"I need to be brave for her..."
Prologue - Firey
Troutkit was sitting outside of the nursery, trying to keep still. His mother had told him to stay outside for the kitting. She was inside helping Redbreeze kit. He desperately wanted to be in there to see, but Robinwhisker had insisted that Brookwhisper and Sandfeather needed some space.
A small whimper sounded from inside the nursery, and Troutpaw jumped up, peering into the darkness to see what was going on.
The small gray tom whirled around. "Hi, Rainsplash!" He squealed, purring slightly, "Is Redbreeze going to be okay?"
Riverpelt stalked up from behind her, "I'm sure Redbreeze will be fine," he rumbled, "Don't you worry, Troutkit." His father licked Troutkit on the forehead.
Troutkit stared nervously into the nursery, "Robinwhisker said that Redbreeze was kind of sick when she started kitting. Then she shooed me out."
Rainsplash curled her tail around Troutkit and purred, "Redbreeze is a strong she-cat. Soon, you'll have a new denmate to play with."
"Or two." Riverpelt agreed.
"I can't wait!" Troutkit squealed.
Before his father or Rainsplash could stop him, he dashed for the nursery entrance. "Troutkit!" He heard his father shout, but he ignored it.
He burst through the ferns covering the entrance and saw Redbreeze lying in her nest, panting. Brookwhisper was next to the queen, whispering encouragements.
The queen let out another moan, and there was a small, orange blob near her belly. A kit? Troutkit trotted closer, but teeth grabbed at his scruff.
His father dropped him and glared down at him, "Don't bother the medicine cats," he scolded, "Kitting is a very important thing."
Troutkit deflated, "But I want to meet my new denmate!" He pointed with his tail at the small kitten at Redbreeze's belly.
"You're only two weeks old," his father muttered, "You can handle sitting outside the nursery."
"Aw but she's done kitting!"
Brookwhisper looked up, "Oh hello, Troutkit. I'm afraid you'll need to wait a bit longer outside." Robinwhisker heard and stared sternly at her kit.
"Troutkit!" She sighed, "Go outside, I promise you'll be able to see the kit soon."
"Is she named yet?" Troutkit asked as he was being dragged away. His father plopped him outside.
"Stay. Here." He ordered.
Sighing, Troutkit sat down and waited impatiently for the kitting to be down. Moments later, Brookwhisper pushed her way out and talked to Riverpelt in a quiet voice. Not turning to look at Troutkit, his father called out, "Stay there, Troutkit." With that said, he nodded to Brookwhisper and Sandfeather and thrust his way in.
"Rainsplash," Troutkit turned to the older she-cat, "Is Redbreeze alright?"
"I don't know," the light gray she-cat glanced at the nursery, "Let's just wait here, okay?"
Troutkit waited, his time slightly in dread. Redbreeze's mate, Smokepelt had died awhile back in a fight against some brutal rogues.
Riverpelt came back out, carrying Redbreeze's body. Troutkit blinked, and Rainsplash guided him towards the nursery. "You can go see your new denmate now."
Troutkit stared at his father for a moment longer, then ducked in. "Robinwhisker?" He called out nervously.
He darted to his mother's side and found the little kitten at her belly, "What's going on, Robinwhisker? Is Redbreeze...?"
"She's dead," his mother said softly, "She died while kitting. This, is Flamekit." She pointed at the kit, "You'll be like her sister, alright?"
"Are you going to tell her who her real mother is?"
"When she's older," Robinwhisker nodded, "But for now, be nice to her, okay?"
"Okay," Troutkit agreed, looking down at Flamekit.
Chapter One - Rainy
"Wait up, Flamepaw!" Troutpaw called, skidding out of the apprentices' den.
His best friend cast an amused look over her shoulder. "Don't be so slow then," she said. "If we want to explore the territory, we need to do it while the warriors are all inside. Oh, and keep your voice down."
Yawning, Troutpaw fought to keep his eyes from slamming shut as the two of them crept out of the camp. "I still don't know why we had to wake up with the sun," he slurred.
"Because the dawn patrol hasn't returned and everyone else is asleep. It's the perfect time to look around," Flamepaw responded easily.
"Or we could follow instructions and wait till our mentors have time to give us an official tour."
Flamepaw purred. "But where's the fun in that?"
Shaking his head, Troutpaw leaped over a fallen log in their path. Flamepaw followed suit, only she landed on top of the log and strolled along its length, her curious eyes glittering as she examined every crevice in the bark. Troutpaw watched her, fascinated himself by the way she could be fascinated by just about anything. "You done studying the dead tree?"
"Hush," she said, pressing her nose to a crack in the log. "There used to be a squirrels in here. They're gone now though. It's a shame, we could've taught ourselves to hunt too."
"This might strike you as strange, but catching balls of moss--which is all we've ever done--is not on the same level as catching live creatures."
Ever optimistic, Flamepaw said, "There's got to be a first time for everything."
Ever practical, Troutpaw countered, "I'd rather that be under the direction of an experienced mentor who can tell us the proper hunting technique."
"Well, my mentor's Rainsplash. I'm her first apprentice," Flamepaw pointed out.
"Why do I feel like you two are going to argue a lot?" Troutpaw said.
Putting on an expression of mild offense, Flamepaw said, "Are you calling me argumentative? Me?"
"Yes. Argumentative and stubborn."
"I am not stubborn! You shall pay for that!" She picked up a pinecone with her claws and flung it at him.
He ducked, narrowing his eyes playfully. "Oh yeah?" He leaped at her, tackling her off the log. The two of them landed in a clump of mushrooms and moss.
Flamepaw grunted. "Get off me, you pile of droppings."
"So rude," Troutpaw scolded her, scooting backwards so that she could stand up. He let out a purr of amusement. "Your fur is all spiked up. You look like a pinecone yourself."
"Oh Troutpaw, ever the kindest," she mewed sarcastically, batting him on the ear. "Come on; I'll race you."
And before he could respond, she took off running.
Letting out a snort of disbelief, Troutpaw sped after her. "Flamepaw?" he yelled. "You do realize we have no idea where we're going, right? Where are we racing to?"
Up in front of him, his friend came to an abrupt stop. Not expecting it, Troutpaw slammed into her, pitching them both forward into a bush. "Mouse-dung, sorry," he cursed.
She didn't seem to hear him. "Listen," she whispered. "Do you hear that?"
He fell silent, raising his ears attentitively. "Yes," he said. "Running water."
All of the adventure drained from her bright eyes. "Troutpaw... maybe we should head back," she murmured.
Troutpaw brushed past her, poking his head past the bush they'd just slammed into.
There it was, just beyond a few yards of downhill sloping ground. A thick band of running blue water, the edges stained violet and orange as they reflected the sunrise.
"Flamepaw, it's just a stream- Flamepaw?" Troutpaw turned to see that his friend had disappeared.
Casting one last glance at the stream, Troutpaw turned and followed her back to the camp.