know your mother didn't like you as much as she liked your sibling. Dovepaw was always getting the praise. Always had the sharper skills. But that was only because of her powers, really," Ivypaw added.

"You're an excellent hunter. You're as good as she is, even without powers," Tigerpaw encouraged.

He wanted to cover his mouth with his tail. He knew it sounded romantic. Ivypaw turned her head away, but he caught a glimpse of something. Is she... blushing?

Before Tigerpaw had time to ponder it, his crush meowed, "But Dovepaw was always better. I rarely received any praise, and when I did, it was just: 'Oh, you look pretty today'."

Ivypaw's voice contained bitterness and resentment, and Tigerpaw pressed against her unwillingly. He meowed without thinking, "Even if your mother and sister don't like you, you'll always have me."

And she smiled.

Chapter Nine - Lynx

Shock filled her lungs, freezing her. She couldn't believe it. She mulled over the day's events hoping it had just been a dream. But it hadn't. She wanted to cry out. But she couldn't. Her loss pricked her like a thorn in her heart.

The morning had been exciting. They had sent out a scouting party, and finally found the beavers. Tigerpaw and Ivypaw had joked together all morning, Dovepaw a victim of her hateful glare. "Come on, Ivypaw!" Tigerpaw had teased. "Aren't you excited?"

"No," Ivypaw mewed in reply. "But I want the clans to survive, so I think we have to do this anyways." Tigerpaw laughed. "It won't be a battle! The beavers probably won't know how to fight," He added jokingly. She raised an eyebrow. "Wanna bet?"

He thought for a moment. "Sure." She clenched her jaw, even with Tigerpaw, she couldn't fully relax, she knew there was going to be a battle between the two species. And it would be horrible. "Ivypaw? You okay?" Tigerpaw mewed worriedly.

She shook her head. "No. I mean- I'm fine." Tigerpaw's head bobbed slightly, and her tense muscles relaxed. He understood. "Wow, Tigerpaw," Dovepaw purred, padding up to them. "I'm surprised you haven't figured it out."

Tigerpaw rolled his eyes. "Yes, Dovepaw?" "Well," Dovepaw continued to purr, "Ivypaw doesn't like being with you." Ivypaw bristled. "Walk away, Dovepaw. Walk away." The 'perfect' she-cat winked at Tigerpaw and strode away.

Tigerpaw sighed. "When is she going to give up?" He muttered. Ivypaw groaned. "She's my sister." Tigerpaw shot her an apologetic look. "I guess I'm just too handsome for my own good," He purred.

She laughed. "No offense, but you kind of are." The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. Tigerpaw smiled at her. "Aw, thanks, Ivypaw!" He cried, making his voice an octave higher. The two collapsed laughing.

Cut scene to angry sister, cut scene to battle with the beavers. Tigerpaw stood over the body, Ivypaw saw it before he did. "Tigerpaw, run!" She shrieked, but it was too late. A beaver took Tigerpaw into the water. She tensed, ready to save him, but Dovepaw jumped first.

There were bubbles. Ivypaw caught a flash of gray. "No!" She wailed. "I can't lose both of you tonight!" She let the tears come. "Ivypaw?" Someone wheezed. She tensed, looking around. "Tigerpaw!" She exclaimed, running over. Her soaked sister flopped onto shore, and Ivypaw ran after her.

"Dovepaw!" She murmured. Her sister looked up at her. "You were so brave," Ivypaw whispered. Dovepaw smiled. "I was never a good sister." Ivypaw shook her head. "Don't say that! You were just different!" Dovepaw laughed. "When we get back, I'll be a better sister," She vowed.

Ivypaw nodded. "I believe it." Dovepaw smiled slightly. "Go check in on Tigerpaw. I'll be fine." Ivypaw gave her one last look before checking on Tigerpaw. He muttered that he was fine and dragged himself over to Dovepaw. "Thank you, Dovepaw," He purred.

Fear gripped Ivypaw's heart like frozen claws squeezing it. And she knew it had happened. It was inevitable, of course, but she had dared to hope... she looked away, ashamed. Because it had finally happened. Tigerpaw had fallen for her sister.

Chapter Ten - Holly

Tigerpaw looked at Dovepaw, who was smiling at him. "No problem!" she purred.

"That sure was brave," he meowed.

The gray apprentice beamed even more. "I was just doing what any cat would've done."

He didn't know what to think of Dovepaw. Did he like her? Or was that just gratitude he felt? He thought of Ivypaw again, and then resolved, No, that's the only she-cat for me. But I have to be grateful to Dovepaw...

He shifted his paws. He'd probably regret this, but it'd be easy with Ivypaw's sister. And, if she didn't like him, maybe she'd stop looking for his gratitude and leave him alone. It was a win-win. "Dovepaw, I've been meaning to tell you something..."

He saw excitement glinting in Dovepaw's eyes as she replied knowingly, "Yes?"

He put a false stumble over his words as he falsely confessed, "Ithinkyou'rethecutestcateverandIwantyoutobemymate."

Dovepaw paused. Had he done it too fast? Then the apprentice gradually began to smile. "I... like you too."

Gulping, Tigerpaw thought, What have I gotten myself into?

He forced a purr. "I'm glad."

Dovepaw nuzzled him, and he immediately fight guilt. He couldn't do this. He loved Ivypaw, not Dovepaw. If his real crush was watching, oh, StarClan no... He shook the thought away. He'd tell her his real feelings later. He suggested, "We should go back to the others before they see this."

Dovepaw nodded her agreement, still grinning. He saw Ivypaw, and froze. Oh no...

She padded up to him, and she meowed, "Congratulations."

She was happy for him. That only made Tigerpaw like her more. "You don't understand," he whispered to her, "I'll tell you later."

She nodded, shuffling her paws. "Alright." Then she turned around and walked away.

Now Tigerpaw would have to go through the whole confession thing again with the she-cat he actually liked. He prayed that Dovepaw wouldn't see it. The small apprentice walked over to him and meowed, "We're leaving. Come on."

"K," he responded listlessly.

He strolled behind Dovepaw, trying to keep a carefree demeanor, but he was panicking on the inside. The weight of guilt and regret crushed him, and his head hung low, looking at his paws. He had just falsely confessed to a she-cat, and he felt guilty for letting her think he loved her. And towards Ivypaw, for letting her down. Or he thought he did. Rippletail had also died in the battle against the beavers, so perhaps cats would think he was sad about that. Dovepaw murmured to him, "I know Rippletail's death was sad, but hey, at least something good came out of it... we're mates now."

Then she looked to the ground beside her, as if it suddenly became intriguing. "I guess."

"Mhm," Tigerpaw replied.

The word 'mates' made him feel even worse. He didn't want to be mates with this cat, but he had to. He tried to cheer himself up. I'll tell Ivypaw tonight.

As they trudged back, Sedgewhisker had sent Dovepaw, Dawnpaw, and Tigerpaw to go get some water. The three apprentices trotted through the forest. Dawnpaw turned to her brother. "I can't believe Dovepaw tried to save you!" she exclaimed.

"I mean, she just seemed so self-centered, I can't see her doing anything like that."

Tigerpaw smiled, laughter escaping him, despite his bad feelings. "I suppose it's because I'm her crush."

~~

The night fell, and Tigerpaw opened his eyes. He glimpsed at all the felines, making sure they were all asleep. Once it was confirmed that they were, he sneaked over to Ivypaw, and nudged her. "Wake up," he whispered.

Ivypaw blinked her eyes open groggily, and then looked up at her friend. "Oh, right..."

She got up, and they silently left the den. Tigerpaw led her into the forest, and they sat down on a bed of moss. "So, you saw the thing that happened with Dovepaw earlier," he meowed sheepishly.

All Ivypaw did was nod. He looked up at her, looking into her glamorous eyes. "Well, what I said... wasn't true. I just did it to express my gratitude. I mean, she saved my life!"

Ivypaw murmured, "I understand."

He could her a trace of something like relief in her voice. Tigerpaw continued, "Anyway, what I actually wanted to say was..." he paused, anxiety building up.

"Yes?" Ivypaw's blazing eyes met his.

"I love you," he responded briskly.

Chapter Eleven - Lynx

She backed up. "No. Dovepaw- I can't- I'm sorry, no." She turned and ran, panic bubbling inside her. Where could she go? The camp, maybe? Back to the clans? Clenching her jaw, she slowed her pace and made her way back to the other questers. She gazed at each cat and curled up next to her sister.

"What were you talking to Tigerpaw about?" Her sister mewed sleepily. "I was telling him how lucky he was and that he better treat you right," Ivypaw replied. "Thanks, Ivypaw," Dovepaw purred. She smiled, even though she was broken instead. "You're welcome."

And then sleep took her. Sedgewhisker shook her awake, clearly she had been doing silent vigil with Petalfur. Ivypaw felt shallow for not doing it with them. Lionblaze nodded at her, and she padded over. "How's Petalfur?" She inquired.

"She's been better, I assume," Lionblaze replied, arching his back. "I think they would have been mates," He mewed, "If not for the dam." She felt like the ground was cracking under her paws. She and Tigerpaw would have been mates, if not for the dam.

She blinked away the tears. Lionblaze nodded. "It's okay to be sad." She stared at him. "Wh- Oh. Yeah, I miss him." She mewed, realizing he meant Rippletail. Lionblaze sighed. "I think we'll all be closer as a group after this." Ivypaw nodded. "That makes sense. I see why, we've been through so much together."

"Lionblaze! Ivypaw!" Sedgewhisker yowled. "We're going!" Ivypaw noted that Sedgewhisker had her tail on Petalfur's shoudler. Petalfur looked like she had been crying all night. Then again, she most likely had.

She felt like someone was staring at her. Her tail twitched and she knew it was Tigerpaw. Instead of acknowledging him, she strode over to Dovepaw. "Let's go," She purred, faking enthusiasm.

Dovepaw nodded, smiling. "I can't wait to go to go back!" Ivypaw nodded, "Me too!" And that, at least, was true. She teased Dovepaw. "But no one can find out." She mewed seriously. Ivypaw nodded. "I think some cats at least suspect," She worried. Dovepaw thought about it. "What if we staged a fight? That would discourage thoughts," Ivypaw offered.

Dovepaw nodded. "That's smart. I'll let him know." She walked over to Tigerpaw, who had been watching her, confused and slightly angry. She glanced at Dawnpaw, who was glaring at her. Sighing, she hurried to walk with Lionblaze.

"You mouse-brain!" Dovepaw shrieked. Tigerpaw glared at her. "Sorry, Dovekit," He replied snarkily. She snarled at him. "What's your problem?!" She growled. Tigerpaw rolled his eyes. "Shut up, Dovepaw." "ShadowClan mange-pelt," She hissed, storming away. "Dovepaw!" Lionblaze snapped, aghast. "Apologize!" She glared at him. "No."

Lionblaze and Toadpelt exchanged a look, clearly they both thought they were bickering. Ivypaw felt a small bubble of satisfaction in her chest, it had worked. Dawnpaw was now glaring at Dovepaw, and Petalfur, Whitethroat, and Sedgewhisker were whispering amongst themselves.

She sighed. She would miss this group. She gave Dovepaw a grateful look, ever since Dovepaw had almost died, she hadn't been so self-centered. Of course, no one else, save Tigerpaw, would know that. She almost let the tears spill over her eyes, but managed to blink them back.

Chapter Twelve - Holly

"Tigerpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code, and protect your Clan, even at the cost of your life?"

It had been a moon since they had returned from the quest, and Blackstar had decided to give Tigerpaw his warrior name, due to his bravery on the quest. He still had a heavy heart, but he blinked back tears as he responded, "I do."

Blackstar continued, "Then from this moment on, your warrior name will be Tigerstorm, due to your bravery and strength."

Strength. The tom didn't think he had any of that. He couldn't even get Ivypaw to like him. She probably had her warrior name too, but Tigerstorm had felt too awkward to speak to her after that night on the quest. Despite the lake's return, there was still a certain hollowness in his chest that the water couldn't fill. Dawnpaw, now Dawnpelt, trotted up to him. "Congrats!" she purred.

"Tigerstorm," she meowed, as if tasting the name, "it sounds fierce. Like a storm of tigers. It suits you."

Tigerstorm purred. "Thanks." His sister could always cheer him up.

Flametail joined them, purring. "Congratulations on being a full medicine cat," he meowed to his brother.

"Sounds pretty boring though," Dawnpelt added with a snort.

The medicine cat chuckled. "Some aspects of it are, such as sorting herbs, but not when you get to communicate with StarClan."

Tawnypelt weaved her way through the crowd, over to her kits. She was purring noisily. She threw them into a nuzzle, joy lighting up her eyes. "Oh my StarClan! You don't know how proud I am of you guys!" she purred.

Tigerstorm closed his eyes, embracing his mother. She was always loyal and encouraging towards her kits. Rowanclaw purred to them, "We're very proud of you. We know you'll be the best warriors ShadowClan has ever seen," and with a glance at Flametail, he added, "and the best medicine cat."

Flametail just smiled. So did Tigerstorm. They were a family, and he liked that. That was when the tabby tom heard a voice inside his head. Follow my lead. I'm doing this for your good.

Tigerstorm meowed, "I'm going to go hunt... alone. Y'know, to experience that for the first time?"

Tawnypelt nodded. "I understand. I too wanted to do that when I became a warrior."

The tabby tom, as if something was guiding his paws, slipped through the crowd and out of camp. His paws carried him onto ThunderClan territory. Wait, what!? he cried mentally.

That was when he saw Dovesight. The fluffy she-cat perked her ears, and looked up at him. She grinned, and meowed, "Hey!"

"Hey-" Tigerstorm responded awkwardly.

Kill her. The voice commanded.

Before the tom could protest, he unsheathed his claws. He lashed out at Dovesight, ripping at her ear. She shrieked, and Tigerstorm pinned her down. He bit down into her rounded ear, and ripped it off. The gray cat screamed, and blood rushed down her face. "Shame your pretty little eyes got ruined," he sneered unwillingly.

Whatever was possessing Tigerstorm slammed its paws down on Dovesight's chest, driving the breath out of her. She gasped for breath. He slammed her against a tree, and she panted. Then the tabby tom picked her up by the scruff and threw her towards the lake. She landed with a heavy thump and she looked up at Tigerstorm pleadingly. "Why are you doing this? I thought you loved me!"

Tigerstorm slashed at her eye, and she screeched. Blood flew through the air, the crimson liquid landing on the ground and in the lake. "Well, you were wrong," he snarled.

Tears fell down Dovesight's face along with blood. One of her eyes had clouded, the one he had scratched, and the other one was surrounded by the blood of the other one. He ripped at her exposed chest, and blood flew onto the ground. The sand by the lake was splattered with scarlet and crimson, and the smell of blood arose from the air. The she-cat looked like a bloodied mess by now, and she whimpered pleadingly. Tufts of fur were missing from her chest, one of her ears was missing, one eye was clouded, and blood was spattered over her body and pooling out of her. He slammed her into the lake, and she struggled while he held her head down. "You deserved this," he hissed.

She tried to say something while she struggled under the water, but only bubbles came up and a muffled noise. The tom chuckled manically. He didn't know what had come over him, and he didn't like it, but the thing inside him did. Blood flowed through the lake, and the lake turned red from Dovesight's blood. Tigerstorm placed his other paw down on her back, and forced any air she had out of her. She struggled and twisted, but eventually fell limp. Her mouth hung open, and her blank eyes stared at nothing. Tigerstorm spat a tuft of her fur out of his mouth. What did you do!? he cried inside his mind.

I got rid of a burden, the voice sneered. It was familiar. Female.

Then, he padded out of the lake, blood on his paws. He seemed to be writing something. He watched, helplessly terrified, as his paws wrote out 'Goodbye, Dovebrat'. His jaw fell agape. Thank me later, the voice snarled, and left.

He stared, horrified, at the bloodied body of his 'mate'. Her face was twisted into a permanent helpless, shocked, and terrified scream. He listlessly washed the blood off his paws, and walked away stiffly. What had he done?

Chapter Thirteen - Lynx

Ivypool stared at her sister's body. Who did this? The message was clear enough. It seemed like it was... Ivypool herself. But she and her sister had made up moons ago. She let out a wail. There was only one other cat who could have done this.

She clenched her jaw, unsheathed her claws, and ran onto ShadowClan territory. She knew she was trespassing. She didn't care. She didn't care. It seemed like all rationality she had was gone. Now she would be stuck with Dovesight's kits. Tigerstorm's kits.

She raced into the ShadowClan camp. She was so fast, so angry, no one could stop her. "Where is Tigerstorm?!" She yowled. "He's hunting," Tawnypelt replied quietly, the only cat who could have recovered her wits so fast.

She sneered, shaking her head. "No. He killed my sister." At that moment, Tigerstorm walked in. With a scream of rage, Ivypool launched herself at him. "Ivypool? What-" He asked, before he completely understood. She clawed every bit of exposed parts she could find. "Ivypool!" He snarled, throwing her off. "What are you doing?"

She got to her paws, anger and blood smeared on her face. "YOU KIlLLED DOVESIGHT!" She shrieked, launching herself at him again. Within moments, her claws were at his throat. "Why did you do it?" She snarled. "Did you know she had given birth to kits? Your kits?"

Tigerstorm's jaw dropped. "What?" Ivypool nodded. "Shadowkit, Pouncekit, and Lightkit." She hissed, digging her claws into his throat. "Get off him!" Dawnpelt screamed. She rolled her eyes. "He kills my sister, I kill his." And then she was gone.

Back in the ThunderClan camp, all eyes were on her. "Why are you covered in blood?" Whitewing mewed. "Tigerstorm of ShadowClan killed Dovesight." Ivypool replied coldly. "But why-" "I was avenging her death." She snarled. She stormed into the warriors' den.

Bumblestripe stared at her, wide-eyed. "Is it true?" He murmured. "Is she really dead?" Ivypool let out a low, mourning wail. Bumblestripe twined his tail with hers. "I'm sorry." He mumbled. "It's okay." Ivypool had to stifle the purr that almost burst out of her.

She realized that because of what Tigerstorm had done, she could never look at him the same way again. But maybe Bumblestripe could be her future. She smiled at him. "I should wash," She finally said, remembering she was coated in blood. Bumblestripe laughed. "You probably should."

Chapter Fourteen - Holly

Tigerstorm stumbled back as he gazed at Dawnpelt's limp and lifeless body. Her eyes were glazed over, staring at nothing. Blood spattered her pelt. And yet, he couldn't be angry at Ivypool - after all, he had murdered her sister. Tawnypelt murmured an inquiry. "You killed Dovesight?"

"N-no," he stammered, forcing himself to lie, "I don't know what she was thinking..."

Tawnypelt licked her son behind the ears. Dried tears sat on her cheek fur, and her eyes were swollen from crying. "I guess seeing a ShadowClan cat out after seeing your dead sister maybe a little suspicious..."

Tigerstorm looked away, shame clouding his facial features. How could he let anyone do this? The voice in his head had disappeared, and he wished he could just sink into the earth and never return. Now Ivypool was mad at him, and his mate was deceased. Flametail lashed his tail. "How could she do this? Wildly blaming innocent cats for something a rogue probably did?"

"I know," Tigerstorm agreed.

Except, he wasn't innocent. He nosed his sister's cold body, now with lavender and watermint on it to hide the scent of death. This is my fault, I let this happen to you...

More tears fell down his face, and he sniffled miserably. "Dawnpelt, I'm sorry," he weeped.

"It's not your fault," Rowanclaw murmured to his son.

It is, though! he protested inwardly.

Tawnypelt lurched forward, towards her daughter's lifeless body, and screeched in anguish. "She was so young!" she cried.

Russetfur put her tail on the calico she-cat's shoulder, and meowed quietly, "I'm sorry for your loss. She will find her way to StarClan, she was a good warrior."

Tawnypelt sniffled miserably. "You're right, but that doesn't take away the pain of loss."

The russet deputy closed her eyes. "I know, but I always like to try to provide solace when I can."

Tigerstorm looked around the camp. Every cat was sorrowful, because of him. Because he let whatever it was take over his body, whether it be some evil entity or even insanity. "I'm going on a walk, excuse me," he whispered listlessly.

All his family did was nod, and go back to looking at the cream she-cat's dead body. He walked into the forest. Though he'd like to be comforted in the paws of his family, he had something to do. He made his way onto ThunderClan territory for the second time today, though this time it was in his own will. "Ivypool?" he called softly.

There was no answer. She either didn't hear him, or wasn't out on patrol. However, this attracted another cat. Bumblestripe. "Hello?" he called, "I heard someone talking over here."

Tigerstorm scrambled over into a bush, and crouched inside it. Bumblestripe's whiskers twitched as he sniffed the air. The tom wasn't much of a threat, but Tigerstorm wasn't about to pick a fight after all of ThunderClan thought he had killed Dovesight. He huddled, trying his hardest not to tremble with anxiety, as Bumblestripe tasted the air. "ShadowClan," he growled to himself.

Oh right. He talks to himself, Tigerstorm recalled.

When he was an apprentice at the Gatherings, sometimes he'd talk to Bumblepaw. The tom cat had always been a little odd, and he'd talk to himself. His gaze would always flicker to either Ivypaw or Dovepaw, too. "Must be from the border," he muttered, and trotted away.

Tigerstorm sighed in relief, but stayed in the bush. He'd better wait until Ivypool came by. When the sun was setting and the she-cat still hadn't arrived, he gave up. His family would be concerned if he waited much longer, anyways. He dragged himself back home, and Tawnypelt darted up to him. "I missed you!" she cried.

"I wasn't gone for that long," Tigerstorm mumbled.

Flametail walked over to him. "She's being a bit overprotective now," he explained.

The tom nodded, and Tawnypelt meowed, "I wasn't there to save Dawnpelt, so I must be for my other kits."

Tigerstorm could detect a lot of pain in his mother's voice, and pity washed over him like a wave. Not only pity for his mother, but self-pity, and pity for Dawnpelt's death. He remembered how Ivypool had attacked his sister out of grief, and she had screamed. Tawnypelt was frozen with shock, and Rowanclaw tried to knock the ThunderClan warrior off his daughter, but Ivypool clawed him away. She had ripped out Dawnpelt's throat, and he remembered his last horrified moments with his sister. He shook the thought away. He preferred to relive the good things, such as when they were on the quest to find the dam. Dawnpelt's sarcastic and snide remarks had made his day, along with his moments with Ivypaw. Now he had lost both cats, one physically and the other emotionally. Ivypool was still alive, but he doubted she would ever forgive him, even if he explained. Blackstar meowed, intruding on his thoughts, "The sun has set. Dawnpelt's vigil begins now. Any cat who was close with her, come sit beside her body. Any cat who was not, you may go to sleep."

Some cats slipped away into their dens, murmuring amongst themselves. Tigerstorm padded forward, and sat down beside Dawnpelt, curling his tail around his paws. Just looking at the lifeless body made him tear up. "I can't believe she's gone," he choked out.

Tears clouded his vision as Tawnypelt responded, "She was so young... she didn't even have time to enjoy her warrior name."

Tigerstorm had never expected that his sister would be gone this quickly. He thought they would go on hunting patrols together, and perhaps even on more missions - but so much for that. He blinked his tears away, trying to be strong. "We will all miss him," Rowanclaw declared.

The only thing the others did was nod. As the moon rose, and all the stars had blinked into view, Tigerstorm knew this would be a lengthy and hard night.

Chapter Fifteen - Lynx

The vigil was lengthy, pierced by Whitewing and Ivypool's wails. There was a thick haze in the air, but one of pain and suffering. The blood on her claws was worth it. Dawnpelt's death was worth it.

She glanced at Bumblestripe. "What's wrong?" She asked. "ShadowClan scent on our territory. I think it was from the border, but..." Ivypool nodded. "I understand. You should let Firestar know."

Bumblestripe smiled softly at her. He nodded once and strode into Firestar's den. Ivypool watched him go. She was silent, musing over Bumblestripe. What was he to her?

She gave her mother a pitying look. She was wailing again, Birchfall trying to console her. She let out a yowl of pain and went back inside her den. She wouldn't be doing vigil tonight.

She closed her eyes, letting her mind drift off. Morning seemed to come too quickly. Except it wasn't. "Hello," Someone mewed. Her eyes rose to see a brown tabby tom. He looked like Brambleclaw, except his eyes. They were startlingly blue.

"Who are you?" She asked warily. "My name is Hawkfrost," The tabby tom replied. Ivypool nodded slowly. "That name sounds familiar." Ivypool murmured. Hawkfrost shrugged. "I don't know what you mean." She sighed. "Well, why are you here?" Hawkfrost smiled coldly. The light glinted off his amber yellow teeth. "To train you, of course."

"But why do I need training?" She mewed. "Even now, that Dovesight's dead, you'll always be second. You were never enough. Your parents loved her more. Firestar loved her more. StarClan loved her more." He smiled. "Tigerstorm loved her more."

She shivered, controlling her breathing. "Oh." "So, do you accept?" Closing her eyes, she thought about it slowly, weighing it from all angles. Did StarClan really love Dovesight more? She rolled her eyes, Dovesight was dead. She looked up with a fire blazing in her eyes. But it was cold. Full of hate. "One condition. I kill Tigerstorm."

"Tigerstorm is my nephew." Hawkfrost mused. Ivypool squinted. "Wha-" Hawkfrost interrupted her. "Hmm." He sighed, Ivypool resigned herself to killing his brother, Flametail or something, when Hawkfrost nodded. "Deal."

Chapter Sixteen - Holly

It was the morning two days after the vigil. When Tigerstorm stirred, the camp was quiet. The milky dawn light had just appeared, and the tom cat stretched and yawned. After he did so, he heard rustling in the bushes. "Hmm?" his ears perked.

ThunderClan scent drifted into his nostrils. The aroma was familiar. He was so used to it now, due to hanging out with Ivypool and Dovesight so much, before she died. His fur suddenly bristled. What if they were getting revenge on him for murdering Dovesight? He called out softly, "Who's there?"

He emerged from the den, and a gray-and-white she-cat bowled him over. Once he saw her face, he recognized it. "Ivypool!?" he hissed.

"What are you doing here? You'll get into trouble!"

"For hurting a murderer?" she scoffed. "Yeah, right."

"You're not going to kill me?" Tigerstorm gasped, surprise on his face.

Ivypool rolled her eyes. "As much as I'd like to, no."

Then, dread crept through Tigerstorm. What if she was here to kill someone else he loved? Like Tawnypelt, or Rowanclaw... or Flametail. "Then why are you here?"

Ivypool clawed him across his cheek, and scarlet drops of blood ran down his face. "You'll see. Now, all you have to do is keep quiet, and I won't kill you."

Tigerstorm hesitantly shut his mouth, and Ivypool stepped off him. "You quiet? Good."

Then she walked towards the medicine den, and horror shut through the tom. Not Flametail! He can't even defend himself!

As Ivypool disappeared into the medicine den, Tigerstorm set his jaw. Even if he died, at least he would die doing the right thing. He launched himself towards the medicine den, and with a flying leap, landed right in front of it. Ivypool was standing over Flametail, her claws unsheathed, ready to slit his throat. "No!" he cried.

Time seemed to slow down. Ivypool looked up, anger crossing her expression. Flametail awoke, his fur bristling as he looked up to see his attacker. Rowanclaw and Blackstar hared towards the medicine den, and Rowanclaw roared, "What is the meaning of this?"

Gradually, other felines began to wake up and race towards the medicine cats' den. Littlecloud jumped up. "I told you to stay quiet!" Ivypool hissed.

"You think I was just going to let you kill my brother without doing anything?" Tigerstorm retorted.

Blackstar meowed, "As Ivypool has been caught red-pawed trying to kill Flametail, I think it is sensible to believe that Ivypool murdered Dovesight."

"B-b-but-" Ivypool blubbered.

Blackstar raised his tail. "Silence! I believe this to be true, because she blamed Tigerstorm with no evidence. To blame it on a random cat is ridiculous, and a traitor would commit such actions."

Cats began to nod their agreement. Despite the declaration of his innocence, Tigerstorm's blood ran cold. He had killed Dovesight, or, rather, something inside him did, and now Ivypool was getting blamed for his actions. However, he stayed quiet. Because what else could he do to keep the love of his Clan and family?

Chapter Seventeen - Lynx

"You murderer!" She shrieked shrilly, unsheathing her claws. Seeing his erased all fear or misconceptions. She launched herself at Tigerstorm and clawed him on the face. ShadowClan surged forward, but under all the chaos, Ivypool was able to slip away. Where was Flametail? She saw him huddled with Rowanclaw. She crept closer. With a roar, she ripped her claws through Flametail's throat in rage. Rowanclaw leapt backwards and Ivypool was able to bite his neck.

He gurgled horribly, but it wasn't enough to kill Flametail. They didn't know that. Tawnypelt shrieked. "Flametail! Rowanclaw!" She wailed, throwing herself at Ivypool. She smirked at Tigerstorm. "I'm coming for you next." She leapt up onto Blackstar's rock. ShadowClan was too stunned but to gape. "You say I don't have proof?" She snarled. "I HAVE PROOF."

"Where is it?" Tigerstorm challenged her. She growled angrily, scraping her claws on the rock with an awful screech.. "There was blood on the sand near where she was killed. There was a tuft of your fur. And there was a message written in her blood," Ivypool announced. "What did it say?" Rowanclaw asked, ready to attack her. She smiled coldly, teeth glinting, flecks of blood surrounding her wide eyes. "It said goodbye, Dovebrat. There were only two cats who addressed her like that. One of them was me."

She paused. "The other was Tigerstorm." ShadowClan erupted again, and Ivypool snuck away. There was no guilt in her as she stared at the blood on her claws that belonged to Flametail. Just anger. Anger and hate. The gathering was tonight. With all the clamor for Ivypool's and Tigerstorm's respective deaths, there would be enough time for her to slip away and kill him.

And she would kill him. Murder him. Rip the pelt off his body and make him bleed. She snarled in pleasure. But there'd need to be steps. She'd have to make him be silent. Hawkfrost, can you help? She asked inside her head. Yes. Hawkfrost replied. She nodded. Good. And she'd need him to cooperate.

She smiled at her plan, sending a prayer to the Dark Forest. Hawkfrost's voice spoke in her head. "We'll be with you, Ivypool." She smiled again coldly. "I don't doubt it." She said, her face contorting into a horrible, shadowed sneer. And then she laughed, a cold, high laugh that sent a shiver down Hawkfrost's dead spine.

Chapter Eighteen - Holly

"Traitor!" Tawnypelt screeched.

Tigerstorm's world had halted. All around him, his Clanmates whom he had known and trusted all his life looked at him with shock and disbelief on their faces. "Dawnpelt's death was your fault!" Rowanclaw hissed. "If you hadn't killed Dovesight, she would still be alive!"

Tears ran down Tigerstorm's cheeks. "It's true," he choked out.

Flametail looked at him, an expression of betrayal and anger were all that remained of the once-happy tom cat. He turned to his mother, Tawnypelt. All he could see and sense around her was anger. Blackstar looked down at Tigerstorm angrily, his ears flat against his skull. "Tigerstorm, I will have no choice but to exile you."

Tigerstorm gasped. "No!" he pleaded. "I'll do anything, anything!"

Blackstar hissed, "If you stay, you will never be forgiven by your Clanmates. It will be a miserable existence. I'm doing this for your own good, even if you are a murderer."

"No! You don't understand! Something possessed me, a spirit," he blubbered.

"He's insane," Flametail snarled.

Tigerstorm couldn't believe it. His own kin, now thinking he was a savage just based on the words of a ThunderClan cat. "Fine, I'll leave," he resigned with a heavy heart.

Before anyone could say anything, he whirled around and padded towards the exit. He didn't bother to take one last glance at his Clan, as he knew their gazes would be full of hatred, and too horrible to bear. He fled into the forest. What could he do now? Vow revenge on Ivypool? No, she was just defending her sister. "I've got to explain to her," he murmured to himself.

He crossed the border into ThunderClan territory, darting frantically into a bush. He hoped no cat would spot him. That was when a patrol came into view, and Tigerstorm shrunk back. Fear scent pulsed off him in waves. Oh, StarClan, no!

He could make out the features of Berrynose, Whitewing, and Stormcloud. They walked forward, tasting the air. "I smell ShadowClan," Stormcloud meowed.

Berrynose growled. "Those killers."

"They killed my baby!" Whitewing wailed, tears forming in her eyes.

Tigerstorm glanced at his paws, looking shameful despite being alone. "It maybe sweeping across from the border, but that's been reported an awful lot lately," Stormcloud reasoned.

"We have to look around," Berrynose snarled, "We can't let them get away with another killing."

Tigerstorm gulped, and shrunk back into the bush. He pressed his pelt against the leaves, praying to StarClan they wouldn't rustle. But they did. Whitewing turned her head acutely, and hissed, "In the bush."

"It may just be a mouse, but there's no harm in checking," meowed Stormcloud.

As Whitewing trotted towards the bush, Tigerstorm closed his eyes. He knew he wouldn't want to see the expression on her face when she found out it was the killer of her kit. As the scent of the white she-cat got closer, he could hear the leaves rustle as she peered in. "Tigerstorm!" she shrieked.

"Back to kill another of my kits?" she snarled, lashing her claws out at the tom.

They raked across his ear, and blood fell down the right side of his face. He flinched back at the sharpness. "No, I need to tell you something!" he burst out.

"The gory details of how you murdered my baby?" Whitewing's hiss turned into a wail at the very last words, and it made a horrible caterwauling noise that struck Tigerstorm's heart.

"No," he murmured, "Something possessed me to do it."

Berrynose trotted over, and growled, "So you admit you did it."

"Not me," he corrected, "my body. A spirit possessed me!" he repeated.

Whitewing paused, lashing her tail. "StarClan-cursed brat," she spat.

She padded back, an expression of almost uncontrollable rage on her face. Stormcloud walked forward more calmly, and meowed, "I'm willing to hear him out. Explain."

Tigerstorm took a deep breath. He had one shot to make these cats believe him. He looked around at their unforgiving expressions, and began, "At first, I heard a voice in my head. It was like a she-cat, telling me to follow her. I let her guide my paws, and I found myself on your territory."

The ThunderClan members exchanged glances. "And then I saw Dovesight, and the spirit made me kill her. I was screaming no inside my head, but I couldn't help myself. I was like a kit."

Stormcloud's gaze softened. Tigerstorm meowed, "Please, take me to your camp. I have to tell Ivypool."

Chapter Nineteen - Lynx

Ivypool saw him come into camp guarded by Stormcloud. She shrieked. "Why is he here?!" Stormcloud sighed. "He needs to talk to you." She bristled. "I don't want to talk to him! He's a filthy murderer!" She snarled, unsheathing her claws.

Brambleclaw cleared his throat. "He will be protected while in our camp." Ivypool growled but sheathed her claws. "What do you want, Tigerstorm?" She growled, padding closer. Whitewing glared at him, daring him silently to attack her. Ivypool took comfort in this. Now that Dovesight was dead, Whitewing had actually begun to acknowledge her.

"I didn't kill Dovesight." Tigerstorm mewed. "Liar! You confessed to her murder!" She snarled. He shook his head. "It was me... but it wasn't. It was a spirit." Ivypool hesitated. The sun was setting, and she had thought through her whole plan. The thought that he might be innocent was too much.

"No. You killed her!" Ivypool cried angrily. "It was a female spirit. I... She took over." Tigerstorm mewed quickly, frantically, voice a panicked rush. "How can I trust you?" Ivypool asked. "Furthermore," She barreled on, "How can I believe you?"

Tigerstorm gazed at her helplessly. "I don't think you can." She grimaced. "Then why did you come?" Tigerstorm sighed. "I... I wanted you to know the truth." He murmured. Her shoulders slumped. "Get out." He nodded. Stormcloud rested his tail on his shoulder and led him out.

Ivypool's stomach was churning. Could she kill a cat who might have been innocent? You already did, Hawkfrost said. She sighed. He was right. Spirit or not, he had still killed Dovesight. Tears trickled down her face for the third time that day. She let out a low caterwaul as splinters pierced her heart.

Pain blinded her vision and she knew she would kill Tigerstorm. She didn't have a choice. "Ivypool, it's okay." Someone murmured, leading her back to her nest. It was Bumblestripe. She nodded, curling up. Bumblestripe twined his tail with hers.

"I love you," He murmured in her ear once she had turned to dry sobs. She stared at him. "Bumblestripe, I... I love you too." She mewed finally.

Chapter Twenty - Holly

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