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Chapter One (Nightmare)
Mothkit squirmed restlessly again, and almost fell off Badgerpaw’s back. The black and white apprentice hissed quietly, and she shuddered. Was Badgerpaw going to eat her? She glanced at her mother, Sandyfoot, and was rewarded with a kind look. She swallowed, and tried to straighten herself. Badgerpaw would have to get through her mother if he wanted to eat her. And her mother was the best warrior in all of WindClan! If Badgerpaw was dumb enough to even bare his teeth at her near Sandyfoot, he was doomed. Finally, the seemingly endless journey on Badgerpaw's back came to an end. The apprentice sgrugged her off his back, sending her falling into a pile of leaves. Sandyfoot sent Badgerpaw a warning look, and picked Mothkit’s sister, Hollykit, off Shatteredpaw’s back. Mothkit yawned, and scurried up to Swallowsong, a sleek black she-cat of WindClan. She also happened to be Mothkit’s kin, as she was the sister of Wolfear, Mothkit’s father.
“Why are we here?” She asked Swallowsong. The she-cat looked down on her with her warm amber eyes. Swallowsong had been there for Mothkit for her entire six moons of life, and felt more like a mother then Sandyfoot. Yes, Sandyfoot has the fierce protectiveness of a mother, but she lacked the necessary quality of kindness, which Swallowsong had quite a lot of.
“Didn’t Sandyfoot tell you?” Mothkit frowned. Had Sandyfoot mentioned anything of the sort? Probably at some point... but perhaps not. She decided to go with a no. “She didn’t!” Mothkit squeaked. “So why are we here?”
Swallowsong smiled. “Every kit, when they reach six moons of age, get taken here.”
Mothkit cocked her head. “They get taken to this clearing?” Echoheart purred with amusement. “No, little one. This is just the entrance. Sandyfoot has to tell... our hosts that we are here.”
Chapter Two (Echo)
“I’m not sure that this is a good idea.” Myrtlepaw flattened her ears as Rosepaw crept forward, pressing one of her paws against the thin layer of ice that covered the river.
“It’ll be fun!” Rosepaw promised.
“This doesn’t look like fun to me,” Myrtlepaw replied sharply. “You go first.”
Rosepaw sighed and stepped out onto the ice, pausing for a moment before walking forward cautiously. The ice creaked but didn’t break, and Rosepaw nodded to Myrtlepaw.
“Come check this out!” But Myrtlepaw only shook her head.
“Rosepaw, it’s not safe!”
Rosepaw ignored her and skidded across the ice with a yowl of happiness. She leaped to her paws and started to run back towards Myrtlepaw.
“Rosepaw, watch out!” Myrtlepaw yowled as soon as Rosepaw felt the ice crack under her paws.
“Help!” Rosepaw shrieked as the ice cracked around her. She was slipping around, unable to get a firm grip.
“Find a secure piece and get on it,” Myrtlepaw instructed. “And stay calm! Freaking out isn’t going to help anything.”
Rosepaw sighed, forcing her pelt to lie flat. She closed her eyes, wishing that her thundering heartbeat would quiet down.
She shrieked again as the ice heaved under her. She flailed wildly, trying to sink her claws into the ice, but her back half slid into the icy water.
“Rosepaw! Rosepaw!” She ignored Myrtlepaw’s frantic cries, focusing all her attention on keeping her head out of the water. She sank her claws into the ice, using all the strength in her legs and shoulders, but fatigue had swept in, draining her strength.
“I can’t hold on!” she told Myrtlepaw. “I’m going under!”
With a gasp, she sank into the water. Icy fangs gripped her body and pierced her skin. She screamed silently, thrashing and flailing her legs, but the cold was too frigid for her to bear, and she slipped into unconsciousness.
Chapter Three (Briar)
Talonpaw looked at Redpaw, affection reflecting off her humorous gaze. He smiled, and barely heard his mentor when she spoke. “Talonpaw! It’s time to take you to the Moonstone!” Hazelcrumb said, flicking her tail. Talonpaw gasped. “But then I’ll miss Redpaw’s warrior ceremony!” he whined. Hazelcrumb growled. “Well would you like to watch her naming ceremony instead of having your own?” She questioned. Talonpaw sighed. “No...” he muttered. Hazelcrumb nodded. “Good. We leave now.”
“Talonpaw, you have done well in your training and it is an honor to give you your full name. Talonpaw, your name shall now be Talonheart. Remember in your dark days, for you will have a lot of them, that we will always love you.” Hazelcrumb said. Talinheart nodded, and like the others, Talonheart shivered as he delicately touched his nose to the Moonstone’s surface. He was slowly lulled into a starlight smelling slumber, yet he was vaguely aware of his mentor watching him.
”Oh Talonheart...“ murmured a voice that woke Talonheart. “Oh my son, I am so sorry.” Talonheart blinked. It was Spotshine, his mother. He wanted to immediately leap into her arms and sob about never becoming a warrior and never being mates with Redpaw, just because of a dumb accident that had almost taken his leg. He was about to wail, when his mother spoke. “I wish I had never left you. I am so sorry. You will pair with two, and the world will end.” Talonheart blinked. “What?” his mother blinked at him in response. She wasn’t going to tell him more. He was about to question her when he was woken up.
He looked around, blinking, and let out a cry. “HAZELCRUMB!” He screeched. The other medicine cats woke and gasped. Hazelcrumb was looking at him with dull gray eyes. Blood dropped from her jaws and wounds scarring her. Talonheart buried his muzzle into her fur.
His mentor was dead.
Chapter Four (Nightmare)
Mothkit watched Sandyfoot emerge from the dim cavern that the Moonstone was located. What was she doing in there? Alerting their hosts? She shuddered. Swallowsong still hadn’t explained what they were going to do in Mothermouth. Mothkit ran up to her mother. “Briarmoon! What are we doing at the Moonstone?” Sandyfoot ignored her kit, and lapped what looked like blood from one of her paws. Mothkit cocked her head.
“Sandyfoot, are you hurt? That looks like blood!”
Her mother looked up. “No Mothkit, of course not. Are you ready?”
Mothkit, guessing Sandyfoot was talking about what Swallowsong had explained, frowned. “Ready for what?”
Sandyfoot ignored her, gesturing for Shatteredpaw, Badgerpaw, Swallowsong and Hollykit to join them. She first spoke to the apprentices. “Shatteredpaw, Badgerpaw. You know why you were chosen to come.”
They nodded, and Sandyfoot gave them each a serious look. “Good.” She licked them each on the shoulder. “I am sure Acorntail is watching. She’s very proud of you both.” A flicker of pain passed through Badgerpaws eyes, and Shatteredpaw winced. Acorntail, Badgerpaw and Shatteredpaw’s mother, had died in the same greecough outbreak that had taken one of Thymestars lives, and almost killed Badgerpaw.
Hollykit pressed herself closer to Sandyfoot. “I don’t want to do this! What if I’m picked?” Mothkit felt a stab of annoyance. Even though Hollykit and Mothkit were littermates, Sandyfoot always told Hollykit things first. Mothkit was generally left in the dark until the last moment, when her mother seemed to finally remember that she had two kits, and hastly explain it to Mothkit.
"What are we doing at the Moonstone?" whined Mothkit. Sandyfoot sighed, like she had already explained it to her kit. "I'll tell you later."
"But there might not be a later! Please tell me!" Mothkit blinked up at her mother. "Please Mother!"
Chapter Five (Echo)
Rosepaw gasped, vomiting freezing cold water onto the riverbank. Myrtlepaw sat nearby her, licking her fur the wrong way to help Rosepaw warm up.
“T-thank you,” Rosepaw rasped, coughing hoarsely as she collapsed onto the pebbly shore. “You saved me.”
“It’s what any good friend would do,” Myrtlepaw replied with a shrug. “You were lucky I was here and you weren’t alone. You could’ve died. You almost did.”
“Thank goodness no one saw me,” Rosepaw breathed. “That would’ve been so embarrassing. How would I explain it to Hollytail?”
Myrtlepaw sighed. “Good question,” she muttered thoughtfully.
Rosepaw yawned and shakily got to her paws. “Well, I would say my fur’s dry enoough. Want to head back to camp?”
Myrtlepaw shook her head. “Wait here for a while. You’re still weak. And you must be cold.”
As if on cue, Rosepaw felt a chill rattle through her body, and she winced. Her fur felt like it was caked with ice, but she gritted her teeth and tried to ignore the uncomfortable feeling.
Myrtlepaw lowered her head with a defeated look, and Rosepaw stole a glance at her best friend. “What’s wrong?”
“I had help in saving you.”
Rosepaw bristled. “What do you mean?”
“I was leaping across the ice, trying to get you, and suddenly, a she-cat appeared—she had tortoiseshell fur and yellow eyes. She was really intimidating, and I got kind of scared. I thought she was going to attack me, but she only looked into my eyes and said, ‘Not again.’ I was so confused, but she helped me drag you onto the bank. I asked for her name, but she told me that wasn’t important.”
Rosepaw gasped and her heart skipped a beat. “What did she mean, ‘Not again’?”
“I’m not sure,” Myrtlepaw admitted. “But whatever she was talking about, I think it had something to do with drowning.”
Chapter Six (Briar)
Talonheart wailed as the other medicine cats gasped in shock. They were murmuring to one another as Talonheart buried his muzzle into Hazelcrumb's still-warm fur. He let out a moan of greik before collapsing to his side. The other medicine cats, including his friend and a fellow medicine cat apprentice, Junepaw, stepped forward. Junepaw nosed his shoulder, blinked her warm amber eyes at him. They were full of sympathy. "We should go." she murmured. Talonheart nodded, throat tight. He got up, legs shaking. He hung his head low as he and the other medicine cats frantically left the Moonstone. He shivered as a cold breeze swept through his fur.
"WHAT!?" screeched Webstar as he heard the news. The Skyclan leader curled his lips back in a snarl. "How can Hazelcrumb be dead? Let alone KILLED by someone!" he growled. Talonheart shivered as he pressed against Redpaw-no, he had gotten her Warrior name now, Redstone's flank. She cast him a sympathetic look before she returned her gaze to the furious Skyclan leader and the frightened medicine cats of the other clans. Webstar flattened his pelt and let out a deep breath. His tail lashed behind his back. He calmly said, "I appreciate you for bringing her body back to camp. Warn your leaders about this, and I will discuss it at the next gathering. You have permission to leave camp." he said, in a forced calm manner. The medicine cats nodded their heads quickly, clearly intimidated by Webstar who was known to lash out and lose his temper. He was large in size, which didn't help. Talonheart murmured into Redstone's ear, "Meet me in the clearing tonight." he said without thinking. Redstone blinked in confusion but nodded as she walked away to join her friends. He shivered as he looked at his mentors dead corpse. He sighed and walked away, only to be stopped by a mysterious cat. She was mouthing the words, "Leave here... leave here...." Talonheart backed away in confusion, closed his eyes and shook his head. When he opened them, the she-cat was gone.
To be continued in the next chapter!