Birth of Hope is the first FanFiction in the Fate of the Clans series.
The allegiances can be viewed here
“My kit has arrived!” Hollowstar heard his newest warrior Emberclaw exclaim as he paddled through the camp. The tom was pacing the clearing and would peak inside the nursery once in a while. Hollowstar decided it would be a good idea to see the kits since they would become his warriors after all. No he heard his mind whisper that’s not why you want to see them.
Ignoring his thoughts he paddled into the nursery where Cherryheart was watching her kit her eyes full of love. Hollowstar couldn’t help feeling a prick of jealousy although he knew he shouldn’t. Starclan had sent him the greatest of miracles and he knew it wouldn’t be right to complain.
He could see that Bronzestripe, the medicine cat who sat patiently beside Cherryheart felt the same way. “He’s beautiful,” she murmured and Hollowstar could see the sorrow that clouded her eyes. Luckily Cherryheart missed it and purred, “I don’t know what I should name it,” she remarked, “he looks so different and I can’t think of a name that would suit him.”
Hollowstar had to agree. With a tabby fur that had yellow stripes and deep brown eyes he looked very different from any other kit Hollowstar had ever seen. “Do you have any ideas?” Cherryheart asked him.
Hollowstar wished he had a name for the kit but he couldn’t think of any so he shook his head. Emberclaw entered the nursery again and gave his mate a mole before sitting down beside her.
“Are you talking about names?” he asked and when Hollowstar nodded he replied, “I can’t think of any name that would suit him.” Turning his head towards Bronzestripe he asked, “Do you have any ideas?”
Bronzestripe stared at the stars for a few moments before bringing it back down and addressed Cherryheart, “Starclan has spoken,” she meowed, “They want this kit to be named Thunderkit.”
Sharkstar pushed his way into the nursery looking for his kit. He found his mate Orangegleam resting in the corner of the nursery, a black bundle of fur sucking milk from her belly. “I’m calling her Shadowkit,” she meowed.
Sharkstar bit back a reply. Cats were not supposed to be given the names of their clans and it had never happened before except with the first leaders of the forest, who the clans were named after. But Sharkstar knew that even though Orangegleam was his mate and even though the very dark gray colored she-cat who was so dark she almost looked black, was his kit and the name Shadowkit fit her very much, he had to point this out.
“Orangegleam, I’m afraid we can’t name her that.”
Orangegleam held her ground, “I’m naming her Shadowkit, and that’s that.”
Sharkstar didn’t want to start a fight with his exhausted mate but he knew this was his only chance to change the kits name. He was opening his mouth to protest when Ravenfur, the medicine cat, paddled inside and meowed, “Don’t Sharkstar, allow her to name her kit however she pleases.”
“But,” Sharkstar felt himself protesting, “What about Starclan. Won’t they be angry?”
Ravenfur remained calm, “Starclan wanted this name for the kit.”
“Why would Starclan worry about the name of a kit?” Sharkstar questioned his medicine cat afraid suddenly that there was something wrong.
As Moss-star returned from a hunting patrol with Rushhope and Spinningdream he heard his best friend Leaf-fall running to him. “My kit is born!” he yowled, “My kit is finally born!”
Moss-star had been planning to fetch some of the prey that he still had to carry back, but he signaled to his patrol that they would have to leave without him, quickly realizing that Leaf-fall wasn’t going to let him go without seeing his kit.
As Moss-star entered the nursery he realized that Crowflight’s kits must have been born too because Ashwood, her mate, was also waiting inside the nursery. Crowflight was originally a Windclan cat, but when she fell in love with Ashwood they started meeting each other secretly at the horse place. Eventually they realized they couldn’t continue meeting each other secretly, so Crowflight came to live in Riverclan. Moss-star hadn’t been pleased but he was grateful that they hadn’t lost one of their strongest warriors to Windclan instead.
Leaf-fall pointed at a kit laying underneath Marshmallowfall, his mate’s, belly. It was a blue-gray tom, who looked almost like Stonefur, the legendary Thunderclan leader Bluestar’s kit.
When Marshmallowfall saw Leaf-fall she whispered, “Starclan have sent me a dream. They want me to name this kit Riverkit.”
Moss-star couldn’t help feeling surprised by the attention Starclan was saying to this kit so he remarked, “Riverkit will make a great addition to our clan,” He was about to leave the nursery when decided to check on Ashwood and Crowflight’s kit. After all he did want to make Crowflight feel more welcome in his clan.
As he paddled over he noticed that the cat had the size and muscular shape of a Windclan cat, much like her mother. Mossstar couldn’t help feeling the slightest bit disappointed that the cat looked more from Windclan than it did from Riverclan.
Mossstar looked at the kit. It had very pale fur, and looked white in the areas where sun shined over his fur. “What are you naming him?” he asked her carefully.
“Breezekit,” Ashwood answered for his mate.
“Hello Breezekit,” Mossstar murmured but as he welcomed the kit he realized that his name didn’t sound right. Like it wasn’t the name the kit was supposed to have. Like Starclan wanted a different name for it.
“You’re crow food Riverclan!” Thunderkit yowled as he pounced on top of Rufflekit, who leaped back in surprise. He wasn’t fazed for long though and quickly turned around and started clawing at him. Thunderkit easily dodged all his blows and dove for his feet, attacking them with his forearms. Rufflekit squirmed and tried to break free but Thunderkit had pinned him down. “Get off my littermate you Thunderclan scum,” Dragonkit yowled and he flung himself at Thunderkit, who was thrown off balance and fell into a pile of mud, staining his fur.
“You’ll pay for that one,” he yowled and flung himself at Dragonkit. Dragonkit was ready for Thunderkit and dodged his blow before counterattacking. Thunderkit quickly dodged out of the way and jumped on his face. He fell backward and his littermate quickly rushed to his aid. Together they started attacking Thunderkit, their feeble attempts matching each other. Thunderkit ran, before turning around and leaping on them, knocking them both of their feet. Quickly he started scratching at them with sheathed paws.
“Leave now, Riverclan, while we still show mercy,” he hissed in their ears.
“Never,” Rufflekit squealed and Dragonkit nodded, “we’re loyal to our fish faced Clan.”
“Thunderkit! Rufflekit! Dragonkit! Get back inside the nursery before it rains again,” Roundfang, Dragonkit and Rufflekit’s mother called.
“Coming,” all three kits squealed as they bounded into the nursery. While running to the nursery they ran past a couple warriors who gave them amused glances. Thunderkit felt himself going red at the attention before reminding himself that he would be leader one day and then he would have the attention of the whole forest.
His mother, Cherryheart, was waiting for him in the nursery. As soon as she saw him, she started fussing over him, cleaning his muddy fur asking if he got hurt, play fighting with kits older than him. Thunderkit proudly replied stating that he had taken down two kits single handed, when they were both older than him. Cherryheart was purring with pride when Dragonkit cut in, “Not true!” he protested, “We would have beat you if we had more time. You just got lucky.” But even as he said it, Thunderkit could see the admiration in his eyes.
Thunderkit knew very well that he was an excellent fighter. He had once fought off Rufflekit, Dragonkit and Ratpaw, when he used to be a kit. That was when he and Ratpaw used to be friends.
Now that he was an apprentice, Ratpaw had gotten really hot-headed and thought he was too cool to talk to them. Rufflekit and Dragonkit had promised them that when they became apprentices, which they were becoming the next day, they would never ditch him like that. Thunderkit barely even knew the newest kits in the nursery that were being nursed by Hailstorm, but he knew that he would never ditch his other nursery buddy Scrapkit when he became an apprentice a moon before him. Even Rufflekit and Dragonkit, who were two moons older than Scrapkit, had promised that they would always be friends. Thunderkit felt a pang of sorrow as he remembered his friend Scrapkit, who was in the medicine cat den with Bronzestripe, the medicine cat, and Cloudfur, her mother who wouldn’t leave her alone in there.
“Can we go visit Scrapkit?” Thunderkit asked his mother as Rufflekit and Dragonkit bounded up beside him. His mother thought about it for a second before nodding her head.
“But you have to be really quiet and promise that you won’t disturb Bronzestripe,” she warned them.
“We promise,” they all meowed in unison before bouncing off to the nursery.
Rufflekit was jumping around, still full of energy after the fight, “I can’t wait until tomorrow,” he was squealing, “I finally get to become an apprentice!”
Thunderkit felt a pang of jealousy that two of his best friends were going to become apprentices when he reminded himself that he should be happy for them, “some apprentice you’ll be, you can’t even defeat a kit, two against one,” Thunderkit meowed, his whiskers twitching with amusement.
Rufflekit shoved Thunderkit, his eyes gleaming mischievously before he shrugged, “At least I’ll be better than Ratpaw. All that lump of fur ever does is walk around bragging, and sleep on other clans territories.”
Thunderkit smirked. He would never forget the day that Ratpaw had come back from a hunting assessment, his mentor Badgerclaw not hiding his disappointment with his apprentice. Ratpaw had been on the dawn patrol the previous day and while hunting had accidently crossed the border without realizing it. He was so tired that he had fell asleep on the other side of the border and luckily Badgerclaw had found them before a Windclan patrol did. Thunderkit had actually felt bad for Ratpaw until he had started blaming the kits for making so much noise, preventing him from sleeping. And unbelievably, some apprentices had backed him up. Ratpaw had been punished pretty badly but the kits were forced to stay in the nursery for a few days because Badgerclaw had agreed that they were partly responsible.
“If you can’t do more than Ratpaw, you might as well still be in Roundfang’s stomach,” he purred. Dragonkit and Rufflekit laughed in agreement.
Thunderkit gulped as they entered the nursery. His insides filled with worry for what would happen to his friend Scrapkit. She had gotten green cough right after leaf bare had ended and now she was sentenced to the medicine cat den.
When the three kits entered the medicine cat den Scrapkit was laying on the floor, Bronzestripe at her side, making her eat an herb. Strangely, Cloudfur wasn’t there and Thunderkit assumed she was eating or sharing tongues with the other queens. When Bronzestripe saw the kits, she smiled, “Did you come to see Scrapkit?” she asked softly. The kits nodded and she warned them, “Only for a little while, she needs to rest.”
The three kits huddled up beside their friend. Thunderkit sent silent prayer to Starclan that his friend would heal. When Scrapkit sensed their presence she opened her eyes. “Whew, it’s you” she whispered with amusement, “I thought it was Cloudfur coming to bother me again.”
Thunderkit smiled but he felt especially worried for his friend. The kits said their goodbye’s before leaving their friend in the medicine cat den. On the way back to the nursery Thunderkit called to his friends, “why don’t we go to the nursery to hear a tale from the elders,” Rufflekit and Dragonkit both nodded enthusiastically and they made their way to the elder’s den.
Dragonkit sighed, “This will probably be the last time I listen to the elders telling stories.” Rufflekit nodded before adding brightly, “but we’ll be apprentices then, and warriors before you know it.” Thunderkit purred, happy for his friends who he considered littermates although they were not kin.
The elders had guessed that they would come because when they saw Thunderkit they smiled and waved their paws, beckoning them to come over. Excited the kits bounded over to Elder’s den and made their selves comfortable. When the three elders, Sproutleg, Stumpytail and Willowbreeze, saw Thunderkit, they paddled over to see him. Thunderkit was popular among the elders and he enjoyed their presence.
“Which story are you going to tell us today?” Dragonkit asked Sproutleg, the oldest elder who knew just about every tale.
Sproutleg thought for a moment before he asked, “Did I tell you about the story of when the badgers attacked Thunderclan camp and Midnight warned Leafpool and Crowfeather about the attack?” Thunderkit and Rufflekit nodded but Dragonkit shook his head.
“I’ve never heard of that one,” he asked, “can you tell us that one?”
“Okay,” Sproutleg nodded before starting his story, “So right after Leafpool and Crowfeather decide that they’re love for each other is stronger than their loyalty to both the warrior and the medicine cat code and run away they are approached by Midnight, the badger who warns them about an attack that badgers were planning. Leafpool then realized that she had to go back and warns her camp while Crowfeather offered to go to Windclan to get some help. When Leafpool arrives at camp, it is a bloody scene and the badgers seem to be ready to wipe out Thunderclan. Thunderclan is struggling until Windclan show up and help them chase the badgers out. Thunderclan thanks Windclan and Leafpool and Crowfeather finally except that no matter how much they love each other, they can’t be together and they’re destinies lie on different paths.”
“You forgot the part about Cinderpelt,” Rufflekit cut in and Sproutleg nodded.
“Cinderpelt, the Thunderclan medicine cat and Leafpool’s mentor was told by Starclan that she would die during that battle. So she got especially worried when he learned about Leafpool and Crowfeather. After she died in the battle against the badgers, Leafpool took her place and Cinderpelt was reincarnated as a kit of a mother who was giving birth to kits around the same moment that Cinderpelt died, and in her second life she got to become a warrior like she always wanted to be.”
Dragonkit was very into the story and Thunderkit found his self surprised his friend hadn’t heard this story. “Come on, let’s get back to the nursery,” Thunderkit meowed and they thanked the elders for the story before leaving.
When they came back to the nursery, they saw Snowfur lying in her den, much to their surprise, “what’s she doing here?” Rufflekit asked and when he realized how rude that sounded, he gasped and covered his muzzle with his paw.
But Roundfang’s patience wasn’t to be tested for she sternly meowed, “Time to go to sleep, all of you.”
“But I’m going to be an apprentice tomorrow,” Dragonkit protested.
“Which is exactly why you need to go to sleep. Now to bed, all of you.”
“Wake up, Thunderkit! Wake up!” Thunderkit groaned as Rufflekit prodded him, “I’m becoming an apprentice today.”
Thunderkit stretched as he got up and he could hear Dragonkit wondering out loud, “I wonder who my mentor will be. It would be amazing if I could get Hollowstar but he’s already mentoring Fiercepaw, that lucky fur ball. Maybe I’ll get Sparklelight or Firestorm would be cool too.”
Thunderkit’s whiskers twitched with amusement, when he noticed Rufflekit sitting quietly, not adding into what Dragonkit was saying. Thunderkit was about to ask him if he was okay when he heard Hollowstar calling him from the High ledge.
Thunderkit started bounding outside with Rufflekit and Dragonkit when an amused voice called, “you’re not apprentices yet” Roundfang was smiling as she approached her kits.
“We just want to see what’s going on!” Rufflekit complained, “We won’t cause any trouble.”
“Fine,” Roundfang sighed and when the kits stared at her or a few seconds, “are you going to listen to what Hollowstar has to say or not?”
The kits started bounding off when Roundfang called, “Thunderkit, may I quickly speak with you.” Thunderkit turned around and Rufflekit and Dragonkit followed but Roundfang signaled for them to leave.
“Why?” Dragonkit protested, “You’re our mother so what are you hiding from us?”
Roundfang replied, “What I am about to say is for Thunderkit only. Now go!”
The soon to be apprentices walked away leaving Thunderkit with Roundfang. “Now Thunderkit,” Roundfang started, “Bronzestripe told me I still have enough milk to feed you for another moon, but we weren’t sure if you wanted it.”
Thunderkit shook his head, “I don’t need it,” he declared, “I can eat fresh kill.” Cherryheart didn’t have any milk to give to Thunderkit, which was a rare occurrence so he had to drink Roundfang’s milk. It seemed strange to a lot of cats that Cherryheart wouldn’t be able to provide milk because Bronzestripe had been unable to find anything that could have caused his mother to lose her milk, so it made some cats suspicious, which made Cherryheart angry that cats would question her.
Roundfang nodded and flicked her tail indicating that he could leave. Thunderkit dashed away until he found Rufflekit and Dragonkit who were listening to what Hollowstar was saying. “Did I miss anything?” he asked Rufflekit who shook his head.
“He’s just talking about the Gathering yesterday.” Thunderkit suddenly remembered that there had been a gathering the previous night and turned his attention to Hollowstar who was still talking.
“Shadowclan has hinted that they want to take back the territory that our ancestors Firestar and Lionblaze fought for. I don’t understand how Sharkstar could want to start the battle which their loyal deputy Russetfur was killed in. After all it was the Dark Forest who wanted this battle that took place many, many moons ago.”
“If they ask for the territory will we give it to them?” Roboflight, one of the senior warriors called.
“I can assure you that Thunderclan will fight for that land,” Hollowstar promised, “It would look weak to give it to them, and after Shadowclan got that strip of land they would just ask for more.”
Murmurs of agreement swept through the clan and Aquatail called out, “but it was the Dark Forest’s will that the battle there happened last time, so isn’t it dangerous to fight over that land again.”
This time the clan was murmuring again loudly and Thunderkit hoped that Hollowstar wouldn’t allow Shadowclan to take their territory. To his relief Hollowstar objected, “Then we were attacking Shadowclan territory, now we are defending ours. We will fight for this land.”
Murmurs of agreement swept through clan again and someone let out a battle cry. But Hollowstar wasn’t done yet. “We have to kits ready to be apprentices today,” he called to the cats bellow him.
“He’s going to do it now?” Rufflekit was frantic, “but I was going to ask him if-”
Dragonkit cut him off, “Come on Rufflekit let’s go!”
“Not so fast,” Roundfang was behind them, “You can’t go like this, you look terrible.” She quickly started to groom the cats and they both tried breaking free.
Hollowstar continued, “Rufflekit and Dragonkit are ready to become apprentices today.” Both kits hesitated and Roundfang pushed them forward. Both kits shyly started to move towards the High ledge.
Hollowstar addressed the kits now, “Dragonkit, you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be an apprentice. From this day on, until you receive you warrior name, you will be known as Dragonpaw. Your mentor will be Frostcloud. I hope Frostcloud will pass down all she knows to you.” Hollowstar signaled to Frostcloud to come forward, “Frostcloud, you are ready to take on an apprentice. You have received excellent quality training from Emberclaw, and you have shown yourself to be loyal and smart. You will be the mentor of Dragonpaw, and I expect you to pass down everything you know to Dragonpaw.”
Thunderkit watched as Dragonkit and Frostcloud touched noses, and Hollowstar turned to Rufflekit but before he could begin Rufflekit cut him off, “Hollowstar, I wish to become a medicine cat apprentice.”
The clan gasped and looked around at each other curiously. Hollowstar didn’t object but simply commented, “You should have told me before Rufflekit, but we can make you a medicine cat apprentice if Bronzestripe is okay with that.”
Bronzestripe stepped out of her den, “Of course I’m okay with it, and I have been in need of an apprentice for a while.”
“Rufflekit, you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be an apprentice. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Rufflepaw. Your mentor will be Bronzestripe. I hope that she will pass down everything she knows to you.”
Bronzestripe stepped forward, “Cats of Thunderclan, as you know, I will not be around forever. So it is time I took an apprentice. I will mentor a cat who has shown energy and thoughtfulness. Your next medicine cat will be Rufflepaw.”
Thunderkit felt himself going numb. Since when did Rufflekit-Rufflepaw now, want to be a medicine cat apprentice?
Hollowstar asked Rufflepaw, “Do you accept the post as apprentice to Bronzestripe?”
Rufflepaw nodded, “I do.”
“Then at the half-moon, you must travel to the Moonpool to be accepted by Starclan before the other medicine cats,” Bronzestripe meowed.
Hollowstar finally concluded the ceremony by dipping his head to Rufflepaw, “The good wishes of all Thunderclan will go with you.”
Finally Bronzestripe and Rufflepaw touched noses as the clan started chanting, “Rufflepaw! Dragonpaw! Rufflepaw! Dragonpaw!”
Both of Thunderkit’s friends stood proudly and when they finally came down, Thunderkit asked Rufflepaw, “How long have you wanted to be medicine cat?”
Rufflepaw thought about a little, “For I while I guess,” He finally decided, “There was always this voice inside me telling me to be medicine cat and I ignored it, I guess, until just now.”
Dragonpaw couldn’t stay in place, “I’m going to talk to Frostcloud to see if there is anything she wants me to do.”
Rufflepaw nodded, “I should go see if there is anything Bronzestripe wants.”
As the two cats bounded away Thunderkit decided to go visit Scrapkit, “wait up Rufflepaw!” he called, “I want to see Scrapkit.”
Rufflepaw slowed down and waited for Thunderkit to catch up. The two cats walked to the nursery where Bronzestripe was crouching over Scrapkit feeding her another herb. The two kits walked up to where Scrapkit was lying and Rufflepaw dipped his head respectfully towards his mentor.
Bronzestripe looked hoarse, “I’m afraid she’s going to die,” she wailed, “probably very soon. I don’t think she will see the next sunrise.”
Panic fluttered up Thunderkit’s body and he started to become very worried. “Where’s Cloudfur?” he asked Bronzestripe.
“I sent Cloudfur to get some fresh kill. I don’t want her to know about Scrapkit’s condition.” She replied hoarsely.
Thunderkit bristled, and worry and anxiety for his friend made him rude and impatient, “Cloudfur is Scrapkit’s mother. She has every right to know.” He snapped, “What kind of medicine cat are you?”
Bronzestripe looked worried and Thunderkit could see pain piercing her gaze, “It’s painful to lose a kit,” she rasped in a voice unlike the one she had during Rufflepaw’s apprentice ceremony, “You wouldn’t understand.”
“And you do!” this time it was Rufflepaw. Thunderkit found hisself surprised that Rufflepaw had turned against his mentor on his first day as her apprentice.
Bronzestripe didn’t answer that question; instead she gazed at Thunderkit which made his fur prickly. He didn’t like the look Bronzestripe was giving him, and he feared that he had already made an enemy of the clan’s medicine cat.
Thunderkit was about to open his mouth to say something when Cloudfur walked into the den. “Where’s Scrapkit?” she demanded. Thunderkit gave Rufflepaw a worried glance and he returned it.
Cloudfur walked over to her kit’s body and started to groom it, “Cloudfur,” Bronzestripe began, “I think Scrapkit will die by the next sunrise.”
“Nooooo!” Cloudfur wailed, “Why Starclan?” she yelled, “Whyyyyyy meeeeee?” Grief clouded eyes but the queen continued to groom her kit. Rufflepaw knelt down beside her.
After a while Cloudfur got up. She murmured some encouraging words to her kit then turned to Bronzestripe, “I can’t bear to watch my kit die. I have to leave now. And since I’m old enough, I am going to retire and become an elder.”
Bronzestripe nodded, “and you will be honored as one.” Cloudfur left the medicine cat den with her tail drooping.
Rufflepaw was crouching over Scrapkit’s body. Suddenly her body started jerking around and her eyes fluttered open. She started gasping, struggling for breath, “Scrapkit are you okay?” Thunderkit yowled as he ran towards her.
She shook her head choking, “I’m dying Thunderkit.”
“Scrapkit, no!” Rufflepaw yowled.
“Just tell Cloudfur that she was a great mother and,” she gasped, “thanks for being such great friends.”
“Scrapkit,” Rufflepaw edged closer to the dying cat and Thunderkit backed away in horror, “you promised me though,” Rufflepaw’s voice was choked out.
“I’ll be waiting for you in Starclan, Rufflepaw,” she gasped, “Besides you are a medicine cat now, it was never meant to be.”
“But I became a medicine cat to save you,” Rufflepaw cried.
“You will save many cats,” Scrapkit managed to murmur, “But I won’t be one of them,” then very quietly she whispered, “I love you,” before her body became limp.
“She rests with Starclan now,” Rufflepaw murmured.
Bronzestripe looked shocked, and her eyes were still very wide, “You became medicine cat to save Scrapkit,” she demanded, “and she promise that she would become your mate when you became warriors.” Bronzestripe looked horrified and yet Thunderkit thought she saw some sympathy for the warrior in her gaze, “you know that medicine cats aren’t allowed to have mate’s don’t you?”
“Yes,” Rufflepaw sighed his head still down from grief, “But I would rather love a cat and not be able to have them than love a dead cat and have to wait until I reach Starclan to visit them.” Rufflepaw explained.
Bronzestripe had a strange look on her face that Thunderkit couldn’t sort out. “So do you want to become a warrior apprentice now?”
But Rufflepaw shook his head, “I can’t let this happen to any other cat. I don’t want to make anyone else feel my pain. I will stay as a medicine cat to honor Scrapkit.”
“You won’t be able to take any mates,” Bronzestripe warned him.
“Scrapkit was the only mate I could have ever had,” Rufflepaw replied, “I want to become a medicine cat apprentice.”
“Good,” Bronzestripe let out a breath of relief, “do you want to tour the territory so I can show you where to find herbs?”
“Sure,” Rufflepaw answered and he left the medicine cat den with Bronzestripe. Thunderkit went to touch noses with the cold body of Scrapkit before leaving the den as well. He felt so overwhelmed by what had just happened.
Rufflepaw and Scrapkit were going to become mates,Thunderkit felt a great rush of pity for his friend. He also was scared of Bronzestripe. She acted so weird around him, he was afraid that he had already made an enemy of her. He deiced to go where he always went when he felt upset or overwhelmed; the elders’ den.
When Willowbreeze saw him she beckoned with her tail for him to come to her. “I got good and bad news,” Thunderkit announced, “which one do you want first?”
“The good news,” Stumpytail huffed walking up to him.
“Cloudfur is moving to the elders’ den,” he announced
“So then the bad news is that...”
“Scrapkit is dead,” Thunderkit murmured with grief
“She rests with Starclan,” Willowbreeze murmured, “I’ve heard that Rufflepaw has become a medicine cat. That’s good news for the Clan. Starclan knows, Bronzestripe is as old as Hollowstar and he only has three lives left.”
Thunderkit nodded deciding not to tell them about the relationship between Rufflepaw and Scrapkit.
“I suppose you want a story?” Stumpytail asked and Thunderkit nodded.
“Can you tell me the story about the final battle against the Dark forest?”
Stumpytail nodded and began his story, “The clans had all been waiting for this battle. The clan leaders had met the last Sunrise and promised to help each other in the final battle. Brokenstar had threatened all of his recruits saying that if any of them betrayed them they would be killed. When the battle started most of the recruits turned on the Dark Forest, saying that they would rather die than be disloyal to their Clan. Some cats did turn against the Clans and they were killed. With the help of the Star Clan recruits, the Clans won, but many cats died, including Hollyleaf, the sister of Lionblaze and Jayfeather, and Spottedleaf, Firestar’s old love before Sandstorm. However, Tigerstar refused to back down and he and Firestar had a final battle in which Firestar killed Tigerstar. But shortly after Tigerstar was killed a tenth time, Firestar died from the battle wounds and went to Starclan. Brambleclaw took his place and became Bramblestar and he picked Squirrelflight, his former mate, as his deputy.” Stumpytail concluded his story.
“What about the final prophecy?” Thunderkit asked, “Can you repeat it to me?”
Stumpytail nodded again, “There will be three cats, kin of your kin, with the power of the stars in their paws. They will find a fourth, and the battle between light and dark will be won. A new leader will rise from the shadows of his death, and the clan will survive beyond the memories of his memories. This is how it always has been, and how it will always be.”
Shadowkit crept through the ferns and pull her legs back preparing to pounce. Her body itched with tension as she waited for the patrol to return. She needed the element of surprise or there would be no point to this. Shadowkit lifted her nose and sniffed the air. She could smell the patrol coming. She arched his back, her battle reflexes ready, and waited. Finally she could see the patrol pass by. Wait, she warned herself, wait. She waited as the patrol swept by and the back of the patrol was right in front of her, Now! Shadowkit jumped out of the ferns and leapt onto Sharkstar, who turned around wildly. Shadowkit snuck back into the ferns. Sharkstar continued looking around and Shadowkit quickly jumped on him again before running back into the ferns.
Sharkstar sniffed the air, his hackles rose before bringing them down and twitching his whiskers with amusement, “You really scared me for a second there Shadowkit.”
Shadowkit hopped out of the ferns smiling at her father’s praise, “Wasn’t I great?” Mistheart, one of the warriors on the patrol purred at the kit and the rest of the patrol headed into the camp which was right behind them.
Sharkstar licked his kit affectionately, “You are very good at stealth and night fighting,” he purred, “You are a true ShadowClan cat. And ShadowClan cats need their sleep,” he flicked his tail towards the nursery, “Go back to the nursery before Orangegleam starts worrying about you.” Shadowkit flicked her tail impatiently before stomping off to the nursery.
Shadowkit knew she was really good at stealth and night battling which were ShadowClan’s strengths. She had tried to convince Sharkstar to let her become an apprentice a moon early, and when Sharkstar refused, saying it was ridiculous; Shadowkit had decided to try to prove that she was ready.
Sharkstar had scowled at her, warning her that it would be like what the old ShadowClan leader, Brokenstar had done. Shadowkit knew of Brokenstar of course. Almost all of the nursery tales were about him and Tigerstar the other ruthless Shadowclan leader. Shadowkit’s favorite nursery tale was the one about the six cats’ journey to meet Midnight and their way back, which was one of the few nursery tales that didn’t have anything about Tigerstar or Brokenstar. The tale was told from Tawnypelt’s point of view and Shadowkit could listen to the story all day and she wouldn’t get bored.
Orangegleam was waiting for her in the nursery and smiled when she saw her kit enter. Shadowkit bounded up to her mother; her tail high sat down in the nursery, “Where are Purplekit, Redkit and Pinkkit?” She asked her mother when she noticed that Flapcloud’s three kits were missing.
“Flapcloud took them out for a walk,” her mother replied and passed her kit a frog. Shadowkit’s mouth watered. Cats from other Clans and even several Shadowclan cats though frogs and toads were disgusting, but Shadowkit relished their taste. She liked the stickiness and tartness as well as the texture of the prey.
Shadowkit quickly gulped down the prey and yawned. “I think that you are old enough to stay in the nursery alone for a night,” Orangegleam meowed while stretched, and when Shadowkit gave her a funny look, she explained, “I am going to the gathering tonight, I have to leave you in the nursery.”
Shadowkit nodded and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to go to sleep. She was probably going to have to stay up all night wondering about her mother and the gathering. Orangegleam got up and started to walk towards the fresh kill pile to get herself a shrew.
Shadowkit sensed it before it happened. Quickly she jumped out of the way before Redkit tried to pounce on her. Redkit landed on moss and exclaimed, “How did you do that?” Shadowkit simply purred.
“Hey!” Purplekit jumped in, “Why don’t we play Prey-stone.” All the other cats nodded. Prey-stone was a game that was thought of by three Shadowclan cats. The objective of the game is to get the ‘prey’, a stone into a hole, which is the gap in between two trees. The team which got it into the Prey-hole would win a point, and if the other team blocked them they would win a point.
“I want to be with Purplekit,” Pinkkit yowled.
“So I’m stuck with Redkit,” Shadowkit moaned teasingly.
“Hey!” Redkit pounced on Shadowkit, who rolled over before sheathing her claws and attacking her friend.
“Hey,” Purplekit cut in, “Are we going to play Prey-stone or not?” Redkit and Shadowkit immediately calmed down.
“Wait!” Pinkkit squealed, “Flapcloud told us we had in stay in the nursery.” Shadowkit sighed. Flapcloud was a very protective mother who was constantly fussing over her kits. Shadowkit was so glad that Orangegleam wasn’t that strict, or she didn’t know what she would do all day.
The other kits were crestfallen and Purplekit cut in, “We should just sneak out,” excitement tingled in her voice she added, “It would be even more fun.” The other kits all nodded.
Slowly the kits crawled out of the nursery. They ducked under the bramble thicket and were making their way out of camp when Sharkstar saw Flapcloud’s kits. “Hey,” he called the kits, “Do you know where Shadowkit is? I want to have a word with her.”
Shadowkit smirked, Sharkstar hadn’t even noticed that she was there but instead he had noticed Flapcloud’s kits. Her thrill quickly changed into anxiety though when she realized that she must be in trouble if Sharkstar wanted to see her. Flapcloud’s kits must have sensed it too, because they innocently shook their heads. Sharkstar nodded and flicked his tail, “You can go outside and play your game.”
When the three kits had bounded off Sharkstar sniffed the air before pushing his was behind the bush where Shadowkit was hiding. “I smelled you,” he purred, “next time you should try to stay downwind so that your scent doesn’t drift.”
Shadowkit was surprised, was her father trying to train her? Sharkstar continued, “That’s how I scented you during the patrol.”
Shadowkit rolled her eyes, “I purposely hid somewhere where you would smell me so you wouldn’t freak out and think that it was a patrol, and I just forgot this time. I was sneaking out of camp so I wasn’t trying to hide from you.”
Sharkstar flicked his tail, “Are you trying to train me?” Shadowkit suddenly burst out.
Sharkstar took a deep breath, “Follow me,” he flicked his tail to the leader’s den. Curious, Shadowkit followed her father into the leader’s den.
Once they were in his father’s den Shadowkit looked around curiously. She had never been in the leader’s den before and had always wondered what it looked like. Sharkstar waited patiently as she looked around and finally turned to her leader.
Sharkstar began, “The day you were born your mother wanted to name you Shadowkit which I was against because it was against Clan tradition to name a kit after her Clan. However, Ravenfur told me that Starclan wanted you to have this name and when I asked him why Starclan cared, he told me that you were no ordinary cat.”
“So,” Shadowkit hesitated, “I’m your daughter; of course I’m no ordinary cat.”
“Well,” Sharkstar continued, “a couple nights ago Starclan sent me a dream. They told me that the Clans were about to be tested, like they had never been tested before and that four cats, who they also mentioned were currently kits, would lead the clans through this test that Starclan had set up for us. They also said that the test would be made by three kits that could change the way of the clans forever.”
Shadowkit wanted to ask what made her father think she was special, but she already knew why. Shadowkit wasn’t even sure she wanted it to be another cat. The idea of leading the Clans gave her a thrilling amount of excitement and pride, but also anxiety at what would happen if she failed.
“Don’t worry,” Sharkstar added seeing the concern in her eyes, “there still is a long time until that day, but I want to have you prepared.”
“But,” Shadowkit cut in, “what about Redkit, Purplekit and Pinkkit, won’t they realize something is up.”
“I’m going to tell the Clan,” Sharkstar replied, “and the other Clans.”
“The Clan,” now Shadowkit was worried, “but are you sure…”
Sharkstar cut her off, “During the battle against the Dark Forest, ThunderClan couldn’t even tell their warriors about what had happened and because of that the Dark Forest got more dangerous than it would have been. I am going to train kits know because I don’t know what is in store for us and our kits need to be ready to defend ourselves,” However Sharkstar added seeing the look of excitement that crossed Shadowkit’s face, “I will not be training you like an apprentice. Just some stretches and a small amount of defense tactics. We can’t afford to be like Brokenstar.”
Shadowkit nodded, “One more question,” she asked, “didn’t StarClan send other Clan leaders dreams, and how do you plan to tell them?
Sharkstar shrugged, “StarClan told me that I was the only cat who received this dream,” he sighed, “as for how I’m going to tell the Clans. I am going to ask for the territory that ThunderClan took from us a while ago is given back to us. This will be a pretty obvious hint that dark times are approaching because last time the battle was because of the Dark Forest.”
Shadowkit nodded. She understood his father’s reasoning, but she knew it would take a lot of courage to say that in front of the other Clans. Sharkstar flicked his tail indicating that she was dismissed.
Shadowkit ran out of the nursery and out of the camp where the other kits were waiting for her. “What did he want?” Pinkkit asked.
Shadowkit shrugged, “Nothing,” but it must have been obvious that she was lying because all three kits gave her curious looks. “So,” Shadowkit bounced in when nobody said anything, “Are we going to play or not?”
The kits started playing their game but Shadowkit’s thoughts kept wondering back to her conversation with her father. I am destined to lead the Clans. Shadowkit was proud, but even as a Shadowclan cat, her pride was barely noticeable under all of the other feelings that kept coming up about being a special cat.
“Shadowkit, Shadowkit!” Redkit exclaimed, “Are you playing or not,” Shadowkit blinked, realizing that Pinkkit had just snatched the rock from her and she hadn’t even realized it. She shook her head.
“I’m sorry I just don’t feel like playing today,” she apologized.
Purplekit frowned, “You were the one who wanted to play so bad,” and then added, “Did Sharkstar say something that bothered you.”
Shadowkit was eating her vole when she heard Sharkstar from the High branch. “Are you going to listen?” Purplekit asked. Shadowkit shook her head. She wasn’t ready for this. She put her head down and quietly waited as she heard all of the warriors and apprentices paddling out of their dens to listen to Sharkstar’s announcements.
She waited as she heard the cats settling down and Sharkstar talking.
“As you know there is a gathering tonight. During the gathering I will ask for the land that Thunderclan took from us a long time ago back when Blackstar was the leader of ShadowClan.” Murmurs quickly swept among the clan and Sharkstar continued before anyone could comment, “This is because I have received a dream from StarClan, telling me that the Clans will soon be tested, like they have never been tested before and that only four cats will be able to guide us through this struggle.”
Sharkstar remained quiet as the murmurs continued. Shadowkit could hear some gasp and some wails but nobody denied what Sharkstar said. Nobody ever denied what Sharkstar said. Sharkstar was one of the noblest cats in the Clans, and a lie had never escaped from his mouth. He had never made any suggestions that had harmed anybody either. Sure, Sharkstar was fierce and proud, and even, like all Shadowclan cats, cold-blooded, but nobody could doubt his nobility or honesty.
When the talking finally quieted down Sharkstar continued, “I am asking for this land because I hope the other clans will view it as a bad omen and understand that something big is about to happen as I was told in my dream that I was the only leader who had this dream.”
Some cats howled to that, delighted that Shadowclan was finally chosen for something special. It was almost always ThunderClan who received the prophecies and the prophesized cats.
“I also want to start training kits,” Sharkstar put in and some cats gasped, “But,” Sharkstar continued, “We will only teach them to defend their selves, not fight or hunt.”
All the cats who had gasped in rage were now breathing sighs of relief or cheering on Sharkstar who was still talking, “No other Clans can know about this, because, although our training will be nothing like apprentice training, and our kits’ trainers will be very soft and easy on them, other Clans may accuse us of breaking the Warrior Code.”
Shadowkit recognized the voice of the she-cat Buzzheart as she called, “Who will be the kits mentors?”
Sharkstar answered, “Nobody. Apprentices will take turns teaching kits self defense only. We are not training them, just helping them learn to defend their selves. However,” he added flicking is tail towards the she-cat, “you can oversee the apprentices and arrange which apprentice will be helping them learn self defense.”
Buzzheart nodded and there was a long silence. Finally a voice Shadowkit couldn’t recognize cut in, “Who are these cats that will guide us.”
Shadowkit prepared her ears and clenched her teeth. She had not even told Flapcloud’s kits that she was one of the cats. To her greatest relief Sharkstar didn’t tell the clan. “I don’t know,” Shadowkit found herself surprised at her father’s lie when she realized it wasn’t a lie. Her father had just guessed it was her. He didn’t know that for sure. “However, I think it is one cat from each clan.”
Shadowkit guessed her father dismissed them then, because she could hear cats whispering and Flapcloud’s kits came inside the nursery, followed by Buzzheart. “Okay,” she began, “I want you to understand, Shadowkit, that you will start your training when you become an apprentice and Redkit, Purplekit and Pinkkit will get half a moon of defensive training.”
Shadowkit gave her a curious look and Buzzheart explained, “I have decided not to start your training until a moon later and you will be an apprentice in a moon.” Shadowkit puffed her chest despite herself. Sometimes she found it hard to believe she would be taught how to actually fight and sneak up on her enemies. She wasn’t even sure she wanted this defensive training. Defense was for a kittypet, although she couldn’t help wondering if Sharkstar would approve when he wanted to do it so that she could learn defense.
Redkit, Purplekit and Pinkkit were half a moon younger than Shadowkit so they would get half a moon of training. The kits all nodded to Buzzheart who disappeared. “I can’t believe it!” Pinkkit exclaimed, “They’re teaching us defense. It is ridiculous. They should teach us fighting too.”
Shadowkit shook her head, despite how much she wanted to be an apprentice right now. There was a reason the Warrior Code was made and a reason that an age limit for apprenticeship was on there. They had to listen to StarClan. Faith was very important.
A short while later Wingpelt, the Clan deputy, called the warriors who she was taking to the gathering. Shadowkit listened as she called out her mother’s name. Orangegleam gave her an affectionate lick before disappearing through the bramble thickets. Shadowkit watched her leave the nursery and wait beside the other cats going to the gathering.
Flapcloud was sitting in the nursery beside her kits that were chomping down on a vole. Normally Shadowkit would have snuck up on them but now she didn’t feel in the mood. Am I a cat destined to lead the Clans? Shadowkit wasn’t sure anymore. She decided to go ask Ravenfur when she remembered that the medicine cat was going to the gathering as well. Sighing, she put her head on her paws and tried to fall asleep.
Starclan is calling you Shadowkit, you have no need to feel afraid. Don’t try to run from the truth; you can’t escape your destiny. Shadowkit gasped as she realized she was in her den. As she looked around she noticed her mother sleeping in her den and realized that the gathering must have finished. But Shadowkit was sure she recognized that thick-furred, muscular, large black she-cat with green eyes. She couldn’t remember at the time but she knew a cat like that. Not somebody that she knew personally but somebody she always heard stories of. It was just a dream, Shadowkit thought to herself, it was just a dream.
But was it a dream from StarClan? Shadowkit decided not to think about that and to try to fall asleep. She knew it was too late to go to the elders den so she repeated her favorite story of Tawnypelt’s journey to herself, the way elders said Tawnypelt told the story herself.
No amount of strength, speed, stealth or even loyalty can be greater than or take you through what the greatest gift StarClan has given us can. In order to survive and in order to thrive, we must always maintain our faith, Faith in StarClan, Faith in our Clan, Faith in our Clanmates, and Faith in ourselves.
“Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey join beneath the High stone for a Clan meeting!”
Riverkit jumped when he heard Mossstar calling his clan. He saw Breezekit pulling herself up too, and waited for the kit to catch up to him before walking out of the nursery. As the two cats started walking towards the clearing, Leaffall, Riverkit’s father, blocked them. Riverkit tried to shove past his father but he wouldn’t budge.
“Sorry Riverkit, but you need to stay in the nursery. The Clan has much to mourn and we don’t want kits to get in our way.” Riverkit sighed and he could see Breezekit lashing her tail. “Why don’t you go play with Droopytail’s kits?” he offered.
Breezekit replied, “”Droopytail took them outside on a walk.” Leaffall sighed and flicked his tail towards the nursery.
“We’ll stay at the edge of the clearing,” Riverkit pleaded. Now that he knew something big had happened, he was even more determined to listen to what Mossstar was going to say. Leaffall looked thoughtful and was still thinking when Ashwood, Breezekit’s father, came up. “Don’t worry, I’ll watch over them.”
Riverkit wanted to jump with relief. He would be able to hear the news after all. Leaffall nodded and went over to touch noses with Mossstar before sitting down with the other cats. Riverkit purred. His father was a very important member of the clan and was the warrior Mossstar trusted most.
Breezekit and Ashwood were talking about the usual things a father would talk about with his kit. Breezekit was a lot closer to Ashwood than most kits were to their parents because Ashwood had risked so much to give birth to Breezekit by taking a cat from another Clan as a mate and bringing her to his Clan. None of the kits judged Breezekit for what her parents had done, but some warriors would send dirty glances or glares towards Breezekit which she never missed. Riverkit felt bad for his friend when this happened, as it wasn’t even her fault that her parents had done things they weren’t supposed to.
Suddenly, the Clan quieted down and Riverkit craned his neck to see what was going on. A body was being carried through the camp which Riverkit failed to recognize, and when Riverkit looked at Mossstar he could see the sorrow that clouded the leader’s eyes.
“RiverClan!” Mossstar began, “Today we ran into a couple badgers near the Horse Place. We sent a patrol to drive them out of our territory consisting of Salmonfall, Honorlight, Runningwave and Squirmheart.” The Clan stayed quiet and Mossstar continued, “We drove the badger out, but during the attack one of our warriors was fatally injured and dead by the time he came back to the Clan.”
Who? Riverkit’s heart pounded as he tried to see the body, “Squirmheart, my very loyal deputy, now hunts with Starclan.” Some yowls of pain came from the Clan and Riverkit felt stunned. Squirmheart was the greatest deputy that Riverclan could have asked for and now he was gone. No wonder Mossstar seemed so upset.
“Who will be the new deputy?” one of the apprentices called out.
“Normally I would wait a little longer to decide the new deputy but we have a gathering today so I need to decide now. But first I have a ceremony I need to perform.” Mossstar flicked his tail towards Rushhope and Streamfall, who were old warriors and litter mates, and the toms came to stand before their leader.
“Rushhope and Streamfall, is it your wish to give up the name of a warrior and go to join the elders.”
Riverkit couldn’t say he was surprised; they were both old toms, but she was now very excited. RiverClan didn’t even have any elders, which the Clan was always fretting about, and now she would finally be able to hear some stories. “I do,” Both warriors replied.
Mossstar nodded, “Your Clan honors you and all the service you have given to us. I call upon StarClan to give you many moons of rest.”
Both Warriors nodded and the clan started calling their name “Rushhope! Streamfall!” Riverkit bounced, “Now I can finally hear some nursery tales. Queens are no good at that.” Breezekit nodded in agreement, excitement visible through her gaze as well.
Once the elders made it back down cats started whispering about who they thought the new deputy would be. The name she heard the most was Ashwood, and how he would have made a great deputy.
Mossstar took a deep breath “I say these warriors before Starclan, that the spirits of our warrior ancestors and Squirmheart may hear and approve of my choice. The new deputy of RiverClan is Leaffall.”
Riverkit jumped. His father was deputy. He was thrilled and knew that her father deserved it. Leaffall stepped forward, “I will serve this Clan to the best of my ability and try to live up to Squirmheart.” The Clan started cheering for Riverkit’s father and he raised his head proudly.
Riverkit had been surprised, though. Her father was a strong and loyal warrior but there were many other cats that would have been a much more obvious choice for deputy. Ashwood would have been the only cat to chose, if he hadn’t taken Crowflight for a mate. He was strong, very loyal, despite his secret meetings with his mate, and was a leader. It was almost as if StarClan had wanted it until he showed up with Crowflight.
Breezekit must have realized this too because she turned to her father, “You should be deputy!” she complained, “You would be great at it.”
Ashwood sighed, “Perhaps but the Clan had its reasons for not trusting me and, though my loyalty couldn’t be anywhere, I don’t blame them.”
Breezekit huffed before proudly praising her father, “You would have made a much better deputy than that Leaffall.”
Riverkit tensed. He was okay with jealousy and confusion but nobody was allowed to talk about his father like that. He was about to snap something at Breezekit when Ashwood did for her, “Leaffall will make a great deputy and I don’t ever want to hear you talking about our deputy like that again.”
Breezekit bowed her head in shame and Riverkit let himself relax, before he realized that he should go congratulate his father. Leaffall was surrounded by warriors congratulating him and licking him on the shoulder. Riverkit was waiting in line when Mossstar came up to him, “Proud of your father aren’t you?”
Riverkit nodded numb. Mossstar was talking to him when there were a lot of other warriors around. He took a deep breath and replied, “My father had worked hard for this. It’s only what he deserves.”
Mossstar nodded, “He deserves more for the loyalty that he has given me and his Clan,” Mossstar was quiet for a minute before he asked him a question Riverkit would never expect him to ask, “Do you know why I chose your father over Ashwood?”
Riverkit took in a deep breath, and guessed, “Because the Clan wasn’t ready to trust him yet?”
Mossstar shook his head, “Once I trusted Ashwood as deputy the Clan would do so slowly as well. No. That’s not why I didn’t choose Ashwood. I didn’t choose him because I don’t think I can trust him yet.”
Riverkit was delighted that his father was deputy but he knew he had to reply honestly, “Ashwood is more than loyal. You can tell by the way he talks with Breezekit about Leaffall being deputy. He doesn’t care because it is for the better sake of the Clan. He even doesn’t blame some cats for being so hostile to him.”
Mossstar nodded, “I don’t doubt his loyalty like that. It’s just StarClan sent me a dream last night, warning me that Ashwood’s story isn’t over yet. That he will still have one more choice to make, and I can’t risk him making the wrong choice.”
Riverkit doubted that Ashwood would do something wrong to the Clan he loved so much, but he asked something else instead, “Why are you telling me this?”
Mossstar shrugged, “Let’s just say Ashwood isn’t the only one who StarClan has sent me dream about.”
Riverkit gasped as Mossstar left. Was it just him or had he seen Mossstar glance at Breezekit while he said that. And it still didn’t answer why he had told him of all cats. Riverkit was so lost in thought that he didn’t even realize it was his turn to congratulate his father until his father purred, “Are you going to congratulate me or not.”
Riverkit shook his head and congratulated his father before leaving. He noticed that Ashwood was right behind him and he stayed behind to listen to what gray tom was going to say to his father. “Good job,” Riverkit could detect no envy in the tom’s voice and was even further surprised when he leaned forward and whispered, “Between you and me, you deserve this more than I ever could have.”
Leaffall purred, “Thank you. It means so much coming from you of all warriors.” Ashwood dipped his head before turning around and disappearing through the warriors den. Riverkit was heading back to the den when he realized that the best way to clear his mind was to go for a swim.
Riverkit was lucky; there were no warriors outside hunting, because they were all mourning the dead deputy. He easily snuck out of camp and then down into the river. Gracefully, he jumped into the river and started to paddle in the water. He took a breath and dived underwater. Riverkit loved the lake; it was so relaxing and beautiful. Most RiverClan cats didn’t put their head under water, but Riverkit was a talented swimmer and he loved looking at all the fish, from under the water where they looked like more than prey. It also made hunting easier. Riverkit had caught a couple fish, but since it was against the Warrior Code for kits to hunt he had been forced to sneak it into the fresh kill pile.
Now as Riverkit looked at all the fish he found himself wondering if the fish were any different near the other clan’s territories. Riverkit didn’t have a very protective and hysterical mother, because she knew how capable the young kit was of taking care of him. She would only start to worry about her kit if he didn’t show up by the end of a day.
So Riverkit decided it was worth checking out. If a cat saw him they wouldn’t view it as a threat as he was only a kit, and would be too scared to jump into the freezing cold water. Water didn’t scare Riverkit since he was a great swimmer. He was the only kit who could actually swim, so he would be forced to play fight in the water with apprentices, and the only reason apprentices had enough time was because RiverClan desperately lacked elders. Queens tried to take their place by telling stories but they were not good story tellers at all. Riverkit was very excited about having new elders but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to disturb them for at least another couple hours.
Riverkit realized that the temperature of the water slightly changed too, as he moved from WindClan’s to ThunderClan’s side of the lake. So far it had been the warmest in RiverClan, and the water had been noticeably colder in WindClan. Riverkit noticed that the water got slightly warmer as he approached ThunderClan territory.
He noticed something else as he approached ThunderClan territory, a tom, young enough to be a kit, sitting on the edge of the water. Panicking Riverkit dove underwater and waited for the tom to leave.
When the tom didn’t move Riverkit got panicked, he was a good swimmer but he had to breathe and he couldn’t stay underwater forever. Just when Riverkit was sure he would burst out of the water the tom got up and paddled away, his brown pelt clashing with the green ThunderClan forest.
Riverkit shot upwards and struggled for breath. He was tired and would have stopped swimming now, but he didn’t have that option. Instead, he pushed forward and continued through ThunderClan territory and even ShadowClan. ShadowClan brought colder water and Riverkit couldn’t help wondering if it was not the forest, but the actual cats of the clan that sent the chills down his bone. Every cat knew that ShadowClan was home to the cold hearts in the forest. And the Clans were able to respect that too. It was like how Riverclan cats swam and Windclan cats were fast.
While paddling through ShadowClan Riverkit felt his strength failing him. He was tired and he really needed to rest. Before he realized it, Riverkit had pulled himself up on ShadowClan territory and hid himself behind a bush.
Riverkit waited for a while so that he could regain his energy. He was licking himself when he heard a cat behind him. It was a patrol. Panicking Riverkit ducked down. “I swear I smell RiverClan,” Riverkit heard a cat growl.
“Don’t be ridiculous Brownfur,” Riverkit heard another cat, “What would a RiverClan cat be doing so far away from their side of the border.”
This time another cat cut in, “I smell a fear scent,” and when Riverkit gulped he growled, “It’s stronger now.”
Riverkit knew he had to move soon before the warriors found the bush and crowded around him. He pelted out of the bush and all three cats on patrol spotted him. “Don’t move, RiverClan,” Brownfur growled and Riverkit started panting. He started edging towards the water before he was close enough, and then dived in.
Brownfur and the leader of the patrol stayed back but the other one jumped into the water, “He’s just an apprentice, and it should be easy to catch up to him.”
Riverkit gritted his teeth and started to swim. He quickly put a distance in between the ShadowClan warrior and himself and when the patrol leader realized this he called to his warrior, “Buzzheart get over here, you can’t catch up to him. We’ll talk to Riverclan about it at the gathering.”
Buzzheart continued for a couple more seconds before turning around and joining his Clanmates. “Fish face!” she spat at Riverkit who was still fleeing through the water, his heart pounding like drums.
Riverkit was already seriously regretting coming. He had gotten RiverClan into big trouble. They would be accused during the gathering and they wouldn’t be able to back themselves up, because they wouldn’t know. Riverkit realized with a dreading feeling that he should tell Mossstar. He needed to be prepared and know what was happening.
Riverkit soon reached the RiverClan border and pulled himself out of the water. As comfortable as he was with water, Riverkit was a cat and belonged on land so it was a relief to finally feel soil under his paws without needing to worry about what might happen if an enemy cat found him. He was on his territory now this was where he belonged.
Riverkit’s plan had been to tell Mossstar as soon as he got into camp, but he was exhausted and he needed to sleep before anything else. Marshmallowfall noticed when he came into camp and when she felt his damp fur she snapped, “Why are you so wet? You can’t sleep in my den if you are this damp. Go find yourself another den to sleep in!” Riverkit shrugged off some pain. He knew very well that his mother didn’t care for him; she didn’t even want a kit. She had only had a kit because Leaffall wanted one really bad and every cat in the Clan knew how much Marshmallowfall loved her mate. And despite his mother’s behavior towards her, Riverkit knew that StarClan had meant for his mother and father to become mates.
Leaffall had told him that when he was first born his mother had been very soft with him and even proposed the name, which was a very special condition. According to Breezekit’s mother, the next day Marshmallowfall had seemed disconnected from him.
“Riverkit, Riverkit,” Riverkit blinked, his eyes heavy, “RIVERKIT! WAKE UP YOU LAZY LUMP OF FUR!” Riverkit jumped up and looked around to see Breezekit along with Droopytail’s four kits Budkit, Bloomkit, Powerkit and Thrushkit.
Riverkit looked around. Crowflight and Droopytail were at a gathering and Marshmallowfall was still sleeping, her ears twitching making it obvious she was annoyed. “What?” he yawned, also slightly annoyed.
Budkit, who was a moon smaller than Breezekit and Riverkit, jumped, “Breezekit came up with the most radical idea. You have to join us.”
Riverkit was about to ask what it was when he remembered what he had forgot to tell Mossstar because he had fallen asleep. He groaned and Breezekit bounced, “We’re going to sneak off to the gathering, they just left so we won’t miss anything.”
Riverkit might have disagreed if he was a warrior but he was only a kit and his senses of judgment weren’t very sharp. He almost jumped on Marshmallowfall with excitement, “Count me in,” The kits did a quiet cheer before leaving the nursery.
Breezekit seemed to have claimed herself the leader of the secret gathering patrol, because she kept nudging to the front and making signals with his tail. Riverkit felt annoyance take over him. He was the son of the deputy and he was the better swimmer. He also thought he would make a better leader.
Thrushkit must have sensed his jealousy because she whispered, “Don’t forget this was Breezekit’s idea,” and when Riverkit huffed he added, “This means a lot to her.” Riverkit finally gave in and decided to follow Breezekit.
It wasn’t long before they caught up to the warriors and had to hide behind the bushes to remain unnoticed. Unfortunately, some warrior thought they were prey. He nodded to Mossstar who nodded back and continued walking, leaving the warrior to hunt. The kits, scared, started scrambling, looking for somewhere to hide.
When the warrior, whom Riverkit now recognized as Youthclaw, pounced, he caught Budkit and Bloomkit who started to squeal. The other kits were well hidden and the warrior was unable to notice them. He jumped back startled when he saw the kits, “What are you doing here?” he demanded.
The kits cowered back, and Mossstar, who must have realized something was going on came up to, “go back to your den now!” he ordered the kits, “How did you come up with such an idea.”
To the relief of the other four kits, neither said anything. Mossstar sighed and flicked his tail to one of the apprentices, “Take these kits back then quickly hurry up and join us.” He ordered. The apprentice nodded before signaling the kits to follow him.
After the other warriors had left Breezekit let out a long sigh, “That was a close one.”
“Poor Budkit and Bloomkit,” Powerkit mumbled and Riverkit couldn’t help sympathizing for the cats either. Not because they were in trouble, kits always got into trouble, because they would be left behind when their friends were talking about how great the gathering was they would be clueless to what was going on and would be left behind.
After a couple moments Breezekit flicked his tail and the kits continued to follow him until they got to the log that the clans had to cross to go to the gathering. There they waited until all of RiverClan was done crossing and after that waited for ShadowClan too, who were shooting accusing glances at RiverClan. Fortunately, none of the RiverClan cats noticed these looks.
They waited a little while longer after ShadowClan, before they started to debate how to get to the island. “I say lets swim,” Riverkit had called.
“Swim!” Breezekit had gave him a look like he was crazy, “I saw we just run across and hide behind a bush when we cross the tree.”
“We’re RiverClan cats, what’s wrong with swimming,” Riverkit shot back.
“We’re not even apprentices yet,” Breezekit retorted and Thrushkit cut in.
She pointed her tail to two trees, “We could climb up this tree and jump to the other one, then climb down it and we’re on the island.” All of Droopytail’s kits were great tree climbers.
Breezekit looked at Thrushkit like she was crazy, “No way. Only a ThunderClan cat would suggest something like that.”
Thrushkit took a step back, “Only a WindClan cat would want to risk running when there were alternatives.”
Even Powerkit gasped. Breezekit’s eyes were clouded with rage and she was preparing to jump on Thrushkit when Powerkit cut in, to save her littermates pelt, “Why don’t we split up, that way we will be less noticeable and we won’t waste any more time arguing as the gathering will start very soon.”
Breezekit held her ground for another second before sitting up again, “Fine,” she growled and glared at Thrushkit. She then dashed off and started to run across the log. Riverkit jumped into the lake and started to swim across the lake to the island, as Thrushkit and Powerkit climbed up the tree Thrushkit had pointed out and jumped from that tree to another one.
When Riverkit reached the other side he found the bush where Breezekit was hiding, staring wide eyed around him. As soon as Riverkit joined him he could see why. There were cats from all Clans talking and so many different scents mixed together.
Thrushkit and Powerkit soon joined the two kits in their hiding place behind the bush. Powerkit had just opened her mouth to say something when Hollowstar, ThunderClan’s leader, called, “Let the gathering begin.”
The leaders were all standing on branches of the tree and Riverkit could feel his heart beating like lighting. He could also hear the excitement of the other kits. Hollowstar began, “Our Clan is thriving thanks to the good weather. We have a new apprentice, Dragonpaw.” He paused and all the cats started chanting the young apprentice’s name. Riverkit could see the new apprentice, his tail held high as Hollowstar continued, “We also have a new medicine cat apprentice, Rufflepaw,” he paused and Riverkit quickly found the apprentice as they cheered his name.
What surprised Riverkit was that there was sorrow in his gaze, despite all the cheering. Like something more had happened when he became an apprentice. Hollowstar started talking again, “We also have some bad news. One of our kits, Scrapkit has joined StarClan and her mother Cloudfur has joined the elders.”
Murmurs of pity swept among the cats and Riverkit could hear Powerkit and Breezekit mourning him too. Riverkit shivered with joy. This was so exciting; he couldn’t wait until he came to a gathering as an apprentice.
Hollowstar took a step back and Mossstar stepped forward, “RiverClan is also doing well. We had to scare away a badger today, not towards any of your territories, but in the process our loyal deputy, Squirmheart, died.”
Some yowls of pain came from other cats as Riverkit realized Squirmheart must have been very popular among all clans, “In his place, I have appointed Leaffall,” Cats started murmuring again and Riverkit could tell that they were all wondering what would have made him choose Leaffall over Ashwood, after all only RiverClan and WindClan knew about Crowflight’s affair with Ashwood.
Mossstar took a step back and Sharkstar stepped forward, “ShadowClan is doing well,” he said briskly. He was about to step back when he added, “We have seen a RiverClan cat hunting on our territory.”
Yowls of protest came from the RiverClan cats, and Riverkit realized that this could result in a fight. It was his responsibility to stop this. He took a couple deep breaths as e noticed Riverclan cats an Shadowclan cats preparing to break the truce. Taking a deep breath he came out of the bush and called, “It was me Sharkstar, and I apologize.”
Mossstar’s eyes widened but he didn’t say anything. Sharkstar snorted, “How is a kit like you supposed swim to ShadowClan territory,” he demanded as cats continued to whisper.
Riverkit felt his heart pounding as he stood in the spotlight. He was already starting to regret doing this too. But Buzzheart called out, “That’s the cat, I recognize that blue fur and he was small too.”
Sharkstar looked at her, “Are you sure?”
Buzzheart nodded, “I’m sure of it,”
Sharkstar was now looking at Riverkit and he could feel his pelt itching as Sharkstar thought. Finally he shrugged, “I will forgive you, Mossstar but you will owe us.”
Mossstar dipped his head gratefully and Riverkit saw his three friends come out of their hiding bush. Riverkit figured the other kits had gotten jealous of the attention he had and decided to share some of it. Nobody seemed very surprised that he wasn’t alone.
Sharkstar dipped his head, “I will regret this later, but that is one talented cat you have there. I would make good use of him. I have never heard of a warrior, much less a kit, who could swim across the lake. That is something I would call talent.”
Mossstar dipped his head again but Sharkstar wasn’t done, “Speaking of debts, ThunderClan still owes us a piece of land.”
Now it was ThunderClan’s turn to shout and yell as Sharkstar continued, “The land you took from us back in the days of Firestar was not rightfully taken and we are now prepared to take it back.”
Hollowstar growled, “You will have to fight for it.”
A snarl formed on Sharkstar’s face, “Then we will.” Gasps came from the cats as the leaders glared at each other. Riverkit was sure they were going to claw each other’s faces off when Thrushstar, the leader of WindClan cut in.
“Enough!” She yowled, “This is a gathering; fight your battles at another time.” When the leader calmed down she started, “WindClan is doing very well. We don’t have any news for the Clans except an important request for RiverClan.
Mossstar and all the RiverClan cats, including the kits whirled around. Riverkit noticed that the leader was staring at Breezekit. Breezekit must have noticed it too because she was itching her fur uncomfortably.
Mossstar was looking at Thrushstar, “Go ahead.”
Thrushstar took in a breath and Riverkit could feel his as well as Breezekit’s muscles getting tense, “I want Breezekit back in WindClan.”
Breezekit stared at Thrushstar in horror. This was a joke, right? It had to be. Nobody could just come up and take a cat from their parents and their clan. Breezekit wasn’t the only one who felt angry and surprised; she could hear whispers and angry murmurs among her Clan and even some others. Breezekit felt a sick feeling creeping up her stomach. Despite the way Clan cats sometimes looked at her, she considered herself entirely loyal to RiverClan, or as loyal as a kit could get.
Of all the cats Droopytail is the first to speak, “What gives you the rights to this kit? Neither it’s mother nor father belong in your Clan.”
“True,” Thrushstar shrugs, “but Crowflight was still pregnant with Breezekit when she left to RiverClan.”
“Barely!” A cat yowled in rage and Breezekit wanted to claw Thrushstar for being such a brat. There was no argument over which Clan Breezekit had birth rights to; she was just trying to make her life more difficult.
Thrushstar didn’t move and flinched when Ashwood stepped out, “Why would you want to put your sister through that pain,” Breezekit was reminded that Thrushstar was her aunt and only became more furious.
Thrushstar was taken off guard or a second before retorting, “I’m sure Crowflight understands the reason, and it is her choice not to share it with you.”
Finally Breezekit hears the voice that she has been longing to hear. It was Crowflight’s loud as a lion, sharp as a knife and vicious as a badger, “Is it worth all of this pain for me to go through, sister,” she scathed, “Just for a little pro-”
“Yes,” Thrushstar argued before anyone can hear what Crowflight has to say, “It is worth all of the pain.”
Crowflight glared at her sister, before hiding back into the shadows. Murmurs continue among all of the clans and Hollowstar coughed, “Droopytail does have a point, Thrushstar,” she warned, “It is quite clear this kit belongs in Riverclan, if you look at its parents.”
Thrushstar bristled, “It is not where the cat is born that decides where she should be, but where she belongs.”
Sharkstar answered, “How would you know where a kit belongs. This is the way Clan life works, Thrushstar, kits belong in the Clan they are born into, if you are to ignorant to understand this than maybe you don’t deserve the position as leader of your clan.”
Thrushstar hissed at Sharkstar, and the cats seemed to be waiting for what Mossstar had to say, but he was just staring at the sky, where clouds slowly seemed to be forming. He lowered his head, “This gathering has ended. Starclan has dismissed us.”
Almost every cat except for the ones in Windclan seemed relieved at the dismissal as the cats started to split up. The kits hesitated for a moment before they ran up to their clan. They didn’t blend in with their clan mates though. They stayed behind, knowing that the farther away they stayed from their clan the more they delayed whatever trouble they would get in. Breezekit had already started to fret that her apprenticeship may be delayed. She didn’t want to have to wait longer to become an apprentice, she already had waited long enough and there was still a moon left.
“Why should we delay their apprenticeship?” Breezekit heard a voice that she could not recognize, “They are obviously not the first kits to do it, only they are probably one of the few to succeed sneaking into a gathering.”
“I don’t think it matters for Breezekit,” another voice called out which Breezekit recognized as Carestorm, “Isn’t she going to Windclan anyways? We should let Windclan decide his punishment.”
“Going to Windclan would be punishment enough for him,” Faithtail replied, “and Windclan has no right to rob us of our cats.”
“Breezekit is not one of our cats. Just look at her, she couldn’t be anything but Windclan.”
“So you want to let Windclan win, just like that. You know how weak that would make us look? Next they would start asking for land.”
When Breezekit finally opened her eyes she could see Riverkit sitting in the nursery, a worried look on his face. His eyes brightened a little bit when he saw Breezekit.
“So what is our punishment?” Breezekit asked her friend.
Riverkit replied, “I don’t know. Droopytail and her kits are out there trying to defend us. Droopytail is mad at us, of course, but she thinks it was it was just our everyday mischief. Don’t want to get a serious punishment. I can’t have my apprenticeship delayed.”
Breezekit could see how glum Riverkit looked, “It never was a good idea to sneak off,” Riverkit nodded and Breezekit found an idea to cheer up her friend, “Why don’t we go to the elders den? Maybe we could hear a story before I leave.”
“Leave? You are not going anywhere!” Riverkit put in.
“Will you listen to the cats? Most of them want to send me off to avoid a battle or because they don’t trust me for having foul blood and the ones that want to keep me only want to because it would look weak otherwise.”
“Don’t listen to them,” Riverkit put in, “Mossstar won’t let you go, and he’s clan leader. There are also a lot of important cats behind him like Leaffall, Ashwood and Lovestorm.”
“What about Beliefsoul?” Beliefsoul was the medicine cat of Riverclan.
“Dreamypaw wants you to stay, but Beliefsoul wants you to leave.”
“Then I will have to go,” Breezekit sighed, “The medicine cat has even more power than the clan leader. If she orders it than I will have to go.”
The two kittens sat in silence for a long time as they listened to the other cats arguing over what was to happen to Breezekit, and the punishments for the kittens. Eventually the two kittens stepped out into the clearing, where their father’s were waiting for them.
“I am very disappointed in you,” Ashwood told his kitten sternly, “I am very disappointed in all of you.”
Both kittens dipped their heads, “When is Mossstar going to make his decisions,” Riverkit asked his father.
“He wants to wait for the cats to settle down; so that they can all express their opinions before he makes his final decision.”
As the kits continued to listen to a variety of opinions, a shape tapped into the clearing and let out a yell. Breezekit recognized it as her mother, “stop it!” she yelled, “Breezekit is my daughter and I will decide where she will go, and their punishment will also be left for the queens to decide.”
“So we are going to start a war, and possibly lose warriors because you said so. You are not even a Riverclan cat.”
Crowflight dipped her head, “I am willing to except that I am no more Riverclan than other Windclan cat despite the many moons that I have spent here. But kits punishments have always been left to their mothers. Also in every clan kits come first. Kits are your future; you will sacrifice so that your clan’s future can blossom. But you won’t have to worry about that. Because I have decided that Breezekit must go to Windclan since that is where her destiny awaits her.”
Breezekit felt herself going numb. Was her mother really sending her away, to a clan she had never been to before. If her mother wanted her gone, then what chance did she stand of being left in her home? Breezekit realized that Crowflight might want her to go so that she could come along and reunite with her old clan.
Ashwood stepped forwards, “Are you going with her?”
Crowflight shrugged, “I don’t know about that yet. I just know that she has to go. That is where she belongs.”
Breezekit could tell that her father was about to protest, but he changed his mind when he saw the look on her mother’s face. Breezekit had never seen a look like that on her mother’s face before.
Finally Mossstar stepped into the clearing. Breezekit realized he was hiding near the leader’s den but listening to everything that was going on. “I have reached my final decision,” he mowed and everybody turned towards their leader, “Crowflight’s decision, although I do disagree with it, is the one I have decided on. As her mother Crowflight can decide the fate of Breezekit, so we will send her before midnight. What needs to be solved is if Crowflight and Ashwood will go with her.”
All eyes turned to Breezekit’s parents and she felt herself getting angry at her mother for listening to the stupid leader of Windclan. Who was that cat to take her from her home and make her get used to somewhere else, just because she knew that she would be able to. Breezekit had already decided that she would make life as difficult as possible for Thrushstar and would try as hard as possible to prove that she could never get used to Windclan.
Ashwood barely thought for a moment before he walked up to his daughter touched noses with her and sighed, “I will wish you good luck in Windclan, my daughter.”
As Breezekit felt herself darkening she realized that most of the cats around her were breathing with relief, glad not to have lost their strongest warrior along with a kit. Breezekit could sense that Ashwood wasn’t happy though, and that he wouldn’t have been no matter what decision he made.
Breezekit tried to look on the bright side as she saw her mother thinking; at least she wasn’t a warrior yet. If she had to leave after promising her loyalty to Riverclan then she would be doomed. She had never heard of a clan leader stealing warriors, but this was a situation never heard of before either, and yet her clan was listening to the Windclan leader. Breezekit failed to understand why her mother would send her away like that, when she wasn’t even sure if she would go to Windclan or not.
After thinking for a few moments Crowflight walked up to Ashwood and whispers something into her ear which Breezekit managed to hear.
“I can’t leave my only daughter which I sacrificed so much to give birth to, but yet I sacrificed so much to be by your side. I don’t want to lose the love of either of you”
“You won’t lose any of my love if you leave,” Ashwood whispered to his mate as Breezekit paddled up.
“You won’t lose any of mine either,” Breezekit said, and couldn’t believe it when the words came out of her mouth.
Crowflight thought for a moment before she finally decided, “I will stay beside my mate and the clan which took me in very kindly.”
Breezekit saw a different look on every cats’ face on Crowflight’s decision. Some seemed pleased, some were surprised, some seemed expectant, and some cats didn’t seem to care the slightest bit. Breezekit knew she must have looked crestfallen. She wouldn’t even be moving into this new clan with any cat that she knew.
Mossstar nodded, and Breezekit just realized how informal it must seem for a clan to make a decision without the clan leader addressing the clan, or even standing in their special spot. Breezekit used to dream that one day she would address the clan from there, but it didn’t seem possible any more.
Mossstar turned to Alphastream, “Go to Windclan and tell them that they can come to pick up the kit before midnight.” The senior warrior nodded before running off to inform Windclan of their victory. As soon as he left the clan started whispering again and Breezekit decided to go hide in the nursery for a while.
Riverkit was also in the nursery, but Breezekit didn’t even acknowledge him. She just tried to fall into an uneasy sleep. Breezekit slept for a few hours, but woke up when she felt himself being prodded by Riverkit.
“What is it?” she meowed a little harshly.
“A Windclan warrior is almost here to pick you up.” Riverkit meowed, “I wanted to say good-bye before you left.”
“Where are Droopytail’s kits?” Breezekit asked.
Riverkit hesitated, “they don’t want to be around you since you are Windclan now.”
Breezekit decided not to let it get to her. She wouldn’t have wanted to talk to a cat if she knew that a moon later they might be trying to kill you, claws unsheathed. But she still couldn’t help feeling a bit of resentment towards them, “Well I guess this is good-bye,” Breezekit meowed, “I suppose that the next time I am saying hello will be with my claws or my teeth. I was really disappointed we didn’t get to be apprentices together. You would have been fun to train with.”
“I agree,” Riverkit meowed and the two cats dipped heads towards each other. Breezekit slowly paddled out of camp where a Windclan warrior was waiting. Breezekit realized how alike he looked with the cat as compared to the other cats around him. They were both skinnier and smaller, and their fur was a lot less puffy as compared to those of Riverclan cats.
“Your parents are sleeping,” Mossstar informed her, “would you like me to wake them up?”
Breezekit shook her head. She couldn’t help being upset and disappointed with both of her parents, especially her mother for sending her away and then refusing to even come with her. Breezekit still failed to understand why her mother would send her away to a totally foreign clan.
Mossstar nodded and turned to the Windclan warrior, “I will trust that you don’t need an escort, however, if we find even the slightest clue of a stolen piece of prey then you will have more than you bargained for when you came here to take the kit.”
The Windclan warrior shook his head, “I do not want to risk putting my clan in a war. A rouge cat might have stolen a piece of prey, so I would rather you send an escort with us. I don’t want my clan to be held responsible for something I did not do. I don’t want to get unlucky. Besides I am a medicine cat, it is against my code to do something like that.”
“Yes, well it is against your code to steal kits isn’t it?” Mossstar questioned in a rather hostile manner. The warriors around him all nodded in agreement as all of the cats glared at the medicine cat, who Breezekit had thought was a warrior, tried to ignore all of the glances coming from the enemy cats around him.
“You will not get an escort and you will be held responsible for any missing prey, I hope you have understood.” Mossstar meowed sternly to which the medicine cat dipped his head reluctantly and left the camp, signaling for Breezekit to follow him.
Breezekit hesitated for a moment and considered stomping her paw and saying that she refused to leave, but after a few moments she finally decided to follow the medicine cat, to wherever he would take her.
They walked together and once they were far enough from camp the Windclan medicine tom turned to Breezekit, “By the way, my name is Gracecloud. I am the medicine cat of Windclan. I currently don’t have any apprentices in case you were wondering. In fact, I was appointed as the medicine cat less than a moon ago, when my mentor Losetail had to retire, because his tail was broken. I have heard that your name is Breezekit.”
Breezekit nodded a little shyly trying to resist getting friendly with the tom, but it was so hard. “Thrushstar told me that she will give you the option to change your name if you want to. She will let you change it to whatever you want and she won’t even have to do a special ceremony about it since you have just arrived in the clan.”
Breezekit shook her head, “I don’t want to change my name. It is the only thing that I have left. I hope that Thrushstar can respect that.”
“I am sure she will,” Gracecloud replied before changing the subject, “Are you a good swimmer? Maybe you could teach some Windclan cats how to swim.”
Breezekit shook her head, “Most kits can barely swim, not nearly well enough to teach others, and I am worse than any of the other kits when it comes to swimming. Riverkit is great though. He probably swims better than most of the warriors in our clan and he hasn’t even been apprenticed.”
“I know and I was impressed when I heard what he had done at the gathering yesterday,” Gracecloud replied, “I was also impressed with his courage. Most warriors wouldn’t have the courage to come out and admit doing something like that, even if it would stop a war that could tear the clans apart. But Riverkit didn’t seem to hesitate. He went out there in front of everybody else and did what he had to. All I can say about the tom is that he will be a great addition to your former clan. Someone that we will have to watch out for once he becomes apprenticed. I actually think I see a clan leader in him.”
“Anyways,” Breezekit meowed, “I can barely swim, so forget about swimming lessons. If you want to learn something from me it could be to run faster than the Wind.”
Gracecloud laughed, “I doubt that you could teach Windclan warriors anything about that. They already run as fast as the wind. It is what we are known for.”
Breezekit wasn’t entirely convinced. She was a very fast cat. So fast that she could run to the prey pile and back, and the other kits would wonder how she magically made prey appear. Of course they were kits, but that was a compliment you wouldn’t get every day, “I will bet that I am the fastest cat in Riverclan. Or at least that was in Riverclan. I bet that I run faster than most of the cats in my new clan.”
Gracecloud smiled, “I don’t think so.”
But Breezekit was stubborn, “Prove me wrong. You don’t seem nearly as fast as I am. I am light and agile; I could beat your warriors in a race, no big deal.”
Gracecloud laughed, “Alright, I’ll prove you wrong. How about a race?”
Breezekit was hesitant, “But you don’t know Riverclan territory and I don’t know Windclan territory.”
“I am a medicine cat you know,” the tom reminded her, “I do come by these parts occasionally to speak with your medicine cat.”
“But I lived here,” Breezekit countered.
“You lived in the nursery,” the Windclan cat reminded again, “you probably didn’t go out that often.”
Breezekit had to give in, “But what about Windclan. I don’t know Windclan. I could get lost.”
“We will race up to the Windclan border, how about that?” The medicine cat suggested, and seeing the kits uncertain look added, “I think you are trying to avoid it because you are scared that you will lose.”
Breezekit was taken back and felt that she flushing, “I am not. I can easily beat you in a race; I just want everything to be fair.”
Gracecloud smiled, “Then prove it. Accept my challenge.”
Breezekit smiled, and found that she was opening up to the idea of racing her new medicine cat, “Okay,” she agreed, “I accept your challenge.”
The two cats lined up next to each other and Gracecloud counted down, “Three… Two… One… Go!” Both cats were sprinting in a second. To her horror Breezekit realized that she was actually being beaten. Driven by determination, the kitten quickly closed the distance in between her and the medicine cat and started to gain an advantage. Her advantage grew as Breezekit kept expecting to see the Border in front of her, but it never seemed to come. She felt herself slowing down as Gracecloud started catching up. Just when Breezekit thought she would pass out from exhaustion she saw the horse stable, which marked the border in between Riverclan and Windclan. She pushed herself a little farther and she finally reached the horse stable, with a fair difference in between her and the medicine cat.
She collapsed on the ground and Gracecloud slowed down, seeing that he had lost the race. He eventually caught up to the kitten, and she had recovered and was back on her feet by then, “Can we walk the rest of the way?” Breezekit asked slightly in a pleading tone.
Gracecloud laughed, “Of course,” and when Breezekit kept staring at him he sighed, “Fine I’ll admit it, I underestimated your speed. You really were faster than me. What you lack is experience, that’s why you can’t run far. But I was surprised. At first I was going a little easy on you, but once you started to catch up I ran with my full speed, and yet you managed to get to the border before me. Windclan will make great use of this talent. I was joking about the swimming since Windclan cats don’t go near water. But your speed would work very well in Windclan, along with all of the other fastest cats in the forest.”
“I have to admit,” Breezekit slowly began, “That I was rather disappointed in myself. I underestimated the speed of Windclan cats, and I over estimated my speed. I guess I got a little cocky. Sorry.”
Gracecloud laughed at the kitten, “That’s okay. I underestimated your speed and took you for a bluffer since you are just a kit, and that tends to be what kits to best.”
The two Windclan cats continued to chat as they walked side-by-side. Breezekit had realized by the time they reached camp, that Gracecloud would be the cat she went to if she needed help. He had already got on her good side. At least Windclan wouldn’t be entirely full of hostile stranger cats now. As they got closer to what Gracecloud called camp she realized that it was just a shallow scoop in the ground.
“That’s camp?” Breezekit asked
Gracecloud nodded, “You ever dreamed of sleeping in a den open to the sky, where you could sleep gazing at the clouds?”
“Actually,” Breezekit admitted, “I often consider sneaking out of camp to fall asleep outside before changing my mind.”
“You see,” Gracecloud smiled, “You are a Windclan cat, and you belong here in Windclan.”
A large tortoiseshell she-cat whom Breezekit recognized as Thrushstar walked towards the two approaching cats, she walked over to Breezekit’s other side as they walked through camp. As Breezekit looked around she realized that it was her ideal camp. Set up just the way she would have wanted it.
Breezekit looked around at the cats, all which were glancing at her, some gladly, some with a welcoming look on their face and some with suspicious glances. The two cats walked the kitten to the nursery where there was a Ginger she-cat who was giving milk to a reddish tom.
“I didn’t think you would need milk anymore,” Thrushstar said to which Breezekit nodded, “But Graytail will look after you for a month.”
Slowly Breezekit walked into the nursery. It felt just like she would want a nursery to feel, with the sky right above her. As Breezekit felt herself lying down, about to fall asleep, she heard Thrushstar purr, “Welcome home, Breezekit. Welcome home.”
“Thunderkit, you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Thunderpaw.”
Thunderpaw waited with excitement, curious who his mentor would be. He was slightly hoping for Emberclaw, his father to mentor him, and he wouldn’t mind Flameheart, one of the strongest and most experienced warriors to mentor him either. He listened with excitement as Hollowstar continued.
“Your mentor will be Sparklelight. I hope Sparklelight will pass down all she knows onto you.”
As Hollowstar turned to Sparklelight Thunderpaw could feel himself ready to leap with excitement. Sparklelight was his mentor, what an honor unlike any other. Hollowstar continued the ceremony by speaking to the deputy, “Sparklelight, you are ready to take on another apprentice. You have received excellent training from Cloudfur and have shown yourself to be wise and noble. You will be the mentor of Thunderpaw, and I expect you to pass on all you know to Thunderpaw.”
Excitedly Thunderpaw walked up to Sparklelight and touched noses with her. He couldn’t believe it. All of the other apprentices would be very jealous of him now that he was the deputy’s apprentice. The only one that wouldn’t swoon over how lucky he was would be Fiercepaw because he was the leader’s apprentice.
Over a moon had passed since Rufflepaw and Dragonpaw had become apprentices, and so much had happened in the meanwhile. Rufflepaw went to the moonstone with Bronzestripe, who was still acting strange around him; Goldentail delivered Hollowstar’s kits; Petalkit a cream colored she-cat, and Rosemarykit a cream colored tom. They were still too young to be played with but Thunderpaw had spent time observing the little bundles of fur. Another big thing was that Tinyleg, the cranky little senior warrior that Thunderpaw has been unable to stand, joined to elders. Thunderpaw had found that he didn’t mind the tom when he was an elder. He could still go to their den and comfortably listen to stories about the beginning of the clans and the ancients even before that. And now Thunderpaw was finally an apprentice. Cherryheart was ready to move out of the nursery and return to her regular duties as a warrior, and Thunderpaw would finally be able to sleep in the same den as his friends.
As Thunderpaw waited on the high rock cats started to chant his name, “Thunderpaw! Thunderpaw! Thunderpaw!” Thunderpaw proudly accepted all the chanting and felt that he had never been this excited or happy in his whole entire life. If this was his apprentice ceremony Thunderpaw could hardly wait until he became a warrior.
When the chanting was done Thunderpaw climbed down from the Highledge and on to the grassy ground. Dragonpaw approached him with a friendly lick. As he promised the apprentice had maintained his friendship with Thunderpaw, although he was too busy to play any games with him. Rufflepaw also stayed friendly with Thunderpaw, but he never really showed up to talk. Rufflepaw had been a lot more silence since the death of his fiancé.
“You are so lucky,” Dragonpaw purred.
“I know,” Thunderpaw replied, “I had been hoping for a senior warrior, and Hollowstar passed through my mind but he already has Fiercepaw, but I had never imagined that Sparklelight would be my mentor.”
Dragonpaw replied, “Maybe you should have waited like ten more moonrises before you got apprenticed. You could have pushed your luck a bit, so than there would be the possibility that you could get Hollowstar as your mentor.”
Thunderpaw laughed. Fiercepaw was almost a warrior since he had been training for four moons now. It was only a matter of time before he became a warrior, and he made sure that every cat living around the lake knew it. Not that Thunderpaw had a problem with Fiercepaw, he was usually nice but he bragged even better than Ratpaw.
“So do you want me to show you the apprentice den?” Dragonpaw asked.
Thunderpaw looked at his mentor who nodded. “Okay,” Thunderpaw replied and followed his friend to the apprentice den. Thunderpaw realized that the apprentice’s den was a cave in the rocks, unlike the bramble thickets in the nursery. He followed his friend inside of the cave where he saw several apprentices eating, sharing tongues and talking about what they learned that day. Thunderpaw couldn’t wait to be a part of it all.
All of the apprentices turned to Thunderpaw when they saw him enter the cave. They all got up and came over to congratulate him. Even Ratpaw came up to congratulate Thunderpaw about being apprentice to the clan deputy. Thunderpaw managed to count a total of seven apprentices not including Dragonpaw. He recognized Ratpaw, of course, but he couldn’t remember any of the others since a very long period of time had passed since he was in the nursery with any of them. Thunderpaw knew Fiercepaw, because he was almost like the figurehead of the apprentices in ThunderClan. However he could not spot the light ginger tom as he looked at the apprentices around him.
Dragonpaw quickly remembered that Thunderpaw needed to be introduced so he started with the tom closest to him. It was a ginger tom who looked very large and strong, “This is Sunpaw,” Dragonpaw meowed before moving on to the next apprentice.
“This is Moonpaw,” Dragonpaw introduced the white-and cream colored she-cat to him. Thunderpaw nodded and listened as Dragonpaw introduced him to Poisonpaw, a tortoiseshell she-cat, Smoothpaw, a cream colored she-cat, Splashpaw, a white she-cat, and Shiftpaw, a white tom with black stripes. Thunderpaw already knew Ratpaw and Dragonpaw told him that both Rufflepaw and Fiercepaw were training with their mentors.
As they shared a rabbit Thunderpaw made a comment, “Rufflepaw hardly leaves the medicine cat area.”
Dragonpaw nodded, “He has gotten really close to Bronzestripe. She is almost like his second mother now. I don’t know if it is because of the death of Scrapkit or because he just enjoys the medicine cats company.” Thunderpaw felt himself bristling. He often caught Bronzestripe glancing at him with that scary glare in her eyes. As much as Thunderpaw hated to admit it, as a kit he had been scared by the medicine cat. But that wouldn’t be the case anymore. Now he would start his training and he would be the strongest warrior that ThunderClan had ever seen.
After finishing their rabbit the two apprentices started to share tongues. While sharing tongues Dragonpaw explained what he had done in his first moon as an apprentice, to Thunderpaw. Thunderpaw listened with excitement as Dragonpaw explained touring ThunderClan’s territory, learning about the other Clans, learning how to look after the elders, basic hunting techniques, and learning some battle techniques as well. Thunderpaw listened with excitement and he started to wonder what Sparklelight would teach him that day and in the following days to come. He hoped he would learn fighting first, after he was shown the clans territories which were all taught on the first day of an apprentice’s training.
When they were done sharing tongues the two apprentices split up, each deciding to go find their mentor. Dragonpaw was going to have a hunting assessment with Frostcloud, and Thunderpaw wanted to meet his mentor. Thunderpaw left the camp and entered the clearing where Sparklelight was assigning patrols and groups to go out and hunt. Thunderpaw patiently waited for Sparklelight to finish, and when she finally did, he excitedly asked, “What are we going to do today?” with an excited jump, which made Sparklelight laugh and flick her tail across his shoulder.
“There is going to be a gathering tomorrow night, and I have already got permission for you to go to it. I think it will be a great experience and the perfect way for you to start your apprenticeship. However, I will need to prepare you for it since you don’t know much about the other clans or their traditions. So, instead of exploring the territories today and tomorrow, I will teach you about the other clans, gatherings, and what I want you to pay attention to when you are at the gathering.” Thunderpaw nodded with excitement. He couldn’t help being slightly disappointed that he wasn’t going to explore his territory today, but he would get to go to the gathering and he was just newly apprenticed. He could already feel that he was ready to burst from excitement.
“I will be the youngest cat in all of the clans to go to the gathering.” Thunderpaw nearly shouted to which his mentor purred.
“Not exactly,” she replied and when Thunderpaw gave her a curious look she explained, “At the last gathering Sharkstar accused Riverclan of trespassing because they had seen a Riverclan cat on their territory. While the two clans were arguing a kit, who was your age back then came out from behind a rock and admitted that it had been him. He apologized and three more kits came out of the same rock. They probably got bored and decided to sneak out, but how no one managed to notice them I still can’t seem to solve. If they were Shadowclan kits then maybe I would understand, but these were Riverclan kits. Well three Riverclan and one, now Windclan kit.”
“What do you mean now-Windclan?” Thunderpaw asked curiously, “What would Riverclan kits being doing with a Windclan kit. Or did they both sneak out the same day and meet each other?”
Sparklelight shook her head, “The kits name was Breezekit. Her mother was originally Windclan and her father was Riverclan, but her mom moved into Riverclan so that she could be with her mate. But at that gathering Thrushstar requested the kit come back to her mother’s clan. It angered many cats from all clans, and I could not see any reasoning in it, so I was very surprised when I received news, just a few sunrises ago from a Shadowclan patrol I met while hunting, that Riverclan had agreed to give the kit to Windclan.”
Thunderpaw was thoughtful, “I never heard anything like this the day after the gathering. How come everybody was so quiet about it?” he questioned.
“Unless it concerns our clan, our warriors have much better things to do than gossip about affairs concerning other clans. I want you to understand this. Don’t make me regret taking you to the gathering by spreading rumors and news that is not certain when you should be training and doing your duties.” Sparklelight warned her apprentice very strictly to which Thunderpaw bowed his head.
“I promise I won’t make you regret trusting me,” then brightening a little he added, “I will be the best apprentice in the world.”
Sparklelight laughed, “I’m sure you will. Now I have your lessons for today and tomorrow planed, then you will begin to learn the basics of being a warrior. I want to go hunting for a little while since all of the prey is returning and the clan has really missed fat rabbits compared to the tiny voles. While I am out go join the apprentices and let them teach you basic duties like collecting moss for elders, and running errands for warriors and the medicine cat.”
Thunderpaw quickly dipped his head and ran back into the cave to see if there were any apprentices remaining to help teach him. Sunpaw, Poisonpaw, and Smoothpaw had left, and Splashpaw and Shiftpaw were busy sharing tongues. Moonpaw didn’t seem to be doing anything except for talking to Fiercepaw, who was explaining his great catch. Thunderpaw decided not to disturb the resting Ratpaw since his company wasn’t even appreciated. He walked up to Moonpaw and Fiercepaw, and Fiercepaw quickly ran up to Thunderpaw, “Congratulations on your mentor,” he purred, “I’m Fiercepaw, I sort of remember you from the nursery but you were only a tiny kit then, and I was almost apprenticed. Anyways, welcome to the apprentice’s den.”
“Thanks,” Thunderpaw purred, “My mentor asked me to go do some apprentice duties but I am new so if one of you could show me around that would be great.”
“Of course,” Moonpaw answered glancing at Fiercepaw who nodded, “Why don’t we start by showing you how to collect moss. But you have to make sure it’s dry, or the elders get real cranky then we all get in trouble.” The beautiful she-cat warned Thunderpaw, who couldn’t help gazing into her round blue eyes.
Fiercepaw nodded, “Follow us, we’ll show you the best places to collect moss and the best ways to make sure they are fit for the cranky elders who are looking for something to complain about.”
Moonpaw had a playful gleam in her eyes, “I’d like you to remember these words so that I can tease you about it when you become one of those elders, while I will be sure to remind the kits that they can bring the wettest moss just for you, their favorite elder Fiercemoan, while I enjoy the dry moss because of my services.”
Fiercepaw grunted as he left the apprentice den signaling for the other apprentices to follow them. As they walked out of camp Thunderpaw tried to start a conversation with Moonpaw, “Who was you mentor again?” he asked her trying to sound polite.
“Aquatail,” she replied proudly, “She is probably the best mentor ever. I am almost three moons into my training now, so I should become a warrior pretty soon. It’s too bad we won’t get to spend much time training together. I’ve heard that you are very strong.”
Thunderpaw felt himself going red and tried to imagine Moonpaw as Dragonpaw or Rufflepaw, “Want me to show you?” he asked and jumped on Moonpaw, his claws sheathed. Moonpaw yelped in surprise and tried to flip Thunderpaw over but he wouldn’t budge. She then pulled her hind legs up and kicked Thunderpaw off who managed to regain his balance and land on both feet. He then ran back at Moonpaw and started swiping at her with his paws, all which she managed to avoid. She was aiming a swipe at Thunderpaw when he butted her with his head and sent knocked her down.
Moonpaw made an “Oof” sound, and Thunderpaw ran over to help her up. They was a playful gleam in her eyes and Thunderpaw felt glad that he had at least managed to make himself noticeable in her eyes, “Lucky shot.”
Thunderpaw was about to playfully retort when Fiercepaw cut in, “Hey Moonloser,” he teased, “Beaten by a beginner, I see. And you planned to become a warrior within a month, fat chance that will happen. You’ll have to wait for Thunderpaw to become a warrior first.” Moonpaw cuffed his ear playfully as Thunderpaw noticed he wasn’t the only one who couldn’t stop looking into Moonpaw’s eyes. As nice as Fiercepaw had been to him Thunderpaw found himself hoping that he would become a warrior right away so that he didn’t get any closer to Moonpaw than he already was. Thunderpaw found himself surprised it had only taken a short walk to fall for the apprentice. But it wasn’t hard. She was beautiful and had eyes that seemed to go on forever, she was also kind, playful, determined, and impressive. It was no surprise that Fiercepaw had fallen for her too and Thunderpaw couldn’t help wondering how long Fiercepaw had been string into those eyes. Since Moonpaw was born? Since she became an apprentice? Or had he just started looking at her like that? Thunderpaw hoped it was new so that he didn’t have that big of a disadvantage.
Fiercepaw turned to Thunderpaw, “You were good for a apprentice that hasn’t even had a session with your master yet,” Thunderpaw dipped his head a little awkwardly as Fiercepaw continued, “You won’t have as many sessions with your mentor as most apprentices because they will usually be busy, as I know from personnel experience. Instead you will probably spend up to half of your sessions with senior warriors who also have apprentices.”
Thunderpaw nodded with excitement. This meant that he might spend a fair amount of training sessions with Aquatail, since she was probably the oldest warrior who had not yet retired. And that meant more time he would get to spend by Moonpaw. He didn’t say this, of course. Instead he pretended to be disappointed that he wouldn’t get to spend as much time with the deputy.
“If you fluff-brains are done bragging about your mentors, none which are as good as mine, than I would like to remind you that we have reached the best spot to collect moss from so that our elders can sleep comfortably tonight.”
“Now you go put the moss on their bedding.” Moonpaw explained to Thunderpaw who was listening carefully, but Fiercepaw cut in.
“He’s new Moonpaw, let him watch a couple time before you make him do your work. Why don’t you go put the moss in this time? After all I did it last time and it is your turn, so while you place the dry moss so that our elders can sleep comfortably tonight, Thunderpaw and I will brag to each other about our mentors.”
Moonpaw rolled her eyes and sighed, before picking up the moss and laying it out on the elders den. Thunderpaw watched her with excitement, knowing that he would do it too very soon, and Sparklelight would ask him how it was done. Thunderpaw quickly realized that Fiercepaw was also watching the moss being placed in the elders den. “Why are you watching so intently?” he asked.
Fiercepaw shrugged, “I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m not watching the moss being places on, I’m watching Moonpaw. She’s so beautiful.” Thunderpaw didn’t know what to say. Fiercepaw had just admitted that he loved the cat Thunderpaw already felt himself falling for. Fiercepaw laughed at his silence, “I’ve seen the way you look at her, and it’s not hard to tell you feel the same way.”
Thunderpaw shrugged, “I can’t say that it’s not true,” he knew he would now lose the respect of the apprentice which actually did upset him because he had already come to admire him, despite their similar opinions on she-cats.
Fiercepaw laughed, once again reading his mind, “Don’t worry we can still be friends. I honestly don’t know how I could blame anyone for liking her,” Thunderpaw sighed with relief as Fiercepaw made a proposal, “I propose a truce. We will be fair to each other about her, we will not display hard feelings against each other because of her, and we will not try to lower her opinion on us by telling her bad things about each other.” Fiercepaw smiled as Thunderpaw nodded his head without even thinking. It would be hard to stay friendly with Fiercepaw after their competition got more interesting, but he respected the tom and already viewed him as an apprentice, or a warrior, he would go to if he had questions on his training.
“Hem, hem,” both apprentices heard a cat cough above them. They turned around to see Sparklelight, with a angry look in her eye, “Why don’t you two apprentices go help out your friend instead of gossiping about her,” both apprentices nodded but Sparklelight wasn’t finished, “you have disappointed me on your first day Thunderpaw, I am no longer sure if I should take you to the gathering tomorrow.”
Thunderpaw dipped his head very deeply, “I am very sorry Sparklelight, and I promise it will never happen again.”
Sparklelight nodded, “Make sure you don’t,” and seeing that Thunderpaw was about to run off to help the apprentice flicked her tail, “I can show you around a bit now, that I have finished my hunting,” then jokingly added, “Sorry I gave Fiercepaw an advantage, by pulling you out of the picture.”
Thunderpaw went red, “You don’t know me if you think I’m disappointed to begin my first training lesson.”
“Obviously not, since I have just met you this morning. All I know about you is that I have heard you are a very strong kit, and that you have feelings for Moonpaw. I think an apprentice should have more pressing matters than she-cats to worry about. You can wait until you are a warrior for that. Or you might not get one at all. I know that I wouldn’t have been deputy right now if I had chosen to take a mate. And all apprentices dream of becoming clan leader one day, although that dream dies for most by the time they are warriors. Cats soon realize that the strongest one among them is the one that knows how to follow, as you will soon learn young tom. But today I am going to teach you about the history of the clans and the ancients. I know you have heard tales from elders, but I want to tell you the truth, not the nursery tales, and I want you to realize what you might hear about Thunderclan, and how you should react to it. Once we sent a new apprentice to the gathering and he broke the truce because he heard something that didn’t sound like the tales told in Thunderclan.”
Thunderpaw nodded as Moonpaw and Fiercepaw left his head as he listened to what Sparklelight taught him eagerly, exited to prove himself to the whole forest t the gathering which was coming up. He took in every word his mentor said and at the end when his mentor quizzed him he answered all of the questions correctly.
At the end of their session Thunderpaw got up and stretched. They had been sitting down outside the whole time. “Since I am an apprentice now I suppose I can go take so fresh-kill to Rufflepaw and Bronzestripe.”
“Very thoughtful of you,” Sparklelight meowed proudly before adding, “While you are at it why don’t you get something for yourself too.”
“Thanks,” Thunderpaw replied, “but I already ate. And since I haven’t caught anything yet I would feel guilty to eat. I will just get something for our medicine cats.”
Sparklelight laughed and rolled her eyes before shrugging, “Well, if you say so I can’t make you eat. Well go on then,” Thunderpaw nodded and he was bounding off when he heard Sparklelight call again, “Wait Thunderpaw,” he turned around and walked back to his mentor, “I have to ask you something.” Thunderpaw waited as Sparklelight continued, “I have been worrying about Rufflepaw ever since Scrapkit died. I know that it is painful but if the clan is in danger I am scared he might freeze at the sight of a body as fragile as Scrapkit’s was. You are probably one of the closest cats to him, so I was wondering if you could watch over him a bit for me and then report how he is. This is for his good.”
Thunderpaw was about to nod, when he realized something, “Why are you asking this to me and not Dragonpaw. He is Rufflepaw’s littermate after all, so he would be the first cat you turned to.” Sparklelight didn’t answer and Thunderpaw guessed, “Did Dragonpaw refuse to spy on his brother?” Sparklelight nodded and Thunderpaw shook his head, “I am sorry but if Dragonpaw refuses to do something to Rufflepaw then I cannot do that.”
Sparklelight sighed, “I understand,” she meowed before dismissing her apprentice, “I thought it would be helpful.”
As Thunderpaw bounded off he felt slightly guilty that he had rejected the first thing his mentor had asked of him, but he couldn’t have betrayed Rufflepaw or Dragonpaw, so he shook that thought out of his head and bounded off to the fresh kill pile. Looking around he picked a vole for Rufflepaw and a squirrel for Bronzestripe before heading into the medicine cat den. Rufflepaw spotted him right away and ran up, gratefully accepting the vole and taking the squirrel to Bronzestripe. Bronzestripe dipped her head to Thunderpaw, but he detected that same glance in her eyes and he felt awkward.
“Congratulations,” Rufflepaw purred, “I heard that you became an apprentice and you are going to the gathering tomorrow. All of the apprentices that don’t go will be very jealous. I am actually really excited to because this will be my first gathering, and I will be introduced to the other clans as a medicine cat.”
Thunderpaw purred, “I can’t wait either. I’d love to meet the cats from the other clans and listen to stories from them. It will be so grand, and I will be there on my second day as an apprentice. Sparklelight almost changed her mind when she heard me and Fiercepaw talking when we were supposed to be helping Moonpaw set up the fresh moss, but she decided not to. I was really scared that I might not be able to go, though.”
The two apprentices chatted for a while before Thunderpaw decided to leave and go back to his mentor. Sparklelight told him that he should go help out whoever needed it, but warned him not to go hunting since he was inexperienced and might scare away the prey. Thunderkit was confident that he would be able to catch it but he listened because he really badly wanted to go to the gathering.
He went into the apprentice’s den, and to his delight he found that Moonpaw and a sleeping Ratpaw were the only ones there. Moonpaw’s eyes also brightened when she saw the new apprentices and she bounded up to him, “So what did you do with the deputy?” she asked him, a slight amount of amusement available in her gaze.
Thunderpaw shrugged, “We talked about manners at the gathering and the warrior code, and you know basic stuff,” he paused before asking, “So what did you do with Aquatail today, you look worn out?”
Moonpaw’s eyes brightened, “It was incredible. You won’t believe it, today I learned to cross a Thunderpath,” Thunderpaw was about to ask a question when Moonpaw guessed it, “Since there aren’t any Thunderpaths around the lake we had to walk pretty far to find one, and when we did Aquatail explained how to cross it. I actually crossed it like ten times in total. I was actually scared the first time but I did it, and it was amazing.”
Thunderpaw quickly thought about how to react, “Well,” he said in a teasing tone, “I used to think it was big to cross a Thunderpath, but now it doesn’t sound like such a big deal anymore. I mean if even you, who couldn’t put up in a fight against me, can cross it than how hard can it really be. Oh well.”
Thunderpaw was ready when Moonpaw jumped, and he rolled out of the way before jumping on her. The two cats rolled around for a while laughing and they even rolled over Ratpaw who woke up for a moment before mumbling about noisy apprentices that couldn’t do fraction of what he could, and falling back asleep. The two apprentices stopped and Thunderpaw commented, “Has he been sleeping all day. What’s his problem, did he stay up really late last night.”
Moonpaw shook her head, “That’s Ratpaw for you. If he’s not outside training with his master he is in here sleeping. He won’t ever get the moss which is very annoying. We try to tell on him but the warriors tell us to grow up and start complaining like a group of kits so we just let him sleep.”
Thunderpaw laughed, “I remember when he blamed us because he fell asleep on Windclan territory.” Moonpaw seemed to remember to because she also laughed.
“I was one of the apprentices that stuck up for you,” she commented, “But nobody listened to me since I was so young. Fiercepaw was in a cranky mood that day so he just randomly nodded when somebody asked him if the kits were making noise.” Thunderpaw nodded but he didn’t really care. Kits always got in trouble so it wasn’t really a big deal. The reason it had made him mad was because Ratpaw had thrown off some of the blame.
Thunderpaw continued to learn from Sparklelight and during his free time he played with Dragonpaw, Rufflepaw, Moonpaw and sometime Fiercepaw who tried to be around Moonpaw as much as possible. Thunderpaw soon became friends with all of the other apprentices, except Ratpaw, and got along especially well with Sunpaw, who happened to be Moonpaw’s littermate.
Finally the night of the gathering came, and Thunderpaw waited with excitement as Hollowstar called out the cats he would be taking with him from the Highledge. “My deputy, the medicine cats and I will go, of course,” he began, “The warriors that I will take are Emberclaw, Mangoleap, Firestorm, Badgerclaw, Saphirepelt, Frostcloud, Dashheart, Lightningpelt, Vinestorm, Molepounce and Pointedheart. The apprentices that are coming will be are Sunpaw, Moonpaw, Shiftpaw and Thunderpaw,” Even though he knew that he would be going Thunderpaw felt his heart soar when he heard him name. It made him especially glad to know Moonpaw would be there too, “No queens will be coming and I will take Tinyleg among the elders.”
He dismissed the clan and the cats selected to go to the gathering with him followed the large gray leader. Thunderpaw fell beside Moonpaw, “Have you ever gone to the gathering before?” he asked her.
“Once,” she replied, “That was last moon when you were still a kit, but there was so much going on during that gathering that it was a little more than a cat would hope for during their first gathering. I hope this one doesn’t have as much raucous.”
Thunderpaw thought for a moment, “Then you know about those kits that snuck into the gathering while their parents were sleeping, and about the Riverkit clan kit which the Windclan cats stole.”
Moonpaw shrugged, “I don’t know if stole would be the correct term since they asked rather politely, although it did get impolite replies, and they didn’t barge into camp, but the clan sent the kit on their own, for whatever crazy reason was going through their mind, because I know that our clan would never do something so weak, and with so little to admire. I just feel bad for the kits mother. I have never had kits but I know it would hurt to know that you might be fighting against you kit one day and that they may kill you or that you may kill them.”
Thunderpaw shrugged, “I bet that’s how Bluestar felt when she had to give up her kits but she didn’t have any other choice because if she hadn’t maybe Thunderclan wouldn’t exist anymore. So she made an important sacrifice for her clan.”
Moonpaw nodded as they reached the log that led to the island. Thunderkit was amazed at how long it was. He could hardly believe his eyes. He had heard of the log but he never knew it was that big before, he turned to Rufflepaw to see the same surprise on his face. This was also his first gathering. Shiftpaw was nearly the same age as Ratpaw, so Thunderpaw figured this was his first gathering and he was proven correct when he saw the surprised look on the young toms face.
Moonpaw leaned into Thunderpaw, “if you ever need a guide or just someone to follow I am here,” Thunderkit purred grateful and Moonpaw continued, “Last gathering Fiercepaw showed me around and he was so helpful.” Thunderpaw tried not to feel jealous, but instead grateful that it would be just him and Moonpaw this time. As they approached the log to climb over it Moonpaw teased, “Don’t get scared kit.”
Thunderpaw laughed, “I am worried about you getting scared. I should be just fine, but you should be careful not to fall. Well, I’ll probably catch you anyways so you should be fine.” Moonpaw playfully cuffed his ear and Thunderpaw flicked his tail on her nose. He heard a playful growl from her but knew that she wouldn’t attack while they were crossing the log.
When they finally passed the log and leaped to the other side Moonpaw jumped on Thunderpaw and started laughing in his face. Thunderpaw noticed Rufflepaw staring at him, amusement visible in his gaze and he felt himself going red. Moonpaw jumped off him and licked her tail in his nose. Thunderpaw would have jumped back on her if he wasn’t too busy looking around the island in awe.
There were so many scents; he could make out coming from all of the cats. The only ones he recognized were those coming from his clan mates. He decided to follow Moonpaw as she signaled for him to follow. She took him to an area where there were several of apprentices all talking and sharing stories about their catches and tales that they heard elders told them. Remembering what Sparklelight told him he followed Moonpaw and sat down beside three Riverclan apprentices that were listening to a Windclan apprentice explain a hectic day in his life, “So since I am the only apprentice I have to do everything for the elders and the medicine cat has no apprentice so I have to do their duties as well. Then my mentor trains me very hard and keeps complaining about how I can’t do things perfectly. All I can say is that I was so excited when Breezekit and Russetkit finally became apprentices so that I can finally get a break.”
“Wow Twirlpaw,” Moonpaw replied sympathetically, “I feel so bad for you. I am glad that I have apprentices to work with and train with, but you don’t really have anyone so that will also make it harder to train.” Thunderpaw had to admit that he felt bad for the apprentice too.
Thunderpaw heard Sharkstar calling all of the cats together and he ran to go sit beside the Thunderclan cats. He sat with Rufflepaw on one side and Moonpaw on his other side. Each of the leaders was posed on a different branch of the large tree. Thrushstar, the leader of Windclan stepped up first.
“Windclan is doing well. Along with new leaf the prey had started to return so my clan thrives. We have made two new apprentices recently. They are not here right now but Breezepaw and Russetpaw are now apprentices.” Thunderpaw thought he saw some Riverclan cats bristle at the mention of their old kit. Thrushstar didn’t pay attention to that and gave way for Mossstar to speak.
“We have one new apprentice named Riverpaw, Riverclan is doing well, and we have unfortunate news, since our new deputy Leaffall also died while killing the badger we scared away before. The new deputy is Ashwood, and may Leaffall rest comfortably in Starclan.” He backed away and Thunderpaw could tell the leader didn’t really want to talk. There were sad murmurs among the cats as Hollowstar started to talk.
“Just like the other clans, Thunderclan thrives due to its new prey. We have made Thunderpaw an apprentice, and he is here right now.” Thunderpaw felt himself glowing with pride as some of the cats chanted him name. When things weren’t tense between the clans, like at that moment, cats would cheer for their rivals from other clans. Hollowstar nodded and made way for Sharkstar to talk.
“We also have a new apprentice but she is not here today. My daughter has recently been apprenticed and taken the name of Shadowpaw. I would like to make a reminder however to Thunderclan. I have not backed down from my request to take back our territory. Sometime in between now and the next gathering our clan will set their borders over that strip of land, and we will be prepared to fight.”
Thunderclan cats started hissing at those from Shadowclan and Thunderpaw was among them. They had some nerve. Hollowstar dipped his head at Sharkstar, “Then you will lose the fight.” Cats started hissing even more and Mossstar cut in.
“This gathering is dismissed.” The cats turned away from each other and Thunderpaw felt himself panting hard with anger. Moonpaw pressed against him and Thunderpaw felt grateful.
Thunderpaw heard Hollowstar sigh. “It looks like we will have to start preparing for the battle that will arrive any moment now. The medicine cat and Thunderpaw’s mentor nodded.
“Well,” Thunderpaw asked Moonpaw, “Was that gathering ordinary enough for you, besides Shadowclan’s nerve to ask for that land.”
Moonpaw thought for a moment before nodding, “Definitely.”
Shadowkit couldn’t wait; it was almost her special day. Sharkstar had promised to make her an apprentice tomorrow. And Buzzheart had revealed that only a few days later she would start the kit training program for the threat that Sharkstar had warned was approaching. Shadowkit had thought a lot about that threat and had even tried to pester her dad to tell her more about it and what it could mean but it was obvious that Sharkstar didn’t have a clue. He didn’t really know anymore than she did.
Flapcloud’s kits had become apprenticed taking the name Purplepaw, apprenticed to Growlpelt, Redpaw, apprenticed to Strangleheart, and Pinkpaw, apprenticed to Crossfang, so Shadowkit had been alone in the nursery for a while. Well, she actually wasn’t alone. Goldenpaw and Grasspaw had become Goldenwing and Grassfur shortly after the gathering and the two cats had quickly mated, and Grassfur had just delivered two kits named Cricketkit and Beetlekit. They were too small to play with so Shadowkit had been very lonely for a while now. She never really got to do anything in the nursery because Grassfur was such a grouch that kept demanding she stay quiet or else she might disturb her kits. It was so lame. A couple days ago Shadowkit had waited for a very long time when Grassfur revealed they would open there eyes and minute, only to see them open the tiny slits snuggle up to their mother than go back to sleep. Needless to say, she had been disappointed and had only gotten more excited for her apprenticeship because she really had nothing to do.
She couldn’t play with Orangegleam either, because she was slowly starting to pick up her warrior duties since Shadowkit had become more independent, leaving her alone with Grassfur and Goldenwing who visited the nursery whenever he was in camp. Shadowkit had once almost collected the nerve to ask him if he planned to move into the nursery anytime soon, he had actually slept in the nursery with Grassfur one night, when she had changed her mind. She also hated how gushy Goldenwing and Grassfur were with each other talking about how they loved each other and their kits every other second, while Shadowkit couldn’t do anything but listen in disgust. She had already decided one thing for certain; she was not getting a mate when she grew up. She was way too ambitious to mate with anybody and couldn’t afford to be distracted from her warrior duties. She also didn’t want to have to look after troublesome kits when she was old enough to become a queen. She would take the strait path to becoming the strongest, sneakiest and most feared warrior in all the clans. She might even become deputy eventually and then leader and she couldn’t do those with a mate or kits to slow her down. If she were a tom then she might have considered but for she-cats having a mate could ruin their ambition. Grassfur had been a she-cat who even senior warriors were saying could be the potential new deputy but now she was a prissy queen with no sense of fun.
When Shadowkit got really bored, like right now, she would sneak out of the camp and run to the lake where she would sit. Kits weren’t supposed to be that far out from camp, especially with the new mysterious threat, but Shadowkit couldn’t help going there when she was bored. Sometimes if she was especially bored, she would even sneak off to the island, actually passing through other clans’ territories. She was small and made sure to roll in a pile of mud first, so she would never be scented, and she was way too sneaky to be heard. She would then climb onto the giant tree there and pretend to be a leader at a gathering. Sometimes she would try to identify very stale scents or see if there had been anything on the island lately. She once caught a squirrel but she had to bury although it was against the warrior code to waste because if she ate then, Orangegleam would wonder why she wasn’t hungry and even if Shadowkit said that she had hunted in Shadowclan territory, it was also against the warrior code for kits to hunt, so she still would have got in trouble.
If she weren’t almost an apprentice Shadowkit would have snuck off now but if she was caught then her apprenticeship might be slightly delayed and she didn’t want to spend a single sunrise that was more than necessary in the nursery. She felt herself getting up from her den in the nursery. Just because she couldn’t leave the camp that didn’t mean she would stay in the nursery the whole time. As she exited the nursery she saw Eyeleg, Shadefur and Mistheart heading on the sunset border patrol lead by the deputy Wingpelt. Shadowkit blankly watched them as they went off to remark the borders. As they left she noticed her father coming out of his den and approaching her. She took in a deep breath as her father reached her.
“You look bored,” he commented a little slowly, “Why aren’t you doing anything these days. I just see you lying around the nursery looking all miserable. I wanted to make sure you were okay. For a while I worried you were sick.” Shadowkit rolled her eyes at her father. He was just trying to make a conversation with her and he was doing a horrible job.
“I am bored,” she groaned, “and I have nothing to do an nobody to play with, and no I do not want to watch Beetlekit and Cricketkit move their paws or eyes or mouth a tiny little bit more. Why can’t I just go outside? I am almost an apprentice and I think I could yell pretty loudly if I need to.”
Sharkstar thought for a moment. Curestorm, Dawnpelt, Leatherpelt and her apprentice Snappaw were heading out on a hunting patrol. Noticing their leader they all dipped their head and he dipped his head back. They were about to run off when Sharkstar seemed to get an idea. “Hey Curestorm!” he called. The pale tom turned around, “Would it be okay if Shadowkit went with you. Not to hunt but just for a nice run.”
“From now on until you receive your warrior name you shall be known as Shadowpaw.” Shadowpaw waited with excitement as Sharkstar beckoned… “Goldenwing!” Shadowpaw felt herself going numb. She had the potential to be so great and Sharkstar was giving her to the least experienced warrior in the clan. She couldn’t believe it. She almost wanted to grab Sharkstar by the scruff, drag him into his den and ask him what on earth he was thinking.
“You mentor will be Goldenwing, I hope he passes down all he knows to you,” he turned to Goldenwing who looked very proud and Shadowpaw couldn’t believe she was in this situation, “Goldenwing you are ready to take on an apprentice. You have received excellent training from Wingpelt and have shown yourself to be fair and brave. You will be the mentor of Shadowpaw, and I expect you to pass down all you know to Shadowpaw.”
Grumbling on the inside but trying to look happy on the outside Shadowpaw walked up to Goldenwing to touch noses with him, still unable to believe her luck. Goldenwing seemed unable to believe his luck, but in the opposite way that Shadowpaw felt. What was Sharkstar thinking? She was way too talented for a beginner. This really wasn’t fair.
After the ceremony and the chanting, which Shadowpaw had to admit she really enjoyed, she paddled off to the apprentice’s den only to be stopped by Goldenwing. “Don’t you want to train first?” he asked her. Shadowpaw shrugged, and Goldenwing gave her a funny look, “I thought apprentices were really eager the day they were apprenticed. At least I was.” Shadowpaw shrugged again and Goldenwing put on an amused face before flicking his tail, “Come on,” he called as he paddled out of camp, “I want to take you to the training area, so we can assess your fighting, stalking and defending skills so far.”
Shadowpaw followed her new mentor to the training area. She had only seen it once when she had snuck out with Redpaw and they had watched Goldenwing training with Wingpelt. They had eventually gotten bored and snuck back into the nursery though, where Flapcloud had started fussing over Redpaw. Now Shadowpaw was actually going to train there, whatever kind of training she would get from Goldenwing. When they finally reached the training area, Goldenwing ran to the other side of the sandy area and pulled into a defensive crouch.
“Attack me,” he said, “I won’t make any comments until we have finished the fight. Remember, claws sheathed.” Shadowpaw sheathed her claws, realizing that she had forgotten. She thought for a moment before deciding that she would try to attack from the side. She took a few steps back before running around instead of strait at Goldenwing. When she reached him she slid under his belly, coming out from the other side and she batted at his head. To her surprise she found that Goldenwing wasn’t fighting back. She let go of her mentor for a moment and he jumped on her. Shadowpaw tried to push him off with her feet, realizing that it wouldn’t work, but to her surprise it did. Shadowpaw couldn’t believe that she pushed Goldenwing off so easily. Goldenwing then ran up to her and started to swat, attempting to hit her. Shadowpaw easily dodged all of them. His attacks were so slow. She quickly realized that something was wrong. And then she understood. Goldenwing was going easy on her, way too easy, he was trying to lose. To make sure she jumped on his back and felt him trying to shake her off but it was weak, and didn’t have the strength of a warrior, as inexperienced as he might be.
Shadowpaw felt herself getting angry. This wasn’t a real fight; Goldenwing was treating her like a kit. Getting angry she growled, “Fight back kittypet!” and when Goldenwing’s attempts only got even feebler she lost it. She unsheathed her claws and raked them across his pelt. She heard him yowl with pain and fling her off. She hit the sandy floor with a large thump and actually felt pain in her bones. She grinned this was more like it.But Goldenwing wasn’t grinning there was an angry and stern look on his face and he pointed towards the way where camp was, “Go to camp now. I told you to keep your claws sheathed but you couldn’t control yourself. You will spend the rest of the day helping the elders and the queens.”
“Have fun Shadowpaw,” Itchpaw called after showing her how to take ticks off the elders. Though it was friendly Shadowpaw felt herself growling. She should be training with her mentor right now, not picking ticks off of the elders. As she worked she heard Blackfur purr.
“You don’t seem in a good mood for a cat on their first day as apprentice,” he commented and Shadowpaw grunted. She wasn’t in a good mood and she was very angry with her father for appointing her to such a mouse-brained mentor.
“Well,” Emeraldfur commented, “If you wanted we could tell you a story but you don’t seem in the mood. How about Tawnypelt’s story of discovering the new lake territories? I know that one is your favorite and just because you are an apprentice that doesn’t mean you can’t listen to stories anymore.”
“No thanks,” Shadowpaw mumbled as she finished picking Emeraldfur’s tick and moved on to Dawnpelt who was the last one, she had to do. The elders seemed curious about her bad mood but Shadowpaw didn’t say anything. While she was picking off the ticks Shadowpaw decided that she would go to Sharkstar and ask him why the cat that could save the clan was stuck with an apprentice. Sharkstar couldn’t protest to that, since even he thought that she was special. Maybe she could convince him to mentor her, which would be great.
When she was finally done picking ticks off the elders, she started to walk towards Sharkstar’s den. Some warriors gave her funny looks, curious what a mere apprentice would have to say to the leader but Shadowpaw ignored them. She was greater than any of them and she had every right to talk with the leader. She would show them all what she was destined for.
When Sharkstar saw her enter his den, his eyes widened. “Shadowpaw what a surprise! So what brings you here into my den today? Not enjoying your first day as apprentice?” Sharkstar asked a little cautiously.
“Father,” Shadowpaw began quickly, “remember how a moon ago you claimed that there were signs about me being destined for greatness, to save not only this clan, but to help save the others.” Sharkstar nodded slowly, obviously curious what Shadowpaw was getting at, “Well, I thought that if that really was the case, and I might become so great, that perhaps you should give me a mentor a little more experienced, and more suited to mentor apprentices, someone who has mentored others before, someone greater to help me become great.” Shadowpaw saw nothing in Sharkstar’s eyes when he finally turned round and faced her.
“Shadowpaw,” he began a little slowly, “You must learn to be a bit more modest and see a little less in yourself. The greatest warrior of them all does not view himself as great. Not to give too much importance to yourself is more important than strength, speed, smarts or stealth. And all great warriors are aware of this. This is surely nothing but proof that you are not quite as great as you claim and so I will not make any accommodations to your mentor. Good-bye my daughter and try to enjoy your first day as an apprentice.” Shadowpaw quietly left the den, realizing she was dismissed.
As she paddled out of the den Shadowpaw didn’t find she was angry, but instead depressed and disappointed. She still wasn’t pleased with her mentor, but she didn’t feel like anything anymore. She was just an ordinary apprentice, who would have an ordinary duty in the clan. She would have an ordinary mentor, although Goldenwing was worse than ordinary, and she would have an ordinary warrior ceremony. She would have an ordinary warrior life and an ordinary death. How plain and simple that sounded, how ordinary.
Shadowpaw picked out a vole from the fresh-kill pile and walked to the apprentice’s den. All of the apprentices were in there eating their prey and sharing what they did with their friends. Shadowpaw sat down beside Itchpaw, who purred when she saw her. She was sharing tongues with a ginger tom, who was talking about a huge rabbit that he had caught, and taken to the elders.
Itchpaw pushed herself up to her feet and introduced the tabby, “This is Scrollpaw,” she said, and indicating at a brown tabby she-cat that had just approached she added, “And this is Hookpaw. Curestorm and Stinkpelt are their mentors.” Shadowpaw dipped her head at the apprentice who dipped their head back.
Shadowpaw rested in the apprentice’s den for while, and found herself getting more gloomy by the moment she spent lying down, about Sharkstar claiming that he must not have thought she would be great, and that she obviously wasn’t one of the destined cats. It was like all of a sudden the greatest build up to being an apprentice had been crashed. Shadowpaw rolled around in the bedding for a little while before she realized that she couldn’t fall asleep. She got up and left the den, heading for the center of camp. When she got there Goldenwing was the first cat to see her. His eyes brightened and she could feel herself getting disappointed that he had to find her so quickly.
“Hey Shadowpaw,” Goldenwing approached, “Sorry I was so harsh on you earlier today. After our session I felt like I had done something wrong so I watched Snappaw, the gray apprentice, training with Leatherpelt. I failed to understand that it was just an accident and you were so excited you couldn’t really control yourself. I promise I’ll try to be better. It’s a little too late today, but tomorrow I will wake you up for the dawn patrol. I will show you some of the borders, and then afterwards I will show you the rest of the territory. While showing you around the territory, we can also practice a bit of hunting.”
Shadowpaw resisted the urge to roll her eyes at her lame mentor, who was still taking her for a kit. Maybe it was seeing her in the nursery so much, or maybe he was the one who was too excited, but she had decided that she would put Goldenwing on the bottom of the list for her preferences as to who her mentor should be. It sounded mean but she couldn’t help that Goldenwing sucked at his job. But she couldn’t show this to him or she would be taken off another day for training. So she nodded, trying to look excited for tomorrow. When Goldenwing finally left, she let out a long sigh.
“Is your first day tiring?” Shadowpaw turned around to see her mother standing above her.
Shadowpaw shrugged, “I didn’t really get to do much.” Orangegleam smiled at her sympathetically and Shadowpaw headed for the apprentice’s den, which like all others was covered with bramble thickets. Most of the apprentices were inside, but Shadowpaw couldn’t see Itchpaw or Scrollpaw. Snappaw, the apprentice Goldenwing had talked about was sleeping, and Shadowpaw couldn’t help envying how tired the apprentice looked.
Sighing Shadowpaw decided to lie down. She fell asleep surprisingly quickly and when she opened her eyes she was somewhere dark. So dark the only thing she could make out was large, sleek and spiky furred gray cat. She took a few steps backwards when she hit something behind her. Another cat, but this one had fur that was ragged, fluffy and felt like a she-cat. Shadowpaw felt herself strangely uncomfortable with the dark. Normally she viewed the dark as a layer of protection, but in this dark forest it made her vulnerable.
And then she realized where she was. The darkest land tales had ever talked about. The place for only the cruelest cats to stay. And yet this comforted Shadowpaw. She sensed that they had been waiting for her just to fall asleep, and the Dark Forest didn’t show up in every cat’s dreams, so they must have selected her. She wasn’t so ordinary after all.
“Shadowpaw, you have no reason to fear us, as we have not shown you any harm or fear. I figure that you know where we are and I must tell you that we do not seek revenge. We are lost souls as you must understand, we have nothing left to do, no prophecies left to attempt foiling. So we turned to you, a cat who we are able to realize is destined for something grand,” the tom who Shadowpaw now recognized as Thistleclaw spoke, “We just wish for something to do, to make of the faint traces left of us. So we turned to you. We could feel your disappointment in your mentor today; you know he lacked the ability to train you. If we offered to train you while you sleep then you might be able to get that training you need, and no cat will ever need to know.”
Shadowpaw thought for a moment, and the thought of training with some of the fiercest warriors the forest had ever seen excited her. There was a small problem that Shadowpaw could sense growing though, “Sharkstar said there was a threat arriving, one that would challenge the way of the clans. It is you, since it has always been you, and I can’t side with the enemy.”
The she-cat stepped forward and Shadowpaw realized that she was Mapleshade, “We are not involved with this prophecy you are warned about,” she thought for a moment, “Well we actually are but the rumors behind the great battle to come between the defenders, the bringers of change, the blinders, the avenger and the fading. Several of them suggest that we might work together with Starclan. However the truth most likely is that we will not be involved this time. The main battle is to involve the four chose as well as the Lion, the Tiger and the Leopard.”
Shadowpaw started, completely confused and Mapleshade shook her head with amusement, indicating that she didn’t really understand either. Both cats were staring at Shadowpaw expectantly, and she wanted to say no, since it seemed like the right thing to do, but she couldn’t see any harm if their only motive was to train her to become the great warrior they said she was destined to be. Because it turned out that she really was destined after all.
She turned to them, “I’m in, and I’m ready to begin whenever you are.” The two cats grinned at each other and Thistleclaw beckoned her to follow him to an area where she would be training. She trained hard and long, and didn’t stop until she was woken up by Goldenwing, to get on the patrol.
As she got up and joined the border patrol she realized that she was aching all over. She had worked hard and learned a lot. She felt sore all over and wouldn’t mind sleeping for a moon. And yet she didn’t regret any of it. The pain felt better than anything had ever felt before.
Riverkit watched uninterested but excited as Handypaw became a warrior. Mossstar began, “I, Mossstar, leader of Riverclan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice. He has trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend him to you as a warrior in his turn.” He turned to Handypaw.
“Handypaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect you Clan, even at the cost of your life?”
Handypaw didn’t hesitate, “I do.”
“Than by the powers of Starclan I give you your warrior name. Handypaw, from this moment on you will be known as Handyclaw. Starclan honors your initiative and strength, and we welcome you as a full warrior of Riverclan.”
As the clan cheered on the new warrior Riverkit realized that this was the fifth warrior ceremony in the past moon. Querypelt, Rainbowpath, Salamifall, Rufflebreeze and Handyclaw had all become warriors recently. Gingerpaw had also recently become Gingerlight, but would remain an apprentice until the current one died. Things were looking great for the clan, especially considering that they had two new queens, Youngclaw and Fuzzclaw had recently given birth to five kits in total. And now Riverkit would become an apprentice. Droopytail’s kits would also become apprentices soon, but today was Riverkit’s day and he couldn’t wait.
It didn’t seem like Mossstar planned to have him wait because as soon as Handyclaw had finished his ceremony Riverkit was called up. He bounded up on top of the Highstone and Moss-star began the ceremony, “Riverkit you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Riverpaw. You mentor will be Ashwood. I hope Ashwood will pass down all he knows to you.”
Riverpaw was happy with her mentor. It wasn’t the clan leader or deputy, but if Ashwood had never taken Crowflight he would be deputy. As he remembered Ashwood he painfully began to miss his old friend Breezekit. He wondered how she was doing, and hoped that she had adjusted to Windclan. Ever their kit disappeared Crowflight and Ashwood had spent a lot of time together. Riverkit had even wondered if they wanted another kit, in hopes that it might ease some of the pain of losing their only kit.
“Crowflight, you are ready to take on an apprentice. You have received excellent quality training from Streamfall, and have shown yourself to be wise and brave. You will be the mentor of Riverpaw, and I expect you to pass down all that you know to him.”
As Riverpaw walked into the apprentice’s den, he realized just how many apprentices were in Riverclan. He counted eleven apprentices, and realized that none of them must be out with their mentors. He stood in the middle of them a little awkwardly, waiting for at least one to welcome him, and introduce him to the other apprentices. None got up however and Riverpaw sat in a corner of the den and waited there. Still no one came, and Riverpaw felt his spirits deflating.
He walked up and sat by a group of four apprentices who were eating a two rabbits and squirrel together. There were two she-cats and a tom. One of the she-cats, a tortoiseshell, glared at her, “What do you want?” she asked a little coldly.
Riverpaw felt taken back, “I…” he stammered a bit, “I am new here, so I wanted to introduce myself. I’m Riverpaw.”
The she-cat’s response was sharp, “I’m Fizzypaw, now get lost blue freak, or I’ll show you why you shouldn’t mess with an apprentice with more experience than you.” Riverpaw slowly backed away, wondering what had gotten into her fur.
He walked up to another group of cats; this one had two toms and two she-cats. The cats didn’t even acknowledge him as he sat down, and they continued to eat talking among themselves.
A tom who was glancing at the group of cats whom Riverpaw had just spoken with spoke, “I really want to get Fizzypaw’s attention. What do you think I should do?”
A she-cat bristled, “Why on earth would you want him Cockypaw?” a white and gray she-cat snarled, “She is just a self-centered brat who can’t even catch a mouse!”
Cockypaw grinned, “I would say that you are jealous, Freshpaw.”
She rolled her eyes, “I would say that you’re crazy. Especially to look twice at a messed up furball like her. But I guess I shouldn’t care if you end up with her. Two idiots paired perfectly for one another.”
Riverpaw decided it would be best to leave the group of cats, who couldn’t even bother to notice him. Why couldn’t any of the apprentices show him an ounce of welcoming. He really couldn’t wait until Droopytail’s kit became apprentices. At least he could chat with them. He would welcome them, and he would have people to sit beside.
Riverpaw would have grabbed something to eat, but he fought against him rumbling stomach and tried to fall asleep, which of course didn’t work. He rolled around in the moss. While he was rolling down he was approached by a she-cat who he recognized as the medicine cat apprentice Gingerlight. He pulled himself up from the ground. She tossed him a piece of prey, “I thought that you might be hungry.”
“Oh,” Riverpaw stammered, “I can’t, Ashwood is testing me to see my loyalty, so I can’t eat until tomorrow.”
“Oh,” Gingerlight dipped her head in embarrassment and Riverpaw passed the fish back, “Why don’t you eat it. I haven’t seen you eating at all today either.”
Gingerlight accepted the salmon eating it with quick bites. When she was finally done, she turned to him, “I’m Gingerlight by the way. I think your name is Riverpaw.” Riverpaw nodded, realizing that Gingerlight was acting a little strangely. Gingerlight talked with him a bit but he felt himself feeling a little awkward around Gingerlight. The way she acted around him made him feel slightly uncomfortable. She kept blushing and dipping her head and stammering. He figured that was just the way she acted around everybody, but it didn’t make talking to her any less awkward.
Fizzypaw was passing by with the she-cat apprentice who was beside her before, whom Riverpaw now recognized as Kindlepaw. Fizzypaw purposefully hit Gingerlight, “Oh sorry Gingerlight. Did I bruise your head? I guess it doesn’t matter since you are a medicine cat and you can’t mate. It wouldn’t make a difference if you weren’t; there still would be no tom in the forest that would look at your ugly ginger coat once.”
There was sorrow and pain in the cat’s eyes but she didn’t say anything. Riverpaw looked at Fizzypaw and Kindlepaw. Fizzypaw looked proud that she had managed to upset the medicine cat’s apprentice, but Kindlepaw looked like she disagreed although she didn’t seem to have the nerve to tell her best friend. If nobody would stick up for Gingerlight, Riverpaw realized that he would have to.
“Hey!” he yelled stepping in front if Gingerlight, “If you want a fight, mess with a warrior apprentice, and leave the medicine cats alone. There is no honor to that, but I suppose you wouldn’t care.”
Fizzypaw snarled, “I told you to back off kit. Now you will pay the price!” She jumped on him, her claws unsheathed, and Riverpaw jumped out of the way, before unsheathing his paws and jumping on her. But she kept pushing him back. Kindlepaw and Gingerlight were following as Fizzypaw managed to shove Riverpaw out of the camp and to the shore of the lake. Snarling she dunked him into the lake, and he grabbed her foot, pulling both of them in. The fierce fight turned into a water battle, which gave Riverpaw an upper hand. He easily swatted her with water, and ducked under the water scratching her legs. Eventually, Fizzypaw could no longer swim, and she started choking on water.
“Come on, Riverpaw!” Gingerlight called, “Let’s go.”
But Kindlepaw was staring at the drowning Fizzypaw, with worry rooted deep into her eyes. Riverpaw knew he the she-cat wouldn’t die, but she was being hurt with every breath she took, and the look in her friend’s eye made him feel like a monster.
Sighing, Riverpaw took a deep breath and dumped his head under the water. On the way back up, his teeth found Fizzypaw’s scruff and he pulled her up. Heaving he dragged the older apprentice to the shore, where Kindlepaw was waiting desperately.
A few moments later Fizzypaw began to cough and water started splurging out of her mouth. Gasping, she got up to her feet and shook her pelt, water sprinkling everywhere. When Kindlepaw realized her friend was okay she rushed up to her, and began to lick her with affectionate strokes. Fizzypaw shook her off, claiming that she was okay, before turning to Riverpaw, “I can’t believe you!” she spat, “I could have died right there because of you. You should show some more respect.” Riverpaw felt his insides boiling, he had saved her life, after she had disrespected a medicine cat, and she was blaming him! Fizzypaw turned to Kindlepaw, “Don’t go near that tom, you saw what he almost did to me.”
Kindlepaw seemed ready to protest, but Fizzypaw cut her off, “This is for your own good. I don’t want the same happening to my best friend.” Kindlepaw obviously disagreed but kept quiet as her friend stalked back to camp.
When Fizzypaw was finally out of eyesight she ran up to Riverpaw and licked him with gratitude. Riverpaw could sense admiration in her eyes as she purred, “Thank you so much, that was one of the best things I have ever seen someone do,” she dipped her head, “Sorry about Fizzypaw, she is a really great friend, she just isn’t really good around strangers.” Riverpaw nodded although he doubted he would ever want to be friends with Fizzypaw. Looking behind her Kindlepaw dipped her head again and ran off back into camp. Riverpaw felt himself staring at the she-cat unable to take his eyes off her.
When he turned around Gingerlight was staring at him, and he almost thought he saw jealousy in her eyes. “Why did you do it?” she asked Riverpaw who gave her a confused face. “Why did you help Fizzypaw? Just because you saved her she won’t act nice to you. I’ve been bullied by her for moons now; you should have given her the pain she deserved.” Gingerlight’s eyes were serious and though Riverpaw already hated Fizzypaw, he knew that he could not have let her drown.
“Why shouldn’t I do it? When someone needs help, that you can give, it is your duty to help them. That is loyalty to the clan.” He said it softly and he saw the same look in Gingerlight’s eyes that he had seen in Kindlepaw’s.
“She wouldn’t have done it,” Gingerlight replied, “She would have let you drown in the lake, even if she knew you would die from it. She wouldn’t care, so why do you?”
Riverpaw shrugged, “I guess that’s what makes me different than her.” Gingerlight finally gave in, and the two cats paddled back to camp. Riverpaw once again became aware of his growling stomach as they reached the camp. But he was determined not to eat. He would be able to make do until the next day, if it would mean proving his loyalty to his mentor and his clan. Gingerlight seemed to sense his hunger to because she pointed at the prey pile with her tail, but Riverpaw shook his head and she seemed to understand.
Ashwood was in camp, but he was deep in conversation with Leaffall so Riverpaw decided not to disturb him. Instead he walked into the apprentice’s den. Fizzypaw was deep into sleep, but Kindlepaw seemed to have been waiting for him. Her eyes brightened at the sight of him, and she signaled for him to come to the den beside her.
Kindlepaw was prodding Riverpaw, trying to wake him up. Riverpaw groaned as he tried to blink his sleep away. Kindlepaw laughed, “I woke up a long time ago, sleepyhead, Ashwood is waiting for you.”
Riverpaw grumbled his thanks, still tired and feeling incredibly hungry, and she twitched her whiskers in amusement. Ashwood was waiting for him outside, a bland expression on his face. Riverpaw approached him and he tossed Riverpaw a giant fish. Riverpaw pushed it back, “I didn’t do anything for the clan yesterday, I don’t deserve a piece of prey quiet so big.”
He waited, hoping it would have the effect that he wanted. Ashwood was surprised and he walked back to the fresh-kill pile bringing back a slightly smaller piece of prey, “I am very impressed, Riverpaw. This is the first time an apprentice has made the day without food, and you denied the large piece of prey I gave you! You have definitely passed your first assessment.”
Riverpaw purred, and Ashwood’s next question surprised him, “Kindlepaw told me that you saved an apprentice’s life, after they attacked you, claws unsheathed, and tried to drown you. Is this true?”
Riverpaw didn’t know what to say, so he just shrugged, “She wasn’t going to die, and I kind of attacked her, in the water, so I was just free solving the problem that I had created.”
Ashwood dipped his head, “You will make a great warrior, and probably even leader, one day Riverpaw. You have all of the qualities and you have even managed to impress the other clans, at a gathering which you snuck into. You have all the qualities Riverclan could ever ask of a warrior; strength, honor, loyalty, your incredible talent with water, and sympathy towards others in need.”
Riverpaw was curious at what Ashwood was getting at. Most apprentices didn’t randomly come up to their apprentice and talk about how they were potential leaders, and had done fantastic, although they hadn’t even trained at all. Ashwood took in a deep breath, “I am disappointed that I cannot mentor you anymore.”
Riverpaw started at him, very surprised. “Why not?” he asked, feeling himself deflating.
Ashwood shrugged, “Ever since Breezekit left, I can’t really concentrate on important things. I wouldn’t want to mess up your training. I might not be old enough to retire, but I don’t think I have the energy left in me to teach an apprentice anymore.” Ashwood wasn’t that old, but after Breezekit left he had started to tire, his depression making his face older.
“When will I get my new mentor and who will it be?” Riverpaw asked his mentor.
“Droopytail’s kits are becoming apprentices today. You will get your new mentor then. I have already alerted Moos-star and he understands my decisions. I have no idea who your new mentor will be, but I asked Mossstar to make sure he got someone good for you.”
Riverpaw dipped his head, and he walked back into the apprentice’s den, feeling slightly frustrated with Ashwood. It looked like he wanted to say something as he glanced at the apprentice, but he didn’t just sat there, glancing gloomily at Riverpaw.
Kindlepaw was waiting for Riverpaw in the den and she greeted him, “Hey, Riverpaw, I heard about what happened with Ashwood. I’m really sorry about it.”
Riverpaw gave her a funny look, “It just happened, no one could have told you about it before I arrived here?” Riverpaw thought for a moment, “You weren’t eavesdropping, were you?” Kindlepaw’s face turned red, “Why would you do that? It’s my personnel business!”
“Well you’re my friend, so I figured you would tell me anyways, and I was a little bored. I didn’t know something like that would have happened, or I wouldn’t have done it.” Riverpaw was slowly nodding, when Kindlepaw pushed him, and it wasn’t in a friendly manner, “Don’t speak to me you almost killed my friend!” she yowled. Riverpaw was confused for a moment when he saw Fizzypaw enter the den. Kindlepaw couldn’t be friendly to him around her. Sighing he paddled out of the den, feeling angry.
It was very obvious that Kindlepaw had feelings for him, and he wasn’t sure, but he thought that he might feel the same way. He would never know if he did, however, if Fizzypaw wouldn’t even let them talk.
Riverpaw walked into the nursery where Thrushkit, Powerkit, Budkit, and Bloomkit were waiting with excitement. They didn’t acknowledge his appearance though, only they only tuned to look at him when Riverpaw greeted them, “I can’t wait for you to become an apprentice. We will be able to train together.”
Budkit answered, “Sorry Riverpaw, but Droopytail has warned us about the effect of such a crowded group of apprentices. We can’t let others mess up our training. Droopytail said that even cats who we thought were our best friends might turn against us when there are so many other cats expecting them to do whatever is cool.”
Riverpaw almost snorted, “That’s funny.”
Riverpaw waited with excitement as Mossstar finally turned to him. “Riverpaw, Ashwood is no longer able to mentor you, so in his place, I have decided to do so.”
Riverpaw felt all of his dismay of no longer being Ashwood’s apprentice, being replaced. He was apprentice to the clan leader! He calmly touched noses with Mossstar although he was about to burst inside. The chanting was not for him, but he could not help being excited about it all. He turned to his friends grinning, only to realize that they were still shunning him. Sighing he paddled down from the rock. He was apprentice to the clan leader, and a couple of moody friends wouldn’t be able to put him down.
Riverpaw trained a lot with Mossstar that day. They looked around the territory a little first. Then Mossstar began to assess his swimming, and he had been very impressed. They were also going to look at Riverpaw’s fishing to see how good he was so far, but it was almost midnight and the cats decided there was no time. Riverpaw had liked Mossstar, and Mossstar had appeared pleased with him. Riverpaw was still upset that Ashwood had neglected her but Mossstar was a great mentor too.
When he walked into the apprentice’s den, he saw Gingerlight was there waiting for him. “Hello,” he greeted her, “What are you doing up so late.”
“I was waiting for you,” Gingerlight replied before looking through the brambles that coated the den, “It’s so nice outside, do you want to go and chat there.” Riverpaw didn’t view Gingerlight as anything more than a friend, she was the medicine cat anyways, but he didn’t mind gazing at the clouds with a friend so he nodded, and the two cats paddled out of camp to stare at the starry night sky.
They sat there for a while until Gingerlight finally spoke, “I want to admit something, Riverpaw.”
Riverpaw nodded, “Go ahead, I promise I won’t tell anyone, unless you murdered Sparklelight or something.”
She laughed, “I could never do anything like that.” She took in a deep breath, “Riverpaw, we’ve only been friends for a day but I love you. When I first saw you all I felt was sympathy, but then you stood up for me when no one would, you beat Fizzypaw, and then you saved her. That moment you pulled her out, I knew that my eyes were locked on you, even though I was a medicine cat. I got jealous of Kindlepaw when you were just friends…”
Riverpaw felt himself going numb. He was friends with Gingerlight but they couldn’t be anything but friends. It was against all codes, and even if she were a warrior, Riverpaw wouldn’t want to be mates with Gingerlight. He just didn’t feel that way about her. He couldn’t tell that to her, it would break her heart, especially after she had gathered the courage to admit it, but he couldn’t make up a lie that would not benefit anyone.
Gingerlight seemed to sense his hesitation because she spoke again, “I realize this may have been quick, so I want to give you some time to think. I’ll ask you again tomorrow and I will be waiting for an answer then.”
And she paddled back into camp, leaving a stunned and confused Riverpaw to stare at the stars, wondering what had made him deserve this.
The next day, Riverpaw decided to get advice from someone who might understand she-cats better, but wouldn’t tell anyone about the secret. Marshmallowfall might not have been the most attentive mother but Riverpaw knew she wouldn’t tell anyone.
His mother wasn’t exactly happy when she saw him, but she wasn’t on a patrol so she had no excuse to escape him. Riverpaw led her to the corner of the clearing away from the other cats and he whispered, “I really badly need your advice.”
Marshmallowfall sighed, “Go ahead.”
Riverpaw explained the situation. He talked about what had happened the previous day, and he even mentioned how he wasn’t sure about Kindlepaw, and even if they became mates, about how much it would hurt Gingerlight.
When he turned to look at Marshmallowfall there was harshness in her eyes, “You are asking me this? Isn’t it obvious, you tell Gingerlight you don’t care for her, and you take Kindlepaw? Not that I think she should look twice at an idiot like you,” she snapped before sighing, “Sometimes I wonder how your father and I could give birth to such a helpless cat.”
And she marched off leaving Riverpaw shattered. His mother had just called her useless and stupid. She had never done that before, and now Riverpaw fully realized that his mother didn’t love him the slightest bit. She never had.
Riverpaw walked around looking for Leaffall. When Waterfang noticed him looking she stopped him, “Leaffall isn’t here, kit. The badgers are right outside of camp so he took a patrol to drive it out.”
Riverpaw nodded, and finally gave in deciding to go find Mossstar now, and train, and then ask Leaffall later. Mossstar was available and he quickly paddled out of his den, when he saw Riverpaw waiting. They trained, but their session was much shorter that day. They just went for a quick swim to catch some fish.
But horrible news was awaiting Riverpaw when he returned, to a devastated camp. Cats all had looks of horror in their eyes and three cats were bruised and beaten up. Mossstar pushed his way through the crowd, and Riverpaw walked behind him to see what was happening. His mouth dropped open and he felt that final fuel necessary to burn his heart had reached him as his heart melted.
Before him lied a dead Leaffall.
Riverpaw was numb to everything else as the cats around him whispered and yelled. Finally Mossstar jumped onto the Highstone and claimed that he needed to pick a new deputy now, because there was a gathering tonight. Riverpaw was hardly surprised and barely paying attention, when he called Ashwood. He wasn’t one of the cats that paddled up to Ashwood. Everything seemed to be going in slow motion.
A cat called out, “What will happen to Dreamypaw?” Dreamypaw was the apprentice of his father.
Ashwood stepped out, “I will do it.”
Mossstar nodded, and Riverpaw turned to look at Ashwood. He had just said he wasn’t fit to mentor anymore, and now he took an apprentice. Riverpaw finally understood that it wasn’t mentoring that bothered Ashwood; it was mentoring himthat did.
When all of the cats were done congratulating Ashwood Riverpaw stomped up to him, “What was that all about?” he asked, “Mentoring him but then not being able to mentor me?”
Ashwood sighed, “You do not realize it now, but you soon will Riverpaw. Cats like you, great cats who are destined for so much, who are so capable and so true, can bring nothing but pain to the cats close to them. I can’t take the risk of getting too close to a cat as dangerous as you,” he sighed, “I have learned from my mistakes. I knew a cat just like you…”
He trailed of and Riverpaw asked, “Are you talking about Breezekit?”
The tom nodded, “You don’t really believe that do you?” Riverpaw asked.
Ashwood sighed, “I do.” And he paddled of to go talk to Mossstar about warrior duties.
Riverpaw stared at his father’s body. I will returnhe promised, and he quickly bounded off to the apprentice den, where Kindlepaw was grooming herself. He ran up to her, “Kindlepaw, I feel so lost.”
She snarled, “Why should this concern me?” Riverpaw noticed Fizzypaw sitting close to her.
“Please, Kindlepaw,” he whispered keeping his voice very low, “Now is not the time for acting, I need support.”
She shook her head, “Sorry, but I already promised Fizzypaw that we would go hunting today. If you could wait a little while I will speak to you later.” She then snarled and Fizzypaw walked up to Riverpaw.
“Sorry about your father,” she sneered, “I feel so bad for you, especially after your mother wouldn’t pay any attention to you.”
Riverpaw stormed off feeling dismayed that Kindlepaw had refused to come and chat with him now. Because she wouldn’t be able to later. Riverpaw just realized that he had officially decided; he wouldn’t be here later.
He walked out of camp where his father’s body was being buried. Most cats were too busy preparing for the gathering, so they disappeared as soon as they had buried him, but Riverpaw remained at his father’s side. He sat there and wailed for a long time. It was almost as if there were no ends to his tears, no end to the pain of his life as he tried to sob out all of his troubles and loss. He longed to have his father, a loving mother, a mentor that wanted him, a medicine cat to just be friends with, a mate he could be open about, and his old friends to be beside him. But they weren’t. And they never would be.
Eventually Riverpaw got up. He noticed Gingerlight staring at him, but he pretended not to as he paddled farther out of camp. He didn’t know where he was going, he didn’t care. All that mattered was that he got away from Riverclan, for good.
Breezepaw paddled alongside Russetpaw as Snowstorm and Canaryflight stopped at the Windclan borders. They indicated for the two apprentices to sniff, and they did so curiously, Russetpaw’s excitement beating Breezepaw’s by a landslide.
“This is the Thunderclan border,” Canaryflight announced. She had been chosen to mentor Russetpaw, who looked about ready to burst with excitement now. The two cats had become apprentices together and their mentors decided that it would be best if they trained together.
Breezepaw wasn’t really that excited about becoming a Windclan apprentice. She didn’t truly feel like a Windclan cat yet. She didn’t feel Riverclan either, Riverclan was lost to her now, but she found herself unable to adjust to life in Windclan. It was ideal for her, exactly how she had imagined life, but she was a stranger here, and the looks she got were no different than the hostile ones from Riverclan.
Back in Riverclan there were many cats she could turn to, and ask for help from but here she only knew three cats; Gracecloud, who was often too busy with medicine cat duties, Thrushstar, who she still hated for bringing her to Windclan by force, and Russetpaw, who really did fail to understand her problems since he could make no connection with her.
That had been part of the reason she had received Snowstorm as a mentor. The tom had been born to Riverclan but as he grew up, he felt that just by watching Windclan cats, he belonged in Windclan. He joined right after he became a warrior. She had been told that he used to have a problem when they were facing Riverclan in battle, and he would just stare unable to attack, but now he viewed them as any other rival clan. Thrushstar had hoped that having him as a mentor might help Breezepaw adjust, but she didn’t really think so.
As she sniffed the border to Thunderclan, a clan that didn’t border Riverclan, she noticed two young toms, which looked like apprentices, and one young she-cat apprentice. They were playing around, and the oldest of the cats noticed them as he pulled his head up, but he didn’t acknowledge them, as the Windclan cats left and walked over to the side of the lake.
“Thunderclan cats are known for their strength,” Canaryflight began, “They are excellent tree climbers, so during a raid in Thunderclan, we must look up, to make sure they don’t jump on us. They are known to be loyal cats, and Starclan seems to like picking them for important prophecies. They eat just about all food except for fish, but they like squirrels the best,” she explained.
“Why does Starclan like Thunderclan best?” Russetpaw asked, with a slight amount of anger, as the cats stopped to drink some water from the lake, “Windclan is better than them. We would be much better at saving the forest.”
Snowstorm shrugged, “That’s just the way it is.”
The cats continued to explore the territory and eventually, they reached Riverclan. Breezepaw quickly paddled up to inhale the fishy scent of her old home. She remembered with a stab of pain, playing with Droopytail’s kits and Riverkit, her mother and father who were both great parents that paid a lot of attention to her, watching the ceremonies while the warriors would send them frustrated glances because they made too much noise. She missed it all desperately, that had been her life, and she wanted it to continue being her life.
Snowstorm paddled up to his apprentice, “Looks like you’ve already started identifying the scent of Riverclan,” he paused, “You probably knew it already but smelling is the way you detect a warrior.”
Breezepaw was hardly listening as a familiar scent reached her nose. It wasn’t stale; in fact it seemed to be fresh, like the scent had never left. Russetpaw began to sniff too, but he must not have noticed any scent, and the mentors didn’t either. Breezepaw figured that Snowstorm must have forgotten the scent of her old clan mates. Breezepaw hadn’t however.
The cats turned around, heading back for camp. The sun was hitting the mountains as the air started to turn darker, and Breezepaw followed them for a second before asking, “Can I go make dirt?”
Snowstorm nodded, and Breezepaw turned around, running back to the border of her old home. She sniffed for a couple more seconds, “I smell you father, you can come out now!” she called in a quiet voice. A couple seconds later a bush across from her shook a bit, and Ashwood stepped out. Breezepaw purred and ran up to her father.
They brushed against each other for a while and Ashwood purred, “I thought I should visit my only daughter on her apprenticeship day. That is a very important time for a clan cat, you know, my daughter.”
Breezepaw nodded, happy to finally see her father again, “I missed you,” she silently whispered, “I missed you and Crowflight. I missed all of my friends too, and I miss my clan. I don’t feel like I belong here.”
Ashwood sighed, “Listen, Breezepaw. I miss you too but you belong in Windclan. Not because Thrushstar demanded it, but because that is who you are. Your personality and traits, your strengths and weaknesses. You have a much larger potential in Windclan than in Riverclan. Thrushstar was right when she said that you belong in the clan which matches your personality, not the clan to which you were born.”
Breezepaw was quiet for a moment before she asked, “So how is Riverclan doing? Good I should hope.”
Ashwood nodded, “Riverclan is doing just fine. We made your friend Riverpaw an apprentice today, and I was assigned to be his mentor. I have him waiting at camp now, I want to test his loyalty to clan before anything else.”
Breezepaw’s eyes brightened, “That is so cool, congratulations. Riverpaw is pretty amazing, so I am sure he will be a great apprentice if you can deal with not needing to teach too much to a cat who already knows everything he needs to.”
Ashwood nodded but Breezepaw could sense some doubt in his eyes. She was curious but didn’t pester her father and pressed up against him, “Will you come to visit me again tomorrow?” she asked in a slightly pleading tone.
Her father nodded, “If you wake up early enough tomorrow, around the time of the dawn patrol, then I will meet you here.”
Breezepaw nodded and another question came to her, “I am being disloyal by meeting you here. An enemy cat who I might meet in battle.”
Her father shrugged, “That is entirely up to you to decide.” And he turned around paddling back to Riverclan camp. As Breezepaw ran back to her camp, getting rid of the scent by rolling in a pile of mud, she decided that it should be okay if Ashwood was doing it. Ashwood wouldn’t have ever done anything to betray the clan, so then it would be okay for her to do it too.
When she reached camp, Snowstorm approached her, “You took your time,” he commented a little suspiciously.
“I saw a squirrel and I thought I should try and catch it,” Breezepaw quickly lied, “But I missed. I guess I have to work on my hunting a little bit. I’m sorry.”
Snowstorm laughed and soothed her with his tail, “It’s okay, and you don’t even know how to hunt so it is perfectly normal to miss. Even the best hunters miss a piece of prey occasionally. Don’t let it get to you, Breezepaw.”
Breezepaw nodded, and slowly walked to the apprentice den, feeling slightly guilty at her lie, but also feeling a little proud for managing to be such a good actor.
The apprentice’s den was out in the open, like all of the other dens. Russetpaw was already there, chatting away with the only other apprentice Twirlpaw, on being an apprentice. He pestered the tom with questions which he all answered patiently. Breezepaw just sat next to them and listened until Russetpaw finally ran out of breath and Twirlpaw turned to Breezepaw.
“Hello,” he welcomed her, “My name is Twirlpaw.”
“I’m Breezepaw,” she replied.
They sat in silence for a few moments before Twirlpaw meowed, “I am so glad you finally become apprentices. You have no idea how hard it is to train alone. My life is so hectic in between caring for the elders, fetching herbs, training with my mentor who makes me practice fight with warriors…” Twirlpaw went on and on but Breezepaw wasn’t really listening and it didn’t seem like Russetpaw was either.
When Twirlpaw finally finished talking, Breezepaw asked, “Would you like us to help out the elders. You will have to show us today, but we will be able to do it on our own later.”
Twirlpaw nodded and led the apprentices out of the den and to the elder’s den which was under an old badger set. The three elders were waiting there. Breezepaw had already met them and even listened to their stories, and they had been kind to her, not judging of how her father was Riverclan and her mother was a traitor.
Twirlpaw dipped his head at them, and the two new apprentices did the same. Breezepaw spent the rest of the night helping the elders, picking out their ticks, and fetching dry moss for them, by the time she was done, she was so tired, she felt like she would collapse any moment then.
Twirlpaw and Russetpaw were quick to go back to the apprentice den, but Breezepaw decided to first stop by the medicine cat area, where Gracecloud was sorting his herbs. He acknowledged the young she-cat as she entered the crevice in the large rock.
“So how was your first day as an apprentice?” Gracecloud asked, “Did you like Snowstorm, he seems like he could make a good mentor to me.”
Breezepaw shrugged, “Yeah, I guess he’s pretty good. I’m really tired though. Twirlpaw showed us how to take care of the elders, and I feel ready to collapse. I hope everyday isn’t this tiring, or I don’t think I can manage.”
Gracecloud purred, “No, today is just your first day so you did a lot of walking. You’ll get used to it, and the days won’t be this tiring. I know you probably think he is a whiner, but if you are this tired when you have two apprentices to help you, imagine how he must feel.”
Breezepaw and Gracecloud chatted a little while longer, and Breezepaw finally left to go back to her den, where she collapsed from exhaustion.
The next day she woke up when she heard the dawn patrol, eager to finally see her father again. She pretended to be asleep as several cats got up to patrol the Thunderclan border. When they were finally gone Breezepaw got up, and quietly snuck out of camp, heading for the horse stable.
Her father was waiting there for her, and she purred at the sight of him. They spoke for a little while longer and Breezepaw realized that these were the best moments of her life since the day she had joined Riverclan. She left her father promising to meet him the next day, at the same time and the same place.
That day Snowstorm taught her how to hunt and she even managed to catch a rabbit on her first try. Snowstorm was impressed, and they returned to camp that day with four rabbits, two caught from Snowstorms demonstrations and two caught by Breezepaw. Proud of his apprentice, Snowstorm had sent her to eat a little, and then told her she was free for the rest of the day.
Breezepaw ate with Twirlpaw, who had returned from battle training with his mentor. They chatted for a while, and when they were done Breezepaw decided to go check on Gracecloud, and see if she could do anything for him.
When she entered the medicine cat den, Gracecloud purred before asking, “Is today as hectic as yesterday, or is it worse?”
Breezepaw shook her head, “Today has been really relaxed for me! It might be because I did very well on my hunting, but I am free for the rest of the day, so I thought I might stop by to see if you need any help.”
“Perfect,” Gracecloud meowed, “I need you to check alongside the Thunderclan border for catmint, and borage leaves. I am low on both.”
Breezepaw spent the rest of the day helping Gracecloud and taking care of the elders. She listened to some stories which she had already heard before, of the ancients and the cats from Firestar’s days.
That night when Breezepaw went to sleep, she was dreaming about talking to her father again the next day. She was a little upset that her mother didn’t come to visit her as well, but she figured her father liked her better. After all, it had been her mother that had sent her away.
Breezepaw kept meeting her father the next few days. She received news of Leffall’s death, and Riverpaw’s disappearance. She congratulated her father when she learned he became the new deputy and mourned for the fallen deputy with him.
In return she told him about her apprenticeship, and what she learned. Ashwood corrected some of the moves that she showed him and they spent some time practice fighting together. Breezepaw did this for a quarter moons until Thrushstar made an announcement one day.
She summoned all of the cats, which Breezepaw had now gotten used to. Breezepaw had been pretty sure that if she stopped meeting her father that she might actually be able to get used to clan. “Cats of Windclan,” Thrushstar had cried, “Riverclan has been trespassing on our territory lately. We keep getting scents of them on our territory by the horse place.”
There were angry mutters among the clan as Breezepaw felt a prick of guilt surge through her. “What will we do?” one of the cats had yowled out in rage.
“We will send a patrol to Riverclan and demand that they stop. If they deny we shall wait until the next gathering. If they have not stopped by the night before, then we shall raid Riverclan territory.”
There were yowls of approval from the clan but Breezepaw didn’t join in. She didn’t know if she would be able to attack her former clan, even though she was slowly starting to feel like she truly belonged in Windclan.
She met with her father again that night and she told his they had to stop meeting, but they both knew she didn’t mean it. They met the next day again, and Breezepaw couldn’t help meeting him, despite the guilty feeling that surged through her pelt every time she looked into her father’s eyes.
And a part of her didn’t feel guilty at all. This is what would happen to a cat, you striped from their home and their family. You couldn’t expect them all to believe she would be loyal and act like a normal cat just because they wanted her to.
Of course, Riverclan denied Thrushstar’s claims and when the night before the gathering arrived, the scents had still not left. Thrushstar stayed loyal to her clan and picked out a patrol that could leave a couple scars on the Riverclan cats to teach them a lesson.
Unfortunately, Breezepaw was selected and she couldn’t understand why Thrushstar would choose her on a mission against her former clan. As they paddled into the territory Breezepaw felt her sense of dread growing.
Eventually, the Windclan cats found a Riverclan patrol. Thrushstar knelt down and her clan followed, Breezepaw did too, but she couldn’t stop the boiling feeling in stomach. She waited, hating every part of the patrol as Thrushstar flicked her tail and the cats all jumped out of the bushes.
All of the Riverclan cats turned around in surprise and were quick to respond to the attack. Breezepaw bit a tom’s leg, and he turned around and shook her off before running to attack someone else. Breezepaw turned around, trying to waste as much time as possible finding a cat to fight.
Unfortunately, Breezepaw found that she was face-to-face with her father and she stared into his eyes with fear. He made no move to attack and neither did she, but Breezepaw realized she would be forced to make a decision when Thrushstar yowled, “Attack Breezepaw!”
If she could have Breezepaw would have sat down and thought about what to do the whole day, but she only had a fraction of a second and she made a decision with the time that was remaining. Taking a deep breath, she jumped.
Thunderpaw had gone to bed that night as a very happy apprentice, who was almost in his first moon. Moonlight had gone on a stroll with him that evening, and the cats had chatted and played around for hours. Thunderpaw had been worried that when she became a warrior, along with her brother Sunshine, that she wouldn’t pay any attention to him, and only look at Fiercethorn, who had been a warrior for over half a moon.
But instead of ignoring him, she seemed to be paying more attention to him now, and Thunderpaw couldn’t help hoping it was because warriors were allowed to have mates. It was true that she spent a lot of time with Fiercethorn too, which only drove him crazy with jealousy after his training session. While Thunderpaw trained the only things which he thought of were making sure his mentor was impressed, which he never failed to do, proving himself to the clan, and becoming a warrior as soon as possible. Sparklelight had even admitted that Thunderpaw might become a warrior earlier than most apprentices did, due to his unnatural strength.
There was also the excitement of the gathering which was coming up very soon. It would be in around ten sunrises, and although Thunderpaw knew his chances of being chosen were extremely unlucky, he couldn’t help hoping that there might be the slightest chance he could go, due to his wonderful performance as an apprentice. He planned to ask Sparklelight the next day. The upcoming gathering also meant that there was little time before Shadowclan claimed the land which they thought belonged to them. Thunderpaw had to admit, although it did make him feel a little guilty, that he hoped Shadowclan wasn’t bluffing and really would start a battle. He was itching to try his skills, in a real life experience, claws unsheathed. He felt sure he would be able to help Thunderclan, and show the mangy Shadowclan cats, what Thunderclan was all about.
But, all of Thunderpaw’s excitement was soon to be replaced with dread. He went to sleep in the apprentice den; his nest was right beside Dragonpaw’s and as far away from Ratpaw’s as possible. Ratpaw still liked to act like he was better than them, just because he was a couple moons older. The two apprentices didn’t mind though, Rufflepaw was too busy working as a medicine cat to even notice the stuck up looks which he gave them.
He did sleep soundly that night, but when he woke up, a couple hours away from the dawn patrol, there was a cat, who had gripped him tightly. He couldn’t see who it was, but their embrace was so tight, that he couldn’t wiggle out.
Scared that it might be a cat from another clan or someone trying to kidnap him, for he wasn’t even sure if he was at camp, Thunderpaw unsheathed his claws, and raked them along the cats pelt.
The cat yowled in pain, and as a reflex, swatted at him, with their claws out, and he went flying to the other side of the apprentice den. Blood was welling in front of his eye, so he couldn’t identify the cat, but could see the figure escaping. Some apprentices stirred in their nests, but Thunderpaw didn’t have time to wait for them to catch up.
Running he leapt onto the cat, and realized that this was not a muscular cat trained for battle. Their muscles were hollow, and their shoulders were small. Thunderpaw didn’t want to take any risk though and he scratched at the cat, as blood began flying everywhere.
The cat didn’t fight back, and Thunderpaw knew he probably should have stopped, but once he started he found himself unable to do so. His claws just kept batting at the limp body. He only stopped when he heard the scream of a cat. He then backed away and rubbed the blood out of his eyes.
That was when he had realized what he had done. The cat was killed, and as Thunderpaw moved closer he realized who the cat had been Bronzestripe. He walked back in horror, unable to believe what he had done.
The clan cats were all gathering and they all gasped in rage or surprise when they noticed the dead body of their medicine cat. One cat turned to Thunderpaw and he was unable to recognize the cat, as he was caught up in his own grief, surprised that he was such a monster. The cat jumped on Thunderpaw and began to claw him, the way he had clawed Bronzestripe. He didn’t fight back he just absorbed the pain, wondering if Starclan was calling.
He heard a loud, “That’s enough Rufflepaw. Get off him now.”
Rufflepaw listened and got off, as Thunderpaw pushed himself to his feet. He could hardly believe that one of his best friends had tried to kill him. But then he almost could, he had killed the medicine cat after all.
Hollowstar had been the one who called Rufflepaw off, and now he walked up to the bloody Thunderpaw, who wondered if he was about to finish the job himself.
He didn’t. “Thunderpaw,” he demanded in a loud voice all though he was standing right in front of the apprentice, “Did you kill our medicine cat, even though you know we have no other fully trained ones?”
He couldn’t deny it. There was his fur on her pelt, her blood on his paws, and the apprentices would have heard him yell. He was also the only one awake. There was no point in denying the obvious truth, “I did, Hollowstar,” he replied and some cats gasped while others snarled at the apprentice.
Hollowstar seemed to sense that there was more to it, however because he asked, “Why did you kill her, Thunderpaw. Just tell us why.”
Thunderpaw took in a deep breath, “When I woke up, just a little while ago she was laying on me. And it wasn’t like she had fallen, she had her paws wrapped around me, she knew what she was doing. I couldn’t see who it was at the moment so I attacked, scared it could be an enemy cat. She then attacked me back, and was running away. I still couldn’t tell who it was at the time and I ran after her, eager not to let a cat, I thought, was an enemy go. Still unable to see, I leaped on her and attacked, I couldn’t see at what point she had been injured badly enough, so I didn’t realize I had killed her until she stopped moving.”
Hollowstar looked thoughtful, not sure whether or not to believe that the apprentice was telling the truth. There were tears welling around Thunderpaw’s eyes now but the apprentice didn’t make any notion to beg that he was innocent, that he never meant any harm.
The clan was not as calm as their leader however, and there were angry hisses coming from all directions. Thunderpaw didn’t look up, scared to see which cats whom he had trusted were hissing at him. He couldn’t bear the thought of Moonlight, Sparklelight, his parents or Dragonpaw being mad. He already knew that Rufflepaw hated him, but he hoped that he at least still had his other friend.
Thunderpaw woke up in the medicine cat den with a ginger she-cat standing over him. There was grief locked into her eyes, and Thunderpaw recognized her as one of the medicine cats from Riverclan.
She smiled at him, and Rufflepaw stomped up to him, “You don’t deserve any of this treatment!” he cried, “Not from Riverclan and not from Thunderclan either!”
The ginger cat hushed Rufflepaw and sent him back to organize dens. Thunderpaw wanted to ask who she was, but his mouth was sore. She seemed to sense it though because she replied, “I am Gingerlight of Riverclan, the medicine cat apprentice. I will sub for Bronzestripe until young Rufflepaw is able to take her position.”
When Thunderpaw woke up again Gingerlight wasn’t there. Neither was Rufflepaw, and he couldn’t help feeling relieved he wouldn’t have to sit in front of the tom that now hated him. He was delighted when he noticed Moonlight watching him, her eyes full of worry.
“Are you okay?” she asked, paddling up to him, “Gingerlight told me that you had some serious wounds.”
“What are you doing here?” Thunderpaw asked her, “You wouldn’t want to come near the cat that killed Bronzestripe.”
There was a sad look in her eyes, “I know that it wasn’t intentional. You never meant to hurt anybody.”
Thunderpaw sighed, “But I did, and I don’t see how you can forgive me when not even I can.”
Moonlight just walked up to him and covered his face in licks, “Don’t listen to the other cats, Thunderpaw,” she let him go and began to paddle out of the den; “Fiercethorn and I are going hunting. I will check on you when we are done.”
Thunderpaw nodded, he felt too depressed to notice the fact that she was spending time with Fiercethorn that she wasn’t offering to spend with him.
Gingerlight returned later that day, and told him that he was good to leave. He took the chance and escaped as soon as she gave him the permission.
To his dismay, he learned that Dragonpaw refused to talk to him, and the other apprentices wouldn’t talk to him either. He sighed as he picked up a piece of prey and sat down alone, surrounded by his guilt.
He was surprised when not much later, Ratpaw came and sat next to him with a sympathetic look on his face. Thunderpaw looked at him skeptically, “Are you sure you want to sit by the cat who murdered Bronzestripe.”
He shrugged, “I believe your side of the story,” he glares at Rufflepaw, “The apprentice needs to act more mature. He is an apprentice now, not a little kit who can’t control the fact that his mentor openly attacked a clan mate.”
Thunderpaw looked at him curiously and he shrugged, “I saw her standing over you, so I know that your story is true.”
Thunderpaw dipped his head, “Thanks,” he murmured, “I never had thought that you would be the one to stick up for me,” he admitted a little slowly, “You never seemed to get along with me after you became an apprentice.”
He shrugged, “I was too busy to socialize…”
Thunderpaw wanted to snort. He had been too busy to socialize but not too busy to make fun of how small and annoying they had been because he was a warrior. Thunderpaw didn’t mention it though, since he was the only one talking to him and he didn’t want to lose his only piece of company.
That night Thunderpaw went to sleep with dark thoughts
When he woke up in the morning the whole clan was chattering away furiously. He slowly pushed himself up to find Ratpaw mumbling angrily right in front of him.
“What’s wrong,” he asked the brown cat, “The clan seems ready to explode!”
There was an angry look in his eyes as he gazed out of the den, “Shadowclan!” he hissed, “They are trying to take our territory back from us! But today we will fight to get it back! Hollowstar said we would attack as soon as Wingpelt has organized the patrols.
Thunderpaw no longer felt the urge to shed the skin of another cat, “Let’s go see what is going on,” he offered and the two apprentices bounded out of their den into the clearing. Rufflepaw was also waiting there and when he noticed Thunderpaw and his angry face became even angrier at the sight of Ratpaw alongside him. Thunderpaw could hear Rufflepaw’s unsaid words echoing in his head, and they were impossible to ignore.
Hollowstar stood on top of the Highledge, his eyes defiant. The whole clan was angry at Shadowclan, and despite his situation, Thunderpaw was very angry too. He didn’t want to fight anymore, but Shadowclan was stealing land that belonged to them, and he would not put up with it. He felt himself barring his teeth at the thought of the mangy pelts.
Finally, Wingpelt emerged from the warriors den. He ran up to the Highledge and whispered something in Hollowstar’s ear. Hollowstar nodded and licked the she-cat’s shoulder gratefully, before she climbed back down and disappeared out of camp. Thunderpaw wondered where his mentor was going.
Hollowstar turned to address him clan, “Shadowclan has declared battle against us by marking our territory as theirs,” he declared with anger. None of the cats were surprise but some protested as he continued, “We know it wasn’t a mistake, but Wingpelt will send a patrol consisting of Emberclaw, Mangoleap, Branchleg, Shiftpaw, Rosescent and herself. If they mark those boundaries again tomorrow, we will attack,” the clan cheered, “I will tell you the attack plan tonight, if it comes to that,” his eyes flashed angrily, “Although, I would count on a battle.”
Thunderpaw watched as he climbed down from the ledge. Ratpaw touched noses with him, before walking away to train with his mentor. Thunderpaw was still shocked at how close he and Ratpaw had grown over such a short period of time.
As Ratpaw walked away, he noticed Moonlight and Fiercethorn walking over to him. He waited patiently as Moonlight ran up and licked him passionately, before pulling away and letting the anger show in her eyes, “Sharkstar was supposed to be one of the wisest leaders Shadowclan had had in a long time, why would he ever consider doing something so stupid?”
“Because he is stupid,” Thunderpaw rolled his eyes, “Maybe his age clouded his judgment. I have no idea how old he is, but I think he is the oldest cat living in the clans.”
“There is the Windclan elder,” Fiercethorn pointed out, “I think it’s a race between her and Sharkstar, and I think I will decide the winner if it comes to a battle,” he flexed his claws and Moonlight ran her tail down his spine sending pricks of jealousy through Thunderpaw’s body.
“Come on, Fiercethorn,” she rolled her eyes, “You know you won’t kill him, because it is against the warrior code. Stop acting so though.”
He grunted, “I will hurt him badly enough, that he will be too tired to live much longer,” looking at Moonlight he added, “You want to see me be tough?”
She laughed, “You’re not seriously going to jump on me, are you?” she asked him, “That is for kits and apprentices” she winked at Thunderpaw.
“Hey!” he protested, “I am way too mature for that now. I only participate in real fights.” He claimed proudly, in a playful manner.
“Yeah, like Bronzestripe,” Fiercethorn responded playfully, before fully realizing what he said and shoving his paws in his mouth, “I am so sorry, Thunderpaw. I didn’t mean to say it.” But what had been said couldn’t be undone.
Moonlight looked at him fiercely, all playfulness in her eyes gone, “How could you Fiercethorn,” she protested, “You think he doesn’t feel bad already! You don’t have to be insensitive about everything!” she looked at him, a soft anger now burning in her eyes, “You need to understand that some things need to be taken seriously,” she quietly murmured, “If you could, then we might have been mates by now.”
Fiercethorn opened his mouth in surprise, but Moonlight had already stomped off before she could apologize.
He turned to Thunderpaw, “I’m sorry,” he whispered hoarsely.
“It’s okay,” Thunderpaw replied honestly. He would forgive Fiercethorn; he hadn’t meant it after all it had just been a joke that he never meant to say but it slipped out of his mouth, “I understand that it was on accident.”
Fiercethorn looked a little pleased but there was still a guilty look in his eyes, “I was also talking about Moonlight, you know,” he slowly added, “I know that you also had your eyes set on her, and for a while I was afraid I would lose,” he looked at his friend sadly, “You know, Roboflight. I am going to apologize and prove that I can take things seriously. I know that she will forgive me, and we will become mates. I am just sorry you will have to be aware of it as it happens, when it is probably one of your nightmares.”
Thunderpaw paused, feeling the pain of jealousy run through his body again, “I can forgive for that too,” he whispered, “If you allow me a quick word with her before you apologize. I just need to tell her some things before it is too late.”
He nodded, “She’s yours for the moment,”
Thunderpaw dipped his head, “Thank you so much, Fiercethorn,” he purred, “I hope we can always be friends, no matter what.”
He nodded, “Me too.”
Thunderpaw nodded and he bounded off, following Moonlight outside of camp. She was sitting quietly on the grass. “Hello, Thunderpaw,” she welcomed him, “Sorry I stormed off so quickly.”
Gingerlight was sitting close to them, probably waiting for Rufflepaw. Thunderpaw sympathized for the medicine cat that had been dragged away from her home.
“Moonlight,” he slowly began, “After hearing what you said to Fiercethorn, I needed to admit something,” she looked at him curiously and Thunderpaw saw a strange look in her eyes, that he could not identify.
“What is it, Thunderpaw?” she asked curiously.
“I,” he paused, “I know that Fiercethorn loves you; he really does but,” he took in a deep breath, “I do too,”
A look of shock entered her eyes and he dipped his head, “I understand that you might not ever want to talk to me again, but I felt like I needed to say that while I could.” When he looked at Moonlight there was a confused look in her eyes.
“I always tried to deny the way we looked at each other,” she admitted, “Although I knew it was there. But I feel the same way about Fiercethorn,” there was clear pain in her eyes, “How can I ever choose?”
She got up and began to paddle away from the camp, “I need some time to reflect, Thunderpaw, I can’t just jump into something right away.”
Thunderpaw watched sadly, wishing that he had never done that. It felt good to know that Moonlight felt that way about him, but he couldn’t stand the thought that he had ripped hi heart.
“I totally understand you,” Thunderpaw looked around in surprise to see that it was Gingerlight.
“No you don’t,” he replied hoarsely, “You’re a medicine cat, you aren’t allowed to love.” He knew he was being mean but his mood wasn’t good and he couldn’t control his attitude.
A sad look entered her eyes and Thunderpaw took a step closer to her as she replied, “We are not allowed to express our love,” pain seemed to be stabbing her, “I have loved a cat; I still love them so desperately you wouldn’t imagine.”
“Is it the Riverpaw cat you mentioned earlier?” he asked her, and she nodded.
“He ran away the night after I confessed my love for him,” her voice was sad, “I wasn’t the only reason though. His mother mistreated him terribly, his father had just died and no one was there to comfort him about hit because they were surrounded by his own grief and he was being bullied,” she paused for a moment, “By the best friend of a cat he liked,”
“I thought you were the cat he liked,” Thunderpaw was confused.
“No,” she replied, “I should have guessed by the way he looked at Kindlepaw that he only had eyes for her. But Fizzypaw, her best friend wouldn’t let them go near each other. They talked in secret but there was no way they could even figure out that they had feelings for each other. I was close with him too, and I guess the thought of hurting my feelings, also drove him a little closer to depression until he finally ran away.”
There were tears brimming at the edges of her eyes, and she pushed them away with her paw, “Don’t tell anyone,” she warned him, and her eyes lit a little playfully, “Or I will have to shut your mouth closed with sap.”
Thunderpaw nodded before asking, “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you remind me of him,” she waited for a moment, “And because you are not any cat. I am a medicine cat, Thunderpaw, I can tell certain things just by looking at a cat.”
Rufflepaw suddenly emerged from inside the camp and he glared at Thunderpaw, “Are you going to kill this medicine cat too?” he sneered, and Gingerlight stuffed her tail in his mouth.\
“Stop fighting a fight you can’t win,” she warned him before walking off, “We have to find some comfrey.”
“I will fight any fight to avenge my mentor,” he snarled and turned to face Thunderpaw with an offensive crouch.
“Rufflepaw! Get back here this instant!” Rufflepaw pulled himself up and sourly looked at Thunderpaw before turning around and following his mentor. Head throbbing from everything that had just happened, he walked back into camp, hoping to get some more sleep.
“Hey, Thunderpaw,” Fiercethorn asked him, “Do you know where Moonlight is? You were the last one to see her.”
He shook his head apologetically and he sighed, “I guess I can approach her later,” he sighed and walked up to the fresh-kill pile.
“Thunderpaw,” he turned around to find Hollowstar staring at him.
“What is it, Hollowstar?” he asked dipping his head.
“Follow me,” the large tom whispered and he led him into his den. Thunderpaw looked around with amazement, once they were inside. It was a very large den for just one cat, and he imagined sleeping in the den one day in the future.
“Thunderpaw we need to discuss what happened with Bronzestripe,” he began and when he saw the disappointment in the apprentice’s face he sighed, “I don’t want to talk about it either, Thunderpaw but if you want to be accepted back into the clan, we need to figure out what really happened.”
Thunderpaw nodded and Sparklelight entered the den, as if on cue. “You called me, Hollowstar,” she whispered.
He nodded, “We need to decide what to do with your apprentice.”
“Oh,” she looked surprised before she sat down and said, “I don’t believe he ever could have meant to hurt her that bad,” she admitted, “I know my apprentice well from just a month and it isn’t something he would imagine doing.”
Hollowstar nodded, “I have heard that from a lot of cats, you know…” he began.
“And it is definitely true,” Thunderpaw turned around to find Emberclaw and Cherryheart standing in front of the leader den.
Hollowstar’s whiskers twitched with annoyance, “Come in,” he meowed irritably, “But please don’t barge in next time.”
“I will if you start accusing my son wrongly,” Emberclaw retorted as he marched in. Hollowstar didn’t reply, and Thunderpaw admired his patience, and Cherryheart ran up to her son and began to lick her.
“I believe you’re innocent,” she whispered, “Don’t let other make you think differently.”
Hollowstar sighed as he looked between the cats, “I know that Thunderpaw is innocent,” he sighs, “I had an apprentice confirm that Bronzestripe had Thunderpaw captured in an embrace,” his eyes showed that there was information he knew, which he wasn’t revealing, “But the problem is getting the clan to believe it.”
“The clan is a bunch of mouse-brains if they think my son is a cold-blooded murderer.” Cherryheart snapped angrily, not at Hollowstar.
“Mom,” Thunderpaw sadly addressed his mother, and a thorn stabbed his heart as he whispered, “Rufflepaw is not a mouse brain. He is-was- my friend, and he was amazing.” Thunderpaw felt the need to defend the cat that had been one of his best friends only a few days ago.
“Well, then he shouldn’t accuse you.”
“Cherryheart, if you don’t mind my saying,” Sparklelight began, “Though I disagree with them, you have to admit that the clan does have its reasons for doubting him. He openly admitted to killing a medicine cat. In cold blood? No, definitely not, but he did kill her, in self defense, and the clan takes these things hardly. They don’t know what to think so they don’t think anything. They just assume and turn on him.”
Hollowstar seemed thoughtful, “We can’t punish him for prejudice though,” he sighs, “I don’t really like this, but here is what I will do. Thunderpaw can continue his training, however, he will not be allowed to fight in battles, attend gatherings or any other large event, until he becomes a warrior.” He dips his head, I’m sorry Thunderpaw.”
“It’s, okay,” Thunderpaw replied, he was relieved to at least be able to continue his training, and that he would get the rights back once he became a warrior.
Hollowstar smiled, “Good,” and he dismissed to four other cats that were quickly ushered out of his den.
“I’m sorry,” all three cats turned to him.
“It’s okay,” Thunderpaw repeated, “I can prove myself to the clan.” And he knew he would. To become great, you would have to overcome great obstacles. And he knew he could. There was just that feeling burning inside of his that told him it was his destiny.
Shadowpaw waited patiently as Sharkstar stood waiting for the clan to gather. Her limbs were still stiff from a training session the previous day, and Goldenwing had decided to call off her training for the day when he saw how tired she was. She had protested, angry at him insisting that she could continue, but he had argued saying that he wasn’t willing to train a weary apprentice.
Shadowpaw liked him no better than she had a moon ago when he was first appointed to her, but he never seemed to understand that no matter how many hints she dropped. He just continued to constantly go easy on her, as if she were incapable of training with him at his full strength.
Grasspelt’s kits were now a moon old and perfectly capable of speaking and walking. But Shadowpaw found them a nuisance, especially when Goldenwing brought them to training, which he occasionally did, and he ended up teaching them instead of her. Shadowpaw was willing to bet that he would much rather be in Buzzheart’s place, teaching the kits some self-defense, rather than teaching her how to hunt and fight.
But Shadowpaw seriously doubted that Buzzheart would give up the position. She wasn’t taking care of many kits; Grassfur was the only cat in the nursery, although the clan was beginning to suspect that Mistheart was about to move into the nursery.
Itchpaw sat down next to Shadowpaw, “How did your training with Goldenwing go?” she asked her and she snorted.
“It’s not considered training when he treats me like a kit.” Shadowpaw snapped sharply, not at her friend.
She shrugged, “Cut him some slack, you are his first apprentice and he doesn’t know this kind of stuff. Maybe if you tried to tell him, he would understand his mistake.”
She rolled her eyes, “He thinks I am too young to have a valid opinion,” she groaned, “He refused to train with me today just because I looked a little tired. And I have dropped so many hints that he either ignores them, disagrees with me or he is an absolute mouse-brain.” Her whiskers twitched with frustration.
Itchpaw shrugged, “All I can say is that I am very pleased with Curestorm,” she smiled sympathetically, “Maybe you should ask Goldenwing to let you come train with us a little some days.”
Shadowpaw rolled her eyes, “He would think I might get in your way, and cause too much trouble.”
“Just ask him,” Itchpaw begged, “You would actually get some proper training for once.”
Shadowpaw didn’t tell her that she was already getting excellent training, just from the Dark Forest. She couldn’t bring herself to stop the long and tiring sessions. All of the training just made her want more of it, and despite the feeling in her gut that there was something wrong about the whole thing, she couldn’t bring herself to stop.
“Why don’t you assess my fighting?” Shadowpaw offered to her, “Today we can go to the training ditch and I can see how well I am shaping up, with Goldenwing’s training,” she didn’t say it as much because she wanted to prove herself but more because she wanted to prove to Itchpaw that she was a capable fighter.
“I don’t know…” she trailed off, her tone a little teasing, “I will become a warrior anytime now and that might not be safe.”
Shadowpaw purred as she playfully shoved her friend, “I will take that as a yes,” she decided as Redpaw came to sit down beside them.
Shadowpaw purred at the she-cat and she smiled back. Although she was the youngest apprentice, and her mentor was horrible, she had quickly become one of the well know apprentices in her clan and was friends with almost all of the apprentices.
“Why do you think Sharkstar is waiting so long?” she asked, “It must be important.”
When Shadowpaw looked up she noticed Wingpelt, the deputy, speaking to Sharkstar seriously. She realized that is must be something important by the look on her father’s face, “I wonder what’s happening…” she trailed off.
The three cats were quiet for a moment and Shadowpaw cut the silence by happily pulling her head up from the ground, “Maybe they are giving me a new mentor,” she paused, “But I guess that’s not such a big deal.”
Sharkstar finally dipped his head to Wingpelt and she walked down the rock. Sharkstar coughed, grabbing the attention of the cats who weren’t giving him any.
“Our long wait is over,” he said and the clan looked around a little confused, “We will take back our territory tonight!”
The clan looked around with excitement and cheered. They knew that this battle was only a warning for Thunderclan, dropping a hint of the darkness that might come, but many Shadowclan cats still believed that territory belonged to them, and wanted to fight for it. Shadowpaw just wanted to fight, and test her skills.
“Tonight we will send a border patrol,” he told his cats, “They will arrive the next day with a message for us to pull off. We will tell them that we will have to think.”
He smiles, “Not me though, because I can’t lie,” he smiles at Wingpelt, “Wingpelt will be speaking to them and telling Thunderclan that we need to think and they can wait until the next border patrol to learn our decision. The next day we will mark the borders on the strip of land again, and we will go to battle with them.”
He gazed at his cats, “I know this isn’t the point but I want us to win,” he claimed, “If we don’t Thunderclan might get dangerous. We will win, but the next day we won’t mark that territory. A sudden and useless battle is the best sign we could possibly give them without actually telling them, which I don’t think will be a good idea.”
The clan began to murmur and Shadowpaw realized most of them were positive, some were more aggressive about how they missed Thunderclan blood on their claws, and some cat were murmuring about how a battle was something they wanted to avoid, especially when the clans were so peaceful.
“I can’t wait!” Itchpaw purred, “This is my perfect chance to prove that I am finally ready to become a warrior,” she jumped with excitement, “All I have to do is prove myself in the battle.”
Shadowpaw shrugged, “Considering that Sharkstar decides to take you to the battle,” she sighed inwardly, “Goldenwing will never think that I am ready to become an apprentice,” she complained, “I want to speak to Sharkstar about letting me go.”
Redpaw looked doubtful, “I think there will already be enough apprentices to send, and he had enough warriors not to risk sending to many apprentices,” she hesitated, “But maybe he will want to send more apprentices for the experience considering there isn’t as much at stake this time.”
“Do you think he will send you?” Shadowpaw asked her friend.
She shrugged, “I hope he does, I really want to test and prove my ability, as well as get a taste for Thunderclan claws and fur, but I don’t think I will go considering the large amount of cats he has to choose from.”
“I sure hope I do!” The cats turned around to find Purplepaw, Redpaw’s sibling, “I have been training a little for this battle the whole moon with Growlpelt and I know he wouldn’t want to throw that training away! He will demand that I be taken.” She purred and the cats smiled at her, jealous of her reassurance.
When Shadowpaw went to bed that night, she woke up to a dark damp place.
“Are you ready for the battle tomorrow?” Thistleclaw asked, stepping out of the shadows.
“I don’t even know if I will get to participate in it,” she replied glumly, “Goldenwing treats me like I’m a kit. Sometimes I just want to rip his pelt off.”
“Have you ever tried it?” he asked.
“I would get in so much trouble,” she responded, “They would kick me out of the clan, and then how would I be great.”
“Kill any cat that opposes you,” Mapleshade replied, stepping out of the shadows.
“No way!” Shadowpaw exclaimed, “I am loyal to my clan. That is against the warrior code and there is no honor to that!”
Mapleshade snorted, “Who needs honor?”
“There are reasons you’re in this wretched place,” Shadowpaw reminded them, “I think I will choose a nicer path after I die.”
“You want to live with those lame excuses for cats!” Mapleshade sneered, “I expected better from a cat I trained.”
Shadowpaw bared her teeth, “I come here to get proper training, not to plan how to take down the forest.”
Mapleshade sighed, “Then we might as well do that. You have a battle tomorrow and we want as much Thunderclan blood on your paws as possible.”
Shadowpaw grinned, “Finally,” she exclaimed, “I am always ready to train, and the sooner we start the better,” she hesitated, “But I still highly doubt that Goldenwing will ever let me go, and Sharkstar won’t sent me if he doesn’t want it.”
Thistleclaw waved her away, “I will deal with that,” he assured her.
“How will you deal with it?” she demanded, “You aren’t going to strangle my father in his sleep, are you?”
He laughed, “No.”
Mapleshade sighed, “We are smarter than you give us credit for, Shadowpaw. Now can we please start training?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed, “Please!”
She smiled, “Good!”
They trained the whole night, and even though Shadowpaw thought she might fall dead on her feet at any moment, she didn’t say anything.
When she woke up in the morning, she was exhausted and could barely push herself out of her den. She tried to hide how tired she was from Goldenwing, who thought today would be another great time to bring his kits along, while she hunted.
Half-way through the session she pulled herself back up to her feet and asked Goldenwing, “Can I go to the battle today?” guessing what his answer would be she quickly added, “At least, ask Sharkstar!”
He shook his head, “No way, Shadowpaw,” he replied, “You have only been an apprentice for a moon, and you haven’t even learned that many moves for fighting.”
“Because you won’t teach them to me!” she screeched, unable to control her anger.
Goldenwing looked surprised, “You need to prove that you are ready to learn the battle moves before you actually learn them.”
She felt her frustration growing, “Why don’t we go to the training ditch, and I can show you what I am capable of,” she quickly added, “And don’t you dare go easy on me.”
He smiled, “I like how you push yourself, Shadowpaw but you need to recognize your limits. You could get hurt battling a warrior like me. And I couldn’t watch my kits while I battle trained with you.”
Shadowpaw resisted the urge to roll her eyes, “Your claws will be sheathed, and can’t you just take your kits back to Grassfur, she is their mother after all.”
“You could still get hurt,” he insisted, “And I can’t stand the thought of being responsible for an injury you might have.”
“Fine,” she snapped, angry. If she weren’t training in the Dark Forest then she wouldn’t be able to become a warrior until Goldenwing’s kits did.
She spent the rest of the night training, using techniques she learned in the Dark Forest. The cats there might be cruel, and evil but they were the only ones who could give her a proper training, seeing that Sharkstar wouldn’t change her mentor.
Shadowpaw woke up the next morning feeling confident about her skills, if she were to be put into the battle.
She could hardly feel her stiff limbs as Itchpaw walked over with excitement, “My mentor promised me I could fight in the battle today!”
“If there is one,” Shadowpaw reminded her, “There might not be a battle after all.”
She snorted, “This is Thunderclan we are talking about. Their pride will get the best of them; of course there will be a battle.”
Shadowpaw shrugged, “You’re probably right.”
“Of course I’m right. And I’m also excited. I might become a warrior today!” She purred and Shadowpaw smiled.
“I’ll never become a warrior at this rate.”
“I guess you won’t be going to the battle.”
“I won’t be counting on it.”
“You should,” Purpl;epaw claimed walking up to the cats.
“Because I heard Sharkstar talking to Goldenwing about it. He wants you to participate in the battle.”
“If there is one.”
“Of course there will be. That was the whole point anyways; having a battle.”
“I suppose,” Shadowpaw began trailing off, when she heard a pair of footsteps entering the camp.
It was a Thunderclan patrol looking extremely angry.
“We need to talk with Sharkstar!” their leader demanded.
“He’s in his den,” Wingpelt responded calmly, signaling for the cats not to react.
The patrol stormed into Sharkstar’s den, and Shadowpaw heard some quick shouts from inside the den.
The patrol stayed in there for a fair amount of time before they came out, with Sharkstar following them, “We will not move our borders,” he insisted, “And if we must we will go to battle for it.”
“Then you are a fool,” their leader spat before turning around, “There will be bloodshed if you keep your word.”
“Unless you smarten your clan up a little.”
The patrol bristled before turning around and storming away from Shadowclan, back to Thunderclan.
“I need to select that cats for battle,” Sharkstar claimed as soon as the patrol had left, “I want three battle patrols. One will be the first one, the second will attack soon after, and the third patrol will be for emergencies only.”
“I hope I get the first patrol!” Itchpaw whispered with excitement.
“I’ll be lucky to get any,” Shadowpaw responded, “As long as they put me on one I am very pleased!”
“They will,” Purplepaw assured her, “I heard it with my own ears, and I can eat mouse-tails if you are not.”
“I will hold you to that.” Shadowpaw responded with amusement.
She shrugged, “Won’t matter, because I know you will be on a patrol.”
“I’d better, or I will…” Shadowpaw trailed off, “I’ll get very angry with just about everything in this clan.” She finally responded.
Itchpaw twitched her whiskers with amusement.
“In the third patrol I want Leatherpelt, Brownfur, Curestorm, Mistheart, Carvetail, Scrollpaw and Snappaw.”
In the second patrol I want Orangegleam, Goldenwing, Flapcloud, Stripepelt, Birchfall, Falconclaw, Itchpaw, Redpaw, Purplepaw, and Hookpaw.”
Shadowpaw realized that Itchpaw was pleased with the prospect of being in the second patrol.
“On the front patrol,” Sharkstar looked around a little, “Will be I, Wingpelt, Metalclaw, Crossfang, Breezetail, Sneezefur, Skullstorm, and Shadowpaw.”
Shadowpaw’s eyes widened with excitement, “I’m on the front patrol!” she squeaked, “I can hardly believe it!”
“Told you so,” Purplepaw responded.
“Lucky,” Itchpaw seemed jealous but also happy for her friend.
Shadowpaw smiled, “I can’t wait.”
She spent the whole afternoon doing some battle training on her own, and it wasn’t long before a patrol came with news that Thunderclan had marked the territory as their own again, and Sharkstar sent out the first patrol.
Shadowpaw raced alongside the cats, as they reach the border. Thunderclan cats remained there and they snarled at the sight of their enemies.
“Get off our territory!”
You get off ours,” Sharkstar narrowed his eyes, before flicking his tail for attack.
Shadowpaw jumped through the air with excitement, landing on the first cat she could find. It was a warrior but she was a fair match for him as she dodged all of his blows.”
The two clans were evenly matched before another group of Thunderclan cats appeared. That was the signal for the second patrol that leaped into the battle. Once again, the cats found themselves evenly matched as Shadowpaw moved on to a different warrior.
Once again, she was an even match for the cat even when an apprentice joined him. She didn’t have enough time to scare them away however, because the third patrol soon jumped in, to end the battle quicker.
It wasn’t long before Thunderclan was forced to flee, with Shadowclan at their tails, while Shadowpaw glowed with pride.
“You were great!” Itchpaw purred running up to her, “I saw you out there!”
“You were good too,” Shadowpaw responded, although she hadn’t really been looking.
Sharkstar smiled after the leaving cats, “This is the power of Shadowclan!” His voice was not menacing or strong, but it was clear sending a straight message across.
“Can we start hunting on this land?” A cat asked and he shrugged.
“Might as well,” he claimed, “We are going to give it back to them anyways.”
The cats looked at him in surprise, “Why? We won it?”
“It’s not rightfully ours. This battle was to warn the clans, not tear them apart.”
The cats sighed, realizing they had no choice but to agree with him, as Shadowpaw noticed Goldenwing approaching. He dipped his head towards her apologetically.
“I’m sorry, Shadowpaw,” he claimed, “You were amazing out there, and now I see that I should have never underestimated you.”
Shadowpaw wanted to start yelling at him, and ask what took so long but instead she shrugged, “As long as you actually try to train me later on.”
“I will,” he claimed, “I promise.”
Riverpaw shivered as rain splashed onto his bluish pelt. He felt his stomach rumble, as he leaned down to take a bite of the small rat he had found.
He let out a cough, and sneezed all over the rat. He didn’t want to eat it, but he was hungry and desperately needed food. He hadn’t realized what efficiency the clan was until he had lost that blessing.
The cold rain soaked his pelt as he shivered in the rain. As much as he wanted to he couldn’t bring himself to return to Riverclan. There was no one left for him there, and too many problems which he didn’t feel strong enough yet to handle.
He sniffed in the cold air, as a shiver crept down his spine. Rain splattered all over his nose, making it tickle. His coat was drenched and dirty. He had only been gone for a month and he already felt on the verge of death.
He hadn’t known that he relied on the clan this much to keep him safe, full, warm and alive. It also gave him a sense of self assurance. But now he was out in the cold, vulnerable to any kind of threat. It was so easy for something to happen right now that could kill him, or leave him in a heap, to die without anyone ever knowing about it.
It almost bruised his heart more than it hurt his stomach, and soaked his fur. He never saw any cats around, as he wandered a fair amount outside of his old territory, just to make sure none of the clan cats ever saw him. He didn’t know what he would do if he was placed against one of his old clan mates, especially one of the apprentices, while he was wondering outside of their territory.
Instead he had made shelter closer to Thunderclan territory, right on the border. Occasionally he would accidentally cross, but he had been lucky enough not to get caught yet. A voice in his head, however, told him it was only a matter of time before he ran into an angry Thunderclan patrol.
But until then, he would have to test his luck. Prey wouldn’t leap into his hands, even though Leafbare had finished and Greenleaf was on its way, and rain was still common, which made the prey run away into their little shelters, where they could not be hunted.
Riverpaw was startled by a loud roaring noise, only to look down and realize that it was his stomach, asking for more food, something he didn’t have.
Slowly he curled himself up, trying to block out the cold, and the shivers that kept crawling down his spine. As cold and hungry as he was, it was hard to fight the sleep that was willing his body to shut down, and leave him alone.
“What is that?”
“It’s a cat, isn’t it obvious!”
“I thought he was a dog… Duh it’s a cat!”
Riverpaw kept his eyes closed, pretending not to notice the cats that stood above him, glancing at one another curiously.
“Look at the poor little thing! He must be starving!” he heard a young she-cat exclaimed as she prodded his stomach with her paw. It was all he could do to stop from groaning in hunger and making it look like he was still asleep.
“I think this is a clan cat,” it was a gruff voice this time. “I smell the pesky little warriors all over him.” His voice held contempt towards Riverpaw’s old home, making him feel hostile, even in his mock sleep.
“Well, he is living near the clans. The scent seems a little old; I don’t think he belongs in those clans. Otherwise he would have one of their chubby stomachs that they get from stealing our prey.”
We don’t steal your prey! Riverpaw thought sourly inside, but he knew that he could never tell these cats he was a Riverclan cat. They would skin him alive.
“Come on Ella,” it was the tom. “We can’t just take him in, and feed him. We can barely find enough prey as it is and another mouth to feed won’t be anything but trouble. He looks like he is barely a kit.”
Riverpaw couldn’t stand it anymore, “I am a very capable hunter,” he claimed, as he slowly pushed himself up to his feet. “I could prove it to you if there was any prey around here for me to even hunt.”
“You see, Jake,” Ella purred, “He won’t be an extra mouth to feed.”
“You heard him,” he grunted, “There isn’t any prey to catch. It doesn’t matter how well he hunts if there is no prey to catch.”
“Don’t be like that,” she sighed and gave Riverpaw a sympathetic smile, “It must be hard for you, to survive when you have the skills, but not the recourses.”
Riverpaw smiled back and the tom finally sighed. “I guess you aren’t going to give up. I guess he can join, but if he causes any trouble, then I will hold you responsible.” Riverpaw felt a flash of guilt and fear both clench his stomach. What would these cats do if they knew where he was really from?
“Don’t worry,” she smiled. “You worry way too much.”
She finally turned to Riverpaw who was watching them both with a growing worry. “I forgot to introduce myself,” she smiled. “How silly of me. My name is Ella and this is Jake. We both used to be kittypets, but our owners grew sick of us and kicked us out.”
Riverpaw felt a stab of sympathy for the two loners. He knew what it felt like to have no home left to go to.
“So we gathered together a group of homeless cats and now we work together to survive. We soon discovered the clans, who keep stealing territory which contains prey we need and our next move is to take them down. They are stealing what is rightfully ours and we keep growing in numbers and strength. Soon we will be able to outmatch those wimpy clan cats,” she sounded confident as she said this but Riverpaw knew she would regret these cocky words when she saw what the clans were really capable of.
Jake nodded, “We can only afford to help you if you are willing to help us.”
Riverpaw knew that he should have turned down their help at that moment because there was absolutely no way he could ever attack any of the clans, but he was hungry, cold and scared and he decided that he had no choice but to take advantage of them for a little while.
He nodded. “They have been stealing territory for me to hunt from as well. I will definitely help you in taking down those foxhearts!”
The two loners smiled before Ella flicked her tail at him. “Follow me,” she said as she led him away from the log he had slept behind and into the direction opposite of the Thunderclan camp. He sent the place a last longing glance, which they weren’t looking. It might not have been Riverclan, but the whole idea of the clan was just as strong there, and now he was supposed to leave behind his last memories of the place
I will be back, he promised himself. One day I will come back.
But for now he would have to follow these strangers into the unknown territories he had never been taught to explore before.
Ella strolled along confidently while Jake continued to send him suspicious glances. Riverpaw tried to ignore them, not wanting to strike any suspicion even before he reached their camp, which he knew would not be any fun.
Their camp was a long way off and they had to cross a couple of blackpaths to finally reach it. Riverpaw couldn’t help feeling slightly disappointed. There were silver can knocked over, lying around as kits dug food out of them. The grass was a yellowish color, and mud was splattered all over the area. Riverpaw could only locate four cats, so they weren’t nearly as populated as Ella had bragged about them being.
“This is what the clan boundaries have done to us,” she sighd. “Feel free to pick something out of the cans to eat, we don’t have much fresh-kill to offer until the rain decides to leave the prey alone so that they can come out and let their big, round bellies feed us.”
Riverpaw snorted in agreement.
Ella sniffer disdainfully before flicking her tail in dismissal. Riverpaw knew it was rude to run to the food right away but he couldn’t help the stomach that was giving his stomach such pain. He quickly stuck his head inside and began to pick out whatever looked edible.
He quickly wolfed it down, while he could still feel Jake’s gaze boring into his skull. The tom was very suspicious and he didn’t show any signs of getting to trust the apprentice more.
“You never told me what your name was,” Ella claimed walking up to him, a kind smile placed on her face.
“River,” Riverpaw quickly responded, knowing that his real name would give away the fact that he was from the clans. “I was born by the river as an only child so my mother decided to name me river.”
Isn’t there a river that flows through the clans?” Jake’s voice was suspicious as he approached. “They even have a clan names after the river.”
Riverpaw tried to give his best innocent shrug, “I wouldn’t know, I live by that clan for lightining or whatever…”
“Thunderclan,” Ella corrected with a confident smile.
“Yeah, and I know there is a lake in the middle of their territory, but I don’t know about any rivers. I don’t really know which river I was born by either, all I know was that my birth took place next to one.
Jake still looked extremely suspicious and when Ella left with her large round smile he turned on Riverpaw.
“I don’t know what it is,” he claimed, “But there is something very fishy about you and I plan to find out exactly what it is. Your smell and behavior and the way you talk… you seem way to foreign. Ella might trust you but I don’t believe a hair on your pelt.”
Riverpaw didn’t reply for the large golden tom had already marched off, leaving no time for a response in order to change his set mind. Riverpaw sighed, worried that Jake might actually be able to uncover who he really was.
He continued to eat, savoring the little bits of garbage. He saw a couple new cats walk by and send him hostile glares which he just shrugged off, reminding himself that he wouldn’t be spending much time here anyways.
Feeling tired again, after a short walk he looked around to find a place to sleep. Most cats were sleeping under the sun, now that the rain had dried out, but Riverpaw had no intention of being caught in another rain shower which could have started any moment then.
He also wanted to hide a little from the small crowd. After a quick glance around he decided to sleep inside of a log with a fair sized hole in it. The less cats saw him, the better off he would be. He wondered how Ella would react when the time for the battle came and he claimed that he wouldn’t be able to attack.
She would be infuriated, he knew but he couldn’t ever imagine the kind she-cat being extremely angry at someone, as she would be when she figured that out.
He sighed, realizing that he would have to see when the time finally came for the loners to attack the clans. He would have to decide what to do with the rest of his life then, but for now he would enjoy the food, shelter and sleep.
He slept for long hours and it was the middle of the night when he finally woke up. No one was awake and he crawled out of his little log to realize that Ella wasn’t exaggerating that much. She did make it sound like there were more cats than the amount that faced him at that moment, lying on the gross yellow colored grass, but there was a fair amount of them.
Enough to do considerable damage to a clan.
He sat under the dark moon, and he tripped over several twigs on the ground as he tried to move away from all the cats, right beside the blackpath which was a lot quieter than it was during the day.
He was surprised when he found Ella standing there too, a peaceful look in her eyes. She seemed a little surprised at the sight of the apprentice but just smiled.
“Good to see you here, River.”
“You too,” he responded. “But if you don’t mind my asking why are you here? Shouldn’t you be sleeping with the other cats?”
“Same could be asked to you,” she replied with a light twitch of her whiskers. “But I come out here every day, just to enjoy the beautiful view the night has to offer. I like the silence, it feels good,” she turned to him. “I won’t buy it if you said that. What are you doing out here? Not running away I hope.”
Riverpaw laughed, and had to resist from saying not yet. “No way,” he claimed, “I can’t believe you would ever suggest such a thing. I like this place and I totally stand with your cause of bringing the clans down.”
She smiled, “I thought so myself but Jake seems to have suspicions about you. They frustrate me, but that’s how Jake gets along. By worrying.”
Riverpaw shrugged trying not to feel guilty, “I guess it makes some cats feel better than feeling naive. I am more open but I guess you always need your suspicions to make sure that there are no traitors.”
Ella nodded a little thoughtfully, “He still doesn’t need to be that obvious about it. I know that you have noticed, I even heard that he confronted you about it, and I can understand how uncomfortable that might make you feel. It could even cause you to feel like leaving us, making his suspicions responsible for our loss of you.”
Riverpaw shrugged, “I don’t mind the prejudice. It will only make me feel prouder when I have proved that I can be trusted and I will be very useful when the time to take down the clans finally comes!”
She smiled. “I completely trust you River, and I know that you will be with us when the time comes.”
Once again Riverpaw felt guilt boiling in his stomach, and he pushed it away. He reminded himself that beyond her pretty pelt and kind smile, that Ella was misunderstanding and sinister, with plans to destroy the clans.
But that didn’t mean he wasn’t lying. What Ashwood would have thought? Breezekit? Kestrelpaw? Gingerlight? Leaffall? He reminded himself that it didn’t matter, because those cats were all lost to him now, as fate had dragged them away from each other and brought him here.
The two cats sat in silence for a while before Ella finally yawned. “I am feeling a little tired,” she claimed. “I guess I will see you tomorrow morning. I will show you around a bit more and introduce you to the other cats, and I will show you where to hunt as well so that you can begin to feel like a part of us.”
Riverpaw nodded with a fake excitement although his stomach was churning on the inside. He didn’t want the next day to come.
He spent a couple more minutes staring at the open sky after Ella left, but he felt so nervous that he decided he needed to sleep.
He pulled himself away from the wonderful view and the breeze that ruffled through his blue-gray fur, and crawled back into his little log, after a little difficulty making sure not to step on any of the other cats he couldn’t locate.
When he curled up he had difficulty falling asleep as he turned around and felt his stomach continue to bother him with worry. Eventually, however, he drifted off, into an uncomfortable sleep.
“Riverpaw!” a voice hissed, and he looked up sharply, to find a broad shouldered tom.
“Who are you?” he asked, “And what do you want?” Looking down and seeing the starry ground beneath him, he added, “Am I in Starclan?”
“Not as a Starclan cat, no,” he claimed, “But yes, this is Starclan. One day, I hope you will join this wonderful place too.”
“You still haven’t told me who you are,” Riverpaw added with a curious frown. This cat worried him.
“That doesn’t matter,” he claimed. “What matters is that I am here because I have a message to deliver to you, and I must make sure you listen and then do as it says. This is important for the fate of the clans.”
Riverpaw cocked his head. “Is this a joke? It feels like one. I left the clans a moon ago; there is no way I can save it now.”
“Everything about you concerns the fate of the clans,” he claimed narrowing his eyes. “You can’t remain with these loners, their motives aren’t good.”
“I know!” Riverpaw snapped, slightly frustrated. “I will be leaving them soon, but for now I need them to survive.”
“No,” he insisted; “You do not need them to survive. You have the clan, and they will always be there for you whenever you need them. You may have lost many cats but remember that they are always there, and they can never leave.”
“You don’t understand!” Riverpaw screeched, “I just want you to leave me alone! I’m not a kit I know what I am doing!”
“No,” he insisted. “I want you to stop acting like a kit and listen to me. You have to leave now. You don’t know what these cats are brewing and you don’t want to stick around to find out,” he claimed. “I can assure you that Riverclan will be friendly and kindly accept you back if you ask them too.”
“Whoever said that I wanted to go back?” he asked harshly. “There is nothing left for me there except for dark memories and two poor hearts to break.”
He shook his head sadly. “Don’t you get it? You already broke their hearts when you ran away. Seeing you was enough to keep their hearts beating. But you underestimated the power you had, and left the clan right before it would need you the most.”
“Stop acting like you get it,” Riverpaw hissed growing even more frustrated by every response the cat had, mainly because he was correct. “I lost so many cats. I had my best friend stolen from me, my mentor ditched me, my mother denied me and constantly scolded me and my father died.”
“Your best friend is not stolen from you; she is still there you two are just separated by boundaries. But don’t let those control you. Your mother was something you never had to lose, and your mentor didn’t ditch you. They only gave up your training because they cared for you too much. And although your father might not be alive he still exists in your heart. Do not tell me he doesn’t because that will mean you never loved him as much as you claim to have loved him anyways.”
Riverpaw was at a loss of words for once, he just stared at the tom, a little confused, “But…” he slowly trailed off.
“There are no more buts,” he gently replied. “It is time for you to return to Riverclan. Return home.”
Riverpaw hesitated for a moment before nodding. “I understand,” he claimed, and he realized that he actually did. “I will leave tomorrow as soon as I can.”
He nodded, “I hoped so. Now that my job is done I shall leave. It was nice to meet you, young Riverpaw. I hope I will get to speak to you again.”
“Wait!” Riverpaw called. “I never learned your name!”
“I never told it.”
“Can you tell me now?” he asked. “I think I should know you name considering that I am returning to the clans because you asked me to.”
“Why should that matter?” he asked, “What actually matters is that I have helped you make a proper decision? Just remember that this is what your father will have wanted. And you might find unexpected help when you reach the clans.”
“What are you talking about?” Riverpaw opened his mouth to ask, but the cat was gone, faded into the clouds of Starclan.
Riverpaw felt someone prodding him on the side and opened his eyes to see Ella standing over him with an amused smile on her face.
“Wake up sleep head,” she teased, and he pulled himself out of the little log he had been sleeping in.
“Sorry,” he muttered, stifling a yawn, “I just didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”
Her eyes twinkled, “Maybe because you were sleeping inside a tree. What were you doing in there?”
Riverpaw shrugged, not meeting her eyes, as she waited expectantly for an answer that would come out sounding extremely stupid.
Once again, he noticed Jake glaring at him, before he walked up to Ella, and brought her a juicy mouse.
She smiled at Riverpaw and dipped her head in thanks at Jake, as he sat down, so that they could share the prey, “Why don’t you fetch something to eat?” she offered to him, “I will come show you around later.”
Riverpaw nodded and walked over to the silver cans containing food. He was hit by another pang of hunger at the smell of food. He knew this was his chance to escape but he felt so hungry…
He snapped himself out of it and forced himself to sneak away from the boxes, after sending Ella a glance and making sure that she wasn’t watching him. He continued to slowly creep away, making sure that none of the cats saw him, as he hid behind the trees which were scattered in the area.
He noticed Jake prodding Ella and whispering something in her ear, before receiving a snappy response from her. Riverpaw figured that it was about him.
He waited for a moment, before Ella turned back to her food. He took another couple stealthy steps away before he was facing the blackpath.
He took a look both ways, checking to make sure there were no monsters before he threw himself on the road and quickly ran across. It felt like hours until he reached the other side but when he finally did he took in a deep breath and put on a radiant smile.
He was finally free.
Breezepaw felt her claws sinking into her father’s shoulder as he let out a cry of pain, and his eyes clouded with rage. As a reflex, he swiped a claw at her daughter and she nimbly dodged his blow.
She sent a pair of claws at his throat, and he pushed her off him, relying on his strength to defeat his daughter.
As Breezepaw struggled to land on her feet she could hardly believe that she was doing this, attacking her very own father. But yet she had made the decision to stick with her clan over her father, who she had known her whole life.
But her father didn’t seem angry with her, instead there was a satisfied look on his face, like he was glad she had made that choice, as opposed to slinking away from the battle.
But why did she suddenly care now? Care enough to attack her father, when she was given the choice, and might even be banished back into Riverclan if she didn’t?
And she knew it wasn’t because of her father that she had chosen to attack him. She loved him, but she wasn’t willing to attack him in order to keep him out of trouble with his clan. She wouldn’t be able to bring herself to do it, especially since honesty mattered so much to her.
After a quick glance into her father’s eyes, Breezepaw whirled around to go find another cat to fight. She didn’t want to hurt her father anymore than necessary. As she glanced around for a cat to fight, she could also feel her eyes wondering around, in search of Riverpaw. She had missed him, since they had been best friends and not a single night went without her wondering what happened to her friend.
But she couldn’t find Riverpaw among the crowd, which was curious since there were so many Riverclan cats that Riverpaw was sure to be among them, especially since Breezepaw knew him to be someone who would easily get excited at the prospect of a battle. A quick though flashed through her mind but she disposed of it as soon as it came.
Could he have skipped this battle because he didn’t want to fight me?
She felt herself being barreled down by a Riverclan cat, and judging by their weight and size, Breezepaw was able to tell that they were an apprentice. Squirming under his weight, she tried to kick him off, but was unsuccessful due to her lithe shape and small size. The tom smiled happily as he easily kept her pinned down.
“Where do you think you are going?” he asked as Breezepaw continued to struggle, spitting out in fury.
“Let me go!” she hissed as she tried to pull her hind legs in, but he had them held down as well, in a secure grip.
“I asked you where you thought you were going!?”
Instead of responding, Breezepaw quickly jerked her paw up, and managing to get it out of his claws, she swiped it across his face as hard as she could manage. He tried to hold on, but soon his grip loosened as he scrunched his face in pain and Breezepaw pulled herself out.
Blood was welling around his cheeks as it slowly rolled down his face. Breezepaw was struck with horror at the thought that she had even caused such damage to him. Taking advantage of her surprise, the tom leaped back onto her and brought his teeth down on her neck.
Screaming Breezepaw tried to move out of the way, but his claws were secured into his shoulders, and she found her small size becoming another great disadvantage yet again. Just when she was sure the claws would reach her throat she felt him being thrown off her and looked up to see Thruststar with a worried expression on her face. She gave Breezepaw a light smile.
“Are you okay?” she asked her.
“Yeah,” Breezepaw responded, slightly annoyed by the motherly tone she detected in her. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” she shrugged. “It’s what clanmates do for each other.”
It’s what clan mates do for each other.
She could feel her father’s relieved glance on her shoulder before he quickly dragged it away and jumped back into the battle, leaving Breezepaw to shake her head, before she began looking around again.
She picked out two apprentices who were fighting a Windclan warrior that Breezepaw didn’t know. She didn’t know most of the cats in Windclan anyways, just the ones she was actually close to.
The warrior didn’t seem to be struggling too much, and Breezepaw quickly recognized the apprentices that she was fighting. She didn’t know their names but she had seen them in camp before and by the looks on their faces she could tell that they recognized her too.
It didn’t take long for her to help drive the young apprentices away and she couldn’t help feeling a burst of pride that she had managed to do it. The warrior smiled at her, and Breezepaw felt herself slinking away awkwardly, not wanting to start a discussion with a cat she didn’t know.
After she had seen three Riverclan cats being beaten she would have thought that Windclan was winning the battle but as she glanced around she noticed that the opposite was true. Defeated Windclan cats were scrambling while the rest all seems worn out and tired, completely outnumbered by their enemy.
Breezepaw took a shaky step back, before following the warrior she had just been fighting alongside and joining her as she tried to take down two warriors as once, something that Breezepaw’s presence didn’t help him that much with.
The two cats were being beaten by the Riverclan cats when Breezepaw heard a call from both clan leaders. Not a call of retreat or victory, but one for attention. All the cats turned around to face the leaders.
“What’s wrong?” a Riverclan cat cried.
“Nothing,” Mossstar waved his tail. “Except for the fact that we are fighting a useless battle. Thrushstar and I just had a brief talk about it, in her desperate attempt to save her clan from being destroyed by us.”
Some calls of protest came from the Windclan cats but Mossstar continued, ignoring the flash of anger in Thrushstar’s eyes.
“And we realized that this was just a small misunderstanding,” he continued. “This battle is to stop as we are spilling unnecessary blood.”
Breezepaw noticed some Riverclan cats sighing, as if disappointed by the news while the Windclan cats sighed in relief. She felt a pang of anger that she wasn’t with the stronger cats who were winning when Thrushstar’s words passed through her mind again.
It’s what clan mates do for each other.
If they were so willing to consider her a clan mate and save her life without hesitation than why couldn’t she feel the same way about them? Why shouldn’t she?
She ignored the loud arguments taking place in her head as the two clans quietly began to walk in opposite directions. As Breezepaw glanced at the ground she could see it was stained with blood and she swallowed with disgust.
The thought of doing so much damage over such a silly and pointless thing was something she couldn’t understand. But yet the clans seemed to take it so casually like it was no big deal. The thought scared Breezepaw to the point where she almost didn’t want to become a warrior but not quite that much.
She was wondering if she was being a coward for thinking this way when she reminded herself that she wasn’t running from the fight, she just wanted peace. If there were cats threatening the clan she knew she wouldn’t hesitate to fight them.
Although she couldn’t help wondering if she would do it anymore. In Riverclan she wouldn’t have hesitated but Windclan wasn’t her birth clan and she could hardly find anything in it to fight for.
Thrushstar led her clan away from the battle, as she tried to keep her tail from drooping. No cat had been seriously injured, from what Breezepaw understood, but they all had minor injuries which would wear out the medicine cats and with leaf bare just having left, it would be hard to find enough supplies for all the clans.
Breezepaw also realized that this will have shaken the clan, and helped them realize how vulnerable they were. Riverclan was easily defeating them, and although they were outnumbered they would have to admit that they had also been outmatched.
Thrushstar seemed to be thinking about this as her eyes clouded in darkness. Breezepaw wanted to walk up to the leader and comfort her, despite how much she might have hated her before, but she decided against it.
Instead she turned to Twirlpaw, who didn’t seem to be shaken too much by the battle, “That was an interesting ending,” she claimed and Twirlpaw nodded in agreement.
“I don’t think we should be complaining though,” he claimed. “Maybe Riverclan was a little upset but Thrushstar saved us by making peace with Mossstar.”
“It’s too bad it wasn’t the other way around,” Breezepaw commented a little glumly, although she knew she should be grateful.
“I guess that is true.”
When Breezepaw reached camp the Gracecloud was working incredibly hard, running from one cat to the other, trying to keep up. Thrushstar hadn’t been expecting such a large battle and the medicine cat wasn’t either.
When Gracecloud saw Breezepaw his eyes widened and he quickly fetched a batch of herbs for her.
“I’m fine,” Breezepaw insisted as he applied cobwebs to her several wounds and rubbed several herbs over them, “It’s no big deal. There are other cats that need more help than I do,” she tried to push him off, but he was a stubborn cat, a trait found in most medicine cats and wouldn’t leave until she had been treated.
Russetpaw seemed upset when Breezepaw ran into her soon after. As she received a nice look from her friend Breezepaw realized by her clean and groomed fur that she had not been there at the battle.
“I am so jealous!” she hissed in awe. “How was the battle? I heard that you fought Windstorm in the battle today! He is one of the most senior warriors in the clan,” her eyes widened. “You are so lucky.”
Breezepaw shrugged, “I didn’t even know who that car was until you just told me. And I don’t know if I would consider myself lucky. I don’t mind the scratches but we got beaten pretty badly.”
“So?” Russetpaw sighed. “A battle is still a battle and an awesome experience. Especially when you get to claw off the pelt of your enemies and then you get some awesome scars to show off later.”
“I think you are forgetting that those pelt belong to my former clan mates who I lived with just two moons ago! That includes my mother and my father, as well as my best friend. It’s not easy to just show up and attack them.”
Her eyes darkened. “I forgot about that,” she sighed. “I am sorry.”
“That’s fine,” Breezepaw was surprised that she was even willing to understand how she felt.
“So, did you attack anyone?” she seemed curious, and Breezepaw couldn’t help laughing at her quietly spoken question.
She flicked her friend’s ear affectionately, “It’s a battle Russetpaw! Of course I will attack the cats. I’m not going to stand there and watch the cats ripping each other apart.”
She smiled, embarrassed. “I guess you are right,” she finally decided.
Breezepaw smiled at her friend and the two went to pick a squirrel and a fat mouse out of the fresh-kill pile.
“Want to go hunting when we are done?” Russetpaw asked, “The clan could probably do with some hunters right now and it will be the perfect chance to impress our mentors and the clan. I want to become a warrior as soon as possible.”
“You just started,” Breezepaw rolled her eyes, “You still have at least two more moons to go. Only the best apprentices become warriors in four moons. You probably shouldn’t get too excited now.”
“Well, maybe they will see how responsible I am and decide that I am a fit cat to participate in their next battle!” she responded hotly.
“They will see that you are a good hunter so it is a good idea to leave you behind so that you can hunt for the clan while they are off in their heated battle,” Breezepaw joked with her friend as she finished off her mouse and began to suck on the meat clinging to its bones.
Russetpaw rolled her eyes at the humor of her friend, and finishing her squirrel she pulled herself to her feet. “Well, I am going hunting. If you don’t want to that is fine by me, but I would appreciate your company. Maybe you could tell me some tales about the battle on the way there.”
“Sure, whatever,” Breezepaw shrugged getting up and following her friend out of the den. “But it’s not like there is much to tell. I jumped on the cats and fought them using my teeth and my claws. Exactly what you do in training just that you have your claws unsheathed and it actually hurts you a fair amount.”
“Did you almost die?” Russetpaw asked as they slowly paddled out of camp. “And then you had a last second reflex save your life.”
Breezepaw shrugged, “It wasn’t a last second reflex. It was more like Thrushstar bothering to save my life.”
Her eyes widened, “Thrushstar saved your life!” they were full of awe for a moment before they were replaced with a teasing smile. “How embarrassing! To have to have your life saved by your leader!”
Breezepaw rolled her eyes. “Whatever, at least I am actually noticed by the leader. Noticed enough to be picked to fight in a battle against my own clan.”
Russetpaw huffed in frustration. “It’s not fair! I wanted to go so much more than you but yet Thrushstar chose to send you instead!”
“Because Thrushstar likes me better!” She stuck out her chest as she said this, “Why else would she demand that I join the clan?”
“I think she does like you better,” Russetpaw admitted honestly. “And I feel like it is not just because she dragged you here, or because you are her sister’s daughter. I feel like she likes you for a different reason.”
Breezepaw’s eyes widened in a mock surprise. “Maybe I have super powers and I can fly? Or maybe I have the power to read your mind? Or maybe I have super strength or super speed? Or maybe…” Breezepaw trailed off, while Russetpaw sent her a bored and disapproving glare which lasted a few seconds.
“Well, we’ll see who has the super powers when I come back with twice as much prey as you!” she yowled before running off, leaving Breezepaw to stand there, surprised by her friend’s sudden departure.
A second later she was calling, “Hey!” and running in the opposite direction in hopes of finding as much prey as she could.
She soon spotted a vole and was in a crouching position. Voles were not common on Windclan territory and a cat who liked them would be pleased to discover that one had been caught that day.
Taking in a quiet breath, she closed her eyes for a moment, gathering all the strength in her hind legs, before she leaped off the floor and jumped onto the vole. She missed it by half a mouse tail, and was soon chasing it, as it tried to escape on its fat little legs. But it wasn’t nearly as fast as the nimble Breezepaw and quickly found itself caught in her vicious bite as she gave it a blow to the neck.
She picked it up and buried it under the ground where she would come to pick it up later. Almost as soon as the vole was hidden under the soil, she spotted her next piece of prey. A fat rabbit which could feed up to three kits.
Breezepaw reminded herself that there were no kits to feed, but the clan would appreciate a catch like that anyways.
She leaped at it, but missed again, something she did far too much, which caused her to rely on her speed more than her mentor said she should.
But even she couldn’t keep up with the speed of a rabbit who was well fed and had to give up her pursuit of a nice piece of prey for the clan.
By the end of the day Breezepaw had caught a fair amount of prey, as had Russetpaw. They were both carrying jarfuls of prey back to camp that evening earning them grateful looks from their clan mates.
“I told you it was a good idea,” Russetpaw managed to say under all of the fur that was stuffed into her mouth.
“I would have done it anyways,” Breezepaw responded rolling her eyes, and had to resist the urge to cough when she felt rabbit hair tickling her throat.
The two apprentices dropped all their prey in the fresh-kill pile, making the short pile grow immensely, almost doubling in size. As soon as they had paddled away, not taking any prey as they had already eaten, much of the clan was picking out prey from the pile, trying to see if their favorite food was there.
“Did you hear the news?” Breezepaw’s ears pricked as she heard Dragonbreath purring at Daisystorm. “Blizardpelt is expecting Bloodyclaw’s kits. She just figured out!”
“How is she taking that news?” Daisystorm asked him back, as Breezepaw played with the moss, pretending not to be interested in the conversation that was taking place right across her.
“She wasn’t very pleased to tell the truth.”
“Hardly surprising, Blizzardpelt can’t stand the thought of abandoning her warrior duties. I wouldn’t be the slightest but surprised if she didn’t move into the nursery until the moment she started kitting.”
Dragonbreath laughed in agreement and Breezepaw turned to Russetpaw, “Did you hear? Blizzardpelt is expecting-“
“I know,” she responded with a happy smile. “I have ears too, and I am not the only one with any curiosity. It won’t be the morning before the clan knows.”
Breezepaw shrugged, “That’s probably true,” she agreed, “But you didn’t have to be so mean about it,” she pretended to look offended which earned her a nice cuff on the ear from Russetpaw.
Feeling a little sleepy, Breezepaw let out a yawn and made herself a nest, inside her den. She was soon joined by Russetpaw who was also tired from the long hunt.
“I feel like I could sleep a moon,” Breezepaw complained as she stretched her legs, “After that battle and then all the hunting.”
Russetpaw grunted in agreement.
And as Breezepaw drifted off into a very deep sleep that night she realized that for once, she went to sleep feeling happy about the clan she lived in, instead of the one that she left behind.
Thunderpaw ignored the glares heading his direction as her walked to the fresh-kill pile and picked up his meal. He paddled over to the apprentice’s den where Ratpaw was waiting for him, a half-eaten squirrel hanging in his jaws.
“Hey!” he smiled lightly at the sight of his friend. “How was your training with Sparklelight?”
“Fine,” Thunderpaw shrugged. “How was your day?”
Ratpaw sighed, “It didn’t go too well. I kept failing on both my hunting and my fighting. I am scared that they might take a long time to make me a warrior.”
“I don’t think you will become a warrior any later than me,” Thunderpaw claimed. “None of the clan trusts me enough to make me a warrior within five moons. So I can assure you that you will become a warrior first.”
As if to prove Thunderpaw’s point, Dragonpaw walked into the den alongside Rufflepaw. Both of them sent him deadly glares as they passed through, carrying their prey in their jaws. Rufflepaw even managed to sneer at him, and Thunderpaw turned away. The looks no longer pierced his heart the way they used to; he had grown used to seeing them every day for a moon.
Ratpaw completely ignored them the way he always had. He was a horrible friend, and he never stood up for Thunderpaw in the days where Rufflepaw felt especially angry and started screaming at his old friend while the apprentices back him up, leaving Thunderpaw at the mercy of his guilt and the harsh words of Rufflepaw, while Ratpaw watched nonchalantly in the corner of the den.
But he was all Thunderpaw had after he had killed Bronzestripe and it didn’t look like he would be making any new friends soon. Moonlight no longer talked to him or Fiercethorn much and although the two toms occasionally ate together, their discussions could become awkward and not many words would go between them which was why Thunderpaw usually chose to eat with Ratpaw, with whom, he could at least have a comfortable discussion.
“I guess you are right,” he claimed. “But I wouldn’t want to become a warrior after Dragonpaw! He is a whole moon younger than me! That is so embarrassing. Especially since I am a much better hunter and fighter, and my leadership skills are much stronger than his will ever be…” he trailed off angrily.
“Dragonpaw is a good hunter and his fighting skills are very proficient,” Thunderpaw felt the need to defend his old friend, “And if you have seen Russetpaw at work you will know that he is advanced with his medicine cat skills.”
Ratpaw glared at him, “Are you seriously defending them right now after all the torture they have put you through?”
“I’m just saying the truth,” Thunderpaw looked over his shoulder to make sure that they weren’t listening. “So it’s not that embarrassing if they become a warrior before you…”
Ratpaw huffed, pulling himself back up to his feet. “Why are you defending them when they are always embarrassing you! You should be defending me! I am your real friend, and maybe I should leave if you can’t appreciate me.”
Thunderpaw was secretly hoping that he would do just that. Unfortunately though, he didn’t. He just glared at his friend before sitting back down. “Want to go out to hunt?” Thunderpaw finally asked him. “Maybe if you bring back enough prey you can impress your mentor and the clan.”
Ratpaw seemed thoughtful before he shrugged. “I guess. I need to sleep first though, so we can go hunting after I have slept.”
Thunderpaw nodded, although he secretly doubted that there would be any sunlight left by the time Ratpaw woke up, considering how long he slept.
Ratpaw got up again, and this time he walked away, heading towards his nest, while Thunderpaw exited the den, deciding to see if Sparklelight wouldn’t mind doing a little more training.
Sparklelight was in the clearing assigning some hunting patrols. She smiled when she saw Thunderpaw but the rest of the cats all shot his hard glares. Thunderpaw tried to avoid their angry eyes as he walked up to Sparklelight’s side.
“Emberclaw, can you lead a hunting patrol consisting of Orangefur, Flameheart, Firestorm, Branchleg and Frogleap?”
Emberclaw nodded, and flicked his tail at his patrol, signaling for them to get going when Sparklelight stopped him. “Can you take Thunderpaw with you if that won’t be too much trouble?”
“Of course, Sparklelight,” Emberclaw claimed. Sparklelight gave Thunderpaw a light push with her tail and he quietly ran up to join the patrol.
Emberclaw smiled at his son; he was one of the only clan cats that didn’t hate him, and want him to be kicked out of the clan.
The cats paddled in silence but Thunderpaw could hear other in the back whispering about him, as he quietly walked. And as hard as he tried he could still feel their glares resting upon his shoulder.
They walked past by the woods where their battle against Shadowclan had taken place. But although they had lost, Shadowclan had mysteriously given their territory back to them at the previous gathering, which had only happened a few nights ago.
Hollowstar hadn’t complained, of course, he had been pleased but surprised nonetheless and he had been very suspicious of why Shadowclan would fight over land they were not willing to keep.
“It’s so weird…” Emberclaw murmured obviously thinking the same things as Thunderpaw. “Why would they bother to fight over this land… are they trying to prove something to us by hurting our cats?”
“I think Shadowclan cats are just hungry for battle,” Frogleap replied, “they like to spill blood and kill cats just because it is fun,” he glared at Thunderpaw while he said this. “I think we have a cat that probably belongs there.”
Emberclaw shook his head disapprovingly. “My son was only defending himself,” he claimed. “I don’t think Bronzestripe had any intentions to hurt him, but Thunderpaw can’t be blamed. He had no idea that it even was Bronzestripe.”
Frogleap rolled his eyes. “That doesn’t stop him from being a murderer,” he claimed, “he killed a cat, and he should be banished because of it. We have no room in Thunderclan for Shadowclan.”
Thunderpaw resisted the urge to tell him that he was acting as arrogant as a Shadowclan cat and he was better suited to be a Shadowclan cat than he could ever become no matter how many cats he killed.
“Frogleap, I don’t want to be responsible for an argument,” Emberclaw snapped. “Leave Thunderpaw alone. Hollowstar decided he was innocent and these things are his choice. You don’t think he regrets it?”
“Regret won’t bring Bronzestripe back,” Frogleap murmured, as the anger in his eyes was replaced with sorrow for a moment.
Thunderpaw sighed, hating Bronzestripe, yet again, for getting him into this situation.
He hunted well that day, catching three pieces of prey. Even Frogleap seemed impressed although he wouldn’t dare admit it.
When he returned to camp Sparklelight was very impressed and unlike Frogleap she made it clear. “Wow Thunderpaw!” She twitched her whiskers, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you became a warrior within three moons.”
Although he highly doubted it, especially after what he had done to Bronzestripe, he purred in gratitude, “Thanks Sparklelight!”
Ratpaw emerged from the apprentice den at that moment, looking a little groggy, and Thunderpaw remembered that he had promised the apprentice that he would go hunting with him.
He felt his self groaning inwardly as he noticed the apprentice. He didn’t feel up for another training session, but knew that Ratpaw would get angry, especially considering that he had bothered to wake up in order to go hunting with his friend.
Ratpaw approached Thunderpaw. “Are you ready to go hunting?” he asked.
Sparklelight’s eyes widened, “You are going hunting again?” she seemed impressed. “I think I might want to talk to Hollowstar about making you become an apprentice early,” she claimed. “You have been working so hard.”
Thunderpaw felt himself glowing with pride. Unfortunately, however, this seemed to anger Ratpaw.
“Why would he become a warrior earlier?” he asked in surprise. “He killed the medicine cat! If anything he should become a warrior later, although I think it would be best not to make him a warrior at all!”
Sparklelight seemed surprised by Ratpaw’s sharp response but shrugged and flicked her tail, indicating that they could go. Once they were out of camp Thunderpaw didn’t run over Ratpaw about the rude comment he had made, and it seemed that Ratpaw knew very well or he wouldn’t have dared to do that.
“Where do you want to hunt?” Thunderpaw asked him.
“How about on the border with Shadowclan,” he responded happily. “We can remind them who is in charge.” Thunderpaw shrugged, Ratpaw thought that the reason Shadowclan had given their territory back was because they were scared of Thunderclan and feared what might happen if it came to having another battle.
“Wake up Thunderpaw!” he blinked his eyes open to find Warmthkit standing over him. “Momma said that you would play with us today!”
“You shouldn’t be in the apprentice’s den,” Thunderpaw reminded the kit, but he didn’t listen, just gave a happy bounce and dragged him out of the den.
Realizing that he wouldn’t be able to fight the kit he sighed and let the kit lead him into the nursery. On the way he bumped into Hailstorm who smiled apologetically. “They wouldn’t leave me alone so I assumed that it would be okay if you played with them.”
Thunderpaw shrugged, “I don’t mind,” he claimed, and Hailstorm walked away, after giving his a reassuring smile.
Thunderpaw actually felt some relief that Hailstorm had asked him to take care of her kits. She trusted him enough, although he killed Bronzestripe, to leave him in charge of her kits. Normally it would have been something that Thunderpaw complained about, but now it felt like an honor.
He felt someone else entering the nursery, and turned around, scared that it might be Hailstorm remembering that he had killed Bronzestripe and no longer willing to leave him by her kits, but instead it was Gingerlight, the Riverclan medicine cat, who was mentoring Rufflepaw until he was ready to become a medicine cat.
“Hello,” she purred. “I see Hailstorm left you in charge of the kits.”
Thunderpaw had to shake Straykit off himself, when he pounced on Thunderpaw’s tail and responded; “Yeah…” realizing that he could admit this to Gingerlight, who he had come to trust after the few talks they had, he added, “I was actually surprised that Hailstorm left me with her kits… none of the clan trusts me anymore.”
“Don’t worry,” Gingerlight purred. “They will get over it. It is hard to lose a clan mate, a medicine cat especially, and they find the need to blame someone for it. Once Rufflepaw becomes a full medicine cat, which shouldn’t be very long away considering how well he is shaping up, the clan will manage to get over their grief and will come to forgive you for something that you never did.”
“I sure hope so,” Thunderpaw replied. “I don’t want to be hated by the rest of my clan until I die. I think I would prefer to live as a loner.”
“That’s true,” she agreed before turning around. “I guess I will see you later Thunderpaw!”
Thunderpaw gave her a smile as she left the nursery.
He spent the rest of the morning watching over the kits. They were fun to be around, and Thunderpaw liked being trusted with something as precious as the future of Thunderclan. And they seemed to like him, which was a big change for Thunderpaw. He was reluctant to leave them when Hailstorm returned and Sparklelight called him for training.
“Today I want to give you a hunting assessment,” Sparklelight claimed, “And then I will give you a fighting assessment. I just want to see how you are shaping up.
Thunderpaw nodded, “I promise I will try my hardest!”
“I know you will,” she responded. “Just try not to lose your concentration. I think that becomes the biggest problem with you. Especially when there are other cats around. Which is why I made sure that no one else would be where we are going today. I want to see your abilities at their fullest.”
“Thanks,” Thunderpaw replied. “It’s just so easy for me to lose concentration…” he trailed off slowly.
Sparklelight nodded, “I understand you,” she claimed. “But you should realize that there will be others once you become a warrior.”
“I know,” Thunderpaw sighed. “I just hope this will not be a problem when I become a warrior…”
Sparklelight shrugged, “Let’s get going. We’ve wasted enough time already; I want to test you as much as I can today.”
Thunderpaw nodded and followed her as she bounded out of camp.
He was taken to the strip of land that Thunderclan had taken from Shadowclan all those moons ago. Thunderpaw realized that the only reason he was going to be alone was because this was a darker area of the forest that most cats didn’t like to come to unless they were arrogant fools like Ratpaw.
Sparklelight nodded, “I will disappear now. I won’t always be watching you, but you never know when I will have my eye on you; so always make sure to do your best. I will not be assessing how much prey you catch, but how well your hunting skills are.”
Thunderpaw nodded and she gave him a light smile, “Good luck.”
She turned around and ran out of the shaded trees leaving Thunderpaw with the choice of which way to go.
He finally chose to go closer down to the lake, where he figured there might be some more prey.
He was very careful with every piece of prey he found. Unfortunately, he didn’t find that much prey, but he caught most of the prey his feet stumbled upon.
Occasionally he could hear the bushes behind him rattling, or twigs snapping but his eyes never caught sight of Sparklelight, and Thunderpaw had to admit that she was very good at sneaking up on him.
When he was done hunting, he had caught four pieces of fresh-kill and soon Sparklelight showed herself looking very pleased.
“Let me give you a hand,” she offered as she picked up several pieces of prey that were lying on the ground. “You did very well today Thunderpaw! I am very impressed. I am really thinking that you should be made a warrior earlier.”
Thunderpaw didn’t reply, but dipped his head in gratitude as she picked up the prey that wouldn’t fit into his jaws.
“We’ll bury it right outside the training hollow,” Sparklelight claimed. “And we can take it to camp after I have done some battle training with you.”
Thunderpaw nodded, and the two cats paddled to the training hollow in silence. Thunderpaw almost tripped over several twigs on the ground.
When they finally reached the training hollow, Sparklelight created a little hole where they buried their prey before starting their battle session which lasted from the evening until the night, while Sparklelight tested several different moves on him.
When Thunderpaw returned to camp that night, with his jaws full of food he was too exhausted to listen to Sparklelight complimenting him. He just wanted to go to sleep, and found himself rudely ignoring his mentor.
Once he had dumped the prey in the pile, he didn’t even bother to pick a piece of prey out of the pile. Instead, he just paddled over to the apprentice’s den where he slinked into the empty nest and fell into a long sleep.
His dreams were filled with haunting nightmares about Bronzestripe; while he attacked her furiously, as blood welled around her body and Thunderpaw continued to strike her mercilessly, while Rufflepaw’s voice played ominously in the back as he watched Thunderpaw in horror.
When Bronzestripe’s body went limp Rufflepaw’s eyes widened and he leaped at his friend screeching, "You killer!”
When all of the cats were gone Ratpaw gave him a light smile before leaving as well, which left Thunderpaw alone in the den.
He felt his eyes welling with tears, but before they could come out, Hollowstar poked his head into the apprentice’s den.
“Hey Thunderpaw!” he called. “Can I speak to you in my den for a moment?”
Thunderpaw shrugged although eh could feel his heart beating with excitement. What could Hollowstar want me for?”
Thunderpaw followed the leader into his den, while the warriors all gave him curious glances, as to what he might be doing with Hollowstar.
“What is it Hollowstar?” Thunderpaw asked him, once they were inside his den. “Is something wrong?”
“Not for me, no,” he responded. “But things seem to be difficult for you. I heard what Rufflepaw said to you while all of the apprentices backed him up, and your friend refused to say anything.”
Thunderpaw shrugged. “I will be fine,” he claimed. “Rufflepaw will get over it eventually, I hope.”
“I understand that this is probably hard for you,” Hollowstar began, “And I have decided that it is your right to know what I am about to tell you.”
Thunderpaw was confused. “What is there to know about what happened?” he asked his leader.
Hollowstar took in a deep breath, “Have you ever wondered why Bronzestripe had you in an embrace?”
Thunderpaw nodded, “Everyday and every night. I don’t get what she wanted from me.”
Hollowstar took another deep breath in, “Well, miracles do happen a lot Thunderpaw; and Starclan decided to give us one, not very long ago, a couple moons before you were born.”
“Does it concern me?” Thunderpaw asked fearing that he knew the answer.
Hollowstar confirmed his fears. “Yes it does Thunderpaw. And it is something that we should still continue to thank Starclan for. Thunderclan would be in big trouble if Starclan hadn’t given us this miracle.”
“What was this miracle?” Thunderpaw asked his leader and he noticed him inhaling sharply yet again.
“Thunderpaw… this is going to sound very weird, especially considering that the clan saw you coming out of Cherryheart’s stomach, but…”
“What is it?” Thunderpaw asked.
Hollowstar inhaled deeply. “Cherryheart and Emberclaw are not your real parents,” He finally admitted.
“I’m afraid not,” he claimed, “You were transported from your real mother’s stomach into Cherryheart’s stomach a couple months before you were born.”
“But that’s not possible!” Thunderpaw replied.
“I’m telling you Thunderpaw, it was a miracle…”
Thunderpaw could hardly believe what he was hearing, as his heartbeat blocked out the thoughts in his mind. All he could manage was, “Then who are my real parents?”
Hollowstar looked around nervously before facing the apprentice. “Bronzestripe and I are your real parents Thunderpaw.”
Shadowpaw forced herself to her paws, as she made out a golden pelt waiting in the entrance of her den.
“Hey, Shadowpaw!” Itchpaw called, “Want to grab a mouse while waiting for Goldenwing?” her eyes danced.
“Sorry,” she called back, “Goldenwing is probably waiting for me. She sighed, “Maybe later, when I am done with training.”
Itchpaw shrugged, “Sure.”
“Come on, Shadowpaw!” Goldenwing called as if on cue.
She slowly emerged from the apprentice den, stifling a yawn.
“I’m coming!” she exclaimed stretching her jaws wide as she yawned loudly. She was actually looking forward to her training session with Goldenwing today. After the victorious battle with Thunderclan, Goldenwing had begun to push her as hard as she needed to push her. They actually fought and hunt and he had even secretly sent her across to the Thunderclan side of the border; testing her ability to stay hidden, always ending up impressed. She no longer hated her father for assigning her such an inexperienced warrior, mostly because that made him more rash and less prone to follow rules.
He had claimed several times that he planned to make her become a warrior at least a moon early, something she was waiting for with excitement.
Itchpaw was scheduled to become a warrior anytime soon, and although Shadowpaw was fairly popular in her clan, she would miss her best friend dearly.
Goldenwing flicked his tail at her, when she had finally reached him at the entrance to her den and they paddled out of camp together, taking soft and slow steps.
“How are your kits?” Shadowpaw asked him, her whiskers twitching. Goldenwing was still a father as obsessed and protective as he used to be, and he still did bring his kits to their training sessions, but Shadowpaw had managed to throw the sense of jealousy she obtained from not having all the attention on her away over time.
“They are fine,” he smiled, “Beetlekit asked to come watch our training session again today but I had to decline. I wanted to do some battle practice with you, and it’s not safe to keep him around.”
Shadowpaw had to resist the urge to roll her eyes at his overprotective fatherly instincts. Beetlekit was around three moons old, and he would know how to sit and watch, without wandering into the woods behind the training field in Shadowclan. She said nothing though; as she was grateful the stuck-up, annoying furball wouldn’t be tagging along.
“What are we going to do today?” she asked him; as they reached the exit to camp. He didn’t answer, indicating with his tail for her to be quiet as they passed Cottonheart and Falconfall, dipping their heads at the two cats who returned the gesture.
They walked towards the training field in silence for a while, the only sound of their echoing footsteps until they were far off from camp.
“I want to try training with unsheathed claws,” he claimed, “The purpose of training is to prepare you to become a warrior and warriors don’t battle with their claws sheathed. I want to teach you how to fight like a warrior cat in battle.”
“But,” she tried to fight her heart’s exiting beats as she pointed out one of the many flaws in his idea, “Won’t the clan get mad when they find out? Sharkstar would probably give me a different mentor.”
“I don’t think so,” he claimed, “I found a bushel of brambles not too far ahead. We can stick a couple brambles to our pelt and blame them for it.”
Shadowpaw fought the urge to purr with victory.
“Thank you, Goldenwing!” she grinned unable to hide her excitement as it pulsed through her veins.
“It’s my job,” he shrugged, “Just make sure you don’t brag about this to the other apprentices. I don’t want to get in trouble because the apprentices don’t know how to keep their muzzles shut. Understood?”
“Understood,” but Shadowpaw already knew what a struggle it was going to be not to tell anyone about this training session. She hadn’t had a training session with claws in almost a moon, when she told the cats in the Dark Forest she wanted to stop training with them since Goldenwing had started to do his job.
They had been infuriated and- Shadowpaw shook her head. This was not the time to think about that. Now she had to focus on her training and becoming the best warrior that Shadowclan would ever see.
The Dark Forest had no place in those dreams.
The sound of rustling leaves and the slight howl of the wind were the only thing that Shadowpaw could hear other than her heart, beating so quickly. The thought of her old mentors had taken away her excitement within moments and replaced it with the deepest, darkest fear.
Although she had called them bluff the truth was that she still had nightmares about them while she was awake. And not all nights were as fortunate as the others.
She shook her head again, fiercely this time and Goldenwing gave her a funny look.
“Are you okay, Shadowpaw?” he asked her, “You seem a little… worried or confused about something. We don’t have to do this if you don’t want. I wouldn’t be mad at you the slightest bit. I just thought it would be something you might like with your fierce and competitive personality.”
“What?” she looked up into his deep green eyes and quickly turned away, trying not to blush, “No, I’m fine,” she whispered softly, “Just had some bad dreams last night.”
To put it mildly.
He smiled, “Good,” he claimed, “I thought for a moment that the idea was scaring you. Feel free to tell me if you ever feel uncomfortable about the idea.”
Shadowpaw rolled her eyes, and blurted, “You don’t have to fuss over me too, Goldenwing. I am not your daughter.”
He looked down at his paws shyly, “I…” he stammered, “Wasn’t treating you like my kit… But you are my apprentice and I plan to make sure you are satisfied with your training.”
“You wouldn’t listen to me before,” she claimed, “When I asked you if I could join the battle and told you to actually fight me during our training sessions.”
“That was before,” he pointed out, and Shadowpaw shrugged as they finally reached the training field, a patch of flat land, which had so many footprints and so much splattered mud over it from all of the training that happened in the area.
Goldenwing walked to the other side of the area, crouching as he bared his fangs and unsheathed his claws.
Shadowpaw followed him, pulling herself into a crouch, and trying to ignore the excited tingle spreading through her body, as she sucked in her breath deeply.
After a short moment Goldenwing leaped on top of her, his claws unsheathed and she felt them pricking her pelt, as little droplets of blood spilled out of them.
Ignoring the pain she whirled around and raked her claws down his shoulder, as blood started to well. She felt a little guilty for attacking her own mentor, but reminded herself that he had the ability to stop it whenever she pleased.
He ducked as she sent another pair of claws and jumped onto her, pinning her face down. Sucking in her breath, Shadowpaw went limp for a moment before quickly spinning over and swiping her claws across his muzzle.
Dark Forest move.
Goldenwing let out a yowl and before Shadowpaw could stop them the memories came floating back to her head.
“What?” Thistleclaw exclaimed, “What makes you so sure Goldenwing will be able to teach you as well as we did?”
Shadowpaw slunk back a little, hiding her face from those looking at it so fiercely, “Nothing… just…” she sighed, before turning her head back up, “To be honest, you are not known to be good cats, in any way. You have schemed several times to ruin the forest and I don’t know if what you are teaching me is really what I need to learn, or moves that Shadowclan might not approve of.”
Shadowpaw felt herself being bowled over by Goldenwing, and claws reaching her spine. She let out a shiver; still stuck in memories before flipping him over.
“I was only out for revenge!” Mapleshade snarled, “And I only tried once! After I was abandoned by my mate…” she trailed off, “Not that you would ever understand that. All Starclan has treated me with is injustice. They took in Ashfur after he tried to kill apprentices because he loved a cat so much.”
“But, you could have fixed your mistakes,” Shadowpaw urged her, “You could have chosen a different path, a better path.”
“That’s none of your business.”
Goldenwing peeled himself off Shadowpaw, panting hard, “Are you okay?” he asked her, “You still seem troubled. Are you sure you want to continue?”
“Of course,” she gave him a tight nod, “It just feels weird to finally be using my claws again; it’s been a whole moon since the battle.”
“That’s the point,” he claimed, “It shouldn’t come weird to you to use your claws. That’s why I want to do this.”
“I know,” she nodded bracing herself for him to jump on her again.
“You betrayed us,” Thistleclaw murmured softly, “We worked so hard to make sure you would get the proper training and then you leave us, for… him… We can still offer you more… You are just a selfish cat, only thinking about themselves like the rest of your greedy clan,” he scrapped the ground, “Almost as bad as Thunderclan.”
“Leave them alone!” she protested, “My clan never did anything to you!”
“They did everything to me, Shadowpaw,” Thistleclaw claimed, “But you would never know that through your luxurious life as the daughter of the clan leader and a popular cat among the apprentices.”
“That’s not true!”
Goldenwing slid under her, his claws extended and aiming for her belly. A move he had taught her before, and one she was very used to avoiding.
She lifted one paw, and let all of her weight onto her other side, as Goldenwing scratched the air, his claws making a soft whooshing noise as they sliced thin air.
She lowered her claws back down, so that they were straight over his face.
“Liar!” she shrieked, “You never wanted to teach me how to be a good cat because you had nothing to do. I don’t know what your wicked motives are but I won’t stand for them a single moment longer!”
She flung herself at Thistleclaw, her claws outstretched as she managed to grasp the center of his face and leave a deep cut. He let out a yowl of horror, and Mapleshade was soon by his side, throwing Shadowpaw off him.
“Traitor,” she brown tabby she-cat hissed.
Shadowpaw felt her paws missing his face, although she wasn’t sure if it had been something she may have done on purpose. Her whole body was vibrating in a way she couldn’t control as she nimbly dodged a pair of claws by Goldenwing.
“You are the traitor!” Shadowpaw screeched back, “You have both betrayed the forest so many times! You tried to destroy us! Just because you were power-hungry and all you could think about was yourselves! And then Thistleclaw called my selfish and greedy! You are both selfish and greedy and too self-centered for your own good.”
“Watch it kit,” Mapleshade hissed, “We taught you everything you know, and we know lots which we have not taught you,” her eyes narrowed, “You wouldn’t stand a chance against the two of us.”
“Yeah,” Thistleclaw added, “Apologize before it is too late…” he paused, “Wait. It already is too late.”
“This is a dream!” Shadowpaw shouted back, “You can’t scare me, or kill me in my sleep! Stop bluffing!”
His eyes narrowed, “We will see about that.”
“Good one, Shadowpaw,” Goldenwing smiled as he tried to grasp her by the scruff. She quickly ran out of the way, trying to balance on her paws as she jumped around her mentor.
Shadowpaw gulped. The look in his eyes scared her, and she took several nimble steps back, before turning around and breaking into a run.
“Catch her!” Mapleshade screeched and she could soon hear two pairs of footsteps echoing behind her as she panted, her paws moving as if running for her life.
Because she was.
“You can’t hide forever here!” Thistleclaw shouted, “We will find you eventually! This is our realm and we are the masters of stealth here. Even for a Shadowclan cat we come as sneakier than you could imagine! If you come out now and save us work we will make it quick and easy. Otherwise, you must prepare to die a slow and painful death.”
Shadowpaw didn’t respond. Just kept running as fast as her short, apprentice, paws would take her reminding herself that she couldn’t die.
They were just bluffing after all.
Shadowpaw turned around and ran to the other side of the clearing, her paws gently touching the flat and soft grass as she did so, her panting getting heavier and heavier which each step she took, each moment that passed.
She found the footsteps of Goldenwing following her as she ran, trying to keep away from her follower.
Her heart pounded loudly in her ears and she reminded herself that Goldenwing was her mentor; he would never truly injure her, and that running would not make a nice impression on him, as he was searching for her fighting skills.
Shadowpaw whirled around, her claws extended and leaped again.
This time, however, the Dark Forest cats were not taken off guard. They both jumped back at the same time, and sucking in her breath, Shadowpaw felt her paws hitting the ground, instead of their claws, and running underneath the leaping cats that collided with each other.
“You didn’t teach me that,” she pointed out, “Or you would have seen it coming.”
Her paws were itching to escape the two cats that were cornering her, but she refused to give up her pride by running.
She would fight them to her last breath.
She turned around and leaped onto Goldenwing, who was taken by surprise and bowled over, coughing.
“You are good,” he exclaimed as he kicked her off with his small but strong feet, “I’m proud to be your mentor.”
Shadowpaw glowered at the praise, as she landed softly on her feet. She held her breath for a moment as Goldenwing jumped onto her, before rolling out of the way, and jumping back up to her paws.
“Show me your offense,” he offered.
“Coward,” Thistleclaw teased, “Can’t even fight. Show me those moves we taught so hard to teach you, not those cowardly escape tactics the pathetic clans teach you, so that you can avoid a fight. Because there is no way to avoid this battle.”
She snarled before leaping onto Thistleclaw and pinning him to the ground. She slashed her claws against his chest and blood began to well everywhere.
She soon found herself being kicked off him, and hit the ground with a soft thud.
Moments later, Mapleshade had grabbed her by the scruff and was yanking on her neck fur. She let out a shrill cry of pain.
“No one is going to save you now, kit,” Mapleshade sneered, “You will die in the Dark Forest and your body will just be another prize to us. No forest, no Starclan, you will just fade away from the world of existence.”
There was silence for a split moment when all Shadowpaw could hear was her own heart pounding. Then she whirled around, let out a loud cry and drew her claws across Mapleshade’s face, and she dropped her with a loud cry, as her body hit the ground.
Shadowpaw slowly sunk, her panting being the only noise that filled the air, as her legs wobbled. Thistleclaw was approaching her slowly and she had no idea how much longer she could hold off two cats.
Taking in a deep breath, Shadowpaw leaped onto her mentor, her claws extended and felt them going through his deep and slick golden fur.
He let out a small yip before whirling over, and trying to knock her off him but her grip was firm and she refused to let go of her mentor.
“You lose,” Thistleclaw exclaimed taking deep heavy steps towards her, “Your pride and fear keep you from running, and you can never hold off both of us at once.”
Shadowpaw sent a silent prayer to Starclan that Thistleclaw was just bluffing, although she probably should have known better.
Starclan hears no prayers from the Dark Forest.
“And I’m afraid to say,” Thistleclaw paused, “You have found no way out of it this time.”
“What if I woke up?” Shadowpaw asked.
“Not that simple,” he sneered, “You are far too deep into sleep right now to be woken up by anything other than being shaken fiercely by one of your clanmates.”
“What do you want?” her lip quivered.
“You abandoned me like all of the others,” Thistleclaw claimed, “I won’t let you get away with that,” his paws scrapped the ground, “You will pay dearly; something I couldn’t get the other to do.”
There was a moment of silence before he added.
“With your life.”
Goldenwing brought out his claws and raked them down her back. She grit her teeth, as she kept her grip, not sure yet as to whether or not she liked the training session. Fighting Goldenwing was fun but it kept brining back memories…
“You’re lying,” she hissed, “There is no way…” she paused as a slight shiver crept up her spine and sighed, “Why can’t you just be good for a change? The forest would be so much better right now.”
“You are a selfish little brat,” he barred his teeth, “Why is it always about the forest? Why can’t anything ever be about me? You just don’t know how it feels so stop acting like you do,” he pulled into a crouch.
“I might not know,” she countered, “But nothing makes it okay to try and knock out several cats. No matter what happened there are still hundreds of lives-”
“That,” he whispered, “Is where you are mistaken, Shadowpaw. I don’t want to destroy the forest. I gave up on that so long ago. I want to destroy the only thing I had left which is now abandoning me… you.”
“I’m sorry,” she croaked, “I just…”
“You are a heartless little apprentice who can only think about themselves,” Mapleshade spat who was now back up to her paws, “And you would be so mistaken to think we will let you get away with such a thing. You should know as better than cats like that. As members of the Dark Forest we will always aim for vengeance. And we will always get it.”
Goldenwing finally managed to shake her off and she pulled herself back up to her paws, running out of the way before he could grasp her in his claws again.
Shadowpaw took several quick steps back, her heart beating madly as she shut her eyes tight, and tried to remind herself that they were bluffing and she could not be killed in her dreams.
Suddenly, both cats jumped on her at once, their claws aimed to kill. She felt her pelt burning as the claws were followed by teeth aiming right at her throat, which were getting closer and closer and closer to her neck, as they finally stabbed-
“Shadowpaw! Get up! You are all covered in blood!”
Shadowpaw felt herself being pulled out of her dream, sweat all over her face as she panted, and realized her whole pelt was stained with blood. For a moment everything seemed to spin, while Itchpaw; who had been the one to wake her up; ran to get help from a medicine cat, and blood continued to pour from her body.
Although she had called them bluff, for a split moment she had been prepared to die. She had felt this shock going through her body which told her it was going to be the end of her life.
It had felt like so much more than bluff.
“What happened to you?”Ravenfur demanded, “How can you injure yourself so gravely when all you ever did was sleep? I couldn’t find anything in your nest.”
“I-” she stammered, “I…I…”
“Oh well,” she smiled, “At least you are still alive.”
“I think that’s enough,” Goldenwing panted, “You did a really good job, Shadowpaw, but I felt like you were a little distracted. Lost in thoughts.”
Shadowpaw knew better than to tell him how right he was.
“Come on,” he flicked his tail, “Let’s get some brambles in our pelt before heading back to camp. We won’t be doing this again though.”
“I know,” Shadowpaw nodded.
And she was grateful.
“Waterfang can you lead a patrol?” Mossstar asked the light brown she-cat who was had been taking her apprentice, Slashpaw, outside.
She paused for a moment before shrugging, “Sure,” she claimed, indicating with her tail to her apprentice that he should follow her.
Riverpaw felt out of place standing beside Mossstar as he tried to sort out a portion of the hectic clan life. His head was dipped deep down in shame and he didn’t dare to look at any of the other cats in fear of what sort of anger he might find inside their eyes.
“Riverpaw,” Mossstar’s voice was cool, “Are you sure you would like to return to Riverclan? I don’t want you to be pressured into doing something you don’t want to…”he trailed off glancing at the blue apprentice curiously.
“I’m sure,” Riverpaw claimed surely.
Even though he wasn’t.
Mossstar let out a relieved sigh, “I must confess, Riverpaw, I always had a feeling you would return. I knew you were still out there… waiting to come back.”
Riverpaw’s thoughts drifted back to Ella and the other loners who were out to destroy the clans. He figured he should tell Mossstar about them but decided that it could wait until a little bit later.
And so it would have to.
He nodded instead, before pausing, “Will my… warrior ceremony be delayed?” he whimpered softly, not wanting to sound like a kit but scared to fall behind after missing out on a few moons of training.”
“I think,” Mossstar paused, “That you have proven you have the skill of survival if you have survived alone for a few moons. The clans were originally former for survival,” he shrugged, “We might even make you a warrior early. You always showed exceptional talent for an apprentice, especially while in the water.”
Riverpaw felt relief busting through his body and reached the edges of every bone. He could still become a warrior. He wouldn’t fall behind. Maybe he could even have his ceremony with…
“Riverpaw?” A soft voice whispered behind him. One that he could easily recognize even without seeing the face.
He gently turned his face around to find the she-cat he had slept many nights thinking about. Kindlepaw was looking at his with disbelieving wide eyes. Her gray pelt was sleek and Riverpaw could hardly turn his eyes away from them.
There was a moment of silence between them, Mossstar was distracted giving another tom an order, while the two apprentices faced each other, standing nose to nose.
Before Kindlepaw snarled, “How could you leave me?” her voice was hard and demanding, nothing like the apprentice he had come to grow feelings for, “I stayed up so many nights worried about you, thinking you were dead, starving or captured, and you don’t even have a scratch. Is that what I mean to you? You can just leave the clan without second thought and not return for moons.”
Riverpaw opened his jaw to respond, caught off guard by her sharp response, and choking back his surprise. He had hoped for a reunion, not to be immediately left alone by the cat he had been looking forward to seeing the most.
Mossstar turned back around to face Riverpaw, ignorant to what had just happened between him and the gray she-cat.
“Would you mind being my apprentice?” he asked, “I haven’t had one in so long, and I know you are missing your father… We were close friends and although I can’t ever replace him I can do my best to try.”
Riverpaw was stunned, momentarily forgetting his conversation with Kindlepaw and feeling warmth spreading through his body. Maybe he hadn’t come back to face more disappointment and abandonment after all.
“Of course,” he purred happily, unable to conceal his joy, “It would be a huge honor for me. I’d love to be your apprentice if the clan lets back in.”
“Of course they will,” he gave Riverpaw a glance, as if he never should have suggested the thought, “They will be delighted to have you back!”
“Won’t they be…” he paused, “A little upset that I left them?”
“I’m sure it won’t be a big deal,” The Riverclan leader assured him, “As I said, they should be really happy. And if they are mad, all it will take is time for them to understand that you are here to stay,” he looked down at the apprentice, “You are here to stay, right?”
“Of course I am,” Riverpaw promised, meaning it. He had been told to come here by one of his ancestors and knew better than to rudely ignore.
“I thought so,” Mossstar smiled, “Why don’t you grab some prey and eat. I’ll gather the clan to welcome you back in a little bit.”
Riverpaw nodded before paddling away, dark thoughts clouding his mind. He kept his head down and tried to stay unspotted as he left Mossstar’s side and weaved through other cats, making his way to the fresh-kill pile.
He could hear cats whispering, sharing the daily gossip but it felt like they were all talking about and staring at him, even though he only caught a few glances.
He dipped his head even further down, as he reached the fresh-kill pile, and waited for the cat in front of him to grab their piece of prey before taking step forward, and picking one out himself.
After a few minutes of digging, he picked up the smallest piece of prey he could find, a particularly tiny mouse, before clutching it in his jaw and walking away.
He knew better than to go to the apprentice den.
That would mean being near Kindlepaw, Fizzypaw or any of the other apprentices who might have known him from their training. Instead, he quickly walked over to the medicine cat den, where he was quickly greeted by the sight of Beliefsoul sorting through herbs.
She looked up in surprise and stared at Riverpaw for a few moments as if she was having an allusion before Riverpaw finally sucked in a deep breath and asked, “Is Gingerlight here?” his heart pounded loudly in his chest.
Beliefsoul stammered for a few moments, obviously still surprised at who was standing before her, before shaking her head and nodding, “She just returned a few sunrises ago,” she claimed, “She had been in Thunderclan for a while, subbing for their dead medicine cat.”
Riverpaw nodded, and Beliefsoul took a step to the side so that he could pass, “She should be sorting herbs in the back of the den.”
Nodding again, Riverpaw walked passed her, dipping his head in gratitude, as he took slow and steady steps to the back of the den.
When he reached it he found the ginger medicine cat, sorting herbs, like Beliefsoul said, not aware of the cat standing above her.
“Hey Gingerlight,” he calmly meowed, trying not to let any emotion leak through his voice as the ginger she-cat slowly turned around.
She gaped at what she saw.
“Riverpaw…” she stuttered for a few moments, “Is this some sort of vision, or prophecy you have come to send me?”
“I’m here,” he responded, trying to sound calm.
Her eyes opened further and she let out a loud purr before pressing her flank against his, “You made me so worried when you left,” she whispered, “What happened? Where were you this whole time?”
He sighed, “I ran away,” he admitted with a sigh.
“Why?” Was that pain in her eyes? Gingerlight gently tipped her head to the side, “Was it something I did.”
“No,” Riverpaw shrugged, “Just… a lot of stuff happening at once, and I didn’t feel like I could handle it all. So I just left, like a coward. The first month was harsh, and survival wasn’t easy at all. Until these loners found me,” he wondered if he should tell Gingerlight about their motives before passing the idea aside, “I stayed with them for a little while, before receiving a dream from Starclan telling me I had to return. And so I did. I waited around the border for a month, because I was too scared to come out, until I caught Mossstar alone, and knew that I either had to come out then or spend the rest of my life waiting to be found.”
“I’m glad you chose to come out,” Gingerlight purred, “I could never stop feeling about you as more than a friend,” she confessed, “And I hope you understand that…”
“I do,” Riverpaw sighed, knowing what he was going to have to say, “But I can’t pretend it doesn’t go against a code you have. Or that I feel for you as anything other than a sister. Or that my heart doesn’t skip a beat every time I see Kindlepaw,” he paused, “I hope you aren’t mad, but I just can’t…”
“At least you are here,” although it was only a half-smile, it was a genuine one, and it sent waves of warmth through Riverpaw.
That was one more cat that would be behind him.
“Are you sure about Kindlepaw, though,” she asked, “She seems to care more about Fizzypaw than you… she was quite upset when you left, but I’m wouldn’t want you to waste your heart over her.”
“I can’t help the way I feel,” Riverpaw calmly responded, “And I can’t help that I feel for Kindlepaw as more than a friend.”
“I suppose,” Gingerlight meowed, “I’m just worried for you,” she plainly claimed, “I wouldn’t want you to run off like last time.”
Mossstar stood proudly as he glanced down at the cats beneath him, Fizzypaw standing even more proudly at his side.
“I, Mossstar, leader of Riverclan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice. She has trained herself hard to understand the ways of your noble code and I commend her to you as a warrior in her turn.”
He turned away from his clan and faced Fizzypaw, “Fizzypaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your clan, even at the cost of your life?”
Fizzypaw didn’t hesitate as she responded, “I do.”
“Then by the powers of Starclan, I give you your warriors name. Fizzypaw, from this moment on you will be known as Fizzyspirit. Starclan honors your leadership abilities and kindness and we welcome you as a full warrior of Riverclan.
It was all Riverpaw could do not to snort at the second virtue that Mossstar had given Fizzyspirit.
He sipped in a deep breath as the clan chanted loudly for the new warrior. He could make out Kindlepaw’s voice among the many others and felt a lonely feeling in his heart.
Would she ever be able to forgive him?
When the chanting died down, Mossstar flicked his tail in a certain manner, indicating that they were not yet dismissed.
“I would also like to welcome back a former member of our clan, Riverpaw,” the blue tom looked down at his paws, trying not to go red as all eyes quickly turned to face him. He didn’t have the courage to look up and see what kind of reaction he would find in them.
“He will be training as my apprentice from now on; since Ashwood has previously claimed that he will be unable to.”
Murmurs began to grow among the cats and Mossstar flicked his tail again, indicating that the cats were finally dismissed.
Unsure where to go or what to do, Riverpaw stood unmoving for several moments, as cats brushed passed him. His eyes tried to hunt down Kindlepaw but were unsuccessful and he figured she would be congratulating Kindlespirit.
“Hey,” he quickly whirled around to find Thrushpaw smiling at him, “Welcome back.”
“Oh,” Riverpaw shuffled his paws nervously before smiling, “Thanks.”
He gave Riverpaw a shy shrug, “Sorry I ignored you earlier,” he claimed, “When we just became apprentices. I was just scared of the mean apprentices my mother had warned me about.”
“It’s fine,” Riverpaw assured him although it had been one of the main reasons he had chosen to leave; since he didn’t have any friends.
“Riverpaw?” he turned around to find Mossstar waiting for him patiently, “Do you want to go out on a hunt? I wanted to reassess your skills and see where they fall after you have been missing out on training so long.”
“Sure!” Riverpaw exclaimed, excited to finally get another chance to prove himself. Thrushpaw smiled at him before waving his tail and paddling away.
“Let’s head to the stream,” Mossstar claimed, “I’ll assess your hunting in water first, before we look at how well you can hunt on land. Tomorrow we can look at your fighting abilities both in and outside of water.”
Riverpaw nodded and followed his leader and mentor as they paddled out of the camp, ignoring the curious glances he was getting from the other clan cats, reminding himself that it would just take a little bit of time before he got used to having him among them again.
As they left camp and began to walk down a common trail to the river, Riverpaw lifted his head and took a deep breath of the air. Newleaf was changing to Greenleaf and soon the prey would be blooming with prey all over, and the water would be even warmer so he could play in the waters with the other apprentices, if any of them other than Thrushpaw were willing to come close to him after he had ran away from the clan.
His paws gently touched the bare ground, and he enjoyed the touch of the familiar leaves and soil which it had been so long since he had been near.
Leaves crunched and twigs snapped as they took soft steps, leaving Riverpaw if it was prey or the wind which was causing it.
“Did you miss Riverclan?” Mossstar asked him as they walked, “Or did you just decide that you wanted to return?”
“I missed this place,” Riverpaw claimed, “And I was also visited by a cat in my dreams who helped me realize that.”
“That’s great,” Mossstar responded calmly, his pawsteps steady and calming, “The clan did seem to change a little after you left.”
“Really?” Riverpaw was shocked. He had never been popular among the apprentices and didn’t have many connections to warriors other than his mother. But his mother despised him anyways.
“Yeah,” he shrugged, “You have more impact than you actually think you do.”
“I guess,” he blushed as he looked down at his paws.
“Well,” Mossstar stopped, “Here we are. I’m sure if you missed Riverclan that you missed this river as well.”
And he did. Riverpaw felt warmth spreading through his body as the waves gently lapped and the shores. Next to the lake, it was the thing he enjoyed the most about Riverclan territory. Near it lied, the Windclan border.
Windclan brought back memories of Breezepaw and he couldn’t help himself from asking, “How is Breezepaw? Has anyone heard from her?”
“We had a battle with Windclan quite recently,” he claimed softly, “I remember spotting Breezepaw among the other cats. I believe she was happy there. She fit in with her mother’s clanmates so perfectly.”
“Oh,” Riverpaw felt happy for his friend but wasn’t entirely convinced that looking like a group of cats made you exactly like them. But he remembered how much Breezepaw enjoyed running, her love of rabbits, open space and bright starry nights, and considered if perhaps Windclan was where she belonged.
Mossstar gently slipped into the deep river, his pelt practically melting into the water before his head popped back up and he flicked his tail, indicating for Riverpaw to join him.
Taking a deep breath, Riverpaw lowered himself as well, his blue pelt hardly visible against the deep blue color of the river. He could barely make out small fish under the river and felt a warm sensation as he slipped into the familiar river and paddled around a little, enjoying the feel of moisture against his pelt.
Mossstar slowly paddled back, “Why don’t I watch you for a little while?” he offered, “And I’ll stop you when I decide that I have seen enough to properly assess your ability to fish.”
Riverpaw nodded, trying to ignore the excitement that surged through him, and only gave a smile concealing his excitement.
Taking in a deep breath, he slipped his paw under the water and waited for a fish to come floating onto it.
He spent quite a while hunting in the river that day and caught several pieces of fish. Mossstar had seemed impressed although he hadn’t said anything and Riverpaw felt that he had done well enough, at least for an apprentice who had not been training for a few moons, and was only ten moons old.
When they were finished hunting, Mossstar let them stop to eat some of what they had caught before they took it back to camp, dumped it onto the fresh-kill pile and left to test Riverpaw’s hunting abilities on land.
They didn’t spend too long hunting in land, and Riverpaw had caught one mouse and two sparrows by the time the sun was touching the ground, and they decided to head back to their camp.
Riverpaw ate with Thrushpaw and his littermates that day, and they asked him about how life alone had been.
He had told them about most of the details, left out the plans to destroy the clans, something Ella and her group would obviously not be successful in doing, seeing as how strong and populated the four clans were.
The four apprentices were quite awed by his journey and constantly gaping as he explained how hungry and lonely he felt at times.
“It must have been hard,” Powerpaw commented, “Why did you even leave in the first place?”
Riverpaw looked down at his rabbit and shrugged, “I had personal reasons for wanting to leave the clan,” he claimed, “But it was the wrong choice and I soon realized that, which is why I chose to return.”
“I’m glad you did,” Budpaw claimed giving him and affectionate lick. Riverpaw smiled at him.
They spent the rest of the time sitting and eating in silence. Kindlepaw was eating with some other apprentices Riverpaw couldn’t identify a little further off but he decided not to bother himself about that.
Riverpaw soon got up, tired and ready for sleep.
Setting up his nest he gently laid down and fell into a quick and easy sleep, still not sure on how to feel about his first day back.
“Nightdawn!” Snowstorm called across the clearing, “Could you take Breezepaw and Russetpaw out for training?”
“Sure!” the sleek black she cat replied, her white striped crimpling as she paddled over to the two apprentices.
Breezepaw looked down at her paws, while Russetpaw was jumping on them, “Only a few more moons until we become warriors!” she exclaimed, “If we end up training for four moons, then our ceremony will be two moons from now!”
“Easy,” Breezepaw smiled, still keeping her head down, “You are only half way through. And it only gets harder from here.”
“I know,” she grinned, “But it’s hard not to become excited!”
“I don’t mind if it takes several moons,” Breezepaw admitted with a shrug, “All that matters is that you are by my side when I do become a warrior.”
Russetpaw gave her friend an affectionate lick and Breezepaw purred.
In the meanwhile, Nightdawn had approached them with soft steady steps and was smiling fondly at the young cats.
“What would you like to do today?” she asked, “I spoke with your mentors and they thought you should be free to do whatever you please.”
The two apprentices exchanged familiar glances.
“Can we race?” Breezepaw asked, “Improving our speed. We are Windclan after all. We run all the time!”
“That’s no fair!” Russetpaw protested, “You would win! We have to do something where I at least stand a chance. Fighting?”
“Depends,” Breezepaw shrugged, “On what we are hunting.”
“Why don’t we do all three,” Nightdawn suggested, “That was everyone gets what they want on their day off. We can race to the hunting place.”
“This is over before it has started,” Russetpaw mumbles and Breezepaw grinned at her friend, which earned her a soft cuff.
“Maybe it will be different this time,” Nightdawn shrugs although her eyes suggest differently. Breezepaw felt a small blossom of pride growing inside her. She may not have yet completely adapted to her new clan, but she felt much more at home here then when she did during her first few moons. And she blended into the clan perfectly. She was small and lithe like them so their hunting techniques worked much better than those of Riverclan did on her. She was a fast runner, one of the fastest in Riverclan and loved the open air of the night which she would spend several nights staying up for.
And yet, she couldn’t push back the other feelings inside her. Despite everything, she still wasn’t close to popular in the clan. Her only friends were Russetpaw and Twirlspin, who had been a warrior for slightly under a moon now, leaving them with no time to really interact. She never felt comfortable while around her mentor either, although they were both formerly Riverclan. The only other cats whom she knew she could turn to were Gracecloud, and the two had spent lots of time talking together about her old clan and Trushstar. But she was too stubborn to approach her, still mad at the leader for robbing her of her birthclan, like it was something normal and there was nothing at all strange about it. By now, though, Breezepaw had come to understand why she was so uncomfortable in the clan. It was because most of her life was details she felt she couldn’t share. So when warriors and apprentices were telling each other stories about their friends or their days as kits, they never really wanted to hear her stories, as they never concerned a Windclan cat.
“Are you okay, Breezepaw?” Nightdawn asked, shaking her out of her thoughts.
“Yeah,” she responded, as they began to paddle towards the exit to camp, “I’m fine. Just thinking, that was all.”
They paddled in silence and once they reached the exit to camp, Breezepaw let her paws slide across the soft ground and inhaled the deep air.
“Ready…” Nightdawn gently whispered and Breezepaw pulled into a quick crouch, her legs ready to spring and run to the training ground as fast as they were willing to go. She held her breath while Russetpaw looked on into the distance, her paws gently shifting. She obviously wasn’t even going to try.
Breezepaw sprung and found herself racing with the wind as Nightdawn and Russetpaw both tried to catch up, on either side of her.
Her pelt ruffled under the nice breeze of the approaching green-leaf. All of the clans were waiting for the season to come with unconcealed excitement. The leaf-bare had been a harsh one in Riverclan and from what she had heard it wasn’t much easier in Windclan easier, as several cats, many of them young kits, had died.
Several birds flew off in an organized formation. Breezepaw didn’t care how hard she was panting as she strode through the trees and the grass smacked her bare paws. This was the part she actually liked about Windclan. The part when she felt like she could actually be herself.
Slowly the grass began to fade away and was replaced by the yellowish sight of the sandy training ground; covered in footprints, all of which were fresh and scattered sand. She gently began to slow her speed, allowing Nightdawn and Russetpaw who kept falling further behind a chance to catch up.
She wasn’t the fastest runner in Windclan but she was among them. Although she had never seen Thrushstar running before she had heard that the leader was extremely fast, just like her mother, which was probably where Breezepaw also got her speed from. Skycatcher was also said to be a fast cat, and Breezepaw had even raced the golden tabby she-cat once, and they had declared their race a tie.
Her speed was well-known among the clan though and even admired, something that made her proud but also a little awkward. Running wasn’t something she had put her life into; she was just naturally fast and liked to spend her free time listening to her footsteps matching the sound of her heart.
Russetpaw was panting hard and Nightdawn seemed to be in an attempt to cover how worn out she was after the race.
“Congratulation, Breezepaw,” she purred in a light, airless voice, obviously from her lack of breath, “You won again.”
Russetpaw mumbles something about how it wasn’t fair and Starclan only liked her better, causing Breezepaw to purr and give her a friendly nudge which earned a harsh teasing one back, knowing her into the sand.
“Hey!” she coughed spitting out sand while Russetpaw tried to hide purrs of amusement and Nightdawn gave the ginger she-cat a disapproving look.
“You’re just jealous,” Breezepaw sneezed sand, as she pushed herself back up to her paws, wobbling for a slight moment.
“Am not!” she shrieked back, before huffing, “Besides, you won’t stand a chance against me in now that we will be practicing our battle moves.”
Breezepaw didn’t respond, mostly because she knew Russetpaw was right. Not only was she a great fighter, even without the build for it but Breezepaw was hopelessly week in a battle. The only reason she had survived the battle with Riverclan was because she had spent half the time, or at least, what felt like half the tome debating if she should attack her father or not, and when she did, he was too scared to hurt her.
Nightdawn patiently pulled aside, before signaling with her tail for Russetpaw to head to the other side of the sand pile so that they could practice their battle moves.
“I’ll watch over you and report your improvement to your mentors,” she claimed, “But for now pretend like I am not here.”
The two apprentices nodded sharply, as they pulled into battle crouches and faced each other. Breezepaw tried to suck in the nervous air she got before any kind of battle, real or not and focused on the sound of the wind while Russetpaw seemed ready and comfortable to attack.
There were several moments where nothing moved. Breezepaw didn’t dare make the first move even as Russetpaw’s gaze dared her to. She kept her paws glued to the ground returning the dare.
Slow seconds passed by before Russetpaw leaped. Breezepaw quickly dodged, her feet jumping as she avoided a pair of sheathed claws, and the collided with the sand instead of her leg. She quickly whipped around, still not ready to attack until she had to.
Again they were both silent for a moment before Russetpaw leaped and Breezepaw dashed out of the way. This time however, Russetpaw pursued her friend and chased her across the training ground until she was left with no choice but to whirl around and jump onto Russetpaw with sheathed claws.
Instead of running, like she had, Russetpaw stood still and fell over, when hit, clutching Breezepaw’s pelt and knocking her down onto the sand as well, before rolling over so that she was standing over Breezepaw, her two front paws pinning her down.
Breezepaw met her friends victorious smile, and refusing to lose, she pulled in her hind legs and tried to throw her friend off.
But Russetpaw’s firm was gripped and even through gritted teeth and hindlegs ready to peel off the sand she kept her firm ground, leaving Breezepaw with no choice but to turn over so that she had a weak grasp of her back before kicking sand in her friend’s face, momentarily weakening her grip, and running off.
“Hey!” Russetpaw shouted, “You can’t do that! My eyes sting!”
Breezepaw laughed hard which earned her a disapproving cough from Nightdawn, and she looked down at her paws in a shy sort of embarrassed shame.
Russetpaw took advantage of her looking away and leaped on top of her friend pinning her down again. Breezepaw flailed and struggled but couldn’t shake her friend off, and her grip was too strong to keep her from flipping over.
“I think that’s enough,” Nightdawn called, nodding, “Russetpaw has won. Now, let’s get back to camp so that we can eat before I send you two out to go hunting.”
The apprentices nodded and Russetpaw jumped off Breezepaw helping her friend back up to her feet.
They walked back to camp this time, instead of running while Nightdawn asked them about where they thought their apprenticeship was headed.
“I’m hoping to become a warrior in two moons!” Russetpaw exclaimed with a leap, “If I get lucky that is.”
“You are a good fighter,” She pointed out, “And in Windclan that kind of talent is greatly appreciated. It won’t go without being noted. Breezepaw is fast, something all Windclan cats have but her speed matches that of our fastest runners. If all of Windclan were to line up and display their talents hers would seem like the root of them. And their appearances match hers as well, although that isn’t taken into consideration when making a cat becomes a warrior.”
Breezepaw and Russetpaw both nodded, and hope appeared to be flaring in the ginger she-cats eyes forcing Breezepaw to smile. Russetpaw was so devoted and excited to become a warrior. Breezepaw couldn’t really bring herself to care that much though. There wasn’t much that would change about her life once she became a warrior except, perhaps that she might be the teacher instead of the taught.
She wondered if that was the way she would have thought if she were in Riverclan right now and didn’t need to think to know that she would have had the opposite reaction. If she were in Riverclan she might even be more excited to become a warrior than Russetpaw.
But why? What effect did being in Windclan as opposed to Riverclan have that made her feel so different?
Sighing, she wondered if she would ever know the answer to the question. They gently paddled onwards towards camp speaking about becoming a warrior and Riverclan, and well as the gathering that would take place that night.
“I hope I get selected to go,” Russetpaw exclaimed happily, “I’ve never gone to a gathering before!”
Breezepaw looked down at her paws, knowing that she had gone to a gathering before, even if she wasn’t supposed to be there.
“Well,” Nightdawn purred, “I remember the one time there was a group of Riverclan kits that came to the gathering. They snuck out of camp and one of them had been swimming near the Shadowclan border. He was a brave tom. He came out of the bushes and confessed to it, right when it seemed like the truce would be broken. I even think that was the gathering when Thrushstar…”
She glanced at Breezepaw who shrugged.
“I was there too.”
“Really?” Russetpaw gaped before pausing, “Oh yeah. I remember we talked about that once when we were kits. I wish I had done something like that.”
“No you don’t,” Nightdawn claimed, shooting her a warning glance, “Unless you want to wait another several more moons so that you can become a warrior.”
Russetpaw furiously looked down at her paws, while Breezepaw hid a muffled purr of amusement.
“I regret going,” she admitted, “If it makes any difference.”
Russetpaw sighed, “I just want to go to the gathering today,” she claimed, “And see all the other clans. It’s my third chance, as an apprentice, to go, and I don’t want to be denied the opportunity again.”
“If not this moon, next moon,” Breezepaw claimed, “Don’t worry about it, you have to go eventually. The gathering isn’t that cool anyways. You just talk with the other cats and listen to what the leaders have to say. Sometimes the tensions rise but it’s usually rather simple.”
Nightdawn nodded, “It’s not some sort of great ceremony. Just a… gathering. For the clans to catch up with each other. It is a valuable experience though, to meet and see all of the different clans.”
“I can’t wait until I get chosen!” Russetpaw jumped and Breezepaw hid a muffled purr.
She wasn’t sure if she wanted to go or not. She would get to see Riverclan again, and catch up on them, maybe meet her father or mother and get to properly experience a gathering. But she might have to face some loyalty issues if she did.
Her heart pounded loudly as the paddled across the grass and reached camp, where Nightdawn dismissed them to eat.
They quietly paddled along, grabbing a large rabbit each, before heading to the apprentice den where they ate in silence until Twirlspin walked up to them.
“Hey,” he smiled as he sat down.
The two she cats dipped their head in greeting.
“Thrushstar has decided who to take to the gathering!” he exclaimed, “She only wanted to take one apprentice, seeing as it would be silly to take all of them so she decided to take…”
Russetpaw was obviously excited and Breezepaw felt a little guilty about not being able to share the enthusiasm. Russetpaw would be chosen anyways. She wanted it so much more than Breezepaw.
Russetpaw’s face turned down, all hope vanishing and Breezepaw felt even more guilty, “Are you sure?” she asked Twirlspin.
“No need to feel guilty,” she gave her a slight smile, “Russetpaw will go next time, I am sure. And if not the next.”
“And if not the next,” Russetpaw dully added.
Twirlspin shrugged, before getting up and gently paddling out of the den, his dark brown tail swaying gently.
Once he was out of earshot Breezepaw turned to Russetpaw.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured, “I wish we could switch places but I don’t think that Thrushstar would allow it.”
“Why are you apologizing to me?” she asked her, dully, “It’s not even your fault. It’s okay, Breezepaw. You should enjoy it,” her face brightened a little, “As you said I have to go eventually.”
“Yeah,” Breezepaw nodded, “If you want I can speak to-”
“No,” Russetpaw cut her off, “No proper warrior would get their friend to ask to be taken to the gathering. I guess I will just have to wait until I am noticed. You have it easy. Since you switched clans everyone knows you. Especially Thrushstar.”
Despite how upset Russetpaw had seemed once they left camp to head for the gathering place, Breezepaw couldn’t help being so excited. She jumped from paw to paw as a group of warriors, a medicine cat and one apprentice headed towards the gathering place.
She was a little worried about running into any Riverclan cats, as they crossed their territory to reach the gathering place. However, Riverclan must have already left because they didn’t run into any of her old clanmates.
It wasn’t long before they reached the log. Remembering the time she had dashed across it, when they had snuck to the gathering brought back a flurry of bad memories. She was in the back of her clan as they all jumped onto the log so confidently and began to paddle across. Pushing her thoughts behind, Breezepaw sucked in a deep breath and placed her two front paws on the log before hauling her whole body up.
It seemed to sway for a moment before she put one gentle step in front of the other, and slowly moved. She was a little far behind her clan but it didn’t matter, since they appeared to be the last ones anyways.
Still shoving her memories back she took several more small steps. She smiled, realizing she had gotten control over her thoughts and began to speed up.
“We would like to bring Breezepaw back home!”
Her paw slid and she felt her claws clinging to the log, as she tried to aul herself upwards. Moments later, her grip loosened and she felt herself standing over open air with nothing to hold her up.
Closing her eyes and preparing for the cold waters, she felt her body slowly drop before it was caught by something, and she felt her scruff aching as it was pulled the opposite direction of her body.
“I caught you.”
The voice was familiar. It was Riverclan and the one of…
“Quiet,” Riverpaw hissed, “I’m trying to save your pelt from freezing off,” she gently felt herself being hauled back onto the rock, where her paws touched the ground gently.
“Hey,” she smiled
“Hi, Breezepaw,” he replied as they stood on the log, for several moments, the light brightening their pelts, “How has Windclan been?”
“It’s okay,” she gently replied, “I miss my friends and family but they are more like me…” she trailed off, “I really don’t know how to feel.”
“Simple,” he gave her a soft lick, “Just feel like yourself.”
“Huh?” she gave him a curious glance, “What do you mean?”
He sighed, “I don’t think I should be telling you this, but I ran away from Riverclan. After I lost you I began to lose everything else. A friend who viewed me as more than one when I couldn’t return to feeling, someone who I really liked, who seemed to care more about impressing her friend than me, my father died, and we all know that my mother never cared the slightest bit about me. So I just left.”
Breezepaw felt herself getting numb. Riverpaw leaving Riverclan? She just couldn’t see it happening.
“But I returned. I’m not Riverpaw for nothing. I belong in my clan. The clan of the river. And although people may not have appreciated me for it, or made it more difficult at the time, the truth was that life didn’t feel right away from my clan.”
“I know how you feel,” she sighed, “It feels different now-”
“You are a Windclan cat,” he assured her, “Not because you are fast, or because your mother was born there. Not because you fit in with the rest of them, with your pale coat and small body. It’s because if you left, you wouldn’t feel at home.”
“How do you know that?” she asked him.
“I’ve learned to see past the exterior,” he replied, “You look more in place now then you did before. You used to have a slightly awkward feel to you.”
“Oh,” she felt a little disappointed that he had referred to her as ‘awkward’.
“And you blend more this way,” he claimed, “I like you better when you don’t actually pretend to belong…”
She blushed, “Thanks,” she murmured, “Although I might not exactly get what you are trying to say…”
“You shouldn’t,” he claimed giving her a coy smile, “It’s something only I would get. You’d explain it in a different way that only you would get.”
“Oh<’ she purred, “Well, thanks for saving me.”
“Course,” he nodded and she felt a little disappointed that he had nothing else to say but shoved feeling away into the corner of her heart.
Riverpaw was right; she belonged in Windclan and should be happy there.
So she would do just that.
“What’s wrong, Thunderpaw?” Ratpaw asked him for what felt like the millionth time in barely over a moon, “You’ve been so silent lately…”
“Maybe because my clan accused me of killing their medicine cat,” he replied with an eye roll, “And now that Ruffleshine is the full medicine cat he has so much power over me when he hates me so much.”
“You were moody before Rufflepaw became Ruffleshine and after Bronzestripe was killed by you,” he pointed out.
“Not that you’d care,” Thunderpaw replied, grumbling before marching off, his pawsteps loud and defiant, although he wasn’t really mad at all. He was just trying to avoid answering the question that had been brought up by Ratpaw.
The answer was that he knew his true parents.
He had hoped, night after night that Starclan may come to his dreams one night and tell him what exactly had happened, and why they had made it happen. What Hollowstar saw in Bronzestripe. Why Bronzestripe hadn’t been smart enough to keep her distance from him, when things could have been so obvious.
But they never spoke to him once.
And so he would keep waiting. Every morning he would wake up disappointed, and his day would just get worse as the clan continued to give his the suspicious glances he always received, still refusing to cease how suspicious they were.
He sighed as he stood outside of his den. Dragonpaw walked pass him, brushing by without bothering to smile or flick his tail causing Thunderpaw to sigh again. If not for Rufflepaw and Dragonpaw’s loyalty to him, causing them to constantly accuse him before the whole clan, the clan might trust him by now.
He let out another loud sigh.
“Hey, Thunderpaw!” Fiercethorn called from the fresh-kill pile where was smiling at his, as he flicked him tail, indicating for them to share a piece of prey.
Shrugging, Thunderpaw picked himself up and followed himself over to the light ginger tom, and picked out a mouse before paddling over to the edge of the clearing and sitting down next to him before digging into his mouse.
“How is you apprenticeship going?” he asked, “When does it look like you are going to become a warrior?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged, “Sparklelight says that I am improving a lot but I can’t really be sure how much longer until I am accepted into the clan…” he paused, “Especially after the whole incident with Bronzestripe.”
“Hollowstar will decide when to make you a warrior, not the clan,” he pointed out, “And Sparklelight believes your story.”
“I guess,” Thunderpaw sighed, “I can’t shake off the dark feeling that I will be held back because of that mistake though,” he admitted with a shrug.
“You won’t,” he claimed, “I know what kind of stuff holds you back and make you regret. What you had done was an accident. If Bronzestripe were here she would forgive you and wouldn’t hold a grudge, that’s’ what counts.”
He let out a low sigh and Thunderpaw knew he was thinking about Moonlight. They both constantly thought about her.
“Is she okay?” he asked, “How often do you see her?”
“She’s fine,” he responded with a shrug, “But she avoids me and I think it is safe to assume she avoids you to,” he scanned the young apprentice who nodded honestly, wishing the answer was different.
“I miss her,” Thunderpaw murmured sadly, “And now I can’t even have her as just a friend. I wish I had kept my mouth shut.”
“Not your fault,” Fiercethorn claimed, “I think it’s my fault. But now we will both just have to wait until her heart and mind can come to terms and she manages to pick out of the two of us… I sometimes doubt if it will ever happen.”
“I think it will,” Thunderpaw claimed.
They were silent for a few moments as they continued to eat their mice gently chewing the meat before Thunderpaw finally got up.
“I have to go do some training,” he claimed, “I guess I will be back later and we can speak some more.”
“Sure,” he grinned at Thunderpaw his eyes glittering, “I’ll see you later.”
A Thunderpaw left his side he couldn’t help smiling. Having Fiercethorn as a friend was one of the best things Starclan ever gave him.
Fraud parents weren’t on the list.
He shook his head and forced himself to continue paddled out of camp, holding his head high but not really looking where he was going.
“Hey!” A sweet voice protested as he felt himself hitting another cat and looked over to see the pretty pelt of Moonlight.
He held his breath.
“Oh, hey Thunderpaw,” she smiled sweetly at his and he felt himself melting all over for the she-cat that had captured him on his first day of apprenticeship.
“Are you okay?” she asked him, “It’s been a long time since we have caught up on each other.”
Thunderpaw wasn’t sure how to reply, or explain how much he needed her at the moment so he just shrugged, “I am fine. You?”
“Good…” she trailed off, “Still a little confused but I guess life has been treating me well. I’m well fed, warm and have two great toms who both like me,” she smiled, “And who I both like back.”
Thunderpaw felt his pelt burning as he played with his paws. He hadn’t been fully aware of the fact that Moonlight returned his feelings until just then. He was opening his mouth to say something, though he wasn’t sure what, when he heard his mentor, Sparklelight calling him from the other side of camp.
“I guess I’ll…” he trailed off, “See you later then,” he smiled before running off over to Sparklelight who nodded when he reached her.
“I want to give you an assessment,” she claimed, “To test your warrior skills. I must say, Thundepaw, though you have struggled, after a long talk with Hollowstar we agreed that if you show yourself to be exceptional in the hunting assessment and the battling assessment today we can make you a warrior new sunrise alongside Ratpaw and Dragonpaw.”
“Really?” he breathed, hardly bale to believe it, “We can really do that? But I’m not even…” he trailed off, “What have I done?”
“You are determined, dedicated and let’s admit it, Thunderpaw. You fight like a lion, even as an apprentice. You are easily one of the strongest among the apprentices and probably one of the stronger among the clan. Your hunting isn’t half-bad and you will have time to improve it once you become a warrior.”
“I still can’t believe it,” he murmured, “Dragonpaw became apprentices a moon before me and Ratpaw two.”
“Well you are obviously one moon more talented than Dragonpaw and two moons more talented than Ratpaw.”
Thunderpaw stifled a purr, and resisted to urge to claim that anyone would be several moons more talented than Ratpaw who couldn’t do anything.
“I want to start with your hunting,” she claimed, “So we are heading to one of the richest areas of prey. There I will wait until the sunhigh before we see how you have done and decide if we should move onto your fighting.
Thunderpaw resisted the urge to fidget.
She nodded, “I’ll let you off on your own and be following you, though you won’t see me. You know how the assessments go,” she nodded and indicated for Thunderpaw to pass and begin his hunt.
Thunderpaw took in a deep breath, forced himself to remain calm and took off into the trees, his head pounding as loudly as his paws.
I can’t fail this time.
If I fail everything I worked so hard for will be further delayed and this opportunity will be completely lost.
He gently slowed down letting his pawsteps cease their speed as he gently strolled across the grass, his nose alert for any prey, which he soon spotted.
A small mouse had its nose buried into some leaves, as its tail waved softly. Mouth watering, Thunderpaw gently approached it, his mouth watering. And not just for something to fill his stomach.
Remembering everything he learned from Sparklelight about hunting he pulled into a crouch, his legs tucked behind his legs, his scent downwind.
He waited for several long moments, letting the wind push his ears back. He could almost feel Sparklelight’s eyes on him although he couldn’t see her.
Finally, after squeezing his eyes shut he released his legs and leaped at the mouse his teeth bared. It gently pulled its head up, unaware of anything until it saw Thunderpaw’s large body and let out a squeak.
It was too late though. Thunderpaw soon had it firmly clutches in his jaws and snapped the life out of it in a quick, swift movement.
He heard the bushed rattle but didn’t acknowledge the presence of Sparklelight, knowing she wouldn’t want her to.
He buried the mouse, before turning around and turning around, trying to find another piece of prey to catch.
He was still at risk of losing an early chance at becoming warrior.
Another clean kill.
Thunderpaw buried it, rather pleased. He had only missed three and had caught five pieces of prey. It was a record for him, although Sparklelight seemed to be making the assessment continue longer than planned.
A loud rustle erupted from the bushes leaving Thunderpaw is she was even trying to conceal herself anymore, as she should be.
Shrugging, he turned back to face the rabbit a little far off, but with a little stalking, could be right before his paws.
“Hello Thunderpaw!” A voice purred.
He jumped as he whirled around to face a familiar pelt which had haunted his dreams but never spoke to them.
Not that he would ever seek it out.
“Bronzestripe…” he stammered.
“How is my son doing?” she purred.
“You are not my son!” he spat, “And you should be dead,” he knew it sounded rude but he was surprised and not sure what to say or do.
“Just because I am dead that doesn’t mean I can’t visit the thing I pride the most from my time in Thunderclan,” she whispered, “I am so proud of you.”
“You should have never given birth to me,” Thunderpaw couldn’t help snarling, “It was against the warrior code.”
“Sometimes we have to listen to our hearts, and what we know to be right as opposed to a guideline we must follow.”
“You shouldn’t have been so near me,” he added, “Now the whole clan thinks I am guilty of killing you.”
She sighed, “Rufflepaw knows of your heritage, Thunderpaw. I told him during a dream in an attempt to make him believe that you didn’t kill me on purpose. But now he thinks you killed me because you were mad I broke the warrior code just to give birth to you.”
“What are you here to tell me?” Thunderpaw asked, trying not to be fazed by the information he has just received which was a little bit shocking to him.
“I’m here to tell you that your destiny is greater than you may have ever imagined,” she claimed, “And you will soon have to accept that.”
“Who does Moonlight pick?” Thunderpaw asked, “If you know that much about me, you should know that too.”
“If I told your future to you, it wouldn’t be your future anymore,” she claimed, “You will soon learn yourself.”
“It’s fine,” she smiled, “Starclan has much planned for you and you will be tested beyond what you may have imagined.”
“I don’t want a great destiny though,” I claim, “I just want to live the life of a Thunderclan cat.”
“You used to dream of being clan leader,” she whispered gently.
“That was before,” Thunderpaw replied, “All kits do. And as you start to become a warrior you begin to care less about that.”
“But no one ever gets what they want,” Bronzestripe gently pointed out, “Otherwise their life wouldn’t be so challenging. And a life without challenges is a pointless one. It’s why Moonlight must chose between two great choices and feel miserable in the process. Why Rufflepaw has to face betrayal and hate his best friend, something he anguishes over everyday. It’s why I had to become a medicine cat and give you up.”
“I still don’t get it,” Thunderpaw whispered, “How could I have come from Cherryheart’s stomach if I am your son?”
“Starclan can do great things,” Bronzestripe murmured, “But one thing they can’t change is fate. And so you must live with yours.”
And she began to fade. Thunderpaw wanted to ask her more questions, so that he could force her to stay but before he could come up with anything proper she had disappeared and faded back away.
“You did great, Thunderpaw!” he turned around to see his mentor erupting from the bushes behind him.
Did she hear the conversation? He worried, but her face seemed soft and showed no signs of surprise.
“So did I pass?” he asked, unable to conceal his excitement.
She paused for a moment and a curious look passed her face followed with one that meant she was making a decision.
“You did a great job, Thunderpaw. You caught lots of prey, all perfectly doing so and your misses weren’t exactly your fault but I am not sure if you are ready to become a warrior.”
Thunderpaw felt the fire in his heart being put out and he nodded trying not to seem too disappointed when Sparklelight purred.
“I was joking,” she claimed shaking her head at the thought that he was so willing to believe him, “You did perfectly. I don’t even need to assess your hunting.”
“You are going to join our ranks,” Sparklelight purred, “Well… not mine. Not quite yet. Although I do see a clan leader in you, Thunderpaw. You have all the traits.”
Thunderpaw purred at the fact that she soon would be unable to refer to him as Thunderpaw but his warrior name really soon.
“Let’s return to camp,” she claimed, “You can share the news with your fellow apprentices. Maybe make them a bit jealous.”
Thunderpaw smiled as he followed Sparklelight back to camp, although he knew he wouldn’t be breaking the news to apprentices, but instead to one of his few friends, Fiercethorn. Ratpaw would be infuriated and it would be best for him not to know until the ceremony.
As if reading his thought Sparklelight added, “I have heard that both Dragonpaw and Ratpaw have passed their assessments.”
“Cool!” Thunderpaw smiled, jumping a little from paw to paw. The clan could hate him all they wanted, but he was about to become an official member.
It seemed to take hours before the reached camp. Thunderpaw was quick to find Fiercethorn speaking to one of his friends.
“Hey, Thunderpaw!” he smiled at the apprentice, “How was your training?”
Thunderpaw decided against brining up Moonlight, “I’m going to become a warrior!” he exclaimed, “Sparklelight assessed me and she said I was ready!”
“Really?” his eyes brightened a bit, “That’s great!”
Thunderpaw purred, “Alongside Dragonpaw and Ratpaw.”
“Ratpaw sure did take his time,” Fiercethorn purred, “But then, Ratpaw always takes his time. Eating, hunting, fighting and sleeping.”
Thunderpaw stifled a purr and Fiercethorn sighed, “I have to go on a patrol now,” he explained to Thunderpaw giving him an apologetic glance, “I’ll be there to cheer for you during your ceremony.”
“I, Hollowstar, leader of Thunderclan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on these apprentices. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend them to you as a warrior in their turn.”
“Ratpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect it, even at the cost of your life?”
“I do,” the brown tom claimed proudly.
“Then by the powers of Starclan, I give you your warrior name. Ratpaw, from now on you will be known as Ratleap. StarClan honors your enthusiasm and enterprise and we welcome you as a full warrior of Thunderclan.”
“Dragonpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect it, even at the cost of your life?”
There was no hesitation in his eyes as he replied “I do.”
“Then by the powers of Starclan, I give you your warrior name. Ratpaw, from now on you will be known as Dragonheart. StarClan honors your loyalty and patience and we welcome you as a full warrior of Thunderclan.”
“Thunderpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect it, even at the cost of your life?”
All was silent, until he replied, meaning every word he whispered, “I do.” And he knew that he would.
“Then by the powers of Starclan, I give you your warrior name. Ratpaw, from now on you will be known as Thunderclaw. StarClan honors your strength and loyalty and we welcome you as a full warrior of Thunderclan.”
There was silence for a moment before the whole clan began to loudly chant, “Ratleap! Dragonheart! Thunderclaw! Ratleap! Dragonheart! Thunderclaw! Ratleap! Dragonheart! Thunderclaw!”
It sounded perfect, almost exactly how he had dreamed of it. The support of his clanmates was all it took to smile and he got a sharp memory from his days of kitship, and the feeling that he belonged at the top of the clan. That he was destined to be there.
The moon brought a bright light to Thunderclaw’s pelt as he stood under the moonlight, the breeze pushing back his ears.
“Hey, Thunderpaw,” he turned around to see that the voice was that of Ruffleshine. He flicked his tail, indicating that he heard.
Ruffleshine paddled up to him and gently sat down, “I’m sorry he whispered.”
Thunderpaw felt hope blossoming in her heart like a flower and gave his former friend a curious look.
“For accusing you,” he explained, “I was in pain. After I lost… his voice edges with hurt and Thunderpaw nodded, understanding, Bronzestripe was all I had to replace her; as she gave me a life as medicine cat before she died and I was in pain… I needed someone to blame and,” he sighed.
Thunderpaw nodded slowly.
“But seeing you there as the clan chanted. Seeing you vow to loyalty to Thunderclan, I knew that… you were the greatest among us. And that one day, Thunderpaw, you would become Thunderstar. You would rise to meet the challenge and I would watch with pride as you did so, because I would be your friend at the moment. If you will let me.”
There was no need for words. Thunderpaw’s delighted eyes said it all as he gave his friend a fierce lick.
“I honor your determination,” Ruffleshine whispered.
Thunderpaw nodded as he glanced up at the moon again. It seemed just like his fate. So sharp but so far. So clear but so mysterious.
Not that it mattered anyways.
Just like the moon, he would rise and shine when he was called upon to do so, and just like the moon he would set back down and hide when it was his time.
He couldn’t control where he went or what he did with his life.
But he could control the way he let his path seem. He could bring the greatest light upon it that the forest had ever seen.
He was ready for anything his destiny had to throw at him
For he was Thuderclaw of Thunderclan.
And his loyalty, his desire to succeed and do what he was mean to do, had no bounds, letting him reach even beyond the moon.
And to the shining stars.
“Very good, Shadowpaw,” Goldenwing praised with a grin, and Shadowpaw felt her paws getting warmer, “Let’s try that move again.”
Over a moon had passed since they had their training session with unsheathed claws and almost two since she had quit her training in the Dark Forest.
But no time had passed since her nightmares ended.
And that was because they were still coming at a rapid speed, refusing to leave her dreams peaceful. Every morning she would wake up short of breath trying to keep herself from realizing the inevitable truth.
She had almost dies.
And it had certainly not been bluff.
One moment more in the dark forest and…
She shook her head, forcing herself to focus on the training session Goldenwing was giving her, and give it her full attention.
It hadn’t happened.
And that was what mattered.
“So, when your enemy attacks you…” Goldenwing’s voice seemed to be droning off and Shadowpaw failed to pay attention yet again, her fears capturing her yet again, as she clung dearly to the fact that she was still alive.
“Shadowpaw!” Goldenwing snapped and she looked up, “What was I just saying.”
“How to defend yourself,” she chirped, not wanting to sound clever but not knowing what else to say.
He rolled his eyes, “Please pay attention, Shadowpaw.”
Getting no response from the she-cat who was lost in her memories yet again he sighed, “If you know it so well then why don’t we practice a little bit?”
“Sure,” she forced a smile, although she knew she would be scolded at the end of it.
“Let’s see how well you have actually been listening.”
She nodded briskly and pulled herself into a defensive stance, waiting for a few moments before Goldenwing flung himself on top of her and she went rolling over.
Not sure exactly what to do, she followed her instincts and rolled over so that he was exposed to her back, before quickly dashing out of his grip, while it was a little weakened and jumping onto his back.
He let out a load roar and Shadowpaw let go, ready to get lectured.
“That was great!” Goldenwing praised and Shadowpaw felt surprise spreading through her body, “I’ve never seen that move before and it works perfectly.”
Dark forest move, she thought grimly, you should be glad you haven’t seen it.
But she didn’t say anything and Goldenwing finally sighed.
“Shadowpaw we really need to talk about you and what you should be doing… I think I’ve discovered something grand.”
Oh no! her heart skipped a beat, as she closed her eyes waiting for him to announce her betrayal to the clan by training in the Dark Forest and learning their brutal moves as well as trusting them.
“I don’t think…” he paused for a moment, “I think you have passed the skill level of an apprentice. You never fail to amaze me, always coming up with your own moves-”
Dark Forest moves she thought darkly
“And, although you may not be emotionally mature enough to become a warrior I see no point in keeping you as an apprentice.”
And suddenly, just like that, all worries about the Dark Forest disappeared.
“Really?” she breathed, “Is Sharkstar okay with that?”
Sharkstar would be very careful making such a decision, especially when he was so determined to treat his daughter like the rest of the clan cats.
“I still have to ask,” Goldenwing admitted, “But I will do my best to persuade him.”
“Awesome!” Shadowpaw grinned feeling proud, accomplished and like one of the greatest apprentice Shadowclan had ever had, because she had only required three moons of training to become a warrior, as opposed to the usual four to six moons that it took. The apprentices would all be jealous and warriors impressed.
And suddenly, with a dark thought, it all faded.
She had learned those moves Goldenwing had praised her for at the Dark Forest. She had managed to keep ahead of her training even while he was treating her like a kit for the first moon at the Dark Forest.
And her clan would be horribly disappointed if the ever found out.
“Is something wrong?” Goldenwing asked.
“I uh…” for a moment Shadowpaw debated telling him. He was her mentor and he had been the one to take her training with sheathed claws.
But then she remembered everything he had ever done for the clan. All the battle he had fought the conversations he had struck, his patrols and all of his catches. She shook her head. He wouldn’t understand at all. He would be infuriated and might even kick her out of the clan. She would have to keep it a secret.
“I was worried my friends might get a little jealous,” she lied with a slight shrug, her lie heavier on her shoulders than anything else.
He smiled, “Don’t worry. A good friend would congratulate you. If they don’t and all they can think about is themselves, I guess they aren’t really your friend.”
“You must be right,” she put on her best fake smile and asked, “Are we going to go back to camp now so that you can ask?”
He nodded, “I don’t see any point in putting it off. I’m wondering if he will accept, since it is very early for an apprentice, but we will have to test out luck. I’m definitely sure you are ready to face the challenges of a warrior.”
Another burst of pride followed by a drop in her moral as she remember who she should really be thanking for this promotion.
“Are you sure you are okay?” he asked her and Shadowpaw debated telling him yet again.
She sighed, “No.”
“Why not?” he gave her an assuring smile, and she shrugged.
“How can I be okay? I just got told I would become an apprentice a lot earlier than most other do. It hardly feels real.”
“I guess I can understand,” he smiled, “I felt that way when I first became a warrior.”
Shadowpaw was reminded again of how young the warrior actually was. He had been made a warrior just a moon before she had become an apprentice. They were so close in age they could even become mates.
Not that they would, of course.
Goldenwing was already mates with Grasspelt and Shadowpaw could never take a mate. It would ruin her dream of becoming deputy and from there, clan leader.
Some apprentices had chosen to skip over that small dream, and just let it fly. In fact, few remaining apprentices dreamed to be leader.
But Shadowpaw couldn’t size the ambition in her blood. The urge to do great and rise above all other was what had ruled most of her life ever since she was a kit.
As they neared the entrance to camp, she felt her stomach let out a low growl and quickly glanced at Goldenwing who nodded.
“You can grab something to eat,” he claimed, “We will go out hunting after that anyways, if our talk doesn’t take too long.”
Shadowpaw nodded her heart flipping inside her chest several times, both from guilt, excitement and sheer joy, which she couldn’t completely drown out even beside how bad she felt about training so much in the Dark Forest.
When she entered camp she promptly walked up to the fresh-kill pile and grabbed a frog, without needing to consider. The green animal was still her favorite among all choices of food to eat.
As she paddled towards the apprentice den she passed by the nursery where Buzzheart was working on teaching the apprentices defensive moves, for the threat that had yet to come to the forest. Most of Shadowclan doubted it would ever appear.
Shadowpaw wasn’t really sure what exactly to think of the whole matter.
She headed inside the apprentice den which was quite empty like always. There was only Redpaw quietly sitting in the corner.
In the past moon, over three apprentices had become warriors including her best friend, Itchpaw.
And soon she would be able to join them.
Guilty gnawed at her stomach again.
“Hey, Shadowpaw!” Redpaw smiled, pulling her head out of her mouse, “How was our training session with Goldenwing?”
She shrugged, “Just fine,” she lied sitting down next to her friend, deciding not to spoil the surprise. She would keep it a secret until the ceremony.
“Do you know who is going to the gathering?” she asked her and Shadowpaw shrugged. At the moment, she couldn’t care less.
“I really hope I go!” Redpaw exclaimed.
“You already went,” Shadowpaw claimed, pointedly and the ginger apprentice shrugged.
“The more the better. It was so much fun and so crowded. I want to see if the cats I met last time were actually there!”
“You shouldn’t have friends outside of Shadowclan,” Shadowpaw claimed, “Your only loyalty must be here.”
“I know that,” Redpaw replied airily, “Stop treating me like a kit.”
If only you knew…
But Shadowpaw kept her mouth shut anyways and sighed as she leaned down to take a large bite of her frog.
The sun was setting and Shadowpaw had still caught no sight of Goldenwing. She had even casually walked by Sharkstar’s den to notice he wasn’t there. When she asked the other warriors where he was they claimed he was out on a walk.
What’s taking them so long? She thought desperately. All she wanted to do was curl up and try to sleep, so that her brain wouldn’t be clogged with thoughts.
“Shadowpaw?” Redpaw was gently prodding her, “Sharkstar and Goldenwing are outside. They want to talk to you.”
Shadowpaw blinked her eyes awake, furious with herself for falling asleep. Now her body wouldn’t stop tingling from the memories all far too vivid.
Starclan please forgive me already and stop the guilt and the nightmares. I’d rather be held back several moons.
She paddled outside of camp, her heart still beating loudly from the vivid memories of Mapleshade and Thistleclaw, their insults and threats. The way they had almost taken her life from her and left her to rot in their dark lands.
She suppressed a shiver.
“Hello Shadowpaw,” Sharkstar smiled at her daughter, “How are you today?”
“I’m fine,” she responded with a polite dip of her head.
“Great,” he purred, “Because after a long talk with your mentor we decided to make you a warrior tonight alongside another secret ceremony.”
He winked at her.
Normally Shadowpaw would have been so curious as to what the secret was but now she was too busy replaying the first part in her head.
We decided to make you a warrior tonight
We decided to make you a warrior tonight
We decided to make you a warrior tonight
She was going to become a warrior!
And as always, it was followed with the usual drop in her stomach signaling her guilt and fear kicking in.
Did she really deserve to become a warrior?
She shook the thought away and forced on a smile. The two cats had spent such a long time debating whether or not she should become a warrior at such a young age, and only three moons into training.
“Really?” was all she could manage.
Sharkstar smiled, “Don’t let us regret this!”
“I won’t,” she promised.
But she already was.
Goldenwing grinned at her, “Why don’t you go get some rest,” he offered, “I will wake you up later, before the ceremony.”
For some reason whenever she went looking for rest she got the exact opposite thing. Restlessness. And far too much of it.
But she smiled at him and began to paddle into her den anyways, for more nightmares and visions of the Dark Forest.
Goldenwing waved his tail before turning around and paddling away, alongside Sharkstar, leaving Shadowpaw to take in deep breaths.
“You could just end this now you know.”
She whirled around to find the faint outline of a dark she-cat, and looking down she realized they looked almost identical.
“Who are you?”
“I am that which came before you,” she claimed, “And you are one of the many to come after me.”
Shadowpaw ignored her mysterious tone, “What do you mean? How can I end the nightmares and torture?”
She smiled sweetly, “Just go straight to them. The Dark Forest has been hunting you down for nights now but you just keep running. You have to face them eventually better get it over with now.”
“But…” she paused, “What if they kill me?”
“You can’t hide forever,” she plainly responded before turning around and blending back into the faint air.
Her heart beating like lightning, she nodded before turning around and heading back towards her den, which was now empty.
Several dens seemed like millions as she gently paddled up to her own and placed her paws on it for a moment before lowering her body.
She closed her eyes and when she opened it moments later she wasn’t in her den, but instead the forest that had haunted her nightmares.
“Shadowpaw, at last,” Mapleshade grinned as she suddenly stepped from behind a tree. Her pelt was looking particularly nasty and soon Thistleclaw was beside her.
“Here for a rematch?” he sneered.
Shadowpaw forced herself to keep her cool, “I could ask you that,” she replied, “What am I doing here?”
“Revenge,” Mapleshade snarled, “We will teach you better than to dismiss us like that next time.”
Shadowpaw quivered and dug her claws into the ground.
The two warriors exchanged curious glances at her sudden nerve but the strange cat’s words were zipping through her head and she couldn’t shake them off.
“You will regret your arrogance and confidence towards us,” Thistleclaw warned and Shadowpaw barred her teeth.
“Let’s see you make me.”
Thistleclaw leaped at her, and she nimbly dodged his blow, before bringing her claws across his muzzle. Mapleshade was soon bowling her over, but she quickly tucked in her legs and knocked her off before she could secure a grip.
“You know you can’t win against the two of us,” Thistleclaw grinned, “You never should have dared to show up here.”
Shadowpaw realized with dismay that they were right. Not even the strongest warrior in the clans could take on two skilled Dark Forest ones.
What was she hoping for?
“I wouldn’t be too sure,” I loud voice boomed from behind her.
Shadowpaw whirled around to find a black she-cat and realized it was the same one that had spoken to her, just without the same faint outline.
“You live here?” she gaped, hardly able to believe it.
“No,” she replied and Shadowpaw felt relief zapping through her body, “I just came from Starclan to help you out.”
“What’s your name?”
She purred, “When will you learn, kit, that it doesn’t matter at all.”
Both of the Dark Forest cats seemed terrifies as they took swift steps back, their backs rubbing against a tree.
“Don’t seem so tough now, do you?” the black cat smirked.
Both warriors appeared to be completely terrified and Shadowpaw still failed to understand why.
“Fine,” Thistleclaw finally sighed, “We will leave Shadowpaw alone.”
Mapleshade nodded nervously.
Just like that? Shadowpaw wondered, confused.
“Good,” the black cat smiled before turning back to Shadowpaw, “You should wake up now. Don’t want to miss your ceremony.”
“Of course,” Shadowpaw smiled and dipped her head, “Thanks for helping me when I did nothing for you.”
“You never had to,” she gently replied, “I will guide you much now. You have been chosen, Shadowpaw and you must fulfill your destiny. Until then.”
And she gently faded back into the mist as Shadowpaw faded away from the world of darkness which she knew she would never return to as long as she had the choice.
She opened her eyes to find herself lying in her den and gently pulled her head off her paws as she heard Sharkstar call the den.
Another zap passed through her stomach and this time the drop of guilt didn’t follow. Because she had done it. She had shaken off her worst fears, guilt and everything else that came with it. She was finally free.
And when Shadowpaw, soon to become Shadowpelt went to sleep later that night, she would not dream of the shadowy forest one bit.
Instead she would dream of a joyful and starry land, filled with cats who knew all about her great destiny and the cat she could become.
“Hey, Kindlespark,” Riverpaw smiled at the pretty tabby gray she-cat waving his tail gently at her.
She purred, “Hi, Riverpaw.”
It had been several sunrises since Kindlepaw had become Kindlespark but she was still really excited about the news.
“Where are you going?” he asked her, indicating with his head towards the exit to camp, “Want to come hunting with me?”
“I uh…” she stammered for a few moments before sighing, “I already promised Fizzyclaw that I would. Sorry, Riverpaw! Maybe tomorrow…”
Riverpaw shrugged, although he knew it really wasn’t going to happen. Fizzyclaw and Kindlespark were even closer now than they had been as apprentices, which never really worked well for Riverpaw when he tried to catch time alone with her.
“Hey, Riverpaw,” Fizzyclaw was grinning at him, as she paddled up to Kindlespark. Riverpaw waved his tail in a friendly manner.
“Hi,” he smiled.
Being a warrior must have helped Fizzyclaw mature a lot because she was starting to act kinder towards the other apprentices now.
Riverpaw gently turned around and walked over to where Mossstar was assigning patrols. Ashwood was standing right beside him and they seemed to be speaking urgently about a something.
Deciding not to eavesdrop, Riverpaw lurked behind the two cats as the normal, busy clanlife revolved around him, cats rushing to their duties while apprentices followed their mentors out of camp for training.
“Hello, Riverpaw,” A voice behind his mused and he whirled around to see Thrushpaw, smiling kindly, “I’m supposed to go training with you today.”
“Great!” he purred, still waiting for Mossstar to pull away from Ashwood but the two were still in deep conversation and unable to help himself anymore, Riverpaw gently paddled next to them.
“I’m just not sure that it would be fair,” Ashwood was shrugging, “To the other apprentices. But if you really think he is ready.”
“I have never seen such an astounding swimmer at such a young age before,” Mossstar replied, “He is a good fighter and a great hunter. A successful apprentice and he is very devoted to the clan, even if he left before.”
Riverpaw shot Thrushpaw, who was still a little far off a glance.
Were they talking about him?
But if Thrushpaw knew, he gave away no hints as he played with his paws, yawning slightly, as the two important figures continued to speak.
“I’m just giving my advice,” Ashwood claimed, “You asked so I thought I should tell you what I think. Other mentors or apprentices may get a little jealous, and, though I am not denying his talent, I think you may want to question his maturity.”
“He is mature,” Mossstar nodded, “I am sure that he wouldn’t dare to rub it into the other apprentices.”
Ashwood nodded, “I think the final choice is up to you, but if you truly believe he is prepared than it may not be a bad idea after all.”
Mossstar smiled and licked his deputy kindly, “Thank you, Ashwood.”
“No problem,” the warrior responded before his narrow eyes found Riverpaw and pinned him down.
“Riverpaw…” he trailed off, “Is there something you want to tell us?”
“Nope,” he responded calmly, “I was just waiting for Mossstar. Thrushpaw is coming training with us today.”
Mossstar’s head snapped towards him, “Did you hear what we were talking about?” he demanded.
“I… uh… sorta,” he shrugged, “Not the whole thing.”
“You will not repeat a word to Thrushpaw, understood?” Mossstar’s eyes were harsh and Riverpaw quickly nodded at the figure that had come to replace her dead father.
“Good,” Mossstar let out a relieved sigh, before flicking his tail at both him and Thrushpaw, who was sitting a little further off, “Let’s go.”
Ashflight waved his tail at his leader s they disappeared through the entrance to camp, their tails waving gently.
“What are we going to do today?” Thrushpaw asked their leader.
“I wanted to go swimming,” Mossstar claimed, “And try hunting a little fish. I will give you both a small assessment today, to see how you do.”
This must be the test to make sure Thrushpaw is ready to become a warrior this early Riverpaw thought, fighting back a stab of jealousy.
He would be happy for his friend when he became a warrior. And all Riverpaw really wanted was to ever become a warrior, after he had ran away from Riverclan before coming back in such a hurry.
And, of course, Kindlespark’s affection.
Something it seemed like he would never be able to earn, no matter how much he wanted it. Just seeing the she-cat made his heart ache and he forced himself to put his feelings behind and focus on the walk down to the lake.
“I bet I can catch the biggest fish!” he exclaimed.
“No, I can!” Thrushpaw countered, “I remember the time I once caught this huge trout and it fed three kits.”
Riverpaw didn’t point out that he had actually caught that trout together and Riverpaw had done most of the swimming while it just slid into Thrushpaw’s jaws.
Mossstar didn’t mind the jibber jabber of the apprentices as they talked about life, the approaching greenleaf season and the usual apprentice talk, until they reached the lake and Mossstar gently turned around.
It was sunhigh and so the lake as glimmering as little sparkles of light, danced jumped and skipped from one wave to another, almost synchronized.
“As always in an assessment,” Mossstar meowed, “You will not know where I am. Stay close to the Riverclan side of the lake and make sure that you stay near enough for me to see you at all times. I don’t want to have any accidents involing other clans happening. Understood?” he waited for them to nod.
“Understood,” they replied before Mossstar flicked his tail, “You may begin.”
The two apprentice ran up to the shore of the lake, before plunging in, the cold water and the sunlight both soaking their fur as they paddled forward, enjoying the trickling feeling against their skin.
“Oh,” Mossstar called from the land where he was standing, his pelt still groomed and untouched by the silky waters, “The one to catch the most prey doesn’t have to check the elders for ticks for a whole moon!”
Excitement sparkled in Thrushpaw’s eyes and Riverpaw smiled. It wasn’t really much of a reward. Riverclan still had a massive amount of apprentices so they didn’t end up with chores that often.
And he didn’t mind them all that much. There was usually another apprentice with him and that gave them a chance to socialize.
“I’ll win!” Thrushpaw exclaimed as he paddled in the opposite direction, Riverpaw purred as his feet paddled quickly.
It may not have been his warrior assessment but that didn’t mean he couldn’t care. Any chance to prove himself to Riverclan was a good one.
And he planned to take advantage of them.
The cold waters burhsed his pelt as his eyes darted around the water looking for a fish. When he spotted a plump salmon, he gently drifted closer to it, making sure his scent didn’t reach it, before tenderly sticking his paws out before it.
The salmon gently swum around, and Riverpaw held his breath as he felt the salmon crawl into his paw.
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
With a quick motion, he grabbed the salmon and sliced his claws across it, before dunking his head under the water and retrieving it quickly.
He felt triumph and quickly turned his head around at the sound of rattling bushes from the land as he realized it was Mossstar.
Why is he watching me? It is Thrushpaw’s assessment?
Sighing, he began to paddle back towards the shore, where he dug a small hole for his prey, and let his pelt warm a moment, sucking in the warmth and sunlight before paddling to a different area of the shore so he could start in a fresher are of the lake where the fish wouldn’t be as alarmed.
The water didn’t zap his pelt like it did the first time, and he found himself sending a thanks to Starclan that the weather was warming up enough to make fishing bearable. Nothing was worse than being sent out to hunt in the cold weather.
I hear another rustle behind me and chose to ignore Mossstar as I realize that it may not actually be him making the noises, but instead another warrior just on a walk.
“Riverpaw wins!” Mossstar smiled and Thrushpaw let out a snort.
“Not fair,” he huffed, “Riverpaw is a good swimmer.”
“And that is his fault?” Mossstar asked with an edge of amusement.
“Well,” Thrushpaw huffed, “It’s not my fault.”
“I’m naturally talented,” Riverpaw grinned which earned him a soft cuff around the ear from his friend.
“Hey, Thrushpaw,” Mossstar glared at the apprentice who shrugged, “Why don’t you go back to camp. I want a word with Riverpaw.”
Thrushpaw nodded, before running off, and the mentor and apprentice waited for a few moments before Mossstar sighed.
“Okay, Riverpaw,” Mossstar sighed, “I think you should know what had been going through my mind lately.”
There was silence and curioisity almost ate through the apprentice as he waited for his mentor to explain.
“I think I should make you a warrior now,” he claimed, with a sigh, “I’m not sure how much you overheard between me and Ashwood but I believe you are ready and could easily take on the tasks as well as meet the expectations.”
Riverpaw wondered if he was dreaming for a split moment.
“Of course,” he purred, “Why do you ct so surprised?”
“Because I had left the clan for several moons and I am only three moons old,” he claimed, “There is nothing special to me.”
“I think you are ready,” Mossstar argued, “And if you are willing to accept the responsibility I can give it to you.”
“Of course,” Riverpaw stammered, wondering what kind of apprentice would ever turn down the opportunity to become a warrior.
Mossstar smiled, “Great! We will hold your ceremony at sunset!”
Riverpaw smiled although he was already feeling too excited to control on the inside. A warrior already.
He swallowed his pride, and forced himself to keep it waiting until the ceremony as he followed his leader back to Riverclan camp, which was busy with the usual nonstop chatter about the doings of the day.
“Should I keep it a secret?” he asked Mossstar.
Mossstar nodded, “I would rather you do so. Why don’t you grab something to eat, and the ceremony should start by the time you are done.
Riverpaw nodded as he paddled away, grabbed a fish from the fresh-kill pile and headed to the apprentice den which was crowded as always.
He quickly sat down by Powerpaw who was eating a Salmon and began to chew into his meat slowly.
“How was your training session?” the apprentice asked him, curiously.
“It was fine,” Riverpaw shrugged, not wanting to bring up the warrior ceremony he would be getting very soon.
“Are you behind anymore?” the apprentice asked, “Or have you caught up?”
Riverpaw turned back to his prey, “I have caught up,” he responded casually not mentioning that he had actually passed instead of caught up.
“Cool! Maybe we can become warriors together then! Since we became apprentices only a sunrise or two apart!”
Riverpaw nodded, wondering how he was going to become a warrior if he couldn’t keep a secret which would be revealed so soon.
“Where is Thrushpaw?” he asked the tom’s sibling.
“I don’t know,” Powerpaw replied gently, “I think he told me he was going back out to hunt.”
When Riverpaw finished his fish, he pulled himself to his feet and waved his tail to Powerpaw before exiting the den, his stomach satisfied but yet still churning in excitement and anticipation of his warrior ceremony.
He shoved down his growing pride; as he reminded himself that if not for Mossstar he wouldn’t be about to become a warrior.
“Hey, Riverpaw,” he turned his head up to find the pretty gray pelt of Kindlespark and a warm smile, “I’m sorry we couldn’t hunt earlier today.”
“It’s fine,” he flicked his tail, “I know you and Fizzyclaw are close.”
She grinned and gave him a fierce lick, “I’m glad you understand,” she claimed, “I feel bad constantly turning you down.”
He was about to suggest a hunt for the next day when he was cut off by Mossstar’s loud call.
“Will all cats old enough to catch their won prey gather beneath the highstone for a clan meeting!”
The clan was quiet at first before cats began pouring out of their dens to hear the news that their leader had.
The long moments of silence seemed to drag out a long time for Riverpaw as the cats finally gathered and Mossstar began.
“We have an apprentice to make a warrior!” he announced and excited murmurs quickly spread through the clan. Riverpaw forced himself to stay calm.
“Would Riverpaw please step forward!” his loud voice boomed through the camp and Riverpaw got up taking shaky steps to the Highstone before nimbly leaping on top of it.
There were murmurs and whispers among the clan and Riverpaw hoped they weren’t angry of felt that it wasn’t fair.
“I, Mossstar, leader of Riverclan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice. He has trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend him to you as a warrior in his turn.”
Mossstar turned to face Riverpaw and his heart skipped a beat through his excitement as the leader continued the ceremony Riverpaw had heard so many times, because there were so many apprentices in Riverclan to make warriors.
“Riverpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and defend your clan, even at the cost of your life?”
Three moment of silence passed each in which Riverpaw took a deep breath forcing himself not to look at the reactions of the cats beneath him.
He couldn’t have meant it more.
Keeping his gaze parallel with the head of his leader he listened as the ceremony continued, waiting to hear his new name
“What?” Breezepaw starred at her mentor, hardly willing to believe it, “Are you serious?” her heart pounded loudly.
Snowstorm nodded, “Of course I am,” she claimed, “You have proven yourself to be more than exceptional.”
Breezepaw was numb for a moment, hardly feeling her paws, as they rubbed against the flat ground of Windclan territory, still not sure if what she had heard was real or not, “When?” she asked softly.
“At sundown today we will hold your ceremony,” Snowstorm replied with a brisk nod, “I’ll leave your last day as an apprentice free. You can go and do whatever you wish.”
“Okay!” Breezepaw gave an excited yelp and she followed Snowstorm back to camp, as they turned around from the hunting assessment she had planned for her apprentice, due to the sudden change in plans.
It had seemed like such a long time since she began training but yet such a short one as well, especially since she had come from Riverclan.
Her conversation a month ago with Riverpaw came whirling back into her head and she shoved it back out, reminding herself that he had been right.
The belonged in Windclan.
And she would always remain a little angry towards Thrushstar, because she was too stubborn to let go of the grudge she held, if nothing else, but knew that she should be grateful to be in a clan where she actually belonged.
As soon as they reached camp, Breezepaw immediately began to bound towards the apprentice den, without even stopping at the freshkill pile to deliver Russetpaw, who was still sleeping, the great news.
“Russetpaw!” she called, prodding her friend gently in the shoulder.
Russetpaw mumbled something and rolled over, before finally pulling herself back up to her paws and regarding Breezepaw.
“Guess what?” Breezepaw asked her friend, with a bounce of excitement. Something glimmered in the corner of the ginger she-cats eyes… curiosity? But if it was she didn’t let on and just shrugged.
“I don’t know,” she replied mildly, “Are you going to the gathering again this moon? Because I think I am too.”
“Nope,” Breezepaw resisted the urge to tackle her friend in all of her excitement, “I am becoming a warrior today!”
Russetpaw rolled her eyes, “Nice dream, Breezepaw. What was your warrior name? I personally like Breezewind.”
“It wasn’t a dream!” Breezepaw protested with a huff, “I was just outside. You can go ask Snowstorm if you want!”
Russetpaw laughed, her eyes glittering as she was finally fully awake, before shrugging, “I’ll go do that,” she winked at her friend before disappearing and Breezepaw shrugged.
“Don’t say I didn’t tell you.”
Russetpaw was gone for several long moments before her head poked back through the den, and Breezepaw was surprised to find a look of annoyance on them.
“That doesn’t make sense,” she mumbled, “You are only three moons into training. And you aren’t even that great at hunting or fighting.”
“I know,” Breezepaw claimed, “That is what I thought too.”
But Russetpaw wasn’t smiling. Instead her whiskers were twitching curiously, “I’ll ask my mentor if I am going to become a warrior early,” she claimed before bounding out of the den again, her ginger tail bounding up and down while Breezepaw watched for a moment before shrugging and heading over to the medicine cat’s den where Gracecloud was calmly sorting through a groupd of herbs.
“Hello, Breezepaw,” he purred as she approached, “Can I help you with something?”
“Nope,” she responded, “Is there anything I can help with?”
“I think I’m fine,” he claimed giving her a reassuring flick of his tail, “Are you going out for training today?”
“Actually,” Breezepaw stalled, “I am going to become a warrior today!”
Gracecloud looked up from his pile of herbs, surprise and joy dancing in his eyes, “Really?” he asked her.
She nodded, unable to conceal her excitement, “I wasn’t expecting it at all!”
He gave her an assuring lick, “Good luck as a warrior Breezepaw! I always knew there was so much potential in you!”
Breezepaw smiled as her paws grew warm. At least Goldenwing knew how to be happy for her even if Russetpaw couldn’t.
But as Gracecloud took a step back, Breezepaw saw doubt flash through him eyes and she felt her heart drumming with worry.
Does he think I am not ready?
“What’s wrong?” she asked, trying to keep her voice from quivering.
“It’s just…” Gracecloud hesitated for a moment before sighing, “When you first joined the clan, Starclan told me that you were to be named, Windpaw instead of Breezepaw, as it was the name you were destined to adapt.”
“But…” Breezepaw was a little confused, “Apprentices can’t take on the name of their clan,” she claimed, “That never happens.”
“Well…” she stuttered, “He was an exception. The first one I ever knew to be named after their own clan.”
“You will be the second then,” the medicine cat calmly claimed, “I asked them if it could be held off until you became a warrior and they agreed but I can only buy you so much time to keep your real name.”
“Why do they want me to?” she whispered, still confused and not really sure whether or not to believe the events of the short day so far.
“I guess…” he shrugged, “Maybe so that you can let go of all connections remaining with Riverclan and became completely Windclan, with no questionable loyalties, from the clan or yourself.
She wasn’t really sure what to say or how to react. The truth was the she liked her name, and even if it was more Windclan than Riverclan, it helped her hold onto her past and the memories she carried from the other clan she lived in.
“I know it’s a lot to ask for,” he claimed softly.
“It’s the ultimate sacrifice,” she responded coolly, “It is all I have left of Riverclan and my whole family which still lays there.”
Gracecloud approached the apprentice gently, his gaze warming and as sincere as that of Thrushstar when addressing the clan about a serious matter.
“You were always destined to be a great cat, Breezepaw. Starclan chose you eras before you were born and scarred you with a path you would never be able to break free from. And you must live with your great path. But no path to greatness goes without sacrifice. And this must be your first, and greatest sacrifice, Breezepaw. I’d like to say you have a choice but you do not. The clans will all need you one day and you must be completely loyal to your own before you can start to save them.”
A lump rose in Breezepaw’s throat.
“Why me?” she whispered hoarsely and Gracecloud shrugged.
“There is no ‘why’. Things just are. And that is the way they shall remain, Breezepaw. You have been chosen and you will have to accept your fate. There is no other way.”
There is no other way…
“Are you sure?” she squeaked.
“I know,” he replied gravely, “But I must leave you with the choice. I can’t force anything on you, but the clans may all suffer if you chose not to take a new name.”
“It’s just a name!” she protested.
“It’s more than just a name,” he claimed, “Otherwise you wouldn’t be so reluctant to give it up. It is your identity. And to give that up is a great sacrifice one could only make for their clan. Is this your clan, Breezepaw?”
Suddenly, she was drawn back in time, the first gathering she had attended alongside Riverpaw and the two other Riverclan cats. The way she had been asked to join Windclan by Thrushstar and the stare down between the Riverclan leader and her mother.
How reluctant she had been to fit in at first, and her meetings with Ashwood, before a battle finally approached and she had to pick. And how she had chosen Windclan over her father. A mistake she never regretted.
She recalled the most recent gathering, and Riverpaw had talked to her about where she had belonged. How, when she joined the clans and sat among the Windclan cats she had felt like one of them. She knew she was one of them.
“I’ll do it,” she gently responded, “But you will be the one to tell Thrushstar the news, not me,” she quickly added.
Gracecloud nodded, pleased, “This is great news, Breezepaw. I can promise you that you will not regret this.”
“Could all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the highrock for a clan meeting!”
Russetpaw scowled, “Looks like it is finally your ceremony,” she had a sour look on her face and Breezepaw was able to understand by that point that it was purely jealousy and nothing else. But she couldn’t really bring herself to care about Russetpaw’s moodiness as she quickly exited the den and paddled up towards the highrock where Thrushstar was waiting patiently.
The cats were quick to gather and Thrushstar began as soon as they were all ready to here what she had to say, “We have an apprentice to make a warrior.”
All heads turned to where Russetpaw and Breezepaw were sitting and she resisted the urge to blush as Thrushstar flicked her tail, “Would Breezepaw please come forward.”
She ignored the murmurings of her clanmates as she leaped onto the highrock and settled herself promptly.
The leader began the ceremony.
“I, Thrushstar, leader of Windclan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice. He have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend himto you as a warrior in his turn.”
“Breezepaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect it, even at the cost of your life?”
“I do,” she claimed, letting out a longheld breath.
“Then by the powers of Starclan, I give you your warrior name. Breezepaw, from now on you will be known as Windstorm. StarClan honors your speed and kindness and we welcome you as a full warrior of Thunderclan.”
The cats began to cheer, although some wore confused expressions.
“Windstorm! Windstorm! Windstorm!”
And hearing them chant, hearing her clan chant, made ever sacrifice she had ever made and would ever make worth it.
Because this was her clan now.
“And they have all reached their warrior ceremonies,” A ginger cat purred softly, “What an exciting moment it must be for them.”
“They should live them while they last,” a blue she-cat muttered softly, “We all know that their ending may not be as sweet.”
“They will survive it,” the ginger tom insisted, “The clans have always been able to overcome every hurdle, each more challenging than the last, and have always succeeded. I don’t see what should hold them back now.”
“I wish I could share your hope, Firestar,” the she-cat softly meowed, “But something doesn’t feel right this time.”
“It never does,” he assured her, “Take my word, Bluestar, everything will turn out find. The way it always has. Thunderclaw is brave and courageous a pure Thunderclan cat even though he had a complicated birth. He would put anything aside for his clan and would be quick to rush to the aid of any clan.”
“Shadowpelt has learned to overcome her guilt. She has learned not to be so naïve and the consequences of doing so. She is sneaky and a quick hunter, a cat who couldn’t blend more with the clan of the night. She will be a fierce protector of her clan and wouldn’t let anything get in her way.”
“Riverheart is noble and has learned the pain he will have to face through losing those he loved. He is a great swimmer and his stubborn personality will help the clans face this difficult challenge. He seems to have great respect for life and knows more about the outside then the other cats do.”
“Can’t argue with that.”
“And Windstorm has made a great journey. She has come to accept that she may not belong where she was born in and with the cats she was raised around. She is fast, and with her newfound loyalty she wouldn’t dare do anything to hurt her clan.”
“I get what you are trying to say…” she stuttered a little.
“We can trust these cats,” Firestar claimed, “And we shall. It’s not like we have much of a choice anyways.”
Bluestar nodded, “These cats are the birth of hope for the warrior clans.”