|Preceded by: |
Rise from Ash
|Burn to Ash||Succeded by: |
Legacy of Ash
"Is this the fate of my beloved clan?" the golden she-cat asked sadly.
"I'm afraid so, Sun. It breaks me to see it after destiny helped me create this place, but a single kit has the power of ashes in her paws."
"That one?" Sun asked pointing at the strongest among the kits that had started to appear. "She has that look to her," she added.
"Yes, I'm afraid so," the ginger tom replied gravely. "She has the power to control her destiny, however. She must fight the forces of love; they will do nothing but ruin her."
"Love saved the clan before though," Sun replied sadly, "it brought Bramblestar to the clans, and surely he is not a bad thing for Ashclan."
"Of course he is not," the old cat assured. "But love doesn't always bring happy endings. Sometimes it is only better to avoid it's pull."
"I suppose so," Sun replied calmly, "I just hope this kit doesn't do the wrong thing."
"She has the potential to make Ashclan even stronger, to the point where it is invinsible. But she also has the ability to make it more vulnerable than it could ever be."
Ash must feed off the burning elm.
"I suppose it must," Sun sighed. "We have nothing to do but wait. We must wait to learn the true destiny of ash."
"What is your name?" Bramblestar cautiosly asked the young cat who approached him. "And what are you doing on Ashclan territory?"
"I'm Storm," the brown tabby tom claimed. "Just a loner. A friend told me about this place, and I have decided that I might want to join."
Bramblestar raised an eyebrow at Braveheart, curious what his deputy might think. Ashclan was now string and healthy, no longer in need of more cats to join, but they would have to remember that the clan had been created by lost loners, like the one they were facing.
"Being a warrior requires extreme dedication," he warned the cat. "You will always have to bring your clan first, and you must be willing to give up your life for any clanmate. You will wait for the queens and elders to eat before you do, and you will always have to go by our code."
He nodded, "I have heard about all of this before," he commented. "And I have already decided that I would be willing to do this for my new family... if you take me in."
Bramblestar shrugged. "We grow off loners," he claimed, "and we welcome all cats who wish to join us, because that is our purpose. To form a large family that will help us all survive."
He smiled, "Great! Am I a warrior then?"
Bramblestar thought for a moment. "No," he decided. "You will stay in the clan for a short while before we finally decide to accept you."
He nodded, "Sounds good."
Braveheart pointed her head towards the camp. "Why don't you come with me?" she offered, "I'll show you around the camp while they finish up the patrol."
He nodded with excitment.
Bramblestar dipped his head at the deputy and she smiled in return before dissapearing alongside the newcoming cat.
The patrol was a quick one, and Bramblestar was pleased to learn that no cat or animal had been on their territory lately. Swampfur, a newly made warrior, even caught a thrush on the way back, despite the approcahing season of leaf-bare.
When he came back to Ashclan camp that day, the cats were already warming up to Storm, and he already seemed to have learned a lot about the clan.
Later that evening he decided to gather the clan to welcome him. After he had done all the daily anouncements, he summoned the warrior to the front of the cats, "For those of you who have not met him, this is Storm, and he will be joining our clan."
Strom waved his tail to all of the cats; obviously feeling comfotable with the attention he was getting from the crowd.
"Storm! Storm! Strom!" the clan began to chant, for the new member of their clan, and Bramblestar felt pride in his clan.
They were so strong and they were still growing. It seemed like nothing could rip them apart now.
Then why do I feel like something really bad is about to happen?
When Bramblestar woke up the next morning his clan was in a frenzy. He quickly jumped up to his feet, to see what all the noise and excitment was about.
Oakstorm was pacing the clearing wildly and Bramblestar realized that Mossheart must be kitting; something the whole clan had been expecting for moons.
"How is she?" he asked the worried warrior. "Is she going to be okay?"
"I hope so," he mutered with fear as his eyes widen at the sound of Mossheart let out a screech of horror as Petalscent tried to soothe her.
"It will be okay," Rosemaryfur promised aproaching the worried tom. "Petalscent knows exactly what she is doing, and Mossheart will be fine."
He nodded slowly although it was obvious he was still worrying. Seeing that the tom wasn't about to calm down, Bramblestar crawled into the nursery where Mossheart was gasping in pain.
"Is she going to be okay?" he asked the medicine cat who shrugged.
"Everything is looking normal to me."
"How many kits?" Suddenly a bundle of fur escpaed the queens body as she let out another high pitched wail.
Petalfall picked it up and began to lick the kit.
"This one is dead," she sighed. "I don't know what caused it, but there should be two more kits coming any moment now."
Mossheart let out another screech and one more kit rolled onto the floor. Petalscent didn't even bother to pick it up, as a confused expression entered her face, "I don't know what is wrong with these kits. Why are they all dying before they even come out of her stomach?"
Bramblestar shrugged, as the final kit escaped and Mossheart breathed a sigh of relief. Petalscent picked this kit up and sniffed it for a moment before she quickly began to lick it, sighing with relief.
"Is this one alive?" he asked her, and she nodded.
"Barely, but she is here, and it seems she will survive."
Suddenly Mossheart screeched, and she heavily began to pant. "Are you okay?" Petalscent asked rushing over to her. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know," she breathed out, "it just feels like Starclan is dragging me out of my body."
"I need to get some herbs to see what I can do!" Petalscent exclaimed, but Mossheart stopped her.
"Don't deny Starclan. Just tell Oakstorm that I loved him," she paused looking at the kit, "and tell him I would like to name her Elmkit if that is okay."
Moments later, she collapsed with a sigh, leaving a dark and dreadful feeling inside of Bramblestar, as he looked down at the young kit.
"Welcome to Ashclan, Elmkit," he murmured.
A twig snapped in the distance as Bramblestar sat in the clearing, sharing some prey with Bushtail. His eyes turned up from the squirrel he was sharing, before he put them back down, figuring it was just the kits running around outside.
Seconds later he heard the leaves rustling, before several pairs of footsteps broke into his thoughts. He looked up to see nothing, but hear the crunching of the flaky leaves.
The clan seemed to have heard because they were looking around suspiciously.
There was silence. Then, not a second later Bramblestar felt himself being thrown over, as a pair of sharp claws dug into his shoulder. He let out a screech and looked up to see a rouge, his ribs poking out of his fur, his patchy fur all ripped up.
Bramblestar felt a small stab of sympathy for the tom, before the rouge raked his claws across the leaders face. Enraged, Bramblestar kicked the cat off him, before pouncing and digging his sharp teeth inside the cats arm, causing him to yowl in pain.
Another cat bowled into Bramblestar who tried to push him off the other rouge. Soon, the two strange cats were swatting at Bramblestar together, as he struggled to avoid them.
"What do you want?" he hissed.
"Your borders steal our prey!" the cat responded in fury. "You are a greedy lot, that can't bother to share your food. No better than the cats who lived here before your lot cruel lot!"
That triggered a switch inside the leader, and he leaped onto both cats with fury, "We are nothing like the cats who loved here before us!" he screeched. The thought of even comparing AshClan with his old family made him horror struck. "We are honorable and noble cats, fighting for what we believe in, not rouges that bully other cats because they are weaker!"
The cats backed away in horror, at the discovery of the fury the leader was displaying, "Then why don't you share your borders with us?" the smaller one squeaked.
"Because we need those borders to survive," Bramblestar responded, as he dodged another pair of paws and swiped his large claws at the cats. "Without them, we would starve due to the lack of prey, becuase it will have been taken by you."
"Well, when you set those borders we are the ones who are starving!" the older tabby shot back, as he lashed at Bramblestar, knocking him down.
Bramblestar struggled to throw him off, and when he finally did he managed to reply, "You wouldn't starve if you joined our clan."
"Clan life isn't for everyone," he responded casually as he took in a deep breath. "Some cats prefer to live on thier own, instead of in such a large group. But you fail to respect that."
Bramblestar was at a loss of a reply for once, so instead of stammering he bowled into the cat, knocking them down.
"Leave!" he hissed. "You are no match for us."
The rouges seemed to understand that they had underestimated the strength and numbers of the cats they were opposing because, they pulled themselves up, and dashed out of camp, but not before giving a call for retreat.
Soon the rather large number had dissapeared through the entrance through camp, leaving the wounded AshClan cats alone, as Nightfern and Petalscent quickly ran from one cat to the other in order to heal all of the cat.
Bramblestar sighed, before noting a pair of small beady little eyes, baring into his pelt. He whirled around to find them coming from the nursery. Elmkit was watching his with a look in her eyes which he failed to identify.
He couldn't help suddenly feeling very worried about the young kit.
Bramblestar turned his nose around as he scented for the rouges. He knew that they would continue to cause a threat and was detirmined to stop them before they caused any damage to the clan.
"Are you sure we are on the right track?" Braveheart asked behind him. "I think they went the other way..."
"Why don't we split up?" Bramblestar offered. "But we won't attack when we find them. Just report back to camp where we will organize a patrol."
Braveheart nodded and flicked her tail at the rets of the tracking patrol, signalling for them to split up and search for the cats that had just attacked them.
Bramblestar felt himself walking the way his old camp had been, while he stuck his nose out, for any scents that he might find.
He felt the argument he had with the cats repeating in his head, as he tried to track them down. 'Clan life is not for everyone. You can't force cats to become something they are not.'
He shook his head and reminded himself that these were cats who had almost killed in order to get their point across. But a part of him knew that the rouges had a very valid argument.
Are we really any different than my family?
He tried to tell himself that they definitly were, but doubt began to sing in his head. What even were the differences? Ashclan treated she-cats better but they were both hostile towards others that got on their territory and the strongest group of cats in the forest.
We ARE different, he told himself although he secretly doubted how much he believed it. And he felt guilty for not being able to believe it. If the clan or Sun knew they would be so dissapointed...
He looked around the area all day, without any trace of the cats. He felt himself walking closer and closer to his old camp but he forced himself to turn away before he could get caught in the deep memories of his dark and forgottten past.
The past he rather wanted to forget.
With a sigh, he felt himself turning around and heading back towards camp. The scout had been unsucessful, and he could already feel his doubts growing.
What was the fate of Leader Prey's, Sun's, and his beloved clan after they had fought so hard and overcome so much to create it?
Elmkit bounded out of the nursery, hardly able to control her excitment.
Today was her big day.
"Hey Elmkit! You look like you are prepared to burst. It's just apprenticeship, you know. It will be gone before you even know it."
"I know," she sighed at her father. "But I can't help being so excited at finally becoming an apprentice. I have been waiting for this since I was born."
Oakstorm smiled. "I guess I can understand you. You have been confined to the nursery for six moons now,." he stopped and stared into empty space for a moment, some pain filling his eyes. "I can't believe it has been six whole months since I lost Mossheart and I met you."
Elmkit knew that this was both a sad and happy occasion for him, although she could find nothing but joy in the thought that she was about to be apprentices.
"I wonder who my mentor will be?" she trailed off. "I wonder if I might get Braveheart? That would be so cool!" she felt herself bubbling with excitment.
"I wouldn't hope for that," Oakstorm replied. "Braveheart has a lot to worry about and I don't think Bramblestar would want to put more stress on her shoulders with an apprentice."
Elmkit sighed, realizing that her father was right, but she couldn't help herself from hoping deep inside. She wouldn't be dissapointed with anyone else thought, considering that she was so excited to become an apprentice anyways.
She heard Bramblestar calling the clan, and feeling the butterflies in her stomach begin to flap their wings even faster she rushed beneath the large rock where he made his anouncements to the clan.
"We have a kit, who has reached the age of three moons and is ready to become an apprentice," the leader anounced when the whole clan had gathered. "Elmkit, please step forward."
Giving the clan a confident smile she jumped on top of the rock and stood beside Bramblestar as he turned to the clan.
"I have taken it upon myself to train this apprentice in the ways of the clan, by passing down everything I know to her. Elmkit, from this moment on until until you recieve your warrior name you will be known as Elmpaw."
Stunned at her luck, Elmpaw touched noses with her new mentor.
I am really the apprentice of the clan leader?
She was hardly willing to believe it but as the clan chanted her name, and she could see her father, his eyes gleaming with pride she realized that this was real.
"Elmpaw! Elmpaw! Elmpaw!"
Elmpaw accepted their praise as she smiled radiantly, unable to believe her luck. It was the best day of her life, which, although she was unaware of it, was about to take a turn for the worse.
"Make sure that your legs are tucked in behind your stomach," Bramblestar warned Elmpaw gently as she showed him her hunting crouch. "And be sure that you make no noise."
Elmpaw nodded with confidence as she pulled her legs in and tried to maintain her position while Bramblestar observed her closely, before giving a pleased nod and walking away.
"Now I want to apply this," he claimed. "Let's find a place where there is some prey to catch, and I will see how well you can hold onto this stance."
Elmpaw nodded and Bramblestar began to paddle away, signaling with his tail for her to follow. She quickly bounded after him, making sure to keep a close distance behind the leader.
Since she didn't know the territory she had no idea where he was taking her. At one period of time she realized she was losing herself in her thoughts about her apprenticeship and how fortunate she was to be apprenticed to Bramblestar when she looked up and realized that she was lost.
She stared around for a moment, scared that she would be stuck in the woods forever when she reminded herself that the clan would send a patrol to find her, when she couldn't find her way back to camp, but she would be embarassed and maybe Bramblestar would decide that she was far too foolish to become his apprentice. She cursed herself for not paying attention.
"You look like you could use some help."
Elmpaw whirled around, searching for the source of the voice and found herself fading a golden she-cat who looked pale under the sunlight. Elmpaw even thought she could see through her the slightest bit.
"Who...are you?" she asked her, before baring her teeth. "If you are an intruder I will make you regret ever setting a foot on our territory!"
She let out a slight laugh. "I can assure you that I belong in Ashclan," she claimed, before turning her head to the skies. "Just a slightly different kind of Ashclan."
Elmpaw also turned her head up, before looking at the cat again, starting to understand what she realized should have been a lot more obvious. "Are you from Starclan?" she asked in awe.
The golden she-cat smiled kindly. "Indeed I am. And I know that you belong to my old clan. I can help you find your way to the place I know Bramblestar is taking you but first I need to recieve a promise from you that you must swear never to break."
Elmpaw was stunned, "What is that promise?"
"I want you to promise," her face was grimm, "Never to bring your heart first. Listen to your mind and ignore the desperate screeches of your heart. Do you understand me?"
Elmpaw was slightly confused but she nodded, "I promise. I always listen to my mind anyways."
The Starclan cat smiled, "You must continue to do so. To find Bramblestar just keep going strait and you will soon catch up to him."
Elmpaw nodded. "Thanks," she claimed, before asking, "Why do I need to make the promise?"
But the she-cat was gone, with no signs of her presence left in the woods of the clans she claimed to have once belonged to.
"Very good," Bramblestar praised as he dodged a blow from Elmpaw and swiped back. Elmpaw was not taken off guard and quickly jumped out of the way, leaving her mentor to bat at the open air as she nimbly turned around and sent sheathed claws across his face.
He laughed when she successfully managed to attack him, "You are doing really well Elmpaw!" he exclaimed, "Your mother would be proud if she saw you."
"Thanks," Elmpaw whispered suddenly feeling her spirits quietly deflate. She wished that her mother was there to watch her and praise her and congratulate her for being Bramblestar's apprentice.
He let out a loud cough and Elmpaw noticed a shiver creeping down his spine, "Are you okay?" she asked him, suddenly very worried.
"I'm fine," he assured her after another cough, "Just a little cold with leafbare creeping up on us. I'm sure it's nothing though, it will be gone by the time we are back in camp."
But Elmpaw knew better than to be too sure about what Bramblestar said.
"I'm a little tired," she lied casually, "Can we go back to camp so that I can eat before we come out and continue to practice."
Bramblestar eyes her a little suspiciously and she did her best to look innocent. He finally sighed, "Sure I guess. I'm feeling a little tired too."
This only further worried Elmpaw although she tried not to show it. Instead she happily bounded back to camp while Bramblestar trudged on behind her.
Once she reached camp, minutes before Bramblestar, she didn't hesitate to rush to the medicine cats den. Nightfern pulled her head up at the sight of her.
"Something wrong, Elmpaw?" she asked cautiously.
"Erm..." Emlpaw stuttered for a moment before speaking. "I think Bramblestar has whitecough or something. He was coughing during training and he seemed really cold. He was also tired after our training session, even though he denies being sick."
Nightfern seemed thoughtful. "I'll examinate him when he gets back to camp," she claimed and flicked her tail in dismissal. "Thanks for telling me though, Elmpaw."
She nodded before nodding her head and exiting the den. Moments later Bramblestar's head appeared in the entrance. He looked worn out and Elmpaw quickly ran over to the fresh-kill pile and picked out a mouse before heading to the apprentice den.
There was no one else in the den so she was forced to eat alone. When she was finally done eating, Bramblestar was waiting at the entrance to camp, frustrated.
"Nightfern won't let me out of camp!" he complained. "She thinks I have whitecough."
Elmpaw looked away, trying not to meet his gaze. "Do you want me to go hunting then?" she asked him slow voice.
He shook his head, "You have done enough training for today, Elmpaw. You have to rest of the day off until I can convince Nightfern that I am in good health."
She nodded and slowly began to paddle away. She knew that she should be glad Bramblestar was going to be stuck in camp until she healed but this just felt like the beginning of a long chain of bad events waiting to wrap around Ashclan.
Elmpaw took slow steps towards the mouse she noticed, standing beside the tree stump. She tried not to draw her breath in too sharply as she took a small step towards it. She tucked her legs in, wishing that Bramblestar was beside her to correct any mistakes in her position, as she took a slow step towards it.
Before she could gather all of her courage and leap, the mouse moved and Emlpaw flung herself at the tree, her nose hitting it harshly.
Angered she drew herself up, and her eyes darted around quickly before they found the little mouse, quickly running away. Eager not to be beaten by a mouse, Elmpaw pounded after the small creature. She soon found herself on a wild goose chasing it out of Ashclan territory.
She paused for a moment before continuing, reminding herself that prey outside of Ashclan could still be caught. The mouse seemed fast, and yet it almost felt to Elmpaw like it was holding something back. Almost like it wanted Elmpaw to continue following it, wasting its time by doing so. This only further angered the young apprentice and made her continue chasing it with even more force, as the mouse sped up in return.
She was so focused with the mouse that she didn't notice the edge of the forest was approaching until she felt her pads rubbing against something hard beneath her.
Looking down, she realized she was standing on the stones that twolegs used for decorations to make their dens look nice. Expecting to see a twoleg house she pulled her head up, no longer occupied in the mouse, to notice that there was in fact no den.
Confused she looked around for a moment, before she pulled her head down and noticed a pile of black dust on the ground. Walking over to it she sniffed the junk, and realized that it was rather stale. However, when she put her paw against it she felt the light burning sensation and realized that this must be ash, and the fire that had caused it must have been very large.
She suddenly realized something that she knew should she should have guessed earlier. This was Leader Prey's old home. Looking around, Elmpaw realized that it had to be. It was near the forest, and she couldn't see any other burnt houses around nearby.
She trailed around the house a little, feeling great pity for the former leader. It would have been horrible if Ashclan burned down and left her in its rubble. She would feel crushed, confused and would have no idea where to go or what to do with her life.
It was incredible that such a useful and efficient thing had come from a terrible disaster. Elmpaw was aware that this burned down house was what had formed Ashclan and she would be a lost cat in the wild, barely surviving on the prey she could find if Ashclan had not been made. She decided that from that moment on, she would never judge a situation until the day she died, when she would see the true outcome of it.
"What do you want?" Elmpaw groaned as she felt herself being prodded in the side. She was already very tired from the run to the twoleg place and back, and Bramblestar's call had woken her up, before she forced herself back to sleep over the murmuring of the gathering cats.
"You have been sleeping all day!" Waterpaw, her best friend, groaned. "Come on! I still can't believe you slept through the ceremony even though I begged you to wake up."
"I was asleep so I couldn't hear you begging," Elmpaw responded quietly and quickly. "How was I supposed to know that you were desperate for me to watch another apprentice become a warrior."
Waterpaw sighed, realizing her friend was right. "It wasn't just any apprentice, though," she claimed. "It was my brother, Stormpaw."
"Oh." Feeling guilty, Elmpaw pulled herself back up to her feet, "I'm sorry. I didn't know... you see I was sleeping when you told me this."
Waterpaw rolled her eyes, "Of course I know."
"I still feel guilty though," Elmpaw admitted, and realizing that she what she had done was extremely rude both to Waterpaw, her brother, and the clan, she added, "Would it be okay if I went to congratulate him now? It's funny that I have never met him before..."
"He's been really busy the last few days," Waterpaw explained. "Trying to prove himself by catching lots of prey and training a lot. And you haven't been an apprentice for long."
Elmpaw shrugged. "Let's go," she claimed. "I feel guiltier by the second."
Waterpaw shrugged, "I don't think it's that big of a deal," she claimed but she led her friend out of camp and into the clearing anyways.
Following her friend, Elmpaw soon found herself facing a brown tabby tom. For a moment she was stunned, his dark pelt matched perfectly with his amber eyes and he had large broad muscles, before she managed to pull herself back together.
"Hey, Stormwind," Waterpaw called. "Elmpaw was sleeping during your ceremony and now she wanted to congratulate you."
Stormwind smiled, making Elmpaw's heart flutter, in a way she couldn't explain. "You shouldn't have bothered," he claimed.
Elmpaw shrugged, dreamily. "It's no big deal. But congratulations anyways."
He smiled. "Thanks."
Waterpaw led Elmpaw away as the young apprentice failed to understand what was wrong with her, and how a simple tom like Stormwind could have managed to start such a thing.
Elmpaw took a swift leap back before batting a paw at Rosemaryscent, knocking her over and into the sandy pit which lied beneath her. The old she-cat pulled herself up with a very impressed smile on her face.
"That was very good!" she exclaimed. "I will speak to Bramblestar about making you a warrior now. It has been a several moons since you became an apprentice and you show all the traits necessary to become a warrior. Ever since I took over your training you have been amazing."
Elmpaw smiled. "Thanks," she blushed. Rosemaryscent had taken over her training a few days after Bramblestar had been diagnosed, and unfortunately he just kept getting worse. Elmpaw worried for her former mentor's health, but both had come to realize that she needed a new mentor and she had been appointed to the old Rosemaryscent, who had also mentored Sun.
Rosemaryscent smiled and flicked her tail. "We should probably be getting back to camp," she claimed. "And I'll tell Bramblestar what I think."
Elmpaw smiled, and followed her mentor out of the training hollow happily. She was thinking about getting to be in the same den as her friends from when she had first become an apprentice, like Waterpaw, but she was also thinking about getting to be with Stormwind, and couldn't help herself from dreaming about it the whole way back to camp.
When they reached camp, Stormwind was standing guard at the entrance to camp and Elmpaw felt her heart flutter at the sight of him. She tried to put on a nonchalant smile, but she figured by the wide grin that he gave her back, that it didn't work.
When they entered camp, Elmpaw walked to the apprentice den, while Rosemaryscent walked off to the medicine cat's den where Bramblestar was resting. Elmpaw felt her heart twist in fear again, at the state of her leader which only grew worse everyday. Nightfern said it was a miracle he had made it this far.
The apprentice's den was boiling with cats, eating and talking with each other about what they had done that day. Not hungry, Elmpaw sat down next to one group of cats and quietly began to listen to their conversation. It wasn't long before she heard Braveheart summoning the cats.
Excited, she bounded out of her den, unable to believe that her warrior ceremony had come to quickly. But she was surprised when she noticed a haunted look in the deputy's eyes.
All of the cats who were sitting, waiting for Braveheart, were murmuring nervously about the bad news they knew was to follow. When all of the cats had gathered Braveheart nodded.
"I have gathered you all for several reasons!" she claimed, "But let me start with the good news! We have an apprentice who is prepared to become a warrior."
The clan cheered as Braveheart nodded towards Elmpaw, and summoned her with a flick of her tail. Elmpaw quickly bounded on top of the rock which she stood over.
"I, Bravescar, deputy of Ashclan, call upon my warrior ancestors, to look down on this apprentice. She has trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend her to you as a warrior in her turn." She turned to Elmpaw. "Elmpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your clan, even at the cost of your life?"
Elmpaw didn't hesitate. "I do."
"Then by the powers of Starclan, I give you your warrior name. Elmpaw, from this moment you will be known as Elmleaf. StarClan honors your patience and cleverness, and we welcome you as a full warrior of Ashclan."
The clan began to cheer chanting her new name, "Elmleaf! Elmleaf! Elmleaf!"
Elmleaf smiled, as she swallowed the praise. But she was searching for one voice among the crowd and felt herself purring when she heard it, chanting her new name.
When the chanting had died down and Elmleaf had crawled down the rock, receiving an affectionate lick from Watertail, Braveheart continued.
"I also, unfortunately have bad news. Very bad news."
The clan silenced immediately, and Elmpaw already knew what words would escape her mouth before they did.
"Bramblestar is dead."
Elmleaf forced her tears back as her nose softly touched the pelt of her mentor, and a few flecks of tears fell upon them. However, she would refuse to let anymore follow.
If Stormwind, who was standing close to her; speaking with Oakfall urgently saw her crying she will have the lost any chances she stood left at grabbing his interest.
You must listen to your mind and not your heart.
But how could she ignore her heart when it was screaming so loudly, making her do everything she did in the manner that she did it? Stormwind was what she went to bed thinking about, and what she woke up with dreams of. Ever since she had met him all she could ever focus about was him.
"What will we do now?" Watergaze asked Braveheart, who was looking down at the body of Bramblestar in despair.
"I don't know," she admitted, "He always claimed that I would be there to take over after I left... but I don't know what to do."
"I thought he had nine lives!" A car claimed.
"He did," Braveheart responded, "But this case of whitecough was so strong it took four lives at once. Just because he has several lives that doesn't mean they are easy ones," she claimed, "Ashclan was just starting to form and many of his lives were used trying to stop badgers, or recruit cats. Life wasn't easy for him."
The cats all lowered their heads in respect for the former clan leader and Braveheart murmured, "At least he will get to be happy with my sister now. She must have been waiting for him, for so long in StarClan. Watching over him but wishing he was by her side."
Elmleaf sneaked a peak at Stormwind, to see how he might feel but his eyes betrayed no emotions and he glanced sadly at the first cat of Ashclan who won nine lives.
Elmleaf turned her attention away from him and looked down at Bramblestar's tabby body again.
When Elfleaf turned back to Stormwind he was crying and almost beat herself up for not understanding that he was a sensible cat, and would have rathered her cry.
She probably looked like a monster to him.
Braveheart sighed, and flicked her tail, "Let's appoint the deputy then we can come out and sit vigil for Bramblestar."
The cats all nodded and followed her out but Elmleaf found herself unable to look away from Bramblestar's body and her feet rooted to the ground, even when Watergaze brushed her tail in Elmleaf's face, and signaled for her to follow her so that they could discover who the new deputy would be.
Her paws appeared to be stuck to the ground, and her mouth shut tight, unable to move, until all the cats had dissapeared into the large rock where their camp was located.
Moments later she heard a loud voice.
"Listen to your head and not your heart, Elmleaf! Remember the promises you made them! Don't let your mind be drowned out by the call of your heart."
Her eyes immediately darted towards Bramblestar and she gasped, when she saw his eyes glowing, but the rest of his body limp and not moving.
Your head and not your heart.
Your head and not your heart.
Your head and not your heart.
Horrified she turned around and ran back into the camp, not spending another second looking at her former mentor as she prepared to tell the clan about what she had seen.
Your head and not your heart.
"And then new deputy will be Bushtail!" Bravescar anounced, before flicking her tail, "You are dismissed."
The cats quickly left; most heading back outside to accompany Bramblestar, Stormwind among them.
Your head and not your heart.
With a shake of her head she followed the other cats outside to look at her mentor one last time.
"Ashclan attack!" Bravestar's loud battle cry rang through Elmleaf's head as she leaped on top of the first rogue that came across her path.
Maybe if she did a good job Stormwind would finally notice her.
Your head, not your heart.
She shook her head and forced herself to pay attention to the battle against the merciless rogues who were trying to attack her clan.
A loud battle cry rang in her ears as another party of Ashclan cats flew into the clearing and onto their opponents, sending the rogues away.
However, some remained stubborn and refused to move despite the several cats that were all attacking them at once. Elmleaf felt her face growing red when she discovered that Stormwind was beside her, attacking the same midnight black tom with green eyes, and tried not to focus on his angry frown which looked so cute as he sent a pair of claws against the black toms face and sent him doubling back in pain.
Forcing herself to focus, Elmleaf jumped on top of him and rolled him over, unable to see if he was watching but hoping that he might be impressed, if he was.
The rogue rolled on top of her, and she was throwing him off, when she managed to pick out his beautiful blue eyes from behind clumps of the rogues fur and found her body going numb.
A moment later a pair of claws slashed against her cheek, stinging her as small drops of blood began to splash onto the soft grass.
A moment later, she felt the heavy weight being removed by him and found her heart lighten at the sight of him protecting her as he charged and slashed at the rogue.
She pulled herself to her feet unable to do anything other than watch him.
"Come on, Elmleaf!" he protested as claws raked him cheek and he fell over. Elmleaf's head was screaming for her to move, but all she could do was gaze at Stormwind and her eyes and feet were both glued into the position, her heart melting even more for the tom after each second that past.
He spit out fur before flipping the rogue, over and pinning him down for a moment, before releasing his grip and letting the black tom run.
Once he was out of sight Stormwind turned on her, "Why didn't you do anything?" his eyes weren't mad or angry, just soft and caring as he gazed at her sadly.
"I..." she stammered for a moment before looking down to her feet and felt her heart escalating when his tongue was against her fur. She resisted the urge to purr as they stood for a moment until he was pulled away from her by a loud shriek of horror.
Both cats spun around to find Bravestar panting in rage as she jumped on top of a rogue, claws outstrecthed and she brouth them down, causing him to let out a yowl of fury.
She turned to see Stormwind smiling, "I've always admired Bravestar. She is so brave and does such a good job controllign her power."
Elmleaf felt her insides boiling with envy at those words and turned her head away, not willin to betray how hurt and jealous she felt of the leader who Stormwind was almost drooling at.
He wasn't interested in her after all.
But once the rogue went running Bravestar was not wearing a face of delight of victory. Instead their was sorrow and horror in her eyes as she walked up to a brown body, smeared in blood and she touched her nose against it, several tears slipping from her eyes, as she mourned the dead deputy.
But Elmleaf felt like a monster as he watched the scene before her.
Because she wasn't crying about Bushtail. She was crying about the quick steps Stormwind had taken to Bravestar and how he was comforting her, rasping his tongue over her, wrapping his tail around hers.
She had lost.
"What happened Elmleaf?" Smokepaw, her dark gray apprentice asked, as she paddled into camp, her head hung low, while Bravestar was leaning of Stormwind behind her, seeking for support after her loss.
"It's nothing," she whispered, rasping her tongue over the apprentice she had come to grow fond of. He was a good cat who never did anything but good for others, and she found his innocence almost like a cure to her experienced life as a warrior. It wasn't romantic but more like the way a mother would feel for a kit or an older sibling might feel about their brother. He always made her smile.
He had become an apprentice three moons ago, shortly after Bramblestar had died and Bravestar had received her nine lives in a ceremony she refused to tell the other cats about.
It was supposed to remain a strict secret that only leaders of the clan would know.
"That means someone died...?"
Elmleaf felt a sad pang. The young tom was far too smart for his own good. Someday, she feared he might get into trouble because of how intelligent he was.
She sighed, "Bushtail is dead."
Fear widened in his eyes and he turned to face Bravestar, "Poor Bravestar, this must be so tough for her," he whispered, "At least she has Stormwind to help her through this."
It felt like a blow to the stomach but she tried to shrug it away, despite how much it was actually bothering her, that even Smokepaw thought they were mates.
"Want to go for a hunt?" she asked, trying to ignore her throbbing heart, "Maybe you can catch some prey for the clan. A lot of cats will be to depressed to do it."
His head bobbed like an excited kitten and he quickly paddled out of camp, jumping from foot to foot while Elmleaf purred with amusement, quickly following him, momentarily forgetting the pain of losing Stormwind to Bravestar.
"What?" Elmleaf could hardly keep her gaze focused upwards at the words of Bravestar.
She smiled and flicked her tail at her; and for a moment it felt like the two of them in the universe. As friendly and noble as she might have been Elmleaf couldn't help hatred from pulsing through her body as well, as the she-cat who was stealing Stormwind from him.
"I..." she stammered for a whole moment and suddenly the universe which concealed only the two of them dissapeared and it was her in front of the whole clan.
"I don't know what to say," she whispered.
A moment later, when the air had finally reached her lungs she took in a deep breath and faced the clan with a forced smile, "I am honored to be your deputy," she claimed, "And I will do everything in my power to live us to Bushtai-"
She met Stormwind's soft eyes, and hard as she tried she couldn't turn away. But there was no pride in them. Just the surprise that such a young warrior had been chosen as a warrior.
She couldn't hide the tears as they splashed down and softly hit the floor. The clan smiled as they came to congratulate her mistaking her tears of pain as those of joy. This should have been the happiest moment of her life.
And yet, Stormwind refused to get out of her way.
"Twolegs!" Elmleaf shrieked as she noticed four of them in sight, rapidly approaching their camp, "Twolegs are near! Everyone prepare for an attack! We don't know what they are up to!"
She soon had the whole clan at her tail and made way as Bravestar approached to take her place. She had only been deputy for a few sunrises but it came naturally to her, without much struggle.
The four of them seemed a little younger, one was only twice their height while the others towered over him, but still seemed like twoleg kits.
The continue to walk towards us, showing no sign of stopping. Cats continue to stiffen until they have stuck their heads in the entrance to the camp laughing and giggling at the sight of us.
Bravestar hesitates for a moment before flicking her tail and we are launched into battle; furious at the young kits for thinking they could mess with us.
When they saw up jump they all leaped back in terror, before being pinned down by us and earning harsh scratches. They broke down into soft tears, leaving me wondering what kind of twolegs these were before Elmleaf was hit by a large stick and looked up to see two angry, fierce twolegs look down on us, with an undeniable fury.
One of them was holding this small but heavy object and threw it at Stormwind, knocking him over and he let out a loud 'oof' of pain, before Bravestar bristled in rage, and Elmleaf felt her heart droop with jealousy, no longer able to focus on the battle with twolegs.
"Attack!" Bravestar hissed and the cats all leaped on top of the two older twolegs while the kits burst into tears. The youngest ran away and one of the older ones went to follow while the other watched with fear.
The adult twolegs were furious with the Ashclan cats and showed no mercy attacking them, causing the clan cats to fight back even harder.
But Elmleaf could hardly focus on the battle, with Stormwind pulling himself off the ground and heaving as he tried to regain compose. Her eyes kept slipping over to him, and she was hardly aware of the claws she was putting on the twolegs as the fought.
They were stubborn twolegs, but they knew that they didn't stand a chance against a pack of cats so eventually, the dropped their stuff, turned around and ran, cuts and scratched all over their arms.
"Are you okay, Elmleaf?" she looked up to see Bravestar sanding above her, a concerned expression on her face, "You seemed to be elsewhere during the twoleg attack today."
Elmleaf felt her heart twist and she sighed, "I was just thinking about..." she trailed off knowing the could never tell her leader the truth about how she felt for Stormwind.
"If something is bothering you, you can feel free to talk to me," she claimed, "But if it something you would like to remain a secret I can take you off patrols until you have sorted out your thoughts."
I never will though, Elmleaf realized and sighed, before flicking her tail.
"I'm fine. I promise I will be better from now on."
She nodded before turning around and walking up to Stormwind, as Elmleaf realized what I lie she had told. Her heart could never get better; it would only get worse.
"We have an important ceremony to make today!" Bravestar announced as the clan looked down at her, her head held tie, her tail neatly curled around her paws. Elmleaf felt a stab of jealousy. She was so confident and self-assured, as well as pretty. It was no wonder Stormwind had picked Bravestar over her.
She shook her head. She should not be worrying about him, especially at this moment.
"Would Flamepaw please take a step forward?" she asked.
Moment later the small black apprentice paddled forwards and leaped onto the rock, from which Bravestar was making her announcements. He looked down at his paws shyly while Bravestar continued.
"I have received news from Elmleaf that Flamepaw is now prepared to become a warrior," Bravestar announced before turning to the apprentice, "Flamepaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect this clan, even at the cost of your life?"
There was a tense moment of silence before Flamepaw nodded, and whispered, "I do."
"Then by the powers of Starclan, i give you your warrior name. Flamepaw, from this moment on you will be known as Flameleap. Starclan honors your optimism and intelligence and we welcome you as a full warrior of Ashclan."
Flamepaw gently rested her nose against Bravestar's shoulder, before receiving a lick on the head, as Elmleaf's pride dissolved into worry and anguish.
Flamepaw had been the only think that could actually keep her mind off Stormwind and now she was about to lose him too.
Mother, Bramblestar, Stormwind and now Flamepa-leap. Am I destined to lose every cat I grow close to and begin to care about?
Shaking her head, she forced herself to look up and at least pretend to be happy and proud; for Flamepaw.
"Flamepaw! Flamepaw! Flamepaw!" she chanted his name loudest among the cats, as her former apprentice looked down with joy and pride, before his eyes met Elmleaf's and an almost worried glance entered them.
Was he thinking the same thing as me?
Flamepaw titled his head to the side, and realizing he was waiting for her approval, Elmleaf shook her head. If you loved something in life you had to let it go.
And if it loved you back maybe it would return.
But Flameleap never did return to her. He never asked her to go out hunting, or do some battle training. He just occasionaly exchanged a friendly lick or brought her prey.
It seemed like she was destined to lose everything.
Meanwhile, Bravestar and Stormwind continued to grow closer. The whole clan was waiting for Bravestar to announce that she had kits, although her belly had not swollen at all.
All they want is drama and things to gossip about, Elmleaf thought with a huff, although she was perfectly aware of the fact that she would have loved it if the clan was talking that way about her, had she been able to capture Stormwind's heart first.
At that moment they paddled by her, laughing, and Bravestar flashed her a friendly smile; unaware of the fact that she had stolen the tom of Elmleaf's dreams. Elmleaf had to resist the urge to leap onto the she-cat or break down before she whole clan. The urge to throw herself into a river or starve herself from pain and loneliness.
Listen to your head and not your heart.
"Leave me alone, Bramblestar," she whispered, "You abandoned me too. What makes you think you can control my life after you just dropped out of it like that."
You made a promise. A noble cat keeps their promise.
"I have nothing left to be noble for," she sighed, "No one left in the clan to love. I have been abandoned and betrayed. What should a promise mean to me after this point?"
"I thought not," she replied before turning around, storming back to the den she shared with Bravestar, not the slightest bit happy with anything in her life.
What is wrong with me? she thought as she laid in the leader's den alone. Her nest was on the opposite side of Bravestar's. Why does no one want me? Why am I always abandoned? Why is my love always taken advantage of? I have none left to offer now.
The rogues that had attacked so long ago, when Bramblestar was still alive, had been right.
Clan life wasn't always right for all. Life might be a struggle alone for some loners, but for her, being in Ashclan everyday was the greatest struggle could have ever faced.
the sound Bravestar's soft sleep, was the only thing in the den, as Elmleaf rolled around, unable to fall asleep, and itching to get out of the den.
Sighing, she pulled herself up to her feet and began to walk towards the exit of the den, deciding that staying in the same den as Stormwind's mate for another second would make her mad.
No, she looked up to see the faint outline of the cat she had once made the grand promise to standing before her, You have to resolve this and let your mind win over your heart.
"You want me to resolve this," Elmleaf choked back tears of anger and pain, but more still came, refusing to let their way back in, "You want me to resolve this?"
"Yes," she whispered, "I do."
"Fine then," she snarled, "I'll resolve this!"
She whipped around and walked straight up to Bravestar, before turning to the cat.
"Proud of your sister, aren't you? For beating a pathetic little second-in-command like me? Proud of her, for stealing the tom I dreamed about since I saw him? Proud of her for ripping my life into pieces."
"I..." she stammered.
"Well," Elmleaf sneered, unable to control her shivering body, "Why don't you tell her how proud you ar- were- in Starclan."
She pulled up her unsheathed claws, and brought them down, on top of her leader. First a gasp, as blood poured out of her neck, then she sighed and her body went lifeless.
Bravestar was dead.
And Elmleaf had killed her.
Cats were murmuring sadly among themselves when Flameleap woke up in the morning. He had only been a warrior for a few days but he had already decided he liked it far better than being an apprentice.
Even if it meant he didn't get to be with Elmleaf as much.
His heart almost skipped a beat at the mention of her name. Ever since he had been apprenticed to her, Flameleap had been unable to look away. She was so brave and kind. She was a leader and had endured much making her a very strong cat. And she was very pretty too.
But she didn't seem to show any interest in him at all. He had worried that once he became a warrior the communication between them might fail, but during that moment they had locked eyes, she had promised that they would still be friends, and the end of his apprenticeship was not the end of their relationship.
He longed to ask her to go hunting with him, or on a friendly stroll or just to go and practice for battle, but since she never asked him, he didn't know if she even felt that way anymore.
But he tried not to think about Elmleaf as much. She hadn't even glanced at him when she had become deputy, all she did was glance over us, and cry tears of pride.
It had been so hard to resist the urge to ask her on a walk that night. His heart twisted when she never showed up to give me a chance to personally congratulate her.
But he refused to let that fact ruin his life. He kept his options open and he had several friends who still gave him a great time, even when Elmleaf was right beside them.
Flamleap slowly paddled out of his den, cats were whispering furiously.
"Poor Stormwind," He heard a cat whispering softly, "He will be so distraught."
"It must be hard on Elmleaf too," another cat claimed, "She has lost so much, and now she has no more mentors left. She has to lead the clan alone."
Before Flameleap could ask what was going on he was cut off by a call from the cat he cared about the most in the clan. Elmleaf.
As the cats slowly gathered, Elmleaf appeared to be pushing tears back.
She sighed, when she noticed that all the cats had arrived and faced them sadly, as she murmured, "Bravestar is dead."
Cats whispered quickly as Elmleaf continued, "The new deputy shall be Stormwind. That is all."
Stormwind looked down in surprise as the dismissed clan began to murmur quickly among themselves leaving Flameleap to wonder what had just happened.
Flameleap curled up, and fell into an easy sleep after a long restless day. When he opened his eyes again he was not in his den but rather...
"Starclan?" he looked around curiously at the puffy clouds and bright stars that stood before him, as well as the lush green forest.
"Correct," he whirled around.
"Bramblestar!" he gaped, "What are you speaking to me for?"
"I need to show you something," he whispered sadly, "Something you will need to show the forest about my dear apprentice."
"Elmleaf?" his heart skipped a beat at the very mention of her name, "What did she do? Is she okay? Can I help her with something?"
He sighed, "I am afraid not," he replied, "Nothing can truly mend a heart broken as severely as hers. Not even time."
"Was it something I did?" he asked, worried, "I would do anything to make sure she was healed," he felt worry fluttering in his heart.
"No it wasn't you," he replied, "Just watch and let what you see show you the truth."
The hazy clouds beneath them suddenly cleared to show Elmleaf and Bravestar sleeping together. Obviously the night before she had become clan leader.
She was fuming and fumbling before she got up and began to head towards the exit to camp, where she was stopped by a pale she-cat, who had a worried but sincere look in her eyes.
For a moment there was nothing.
Then Elmleaf began to shake with fury and whisper some soft but harsh words. Although he couldn't hear any of them, one word was so strong he could feel her mouthing it.
A moment later she whirled around and stood over Bravestar, her eyes threatening before she lowered her claws and attacked. There was a soft swelling of blood, before the former leader gasped and died.
"Stormwnd... Elmleaf... Bravestar..." Flameleap was too deep into shock to say anything and felt his tears being drowned, "No! She wouldn't go that far for power!"
"It wasn't power," Bramblestar sighed, "We warned her about the dangers to giving into her heart but she gave up, and let it take over. Now, she is ruined beyond our repair."
"Flameleap?" Elmleaf seemed a little surprised to see him again and Flameleap could barely keep himself from bursting into tears before him former mentor and love.
He still did love her, as much as he hated himself for it. She was still sweet and kind and he could never forget the way he felt around her.
She had just been overcome by the power of love.
But he refused to let the same happen to him.
"I know what you did," he whispered choking back tears, "I know how you felt about Bravestar and Stormwind and what it made you do. I was shown by Starclan. By your old mentor."
Surprise entered her eyes for a moment followed by pain, "I shouldn't be surprised," she whispered, "Why shouldn't he betray me and abandon me too? No one cares about me anymore."
"I do," he hated himself for saying it, but the thought of the she-cat he had ran after for so long feeling unloved, and lost was unberable, "I've loved you ever since you became my mentor. I always dreamed of the day when I would become a warrior and we could finally become mates," he paused, "But you ruined that chance."
"You..." she hesitated for a moment, "Still love me?"
"I hate myself, for saying yes but I can't lie," he admitted, trying to act angry, when all he could feel was depressed and betrayed by his dreams.
"I..." she stammered, "I didn't know you felt that way. You should have said something."
"I was waiting for you," he replied through a pained voice, "But now it is too late. You killed the clan leader and the clan has to know before your pain drives you even further."
Several tears slid down her cheeks and she opened her mouth to respond but was cut off by a load battle cry followed by the shrieking of several cats and the sound of kits wailing.
Elmleaf seemed surprised, "I have't even got my nine lives," she murmured, "And the camp is already being attacked."
"Forgive me for this, Elmleaf," Flameleap whispered, before leaping and bowling the leader over, his claws unsheathed. Whatever was happening outside the camp would have to wait. He was detirmined to prove that his heart was stronged than that of the cat before him.
"What are you doing?"
"Ashclan can't survive with you as the leader," he responded, forcing back his guilt and the way her felt about being so close to her, "And I cant let Starclan waste nine lives on you."
Tears began to flow out of her eyes but she didn't fight back as he slowly lowered his teeth and placed them against her throat biting softly and stealing the life out of her as well as the tears of both of them, getting out their feelings once and for all.
When he pulled away she was dead, and he wanted to curl up beside her and stay there for the rest of his life, but a loud call from outside distracted him. The clan was under attack by rogues and he would have to help it. His pain and loss could wait.
A lesson he had learned from Elmleaf.
"Where is Elmstar?" Stormwind asked Flameleap, his eyes wide, and he shrugged, before throwing off a rogue that jumped on him, and sending him in the direction of another cat.
"What?" his eyes owidened with fear as they tackled another rogue together and pinned it to the ground, "I am not ready to lead the clan yet. Why did Elmleaf even pick me? I have no qualities of a leader."
"She loved you," he whispered, "She did everything in her life because of you, and that is why she picked you to be her deputy. It is also why you are too broken to lead the clan."
"She killed..." he trailed off and Flameleap nodded, still fighting off the same cat. Moments later he felt the cat being removed from him and Stormwind throwing him across the clearing.
"I have to go," he whispered, "I... can't stand being responsible for this. Someone else can lead the clan now," he whispered before turning around and running out of the entrance to camp.
"Where is Elmleaf?" a cat shrieked, as Flameleap stood there, abandoned by the last cat that could have possibly saved his clan.
"Dead!" he shouted back.
"What about Stormwind? He needs to lead us!" another voice called.
Suddenly, the Ashclan cats who were fighting so hard, seemed to pull into slow motion as the all slowed down and began to stop, pausing lightly as they realized they had been abandoned.
The rogues grinned and several of the cats hauled themselves to their feet, and began to run. The queens were frantics as they tried to drag all of their kits out of the battle and for once no cat got up to help them.
One of the queens dropped a cat and a rogue was quick to run and pick it up, before holding it in the air and then burrowing its teeth deep into the cat.
"That is the fate of any who remain," he warned them before dropping the cat on the ground. Its mother let out a screech before running even faster and the cats were all dragged to their paws.
A moment later, the clearing was chaos as no cat chose to remain, and ran for their lives, from the opponents they had once crushed so easily when they were united.
Left with no choice, Flamleap followed the fleeing cats, running with them out of camp, into the forest that had once been their enemy territory just moments before
As she ran, closer and closer to the border of Ashclan territory a harsh smell hit her nose and she turned around to see where it was coming from to discover that the camp was set on fire; although he wasn't sure how.
All things must burn to ash.
And so, along with all other things, the clan that Flameleap had known to be his home for all of his life; Ashclan, was now, nothing but a heap of ash.