The Prequel to This Is the End
He exploded out of the bushes, knocking the she-cat over. The other cat grunted under his weight, and he felt a twinge of satisfaction. Seeing his distraction, though, his target was able to throw him off with a blow to his exposed stomach. He fell against a dark, gnarled tree and sank down onto the ground.
"Not such easy prey, eh, Nightseeker?" the she-cat teased. "You know you can't beat me."
Nightseeker rose to his paws and winced. "Owww. At least I managed to surprise you. I did better than last time."
"True," she conceded, padding over to him. She flicked her tail over his back. "We'll make a true Dark Warrior of you yet."
Nightseeker seemed to glow with her praise, and he didn't notice as another cat emerged from the shadows. "Are you ready, Wildwind?" the new cat growled.
Nightseeker nearly fell over with surprise, but Wildwind remained calm. "Of course, Stonestar," she said, dipping her head to the great dark tom. "We know, then, which cats we want?"
"Yes," Stonestar rumbled. "Three kits have been born recently in IceClan."
"Three?" Nightseeker repeated, regaining his balance. "But we only ever take two!"
Stonestar unsheathed his claws, looking like he wanted to slash Nightseeker's throat. "I know," he snarled. "The third is no use to us. We can claim the better two and maim the third. They are still young; no one will know any better."
Wildwind was nodding as Stonestar spoke. "It's a good plan," she noted when the muscular leader was done speaking. "Show me where they are. Nightseeker and I can go in and claim them."
Stonestar padded away, beckoning for the siblings to follow. Wildwind went after him, but Nightseeker stayed put, staring after his sister in dismay.
"Why is she so nonchalant about this?" he whispered, his voice hoarse with dismay. "We're ruining lives. Had I known what we were getting into, I would never have come here."
He reluctantly ran after his sister. Catching up to them, he panted, "I thought I scented Tigerstep, but he wasn't there." Although he tried to look like he agreed with the plans Stonestar laid out, he was thinking, We don't belong here. I could be helpful if Wildwind wasn't tied here. I wish we could leave, and join the great spirits who would never do something like this....
Mistykit squealed as her brother, Flamingkit, bowled her over. She tried to flip him underneath her, but he was too big. "Help me, Clawkit!" she squeaked, struggling to free herself.
Clawkit, Mistykit's other littermate, stared at her blankly. Then, as realization crossed his eyes, he bounded over and stood in front of Flamingkit. Mistykit started to squeak her thanks, but Clawkit's blank expression returned, and he just stood there.
Mistykit exchanged a glance with Flamingkit, who tumbled off of her. "Clawkit?" Flamingkit mewed, waving his tail in front of his littermate's face. Clawkit didn't respond.
"You're no fun," Flamingkit complained. "C'mon, Mistykit. Let's go play something else." He walked off toward the nursery. Mistykit cast one last glance at Clawkit, who was still just standing there, before hurrying after Flamingkit.
Their mother, Crystalfrost, was changing the moss in their nest; her usually immaculate pale gray fur was sticking up in places. She glanced up as the two kits emerged from the small bramble tunnel that led into the well-protected nursery.
"Where's Clawkit?" Crystalfrost asked, tucking the last bit of moss into the bracken skeleton. "I thought he went outside with you."
Flamingkit padded around the nest before jumping in and snuggling up against the moss. "Clawkit's no fun," he complained. "He doesn't play any games with us."
The ginger tom-kit flinched as his mother cuffed him over the ear, albeit gently. "Don't say things like that," Crystalfrost scolded. "You know Clawkit isn't as quick-thinking as other cats. You two should take a nap. I have to go send out the patrols for the day."
"If he thinks at all," Flamingkit muttered as Crystalfrost padded out of the nursery. Mistykit stepped carefully into the nest and lay down next to her littermate, flicking a scrap of moss off of his pelt with her tail.
"Don't be mean, Flamingkit," Mistykit said, sinking happily into the soft nest. "Mama's right; Clawkit's not the same as us."
Flamingkit turned a disbelieving green gaze on his sister. "So you actually like him?" he spat. "He's worthless, Mistykit!"
Mistykit flinched in the strength of his accusation. Looking away, she said quietly, "Well, no. I just think he deserves a chance, is all."
"Ha!" Flamingkit spat the laugh like it was an insult. "You've got to learn that Clawkit's not going to be a real warrior. Not like us." He turned his back on Mistykit. Soon she could hear his soft snoring.
Who died and made you our wise leader? Mistykit wondered. Flamingkit had never said anything like that before, even though he made it clear that he didn't like Clawkit. With a shiver, the thought crossed her mind that maybe Flamingkit wanted to get rid of their little brother. She tried to make herself comfortable in the nest, and eventually fell into a fitful sleep.
He dreamed that he was walking through a dark forest. He couldn't see the stars or the moon. The only light seemed to come from little flickering bugs that buzzed around like they were lost. He tried to catch one, but they were too fast.
Flamingkit walked until he came to a small clearing in the gnarled trees. A few heartbeats later, Mistykit walked up on the other side of the clearing. "Flamingkit?" she squeaked. "Why are you in my dream?"
"I don't know." Flamingkit walked across the clearing to his sister. "Isn't this place great?"
Mistykit shivered. "It's spooky."
A voice sounded behind Flamingkit, scaring him out of his fur. "Well, look who we have here."
Flamingkit whirled around to see a dark gray tom and a tortoiseshell she-cat standing where he had entered the clearing. It was the tortoiseshell that had spoken, and she took a few steps forward as she continued, "Flamingkit and Mistykit, am I right?"
"How do you know our names?" Mistykit whispered, trembling. But Flamingkit stared up at the she-cat in awe.
The tom padded up as well. "Looks like someone's excited," he purred, beckoning to Flamingkit with his tail. "That's a good thing, little kit."
The she-cat nodded in agreement. "I suppose we should introduce ourselves. My name is Wildwind, and this is my brother, Nightseeker." Nightseeker meowed a greeting, which Flamingkit returned. Mistykit was still trembling. "Just like you, we were brought here as little kits."
"Really?" Flamingkit squeaked, even more exciting. "So we're going to spend a lot of time here?"
"Something like that," Nightseeker meowed, exchanging a glance with Wildwind. "We're going to train you at night, so you can become better warriors."
Flamingkit's eyes stretched wide. "Wow," he breathed. "So, are you StarClan cats? Does this mean we're special?"
For some reason, Nightseeker looked uncomfortable, but Wildwind breezed on calmly. "We're not exactly StarClan," she corrected gently. "But yes, you are special. Very special. Isn't that right, Nightseeker?" He nodded, but Flamingkit couldn't help but notice that he looked hesitant.
Mistykit, apparently finding a flicker of courage, spoke up. "What do you want with us?" she mewed, her voice shaking.
"What we want with you? Simple, little kit. We want to make you the best warriors possible." Wildwind turned and started to pad away, beckoning for the others to follow. Flamingkit bounded forward without hesitation, and Nightseeker fell into step beside the little kit. Mistykit held back for a heartbeat before following much more slowly, but Flamingkit barely noticed.
I'm going to be a warrior! he thought. And not a soft warrior, either. I'll be the best warrior in all IceClan! Just wait until Crystalfrost sees me! The idea put an extra surge of energy in his paws, and he ran faster, eager to get started on his first training session with Wildwind and Nightseeker.
Mistykit awoke the next morning to the first rays of sunlight peering into the nursery. She blinked as her eyes adjusted to the light, then looked to where Flamingkit had fallen asleep the night before.
He was still sleeping, his ginger flank rising and falling with his breath. Every so often his paw or ear would twitch, and then he would lay mostly still again.
Mistykit winced as she carefully stood. Nightseeker had taught her some really basic fight moves. Wildwind had assured the two kits that the moves would get harder, but Mistykit couldn't imagine what that would be like. She was already sore from the simple moves. And what would happen when she became an apprentice and had to train during the day, too? It would be torture.
Crystalfrost was already awake and pacing around a bit. As Mistykit stretched, the queen looked warmly at her kit. "Good, you're awake," Crystalfrost murmured. "I'm going to go organize the dawn patrols. You and Flamingkit can play when he wakes up, but be careful not to disturb any cat."
"We will," Mistykit mewed. Her mother squeezed out the nursery tunnel, leaving little tufts of fur on the brambles as she went. Mistykit sat down and quickly ran a paw over her fur before nudging Flamingkit awake.
Her littermate yawned and blinked open one green eye. "Wha?" he muttered, clearly still half asleep. He stood and stretched. "Mistykit, is it morning?"
"Just after dawn," the she-kit confirmed.
Flamingkit groaned and flopped back down into the nest. "Why would anyone want to be up this early?"
Mistykit shrugged and lay down next to him. "I don't know. I kind of like seeing Mama before she goes out each morning. Besides, the air is cool in the mornings."
"Let the mornings be your time then," Flamingkit muttered drowsily. "I'll sleep for a while longer, thanks." Within heartbeats he was snoring softly.
Mistykit watched his peaceful form for a heartbeat, then padded through the nursery tunnel and into the camp. The sunlight of dawn, although still strengthening, flooded over her, warming her from the cold night before.